In Indian mythology, the timeline of existence has been divided into four Yugas namely Krita, Treta, Dwapara and Kali. For Devas one year equals to 365 human years. Krita Yuga lasts for 4800 years, Treta for 3600 years, Dwapara for 2400 years and Kali for 1200 years for the Devas and Pitrs , the Gods and Ancestors. For humans each Yuga gets multiplied by 365. At the end of Kali Yuga, the cycle repeats itself and starts of again with the Krita or the most pious Yuga commonly referred to as the Satya Yuga.
And within the unending cycle of these yugas lay the epic tales, chronicles and the rich history of Indian Mythology, and hence begins my quest to discover more about it.
It is quite difficult to not think about Devdutt Pattanaik if you are looking for authors writing about mythology, and even more difficult is not to love his work. But as I stumbled upon his earlier books I did not find that to be true. His writing has definitely improved over the years and so has the clarity in conveying things right way.
In one of my previous posts I had given a brief about the common sources of sacred narratives in Hinduism, which dates back to 2000 B.C.E. The scriptures included the Mantra Samhita, Brahmana, Upanishads, Puranas, and later various temple texts such as Agama. Derived from these texts come the 99 chronicles mentioned in this book titled ‘Indian Mythology: Tales, Symbols, and rituals from the heart of the Indian subcontinent’. The title did grab my attention at first sight, and I was ready to delve deeper into the colourful mythical tales from the past. The book also has but limited history and comparison to Greek and Roman mythologies.
The Persians and later the Arabs had used the word Hind or Hindustan to describe the land around the river that was known to Greeks as the Indus and to the local population as Sindhu and hence came the name India.Customs , Rituals and beliefs maybe profound to a set of people, but to the rational minded these sacred stories and customs remain fantastic, even absurd, and hence branded as myth.
The book talks a lot about the function of myth, essentially the book has been divided into spectrum of four major branches which include Mythology:Studying Myth, Mythosphere: Comparing Myths, Mythopoesis : Transforming Myth and Mythography : Interpreeting Myth.
A dry read in the middle, the writing style is a drag, and not so gripping, unlike his other books. Devdutt in this book tries to merge Mythology with philosophy to some extent but fails to express clearly. For me it took a long time to read the book because apart from the illustrated chronicles other sections of the book seemed stark, undemonstrative and impassive.
What I hoped for was a rich history of the Hindu mythology but found a list of tales and information scattered around it. I love Devdutt’s work but this book simply fails to impress.