Jaya: Modern Rendering Done Right

Untitled design (13)Shakuntala was the love child of Kaushika and an Apsara called Meneka. She was abandoned on the forest floor later to be found out by Rishi Kanva,  who raised her like his own daughter. Dushyanta, a descendent of the Pururava, later married Shakuntala and their child was named Bharata. Bharata was a unique King. Unique, not only because he was a descendant from solar line of Kings through his mother but also because he was a descendant from the lunar line of Kings through his father, and the land he ruled was named Bharata-Varsha or simply Bharata after him.

That’s how the land beyond the Indus, India came to have got its identity. India in the post modernism era has been an outcome of a series of continuous changes, for that matter any civilization in the world has been though. That is how over generations and years together the Indian culture has been carved out, resulting from various ideologies.

Although complex, supporting all these narratives and philosophies are a series of texts. Texts as old as 2000 B.C.E. Broadly, there are the Bhramanical texts which were assigned in two groups, The Vedas (Revelation) and the Smritis (Tradition)

If we look at the chronological order of these texts from the beginning, the story dates back to about 2000 B.C.E, where the first scriptures were the Vedic Chants known as Mantra Samhita. These were the antecedents to a narrative. Then there were the Brahmana’s in around 1000-800 B.C.E.  These were the ritual manuals that offer narrative explanation.

These were followed by the Upanishads which traces its origin in 800-500 B.C.E.
There’s a difference between Vedas and Upanishads at times is confusing. Upanishads are a part of the Vedas; in essence the concluding chapters. Over time these texts have evolved and taken the shape of what we know as the Hindu Philosophy. A very insightful but a little heavy book on our Hindu philosophy is Vedanta by Swami Vivekananda.

Itihas literally translates to the course of events in the past as it is. These include epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana.

Mahabharata has been my all-time favourite. It often reminds me of the Amar Chitra Katha days. I still reminisce those times. It was something about mythology back then too which intrigued me, and a lot of credit goes to Mr Anant Pai, for making it all seem so magical.

Time and again each retelling of the Mahabharata has added to my existing knowledge base of the facts which I was unaware of, -or the stories I hadn’t heard before. But each retelling was by and large the same.  Until I put my hands on Devdutt Pattanaik’s – Jaya. Jaya which literally translates into victory has by far the best retelling of the epic.

IMG_20160413_195648

The Mahabharata lasted for 18 days, battled between a total of 18 armies and had a total of 18 chapters. The Mahabharata also focuses a lot on individual relationships and Jaya has done justice in conveying its intricacies. A lot of stories are subtle and one might have to read between the lines for deeper learning.  But Jaya itself is quite comprehensible and easy to understand. One might get confused with the number of characters involved but that should not deter him/her from appreciating the book.

Stories in Indian mythology have always been a conversation between a narrator and a listener, -and Jaya has been narrated in the same manner, by Vaisampayana, to Janmejaya, who is the son of Parkishit and grandson of the great archer Arjuna.  This has been illustrated effortlessly.

This modern rendering is accompanied by a lot of illustrations. Devdutt’s style of writing is accompanied by intricate artwork which makes one want to read the book and the facts/small notes at the end of each chapter are a plus to the writing style.

Another modern retelling of the Mabahabharata has been written by Ramesh Menon and has been highly appreciated as well. For readers who want to delve deeper may consider reading it as well. As for me, it’s next on my list.

The epic is complex and interesting. But its ultimate goal is to revolve around dharma, which is human potential and not righteous conduct. The rework of this Indian epic, which caused the dawn of Kali Yuga, the fourth and final of all the Yugas is highly recommended.




Sources:

Indian Mythology by Devdutt Pattanaik
Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik
My Gita by Devdutt Pattanaik
Header Image Source: Devdutt.com

Advertisements

Before I Begin

Its been quite a while since the conception of setting up this blog and writing the first blog post. In the past few months I have read some of the most amazing works by a few Indian Authors and came across quite profound literature on the Indian Subcontinent.

So I set up two personal challenges for me, the first one being reading 100 books in 2016.This seemed next to impossible, along with studying for a crammed up graduate course to doing two research projects simultaneously and undertaking a global level challenge. While running from pillar to post and juggling between all the activities and managing to scrape through my exams and quizzes the one thing that I have relished a lot has been reading new books.

I have read books on Mythology, Philosophy , Psychology, Fantasy , Biography, Autobiography, Entrepreneurship and Fiction this year, and a lot of them have been by Indian Authors. I hope to finish my 100 book challenge provided I keep going at the current pace.

The second challenge has been to set up and maintain the blog which you are currently reading. The challenge includes reading 29 books about India or by Indian authors. 29 books signify the twenty nine states of India.

The entire purpose is to understand the rich heritage culture, narratives art and rituals across the subcontinent. The books that I have considered taking up talk about the vast geography of the subcontinent, the history and stories about India.

I will also be blogging about my new found love,  mythology of the Indian sub continent. To understand the Hindu mythology a paradigm shift is required, which I will be portraying in my further posts. A lot has been written about mythology and a lot of views have been expressed on the same, but none the less it has been governed by the Hegelian Maxim. “All that is rational is actual and all that is actual is rational”.

In Hindu metaphysics things exist only when they are observed and there are a few things which I wound want to undertake. Be is the Shiv Shakti relationship or Arjun-Krishna or Jaya-Vijaya relationship or the song by Ashtavakra for King Janaka, every incidence has a story to tell and a meaning behind it.

I will also discuss about the Indian queer quotient, and the presence of queerness in Indian history, which has become such a taboo in the modern Indian society.

The first book which I will Blog about will be Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik. This book features in my top five favorite books of all time. This will be followed by a post on ‘My Gita‘ by the same author.

I would like to end with some food for thought. Since I have been talking about Gita, a verse from the same , which happens to be my favorite.

Arjuna, you grieve for those whom you should not feel sorry for, and you argue as if you are a man of wisdom. But the wise grieve for no one: neither the living, nor the dead.- Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2, Verse 11

I hope I do justice to all the posts, please let me know your suggestions and your thoughts on the same.

11227516_10153934728362841_1498419948905325210_n

 

An Appeal

India is a country of 1.2 Billion people. It is more than the sixth of the world’s total population. Divided into twenty nine states and seven union territories, this giant peninsular is vast. Here one not only finds, people speaking so many different languages and dialects, but one notices a cultural shift every few kilometers. This vast ethnicity has contributed so much to India’s rich literature. There is an enormous generation of culturally rich knowledge and learning’s which await to be explored.

My father is an Ex-Army Officer from the Indian Army. The best thing about this has been moving to various places every few years. Not just my geographical understanding of the region has been solidified but I have learnt the shift in social cultures and traditions across the length and breath of the country. I have grown up in small towns as well as big cities. I can ride the roughness of a small village, and survive the madness and high of a metro at the same time.  The experience has been just amazing until now.

But I don’t want to stop there; I want to explore more of this country which I proudly call home. I would want to spend a year of reading India. Experiencing India, vicariously. With such rich background, I am yet to experience it fully. And hence this project has been a small initiative to fill in the void I think has been missing.

A step to know India better through the medium of Print would be a good way to begin.

So what is this project all about?

During 2016 I am going to read 29 books signifying each of the 29 states in India. It could be either originating from a particular state or written by an author of a particular state. In turn I would also be blogging about these books as and when I read. And each of these, which is, Reading, Researching and Blogging about all the books from each of the states will be done in a period of one year.

I understand a lot of local books might not have been translated to English, hence finding the really good ones would be a challenging task. Hence I appeal to each one of you to please suggest me books, be it fiction or nonfiction, self-help, history, adventure, folklore or a collection of short stories from each state of India. Also I would request each one of you to share the post and help spread the message.

You can help me suggest books in the comment section below, or get in touch with me via E Mail, Facebook or Twitter. All details are mentioned in the contact page of this blog.

This will help me in shortlisting the best books for the project. What I am in particular looking at is that, each book should have a reflection of a particular state in some manner or the other and a story worth sharing. Also please connect me to the right people in case you think, who will be well informed about such books.

I hope I do justice to the project, and bring the best out of each book.