Review: Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik

Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik

A review

Jaya – Devdutt Pattanaik’s retelling of the Indian epic Mahabharata, with a mish-mash of various versions, has been on numerous bestseller lists for some time now. I finally took up the book in late 2013, partly to revisit the “greatest story ever told” and partly out of curiosity generated by the hype.

Jaya is, without doubt, a fine compilation by the author of many folk tales and versions of different sections of the epic. After each chapter of the book is included a section with interpretations, meanings and alternate versions – a feature that is at the same time evocative of schooldays’ textbooks and scholarly research articles. Jaya is more of a research work than a work of literature. At times, it somehow disappointed me on reading Mahabharata in a form so shorn of drama. The dry narrative of several otherwise blood-boiling and goosebump-inducing events is a bit of a dampener.

With its complex situations and dual-natured characters, Mahabharata is a brilliant tale. Jaya is more of an academic take on the epic. Hence, I would not recommend it for readers wishing to be initiated to Mahabharata or those looking to immerse themselves in the immenseness of this monumental work. It is better for purposes of revision or allowing oneself a different take on events and messages of the epic. The brightest aspect of Jaya is the interpretation of incidents in the epic in the socio-cultural light of the times in which it was written and re-written. It is interesting and at times amusing to note how stories are twisted to fit into the changing value systems of one’s age. Devdutt’s research must have been intensive, and it shows in the many stories from all parts of the Indian sub-continent that he has collated. I am looking forward to reading Sita, his retelling of the other Indian epic, Ramayana.

Link to the book’s page on the author’s site: Click here

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