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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Book Review : 'Govinda' by Krishna Udayasankar

If you haven’t read the regular Amar Chitra Katha versions and your knowledge of the other Mahabharat versions is not well… sufficient, then you might be wasting your time reading this one. Krishna Udayasankar’s ‘Govinda’ is probably just another version of the epic.

What makes it different, are firstly, the simple yet almost lyrical language with which she writes it. One can almost see ACK volumes come up in the book; there were times when I almost stopped reading because I remembered how the scene played out in the comic. 

Firstly, the names. Govinda Shauri is of course, Krishna. Draupadi, who becomes the unlikely hero of the book is simply known as Panchali. Then of course, we have the Dharma, Bhim, Partha, Nakul and Sadev with the usual cast of characters, like Veda Vyasa, who is addressed as Krishna Dwaipayana. 

And a few surprises too. There are the Firewrights, First Born, the Secret Keepers, which are all characters, essential to the story of this book. Sounds straight out of the Lord of the Rings, doesn’t it? (The similarities are breath-taking but in another blog, perhaps)

We are introduced to the ‘fact’ that Rukmavati or the erstwhile Rukmini is not really Govinda’s wife, but his heir’s, Pradymna’s. One sees the fact that Govinda is not married nor will be, but his love for Panchali is very much there.  

It is not a fresh thought, especially if you have read Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s version of Draupadi’s Mahabharat, ‘The Palace of Illusions’. Yet something about the sequence of events grips one’s mind. Panchali’s role in this book has grown from the earlier shier versions into becoming not just another character, but a bow and a sword wielding heroine. 

She does not remain in the background as you are used to reading, but is the person to look to for politics and administration as you see her delving into her inner emotions of not just love but he affection and her intelligence, which shine through. 

There is the growth of Shikandin, from the half man/half woman character into a completely different role, of Govinda’s close friend, and also a warrior and a father of Yudhamanyu. It is probably best if one read this book, as a Mahabharata, which could/might have been. 

Logic, psychology, philosophy and science are all subjects which one has heard of, but never really associated them with Mahabharat per se.

Or where else would you see the Brahm weapon, which should come up again. And definitely Asvattama’s wider role, in the latter books, I’m guessing. Here’s looking forward to the rest of the Aryavarta Chronicles, and Udayasankar’s version of events. 

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