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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Book Review : 'Ajaya, Epic of the Kaurava Clan, Roll of the Dice' by Anand Neelakantan

There is so much to like in this book. ‘Ajaya, Roll of the Dice’ is a fictional epic that is so well-written that it has definitely stepped forward from the ‘Asura’ days. So, let’s begin…
I liked the start of the book, where the author has a story to give the readers. That, of Suyodhana and his temple. It grabbed my interest in a second. The cast of characters was another masterstroke. It not just gave a list of them, but showed how they would work to help move the book, it gave us a glimpse into ‘Ajaya’.

The book begins with Bhishma and his exploits. How he finds Dhritarashtra’s wife in Gandhara and her brother, Shakuni, putting into motion the Mahabaharata.

Then Drona, Karna, Eklavya, Jara and Ashwattama all come into the picture. The best thing about this book is the logic and the research put into it. There are stories in which, I’ve read and somehow doubted the Pandavas, Krishna, Draupadi and Kunti. With seemingly logical steps, the author brushes them aside. 

Why would Drona order the blinding of a dog, why was Karna treated the way he was, why was Eklavya insulted in spite the of his talent of just looking and learning, why were the Nagas in the state they were and why was the Khandiva forest destroyed? These were nagging questions which are laid to rest, by the author. 

The story begins with the leads reversed. Bhima is hunting Suyodhana, who hides behind a bed to escape the bully. The ‘murder’ of Bhima is done by Shakuni, but thought to be Suyodhana’s fault. Kunti, with sage Dhaumya is a strong and cunning mother. 

Parashurama’s ways, the entire run of Dhrupada, the use of Nishadas in the burning of the house of lac, the Rajasuya how and why it was done are all looked at here from a completely different perspective.

The author has taken a few liberties and if you choose to ignore them and this is pretty easy, because you want to finish it and move on to the next page. Kunti’s role in the whole series seems kind of funny, more than anything else.

One is also struck and cannot ignore the terms used, like Dharma, untouchability and caste. And since they are used, unfortunately in the modern context too, one can see the beginnings of them, here as well.

The description of the Vedas is another matter of interest. Have loved the way in which, Acharya Kripa describes the scriptures. The stance taken on society, giving everybody their due respect and nothing more, is also something worth reading. Balarama’s struggle for a better world is also aptly described.

I could not miss the author’s struggle to put across certain points. He probably would have failed in his primary duty as a storyteller, if he had taken up an opposing point. Also, Anand Neelakantan’s habit of lecturing his readers is not gone. He tends to slip rarely, but it does happen. Draupadi’s ignored version of the scene of disrobing in not his best work.  (P.S. - I just heard that this scene would be given its due justice, in the next book.)

Great interest to me how Suyodhana and Subhadra fall in love, and how it doesn’t work out. It’s not in the way you think. The Greeks also make another appearance in this version. Krishna will have a bigger role to play in Book II Rise of Kali, I feel. 

I would say that one must read this book. Because, we have been reading so much of the Mahabharata and all its versions, and been brainwashed, that this book has at least has ventured to leave doubts in the mind.

It will make the reader question almost everything, just as Arjuna in the book. It is not for me to decide whether or not any point is true or not, but it is for me to read both versions with equal understanding and question literally everything.
Don’t miss Asura, being mentioned more than once. :)

Author: Anand Neelakantan
Cover: Urvi Dutt Vashistha, Leadstart Design
Imprint: Leadstart Publishing
ISBN : 978-93-81576-03-8
Price: Rs 299
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