Bedtime stories – that’s how the obsession with the great epic started for me. Thanks to my Grandmother. It actually has a steady grip on me. I started my mythology spree with the very recent Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik. And then it just kept continuing. As I read Jaya, when in the end Yudhishtira doesn’t even turn once to look his people as he ascended the mountain to reach swarga, I sat there with the book in my hand wondering what on earth did he do that for? From there my quiver of questions wanted to be shot (all at once at that). Questions like The kings had a lot of wives. Why was it that only Draupadi was chosen to be wedded by all? kept me from peace and dear old sleep. Then there came Ajaya I and II by Anand Neelakantan. That was like a boon to my mind. That for me was “perspective”. I mean the story was the same but it justified the actions Kauravas (without the story being changed. I’m not saying there was no tweaking. But it was just tweaking and not twisting). I mean, come on I have always been told how only the Pandavas were righteous and I (being the rebel that I am) have always questioned that. And now, Yejnaseni. I am done 3/4s of the book and I have a lot of questions.
What I have always been exposed to until I read Ajaya was how good the Pandavas were. To put it right, what I have always been exposed to until I read Ajaya was how only the Pandavas were good. I mean come on, you know how there is always two sides to a coin, the Pandavas would have had their set of shortcomings. Speaking of which, the Kauravas would have had their baggage of righteousness. Correct me if I am wrong there. I am so attached to all of these characters.. Especially, Karna. And all those characters who were affected by hierarchy.
Prathibha Ray justifies Guru Drona’s demand of Eklavya as so: for the fear of the Kauravas being exterminated by Eklavya, his thumb became gurudhakshina. Now, that isn’t fair is it? Guru Drona had given his word to Arjuna about making him the world’s most accomplished archer. That was the real reason for his demand.
I know it is an age old story and we have no way of finding something called “fact”. I am so attached to all of these characters and all I am doing is stand up for people like Karna and Eklavya and the many others who had suffered in the stampede of hierarchy.
This book tells me that the Pandavas did not gauge a person by the scale of caste which is why Draupadi serves the Kiratas (Eklavya’s caste) food cooked in the akshayapatra and that the Pandavas and the Kiratas had food together and that Arjun would remove the all the used plantain leaves. I’d like answers for two questions in this scenario,
- Then why was caste always in Karna’s way? If you don’t stop injustice, it just means you support injustice. Why didn’t the Pandavas stand up for Karna like Suyodhana did during the display of prowess of Guru Drona’s disciples?
- Do you really think the priests like Dhaumya (who was always with them) would have been in a 100kms radius of the Pandavas if they didn’t mind of caste?
Another scenario in this book that grossed me out is this:
Obeying Kunti, (and at Yudhishtira’s insistence of securing unity amongst the brothers) Panchali had to marry the pancha Pandavas. I’d made peace with her fate and kept reading until, each and every husband of her’s except Arjuna tells her that even when she was only Arjuna’s betrothed they had all secretly desired her. How can one secretly desire one’s own brother’s betrothed and under pretences of obedience accomplish said marriage (in this case, marriages?)
This rendition makes my heart heavy because I feel the author hasn’t been fair with her characters. Tweaking happens in all renditions and it is done for the story’s sake. But here, it has been tampered with for a reason and it is, in my opinion only to justify the Pandavas’ actions.
This book was said to be Draupadi’s point of view of the Mahabharata. But this book is a justification for all the Pandavas’ actions.
Not just the writer (not sure about the original author but the writers of the renditions) but most of us are partial. The Kauravas were worthy warriors. The Pandavas broke most of the rules of war. Karna’s death. Dear old pitamaha Bhishma’s death. Guru Drona’s death. Everything they achieved was by foul-play. Where was all their valour? Where was their greatness? Where was their prowess in war-craft?
And when once in a while someone raises a question, “In order to restore dharma, sometimes, adharma is the only way.” is the answer readily thrown at said someone! The question “So what is the difference between you and the person you are trying to stop following adharma?” remains because it is just too inconvenient.