Mahabharata is one such versatile epic where authors can let their creativity in interpretation to go high as the sky and deep as the ocean. There are myriad characters in the epic who were ignored in the main story, but each one of them has a tale to tell. As a consequence, the Mahabharata has always been a favorite topic among Indian mythological writers.
Besides the English language, many classic versions of the Mahabharata have been written in regional languages that everyone might not be familiar with. But thanks to the translators (and god bless them for it!) for working on those excellent works in English, much to the delight of readers. If you are a fan of Hindu Mythology fiction, you have to read these 5 translated books from Indian languages.
1) Mrityunjaya by Shivaji Sawant
Original language – Marathi, English title – Mrityunjaya, The Death Conqueror
Originally written in Marathi, Mrityunjaya is the most explosive version of Mahabharata written from the Karna’s point of view. Shivaji Sawant’s Karna was progressive, but vehemently critical towards the caste system in our society where status was given importance over merit. Many fictions have been written on Karna, but Mrityunjaya is considered to be an ultimate classic read.
2) Randamoozham by M T Vasudevan Nair
Original Language – Malayalam, English title – Bhima, Lone Warrior
Mahabharata is all about Krishna and Arjuna. Pandavas are nothing without the mighty great warrior Arjuna and without celestial guidance of Krishna. But hidden in their towering shadow stands another great warrior Bhima, often dismissed as a glutton and sidelined by the rest of the family members. The author has given voice to Bhima’s anguish and loneliness in his novel Randamoozham which is considered to be a classic in Malayalam literature. Its English translation is titled as Bhima, Lone Warrior. The novel is also known for its unique and lyrical narrative style which became the benchmark for the fiction writing.
3) Draupadi by Pratibha Roy
Original Language – Oriya, English title – Yajnaseni: The Story of Draupadi
Not many identify with the docile and homely Draupadi of Pratibha Ray. Draupadi is known to be fearless vocal, independent and self-willed woman. But we will all agree that Draupadi managed to keep the family of five brothers united like pearls in the string. It was one of her qualities and the author Pratibha Ray has woven her story of Mahabharata around this quality of Draupadi. Even her writing style is impeccable. Metaphors, description and her imaginations will all make you say ‘Wow’. The only thing a reader needs to do in order to enjoy this book is to read it with detached perspective.
4) After Kurukshetra by Mahasweta Devi
Original Language – Bengali, English title – After Kurukshetra
Mahasweta Devi in her short story collection book After Kurukshetra had dared to enter those dark lanes of the Mahabharata which others might not even think about. The one who suffered most due to the Mahabharata war were, no doubt, women who were left behind to mourn the death of their husbands, sons and fathers. There are three short stories about Uttara, Kunti and Souvali. Three women who suffered evenly from the consequences of great war, but masked in their stories, Mahasweta Devi tells the heartfelt tales of lower caste women whose suffering is no less than the royal family. In spite of the sufferings, lower caste women are more at peace and robust to start their life again. Mahasweta Devi has explored these hidden corners of Mahabharata, which will leave its readers stunned.
5) Yuganta : The End of an Epoch by Irawati Karve
Original Language – Marathi, English title – Yuganta : The End of an Epoch
Irawati Karve is a well known Indian anthropologist. So, when she started analyzing the characters of Mahabharata none of them managed to retain their white or black traits. With dexterity, she studied both the virtues and faults of the characters of Mahabharata and colored them grayish. It is a small but powerful book to read which provides lots of food for thought and also left some readers agitated when their favorite characters were not so righteous as they though.
With this ends our list of must read five books on Mahabharata originally written in regional languages of India whose English translations are equally good to read.
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