Mahabharata has been an epic and it has been retold in unique, different ways carrying forward innumerable perceptions. Each of the story-tellers have made an attempt to glorify the majestically large and gripping tale.
Sharath Komarraju’s book ‘Winds of Hastinapur’ is another one in the league. The book has two beautiful parts to it, River Maiden and Fisher-Girl. Both the stories cover essential aspects of Mahabharata in the voices of two strong, powerful ladies who shaped history of the Great War. First is Ganga, Bheesma’s mother and second his stepmother Satyavati’s story.
Like any other tale, the most significant part of it is its beginning. This books indeed tells us how and where the story of Hastinapur and the stories of the kingdom took their shape. It all took birth in the lap of the holy lands of Meru, from where the Great River originated at the cave of the Ice Mountain when Ganga, then Jahnavi was all but nine years old. And more was seeded with a theft of a cow and a curse which Ganga lived through.
I wish that I knew what I was saying then, but like all children, I was in a hurry to grow up and be one of the big people, take part in their conversations, have men speak to me as they do to my mother. I realized only after I had become one of them that it had come too soon, as my mother said, much too soon….
As the course of the curse was designed, Ganga and Shantanu, the king of Hastinapur together gave birth to eight children. They were earthly forms of Prabhasa and his seven brothers of which only last one stayed, rest were killed by Ganga. The king Shantanu grew mad at her and threw her out. Thus she returned to Meru with her son Devarata, who was destined to glorify Hastinapur later for years to come. Ganga did everything in her power to keep Devarata on the mountains with her but nothing helped.
When Hastina was left without an heir to continue, Devarata later known as Bhisma returned to Earth. He said,
“I will go to Earth and serve to keep peace in the land, not because I want to prosper but because I want Earth to prosper.”
To which Brishaspati had said in a whispery, sorrowful tone,
‘Earth will shred you to pieces, son of Ganga; to pieces!’
Kali, the daughter of the fisher-king had learnt a secret to make divine smell. Matsyagandhi was now a thing of the past and she was now called Yojanagandhi. The young girl with the highest desires keeps conditions to the king of Hastinapur in return to marry him. She wanted her son to be declared king. Devarata vows to do all that she demands to ensure that she marries Shantanu who is smitten by her charm and words. However, later both her sons Chitrangada and Vichitraveerya neither turn out to be valiant nor brave and also they die soon. They were never destined to claim a high name in history.
The author has revealed many interesting facts from those times especially how Satyavati’s other son from the sage comes to impregnate the daughter-in-laws of Hastinapur was a twist to the whole plot. All through his life, Devarata abides by his vows of neither marrying a woman nor eyeing the throne. Through all the glooms, dangers, valor of the great kingdom, he remains a father figure to Dhritrastra and Pandu and their children always.
The narration style of the Author is remarkable. The descriptions, the human personifications and the rhythm of the story are well handled. The author has molded the story very well, keeping it upbeat and thoroughly engrossing the reader. I loved the first part and would request the author to write a book in continuation. I desire to know more about the other strong female characters in the history. In this one, the nicely etched character of Satyavati and Devarata is the one to read for. The Author has done a great job with retelling the epic in his own style. It is fulfilling to read about the forgotten and untouched realms of Mahabharata as most of its versions emphasize more on the Pandavas and Kauravas and their battle. This one tells you what happened long- long back and where it was sowed.
The blurb itself convinces you well that if you have an eye for Indian mythology, the book ‘The Winds of Hastinapur’ by Sharath Komarraju is not to be missed.
—- Reviewed By M,
Also blogs actively at Pendown: Her breathing space for creative expression, and a wonderful collection of book reviews, product reviews and travelogues. A full time author in the making and a proud iMelonite !
The Winds of Hastinapur — By Sharath Komarraju is the book “In Focus”.