Thursday, April 24, 2014

Book Review: The Winds of Hastinapur (by Sharath Komarraju)

The clan of kurus ruled in the northern parts of India for centuries together. The high point of the dynasty came during the story of Mahabharatha. Mahabharatha has always been about the Pandavas, the Kauravas and Krishna. Even among Pandavas, prominence is given to Arjuna and Bheema. It is quite possible that this looming towering characters overshadow the different viewpoint or stories of the lesser characters especially the women. The epic started rolling with Shantanu, when he first wed Ganga and then later Satyavati. Bheeshma with his unthinkable vow steals the show during this period of the epic. The extent of loss faced by Bheeshma can be easily felt by the reader but the gains and loss of the other protagonists like Ganga and Satyavati hardly comes to the fore in the original Mahabharatha.  The book titled Winds of Hastinapur effectively brings out the emotional travails faced by the wives of Shantanu using a brilliant narration.
 Jhanavi is the daughter of Ganga who is set to take over from her mother the duties of a river maiden. Residing on mount Meru, life is pretty peaceful. The Ashta vasu’s who being cursed by vashista require the help of a divine maiden to be born on earth and fulfill their penance. Ganga (the daughter) is chosen and she decends on earth to wed Shantanu. The mysterious ways of the Meru people, their life and beliefs is well brought out in the book. The mysterious Crystal lake adds to the suspense in the first half. Most of the story is well thought out and creatively written. On the flip side, some aspects relating to the trinity seemed quite unnecessary to me, it looked like a forced addition to sew in most of the mythology into a logical coop. But since the book makes only passing references to it, it does not deviate too much from the original story.
For me the enjoyable part comes in the second half, when the dark and sensuous Satyavati discovers herself. A forelorn recluse whom nobody even cares to even give a second look due to her fish like smell, transforms herself after she encounters the sage Parashara. The divine gift of smell was conferred on her by the sage in return for her virginity.  The book weaves Satyavati’s tale with a glitter of colors. The emotional turmoil, her desires and the final feeling of helplessness is well brought out in a griping narration.

The book is a refreshing take on the initial stories of the epic through the eyes of the two women protagonists. Finally,  the vividly described scene of  Satyavati lying alone in her boat drifting on the waters of Yamuna, gazing at the stars and trying to find the fish constellation, will instantly relate to everybody’s own inner search.

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