Duryodhana has his say

Author of Duryodhana, V. Raghunathan. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Author of Duryodhana, V. Raghunathan. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy   | Photo Credit: V Sreenivasa Murthy


In his latest book, V. Raghunathan looks at the Mahabharata from the Kaurava king's perspective

The Mahabharata has been told and retold for thousands of years. The epic has different versions to it, looking at the story from secondary characters such as Karna, Draupudi and Bhima. But Duryodhana, the kingpin of the Kauravas in The Mahabharata, has always been portrayed as the villain of the piece. V. Raghunathan, author of Locks, Mahabharata and Mathematics, makes a convincing case for him in his latest book , Duryodhana. In the book, he has his say on the people and events of Hastinapur, including Draupudi’s vastraharan.

At the launch of the book held recently at Atta Galatta, Raghunathan was engaged in conversation with thriller writer Aroon Raman, in which they discussed perceptions on the so-called heroes and villains in Vyasa’s The Mahabharata.

“I do not claim to be a scholar in mythology,” Raghunathan, who has also written four other books, including Games Indians Play said. “I have an interest in Indian mythology. The Mahabharata has a mine of characters and stories. And has been told and retold for over 3000 years.”

To the question, posed by Aroon, regarding his choice of Duryodhana as a central character, Raghunathan said unlike Karna, Bhima, Yudhishtir and Draupadi, Duryodhana’s point of view has hardly been considered.

“History, they say, is written by victors. I am usually on the side of the underdog. Duryodhana has been painted a darker shade of grey. Karna, for example, is a tragic hero, but Duryodhana is seen only as a villain.”

Raghunathan’s defence of Duryodhana, said Aroon, is convincing. “I found it hard to put the book down. In parts the book is like a thriller, in parts like an adventure story and in parts, a psychological thriller. Raghu has made me rethink some of my own assumptions of Duryodhana.”

“I tried to play Ram Jethamalani,” quipped Raghunathan, “The job of a lawyer is to plant doubt. And I have done that to make the reader look at it from Duryodhana’s point of view. Twenty five per cent of the book is a figment of my imagination, I wondered, why not plant doubt and defend Duryodhana through it?”

Aroon pointed out that the book is iconoclastic. “It hits out at mythological characters, particularly Krishna. In the Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna that Rajadharma is the highest dharma,” explained Raghunathan. “Duryodhana is the crown prince of Hastinapur. The Pandavas aren’t even Pandu’s own children, hence Duryodhana asks ‘what about my Rajadharma?”

Raghunathan added that until the vastraharan, there was no sign of Duryodhana being disrespectful to women. “He was married to one woman.” In the book, Raghunathan has questioned whether the vastraharan at all happened. “Duryodhana did say that it was wrong of Dushasan, his brother, to have caught hold of Draupudi’s pallu. But nobody questioned Yudhishtira for wagering his wife, isn’t that wrong as well?”

Aroon said the author has drawn interesting parallels between the world of today and the world of The Mahabharata, in particular addressing the issue of caste. “We are taught in the Shastras that one’s station in life is determined by one’s karma, not one’s birth. A child cannot decide to whom he is born. Duryodhana questions the varna system as expounded by the sages.”

Duryodhana is a Harper Collins publication and is priced at Rs. 350.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 10:31:14 PM |

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