Epics — in a new avatar


The retelling of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata – as interesting as the original.

A different telling

The two other books are derived from the epics. Vyasa's Mahabharata tells the story of how the sage got the elephant-headed god Ganesha to be his scribe. While the story is pretty slim with the sage and the god setting conditions for each other, the way Chitra Krishnan tells the story makes all the difference. Of Vyasa's predicament in keeping pace with this thoughts, she writes, “Ideas filled his head and words gushed out like a waterfall from his mouth in two line verses but his hand crawled across the parchment like a slow mud-filled river.” Arun Kumar's illustrations ensure that your attention does not stray from the page.

Hanuman's Ramayan is a slightly different take. Written by well-known author Devdutt Pattanaik, the tale gently brings home the point that each one's Ramayana may be a different one. As the last line says, “What is important is the story, not the teller.” In Pattanaik's story, Valmiki has finished his tale and is showing it to the gods when sage Narada tells him that Hanuman's Ramayana is a better one. Valmiki rushes off to find that story and when he does,… what does he do? Read the story to find out. Nancy Raj's illustrations, based on the Mithila style, add a zing to Pattanaik's text.

VYASA'S MAHABHARATA, Chitra Krishnan; HANUMAN'S RAMAYAN, Devdutt Pattanaik, Tulika Books, Rs. 135 each

The epics are a happy hunting ground as far as stories are concerned. And there are as many new books based on these stories as there are stories. The latest on the bandwagon are Ramayana from DC Books' Mango Imprint and Tulika's Vyasa's Mahabharata and Hanuman's Ramayana.

The Ramayana, retold by Prema Jayakumar, is a very basic version. A quick overview of the main characters and the reader is plunged into the story. But there's not much detail; the book just about covers the bare plot. For instance, the killing of Tataka; the duel with Parasurama; the meeting with Guha are mere mentions in an appendix, which does seem a bit odd. Wouldn't it have been better to include them in the main narrative? Sure, the book would have been slightly larger, but so what?

But the other appendices more than make up for this. There is a list of further reading; a little info on the background of the epics and on the major places and festivals connected with the story.

This is an easy read with eye-catching illustrations by K.R. Raji. While it may not satisfy someone who has grown up with the epics, it will certainly be a good intro for one who has no idea about the Ramayana.

RAMAYANA, retold by Prema Jayakumar, DC Books Mango, price not stated.

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