Friday, October 1, 2010

Art of myth-ematics

Jaya; Devdutt Pattanaik
Penguin; Rs 499; pp. 349

Devdutt Pattanaik’s Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata has the words and image text feel of a Lonely Planet guide. It navigates the reader through an inexhaustible epic where, as the blurb says,
A son renounces sex so that his old father can remarry A daughter is a prize in an archery context A teacher demands half a kingdom as his tuition fee A student is turned away because of his caste A mother asks her sons to share a wife The complex stories of the Mahabharata and their bewildering cast of characters have been made accessible through the delightful format of the book. It has a 108 chapters with over 250 line drawings, executed in a sharp and informed patta-chitra inspired style by Devdutt himself. Boxes and brief notes provide context, information and insight, and guide the reader through the labyrinthine narrative and its social and cultural cues. As his source material, Pattanaik has employed the classical Sanskrit text interpolated with variations from folk and regional texts such as the Pandavani and Yakshagana. Pattanaik’s unconventional attitude to mythology treats it as a living, contemporary arena of ideology, motivation and popular attitude.

There is an urgency and immediacy in the way Pattanaik lays out these stories. He evades the temptation to render them in high-sounding pseudo-Sanskrit style. The intriguing boxed texts carry the most unexpected nuggets of information. For example, the Rules of War, and the Rule Breakers, take the reader through the battle ethics and transgressions of the Mahabharata in just half a page. Similarly, the warriors and their insignia, and other such details, with references to concurrent versions, are laid out to provide breaks in the narration whereby the reader can reflect on and absorb the text. However, there are instances when the research and validation of this ‘information’ is haphazard and not academically accurate.

full review here Deccan Chronicle 

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