BOOK COVER BLURB
Devavrat Bhishma is dying, wounded. He tells Yudhishthira the story of how the Kuru established Hastinapur as a trading outpost on the frontier of Panchnad. The river Sarasvati dried up creating a crisis for Panchnad as cities were abandoned and immigrants poured into Hastinapur looking for safety and support. The Kurus under Devavrat address the crisis with the social policy. The success comes at a cost to Devavrat’s personal life. Devavrat’s narration becomes part of the epic poem of the Great War. The story survives, memorised as oral history by the Kavi Sangha, the guild of bards. A thousand years later, the story is written down by Vyaasa, the head of the Kavi Sangha, with help from many others.
The plot was explored beautifully. If you have read the Mahabharata, you would understand the whole book easily. If you haven’t read it, I advise you to read it first.
The book first starts in 850 B.C. where a member of Kavi Sangha, the guild of bards in Hastinapur, Vaishampaayana narrates the story of Devavrat Bhishma ‘The Terrible’ to Bhargava, a scribe. They were Kavi Sangha to record the story on palm leaves for preservation. The stories were ‘remembered’ by the bards and in turn narrated to the public on festivals and fares. They were remembered, hence, they posed a threat to their continuity. So the bards wanted to preserve them for future generations to come.
Then the story takes us to 2000 B.C. where the actual event took place, the Mahabharata, the Great War. Here, Bhishma is badly injured and he tells his life story to all and a bard starts the process to learn whatever he is speaking. This bard, in turn, teaches many other generations before it reaches to Vaishampaayana.
Vaishampaayana and Bhargava are the characters in 850 B.C. who are debating over whether scribing all the work they remember is a good idea, as the concept of paper was not that common in those days. Rather, the primitive paper was the most expensive fibre.
Rest all the characters were of the Mahabharata and I love them all. The level of complexity in each of them is just perfect to make us want to know more about them. All I can recommend to all is to read it. And if you are not comfortable with reading the Hindi version of it, you could try the English one.
At first, I didn’t seem to understand the story (it’s always the case with me!). But after about 30 pages I got what the author was trying to say.
All in all, I loved how he incorporated the story of one person into the book and he was the ‘centre of attraction’ for me the whole time. Never did I felt once that any other character was dominating over the main character. All the characters were done justice. The dialogues were sometimes funny, sometimes serious and sometimes really appropriate.
I loved the book for what it was trying to say. The author has hinted that he will be writing a second book which I’ll be waiting for to read.
I’ll give this book a 5/5 for a great try to convert an epic story into a fictional masterpiece.