Arjuna is the immortal tale of one of Indias greatest heroes. These pages retell in riveting detail the story of the Pandava Warrior-Prince who has captured the imagination of millions across centuries. This is the intense and human story of his loves, friendship, ambitions, weaknesses and follies, as well as his untimely death and revival, his stint as a eunuch, and the innermost reaches of his thoughts. Told in a refreshingly modern and humourous style and set against the staggering backdrop of the Mahabharata. Arjunas story appeals equally to the average, discerning reader and the scholar. It spans the epic journey from before his birth, when omens foretold his greatness, across the fabled, wondrous landscape that was his life.
Disclaimer: I do always refer to the names of Indian characters without the suffix ‘a’. It is and will be Arjun for me, not Arjuna.
Mythology has always been the Achilles’ Heel for me. I have been trying to comprehend the epics since childhood through bland text books and the legendary television serials, especially Mahabharat. It has been mostly futile, though. As if Valmiki and Ved Vyas had conspired eons ago to confuse me with their magnanimous works. It is because of this confusion that I still pick up mythological books, to test myself.
Anuja Chandramouli, the author of this book had asked me very graciously to read and review it for her. I’d be lying if I said that I started reading without expectations. I had presumed the book would be unusual, perhaps presenting Arjun in a different light, assess him from a different angle, or even let him speak out his life to the mere mortals ages later. Alas, I was disappointed. The book is an abridged Mahabharat in English with interesting trivia and anecdotes, which are often left out in the popular versions of the epic. It is not fiction, in my opinion. Anuja has been true to the original text, the stories, the characters, their circumstances. The figments of her imagination are much less in quantity than what would have made it a great book.
All of us, rather most of us have read the Mahabharat in some form or the other. Most readers are already aware of the characters and the plethora of sub-plots intertwined. Arjun is one of the most important protagonists of the Pandav clan. His brothers and mother have been fighting for their life and royal rights of the Kuru dynasty throughout the saga. Their is Yudhishthir – the righteous one, Draupadi – the elusive damsel, Kunti – the quintessential mother, Duryodhan – the villain, and so on. Arjun was termed as the most prolific warrior (arguably, Karn being the other). If Arjun’s illustrious life were to be exclusively sketched, it should have had a lot of other ingredients. I can’t help but compare this book to the rare other contemporary ones on Mahabharat characters that scored more in my sheet. Anuja has wrapped the ancient story in a delectable christmas box of fluent writing.
What I liked most – her choice of words and flair in writing. I’m not shy to admit that I learnt quite a number of new words from her. She has written chapters one after another seamlessly. I am much impressed with the form of this book, not the content. It is like a tried and tested common dish served in fancy tableware with much fanfare. It is recommended for ones who haven’t had a chance to read the Mahabharat. Having witnessed Anuja’s panache in this book, I am most certain to expect a lot more from her next.
Much thanks for the book Anuja. It was a refresher course in Mahabharat for me.
My Rating: 2.75/5
About the Author:
Anuja Chandramouli is a full-time mother of two lovely girls, as well as a part-time writer. Her academic credentials include a Bachelors degree in Psychology and a Masters in English. Having started out as a freelance writer with articles published in Women’s Era, Lonely Planet and The Hindu, she currently works as an e-reporter and columnist. Anuja is a self-confessed, big-dreamer, who is driven by an inner passion to contribute her mite to the great pool of human endeavour, thought, and wisdom. An ardent admirer of Veda Vyasas Mahabharata, Anuja holds the Great Epic to be one of a kind, the Homers and Virgils of the world notwithstanding.
Drawing her creative inspiration from the epics timeless track record of sustenance through centuries of retelling, Anuja chose to debut as a storyteller with the immortal and eternally captivating saga of Arjuna, the non pareil hero. Putting together episodes from Arjunas life (some well known, others relatively obscure), gleaned through years of painstaking research and then presented in a seamless narrative with the uninhibited panache and style of a 21st century writer, has been an immensely satisfying and self-actualising endeavour for this New Age Indian classicist.