Mahabharat has inspired generations to read, write, learn, adapt a lot from it. Being the biggest poetry available (some latest english novels could have broken the length record) where almost every emotion, situation, problem, solution; we may face is explored with timeless wisdom lessons. All these attributes make Mahabharat the most sought-after epic, not only to the people of India – that is Bharat, but all the logical (and aware with this epic) human beings across countries.
Based on various evidences found by the scholars and historians, now almost everyone started believing that Ramayana and Mahabharata are not just mythological tales, they are historical tales. It is quite possible that the original versions of these tales are written in a more realistic manner by documenting historical incident; and, over the period of time legends and superlativeness is added to the fiction making it look more like fantasy stuff.
Today, however, we are not going to analyze the historical accuracy of these fictions, but let us try to explore various angles from which Mahabharata was analysed by various authors. Late Harilal Upadhyay (a Gujarati author) have tried to stick to the original popular version of Mahabharat in his Mahabharat book series which is comprised of 7 books. Wellknown mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik came up with Jaya which is an illustrated retelling of Mahabharata where he tried to take a note of some of the less known tales from the epic. Recently Deepak Kaul have tried retelling the Mahabharata as a comic book named Corpokshetra, where the characters are setup in current time.
Quite different to them, some authors thought of looking to the epic from a specific character’s point of view. For example Anand Neelakantan, whose debut book, Asura – Tale Of The Vanquished was the exploration of Ramayana from Ravan (aka Ravana)’s perspective; came up with two books series on Mahabharata. He named it Ajaya (the opposite of Jaya – Mahabharata is part of Jaya or JayaSamhita) where he did explore it from Duryodhan (aka Duryodhana)’s point of view. Pradeep Govind’s I, Duryodhana also follow the same quest. Famous author Chitra Banerjee Diwakaruni have tried exploring Mahabharata from Draupadi’s point of view and named the book as – The Palace Of Illusions.
Famous Malayalam author M. T. Vasudevan Nair wrote a book named Randaamoozham which explores the tale of Mahabharata from Bheem (aka Bheema or Bhima or Bhimsen)’s point of view. Randaamoozham became popular among Malayalam readers. Prem Panicker was impressed by retelling of Mahabharata in Randaamoozham and on his blog https://prempanicker.wordpress.com he tried exploring Mahabharata from Bheem’s point of view by keeping Randaamoozham as the base and named it BHIMSEN. Vivek Dutta Roy’s The Accursed God is based on Bhishma (or Bheeshm/Bheeshma). Ashok K Banker‘s books also requires a mention. Some authors like Satyendra Dhariwal and Jatin Kuberkar came up with a totally different story which is rooted in Mahabharat
The list is really very long. So, it would be safe to say that The Mahabharata has impressed and inspired a remarkable number of writers. A famous author once told me that it is kind of a dream for a writer to come up with his own interpretation of Mahabharat. And, I am totally convinced.
|Book Title||:||Ashwatthama – Mahabharat Ka Shapit Yoddha
(अश्वत्थामा महाभारत का शापित योद्धा)
|Author||:||Ashutosh Garg (आशुतोष गर्ग)|
|Publisher||:||Manjul Publishing House (3 July 2017)|
|# of Pages||:||
1606 KB; 198 (Kindle EBook)
|# of Chapters||:||28|
So, when I came across a Hindi Book named Ashwatthama – Mahabharat Ka Shapit Yoddha (अश्वत्थामा महाभारत का शापित योद्धा), a Hindi book by Ashutosh Garg, I was sure, I am going to explore it some day. I got a chance to listen to the audiobook version of the same during my long travels and it was an interesting experience. I like the way it is narrated by Neeraj Yadav. It is worth to note that Ashutosh works with Indian Railways and his love for literature and command on Hindi and English gave him an opportunity to translate many books (mostly from English to Hindi). Eventually, he authored this book as his first original. I also overheard a conversation involving a late elder whom admire a lot mentioning him a reference of meeting Ashwatthama in the jungles of a well-known forest. That is a personal reason, I love to explore all the fictional works related to Ashwatthama.
Being a gateway to the virtual world within, cover page is responsible for creating the first impression of the book (or for that matter any respective media). And, we, by nature, are attracted towards beauty. So, despite believing in the fact that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, we also acknowledge the influence of the cover page in book pickup/reading/purchase decisions.
Let us take a look at the cover page of this book.
Ashwatthama is known more as a warrior, and the book title also reflects the same. So, seeing the illustration of a Brahmin warrior is expected. And, you can see the illustration of a warrior with his archery elements, from the backside spread over the entire cover. This brilliant illustration is made from white, brown and black shades. While the Janeu (the sacred thread) is not visible, you can see a necklace of Rudraksh flowing in the air. Long, unmated hairs adds to the attributes of him.
A nice and impactful cover page.
Let us take a bird’s eye view of the book plot.
Ashwatthama, a fragile and towering figure who is feared by even the deadly animals in the jungle, is living his old age days. His life is burdened with the unforgiven sin he has committed. In Indian way of life, it is said that with the time of your birth, the time of your death is also decided. The fate, however, seems had abandoned Ashwatthama from giving the boon of “death”!
He was born like any other child and lived almost his entire life with high morals and values. It was the fateful moment when possessed by evil thoughts, he went on performing a massacre followed by killing an unborn in the womb of his mother. He was thus cursed to live an infinite life carrying on the burden of his wrong actions, by no one else then Lord Krishna himself.
The life of Ashwatthama was never easy. When he was born, his righteous and intelligent father, Dron (or Drona), son of a well respected sage, was living a humble life. He and his wife Krupi (or Kripi) have no complaints for this situation from their own perspective. But, unable to see their offspring growing up without even the basic necessities, insisted by his wife, Dron paid a visit to King Drupad, his childhood friend from the days of Gurukul. His expectations to meeting an old friend were shattered when he met “king” Drupad.
Humiliated by Drupad, he eventually came to Hastinapur. Here he was granted the responsibility to teach the princes. It is his responsibility to prove his abilities and make them the best warriors Bharatvarash has seen. In this quest, he often had to sideline his morales and ethics, and Ashwatthama witnessed it firsthand. He has never approved of these actions by his father. It made him a kind of “rebel” son.
Growing up with the princes and accompanying them even in study, made him a good friend of them. His loyalty has thus been towards the throne of Hastinapur, like his father.
A chain of incidents made him to be the last commandant of the Kaurava army and he performed his war-crimes in an unforgivable way. And, that lead him to this immortal, painful and lonely life. Is there a message Lord Krishna wanted to convey through this “curse”? What is it? Well, you can read the book to know the author’s perspective here.
Views And Reviews:
First thing first. Like many other readers I too was expecting some incidents to be explored from Ashwatthama’s life and the book to be more focused on him. The book can be a disappointment in that terms.
But, if you think rationally, practically, whatever sage Ved Vyas ji mentioned in the Mahabharat (to be precise Jayasamhita/Jayasanhita) is the only information available for the characters of this epic. This script is also re-written many times and eventually a lot of fictional incidents could have been added. And, you can find these variations across many version of the epic around various geographical areas. So, practically it is not possible to add more incidents/events without adding them imagination. Of course, the entire track of Ashwatthama wandering in jungles and telling his tale is fictional and author must have thought to stick to the incidents happened during the time of the epic. From one angle, it is a wise decision. However, a reader may have his/her perspective here.
I heard the audiobook and the narration by Neeraj Yadav is something I am mesmerized with.
I would like to make the review spoiler free (as always), so not mentioning many attributes of the story to avid them. However, please read with the consent that some of them are inevitable.
For any creative person, being humble is one of the most important attribute. The author starts the tale with the prayer to Lord Krishna. I found that, more often readers skip the editorial/foreword/glossary sections. I would suggest otherwise. If you read foreword/editorial/epilogue, you will be able connect with the author’s/editor’s vision in better manner. I found some interesting lines in foreword of this book, that many creative persons will agree with.
लेखक की यात्रा प्रसव के सामान होती है क्योंकि लेखक को अपनी पुस्तक के प्रकाशन से वही आनंद और संतोष प्राप्त होता है, जो स्त्री को संतान के जन्म के बाद मिलता है!
While the book takes a look at the life of Ashwatthama from as neutral as possible perspective, the author’s vision here is not to justify any wrongdoing he has committed. He says:
कोई भी व्यक्ति, पूरी तरह न अच्छा होता है और न बुरा |
केवल इसलिए की उसने हताशा व् क्रोधातिरेक की स्थिति में भ्रूण-हत्या जैसा घिनौना एवं धर्म विरुद्ध अपराध किया, उसके व्यक्तित्व के अन्य गुणों तथा चारित्रिक विशेषताओं की सिरे से उपेक्षा कर देना उस महान योद्धा के साथ अन्याय है|
On a side note, some creative persons think that some mythological characters didn’t get their due and thus they are painted as antagonists. Thus, the story from their side also needs to be told. C. Rajagopalachari-ji has answered pretty much convincingly regarding such exploration in his adaptation of Ramayana. We, as a team of creative people respect all the explorations and suggest that reader should apply his/her own conscience here.
In this book, Ashwatthama says:
हालांकि, मेरे जीवन की दशा देखकर इस बात की संभावना भी बनती है की विधाता ने नियमानुसार, मेरे जन्म की भांति, मेरी मृत्यु का समय तो निर्धारित किया था किन्तु, मेरी परिस्थितियों और मेरे कर्मो (जिन्हे शायद अब कर्म की जगह, दुष्कर्म कहना बेहतर होगा) के फलस्वरूप, नियति ने उसे अनिश्चित काल के लिए स्थगित कर देना उचित समझा|
The book starts with fantastically explored emotions in simple words:
And the pain is elaborated in lines like:
इस संसार में अनेक लोग है, जो चिरंजीवी है, अमर है किन्तु उन्हें वह अमरता वरदान में मिली है| तुम अकेले अपवाद हो, जिसे यह शाप में मिली है| अन्य लोगो के लिए, जहाँ उनकी अमरता हर्ष और गौरव का विषय है, वहीँ तुम्हारी अमरता अभिशाप बनकर आजीवन तुम्हारे साथ चलेगी|
It refers the list of immortals as per Bharatiya culture.
अश्वत्थामा बलिर्व्यासो हनूमांश्च विभीषण:।
कृप: परशुरामश्च सप्तएतै चिरजीविन:॥
I found it the brilliant way to distinguish Ashwatthama from the list as “odd man out”, and what “immortality” means to him. Even more important thing is why? And, the answer the author comes up with, is in the conclusive chapter of the book. It is nothing less than a masterstroke. Even if you think that this book is simply Ashwatthama’s Mahabharat and nothing more to explore here, the last chapter will give you an amazing satisfaction for your decision to read this book.
I found the way the author summarizes one of the dark aspects of the war of Mahabharat in the following line, interesting.
इस महायुद्ध की यह अनोखी विशेषता थी की इसके आरम्भ में बनाये गए लगभग समस्त नियम, युद्ध के अंत तक तोड़े जा चुके थे|
The author used many simple and small character defining lines which are able to leave their impact effectively.
मैं चरित्र कि शुचिता को धनुर्विद्या से बढ़कर मानता हूँ|
And it is not only for the protagonists. Ashwatthama’s evaluation about Arjun also reflects the same:
इसीलिए मैंने पहले भी कहा और फिर कहता हूँ कि अर्जुन हम सब से अलग था! उसने द्रोण की निंदा अथवा शिकायत करने की बजाय, उनकी चाल की काट खोज ली और स्वयं को द्रोण का सच्चा शिष्य सिद्ध किया|
Do you like one-liners? I do. I found some fantastic lines in the back that can be remember as quotes to seek guidance from in different situations:
क्रोध की तरह लोभ और ईर्ष्या भी व्यक्ति के आचरण को भ्रष्ट कर देते है|
यदि कोई सहसा तुम्हारे प्रति उदार हो जाये तो तुम्हे सावधान हो जाना चाहिए|
दान में मिली वास्तु तुम्हारी दीनता भले ही दूर कर दे, किन्तु वह तुम्हे कुलीन नहीं बना सकती|
किसी कृत्य के द्रष्टा का उत्तरदायित्व भी उस कृत्य के कर्ता के लगभग सामान होता है|
क्षमा अत्यंत दुर्लभ गुण है जिसका दान देने से पूर्व मनुष्य को अपने अहं से मुक्त होना पड़ता है|
ग्लानि रेचन प्रक्रिया का प्रथम तथा प्रायश्चित, उसका दूसरा सोपान है|
दरिद्रता का एहसास दरिद्र होने से भी अधिक कष्टदायक होता है|
It is tough to weave the thought process or a character in words. I found the author good at doing the same. For example, these lines about Dron’s character are simply superb.
परंतु भारद्वाज ऋषि का पुत्र होने के नाते उन्हें ज्ञात था कि क्रोध को तुरंत व्यक्त कर देने से उसकी तीव्रता न केवल मंद पड़ जाती है अपितु वह अनायास ही क्षमादान कि संभावना भी उत्पन्न कर देता है| इसके विपरीत, यदि क्रोध कि चिंगारी को धैर्य एवं संयम कि पर्त के नीचे छिपा लिया जाए तो वह समय के साथ प्रचंड अग्नि का रूप धारण कर लेती है और फिर प्रतिशोध ही उसके शमन का एकमात्र उपाय रह जाता है|
I like the “word play” in the following lines:
धृतराष्ट्र ने सहसा दोनों हाथो से अपना मुकुट थम लिया| यह भीषण महायुद्ध नेत्रहीन धृतराष्ट्र की दिशाहीन महत्वाकांक्षा तथा उसके बुद्धिहीन सर पर रखे मुकुट की रक्षा के लिए ही तो लड़ा जा रहा था|
The way, the author has elaborated Lord Krishna’s support to Arjun is also worth to mention:
“पार्थ!” कृष्ण ने अर्जुन के कंधे पर हाथ रखकर, उसे दिलासा देते हुए कहा, “तुम निश्चिंत रहो| यदि मेरे रहते हुए तुम्हारा अनिष्ट हो गया, तो मेरे होने का अर्थ ही क्या है? …”
One is never promised by the superpower that the life will be easy for you. How you respond to the situations, defines your character and legacy. I like the following lines in the book in the same context:
समय की गति बेशक धीमी होती है किन्तु वह अपने प्रत्येक कदम के साथ धरती पर विध्वंस और निर्माण के निशान साथ-साथ छोड़ता चलता है| जहाँ कुछ लोग उसकी विशालता के नीचे दबकर इतिहास बन जाते है, वहीँ उसके पदचिन्ह कुछ नविन सभ्यताओं का उद्गम-स्थल बनकर भी उभरते है|
These lines will guide you even the pandemic times (you know what I mean, right?), as well.
On a side note, the book is not only the exploration popular incidents of Mahabharat, it comes up with some details about Dron/Krup and Krupi and some other character, that may not be known by many. But, remember, elaborates the incidents where mostly Ashwatthama was involved or could have known. So don’t expect this book to have all the popular incidents of Mahabharat explored.
I also check the Kindle Ebook version of the book, and I found many proof-reading errors there. For example:
मैंने पहले भी बताया की मेरे पिता बहुत स्वाभिमानी थे| किसी के सामने हाथ फ़ैलाने का विचार उन्हें स्वप्न में भी न आता, परन्तु पत्नी व् पुत्र के उत्तरदायित्व के भार और दिनेदिन बढ़ती दरिद्रता ने आखिर द्रोण के आत्म-सम्मान को ध्वस्त कर दिया|
… दुश्शाशन रनिवास की और दौड़ पड़ा|
If they could have been taken care of, the book could have been a better reading experience.
The quotes above must have given you a fair idea about the book and quality of writing you can expect from it.
If you love Indian mythology and want to explore the Mahabharat from Ashwatthama’s perspective, this book is a worthy choice. The way it conveys an important message at the end, is something you shouldn’t miss. A recommended read, if you can read with an open mind.
Around 7.5 to 8 stars out of 10.
Quick Purchase Links:
- Buy – Ashwatthama – Mahabharat Ka Shapit Yoddha By Ashutosh Garg – Paperback – Amazon India
- Buy – Ashwatthama – Mahabharat Ka Shapit Yoddha By Ashutosh Garg – Kindle Ebook – Amazon India
- Buy – Ashwatthama – Mahabharat Ka Shapit Yoddha By Ashutosh Garg – Audiobook – Amazon India
- Buy – The Ashwatthama – Mahabharat Ka Shapit Yoddha By Ashutosh Garg – Paperback – Amazon US
- Buy – Ashwatthama – Mahabharat Ka Shapit Yoddha By Ashutosh Garg – Kindle Ebook – Amazon US
- Buy – Ashwatthama – Mahabharat Ka Shapit Yoddha By Ashutosh Garg – Audiobook – Amazon US
Over To You:
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