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September 25, 2013 / subramanyam

Arjuna by Anuja Chandramouli :: A must read.

          Having heard Mahabharata stories from my grandparents, parents and uncles and having watched it as a kid on TV, I was always drawn towards the epic and the essence it tries to tell us.  I liked the epic so much that I read an abridged Telugu version of Mahabharata when I was just a seven-year old.  That’s Mahabharata for me.  The world’s largest epic (1,00,000 verses) and worshipped as the panchama veda, Mahabharata is a story that encompasses many stories. As we read the story of the warring cousins the Pandavas and the Kauravas, we also get to read  many stories of many other people who are either directly or indirectly related to the cousins who fought the great war in the battlefields of Kurukshetra.  

The front cover of the book

The front cover of the book


          Was blessed to read Anuja Chandramouli’s  “Saga of a pandava warrior prince : Arjuna”  this week.  This, to me is one of the best books that retells Mahabharata in English.  Told from an Arjuna centric perspective, this book narrates the entire Mahabharata katha with a focus on Pandava madhyama (3rd of 5 sons of Pandu). His skills ,his follies and the good bad and ugly events of his life.

         Written in simple English and ornated with wonderful words, this book is definitely a great read. It is a page turner and the pace of the story and the way Anuja maintained it throughout was flawless and awesome.  The magnum opus of the book is that it stays as close as possible to the original text of Veda Vyasa.  The author does not give-in to any bias or does not depict any favoritism on any of the characters as she takes us through the tales of one of the noblest souls ever born.

          Again, I am extremely happy that someone has cared to narrate the story again and bring in the importance of Arjuna to the fore,  however, before I get into that let me ask a simple question.

Why should we read about Arjuna ?

          1.         One of the greatest gifts of Mahabharata to humanity is the Divine song or the Bhagavad Gita. Considered the most important book of wisdom (by the followers of Sanatana Dharma, Bhagavad Gita , the 700 sloka scripture is a conversation between Pandava  prince Arjuna and Lord Sri Krishna. This conversation that happened in battle fields of Kurukshetra dispels many myths, contains an enormous amount of knowledge on karma,bhakti and Jnana paths and guides seekers on a variety of theological and philosophical issues.

          Here Lord Krishna is the manifestation of God himself, Krishnaavataara is the poornaavataara or the complete avataara of Narayana.  So , he imparts knowledge. Now look at the person whom He chose to impart the knowledge to. It is Arjuna, he is the nara (man, mortal)  who received the knowledge from Narayana (God). If he was just another warrior prince who happened to be a good friend of Lord Krishna and had Lord Krishna always by his side to bail him out of troubles , why would the Lord choose Arjuna to impart the divine knowledge?

          2.       Of all the 105 warring cousins it was only Arjuna’s line(Vamsa-Lineage) that was there to live and rule the empire of kurus.  Every one else lost their kith & kin and even their own sons and grand children, what was so special in Arjuna that only he was blessed with this and everyone else was not ?

          If  not anything else, atleast to get the answers of these questions we ought to read about Lord Krishna’s ishta sakha (Best Friend ) Arjuna.  Anuja Chandramouli in her book tries and succeeds in bringing out the self-control, discipline, reverence

The Author Anuja Chandramouli

The Author Anuja Chandramouli

for elders ,the virtues, the thirst for knowledge and the reverence for dharma possessed by Arjuna.  I say Anuja unbiased while dealing Arjuna’s story as she does not resist herself from pointing out the follies of the great man.

          Of late, though we are reading and seeing a lot of Mahabharata katha, the biases or the internal inclinations of many of the writers (may be screenplay writers, authors etc… )  are effecting the outcome of the book/movie/serial and we end up seeing a slightly or heavily  distorted version of Mahabharata (for example: if you see the movie Dana Veera Sura Karna in Telugu, you see Karna being eulogized and Arjuna not given enough importance.).   Writing a book on Mahabharata and writing it without any distortion or bias is in itself a herculean task and I commend Anuja for doing that.

          The size of the book is also good , it’s 356 pages and I feel an ideal size for any book.  Anuja had to cover 18 parvas (chapters) of Mahabharatha and doing it 356 pages is really awesome.  Now, one more thing, as I said before, the story has too many stories inside it. So the reader has to actually remember what happened in the past to understand why a particular person is behaving in a particular way in a given situation. For example, why Arjuna had to use the mighty Paasupatha astra on Jayadratha or why Dustadyumna attacks Drona inspite of Arjuna’s disapproval on the 15th day of the battle.  Anuja has come up with a smart answer to this, she gives us a short paragraph or two that either gives us the context or when a particular thing is happening, she will tell us how this incident is going to change some thing else in the future. (For Eg.While narrating the  Khandavadahana episode, she tells us abount a serpent escaping there, she also tells how it  ends up becoming the nagastra and even takes us to the battle scene where it is used. Nice one. ) Very well handled mam, take a bow.

          One minor glitch I found in the book is the playful jibes Arjuna and Bhima keep having at each other, never read about this in any of the books before, so I am not sure about them. Then I felt Shishupala’s story also had few details missing. Again the author must have a skipped a few details as she was trying to narrate the story from Arjuna’s standpoint.

           However, in spite of all this stuff , the book is still one of the best ones we should be reading. Before I conclude I would say one thing, they say that one should read Mahabharata when he is 8-15 years old, for it teaches one about the  world , the psychology of people, the good,bad and ugly sides of humanity and about the deceitful, cunning and scheming people who surround any person. We should read it because it teaches us on why it is important to be disciplined, truthful and virtuous in our lives.   It’s never late to learn.  Hence, we should be reading it.  Then, we all have this onerous task and responsibility of passing these stories and lessons on to our next generations. Weren’t we the lucky ones who heard about all this from our parents and grand parents and corrected few errant strides of ours.  In today’s world, in the age of Cartoon Networks and Pogos if re-read these stories and tell it to our kids as dinner table tales or bed time tales,  it would (i)  increase the ethics and values in them (ii) increase our bonding with them.  Everyone who has kids at home and has plans of raising them in an orderly and disciplined manner must read Mahabharata and teach the kids the virtues of Pandavas. This book is of great help in doing that. It will not only help the reader tell his kids about story of Mahabharata but will also help him/her explain why and where Arjuna is a cut above the rest and give his/her kids one of the best lessons of their lives.

          Again, I thank Anuja for the fantastic book and thank the publishers for bringing such a good book to light.  I appeal to the people to read the book for it is such a nice and educating one.

Happy Reading

Book —————- Arjuna : Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince

Publisher ——– Leadstart Publishing

Price —————- 250

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