The Aryavrata Chronicles, Book 3 – Kurukshetra – Book Review
The story of Mahabharatha, though similar to the epic we have read, is still different in many ways. In the very beginning, the author writes “We are the stories we tell. The Aryavrata Chronicles are neither reinterpretation nor retelling. These stories are a construction of reality based on a completely different set of assumptions” Here, the characters are not divine. They are all ordinary people. There are no miracles; instead the author has given logical explanation to events which were termed miracles.
The story begins with Govinda’s peace proposal, which is rejected by Syoddhan (Duryodhan). What follows is the series of events, where both the sides try to form allies with other kings, trying to expand their forces. Though they prepare for the war, there is still hope in everyone that it wouldn’t come down to war and the other side would surrender. But when peace proceedings fail, it leads to the great battle.
I was waiting to see what form this war would take, as the author has mortalised all the characters. What would be the war like without the divine astras used during the wars? But by hinting that the arrows were coated with nitre, which caused such massive destruction during war, the author has managed this part brilliantly. The war takes the centre stage of the book and almost 200 pages is devoted to the 18 days war, but never once does the reader loses interest. The author has managed to narrate the whole story with precision keeping the reader engaged throughout.
The author has done justice to almost all characters, without letting just some dominate the whole story. Even Syoddhan has been portrayed as a Just ruler, who fights for what he believes is right – The Divine Order and their way of life. By showing compassion to Abhimanyu during the battle, he wins the hearts of the reader. On the other hand, Dharma fails to do so. Dharma was supposed to be all great but reading this book, one cannot stop themselves from harboring ill feeling s towards him. Reading about his reactions during war councils, his pushing Abhimanyu towards the chakra formation, even when he knew the chances of Abhimanyu returning back safe is almost nil, his behaviour towards Hidimbya and even toward Govinda; they all make you wonder if he is really the same Yudhishtira whose praises are sung with devotion! I didn’t like this part of the book where Dharma was downgraded.
One more story line, which I enjoyed was that of Abhimanyu and Uttara. Stuck in a marriage which both weren’t happy to begin with, there is a barrier between them which both fight to keep and break at the same time. But eventually, love finds its way. There is particularly one line which Uttara says to Abhimanyu “If a woman is truly your equal, prince, then there is no need to talk about it. The more you spout these declarations and postulates, the more you reveal the truth of the matter – that in your world, women are not equal to men, and so rhetoric to the contrary is required” It speaks volumes about Uttara’s courage. One cannot help but feel the pain when Abhimanyu is so brutally killed later in the war.
There are many mytholgical incidents, which Krishna Udayasankar deals with reason. She has managed to give attention to even minute details, to keep the readers in loop as to why things are the way they are. For instance, when describing the war arrangements, she says there were different kitchens in each units and sometimes more than one in each sub unit. This arrangement was to reduce the risk of poisoning the army either accidentally or deliberately. A simple yet effective approach. It was easy to keep up with the story. Her writing is eloquent and engaging; her narration skills exceptional.
Here are a few quotes from the book that I loved:
- In every story, there are heroes. But it is not always the heroes who move the tale forward or do what needs to be done. There are others and their story is hardly told.
- True rebellion takes courage of different sorts. True rebellion takes letting go.
- No one person can save the world. But the fact that we all try, against all odds, is what the world is worth saving for.
- What amazing creatures we are, to carry this very essence of existence within us. Hope – the undefined potential of all creation, the power of the creator itself.
- No one person is the cause for or consequence of all that happens. I am just the tenth man, the threshold, the turn in the tide. I stand here on the shoulders of humanity, a mere instrument of Time.