Arjuna by Anuja Chandramouli – Book Review
I am a self-proclaimed Mahabharata fan. And you can actually con me into reading anything in the name of the epic. I have read it from the perspective of its various characters. Like Karan in Shivaji Samant’s Mrituanjaya. Gandhari in Manu Sharma’s Gandhari Ki Atmakatha. And a couple of version of Draupadi. Yudhishthira’s Dharma laden version by Gurcharan Das and many Krishna’s versions. Arjuna is, of course, the hero of the story. So I was keen to read his perspectives also, the one who was blessed in more than one ways and got more than his due throughout the story. So, when I received this book for review, I was looking forward to reading Arjuna’s story. Incidentally, author’s name can also be derived from the word Arjuna, so I thought, may be she found her karmic connection there.
This book though turned out to be the abridged version of Mahabharata, which is such a well-woven story inter-twining multitudes of plots spread across eras. Every reader picks up certain stories that touch him or her most or leaves the biggest impression on them. Anuja has also picked up the stories and events from the epic she thought are important. She has not shared what versions of Mahabharata did she read. But I am guessing some south Indian version. As she mentions a few incidents that I have not read in my versions. Like the meeting of Arjuna and Hanuman at the stone bridge in Rameshwaram.
She has tried to highlight the events in the story that primarily belong to Arjuna. Like his days at Gurukul, his going to heaven to fetch the divine weapons. His travels around the length and breadth of the country to get weapons and allies. And his various marriages with princesses of the kingdoms he visited. Even then as a third person narrative, it remains a generic storyline of Mahabharata.
What is different in this telling of the story is the language that is very contemporary and very good. That led me to the question who has this been written for. If it is for the global audience then they would be lost in the array of characters and plots. They would need simpler linear treatment of the epic. If it is for the Indian audience, who more often than not would know the generic storyline. Then it is for those who would enjoy a story being re-told in a good contemporary language. In fact, it is after quite some time that I read a book that has good language, an author with good vocabulary and tight editing.
Given the title, I expected some more Arjuna angle. And somewhere I thought the plot was lost when too many characters were quoted. I liked her detailed description of the weapons used. Not many versions go into the details as much. Similarly, his marriages with Ulupi and Chitrangada are also mentioned in detail with reasons for them continuing to live in their parental home.
In the end, I wonder at the epic called Mahabharata. And wonder at its writer Ved Vyasa who intentionally or unintentionally created something that will keep inspiring writers and readers equally.
If you know the story, there is nothing new for you. If you love the story, you will anyway enjoy its any rendition.