Hidimba by Narendra Kohli

Narendra Kohli has re-written Mahabharata as Maha Samar and that is one series that I hope to read sometime. He has also written a series on the women in Mahabharata and Hidimba is a small novella based on Hidimba – the Rakshasa wife of Bheem, the first ever daughter-in-law of the Pandavas. Her episode in Mahabharata is small one and her contribution to the war is a brave son she bore Bheem.

This small book details out the small episode when Bheem along with his brothers and mother stayed in Hidimbavan after Duryodhana tried to burn them in varnavata. From this story it seems they stayed here for a year or so as Ghatotkach is born during their stay. Story starts with Bheem killing Hidimba’s brother Hidimb who was also the ruler of the region. They have been said to belong to rakshasa Jati but the descriptions make them look more like tribals than anything else. Their lifestyle in sync with nature and their absolutely liberated culture is something that we can so easily related to the tribes that live in deep jungles.

The story is very simple, Hidimba and Bheem fall for each other. Kunti does not want them to be married as Bheem cannot marry before his elder brother Yudhhishtir and also the girl does not suit their royal lineage, but she allows them to be married without any commitment as per the rules of the jungle with no liability after they leave the forest. There is a bit of love story and the birth of the son before it is time for the pandavas to leave for Hastinapur.  In each chapter, author highlights a point, or rather two divergent views on a subject that take the form of a debate or a dilemma to highlight the dharma that the epic is always pointing towards.

In the first chapter he highlights a woman in love through Hidimba, and the simpleton that she is compared to the civilized visitors in her land. Her open acknowledgement of her lust for Bheem and openness is something that is sharp contrast with a very formal relationship that the brothers and their mother share. Her willingness to do anything to get the man she wants highlights a woman in love. In the next chapter in a dialogues between the resident Rishi and Yuddhistra comes out the debate between ‘Do we need to protect ourselves or shall we leave to God to protect us, for he knows why he has sent us here will always do the best for us’. In another chapter, Bheem wants to take Hidimba with them, something he knows his brothers would never agree with. Hidimba resolves his dilemma when she chooses to stay in the forest and raise her son as the future ruler of the place. Even in her naivety her political thinking shines through as she wants to be Raj Mata and that she knows would not be possible in Bheem’s family as he is not the eldest son. Kunti’s dilemmas come as a mother who wants to let her son enjoy the marital bliss but who must also keep all his sons together all the time, as she knows their strength lies in being together.

Episode is simple, but it’s the debates between two different points of views that make it a very interesting reading. Ok, I am biased together towards Mahabharata.

Read it.

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