I’m back again with a book review this time, and we are off to a very different genre : Mythology Decoded.
In the last couple of years, mythology has overtaken our literary culture in the form of retelling, theological thrillers, non fiction explanations and so on. A prominent name that has risen above the usual crowd is that of Devdutt Patnaik. Not only has he brought forth hidden and unknown figures for the world to know but also has helped decode the massively daunting vedas and other indian epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata.
I picked up the book ‘Shikhandi And Other Stories’ by him a couple of months ago, hoping to understand this ambiguous character better and boy! Was I in for a surprise!
Shikhandi is the famous Eunuch, responsible for the death of the patriarch of the Ruling family of Hastinapur : Bhishma Pitama. It was said that Bhishma had a boon to be immortal since the conditions set for his death were nearly impossible. He couldn’t be killed during the morning or the night, neither on the earth nor in the sky, neither by a man and nor by a woman. Right in the midst of the famous Kurukshetra battle between the Kauravas and Pandavas, Krishna realised that until they could kill Bhishma, the battle couldn’t be won. In that a tricky situation, his first thought rang of Shikhandi, Draupadi’s infamous brother and the reincarnation of Amba.
This is where the story actually kicks off and delves into the origin of Shikhandi. It explores the story of Amba, who was forcefully taken away by Bhishma to get her married to his younger brother. When she is scorned by both the men in her life, she vows to kill Bhishma who spoiled her life and wouldn’t even marry her himself to save her from shame since he had vowed celibacy. When every man she requests to avenge her lets her down, she vows to someday come back and get her revenge.
This book doesn’t only end up with this particular character. Devdutt Patnaik has done a commendable job of highlighting various such queer figures and practices, so deemed ‘unacceptable’ by the Indian society today.
From Arjuna’s year in hiding as a woman to Vishnu’s many avatars, Patnaik wastes no words to condemn people who think that homosexuality is a new fad. Anyone who thinks that it’s the modern world and it’s progressive thinking that is responsible for the rise of the LGBT community should definitely give this one a go. In fact, I think this book is for everyone who underestimates our Indian culture deeming it regressive and orthodox. For someone like me it was a pleasant surprise because of its such powerful vocal for this trodden community.
Patnaik’s writing is bold, loud and unafraid which is the main reason that I absolutely loved this book. He doesn’t shirk from fighting back the conservative belief system nor from endorsing the fact that the section of people that we so famously sideline, once were accepted and proudly so by our own Gods. Witty, informative and Oh-So-Bold, this one gets a solid 5 stars from me and an added plea to read it and let others know about it. If it’s religious beliefs and our ‘sabhyachaar’ that’s holding us back and killing millions of people from this community with our narrow minded thought process, it’s time to change and realize that we were created equal for even the Gods believed so.
Until next time!
Shelly Bajwa is Content Brewer Intern at Kaffeinated Konversations. Shelly has earned a postgraduate from London and is versatile, self-motivated and enthusiastic person. She has lived in Bahrain for a number of years and more recently in London, UK from where she has completed her Master’s Degree. An ardent reader with varying interest areas especially Egyptology and classics; she loves music and dance having choreographed many dance shows in school.