Capturing an epic’s timeless appeal 
Reviewed by
Harbir K Singh

By Shiv K Kumar.
HarperCollins India. Rs 399

The Mahabharata, considered to be one of the greatest epics in the world, is a great work of writing which explores the entire range of human emotions. It delves deep into the psyche of human emotions be it love-hate, lust-vengeance, greed-jealousy, loyalty-betrayal. All types of human emotions and the psyche is portrayed so well and naturally that the epic becomes a human story.

Writer Shiv K Kumar retells the story of Mahabharata in such a magnificent way that reader rediscovers the intensity of human emotions and he is propelled to read on and on till the book finishes.

The book starts with the birth of Devavrata, the son of king Santanu and Ganga, who was later known as Bheeshma. King Sanatanu meets Ganga a celestial, graceful, young beauty and marries her without knowing anything about her as she had put this condition that if and whenever he will ask anything about her and why she is doing certain things, she will immediately depart. She gives birth to seven sons but drowns them in the river Ganga. When she is going to drown their eighth son, the king cannot control himself and asks her the reason of this act. She takes the eighth son with her with the promise that he will be back after he has been taught archery and Vedic studies. She also told the king that this son will be illustrious member of Kuru race — truthful, compassionate and valiant. He was named Devavrata and later known as Bheeshma.

Devavrata never got married and refused to be the king of Hastinapur because of his vow to Satyawati daughter of a fisherman whom his father loved and married. Before marriage, her father had put this condition to the king that children born by her will only inherit the throne. His father king Santanu was so overwhelmed that he blessed him, that he will be famous as Bheeshma in the history of Bharatvarsha.

They had two sons Chitrangada and Vichitravirya. They married Amba, Ambika and Ambalika. Pandu was born to Ambalika and ascended the throne. Dhritrashtra born to Ambika was born blind. Pandu was married to Kunti. Dhritrashtra married Gandhari but she blindfolded herself to share the fate of her husband, living in the world of darkness. After the death of Pandu, Dhritrashtra became the king. He was blessed with a hundred sons, Duryodhana being the eldest. There was never peace between the Pandvas and Duryodhana though all the princes completed their martial arts under Dronacharya. Though they were cousins' but Duryodhana always plotted against them, even planned to kill them because Yudhishtra, Arjuna, Bheema, Nakula and Sahdeva, were popular and loved by the people of Hastinapur. 

Duryodhana with his uncle Sakuni planned a game of dice with Yudhishthra. In the game Yudhishthra lost everything —jewels, elephants, horses. Indraprastha, his brothers, himself and his wife Draupadi. She was disrobed in the full assembly by Duryodhana. After this Pandavas were exiled for 13 years.

Pandavas spent their time in exile and after 13 years asked for their kingdom back but Duryodhana refused. Both the sides prepared for the war at Kurukshetra and it lasted for 18 days. After winning the war coronation of Yudhishtra happened. Human imperfections are shown. Yudhishthra, known for his righteousness, also lies to have Drona slain. Bheeshma who is portrayed as custodian of justice, remains a mute spectator to the disrobing of Draupadi. Even Krishna, the charioteer of Arjuna in the battle of Kurukshetra, is not blemishless. He resorts to deviousness to acieve his objective. The writer has very beautifully described Krishna's discourse to Arjuna, which takes us towards self realisation.