Book Review: The Aryavarta Chronicles: Kurukshetra - Krishna Udyasankar


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...."Everytime a Story is told, it changes"....

You know a book you read has an impact on you when you quote from it. This line, in an way, explains everything that The Aryavarta Chronicles by Krishna Udayasankar embodies. The battle of Kurukshetra, while nothing new to anyone who's ever been remotely interested in Indian mythology comes to life in a different but interesting way in The Aryavarta Chronicles: Kurukshetra.

When I saw this book up for review, at first I was a little hesitant to apply for it as I wasn't certain I wanted to read another rehash of the story. However, on reading the blurb I was interested in the author's take on the story. What if the Gods that we pray to, are not Divine, but men: human, fallible men who have been elevated to a near Divine status due to their actions? While I'm not very religious in any respect, I have always been fascinated by ideas such as this. I haven't read the first two books, but I decided to take a plunge and read them out of order.

While this is Book Three in the Aryavarta Chronicles, this is in no way a hindrance in absorbing the story and I doubt you will feel the need to have read the first two books. Seeing as we have all grown up with the canon Mahabharata version, I t think that makes it's easier to understand the complex relationships. However, its good that a list of characters at various settings in the story is mentioned at the start of the book. Indeed I found myself referring to that and the family genealogy more than a couple of times while reading the book.

The story of Mahabharata has been told countless times, by millions of people and not unlike the writer I've always believed that it's been covered with layers of fact turning into fantastical fiction to a certain extent over the thousand odd years. The author talks about great men, not driven by the ideas of right and wrong, but the idea of change. It has been said that you can find any story you can think of in the Mahabharata, the author, to a large extent fulfils this idea. Can it not be a story of revolution, instead of revenge? Can it not be a tale of the people, instead of a family feud. Truly, it is a point of view that makes the book interesting in its premise. I was particularly impressed by the author explaining the supposed magical weapons , by introducing an idea of a scientifically advanced group of men, the Firewrights. Yes, this explanation is all the more plausible to a person from the current world that questions everything it cannot explain and that makes it all the more appealing when you read this book. On the other hand, the politics, the feuds and the families of the times, their relationships with each other add yet another layer of intrigue to the story.

Halfway through the book, I had a friend ask me if the book has the Bhagvad Gita in it. While I hadn't reached that part yet, I know there are many people who will wonder the same thing. Well, while it is quite impossible to incorporate the whole of Gita in a book such as this, it has the essence of it, is distilled and expressed, a writer's interpretation, if you will. I really liked how the ideas that we currently associate with Govinda, are presented, albeit in a human context. The actual battle scenes are well described, and throughout the book, I could feel the effort and research that went into writing it. The best part, however, is the look at the psyche of each of the main characters, as they make the decisions they are now famous for. This made the book a definite page turner in my opinion as I read through the various reasons and ideas of a man who brought the world to war. Truly, this is something I haven't read before (not that I have read many interpretations of this epic).

The idea that "Govinda" was but a man, makes it all the more tangible to believe that the story can really have happened. The author goes on to describe all the complex political, personal and socio-economic relationships that exist. I'd say the book is worth a read, just for this aspect of the story. While everyone knows what happens in the story, it is interesting to see the author map out the reasoning the various characters in the epic have. Yes, we know what is going to happen, but the "why", makes the events all the more complex and multi-faceted.

I would suggest this book to anyone who has been a fan of the epic. You may or may not agree with this "human" interpretation of events, but I'm sure it will be a pleasant read either way.

Name: The Aryavarta Chronicles: Kurukshetra
Author: Krishna Udyasankar
Publisher: Hachette Book Publishing

My Rating: 3.5/5

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