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Modern Retelling of Mahabharata you should read

The Indian epic Mahabharata, authored by Ved Vyasa, is known to be the longest poem ever written. Mahabharata is not just a religious text but it’s a work of art. Many of the greatest life lessons can be learnt from the Mahabharata and the characters and events in it. People have read and interpreted the Mahabharata in various ways since the time it was written. Many have gone further and adapted the storyline of the Mahabharata to create a new and innovative retelling. Some have picked one of the characters from the Mahabharata and wrote the story from his or her point of view. Here is a list of modern retelling of the Mahabharata you should not miss.


Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

This retelling of the Mahabharata is rich and wonderful story-weaving. Palace of Illusions is a new perspective of Mahabharata from Draupadi point of view. The story is so amazing and real from the eyes of a woman that you get involved in reading for a very long. The way the author has portrayed the characters of Draupadi, Krishna, Bhima, Arjun and Karna that you fall in love with them. It also depicts the relationships of various Mahabharata characters with Draupadi. In the world of man, how a woman feels the pain in her journey of life. Even being a high profile princess life did not mercy on her.


Ajaya: Epic of the Kaurava Clan by Anand Neelkantan

Anand Neelakantan’s Book ‘Ajaya – Roll of the dice’ is the retelling of Jaya, or Mahabharata as we popularly know it. However there is a twist, the tale is a narration from the Kaurava’s angle. History has always been from the side of the victorious as the losers never have a chance to elaborate their plot. Ajaya – Roll of the Dice gives them that power of speech to tell their story and not the ‘His story’ version.

The Author beautifully portrays the mindset, lifestyle and caste dominancy of the Mahabharata times through a series of pre-battle coaxes and doings that caused the epic to unfold in the first place. The fact that Arjuna was not the first to win the contest in getting Draupadi, but rather Karna, King of Anga who won it; and the fact that Krishna created hatred towards Suyodhana and love for Arjuna in the heart of Shubadhra; the fact that based on Vedic laws a woman can only marry four men and beyond that, would term her a prostitute however for the sake of not creating strife between The Pandavas that rule was overlooked! The book ends with a call for Draupadi to be presented to the Kaurava Clan where her fate lies in their hands.


Bhima: Lone Warrior by M.T. Vasudevan Nair

The novel is a retelling of the Indian epic Mahabharata from the viewpoint of Bhima, who the author describes as the most important warrior in the Mahabharata war.

The story is well-written with elements of realism unlike the actual epic filled with extra-ordinary fables. It also gives a fresh outlook on Bhima along with many other characters of Mahabharata, especially Krishna whom I enjoyed the most. The author speaks about years spent on researching content for the book and without doubt, one can agree that it has not gone in vain.

Bhima, despite his imposing presence and heroics, is depicted as an average human filled with his own resentments and shortcomings. The slight melancholy associated with him all through is befitting the title. Though a little slow at times, the last few chapters are filled with twists and revelations. Despite the familiarity of the Mahabharata, these revelations surprise you yet fitting in with the larger framework of the epic.


Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik

This retelling brings a lot of fresh perspective on Mahabharata. It covers the entire original and for each incident, the mythological takeaway is nicely presented. The illustrations are also very original and keeps the reader glued.

Devdutt Pattanaik captures the reader’s imagination and brings to life the innumerable lessons that one can and should draw from the epic. The conflicts of morals, the complexities of Dharma, the taming of the ego, and the breaking free from the prejudiced shackles of the mortal world – all of it and much more are intricately detailed into simple stories.


Mrutyunjay by Shivaji Sawant

The book is a psychological insight into various characters of Mahabharat – primarily that of Karna’s perspective, mainly describing his role in the epic as it happened. Mrityunjaya is definitely one of the more profound retelling of Mahabharata I have read. The book is a collection of soliloquies by Kunti, Duryodhana, Shona – Karna’s younger brother, Lord Krishna, Vrushali – Karna’s wife, and Karna. As the story proceeds, you get well known to these characters , all characters are grey, knowingly making mistakes and are open to consequences.All characters have their own insecurities, confusions, anger and an acceptable reason for their behaviors and decisions.

Keynote of the book is Karna and choices/decisions made by him. He always knew his decisions will have devastating consequences. His restlessness while making this choices are shown wonderfully by the author.


The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor

This story is based on the Mahabaratha, a classic epic of Indian mythology , and is quite a journey: Intense, heartbreaking, beautiful, hilarious. It encompasses the entire history of modern India, since the struggle for independence. In the midst of all the tragedy and violence, the author has a knack for silly puns and a bit of parody.

The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor is author’s effort in Juxtaposing Mahabharta with Indian Freedom struggle and three decades of Post independence India. The characters in the former are shaped in a way to fit the narrative and slowly we see parallels between them.


Yajnaseni – Pratibha Ray

Yajnaseni, by renowned Odia writer Pratibha Ray narrates the psychological tale of Krishnaa, devotee of Lord Krishna, also known as Draupadi and wife of the five Pandavas. This retelling of the epic Mahabharata from the view point of Draupadi, highlights her sorrows, happiness, challenges and mental dilemma.

Full of relevant anecdotes which made it all too real that we were living the story through the eyes of Draupadi. The style was what one expected, perhaps too straightforward, no lingering recollections, flashbacks, no element of surprise, which made it all too calm, witness like.


Karna’s Wife: The Outcasts Queen by Kavita Kane

This book is a great example of things told from a different points of view sound very different. The depth given to the non-central characters like Kunti, Shakuni, Bhishma, and Duryodhana is exceptional. I especially loved the way the author has portrayed the other side of Kunti who is traditionally seen as a positive character.

The character central to the plot of course is Karna’s wife ‘Uruvi’. The author has in a very sensitive way explained what Uruvi goes through by marrying Karna – the chivalrous, generous, just and the highly skilled brave warrior who is regarded by many as the greatest warrior of Aryavrata but is also looked down upon by the majority because of his low birth. This book has not only brought out the various emotions that Uruvi goes through as the wife of one of the most complicated characters in the Mahabharata but has also explained the phenomenon of Karna.


Arjuna: Saga Of A Pandava Warrior-Prince by Anuja Chandramouli

This 360-page dedication to Veda Vyasa, truly the finest storyteller ever, is solely a retelling of the tale of Arjuna, the valiant warrior of Hindu mythology, and his role in Mahabharata. Mahabharata is by itself a tale with a magical mix of emotions which renders any reader mesmerized. However, the uniqueness of this book lies in fact that the author retold this tale in a simple, quick and fascinating manner.

Anuja Chandramouli has done a great job of retelling this great epic Mahabharata keeping the Pandava warrior in limelight and about his eminence which is only matched by Karna.


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