EPIC LOVE STORIES from the Mahabharatha: A Book Review
Title: Epic Love Stories: Amba And Bhishma- Book 4
Devayani, Sharmishtha and Yayati – Book 5
Author: Ashok K. Banker
Publication: Westland Ltd
Pages: 79 and 109
Price: Rs. 125
The last I had read in detail about the Mahabharata was C. Rajagopalachari’s book which till date is one of the finest books in English about the Mahabharata. So, when I came across Ashok Banker’s take on some of the love stories that figure in the Mahabharata, I was quite eager to know what he had to offer.
By the time I had completed No. 4 of the Epic Love Stories titled, ‘Amba and Bhishma,’ I realized there couldn’t be a more compact, fascinatingly descriptive, interesting and simpler version than this. The book not only makes reading a part of the grand epic easy, it makes it interesting too, so much so that my 14 year old son picked it up and enjoyed it too especially the battle scenes!
In the book, ‘Amba and Bhishma,’ the story begins with the King of the Puru Dynasty, Shantanu’s marriage to the fisher chief’s daughter Satyavati. The story has been described well and the part where Bhishma is on his mission to get back three princesses (one of whom is to be married to his step brother Vichitravirya) can only read to be enjoyed thoroughly.
“Before the shower of metal fletches could reach their chariot, an arrow shot from beside her raced to meet them, splitting itself into as many pieces, each of theses pieces obstructing the fletches and dropping them harmlessly to the ground. She turned back to stare at Bhishma, who was lowering his bow, still looking ahead to watch the road. She understood that his aim had been perfect but how could the metal pieces in his arrow have perfectly blocked every single fletch coming at them? Could anyone loose an arrow with such a precise degree of skill?
That was when she first began to realize that Bhishma was no mere mortal. And when she first fell in love with him.”
Book No 5 titled, ‘Devayani, Sharmishtha and Yayati’ is about ‘a love triangle that changed a dynasty.’ While the former book dwells lightly on love and more on the battle scene, ‘Devayani, Sharmishta and Yayati’ is a story about emotions – about love, lust, passion, jealousy, frustration and revenge.
Devayani loses Kacha’s love to his Dharma….
“His soul wept to deny her – and to deny himself that pleasure, and instead to stick to the original plan for which he had been sent here, sacrificing his own desires and love so that he might fulfill his dharma.”
….. and when she falls in love with the handsome King Yayati, she is confident that the Gods have finally given her due. Unfortunately, that is not to be as her arrogance becomes an obstacle in the path of love and King Yayati loses his heart to a more demure Sharmishtha, a friend and later slave of Devayani.
“Is it not said by the learned that he who refuses to sire a child upon a woman who desires one is no less than a murderer of an embryo?”
The story of Devayani, Sharmishtha and Yayati is highly entertaining and engaging reflecting the trends in society that existed then and even exist now. Ashok Banker’s narrative style shines as usual bringing alive episodes from the Mahabharata. And the secret charm of his style of writing is that it appeals to readers irrespective of genre and age.
I highly recommend reading these books.