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Title: The Winds Of Hastinapur
Author: Sharath Komarraju
Publisher: Harper Collins
Price: Rs 299
I have always been fascinated by mythology. Even though I had never read the books, I have seen the adaptations on television ever since I can remember. I know the tales of 'Ramayana' and 'Mahabharata' pretty well, all thanks to my grandmother who used to explain the story to me while we were watching it. I have wanted to read the original stories though. After reading the 'Ramayana' I fell in love with the mythological genre. The only problem is that it takes a really long time to finish the books and it has so many characters that you need to read it with a keen eye. Thankfully Sharath Komarraju's adaptation of the 'Mahabharata' comes in a series of books, told in the point of view of the lesser known ladies of the epic. So when, the author himself asked me to review the first book of this series, I jumped at the opportunity. I had not read any of his books before. For the record, Sharath Komarraju is the author of 'Murder In Amaravati' and 'Banquet On The Dead'. So, I read this book like as if it was his first.
"My hair is white and thin, now. In a few moons, the Goddess will claim me, and I do not have a fresh young virgin by my side to absorb my knowledge and take my place once I am gone. The Mysteries of Ganga and her Sight will vanish with me, and the Great River will become nothing more than a body of lifeless water.. It is my intention, therefore, to tell you the story as it happened, as I saw it happen."
'The Winds Of Hastinapur' is the story of Mahabharata indeed, but it focuses on the women instead of the famous and infamous men of the epic. No one has tapped into the emotions of the women of Mahabharata until now, apart from the tale of Draupadi told in the 'Palace Of Illusions'. The very fact that the story is told from a woman's point of view makes it more interesting.
The book is split into two parts. The first part is the tale of Ganga and the second part is the tale of Satyavati. The first part starts in the past with the river maiden Jahnavi also known as Ganga, who lives among the celestials of Meru, who are immortal, thanks to water of the great lake. Prabhasa, the Vasu cursed by a sage’s wife, asks her to bear him and his brothers in her womb as the curse ordains them to be born as humans. Ganga is hence cursed and sent to earth to be the wife of Shantanu. Her sole purpose of coming to earth is to bear a son to the great King, the son who shall one day rule the land of Hastina. The son who shall rule Hastina would be the eighth son of Ganga and Shantanu. Hence, she kills seven of her own sons by drowning them in the river. The only son that survives is Devavrata. The first part ends with him leaving the place where he grows up, Meru.
The second part is the story of Kali, the daughter of a fisher man who is later known as Queen Satyavati when she marries Shantanu. This part is mainly about how she gets to be the second wife of Shantanu. She is the powerful one here with a keen eye on matters of politics and everything else. She symbolizes total power that takes down everyone around her, mainly the destiny of Ganga's son. The contrast between Ganga and Satyavati is enchanting and brought out beautifully by the author. But it is the story of Bhishma that stands out here. Marvellous and spellbound. Sharath uses simple words to convey the story and portrays the characters as normal beings and not like the ones who can fly or go invisible. Each character has a story to tell and it is refreshing to read it. I loved the character of Satyavati more than anyone else as she is more real than anyone around. Ganga comes with her share of fantasies, but is an underrated character here. The author does a wonderful job in bringing out the emotions of the women. Be it sexual or otherwise. These feelings were not shown in any of the adapted sagas on television.
The book is a delight to read and keeps the reader wanting for more. I cannot wait for the next book to be out now. However, I found two negatives in the book. One, the spellings. There are quite a lot of spelling mistakes in the book which I found troubling. Also there is an unwanted use to capitals every now and then. Not the author's fault, the editing team needs to proof-read it once again, before the next print. Second, the cover. The story inside is so captivating that the outer cover does not do justice to it. At all. It looks too plain and mediocre. The contrast between the two leading ladies of the book would have made for a better cover. Hopefully, these two points will be taken care of in the coming sequels.
Verdict: A delightful read and keeps the reader hooked. Not only for the fans of mythology. Fiction lovers can enjoy it too.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Note: I received a copy of the book from the author for a review. This is not a paid review.