Friday, October 04, 2013

Review : Arjuna, Saga of a Pandava Warrior Prince by Anuja Chandramouli

This book was sent to me by Leadstart Publishing. Published in 2013 by  Platinum Press, an imprint of Leadstart Publishing, this book of 363 pages, is dedicated to the most admired warrior from the Mahabharata Epic, the Pandava Warrior Prince , Arjun. 

At the outset, one has to greatly admire the stupendous research done by the author,  Anuja Chandramouli, to ferret out a plethora of details and gems of information , hitherto unknown, to someone like me, who grew up listening to grandmother's stories from the epics, almost 50 years ago, almost on a nightly post dinner basis.

The books has a massive four page long cast of characters , which have been defined under various categories, right at the start of the book. A select glossary of Sanskrit terms/words is made available at the end of the book for clarity. 

The story starts with the ancestors of the Pandavas, the genetic inter-connections between the various key ancestors. The author has delved fairly deep into family trees, to clarify details, which again, get terribly mind boggling, as polygamy, various immaculate conceptions via various Gods,  abandonments and adoptions,  children born out of flames in yagnyas, et al  are present in glorious detail.

The author has painted the various key personalities expertly.  Each of the Pandavas, the Kaurava top folks, the advising elders who were supposed to guide , Lord Krishna,  the majestic Draupadi , the unfortunate Karna are painstakingly  colored and described in detailed shades.

Unlike many books based on epics and scriptures, which generate some kind of disbelief and awe,  there is a sense of human ease about this style of writing.  Many human qualities are seen in folks. The younger Pandavas are never permanently tongue tied vis-a-vis Yudhishtira, and there are times when Bheem, Nakul and Sahadev even crack jokes along with Arjun quietly in front of him.   While the story in the first 60% of the book is really about Arjun, the banishing of the Pandavas away in the jungles for 12-13 years,  even Arjun going on a side trip to heaven and impressing Gods there, and returning with weapon goodies, the story appears to slowly narrow to  the story of Karna , the most unfortunate personality in the Mahabharata.  There is heavy detailing of the various battle plans, Chakravyuhas,  the various special weapons (with exception points)  , Gods appearing every now and then , sometimes to grant a wish, sometimes to applaud something with a shower of flowers.

This book could have become tedious due to the detail.  Fortunately, beyond the first half, the amount of sudden new characters with weird powers reduce, and the story is more about right, wrong, greed, power, good, evil, revenge, being faithful to the ruler or to your conscience, and being smart .

To someone, who has never heard the stories earlier , it would be completely shocking to see folks casting spells, and giving "Shaaps " simply because they didn't like something or someone disturbed them.  It would have been unnerving to have Indra and the Sun frequently make trips to earth to interfere in the proceedings, just like that, and Pandavas  traveling around the country, meeting kings, taking a fancy to some beautiful princess and marrying them appears to be a usual thing, possibly a tradition in those days, but clearly something that complicated life. 

But it is also a story of the super brave Abhimanyu, the raring to go Ghatotkach who even in death , fell on the opposing army and killed folks by crushing them. It is a story of strong women , who stood by other strong women right till the end, and indulgent women, who spoilt their royal kids, when a strict rebuke would have helped. It is a story about how war misguides a populace,  once the majority refuses to see reason. It is a story of queens with some very human attributes, and lack of guts in facing things, like in the case of Kunti,  who gives birth and abandons the child in a basket in the river; then years later, lands up at that son's place to identify herself, and ask for special consideration as a mother whose 2 sons are fighting each other to kill.   

But one cannot help feel, that Arjuna was able to be what he was, very clearly because of Lord Krishna.   While none of the Pandavas were good at what would be called today as "having talks" with the enemy/opposition,  Lord Krishna, was at pains to discuss things with folks like Karna , when the war was about to reach its fiercest point , and whats more, Karna was able to stand his own ground, on reasons , that one would even give today. Anticipating events, and primarily using his charioteer position smartly, the Lord performed at crucial moments  to save Arjuna during the war. I mean, it helps to have someone with "inside information" on your side, not to mention brilliant navigation abilities.    

This is a story we see around us even today. Good rulers, bad rulers. Nonethical practices being justified as correct by unscrupulous higher ups. Righteous folks at the top, who cannot take a systems view, but cause havoc because of their adamant stands.  People who believe, brawn is better than brain.   One time respected elders who slowly fade out of the scene, to be abused behind their backs.  Assorted princes lording it over others by virtue of genetics.  Gutless courtiers.  Backstabbing.  Abuse of women and killing of children.  Strangely, no one talks about daughters in the Mahabharata  (much is mentioned about Pandavas' sons ), and today too, daughters are , by and large, ignored.

The question is, is there a Lord Krishna visible anywhere,  and if he does appear, will we have the sense to listen ? 

This book kind of grows on you as you go deep into it. Read it. 


  1. Beautifully reviewed and I look forward to read the book. I love the music played on the blog.

  2. It all boils down to this, doesn't it:" The question is, is there a Lord Krishna visible anywhere, and if he does appear, will we have the sense to listen ? "

    A question as old as the hills...


  3. I think authors these days view epic characters as mortals and not super humans. That in itself is a welcome change since the analysis tends to be objective. The situation of the battle between evil and good forces has been raised time and again in our epics and the definition of good and evil keeps getting revised from time to time which is unfortunate.

    Today greasing palms to get work done is justified and accepting or offering a higher amount of dowry to snatch away a prospective groom means that earlier bidders in the auction were dumb enough to let on their strategy of zeroing in on an eligible bachelor.

    May be we need more books like this one to look for answers to uneasy questions.

  4. I didnt read the book. But when read the review about this book in google i was fascinated to read the book. I loved the music which played on the blog.

  5. I didnt read the book. But when read the review about this book in google i was fascinated to read the book. I loved the music which played on the blog.