Book Review: Yajnaseni, by Pratibha Ray

Novels exploring Indian mythology tend to bring the more known tales in a different way. One of the more known characters in Indian mythology is Drapadi, also called Panchali as she was the daughter of the King of Panchala or Yajnaseni because she was born via a yajna conducted by the King. She’s the wife of the five Pandavas. The great epic Mahabharata tells the story from a third person perspective. Two authors, as far as I know, have tried to look at the Mahabharata from the point of view of Draupadi. One of them is Pratibha Ray, and this novel Yajnaseni.

Blogging from A to Z: Y for Yajnaseni
Blogging from A to Z: Y for Yajnaseni

Positive aspects:
The novel’s angle is a positive aspect. Draupadi is perhaps the most interesting character in the original epic, with the reason for her birth, her denying Karna the opportunity in the Swayamvar, accepting the words of Kunti and accepting the five Pandavas as husbands, the humiliation in the court after being lost to gambling etc. A first person perspective of the tale from her angle would be different, and that in itself already is initiative to read. It also brings a certain beauty in descriptions, recreating the magic of the epic with it. I quite enjoyed reading the war from her perspective, and also the thoughts on some of the other characters.

What I didn’t like:
After the birth of Draupadi in the first chapter, the novel slows down. The language becomes over descriptive of her thoughts, affections for Krishna and so on, and for a while the novel becomes challenging to read. The pace, thankfully, picks up later. It’s hard to imagine that Draupadi, who was born to avenge her father’s defeat by Drona, has no anger or wrath in her. The story from her perspective, which was expected to be strong and powerful, continues the usual way, just accepting what is thrown in her path. While I accept that a retelling needs to stick to the events that are known and loved, when the point of view changes, the emotions along with also need to change. One expects to understand the reasons for her actions in this perspective. But this does not happen. That, I feel, affects the novel. It makes it slightly harder to understand the character and thus, the novel itself.

There are some good things in this novel, but I don’t know if I shall read it again. Perhaps one day, maybe then this novel might make more sense. Then again, it might not.


The Bookworm Rates This: 3/5
The Bookworm Rates This: 3/5
Book Details
Title: Yajnaseni
Author(s): Pratibha Ray
Translator: Pradip Bhattacharya
Genre: Mythology
ISBN/ASIN:
9788171673230
Publisher:
Rupa Publications
No. of Pages: 410 Price: INR. 395

I own a copy of the book. The views expressed here are my own, frank and uninfluenced.


(© 29th April 2015)

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