Book Review: Jaya, by Devdutt Pattanaik

When it comes to the Mahabharata, any retelling by a new author comes with the initial expectation of matching the magic the original epic from Indian mythology creates. The story is so well known; its little stories told as bedtime stories to children, that some little facet that feels off is immediately understood. I have never read an illustrated version of the epic, so I quite eagerly picked up this book, having heard many good things about it.

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What Jaya, by Devutt Pattanaik brings to the book is that it is not just a retelling, but a mix of thoughts and fiction (myth). The myth part of the novel is done complete justice. When I read that part, it’s as if the story comes alive, which is exactly what a myth/fantasy story should do, I feel. This is, in no small part, helped by the many illustrations that accompany the retelling. Along with the known, a bit of the unknown is also there. I, for one, did not know why Draupadi had not been at the hall when the gambling was going on. This part was answered. I didn’t know the last part of the Pandavas’ last year of exile, so reading that was interesting. I even enjoyed reading the shortened version of the Bhagavad Gita, which helped me to understand that part, which had gone above my head when hearing it for the first time many years ago or watching it on television later. To contrast with these stories, the author adds many notes of his own expertise in mythology, making the great epic more thought provoking than before.

The book helps to see the Mahabharata in a new light. It’s as easy to imagine as hearing the magic alone, but it contrasts between then and now at times. This is, I feel, the best retelling I have read of the epic and is one that will be reread quite often.


The Bookworm Rates This: 5/5
The Bookworm Rates This: 5/5
Book Details
Title: Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata
Author(s): Devdutt Pattanaik Genre: Mythology
ISBN/ASIN: 9780143104254 Publisher: Penguin Books
No. of Pages: 350 Price: INR. 499

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


(© 25th July 2015)

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