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Saturday, October 02, 2010

Book Review: The Pregnant King - Devdutt Pattanaik

An excellent work of fiction.. I just could not keep it down until read.

"I am not sure that I am a man" said Yuvanashva. "I have created life outside me as men do, but I have also created life inside me, as women do. What does that make me? Will a body such as mine fetter or free me?"

Among the many hundreds of characters who inhabit the Mahabharata perhaps the world's greatest epic and certainly one of the oldest, is Yuvanashva, a childless king, who accidentally drinks a magic potion meant to make his queens pregnant and gives birth to a son. This extraordinary novel is his story.

Is is also the story of his mother Shilavati, who cannot be king because she is a woman; of young Somvat, who surrenders his masculinity to become a wife; of Shikhandi, a daughter brought up as a son ; of Arjuna, the great warrior with many wives, who is forced to masquerade as a woman after being cursed by a nymph; of Ileshwara, a god of full-moon days and a goddess on new moon nights; and of Adi-natha, the teacher of teachers, worshipped as a hermit by some and as an enchantress by others.

Building on Hinduism's rich and complex mythology- but driven by a very contemporary sensibility - Devdutt Pattanaik creates a lush and fecund work of fiction in which the lines are continually blurred between men and women, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. Confronted with such fluidity the reader is drawn into Yuvanashva's struggle to be fair to all- those here, those there and all those in between.

Review comments by Sumita:

What intrigued me to buy this book was the name, 'The Pregnant King'. How can a king, a man, become pregnant? Is it at all possible???

This book revolves around the various emotions that surround humans; love, anger, submission to power & desire, helplessness, confusion, jealousy, hunger for power... In this book, emphasis has also been laid on following the right path or 'dharma'.

This book, a work of fiction, revolves around a king named Yuvanashava. How desperately he wants to father a son! It's only after he has a son can he rule his kingdom and ensure his lineage is carried forward. He marries thrice in the need of a son. His mother, Shilavati, till then is the acting 'king' as she wants to be known. She does everything to follow the right path to run the kingdom successfully.

Is Yuvanashava ever able to father a son? Is he able to rule the kingdom? Which of the wives bear him a son?

Readers whose engagement with ancient texts runs along orthodox lines might not be too interested in a modern myth. But in a sense, this book is meant for such readers. At its best, this story is about the imperfection of the human condition and our stubborn refusal to make room for all those in between.


The Pregnant King

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