This book is about Jaya and Ajaya, the twins who guard the entrance to Vaikuntha (Heaven). In his trademark style, Devdutta Pattnaik weaves various folk and regional variations of the Mahabharata to string together this retelling. The narrative is simple, and it sparks interest in the original text. Pattanaik has posed a lot of questions throughout the book about how we view stories and myths what makes us believe in them. The book’s beautiful illustrations are one of the best aspects of it.
Ajaya: Roll of the Dice
by Anand Neelakanthan
Read this one if you want to understand how every story has two perspectives. The book is partially Duryodhan’s Mahabharata and Epic of the Kaurava Clan. The writing may not be brilliant but it really opens spectrum of what we understand as good and bad. It’s the story of a battle we know, from the perspectives of the ones who lost, the villains. In our mind, they are the wrongdoers but the book is a statement on how stories are written only by and about the victorious.
Palace of Illusions
by Chitra Banjerjee Divakaruni
Palace of Illusions turns a feminist lens on the tale of the Mahabharata. Told from the perspective of Draupadi, the retelling is beautiful and poignant. Many aspects of the book raise the question of how women have always been portrayed to us, even in our histories and myths. From Draupadi to Kunti, to the Apsaras, it represents the women of these epics as people we can identify with.
Shikhadi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell You
by Devdutta Pattanaik
Another story by Devdutta Pattanaik that turns stories we have always heard into vehicles that makes us question our assumptions. This book covers stories from Indian mythologies that are about the blurred lines of gender and sexuality. It raises questions about how identity is formed and how society molds our beliefs. The main protagonist Shikhandi’s story is fascinating as a woman who asked to be reborn to avenge her marred reputation. The way the events unfold is a reminder of how powerful storytelling can be.