Winds of Hastinapur


Mahabharata is a very rich work that can serve as base material for thousands of other works. There have been numerous interpretations in various media – books, movies, plays etc. ‘Winds of Hastinapur’ is yet another spin related to this great tale by upcoming author Sharath Komarraju who already has two crime thrillers under his belt.

This story does not span the entire Mahabharata story but just touches upon the beginning – up to the birth of Pandu and Dhritarashtra. The author has taken two interesting points of view – those of Ganga the mother of Bhishma and his step mother Sathyavati. I do not know if anyone else has attempted this point of view. He has attempted a lot of other interesting things in this work. One of them is to elaborate more upon the time Bhishma spent with his mother Ganga. In most stories, Ganga disappears with her eighth child and then suddenly appears before Shantanu after 14 years with his grown son. It was indeed interesting to read an account of what happened in the interim.

Another interesting aspect is the author’s interpretation related to the world of the Gods and celestial beings. Instead of taking a reverential attitude, he tries to paint them as an elder race with their foibles. In some ways in his presentation of the relationship between Gods and men, I can see influences of the Aryan Invasion theory. In his presentation of interaction between the fisher folk and the king Shantanu he brings an element of class struggle. He has also tried to etch the characters of Ganga and Sathyavati in grey giving them both positive and negative traits. Another aspect where he has differentiated himself is in the depiction of the sexual mores of the times. Most versions try to gloss over this aspect or try to euphemize things like the western concept of babies being delivered by storks or being found under cabbages. But Sharath takes it head on and goes on to describe in erotic detail.

The author’s language is definitely one of his strengths. He has rich language which he leverages to describe in detail and bring events to life. One can also see evidence of research on political, social and economic conditions during the times of Mahabharata. Last but not the least; the author seems to have views on topics of social relevance which he tried to bring out in some parts of the story.

One of the shortcomings I found in the book was that I found it to be a bit of mishmash at times. Even if you use the best ingredients, unless they blend well with each other, you will not have a good final dish. That I felt was a glitch in this work. The various brilliant elements the author has strived to add somehow failed to blend seamlessly. For instance all the details of the political and economic situation did not have any serious bearing on the overall story. If one looks at characterization, while we could see good and dark side of Ganga and Sathyavati, it kind of seemed inconsistent and they did not feel like real people. Also there did not seem to be a strong connection between the first part and second part of the story. Also, at some places the book read like high fantasy, in some places like pure mythology and in some places like a historic novel. For instance while the author explains phenomena like the longevity of Gods, he does not bother to explain the mechanics of curses and how they work.

The other thing I feel about this author from his earlier book as well as here is that he takes a too intellectual approach to his works. One sees great ideas, technique and research but I feel the need for more heart. As a reader I was unable to relate to any of the characters. They did not feel like real living people. I feel an author should get into the skin of his characters, mentally live their lives, experience their conflicts, their joys and sorrows to be able to depict the same accurately and recreate the experience for the reader.

In conclusion, I would say this book is definitely worth a read for all the effort the author has put in and the various things he has attempted. The book may not entertain but it will definitely impress and possibly give some food for thought on certain things as well.

12 comments:

Red Handed said...

Hmmm I should gift this to someone I knw. He would appreciate such thought provoking book!

The Fool said...

Guess you must.

indu chhibber said...

Ahem i am getting round to reading book reviews ,this was interesting.

The Fool said...

Thanks Indu.

Veena said...

Very interesting..
Nice Read

amarnaik.com said...

very interesting book and great review. i have been reading recently 'The Exiled Prince - Vol. 1: The Crystal Guardian'. would add this to my 2014 list.

Pankti Mehta said...

Good review.

Suresh Chandrasekaran said...

Great concepts but requires better fictionalizing huh?

The Fool said...

Thanks veena.

The Fool said...

You must, Amarnaik. How was Crystal Guardian?

The Fool said...

Thanks Pankti.

The Fool said...

That is what I felt.

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