WRITING STYLE: 3.5/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 4/5
Mahabharata is the largest epic ever written and so, it has always been the preferred choice of academicians, authors, poets, seers and sages. Countless books have been written on the minor events of the epic, poetries have been bestowed upon the heroines of Mahabharata, many self-proclaimed godmen have retold it to suit their needs, but no one has ever dared to glorify the villains of this mythological tale, until now. In ‘Ajaya: Roll of the Dice’, Anand Neelakantan has tried to rewrite Mahabharata in a way it would have been written, had the Kauravas emerged victoriously.
Anyone who is familiar with Mahabharata knows the importance of the dice game played between the Pandavas and the Kauravas; it forms the foundation for the entire plot. That is where this book gets its name from – ‘Roll of the Dice’.
The narrative of ‘Ajaya’ begins when Bheeshma kidnaps Gandhari for his nephew Dhritarashtra. Shakuni, Gandhari’s brother and the prince of Gandhar, vows to destroy Hastinapur to avenge the killing of his father. The nefarious plans laid by Shakuni, and how each of those plans wobbles the strong Indian empire form the core of this book.
‘Ajaya’ covers all the major events of Mahabharata; Drona’s training classes, Ekalavya’s gurudakshina, Karna’s appearance in the archery event, Kunti’s swayamvar, burning of the lac palace, Bhima killing Jarasandha, Sishupala’s death in Krishna’s hand, creation of Indraprastha, and the dice game which changed the history of India. The book concludes at the point where Yudhishtra loses his wife, Draupadi, in the game. All these events are written in a manner that portrays the Kauravas and their allies as the protagonists and the Pandavas and their allies as the antagonists. The next sequence of events is set to be released at the end of 2014 in the book 2, ‘Ajaya: Rise of Kali’.
“A Brahmin is one who has found God within himself through knowledge. A Kshatriya is supposed to be one who has found God in action, by doing his duty. A Vaishya is one who has found God in trade, by creating wealth; and a Shudra is one who has found God in love, by serving society.”
Writing this book would not have been an easy task; making people overlook the legends which have been told from centuries and accept something which berates their god, their heroes and role models is not an easy task. Anand has done it before in ‘Asura’ and he has nailed it again.
Kauravas have been depicted as progressive and forward thinking who became the victims of Kunti’s politicking and Krishna’s wiliness, and they have been suitably named by the prefix ‘su’ instead of ‘dur’; Duryodhana become Suyodhana and Dusshasana becomes Sushasana. Pandavas have been painted as the bastards of Kunti. Krishna has been presented in a very negative light as a cunning strategist, thief, womaniser and self-proclaimed God. Karna, Jarasandha, Jayadratha and Sishupala, all villains in the original epic have been justified as kind and humane in this book. Ekalavya, who is often ignored in the retellings of Mahabharata, has a major part in this book. Jara, and his dog Dharma, too find considerable mention.
Except for the portrayal of Krishna, whom I love, being a regular reader of the Gita, ‘Ajaya’ is a great tale told from the view of the defeated. I recommend it.