Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Mahabharata - Story of 5 Individuals - Not Pandavas

"Ajaya - Roll of The Dice (Part 1) & Rise of Kali (Part 2)" is an epic written by Anand Neelakantan which shows Mahabharata from Duryodhana's point of view. I was unjust and hasty when I have written review of part-1, but I will correct my review as I have completed both the parts. I will re-write review for complete series "Ajaya".


From our childhood, either we heard or watched (On Doordarshan) stories the Mahabharata. We accepted Pandavas and Krishna as hero. We accepted all loopholes in stories that came to our mind as divine intervention. Except Karna, We always imagined Suyodhana, Sushashana, Ashwathama as wrong doers. We never thought what could be the reason behind Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, Narayani Sena and other nobles support for Suyodhana in his struggle against Pandavas. We accepted available Mahabharata as recited by Ved Vyasa in front of Vaisampayana, but what if it was altered by the time it reached to us; what if Mahabharata as we know today is completely different from what it was actualy. It is winner who chooses what will go down to history. Neither Duryodhana nor his supporters won to continue his side of story. Anand has wonderfully portrayed how Duryodhana would be if his struggle for kingship was righteous.


Story started with five important individuals (I am not talking about Pandavas). First and foremost, the protagonist of this story is Suyodhana, a young, energetic, rebellious prince. Born in times of strict caste rule where dying on the name of dharma is seen higher than survival of existence, Suyodhana found it ridiculous to consider every person through accidental birth (or commonly known as caste). He dreamed of a country where things would be on merit based than caste based. Bullied by his cousins throughout his childhood and underestimated by his Guru - Teacher, he spent most of the childhood listening to equlity and ideal society from rebellious Kripa & Carvaka. Throughout his life he earned three things, first good friends (Karna, Ashwatthama & Eklavya) even Krishna and Pandavas were envy of him for this, second support of common people (I would say lower caste) which Krishna & Brahmin caste saw as threat to society; and last respect from few nobles (such as Bhishma, Balrama, Jarasandha) which even Pandava were not able to get. Known for his evil actions Duryodhana had done few things that earned him ill-fame, first insult of Draupadi in Court, second consultation of his uncle Shakuni, and last going against traditions of upper caste.

Second character is Karna, adopted by a charioteer family. He was first-born of Kunti (Pandavas mother) before her marriage. He wanted to become worrier. He followed his heart against all the odds. He was accepted by Suyodhana when he was alone. Throughout his life he struggle to have equal status of Kashatriya. He followed each and every tradition of Kashtriya. He rejected crown of Hastinapur for his friendship and proved his loyalty to Suyodhana.

Third character is Ashwatthama, son of Drona, brahmin by birth. He was childhood friend of Suyodhana. He was equal in strength of Karna and Arjuna, but always seen as Suyodhana's friend. His ability were always underestimated. He tried to show his abilities to Suyodhana but always failed his friend & father. His speech in last chapter of Ajaya was actually heart-touching. He is immortal in out thoughts whenever we read or hear Mahabharata stories.

Fourth is Eklavya, a son of Commander-in-chief of Maghada, but lived childhood in poverty. He also wanted to learn use of weapons. Unlike Karna, Eklavya learnt weapons from Drona just by seeing how Drona teaching Pandavas. He also wanted to acknowledge by people for his superiority specially from Drona. Cheated by Drona at early age and even after losing his thumb to Drona, his struggle made him king of Nagas. 

Fifth character is Jara, commonly shown as hunter who killed Krishna. Jara spent few years of his life with Eklavya. But when Eklavya beat him they parted. His teenage life went in dark (killing, looting, etc), but a life changing experience came to Jara's life and he became blind follower of Krishna.

Same way it is story of few antagonist. First and foremost is Shakuni. I would say some characters were always end up as villain, no matter which side of story you listen. Shakuni was on characters. His homeland was destroyed by Bhishma, and his sister was forced to marry a blind prince of Hastinapura. He had taken oath to bring down complete Bharata-varsha with him.

The second anatagonist was Dhaumya, a brahmin considered himself as brahm-gyani (who knows everything) often insulted by knowledgable people (specially Bhishma, Kripa, Carvaka). He always shielded Pandavas with lame Dharma and Scripture that he thuoght he knew. He was firm believer of caste system. Ideas of Suyodhana were dangerous for his, as they can take special rights from him and his caste. He lead or I would say mislead Krishna (though Krishna's caste belief was different than Dhaumya), Pandavas and common folks.

Characters like Samba (Krishna's Vanara-clan wife son), Durjaya, Yuyutsu (Dhritrasta's Vaishya wife's son) and Takshaka had also played their role to bring chaos to peace and unity between cousins.

I would say apart from above mentioned characters everyone else were misguided or became direct or indirect puppet to antagonist's laid game. Story-line was almost parallel to what we have heard from our childhood, difference between those stories and these books are:
  1. No magic or divine power
  2. Stories were portrayed from Suyodhan's side
Talking about ratings:
  1. Cover - 3.75 / 5
  2. Concept - 4.5 / 5
  3. Content - 4 / 5
  4. Language - 3.5 / 5
  5. Story Line - 4.5 / 5
  6. Characters - 4.25 / 5
  7. Overall - 4.5 / 5

Ajaya - Roll of The Dice (Part 1) can be found at - Amazon  & Flipkart
Ajaya - Rise of Kali (Part 2) can be found at - Amazon  & Flipkart
Review from other readers can be found at - GoodReads Part1 & Part2
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