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Nilima Sinha

By Dipavali Sen . Illustrations by Neeta Gangopadhya
Children's Book Trust, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 280, Rs. 200.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 11 November 2015

Today, the child reader is addicted to western popular fiction that includes Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, as well as monsters, aliens, vampires, phantoms and other imported characters. Books like the Hunger Games and the Twilight series grip young readers’ minds. Our own epics, however, are no less fascinating and as full of strange, frightening creatures and brave, heroic characters. There is adventure, excitement, tension, and emotional highs and lows to make them as gripping as any contemporary fiction emerging from the West. There was a time when grandparents used to tell tales from our epics and mythology to wide-eyed listeners. Unfortunately those times are in danger of vanishing as grandmothers begin to lead their own busy lives and children do not have the benefit of their company. Easy access to the ancient treasure-trove of fascinating tales is no longer available today. Dipavali Sen’s book, Jaya: Story of the Mahabharata fills this gap most effectively. No doubt several versions of the Mahabharata have been printed, including Rajagopalachari’s Mahabharata which we read long ago when we were children, (though warned not to read the whole book as it was supposed to lead to family conflict and fights!). Publishers have also brought out stories for children based on various incidents from the epic. Sen’s book is a comprehensive version of the great tale. Filled with interesting details and incidents not generally found in popular tales from the Mahabharata, her writing is definitely more satisfying to the more discerning reader. The title ‘Jaya’, itself shows that it is different from the usual ‘Mahabharata’. The book begins with ‘Adi Parva’ which means the very beginning of the story. A history of the writing of the book and the later narrations added to it, are recounted before the Mahabharata, as it is commonly known, begins. The whole book is divided into eighteen ‘parvas’ or parts, each dealing with one section of the long narration. Thus, there is ‘Sabha Parva’ about court life, the game of dice and the exile of the Pandavas, ‘Vana Parva’ describes the twelve years in the forest, ‘Virat Parva’ is about the year spent in disguise, and so on. The roles of women like Gandhari, Kunti and Draupadi have been sympathetically handled by the author. An example is the description of the travails of the Pandavas as they wander in forests during their exile. The brothers are shown to ...

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