Get set to unlearn the Mahabharata as you know it from bedtime with your grandparents.
In Kochi-based writer, Anand Neelakantan’s version of the epic, the Pandavas step out of their goody-two shoes while Duryodhan, head of the rival faction of Kauravas, earns a halo. Ajaya 2 — The Rise of Kali is the concluding sequel to his Mahabharata series, and hits bookstores on July 29.
Edited excerpts of an interview:
Q. Why write from Duryodhan’s perspective?
A. Why not? Else, how would my version be different from what’s already out there? It is fascinating to see how the same story can change when the protagonists are flipped.
Q. What were your research references?
A. I read and re-read several versions of the Mahabharata to get a grip on the story. These included adaptions like Urubhanga and Gadhayudh. I also studied modern-day versions including Parva by SL Byrappa, Iravathi Karve’s writings, Kuttikrishna Marrar’s critical exposition of characters and events of the Mahabharata in Bharatha Paryatanam and the Puranic Encyclopedia. For references to society at the time, I relied on titles by Sarva Saman Singh and AL Ahuga.
Q. What can he teach the modern day reader?
A. Duryodhan is fearless. He teaches us passion and loyalty towards loved ones. True friendship and nobility are his qualities.
In the ultimate reckoning, Duryodhan dies like a hero, fighting for what he believes is right, unlike the confused Pandavas who resign to self-exile. This is what makes him Ajaya, the unconquerable.