Learn to solve riddles in mythology and Indian folktales

Updated: Dec 09, 2016, 12:58 IST | Dipanjan Sinha |

Any Indian child brought up with a healthy dose of mythology is well aware of the scene in Mahabharata where Yudhishthira is faced with riddles that he must solve to save his brothers, or the trick questions of Vikram and Betal


The part of Mahabharata where Yudhishthira solves riddles to save his brother. Utkarsh Patel will talk about this episode 

Any Indian child brought up with a healthy dose of mythology is well aware of the scene in Mahabharata where Yudhishthira is faced with riddles that he must solve to save his brothers, or the trick questions of Vikram and Betal. In fact, such riddles, according to Utkarsh Patel, professor of Comparative Mythology at Mumbai University, have been an integral part of storytelling, be it in mythology or folktales.

"From ancient myths to Shakespeare to Tolkien, all have resorted to using this device, which both intrigues and confuses, and sometimes even entertains," he says.

Utkarsh Patel
Utkarsh Patel

Patel is going to share his knowledge about this fascinating aspect of mythology and folktales at Trilogy The Eternal Library this weekend. This session, he says, will be an exploration of well-known riddles in mythologies from India to Scandinavia and tribes from around the world and their functions and objectives in literature. For example, he shares the Greek riddle asked by the Sphinx to Oedipus. "What creature goes on all fours in the morning, on two in the afternoon and one three at night?" While at it, did you know that the Sphinx had asked two more riddles before asking this one?" he says.

Patel will be categorising the riddles under different heads and then relate them with different cultures. "Riddles have been a popular means of conversation starters or ice-breakers, but their purpose was seldom sole entertainment in mythology. While slaying dragons and achieving physical feats was a test of strength, answering riddles was a test of a characters, wisdom and wit. Often the test was a matter of life and death, as we will see in the case of Oedipus and riddles from the epic Mahabharata," he says. He adds that riddles from literature, especially from Shakespearean plays, will also be touched upon.

ON: December 10, 5.30 pm
AT: Trilogy by The Eternal Library, first floor, Building No 28, Raghuvanshi Mills Compound, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel.
LOG ON TO: www.teltrilogy.com/talkingmythsproject

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