Govinda by Krishna Udayasankar

12 01 2013

The Aryavarta Chronicles Book 1
Krishna Udayasankar
(Review by Karthik Keramalu)

This is Krishna Udayasankar’s Mahabharata. It is one of the mythological tales that has resurged since the runaway success of Amish’s The Immortals of Meluha. In Krishna’s Govinda, the epic Mahabharata takes a new turn. Krishna categorically appeared in the latter part of Mahabharata (largely known for guiding the Pandavas in Kurukshetra War). In Govinda, Krishna wears a new avatar, he is the central figure in The Aryavarta Chronicles.

Today’s Indian Politics is schematic in Krishna’s writing. Or there is just too much resemblance between the two. The tongue of the novel is too political, it is more of grabbing power than rendering solemness. Over the years, Mahabharata has found numerous versions and innumerable back stories that often confuse a sane mind as to which is fiction and which really is Vyasa’s version. Govinda heavily borrows from different versions of Mahabharata, making it a new version altogether. Panchali, the prolific figure of Mahabharata has her eyes on Govinda from the beginning but Govinda neither responds nor holds back his emotions. And she is married to Dharma alone unlike the popular belief that states she was married to the Pandavas. Arjuna did win Draupadi by shooting at the eye of a fish but Dharma marries her as he feels he’s the eldest and he has the right to marry her. Many kings are used as pawns in the book, some are fried prawns in the end.

Mahabharata is not a story of righteousness, it is rather a story of what wins. No character ever can be hailed moral as somewhere a thread unties and his true colours come out dancing. In Govinda, some revere Govinda and some despise him. Be it Duryodhana or Dharma, they fought for a piece they wanted and nobody has ever fought for peace. Krishna Udayasankar’s retelling does the same. Govinda is not godly, nor is he portrayed as a saviour who protects his followers. He’s a character in the book like any other, that’s what makes him a real character.

The colloquialism in the book gives away the writer’s head. ‘Yabha’, an expression is purely Krishna Udayasankar’s, it is a word actually used by Tamilians that is equivalent to English’s ‘Aah’ or a sigh. When a story goes from one ear to another, the story takes a new form, a new hero and a new perspective. Similarly, Govinda has new boundaries, newer goals and newer characteristic traits. Swords and bows and arrows predominantly occupy a large part of the novel as well as a chunk is dedicated to a section of hierarchy (rulers who think they are the best until they are defeated). In books like these the writer can experiment but not to the extent of deviating from a version we are all aware of. Hence Krishna adheres to the older version, readily adding her lingo wherever necessary. The book is a first in the trilogy and it remains to be seen how well the second and third come out given the craze the first book has already created.



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