Obession with “Lack” of Precision & Accuracy

A reader wrote recommending (and encouraging) me to read Devdutt Pattanaik’s JAYA – An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata. This reader wanted me to write a critical review of this book.

I borrowed a copy of the book from my local friend. I read it over the weekend.

Here is my review:

I liked the illustrations. It appears that they are all drawn by the author. He is definitely an artist.

(And while not related to the subject, I must mention that I did like Devdutt Pattankaik’s ‘Business Sutra’ program. I have seen multiple short episodes of ‘Business Sutra’ via YouTube).

But back to the book. His style is engaging and he has divided the book in 18 sections with few stories in each of them.
His retelling includes stories from various latter altered versions of Mahabharata including folktales. He is not the first and won’t be the last to do such unfortunate alteration of known history.

In spite of 100,000 verses long Mahabharata, what we have is bits and pieces of our ancient history. The works have come to us in the form of transcription, transliterations, interpolations and many such defects. Thus there is no need to create further chaos and confuse the reader regarding ancient narratives of Mahabharata. To top it off, Devdutt does not limit to quoting, arbitrarily, version of his choice, but makes his own versions- without specifically stating that he has done so.

Rest of the book is simplistic, written with the intention to entertain (which is fair) but with no intention of informing the reader about history. And thus while intentional or not, a reader will end up with much twisted picture of Mahabharata characters and of historical narrative.
What I found interesting, and I consider it as misrepresentation of their product (the book) on the part of ‘Penguin Books’ and also ‘Devdutt Pattanaik’ is the blurb on the insider cover.

The part of the blurb reads…

“and the dating of the war based on astronomical data”.

Sometime ago I read a book on Indian history by another AIT-sepoy (name not even worth mentioning) who has waved his hand in the air about some mention of eclipses in the Mahabharata text and then carelessly suggested ~1000 BCE for the timing of Mahabharata.

This books tops that nonsense, as far as the ‘dating of the war based on astronomical data’ claim is concerned.

This is all the book has to say regarding the ‘dating based on astronomy data’

(1) Based on astronomical date found in the epic – that two eclipses separated by 13 days took place around the war – some have dated the events of the Mahabharata to around 3000 BCE. Others have dated it to around 1500 BCE. There is no consensus among scholars in this matter.

That is it! No kidding.


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