The novel “Ajaya” is the saga that narrates the story of Mahabharata from the perspective of Duryodhana, who is the lead protagonist of the book, popularly known as the one who lost the Kurukshetra battle. Duryodhana’s real name was Suyodhana, but the great Pandava brothers used to besmirch him by using derogatory ‘Dur’ instead of ‘Su” in his name. According to them “Dur” meant, “one who does not know how to wield power or arms.” As a child, Duryodhana always despised his cousins because they always tortured and ill treated him and his siblings in various ways.
[color-box color=” customcolorpicker=” rounded=false dropshadow=false]Suyodhana, the most hated and stigmatized antagonist of Indian mythology, is considered a deity and worshiped by many. [/color-box]
The author has a reason for composing a novel where Suyodhana is a hero, not only in the novel, but also in the real life for many. Yes, even I was completely shocked to discover that Suyodhana, the most hated and stigmatized antagonist of Indian mythology, is considered a deity and worshiped by many. During a grand festival held in Poruvazhy village of Kerala state, which was celebrated in the honor of Suyodhana, the author was amazed by the stories told by Suyodhana’s devotees, stories of how Suyodhana, a Kshatriya warrior had treated a low caste woman with such a great respect; when during those times, people of low castes like Shudra or Nishada were treated as untouchables and dirty. The author thought of writing a novel keeping this different perception of Suyodhana in his mind.
The novel starts with Bhishma, the Great Regent of Hastinapura who conquers the Gandhara kingdom and takes the princess Gandhari for his nephew Dhritarashtra, the ruler of Hastinapura. On the urge of the princess Gandhari, Bhishma takes her little brother Shakuni too with them to his country Hastinapura, unaware that it would turn out to be his greatest mistake of life.
The story proceeds with the childhood of Suyodhana. Suyodhana grew as a passionate and stubborn prince who believed in himself and did things what were right according to him and not as per rules taught by Guru Drona or written in any scriptures. He saw things in a different way, which according to some Brahmins was not suitable for a Kshatriya warrior. Suyodhana always scrutinized and raised questions against the norms set by Brahmins as per whom, only Princes had right to be a warrior and the rest like Shudra or Nishada (considered as mere untouchables) belonging to the low castes, had to follow their Dharma and do work suited to their level.
There were many circumstances where Prince Suyodhana was let down by his cousins, but he never reciprocated. For example, Arjuna on the insistence of Lord Krishna played a trick and fled with Suyodhana’s first love Subhadra. At first he was exceptionally irate, yet later on, he let go off, knowing the fact that Subhadra, his love ran away with Arjuna as per her own wishes. He was heartbroken, yet he never considered retaliating against his cousins. Another instance was where Prince Suyodhana made Karna, the King of Anga on the basis of his merits as Arjuna refused to duel against Karna because of his caste. Suyodhana ignored the fact that Karna belonged to a low caste. Suyodhana’s decision was contradicted by numerous elders, but he stood by his beliefs. Many of you must not be aware that Prince Karna was the first person to hit the eye of the fish in Draupadi’s Swayamvara, but even here Lord Krishna played his tactics and provoked Draupadi against Karna. Draupadi refused to marry Karna citing the reason that he belonged to poor caste. Draupadi liked Karna, but she wanted to avoid a conflict between her beloved family members and Karna and so she denied him. At this point Suyodhana raised his voice for the injustice done and insult to his friend, but Krishna quieted everyone saying it was Draupadi’s choice whom she wants to get married to.
Till date, many have written various novels and books on Arjuna, Lord Krishna and other Pandavas, but nobody ever thought of writing it from Suyodhana’s perspective. The author Anand Neelakantan has done a marvelous job at this. He will take you to a different version of Mahabharata, which you might have never considered before. Personally, I liked the flair with which the novel is written. The scenes, the situations, the emotions are well described. During my childhood, I have watched Mahabharata serial many times and the way Suyodhana was portrayed in it, I truly detested him. I always admired the Pandavas and the Lord Krishna for their kindness and determination to save the world from the evils. So, it’s difficult for me and I know for many people, to accept that Suyodhana was a real hero and Lord Krishna and Pandavas through their politics were the reasons for many innocent deaths. I don’t know how much truth lies in the story narrated by the author, but if it’s true then Suyodhana was a brave and headstrong prince who believed in equality and who fought for what he believed in. He was provoked many times by his uncle Shakuni, and because of which he was disliked by many and had built many foes around him. His friendship with Aswathama and Karna was truly touching and admirable. The author also depicts how caste discrimination prevailed during those times and Pandavas followed everything said by Brahmins, indirectly upholding this discrimination. It was Prince Suyodhana who stood against the injustice done against the low caste people.
[color-box color=” customcolorpicker=” rounded=false dropshadow=false]Had King Suyodhana known that Princess Draupadi had already apologized to his wife Bhanumati for her actions at Indraprastha, then all of it could have been avoided.[/color-box]
The story written by the author kept me glued till the end. It made me think of the numerous ways the historic battle of Kurukshetra could have been avoided, if Princess Draupadi with her Pandava husbands wouldn’t have insulted Prince Suyodhana when he visited their palace at Indraprastha to argue against injustice done to the poor. The well known incident of his cousins and Draupadi making fun of him happened here, which led to the challenge to the game of dice, orchestrated by his uncle Shakuni; the game of dice that led to the terrible oath by Draupadi and the bloodiest war in history. Had King Suyodhana known that Princess Draupadi had already apologized to his wife Bhanumati for her actions at Indraprastha, then all of it could have been avoided.
This novel will acquaint you with a different side of Mahabharata and would make you think of Suyodhana as a different person, leaving you with the question – “Who is the real hero of Mahabharata?”
Goodreads rating of AJAYA: Epic of the Kaurava Clan -ROLL OF THE DICE (Book 1) – 3.9/5
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