I finished reading ‘Yajnaseni’ by Pratibha Ray, sometime back. I even scribbled some thoughts immediately after finishing the book. ‘Yajnaseni’ is an attempt by acclaimed writer Pratibha Ray, to understand the psyche of Draupadi who has ever been gibed as a woman with many husbands or who has been always referred to in a derogatory sense.
Simply put, ‘Yajnaseni’ is ‘Mahabharata re-told in the words of Draupadi’. Most of us know the basic story of Mahabharata, so there is no revelation as such; but there are enough re-interpretations of the events, which will hold your interest till the end.
The story begins from the end - it starts from the last journey of Pandavas and Draupadi in the
Himalayas. While walking on the rough terrain, she falls down and she is shocked at the callousness of her husbands, none of whom turns back to help her. She is aghast at the treatment meted out to her. Yudhishthir accuses her of loving Arjun more than her other husbands.
‘Yajnaseni’ has been presented as a letter by Draupadi to her sakha, Krishnaa, who was always her closest. She narrates the entire story chronologically; the difficult situations she faced; the turmoils, the insults hurled at her every now and then. She asks
Krishna, where was she wrong.
It is interesting to read about her spiritual relationship with
Krishna and a strange interplay of attraction and insult between Karna and Draupadi; besides of course her love for Arjuna. When her father tells her that it is only Krishna who could be a suitable match for the perfect woman Krishnaa, she starts dreaming about him; but when Krishna tells her that Arjuna is actually the perfect man for her, she becomes totally devoted to Arjuna. The book tells us, how she had already dedicated herself to Arjuna, much before he won her in the Swayamvar (which anyways could not have been won by anyone else, except Karna). When Arjuna was taking her to his mother, those moments she considers as the most beautiful time of her life, because after that her life changed forever as the wife of five husbands.
Draupadi comes across as an extremely learned and almost super-human in her qualities. Draupadi has always been insinuated as the woman because of whom the battle of Kurukshetra took place, but actually it was she who had to bear the consequences of the actions of her husbands on several occasions. The game of dice is one such example, where even after getting insulted in front of elders and her husbands; she wins them back by her wisdom.
It is absolutely must-read for any enthusiast of – if I might say - the greatest epic of all times, Mahabharata. I have already done quite some research and found that actually there is lots of good literature on the subject, floating around. I’m listing all the books I know of, below:
1. Mahabharata by C. Rajagopalachari – I’m reading it right now (it is the basis of most of the other books) > Buy from Crossword @ Rs 100
2. Yajnaseni by Pratibha Ray (original in Oriya) – already read > Buy from Rediff Books @ Rs 292
4. And Now Let Me Sleep by P.K. Balakrishnan – have ordered for it > Buy from A1Books India @ Rs 100
6. Mrityunjaya, the death conqueror: The story of Karna by Sivaji Savanta (original in Marathi) – not able to get English version, will have to go for Hindi > Buy from A1Books India @ Rs 400
by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni – bought recently > Buy from Indiaplaza @ Rs 411 Palace of Illusions
8. The cult of Draupadi Vol I by Alf Hiltebeitel > Buy from A1 Books India @ Rs 180
9. The cult of Draupadi Vol II by Alf Hiltebeitel
10. The Second Turn by M.T.Vasudevan Nair (original in Malyalam) – not able to find
12. The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor – got it > Buy from Indiaplaza @ Rs 245
15. The book of Yudhishthir
It is sad that most of the above have gone ‘out-of-print’. But, of course, no matter what I’m definitely going to hunt those down. It will be interesting to read so many versions of Mahabharata.