Thursday, 21 August 2014

Brajesh's Review : Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell You

Another Devdutt Pattanaik special. By now, I am quite familiar and comfortable with his narration style. This book addresses the controversial issue of queer characters and queerness in Indian mythology. He handles the issue with great objectivity and each story is accompanied with his signature endearing drawings.

"Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell You" opens with a lovely quote, which for me summarizes the entire hypocritical approach of modern religions around the LGBT issue. On page 1, the book says “Beware of a land where celibate men decide what is good sex”.

Then, over 170 pages he shares 30 stories which aren’t necessarily a part of the main-stream mythological narrative. While I was aware or some of the stories featuring characters of Shikhandi, Mohini, Aardhnarishwar and Brihanalla. I was happy to discover many a new characters like Makara, Chudala, Gopeshwara, Samaran, Aravan, Sudyumna, Pormannan, Samba, Alli and Pramilla. It was also satisfying to unearth newer stories around familiar characters of Mallinath, Maandhata, Urvashi, Bhagirath and Bahucharaji.

At the end of each story, Devdutt Pattanik gives a one or two page commentary exploring the queer aspects and interpretations of the story. Overall the book comes together beautifully between the story, sketches and commentary.

It is also interesting to note the range of sources from which the book draws the stories from. It doesn’t limit itself to only Vedic and Puranic literature, it also draws from stories from South Indian literature and folk traditions.

I recommend this book to be read by all supporters and opponents of the homosexuality. The last page of the book has a quote from Vedas which leaves the ideal takeaway for any reader. “Vikruti Evam Prakriti” which can be loosely translated as “all things queer are also a part of nature”.

Rating : 3.5 / 5


Neha said...

I have been reading Devdutt's material over internet and in books since 4-5 years. He is the reason that I am a mythology fan now. His has a unique ability to link relevant stories from mythology to current scenario. And that's what he does in his new book 'Shikhandi'.
The book is basically a compilation of 30 different stories from hindu mythology where queerness is discovered. This book is particularly different from his previous books in a way that it has all 30 stories have to be short, establish a conclusion that queerness was part of hindu mythology and we in current age are not comfortable with it because of social norms.
While this book may be rated a 'excellent' for those who are new to hindu mythology and Devdutt but those who have been reading his stuff in past years can easily derive that this book is nothing but a summary of all queer stories he mentioned in his earlier books. So 'some' readers might feel that it is simply 30 stories being re-told. That's the reason I completed reading this book in 2 weeks' time.
I would rate this book as a Good read rather than best. Devdutt has surely written better than this like Jaya, The pregnant king, Sita.

Sheetal Deshmukh said...

Thanks a lot Brajesh for introducing me to Mythology through Devdutt Pattanaik... Am enjoying the books thoroughly and so many concepts and rituals that I have been following without actually knowing the story behind it are clear to me now. Well every ritual can have different stories behind it, but the essence is the same. Thats what Mythology is all about! A voracious reader I am but never knew I could take to Mythology too... Thanks to you... Cheers!!

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