Sunday, January 5, 2020

Krishna Yogeshwara, by Sanjay Dixit - Review

Krishna Yogeshvara - The Dice of Kutil Dharma (Book 2 of the Lord Krishna Trilogy)

Amazon India

Agendas and subversion; free will and agency – a contemporaneous and timeless tale, retold

he second book in Sanjay Dixit's Lord Krishna trilogy, 'Krishna Yogeshvara', takes the reader from Rukmini's abduction to the start of the war in Kurukshetra and Arjuna's laying down of arms in the middle of the battlefield. We see and hear Krishna's journey from Mathura to Dwarka from Uddhav's eyes and words. This journey is both geographical and metaphorical. The metaphorical is Krishna's evolution from a cowherd (gopeshvara) in Mathura and Vrindavan to a yogi (yogeshvara) in Dwarka through his education at the hands of guru Sandipani along with Sudama and others.

In writing about Sanjay Dixit's first book in this Lord Krishna trilogy, I had commented on the many parallels the book made you think of - individuals versus ideologies, history versus modernity, and so on. Krishna Yogeshvara is no different. Here, the author raises several questions about agency and agendas that have a very contemporaneous feel about them. The antagonist is a person named Jatil Muni, who has learned from the mistakes of his teacher, Kutil Muni. Jatil muni's advice to his disciple, Kanika, is one such example of issues alive even today - 'The most dangerous prospect for us is a combination of Brahma and Kshatra.' Kanika's distillation of Jatil muni's plan to subvert Sanatana Dharma is to infiltrate, subvert, and finally takeover. Krishna's real fight in the book, in that sense, is against these people and their philosophy.

Among the hidden gems of the Mahabharata, and which the book gives us a glimpse of, is the description of mathematical sampling. Using this episode from the Indralokabhigamana parva, Shakuni convinces Jatil Muni of his superiority of the knowledge of dice and of the inevitability of Yudhishthira's loss in such a game.

More than the first book, Krishna Yogeshvara has a sprinkling of verses from the Vedas and Upanishads as an accompaniment of Krishna's growth into yogeshvara. Readers will tempted to debate how much is free will manifest in people, how much to attribute actions to others, and how do people take or shirk responsibility for their words and deeds. This is especially true of  Dhritarashtra, Shakuni, and Duryodhana. A shloka from the Pandava Gita (also known as the Prapanna Gita, it is not a part of the Mahabharata though; this shloka is also found in the Panchadashi of Vidyaranya), uttered by Duryodhana is perhaps the most apt way to finish this review: "I know Dharma, but it is not in my nature to follow it; I also know Adharma, but it is not in nature to abstain from it. O Hrishikesha, you are the one who lives in my heart, and I only follow the impulses of my heart, so you are the one responsible."

Readers will feel rewarded with this engaging, fast-paced, and thought-provoking second installment in the Lord Krishna trilogy.

Note: this review is based on an advance copy graciously provided by the author.

This review was first published in The New Indian Express on Dec 22nd, 2019.

© 2019, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.