Saturday, April 15, 2023

Aryaa: An Anthology of Vedic Women—Review

Aryaa: An Anthology of Vedic Women

Ten Women Who Shaped Ancient India.

Aryaa is a collection of ten stories from Vedic and post-Vedic literature that brings to life the stories of ten women, each unique, each strong, each of whose story is an adventure in itself, and who shaped in small, and big, ways ancient India.

Eight of the women featured figure in the Mahabharata, while two are from the Upanishads. There is Shakuntala, born to an apsara and a sage, and who became the progenitor of the race of the Bharatas. Chitrangada, the warrior princess who married the Pandava Arjuna and whose stepson, Babruvahana, would meet his father in battlefield. One cannot talk about Chitraganda without also writing about Ulupi, the Naga princess who basically kidnapped Arjuna to have as her husband. From that union was born Iravan. The tale of Damayanti is perhaps the most romantic tale ever penned and whose account was narrated to Yudhishthira as a reminder that what was the present had repeated in the past; such was the way of itihasa—history. Subhadra, whose posthumous son was carried on the lineage of the Pandavas. Or Madhavi, who raises her father, Yayati, back to heaven after his fall on the strength of her merits. Then there is Satyavati, the fisherwoman who ensured her lineage survived in the face of the vicissitudes of fate and the dictates of karma. That leaves two women—Gargi and Maitreyi. Their accounts figure prominently in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Whereas Ved Vyasa is considered the composer of the Mahabharata, he is called the collector, organizer, of the Vedas. In that sense, even these two accounts are of women Vyasa wrote about. These two women are not only unique individuals in their own right, but also one of the most learned sages mentioned in the Vedas. 

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Mahabharata The Epic and the Nation, by GN Devy - Review

Mahabharata The Epic and the Nation, by GN Devy

What gives the Mahabharata its "timeless magic", what about the epic has captivated the imaginations of millions, do its characters make it so captivating, or is it the philosophical ideas captured therein? The book avers that it answers all these questions. 

Ved Vyasa is considered the author of the Mahabharata. The appellation Ved Vyasa means someone who divided the Vedas. Ved Vyasa can therefore refer to more than one person. Krishna Dwaipayana is also called Ved Vyasa. 'Krishna' means dark, and Dwaipayana means 'island born' and is derived from 'dweep', which means island. He was dark in color and was born on an island, which is why he was called Krishna Dwaipayana. The author translates it as 'Krishna of the Dark Island'. A cursory look at any Sanskrit dictionary may have sufficed by way of clarification, like Monier-Williams or Apte. The author didn't deem it necessary. One expected better from someone who has written and edited ninety books and was awarded a Padma Shri in 2014.