Mini Reviews: Stories of Krishna and Yudhisthira

‘In the house of Nanda and Yashoda, Vrindavan reared a boy that would first grow into a man, then a warrior, a statesman, a lover, a sage – and finally, a god.’

Written in the same lyrical style of the other Hastinapur books, The Song of Vrindavan tells the true story of the first sixteen years of Krishna’s life, and the role that a certain village belle played in making him the man he would eventually become.

Sharath Komarraju beautifully breathes life once again into the silences that permeate the epic we all know so well. If you’re a mythology or fantasy fan, this is a must-read. 

While I really enjoyed the previous three books in this series which told the story of Hastinapur, I can’t deny that I have a bias towards stories of Krishna. So, it’s not a surprise that this book has now become my favorite of the series.

The way the author explores the humanity of Krishna and his character arc since his childhood, as well as the sarcastic manner in which Radha dismisses the tall tales of his godliness – it’s all written in a very engaging and mesmerizing manner and I didn’t even realize how quickly I finished the book. But the best part was definitely the bond that Krishna shared with Radha as well as with all the other villagers of Vrindavan – it’s a story about the love that blossoms between hearts, unburdened by the desires of the bodies and I was amazed at the way the author managed to capture this feeling.

This book has been languishing on my shelf for a while now and I only picked it up because of a readathon, but now I’m very excited to read the next book which I’m glad I already have a copy of.

The Unfallen Pandava is an imaginary autobiography of Yudhishthira, attempting to follow the well-known story of the Mahabharata through his eyes. In the process of narrating the story, he examines his extremely complicated marriage and relationship with brothers turned co-husbands, tries to understand the mysterious personality of his mother in a slightly mother-fixated way, conducts manic and depressive evaluation of his own self and reveals his secret darkness and philosophical confusions with an innate urge to submit to a supreme soul. His own story lacks the material of an epic, rather it becomes like confession of a partisan who, prevailing over other more swashbuckling characters, finally discovers his latent greatness and establishes himself as the symbolic protagonist. 

I don’t think I’ve actually ever read the Mahabharata from Yudhisthira’s POV, so it was definitely a very fascinating read. I got to see a much more different side of him than the usually depicted truthful and righteous ruler that he was. His slightly fraught relationships with his brothers as well as Draupadi was also an interesting theme to explore. What I found most surprising though was his devotion to Krishna. It’s usually Arjun and Draupadi who are depicted as the true believers of Krishna’s divinity with complete submission, but it was nice to see a similar kind of feeling in a much more restrained Yudhisthira.

The writing style of the book itself took some getting used to. The language of the author felt quite a bit anachronistic in the beginning but I got used to it as the story went out. The book is also not written in any chronological order, skipping between timelines based on whatever topic our POV character wants to talk about. This also took me out of the story a few times, and made me realize that this is not a book that someone who is not overly familiar with Mahabharata will enjoy.

However, it was still an engaging read for the most part and can be enjoyed by readers who love new interpretations of the epic – though be prepared for a lot of internal monologuing. The next book in this series is from Shakuni’s perspective and to be honest, I’m quite intrigued by the idea and hopefully will be able to get to it soon.

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