Book Review: The Winds of Hastinapur

winds of hastinapur

Hindu mythology has always attracted my attention and of them, the retellings of Mahabharata and its characters are my favorite. So when I was given an opportunity to read and review a book based on Bhishma, I knew I couldn’t miss it. The Winds of Hastinapur is a story told by Ganga, the first wife of Shantanu, one of the Kuru Kings, and Satyavati, his second wife who was a fisher-girl in the kingdom.

The first part, told by Ganga, tells us about the world beyond mountains, in Meru where Celestials live; how she was cursed to go to the Earth, to bear seven children and then eventually kill them all, and how she takes the eighth child, who is allowed to live, to Meru, to study the scriptures. This eighth son, is Devavrata, who is later known as Bhishma.

The second part, is told from the point of view of Satyavati, or Kali, who lives in the fishing communities of the Kingdom of Hastinapur. She convinces King Shantanu to marry her, and make her sons the kings after him. She also tells us about her relationship with Sage Parashara, and how she bore a son with him, who was sent to Brighu to study Vedas; he is later known as Veda Vyasa.

What I loved the most about the story is how the author successfully managed to turn the myths into an amazing story. Only an author with a strong command on words and an outstanding ability to turn those words into spell-binding situations can write with such splendour. I haven’t read any book by Sharath Komarraju before, but after this I am sure going to read more from him. Another thing which probably stood apart is the vivid imagery throughout the book. The reader will often find himself immersed in the story so much so that he will actually experience the story. Again, the author works his magic with words and takes us away on a great adventure.

That said the major disappointment in the book might be how the women are presented in this story. Even though, this story is supposed to be highlighting the importance of women in Mahabharata, it ended up objectifying women and showing them as pawns of desire and lust. It always has been like this throughout the history, but women still could have been shown in a positive light; there is much more about women than just being the objects of beauty and lust. I found it lacking throughout the book. While women in the story could have been shown with much more potential, it never happened in the story. I feel that the entire essence of the book was extinguished by this.

The first part of the story told by Ganga, had a really good story building up. There were questions raised, answers given, major character developments could be seen as well as great plot twists. But the second part, revolving around Satyavati, initially started out very good, but eventually turned flat in comparison with that of Ganga’s. The story felt rushed and not much really happened in that story.

Nevertheless, I have to say that the book presented a good insight into Bhishma’s side of story in Mahabharata, and how the Great War was actually due to the various decisions made by women such as Satyavati and Ganga. More importantly, this book showed how women, with their actions and decisions, can, not only create history, but also change their destiny.

A good read inspite of the flaws. Exceptional in parts. Read-able.

Title : The Winds of Hastinapur
Author : Sharath Komarraju
Publisher : Harper Collins India
Pages : 300
Genre/ Sub-Genre : Fiction/ Mythological
Rating : 3.00 of 5.00
Reviewed for : The Tales Pensieve Pick of the month – December 2015

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