Mahabharata has been told and retold in every generation. With every new rendition, the story absorbs the new and finer understanding of the epic. Even in the 21st century, this tradition is being continued by the young writers for the readers who are fond reading and understanding mythology.
The Blue Star Hall saw a new writer of Mahabharata come into the block. Charu A Dhandia launched her book, Mahabharata: Children’s Illustrated Classics, with Ratna Manucha and Col Vivek Sharma. Originally an economist, she wrote her maiden book on the epic to bring the tome to younger generations. She has attempted to compile the whole epic into ten 64-paged books which sum into episodic stories of the Mahabharata. The pages are the book are artfully illustrated with bright colours and simple designs. The book has tried to narrate the whole story, remembering to keep it simple for a child without losing the essence or magic of the larger narrative. With no prior experience in writing, Dhandia had to research on all the interpretations of the epic. No book on mythology has been written, other than the Amar Charitra Katha, that a ten-year-old can pick and read it with full comprehension. As Mahabharata is generally seen unsuitable for children, because of its heavily philosophical content and the complex characters, she had to make it interesting and readable for both, the children as well as the adults. Thus, she went out to interview to exchange their views and opinions how to make the Mahabharata fun. The most popular answers she got was to make it appear attractive, as most children told that they would pick a book only if thye find it to be appealing.
With Kavita Singh Kale’s artful illustrations, Dhandia has decreased the level of bloodshed and violence that are integral parts of the Mahabharata. She mentioned that the picturization of Draupadi had to go through a lot of changes- from a red warrior covered in blood to a poppy coloured maiden. There are other changes has been made to make the characters more relatable. Though she was successful in cutting down the negativity, she didn’t make it look like a story of a utopian society. As she said, it is all real and it is totally inappropriate to fill their heads with ideas that the world is full of love and compassion. So, she didn’t erase the envy, hatred and violence, so as to connect it to the larger part of the narrative.
Mahabharata is one of the most narrated and revered books that needs a larger audience. Though it is a story which is three millennia ago, the meaning and morals which it wants to convey is still relevant today. This rendition is a very simplistic approach to the epic and truly makes it an excellent read for the children who wants to know about the colourful mythology of India. Thus, bringing the Indian classical literature to every home. Charu Agarwal Dhandia’s first attempt on story-telling ‘Mahabharata: Children’s Illustrated Classics’ will be releasing by the end of November.
— Abhay Majhi, St. Stephen’s college