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BRIDE OF THE FOREST: THE UNTOLD STORY OF YAYATI’S DAUGHTER

 

Nominated | Book Awards 2021 | Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)

BRIDE OF THE FOREST: THE UNTOLD STORY OF YAYATI’S DAUGHTER

The myth of Drishadvati appears in the Mahabharata as the ‘story of the salvation of kings by a maiden.’ While tales of surrogacy abound in the Indian epics, this is the first known example of a womb-on-rent. This strange story – of a girl whose fertility was bartered repeatedly in exchange for priceless horses – has intrigued modern scholars, playwrights and authors for its cultural significance. While earlier adaptations have cast its theme as the exploitation of a helpless woman, Bride of the Forest presents it as the story of girl who is surprisingly radical in her ultimate rejection of patriarchy.

Full Title: Bride of the Forest: The Untold Story of Yayati's Daughter

Author: Madhavi Mahadevan
Publisher: Speaking Tiger Publishing

Award Category: Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)
About the Book: 

The myth of Drishadvati appears in the Mahabharata as the ‘story of the salvation of kings by a maiden.’ While tales of surrogacy abound in the Indian epics, this is the first known example of a womb-on-rent. This strange story – of a girl whose fertility was bartered repeatedly in exchange for priceless horses – has intrigued modern scholars, playwrights and authors for its cultural significance. While earlier adaptations have cast its theme as the exploitation of a helpless woman, Bride of the Forest presents it as the story of girl who is surprisingly radical in her ultimate rejection of patriarchy.
Staying true to the original myths and springing entirely from the world of the Mahabharata, the novel brings to life several other characters: Garuda, the divine bird who flies Lord Vishnu around the world: the proud kings of Ayodhya, Pratisthan and Kashi; the arrogant queen, Devayani, and her duplicitous maid – whose stories reveal an intricate tapestry of human and divine relationships. Intertwined in the tales of traditional rivalries is the age-old war between the asuras and the devas that gave rise to the perennial male quest for immortality, transmuted into the human desire for sons that lies at the root of commercial surrogacy even today. However, it is the story of Drishadvati, her sacrifice and her nobility, that will enchant the reader.


About the Author: 

Madhavi Mahadevan has published two collections of short stories, Paltan Tales and Doppelganger, and an e-novella, Swansong. Her first novel, The Kaunteyas, was a retelling of the Mahabharata from the viewpoint of Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas. She has also written fiction for children.


Excerpt: 

CHAPTER ONE: YAYATI
The forest was already a lush, tangled dream. In the runny light of dawn what appeared surreal to the girl’s eyes was the city of Pratisthan – the yellow of its brick walls, the disarray of its streets. The citizens were still abed. The network of narrow, paved alleyways was silent but for the sighs from the night just spent. However, the smells lingered and gossiped of the frenzied drinking and dancing, of clandestine desires and sated hungers, of enticement, seduction and indulgence. In the street of the courtesans, bruised garlands of marigold and jasmine drifted in sluggish drains. A tambourine lay in a pool of vomit. At the city’s intersections stood enormous clay lamps that had burned bright all night, but now held curls of blackened wicks, like stillborn worms. The only signs of life were the lean, brown stray dogs scavenging through animal innards and fishbone.


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