Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Children's Mahabharata - Shanta Rameshwar Rao

I read this delightful 334 page Mahabharata (Orient Longman, Rs.95, first published in 1980), and highly recommend it to all children, or for that matter, whoever wants to get a comprehensive view of the Mahabharata. Written in simple and lucid style, Shanta Rameshwar Rao's book (coming close on the heels of the 900 page tome of Kamala Subramaniam's Mahabharata for me) recapped some of the main issues of this complex tale which seem to elude my memory. I will need to read it many more times before I get a grasp on it really but suffice to say that this book (lent to me by Vinod for a quick read) should serve as a great intro to the Indian epics for children and for adults who have missed the story.

The author, a multi faceted personality, the spirit behind the popular Vidyaranya school in Hyderabad, that runs almost on the lines of the Rishi Valley school of J. Krishnamurthy, wrote the epic wonderfully well for  children, toning down the intrigue, issues that young minds might not grasp and still tells the tale as powerfully as it can be told. The drawings are intriguing as well, and I tried to find their source but found none in the book.

In 30 chapters starting from Devavrata, later known as Bheeshma, she guides the reader through the way the Kuru family develops, splits into warring factions and annihilate one another in the Kurukshetra war. In only the last chapter does she deal with the war and its aftermath, showing a sensitivity to show that good and bad co exist in all men and that one is not necessarily better than the other. If at all it is for us to learn that one must learn from mistakes, accept them and stand up for what is right even if it is a painful path.

A beautifully bought out book in terms of production quality, print size and the price, Orient Longman and Shanta Rameshwar Rao have done a wonderful job in bringing Mahabharata to children.

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