Re-imagining mythology: Translated regional literature you can read

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Indian mythology is as rich as it is expansive. The characters are endless and the potential to carve a story around them almost endless. Apart from writers in English, there are several regional authors who have been weaving stories from epics, reimagining and crafting their own stories.

Here are some of them.

Uttarakaanda

Published in 2017 Uttarakaanda is a Kannada novel by SL Bhyrappa . It is another reimagining of Ramayana. It looks at Ram’s story but this time from Sita’s point of view. This is quite a departure from the myth we have read for all these years which though never pointedly assumed Ram’s perspective, unfolded placing him as the titular character.

Such a narrative technique automatically absolves the protagonist of any wrongdoing. In such respect, this is a fascinating and a daring attempt. Apparently the book had sold out within hours when first published.

Duryodhan by Kaka Vidhate

In his book, Kaka Vidhate weaves the story around the eldest of the Kauravas: Duryodhan. The premise is the ancient rivalry between the Kauravas and Pandavas, seen from the unrelenting gaze of Duryodhan. He refuses to part with the Kuru kingdom which he is convinced belongs to them. And through this reveals himself as a fascinating character, one who is at once a hero and an anti-hero, a friend and a foe.

Vidhate, the famous Marathi author, not just puts focus on him but also explicates the reason for doing so. As others attempt narrativizing a war that had one winner but more losers, it comes to the fore that it was Duryodhan who knew everything, even the extent of the bloodied hands in the battle.

Yugandhar by Shivaji Sawant

Sawant, a famous Marathi novelist goes back to the past to craft his story in Yugandhar. He centers his story around Krishna and humanises him. He is struck by Jara’s arrow and at the moment of seeing death ahead of him, he recounts his life. He talks about his childhood in Gokul, his youth in Mathura and Dwaraka. Sawant does not stop here. He also lets other characters take the centre stage and lets them remember their memories with Krishna.

Yugandhar is one of Sawant’s most famous works, as rooted in real life as can be. It takes a familiar character and brings him closer by revealing his feet could also be of clay.

Mrityunjaya: The Death Conqueror by Shivaji Sawant

First published in 1967, Mrityunjaya: The Death Conqueror is one of Sawant’s most celebrated works. The Marathi novel details the autobiography of Karna. For long the character of Karna had been defined by Veda Vyasa’s epic and lens. Through this book Sawant tries carving out a separate narrative, examining the similarities between Krishna and Karna instead and consequently creating a timeless story.

Yayati by Vishnu Sakharam Khandekar

First published in 1959, it is V.S Khandekar’s most well-regarded novel. Written by Marathi it preoccupies itself in retelling the story of the mythical Hindu king, Yayati, from the Mahabharata. Khandekar plays with forms as he introduces multiple narrators and through that also introduces questions on what our basic assumptions, mainly the idea of morality.

For years this novel has been regarded as a classic and won several awards like the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1960 and the Jnanapith Award in 1974.

Karna: The Great Warrior by Ranjit Desai 

Karna has been both a fascinating and an impregnable character. His entire life had been consumed by seeking his identity. His life had been beset with tragedies, of abandonment and mistreatment. Even though his skills could match with Arjun, Karna is the quintessential tragic hero.

With his novel, Desai (the novel is translated from Marathi to English by Vikrant Pande) attempts to understand this angst and his difficult relationships with others. But mostly he tries to locate the source of Karna’s all-encompassing loneliness.