Epic Illustrations

I know, I know, it’s time for me to announce the winners of my contest on the blog. But I couldn’t wait to blog about what I am reading now – Jaya, by Devdutt Pattanaik. Simply because, it’s so unusual and enthralling – a visual treat and a captivating read!

Devdutt’s subject isn’t new – it’s the age-old epic of Mahabharata (uncannily I seem to be coming across Mahabharata over and over… the last book I read was Palace of Illusions, where Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni retells the story from Draupadi’s point of view; soon after I’d just finished seeing the Hindi film Rajneeti – also inspired by the Mahabharata!) Anyway coming back to Devdutt, what is fantastic about his book is the lucid story telling, complemented by his illustrations – which look equally simple but are quite comprehensive, and done all by him.

For those who are new to him, Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik is the Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group. His website calls him ‘a medical doctor by education, a leadership consultant by profession, he is essentially a mythologist by passion’. He has written and lectured extensively on the nature of ‘sacred stories, symbols, and rituals, and their relevance in modern times’. I have been following his blog for a while now and am totally in love with his illustrations and insights into mythology. So, when my husband gifted me Jaya, I knew I had to read it, even if the subject had done its rounds with me, a little too often!

Every other page of Jaya, has free-flowing, line illustrations to depict the tale, while the author also includes his own commentary on the episodes. Besides regaling the reader with the easy storytelling, this book also turns out to be a crash course in the vedas and Indian mythology. I tip my hat to the author’s knowledge on the subject… I am sure his role as the Chief Belief Officer must be quite something too!

But Devdutt’s style isn’t entirely new to readers of Indian mythology. A couple of years ago Sanjay Patel (read an interesting interview with him here), noted illustrator and animator at Pixar, gave us the Ramayana and The Little Book of Hindu Deities. While his graphic form was angular, angry, violent and evocative in the former, it was childlike, lovable, and fluid in the latter. Both books again, were visually fantastic, although Sanjay’s storytelling was more graphic than written.





Sanjay’s books have gone one to become hugely popular. In fact his style and form are used as teaching tools in some design schools I know. This isn’t the first time Indian artists have given us depictions of India’s ever-popular epics, but the rendition by these two authors certainly brings out the two tomes, into a larger-than-life form. I, for one, am thrilled as it makes the stories even more appealing, especially to the next generation that’s not growing up hearing of legends like Ram, Arjun, Bheem, Jatayu from parents or grandparents.

Would love to know of other such publications, so please keep me posted if you come across any!

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    • Zubin
    • February 18th, 2011

    I saw an interview with him on TV last week. The way he links real world events with mythology was very interesting. And his take and a lot of ‘todays’ subjects – different and refreshing. I think I’m going to pick up his book.

  1. Yes Zubin, please pick it up… his exploration of the Mahabharata, is much more than I have read till date – he gets into details of characters we haven’t even heard of. Interestingly, there is a teacher at ISKCON who does something similar, and translates the knowledge from the Bhagavad Gita for management learnings in corporate organisations.

    • priyanks
    • February 23rd, 2011

    Thanks Tina, reading that post was good. It’s really interesting how the same epic gets interpreted differently in each rendition of it available around. Thanks for the access to one more, I will try and get a copy of this …

    Have put a link to your post on Mind Medley

    Happy Posting, Priyanka.

  2. Thank you Priyanka, very nice of you to link my blog. Glad you enjoy the posts. 🙂

    • Vidya
    • March 3rd, 2011

    Have been reading ‘Jaya’ and loved it. Though it’s been written in such a simple way, it brings out the complexities and contrasts in the narrative beautifully. And the illustrations have been done with a lot of thought – some simple details are so telling.

    Glad you mentioned this book in your blog!

  1. February 23rd, 2011

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