The Pregnant King – Devdutt Pattanaik 9



Must-Read
The Pregnant King - Devdutt Pattanaik

Let me start with a confession. I don’t usually read books based on Indian mythology. I don’t enjoy them. I get confused with the similar sounding names and the entangled relationships. I have made several failed attempts to read the popular trilogies based on Indian mythology. So, it was with much reluctance that I started reading this book.

The pregnant king is the story of Yuvanashva, the childless king of Vallabhi. When his three queens are not able to produce an heir to him and his mother Shilavati will not allow him to become king without having an offspring, he seeks the help of two Siddhis – Yaja and Upayaja. After a ritual spanning several days, they concoct a potion meant for the queens. The king accidently drinks the potion and gets pregnant. He gives birth to Mandhata. Later he is able to impregnate his second queen and give birth to another son. The fact that he gave birth to Mandhata and nursed him is kept hidden from the people of the kingdom. Yuvanashva yearns to be called mother by Mandhata.

The author, Devdutt Pattanaik has raised so many esoteric questions, relevant in today’s society through this retelling. He delves on allied tales of Shikhandi and others in the Mahabharatha where the gender distinction has not been clear. With the mythical setting, there are fantastic events like beheading a couple and exchanging heads, borrowing genitals, a girl brought up as a man becomes a man and fathers a child.

+ + +

  1. A book that you can’t put down. Fantastic story-telling by Devdutt Pattanaik.
  2. Intriguing tales dug out from the hidden corners of the Mahabharatha.
  3. Questions raised are very relevant in today’s society where we are fighting several battles based on gender.

? ? ?

  1. Yuvanashva’s biggest question: Is it sweeter to hear a child call out “Mother” or “Father”? Who can decide the answer to this question except one who has heard both?
  2. What is normal and what is an aberration? Who can decide this?
  3. A woman, Yunashva’s mother Shilavati, is not allowed to be crowned because she is a woman. Why?
  4. A man who has not fathered, cannot become king. Why? Why should personal life interfere with political life?

Mythological Page-turner.


Book Details:

Title The Pregnant King
Amazon Paperback
Amazon Kindle Edition
Flipkart Paperback
Flipkart eBook
Editor(s)/Author(s)/Illustrator(s)/Translator(s) Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher Penguin India

About Menaka S

Menaka is a computational linguist by education, an optimist by attitude and a dreamer by how she spends her time. Being left-brained, she runs PlusMinus'n'More to indulge her right brain interests.


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9 thoughts on “The Pregnant King – Devdutt Pattanaik

  • Sravi

    I enjoyed this book.It is different…and the biggest takeaway from this book is that there is actually no right and wrong.It is more of about how one perceives what is right,and what is wrong.

  • K S Selvakumar

    Excellent post. I’m giving it 5+ stars. Why no — ? Were there none?

    A lot of pertinent questions asked. I’ve heard that Devdutt Pattanaik is one of the best when it comes to retelling / interpreting stories from Indian mythology. Jaya by Pattanaik has been strongly recommended as a must read.

  • Ravi

    அருமையான பதிவு மேனகா, மிகவும் ரசிக்கும்படியான கருத்துக்கள்.

    //I get confused with the similar sounding names and the entangled relationships.//

    இது ஒரு பிரக்டிகல் PROBLEM. உண்மை. அதே சமயம் அந்த குடும்ப தொடர்புகளை /உறவுகளை சரியாக பிடித்துக்கொண்டால் கதை இன்னமும் INTIMATE ஆகிவிடும். ALLOF-A-SUDDEN அந்த கதை நமது வாழ்வின் ஒரு அங்கமாக மாறிவிடும். மகாபரதத்தினுள் நுழையும் பொது எனக்கும் இதே நிலை தான். FAMILY TREE யை உணர்ந்துகொண்ட பின், மனதில் ஆழமாக நிலத்து விட்டது.

    //I have made several failed attempts to read the popular trilogies based on Indian mythology. //

    இதுபோன்ற SPINOFF கதைகளை படிப்பதற்கு முன்பு மகாபாரதத்தை கொஞ்சம் அறிந்திருந்தால் சுவை மேலும் கூடும்.

    இந்த கதை மகாபாரதத்தின் கிளைக்கதை சாயல்களை கொண்டு புனையப்பட்ட ஒரு கற்பனை கதை. ஆசிரியர் இதுபோல கற்பனை புராணக்கதைகளை வைத்து நமது மனதில் பல கேள்விகளை எழுப்ப முயன்றுள்ளார். அதன் நோக்கம், கேள்விகளுக்கு பதில்களை கண்டுபிடித்து உள்ளம் தெளிவு பெறுவது, இதையே மகாபாரத்தில் உள்ள உண்மையான கிளைக்கதைகளை கொண்டே செய்திருக்கலாம். இந்த புத்தகத்தில் உள்ள கதையா விட STRANGE கதைகள் ஏராளம் வியாச மகாபாரதத்தில் புதைத்துள்ளன.
    இந்த காரணத்தால் புத்தக ஆசிரியரின் நோக்கம் மக்கள் மத்தியில் இது போல விவாதங்கள ஆரம்பிக்க வைத்து, பரபரப்பு ஏற்படுத்தி விளம்பரம் தேடுவதா எனும் ஐயம் மனதில் எழுகிறது.

    என்னுடைய பர்சனல் கருத்து, “எனக்கு வியாச மகாபாரதத்தை யாரும் TAMPER செய்வது சுத்தமாக பிடிக்காது”. அது போல காலம் காலமாக நடந்து மகாபாரதத்தின் உண்மையான ESSENCE தற்போது வெகுவாக குறைந்து விட்டது.

    மேனகா, தொடர்ந்து இது போல பதிவுகளை இடவேண்டும்.

  • Mahesh

    @Menaka: Nice review. Haven’t read this.But I have read his other book – Jaya. I have also seen his talks in CNBC – Business Sutras. I would suggest you watch them in youtube.

    These type of stories in Mythology not just in our culture but also in other cultures is so intriguing and thought provoking. The interesting aspect of our mythology is the multiple births that one takes and the way these stories gets entangled there on. Some time I felt these stories are so hypothetical in the way it unfolds like a male giving birth to a baby, as you mentioned borrowing genitals etc. But on the other hand I think may be they had lot of scientific know how which we lost somewhere and are not able to comprehend. For instance if someone spoke about Brahmastra it would have been just an imagination but we all know how devastating a atomic bomb could be. We have medical advancements like test tube babies, SRS & GRS which are no more myths but reality. I feel we have lost lot of references to the context in which these stories are told. It is good to see authors re-looking at our stories and presenting it very interesting. We should also start looking at these strange stories as possibilities and explore more.

    I also found Anand Neelakantan’s writings very interesting. He comes up a totally different perspective to our epics more from a cultural & social setup during that period based on our current social hierarchy. Raises lot of questions on how these stories could be one sided. It reminded me of Virumandi (yeah I am still a great fan of Kamal).

    @Ravi: I managed to read through Tamil comments. (Thanks for Gnanam who took strain in teaching me during our college days). I agree with you completely – Mahabarata has lot of such strange stories. Recently we purchased a Malayalam book titled “Vichitra Kadhagal” and I was surprised that I haven’t heard any of these stories but they are part of either Mahabarata or Puranas. I wanted to actually write a translated version of those stories as blog – but yeah.. time evades me.. :). Btw, Mahabarata is a small portion of Jaya. Devdutt has written on Jaya as well but it is not a translation but a commentary on selected portions of Jaya.

    @Menaka: Keep going.. I am inspired to read more now 🙂

  • Ravi

    @Mahesh,
    Sorry for sticking to Tamil in my reply. Its great to see you have interest in this subject. 🙂

    //Btw, Mahabarata is a small portion of Jaya//

    i’m afraid you have to check your facts once again. Jaya was the name given by Vyasa , when he initially composed it with 8800

    slogans. Second time when it was recited by Vaisampayana it took the form Bharatha with 24,00 verses. This implies 15,200

    additional verses were added later by Vaisampayana. Again Bharatha was recited by Ugrasrava Sauti to king sunaka in

    naimesiya forest, the whole script became 100,000 verses and took the name Mahabaratha, what we have at present. This

    shows vyasa Jaya’s contribution is not even ten present of the whole Mahabaratha, but it forms the core.

  • Mahesh

    @Ravi:I didn’t mean the size of the portion in terms of the length but in terms of the principles/thoughts it carried. You would agree that in this age of “IoT” its just a click away for info – so I have the facts :).

    Anyway, I have not read the original Jayam nor the complete version of Mahabaratha (the original Sanskrit) so I am not sure which carries more in terms of the values/principles/thoughts. But from what I read from researchers like Byrappa, Medhnand Desai, the original version was more philosophical in nature than the current form. Yeah, mythology is a very interesting topic and there are lot of research happening in the field of analyzing the authorship of our epics, puranas and old texts. Most of the current version on these texts are attributed to the Gupta period, including the Bhagavat Gita. We should have a discussion when we meet in person.