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.
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- A book that you can’t put down. Fantastic story-telling by Devdutt Pattanaik.
- Intriguing tales dug out from the hidden corners of the Mahabharatha.
- Questions raised are very relevant in today’s society where we are fighting several battles based on gender.
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- 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?
- What is normal and what is an aberration? Who can decide this?
- A woman, Yunashva’s mother Shilavati, is not allowed to be crowned because she is a woman. Why?
- A man who has not fathered, cannot become king. Why? Why should personal life interfere with political life?