A modern retelling of an ancient Mahabharata tale of love, lust, jealousy, wisdom, that had epic impact virtually at the start of our history
A pre-Rigvedic prelude to the colossal epic of Mahabharata was the intriguing story of Yayati, an ancestor of the Kaurava princes and the emperor of Aryavarta, and Devayani, his wife and the daughter of sage Shukracharya. Lesser-known as it may be, a new book titled, ‘Devayani’ by US-based author Manjula Tekal is a modern retelling of this ancient tale that finds mention in the Mahabharata and many Puranas; and just like the whole repository of Indian mythological tales, has much to teach and many insights to offer into Indian history.
A thoroughly-researched peek into mythology, ‘Devayani’ is published by Garuda Prakashan.
A recommended read for those interested in learning Mahabharata’s backstory, ‘Devayani’ is a tale of love, friendship, betrayal, and passion in the backdrop of a war between the Devas and the Asuras.
The book takes readers on a journey of the demon princess Sharmishtha becoming Devayani’s servant and then her rival; and why Yayati had to ask his children to make the ultimate sacrifice — to give up their youth for him. ‘Devayani’ takes you on a journey through infatuation, lust, jealousy, rage, betrayal, love, and wisdom.
The ancient couple was also parents to Yadu, who gave rise to Yaduvansha, from which Krishna descended. Yayati’s son Puru would later inherit the land of Saraswati from his father and start the Puru dynasty; the story of which is synonymous with Bharata.
“Yayati and Devayani are even remembered today only because they were the forebears of Pandavas and Kauravas many, many, many generations ago. That was even before Rigveda was written. So, in some sense, what has come to us as our culture, scriptures, it has, and Puranas started with them,” says author Manjula Tekal, who has to her credit several noted Kannada translations.
The author says that she is surprised by a general lack of knowledge about the characters, specifically Devayani. “After living with Devayani for a couple of years now, I am surprised when I realize that many people don’t know her! And pleased that they can discover her through me,” she says.
Speaking about the contemporary relevance of the colloquially articulated book, Tekal says: “Human emotions are constant. Despite the momentous change that must have occurred through the millennia that separates Devayani’s time from today, people still feel the same today as they did then. I know people relate to these characters as though they are contemporary from the comments and feedback I have received from my readers.
I discovered Puranas while writing the book. I had the impression that Puranas were a bunch of old stories that are anachronistic. But I found to my delight that there are many stories instructive to the modern reader. The book, ‘Devayani’ is cast in a contemporary idiom and is eminently relatable,”
‘Devayani’ is available on garudabooks.com and other leading bookstores.