Mahabharata by Amar Chitra Katha – A Review

Do you like The Mahabharata but are not sure when or if to give it to your child? Well if the answer is yes, read on.

The Amar Chitra Katha Mahabharata comes in a beautiful boxed set with three books. Each of these books is around 400 pages, with brilliant colourful pictures in comic strip format. I liked the fact that the story is divided into three separate books so you didn’t have to plough through a massive 1200-1300 page tome. My hands would definitely start hurting if I had to read that given that I have read these books tons of times.

The Mahabharata story has been heard, read and loved very much for centuries and that love has grown over time. But, in this review, I am focussing on this set of three books.The first book is a drawn out description of the characters and the Pandavas childhood and a little of their adulthood. It also includes the surprising events which turn into Draupadi marrying all five Pandavas. The second book contains the story of the legendary Gandeeva, the bow and the deceitful game of dice and the subsequent exile of the Pandavas. It also describes the slaying of Jarasandha by Bheema and the Rajsooya Yajna performed by Yudhishthira. The final book of the Mahabharata contains Krishna’s Bhagvad Gita and of course, the great battle of Kurukshetra. Also included are passing away of the Pandavas into the other world.

I liked these books very much and have clearly understood the story-line. The narration is simple and descriptive. I felt that the language was extremely simple to understand, even for children to follow easily and enjoy the story-line rather than trying to figure out difficult words. There are maximum 8 panels per page which would require much attention to detail and dedication like Ganesh had while writing the original Mahabharata. The art and the detailing are stunning. Sometimes, you need to look at tiny details such as crowns to make out one character from another. Take Bheeshma and Drona, their beards, hair and faces look exactly the same but I figured Bheeshma would always have a crown on his head. It was much more confusing in the war as all were wearing similar armour. The drawings brought the story to life in my imagination a lot more than words alone would have done.

This book of Mahabharata presents many intriguing side-stories about various characters which helps in getting a clearer understanding of their actions. One such story is about how and why Jayadhratha could check the positions of the four Pandavas all at once, though he could not get any information on Arjuna. Unexpectedly, some of the main events of the saga where extremely shortened and I found it disappointing. One such major event that comes to my mind straight-away is when Arjuna is feeling scared to fight against his own kinsmen at Kurukshetra, and Krishna explains to him that it is for the best, and creates and recites the Bhagvad Gita, and all this is put together in just two pages. Some stories which are a very important part of the tale are not there at all like Krishna’s childhood story; though there is a separate Krishna book available in Amar Chitra Katha which makes up for that.

I understood that Princes’ back in those days studied decrypting the Vedas which included politics, economics, environment and Warfare. In fact, a big part of their education was actually warfare and weaponry so that they could conquer their enemies and save their kingdom. I thought the weaponry was very well described. The world war museums I have been to had lesser interesting weapons than these. Compare any celestial weapon like the Agneyastra or Brahmastra with even an automated rifle and you have an obvious winner.

One of the main parts of this Mahabharata epic book is the amazing detail with which the battle of #Kurukshetra is described. It is considered the biggest war of the world, as per Hindu mythology even though it is eighteen days long whereas the Ramayana war lasted for over a month.

My favourite part was the competition or the show in the first book where the teenaged Pandavas and the Kauravas were to showcase their ability with various weapons. And it was very fun to read the description of the different princes’ wielding different weapons. This is also when Karna is brought back into the story. Another favourite of mine is when Arjuna gives Bheeshma the head-rest and water as befitting his bravery and courage. This also shows Arjun’s undying love for his elders, specially his favourite Grand-Sire, Bheeshma.

Let me also mention some of the things in the story-line which I didn’t like at all. They left me a little disturbed and yucked out. Like when Dushasan attempted to disrobe Draupadi and insult her in front of the whole royal assembly.

Weird facts – People doing tapasyas do not eat anything for months on end especially if they are trying to behold Brahma, Vishnu, Indra or Shiva. Does that even seem possible?

Laugh Out Loud Joke – Q–What is the restaurant without a menu?

A–Karma. You get what you deserve

This masterpiece is a must-buy for parents who feel that their children should understand, learn and value the heritage of India. It is also a great read for anyone who likes crime, suspense, humour, romance, politics, you name it, and this book has it. This book contains all human emotions like love, joy, bravery, courage and respect. So, in short, yes, go ahead and buy this book, and enjoy hours of satisfying reading.

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