Bhima A review
There is a proverb in Bengali which says that there is nothing going on in the world that has not been spoken of in the Mahabharata. This truly all encompassing epic with its many versions, both ancient and modern continue to fascinate. We have had the story retold from Draupadi’s perspective, Krishna’s view, Karna’s eyes, and even Karna’s wives version. We have had philosophical interpretation, rational ones, even a subaltern version. The author, in his acknowledgements, has mentioned some of them. But I was missing one prom the point of view of my childhood hero, Bhima. Vikash Sing has finally and brilliantly filled this gap.
The book has already received rave reviews from the ruling tsars of the fantasy mythology genre, and quite deservingly.
As the subtitle of the book puts it, Bhima was the man in the shadows. The strongest Pandav, often the brunt of protecting his family and risking his life for them fell on his broad shoulders. The glory was hogged by his glamorous brother Arjun, the power by his wimpy brother Yudhistir, while he remained in the shadows.
The book focuses on those incidents of the Mahabharata where Bhima plays starring role, the poisoning, the slaying of Bakasura , Hidimba , Jarasandh, and Kichak, rescuing Draupadi from Jayadrath, the encounter with Hanuman, the quest for the celestial flowers, and later, in the war, the keeping of his vow by destroying the Kaurava brothers, with particularly gory end of Dushasan and the literally below the belt finish to the duel with Duryodan.
Thus it was he who avenged Draupadi’s humiliation and single handed eliminated all possible rivals to the throne, mostly in single hand to hand combat. Yet his role in keeping the family alive and winning the war is lost in the paeans sung to the duplicitous Krishna, or the vacillating Arjun.
His tragedy was particularly poignant in that he was the one who truly loved Draupadi, and protected and cared for her always. He was the only one among her five husbands not to take other wives , and who avenged Draupadi’s personal insults in the war and earlier during their exile. His fight was not to recover their kingdom or serve any noble person, but to help the woman he loved. And all along, this woman loves his brother.
In the end too, he eschews heaven to keep Draupadi company till the very end when she falls by the wayside during their trek to heaven.
The author has played around with the more traditional versions for the sake of the plot, but that is justified literary licence.
He also attempts to rationalise on the Devas, surrogate dads and Daivi Ashtras or WMDs by using Erik Danikens theory that the Devas are extra terrestrials.
I recommend that fans of mythology, fantasy or fanfics must give this a try, and those not into this genre, to try something new, and this may be a good introduction.
Bhima A review