By Indian Authors Fiction Mythological fiction

Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik – Book review


Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata Book Cover Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata
(The Great Indian Epics Retold)
Devdutt Pattanaik
Literary Collections / Mythological fiction
Penguin Books India
Read on my Kindle

High above the sky stands Swarga, paradise, abode of the gods. Still above is Vaikuntha, heaven, abode of God. The doorkeepers of Vaikuntha are the twins, Jaya and Vijaya, both whose names mean 'victory'. One keeps you in Swarga; the other raises you into Vaikuntha. In Vaikuntha there is bliss forever, in Swarga there is pleasure for only as long as you deserve. What is the difference between Jaya and Vijaya? Solve this puzzle and you will solve the mystery of the Mahabharata. In this enthralling retelling of India's greatest epic, the Mahabharata, originally known as Jaya, Devdutt Pattanaik seamlessly weaves into a single narrative plots from the Sanskrit classic as well as its many folk and regional variants, including the Pandavani of Chattisgarh, Gondhal of Maharashtra, Terukkuttu of Tamil Nadu, and Yakshagana of Kamataka. Richly illustrated with over 250 line drawings by the author, the 108 chapters abound with little-known details such as the names of the hundred Kauravas, the worship of Draupadi as a goddess in Tamil Nadu, the stories of Astika, Madhavi, Jamini, Aravan and Barnareek, the Mahabharata version of the Shakuntaiam and the Ramayana, and the dating of the war based on astronomical data. With clarity and simplicity, the tales in the elegant volume reveal the eternal relevance of the Mahabharata, the complex and disturbing meditation on the human condition that has shaped Indian thought for over 3000 years.


This is the second book of the Devdutt Pattanaik I have read after Sita: An illustrated retelling of Ramayana. I have already read various retelling of Mahabharata; however, this retelling is totally different from others. So let’s check out what this book offers.

Plot summary:

The book starts with author’s note where he has written about how Veda came into existence, how it is forgotten, How Vyasa decided to write ‘the tale of a victory’ means ‘Jaya’ (Mahabharata) He has chosen the characters which he knew. And they were the Kauravas, his own grandchildren. Further author has mentioned how this tale reaches to the people and how as per the time the tale gets developed.

The narration starts when Janamejaya, son of Parikshit is furious as his father died due to the snake bite. He decides to end each and every snake by performing a snake-sacrifice yagna, Sarpa Sattra. The yagna was going on and many of the Nagas become the morsel of this yagna.

At that time, one learned man comes and requests him to stop this yagna. Furious, he asks the reason, and then he told him about the past karma of the Kuru clan, his father which led him to die by the snake bite. He also gives him some insight of his ancestors. Janmejaya wanted to know more so he advised him to meet Vaisampayana, who can narrate this whole tale.

After this, the author has moved to tell the origin of the Kuru clan and Mahabharata through the chapters like birth, education, castaway, marriage, friendship, division, coronation, gambling, exile, hiding, gathering, perspective, war. Finally aftermath, reconstruction, renunciation and the end of the snake sacrifice.

Writing style:

The author has narrated this epic in a very organized manner. With the easy language, the author has maintained a smooth flow of story making you finish this book faster.

My perception:

This book is not simply the retelling but a treasure of lessons. The author has accumulated various stories which are scattered across the country and given a meaningful essence to the readers. The illustrations are eye-catching making this book more amazing. Another thing is unlike another retelling here he has not given any conclusion or portrayed anyone hero & villain. Read this book, you will get to know the true meaning of Karma, dharma, and adharma. If you want to understand the true meaning of this epic then without any doubt do pick this book.

Grab a copy of this book from here,

Paperback             Kindle edition

Until next time, Keep reading 🙂 

Sheetal Maurya

Sheetal Maurya is a full-time blogger. She is a die-hard bookworm and has read more books than she can count. She believes in the art of storytelling and reviews books so that the world can choose the best ones and embark on an adventurous virtual reading journey.


  • Currently, I’m reading DP’s “Myth=Mithya”. I’ll go for this one next…. nicely reviewed.

    • Sheetal Maurya April 14, 2017 Reply

      Thank you Maniparna. I have read many good review of this book. Will pick it soon, 🙂

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