Ashtamahishi – Eight Wives of Krishna by Radha Viswanath


Ashtamahishi – The Eight wives of Krishna promised to give insights into a space that is not said elaborately in scriptures. Most people would not be able to name more than 2 or 3 of the 8 wives of Krishna, while we all know he had 8 wives. Then, there are Radha and Draupadi in Krishna’s life, who get more ink space in his biographies. So, his Ashtamahishi is an intriguing subject to read on.

When I picked up Ashtamahishi, I was also keen to know how Krishna managed his relations with each of his queens. I was also keen to know the different aspects that his wives brought in his life. During my trip to Dwarka, I came face to face with Rukmini, who is the reigning queen there. I could see the palaces of Ashtamahishi there both in Gomti Dwarka and Beyt Dwarka. However, it is only Rukmini’s story that you hear.

Ashtamahishi – The Eight Wives of Krishna by Radha Viswanath

The book is small as I expected it to be. It starts with the Rukmini Haran or the abduction of Rukmini. This is expected as Rukmini was the first wife of Krishna. Her story is also well documented in the scriptures. However, in Ashtamashishi, I missed the famous letter of Rukmini that she wrote to Krishna in 7 Shlokas. It is a masterpiece where she uses all possible ways to make him come.

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The author of Ashtamahishi has lost the sense of geography. She uses Dwarka and Mathura interchangeably at places as if they are in the same city. At one place she mentions Krishna and Rukmini walking at night in Mathura. I wonder where she got that reference from? Similarly, other kingdoms mentioned on the banks of Yamuna tell you that her sense of these cities is misplaced. It could be an editorial error too but then the author needs to be careful of these.

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For each of the 8 weddings of Krishna, you read the scene before the wedding followed by a scene after the wedding. Not even a single wedding is described. I wonder why! On the other hand, there is a long description of Draupadi Swayamvar and her marriage. Given the title of the book, it felt out of place as most of his wives hardly get that kind of space in the book.

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In Ashtamahishi, the author takes a basic premise that Krishna never married for political reasons and he only married for love. Most of the times love was one-sided and the women wanted to marry him. By this logic, he should have married many more women. If you look at the map of princesses he married, he covered almost all the prominent kingdoms barring the ones he had direct enmity with. Most of his marriages were for political reasons. In fact, the other marriages he brokered also had a political angle.

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The language of the book is confusing. At places the south Indian words like Chinnanna, Pedanna & Athya pop up, at other places, there are words like Pujya Mata. Words like Vadhunika, Jami-Jameya – not sure where they come from. I do not mind the author’s choice of words as long as they are consistent across the text, else they disorient the author. Then there are nuanced mistakes like Rukmini calling him Govinda – a name that was probably used only in Vrindavan.

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The thought that I liked from the book was that each wife has a purpose in Krishna’s life. How I wish the author had pivoted her story around these aspects that each of these women brought to the purpose of Krishna Avatar. I know, the challenge would be the absence of material on 5 out of 8 wives, but then that is where fiction fills the gap.

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The best part of the book is its vibrant cover design. On a peacock feather, the blue Krishna plays his flute surrounded by his eight wives.

Take your call.

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  1. I am actually in the midway of this book. It feels a bit Kaliyugi, than Dvapara-ish.
    The writing style is really inconsistent. Plus, Satyabhama is spoilt. I would rate this just 1 star. Not up to the expectation 🙁


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