I bought Yugandhar way back in 2003 when it first came in Hindi edition. I knew it would demand a lot of time given its 1000 odd pages and a very small font. However, Krishna as a subject has always interested me, so I knew I would sit and read it. However, it took me good 15 years to do that. Maybe this was the right time to read this book. I had visited Dwarka earlier this year and that kind of made me curious about how it would have been described it in our scriptures. I read a couple of small books on travel and found them inadequate and not researched. Then, I found Yugandhar smiling in my library with a Peetambari or yellow spine.
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The size of the book scared me. I decided to not think about it, but the book weighed equally on my hands holding it for reading. Having said that, I loved the book.
Yugandhar begins with the end, and then in a flashback, it tells the story of Sri Krishna through different persons in his life, including himself. The author Shivaji Sawant also talks about the story and why he chose certain characters to tell the story. He explains things like people who were emotionally close to Krishna, the sister at Gokul who is often not spoken about, the relationship he shares with water and the other men who also share a special relationship with water.
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While Krishna describes his childhood in Gokul and his days in Mathura and Sandipini Ashram in Avanti, others tell the story of the rest of his life. Rukmini tells the tale of her marriage to Sri Krishna and the building of Dwarka near the western coast of India. She introduces you to all her 7 co-wives and how they live on the Bet Dwarka island. Daruk – the Charioteer tells the tale of his wanderings and various wars he fought. You get to see not hear as Daruk. Draupadi – his friends and confidante tells the story as he appears in the life of Pandavas, Hastinapur and Indraprastha. You walk the various forests of India through her story. Satyaki – his commander in chief talks about the wars fought and strategies laid.
Arjun talks about his friendship, devotion and of course the war where he received the famous lessons on Dharma. In the end, Udhdhav, his cousin and the most the intimate friend talks about Krishna like a true devotee, as someone who has lived like his shadow. He is also the one who was with him till last minute.
Voices have been chosen very carefully and intelligently. Each narrator brings his or her own Rasa into the story.
It feels like the author of Yugandhar is trying to understand or demystify Sri Krishna by trying to understand him through the eyes of the people who lived with, who potentially understood him partially if not fully. In the end, he wonders if anyone really understood him? The answer is an obvious No.
There are a few gaps in the telling. When Krishna moves from Gokul to Mathura, he already knows about every king and every kingdom while there is no mention of him learning about them anytime in Gokul. In Dwarka, I heard a lot of stories around Durwasa Rishi, he gets a mention only towards the end. In my understanding, his ashram was close to Dwarka and he visited Dwarka quite often. Similarly, many of the Kamrupi women had children in Dwarka, the author never clarifies if they were the children of Sri Krishna? Overall, the story is very tight. The miracles as and when they happen in the story are either rationalized or underplayed. The author is definitely writing for the age of rational logical people.
What I gathered towards the end of this huge multi-faceted story is that Krishna did everything for everyone who is a part of the story. However, he never came close to his own children. While he put the world in order for Pandavas, he forgot that his own sons too need the same knowledge to be good human beings. It was his sons’ conduct that led to the decline of Yadavas. Did he fail as a father? Potentially yes.
Sri Krishna also comes across as someone who can connect the dots very easily. He is able to see things in a manner that he can zoom out and see a larger picture and then zoom in and see the minute details that matter. Above all, he knew how to care for people and that is the only way people listen to you. Well, that’s your best bet for managing people.
Another aspect of Krishna that Yugandhar brings out very clearly is his outlook towards women – be it women in his family or the women who are tortured in the faraway kingdom. You also learn that you do not have to be a king to be treated like one. You rule when you take responsibility and lead people from the front.
Language is good but you can see that it is not the original language in which the book was written.
If Krishna and his life interest you, it is a must-read book for you, but be prepared for some marathon reading.