The novel ‘The Pregnant King’ by Devdutt Pattanaik is based on the less known character King Yuvanashva in the Mahabharat. There are hundreds of characters in the Mahabharata but we only hear about a select few. Some of these lesser known characters were extraordinary individuals and their tales are interesting and equally appealing like the tales of the famous Pandavas and Kauravas. Devdutt Pattanaik in ‘The Pregnant King’ brings to light the journey of Yuvanashva, a childless king, who accidentally drinks a magic potion meant to make his queens pregnant and gives birth to a son.
‘I am not sure that I am a man,’ said Yuvanashva. ‘I have created life outside me as men do. But I have also created life inside me, as women do. What does that make me? Will a body such as mine fetter or free me?’
The novel uses materials from the Mahabarata and from the folk versions of Mahabharat in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
This unusual novel is also the story of Yuvanashva’s mother Shilavati, who cannot be king because she is a woman; of young Somvat, who surrenders his genitals to become a wife; of Shikhandi, a daughter brought up as a son, who fathers a child with a borrowed penis; of Arjuna, the great warrior with many wives, who is forced to masquerade as a woman after being castrated by a nymph; of Ileshwara, a god on full-moon days and a goddess on new-moon nights; and of Adi-natha, the teacher of teachers, worshipped as a hermit by some and as an enchantress by others.
Building on Hinduism’s rich and complex mythology – but driven by a very contemporary sensibility – Devdutt Pattanaik creates a lush and fecund work of fiction in which the lines are continually blurred between men and women, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. Confronted with such fluidity the reader is drawn into Yuvanashva’s struggle to be fair to all – those here, those there and all those in between.
The Pregnant King
Published by: Penguin Books India
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Price: Rs 295.00