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The Curse of Gandhari by Aditi Banerjee

Publisher: Bloomsbury India
Pages: 296
Price: Rs. 499 INR(Paperback), Rs. 215 INR (Kindle
ISBN: 978–9388002004
Buy here: https://amzn.to/32npJIH

Gandhari, the blindfolded queen-mother of the Kauravas, sees through it all.

Gandhari has one day left to live. As she stares death in the face, her memories travel back to the beginning of her story, to life’s unfairness at every point: A fiercely intelligent princess who wilfully blindfolded herself for the sake of her peevish, visually-impaired husband; who underwent a horrible pregnancy to mother one hundred sons, each as unworthy as the other; whose stern tapasya never earned her a place in people’s hearts, nor commanded the respect that Draupadi and Kunti attained; who even today is perceived either as an ingratiatingly self-sacrificing wife or a bad mother who was unable to control her sons and was, therefore, partly responsible for the great war of the Mahabharata.

In this insightful and sensitive portrayal, Aditi Banerjee rescues Gandhari from being reduced to a mere symbol of her blindfold. She builds her up, as Ved Vyasa did, as an unconventional heroine of great strength and iron will — who, when crossed, embarked upon a complex relationship with Lord Krishna, and became the queen who cursed a God.

About the author:

Aditi Banerjee is a practicing attorney at a Fortune 500 financial services company. She co-edited the book, Invading the Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America. She has published several essays on Hinduism and the Hindu-American experience in publications such as Outlook India and Swarajya. She earned a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School and received a B.A. in International Relations, magna cum laude, from Tufts University.

My take on the book:

Gandhari from the epic Mahabharata was forever known as the queen who blind-folded herself for the sake of her husband or considered the mother who could neither bring up the hundred Kauravas properly nor stop them from plotting to kill their cousins for the throne. Beyond her blindfold or being judged as a mother, there is little that was ever written about Gandhari; this is what author Aditi Banerjee tries to change with this book — bring in the unexplored and unknown image of Gandhari.

The book starts when Gandhari realizes her end is near, that she is going to die the next day. She starts reminiscing all the major moments from her life from the day Bhishma came to Gandhara to ask her hand for Dritharasthra. The story hence traces all the major events in her life, giving an insight into her emotions and inner thoughts at each juncture — her vow to blindfold for a lifetime, having a hundred sons and a daughter, ultimately losing all her sons in the great war and hence cursing Lord Krishna blaming him to be the central reason for her grief. The book overall tries to bring in Gandhari’s perspective and her overall persona, as it is narrated by her and from her point of view.

The author needs to be appreciated for dedicating an entire book for a character who was always sidelined in the epic and who never got the recognition that other women characters like Kunti and Draupadi have received over the years. While Gandhari had her own share of challenges and heartbreak over the years, her version of the story was never explored; which is a welcome change in this story. The author succeeds in narrating a known epic with multiple characters in a convincing way with a balanced approach. The conversations of Gandhari with Kunti and Krishna are however the highlight, as Gandhari never gives up a chance to mock people around her, but in a subtle way. The story hence culminates in beautifully tracing her journey from a young princess to one who could curse the Lord and his clan.

Pick this one to read about the unconventional and not-so-popularly known queen from Mahabharata as this book is a total winner in narrating her story.

My rating: