My Gita – Devdutt Pattanaik – Book Review

MyGitaGoodreads blurb: In My Gita, acclaimed mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik demystifies The Bhagavad Gita for the contemporary reader. His unique approach—thematic rather than verse-by-verse—makes the ancient treatise eminently accessible, combined as it is with his trademark illustrations and simple diagrams.

In a world that seems spellbound by argument over dialogue, vi-vaad over sam-vaad, Devdutt highlights how Krishna nudges Arjuna to understand rather than judge his relationships. This becomes relevant today when we are increasingly indulging and isolating the self (self-improvement, self-actualization, self-realization—even selfies!).We forget that we live in an ecosystem of others, where we can nourish each other with food, love and meaning, even when we fight.

So let My Gita inform your Gita.


Despite reading a fair bit of Indian mythological tales and assorted articles on the same, the Bhagvad Gita remained one of those formidable tomes which I was even scared to touch with a barge pole. However, numerous conversations with my wife on various aspects discussed in the Gita and the fact that my all time favorite mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik ( wrote a book on the same, My Gita meant that it was finally time to put aside all misgivings and doubts about my ability to assimilate the vast volumes of learning from the Gita and get myself introduced to it formally. And believe me when I say this, it has probably turned out to be one of the wisest decisions I have taken in recent times.

In his own inimitable style, Dr Pattanaik takes on a subject (which in his own words has been dealt with in greater detail and better style by people more knowledgeable than him) as complicated as the Gita and goes ahead and makes it ‘his own’, quite literally given that the book is called My Gita and not The Gita. As the title suggests, the author is of the opinion that the Gita is not thematic, it is not subjective and it is not obsessed with the self. He feels that everybody reading this verse, this rhyme, this song, will do so and end up taking learnings from it which might just go on to be entirely different for the next person in line reading and studying it. Simply put, that is how powerful and life-changing this subject is.

Breaking away from the usual norm of translating the verse from Sanskrit in which it is originally written and providing his interpretation of the words and the flow of the verse, the wise Dr Pattanaik takes an entirely different approach to the Gita. He goes on and makes the book his own take on this immortal song. Instead of approaching it by chapter by chapter in a linear manner, he divides the book into various sub-themes under the overarching three main themes, viz, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga and Gyaana Yoga.

Peppered with various insights into his vast pool of knowledge in Indian and Abrahamic mythologies, the author manages to draw various parallels and analogies between various verses in the Gita and makes things extremely easy to understand, more so for first time readers of the Gita like myself. And I am more than sure that even people who have read and studied the Gita more than I have will surely find this book a worthy read and will enjoy the entirely different style in which Dr Pattanaik has presented this immortal song sung by Krishna to Arjuna.

While I could go on and on about how wonderfully well presented this book is, especially the various small little diagrams which are present on almost every page to explain and elucidate the various concepts, the fact remains that this is one book which needs to be read in its entirety to be enjoyed, rather than trying to understand the same through this small review of the same. As is the norm with all his books, Dr Pattanaik’s illustrations also enhance the overall book reading experience more than quite a bit.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].


A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in return for an honest and unbiased review of the same.

Everything happens for a reason – Part 2

<< PART 1 >>

Parikshit’s son Janamajeya, who was unaware of the reasons behind the serpent attacking his father then set about avenging his death. He arranged for a large Sarpa Sattra, a sacrificial ritual to destroy as many snakes and serpents that they could lay their hands upon.

In a matter of a few days from the start of the ritual, hundreds and thousands of snakes were sacrificed in the holy fire, drawn there by the mystic rituals, and hypnotic hymns that were recited by the priests at the sattra.


Dismayed at this turn of events, Astika, the nephew of Vasuki, the king of Nagas approached Parikshit and asked him to refrain from continuing with the ritual. He narrated to Janamajeya as to how his father had managed to enrage a holy man engaged in penance and how his subsequent death was the result of the curse.

Unappeased with this explanation, the young king then asked Astika as to why Takshaka had killed his father. Astika then went on to narrate an incident from very many years ago when Arjuna, Janamejaya’s great grandfather had set ablaze the forest of Khandava leaving Takshaka and many of his family and friends homeless. At that time Takshaka had sworn to take revenge on Arjuna or one of his descendants. And by killing Parikshit, Takshaka had made good on his words.

Unknown to both Astika and Janamajeya, there was yet another willing participant to the Sarpa Sattra who had his own revenge planned against the Nagas. The chief priest Uttanaka had faced an issue in the past where his teacher had asked for the queen’s jeweled earrings as his guru dakshina. And after undergoing great difficulties, when Uttanaka had managed to procure the earrings, they were stolen by the Nagas which ended up with him not being able to offer appropriate guru dakshina.

To avenge this theft, Uttanaka had wanted to perform the Sarpa Sattra then itself, but he lacked the economic resources to do so. However fate intervened in the form of Janamajeya providing him with an opportunity by anointing him the chief priest for this ritual.


The above story therefore clearly lives up to the statement everything happens for a reason, more so in the context of our mythological stories. While the reasons themselves might not be very apparent immediately, more detailed readings of the entire stories (rather than parts of them) and also readings of associated and ancillary stories and understanding of the characters more often than not provide us with relevant justifications for most actions.

What’s more my opinion is that our 21st century understanding of dharma and karma (duty and action) are radically different from how they were interpreted in our epics. But that is material for another blog post and not this one.

So readers, do you agree with me when I state, that as far as our mythological stories and epics are concerned, everything happens for a reason. It’s just that sometimes these reasons are not very apparent and require additional efforts from us to be uncovered, that’s all.

Two half empty lives – Part 3


<< Part 1 | Part 2  >>

Upon hearing Krishna’s challenge Jarasandha responded- I have captured and imprisoned all these kings with the sole intention of sacrificing them. How can I therefore let them go just because you ask me to?

I accept your challenge, against two of you or all three of you, if you so desire.

He then proceeded to install his son Sahadeva on the throne and prepared himself for the challenge issued by Krishna.

Mindful of the fact that Jarasandha was destined to be slain by Bhima, Krishna did not want to kill the king himself. Addressing the king he said- O king, who amongst us three do you desire to fight? Which of us three needs to prepare for the fight against you?

Addressing Bhima, the king said- O mighty one, I choose you to battle against. I would rather fight the strongest opponent.

Saying so, he rushed at Bhima with great energy, thereby signaling the start of the fight.

The two warriors then engaged in a fierce unarmed duel which brought out the best of their abilities. With bare arms as their only weapons and roaring like wild beasts, they struck each other like mad elephants encountering each other. Incensed at each other’s’ blows, they fought like enraged lions jumping at each other vengefully. Since both of them were well versed with the skills and techniques of wrestling, they tried a lot of moves on each other and gave a wonderful display of the same.

The sound made by both of them brought forth almost the whole of the capital city of Magadha to the arena. Both of them were so evenly matched that their fight continued for thirteen days and nights without a break.  On the fourteenth day, to prod Bhima to fulfill his destiny, Krishna addressed him- O son of Pandu, your foe is greatly exhausted, put forth all the strength you can muster and finish him off.

Hearing Krishna say so, Bhima dug deep into his reserves of energy and prepared himself for the final assault on the king of Magadha. He lifted Jarasandha up high above his head and began to whirl him. He then brought him down, pressed his knee on his backbone and broke his body in half. Having killed him thus, Bhima let out a mighty roar in jubilation.

The trio then proceeded to Jarasandha’s dungeons and freed all the kings and monarchs that the evil king had imprisoned over the years. To express their gratitude for having received their freedom all the kings pledged their allegiance to Yudhisthira, his brothers and Krishna.


A lot of popular versions of Jarasandha’s story suggest that at the end of thirteen days, Bhima was clueless as to how to defeat the king. Despite his best attempts and skillful fighting, Jarasandha refused to be defeated. And it was at this juncture that Krishna suggested that the king be torn into two vertical halves and each half be thrown in opposite directions.

Krishna is supposed to have made this suggestion by taking a small stick, breaking it in half and throwing the halves in opposite directions (ie, threw the left piece on the right side and the right piece on the left side) when Bhima was looking at him. By doing so, Bhima would ensure that Jarasandha’s two halves (by virtue of his miraculous birth) would not be able to fuse together again to form a whole.

Following Krishna’s instructions Bhima proceeded to tear the evil king in half and threw his right half on the left side and his left half on the right side, thereby preventing the halves from joining together.


Two half empty lives – Part 2


<< Part 1 | Part 3 >>

After a few years, the sage Chandakausika once again came to the kingdom of Magadha. Filled with joy at the arrival of the sage, king Vrihadratha went to meet him and pay his respects to him.

Pleased with the respects paid by the king, the holy man informed him that his son Jarasandha would grow in prosperity and endued with great prowess. Just like no other bird could match the speed of the mighty Garuda, so too no other kings would be able to match the energy of Jarasandha. Just like how even mighty currents of water make no impression on sturdy rocks, so too he would remain unaffected by any celestial weapons used against him. Just like the mighty sun diminishes the luster of all divine bodies around it, so too will Jarasandha’s magnificence rob all surrounding kings of their splendor. Even kings with mighty armies with countless vehicles and animals will perish before Jarasandha, just like insects do when they approach a fire. All the kings of this earth will live in obedience of him just like all humans rely upon Vayu for their survival.

Pleased and enthused with the holy man’s words, Vrihadratha came back to his capital city and installed Jarasandha on the throne of Magadha. Soon after he retired to the forest with his wives to live the rest of his life as an ascetic away from all worldly pleasures.

By virtue of the boon granted on him by the sage, Jarasandha grew from strength to strength. He conquered all the kingdoms neighboring Magadha and developed a reputation for being a fierce warrior.

Some years later when his friend king Kamsa was killed by his nephew Krishna, Jarasandha whirled a mace ninety nine times and hurled it towards Mathura, where Krishna was residing. The citizens of the place where the mace fell went and informed Krishna of this occurrence. The killing of Kamsa was the beginning of his rivalry with the mighty Jarasandha.

In the meantime, Jarasandha had built the loyalties of two followers, Hansa and Dimvaka, both of whom were incapable of being killed by weapons. They were extremely intelligent and well versed in the science of politics and morality. Along with Jarasandha, the trio believed that they were more than a match for anybody in the three worlds. Between the three of them, they enjoyed a reputation for being such fierce and brave warriors that none of the kingdoms of the time harbored any intentions of cultivating unfriendly relations with Magadha.

In fact the formidable trio went on to capture and imprison many kings who dared to refuse to accept to their sovereignty and superiority. They also annexed the lands and kingdoms of these kings and unjustly ruled over them for many years.

As the years went by Hansa and Dimvaka died and this left Jarasandha significantly weaker, at least mentally.


After narrating this story to the Pandavas, Krishna went on to advise Yudhisthira that the time had come for the destruction of Jarasandha. Given that he could not be defeated by entire armies of asuras and devas, he suggested that the only way he could be vanquished would be in a fight with bare arms. He went on to suggest that Bhima with his physical prowess, Arjuna with his ability to triumph over all odds and himself would undertake this task incognito before the Rajasuya yagna as this would ensure that all other rulers would pledge their allegiance to Yudhisthira without any hesitation.

Upon receiving permission from Yudhisthira to do so, the trio then reached the capital city of Magadha in the guise of Snataka brahmanas to avoid being recognized and alert Jarasandha of their arrival and intentions. On their way there, instead of walking into the capital city through the royal gate, they instead broke the heart of the Chaityaka peak which was worshipped since the time of Vrihadratha and entered the city.

As the trio reached the capital city, the priests and brahmans of the royal court saw many evil omens which they reported to their king Jarasandha. With a view to ward off any oncoming evils, the king started a holy sacrifice by performing all the necessary rites to do so. As part of the rituals, he intended to sacrifice all the kings and monarchs he had imprisoned over the years to appease the gods.

It was in this milieu that the trio reached the city. They went on to adorn their bodies with sandal paste and garlanded themselves with flowers. In this attire, they arrived at the court of the mighty king. Upon seeing them arrive in their naturally resplendent glory, the king, as was customary welcomed them to the sacrifice. While Bhima and Arjuna remained silent, Krishna spoke- O king of kings, these two are in observance of a vow of silence. They will remain silent till midnight, after which they will talk to you.

The king then made necessary lodging arrangements for them and approached them after the midnight hour. Addressing them he said – It is well known to me that Snataka Brahmans don’t adorn themselves with sandal paste and flowers. Attired in such colorful robes and decked with flowers and sandal paste, tell me who you are and to what end have you arrived in my capital city? The fact that you destroyed the holy Chaityaka peak and entered the city through the wrong gate clearly portends that you have arrived here with a specific intention in your minds. Pray tell me that your intentions are. Also let me know why you didn’t accept my offerings and worship as you entered the hall where the sacrifice was being performed.

Krishna responded thus- O king, the rules of ordinance state that an enemy’s abode should always be entered through the wrong gate as against a friend’s abode which should always be entered through the right gate. And also know this o king, it is our eternal vow that having entered a foe’s abode for accomplishment of a purpose, we will not accept the worship offered to us.

Jarasandha said- I do not recollect if I have ever acted unjustly towards you. I very well know that a Kshatriya who injures an innocent man will be subject to the fate of sinners. And since I adhere to the Kshatriya practices judiciously, your charge of me being your foe seems erroneous.

Krishna replied- O king, we represent the head of a royal line who intends to uphold the dignity of his race. At his command we have come to your capital city. You have brought many Kshatriya kings to your city as captives and have held them prisoner for many years. Having perpetrated such an act, how can you consider yourself innocent? As if that were not enough, you now intend to offer these kings as sacrifice to appease the evil omens that your holy men recently saw. And yet you state that you follow the rules laid down for virtuous Kshatriyas. Why do you seek to perform a sacrifice by slaughtering these kings? Therefore, desirous of helping these kings, and for the prosperity of our race, we have come to slay you.

I am Krishna of the Yadava clan and my companions are Bhima and Arjuna, the sons of Pandu. O king of Magadha, we hereby challenge you in bare arms combat. Either set free all the kings you have kept captive or die at our hands.

<< Part 1 | Part 3 >>

Two half empty lives – Part 1

Three people walk into a bar, or in their case, a ‘public house’ in the capital city of the kingdom. They formed a curious trio; one of them big, gigantic and endowed with great strength, one of them lithe, athletic and handsome and the third one with a ‘divine aura’ surrounding him. They did not look like people who usually frequented such places.

And to be honest, they were not from the group of people who frequented such places; if anything they belonged to a class of people who were usually served food and drinks in their private chambers and rarely even appeared in public, even less as commoners, as they did right now.

They had a good reason to put aside all ‘formal rules of engagement’ and adopt this unconventional approach. They were on a mission to gauge the public sentiment regarding the ‘powers that be’ of the city they were in; this information would prove invaluable to them in achieving their goal.

The trio of Bhima, Arjuna and Krishna knew that they had a formidable task ahead of them; that of slaying Jarasandha, the ruler of Magadha.



After being crowned the king of Indraprastha, Yudhisthira on the advice of elders and senior counselors sought out to perform the Rajasuya yagna to be crowned Chakravarthi, the king of kings, the emperor.

Krishna then mentioned that Yudhisthira could become an emperor only after he defeated Jarasandha, the king of Magadha. While the Pandavas had heard about the legend of the king and how he had been undefeated for a long time, they did not know his whole story. Upon being requested to do so, Krishna then proceeded to narrate the story to them.


There once lived a might king Vrihadratha, in Magadha. He was handsome, endued with energy and possessed affluence and wealth beyond measure. His glory was comparable with that of Surya, his forgiveness with Prithvi, his wrath with Yama and his wealth to Kubera.

He was married to the twin daughters of the king of Kasi and had an understanding with both of them that he would love them both equally and would not provide only one of them with preferential treatment. However, the king did not manage to have any progeny despite the passage of time. Despite his best efforts and performing various yagnas and sacrifices for being blessed with a child, he was not successful.

One day Vrihadratha heard that the holy man Chanda Kausika, the son of Kakshivat had come to Magadha in the course of his wandering and was now seated under a mango tree in the capital city. The king along with his wives went to the holy man bearing gifts and offered his obeisance to him. Pleased with his offering and his obeisance, the holy man granted the king a boon of his choice.

The king replied O holy one, it is time for me to forsake my kingdom and worldly pleasures and go into the woods to practice ascetic penances. However, I have no son to whom I can hand over my kingdom and do so.

Hearing these words of the king, the holy man closed his eyes and concentrated hard in his mind. Suddenly a mango from the tree he was sitting under fell on his lap. He took up the fruit, and chanting a few mantras, gave it to the king. O king, desist from going into the forest yet. Your wish is hereby fulfilled.

Hearing these words and filled with hope, the king and his wives returned to the palace. Keeping in mind the promise he had made to them, the king cut the mango into two equal halves and gave one half to each of his wives. And as an effect of the holy man’s powers, both the queens conceived with a child each. The king’s joy knew no bounds that day.

After a few months when both the queens delivered their babies, the king was shocked. Both of them delivered babies that were fragmented; each baby was born with one eye, one arm, one leg, half a stomach and half a face. The two midwives who oversaw the delivery of the babies wrapped them up, took them outside the palace by the back door and threw them away.

A rakshasha woman by name Jara happened to pass by on the path that these two half-babies lay. She took up the fragments and as if by force of fate she united the fragments of the babies with an intention of carrying away the babies. As soon as the fragments were united they formed a sturdy child of one body endued with life.

Then suddenly Jara found herself unable to carry the child which seemed to have a body as strong and hard as a thunderbolt. The infant then closed his fists, inserted them into his mouth as babies do and began to make a noise. The noise was akin to rain charged clouds thundering loudly.

Alarmed at this sound, the inmates of the palace including king Vrihadratha himself and his queens came running out. Seeing the lactating mothers, the sonless king, Jara thought to herself – I live within the dominion of a king who strongly desires progeny. It does not bode me well to think of killing this child.

Suddenly assuming a human form gave the child to the king O Vrihadratha, this is your child, given back to you by me. Take it, as it has been born of both your wives by virtue of the command of the holy man. Cast away by the midwives, your son has been returned to you by Jara.

Having spoken these words Jara disappeared from there.

The king took the child and performed all the rites of infancy thereof. He named the child Jarasandha – the child which had been united by Jara. As the boy grew up he was endued with great energy and began to grow in bulk and strength like fire on which clarified butter had been poured.

<< Part 2 >>


This post has been written for the WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts where the idea is to publish at least one post a day based on the prompts provided.

Today’s prompt was “Three people walk into a bar …” and I took the liberty of using this prompt as the first post in a series about the story of Jarasandha, the ruler of Magadha.