The Rise of Hastinapur – Sharath Komarraju – Book Review

TheRiseOfHastinapur_CoverGoodreads blurb: For the story of the Great War is also the story of the women…

Amba lives for revenge, but circumstances and men conspire against her. Will her daughter bring her the only salvation she seeks?

Kunti stakes all to free her brother Vasudev and his wife Devaki. Yet it is the groom choosing ceremony that will define her life.

Gandhari too has come of age, and is faced with a difficult choice: she must marry the blind prince of Hastinapur if she is to save her kingdom from the certain ruin it faces due to Hastinapur’s deceit.

In the background, Bhishma pulls the strings, making alliances and marriages, devising new strategies, ever increasing the might of Hastinapur.

This is the Mahabharata like you’ve never seen it before.


The toughest job for any author penning a series of books is to keep each successive book in the series just that tad better than the previous one. But going by how Sharath Komarraju has written The Rise of Hastinapur, the sequel to The Winds of Hastinapur [Link to my review], this seems like cakewalk for him. If I thought the first book was awesome, then I truly have run out of exclamations and superlatives to describe the second one.

While a simplistic opinion of this book could be summarized as a point of view of the Mahabharatha as seen from the principal women characters’ eyes, such a description would be doing grave injustice to the extremely imaginative manner in which Sharath has written both books in the series so far. In fact, I would even go far enough to recommend this book to anybody who has actually read/seen the great epic and has disliked it. I challenge them to read these books and then tell me that they still find it boring, or even worse, they find a lot of incidents and characters wrong in the story itself.

Sharath seems to have taken it upon himself to ensure that readers see this great epic in a completely new light and rather than justifying all the incidents under the guise of destiny or whatever is pre-ordained shall happen irrespective of anybody’s best efforts otherwise, the author has clearly laid out a plan where all that happens in the book somehow appears to be the ‘master-plan’ of a character. Who that is, he reveals in the last four pages of The Rise of Hastinapur.

Suffice to say that anybody who has read the first book must compulsorily read this one, no two ways about that. And even if you haven’t read the first book I would strongly encourage you to buy both books and read them back to back immediately. If not for anything else, at least to enjoy a masterful retelling of an all-time favorite story, that of the Mahabharata.

The following are a few things which I thoroughly enjoyed in the book (spoiler-free points below) –

From the story thread involving Amba

  • Amba’s moves to gain Vichitraveerya’s trust and get back into the political scheme of things at Hastina.
  • The reason as to why Amba had to finally leave the court of Hastina.
  • Amba’s desperate attempts to extract revenge from Bhishma.
  • Amba’s revenge takes a completely different hue, albeit with the same consequences for Bhishma.

From the story thread involving Kunti

  • Durvasa’s role in Pritha (Kunti)’s life.
  • The interesting story behind the birth of Kunti’s first child, who in due course of time would grow up to become Karna.

From the story thread involving Gandhari

  • The interesting story of the ‘gold standard’ being followed in Gandhar and how it was smartly used by Hastinapur politically.
  • The role that the Celestials had to play in Gandhari’s life.
  • The usage of official letters as a medium to communicate the esacalating tensions between Gandhara and Hastinapur.
  • Gandhari’s ability to ‘see’ things even though she ‘cannot’.
  • The seeds of revenge sown in Gandhari’s mind, a crucial point for moving the story of the Great Epic forward.

And finally

The last chapter of the book leaves readers a little breathless, when they come to know who it is that has been moving the pieces of this gigantic chessboard so far. However, the intentions behind these moves are still a little baffling, especially coming from this character.

All said and done, the end of the second book in this series leaves readers licking their lips, with parched throats waiting for the next book in the series to be published. And going by the two books, the rest of the series promises to be mind-blowing, to say the least.

Click here to pre-order the book on Amazon [Link].


I was selected as an ‘early reader’ of this book by the author, however, the review itself is unbiased and uninfluenced by him in any form or fashion.

The Winds of Hastinapur – Sharath Kommarraju – Book Review


When Sharath Kommarraju, author of “Murder in Amaravati” [Read my review here] approached me to read his latest book “The Winds of Hastinapur” and write a review for the same, I almost jumped out of my chair. This was one book which I was looking to read for quite a while now for two reasons – one, my inherent interest in Indian mythology and more specifically the great epic that the Mahabharata is, and two, if you read my review of Murder in Amaravati, you will realize that I liked Sharath’s narrative style so much that I had decided to read the other books authored by him.

Goodreads blurb of The Winds of Hastinapur:

My hair is white and thin, now. In a few moons, the Goddess will claim me, and I do not have a fresh young virgin by my side to absorb my knowledge and take my place once I am gone. The Mysteries of Ganga and her Sight will vanish with me, and the Great River will become nothing more than a body of lifeless water … It is my intention, therefore, to tell you the story as it happened, as I saw it happen.

The Mahabharata is the story of women, even though men have focused far too much on the Great Battle. It is women who have set events in motion, guided the action and measured the men. The Winds of Hastinapur begins at the point that Ganga was cursed and sent to Earth. She lives among the mortals and bears Shantanu, the King of Hastinapur, seven children, all of whom she kills. With the eighth, she leaves. That boy, who returns to Earth, will prove to be the key to the future of Hastinapur. The story, as told through the lives of his mother Ganga and stepmother Satyavati, is violent, fraught with conflict and touched with magic.

A lady of the river who has no virgin daughter to carry on her legacy, Celestials who partake of a mysterious lake they guard with their very lives, sages overcome by lust, a randy fisher-princess – these and other characters lend a startling new dimension to a familiar tale. Sharath Komarraju does not so much retell the epic as rewrite it.


First up, if you read the words in italics in the above blurb, you will realize that this is nothing like what we have ever read of about Ganga in the great epic. Neither did BR Chopra in his legendary TV series (which for most of us still remains our visual yardstick for this great epic) nor have any of the other numerous books written about this story take this approach to this enigmatic character who in many ways signals the start of this wonderful epic.

Sharath however takes us down (or should I say ‘up’) into a journey into the clouds, on to the top of Mount Meru and her misty climes and tells us the story of the Lady of the River. For obvious reasons of not giving away any spoilers here, I am not revealing more of that story here, but suffice to say that Sharath has woven a magical tapestry with this part of the book.

The first half of the book completely rewrites all that we have known and heard about humans, demigods and gods themselves. Concepts such as immortality, the inherent balance within nature and the universe, ‘greater benefit of the greater good’, and quite a few other extremely powerful concepts have been woven into the story of Ganga, the time spent by her on earth as Shantanu’s queen and the first few years of her son, Devavrata’s life.

The action then moves down to earth, to Hastina, where Satyavati goes on from being a humble fisherman-chief’s daughter to the queen and the king-mother of the kingdom. How she manages to achieve this, some of the sacrifices that Devavrata has to make, his terrible and legendary vows, Satyavati’s subsequent reign as queen, her sons Chitrangada and Vichitravirya, their tragic lives, these make up for the proceedings of the second half.

To be honest, the second half did not surprise me as much as the first half did with its imaginative retelling of Ganga’s story. But what worked really well for me in Satyavati’s story was the fact that Sharath has taken great pains to ensure that the narrative comes out from her viewpoint and hers alone. He has not taken the conventional route of ‘walking down the middle’ and played it safe by presenting a neutral viewpoint. He has literally gotten under the skin of the character and tracked her graph from being an ambitious fisherwoman to a worldly-wise grandmother of Dhritarashtra with Pandu and Vidura on their way to being born.

What I really loved about the book was the fact that it presented yet another dimension, yet another credible alternative narrative to this great epic which I can never get tired of reading in its various hues and colors. And I use the word ‘credible’ as a deliberate choice as Sharath has chosen a difficult point of view (on in his case ‘points of view’) to walk us through this great epic, that of the women characters.

Given the plethora of options that will open up to him going forward in the form of Kunti, Gandhari, Draupadi, Duhshala, Hidimba, Subhadra, Uttara and so on, I wonder which of these will take precedence over the others and make their voices heard through subsequent installments of the series. All I can say is that I will surely read all of them and put up their reviews here, whether Sharath asks me to or not.


Disclaimer: Sharath Kommaraju, the author of this book approached a group of people requesting them to read and review this book. Although the book was sent to me for free, the views and opinions expressed here are my own and have in no way been influenced by him in any form or fashion.


Name The winds of Hastinapur
Author/s Sharath Komarraju
Publisher Harper Collins India
Year published 2013
ISBN 13 9789351160878
Goodreads link Link
Flipkart link Link
Amazon link Link

Bhanumathi – The forgotten wife

All of us are well aware of the wives of the Pandava brothers, at least Draupadi for sure and to a lesser extent Bhima’s wife Hidimba [Link to earlier posts with her stories, Link 1, Link 2] and Arjuna’s wife Subhadra, the mother of the ill-fated Abhimanyu [Link to earlier posts with his stories, Link1, Link 2]. But, how many of us have ever spared a thought to whether Duryodhana was married, whether he had a wife. This post shall try and provide a few more details of this forgotten wife of Duryodhana.

BhanumathiDuryodhana was married to Bhanumathi, the daughter of Bhagadatta, the king of Pragjyotishya. While not much more is known about her, some versions of the Mahabharata state that Bhanumathi was one person who raised severe objections to Draupadi’s treatment after the game of dice when Duhshasana tried to disrobe her in the Kaurava court. Legend has it that Draupadi’s temper was ferocious and fearing that this foul temper of hers would cause immediate destruction to Duryodhana and his brothers, Bhanumathi is said to have come running to Draupadi’s aid and requesting Duryodhana to stop this humiliation meted out to her.

Another incident where Bhanumathi finds a mention in this great epic is to provide an example of some of Duryodhana’s positive traits. Apparently in one instance, Bhanumathi and Karna were playing a game of dice where the stakes were substantial materially. As the game progressed, it became evident that Karna was winning.

Just then Duryodhana entered the chamber where Karna had his back to the door and could not see him come in. Seeing her husband come in, Bhanumathi stood up as a mark of respect as was the norm for a married woman. Karna, however, mistook her to be trying to escape the embarrassment of certain defeat in the game, and snatched at her drape which was embedded with pearls.

The thread of the drape snapped and all the pearls fell to the floor. Bhanumathi was quite stunned and did not quite know how to react to the situation. For all practical purposes, Duryodhana had every reason to misunderstand her and Karna’s behavior which looked extremely offensive and insensitive. Sensing her discomfort, Karna turned around to see what she was looking at and immediately noticed his friend walking into the chamber. He was also shocked as he realized what the scene would look like to Duryodhana. He mentally prepared himself for the inevitable consequences knowing fully well that the scene would enrage his friend beyond control.

However, what happened next is mentioned as an example of one of the few positive traits of Duryodhana.

The only question that Duryodhana asked Bhanumathi was “Should I just collect all the beads or should I go ahead and string them as well?

Both his wife and his best friend had misjudged his reaction to the perceived situation. Duryodhana had a lot of implicit trust and faith, both in his queen and in his best friend. Not for one split second did he suspect either of them of doing anything wrong. Such was his faith in his wife and friend.

Duryodhana crowning Karna as the king of Anga
Duryodhana crowning Karna as the king of Anga

This incident is cited every once in a while as an example of how loyal Duryodhana was to his relationships. Not a story we hear very often about the Mahabharata or about the Kaurava prince, do we?

What I personally found very interesting is that despite the fact that this great epic is 100,000 verses long and has been rewritten multiple times by various authors, none of them deemed it necessary to include the character of Duryodhana’s wife. While the epic talks about how Dhritarashtra and Gandhari grieve for all their sons killed in the way, I was left wondering how Bhanumathi reacted when her husband was deceitfully killed by Bhima during the gadhayudha.

Did she resign herself to the fact that her husband begot the rewards of his unjust actions or was there a part of her which was angry at the way the Pandavas bent the rules of warfare to ensure that they defeated her husband comprehensively in the war? This is probably a question that we can debate about, but would never arrive at a satisfactory answer, would we.


Verses for Introspection:4

सुखं हि दु:खाननुभूय शोभते घनांधकारेष्विव दीपदर्शनम्।

Sukham hi duhkhaan-anubhooya shobhathe ghana-andhakaareshviva deepadarshanam

–          Mricchakatikam of Raja Sudraka.


Happiness is more appreciated after one experiences grief over a period in the same way as light is more appreciated by a person in pitch darkness.

Points for Introspection:

Happiness and grief are just temporary effects on the human mind, it is better to treat both of them equally without getting unduly affected by either.

Inspired by Swami Bhoomananda TirthaJi’s talks and satsangs. 

Shakuni and his craft

Image courtesy : wikimedia
Image courtesy : wikimedia

At one point in time Duryodhana was completely bereft of ideas as to how to overcome his Pandava cousins. He had tried burning them alive in the palace of wax at Varnavrata, and as if that weren’t enough his nemesis, Bhima had not only managed to escape the wrath of Bakasura at Ekachakra but also managed to kill him instead [Read about that incident here].

It was at this point in time that his maternal uncle Shakuni, unable to see his favorite nephew so despondent and depressed, proposed the idea of getting rid of the Pandavas and making them relinquish their right to the throne of Hastinapura without so much as shedding a drop of blood.

Shakuni was renowned for his skill as a gambler and was such a master of this craft that he was undefeated at the game of dice. Little did his opponents know that he always played with loaded dice and that was the only reason that he never tasted defeat. He therefore decided to make full use of this craft of his to enable Duryodhana to eliminate the threat of his Pandava cousins.

Invite the Pandavas for a game of dice. Yudhisthira has a weakness for the game of dice, even though he is not a good player. Ask him to throw the dice with me. As you are well aware, nobody in the three worlds is my equal in this game. I will ensure that his kingdom becomes yours before the game is finished” Shakuni told Duryodhana.

For the first time in his life, he believed his opinion mattered and Shakuni also put in a word with his brother in law, the blind king Dhritarashtra to invite the Pandavas to Hastinapura for a friendly game of dice.

Although Dhritarashtra knew that Shakuni was upto some mischief, his unbridled love for his son and his anxiety at Duryodhana’s depressed state forced him to accede to this request.

Thus, the stage was set for one of the most memorable episodes in this great epic.


This post has been written for multiple prompts :

Today’s Author Write Now prompt for Nov 5, 2013 where the post had to include the phrase – for the first time in his life, he knew his opinion mattered

Trifecta Week 102 prompt where the post had to include the following meaning of the word craft – skill in deceiving to gain an end

Day 3 : When Krishna attacked Bhishma

Arjuna chooses Krishna
Arjuna chooses Krishna

While it is a well known tale that when Krishna was approached by both Duryodhana and Arjuna to take their respective sides in the Kurukshetra war, Krishna made two offers. The first offer was that one person would get the entire Vrishni army totaling almost 10,000 soldiers or more and the second offer was his own personal support albeit under the condition that he would not actually lift any weapons and fight in the battlefield. Since Arjuna was the younger one, he was given the first right of choice and he chose the unarmed Krishna thus leaving Duryodhana with Krishna’s army.

On Day 3 of the Kurukshetra war, Bhishma arranged the Kaurava army in the eagle formation and proceeded to lead the same from the front. To counter this formation, Arjuna and Dhristadyumna decided to arrange the Pandava army in the crescent formation with Bhima leading the right flank and Arjuna himself leading the left flank.

During the course of the battle, Bhima managed to wound Duryodhana who lay down in a swoon in his chariot. When his charioteer took him close to Bhishma, Duryodhana accused the Kaurava commander of being too soft on the Pandavas, which enraged the grand old sire a lot.

Stung by the young Duryodhana’s reproaches, Bhishma fought during the second half of the day with extremely high intensity and delivered quite a severe attack on the Pandava army. Despite attempts by several brave Pandava warriors, the onslaught of Bhishma was causing a great number of fatalities in the Pandava army.

Spurred on by Krishna, young Arjuna took it upon himself to fight the grand old commander of the Kaurava army. While Bhishma was very impressed with his grand nephew’s prowess on the battlefield, Krishna sensed that Arjuna was not fighting at his best on that particular day. He could clearly see that Arjuna simply did not have the heart to fight Bhishma, someone he had always admired and treated as a role model from his childhood.

Krishna approaches Bhishma with the Sudarsana Chakra
Krishna approaches Bhishma with the Sudarsana Chakra

This angered Krishna and he dropped the reins of the chariot, jumped down and went forward towards Bhishma with his Sudarsana Chakra. Ecstatic at this turn of events, Bhishma welcomed Krishna by dropping his weapons and stated that it would be his absolute joy to die at the hands of Krishna, the Lord of the World.

Completely distressed at this situation, Arjuna raced down towards Krishna and reminded him of his promise of not lifting any weapons on the battlefield in this war. He also promised him that he would not flinch anymore at the thought of fighting his own kith and kin in the Kaurava army and that he would unfailingly do his duty to Dharma. It was only when the young Pandava prince provided these assurances that Krishna put away his weapon and came back to Arjuna’s chariot.

Thus, Day 3 of the Kurukshetra War almost saw Krishna break his promise and kill Bhishma.


This post has been written for the Week at the Merge, Week 45 writing prompt where the post had to be about the William Shakespeare quote – “The third day comes a frost, a killing frost.