by Preetha Vasan
Publisher: Notion Press (2019)
Yagna is a refreshingly new take on many of the untold stories from Mahabharata- a text that is often just narrated to the younger generation as a part of the Hindu Mythology. Yagna explores how an ancient text like the Mahabharata is not just a relic of the past handed down to us by our ancestors but also the key to understand the present and even the future. The collection of poems reveals how the various episodes in Mahabharata are shockingly reiterated even in the present context, making us feel awed at the accuracy with which a lot of socio-political issues were written down at a much earlier time frame. The narration of Sanjaya in the book is a master stroke from the author, Dr. Preetha Vasan’s side as it takes the readers on a journey to explore the Mahabharata from different perspectives, much like how Sanjaya guides Dhritarashta, especially using his foresight during the war. The poems also provide us with a never before understood perspective of how our scriptures have always tried to provide us a holistic vision on what consequences we will have to face in the future if we choose a certain course of action. By the time one finishes reading all the poems, each one becomes a Sanjaya with the ability to appreciate what our modern generation brushes off as “boring mythology”. The best part about Yagna is that it transcends the boundaries of nations and gives the text of Mahabharata a universal quality.
The poems lay bare the meaninglessness of wars, the brutality of butchering people for usurping land and power, caste inequalities, atrocities faced by women who are often treated as “properties” belonging to men and a myriad other issues which are extremely relatable to our generation that wakes up to news flashing on mobile screens announcing about Indo-China border disputes, refugee crisis, rapes and murders and the never ending list of crimes committed against women irrespective of which country they belong to. Yagna was an eye opener for me because it made me understand that our ancient texts had already spoken about a lot of contemporary issues and debates that came to us from the West; we never really saw these because we were blinded towards our own scriptures. Be it about gender issues or warfare strategies, we are bound to get some foresight about these areas from our own texts. Sanjaya in Yagna opens our eyes to appreciate our own texts and move past our colonial hangover that still continues to make us look up to the Eurocentric narratives to gain insight. The book takes you on a very structured, well thought out and gripping path which makes it difficult for any reader to put it down. Yagna is your magic wand to understand Mahabharata from a fresh point of view.