Mahabharata; a tale that has been retold a several times, and shall be recreated by authors for time immemorial. There are so many characters, themes, philosophies, and stories that come together to create the mega-epic that is the Mahabharata.
Quite recently, I read and wrote about The Ajaya Series written by Anand Neelakantan. That author has written the entire story of Mahabharata, right from the stage where the main characters (Pandavas and Kauravas) were kids. His version of Mahabharata is covered in two books and over 1000 odd pages or so.
The Thirteenth Day by Aditya Iyengar on the contrary is a reimagined version of just three days of the Kurukshetra war. Moreover, Iyengar’s effort is concentrated on retelling of the incidents over these three days from perspectives of three characters of the saga.
Yudisthira, the eldest of the Pandavas is a poet/ writer by passion who has been turned into a warrior. It’s his responsibility to avenge what he and his brothers rightfully deserve, or at least that’s what he has been told by Kunti (mother of the Pandavas).
Radheya or Karna as he is popularly known was an outsider all his life. He was refused warfare education by Drona Acharya, since he wasn’t a part of the royal Kuru dynasty. A warrior by personality, Karna ended up training under Parshurama who is also the guru of Drona Acharya. The biggest twist in the tale is when Karna is confronted by Kunti; just a few days before the war and confesses that Kunti is Karna’s mother by birth and hence, Karna is half brother of the Pandavas.
Abhimanyu is Arjuna’s son. He is an important character in the tale of Mahabharata but the only reason why he isn’t as popular as other characters is only because he was rather young and afterall, Mahabharata is predominantly a story of brothers at war.
The Thirteenth Day is a re imagined version of the war of Kurukshetra by Aditya Iyengar. This is also the authors debut work and he does leave a mark. The author very carefully narrates the story from perspective of the three characters mentioned above, but also does a commendable job of giving the readers a perspective about the past events and also reflects on acts of other important characters like Suyodhana, Bhima, Arjuna etc.
The narrative of the book invests heavily in the acts of war, the strategies used by Pandavas and Kauravas to gain an edge. At times, the details of the war seem almost like a commentary of the events and can tend to get a little loquacious. Another point to be noted is for someone who has read other variants of the Mahabharata saga, this book might seem like an attempt that makes the reader ask for a lot more details/ perspectives.
Overall, The Thirteenth Day is an interesting read for someone who would like to read a book on the Mahabharata without wanting to get into overwhelming ocean of details and characters. This is definitely a good book to begin with, if you wish to get introduced to the characters of the saga and test the waters. If you read this one, you’d definitely want to read a lot more about the grandiose of the Mahabharata.
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