Art & Culture

Thoughts on Veerappa Moily's retelling of Mahabharata from Draupadi's eyes

Bibek Debroy
Bibek DebroyMay 15, 2017 | 16:33

Thoughts on Veerappa Moily's retelling of Mahabharata from Draupadi's eyes

M Veerappa Moily is a remarkable person. Most people know him as ex-chief minister, ex-Union minister, ex-chairperson of Administrative Reforms Commission, and Member of Parliament. He is all that and more. Other than those who are familiar with Kannada, I wonder how many people know of him as an author and poet.

I first got to know about this in 2010, when I came across his two-volume Shree Ramayana Mahanveshanam. For those who don’t know, this wasn’t a translation or interpretation. It was Moily’s composition, in poetry and in Kannada, his own take on the Ramayana. I didn’t read it in Kannada, but in English translation. At that time, I asked him, “What next?” “Draupadi”, he replied.


What about Draupadi? What can possibly be new? It’s been done in the past and will be done again in the future. There is, of course, a difference. Moily’s isn’t a translation or interpretation. He has composed another long poem — a mahakavya or epic. The earlier one was a new version of the Ramayana. This one is a new version of the Mahabharata, from Draupadi’s perspective.

This too is in Kannada, but the volume under review is an English translation, translated by DA Shankar. The poetry in Draupadi’s translation is superb. The translator deserves to be congratulated. Except for one example, I couldn’t find anything that jarred. There is one obvious reference to “shukti”, as in oyster. There is a belief that at the time of the conjunction of Svati nakshatra, oysters open their mouths and drink raindrops. That is how pearls are formed. This is a recurring image in Sanskrit literature and Moily clearly referred to this. The translator translated “shukti” as cowrie. That’s wrong. “Shukti” isn’t a cowrie, it is an oyster.

President Mukherjee receives the 1st copy of M Veerappa Moily's book Flaming Tresses of Draupadi. [Photo: Twitter]


I have already said that the poetry, as captured in the English translation, is superb. What of the content? There are certain events in Draupadi’s life the author focuses on and this ends with the Kurukshetra War. What did Draupadi feel when she fell by the wayside on the final journey of the Pandavas? What did she feel when Ashvatthama slaughtered her five sons in the middle of the night? These are interesting questions, but the Moily exploration stops before this. What’s novel is the way the author treats the relationship between Krishna and Draupadi.

Krishna and Draupadi had a special relationship and people have commented on this earlier. There is a long tradition of Vaishnava poetry where one delves into the relationship between Krishna and Radha, with or without the other gopis. Jayadeva was just the beginning. I am not aware of anyone who has treated the Krishna-Draupadi relationship with this Vaishnava kind of lens. This is a real novelty.

The descriptions of Draupadi, including her two companions, reminded me of Jayadeva’s descriptions of Radha.

In the entire book, I found this to be the most interesting aspect. I am not going to mention other incidents connected with Draupadi’s life, since those are known to everyone and Moily treads over familiar groundn there. Read the book. It is engrossing. Like last time, I asked him, “What next?” He replied, “Baahubali.” Intriguing again, but promisesto be a treat. For the moment, savour this.


(Courtesy: Mail Today)

Last updated: May 15, 2017 | 16:33
Please log in
I agree with DailyO's privacy policy