Yet another author whose works I’ve become a complete fan of – Devdutt Pattanaik. If there is too much hype surrounding him today, I would say every bit of it is worth it. I started reading his books from his later viz Shikhandi being the first one and now this. I have come across his other ‘Seven Secrets’ series titles and hope to read all of them in due course of time. Because one can only imagine how much knowledge – the sheer depth of it – can be contained within one person.
Like there is a pioneer in every genre of writing, I would say Pattanaik has taken up that space when it comes to demystifying Hindu mythology. And this is coming from someone who has been a staunch atheist for the better part of his life. And whose reading of Hindu mythology has been confined to children’s textbooks with colourful art and observation of family or community rituals.
Without going into the merits or demerits of my own beliefs in this regard, I can objectively say that a writer deserves all the more credit when he or she manages to deconstruct complex subjects to make it appealing to every kind of reader. Without compromising on quality everywhere. Maybe I’m saying purely from the point of a view of a reader who delves in the sheer pleasure of reading before anything else. Even then, Pattanaik’s writings have a huge significance today, given the constant churning and questioning of cultural foundations of society. It’s not a bad thing and Pattanaik only helps further this cause, while espousing the belief of ‘multiple truths.’ That is a belief I stand by personally. It would be easy to confuse this with ‘multiculturalism.’ But I would say multiple truths are more universal in scope – because even the tiniest of human groups have differences that they need to work with constantly – just like life partners.
Like Shikhandi, Seven Secrets of the Goddess talks of the very vital aspect – the role of women in society. It goes from the extreme ie Kali to the very mild ie Gauri and every aspect that lies in between. Pattanaik elaborates on every version of tales relating to Gods and Goddesses as seen by different communities of India. The influence of Western, Islamic and other cultures on Hinduism is also dealt with in this regard. And from this emerges a very interesting narrative which I believe also explains the current dynamic of Indian politics.
Concepts like gender and feminism perhaps cannot be explained merely with a few chapters or references to religion/mythology if one wants to view everything through a rational perspective. The author, having been trained in medical science himself, does not ignore this fact. Which is why he balances the spiritual and material references very carefully. This encourages critical thinking and doesn’t just end up being a portrait of a religion that has been wronged by others or seeks to stand out. It seeks to inform without a bias in an age where objectivity is like proverbial needle in the haystack.
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