The Pregnant King

Books 44 Comments

About the book:

The Hindu epic, Mahabharata, written over 2000 years ago, narrates the tale of one Yuvanashva, a childless king, who accidentally drinks the magic potion meant to make his queens pregnant. The child thus conceived in and delivered from his body grows up to be Mandhata, a ruler of great repute.

What does the son call Yuvanashva? Father or mother? Can mothers be kings? Can kings be mothers? In the ancient epic, and the sacred chronicles known as the Puranas, which hurry through this slip of a tale, nobody raises these uncomfortable questions. They do so in this book.

And so a new narrative emerges: a fiction fashioned out of mythological and imaginary tales where lines are blurred between men and women, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.

There is Pruthalashva, who must be father because he is a man, and Shilavati, who cannot be king because she is a woman. There is Sthunakarna, a Yaksha, who forsakes his manhood to make Shikhandi a husband and then reclaims it to make Somavat a wife. There is Arjuna, a great warrior with many wives, who is forced to masquerade as a woman after being castrated by a nymph. There is Ileshwar Mahadev, god on full moon days and goddess of new moon nights and Adi-Natha, the teacher of teachers, worshipped as a hermit by Yaja and an enchantress by Upayaja. And finally there is Yuvanashva, the hero, king of Vallabhi, who after marrying three times to three very different women, creates a life within him, as mothers do, and then a life outside him, as fathers do, and wonders if he is either, neither or both.

If biology is destiny, if gender is a cornerstone of dharma, then how does Yuvanashva make room for such disruptions in order? For a good king, who wants to be great, must be fair to all: those here, those there and all those in between.

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  • Palash

    Dear Dev,

    The book is quite interesting, but seems to be silent on certain controversial points. The same approach adopted by almost 99% authors.

    There is no perfect man nor a perfect woman on this earth because humans are not meant to be 100% perfect. All are standing on a line drawing through two poles of (1) masculanity and (2) feminine and the purpose is to reach at the centre point, i.e. Ardhnarishwar.


    So everybody is walking on this line towards approaching the balanced centre point, which can save this planet Earth too.

    Best Wishes,

  • Krishna K Patnaik

    Continuum of masculinity to feminity which is often seen as strerio typical
    opposites is the main contention in this book. It shows this as a great
    continuum and this continuum overlaps with another continuum which is social
    laws / values Vs Personal choices / freedom. This entire conflict world is
    facing today between Traditional Vs Modern codes where lot of set
    traditional norms are becoming obsolete ; both men and women genders are in
    confusion how much of a man is a man (metro sexuality, man marrying man and
    adopting kids etc.) and how much feminity need to be retained by woman
    (single moms, woman as symbols of desire at one extreme and symbols of power
    ala same as man in the other extreme)
    Intersting are shifting sands of life especially in time we live in.

  • I have just completed reading this book.

    I was shocked.

    Not by the fact that a fully grown man is giving birth to a normal human being and not a “monster” but by the fact that the thought processes involving making forceful changes in nature are parallel to the ideas given in Paulho Coehlo ‘s “The Alchemist”.

    Also, when I have read this and similar such books which are set in the Ancient Era, I am amazed to draw parallel conclusions. The situations that people had to face then and the situations that people have to face today are so similar. Only the external environment has changed. The mentality and the thought processes have not changed at all.

  • Manoj Singh

    I read so far 142 pages. I think I will finish the book till the end. This would not be ek aadhi padhi novel. The narrative is fast paced and full of information relevent to storyline. Almost transporting me back in time.

  • Archana Sharma

    I agree with what Rasmihas written in the last two lines. No progress at all in the mentality of people since the ancient times.

  • Heet Pandya

    I have read your book….Frankly, i have no words for it. Somewhere there’s something that everyone can relate too. Its not that i face any problem mentioned in the book…or is it that somewhere i do?Maybe we all do?

    For that matter i think there are certain questions which have no answers.And maybe thats why they are made..to always remain a question..unanswered..reciprocated.

    Your book have given a new edge to at least my thinking. And thats why i respect you.Thank you for the alteration..the revolution.

  • Jaya Bhatia

    I really liked this book a lot. The conflict that one faces on account of personal truths v/s societal truths is something that am sure people through the ages have dealt with. The need for acceptance, the desire for approval have been very well explored. I really like the symbolism in this book.

  • Gaurav

    I read this book and really liked it. This book motivated me to read more of mythological writings. Only thing that concerns me is ‘to what extent are the events true ?’ After reading the book the level of knowledge and thinking has explored a new horizon

  • kiran

    This book of yours makes me your fan. This is the first work by you that I read and it wont be the last one… What touched me in this book is the ambiguity of life that you bring out in each of its characters, the tensions between ethics, social expectations and personal experiences. The realm of grey is very interestingly broughtout, something that we live everyday but fail to acknowledge, always lost in trying to put in Black and white, the acceptable and non-acceptable, trying to justify our experiences within the mainstream experiences. I loved the turns that you take: the two brahmins who come as couple and get caught, the rucus over them being arrested as two boys but tried as a couple after ones transformation in the night, the confusions, the king so confident of himself who has to face the contridiction within himself, his tension of being a mother and a father at the same time…and rejection by his son when he gives away the secret. Its exactly the same when homophobic father realises that his own son is gay…something so confident of having borne a child like himself only to face a reality that he has given birth to someone whom he always rejected in his belief system. Time plays tricks that forces us to question our “rational” selves everytime and your work captures this human truth within frames of mythology. Just loved it till the last.


  • sonia gk

    i read this book a couple of years back . it is simply amazing .heartbreaking at times…i had one query . i have come across an article on the internet which states tht yuvanashava was a descendant of raghukul i.e. rama..and mandhata was his son….
    was the character of ur book same as him.

    • yes….as you can see in the intro of my book, i have changed all timelines to add more drama

      • Dr. Arun Mhaskar

        yes you are the one sitting under the banyan tree so time lines are meaningless

  • sonia gk

    hello sir thanks for reverting back…i think i need to revise the book once again… i had read it two years back.. wht a superb book…sir, plz suggest me which book of yours must i read next

  • Varsha

    Sir –

    I have had the pleasure of listening to you talk about the revisioning of “myth” before I read this book. It was an un-put-down-able book. Extremely well-written. I found the male-female balance (or imbalance?) similar in tone to Virginia Woolf’s ‘Orlando’. I’d like to know what inspired you to write such a revisioning of the myth. I found myself split in personality when I re-read your interpretation of the Shikhandi myth – more a woman than a man. In fact, there was more than one instance in the book where one gender dominated the other. I’m curious to know if your mind really allowed the two genders to coalesce in Yuvanshva, without your own mind betraying the domination of one gender over another!

  • Sibal Parveen

    I did not know about you untill a chance video i saw at Ted India and I am hooked to Devidas’s work. I have only read from your Web page so far and can not wait to buy all books.
    Wuld you recommend what book to read first for the uninitiated me ?

  • I’ve just started reading this book. So far, so fantastic!

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  • amandeep sahney

    hello sir

    i am great fan of yours, i have gifted business sutra vol 1 &vol 2 series to two of my frnd this diwali.

    they way you relate methodlogy with business/orgainsation is phenominal , all i wan to know is if i wan to ready ony of your book which is based on same philosphy , which one do u recomand

    • Devdutt

      Take any one…books focus more on mythology…book on management coming in 2011

  • ramya

    hello sir,
    is it possible to link in the yin and yang concept with the characters found in The Pregnant King?? does it apply really??

    • Devdutt

      You can try :-)

  • Abhinav

    Dear Sir,

    It was barely 2 months back that I became aware of your works. And within a span of 2 months, I have already read Shiva, Hanuman, Devi and The Pregnant King. I finished reading The Pregnant King barely 2 minutes back and I felt I must congratulate you on the wonderful tale that you have seamlessly woven out of mythology and fiction. The setting is so ancient and yet your characters are so contemporary and so real. It is a novel that scores on all parameters that make for a most enjoyable read, and at the same time answers and opens up a lot of questions which are socially relevant today.

    I really hope that we get to read a lot more of your works. Being an MBA graduate myself, I’m also looking forward to reading your Business Sutra volumes.

    My best wishes for all your work ahead.


  • Sagara

    Dear Devdutt,
    Missed a flight from Kathmandu and got stranded in Delhi Airport for 24 hours… destiny had it that I picked up Pregnant King at 1 am. at an airport bookstore. Impressed and amazed. although I have read some comments on your work by queer In dian activists, it’s the first time I lay my hands on any of your works.

    Fantastic! keep up the story telling!!!

    Sagara – Sri-lanka.

  • vikram

    Dear Mr. Pattanaik

    I was truely amazed by the book. The book stayed with me for a long time. I was really impressed by the way you created scene by scene… including even their costumes… outstanding.
    I have to give it to you for your really fertile imagination.
    I also like the very emotional undertone. It was subtle yet substantially stong.wonderful.
    Congrats to you

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  • Dr. Arun Mhaskar


  • Shankar G

    Dear Devdutt Pattanaik,

    Thanks for writing “The Pregnant king” – an engaging mixture of ancient and contemporary thoughts; humor and sadness.

    The bright ethnic cover induced me to have a look at the book at crossword Book store; reading a few lines in the introduction prompted me to buy it at once. Within a fortnight I have read this.

    I liked it very much whenever the bards appear in the story – dressed in colorful clothes and painted faces – entertaining, informing, answering, spying and even consoling;

  • Manoranjan Parida

    Dear Sir
    i am Working with Oxford Book Store at Bhubaneswar ,Being a oriya i always used to suggest your lots of works to my regular customers, and mostly i also finished all the books except one ‘Hanuman’,It is really a shocking captivated story in Pregnant King,sir i finished the pregnant king in my recent off day.
    Really it is so helpfull to raise our eyes towards our glorious past ..iT IS FULL OF EMOTION,THOUGHT,CONTEMPORARY SCENE WITH THE PAST CUSTOMED,,………REALLYU A GREAT WORK……

    Hope for the Best for your next Book.

  • adip puri

    really enjoyed the pregnant king
    worked n may levels
    a story
    a piece of mythology
    and a very interesting debate on gender
    and what roles and desires are associated with each
    and what i loved the best was the narrative style that was easy and engrossing reading

    and hopefully many more

  • enakshi nandi

    dear mr pattnaik,
    Yuvanashva walked into my life at a time when i was besieged with a lot of doubts, unanswered questions and confusion regarding-not just the very central question of gender that your book addresses- but also questions about myths, reality, superstitions and faith in the unknown/supernatural. your book not only answered a lot of my questions and untied some of the conceptual knots in my mind, but also offered me the motto that i was looking for in my attempt to understand a little better: “what is not possible in the mind of man is possible in the mind of God. never let experience limit your perspective of what can/does happen in the world.”
    Thank You. It added the meaning to my life that i was looking for for a long time.
    My humble regards and best wishes to you.

  • Just finished reading ‘The Pregnant King’
    Amazing!! Loved it!

    very interesting & enlightening… & an eyeopener as to how narrow our minds are

  • Dear Devduttji, I picked up ur book at Delhi Airport just by chance…. I had not slept d previous night & I had a long flight of 11 hours ahead of me…yet when I picked up ur book, I could not put it down & had to finish It at one go….. Thanks for a very very exciting & interesting story. Best wishes & looking fwd to many more such stories from u.

  • Maanav

    I am not sure how to begin – Dear / Dearest or Respected, but I will go with what I am comfortable –

    Yo cool dude!

    Same question as I have asked earlier – My wife has difficulty in English and so I was hoping you should have found a translator by now for Telugu!

    Please let me know

    • Devdutt


  • I just finished reading your book and I thought it was BRILLIANT in terms of how you’ve woven an epic tale like the Mahabharata with fiction. Scandalous though the subject may be, I loved your portrayal of the whole gender issue. Planning to do my college book appreciation on The Pregnant King!

  • Ananda Sreenidhi

    Dear Sir,
    Your books and columns in “The Speaking Tree” have inspired me a lot. In fact, I was so fascinated by your writings that even I have decided to take up writing.

    Ananda Sreenidhi N.

  • Ananda Sreenidhi

    Dear Sir,
    Your books and columns in “The Speaking Tree” have inspired me a lot. In fact, I was so fascinated by your writings that even I have decided to take up writing.

    Ananda Sreenidhi N.

  • Srikanth

    Need more fiction books from you..Pregant King was awesome!

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  • Raji

    First of all Thanks to you..
    I love every single article of yours..
    i see a change in myself
    started reading your books one by one..
    as somebody rightly requested above .. even i feel such great writings/thoughts if translated to other languages it would be of great help.
    kindly request you to consider this sir
    i would want my parents to read this as they are not confortable in English would be really great to know if there could be a translated version in tamil..

    Thank you sir for your great work.
    All the best ..


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  • foregingirlprobs


    I am currently reading Jaya and goggled more books, pregnant king is an interesting concept as it is also a theme in Greek mythology. Zeus giving birth to Athena, Dionysus. The Greeks were jealous of the female power of reproduction and Zeus being the powerful God becomes the pregnant king in Greek myths.

    Will definitely read your book, this was just a thought which occurred after reading the title. Great work. Kudos.

  • Soven Kanungo

    when i finished the book……….i m totally becomes a fan of your mythological fiction waiting for another mythological fiction eagerly……….plz plz plz i want another similar work from your respected hand……….i love this novel a hundred times………..

    thank u
    soven kanungo