Published on www.theindusparent.com
Talk of mythology and there is only one author that comes to our mind—Devdutt Pattanaik, the man who introduced us to a whole new dimension of the famous epics of India.
A self-taught mythologist, he is the author of several works on aspects of myth, including Myth = Mithya: A Handbook of Hindu Mythology, 7 Secrets from Hindu Calendar Art, 7 Secrets of Vishnu and the 7 Secrets of The Goddess.
Needless to say, his brilliant books and his version of myth and mythology has made him India’s favourite mythologist. He is now out with a charmingly illustrated retelling of the Ramayana for kids titled Sita, the girl who chose.
theindusparent caught up with the prolific writer for a conversation for all things mythology.
Of all the mythological stories which is the one that beautifully brings out the relationship of a mother and a child?
Every relationship is unique and one must not grade them as better or worse. For example, with Kaikeyi we see a relationship that is shaped by her ambition for her son, Bharat. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? With Sita, we see a single parent, who ensures her children, Luv and Kush, grow up learning good things about their father, even though he abandoned her.
Who is that one mythological woman that has impressed you the most?
Child psychologists tell us that we should never compare children as that can have serious issues with their self-worth and self-esteem. And yet, we are obsessed with drawing lists based on comparison. I feel every woman is unique and has something impressive about her.
I find Sita remarkable for her ability to make choices and blame no one. I find Surpanakha remarkable because she took a risk, even though she suffered for it. I find Sulochana remarkable for securing her husband’s corpse back.
Is it true that some of India’s favourite mythological characters were way more advanced than the humans of today? Any one particular character that is your favourite?
I think mythological characters are timeless. This means they exist in past, present and future. They are not better, or worse, than present day humans.
They just are like present day humans. We see Ravana amongst us who does not respect other people’s rules or choices. We see Hanuman amongst us who does things selflessly.
Kids today are exposed to iPads, gadgets, television and all the latest available technology. But when it comes to stories, they only want to hear about stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. What is it in these stories that kids find so attractive?
A good story has many complex invisible layers but appears to be very simple. That is the nature of Ramayana and Mahabharata. They are psychological instruments that were created Vyasa to communicate Vedic truths to people. So they appeal to the child in us, but also help us become better adults. They connect with us viscerally. Sadly, we stop at a superficial level and rarely explore the complexity.
Any tips for parents on how to get your kids interested in mythological stories?
- Read the book yourself
- Encourage the children to read it aloud to you
- Discuss the story with children – don’t correct them
- Give your family one hour mythological story time each week: to read, retell, and discuss