Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik, the Mythological Dude

Interviews 2 Comments


From sakshijuneja.com

I was introduced to Devdutt at a Power Lunch hosted by a dear friend and editor of Verve Magazine, Parmesh Shahani. How I got invited to something as illustrious as this, is still a mystery to me but I guess having friends in high places can do wonders to one’s ego. Okay I find myself digressing here….

Speaking of Devdutt, so on dining table we had the hoity-toity dressed known faces and the only one standing out, in his simplicity was our man. Flashing that ever so infectious smile. At one point, our host who couldn’t resist, questioned Devdutt as to how he manages that grin 24/7? And true to his style, he replied “Frustration doesn’t get me too far”…..and people ‘the’ impression was made, signed and sealed.

From thereon I happened to bump into him on several occasions; book launches, monthly magazine parties…house parties (nope I am not bragging about the kind of people I socialize with). Besides the general nitty-gritty, my never ending queries on the topic of Feminism in Indian mythology, we spoke a little on his then upcoming book on one of the most famous and probably the most controversial mythological icon, King Ram.

Personally speaking, I ain’t too fond of this Lord. But then my opinion is very much biased to what happened with his wife, Sita. That’s the feminist in me whom I cannot and will not ignore. There you have it.

Anyway, once I heard the book was out….the curious cat in me picked up the phone and decided to have short tete-a-tete with one of the country’s foremost mythological writers, Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik.

Do you prefer Ram or Krishna?

Both are forms of Vishnu. And Vishnu is God who engages with the world, unlike Shiva who prefers being indifferent. Ram and Krishna are two ways of interacting with two different worlds. Ram upholds rules while Krishna modify rules. Both for dharma. I prefer Ram sometimes and Krishna sometimes. Hindu mythology spoils us for choices.

Did you find anything new while writing the book?

Many new things….like why did Ram break rather than string the bow as he was sked to? And stories of Urmila and Sita I did not know before… Like how Sita saved Ram from a son of Ravan and from a Naga-astra….I learnt of a bank where people deposits books filled with the name of Ram written over and over again…

Tell us the story of Urmila…who is she?

She is the wife of Lakshman and for the story you have to buy the book.

Isn’t Ram too political today?

So???? He has been God for 2000 years. 50 years of politics does not take away his divinity. Why did our ancestors worship him? And why is he the only god to be worshipped as king? These are questions I have tried to answer.

Anything for young people?

All my books are for young people. Young or old, we still do not know the meaning of life or the purpose to life. We construct imaginary answers. We are given imaginary answers. In other words, we live in myth. And that’s what I write about.

What are you writing on now?

My next book explores Calendar art. Then there is the book on Mahabharata….

How do you find the time?

Discipline, sacrifice….and the desire to write at any cost….Simple!

  • I would strongly disagree with Devadutt Pattanaik’s view that Shiva is indifferent to the world. The Shiva Purana lists all the incarnations of Lord Shiva and his actions to save the world and also his devotees. The most famous example is of course, Shiva drinking the primeval poison to save the worlds and enable the churning of the milky ocean to proceed uninterrupted. I think Devadutt needs to familiarize himself with Shaivite literature.

    • GuruM

      I thought the only being capable of taking the poison was Lord Shiva.
      And also He saw no difference between Amrit and Halahal and readily accepted it.
      All others were only interested either in the riches or the Amrit turned up in the churning.

      I’m no scholar in these matters so I wonder where I read that. Or maybe it’s what Devdutt-ji has written. Either way he also writes that Parvati persuades Shiva to become Shankara and engage with the world.