Written in the most lucid and fluent way, this book is devoid of the complexity of Sanskrit shlokas and their translation – even in the part where Bhagvat Gita is narrated by the Lord Krishna to Arjun – and is beautifully punctuated, almost on each page, with the line drawings penned by Devdatt himself (and, interestingly, shaded by his driver!).
Another thing that sets this book apart is the kind of research that shows through at the end of each chapter. Devdutt draws parallel between the incidents and characters of each story with the situations of the modern life, and also many Indian and Asian folk tales which sometimes vary in detail or essence from Vyasa’s Mahabharata. Since the short stories, filled with tons of characters and interweaved incidents, can leave the reader baffled, Devdutt also takes the pains to remind the reader, at the end of each chapter, the links other stories.
The book is actually written in the third person, where the sage Vaisampayan, pupil of the the great sage Vyasa who composed the full epic of Mahabharata in great detail, narrates the story of Jaya (the original name of Mahabharata) to Janmejaya, the great grandson of Arjuna.
The book starts with the stories of the ancestors of the Kuru clan and, weaving its way through interesting stories and factual and research based commentary by Pattanaik, takes into the real detail of the Pandavas, kauravas, and of course, Krishna.
The stories and the insights are delightful and thought provoking at the same time. While I thought the short stories (most of them running only 4-5 pages) would come in quite handy for entertaining my 4 year old daughter before she drifts off to sleep each night, the contents (of either adultery/infidelity, dubious parentage, or war scenes) render that an impossible task to pick up a story for kids. No wonder why the traditional wisdom in India forbids from studying the Mahabharata (the book) at home. Besides, it is generally perceived to be the story of a divided household.
On the other hand keeping and studying Ramayana in the house is believed to encourage peace, idealism and spiritual devotion in the house.