Krishanavatara…

…A while ago, Bala had gifted me Books 1, 2 & 3 of KM Munshi’s 7 volume magnum opus – Krishnavatara. It had been lying on my pile of unread books, but on a whim, I took the 2nd book along, to Meerut. The first book ends with death of Kamsa, and I wasn’t really keen on reading about Krishna’s childhood. It seemed like the death of Kamsa was a good place to start. I was reading Koestler’s Darkness at Noon when I got to Delhi on 26th. Took a while finishing it, in keeping with my 25 pages a day habit of the last 2 years. Great book, I highly recommend it. Written in 1941, it tells the story of a fallen communist leader in jail, for questioning the policies of the Party. Koestler gets into the head of a prisoner being interrogated, and at the same time expounds on the reasons communism was bound to fail. Amazingly prescient and also a very gripping read.

But getting back to Krishnavatara, last Saturday, at around 6 PM, I got around to finally picking up Krishnavatara-2. What can I say. Absolutely terrific. Many fascinating Krishna stories I had never read about earlier. KM Munshi makes Krishna seem more like Harry Potter, than a God. Krishna is a hero, but he is also mortal. What makes him a God is his absolute understanding of “Dharma”. (Btw, VJ, is Dharma in the Oxford dictionary too? :-))

For the first time in 5 years, I finished a book in one sitting. Well, almost. Had to break for dinner, but I finished the book at 1:30 AM.

Picked up 2 Naipaul books from the bookshop below yesterday. I have always been biased against Naipaul without ever reading anything he has written, and I don’t know why. Maybe it was something I read a long time ago, maybe some article, maybe some interview, maybe just uncalled for prejudgement, I don’t know. Somehow got myself to set aside that prejudice and ended up buying “A Bend in the River”, and “India: A Wounded Civilization”. Reading the latter now. I hope it turns out to be a satisfying read.

The good thing with bookshops in small towns is: you can make idle conversation with the proprietor. He seemed to know a fair bit about all the books, and we had a good conversation. He recommended I get this book “The 50 laws of Power”. I didn’t finally buy it, but maybe I will, one of these days.

Back to Delhi for the weekend. Meerut is a dirty place, and the food in Meerut’s really tiresome. I love the chaat (the alu tikki is simply magnificient), but you can’t live on that. Not even I can. Hopefully, Delhi will offer more palatable fare. Am hoping to check out a few places around here in the coming weekends. Hardwar,Rishikesh,Dehradun,Mussourie. It’s not much fun doing it without the right sort of company. But it’s better than sitting in a hotel room, I suppose.

Good night, folks. Have a good weekend. No matter that often work isn’t quite what one hopes it will be, but we are very lucky people. That’s the thought I will leave you with, right now.

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Posted on May 12, 2005, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. My friend, you have to read Krishnavatara 1. It broke my heart the first time I read it. Radha-Krishna might have become a cliched phrase, but KM Munshi brings a level of emotion to the familiar tale that goes beyond the mythological mishmash we are accustomed to. And of course, a thousand times better than the asinine output of Ashok K Wanker.

  2. I first read Krishnavatara (and three other KM Munshi novels, Tapasvini, Jaya Somnath and Prithvi Vallabh) in serialized form .. old (1950s and 1960s) Bhavans Journal issues used to carry the serialized novels, as well as a whole lot of really interesting articles [these were lying in my grandmother’s attic]. As my sister was a Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan student, we got ourselves a lifetime subscription to Bhavans Journal 5..6 years back .. and I can tell you that the magazine is a pale shadow of what it was when Munshi edited it, and it carried articles from several of his contemporaries (Rajaji and others).

    Back to Krishnavatara, read it right from the start. Especially the part about Krishna as a child .. it is brilliant, and as you say, reads more like a modern novel than a book. In fact it was written as a serialized novel, so the chapters are on the lines of short stories / episodes, none of that stupid “story hardly ever moves” megaserial feel about it however. Pity he died before he could finish the 8th volume .. a few chapters from it are included at the end of the 7th volume. And all this ends a few years before where Munshi hoped to end it .. the scene where Krishna reveals himself as the “Saashvata Dharma Gopta”, the eternal guardian of Dharma, during the mahabharata war [when he preaches the Gita to Arjuna]

    The others –

    1. Tapasvini – Pre independence India, communists, congress, etc etc – and a poor brahmin kid’s search for power and love. Epic novel I’d say.

    2. Jaya Somnath – A bunch of princes / kings etc in Gujrat fighting to stop Mahmud of Ghazni and his army from demolishing the temple of somnath and conquering gujarat

    3. Prithvi Vallabh – The story of King Munj of Malwa, and his defeat by the Chalukya king Tailapa. You could condense that novel into a single paragraph I googled up about these (historical) characters. …

    The Rashtrakuta power became weak after the death of Krishna III. Within six years his large empire crumbled to pieces like a house of cards. Tailap II, the founder of the Later Chalukya dynasty, who was a Mahasamanta of the Rashtrakutas, suddenly came into prominence. He defeated and killed in battle Karka II. the last Rashtrakuta king and captured his capital Manya­kheta. He had to fight against the Cholas, the Pandyas and the Paramaras. The Paramara king Vakpati Munja planned to invade the Chalukya dominion but his wise minister Rudraditya advised him not to cross the Godavari, which was the boundary between the Chalukya and Paramara dominions. Munja did not heed his advice and was taken prisoner by Tailapa. He was placed in a prison where he was waited upon by Tailapa’s sister Mrinalavati. He fell in love with her and foolishly disclosed to her the plan of his escape. She communicated it to Tailapa, who is said to have made him beg from door to door and then beheaded him.

    • Wow, that’s interesting. I haven’t read Bhavan’s journal, but I can imagine it must have been quite something when Munshi edited it.

      Yes, I can’t wait to read all now. I had planned to skip the first part, but given that both you and beatzo have nothing but praises for that, I think I will read that too before moving ahead.

      Shall check out the others, if I happen to come across them. Been such a long time since I heard the word “Rashtrakuta”. Ah, brings back memories of my history books. 🙂 Thanks dude!!

  3. As the others have attested, and you might have found out, Krishnavtar is good. The only other representation of Krishna that comes close [and only in terms of feel, and not the exhaustive content] is Ramesh Mennon’s Mahabharat – a modern retelling.

    I have long liked Naipaul and my favourite is India, A Million Mutinies Now. A Wounded Civilization was a bit harsh, imo.

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