Book Review for Ajaya: The Roll of the Dice

The two legendary epics, The Ramayana and Mahabharata, of ancient India have always had their special thrones of honour, both in people’s hearts as well as literary culture and ethical values that form the building blocks of our religion. As they are invincible sectors of literature, they along with the rest of Hindu mythology stand as inspiration for thousands of writers across the plains of our country. Whichever way you turn or whatever novel you ruffle the pages through, you will find the imprint of mythology in one form or the other. There isn’t a character out there that doesn’t bear resemblance to at least one from it. When the situation is irrevocable, it is only natural writers love to experiment with the actual characters forming the base, mixing and matching incidents and scenarios with boggling creativity.

We had the outstanding Immortals of Meluha series by Amish Tripathi giving us a verbal treat like that.

Now author Anand Neelakantan contributes an interesting member to this unique club, Ajaya: Epic of the Kaurava Clan. We all know the story of Mahabharata and how the childhood battles between the five Pandavas and one hundred Kauravas stewed and boiled to end up in a massacre blood bath on the plains of Kurukshetra. The entire race of the noble kings of India came to an end at the end of the Dwapara Yuga and gave birth to the Kali Yuga. Lord Krishna, the ninth avatar of Lord Vishnu, was born into the Dwapara Yuga to restore truth, justice and righteousness back into the crumbling universe by using his clever wit and the aid of the Pandavas, out of whom Arjuna was his main comrade-in-arms. Duryodhana and the rest of his Kaurava brothers are the main foes in the epic, who are always seen to come up with a different way to bring their five cousins down and kill them so Duryodhana could ascend the throne of Hastinapura, which he believes is rightfully his own.

But he can’t be all evil, can he? Is there some humanity nestling in some remote corner of his heart? Why did he befriend Karna and love him like a brother? What’s with him and his ignorance to elderly advice? Did they actually irritate his different views on life? Despite the way he treated his cousins and their wife, was there some light in him that could show him a good man, after all? InAjaya, that is the theme. The story of the Mahabharata is seen through his eyes and therefore is addressed as Suyodhana, in contrast to the intimidating title Duryodhana given by everyone else.

As someone who worships Arjuna and his brothers and has sought refuge within Lord Krishna, I wasn’t ready to accept the fact Duryodhana has in any way some kindness or generosity or any form of human nature within him. He ordered his brother to drag the wife of his cousin brothers like an animal into a crowded courtroom, jeered at her to come sit on his lap, and demanded that she be stripped naked. That’s enough for me to wish I could invent a time machine, go back into that scene, grab someone’s sword and slash him.

But Ajaya’s portrayal of Duryodhana was crafted with a fascinating flavour. It gives us a deeper insight into how his treacherous uncle manipulates him and certain scenes we accuse him as the main culprit has remarkable twists. I loved how the author starred Ekalavya and Jara as imperative roles in the story. Caste system has always been an infuriating factor, yesterday as well as today. Competition for success is everywhere and not everyone gets what they want. Ekalavya, a poor Nishada (Nishadas are the bottom line of the Untouchables) burns with a fiery ambition to wield a bow and arrow, something only Kshatriyas, the royal race, do and his journey in life was a gripping and heart-wrenching one. He was my favourite character. There isn’t a time he doesn’t get thrashed for squandering the normal norms of his tribe, translation keep your head down and never ever think of showing your face or talent to the world. He weaved in and out of various dangers that lurked in the jungle, lost all his dear ones as well as the main catalyst to showcase his invincible prowess. And yet, he moves on, bravery and backbone his main weapon. I routed for him all the time, as well as Jara, the sweet goofy urchin who followed Ekalavya everywhere he went and after getting abandoned held onto that sliver of hope that was no one but Lord Krishna.

I loved Karna’s fight too. He took on a path similar to Ekalavya, as we all know, but his had unbearable twists of its own and the patronage to Duryodhana paved way for all sorts of situations, love and quest to respect and honour. The two had a beautiful bromance colouring the pages, similar to Arjuna and Krishna’s.

There are however some factors that give me a set back and one of them was the fact Duryodhana’s compassion went to some extreme and unbelievable levels. Yes, I liked his views on life and his depth of friendship with Karna and Ashwatthama, as well as his reverence to the people who appreciated his skills. But Duryodhana was macho. He was a badass. He really doesn’t seem to be someone who’d cringe on hitting a bird as a target for a practical archery lesson. And I’m not sure he’s really someone who’d create poetry out of nature either. That and his later acts have some clear contrast. I also found the portrayal of the Pandavas and Krishna in certain scenes to be eyebrow-raising. I especially don’t think they have strong norms to the caste system and make the worst out of it, as seen in the inauguration of Indraprastha. That is not them.

But, as they say, there are two sides of a coin. The extent to which we can uplift a character in the society can be paralleled by the extent we find the bad sides to them. This was applied to even the noble patriarch Bhishma and Kunti Devi. No one really is perfect.Ajaya was wonderfully thought out and strung together with a rich but simple language. The story stops with one of the most popular scenes of Hindu mythology and continues on with part two Rise of Kali.

Anand Neelakantan has introduced us to a whole new dimension of one of the greatest epic of the ages and I am immensely impressed with how well he plotted through all the minute stories of the epic and connected them. I was happy on finding out he is the writer for my new favourite show after Star Plus’ Mahabharat, Siya Ke Ram.

Ajaya is a must read for all Mahabharat lovers out there.

Source :-  https://deepikakumaaraguru24.wordpress.com/2016/03/31/book-review-for-ajaya-the-roll-of-the-dice/

 

BTW Magazine featured Anand Neelakantan's ‪#‎Ajaya‬ calling it a radical Novel on alternate Hindu mythology

Ajaya - II rise of kali

AJAYA on Top 10 covered by The Financial Express on 6 April 2014

ASURA and AJAYA on Top 10 covered by The Financial Express on 23 March 2014

ASURA and AJAYA on Top 10 covered by The Financial Express

Ajaya covered by The Telegraph on 14 March 2014

Best Seller of the Week once Again, ‪#‎Ajaya‬ by Anand Neelakantan, was featured in the Financial Express

AJAYA : The No # 1 Bestseller

VERVE PICK OF THE MONTH

AJAYA – ROLL OF THE DICE
ANAND NEELKANTAN
PLATINUM PRESS (LEADSTART)
Imagine being told that Duryodhana, the villain of the Mahabharata, one of the greatest epics of our country, is worshipped in some places of India. Apparently, for many people, he was a fair and just ruler. Shocked? While Jaya is the story of the Pandavas, told from the perspective of the victors of Kurukshetra; Ajaya is the first book in a series of a narrative of the ‘unconquerable’ Kauravas. It’s incredible to read between the lines of a well-known story, through the fatigued eyes of the defeated. While some parts of it are slightly difficult to digest, it is nevertheless a riveting tale that makes you think from a different perspective.

coverage of Ajaya by Society (Monthly) on March 2014

coverage of Ajaya and Asura in the Prahar Newspaper

AJAYA and Ausra is on Top 10 covered by The financial Express on 23 feb 2014 Ajaya Reviewed by The Sunday Guardian on 23 Feb 2014

Ajaya and Asura is Top 10 Fiction Books covered by The Hindu on 20 Feb 2014

AJAYA is no.1 in fiction book - Coverage by The financial Express on 16 Feb 2014 Ajaya reviewed by The Week on 23 Feb 2014

AJAYA is no.1 in fiction book - Covered by The financial Express on 9 Feb 2014

AJAYA - Covered by Savy Feb 2014

Kadambini Media Reviewed the 3 best selling Novels of Leadstart Publishing

AJAYA is no.1 fiction book covered by The financial express on 26 jan 2014

AJAYA - Top 10 Fition book covered The Finanial Express AJAYA Reviewed by The Sunday Standard - 19 Jan 2014

AJAYA is no.1 fiction book covered by the financial express on 12 jan 2014

Ajaya Book Review by The Asian Age 8 Jan 2014 Ajaya Coverage by Vereve(Monthly) - Jan 2014

AJAAY is Top 10 coverage by The Financial Express on 5 Jan 2014

AJAYA - Covered by The Financial Express on 29 December 2013 AJAYA coverage by National Duniya on 29 Dec 2013 AJAYA Covered by Free press Journal on 29 Dec 2013 AJAYA Reviewed by The Financial Express on 22 December 2013

AJAYA Book Review - The Assam Tribune on 21st Dec 2013 AJAYA Covered by Mail today on 22 December 2013 AJAYA Reviewed by The Financial Express on 22 December 2013 Asura - Top 10 in Nielsen

Ajaya unputdownable says another review

Friday, February 7, 2014

Book Review – Ajaya


Title: Ajaya: Roll of the Dice (Epic of the Kaurava clan, #1)Author: Anand NeelakantanPrice: Rs. 299/-Rating: 4/5About the Author (From the Book’s Cover):

I WAS BORN IN A QUAINT little village called Thripoonithura, on the outskirts of Cochin, Kerala. Located east of mainland Ernakulam, across Vembanad Lake, this village had the distinction of being the seat of the Cochin royal family. However, it was more famous for its 100-odd temples, the various classical artists it produced, and its school of music. I remember many an evening listening to the faint rhythm of the chendas coming from the temples, and the notes of the flute escaping over the rugged walls of the music school. However, Gulf money and the rapidly expanding city of Cochin, have wiped away all remaining vestiges of that old-world charm. The village has evolved into the usual, unremarkable, suburban hellhole clones of which dot India. Growing up in a village with more temples than was necessary, it was little wonder that mythology fascinated me. Ironically, I was drawn to the anti-heroes. My own life went on… I became an engineer, joined the Indian Oil Corporation, moved to Bangalore, married Aparna, and welcomed my daughter Ananya, and son, Abhinav. However, the voices of yore refused to be silenced in my mind. I felt impelled to narrate the stories of the vanquished and the damned; and give life to those silent heroes who have been overlooked in our uncritical acceptance of conventional renderings of our epics. This is Anand s second book and follows the outstanding success of his national #1 bestseller, ASURA Tale Of The Vanquished (Platinum Press 2012). AJAYA Book II, Rise Of Kali, is due for release later in 2014. Anand can be reached at: mail@asura.co.in

About the Book (From the Cover):

THE MAHABHARATA ENDURES AS THE GREAT EPIC OF INDIA. But while Jaya is the story of the Pandavas, told from the perspective of the victors of Kurukshetra; Ajaya is the narrative of the unconquerable Kauravas, who were decimated to the last man. At the heart of India s most powerful empire, a revolution is brewing. Bhishma, the noble patriarch of Hastinapura, is struggling to maintain the unity of his empire. On the throne sits Dhritarashtra, the blind King, and his foreign-born Queen Gandhari. In the shadow of the throne stands Kunti, the Dowager-Queen, burning with ambition to see her firstborn become the ruler, acknowledged by all. And in the wings: 

* Parashurama, the enigmatic Guru of the powerful Southern Confederate, bides his time to take over and impose his will from mountains to ocean. 

* Ekalavya, a young Nishada, yearns to break free of caste restrictions and become a warrior. 

* Karna, son of a humble charioteer, travels to the South to study under the foremost Guru of the day and become the greatest archer in the land. 

* Balarama, the charismatic leader of the Yadavas, dreams of building the perfect city by the sea and seeing his people prosperous and proud once more. 

* Takshaka, guerilla leader of the Nagas, foments a revolution by the downtrodden as he lies in wait in the jungles of India, where survival is the only dharma. 

* Jara, the beggar, and his blind dog Dharma, walk the dusty streets of India, witness to people and events far greater than they, as the Pandavas and the Kauravas confront their searing destinies. 

Amidst the chaos, Prince Suyodhana, heir of Hastinapura, stands tall, determined to claim his birthright and act according to his conscience. He is the maker of his own destiny or so he believes. While in the corridors of the Hastinapura palace, a foreign Prince plots to destroy India. And the dice falls…

Now for my view:

I’m really loving (well almost) the Me-Time that I have had in abundance for the past month or so. Why? Well because I have read so many books in this period that I almost feel a gleeful sense of accomplishment, one I can’t even begin to explain. But keeping that aside let’s come back to Ajaya. I received the book a week back while I was in the midst of reviewing a couple others. So I promptly kept it on my book shelf to pick up when its turn came in queue. But the very next day, I saw a colleague of mine reading Ajaya in the Office Bus. He was lost in it, reading it with such rapt attention that I almost felt like a hungry child looking at another taking a bite out of a yummy burger. Weird analogy I know! But what I mean to say is that he was so much into the book that he almost tripped and fell while getting off the bus. That did it, how could I not enjoy the book like him when I had it with me! So that evening after reaching home I headed straight to my book shelf and picked up Ajaya and here I am two days later penning the review.

I have never read Mahabharata or even Ramayana for that matter. Of course I’ve heard stories from my parents and my grandmother about the same, in fact even my husband. So I do know the popular anecdotes but not the whole of it. Let’s just say I have a low mythological awareness quotient. So I really had no preconceived notions when I went into reading this book except the need to decipher the secret behind my colleague’s undivided attention to the book.

If you have read the blurb above you would know what the book is about. It is the tale of another perspective, a new way of looking onto Mahabharata through Suyodhana’s (Duryodhana) Eyes.

What I liked most about the book was the way Anand Neelakantan wrote it. I could picture all the characters and the settings lucidly, so much so that I felt as one of the characters in the book. While all books have that quality, the gift of taking you to a different dimension with the characters and the story, Ajaya is one of those few books which lets you visualize effortlessly.

As you read you’ll realize how much research Anand Neelakantan must have put in. Writing a book is in itself a herculean task but then doing the home work is another feat altogether. The author has beautifully blended his imagination and historical facts to give us a piece of fiction, each page of which is worth savoring.

And need I say that it’s absolutely un-put-down-able? I wanted to keep reading come sleep or work. I wanted to know what would happen next. I now realize why my colleague was so enthralled by it.

As you read this book you’ll feel empathy for Duryodhana, for I felt it. This book gives you a glimpse into the alternate reality, another view of Bhishma or delves a tad bit more about Karna. It makes you realize that indeed a story has two sides and it depends on the narrator. Mahabharata was one side of the coin and Ajaya is another. I think that about sums it all up.

Grab a copy and read it. You’ll not regret!

AJAYA Reviewed by Kvartha News

Book review of Ajaya Roll of the Dice

Written By Kvartha People on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 | 10:00 AM

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Review

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AJAYA

Book I

Roll of the Dice

After thousands of years, a new light shines on the Great Epic of India.

Bestselling author, Anand Neelakantan’s second book, AJAYA Book I – Roll of the Dice, is the story of Jaya, or the Mahabharata, as we popularly know it.
But there lies a twist. While history is written by the victors, the losing side is condemned to silence. But Ajaya – Roll of the Dice gives forceful voice to Suyodhana (ignominiously known as Duryodhana) – Crown Prince of Hastinapura, his Kaurava clan, and his band of loyalists, who fight unto death for what they believe in.

The book begins with the Kauravas and Pandavas as children, each gradually displaying the temperament and skills which are to play such a large role in future events. Bheem is muscle and brawn but little brain. Suyodhana is passionate and stubborn, to the point of foolhardiness. Yudhishthira, the eldest Pandava, is imbued with Brahmin ideologies and superstitions. The plot thickens as the Princes grow up together in the Hastinapura palace, always shadowed by the conflicting ambitions of their powerful mothers and bound by the strict Kshatriya code imposed by Grand Regent Bhishma. Pawns of destiny in the hands of vested interests, the cousins and their allies move inevitably towards internecine conflict and ultimate chaos.

Guru Dronacharya is usually perceived as the great warrior of Brahmin heritage. But here we also see his feet of clay and his rigid ideologies which make him both vulnerable and arrogant. Indians are familiar with the story of Ekalavya and his yearning to become a skilled archer under Drona. Ultimately, Drona asks him to chop off his thumb as gurudakshina. What is not usually related is why the horrific request was made by Drona. He had promised Kunti he would make Arjuna the best archer in the land. But Ekalavya, a poor Nishada (low caste), stood in his way. The Kurus held Drona’s own livelihood and his son’s future, in their hands. These considerations drove Drona to steal Ekalavya’s gift and bestow it on Arjuna, a Kshatriya prince.

Anand Neelakantan beautifully portrays the mindset, lifestyle and caste domination of the Mahabharata time, dexterously interweaving a series of pre-battle events and confrontations that eventually coalesce in unfolding the dramatic tragedy. Conventional narrations of the Mahabharata overlook facts he has skilfully incorporated into the narrative: Arjuna was not the first or only one to hit the eye of the fish at Draupadi’s swayamvara – it was Karna, King of Anga; Krishna fostered hatred towards Suyodhana and love for Arjuna, in his sister Shubadhra’s heart, so that she rejected one to marry the other; based on Vedic law, a woman could marry four men, beyond that she was considered a prostitute. But, to prevent strife between the Pandavas, Kunti turned a blind eye to this law and Draupadi was compelled to become the common wife of the five brothers.

The book shows Suyodhana questioning the norms which uplifted a few and banished the rest to poverty, to survive on the whims and fancies of the superior castes. In a rare and clear-eyed portrayal, the book shows him as a man of unwavering convictions. Even when Arjuna steals his first love, Shubadhra, he does not retaliate, realizing it to be her wish and not his cousin’s. Suyodhana is depicted as a man who unflinchingly believes that merit and not caste ought to be the basis of education, reward and recognition. He stands alone in an age of conventional behavior. At a supreme moment in the book, during the graduation ceremony, when Arjuna refuses to duel Karna because of his caste, it is Suyodhana who breaks every norm and faces down the ire of both the nobles and priests, to elevate Karna to become King of Anga, and Arjuna’s equal.

Shakuni, Prince of Gandhara, the mastermind behind the family feud, is portrayed with the nuances usually missing from conventional narrations. Vividly, we see how his burning desire to wreck revenge on India, just as Bhishma destroyed his own country of Gandhara and abducted his sister, Princess Gandhari, to become the wife of blind Prince Dhritarashtra of Hastinapura, drives every move he makes. Astute and intelligent, he suggests that Suyodhana challenge Yudhishtra, a gambling addict, to a game of dice. Playing with loaded dice made from his father’s bones, Shakuni wins for the Kauravas, many times over, until the Pandavas lose everything – land, property, caste, and even their common wife, Draupadi. The book ends with the command for Draupadi to be brought before the Kaurava Clan. Her fate lies in their hands.

The narration continues in AJAYA Book II – Rise of Kali, to be released in 2014.

- See more at: http://news.kvartha.com/2014/01/book-review-of-ajaya-roll-of-dice.html#sthash.lCHzfLxE.dpuf

Blog Review - http://www.indianshringar.com/

Book Review – Ajaya: Role Of The Dice by Anand Neelakantan

History is but a retelling of events by the victor; it is never an impartial narrative by a neutral third person. Hence, the victor is the good guy and the vanquished, the bad guy. But what we readers forget is that nothing is only good or only bad…there is no black and white…only shades of grey. And no, I am not talking about the Fifty Shades of Grey here ;)
It was for this reason that I had bought Asura by a new author, Anand Neelakantan, because it retold the story of the Ramayan from the viewpoint of the vanquished, the king of Asuras, Ravana! And I loved that book (will review that soon). So when Anand Neelakantan came out with his second book, Ajaya, I HAD to buy it. While Jaya is the story of the victors, the Pandavas, AJAYA is the story of the ones who lost the great war…the Kauravas.
Ajaya: Role of the Dice by Anand Neelakantan book review.

As you all must be knowing by now, I am a bit (okay, quite a lot) obsessed by Ancient Indian history and especially our epics. To be more precise, the Mahabharat. The one epic that is filled with intrigue, conspiracy and loads of sadness…and yet, it is my favourite story. In fact, I have already thought up my dream cast if I ever got to make a movie on the Mahabharat (full post here). The synopsis on the back cover of this book ensured that I wouldn’t waste a moment before reading it.
Ajaya: Roll of the Dice by Anand Neelakantan. Book review.
While this book deals with the events that occured several millenia ago, the narrative is very contemporary….and very compelling. Each character is well sketched out with their strengths and weaknesses shown well. Neelakantan shows that good and bad in the human nature are two sides of the same coin. So what is traditionally shown as the strength of the Pandavas, is depicted here as their drawback. Sounds confusing, but I won’t go into details here since I do not want to give away anything of the story…a story that almost all Indians know. But do they?
The friendship between Suyodhana (the real name of Duryodhan) and Ashwathama and then later with Karna is shown very beautifully. The conflict-filled father-son relationship that Drona shares with his son, Drona’s affection for Arjun, the cold war between Kunti and Gandhari and the weariness of Bhishma with these household politics are described really well.
One thing that deserves special mention here is that Neelakantan has shown the decline in the status of women as well as people of the lower castes as it occurs during the course of the epic, right from the time Satyavati, a fisherwoman, became the Kuru Queen, to Draupadi, who despite being a princess, had no say in who she could marry. And after marriage, could not protest against being made a wife of five brothers! This was something that, as a student of Ancient Indian Culture, I studied in college. In this book, he has made it very personal, he has shown the characters, being affected and that is very touching.
Also, he has removed all the “magic” and “mystery” from the epics, so you have Kalia and Vasuki who are real people belonging to the Naga tribe rather than snakes. The Pandavas being the sons of “God” is also questioned, and answered convincingly, here.
I really can’t talk much about the characters because it would spoil the reading pleasure for you. Nor will I say anything about the plot because, who doesn’t know the plot of the Mahabharat. Yea, the makers of the Mahabharat serial on Star Plus don’t know it well but let me not get into that. (Those people haven’t even read the basic Amar Chitra Katha version of the Mahabharat apparently! Bhishma putting out the fire at the Varnavata lac palace…really???)
All I will say is, if you like the Mahabharat, you MUST read this book. With an open mind. Even if you aren’t fascinated by the epics, read this because it is a fascinating book. It is the other side to the coin that we have been seeing since thousands of years. And the reason for that is that History is chronicled by the winners. Now read what the ones who didn’t win have to say……

Book Review – Kochi Post

BOOK REVIEW: AJAYA, ROLL OF THE DICE

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Ajaya, Roll of the Dice by Anand Neelakantan

Let me start the review by disclosing the fact that I have never read the original Mahabharat. But I am well aware of most of the stories, almost in sequence. Thanks to the Mahabharat TV series that was telecasted sometime in 1988.

There are two reasons why I picked up the book to read. One is that the author’s first book Asura is one of my favorite books, as it showed Ramayana through Ravana’s perception and for me, who is an ardent fan of Ravana, every page in it was a bliss. So, I dint want to miss the author’s second book. Second reason is I love hearing the other side of the story. As they say, even your worst enemy has a best friend, who sees the best in them. I wanted to see Mahabharat through Duryodhana’s eyes. (Suyodhana, in this book)

When I started reading, it was easy for me to visualize the whole book, primarily because of the way the author writes. In many instances I could feel the author answering the questions, which comes to our mind, through the character’s reply or gestures. There were times I empathized Suyodhana.

The book starts of setting scenes into places, by Art director Bhishma staging events by slowly threading the incidents and getting the reader eased into the pages. With the help of Shakuni , the camera starts rolling and starts giving us Mahabharat, in a different angle.

A lot of incidents, infact most incidents are written in a different perspective. Initially it was hard for me to digest it simply because I grew up hearing the original stories and it is embossed in my heart, but with pages the narration successfully manipulates our entire belief and even before you realize, you change side and be an ally of Suyodhana.

Surprisingly Suyodhana’s romantic side is also portrayed. I prefer not saying out the incidents and stick to my review.

The stories, incidents and events in the book are well-researched and then marinated in the author’s fragments of imagination, then cooked and well garnished with impressive narration and served to the readers as a tasty dish. Ajaya is a beautiful work of fiction. Sri Anand is a story teller and not a historian. If you read the book keeping this in mind, the book is worth every penny, every page.

Best of luck to Leadstart Publishing and Anand Neelakantan. The way the book is selling, I am sure I don’t have to specifically wish them a happy new year. It has already found its way to the best seller list of major book stores. Waiting eagerly for the sequel. Friends buy the book, read it and post your reviews.
Love always
Praveen P Gopinath

AJAYA Coverage – The Bihar Times

Source : http://www.bihartimes.in/book_review/AJAYA.HTML

AJAYA—An  epic  of the  Kaurava  clan—Book- 1

 

AJAYA—An  epic  of the  Kaurava  clan—Book- 1  begins  with the  ROLL OF THE DICE  by  a  Keralite writer  Anand  Neelakantan. It is unique  in the sense  that uptill now  Pandavas  and  Lord Krishna  have been  eulogized in the  story  of Mahabharat  as heroes  but  here is a rebellious  author always drawn to the  anti heroes  doing  justice to them  which, till now,  very  few  fictional  writer,  probably  no  author  could dare to handle.  This  makes  the famous  author of  the  bestseller  ASURA   which is the  tale of the Vanquished, stand  apart  in the galaxy of fictional  Writings.

 

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Duryodhan  has  been depicted  as  saviour  of the  people  who  are  downtrodden, neglected  and  looked down  upon  in a  society  divided by Haves  and Havenots,  exploiter  and  exploited,  High and Low, Oppressed and  Oppressors.  Karna, Eklavya  who  represent  lower  caste  men but  made heroes by  Duryodhan  were so long historically despised by the society.  In  this  social scenario  of  today, a section of the people  are reminded of their  yore.  This gives  uniqueness  to  the book  and  makes  it acceptable  all over  the world.
Beginning  with a  Prelude GANDHAR, the  birth place  of GANDHARI – the  female  ancestor  of  KAURAVAS, this  book  comprises  of  27 chapters  which begin  with  ‘Prince  of the  Blood’  and ends  in  ‘the  RoLL  of  the  DICE’.

Book: Ajaya- epic of the Kaurava clan, Roll of the dice (Book I)
Author: Anand  Neelakantan
Paperback: 456 pages
Price Rs.299, $ 20
Publisher: Leadstart publishing  PVT LTD,; First edition (1 December 2013)
ISBN-10 : 9381576033
ISBN13: 9789381576038
Language: English

DNA After Hours has featured Bestselling author Anand Neelakantan's Newest Release 'Ajaya - Roll of the Dice

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DNA has featured the Mumbai Litfest where in Spanish Director César Lorente Rató came upon Anand Neelakantan‘s book ‘Ajaya Roll of the Dice’ and was amazed at the his version of The Mahabharata

Where do alter-narratives stand in a multi-faceted India?

(Top) A scene from The Killing of Dussasana (centre) A Maya Ravan performance in Mumbai.
(Top) A scene from The Killing of Dussasana (centre) A Maya Ravan performance in Mumbai.

On the third day of The Mumbai LitFest, barely hours before his production The Killing of Dussasana which fused kathakali and flamenco to tell a tale of gender violence, civil war and revenge, Spanish director César Lorente Rató discovered Ajaya, a book by Anand Neelakantan dedicated to the Kaurava clan. “I wasn’t aware there are different Mahabharata narratives. Had I known, I’d have based my production on this theme instead,” he remarked.

Even as he spoke at the three-day fest, mobs from BJP’s youth wing in Chandigarh, hundreds of kilometres away, were protesting outside a theatre screening Goliyon Ki Rasleela: Ram-Leela, demanding an apology from director Sanjay Leela Bhansali for his use of the word Ram. They alleged that the religious sentiments of the Hindu community had been hurt.

Unlike Rató, are Indians largely intolerant of alter-narratives when it comes to mythology? “Yes,” says historian and author Ananda Pawar. “Before the emergence of strident right-wing Hindutva in the build-up to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, such rabid ideologies were rightfully confined to the fringes. More concerned about where his next meal is coming from, the average Indian has always supported the moderate middle-path.” Pawar also thinks that post 1992-93, it has become easy to muddy waters in the name of religion and that everybody now wants to borrow the template of the divisive politics of hatred.

Not everyone agrees.

Anand Neelakantan, whose book caught Rató’s eye, is one of them. “We have an ancient tradition of alter-narratives respected as great works of literature in Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi and Odiya, too. Just outside the Madurai Meenaxi temple is a Periyar statue which damns the Hindu religion and calls its followers fools. Can you imagine this happening outside the Vatican or Mecca or even outside the Communist party headquarters in Russia or China?” he asserts, adding that despite aberrations, Hinduism is largely a peace-loving and accommodating religion for him.

His book Asura: Tale Of The Vanquished, The Story of Ravana And His People, which tells the story of the vanquished Asura people, cherished by the oppressed castes of India for 3,000 years, has sold over 1.5 lakh copies.

“I began finding out why a father (a knowledgeable emperor) named his children after villains — Duryodhana (misuser of wealth and power), Dushashana (mis-administrator)? Also the pedigree of Suyodhana (the actual name of Duryodhana) was of a king so just, he gave away his son’s inheritance to his brother’s children, and a mother who sacrificed her sight to share her husband’s blindness. Compare it to those of the Pandavas, who gambled their wife for a game and several questions arise,” Neelakantan opines.

According to him, if one logically and rationally explains their stand, then people will listen.

Problems arise when in the pursuit of sensation, one goes and deliberately offends people, giving the rabid right an unnecessary handle.

Eminent historian Romila Thapar feels that mythology or history should not be mixed. “When it comes to mythology, people are free to create as many versions as they want, unlike history, where research and analysis has to prove a point before it’s made,” she says, citing the example of the different versions  of the Ramayana representing the articulations of different communities and reflecting the “alternate perceptions” that exist in society.

Pawar, however, argues his point: “Look at Valmiki’s Ramayana in Sanskrit, the Buddhist version contained in the Jataka Tales in Pali and the Jain version in the Paumacariyam in Prakrit. Many additions have been made to Valmiki’s version between 400BC to 400AD. They reflect the perspectives of the person who was writing and why. One can’t ignore how nuances borrowed from the society at the time in which the additions were made, did not end up becoming a part of the work as we know today.”

The debate is an old one — and complex. And there is always a new discovery waiting to be made. In Kerala, I happened to visit the Malanada Temple in Kollam district’s Poruvazhy village only to find that the temple deity was Duryodhana, the Mahabharata ‘villain’.

The alter-narratives can be numerous and our beloved epics as multi-faceted as Indian society itself. Rató will never find a dearth of material to adapt from.

 

 

Online Coverage

 

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“India will bleed from a thousand cuts” Book Review: Ajaya Book 1-Roll of the dice

It has always been a fascinating experience to explore the various layers and nuances of ‘The Mahabharata” the greatest epic known to mankind. But it’s never enough as is proved by this book.
Anand Neelkantan takes a very old story and tells it from a perspective which not many have tried before. Ajaya like Asura is the story of the vanquished. And what a story it is….
Anand changes the approach dramatically. Characters who just get a mention in the popular version of the Mahabharata become the protagonists and we see the story unfold from their point of view. The narrative is brilliant. (But the first person style he used in Asura was more effective). The prelude is chilling. What fascinates the reader is his ability to find a contemporary correlation. A purist may find this book blasphemous but then again with the Mahabharata… that’s natural. Under the author’s pen Duryodhana comes to life as Suyodhana, a prince who will stop at nothing to claim his birthright and act according to his conscience. He is indeed the centerpiece of this elaborate canvas.
The caste system is debated mercilessly through the characters. The foreign hand and a foreign queen quickly give rise to speculations in the mind of the author as to whom is the author alluding to. The visual imagery comes to life as the Grandsire Bheeshma goes about administering a Hastinapur torn by caste conflicts. Economic backwardness and failure of the state to protect the rights of the weak are the factors which give rise to terrorism says Bhishma to Vidura…. Communism anyone?. A cold war is going on between Kunti and Gandhari as to who will become the crown prince of Hastinapura.
The Pandavas of questionable fatherhood and the Kaurava princes grow from being to children to adults, scheming and plotting all the way. In a far away land the kingdom of the Yadavas is being reformed by Balarama much against the wishes of his younger brother Krishna who wants the old systems to continue.
Far South, Parashurama’s clan has established a Brahmin kingdom where orthodox Brahminism and unparalleled casteism reign. The southern confederacy wants to influence Hastinapur’s ideology through rumors and infiltrating it with spies. Parashurama’s friend, Drona, an orthodox Brahmin is the Guru of the Pandavas and the Kauravas.
The character of Kripa comes to life in Ajaya. His refusal to submit to Brahministic rituals has made him an outcaste.
The banter between the four friends; Suyodhana, Sushasana, Karna and Ashwathama; is something which most of us would identify with. The sexual jealousy of Arjuna due to Yudhishtra getting the first right over Draupadi is apparent. In an unforgettable instance Gandhari says, “She told Draupadi to marry all the five to keep them united? Thank heavens my sons don’t need that to keep them united.”
Ekalavya and Karna, both victims of casteism find different ways to achieve their goals. Jara a beggar and his blind dog Dharma are witnesses to these events. Their story is a brutal indictment of society.
To reveal more, would be criminal. Ajay Book1: Roll of the dice is rich and juicy. Bite into it. Then wait for Book 2: The rise of Kali due in 2014.

 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Cover Release: AJAYA – Epic of the Kaurava Clan by Anand Neelakantan: Releasing Dec 1, 2013

Anand Neelakantan is already a well known name in literary arena for his blockbuster debut mythological epic Asura – Tale of the Vanquished – The story of Ravan and his people. Asura was based on Indian mythological Ramayana but written entirely from a different perspective. The book has Ravana has its lead character, as a hero, taking you through Ramayana, from his perspective.Anand Neelkantan’s new arrival Ajaya – Epic of Kaurava Clan is scheduled to be launched on Dec 1, 2013 published by LeadStart Publishing. Ajaya is one of the meanings of Duryodhana. Another meaning interprets it as ‘one who is difficult to conquer’. Ajaya is the story of Duryodhana, hero of the losing side, from his perspective, seen Mahabharata from his eyes.Here is the cover release of Ajaya – Epic of Kaurava Clan that definitely is going to win its readers heart in a similar fashion as Asura. Readers and fans of Anand Neelkantan’s work can get a prelude of Ajaya here. There is also a contest running here based on Ajaya.

Blog Review

Prelude : Ajaya – Epic Of Kaurava Clan by Anand Neelakantan: Mother, There Is No Caste For Hunger And Thirst

Anand Neelakantan’s First Book celebrating
its first Anniversary
The same fragrance of intact writing style and touch of mind gripping storyline, that is what happens when we read Anand Neelakantan – be it his year old Asura – Tale of theVanquished – the Story of Ravana and his People;  or his upcoming book about to be released on December 1, 2013, Ajaya – Epic of Kaurava Clan Book 1 – Roll of the Dice (cover release). Anand has a great classical art of sensitizing about his subject right in the beginning so as to get his readers engrossed the moment they start reading his work that is based on mythological epics but presented in an entirely different manner. Ajaya is the story of infamous, notorious, anti-hero of Mahabharata, Duryodhana.
This book will present entirely a new picture of Duryodhana, his human side, his hero side, his softer side, his nobler side. Duryodhana’s name was Suyodhana actually, and Su was replaced with Dur by Pandavas. According to Neelakantan if Duryodhana was not rightful in his deeds then how come the great warriors like Karna, Krishna’s army, Dronacharya, Bheeshma, and others would have supported him. Other meanings of his name are ‘one who can’t be conquered’ or Ajaya as the title says.
Anand’s Author’s note in Ajaya is quite interesting where he explains why he chose Duryodhana and the reasoning behind it. It was a small incident and a small conversation that happened years back when he visited a small village named Poruvazhy village in Kerala. He found a temple with deity as Duryodhana. Around an ensemble of over a lac of persons there in and around that temple for worshipping the lord of that temple, Duryodhana, on a special occasion, was there. The author wondered if there was any such temple in the name of the main villain of Mahabharata existed and tried to know about the reason for the same.
What he got to know was quite interesting.
Once Duryodhana reached that place while searching for Pandavas and felt very thirsty, and demanded some water from an old woman passing through. The lady gave her the water but immediately realized that the person to whom she gave water belongs to some royal Kshatriya family and she herself belonged to a very low caste. She got afraid that this royal person would kill her if he comes to know about it but her heart did not allow her to hide the truth. When she told this to Duryodhana – he humbly replied – “Mother,” he said, “there is no caste for hunger and thirst. Blessed are you for putting the interest of a thirsty man before your own safety.”
Thus he made a temple there and told there will be no idol placed in that temple and the upkeep of that temple would be handled by someone among the low caste untouchable community. The temple, thus, became a place of getting inner strength for this low caste untouchable community and its popularity kept increasing every year.
Anand Neelakantan returned and did a good amount research for writing about the positive side of this prominent but anti character of Mahabharata and thus Ajaya – Epic of Kaurava Clan Book 1 – Roll of the Dice got conceived and came into shape.
You can get the prelude here and enter a contest here to get more chapters of this interesting and mind-boggling entertainer epical saga.
Coverage by shesaidbeauty.com

Cover Reveal: Ajaya- Epic of the Kaurava Clan by Anand Neelakantan

Today I am going to share the cover of a book that I am really looking forward to. The reason behind my enthusiasm is that the last book I reviewed was from the author itself and I loved it. An encounter in a small village of Kerala forced the author to go back to the Mahabharata with a fresh perspective and the result was Ajaya- the narrative of the ‘unconquerable’ Kauravas who were decimated to the last man.
The book is scheduled to release on 1st December,2013 but you can read the sample chapters here and you could also get access to some more chapters by entering the AJAYA Contest. To enter all you need to do is click on the link given below.
A Lot of Pages – Online Coverage
Saturday, November 09, 2013 0 comments

                                  Releasing On 1st December 2013

The Title caught my attention. Jaya had put Mahabharata in a new light for me but that was still Pandava side of the story. Ajaya narrates Mahabharata in from the much ignored Kaurava perspective.
At the heart of India’s most powerful empire, a revolution is brewing. Bhishma, the noble patriarch of Hastinapura, is struggling to maintain the unity of his empire. On the throne sits Dhritarashtra, the blind King and his foreign born Queen Gandhari. In the shadow of the throne stands Kunti, the Dowager-Queen, burning with ambition to see her firstborn become the ruler, acknowledged by all. And in the wings:
  • Parashurama, the enigmatic Guru of the powerful Southern Confederate, bides his time to take over and impose his will from mountains to ocean.
  • Ekalavya, a young Nishada, yearns to break free of caste restrictions and become a warrior.
  • Karna, son of a humble charioteer, travels to the South to study under the foremost Guru of the day and become the greatest archer in the land.
  • Balarama, the charismatic leader of the Yadavas, dreams of building the perfect city by the sea and seeing his people prosperous and proud once more.
  • Takshaka, guerilla leader of the Nagas, foments a revolution by the downtrodden as he lies in wait in the jungles of India, where survival is the only dharma.
  • Jara, the beggar and his blind dog Dharma, walk the dusty streets of India, witness to people and events far greater than they, as the Pandavas and the Kauravas confront their searing destinies.

Amidst the chaos, Prince Suyodhana, heir of Hastinapura, stands tall, determined to claim his birthright and act according to his conscience. He is the maker of his own destiny or so he believes. While in the corridors of the Hastinapura palace, a foreign Prince plots to destroy India. And the dice falls.

     Did you know that Duryodhana is worshipped in some part of the country? I was in for a surprise when I read the author’s note and the book engaged me from that page itself. Moving on to the few chapters available as prelude, I was on the edge reading this book. The story for once shows Bheeshma in a human light! The gripping narrative of Bheeshma’s emotions left me in awe. I can’t wait for the book to release now!

News Super Fasthttp://newssuperfast.com/2013/10/29/the-first-book-to-be-launches-pan-india-in-10-indian-languages/

The first book to be launched pan-India in 10 Indian languages

Posted by admin | On 29 October,2013 | In Gernal

Ajaya BookOn a visit to Malanada Temple, Kerala, national bestselling author of ASURA, Anand Neelakantan, discovered the temple deity to be none other than Duryodhanan, the ostensible ‘villain’ of the Mahabharata.

This astonishing discovery prompted him to delve deep into the narrative of the defeated Crown Prince of Hastinapura, and the Kaurava clan.Ajaya challenges established views and compels us to think again. The book is all about the power of perception. It retells with compelling credibility, the epic events from Duryodhan’s (given name: Suryodhana), point of view.

History is written by the victorious and Jaya (Mahabharata) was written in favour of the Pandavas. The writing was biased to the victors and completely black faced the Kauravas. A few insights and a modern mind challenges what has been perceived till yet

 

  • Why would a father (a knowledgeable emperor) name his children as villains? i.e. Duryodhana (mis user of wealth (dhana) and power), Dushashana (mis- administrator) ? – Their names seem to be changed
  • The pedigree of Suyodhana (actual name of Duryodhana) was of a King so just, he gave away his son’s inheritance to his brother’s children and a mother who sacrificed god’s greatest blessing to a human (eye sight), to share her husband’s blindness. Compare it to those of the Pandavas, where all the brothers were born of people who was not their father. They shared a wife, gambled their wife for a game, etc. several questions arise.

Blogspot : http://shoooonya.blogspot.in/2013/10/duryodhanas-story-by-one-who-told.html

 

MONDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2013

Duryodhana’s Story by the one who told Ravana’s Story

A week ago, I wrote the review for ‘Arjuna: Saga of the Pandava Warrior-Prince by Anuja Chandramouli’; and the review ended with the following para …

The author of Asura is coming out with another book, the focus this time around is the Kauravas. I want to give that book a shot since the potential to weave a great story around Kauravas is immense. I hope he does not bungle up the opportunity like he did in Asura. It might be interesting to reach out to him and ask directly :)

Well … I have sent my questions to the author through the publisher and now wait for his response. Based on the response, I might send in some more questions. And yes, I have asked the questions I wanted to ask.

Also, here is the cover of his forthcoming book, “AJAYA – Epic of the Kaurava Clan” which is actually Duryodhana’s story – so Anand once again writes the story from the villain’s perspective … and I am definitely interested if it is Mahabharata from the eyes of Duryodhana.  

 

Blogspot : http://wingstomywords.blogspot.in/2013/10/review-ajaya-epic-of-kaurava-clan.html

Review : AJAYA- The Epic of the Kaurava Clan

When I first read ASURA my whole perspective towards the age old Ramayana changed. This Dusherra I saw Ravana in a different light. It made me think of things I had never thought about and yes this author was one I was looking forward to reading his next works.
Imagine my joy when I came to know this very author is coming up with his next book AJAYA- The Epic of Kaurava Clan

You can check out the PRELUDE here and perhaps then you will understand my excitement and why am I so excited about it!
Also there is an interesting contest lined up HERE where you could participate and win some amazing prizes too.
Do stay tuned for more updates on this book!

Ajay Neelakantan presents a tantalising exploration of the Mahabharata epic from the perspective of the defeated in his book Ajaya

Every Indian has grown up conditioned to the view that the Pandavas were virtuous, and wronged; and that the Kauravas were manipulative and evil. On a visit to Malanada Temple, Kerala, national bestselling author of ASURA, Anand Neelakantan, discovered the temple deity to be none other than Duryodhanan, the ostensible ‘villain’ of the Mahabharata. This astonishing discovery prompted him to delve deep into the narrative of the defeated Crown Prince of Hastinapura, and the Kaurava clan. Ajaya challenges established views and compels us to think again. The book is all about the power of perception. It retells with compelling credibility, the epic events from Duryodhan’s (given name: Suryodhana), point of view.
Image

Questions to the modern mind:
History is written by the victorious and Jaya (Mahabharata) was written in favour of the Pandavas. The writing was biased to the victors and completely black faced the Kauravas. A few insights and a modern mind challenges what has been perceived till yet:

Why would a father (a knowledgeable emperor) name his children as villains? i.e. Duryodhana (mis user of wealth (dhana) and power), Dushashana (mis- administrator) ? – Their names seem to be changed.
The pedigree of Suyodhana (actual name of Duryodhana) was of a King so just, he gave away his son’s inheritance to his brother’s children and a mother who sacrificed god’s greatest blessing to a human (eye sight), to share her husband’s blindness. Compare it to those of the Pandavas, where all the brothers were born of people who was not their father. They shared a wife, gambled their wife for a game, etc. several questions arise.
Why the name Ajaya?
Two reasons, one Jaya (Mahabharata) is told from the perspective of the Pandavas, hence the other side of the story, that of Kaurava’s we have called, ‘Ajaya’. Also, ‘Ajaya’ in Sanskrit means the un-conquerable, which is true of the Kaurava clan, which did not surrender and had to be decimated to the last person standing.

Fascinating details:
The book has four principal heroes: Duryodhana, Karna, Aswathama and Ekalavya. The story unfolds with equal importance for all four, but Duryodhana remains the principal protagonist of this tale without villains.
In his efforts to trace the Pandavas in exile, Duryodhana traversed the forests of the deep South, to reach Malanada. Tired and thirsty, he asked for water. He was served toddy by an elderly woman, an untouchable. He drank the water and blessed her and the place.
Abiding by his concept of rajadharma, Duryodhana began Siva worship in these hills, praying for the protection of the disadvantaged. He gave away hundreds of acres of agricultural land as freehold to the Devasthanam. Even today, the land tax on this property is levied in the name of Duryodhana.

Duryodhana also ensured that Gandhari (his mother), Dussala (his sister), Karna (his friend), Drona (his Guru), and others, were given respectful observance near the temple. Members of the Kurava caste remain the poojaris at the temple.
The book explores why great men of integrity, like Bhishma, Drona, as well as Krishna’s entire army, fought for Duryodhana.

Author Speak

Image
Anand Neelakantan: It is an attempt to revisit our mythologies with a modern view and see what the same events looks like when observed from the side of the defeated. Were these people branded villains because they were far ahead of their times? There are many books about the Pandavas, about Karna, Draupadi, Kunti and the other dramatis personae of the Mahabharata. But who speaks for Duryodhana?
Commenting on the opportunity to publish this extraordinary book, Swarup Nanda, CEO, Leadstart Publishing says: “We are delighted to be publishing Anand Neelakantan’s Ajaya. In order to expand the reach to the maximum number of book lovers, we are launching this book in 10 different languages pan-India for the first time, these will happen post 90 days of the launch of the English version. I am personally most intrigued by the book as it gives a whole new perspective to the Mahabharata – the story we have all heard growing up. Ajaya is like reading something familiar yet entirely new….it opens the mind to possibilities we have never considered”.
Back Cover Blurb
THE MAHABHARATA ENDURES AS THE GREAT EPIC OF INDIA. But while Jaya is the story of the Pandavas, told from the perspective of the victors of Kurukshetra; Ajaya is the narrative of the ‘unconquerable’ Kauravas, who were decimated to the last man.
At the heart of India’s most powerful empire, a revolution is brewing. Bhishma, the noble patriarch of Hastinapura, is struggling to maintain the unity of his empire. On the throne sits Dhritarashtra, the blind King, and his foreign-born Queen – Gandhari.  In the shadow of the throne stands Kunti, the Dowager-Queen, burning with ambition to see her firstborn become the ruler, acknowledged by all.
And in the wings:
Parashurama, the enigmatic Guru of the powerful Southern Confederate, bides his time to take over and impose his will from mountains to ocean.
Ekalavya, a young Nishada, yearns to break free of caste restrictions and become a warrior.
Karna, son of a humble charioteer, travels to the South to study under the foremost Guru of the day and become the greatest archer in the land.
Balarama, the charismatic leader of the Yadavas, dreams of building the perfect city by the sea and seeing his people prosperous and proud once more.
Takshaka, guerilla leader of the Nagas, foments a revolution by the downtrodden as he lies in wait in the jungles of India, where survival is the only dharma.
Jara, the beggar, and his blind dog Dharma, walk the dusty streets of India, witness to people and events far greater than they, as the Pandavas and the Kauravas confront their searing destinies.
Amidst the chaos, Prince Suyodhana, heir of Hastinapura, stands tall, determined to claim his birthright and act according to his conscience. He is the maker of his own destiny – or so he believes. While in the corridors of the Hastinapura palace, a foreign Prince plots to destroy India. And the dice falls…