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The Illustrated Mahabharata - The Definitive Guide to India's Greatest Epic (DK Books)

To label The Mahabharata as "India's Greatest Epic" is, in the opinion of your humble scribe, the personification of understatement. Once one distills the elements of this magnum opus into its essential elements -- something that can unarguably take years if not a lifetime -- there is still much to learn and mull over. Having said this, the masterful DK (Dorling Kindersley) rendition, expertly penned and contributed by none other than Devdutt Pattnaik and Bibek Debroy is an evident labour of love and devotion thanks to the DK India team that put it together. It is a brilliant effort and acknowledged as such by in this articleHow a 15-member team produced a lush visual version of the ‘Mahabharata’.

My first experience with the book came in an abridged format made for kids. I was 10 years of age and the illustrated book was gifted to me during a visit to India. Subsequent generations of Indian children have read similar versions in comic book format under the Amar Chitra Katha series. I found it compelling and couldn't put it down. Having read it, I found myself going back to it over the years -- despite having outgrown the simplicity of the storytelling aimed at younger children. During the late 80s and early 90s, my interest was further piqued by B.R. Chopra's television series "Mahabharat". There have been newer series with superior special effects, and greater melodrama but for me -- and the majority-- B.R. Chopra's series holds a special place.

I hope a special place will be reserved for The Illustrated Mahabharata. It pays homage to India's rich tapestry by sourcing regional versions of the story as well as Bibek Debroy's 10 volume boxset (published by Penguin). Like DK's hardcover books, it delves deeply into the work yet is accessible without being superficial. I am excited to re-read the epic in illustrated format, and as the pictures illustrate, the prose will have the accompaniment of vivid photographs, stunning paintings, sublime sculptures, and historical artefacts.

Ultimately what has made The Mahabharata a compelling read for me is the knowledge that it is not only an insightful glimpse into the fields of politics, society, ethics, duty, adversity, and conflict, but the age of the work has made everything that has come after it somewhat derivative.

Blog Post by Arijit Banik, who still loves the opening music of B.R. Chopra's "Mahabharat" and remains captivated by the lessons from the classic tale.
Review by
@ArijitBanik for @SukasaReads (a division of @SukasaStyle)