Sandhya Jhaveri | November 24, 2017
It’s almost refreshing to read any of Devdutt Pattanaik’s well researched Indian mythological novels. In the case of The Pregnant King, you walk away smiling at the plot and the many messages the author conveys through his simple yet effective writing style. Lifted from the Mahabharata, this untold story is magical and yet manages to question a number of burning issues we struggle to deal with even today.
The Pregnant King follows the story of King Yuvanashva who grows up under the watchful eye of his mother, Queen Shilavati. When it’s time for the Prince to marry, he is overjoyed and excited to finally feel like the King that he is meant to be. What then begins is a struggle of power as he learns to take the royal reigns while trying to father a child. Time passes and when he is unable to impregnate his wife, he takes on another and another. It is only when King Yuvanashva starts to hear rumours of his impotence amongst his constituents, does he finally resort to ‘magic’ with the help of two Siddhis. They create a potion for the King’s wives which they promise will help ‘plant the seed’. However, after a series of interesting events one evening, the King drinks the potion and soon finds that he is now with child.
While most of the story is based around his lead up to the impregnation, Pattanaik intertwines a number of interesting characters with complex scenarios which makes Yuvanashva question gender equality, identity, dharma and the role of the parent – ironically issues we find ourselves struggling with even today. This is perhaps what makes The Pregnant King so relatable.
It is interesting to see how King Yuvanashva deals with ‘motherhood’ and postpartum life as a king, man and essentially a mother. What should his child call him? Mom? Dad? And what is this ache he feels when his child is away from him? Yuvanashva is seen as a yearning parent who is fighting his maternal instincts and learning how to cope in this new role.
What I personally found most interesting about The Pregnant King was how normal the characters are made out to be. They indulge in the same desires as any mere mortals, tackle similar questions and scenarios as we would, and are forced to follow laws of the land which they do not necessarily agree with.
Easy to read and a very different take on Hindu mythology, The Pregnant King is a fascinating book. The novel steps away from other mythological books which normally focuses on war and politics, and instead unveils a strangely relatable story of magic and history in a most humanised manner.
Definitely a must read and one for your bookshelves!
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