Mritunjay by Shivaji Sawant

Day 13 of #AtoZChallenge

If words in book were a colourful picture where every emotion is a colour, Mritunjay would be one of the best portraits ever. And if words could play the strings of a violin or keys of a piano, Mrintunjay would be the best symphony ever written.
Written by Shivaji Sawant and originally published in Marathi in the year 1967, the novel has been translated into many languages in the later years. The book is based on Karna’s life and gives a very different perspective towards the epic Mahabharat. The book focuses on the life of Karna, who is often perceived in the negative light due to his association with the Kaurav’s. In spite of being extremely proficient in warfare, Karna was condemned for choosing Kauravs instead of Pandavas in the legendary battle of Mahabharat. He is frequently over-shadowed by the other more prominent characters in the tale and almost all the retellings of this classic fail miserably to acknowledge the valour and wisdom of this character.

Shivaji Sawant’s portrayal of Karna in this book is exceptional. The multiple layers of Karna’s persona are revealed in a manner that commands strong sense of awe and respect for this disregarded personality. Though born to RajMata Kunti of the royal clan, Karna was brought up by a chariot-driver and was unaware of his royal lineage. He had immense respect for his parents and brother. Women were often mesmerised by his charm but he was completely devoted towards his wife Vrushali. His loyalty towards Duryodhan and Kauravs even in testing times is exemplary. Karna was brought up around simple and meagre kinfolk but everybody around him was aware that there was something extra-ordinary about this reclusive young boy. The Sun God’s benevolence was bestowed in a special way on Karna and he was aware of this fact. Yet, there was a gracious humility in Karna’s demeanour that was often mistaken for helplessness.

What makes Mrintunjay extra-ordinary is Shivaji Sawant writing. Every word or phrase seems to be picked carefully to convey the exact emotion of that situation. I am not sure how much of that emotion is retained in other translated versions, but having read it in Marathi and Hindi (translated by Om Shivraj), I can vouch for brilliance of both versions. (The book is available in English as Triumph Over Death). The writing is so brilliant that you would want to read and re-read the paragraphs over and over again. There is an overwhelming feeling at the end that leaves you satiated and grateful. And there is a new-found admiration for Karna for having gracefully lived a life destined for him, all the time aware of the fact that he deserved more, much more than what had come his way. I have read Mritunjay 6 times and plan to do it again and again.

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