So much has been written about Indian mythology that it is difficult to find gaps in it and yet there remains so much more to explore. Ashwatthama is one such character from Mahabharata. This character has piqued my curiosity since time unknown. The enigma that surrounds this character is so deep that people in the mountains confess to have sighted a shadow as tall as a giant, presuming it to be Ashwatthama. Ashwatthama’s redemption – The rise of Dandak by Gunjan Porwal is a book that retells Mahabharata but with Ashwatthama’s perspective. However, this isn’t a mere retelling. There is a lot more to this book.The great war of Kurukshetra ended decades ago. Ashwatthama is roaming the wilderness repenting for his sins. He seeks redemption. And redemption comes to him when his friend Vikram asks him to lead a battle against one of the deadliest asuras, Dandak. Dandak will resurrect himself soon and take over Dandakaranya. This will be catastrophic. Ashwatthama is the lone demigod who can retrieve Lord Rama’s bow, Kodanda, and put an end to Dandak forever.This book was a rollercoaster. Right from the word go it gripped me. The author not only weaves a great story but intersperses it with enough drama, thrill, action and staggering twists all the while unfurling the bits and nuggets from the epic itself. There are multiple fantastical beasts like Yetis, Goh, Panis alongside the demons. The warp and weft of conflict and resolution keeps one glued to this book.Ashwatthama is easily one of the lesser known characters from Mahabharata. All we have ever heard of is how he used a celestial weapon to wipe out Pandava lineage and then he was cursed by Krishna. He is one amongst the Chiranjeevis. But if one happens to read Mrityunjay one also realizes how deeply philosophical the character could have been, afterall he was the son of Guru Dronacharya. And with this book one witnesses the might of the warrior that Ashwatthama was. It is believed that while doing the parikrama of Narmada river you may chance upon someone who has a terminal wound on his forehead and who begs for a medicine. However, author Gunjan Porwal with his writing prowess adds distinct triats to this mythical character making him stand infront of us in an altogether different perspective.If you are a mythological fiction fan then this book is a must read.Will be reading book 2 in the series soon. Watch this space for the review.


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