Book Review – Shyam by Devdutt Pattanaik

If anyone were to ever ask me to list all the books that I love, that list would definitely include The Ramayana and The Mahabharata. Fact is, that list would include different versions of both epics. And it is definitely not because I am a Hindu. The Ramayana and The Mahabharata are beyond a story. They become a template, a prototype. Over centuries people have taken this simple yet complex tale and made it their own. Be it Kambha Ramayanam in the 1200’s or Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik in the 2000’s, there is one version for everyone.

Pattanaik has carved a niche for himself in the literary world for his retellings and observations of Hindu mythology. I have read most of his books. And the most recent offering is Shyam. Growing up in a Hindu household we are told stories of baby Krishna. Even Amar Chitra Katha has versions of Krishna’s tales, so it is inevitable that we know of the dark-skinned god. Shyam is Devdutt Pattanaik’s version of the Bhagavatha. The Bhagavatha is a text which, simply put, is an ode to Krishna Bhakti. (I really like this website, in case you want to read more) Shyam is a very simple and concise version of the same. It is said that the Bhagavatha is twelve texts (some say eighteen) of 18000 verses, and Shyam puts most of that in some 300 odd pages.

Shyam by Devdutt Pattanaik, Book review by Frost At Midnite

Shyam takes us through the life of Krishna, from before his birth to his death and thereafter. It is interspersed with Krishna’s observations and teachings. As with any Devdutt Pattanaik book, there are plenty of notes made in the book where the author gives a reference to a place or a text or simply folklore. This is what makes his books a great read for me. You learn something from his books. As with any tale of Krishna, there is plenty of mischief and love. As baby Krishna, as the lover, as the student, as the husband, as the mentor, no matter what role he portrayed there was always the same approach. Krishna made sure to teach those around that love was unconditional. To treat each other with love and respect. There are a few threads that run through the book. Primarily how when mankind lets go of humanity, Dharma is compromised and second, the concept of Karma. Devdutt Pattanaik does not get preachy with these concepts but has made sure to give enough anecdotes about Krishna depicting his conundrum of maintaining Dharma and doing what is right. He also subtly shows that Krishna, despite being a reincarnation of Vishnu, has to reap the rewards of his Karma, past and present. There is definitely a lesson in there for all of us.

I would recommend Shyam to everyone. Especially if this genre is your cup of tea as it is a great introduction to the BhagavathaShyam has a lot to tell us, tidbits here and there. But, it does reinforce the primary concept of God and prayer – God is love and the only way you can let him into your life and heart is to love all of his creations.

You can find a copy of Shyam here – Amazon, Flipkart, Kobo


Shyam: An Illustrated Retelling of the BhagavataShyam: An Illustrated Retelling of the Bhagavata by Devdutt Pattanaik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
View all my reviews


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