The story of Mahabharata, the 18-day-long epic battle fought between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, has been told and retold many a time. Now, a new book re-examines the tale of loss and redemption through the viewpoints of key players such as Karna, Yudhishthira, Arjuna, Ghatotkacha and Dushasana, the younger brother of Kaurav prince Duryodhana. Aditya Iyengar's "A Broken Sun" is a sequel to his "The Thirteenth Day", which chronicled the battle from day 10 to day 13, ending with the death of Arjuna's son Abhimanyu in the 'Chakravyuha'. "A Broken Sun" continues the story in the bloody aftermath when the warring cousins look to avenge their loss. "I had originally wanted to write the novel from Abhimanyu's point of view. Over the course of writing it, I realized there were other equally interesting stories to be told, and got greedy, so I included multiple narratives in the same novel," Iyengar told PTI in an interview. He says he was inspired by Australian writer Colleen McCullough's "Trojan War", to include multiple viewpoints of important characters -- Radheya (Karna), Yudhishthira, Arjuna, Ghatotkacha, and Dushasana. Having created a cocktail of narratives, the author, however, is relying on the readers' ability to interpret the epic to their liking. "I leave the interpretation of events entirely to the reader. My only hope from the novels is that they enable the reader to look at these familiar characters and events in a different way," he says.
What makes "A Broken Sun" unique is the setting -- 10,000 BC during the Iron Age in India. Iyengar says his story hinges on the assumption that a small, dynastic war possibly took place around that period and was repeatedly embellished in its retelling to become the story people hear today. He has also used the setting around this era as an opportunity to remove the "myth" part of the story to give it a more human outlook. "It felt that they distracted the reader from the epic's true beauty the characters that inhabit its text," Iyengar says, adding that his attempt has been to tell the story of these people as "human beings with human problems" and not seemingly invincible demigods blessed with awe-inspiring powers. Iyengar, who has spent two years writing the first two parts of his planned trilogy, has studied various characters of Mahabharata but he is most intrigued by Yudhishthira -- the eldest Pandava, who tries to always follow the right path. "Yudhishthira for me was the most fascinating to write, since he is, in my opinion, the most sensitive character in the novel. To show the brutality of war from the eyes of someone who is opposed to its very idea, and chart the change in his character over the course of the war was interesting," says the author. The final book in the trilogy will end with the stories of Yudhishthira and Karna, the two brothers standing at opposite ends. Besides the trilogy, Iyengar also plans to write a novel on the Chola empire and another on Sita. The book is published by Rupa Publications.