Vyasa : The Beginning – Book Review

Title – Vyasa : The Beginning

Story – Sibaji Bandyopadhyay

Art – Sankha Banerjee

Genre – Graphic novel

vyasa

A graphical representation of the stories from sage Vyasa’s poem, more famously known as the Mahabharata – described as the longest poem ever written, and one of the two major epics of ancient India . The saga was passed down from many different narrators. According to the Mahabharata, the epic was composed by Vyasa, the sage. One of his pupils, Vaisampayana first recited it in public. Sauti, a professional storyteller, was present at that first public recital, and in turn regaled a group of hermits with the poem. The novel here is presented as a discussion between the hermits and Sauti – this back and forth exchange maintains the flow of the narrative.

The prologue of “Vyasa : The Beginning” sets the stage for the epic Kurukshetra War. The reader is then taken through the births of the Kaurava and Pandava clan as a prelude to the battle that was introduced at the start of the book, but will be shown in its entirety in the successive books of the series. It is difficult to elaborate on the story because of the scale of the Mahabharata. A background of the original story or Indian mythology would make it easier to understand, but the writer and artist do a fair enough job in their presentation.

The illustrations are fabulous, and the artwork (in color) is superbly done – depicting the clothes, ornaments, architecture of the palaces, the battle scenes, the forests, not to forget the innumerable people the story contains – each one with distinct features. The story telling flows beautifully, in spite of having to fit in the epic that the Mahabharata is. There is a good bibliography provided at the end for further reading, considering how complex the saga is. It was the language usage that was a bit wanting – words like “chill”, “dude”, and other slang terms seemed out of place in a mythological tale. This is a retelling of the Mahabharata so not much can be changed in terms of the story, which is quite derogatory to women. I’m rating the book purely for its artwork and storytelling in the form of panels. A recommended read if you like graphic novels. Though one would have to wait a while for the next book in the series.

Rating – 4/5

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