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The Pregnant King
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik

Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 9780143063476
Pages: 360
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Hindu mythology holds many important events and stories which have been handed down generation after generation as a part of society’s ways and norms. The Mahabharata is one such epic that speaks of the King Yuvanashva and his unique story.

The popular and just ruler of Vallabhi, King Yuvanashva, is an obedient son and an equally devoted husband to his wives. But even the happiest of homes have secret tragedies hidden in their midst. Shilavati, the king’s mother, refuses to give him permission to join the famous battle of Kurukshetra, because the king is unable to sire a worthy heir for his throne despite years of devotion and rituals. Finally, out of sheer desperation he turns to Yaja and Upajaya, two powerful sages, who create a magical potion that when taken by his queens will impregnate them.

But what happens next is unexpected, King Yuvanashva accidentally ends up drinking the potion. Here arises a series of complications; a pregnant king? What happens to his son, Mandhata, who is unaware of the circumstances of his birth?

And perhaps the greatest irony of the tale is that the virile King faces his life’s greatest dilemma, when the great upholder of virtue (Dharma) and the epitome of manhood longs to hear his son call him ‘Mother’ just once, before he breathes his last. A rich and complex weave of tales intersecting both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and its characters, The Pregnant King takes its readers through a journey of realism and contemporary ideologies that seem to haunt mankind not just today, but also in a world built 2,000 years ago.

The novel does not end here though. We are introduced to Shilavati, who cannot rule as a king because she is a woman, Pruthalashva, who must sire a child because he is a man, a Yaksha named Sthunakarna, who surrenders his manhood so that Shikhandi (a woman) can become a man and a husband, and later reclaims it, and of the great warrior Arjuna with his many wives, who is forced to disguise himself as a woman when a nymph castrates him. And in this journey, we witness King Yuvanashva’s struggle to be just to all, his conflict with himself, and his duty to bring about Dharma in his kingdom.