Recently the author Devdutt Pattanaik very sweetly sent me a fresh copy with the final pages intact and here I review the same.
To recap, this is the story of King Yuvavansha who is waiting for a heir so that his ancestors can be pleased and he can become king after his mother- the regent- Shilavati gives up the throne.
As a last resort, Yuvanvansha conducts a grand Yagna and the priests prepare the magic potion that was to be given to his wives. Circumstances prevail and the KIng accidentaly drinks the magic potion resulting in his getting pregnant.
Despite the odds, Yuvavansha delivers Mandhata who is immediately taken to the eldest Queen who is designated as his mother for the world.
The story is treated as contemporary to Mahabharata and we also come across the story of other men who were also women- Shikhandi - who turned into a man on borrowed manhood from a yaksha. The yaksha then turns Somvat a brahman to a woman borrowing his manhood to save Somvat from punishment and ultimately the Yaksha comes back to explain both facets of the human gender to Yuvavansha in the final stage of his life.
Reading the final pages gave me a closure of sorts. I also found myself empathising with the Queen Mother, Shilavati and her reluctance to let go of the throne. I also found myself admiring her for her restraint when she sat with commoners who came to pour out their woes to her. She became, in the true sense a sympathic ear, the Queen mother, one who listens and helps them sort their greivances within their self.
Mandhata came to me as a surprise of sorts. I expected more courage from him but I also admire the way Shilavati sorted things out for him - even changing the rules of the game as she went about it.
The final chapter tells us more about Ila whose gender would change with the waxing and waning of the moon. This created a confusion of sorts for his / her spouses- they were not sure whether he was a husband or a wife and whether his/her children should call him/her father or mother.
The children from both sides fought among themselves and were killed. Ila went to the Land of dead and rescued his children in exchange of his/her life.
Yuvavansha in the final chapters moves to the forest giving up his family life and kingdom.
In the final pages, Mandhata is seen performing the last rites for his father so that he can become ing. But there is a confusion in his heart and mind. Who is his father?