Itla Sutha – Like This Also – 2017, Varigonda Kanta Rao,
Sri Deepthi Printers, Hanamkonda,
Paper Back , 412 pages, Price Rs. 400/-
As precious and extraordinary writing, this is a unique book the first of its kind in Telugu as spoken in Telangana, unique again in the prose narration of the legend sans the war in the original Mahabharata published by the literary organization Sahridaya in Warangal, Telangana, a group of literary enthusiasts. Itla Sutha means Like this also. The tale enshrined in the national epic Mahabharata is the basic subject. The idea is how things would have been if there had been no war at all. Karna was against the idea of war for it would entail loss of thousands of lives. When during the diplomatic mission Krishna undertook the job of trying to soften things, Karna agreed to take the Pandavas’ side. Kunti had a dialogue with Karna and the duo went to the Pandava camp. Then the tale took an altogether new turn and the projected war did not take place at all.
This book under review, as the organization of literary enthusiasts Sahridya says while admiring this precious and extraordinary writing has the delineation of Bhishma, Krishna, Shakuni and the evil minded foursome along with Karna. The author declares in the title itself that there is no relation between Dharmaraja’s coming to the throne and the death of Karna and Dushshsasana. It is not easy to handle a new narrative in the spoken Telugu of Telangana for the benefit of that populace. Varigonda Kanta Ro has done has done an excellent job, thanks to his acumen in imaginative literary expression.
While Sahridaya encouraged the writer by its members donating Rs 3,116/- to 11,116, pooling up more than one and half lakhs for printing this bulky book, the literature lovers of Warangal served an ideal purpose which makes their state proud. The writer says in his note about the heaviness of the monetary debt that the goddess of jnana, Saraswati must have enthused the donors to help the book come out. The author appeals to the readers to read the text from the beginning to the end before praising or criticising it, calling for attentive reading of the whole text.
This author has not taken undue liberties. He has kept to his basic enet – the omission of war and keeping to the source – the Telugu Mahabharata. He goes on quoting the original text in the delineation of the characters like Karna, Bhishma, Krishna and others. He stops short of the despicable war. He begins his work stating that there was a prescribed text Bharata Savitri in his school curriculum and that his grandmother used to sing a song which at the age of fifteen he recorded in his own script. She asked him to narrate it to the audience in Kodandaramaswami temple. He calls this work a legendary composition in prose.
A book review needs to be short and crisp and must enthuse readers to go to the teof twenty-one chapters. It would not be necessary to describe the chapters at length. A bit of the last chapter and bits from the three at the end which are titled Plan, Continuation and How’s That would be enough. The author goes his own way much to the satisfaction of the readers. Here is from the last chapter:
“I have been on the throne all these years. Though not competent I have experienced many more than the qualified ones. Even then, today I am not willing to abdicate the throne.
“After I climbed the power pedestal I realized it needed two things, machinery and diplomacy. I have before the chariot with six horses, arishad varga - kaama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada, maatsarya, vengefulness and anger as the two wheels and extraordinary esteem as the axle of the wheels. When the horses speed, the wheels run with double the speed. Only the charioteer knows the great joy of riding it. I enjoyed the drunkenness of this liquor.
“Now I should give up the ride someday to my children and feel happy. That was my ambition. When I thought that would give the reigns to Suyodhana, Dushshasana occupied it.
“When I wanted to abdicate to my son, they are not there. They were trampled under the hooves of those horses of the chariot, having fought within themselves.
“I thought that me grandeur lies in the speed of my chariot. But, how destructive is that speed! Grief and destruction are known to those who take pride in speed!
“Vidura told me that the throne and power are not for me, for my own good. He asked me to take vanaprashta, life of a secluded forest.
“Now performing Daharmaja’s coronation with my own hands, I’d retire into the woods.”
So saying Dhitarashtra concluded. The assemblage broke into loud clapping “Glory be to Dhritarashtra! Victory to the great one!”
Having seen the softness of the blind king’s voice, taken by pleasant surprise, Bhishma, Drona and Kripacharya, with heart felt joy blessed the old king. Enjoying the greatest joy in his life, Dhritarashtra concluded the assemblage. (p.354)
Now to the three brief last parts; first to the Plan:
“What are the details of the proceedings of the assembly?” Krishna asked Bhishma, drinking the sweet cream laid milk.
“All god things! Dhritarashtra all by himself conducted the proceedings of the coronation of Dharmaja now prepared to leave into the forest for intense contemplation, for tapas. Pandavas said they would be regaled in the service of Dharmaja. Those who took part in the slaying of Karna sought the forgiveness of Yudishtara. Asked what he would do Bhishma said he would go into the forest thinking only of Almighty. (p.355)
Krishna asked Vedavyasa to think of Dharmaja’s coronation since the actions of Duryodhan, Dushshasan and Karna have been completed.
Bhishma said, “Since both the great ones (Krishna and Vedavyasa) are here that auspicious moment should be fixed now”.
“Let the auspicious happen!” both said. Krishna reminded Vedavyasa that since the war would entail seeing horror, brother Balarama has gone on pilgrimages in Kanchinagar. “Send him a message to come back since the war is averted.”
Vyasa asked: “Krishna! Is it not saving the innocent and good and destroying the evil one? Isn’t it what you wanted to say?”
“The meals are served, come to parNashala, the cottage, sires!’ came the invitation. (p.364)
At the end pages after Plan there is Continuation
The purohits and holy priests of all the five villages have arrived and the celebration of the coronation festival of Dharmaraja and a thousand-people dined. “For us it felt like the coronation itself,” they said, jubilantly.
Since then every year on the first day of the month of Jyeshta the coronation festival would be observed.
Says the author “But the enthusiasm of celebrating that day is not felt nowadays. I have forgotten the most important thing to tell you. On the coronation day it rained profusely and all the ponds filled providing joy to the farmers. “Dharmaraja is verily the Lord of Dharma!” they exclaimed in glee.
The third part of the conclusion is atletta, How’s That?
Asking to clarify his doubt the temple priest asked: “Sri Krishna, Dharmaraja and Draupadi are of high and dignified serenity. Is it right you made them speak in the language of the rural folk, it’s not nice, is it?”
“Yes,” (said this author) “I too did not like it. But I have been narrating this tale to the common rural people, farmers who toil in the land. What use is it for them if I write in the language of the learned ones? Vyasa gave people the Mahabharata in Sanskrit … Did we talk or understand that language? In conversation also, is there a high-level language?”