It was a bolt from the blue for K G Paulose, 68, when Ravi Deecee, the Managing Director of DC Books, a reputed book publisher in Kerala, approached him four years ago with a unique project: to bring out the 18 volumes of the Puranas in a single edition.
Initially, Paulose was unsure about taking it up, considering the magnitude of the project. Though he had robust knowledge and passion for Sanskrit, he was never obsessed with the Puranas. Later, he realised that it was a ‘divine assignment’.
The 18 Puranas extend to over 18,000 pages, with each Purana varying in size and content. This historical work in Malayalam will be four times bigger than the Mahabharata in terms of the number of verses used.
“It is the first time that anyone is trying to compile the Puranas into a comprehensive, holistic, single edition,” says Paulose. “Sanskrit is the golden key to unlock any treasure of Indian history.”
At his house in Tripunithura, Paulose is busy working on the final pages which would soon be sent to the publisher. Titled 18 Puranangal, the book will be released on the auspicious day of Vidyarambham, which falls on October 3 this year.
Paulose knew he could not do the work single-handedly. So he divided it among his colleagues and associates. There were fifteen people or “fifteen think-tanks”, as Paulose calls them, including his wife T K Sarala.
One such think-tank is M V Gopalakrishnan, 67, a retired professor from the Maharaja’s College in Kochi. “I was assigned the task of composing Vishnupurana, one of the prominent Puranas and one half of Agnipurana,” he says. “It took me two years to complete Vishnupurana, as it was a difficult job to translate and simplify the complex Sanskrit verses. I would spend 18 hours a day for the research and writing.”
The team used to meet every week at Paulose’s house to review everyone’s work. “There were several give and takes, disputes and suggestions,” says Gopalakrishnan. “It was a discussion forum in which doubts got cleared and we were able to give birth to a clean and accessible edition.”
Paulose was the first Vice Chancellor of Kerala Kalamandalam, a deemed university for Art and Culture. He has also been the registrar of Sree Sankaracharya University, Kalady, chief editor, publications of Aryavaidyasala Kottakkal, and the principal of Government Sanskrit College, Tripunithura.
Ravi says it has been a stupendous effort by Paulose and team to make this venture a reality. “It was my father D C Kizhakkemuri who first came up with the idea in 1997,” says Ravi. “He approached a handful of scholars, but the project was shelved mid-way owing to lack of research.” However, in 2009, Ravi met Paulose and asked him to take up the project. “His expertise was a necessity,” says Ravi. “Since the project also needed a team of scholars, we were lucky to get the right people at the right time.”
The book cover will have mural paintings depicting each of the Puranas created by a Thiruvananthapuram-based painter Athira Sajith.
“We will have a first print-run of 20,000 copies,” says Ravi. “They are all pre-booked.” The selling price is Rs 10,000, but as a pre-publication offer, it will be sold at Rs 4,999.