‘There’s no harm in simplifying mythology’

Your books have simple explanation. And that is its USP. But critics say that you ‘over simplify’.

Published: 15th July 2017 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th July 2017 07:22 PM   |  A+A-

Devdutt Pattanaik

Express News Service

Your books have simple explanation. And that is its USP. But critics say that you ‘over simplify’.
What is the harm in over-simplifying? I make mythology available to people who do not understand it. It’s like the Brahman and the Shudra traditions. Brahmans believed in keeping knowledge to themselves, Shudras believed in wisdom for all. You can say I follow the Shudra tradition.

Suddenly everyone wants to write about mythology. Is it too easy a genre? And in this manner, will India lose the original text?

There is nothing original about mythology. It is all about sanatan—timelessness. In layman’s terms, mythology deals with the market of the times. Each age has its own stories—its own mythology. As for writers, everyone is free to interpret mythology in his or her own way. It is not an easy genre, but it offers a vast scope for interpretations. There is nothing right or wrong.

You mention “personal Hinduism” in the book; so is everyone’s idea of being a Hindu really different? Who is a Hindu today?

I do not believe in the idea of religion as propagated by a political party, or a sect. My idea is my own—my personal Hinduism. It is within us, not outside. The Hindu religion is not an evangelical one. It does not believe in converting others. People who are doing it today—like trying to force the religion on Tribals—do not understand what Hinduism is.

One of the most powerful concepts in the book is when Hanuman tells his mother: “Ramayan is Ram’s story, not his”. Does this imply that Hanuman had the power to change Ramayan?

Every single character in Ramayan has the power to change the story. For example, Sita manages to slay a demon 100 times more powerful than Ravan, but she asks Ram to keep it a secret. We have to allow others their stories. We cannot impose our stories on others.

You have drawn parallels with Buddhism—Hanuman reflects Buddhist ideals, his physical form, use of the colour saffron. This challenges the so-called concept of Hinduism that we have today.
People who are propagating Hinduism today forget that the concept is mellifluous. Unlike the West where combat is the keyword, in India, religion and evolution are mellifluous. But we tend to do things the way the West does. We want to be combative, violent. Both Hinduism and Buddhism have influenced each other in many ways.

The last book that has stayed with you.
I really do not get time to read. I am too immersed in my own works. You can say I am addicted to writing. I constantly need to write, illustrate, and get clarity on the thoughts in my head.


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