Jul 6, 2022

Book Review: Myth = Mithya by Devdutt Pattanaik

 While growing up, Amma never allowed me to read story books. She used to say that reading story books is a waste of time. I have never read Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha, Ruskin Bond, or Enid Blyton books as a child. Even while traveling, she used to buy me a magazine named Wisdom which had mostly GK stuff and quiz/trivia. No regrets, that's her perspective!

The childhood conditioning had set quite strong and I couldn't bring myself to read fiction books with interest. It always felt like a forced effort.

D and K love reading story books, comics, and picture novels. D reads a lot of Amar Chitra Katha, Jataka tales, and many other mythology stories. A few years back, K was so curious about mythology and devoured many books of Devdutt Pattanaik one after another.

I was somehow drawn towards this book "Myth = Mithya" a few days back and was completely engrossed in it. Though I was aware of some of the stories from Hindu mythology (thanks to the epic TV shows in Doordarshan!), this book interweaved so many aspects of philosophy, spirituality, rituals, and stories in such an interesting manner.

The book starts with the context of Myth and Mithya and how mythology carries the idea forward with stories, symbols, and rituals.

"Mithya was truth seen through a frame of reference."

The book is divided into 3 sections and each describes the creation, sustenance, and destruction dimensions in depth. It was an aha moment for me to understand these dimensions from a new angle.

"Awareness leads to discovery. Discovery is creation."

"Shiva represents the hermit way of life. Vishnu represents the householders' way of life."

The section on karma was an interesting read with relevant examples - the boons and curses, equity and debt, desire and destiny.

"Destiny is determined by past deeds. Desire influences future actions."

Many mythological characters and their stories have a deeper meaning and symbolism attached to them. The author has brought out such connections so beautifully. It was so fascinating to read about the different Yugas and how culture and societal rules had shifted significantly.

A few favorite passages:

"Choice of response, and the obligation of facing its consequences, rests solely with the jiiva."

"Culture can exist only when nature is domesticated."

"Domestication of the mind involves balancing desire with duty, instinct with intellect, urges with responsibilities."

"For the stillness of the soul to make sense, there is a need for the restlessness of energy."

Do pick up this book if you are new to mythology or would like a refresher :)

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