Aditi Banerjee’s 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑪𝒖𝒓𝒔𝒆 𝒐𝒇 𝑮𝒂𝒏𝒅𝒉𝒂𝒓𝒊 is an introspective retelling of Mahabharata and how Gandhari and Krishna’s fate intertwined to end in a Curse that destroyed Krishna’s tribe and caused his untimely death.
Banerjee helps us look at this epic through Gandhari’s eyes- A woman of immense virtue, meant for a greater destiny but a failure as a queen and a mother. Gandhari has been condemned time and again for the choices she made, for choosing to be blind so she could stand with her husband as an equal, for raising sons who brought adharma to Earth leading to a war that claimed thousands of lives and for grieving for her children despite the evil soul they possessed. As Gandhari takes us through her solitary journey as a wife, a queen and a mother and how she brought the entire kingdom to the doors of destruction, we readers are informed of the events that led to the war of Kurukshetra and precisely at what moment Gandhari lost control over everything.
Themes like empowerment and redemption are not seen in this story. The author keeps the matter simple, the sole focus being on Gandhari and Krishna’s equation. Gandhari, a grieving mother has always been intimidated by Krishna and despite knowing the fact that he is a God, hold him responsible for misleading the Pandavas, bending the laws of Dharma and finally causing the demise of all 100 of her sons. But God always has a plan chalked out for themselves, don’t they?
For me, the highlight of the book was the conversations between Gandhari and Kunti. Gandhari loved the children but failed to discipline them whereas Kunti raised 5 of her sons as proud, self-righteous princes while abandoning one for the fear of losing her husband. Both of them have always been at odds, holding each other responsible for their respective losses. Banerjee molds their conversation on their last day on Earth into something meaningful, another act of penance they need to perform and that is to forgive each other.
Banerjee believes that Gandhari is an unconventional heroine, a woman respected and loved by the Gods and someone who isn’t as black and white as the world makes her be. ‘The Curse of Gandhari’ aims to show this aspect of Gandhari’s character and it succeeds, maybe not immensely but enough to make us see perspective and logic, what drives a person to make certain choices and Gandhari deserves to be remembered for who she truly was-a woman with an iron will, capable of loving her family unconditionally and bearing responsibility for her actions.
Blurb (as on Goodreads):
Gandhari has one day left to live. As she stares death in the face, her memories travel back to the beginning of her story, to life’s unfairness at every point: A fiercely intelligent princess who wilfully blindfolded herself for the sake of her peevish, visually-impaired husband; who underwent a horrible pregnancy to mother one hundred sons, each as unworthy as the other; whose stern tapasya never earned her a place in people’s hearts, nor commanded the respect that Draupadi and Kunti attained; who even today is perceived either as an ingratiatingly self-sacrificing wife or a bad mother who was unable to control her sons and was, therefore, partly responsible for the great war of the Mahabharata.
In this insightful and sensitive portrayal, Aditi Banerjee rescues Gandhari from being reduced to a mere symbol of her blindfold. She builds her up, as Ved Vyasa did, as an unconventional heroine of great strength and iron will – who, when crossed, embarked upon a complex relationship with Lord Krishna, and became the queen who cursed a God.