Ashtamahishi: The Eight Wives of Krishna by Radha Viswanath: Review

Book: Ashtamahishi: The Eight Wives of Krishna

Author: Radha Viswanath

Publisher: Rupa

Pages:

Price: Rs 190

Krishna, the epitome of love, is a playful god in the pantheon of Hindu mythology. Here, Krishna’s ‘playfulness’ is not seen as quotidian frivolity, but is revered as celestial love. Krishna is the most relatable god in the Eastern consciousness, precisely, in Hindu mythology and collective psyche. Jaydev writes in his Geet Govind: Premashru atyapi Krishnaste dwaarapi (To understand love, imbibe the loving spirit of Lord Krishna).

When a mythological character’s love is depicted, it’s often delineated as a metaphor, known in Sanskrit as Avgunthanam Preeti (Love in shades). Krishna’s persona manifests love in shades as he had scores of women falling for him. He had Radha, who’s seen as a part of Krishna’s consciousness: Radhey iti Krihnaam chetanasya.

And he had Eight wives as well. To contextualise it from love’s perspective and also from human life’s totality, Krishna’s role as an eternal lover is that of a juggler, albeit invested with divine attributes.

Radha Viswanath (isn’t the author’s name a quintessence of incidental irony as Krishna’s greatest love was always Radha?) has delved into texts and tomes to find the descriptions of Krishna’s Eight wives, who remained with him through thick and thin, sick and sin.

Indian mythology is not draconian. At times, it’s also mildly and playfully irreverential. ‘Acceptable frivolity with a tinge of flippancy made Hindu mythology endearing to its followers,’ wrote S Narayan Shastri, whose erudite commentaries on eighteen Puranas are still unchallenged.

The all-encompassing compassion of Krishna embraced all women in its fold, whether she was Jambavant’s adopted daughter or Kubja, a character with a hunch, cured by Krishna’s touch. Here, Krishna’s love is not to be deemed as something erotic or lustful. It’s the love of a character who shelters all: Krishna premasya dwarasth dadapi.

Radha has beautifully interwoven and merged the lives of all Eight wives into the Oceanic love of Krishna, the divine lover and husband in her book ‘Ashtamahishi.’

This slim book doesn’t let the reader feel bored at any point. It’s interesting to note from the Numero-Occult angle of Tantra (Krishna is also known as the greatest Occult of occultists). Number 8 played a vital role in Krishna’s life. He was the Eighth child of Devki. He had 16,100 gopikas as his admirers (the total of 16,100 is 8) and he had Eight wives. Number 8 is known as the number of Occult Sciences and Arcane Practices.

On the flip side, there seems to be a spate in mythological titles in recent times. The trend was started by Devdutt Patnayak, Amish Tripathi and their ilk. Radha also jumped onto the bandwagon with her ‘mythological re-characterization’ of Krishna. This trend is becoming a bit boring. Yet, a good read for those whose favourite genre is mythology and who dote on Krishna.

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