Devdutt Pattanaik unravels Greek myths in his latest book
Europeans and Americans have retold Indic mythologies umpteen times but now mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik attempts to reverse the gaze by retelling Greek myths.books Updated: Nov 03, 2016 19:35 IST
Europeans and Americans have retold Indic mythologies umpteen times but now mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik attempts to reverse the gaze by retelling Greek myths.
His latest book, Olympus: An Indian Retelling of the Greek Myths, tries to decode the Greek mythology. Through it, he wants to show the difference between Greek and Hindu mythologies.
“Indic mythologies — Hindu, Buddhist and Jain — do not follow the linear structure that Greek storytellers (from chaos to cosmos) or Greek philosophers (from faith to reason) or Christian missionaries (from many gods to one God) or scientists and activists (from unjust feudal faith to fair egalitarian development) prefer. It has its own structure: a cyclical one,” the author says.
Western mythology, according to him, propagates the idea that the world is in need of changing, either by Greek heroes, or by Abrahamic prophets and kings, or by scientists, activists and capitalists.
“Indic mythology presents the idea that the world is constantly changing, human intervention notwithstanding. There are no heroes or villains, no oppressor or oppressed, no saviour or martyr, just different ways of looking at reality. That is why the West sees itself as masculine, active, decisive, violent and straightforward, and qualifies Indic ideas as feminine, passive, ambiguous, non-violent yet cunning,” he says.
“The West dismisses the Indic worldview as chaos, thus closing its mind to any new possibility but its own. Not surprisingly, there are many books by Western scholars that ‘explain’ Hindu mythology, but very few by Indian scholars that bother to ‘observe’ Western mythology. This book is an attempt to bridge that gap,” Pattanaik says.
He also says that modern Greek worldview force-fits Hindu mythology into Greek or Christianity templates.
“Thus Hindu devas become ‘phallic’ like Hermes, and ‘rapists’ like Zeus, and asuras are explained as Christian demons, or Greek Titans. So the worldview establishes that India is in the shadows and in need of sunlight. It dismisses all talk of rebirth as mere superstition, failing to see the impact of this idea on the Indic mind,” he says.
Pattanaik says he has simply presented his “truth of Greek myths” in his book, published by Penguin Random House.
“I do not claim objectivity; I am comfortable with subjectivity and well aware of my Indian gaze,” he says.
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First Published: Nov 03, 2016 19:33 IST