Mythology as Graphic Novel
Subhadra Sen Gupta
ARANYAKA: BOOK OF THE FOREST by Story & Art by Amruta Patil. Concept: Devdutt Pattanaik Tranquebar, 2019, 184 pp., 699. 00
July 2020, volume 44, No 7

In the Rig Veda the rishi-poets reserved the sun and moon, the sacred fire, thunder and lightning for the macho male gods and only gave the forests to a goddess—Aranyani.  In a beautiful hymn she is described as an elusive and very beautiful woman whose presence can only be felt through the sound of her anklets. Amruta Patil’s forest goddess Katyayani is a very different creature. This down to earth Aranyani, living in Vedic times, has wild curly hair; large Durga-like eyes and a voluptuous body. She can be mysterious and enigmatic but is also generous and open. Patil’s  Katyayani is Mother Earth and so she is ignored and taken for granted by the superior, male intellectuals of the forests—the sage-rishis.

The books called the Aranyakas are part of the later Vedas like the Brahmanas and the Upanishads and are said to be the work of scholars who lived in the forest in ashrams, therefore the name Aranyaka—‘of the forest’. Katyayani is also of the forest, in its role as a provider of food and shelter and she knows the forest in a way the rishis, expounding impossible to understand theories like advaita and shunya, never learn to do. The rishis don’t really understand nature, she does.

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