Saiswaroopa’s 'Rukmini': The Shakti Who Holds Fort In Krishna's Absence

Santhi Pasumarthi

Jul 17, 2021, 02:45 PM | Updated 02:45 PM IST

Saiswaroopa Iyer’s 'Rukmini'
Saiswaroopa Iyer’s 'Rukmini'
  • The book shows a strong and feisty Rukmini, who is well versed in Shastras, always standing up to adharma and taking every challenge thrown in her way.
  • Rukmini: Krishna's Wife. Saiswaroopa Iyer. Roopa Publications. 254 Pages. Rs. 266 (paperback)

    My initial thoughts when Saiswaroopa announced her next novel to be Rukmini was of disbelief.

    There was not much written about Rukmini apart from her famed marriage to Krishna and the Parijatapaharanam/Tulabharam saga.

    This had to be the toughest one yet, I thought. But she pulled it off in style. I was lucky to read it twice in a span of eight months.

    I have been wary of Puranic fiction, with the liberties taken by contemporary authors both in print and on screen.

    The characters morph so much that there is not even a semblance of the original. The depth of characterisation as visualised by the Rishis is hardly kept in mind.

    One needs a lot of reverence for the Rishis and their work when picking topics from Aarsha-vaangmaya.

    We see that reverence in this author’s works and she is going to inspire many to do that way. Always working within the framework of Dharma, she embellishes the characters keeping their core and maintaining the ideals intact.

    The book shows a strong and feisty Rukmini, who is well versed in Shastras, always standing up to adharma and taking every challenge thrown in her way.

    This has been the case with the protagonists of her other novels too but each has their own unique identity.

    The prologue of the book is sure to shock the reader. And the part one deals with Rukmini’s wedding to Krishna. Is there the famed letter that is described in seven beautiful verses in the Bhagavatam and considered to be the first love-letter in our literature?

    The adventurous nature of the wedding lends itself to a lot of improvisation and this is developed further wonderfully. Meanwhile, Rukmini does everything from eavesdropping to spying and much more.

    While part one is thrilling to read, it is the post-wedding life of Rukmini that is a challenge. The author’s imagination, knowledge of Mahabharata come to the fore here.

    ‘Escaping the wedding with Shishupala is the end of my battle? Is that the end of my story?’ she asks Krishna.

    Was that the author asking herself? How does this feisty, strong Rukmini deal with having many co-wives? What can justify that? Was she weighed down by the troubled relationship with her paternal home of Vidarbha? And what about the differences she saw between a monarchical setting she grew up in and the Yadava confederacy?

    You will find the answers and will also agree with the interpretation.

    Rukmini eases into her role of being the head of Krishna’s household and taking up many responsibilities. Trying to second-guess Krishna all the time is not easy and Krishna’s responses are a delight.

    We all know how Krishna is portrayed by Saiswaroopa, don’t we? Their relationship takes peculiar turns in the backdrop of cataclysmic events that continue to plague Bharatavarsha and this becomes a journey of self-doubt, insecurities and finally self-discovery for Rukmini.

    In all this tumult around Dwaraka and in Bharata, a weary Rukmini not only plays Krishna in his absence but also finds ways to humour herself! Saiswaroopa’s descriptions of fights are always enjoyable. And there are these little bytes of philosophy you will find interspersed in various conversations.

    Read Rukmini for all these and more.

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