A Cloverdale author has put a new twist on an historical epic.
Manu Nellutla has reached back to his roots to tell a different side of the Mahabharata. The Mahabharata is a famous Sanskrit epic detailing the battle between two sets of cousins in the Kurukshetra War, a war in northern India thousands of years ago.
Nellutla’s new book, Janya Bharata: The War, is historical fiction and tells a story related to the Kurukshetra War from the point of view of common people.
“The Mahabharata is written from the royals’ perspective, kings and queens and what happens between them,” explained Nellutla. “And I was thinking, ‘What was happening in the rest of India at the time?’ We always looks at war form the point of view of royalty, or generals, or leading politicians—the major players, if you will—but what about the commoners? What about that other side?”
Nellutla searched around, but couldn’t find any stories related to any other tribes or people at that time in other parts of India. That’s when he got the idea to write a story about what could have been happening elsewhere. He imagined a tribe that was called upon to fight in the battle of Kurukshetra.
So he started writing. At first he thought he’d just explore the idea by putting a few thoughts down on paper and seeing how the story evolved. But a short time later, he was staring at a 270-page book.
“The story is told from the commoners’ perspective,” Nellutla said. “Janya means common, or war, and Maha means great or epic. So it’s not ‘Maha’ Bharata, it’s ‘Janya’ Bharata. It’s very common bharata. It’s what was happening in the commoners’ lives in India at that time.”
The story revolves around a tribe that gets pulled into the Kurukshetra War. Nellutla explores the thoughts, feelings, discussions, and debates amongst the tribe members about why they are being pulled into this war. Through the journey, the reader finds out what happens to the men on the frontlines and those who remain at home and what they struggle with, both mentally and physically.
“There are also philosophical questions about war and the very real implications of what that means for the people,” explained Nellutla. “It looks at how the war affects common people, but keeping the Mahabharata in mind. So it’s a very different take.”
Janya Bharata: The War is for sale on Amazon and Nellutla said it’s still atop the “Hot New Releases and Best Sellers” for Indian Mythology books on Amazon after a few weeks.
Nellutla added the book has gotten a good response from readers familiar with Indian history and philosophy and also from those who aren’t so familiar. He said the book is very accessible to any reader. It’s written it in a way that readers can pick it up and dive right into the pages—one does not need to know anything about the Mahabharata ahead of time.
“Anyone can pick it up and start reading,” he said. “ The philosophy behind it, what happens with the war, and the questions that arise, are universal themes. They are just as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago.”
He said there is also a detailed prologue that opens a window into the Mahabharata.
“My kids have grown up here and they aren’t familiar with this epic,” explained Nellutla. “So I wrote Janya Bharata from the perspective that if my kids read this, or anyone else in the world that is familiar with the English language but not Indian history reads this, then they’ll be able to follow along and get something out of it.”
Nellutla was born and raised in India, lived and worked in Rwanda for six years, before moving to Cloverdale several years ago. Along with being and author, Nellutla is a TEDx speaker, a singer, a podcaster, and a public speaker. He is fluent in four languages.