Yoshika Sangal | August 16, 2016
Devdutt Pattanaik is a physician turned mythologist, author and consultant. He has written over 600 articles and 30 books on the relevance of sacred stories, symbols and rituals in modern times. Born and brought up in Mumbai, he graduated in medicine from Grant Medical College, and subsequently did a course in comparative mythology from Mumbai University. His best-sellers include Myth = Mithya, Business Sutra, Shikhandi, The Pregnant King, and Jaya: An illustrated retelling of the Mahabharata. His recent book The Girl Who Chose reframes the Ramayana as the story of the five choices of Sita.
You are a physician. What inspired you to become a writer, mythologist?
I wrote on mythology in my spare time while working in the pharma industry for nearly 15 years and then when I could afford to, following the popularity of my ideas, I turned full-time to mythology.
Have youngsters lost interest in mythology?
I don’t think any generation loses interest in it. Mythology, at a superficial level, appeals to the imagination. At a deeper level, it offers meaning.
As long as people seek meaning, they will seek mythology. In India, there was a conscious effort by the government to deny its mythic past and focus on history/science. The same happened in Europe and America. But myths always come back with renewed vigour.
What is the difference or connection between mythology and religion?
Mythology is the subjective truth of people communicated by stories, symbols and rituals. Religion is a set of rules based on a mythology. While mythology helps a community imagine the world in a particular way, religion seeks to control the behaviour of people in a particular way.
Is religion being misused?
Religion, like science and technology, can be used, abused and misused. It happens simultaneously, all the time.
How is religion relevant in the present context?
In every context religion helps people make sense of life. In earlier times, it established kings as agents of a supernatural God. Or it established a hierarchy based on birth or gender. Currently, it is based on nation-states. Nationalism is a form of religion, based on democracy, not God.
Instead of God, we are asked to believe in the wisdom of ‘people’, a collective yet impersonal entity created by members of a society.
When did you last cast your vote?
In the last general elections.
When was the last time you were in a queue at a government office?
For my Aadhaar card.
Do you have any ‘sarkari’ app on your smart phone?
No, I don’t. I have accessed the Aadhaar portal though.
Where do you see India 10 years from now?
In the same situation as today; suffering from inequality, vote-bank politics and bad planning.
What according to you are the major challenges India is facing?
The glamourisation of urbanisation is essentially what is ruining India.
What is your message to youngsters?
Think for yourself. Don’t listen to messages.
Who do you think can lead the country best from among politicians?
It depends on context and direction. The idea of ‘leader’ is based on Abrahamic mythology and the notion of the Promised Land. It is not found in Hindu, Buddhist or Jain mythology.
In India, leaders are indulged, not followed. Indians tend to be like cats, independent, who resist herding, not dogs, who obey and follow, despite popular perception.
The interview appears in the August 1-15, 2016 issue
Patients and health groups came together in Delhi to voice concerns over the unethical practices of private hospitals, which they say are a direct outcome of the regulatory vacuum, allowing them to monetize the vulnerability of patients. The study of the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) tha
The UP investors’ summit has received an overwhelming response. On the opening day, Wednesday, 1,045 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) worth Rs 4.28 trillion were signed at the summit – and as it closes today the figure is only going to go up. With big-ticket investments from
After becoming the brand ambassador for Punjab National Bank in 2016, cricket star Virat Kohli has appeared in advertisements promoting a variety of loans. Now that PNB is in deep soup over an alleged Rs 11,400 crore scandal, Kohli is expected to end his contract with the bank. That may not be fair.
Kamal Hassan, who launched his political party Makkal Needhi Maiam on Wednesday, has acted in films with political themes or making a social commentary. Here are four of them: 1) Hey Ram!: He plays the role of a would-be assassin of Mahatma Gandhi who changes his mind and decid
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), for all its talk of high ideals, had an image problem right from its inception: that it was a motley crew of politically naïve people. When the going was good, this image came very handy. Arvind Kejriwal and Co. were seen as a fresh new alternative to the usual run-of-the-mi
Prime minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman are in the midst of one direct attack, one insidious insinuation and a special kind of offensive. These concerted actions have emerged after both firmly showed their hand and spoke their mind on going down the indigenous path for most o