Mythology is that realm of literature where flights of fancy take on a whole new level. Greek mythology is no exception. Teeming with gods, demi-gods, nymphs, sirens, monsters and heroes, it’s as enthralling as any modern-day fantasy fiction, if not more. It’s what we call ‘mythological fiction’.
There have been several western scholars who have ‘explained’ Hindu mythology, but hardly any Indian scholars who have attempted to explore–let alone explain–western mythologies. While Devdutt Pattanaik isn’t a scholar, he has dabbled extensively in mythology. Having written several retellings of Hindu epics, Pattanaik has now attempted an Indian retelling of Greek myths. Olympus offers an Indian perspective to understanding Grecian culture, rather than Greek mythology in isolation.
From the author’s notes to the epilogue and everything in between, Olympus has a wealth of cultural, philosophical, and of course, mythological knowledge for the reader. Pattanaik has the reader hooked right from the prologue. It opens with the legendary Greek King Alexander meeting an ascetic in ancient India. The ascetic asks Alexander of the land he hails from and its tales. The entire book is the resulting narration by Alexander.
The book itself is segregated into chapters dedicated to the stories of various Greek gods–Zeus, Athena, Aphrodite, Apollo, Dionysus and many more. The stories not only tell the tales of the birth of these gods, but also of Grecian beliefs regarding intelligence, justice, fertility, worship, fate, and time among others.
Pattanaik ensures his reader feeds on profound food for thought, sometimes by drawing analogies between Greek and Hindu myths, and at other times by contextualising the stories with the Grecian worldview.