Author of best-selling books on mythologies, Devdutt Pattanaik stands out for his ability to break down ancient Hindu texts and scriptures for easy understanding of the common man, and for his ability to make connections between mythologies and our forever-in-churn 21st-century lives.
Pattanaik’s books on Hindu gods and goddesses, myths and mythologies speak of the necessity to foster a more accommodating temperament and an inclusive space for debate, disagreement, change and diversity. Some of his most popular books include Myth=Mithya: Decoding Hindu Mythology, The Book of Ram, Sita: The Girl Who Chose, My Hanuman Chalisa, Jaya, My Gita and Sita. His most recent book, Shyam: An Illustrated Retelling of the Bhagavata, brought out by Penguin India, is the story of Krishna’s life.
Pattanaik is our guest at the Express Adda. A prolific writer, with over 40 books to his credit, Pattanaik has also written for a younger readership. Some of his children’s books include Pashu: Animals in Hindu Mythology, Hanuman’s Ramayana and Devlok Omnibus. Before turning to a career in writing, the Mumbai-based mythologist had trained in medicine and worked in the healthcare industry for over a decade.
One of India’s leading mythologists and cultural consultants, what sets Pattanaik apart is his willingness to engage in dialogues and his appreciation of multiple interpretations of India’s mythologies. He has been an advocate of metaphorical readings of ancient texts — including The Ramayana — that look beyond rigid liturgical adherence. In urging his readership to engage with ancient scriptures, he has repeatedly spoken about the value of wisdom and knowledge in combating ego and ignorance. Pattanaik, who has always spoken about the easy acceptance of homosexuality in ancient India, that he says was indicative of the country’s wider — and more inclusive — gender spectrum, also supported the LGBTQI rights movement in India and the recent reading down of Section 377 by the Supreme Court of India.
On Tuesday evening, as part of Express Adda, a series of informal interactions organised by The Indian Express group with those at the centre of change, Pattanaik will be in conversation with Pratik Kanjilal, Literary Editor, The Indian Express. Previous guests at the Adda have included politicians such as Nirmala Sitharaman, P Chidambaram, former President Pranab Mukherjee, economist Amartya Sen, actors Tabu, Rajkummar Rao, Anushka Sharma and Swara Bhasker, filmmaker and music director Vishal Bhardwaj, Carnatic vocalist T M Krishna, and conservationist Romulus Whitaker, among others.