If you’re a reader then The Pregnant King, by Devdutt Pattanaik is a book that will compel you to delve right in. The book is Pattanaik’s first work of fiction and takes an analytical yet contemporary view on Indian mythology. The book will give you something to think about and open up your mind to different levels of possibilities.
The story of The Pregnant King revolves around King Yuvanshava of Vallabhi who wasn’t able to get children from his three wives. King Yuvanshava accidentally drinks a magical potion that’s meant for his three wives and gets pregnant.
After this, King Yuvanshava is left in a predicament as to whether he should refer to himself as a king, a mother, or a father. The tale is sparked of with a discussion between him and his mother Shilavati where she dissuades him from going into battle before producing a son who would possibly be his heir.
The book explores the landscape of the time politically and socially and notes how it was vital for the queens and queens at the time to follow through dharma which was the law that governs how people behave in a society. The law of dharma was enshrined as a sacred word that individuals had to follow without any modifications. Unfortunately, the rigidity of the rules created a perplexing situation where it was difficult to acknowledge a truth or logic that went against dharma.
Other than the exploration of dharma, the book also explores sexuality objectively in a way that expounds on lovemaking as much more than body actions and attractions. The characters used in the book do not express their emotions or love through sex.
In his book Pattanaik also explores other feelings that are emotionally tied to sexuality. This can be seen by King Yuvanshava’s dilemma in where he was placed by the gender-based constraints regulated by society.
One of the main questions raised by the book is the dilemma that one faces when they would like to experience life despite their gender. How would society view a man that openly and willingly want to live as a woman? What is the future like for a man who is emotionally attuned to feeling like a woman? Would society punish or accept such deviations from the “norm”?
Just like the society in the book refused to acknowledge Shilavati as the queen and decided to wait for Yuvanshava to be of age for the throne, would they now accept him and his dilemma of being King/father/mother? How about the child born of this situation; would society accept him as the true heir?
We see the dilemma of a King who is more inclined to be a mother to his child but because of dharma and societal standards, he has to be the father he knows he isn’t comfortable being to his child to guard his reputation as the King.
In his book, Pattanaik has also shared examples of other characters who have had the same dilemma in their lives by experiencing both womanhood and manhood in their physical bodies.
The story has managed to capture multiple essential attributes dominant in the Indian society such as the responsibility of dharma. While following the character of King Yuvanshava, there is high probability of readers wanting to know more about his transformation after his pregnancy.