Yayati by V S Khandekar | Book Review

Yayati, composed in the Marathi language by Shri Vishnu Sakharam Khandekar, was published in 1959. In this novel, the author has tried to show a mirror to society by looking at the life of King Yayati, son of Chandravanshi King Nahush, in the context of present times. The novel was awarded the Jnanpith in 1960 and the Sahitya Akademi Awards in 1974. The context has undoubtedly been taken from the legend, but the portrayal style of the author will make you think that ‘Yayati’ has become every man today. Khandekar Ji has also included parts of fiction in the composition, so it becomes necessary to read this novel and what is new in it that we do not know. So let’s find out.

Inspiration / The Impulse

I don’t remember exactly when, but maybe in the days when Mahabharata was telecast in Doordarshan, I had read some episode of ‘Yayati’ in the newspaper. I don’t remember much, but this story struck home in my mind – Puru, a son of King Yayati, had taken his youth and his old age by himself. Yayati had to lose his youth due to the curse of sage Shukracharya. Yayati had attained the youth of 1000 years from his son Puru, and in return, Puru got the old age of 1000 years. The question in my mind was what kind of father was Yayati who did not hesitate to take his son’s youth for his selfishness. Since then, the name ‘Yayati’ has been in my mind. Then when, fortunately, I got a chance to read the novel ‘Yayati’ by Shri Vishnu Sakharam Khandekar Ji, I didn’t miss it. Although this novel has a slightly different storyline from the original, the desire to know ‘Yayati’ inspired me to read it.

The Hook

नशे में धुत सारथी के हाथों से लगाम छूट जाती है । घोड़े बेकाबू होकर मनमानी दिशा में भाग खड़े होते हैं । रथ गहरी खाई में गिर कर चकनाचूर हो जाता है और उसमे बैठा धनुर्धर व्यर्थ प्राणों से हाथ धो बैठता है।


The original context of the novel ‘Yayati’ has been taken from Yatopakhyan of Adi Parva of Mahabharata. The author added many dimensions to this original context and took recourse to the power of imagination so that it could be relevant to the present times. It is the story of a king running after carnal and material desires whose craving could never be satisfied. In this story, the author has decently depicted the ongoing conflict in the main characters’ minds on ethical dimensions.
Three protagonists in the novel narrate their own stories. The author has told the same incident differently from the point of view of all three. The most prominent character is ‘Yayati,’ the son of the King of Hastinapur and the King of Chandravanshi Nahusha. He had an elder brother, Yeti, who was away from materialistic desires and had left the palace. The rest of the main characters are Shukracharya, the guru of the Asuras, his daughter Devyani, Asura king Vrishaparva and his daughter Sharmishtha. Sharmishtha and Devyani were childhood friends. Another character is Rishi Kumar Kacha, the son of Brihaspati, the guru of the gods, who was Yayati’s friend and Devayani’s attraction or love. Yayati and Sharmishtha’s son Puru also has a unique role in the story. Let’s speed up the story –
Yayati’s early life was not as smooth as that of princes. At a very young age, she learned she was fed the milk of a petty maidservant because her mother was more concerned about her beauty fading. He had found his mother selfish. She felt she had been denied her rights and was disillusioned with motherhood. Then when his father died, he became very disturbed and feared the truth of death. In such a weak time, to forget his sorrow, fear, and helplessness, he turned towards moral degradation and drowned in indulgence. Although he would have felt sorry for his weakness, his desires constrained him. He did not get happiness in palaces, but he had no other way.
Meanwhile, he also met his elder brother Yeti, from whom he came to know that there was a curse on his father that his children would never be happy. And for this reason, the Yeti had run away from home, becoming a happy sannyasi instead of a sad prince.
Later in the story, Yayati meets the sage son Kach, and they become friends. Kach is sent on behalf of the gods to receive Sanjeevani Vidya from Guru Shukracharya. Devyani Rishi Kumar, daughter of Guru Shukracharya, was attracted to Kach, but Kach rejected her offer. Devyani became very angry with this. Then something happened Yayati and Devyani got married, and Asura Kumari Sharmistha came to their palace as Devyani’s maidservant. Now, this incident is a turning point in this novel.
After all, what happened that the daughter of the Asura king had to become the maidservant of her friend? How was Puru born? Who and why had given that curse due to which Yayati was disturbed? Yayati also got another curse from Guru Shukracharya; what was it, and what were its reasons? Was Yayati’s craving ever satisfied? You have to read this novel to know the answer to all these questions.


न जातु कामः कामानुपभोगेन शाम्यति।
हविषा कृष्णवर्त्मेव भूय एवाभिवर्धते॥       

Just as pouring ghee into the fire, it ignites more; similarly, by enjoying it, desire is not quenched; on the contrary, it gets ignited.
From this verse of Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, the author has finished the novel, and in my view, this is the most effective teaching from Yayati.

What I liked

Novels like ‘Yayati’ are not composed again and again. Very effective writing, proper pace, use of precise words, and smooth novel flow will be called the skill of a creator. Many thanks to Shri Khandekar ji.
How he created a beautiful composition like ‘Yayati,’ combining imagination and psychological perspective in a mythological context. After reading, it felt as if the author had brought ‘Yayati’ to the present time because today’s person is a kind of Yayati who is running away to quench his craving. The craving is not disappearing but increasing. is going.
What I liked the best about the novel ‘Yayati’ is that the story is going on. Still, along with the story, the author has thought about the rationality or not of every event or its consequences, which going on in the inner characters of characters. He has made an awe-inspiring presentation. Also, the same event is depicted from different perspectives of different characters. If Yayati is narrating his story, then the reaction he is giving to an incident; The author has shown in detail all the feelings or arguments that are coming into his mind at that time.
In this novel, the author has beautifully depicted almost all the emotions arising in the human mind. The detailed depiction of the feelings of fear, anguish, anguish, inferiority complex, pain, lust, love, anxiety, selfishness, greed, and defeat arising in Yayati’s mind will surely touch your mind.
The characters’ different personalities, which at times change surprisingly, show just how complex a human being is. The author has drawn it with great ease. While reading the story, similar arguments and feelings often arise in our minds. In my opinion, the author has portrayed the emotions of the three main characters best and has done justice to the characters of all three.
The skillful portrayal of the mental conflict and the precise expression of emotion has given this novel a psychological perspective apart from a straightforward narrative that makes ‘Yayati’ wacky.

What I didn't like

‘Yayati’ is undoubtedly a beautiful composition, but while reading, I constantly felt a sense of despair. I could not get attached to the story’s main characters because they were created like this. Generally, the attachment that arises toward some or the other character of the novel motivates us to read the novel till the end. In ‘Yayati,’ I fell in love with the writing, not the characters. This is the beautiful writing of Shri Vishnu Sakharam Khandekar Ji, which keeps us bound till the end. If the writing had not been so refined, then justice would not have been done to the novel… because you will not fall in love with the character ‘Yayati,’ and maybe no one would like to be like him. If I discuss it deeply, it is the author’s victory that after reading the novel in our mind, we feel that we do not have to do this. The truth is that this is what we all do in our lives – that’s all; we are busy satisfying our cravings. Somewhere craving for power, craving for money, somewhere craving for the name. Everyone is engaged in the gratification of craving. Where is the end of this… no one knows.


In my opinion, Yayati is a must-read. The story may be mythological, but even in today’s time, this incident fits equally well. There is an incomparable depiction of the characters’ emotions and perspectives toward the incident. Therefore, by reading ‘Yayati’, we can understand what we should not do in life to some extent.
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