Gods who test kings and queens, princes who engage in tough penance, lazy philosophers—Sudha Murty’s latest book is peppered with vibrant myths and legends. The Sage With Two Horns: Unusual Tales From Mythology, published by Puffin India, is the last volume in her collection of books—The Man From The Egg, The Serpent’s Revenge, among others—that encapsulate different aspects of Indian mythology. This book, with black and white illustrations by Priyankar Gupta, features fascinating stories that have faded from attention over time.
Most of us may have heard of Rishi Dhaumya, the Pandavas’ priest, the healers Ashvini Kumars and the serpent Takshaka. But do we know what happens in their lives as they flit in and out of the main narratives of the Ramayana and Mahabharata?
Or, do you know why clouds in the desert are called Uttanka Megha? Well, it’s because Indra was so pleased with the efforts of Uttanka, a young acolyte who toiled hard to get a pair of earrings for his guru mata, that the king of gods blessed him with a boon. “He (Uttanka) could easily call upon water from the rain clouds any time he wished. So he wandered the desert ensuring rain when people were suffering…. Today, these rain clouds in the desert are still known as Uttanka Megha,” writes Murty.
One also gets to hear the stories behind sculptures and artworks. Murty sheds light, for instance, on why we see so many statues of Kannagi—an angry lady with open hair, holding an anklet—in Tamil Nadu. Some stories, like that of Nachiketa, who was freed by Yama from the cycle of life and death, will make young readers ponder deep, philosophical questions. Some of the myths have rather complex underlying themes about justice and faith but Murty’s narrative makes them accessible to youngsters. She simply narrates the tales, leaving the children to interpret them in their own ways.