7 Quotes From Devdutt Pattanaik’s ‘Shyam’ That’ll Make You Want To Read It Right Now!

As kids, they were just stories. Stories of a charming boy called Krishna, who grew up to become a fascinating figure and went on to achieve impossible feats. But as you grow up and take another look at these childhood stories, you realise just how much there is to them that you haven’t ever considered. An entire, expansive mythology with universal themes, intricate character details and most importantly, lessons that lend themselves into the modern life as well.

If there is a man who knows how to brilliantly mould mythology into the most suitable retelling for the modern readership, it is Devdutt Pattanaik. And with his next feature, titled “Shyam”, he ventures into the Hindu mythology of Krishna, with these wonderful illustrations to go along.

Here are some of the best quotes from the brilliant book!


No ordinary child, this one. He was the child foretold.

“On a dark and stormy night, as the wind howled and blew out all the lamps in the city and rains lashed the countryside, in the light of the waning moon, Vasudev’s eighth child quietly slipped out of Devaki’s womb.

It was a boy. Dark as the night in which he was born. Dark as the rain clouds that covered the sky.
Devaki experienced no birthing pains. The baby did not cry, instead he smiled and gurgled with excitement. In a flash of lightning, Vasudev noticed that the child had four symbols on his body—conch, discus, mace and lotus. This was no ordinary child, he realized. This was the child foretold. This was Vishnu, infinity on earth.”

He’s known by many names, with a story behind them all.

Bhagavata, the story of bhagavan, he who feeds the hungry, who comforts the frightened, who enlightens the ignorant, who is father and mother, mother and father. Bhagavan is Vishnu to sages, Govinda to cowherds, Krishna to kings, and Shyam for those who yearn for love.”

The incredible adventures of his miraculous childhood.

Vyasa told Shuka, ‘Some tried to hurt him, he who cannot be hurt. Some tried to protect him, he who needs no protection. Let these tales make you sing lullabies for Shyam who sleeps in the cradle.'”

He defeats his enemies, but never without compassion.

“Shyam, however, found great enjoyment in the episode. He simply slipped out of Kaliya’s coils, then jumped up and landed on the serpent’s hood. Holding Kaliya firmly by his tail, he began to dance. The waters of the river splashed along the banks to provide the music. Under the relentless pounding of Shyam’s feet, Kaliya had to accept defeat. Kaliya’s wives begged Shyam to let their husband live.

‘You must leave this river,’ ordered Shyam.

Kaliya argued, ‘Ah, Shyam, you make the river safe for your cowherds by sending me into danger. Have you ever wondered why I choose to stay in these dark waters, bathed in my own poison? Why I resist leaving these waters? Here I am safe. No one can see a dark serpent in the dark waters of the Yamuna. But as soon as I leave, as you command, I will be attacked and killed by Garuda, the eagle, who feeds on my kind. Will you let me die to protect cowherds? Is Vishnu the protector of all or just a chosen few?’

Shyam promised Kaliya that Garuda would not harm him or his wives. Kaliya then left the Yamuna and from that day the bend of the river became safe for the people of Vrindavana and their cows.”

A particularly fascinating part of the legend.

“To protect Shyam from invisible, dark, malevolent forces, Yashoda was advised to dress her son as a girl. ‘Ghosts fear girls but feed on boys,’ the village elders told her.”

“Shyam was for one and all.”

Shyam appeared not as one but as many, singular and infinite simultaneously. There was one Shyam for each gopi and they let their senses enjoy his beauty, and let him be nourished by their emotions. They let him see their desires and fears, their pettiness and their frustrations. There was nothing to hide, nothing to explain.

He was with everyone at the same time, in different places. There was individual joy as well as collective satisfaction. The gopis realized that Shyam was for one and all.”

The legend of Narsimha – A lesson on strength and cunning.

“Hiranakashipu had earned a boon by which he could not be killed by man or beast, inside the house or outside, during the day or at night, on the ground below or in the air above, by weapon or tool. And so Vishnu appeared before him as Narasimha, a creature that is half human and half lion, thus neither fully man nor fully beast. He dragged the asura to the threshold, which is neither inside nor outside a dwelling, at twilight, which is neither day nor night, placed him on his lap, which is neither on the ground nor in the air, and ripped him with his claws, which are neither a weapon nor a tool.



This article is written in partnership with Penguin Random House, India.