(Paperback | ISBN 9789387693692 | 320 pp | June 2018)
A long time ago, in a far-off kingdom, a boy and a girl, born on the same day, were destined to be together—and then painfully wrenched apart. The boy was Siddhattha, heir to the Sakya kingdom and the future Buddha; the girl was the beautiful and precocious Yasodhara, his friend who became his loving wife.
In this exquisitely crafted narrative, we encounter Yasodhara as a fiercely independent, passionate and resilient individual. We witness her joys and sorrows, her expectations and frustrations, her fairy-tale wedding, and her overwhelming devastation at the departure of her beloved.
It is through her eyes that we witness Siddhattha’s slow transformation, from a sheltered prince to a deeply sensitive young man. On the way, we see how the gods watch over the future Buddha from the clouds, how the king and his ministers try to keep the suffering of the world from him and how he eventually renounces the throne, his wife and newly-born son to seek enlightenment.
Resurrecting a forgotten woman from the origin stories of the Buddha, Vanessa R. Sasson combines the spirit of fiction and the fabulism of Indian mythology with impeccable scholarship, to tell the evocative and deeply moving story of an extraordinary life.
‘Yasodhara is a kind of Buddhist Arabian Nights that swirls around the story of the Buddha from the illuminating point of view of his wife—when he was still Prince Siddhattha—giving it an emotional and artistic unity. Anchored in Sasson’s scholarly knowledge of the texts, this novel is a work of truly imaginative fiction that captures the diverse spirit of the ancient Indian narrative world.’—Wendy Doniger