The Dharma of Unfaithful Wives and Faithful Jackals


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How did Brahma create alluring women, and for what purpose? Why did the righteous King Bhangashvana choose womanhood? How did the sage Markandeya’s pupil prevent his guru’s wife from committing adultery? What role did Indra play in the births of Vishvamitra and Parashu Rama? How were death, diseases, desire and anger created? Why and how did the institution of kingship come about? What can one learn from the mouse who escaped the cat, the owl, the mongoose and the hunter; or the wise jackal who was betrayed by the lion king? Why did Shiva swallow Shukra, the guru of the Asuras?

Embedded within the lengthy discourse on dharma in the Shanti and Anushasana Parvans of the Mahabharata are answers to a whole range of such questions—moral lessons from a dying Bhishma to King Yudhishthira, on life, death and everything in between. The Dharma of Unfaithful Wives and Faithful Jackals is a highly entertaining selection of these tales—tangled at times, insightful at others, yet always quirky—about women, both good and bad, fathers and sons, kings, gods and kings of gods, and fables. The perceptive translations by Wendy Doniger, hailed as ‘the greatest living mythologist’, are a treat for anyone fascinated by the bewildering complexity of Hindu myth and lore.

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