Yayati by V.S Khandekar is the modern retelling of King Yayati’s story from Mahabharatha.
Yayati was the king of Hastinapur who married Devayani the daughter of Sukracharya.
He was the son of Nahusha who was cursed for insulting the sages on his victory over Indra.
Yayati’s life was tormented by his unending desire of women. This novel retells the story as a series of recollections from three main characters in the story, Yayati , Devayani and Sharmishta.
Yayati life is filled with continuous oscillation between desire passion on one side and contemplation, love and understanding. He is introduced to the fascination of love through his childhood relationship with Alka , who is eventually vanished when Yayati’s mother knows her closeness to the king. Yayati sees her dying due to the only fault of being born in a lowly caste and getting closer to Yayati. This creates a lasting impression on Yayati’s young psyche.
Yayati in his young age is introduced to the character of Kacha who is a sage and student of Angiras who is undergoing deep penance and is highly knowledgeable in philosophy and religion. Kacha makes a favorable impression on Yayati as he looks upon Kacha as inspiring friend.
As the feud between the asuras and devas , Kacha is asked to get the sanjeevini from Sukracharya and he joins sukracharya as the disciple and finally learns of the Sanjeevini.
Kacha and Devayani fall in love but Kacha forgoes devayani over duty which completely hurts devayani’s fragile ego.
As it goes Yayati meets Devayani on the fateful day when Sharmishta the daughter of Vrishapavarna insults Devayani and pushes her into the well. Devayani and Yayati fall in love as they seen in each of them the mirror image , beautiful and each of them are passionately in loev with themselves. Devayani hurt by the insinuation of Sharmishta, makes her father ask Vrishapavarna to marry devayani to Yayati and make Sharnishta as her maid.
With this eventful day’s activities lives of these three people Yayati, Devayani and Sharmishta gets entangled in a life of misery. Yayati and Devayani’s conjugal lives eventually falls out mainly due to the extreme egoism of Devayani. Yayati could not feel the love that his soul seems to be yearning for and eventually builds incestuous and secret relationship with Sharnishta.
Sharmishta and Yayati find the lasting happiness and conjugal fulfillment that both of them seem to be yearning. And Yayati for once seems to have find what he seems to be yearning for.
Albeit it is short lived as Devayani finds out this relationship, Sharmishta is forced to fled with her son Puru on one eventful night not to see Yayati for 18 miserable years.
Yayati falls to degenerate levels living by wine and women every day for eighteen years.
His complete degeneration is an act of vengeance, retribution and destruction of one soul.
From this lowly depths he is saved from the meeting of Sharmista and Puru and the curse of Sukracharya. Yayati and Devayani realize the value of loving sacrifice and the essence of love by the action of Puru at the ending when he comes forward and accepts Yayati’s curse and is ready to sacrifice the country to Yadu the son of Devayani.