Until I met M, I had considered my knowledge of our mythology to be pretty good. Thats when I was introduced to Krishnavatara, an eight volume compendium of the life of Krishna by Kanhaiyalal Maniklal Munshi, popularly known as Kulapati, the founder of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and one of the architects of our constitution.
Te book itself is a beauty. Simple in style and language, Munshi de-mystifies Krishna the God and presents the miracle worker in an almost human form. In a split second, Krishna becomes one of us, humans, bringing him that much closer, that much more accessible.
Consider this: the working of Krishna's divine weapon, the Sudarshana Chakra, is laid out to be a cleverly forged discus, that operates much on the same principle as a boomerang does: it flies out, hits the target, and returns to the thrower. Its sharp, serrated edges added to the lethal impact! Munshi goes on to explain that Krishna was such an expert at using it that with just one flick of the forefinger, he could whirl it and throw at the intended target with absolute accuracy. And it never failed to return to his forefinger!
The work is also a masterpiece in that it lays out the elaborate plot of the Mahabharata in a simpler fashion: it is now far simpler to look through the machinations and motives of the various key characters. The skill of Krishna as a master strategist who foresaw every situation and event as a result of his logical judgement and pre-empted them with political acumen that would put present day politicians to shame is excellently prtrayed.
There is a certain degree of divergence from other popular versions of the Mahabharata; however, I guess it is a matter of individual judgement and . Having not studied Vyasa's original, I am in no position to comment on that.
The series is however commendable in the way it puts the story of Krishna, why, Krishna himself, within the reach of the commonest of people. You don't need to be a learned scholar to understand Him here.
Munshi intended to write the story of Krishna upto the point when He reveals Himself in all His Cosmic Vishwarupa glory; however, he passed away while the eighth volume was still in progress - the story had not even reached the game of dice that the Pandavas and Kauravas played. Who knows, what other mysteries Munshi would have unravelled in those unwritten volumes!
The seven series volume (the publishers decided to add the unfinished eighth volume as an appendix to the seventh) is available at all Bhavan's book stores (that's how the bookstores of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan are popularly known) and are very economically priced. There is a Bhavan's book store in Mumbai near Chowpatty, in the lane that runs adjacent to Wilson College. The shop assistant here is a fabulous guy and will guide you to the book you want - he knows all the books stocked there, and probably a synopsis of each, by heart!