Kaivarthakhand may not considered as one of the major works of Mahaswethadevi. Its a short novella , less than 100 pages. This, to my knowledge has not been translated to English, yet. The internet do not have any references to this book and hence might not have been read widely. However, Leela Sarkar has done a neat translation of this into Malayalam and this book happened to be the last book I finished in 2012.
The book is short and comprises of the fall of emperor Bhima of Kaivartha against his enemies, through a treachery and the subsequent destruction of a mighty city build by the dynasty. In a fabulous retelling of the tale, Mahaswethadevi brings out the aftermaths through some great narrative, deploying some mastery techniques and language. It is not the story that is attractive, its the process of story telling. The construct of the whole disaster that hit the Kaivartha. The King was captured and was subjected to witness the beheading of the entire family and clan, before they do the honors to him. However, the women folks decided to end their life on their own instead of allowing the captures and their pimps to kill them, by consuming poison. Emperor himself was a symbol of pride and dignity, refuse to succumb to the imminent fate. The town was deserted with the populace decided to flee instead of being ruled by the new King. The learnt Vidura, the Town Scholar, who did the last rites of the deceased, decided to succumb to the death awaits him, to join his clan. The traitor, who was pardoned by the dead King earlier, found resistance in his endeavor within his group as well as his new friends. As expected, he too fall victim to his own cruel games.
The book is not important for the tale. It is important for the treatment. I am astonished by the style, the language, the clever devices and the deeper sense of events that unfolds. Each character is depicted with clear clarity and sense of purpose. Each integrate their life to the society with such an aplomb, acting their part to perfection. There is a larger implication and interpretation of the tale which the author attempting to indicate. I am not very clear about the background and the time of its writing, but I am sure knowing Mahaswethadevi's reputation, and her stand on various social issues, there has to be a different reading of this work. In short, it was a mesmerizing journey, even though it was less than 100 pages.-----------------------------------------
Mahaswethadevi ( translated from Bengali by Leela Sarkar)