Devdutt Pattanaik

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Devdutt Pattanaik
DevduttPattanaik self2018 1.jpg
Devdutt Pattanaik
Native name
ଦେବଦତ୍ତ ପଟ୍ଟନାୟକ
Born11 December 1970 (1970-12-11) (age 48)
Mumbai, India
EducationMBBS (Mumbai University)
Postgraduate Diploma Comparative Mythology (Mumbai University)
OccupationMythologist, writer, columnist, illustrator
Known forWorks on Indian mythology
Parent(s)Prafulla Kumar Pattanaik (father)
Sabitri Pattanaik (Das) (mother)
Devdutt Pattanaik Autograph.png

Devdutt Pattanaik (Odia: ଦେବଦତ୍ତ ପଟ୍ଟନାୟକ Devanagari: देवदत्त पट्टनायक) is an Indian author known for his work in mythology and interpretations of ancient Indian scriptures, stories, symbols and rituals.[1][2][3]

He has incorporated Vedic knowledge into human resource management.[4] His books include Myth = Mithya: A Handbook of Hindu Mythology[5]; Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata[6]; Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana[7]; Business Sutra: An Indian Approach to Management[8]; Shikhandi: And Other Tales they Don't Tell You[9];[10] Shiva to Shankara : Giving Form to the Formless,[11] in which he explores the layers of meanings embedded in Shiva’s linga, we discover why and how the Goddess transforms Shiva, the hermit, into Shankara, the householder; Leader : 50 Insights from Mythology[12] uses myths and legends to arrive at wisdom that is both time-worn and refreshingly new, on what makes a good leader; and Culture : 50 Insights from Mythology[13] a groundbreaking work that contextualizes mythology and proposes that myths are alive, dynamic, shaped by perception and the times one lives in.

He was the former Chief Belief Officer of Future Group, one of India's largest retailers. He writes columns for Mid-Day,[14] Times of India,[15] Swarajya,[16] CN Traveller,[17] Daily O[18] and[19]

Early life and education[edit]

Pattanaik is an Odia, born and brought up in Mumbai. He spent his childhood and student life in Chembur, Mumbai.[20] He studied in OLPS[21] (Our Lady of Perpetual Succour) High School in Chembur where he first got acquainted with stories of the Ramayana in school plays.[22] Devdutt Pattanaik graduated in medicine (M.B.B.S.) from Grant Medical College, Mumbai, and subsequently did a course in Comparative Mythology from Mumbai University.[23]


He worked in the pharma and healthcare industry (Sanofi Aventis and Apollo Group of Hospitals,[24] respectively) for 14 years and spent his spare time writing articles[25][26] and books on mythology,[27][28] which eventually became his full-time passion. He has also worked as a consultant at Ernst and Young. His first book Shiva: An Introduction was published in 1997.[29] Devdutt illustrates most of his own books.[30]

He was a speaker at the first TED conference in India held in November 2009.[31][32]

He is also a story consultant to Indian television network Star TV,[33] where Devon Ke Dev...Mahadev is based on his work[34][35][36] and Epic channel, where he presents Devlok with Devdutt Pattanaik.[37][38] He also served as the Chief Belief Officer at Future Group.[37]

Devdutt has consulted Star TV network on mythological tele-serials like Mahabharata and Siya ke Ram; these serials have challenged conventional views of the narratives and opened up new avenues of interpretation.[39][40][41][39]


Devdutt Pattanaik, mythologist and author, with books written by him

Myth and Mythology[edit]

He opines that “no society can exist without myth as it creates notions of right and wrong, good and bad, heaven and hell, rights and duties”.[42] To him, mythology "tells people how they should see the world... Different people will have their own mythology, reframing old ones or creating new ones."[43] His desire is "to get Saraswati out of the closet. Saraswati belongs everywhere, she has to flow everywhere" and his body of work is aimed "to make knowledge accessible."[44]


Devdutt believes that leadership is about paying attention to the other, and enabling people not to mimic or pretend, but to be genuine/authentic about their fears. If a leader cannot sense fear in people around him, if a leader feels good when people around him are frightened into pretending, there is a problem. Power flows towards the leader or, rather, boss rather than towards the organization.[45]

In his book, Business Sutra: An Indian Approach to Management[8], “the central theme … is that when individual beliefs come into conflict with corporate beliefs, problems surface in organisations. Conversely, when institutional beliefs and individual beliefs are congruent, harmony is the resultant corporate climate. It is when people are seen as mere resources meant to be managed [read manipulated] through compensation and so-called motivation; it is when they are treated like switches in a circuit board; it is then that disharmony descends causing disruption.”[46]


Devdutt distinguishes between mythological fiction and mythology. He notes that mythological fiction is very popular as it is fantasy rooted in familiar traditional tales. Mythology itself is about figuring out world views of cultures, essentially how people think in a particular cultural ethos. “Most writers I know focus on mythological fiction. Study of mythology still remains rather academic,” Pattanaik told IANS in an interview.[47]

Performing Arts[edit]

Focusing on Natyashastra, a Sanskrit Hindu text on the performing arts written by Bharata Muni, Devdutt has answered questions on the origins of the text and why it was referred to as the Panchama Veda. “By dancing, Hindu Gods differentiated Hindu faith, they drew attention to time, space, rhythm, vibration and body,” explains Pattanaik.[48]

He notices dance as part of religion. He speaks of how, over the years, the general gaze of looking at dance and dancers has changed. He states, "Calling someone naachnewali or naachnewala has become a way of putting them down. We need to understand that dance is about seduction. For me, the story of Lord Vishnu taking the form of Mohini and dancing to seduce Bhasmasura is one of the most powerful stories. We don’t understand that the story of Natraj also relates to seduction. But somehow, the word seduction has taken a negative connotation now. Through dance, we can understand a lot about Indian culture, history, geography and more. It’s about time we did that."[49]

Political Stance[edit]

Devdutt is known to avoid partisan views and points to the strengths and weaknesses of the Left and the Right, the secular as well as religious, the capitalists and the communists, the patriarchs and the feminists, as indicated on his many articles on beef ban, vegetarianism, and Ramayana.[50][51][52] He is wary of the influence of 'white saviours' on liberals as well as religious radicals. He has been rather contemptuous of the hyper-nationalism of a section of American Hindus who are clueless about Indian realities.[53][54] He also frowns on secularists and atheists who deny their own missionary zeal and mythic structure, and see themselves as 'rational'.[55]


After having coming out as homosexual, Devdutt has been frank about the LGBTQ revolution in India.[56] Pattanaik commented on how, while he never had any issues with being gay, he was aware that other people in society hold prejudices and judgements against people who do not conform to the norm. It was this knowledge that made him keep his sexuality hidden from the public, and that it was never because he felt guilty.[57] He was always a proponent of free-thought and individualism, as made plain by his views on the criminalization of homosexuality in India. “The validation of law is an important element for removing prejudice from the minds of people, especially friends and family members.”[58] He has written about the presence, and at several instances, the celebration, of the queer within the Indian mythos. Elucidating that karmic faiths can be used to affirm the dignity of queer people, he speaks of how when one discovers love and appreciation for the world as it is, not the way one wants it to be, one develops wisdom.[59]


In 2014, Pattanaik was listed in the top category of bestselling Indian authors.[60] His book Devlok, based on the television programme of the same name, was one of the bestselling books of the year 2016.[61] Forbes India had ranked Pattanaik among the 100 celebrities of India in 2016.[62]

Fiction author Ashwin Sanghi has said that Pattanaik attempts to "explain mythology in simple words".[63] Psychologist Urmi Chanda-Vaz, who calls Pattanaik "India's most beloved mythology explicator", praised his book 'My Gita'.[64][65] Intellectual Shiv Visvanathan has praised Pattanaik by saying that he has made myth-reading "an open, playful, almost domestic game, like Chinese Checkers or Scrabble".[66]

Investment banker and Sanskrit scholar Nityanand Misra has criticized Pattanaik's 'My Gita' as a "marvel of scholarly ineptitude and a travesty of Hindu philosophy", saying that the book is a sloppy work replete with factual, conceptual, philosophical, and linguistic errors. Saying that Pattanaik lacks even basic knowledge of Sanskrit, Misra has questioned Pattanaik's ability to understand Sanskrit and translate from it.[67][68]


  1. Shiva: An Introduction. Vakils, Feffer and Simons Ltd., 1997. ISBN 978-81-8462-013-9. (Based on Shiva).
  2. Vishnu: An Introduction. Vakils, Feffer and Simons Ltd., 1999. ISBN 81-87111-12-7. (Based on Vishnu).
  3. Devi, The Mother-Goddess: An Introduction. Vakils, Feffer, and Simons Ltd., 2000. ISBN 978-81-87111-91-7. (Based on the concept of Devi).
  4. The Goddess in India: The Five Faces of the Eternal Feminine. Inner Traditions/ Bear & Company, 2000. ISBN 978-0-89281-807-5. Translations: Hindi.
  5. Hanuman: An Introduction. Vakils, Feffer and Simons Ltd., 2001. ISBN 978-81-87111-94-8. (Based on Hanuman).
  6. The Man Who Was A Woman and Other Queer Tales from Hindu Lore. Harrington Park Press, 2002. ISBN 1560231815.
  7. Hindu India. Brijbasi Art Press, 2003. ISBN 8187902078.
  8. Indian Mythology: Tales, Symbols, and Rituals from the Heart of the Subcontinent. Inner Traditions/ Bear & Company, 2003. ISBN 978-0-89281-870-9.
  9. Lakshmi, The Goddess of Wealth and Fortune: An Introduction. Vakils, Feffer, and Simons Ltd., 2003. ISBN 978-81-8462-019-1. (Based on Lakshmi).
  10. Myth=Mithya: A Handbook of Hindu Mythology. Penguin Books India, 2006. ISBN 9780143099703. Translations: Hindi, Marathi, Turkish.
  11. Shiva to Shankara: Decoding the Phallic Symbol. Indus Source, India. 2006. ISBN 81-88569-04-6. Translations: Czech, Hindi (Based on Shiva).
  12. The Pregnant King. Penguin Books India, 2008. ISBN 9780143063476. Translations: Hindi, Marathi. (Fiction).
  13. The Book of Ram. Penguin Books India, 2009. ISBN 9780143065289. (Based on Ram).
  14. 7 Secrets from Hindu Calendar Art. Westland Ltd., 2009. ISBN 9788189975678. Translations: Gujarati, Hindi (Based on Hindu Calendar art).
  15. Hanuman's Ramayan. Tulika Publishers, 2010. ISBN 9788181467515. (Based on Hanuman).
  16. Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata. Penguin Books India, 2010. ISBN 9780143104254. Translations: Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil (Based on the Mahabharata).
  17. Fun in Devlok: An Identity Card for Krishna. Puffin India, 2011. ISBN 978-0143331674.
  18. Fun in Devlok: Gauri and the Talking Cow. Puffin India, 2011. ISBN 978-0143331704.
  19. Fun in Devlok: Indra Finds Happiness. Puffin India, 2011. ISBN 978-0143331681.
  20. Fun in Devlok: Kama vs Yama. Puffin India, 2011. ISBN 9780143331957.
  21. Fun in Devlok: Saraswati's Secret River. Puffin India, 2011. ISBN 9780143331964.
  22. Fun in Devlok: Shiva Plays Dumb Charades. Puffin India, 2011. ISBN 9780143331698.
  23. 7 Secrets of Shiva. Westland Ltd., 2011. ISBN 9789380658636. Translations: Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Russian, Telugu (Based on Shiva).
  24. 7 Secrets of Vishnu. Westland Ltd., 2011. ISBN 9789380658681. Translations: Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Russian (Based on Vishnu).
  25. 99 Thoughts on Ganesha: Stories, Symbols and Rituals of India's Beloved Elephant-headed Deity. Jaico Publishing House, 2011. ISBN 978-81-8495-152-3. Translations: Gujarati, Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Telugu (Based on Ganesha).
  26. Business Sutra : A Very Indian Approach to Management. Aleph Book Company, 2013. ISBN 9788192328072. Translations: French, German, Hindi, Italian, Marathi, Tamil.
  27. Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana. Penguin Books India, 2013 ISBN 9780143064329. Translations: Hindi, Marathi, Tamil (Based on the Ramayana).
  28. Fun in Devlok Omnibus. Puffin India, 2014. ISBN 9780143333449. - Reprint (Compilation)
  29. Shikhandi: And Other Tales They Don't Tell You. Zubaan Books & Penguin Books India, 2014. ISBN 9789383074846. Translations: Hindi, Marathi.
  30. Pashu: Animal Tales from Hindu Mythology. Penguin Books India, 2014. ISBN 9780143332473. Translations: Hindi.
  31. 7 Secrets of the Goddess. Westland Ltd., 2014. ISBN 9789384030582. Translations: Hindi, Italian, Marathi, Russian (Based on the Goddess).
  32. My Gita. Rupa Publications India, 2015. ISBN 9788129137708. Translations: Hindi, Marathi (Based on The Gita).
  33. The Success Sutra: An Indian Approach to Wealth. Aleph Book Company, 2015. ISBN 9789384067410. - Based on Older Book
  34. Is He Fresh?: Aka Kaula Hai? (Penguin Petit). Penguin UK, 2015. ISBN 9789351187585 (Fiction)
  35. Devlok with Devdutt Pattanaik. Penguin Random House India, 2016. ISBN 9780143427421.
  36. Olympus - An Indian Retelling of Greek Mythology. Penguin Random House India, 2016. ISBN 9780143428299 (Based on Greek mythology).
  37. The Girl Who Chose: A New Way of Narrating the Ramayana. Puffin Books, 2016. ISBN 9780143334637 (Based on the Ramayana).
  38. The Jaya Colouring Book. Penguin Random House India, 2016. ISBN 9780143426479. - Based on Older Book
  39. The Leadership Sutra: An Indian Approach to Power. Aleph Book Company, 2016. ISBN 9789384067465. - Based on Older Book
  40. The Sita Colouring Book. Penguin Random House India, 2016. ISBN 9780143426462. - Based on Older Book
  41. The Talent Sutra: An Indian Approach to Learning. Aleph Book Company, 2016, ISBN 9789383064274 - Based on Older Book
  42. Culture : 50 Insights from Mythology. HarperCollins India, Indus Source 2017. ISBN 978-9352644971.
  43. Devlok with Devdutt Pattanaik (Book 2) - Publisher: Penguin Random House, 2017 ISBN 978-0143428435 Translations: Hindi ISBN 978-0143440468
  44. Leader : 50 Insights from Mythology. HarperCollins India, Indus Source 2017. ISBN 978-9352644957.
  45. Shiva to Shankara : Giving Form to the Formless. HarperCollins India, Indus Source 2017. ISBN 978-9352641956. - Based on Older Book / Reprint
  46. My Hanuman Chalisa. Rupa Publications, 2017. ISBN 9788129147950 (Based in the Hanuman Chalisa).
  47. The Boys Who Fought. Puffin, 2017 ISBN 9789386815873 (Based on the Mahabharata).
  48. Devlok with Devdutt Pattanaik (Book 3) - Publisher: Penguin Random House, 2017 ISBN 978-0143442790.
  49. I Am Divine. So Are You: How Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Hinduism Affirm the Dignity of Queer Identities and Sexualities. Harper Collins, 2017 ISBN 9789352774869. - Consultant/Wrote Introductory Essay.
  50. Shyam: An Illustrated Retelling of the Bhagavata. Penguin, 2018 ISBN 9780670084463 (Based on the Bhagavata).
  51. Ramayana Versus Mahabharata: My Playful Comparison. Rupa Publications India, 2018 ISBN 9789353332303 (Based on the Ramayana & Mahabharata).
  52. Faith: 40 Insights into Hinduism - Publisher: Harper Collins, 2019 ISBN 978-9353025960.
  53. Yoga Mythology: 64 Asanas and Their Stories - Publisher: Harper Collins, 2019 ISBN 978-9353570842.


  1. ^ "How did the 'Ramayana' and 'Mahabharata' come to be (and what has 'dharma' got to do with it)?".
  2. ^ "'The mythology of one god is what we call religion': Devdutt Pattanaik".
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  4. ^ "Mythic Past, Resonating in the Present". New York Times. 4 July 2010.
  5. ^ Devdutt., Pattanaik (2006). Myth = Mithya : a handbook of Hindu mythology. New Delhi, India: Penguin Books India. ISBN 9780143099703. OCLC 154688788.
  6. ^ Devdutt, Pattanaik. Jaya : an illustrated retelling of the Mahabharata. Gurgaon, Haryana, India. ISBN 9780143104254. OCLC 692288394.
  7. ^ Devdutt, Pattanaik. Sita : an illustrated retelling of the Ramayana. Gurgaon, Haryana. ISBN 9780143064329. OCLC 863077858.
  8. ^ a b Devdutt, Pattanaik. Business sutra : a very Indian approach to management. New Delhi. ISBN 9788192328072. OCLC 859199033.
  9. ^ Devdutt, Pattanaik. Shikhandi and other tales they don't tell you. New Delhi. ISBN 9789383074846. OCLC 889577945.
  10. ^ "Epic Venture". Indian Express. 16 October 2010.
  11. ^ Devdutt, Pattanaik. Shiva to Shankara : giving form to the formless. Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India. ISBN 9789352641956. OCLC 985916928.
  12. ^ DEVDUTT., PATTANAIK (2018). LEADER - 50 INSIGHTS FROM MYTHOLOGY. [S.l.]: HARPERBUSINESS. ISBN 9789352644957. OCLC 988760492.
  13. ^ DEVDUTT., PATTANAIK (2018). CULTURE : 50 insights from mythology. [S.l.]: HARPER360. ISBN 9789352644971. OCLC 990971229.
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  40. ^ "Best of Radio Mirchi : Devdutt Pattanaik speaks about Siya Ke Ram saath Jeeturaaj". Retrieved 21 August 2017.
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  62. ^ December 23, Somya Abrol; December 23, 2016UPDATED:; Ist, 2016 19:31. "Seeing Chetan Bhagat and Devdutt Pattanaik in the Forbes India Celeb 100 list is confusing us no end". India Today. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  63. ^ Rao, Namrata (5 February 2017). "'Writing is an art, crime writing is a craft': Ashwin Sanghi". Financial Express. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  64. ^ Chanda-Vaz, Urmi (5 February 2017). "Indian mythology is a new medium of choice for feminist narratives (and it's working)". Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  65. ^ Chanda-Vaz, Urmi (22 November 2015). "Why reading Devdutt Pattanaik's 'My Gita' makes sense but does not mean you're reading the Gita". Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  66. ^ Visvanathan, Shiv (16 December 2016). "Shiv Visvanathan on the importance of being (and thinking like) Devdutt Pattanaik".
  67. ^ Misra, Nityanand (8 February 2017). "Not Just His Gita, It's Pattanaik's Own Fantasy World". Swarajya. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
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External links[edit]