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Author Topic: The Mahabharata  (Read 79 times)

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Tinevisce

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The Mahabharata
« on: September 28, 2014, 12:24:15 AM »

For years, I've had a very hot-and-cold relationship with the epic. It's difficult for me to be very accurate (so please correct me if I'm wrong), but the way the epic is an organic part of my entire culture is not entirely unlike the way the Bible is in Christian majority nations. For me, as a lover of languages, the impact comes through most powerfully in how it's shaped our core idioms/proverbs and names.
At a guesstimate, I'd say that close to 60% of Indian first names can be traced back to the Mahabharata.

So far so good, I guess. However, I've always been daunted by the meandering and convoluted narrative, and all the translations I've found were unabridged ones that freaked me out with their sheer volume.
Finally, though, I got my hands on this baby by Devdutt Patnaik a few months back:
http://www.amazon.com/Jaya-Illustrated-Mahabharata-Devdutt-Pattanaik/dp/014310425X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1411877876&sr=8-1&keywords=Jaya

After years of dawdling, I finally have the core narrative in my grasp! And wow, just wow- the layers upon layers of meaning in the entire epic boggles the mind. The particular retelling I linked to above also has notes of a more anthropological nature, which seeks to de-construct the epic's dating based on the themes present in the story itself.

(For example: The entire epic has 'divine' characters playing different roles in the story; and were often invoked by the human and semi-human characters. What's telling, however, is that the earlier half of the epic invoked the elemental Gods such as the Sun, Moon, Wind and Fire. These were older Gods, of the early Vedic Age and the Rig Veda. As the story, unfolds, however, they lose prominence over the Gods of the Later Vedic age, especially Vishnu)

I know that some folks here (by 'some', I mean you, Earth Muffin :D) feel a connection to the Indic mythos and traditions; I'd sincerely urge you to read up on the Mahabharata- that is, of course, if you haven't already. It's the most multi-faceted window into our collective psyche that I can think of. It has literally everything- starting from the subliminal beauty of some of our philosophies, to the uglier aspects of our culture down to the endearing foibles.
I'd recommend getting Devdutt Patnaik's work because the commentaries often help to guide the reading, without coming across as being too pedantic/presumptuous.

For a more humanistic perspective- and yes, it does 'sacrifice' some of the authenticity of the traditional rendition (insomuch as a living work such as the Mahabharata can have a definitive version), you could try this:
http://www.amazon.com/Palace-Illusions-Chitra-Banerjee-Divakaruni/dp/1400096200/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1411881681&sr=8-1&keywords=Palace+of+Illusions
This is the Mahabharata from the perspective of the female character, Draupadi: according to most interpretations, she's the final nudge that sparked the cataclysmic war. Of course, like most things in the epic, it's often not that easy to point out roles so easily.

For people here who have read the Mahabharata, I'd love to discuss it with you! Happy reading!
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Mongo

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Re: The Mahabharata
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2014, 07:29:27 AM »

i/ve always found the parallels to a modern war to be interesting. Especially the target seeking projectiles and the very VERY accurate descriptions of nuclear detonations and the effects of the resuting fallout.

That one really makes me wonder.
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Tinevisce

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Re: The Mahabharata
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2014, 08:33:03 AM »

Ooh yes...what about Ashwathama's astra aimed at Abhimanyu's unborn child? Very much like a bio-weapon. And yes, a lot of people point out how Sanskrit had words for atomic (as well as astronomic) scales; and no language develops words its culture has no practical need for. :)

The truth is something we might never really know, but it does offer a lot of food for thought.

I think astronomical software have calculated that the very specific celestial events listed in the Mahabharata happened sometime during November 3067 B.C. (ish). To me, while that does not prove the Mahabharat happened then; it does prove it was written during that time.

Are you familiar with Bhisma's story, Mongo?
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earthmuffin

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Re: The Mahabharata
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2014, 08:50:38 PM »

Thanks, T. I will definitely have a look!  :D
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