Mahabharata

 

The Mahabharata is much more than an epic; it's a magnificent piece of literature, which has for thousand of years been a part of the Indian psyche. A sweeping tale of the feud between two families; it is the mother of all epics. It spans hundreds of years and deals with a wide range of topics- ranging from sibling rivalry to feminism, almost everything is touched upon in this historical saga. It is indeed a consummate embodiment of the ethos of not only Hinduism and India but of the entire Vedic Tradition. The introduction to the text says it all- "What is found here, may be found elsewhere. What is not found here, will not be found elsewhere."

The Mahabharata also has the distinction of being the worlds longest epic poem- it has 74,000 verses, plus long prose passages. In total it has some 1.8 million words.

Though it is attibuted to the sage poet Ved Vysa it is comonly believed that it has been written by more than one writer over an extended period of time(between 3 rd and 5 th Century B.C.).

It follows a story within a story structure.

The Theme of the Epic

Mahabharata, at the mose basic level, is a tale of kings and princes, sages and wisemen, demons and gods, but in its scope its much more than that.


The main aim of the epic is to elucidate the four canonical goals of a Hindu life: kama (pleasure), artha (wealth), dharma (duty) and moksha (liberation). The story which takes turn because of the aftermath of unbridled kama, culminates in moksha . Dharma (as emodied by the charater of Yudhistira ) also play an integral role in the Mahabharata.

Synopsis

The story at its core is about the struggle for the throne of the illustrious kingdom of Hastinapura, ruled by the Kuru clan. The contention is between two branches of the family, the Kauravas, the elder branch of the family, and the Pandavas, the younger branch.

This leads to the Great battle of Kurukshetra, and the Pandavas are ultimately victorious,signifying the triumph of good over evil. This epic ends with the death of its chief interpreter Krishna. Subsequently his dynasty comes to an end too. The last verse of the epic is about the ascent of the Pandava brothers to Heaven.

Entwined in between this core structure are themes and motivations in form of unforgettable characters like Draupadi, Bhishma, Gandhari,Arjun and many more.

Draupadi

Draupadi is in many ways a key figure in the unfolding of this great epic.She is what most academician will call the trigger. The hundred year war of Kurukshetra, in many ways was to avenge her insult at the hands of Doryodhana. Determined, passionate,confident,vibrant,strong and flawed- Draupadi was a heroine like no other.

Bhishma

Bhishma and his vow of celibacy stands strongly as an ultimate act of sacrifice. This dutybound character it stands for justice and devotion.

Arjuna

Arjuna is considered by many to be the hero of this epic. a a wholesome and well-rounded personality,he epitomises the vedic concept of an ideal man. a healthy mind in a healthy body,he is someone any wife and friend would cherish and be proud of.

Karna

Karna is in many ways the tragic hero of this epic. Wronged ,thwarted and marginalised he resurfaces as a force to reckon with only to sacrfice it all for a loved one.

The Mahabharata is indeed a tale of like no other…it is a timeless wonder which manages to engage the most discerning reader, the main reason for this is the universality of its theme. It draws its inspiration from human emotions and situations.

As stated earlier – “What is found here, may be found elsewhere. What is not found here, will not be found elsewhere."



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