Why should you read the Mahabharata?

I had always wanted to write exclusively about the Mahabharata. The below question from a reader on the comments section came as an excuse for me to do it.

“I’m really curious about your comment on the Mahabharata too. What made you read all those different interpretations on it? Why wasn’t one version enough for a story that you’d know by heart by now”

Here we go.

There is a general perception about the Mahabharata that it is just another clash between two quarreling branches of the same family. Duryodhan, the bad guy denies the rightful share of his brother’s property (Yudhishtra, the good), so they lock horns and the good defeats the bad finally. The balance of justice is restored and the world is back to normal. Even if the entire narrative of the epic is reduced to the confines of this ‘good-bad’ conflict, the philosophical dimensions and the dramatic heft that it carries are simply sumptuous to say the least. Choose a character from this ‘reduced’ conflict between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, say Yudhishtra and try to interview him for his version of the story. You still get a lot of absorbing drama through what he undergoes – his obsession with rules and traditional values that often conflict with reality, his unquestionable sense of justice often going for a toss in crucial situations, his sympathy for everyone around him including his ‘sworn’ rivals even under demanding conditions and finally an incurable addiction towards gambling that contrasts sharply with his ‘famed’ good qualities and broad knowledge of the ways of the world.

Similarly pick a character from the other camp, you will find ‘his’ story too brimming with inexhaustible potential for drama, tension and philosophy. If all these characters are mortals who are flawed and whose versions you consider to be filled with convenient lies and malice, you have a God right there in their midst in the form of Krishna whose version would offer even more intriguing insights. But as I told you earlier, the Mahabharata is not merely a story between the Good and the Bad. To reduce it to the above dimensions and judge its merits is equivalent to roaming inside some urban neighbourhood in Chennai like Adyar and pretending to give a panoramic overview about the whole of Tamilnadu. Read the rest of the essay in the below link.


Published by Jeeva Pitchaimani

Someone who broods over everything related to human existence. Reads into the films of Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman, Satyajit Ray and Richard Linklater. Sees from the writings of Jawaharlal Nehru, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Richard Dawkins.

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