Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Mahabharata 

"The Mahabharata" by Kamala Subramaniam

Read this wonderful book the first chance you get. It's the complete Mahabharata (as far as I know), the full 18 parvas, and in reasonably exquisite detail. Of course, for the epic in its entirety, you'd have to read the sanskrit version. My dad was telling me about the level of detail in malayalam translation of the epic. The description was about one of the variety of arrows that Arjuna was proficient in shooting at an enemy atop a charging elephant. I cannot reproduce the poetic version but the gist is: The arrow, after leaving the bow, first pierces the trunk of the elephant, enters through its left eye, exits out of its head, skewers the mahout, then the enemy rider, and finally slices through the uplifted tail of the unlucky elephant!
The book I read is quite inferior by comparison but it still has the magic of Amar Chitra Katha (after all, the ACK stories we have read are, in fact, from this book) and the delicious whiplash of philosophy. There are no clearcut heroes or villains in the Mahabharata. Everyone is guilty by association and everyone is worthy by their deeds. You learn to question even Lord Krishna's methods and at times find yourself sympathizing with Duryodhana.

I started off on this book just for the stories but I stayed back for the marvelous portrayal of human emotions and belief in value systems. One of the basic lessons of the Mahabharata, according to me, is how to change with the times. I'll be reading the book every year just to see what other meanings I can pick up from it.

Absolutely fantastic book and thoroughly recommended.



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