Thoughts on The Mahabharata

I am currently taking a class at University on early Indian history and we are using Narasimhan’s heavily condensed version of The Mahabharata as a primary source for the Later Vedic Age. I was wondering what the Dope’s opinions and thoughts are about the book and the characters/events therein.

I haven’t read the book, but IMDb has one of my favorite exchanges from a TV version:

I have no idea what it means, but it does crack me up.

Sorry, no help here.

It made for an awesome fantasy TV series. Seriously, if you can get hold of it, do. The FX is a bit cheap, but it’s fun. Get the preceding Ramayan series too.

Hanuman is my fave.

Lapsed Hindu checking in here.

I don’t like the Ramanayan at all. Too pious and sanctimonious. I always loved the Mahabharata because it very much portrays real people, with flaws. I love Krishna and used to be a pretty faithful devotee of Him - I still am, a little bit, even though I am not religious. I think he’s awesome with awesome sauce on top.

I don’t quite appreciate Kunthi’s significance as a character. I’m Asian but I’m alien to the matriarchal concept of a family. BTW, I only ever read the abridged for in prose.

I like Arjuna and the Brama-astra. :smiley:

At least in the version that I have been reading the filial piety among the Pandavas towards Kunthi seemed to be a fairly minor aspect of the story. That said, Krishna is indeed awesome :slight_smile: Though I personally liked Draupadhi as a character, both as a wife to the Pandavas and as an example of breaking traditional norms of both her time as well as ours. Also having Bhima kill the general who had been harassing her made me smile in an admittedly rather morbid way, but as a student of history, I am aware that the usual results of such encounters between nobles and servant girls rarely ends well, so Draupadhi’s revenge was especially sweet for me.

Yeah, Hindus always say we should emulate Sita, and be obedient to our husbands and our parents. I say F that, I will emulate Draupadi and be Woman Avenged, and fight for my rights, and stand up tall for what I believe in. I admire Draupadi.

I have read different versions also. The piety that the Pandavs have towards their mother is pretty common; you are supposed to respect your mother above all things. But they take it to a crazy extreme. I’ve heard that Yudishtr really wanted a piece of Draupadi; he was a crazy man with lust, so he phrased his words to Kunti just so she would tell them to divide all the gains and thus he would also gain Draupadi as a wife.

I have wanted to start a thread on the Mahabharat but my life is so busy right now I’m afraid I wouldn’t have time to keep up.

Mahabharat is a fascinating story. Its a part of text books of 7th standard in here. There have been TV series on Mahabharat. I like Bhishm’s and Karna’s character the most. I have a Hindu name but I am non-religious, and funnily, my father’s name is Bhishm, who’s character had sworn to remain celibate.:smiley:

and btw India’s Hindi/Sanskrit name is Bharat, and ‘Maha’ is super or great.

I first came to the Mahabharata in the '90s, when PBS showed the 6 hour reduction of Peter Brook’s 9 hour adaptation. I have the 2nd volume of the University of Chigago edition - I’ve never seemed to get around to ordering the other volumes.

A friend wrote an opera based on the death of Pandu - we did a couple of workshops, but so far, no one has decided to mount a full production of it.

Anyway, I love it in all its massive, rambling glory.

This episode of the old TV series is on Draupadi’s disrobing. Ofcourse, the language is not English but captions are there.

Krishna and Arjun are definitely my most favorite characters. One of my favorite thought experiments is to wonder what would have happened had Arjun been the first-born…he is probably the best of the sons. Or even if Karn had been legit; then he could have squashed Yudishtr. Yudishtr wasn’t really all that and a bag of potato chips, and got the boys in a lot of trouble.

I have a Hindu name, too. :slight_smile: Very South Indian, which really throws people off when they see my extremely light skin (I am so light-skinned I got a copper tattoo and it shows up wonderfully).

To add to your last point, India or Bharat is actually named after the first king in the Mahabharat, the one who decided that none of his sons were worthy of being king, and kingship should not be decided by blood alone, and that he should pick a worthy outsider to be king and rule his people.

Then Shantnu came and fucked it all up with his lust. :slight_smile:

I have the really long TV series. I love it, but it is hard to watch because of the absolutely atrocious graphics.

Karn is simply stating that he has no other goal in life other than to bring about Arjun’s death and then his own. And killing yourself is literally called “kudkushi” in Hindi, which means “self-joy”, which just demonstrates how selfish Hinduism thinks it is. So he cannot kill himself, but his death may come about some other way. As to killing Arjun, I don’t know at what point this conversation took place, but I am guessing it is after Karn discovers he is Kunti’s illigitimate son, and therefore the eldest brother, and Elder Brother is not exactly supposed to murder his little brothers…he’s supposed to protect them and be their moral guide. So he can’t get that one.

Duryodhan is a simple guy and not very smart, not like Karn, who is a tragic figure and very, very intelligent. So he thinks Karn is talking about two pretty girls, when actually Karn is talking about the two driving forces of his life.

Thanks for the explanation of the name by the way, this has been my first serious encounter with Sanskrit or Hindi so any information is much appreciated.

I recently watched a recording of the Peter Brook’s play which I found fascinating. I would also love to see that opera about Pandu. :slight_smile: I am trying to get a hold of the TV series and a more complete version of the books.

One day I want to go to the Kurukshetr in Haryana, India, the site of the Great War.

ETA: Srsly, I could talk about the Mahabharat all day long.

I’ve always wanted to read it, but was daunted by the length. It’s on my “to read, eventually” stack, like Don Quixote and The Tale of Genji. Unlike those, though, I don’t actually own a physical copy.

I’ve read the Bhagavad-Gita, but that’s only a religious sliver of the whole.

All I’ve actually read is the two-page version of it (!! He calls it “The Very Short Version”) in the second volume of Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe (pp. 20-21. You can look inside the book here, but, unfortunately, you can’t view the relevant pages: )

Right. Also, Karna was best known for generosity as you’d know. An article on Karna. You are right abt Yudishtr though he has the credit of saving Pandavs from Yaksh questions.

South Indians have slightly darker skin color on average due to hotter climate. Thats about it. There are many dark north Indians and many fairer South Indians than an average north Indian.

Thanks for adding.

So I have a question, I have seen the spelling of many of the character’s and place’s names with and without an “a” at the end, Karn as opposed to Karna for example. What does dropping the “a” signify/mean? Does it stem from Hindi or Sanskrit grammar?

Very good question.
This is my understanding -
In spoken Hindi, we pronounce Karn not karna, Raam not Rama etc (but Dronacharya is Dronacharya only).
It is written hindi to English translation rules which give rise to “a” at the end.

रा + म = Raam sound in spoken hndi.

So as per written hindi to english translation rule -

Raam is not equal to रा + म =( र + आ + म + अ ).
Rama = रा + म =( र + आ + म + अ ).

Yes. Transliteration is a bit weird. All of our letters automatically have a small a at the end, so it’s not:




(this is the beginning of our alphabet)

When you want to see a long a, you add it. So unless there is a pronounced a I rarely add it. Yes, I know it’s “wrong”, but damnit, it’s my language. I never say “Ganges” either, what an ugly modification of the beautiful word “Ganga”.

same here. I am particular about it.
I make compromise on one word - दिल्ली:), which becomes Delhi. Most people say Delhi in English so I have to say Delhi many times, but just this one word.