The last two volumes of a book translation of the Mahabharata by Niti Aayog member Bibek Debroy have just been published. The old building is being given a makeover. Workers swarm the corridors, plastering the cracks and painting the walls. But peace reigns in Bibek Debroy's office on the first floor. The economist, in a blue shirt paired with dark trousers, sits in front of a table, with the day's newspapers and the latest magazines neatly arranged on it. On top of the magazine line is the Organiser , the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's mouthpiece.
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Bibek Debroy Translator. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published by Penguin first published More Details Original Title. Mahabharata 1. Other Editions 4. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Mahabharata , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of The Mahabharata Mahabharata, 1. As a big time fan of Mahabharata, I wanted to read a "Complete Mahabharata".
After long time I found this book and it is indeed a detailed book on Mahabharata. I personally found it "awesome" Language used in the novel is also pretty rich. Those who have read novels like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings might have felt that movies for the same are not up to the level of novels.
You will feel same for Mahabharata Series after reading this book. A few months ago, I bought the entire box set. In his introduction to the first book, Debroy attempts to place the events in the Mahabharata in history. No conclusive timeline — none shorter than a range of a thousand years — appears.
There is speculation that the events in the Mahabharata might be from an era before the events in the Ramayana — this is contrary to the commonly held belief that Ram precedes Krishna by an era Treta Yug comes before Dwapar Yug.
Debroy also notes that if his conjectures about the historicity of the events in Mahabharata were true, it likely followed that the central conflict in the epic was actually all about cattle. That the cousins fought over land might be a plot alteration mandated not by historical truth but by the importance of land in the era that the epic was effectively composed in. That Mahabharata was composed entirely by Vedvyasa in a single lifetime is also marked as an impossibility. The epic was composed and refined, no doubt, over hundreds of years.
A long oral tradition perpetuated it. Authorship is largely irrelevant. Vedvyasa, in fact, is a title. The real name is Krishna Dvaipayana. Thus, the fathers of Kouravas and Pandavas are in fact children of Krishna Dvaipayana Vedvyasa, the one granted credit for the shlokas of the epic.
Perhaps it would not be outlandish to credit Vedvyasa as the creator, rather than just the biological father, of Dhritrashtra and Pandu. Nested Narrators Going by the eighteen parva classification of the Mahabharata, the tale begins with the Adi Parva.
However, the parva classification perhaps better suits the length of the epic, and going by that that the Adi Parva itself holds nineteen parvas in it, beginning with the Anukramanika Parva. The Anukramanika Parva, instead of beginning the story itself, provides a summary of the events in the epic.
Clearly, those composing the Mahabharata felt it prudent to provide a gist to remind people of the story they have always known in summary. The end of the section details the benefits of a Mahabharata reading, thereby giving added incentive for carrying on.
Another interesting point to note is that the Anukramanika Parva splits the summarizing in two parts. The second summary is in the voice of Dhritarashtra. Dhritarashtra tells Sanjaya of all the junctures in history when he had sensed that there was no hope of victory for Duryodhana. Through this structure, whose direct relevance is difficult to see, one should probably understand that such nested narrators will abound in the epic too.
One also notices a difference in the two narrative voices. The Anukramanika Parva is followed by the Parvasamgraha Parva, in which Ugrashrava provides the two classifications—into hundred and eighteen parvas. It is interesting to note that the classifications of the text are provided inside the text.
How is that possible? How could he tell a tale in first person and provide his telling as already-included in a historical classification? This is a delightful warp, a post-modernish touch. The War's Magnitude Every war is followed by an attempt to quantify the damage brought by it. The audit, so to say, might have more practical purposes, but one of its doubtless outcomes is to nourish that ugly strain in human nature which feeds on a certain fascination with carnage and often stoops to compare catastrophes.
In fact, it is perversely wise for a poet to over-report war damages, since the intent is to establish their war as superior among all the wars, and, by relation, their work on that war as superior among all similar works. The Mahabharata, arguably the supreme war epic, also felt the need to assert the fact that it was concerned with a war bigger than any other.
To merely allow the reader to believe the magnitude of the carnage would not be enough; it had to be provided in numbers. The war numbers are provided inside in the Parvasamgraha Parva. There, the sages ask Ugrashrava about an akshouhini army , urging him to provide the exact details of the size of one.
Ugrashrava answers by moving from the smallest unit composing an akshouhini to the largest, eventually reaching staggering numbers. An akshouhini was apparently composed of 21, chariots, 21, elephants, , foot soldiers, and 65, horses. And the numbers are mind-numbing for a conflict that concluded inside eighteen days. Assuming that each animal or chariot was manned by at least one person, the annihilation of eighteen akshouhinis leads us to an average death count of 2,18, men per day, forgetting the animals.
This is beyond credulity, especially if we imagine the war as taking place at a single site. The mere disposal of corpses to clear the ground for battle the next day would require a couple of akshouhinis of its own. The conclusion: either the war took place everywhere in ancient India, or we have to accept these numbers as exaggerated. King Janamajeya's Snake Sacrifice We see that the first two parvas of the Mahabharata provide only a summary of the events, a gesture akin to adding a table of contents before a long book.
The third parva is called the Poushya Parva. There, we are in the time of Janamejaya, Arjuna great-grandson, who is now the ruler of Hastinapur. The section is haphazardly told, and often appears aimless. We follow a multitude of characters, all attempting to placate their gurus or preceptors. One puts his own body on the line to plug a dam breach.
Another almost starves to death and also loses his eyesight, which he later recovers while trying to ensure that all comestibles are offered first to the preceptor.
The passage is one of innumerable junctures where the Mahabharata shall present itself as a text of thoroughly patriarchal times, where women had little agency, especially with regards to sexual matters. On his return journey, the earrings are stolen by the naga king Takshaka. The man is Indra, the horse Agni; pitted against the gods, Takshaka is forced into submission. The snakes we talk of here are shape-shifters, capable of taking human forms.
Snakes had kingdoms and kings then, according to the text. Perhaps it is an act of genocide, fueled by rage. The task of stopping Janamejaya was done by a brahmana named Astika, who for his contribution got a complete parva of the Mahabharata named after him the fifth parva.
In the Pouloma parva, a series of stories about the Bhrigu lineage ends with the sage named Ruru attempting to kill a non-poisonous snake, who turns out to be an accursed sage itself. It is probable that this contrivance exists only to point out how violence is the domain of kshatriyas, and that brahmans ought to avoid it.
Caste distinctions are, of course, rigidly impressed multiple times in the text. This could be read as an attempt to exonerate Janamajeya, to show the sacrifice as ordained by powers greater than his own. One could say that this heightens tension, and removes all doubts regarding the importance of the event itself. Destiny truly is in play here, for the curse comes into force long before the sacrifice itself has been instigated.
'Some parts of the Mahabharata are boring'
Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? Dispute over land and kingdom may lie at the heart of this story of war between cousins the Pandavas and the Kouravas but the Mahabharata is about conflicts of dharma. These conflicts are immense and various, singular and commonplace. Throughout the epic, characters face them with no clear indications of what is right and what is wrong; there are no absolute answers. Thus every possible human emotion features in the Mahabharata, the reason the epic continues to hold sway over our imagination. In this superb and widely acclaimed translation of the complete Mahabharata, Bibek Debroy takes on a great journey with incredible ease.
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