Mahabarata



Mahabharata

The Mahabharata is the largest epic of the world as it has about 100,000 verses. The original author was Vyasa who tried to depict the Great War between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Even in the English adaptation by William Buck it is nearly two hundred and fifty pages long, and jam-packed with action and important events. With that in mind, I went to write my book report, and suddenly had several pages of a report, instead of one. However, I feel that this is the best way to describe this amazing Hindu epic, and that one page simply does not do justice to the epic scale and Hindu cosmology contained therein.
The innermost narrative kernel of the Mahabharata tells the story of two sets of paternal first cousins--the five sons of the deceased king Pandu (the five Pandavas) and the one hundred sons of blind King Dhritarashtra (the 100 hundred Dhartarashtras)--who became bitter rivals, and opposed each other in war for possession of the ancestral Bharata kingdom with its capital in the "City of the Elephant," Hastinapura, on the Ganga river in north central India. What is dramatically interesting within this simple opposition is the large number of individual agendas the many characters pursue, and the numerous personal conflicts, ethical puzzles, subplots, and plot twists that give the story a strikingly powerful development.
The five sons of Pandu were actually fathered by five Gods (sex was mortally dangerous for Pandu, because of a curse) and these heroes were assisted throughout the story by various Gods, seers, and brahmins, including the seer Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa (who later became the author of the epic poem telling the whole of this story), who was also their actual grandfather (he had engendered Pandu and the blind Dhrtarastra upon their nominal father\'s widows in order to preserve the lineage). The one hundred Dhartarashtras, on the other hand, had a grotesque, demonic birth, and are said more than once in the text to be human incarnations of the demons that are the perpetual enemies of the Gods. The most dramatic figure of the entire Mahabharata, however, is Krishna Vasudeva, who was the supreme God Vishnu himself, descended to earth in human form to rescue Law, Good Deeds, Right, and Virtue (all of these words refer to different aspects of "dharma").
Krishna Vasudeva was the cousin of both parties, but he was a friend and advisor to the Pandavas, became the brother-in-law of Arjuna Pandava, and served as Arjuna\'s mentor and charioteer in the great war. Krishna Vasudeva is portrayed several times as eager to see the purgative war occur, and in many ways the Pandavas were his human instruments for fulfilling that end.
The Dhartarashtra party behaved viciously and brutally toward the Pandavas in many ways, from the time of their early youth onward. Their malice displayed itself most dramatically when they took advantage of the eldest Pandava, Yudhishthira (who had by now become the universal ruler of the land) in a game of dice: The Dhartarashtras \'won\' all his brothers, himself, and even the Pandavas\' common wife Draupadi (who was an incarnation of the richness and productivity of the Goddess of Earthly-and-Royal Splendor, "Shri"). Then they humiliated all the Pandavas and physically abused Draupadi driving the Pandava party into the wilderness for twelve years, and the twelve years had to be followed by the Pandavas\' living somewhere in society, in disguise, without being discovered for one more year.
The Pandavas fulfilled their part of that bargain, but the villainous leader of the Dhartarashtra party, Duryodhana, was unwilling to restore the Pandavas to their half of the kingdom when the thirteen years had expired. Both sides then called upon their many allies and two large armies arrayed themselves on \'Kuru\'s Field\' (Kuru was one of the eponymous ancestors of the clan), eleven divisions in the army of Duryodhana against seven divisions for Yudhishthira.
Much of the action in the Mahabharata is accompanied by discussion and debate among various interested parties, and the most famous sermon of all time, Krishna Vasudeva\'s ethical lecture and demonstration of his divinity to his charge Arjuna (the justly famous Bhagavad Gita) occurred in the Mahabharata just prior to the commencement of the hostilities of the war. Several of the important ethical and theological themes of