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May 6, 2014 / subramanyam

Marvels & Mysteries of the MahaBharata :: My Review


          I read the book ” Marvels & Mysteries of  the MahaBharata—Probing the folds of India’s Epochal Tragedy” by Abhijit Basu.

          Before I speak about my views on the book, here is the blurb of the book from its back cover.

 

In this cauldron of great illusion, with the sun as fire, day-night as fuel; using months and seasons as stirrer, Time is cooking all beings that is the message. ~Yudhishthira, in the Mahabharata s Vana-parva 313.118 

The Mahabharatha never ceases to fascinate. By far the longest of the world s epics, it transcends the limitations of genre. History, encyclopaedia, philosophy, scripture, warrior saga, it encapsulates all these in one exalting epic tragedy

underscoring the truth in the ancient adage that the whole knowable world is Vyasa s leftover.

The Great Epic of India encompasses an awesome interplay of human effort and destiny, set against the backdrop of inexorable Time. Marvels and Mysteries, with its lucid and engaging narrative, seeks to unravel some of its enigmas: the characters of Vyasa, Krshna, Yudhishthira, Arjuna, and Draupadi; aspects of the Mahabharatha s historicity; its medley of interpretations; the stupendous text-critical project to sift its perceived accretions; its inter-relationship with the Ramayana and other epics; and its universal relevance brought home through a series of trans-cultural comparisons.

This is the one book about the Mahabharatha which everyone will love to read and gift.

 

         This undoubtedly is one of the books I took very long to complete, Abhijit Basu has written a well researched book on Mahabharatha and I was reading and re-reading things to get if I understood the things correctly. Then I was also trying to

The front cover of the book

The front cover of the book

match this with the story I learnt and was seeing if things were portrayed correctly. So it took quite long time for me to read the book and here I am with my review.

          Speaking about his work, the Mahabharata, Sage Veda Vyasa says

“yadihaasti tadanyatra yannehaasti na tat kwachit”

           meaning whatever is there in the world it’s here and whatever is not here is not there anywhere. He epic with about 1,00,000+ verses obviously captures the imagination of one and all. Everyone who has read it once would want to understand and learn more about the epic, the lives of those legends and the stories that entwine their lives.

          Abhijit Basu, the author of the book also undertook one such journey where he focused on a few people and a few incidents and tried to probe those men and women and their characters a little more deeply.  The result is this book.

What did I like in the book ?

          The writer has focused on specific people and tried to dig deep into their persona. This is definitely good. He was speaking about Shri Veda Vyasa, Yudhistira,Lord ShriKrishna, Draupadi and the book the Mahabahrata itself. I liked the idea of looking into individuals and understanding the epic through their eyes. While people do a lot of research about Karna, Arjuna , Krishna and various others, very few people would try to understand the role of Veda Vyasa here, the very idea of trying to understand about Vyasa and trying to see as to how many times Vyasa appears in his own narrative was indeed an interesting thought .

          The space devoted to Yudhistira and trying to explore the depths of his character was a good attempt. He is definitely one of the unsung heroes of MahaBharata. His resolve for justice and his regards for rules was very well depicted. Bringing out his conversations with Yaksha , the “Yaksha Prashnaas” was indeed good. Then Yudhistira’s conversations with Nahushaa were also included which is a good thing.

          Again the various shlokas and the disambiguation of various Sanskrit words was good, when you read it you indeed know that there was some good research done.

The things I did not like

          First, while depicting Krishna the author gets into the Aryan Dravidian theory, this theory was a proposition to drive a wedge in the Indian society and is widely rejected. While the author does not seem to side with any of the arguments, he does seem to have drawn a lot from Irawathi Karve’s writings on Mahabharata. I somehow felt a disconnect here. I was looking for the original views of shri Abhijit Basu, not the views of Irawati Karve. I felt a little too much of a space was devoted to the views of her.

          Looking at the way Shri Krishna’s persona was handled throughout the book, I have my own reservations, things could have been handled better. There were some fallacies also, Shri Krishna did side with the Pandavas as he wanted victory for the Dharma. At times the narrative feels as if it is against Krishna, though the author does make amends towards the end of the book, you would definitely feel that it is very late and very little. I just wanted to suggest one thing, it was not Shri Krishna who compromised on ethics in the battle, it all started with the killing of Abhimanyu. The way Abhimanyu was killed in an extremely unlawful manner changed the way the battle was fought after that. I did not know why the author did not touch upon this.

          We also see that Karna gets his share of adulation from the author, yes definitely Karna was a great warrior, while we all sympathize with him, we also should take into cognizance the fact that it was he who broke Abhimanyu’s bow from behind. It was this act that actually ld to the death of the 17 years old valiant fighter in the hands of 6 atiradha maha radhas. The author should have brought this in to make the book more balanced.

          While I do agree that Yudhistira was depicted very well, I also should say that claims that link Yudhisthira and Vidura are too far fetching and could have been avoided. Again this idea comes out as the idea of Iravathi Krave and not that of the author, then why does this have a mention in the book is something I do not understand. The author could have cleared the air on what his opinion on this.

What could have been included ?

          I do not know if I can say this as a review, do not know if it is good or not. This is the first time I am writing this sort of stuff in a book review and I believe that this would be taken in the right spirit.

          I feel that more content should have been added to the depictions of Draupadi and Shri Krishna. I felt they were touched more superficially. When you try to understand Draupadi, it’s not just the insult she bears in the court that is important, she shows tremendous anger , maturity and temperament when she loses her children. The way she shows all of them after the war and after losing her kids is astonishing. It gives us a deep insight into the heart of that woman who suffered a lot in her life. Same is the case with Shri Krishna, Khandavadahana was one important thing , however the circumstances that led to the war, the role he played there, the role he played as the advisor to the pandavas in the forests, the importance of Bhagavadgita and the way he makes pandavas learn things from Bhishma are all wonderful things that give us insights into his personality. The author could have touched upon these things as well.

Language & Style

            The language is definitely high end, you would see a lot of words which make you refer the dictionary. However, seasoned readers would love reading it as it builds your vocabulary. It’s nice to read a book ornated with wonderful words at least once in a while. It makes us smile in happiness and makes us appreciate the author for his/her efforts.

          All in all some good amount of research presented , it seems that the author does not give his own stand in some contentious conclusions and passes them as someone else’s views. It would have been great had the author come out clearly on what he thinks on them. It would have been great had some of the biases been removed. Nevertheless, you would  get some great perspectives on Yudhistira and Vyasa when you read the book.

Title : Marvels and Mysteries of MahaBharata

Publisher : Lead Start Publishers

Price : Rs. 299

 

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