Mahabharata - Book Review

Reviews Apr 26, 2020

Finished reading Mahabharata (Rajaji edition)

Mahabharata is basically the Game of Thrones of India. An excellent epic full of grey characters and an intricately woven plot, it also doubles as a detailed philosophical discussion on "What is Dharma?".

The historicity of Mahabharata is under debate. It is important to note that there is zero archaeological evidence to the story. The current consensus among historians is, a small scale battle in the Kuru Kingdom (one of 16 Maha Janapathas) of Vedic India, could have been later magnified in imagination by a multitude of bards, poets and philosophers into the longest poem in the world. The war is dated using historical sources to the 9th century BCE, by backdating 10 generations (as mentioned in the poems) from king Mahapadma Nanda.

Originally, Mahabharata was passed down orally (hence the original facts and intentions were most likely not preserved) and was written down in 4th c.BCE as a small poem of 8,800 verses named Jaya (victory). Then it swelled to 24,000 verses and became known as Bharata, and, finally, it reached the present stupendous size of the 100,000 verses around 4th c.CE, passing under the name Mahabharata. It's the longest poem in the world, ten times the length of Illiad and Odyssey combined and four times longer than Ramayana.

I was recommended two translations. Kumbakonam edition is long, 1000 pages for each of 18 chapters, and the language is complicated. Rajaji's edition (Viyasar Virunthu) is shorter and sharper. I got the latter. The dialogues are sharp, the logic and philosophy are impeccable. If they can make an HBO TV series out of it, with some real effort and dedication, the result would definitely rival Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings.

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