Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Visiting Mahabharata ..1 (Revisiting in 2011)

(I wrote this on May 30, 2007 while in Bangkok. Almost an outsider's view. I stopped for a while and plan now to continue blogging. In short, a re-visit!)  

I thought about this blog as I signed an on-line petition protesting to the Governor of the State Gujarat about the latest Baroda episode. I subscribe to the feeling that the British induced democracy and its incredible institutions are on the wane. While they have served us well, they have been modified, partly subverted to suit our own ethos. We proclaim that we are proud to go back to our own true culture. In fact, there is a pressure on us to go back.

We keep raising controversies by the day if not by the hour! (It is no different today!). So I had a few questions! Why are we so oversensitive, is it part of our psyche? Do our great epics teach us how to conduct ourselves? How relevant are they today? Seeking an answer, I chose to read Mahabharata.

Let me begin with the epic story: Adiparva
'On the Banks of Ganga' King Shantanu of Hastinapura falls in love with Ganga and she marries him on one condition.. 'You must not cross me on anything at any time'....They live happily and a son is born and the King is horrified to see his new born son flung into the river Ganga ... The King keeping his promise does not question her.

 The scene is repeated every year for Seven Years and his seven sons are thrown into the river Ganga... FINALLY when it happens for the eighth time, the King cannot bear it anymore, stops her and speaks to her harshly questioning her inhuman acts...There are reasons for her acts, which she explains is due to their past actions and curses thereon... but she fades away from his sight as the King has broken his promise and the King lives a life of utter loneliness.

Why  Mahabharatha? I had the book by Kamala Subramaniam, gifted to me by Srilatha and Jayaram two years ago. Also, I liked the foreword by Dr.K.M.Munshi, I quote ....'it is a whole literature in itself, containing a code of life, a philosophy of social and ethical relations, and speculative thought on human problems that is hard to rival; but, above all, it has for its core the GITA.......Through such books alone, the harmonies underlying true culture, I am convinced, will one day reconcile the disorders of modern life'.

Another reason was that I remembered that we had a copy of Rajaji's Mahabharata in Pune and I was surprised one day to see it in our locked cupboard. Tara, when asked why, said that the book had some strange stories which may be beyond Nandini who was growing up!

As Nandini is now grown up and would soon be concerned with what her own kids read, I thought it was a good time to see what the book said and how it stood the test of times. I was also curious to learn if the two different worlds could be reconciled!

It may interest some to know that Kamala Subramaniam was my mother's (or my aunt's) classmate and we all grew up on her father's (T. P. Kailasam) wonderful 'Kannada' plays.

First chapter seems to support Tara's views! How would the police act now, would they arrest Ganga for homicide and King Shantanu as an accomplice? 

( As I began editing my old blog, I sat up with a jerk as I saw today's papers, 1/9/11. A mother threw kerosene on her 18 month old daughter and set her on fire and then immolated herself. Can anything be more horrid? What kind of Karma is this? Why fate was so cruel to this child?)


srinidhi said...

venkatesh_mohini said...
Nidhi uncle,
Moral of the story is that the world would be a safer place if only men would listen to their women and not cross the line! There are "grand" exceptions to that of course!
Cheers Mo

1:58 AM

Hari Goplan said...

Hi Nidhi:

Very interesting read. However, Mohini’s comment was compelling enough to respond in an email that, If life was a ONEWAY STREET then things would be very monotonous nothing to learn and grow from. Lifecycle constantly teaches us to strike an even balance between the two sexes which is a daunting task for most of us and that’s where lies the challenge – Love You Mohini.


Chandramouli said...

ALL English translations, renderings,interpretations etc whether by KS, Rajaji, RKNarayan, Munshi etc etc are nothing( I have read and reread them all) compared to AR Krishnashastri's Vachana Bharata( my view please); buy this book and read it; you will not just reawaken to Kannada and its modernity; but will develop insights into the Indian mindset; the English versions are meant for Anglophiles and the liberal types and essentially useless; Rajajai's is a translation from his Tamil Classic( rejected by Dravidian parties); and at some point if you can get it, a read of Kumaravyasa's Mahabharata is an eye opener; the very first shatpadi indicates what it meant to the Universal( India) Man. More when we meet sometime somewhere. Good luck.

PS The literature on this Epic( more correctly Mahapurana) is more than any other book other than the Bible; I have a complete translation of Vyasa's Sanskrit-to-English but a tough read.

srinidhi said...

Thanks Hari and Chandramouli
Good to get comments.

Mouli I will get a copy of Vachana Bharata and blog, may be a little later!

Chandramouli said...

There is no such thing as Indian mindset; it is still the same human mind but shaped for millenia through its collective beliefs and isolated from the rest of the world( West, Chna false belief that it is " spititual" and has answers to all of life's conundrums.Jung has written about it extensively and it is worth reading. Mouli