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The Maha-Bharat (pronounced Mahaa-Bhaarat) is simply the greatest story ever told. Even authors who despise Hindu Religion end up praising the appeal of the Maha-Bharat. Witness one such description:
- “The Mahabharata is a text of about 75,000 verses or 3mm words, some 15 times the combined length of the Hebrew Bible & the New Testament, or 7 times the Iliad & the Odyssey combined and a hundred times more interesting.” (emphasis ours)
- What is here is found elsewhere, What is here is nowhere – Maha-Bharat, I.56. 34-35
The Maha-Bharat (the Great or Vast Bharat) is not a religious story. It is the story of the Bharat Dynasty. It is an “Itti-Haas” (what has happened) or History. Besides the story, the Maha-Bharat contains a fascinating description of the Society of that time. The story presents ethical and moral dilemmas to every character. How they deal with their dilemmas creates a discussion of Dharma as no other book can.
Many authors have written about Maha-Bharat from many different points of view. We have chosen two authors who look very differently at the characters of the Maha-Bharat. The contrast between their attitudes tells a great deal about the past glory and the present weakness of Indian society.
Professor Irawati Karve was a distinguished anthropologist of modern India. She first published her essays on the Maha-Bharat in a book called Yuganta (pronounced Yugant) in the 1960s. The book was awarded the prestigious Sahitya Academy prize in 1968.
Yuganta means the end of an epoch. A better description cannot be found for the Maha-Bharat. An entire generation of kings and warriors from all over the known world perished in the Maha-Bharat War. By its own account, it was the most destructive war in history with over 3 million warriors killed in 14 days.
Irawati Karve approaches the Maha-Bharat from a detached perspective of an anthropologist and a dispassionate analyst. This makes her book unique.
At the other end of the spectrum is the book The Difficulty of Being Good – On the Subtle Art of Dharma by Gurcharan Das. He graduated from Harvard in Philosophy. He later became the CEO of Proctor & Gamble, India. He is now a full-time writer.
In our series, we will examine how these two authors look at the actions of the various people central to the Maha-Bharat.
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