logo
Update : 2015-10-01 19:05:07
feature

Mahabharata Viewed From A Modern Eye

Akbar Hussain

Mahabharata Viewed From A Modern Eye

    Among all the epics ever written, the Mahabharata of India is widely read and popular among readers from around the world. The story of an epic is always a big one with lots of characters, fortunes and frailties and above all it passes many messages to its readers. This is true with Iliad, Faust, Paradise Lost and Inferno too. They all have great stories of human sagas, bloody wars, loves and above all trails of tragedies. While talking to me, an elderly Italian neighbour of mine said something very interesting about the epic Inferno. We can recall that when the writer was passing through the dark tunnel in fear, somebody held his hand and helped him out in light. My neighbour firmly believes that it was God. But there is a striking difference between Indian epics and that of others. The reason is clear because Indian understanding of life and spirituality is an integral part of our everyday life and those eternal qualities are also a part and parcel of our epics. Indian epics will always carry a deep message of understanding the life and its curved and hidden alleys. It will incorporate philosophical passages, the mystery of human destiny and very lofty ideals. As an example, the Ramayana started as a common story of a royal palace with intrigues, lust and betrayals but eventually it ended up as a great moral story which people generally tend to translate. But the story of the Mahabharata is unique for many reasons. Beginning of the Mahabharata is shrouded in mystery and very interesting scholastic polemics. Any student of ancient Indian culture and philosophy will always find the Mahabharata not only as an epic but as a book with boundless depth and dexterity. I consider Subrata Kumar Das’s ‘Aamar Mahabharat’ (My Mahabharata), published from Murdhonyo, Dhaka in 2014 as an important document for anyone who wants to know about this great epic. This is a small book containing only 120 pages but it is full of very interesting observations. He worked hard and went to a great extent in researching innumerable documents and ancient scripts to unearth the history and chronology related to this epic. Many hitherto unknown facts and figures are assembled to make his book a remarkable one. A real scholar always needs to be a neutral observer of a subject to make it acceptable to varied strata of readers. This is not an easy job when the writer must respect the sentiments related to the Mahabharata and check the authenticity of many established beliefs. Many readers ask if this epic would be the same revered book as the Mahabharata now if the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna was not there. Considering the Gita as the most important book related to Hindu faith, parts of it were incorporated in the Mahabharata, which consequently made this epic a part of faith. But Subrata Kumar Das has worked hard and aptly proved that Mahabharata itself is worthy of respect and reverence. Being a scholar, the writer has used valuable historical references to prove the importance of this great epic. It’s a high class literature, a code of conduct, moral discipline and the conflict between right and wrong. The writer did not descend to any guess work but used established historical documentations to make his book a real research work. In his book, Subrata has also touched a very rarely ventured issue about the original writer of the epic. It was Vyasa or Krishna Daypayan Vyasa. The issue is interesting as well as thought-provoking. In fact, he has raised a very valid question about the author; who was this man in reality? Was he just a writer, a sage or Krishna himself? This is unnerving for those, to whom Krishna is God Himself. The kind of intellect and mind blowing introspect we observe in the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna as described by Vyasa naturally points to the person himself. The Mahabharata does not say that Vyasa was present in the war field of Kurukshetra neither it is said anywhere that he was given any magical power to observe the happenings there as we see in Sanjaya’s power to describe the happenings to the blind King Dhritarashtra.       Considering the Gita as the most important book related to Hindu faith, parts of it were incorporated in the Mahabharata, which consequently made this epic a part of faith. But Subrata Kumar Das has worked hard and aptly proved that Mahabharata itself is worthy of respect and reverence.   Subrata has shown intellectual audacity by inciting the readers mind and asking if Vyasa himself was Krishna as Vyasa’s other name is also Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa. The inclusion of conversation between Krishna and Arjuna by the author of this epic made it pertinent for us to ponder who was this Vyasa? Another very important question has been raised by the writer if all these writings including the 18 Puranas were done by Veda Vyasa himself or the name Veda Vyasa is an institution? These are all very intricate questions and the writer went beyond any length to investigate them. The essence of ancient Indian intellectuality comprising life, lust, destiny, jealousy, sacrifices, enmity, friendship, knowledge, compassion and above all a brave effort to find a unity in diversity has made the Mahabharata a great book of universal knowledge. This is proved by its acceptance far beyond India’s borders. Subrata Kumar Das gave a very brief but detailed account of how and why this great epic became a matter of deep interest among the western scholars as well. While reading ‘Amar Mahabharat’ I discovered a few rare qualities of the writer. Indian spiritual philosophy is a unique realm of pure knowledge without any bias or trend. It is an open fathomless place where contradictory ideas are bravely accommodated to uphold the nature of freedom which is essential for anyone who is interested in secular knowledge. This freedom is evident in this book in many ways. The writer did not give up his freedom of thinking while discussing the Mahabharata which is essentially considered by millions as a religious epic. Blind faith or any reservations was not an option for Subrata while writing his book, rather he used unlimited freedom in putting his views to the readers from an audacious pragmatic stand. It is a matter of great importance that there is basically a new renaissance in the world to know and advance the movement towards more freedom of thinking and question all dogmas and fables. Therefore, the epic Mahabharata due to its secular nature with a universal message will create more interest among the knowledge seekers and ‘Aamar Mahabharat’ will definitely be used as a valuable reference book. Akbar Hussain is a Bangladeshi writer who is now living in Toronto.