MAHABHARATA: AN ELEGY TO NATIONALISM
The Mahabharatans, Book I-Book IV is one of the most ambitious projects undertaken in recent years. The present work is based on the most authentic version of the great classic known as the critical edition (1919-1966) worked upon by the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune. The author also owes a debt of gratitude to Prof. Bibek Debroy for his authentic
English translation of the great epic now available in ten volumes as the basic resource for the present study.
The Mahabharatans has its distinctive individuality. Thus it stands apart from the rest of the extant literature. The book under review is on the life and times of eighteen characters, who walk through the pages of the great classic as colossus giants. All of that is viewed contemporaneously to establish the truth of history repeating itself. Here is the past beckoning us to our future. Dharma being the most secular concept ever conceived by mankind; it is also the running theme underlying all pages of the book. The Mahabharatans, Book I is only the first of the series. It is expected to be completed in four books by the end of the year.
The final judgment over the entire series is yet remaining to be delivered.
The Mahabharatans, Book I, is all about the forefathers from Vedavyasa to Krishna, who had indeed laid the ground work for the theory and practice of Dharma as the foundation of Indian culture and civilisation. The great battery of bravehearts ranges from Vedvyasa, Shukadeva, Bhishma and Vidura to the Yadava Krishna. Each one had his distinctive individuality. They also happened to be the conscience-keepers of Bharata that is India.
The very concept and idea of India is succinctly deliberated upon in the dialogue between Dhritarashtra and Sanjaya. India is visualised as the tortoise or hare – shaped land mass and sacred land inhabited by the successive generations of Manu, the father of manavas (mankind) comprised equally of “Aryas” as well as “mleechas” and men from “mixed lineage”. All of them are viewed as rightful claimants to the joint inheritance. Sanjaya concludes by asserting, “If the earth is looked after well, she becomes the father, the mother, the son and heaven for all human beings”. That must indeed be the best definition of conceptual rationalism.
Vidura is the most neglected character of the Mahabharata. He had neither enemies, nor any friends, but he was the beloved of all. He was the stand-alone character who towered over the rest of them at the end of it all. He has been appropriately described as “Mahatma Vidura Shudra, Saint, Sage and Statesman” in the book.
The book is indeed an elegy to India that is Bharata as well as Bharatavarsha. The author, Girja Kumar, has been the architect of famous Sapru House and Jawaharlal Nehru University libraries. He has now delivered his best “baby” in his 19th first year.