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The great old story

The Mahabharat is more than a religious text. It’s a mirror to our species – it teaches us valuable lessons

brunch Updated: Sep 14, 2013 16:05 IST
Shantanu Argal
Shantanu Argal
Hindustan Times

The Mahabharat is more than a religious text. It’s a mirror to our species – it teaches us valuable lessons

The characters from the epic can be found amongst people you know. Think about it:

Arjun, the champion. He’s your sports-quota jock, the disciplined but uber-desi CRPF personnel.

Yudhishthir, the principled Pandav is your righteous chacha and self-righteous mama, the buzurg who thinks moral dilemmas are the cream of life.

Bheem, the mighty one is, well, most burly Punjabi guys!

Krishna, the arbitrator. Think Union representatives and fixers who get you sarkari contracts. Also, worst mediator ever!

Dushasan, who tries to strip Draupadi in public is the creepy guy forever undressing women in his head. He is everywhere., who narrates the events to the blind king, Dhritarashtra. Every real journalist suffers from the Sanjay syndrome. It’s a gift AND a curse.

Lessons learnt Other than those on war, women and morality:

1. That we can rejoice in imperfection. After all these, demi-gods (and gods) indulge in as much deceit and decadence as any one of us mortals. White lies, gambling, polyamorous sexual relationships. Judge not lest ye be judged.

2. That there is such a thing as accountability. When Yudhishthir alias Dharmaputra decides to use a little white lie to gain strategic advantage, his chariot doesn’t float the righteous six inches above the ground. Suck it, Dharmaputra. Now you are stained like the rest of us. It’s like when you first lied to your folks about that party all those years ago. Ashwathama Hathah Kunjarah, anyone?

3. Tough guys like Bheem can cook. And tough guys like Arjun can cross-dress. And that gender exists way beyond the binary, viz Shikhandi.

4. Nothing good ever came out of a lifetime of celibacy. Here’s looking at you Bheeshma Pitama!


Tales from the Mahabharata have been sung by the likes of Padma Sri Teejan Bai (Pandavani in Chattisgarh), adapted to contemporary settings by Shyam Benegal (the film, Kalyug); poeticised by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar (Krishna Ki Chetavani). It was televised by BR Chopra on Doordarshan (that’s where the pictures are from) and a generation grew up watching the epic every Sunday. A 100-crore Mahabharat starts on Star Plus starting tomorrow – we’ll be back with the verdict.

From HT Brunch, September 15

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First Published: Sep 14, 2013 14:48 IST