Book Reviews

Exploring An Indian Tale: Thoughts on The Mahabharata

mahabharata
(Via Goodreads)

The Mahabharata (2006)

By Ramesh Menon

I read this classic Indian tale in English translation for a class this semester and I thought I would share it with you all because it became one of my favorites.

The Mahabharata is one of two major Sanskrit epics of India and it consists of eighteen books. For my class, we read Ramesh Menon’s English translation and it’s structured mostly in prose with some verse.

The story is centered on the great Kurukshetra War that will kill all princes. The oldest brother of the Kauravas, Duryodhana is jealous of the Pandavas’s fortune and gifts and so he tries to kill them or force them into exile. This eventually leads the two families into the Kurukshetra War.

The Mahabharata focuses on one important theme, dharma. From my understanding and what I got from the reading,  “dharma” is the path to justice and truth. Many of these characters seek to find their dharma and full-fill it in their lifetime because dharma is a factor towards whether you go to the afterlife or not. Not all dharma is good dharma. One’s dharma, good or bad, not only has an impact on himself or herself but also those around you. The characters in the Mahabharata struggle with trying to follow dharma because at times, they let their emotions cloud their thinking and judgment.

Ramesh Menon’s version of the Mahabharata is about 1000 pages long, but if you can read through all seven volumes of Harry Potter then you can read this one. It’s a mixture of The Odyssey and Lord of the Rings because they deal with magic and supernatural beings. There’s action, adventure, romance and a whole bunch of other genres/themes; thus, the tale can appeal to a wide variety of audiences. In fact, it would be awesome if Hollywood could adapt this tale with actual Indian actors and actresses because I think the storyline has a timelessness that can teach individuals some important lessons about family, humility, and the dangers of greed and corruption.

Anyways, if you have the time, enjoy reading, and/or are interested in Indian culture, I think this is a classical tale that you should check out.

5/5

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4 comments

  1. I grew up with my grandfather narrating tales of Ramayana and Mahabharata, and I read through the book version of the latter (not this one though) when I was around 14. Needless to say, it has a special place in my heart. You hit the nail on the head about how timeless it is. The various characters, their conflicting moralities and the number of themes explored all make it very unique. The branching stories are also highly entertaining.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the comment. 🙂

      I’m just an amateur in Indian culture but this book really gave me some introductory thoughts on Indian culture which I greatly appreciate. As a story/piece of literature, I really enjoyed it and it is on my list of favorites of all time.

      Liked by 1 person

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