The Mahābhārata is a love of my life, and one of my main research interests – as well as the subject matter of my upcoming PhD thesis! for awhile now, i have been reflecting on how to meaningfully share about the Mbh on my social media platforms. generally, i would say that there are two main approaches to the Mbh in contemporary discourse: one is the academic and scholarly approach, which, although i both adore and adhere to, i find to be largely inaccessible and limited to the academic niche. the second, which seeps more into contemporary discourse, i find to be a moralistic, religious outlook. although i consider both approaches to be valid and needed in society, i believe that what is missing is more intimate, personal sharing about the Mbh. i, for one, am not in love with the Mbh purely out of intellectual curiosity. for me, The Mahābhārata is alive; it exists within me and within the collective consciousness as a mirror to our own thought processes and individual universes. i would therefore like to challenge myself past my usual scholarly approach and share earnestly about what it means for me to immerse myself in this marvellous epic. for instance, what does it mean for me as a modern woman to read about Draupadī’s disrobing; how can i understand myself better through her character?
to ground these discussions more, i will create infographics about the plot, the historical context & main characters (created more out of love for the Mbh than for these discussions, to be honest!).
very excited for this and am looking forward to establishing myself further in the epic’s framework through this interactive approach!
to begin with,
WHY THE MAHĀBHĀRATA?
a question any scholar should ask themselves, i would argue, is why? why is my research relevant, why should i conduct this research in the first place, and how can it answer to questions of the present?
today, i am going to answer to this question with regards to the Mahābhārata. why should we care about an ancient epic poem? first of all, because the Mbh is not a dead, lifeless piece of literature. i would argue, and this is one of the main claims i will construct in my phd thesis, that the Mbh is ever-fluid and ever-changing. throughout centuries, there have been countless of retellings of the epic, each bearing differences, interpolations. does this mean that they are invalid? i would maintain that they are very much valid, and the continuous changes shaping and re-shaping the epic come as a result of its aliveness: it is alive, pulsing in the collective consciousness. in this full aliveness, the Mbh is moulded by society and culture as they evolve, acting as a mirror.
on the other hand, the Mahābhārata in itself proudly states that what you can find in it, you can find anywhere else, but you cannot find anywhere what does not exist in the Mbh; there is nothing that it does not address. in this, it tells us that it contains all answers and questions we can have – albeit in a very abstract and cryptic manner. for instance, it contains futuristic themes (for its time of creation), such as IVF and AI, and it addresses themes which are very relevant to the present day: religious violence, women’s rights, ethics. it answers to all questions we can have about the human condition; as although times are ever-changing, the human experience always remains the same, or so i would maintain: the questions we ask ourselves at their core remain the same, although the experience will be manifested or expressed differently at surface level. the Mbh thus contains inexhaustive areas of self-exploration and opportunities to understand ourselves and the world.
101 on the Mbh – infographics below! (parts 1, 2, 3… of many!)
watch my videos here in which i speak in length about the topics mentioned above: https://www.instagram.com/musingsonthemahabharata/