amaryllis (/ˌæməˈrɪlɪs/) – bears the name of the shepherdess in virgil's pastoral eclogues. it stems from the greek ἀμαρύσσω (amarysso), meaning "to sparkle", and it is rooted in "amarella" for the bitterness of the bulb. the common name, "naked lady", comes from the plant's pattern of flowering that blooms when the foliage dies. in the victorian language of flowers, it means "radiant beauty".
spent today absorbed in the père lachaise cemetery, and one of the things i was struck most by was seeing the many sculptures of female figures towering over tombs: almost all tearful or in distress. it made me think of Strī Parva, “The Book of Women” from the Mahābhārata, which exclusively focuses on portraying women’s grief and tears, who break upon seeing their men & sons slaughtered on the battlefield in the aftermath of the war. one of the distressed female characters, queen Gāndhārī, lashes out at Kṛṣṇa and accuses him of murder, declaring that he could have stopped the war as he is both omniscient & ever-powerful.
Kṛṣṇa rejects her blame and retorts that he cannot override the cosmic laws. he himself is subjected to them; the massacre was ordained, no one is exempt from death, and the cycle of life is definitive.
my understanding of this exchange is: he is not telling her that she should not grieve or that her grief is “wrong”; he merely offers her the opportunity to place it in a larger context and to use her distress to understand deeper herself as well as the web of nature / existence / cosmology. there is no one to blame or resent or victimise; life unfolds as is. and,
even what we understand as ‘negative’ feelings therefore can be utilised as a stimulus for self-reflection. i myself have spent a lot of time simmering in grief without considering what it could teach me, so this particular scene is very profound for me.
and, how beautiful is Kṛṣṇa’s revelation that he himself is subjected to the cosmic laws once incarnated! will elaborate on this in a future article or post 😊
*my retelling of this dialogue is not based exclusively on the critical edition but also on its variations, as this is one of the instances in which i find referring to multi-versions valuable.
photos: some of my favourite sculptures seen in the cemetery!
recommendations for abridged and unabridged translations of the Mahābhārata, as well as reading and referencing tips 🤍.
to reiterate the last point i made in my video first, i would like to accentuate that those of us who rely on translations and are inhibited by the language barrier are already working with a diluted version of the Mbh; it is for this reason that it is exceptionally important to work with the best and most authentic translation that is accessible for us, especially if we are scholars. in this, we can ensure that we are not perpetuating any misunderstanding or false information in the world. 🤍
🔱 unabridged translations:
🔱 for the first five parvas – J. A. B. van Buitenen | for the remaining books of war – Clay Sanskrit Library | these are exquisite, elegant, all-encompassing, and delicious works of translation.
additionally, i use the abridged translation created by John D. Smith and published by Penguin Classics as a handbook or manual to find my way through the unabridged versions when i write papers. this is extremely efficient for referencing – a compass or map to guide you through the verses. i expand on this in the video, and will additionally create a separate video about how to reference the Mbh.
🔱 the recommendations i have shared have been given to me by my amazing MA supervisor from Lancaster University, Dr. Brian Black, who instilled within me the love for the Mahābhārata in academia, and supported me through my research and my PhD application process. in my opinion, he is one of the most dedicated and passionate contemporary researchers of the Mbh, and i am most grateful to him. his book, ‘In Dialogue with the Mahābhārata’, is a fantastic work of research. read more here: https://www.routledge.com/In…/Black/p/book/9780367547271
🔱 TIPS: for those unfamiliar with this epic, i would recommend they begin with an abridged retelling. note: a retelling, and not a translation (John D. Smith’s abridged work would be considered a translation as it follows the epic poem verse by verse). retellings are easier to digest! the Mbh is vast and can be overwhelming, so use the retellings to
familiarise yourself with the characters and with their narrative arcs, and, when you feel familiar enough with the Mbh’s universe, move onto the unabridged versions.
please be aware that, due to the nature of reproducing an epic poem in prose, most retellings include errors, omissions or interpolations. hold these lightly while you read through and also hold in your awareness that the author might have taken many liberties. use the unabridged versions to correct and reorientate yourself within the universe. this is how i started my own journey with it 😊
demonstrating how to reference the Mbh
a thorough Mahābhārata reference consists of three parts: the number of the parva in which the event in question takes place in, the number of its corresponding verse, and the number of the secondary verse. in have created a video in which i am demonstrating how to most efficiently reference the Mbh by utilising the abridged and unabridged translations with the example of Draupadī’s birth from fire (1.155.45).
note the difference in detailed expansion between the two versions, and the importance of continuously referring to the unabridged translations:
abridged: “A beautiful, dark girl emerged from the altar, and the voice proclaimed that she was destined to accomplish the purpose of the Gods by annihilating the Kṣatriyas. [She was] named Kṛṣṇā (Draupadī).”
*Kṛṣṇā means She of Dark Complexion.
unabridged: “Thereupon a young maiden arose from the center of the altar, the well-favored and beautiful Daughter of the Pañcālas, heart-fetching, with a waist shaped like an altar. She was dark, with eyes like lotus petals, her hair glossy black and curling – a lovely Goddess who had chosen a human form. The fragrance of blue lotuses waited from her to the distance of a league, the shape she bore was magnificent, and no one was her peer on earth. And over the full-hipped maiden as soon as she was born the disembodied voice spoke: ‘Superb among women, the Dark Woman shall lead the Kṣatriyas to their doom. The fair-waisted maiden shall in time accomplish the purpose of the Gods, and because of her, great danger shall arise for the Kṣatriyas.’ Hearing this, all the Pañcālas roared like a pride of lions and earth was unable to hold them so full of joy”.
this might seem as an over-scholarly topic, but much of the written material you are going to encounter on the Mbh will include this, and i find it relevant to have a framework for it. 🤍