Sunday July 22, 2018

200,000-line Ancient Sanskrit poem and Hindu Epic Mahabharata offers Lessons for Modern War

Among the world's canon of great stories of war - Virgil's "Aeneid", "Gone with the Wind", "War and Peace" - the longest epic is "The Mahabharata".

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Sean O’Callaghan relates a parable as the "Battlefield" ensemble listens.(VOA)
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  • Thirty years ago, director Peter Brook staged “The Mahabharata”, in what came to be known as one of the great theatre events of the 20th century
  • Brook started working to bring “The Mahabharata” to the stage towards the end of the Vietnam War
  • The play is only about an hour, but Peter Brook says it’s stuffed with many parables from “The Mahabharata”

New York, October 12, 2016: Among the world’s canon of great stories of war – Virgil’s “Aeneid”, “Gone with the Wind”, “War and Peace” – the longest epic is “The Mahabharata”. The 200,000-line Sanskrit poem tells the story of a great war between two sets of cousins for control of the ancient Indian empire. Thirty years ago, director Peter Brook staged “The Mahabharata”, in what came to be known as one of the great theater events of the 20th century: a nine-hour long production, with two dozen actors, on a stage covered in dirt, with erupting jets of flame.

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Brook started working to bring “The Mahabharata” to the stage towards the end of the Vietnam War. Now, there’s a civil war in Syria, with no end in sight. So, the 91-year-old director decided to re-explore a part of the poem. It starts after a catastrophic war and the play is called “Battlefield”.

“We wanted to concentrate on one thing only, which is: not all the causes that lead to a war, not all the horrors of a great massacre, but what is the position of the great leader who realizes that he has done what he set out to do; he has won.”

A pile of sticks is transformed into many props as the ensemble tells parables from the ancient poem(VOA)
A pile of sticks is transformed into many props as the ensemble tells parables from the ancient poem(VOA)

After his victory, Yudishtira, the prince who’s about to become king, is overwhelmed by the carnage. “This victory is a defeat,” he declares. “[The] battlefield is covered by endless heaps of corpses. Golden breastplates and the jewels of the heroes glitter in the sun.” He wants to retreat into the forest to live a life of penance, but Peter Brook says he can’t: “You have to live to the responsibility of a person who’s won, which is even greater than the responsibility of a person who has lost.”

So, the prince seeks advice from a deity, asking “The other war, where will it take place? On the battlefield, or in my heart?” And Krishna answers, “I don’t see a real difference. The earth will need you. She will enjoy your victory. She will need you to wake up again, to recover her beauty, her calm, her harmony.”

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Epic ideas, writ small

The ideas in “Battlefield” are epic – it looks at death and destiny, the cyclical nature of war and peace. And it does it with just four actors, some different colored shawls, a few sticks, and a drummer. Brook explains, “We’re doing it with a tiny group who are, collectively, one storyteller. And that makes it possible to do what a storyteller can do, which is, both open up an infinitely large cosmos, which a storyteller can do with one word, with one look, with one finger. And, something about the human problems, which a storyteller can find within him or herself.”

 

Drummer Toshi Tsuchitori provides atmosphere for "Battlefield"(VOA)
Drummer Toshi Tsuchitori provides atmosphere for “Battlefield”(VOA)

Drummer Toshi Tsuchitori tells the story as much as the actors. He sits at the side of the stage, punctuating the observations about war with playing that can be ferocious. Or underscoring a parable about destiny with delicacy.

He says every performance of “Battlefield” is different. He improvises, based on where the show plays – it’s toured all over the world – and the feeling in the room. “Every day I work with actors, one hour’s preparation,” he says. “That is my compose.”

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The play is only about an hour, but Peter Brook says it’s stuffed with many parables from “The Mahabharata”. “The most extraordinary powerful, passionate and great ideas about truth, about life, about death. To make those instantly available to us, through a story, which is touching, comic, human.”

And those are just the kind of stories Peter Brook has been telling audiences for over seventy years.(VOA)

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  • Antara

    Mahabharata has always been known as immensely helpful when it comes to learning war politics and war techniques; apart from all the philosophical teachings that it offers us!

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)