- ‘The Mahabharata as History’ was a recent workshop by Prof Vishwa Adluri and Dr. Joydeep Bagchi
- One of the important points discussed was to enjoy Mahabharata’s tale, rather than getting into the specifics of ‘when’
- The Mahabharat is a great battle told in a story, the experience of which grips us tight
August 2, 2017: ‘The Mahabharata as History’ was a recent workshop by Prof. Vishwa Adluri and Dr. Joydeep Bagchi. The two scholars provided their valuable insights into the greatest war story and how the ‘when’ of Mahabharata question is irrelevant.
The scholars pointed out that the Indology of the 18th and 19th century has had a dominant impact on Indians, just like Japanology had on Japanese or Sinology had on the Chinese.
We often discuss the event of Mahabharata like a historical fact, delving into the ‘when’ of the story. Such questions of irrelevance, as the scholars explained, distract us from answering the real questions that were posed through the story of Mahabharata. We are deeply curious of when the war took place and how, but the deeper underlying narrative of the war has long been forgotten in such the midst of such questions.
What Vyasa’s idea behind Mahabharata was to offer explanations that hold true in a timeless universe. It is an underlying narrative that is able to withstand time. Mahabharata engages us so intensely, as Prof Adluri pointed out, is precisely because we can relate to the emotions, the passions, and sorrows of individuals and their problems.
Unlike the western notion of story-telling in a time frame, Mahabharata is an immortal epic. It is best without a time frame, in a timeless environment. One has to undergo the experience in order to understand the narrative, and this experience can not be measured in time.
As Prof Adluri highlights, “In the Mahabharata, history itself comes and confesses that I, too am a narrative and then becomes itihasa.” This is the beauty of Mahabharata. It brings out the environment which is ever changing, irrespective of the time.
The Mahabharata reveals the relationship between humans and conflict, and the threat it poses to potential emergence of chaos. Conflict is innate to humans and their systems.
To understand Mahabharata’s story and the moral derived from it, the need of the hour is to ignore questions that put the immortal literature into a specific time or period. Human psyche can never be reduced to history. This singular line of thought processing must be at all costs avoided.
– prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394