What is the beauty of Mahabharata

Great Works - Past Times: The Mahabharata, Part 1

The Mahabharata is considered to be the most extensive epic in world history, whose roots go back to the 3rd millennium BC. Reach back BC. To this day, the Hindus consider it a source of ethical behavioral guidelines and identity.


Introductory explanations:

The Mahabharata is the most important and extensive epic of the Hindus and at its core describes the war between two related princely families for supremacy in India. This battle between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, both descended from the great Bharata dynasty, is fought on the sacred battlefield of Kurukshetra.

Mahabharata means: the great epic [of the fight] of the descendants of Bharata. Although it is uncertain whether the work was written by a single poet, it is traditionally attributed to Saint Vyasy, who plays a role in the story itself and acts as the narrator. The epic comprises around 100,000 double verses. There is mainly disagreement between western and eastern researchers about the dating of the Mahabharata. In the form handed down to us today, it was probably built between the 4th century BC. And the 4th century AD. The origins of parts of the epic are said to date back to 3000 BC. Go back BC.

The Mahabharata is divided into 18 books (Parvas):

1. Adi Parva: Genesis, origins and early years of the princes
2. Sabha Parva: Ascent, dice game, and exile of the Pandavas
3. Bana Parva: The 12 years in the forest, Arjuna gets divine weapons.
4. Virata Parva: The 13th year in exile
5. Udyoga Parva: The war is being prepared.
6. Bhishma Parva: beginning of the war, Bhisma as commander-in-chief of the Kauravas
7. Drona Parva: Drona as Commander in Chief of the Kauravas
8. Karna Parva: Karna as commander in chief of the Kauravas
9. Salya Parva: Salya as commander-in-chief of the Kauravas, Duryodhana's end
10. Sauptika Parva: Midnight carnage
11. Stri Parva: The funeral service
12. Santi Parva: Yudhisthira becomes king
13. Anushasana Parva: Final Instructions and Death Bhismas.
14. Aswamedha Parva: The Ashwameda offering
15. Ashramabasika Parva: Dhritarashtra's old age
16. Musala Parva: The Yadavas are dying out.
17. Mahaprasthana Parva: The Pandavas are entering the path of death.
18. Swargarohana Parva: The Pandavas reach the spiritual world.

The life of Krishna is described in an appendix of 16,375 verses, the Harivamsa Parva.

In the course of time, the ballad of the struggle within the Bharata dynasty for supremacy in India was expanded to include numerous, more or less extensive texts. These texts also include the two ballads Savitri-Satyavan and Nala-Damayanti, which are themselves among the great works of world literature. However, all texts are preceded by a religious conversation, the Bhagavad Gita, in which the profound philosophy of the Hindus is recorded. The Bhagavad Gita was so skilfully incorporated into the epic that for devout Hindus any doubt about its original affiliation with the epic appears to be blasphemy.


The Mahabharata as we know it today is likely to have been between the 4th century BC. And the 4th century AD. Image: Revista Magazine

The epic itself is about more than just a war between rival sexes, rather a mythical story of humanity is told with a prophetic outlook into the future.
What is found here can also be found elsewhere. "What cannot be found here cannot be found anywhere," says the first book of the great epic. Here between the lines nothing less than the mythical story of humanity is told. While there was still peace on earth at the beginning, the conflict carries war into society, which will continue into the distant future.

On the one hand, the Mahabharata, with its great battle scenes and heroic deeds, can be compared in many ways with the Iliad. On the other hand, the Mahabharata also deals with philosophical questions, or there are debates about statecraft, rules of conduct for the individual castes and genders, but also fables and colorful stories.

The focus of the plot is a small number of people whose development and fate will lead to war in the course of the epic. On one side are the 100 Kauravas, the sons of the blind king Dhritarastra, of whom Duryodhana and Dushasana play an exposed role. On the other side we find the five Pandavas, the sons of the late King Pandu: Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva. The Kauravas are the sons of the ruling king, the Pandavas sons of the gods and two human mothers. Both groups face each other irreconcilably even in their youth.

The narrator's sympathy is clearly on the part of the Pandavas, who are taught by the best teachers and grow up to be exemplary people, who have the most outstanding qualities and who always stand up for the good. The Kauravas are unwilling to recognize their cousins' legal claim to the kingdom and are determined to defend their claim to power by all possible means, without shrinking from fraud and murder.

But the epic is far from unfolding the plot as a black and white painting. Duryodhana is portrayed, for example, as a good and just king, but also as a courageous and honorable fighter who, however, is not in harmony with himself and rejects all well-meaning advice himself - from gods - so that fear, anger and greed take hold of him more and more .

But the Pandavas are not innocent of the conflict either. Even in his youth, the strong Bhima had the greatest fun beating up his cousins ​​and the Kauravas also had to accept numerous humiliations from the other Pandavs, which further fueled the conflict. In the end they will even fatally wound Duryodhana through a dishonorable trick. The tension between the two sexes ultimately leads to a cruel war in which all agreements for the fight are lost. The epic makes it clear that there can be no winner in a war, but only leads to losses and brutalities. It is not possible to remain honorable or decent in the midst of a cruel environment.


Vyasa (right), the narrator of the epic, dictates the story of the Mahabharata to the elephant god Ganesha.Photo: excerpt from film Peter Brooks, Mahabharata

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The origin

The epic begins with the creation of the world and the origin of the great royal house of the Bharatas, to whom the Hindus India to this day Bharatavarsha? call. One of the descendants of the famous Bharata is the mighty Bishma, who renounces the royal throne and swears to remain childless; the gods grant him the favor of being able to determine his own hour of death.

Bishma ruled the country during the minority of several kings, including the two kings Dhritarastra and his younger brother Pandu. Dhritarastra, the older of the two, has to renounce the throne in favor of Pandu because he was born blind. Pandu succeeds in numerous wars to extend his rule to the borders of the world.

After his campaigns, he hands over rule to his blind brother Dhritarastra and retreats into the woods as a hermit with his two wives, Kunti and Madri. Since he is not allowed to have children due to a curse, his wife Kunti uses a mantra, a magic spell with which she can summon every god and then has three children.

Her eldest son, Yudhisthira, is descended from Dharma, the god of virtue and death; Bhima of Vayus, god of winds and storms, and Arjuna is the son of Indra, king of gods. Madri, Pandu's second wife, also uses the mantra and has twins Nakula and Sahadeva, whose fathers are the twin gods Aswini and Kumaras, the divine doctors.

The life and fate of the five sons, the Pandavas, will henceforth be the focus of the epic. After the death of Pandus and Madris, Kunti and her sons move to the Dritharastra court to entrust his nephews to him. King Dritharastra has now had 100 sons himself, the Kauravas, who will form the opposite pole to the Pandavas in the epic. Of the Kauravas, the eldest prince Duryodhana and his brother Dushasana play the most important roles. Kauravas and Pandavas are entitled to the royal throne because of their origin.

The Dice Game

Even in their youth, the Kauravas and Pandavas face each other as rivals. Bhima - the strongest of them all - never misses an opportunity to beat up his cousins ​​and likes to play vicious games with them. In Duryodhana the desire to kill him and his brothers grows ever stronger, a conflict that runs through the entire epic. In order not to let the quarrel between the young Kauravas and Pandavas get out of hand, the king entrusts the great Brahmin warrior Drona with the education and training of the princes.

In the martial arts training, Arjuna proves to be Drona's best pupil, which increases the envy and hatred of the Kauravas even more. At one tournament, Arjuna has already managed to outdo all of his cousins ​​when Karna, the son of a charioteer, appears at the tournament and proves to be equal to Arjuna in the use of weapons. Since Karna does not belong to the warrior caste of the Kshattriyas, Arjuna refused to fight this and mocks him because of his ancestry. Duryodhana offers Karna his friendship and makes him a king. He thereby gains a powerful ally who will stand by his side until the end.

Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas, recognizes Karna as her firstborn son, whose father was the sun god. To hide her misstep, she abandoned Karna as a baby in the river, where he was found, taken in and raised by a charioteer's family.


The Kauravas and Pandavas develop a strong rivalry against each other from an early age.Photo: excerpt from film Peter Brooks, Mahabharata

Yudhisthira the eldest son of the Pandavas receives a number of lands as a kingdom from Dritharastra. The Pandavas succeed in expanding their kingdom very quickly in all directions and multiplying their wealth. Duryodhana, whose envy and hatred is aroused by this, tries to murder his nephews by arson attack. The Pandavas are warned and they manage to escape with their mother, which finally leads them to King Drupada. Arjuna wins his daughter Draupadi as his wife, who he has to share with his four brothers on the instructions of his mother.

Once again, the Pandavas succeed in building a kingdom in whose capital Indraprastha they have a royal palace built, the dimensions and beauty of which are incomparable. Arjuna wins Prince Vasudeva as a friend, who is actually the god Krishna, who will be by his side until the end. After numerous campaigns of conquest, Yudhisthira finally achieved supremacy over all of India.

The rapid increase in power of the Pandavas arouses the fear of their cousins ​​and they decide to invite Yudhisthira and his brothers to a game of dice at their royal court. Shakuni, a cardsharp, who knows every throw in advance, calls on Yudhisthira to play dice on behalf of the Kauravas, which Yudhisthira does not want to refuse for reasons of honor. Shakuni wins one game after the other, the stakes of the two taking on dizzying proportions, until Yudhisthira finally gambled away all his treasures and his entire kingdom. Falling into the gambling fever, he even uses his four brothers and himself as a pledge and loses.

As the very last job he offers his wife Draupadi, who is finally pulled by the hair in front of the king as a slave by Dushasana - Duryodhana's brother. Here the legal dispute breaks out as to whether Yudhisthira had the right to bet her at the game of dice, although he has already lost himself. Duryodhana and Dushasana humiliate Draupadi so violently that Bhima vows to cruelly kill both of them one day.

King Dritharastra, thrown completely off balance by the dispute, grants Draupadi the desire to restore freedom to their husbands. The Pandavas leave the royal court but are called back on Duryodhana's advice to use everything in a final and all-important game. The losers have to live as ascetics in the woods for 12 years and go into exile for a 13th year, where they cannot be recognized. After this time they will get their kingdom and all their treasures back. If they are recognized before this time, they would have to face another 12 years of exile. Yudhisthira accepts the challenge again and loses.

 

>> Great Works - Past Times: The Mahabharata, Part 2
>> Great Works - Bygone Times: Part 1

 

 

Andreas Markt-Huter, 02-12-2005

 

 

Related Links:
Wikipedia: Mahabharata
Habitats: Mahabharata
Agatucci: Introduction to the film Mahabharata