Mahabharat : Some Interpretations

By Prasad Gokhale

Vyasa's Mahabharat is one of our noblest heritages, and it is has been a elevated influence for thousands of years. Its strengthens the soul and drives home, as nothing else does, the vanity if ambition and evil and the futility of of anger and hatred. The Mahabharat is not merely an "epic"; it is a romance, telling the tale of heroic men and women and some who were divine. It is a whole literature in itself, contain- ing a code of life; a philosophy of social and ethical relations, a speculative thought of human problems that is hard to rival; but above all - it has for its core the Bhagavad Geeta, which is as the world is beginning to find out, the noblest of scriptures and the grandest of the sagas in which the climax is reached in the wonderous Apocalypse in the Eleventh Canto! The "epic" has been an unfailing and perenial source of spiritual strength.

The philosophical essense of the Mahabharat is only one interpreta- tion. Ludwig called it an analogy of cycle of seasons - Pandu, Dhru- tarashtra, Krishna etc. being different shades of the Sun. One another scholar, Ho, considers it to be a tussle between the Vaishnav and Shaivite sects. Maxmuller addressed the Mahabharat to be a reflection of Greek civilization as it contains customs and practices prevelant among Greek people. Buhler considers the Mahabharat to be a 'Dharma- Shastra'. Wrangler Chandratreya interprets the volumnous treatise as the ocean of ethical principles spread out over a vast expanse...

Yet another scholar, Dr.Prema, views the treatise from a medical per- spective, 100 diseases (Kaurav) being treated by 5 medicines (Pandav). He refers to the allegorical equations of Teriyar - a 'Siddha', a mystic-cum-medical man, which are quite fascinating :

  1. Kichaka is equated to venereal diseases and his younger brothers are represented as the diseases like ulcer, impotency, nervous debil- ity and for which Bheema acts as an antidote. He is represented as the mercurial preparation for the treatment of the above diseases. Drau- padi acts as the sulpher and by this system of characterization of person and formulation of medicine, it is explained how to cure diseases.
  2. Arjuna is catagorized as the copper containing medicine and his triumphal march against his enemies is equated in terms of his victory over inummerable diseases. His conquests reflect nothing but the forceful and scientific treatment of diseases.
  3. Yudhisthira is called as the embodiment of iron component of the medicine who victory over Drona is equated as his victory over titanus.
  4. Some believe that it is long poem and contains mythical characters and events. How could a source of cultural-spiritual-political-ethical- art- literature-etc. been a reality ? How could 'one book' incorporate the faculties of ethics-polity-statecraft-economics-therapeutics at the same time ? Therefore the 'book' must have evovled over centuries with all the knowledge added slowly. The 'poetic idealism' is too good to be a reality ! And how is that such a 'primitive' civilization, when computers were not developed, even ponder about nuclear missiles and biological weapons ? It cannot be true...However, " There is more suspense in the Truth and only the Truth delivers more thrill than the imaginative will" !

    Mahabharat is not just a story, but the detailed account of a event occured in the past. It has been written in the epic from time to time that Mahabharat is a "itihas" which exclusively means "thus occured". The words "Puraan" and "Itihas" were specifically coined by the Arya people to catagorize the "ancient" and "recent" events. Both the words denote history that has occured at different times. A number of dynas- ties with their long lineage of kings have been presented in the work. More than 50 kings from King Barhi to the Pandava King have been recorded. Additional information about the King, his wife, his scions, his relations, etc. have been accounted in great detail. If it were just fiction, only 4-5 kings would have sufficed to build the story on. Then why such mind-boggling details ?

    Mahabharat is of a later date than the Ramayan. Why would the author of the Mahabharat borrow the same ideas and characters as those of the author of Ramayan ? Archaeological excations has discovered the sub- merged city of Dwaraka. This is the same Dwaraka as mentioned in the Mahabharat. The astronomical recordings in the Mahabharat "epic" and other scriptures (Bhagwat), given the correct positions of the planets and stars during that time. How could a work of fiction be proved using mathematical tools ?

    A historian, however, percieves it as a historical reality that occured about 5000 years ago! The Mahabharat represents a reference to dileanate a continuous record of events, before and after the War, and to trace back the antiquity of human civilization, in Bharat as well as in the rest of the world.

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