A Recollection and Q&A

I call myself a Mahabharatophile, I admit it’s a made-up word but let me explain why I did so. I have been a fan of history and mythology as long as I can remember, plus being born in India led to me being exposed to a whole host of stories based on history and mythology. The history of storytelling in India is rich and varied. In ancient times, epics were told orally and passed down from generation to generation largely by memory. At later times, these stories were written down and that helped in the further spread. For most SFF readers in the subcontinent, their fascination begins when their grandmothers or grandfathers tell them about the Ramayana or the Mahabharata or both. These two epics are the cultural and mythological foundation in India as they deal with magic, heroes, destiny, duty and lots of other things. For me, the Mahabharata always held a special fascination as it had a vast character cast and shades of grey to almost all of them.

My first exposure to this mega story came via the Amar Chitra Katha comic books, then as I read the C. Rajagopalchari version and finally culminating into the canon version by Kisari Mohan Ganguli. Throughout these versions, the complexity never dimmed but kept on growing and made the story even more enticing. . L. Bhyrappa etc. My fascination with this story has grown exponentially and I’m ever on the lookout for new books that feature/focus on this magnificent story. Imagine to my surprise when Max Gladstone talked about this beloved epic of mine in his guest post on A Dribble Of Ink. I was thrilled to bits on learning that a non-desi knew about it, fallen in love with it and had taken the time to blog about it. Seriously go read Max’s post first if you haven’t done so, go on I’ll wait…

Now that you are back, welcome and by now you must have read the gist of the story as Max wonderfully sums it up. Also here’s the quote which graces the start of the book:

What is found herein may also be found in other sources, what is not found herein does not matter.”

This line is factually true as the Mahabharata not only is about an 18 day internecine war between cousins but is a huge compendium about the history, geography, battle tactics, politics, social codes and behavior and various other subjects in relation to human life, thoughts and Dharma. Notice the last word “Dharma” that one features a lot in this story as well as most subcontinental mythology. There’s no single meaning of this word and most desi folk often find it hard to explain it to their non-desi friends. I’m not going to even attempt to explain it and I want you all to try look it up or ask any of your desi friends, that should be an interesting conversation for you all non-Mahabharatophiles.

Why do I think this saga is so cool, well think about all the geeking out over Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord Of The Rings, comics, Fantasy books and SF books. I can’t speak for other desi fans but as a desi geek I never had much access to any of the above except for comics which my uncles used to bring every 6-7 years when they used to visit us. Confession time I still haven’t seen the original Star Wars trilogy and frankly after knowing most of its plot points, I’m no longer enthused to watch it. My point being as geeks we often talk about which book/movie is better? Which character is more strong/valiant/talented/etc. Well with epics such as Ramayana, Mahabharata and the rest of the subcontinental mythology. We used and still have these discussions, ask any desi mythology lover about who was the best archer and you’ll get a variety of answers? Ask them which avatar was more powerful or who did the most good? Lastly for any Mahabharata reader, this is the ultimate ire-raiser; Who is the better warrior, Karna or Arjuna?

Such were the questions that have raged throughout my childhood and the various online forums I frequented in my adolescent years. I still don’t have a concrete answer to the Karna-Arjuna conundrum but I have my opinions on them. So go on and get acquainted with this great epic and you can thank me later. Lastly there’s an excellent blog post by Jai Arjun Singh about MBH on his blog (You can read the discussion about various topics in the comments, just to give you an idea about how contested several points are in this epic). And now I would like to present a small interview with Max Gladstone who kindled this post and cheerfully shined a light on this fascinating epic for all the readers who are yet to discover it. Read ahead and enjoy:

Source: fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com

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