The Mahabharata is one of the eternal epics of the world. as long as human beings remain what they are and are moved by passion and feelings as long as the struggle between and good and evil continues to rage in the human heart as long as mankind is faced with the problems of war and peace the Mahabharata will continue to remain a source of aesthetic enjoyment and moral and intellectual enlightenment.
There used to be a time not more than three or four decades back when children listened to the tales from the Mahabharata from their mothers or grandmothers. But times have changed now and cheap stories of adventure and crime and funnies form the developed societies are fast becoming the main fare for the minds of our growing children. It is therefore a matter of real satisfaction that the everlasting lore of Mahabharata should be presented in a simple and interesting in these pages by Rani Shanta Rameshwar Rao. The author deserves the gratitude of the present generation.
It is not however enough that a book like this should be printed and published. It should be the responsibility of parents especially mothers to place this volume in the hands of their growing children and kindle in them sufficient interest so that it might claim their attention.
The Mahabharata tells the story of the warrior princes who were called the Kauravas and the Pandavas and who lived in India many centuries ago. It tells of their rivalries and their adventures and of the Great War which they fought on the field of Kurukshetra.
They were cousin’s sons of brothers and they belonged to the clan or family of the Kurus. The Aryans who made their homes in the plains of Northern India lived in family groups called clans. The Kurus were princes and warriors trained form childhood to war like pursuit. They lived and ruled in India and had their empire over much of the land covered today by Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.
It you are an Indian child it is very unlikely that you have not heard of the Mahabharata for over the centuries this epic and the character and situations described in it have become part of our very being. If you are a boy and have four brothers or four friends in whose company you are constantly seen it is almost certain that at one time or another some one has laughingly referred to you as the Pancha Pandavas. If you grow up to be a tall well built brawny type some one might quite possibly have nicknamed you a Bhima. If you are a girl and have not braided up your hair but have had your grandmother or an elderly aunt point out to you and say. Here comes our Draupadi and perhaps she would explain to you that when Draupadi had been dragged by the hair to the assembly hall of the Kauravas her tresses had come loose. Then she had vowed that she would neither comb her hair nor bind it up until Bhima had killed Dushahansan and avenged the dishonor done to her.
The Mahabharata is known through the length and breath of our country. From out of it come innumerable references proverbs and saying and wise and amusing little stories or anecdotes which though constantly repeated never lose their beauty or charm. It almost very remote nook and corner of India the Mahabharata appears and curiously enough the characters take on the ways and manners of that particular region. If you came from a village in the Madras state you would think that the entire action of the epic took place in the area surrounding your village among people who lived and spoke and worked and played as you and your neighbours did. On the mother hand to a child from Bengal the characters if the Mahabharata would be Bengali customs. What is even more interesting is that the Mahabharata has traveled over the sea to countries as far as Indonesia Siam and Cambodia. In these lands the people tell the story and the characters live and move and belong as if they had sprung out of the native soil. Thus the different versions of the epic differ it would be strange indeed if they did not. For stories told by word of mouth will naturally change in the telling a little here and a little there an addition made there by one teller with a vivid imagination an omission made there by another with a bad memory and over a period of time broad changes take place. But the basic story remains the same.
No one is quite certain about the date the Mahabharata was first written but scholars say that it is one of the oldest literary works known to man. It is also the world’s longest literary work. As we know the epic today it contains a 100,000 stanzas and is eight times longer than Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey put together.
In Indian people call the Mahabharata the fifth Veda for in it may be found every branch of knowledge. The poets who composed it (for it does not seem possible that this cast poem could be the work of one single individual) have woven into it history and legend myth and folklore fable and parable philosophy and religion statecraft and the art of war morals and romance. It is like a wonderfully rich fabric of innumerable patterns and colors. In the Mahabharata story you see reflected as in mirror the lives of procession upon the Mahabharata stage in the company of proud warriors and men of rich and noble ancestry. We see in it the history of the Aryan settlement and advance their contact with their dark skinned neighbours who rules the country before they came their rivalries and adventures and warts and their entire way of life.
In the following pages is the barest story of the mighty epic. It is like one strand out of the whole rich fabric and yet in it I have tried to recapture a little of its grandeur its beauty and its color. For a brief minute as you read the book it may be that the characters will flash past you the gentle hearted Yudhishthira ruling over his newly built empire as a wise and kind father rules over his homestead a prince who hated war and violence because of his very goodness; Arjun the warrior fearless and skilful and yet tormented always by doubts Abhimanyu young daring and impulsive who knew not what fear was Draupadi the dark princess in whose heart burned a great anger which the world not allow to be extinguished an anger that consumed all things at last in its fearful flames so that only bitter memories remained in the end like ashes after a mighty fire.
|The Family Tree|
|1||The Noble Prince|
|2||The Unhappy Princess|
|3||The Birth of Karna|
|4||The Pandava Princes|
|5||The Great Archer|
|6||A Wicked Plot|
|8||Karna Faces Arjuna|
|9||Duryodhana Plots Again|
|10||A Silent City|
|13||The Gambling Match|
|14||The Pandavas in Exile|
|15||The Year in Hiding|
|16||The Besieged City|
|17||The Exile is Over|
|18||Envoys and Missions|
|19||Preparations for War|
|20||Kurukshetra and After|