BLF2020 | Modern Perspectives on the Mahabharata – Krishna Udayasankar and Madhavi Mahadevan

Mahabharata, the Indian epic, has us all intrigued for ages with various questions about life, karma, dharma, and bhakti. The writers on the stage, Krishna Udayasankar and Madhavi Mahadevan were so intrigued that they have written books about certain characters on their journey to unleash the answers about the Mahabharata.

On the first day of the Bangalore Literature Festival 2020, we had two writers on the stage, Krishna, a renowned author of the ‘Chronicles of Aryavarta,’ and several other books; and Madhavi, a book critic and writer of children’s stories and short stories. She has written two books based on the characters of the Mahabharata. These ladies spoke about their take on modern perspectives on the Mahabharata, that is, how is the 2000 year old epic relevant now?

To this, Krishna answered that people don’t change throughout ages. She further explained that the socio-technical perspectives change, times change, resources change, but people remain the same. Like the canvas of the painting changes, colours change, but the characters stay the same. To which Madhavi agreed. Madhavi further added that because Mahabharata is so honest and presented the way it is, it is widely accepted. It is not like the characters are entirely right or entirely devil. There are greyed characters too, neither black nor white. Madhavi feels that Mahabharata is an aid to questions like, Who am I? What is my purpose? And what is the right thing to do?

Krishna now asked Madhavi what drew her towards writing on the mythical tales around Mahabharata? Madhavi graciously answered that she came across women characters that stood their ground in a man’s world who did not give up on their self-worth and fought for what is right. These women characters, often called ‘Pancha Kanya’, inspired her and drew her towards writing about Mahabharata. The five women referred to as Pancha Kanya are Kunti, Draupadi, Ahalya, Tara, and Mandodari.

Krishna now answered why she was driven towards writing Mahabharata. She says that she first attempted poetry in her starting days of writing, and it turned out that she was terrible at it. Later, she tried to write a satire on the Mahabharata and stumbled on the character Govinda (Krishna/Vasudev). She said that the personality of Govinda wasn’t easy to decipher and write about. This is where she pushed her boundaries, explored more, and wrote the chronicles on Govinda.

Madhavi asked how it was to explore a male character and write about a divine persona. Krishna elaborated that in her books, Govinda is not divine and is a normal human being. The books are a narrative of how an average person turns out to be so extraordinary. Also, gender hadn’t got anything to do with her style of writing.

Madhavi presented her take on it as it was somewhat challenging to write about women characters because it was an age of patriarchy. She was overwhelmed with the Pancha Kanya that they had so much endurance and perseverance towards achieving what they believed in.

They concluded their discussion that the Pancha Kanya and the men of Mahabharat are relevant even today. Not just the characters but the acts of violence against women, injustice, and many other things are relevant today. Amongst this, it is paramount to draw one lesson: to look at the larger picture always, just like Govinda looked at the revolution of justice that they were creating even at the cost of blood spillage.

About the Author: Puja Ambalgekar is an IT employee who finds writing, reading, and books in general as an outer space experience. She believes that words have the power to make the difference you intend to. She likes writing poetry, mythology, and technology. You can find her here. She currently writes for TheSeer.

Like what you just read? Become TheSeer Insider. You will be receiving one letter from us every Friday to help you spend a more mindful day and make the best of your weekend. Enter your email id below and click on subscribe. We won’t spam you, ever!

Krishn and Arjun at Kurukshetra Battlefield

The Heroes are Dead 

Mythology and historical tales are an interesting part of the everyday life of inquisitive people. It always calls for inspiration and the power to bring about a change. The change is felt deep within but no effort is taken towards achieving it. Let alone the excuses one follows while being driven to the decision of not going all the way. Be it the inspiring Krishna or Rama, Arjun or Hanuman, or even the mighty heroes from Greece, all are momentary whose stories turn powerless once the reader comes to a point of action. Many of them have questions like, ‘Can I make a difference? How will I be able to conquer a problem that is huge and largely deemed impossible?’

‘Myth – a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.’

All the heroes from the past are worshipped for their might, but are we willing to apply the learning from these mighty stories? The mythological tales give a perspective towards things that the audience should interpret and apply to contemporary times for their benefit.

 

The fear of judgement from society nags the masses. The stories narrated to us with a rising hope, often create a fascinating picture in the listener’s mind. The narrations of bravery and decisions made in times of trouble look wayward to the contemporary. Would you rather choose to slay your brothers in today’s world in choosing the right over wrong? In the event of a real-life circumstance, you need to quit pondering over the probabilities and take action by applying the lessons learnt out of these inspiring tales from times gone by.

 

The Kali Yuga is here, but how will you go further? We live in a world where everyone seems to be making excuses and there is no development towards cumulative betterment. Those who try to keep up the fighting spirit are being bogged down and diminished by the so-called virtuous ones in society. All those who had been applauded for their courage and mysterious outcomes are now dead. We need to look at it with some implication and application to the current scenario. The world is looking for new heroes, those who could switch the perception of the old into the new.

“कर्म करो, फल की चिंता मत करो” – श्रीमद भगवद गीता

This quote from the Bhagavad Gita translates to – ‘Set your heart upon your work but never its reward.’ By applying these lessons in everyday life, individuals who seek change can develop worthy future.

Straczynski has righty stated that the masses are going wayward and losing attention towards the contemporary – “the point of mythology or myth is to point to the horizon and to point back to ourselves: This is who we are; this is where we came from; and this is where we’re going. And a lot of Western society over the last hundred years – the last 50 years really – has lost that. We have become rather aimless and wandering.”

The modern-day heroes do exist, but they are few in number with a vast mission. Ones who will take righteous actions in everyday life need to be encouraged. Benevolence in this world full of atrocities is highly valuable. The society needs a warrior to fight the ethical devaluation and immoral activity with courageous wisdom, not swords and arrows. The outcomes of issues that have been plaguing the ethics and questioning sovereignty need acceptance. A passionate individual will drive many and create not one, but an army of societal heroes.


The quest for quick success is a myth and the war is larger than what meets the eye.

 

About the Author: Meetvan Thaker is a wordsmith with versatile interests inclined towards art with a social perspective. 

Year End Read – Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

The world that a child walks into is ripe with parents,teachers, and relatives who are ever ready to impart their share of knowledge. This world is ever so full with innumerable guides, inexhaustible chicken-soups, volumes of encyclopedia, armies of life-coaches. In simple terms, we should have turned out into a perfect world, a super-harmonious civilization by now. After all when we consider the abundance of knowledge through our history and present as a planet, the awe just grows deeper and deeper.

So the questions that arise are Continue reading “Year End Read – Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse”