chapter  1
47 Pages

Introduction

Visiting the Mahābhārata If the Mahābhārata were a building, its scale would be hard to imagine. It would be as much city as single construction. Small annexes would jostle vast halls and either tiny passageways or vast and imposing corridors would connect every part of the building to every other part. People would queue for hours to gain entry to it. Cameras and videocameras would ceaselessly record the details of its decorations and its more and less visited corners. Backpackers and families would pose proudly in front of it in order to record the very moment that they had been fortunate enough to visit it. 1

Sadly, old texts often lead a slightly less glamorous existence than old buildings and, when scanning our globally-shared book shelf, the eye often passes over works in diffi cult ancient Indian languages that are about four times the length of the Bible. Within South Asia, the Mahābhārata is, of course, known and loved by countless numbers of adults and children, but rarely in Sanskrit. It is known through re-tellings and re-workings of its content in vernacular literature, local performance traditions, comic books and television programmes. It is loved as both a great story and as a source of wisdom. Modern India itself, of course, is known as Bhārat, after the founder of the lineage whose story is told in the Mahābhārata.