Thursday, September 26, 2013

1. The Threshold

NaaraayaNam namaSkrutya naramchaiva narOththamam
dEvIm SaraSvathim vyaaSam thathO jayam udhIrayEth

The above is the opening sloka (hymn) of the great epic Mahabharata. This carries an invocation of Narayana (Lord Vishnu) and Saraswati, the Goddess of learning. 

It says:

 "I begin the Mahabharata (Jaya) after paying obeisance to Narayana and Saraswati."
( Jaya is another name by which Mahabharata is known.)

I have been fascinated by the story of the Mahabharata ever since I read, in my boyhood, an abridged version of this epic by the statesman-writer C.Rajagopachari (popularly known as Rajaji), a close confidant of Mahatma Gandhi. It was my mother, the late Vijayavalli who inspired me to read even when I was a boy. She herself had been an avid reader, though she did not even complete her primary schooling. I have been gaining more and more insights into this epic by reading various articles on this epic and listening to discourses by learned scholars.

It is customary to compare anything gigantic to the ocean. In the case of Mahabharata, the analogy of the ocean will be very fitting. Like an ocean, Mahabharata has innumerable and unexplored treasures buried in it. There have been explorers and deep divers who have brought out a substantial portion of these treasures. Yet, the ocean still abounds in unexplored treasures. But I am not attempting to bring out any hidden treasure. My desire is to explore some of the treasures that have been already brought out by various scholars over several centuries and present them in a simple and intelligible way so that even a layman will be able to understand and appreciate the story. The writer of this blog being a layman himself, he will be able to generate only a simple output, eliminating the florid details and other esoterica.

Sometime back, I started writing about the stories in Mahabharata. Apart from the main plot, there are innumerable short stories and anecdotes in this epic, many of which are very interesting to hear or read. My objective was to bring some of these not-so-well-known stories to the attention of people who may not have the time or the inclination to read scholarly works relating to this epic. Though I started this work with a lot of enthusiasm, this project has not been progressing well. I have to sift trough a lot of material before I could pick one story.

Then it struck me that I should start writing the story of Mahabharata itself. Along with this, I can also pursue my other project of narrating short stories found within the epic. That's how you are reading this.

I will narrate the original story elaborately but will focus only on the movement of the story leaving out the discussions, descriptions etc. so that an average reader will not be overwhelmed by the text. I will also be more comfortable in narrating the main story than presenting the esoteric concepts and descriptions. The story being told here will be faithful to the original but will be rewritten in a simple and intelligible language, focusing on the main story and keeping away from digressions and issues not needed to understand the main story.

For the authenticity of the incidents, facts and details relating to this epic, I will be relying  on

1) Rajaji's Mahabharata
2) The Tamil translation of the original Mahabharata that was serialized in Sri Nrisimhapriya, the monthly journal of Sri Ahobhila Mutt, several years back.
3) The English translation of the original Mahabharata by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli
4) The discourses (in Tamil) on Mahabharata by various scholars, I had an opportunity to listen to, in my younger days.

I have an appeal to the readers. Please feel free to offer your comments. Your feedback will help me to understand how I am doing and where I need to improve. If some inadvertent mistakes were to occur, they can also be corrected. In the print edition, the corrections can be made only in the subsequent edition of the book but the electronic edition facilitates instant updates.

I am aware of the formidableness of the task but have still ventured to take it up. I believe that at the age of 62, working on this project will add a new meaning to my life. It may take me several years to complete this. I also need to be alive long enough to complete this! I am confident that the grace of Lord Vishnu whom I worship, the blessings of my great teachers who have moulded my personality, the divine blessings of my late parents who have shown me the path of virtue through their own living, the well wishes of my friends and others I have come to be associated with during the last 62 years of my journey in this world and the encouragement and support from the people who will be reading this (who as I am writing this, are not even aware of the coming into being of this blog!), will enable me to carry on with this project and complete it in a reasonable time.

Welcome to the exciting world of Mahabharata!

Next: The Grandeur of the Epic Mahabharata

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