Tuesday, November 01, 2011
The Cover-- Revealed!
Cover artist: Mu Ramalingkum
Thanks to Laura Burke for donating this beautiful cover design!
About the Mahabharata
The central story of The Mahabharata is straightforward: it’s the age-old theme of good against evil, culminating in a cataclysmic war, the Battle of Kurukshetra. On the “goodie” side are the Pandavas: five brothers “like the five fingers of one hand”, each of them sired by a god, for their mother (and step-mother), Kunti, possesses a powerful Mantra that can summon such a divine being to father her children.
The eldest Pandava is Yudhisthira, a paragon of a king. He is everything the world has ever longed for in a leader: just, unselfish, benevolent, upright, peace-loving, yet, if called for, a great warrior.
But is he also weak? When he is cheated out of his kingdom by his arch-enemy, his wicked cousin Duryodhana, he dithers, unsure of the ethics of war, and it takes his warrior brothers as well as Krishna, the Incarnation of God, to end his agonising. Is war right or wrong? A war against one’s own family, friends, teachers?
Even Arjuna, the middle Pandava and the perfect, invincible warrior, dithers at the last moment, and at this point his friend and charioteer, Krishna, delivers the Bhagavad Gita, the jewel in the crown of The Mahabharata: Yes, fight they must, and to the death.
On the “baddie” side are the Kauravas, led by the wicked Duryodhana and his right-hand man Karna, who goads him on; and the whole world knows that Karna is a greater warrior than Arjuna.
We know from the beginning that the Pandavas must win, because Krishna is on their side. The glory of The Mahabharata is in the details: the divine curses and boons they must overcome, the super-powerful astras (weapons charged with mighty Mantras) hurled against them, invincible enemies such as the illustrious Bhishma, their beloved grandfather, who cannot be killed unless he wants to be killed. Even Krishna’s own army, the Vrishnis, an indestructible force, is on the enemy side. But the Pandavas must win. It is pre-destined. The question is how, against such an unassailable force?
That, in a nutshell, is the core story of the Mahabharata, the story that appears in condensed form in so many different versions, loved and retold by Hindus from time immemorial, yet little-known in the West.