Mahabharata: an Ideal Itihasa (History) of Ancient India


  • S. N Mukherjee


It is difficult to characterize Mahabharata. It is the longest poem ever written, there are over 100,000 verses, most of them sixteen syllables each. It is not just a heroic tale of battles and conquests; in it prayers and hymns are recited, long passages of advice are given on ethics and on kingly duties, all the places of pilgrimage are described, and all systems of philosophy and asceticism are summarised. In one section, the Bhagvadgitli, Krishna as the incarnation of God Vi~I).U advises Arjuna, the third Paf.19ava, how to attain liberation. As Katz has suggested',


The Mahabharata may be said to embody the abundance of India, a nation that has been, through centuries, uniquely capable of living with untrammelled growth, even contradictions. To this day, "Bharata" (the family of Bhlirata) is the name for India in the modem Indian languages, with the implication that Bharata, besides simply having been the distant ancestor of the Piil;lqavas and Kauravas was somehow the forerunner of all Indian culture.