The Voice of Vyāsa: Viewing the Mahābhārata as an itihāsa

The Mahābhārata has been interpreted differently by various scholars. Some consider it as a text whose layers should be separated to find out an historical kernel, some view it as a synthetic whole. It has been variously seen as a history of the Kurus, as a literary creation based on the śānta rasa, as an extension of Indo-European mythology, or as a Brahmanical reaction against heterodox religions. However, a careful survey of the text, by analyzing its internal evidence and comparing it with other corroborative sources may be useful to historically locate the history of its text-creation in various stages by various authors.

In that history, a very significant factor seems to be its attributed author, Vyāsa. The paper tries to show the intricacies of that attribution which is crucial for the text’s assertion of a new philosophy of behavioural fitness and ability over the crystallizing Brahmanical notion of hereditary vara. The paper also discusses how this fresh and unusual voice makes the text an epoch-making one in tradition, representative of the end of an era, the juncture in history when ‘past’ ends and ‘future’ begins.

Speaker:  Kanad Sinha, Research Scholar, CHS, SSS, JNU
Venue:  Committee Room, JNU Central Library
Date and Time: 31st August 2013 (Saturday), 4:30 pm