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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Book Review : 'Marvels and Mysteries of the Mahabharata: Probing the Folds of India’s Epochal Tragedy' by Abhijit Basu

Marvels and Mysteries of the Mahabharata: Probing the Folds of India’s Epochal Tragedy’ is a book that one must read because it has so many facets and not just the marvels and the mysteries of the Mahabharata. I received the book and on realising that it was non-fiction, I was as usual, worried. But then, I should have known that this was the Mahabharata. It was no wonder then, that I finished it in one day.

The story is something you would expect, yet it manages to show its metamorphosis in its various chapters, just as the Mahabharata did. Vyasa and Satyavati’s saga and how they began it all. It includes factors which, we may have considered and not given it a thought. Abhijit Basu gives it the extra thought and more.

He writes about why Pandu is pale, how his so-called sons were not really his. How Vyasa as the saint-chronicler appears at various intervals during the entire story and how he tries to bring about changes, Krshna’s appearance in the whole series and how he manages to sometimes bring about a change. The correlations between the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and the time factors in both these great epics of India is also dealt with.

The many interpretations of the books and their amazing authors is a whole new read. Also, the similarities between the Sumerian, the Greek and the Indian epics is another story in itself, which he also wraps into this book.

There are chapters, which have the writer and with him the reader wondering about why the Khandava forest was burnt down by Arjuna. He also draws parallels between the weapons used in those days to the atom and nuclear bombs of today.

He calls Yudhishthira, a pilgrim and writes about his entire story, which is kind of new for me, because Yudhishthira is one primary character, who has not been really delved into before, with so much depth. He writes about Balarama, with reference to Hercules, and of course the legend of Krshna-Vasudeva and Draupadi, who he calls the heroine nonpareil.

The book has all these parts and a struggle to put it all together. The epochal tragedy is much too big to put into 225 pages, but the effort is there and that shows. There are all the elements of the Mahabharata, its interpretations by both Indians and Westerners and the histories, with of course the names and places with a glossary, which I loved.

I liked the book, did not love it, though. I felt that there were too many points, all put together at once.What makes the book stand out though is the effort of putting all of it into a single volume. Because, at the end of the day it is the Mahabharata and now we can read it with numerous questions. Basu questions the reader and then offers his own viewpoint to guide us into the thought process. 
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