Sunday, June 19, 2005

Irawati Karve's Guide to the Mahabharat: Yuganta

Vikram Doctor in the Times of India's Bookmark:
Yuganta has never been out of print since it was published in Marathi in 1969 and English in 1974. An earlier Marathi version won the Sahitya Akademi prize in 1967. It is a starting point for anyone seeking to read the epic.

[. . .]

Two essays stood out for me. The Final Effort looks at two of the most enigmatic characters of the epic—Vidura and Dharma (Yudhishtra). Karve uses her knowledge of Kshatriya customs to suggest (as have others) that the two were father and son, but could not acknowledge each other as such, for fear that Vidura's lower sutta status might imperil Dharma's claim to the throne. It's a twist more daring than any K-serial on TV could make, yet so scholarly is the evidence and Karve's presentation of it, that it seems quite plausible. The second, The Palace of Maya, demonstrates how the epic also tells the story of the historical displacement of the forest world of the tribes by the pastoral world of the Aryans.

Both essays would have been controversial when Karve wrote them in the sixties and, sadly, perhaps they would be even more so now, at a time when the epics have been so politicised. All the more reason to value Yuganta then and the particular mindset that produced it. Karve's training in the West allowed her to use its techniques of scholarly observation and critical analysis, but her roots in Indian culture gave her a passionate identification with the story that few foreign observers would be able to summon.

1 comment:

Jebin Daniel Varghese said...

Old stories are always covered in mystery and good to hear. good one.