Conventionally, the very title “Mahābhārata” conjures up images of a great war in which eighteen armies were annihilated. Using divine weaponry and mystical war formations, and having Kṛṣṇa Vāsudeva on their side, the Pāṇḍavas triumph over the Kauravas. Who are these combatants and what does their heroism signify? What dilemmas of dharma arise as part of the battle? In the 6th Parva of the Mahābhārata, we find Kṛṣṇa giving the Bhagavadgītā to Arjuna, revealing himself as Brahman. His presence as the karmaphaladāta informs key events in the battle. In the final book 10, Rudra empowers Aśvatthāman to annihilate the progeny of the heroes, thus closing out the laya cycle of the epic, which began in Book 6 with the fall of the Brahmā-figure Bhīṣma pitāmaha. These theological threads, the complex temporal shifts in the narrative, and the constancy with which human motives are interrogated prevent a simplistic reading of the Mahābhārata as just another war story. Rather, the epic presents us with a deep understanding of time, the nature of the universe, human purpose, and ultimate reality.
Areas of Study: Text and Traditions
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End Date: TBD