Saturday, June 23, 2012

1. Introduction (Why This Blog?)

The term introduction always scares me, as I presume, it does many others. This term instantly triggers a concern about something big waiting to hit you. It is like a tsunami signal and one can't blame people for getting ready to run away. However, I felt the need to insert this introduction to make it clear to the prospective readers what they could expect from this series of blog posts. (And I have used another frightening word 'series'!)

Mahabharata is one of the two great epics of India, the other one being 'The Ramayana.' So much has been written about these two epics in English as well as in other Indian languages (and in some non-Indian languages too) that one more piece especially from an unknown non-erudite man like me may appear superfluous. But Mahabharata is a big ocean (as is Ramayana) and there is always scope for even ordinary folks like me to dive into it and come out with a few gems. Most of the precious gems might, in all probability, have been brought out by the many scholars who had studied and researched this epic extensively and had come out with innumerable books and articles. Yet, I hope to come out with a few glittering ones.

Perhaps this analogy is not perfect because I am not going to come out with anything new. I was probably carried away by the word ocean. Incidentally, my use of the word ocean is in tune with the word tsunami used by me in the beginning! But I was just exaggerating and fantasizing your possible concerns. Let me assure you that reading these posts will be like enjoying the sea breeze, sitting on the sands of the ocean. So perish all thoughts of tsunami and get ready to experience something pleasant and interesting.

So, what are these posts going to be about? The titles says 'Stories from the Mahabharata.' This is different from the 'Story of Mahabharata', which is about the feud between the Pandavas and their cousins - the Kauravas. The protagonists of the stories you are going to read here are from a heterogenous community comprising the Devas (the Celestials), the Asuras (the Demons), the Rishis (Sages), human beings like you and I and even non-human creatures like animals, birds etc. The main characters from the Mahabharata may themselves make their appearances now and then. But my main focus will be on stories not so well known.

As you may be aware, the Mahabharata abounds with hundreds of short stories not directly connected with the main story. So does the Ramayana. But I think that the Mahabharata has a larger collection of diverse and  interesting stories. These are not moral stories, though many of them may convey some message, mostly in implicit ways. These stories are just interesting. These are narrated by some characters in the main story to convey some message but as I said earlier, these stories are not in the nature of  preaching. One is free to draw one's own conclusions from them. For example, I widely use the story of Upamanyu in my Self Development Programs to drive down the power of persistence. But different people may be able to derive different messages from these stories. And that is the beauty of these stories.

Mahabharata is divided into 18 volumes (called 'parva's) The first parva is called Adhi Parva ('adhi' in Sanskrit means 'beginning.') The main story of Mahabharata may be considered to begin with the story of King Santanu, an ancestor of the Pandavas and the Kauravas, the cousins in confrontation. But even before this story begins, quite a few short stories are presented in the Mahabharata. These and others that appear subsequently at various junctures can be considered the sub plots that are linked to the main story, sometimes closely and sometimes remotely.

While many people (in India) know the story of Mahabharata in a general way, not many might have come across these myriad interesting stories. I propose to present them here. I will present the stories in a simple way, not attempting to literally translate them from the original. I am aware of the possibility of some or many of these stories having been presented by other authors. But my objective is to share my fascination with those who may be interested in reading and enjoying these stories. I will welcome your comments and observations both on the stories and on my presentation.

Next Post: The Significance of the Number 18