Thursday, April 28, 2016

Historicity of the Mahabharata by B. B. Lal - A Glimpse

धर्मे च अर्थे च कामे च मोक्षे च भरतर्षभ
यदिहास्ति तदन्यत्र यन्नेहास्ति न तत्क्वचित् ।

Mahabharata has been a subject of limitless fascination for me, now since two years. It is amazing what interest can make you do. In two years, I have read more texts on Indian history, myths and mythology than anything else, as a result of which, I have grown a lot more thirsty for knowledge than ever before. The desire to know more and more about these historical epics is unquenchable, and it is motivated by this steady desire to understand the origins.

I have this strange belief that if I could understand where I come from, where we come from, where are stories come from, and where our languages come from, I will have a clear vision of where I am and where I am headed.

When I noticed this amazing book titled 'Historicity of the Mahabharata' is the library of Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon, I know my heart thumped at insane decibels. While we were still debating in the realm of imaginative discourses if Mahabharata is a historical text, or an imaginative narrative conjured by an ancient bard, here comes in front of me a research laying down ample, convincing evidences to show how a great war did actually take place at Kurukshetra.

Since it a work of pure research, I can provide a plotline of the book. What I can tell you is that to test the veracity of claims of the MB narrative, researcher B. B. Lal undertook many routes - through internal extracts, through excavations, through architecture and through contemporary and later secular texts.

While building an understanding of historicity, the text also serves well to educate a reader about the various topographies to traverse while trying to build an archaeological-historical argument. Not just that, it also delves deeper into relevant sections of the Mahabharat to throw light on the politics of certain instances. For examples, were the Pandavs really being humble in their demand for the paanch graam from Duryodhan, or was they a larger game at play? Think geography and you will have your answer.

While I admit it is an unimaginatively written text, it serves its purpose well - that of piquing interest and setting a seeker on course to find more instances of truth a literary body shrouded in myths, not acquiring religious colours.

Must read for MB lovers!

PS - The next Maha Varta session, whenever that happens, shall revolve around the myth v/s mythology v/s history discussion. 

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