Today’s prompt was “Tell us about a book that you can read again and again without getting bored – what is it that speaks to you?”
Now anybody that knows me to some extent and have been following my blog knows that I am interested in Indian mythology quite a bit, and it therefore should come as no surprise that my favorite book of all time would be The Mahabharata – no two ways about that.
Most of us know that the heart of this great epic is the constant confrontation between the Pandava and the Kaurava princes for the kingdom of Hastinapur, and that the epochal Bhagvad Gita also forms an important part of the Mahabharata. However, the fact remains that this great epic contains within it countless side stories of equal significance and which contain important lessons of life within them.
The story of Shakuntala’s love, that of Damayanti and Nala, an abbreviated version of the Ramayana, the story of Rishyashringa, the story of Krishna’s life, the story of the Yadava clan, all of these form important but constantly overlooked parts of the Mahabharata. If someone were to actually read through the entire 18 parvas (or books) that this great epic consists of, only then would he/she actually get a feel of how massive this body of knowledge is.
This book has something for everybody to enjoy. Whether it is Bhima’s shows of strength at various points in the story or Arjuna’s valor on the battlefield, or the disrespect meted out to Draupadi when she was disrobed, or Karna’s loyalty and friendship to Duryodhana, or Shakuni’s unending devious planning to cheat the Pandavas out of their rightful inheritance, or Bhishma’s steadfast adherence to his terrible vow, all of these characters and situations have given rise to unending debates among readers of this epic. There cannot be a single reader who has read the book and has not been impacted by it in some manner or the other.
All of us have our favorite characters from the book, and most of us tend to have very strong likes and dislikes of other characters as well. And in my opinion, any book which generates such strong emotions in people, and that too such a large number of people, surely does have an appeal which transcends barriers of language, caste, education, gender and even nationalities.
For me personally, this book is a treasure trove of various stories, human emotions, the inherent moral dilemmas that almost all the characters face, and the subsequent lessons that all readers can learn from them. Almost all the lessons that I have learnt from the Mahabharata are universal in nature and can easily be adopted by me in my daily life and that to me, takes this book to an entirely different level altogether. The original Sanskrit version (or its complete English translation) is something that I still have to read in its entirety, but the various other abridged versions, the reinterpretations (modern and medieval) that I have read have given me more than enough material to constantly keep revisiting whenever I am on the lookout for some mythological material for my blog posts.
This book is also special to me as it rekindles memories of my father buying all those Amar Chitra Katha comics when I was around 3 yrs old. And his habit of maintaining all his books really well meant that all of them are well bound and safely tucked away in cupboards in my house. One of these days I will get around to pulling them out and reading them all over again. The 42 part Mahabharata series published by ACK remains something that I treasure from my childhood for all time.
While I am aware that all this time I have only been talking about the epic itself and have not dwelt upon what it is that this book talks to me about, the only reason is that there are just too many things that I have learnt and keep learning from the Mahabharata. Every time I revisit parts of this book to come up with material for my blog, I learn something new and that to me is what makes this book so magical and something that I keep going back to time and again. The Mahabharata, that way, remains a good old friend who I can look for to give some solid and critical advice.
This post has been written for the WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts where the idea is to publish at least one post a day based on the prompts provided.