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Introducing Saaralaa Mahaabhaarta

Introducing Saaralaa Mahaabhaarta
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Item Code: NAX388
Author: Bibudhendra Narayan Patnaik
Publisher: Central Institute Of Indian Languages, Mysore
Language: English
Edition: 2012
ISBN: 9788173431258
Pages: 228
Cover: HARDCOVER
Other Details: 10.00 X 7.00 inch
weight of the book: 0.5 kg
Foreword

The last ten thousand years have seen the composition of quite a few Mahabharatas written in our languages other than Sanskrit and Saaralaa Mahaabhaarata is one of them. It was composed in Odia in the fifteenth century by Sarala Dasa, respected as the adi Kavi of Odia literature. It was with him that the rich tradition of Odia puranic literature started. Of the three puranas that he composed, Mahaabhaarata is unquestionably his most creative, most profound and most popular work, and is generally known as Saaralaa Mahabharata.

Saaralaa Mahaabhaarata is not a translation of Vyasa’s Mahabharata. Sarala retold the story in Odia, as had done others before him in other Indian languages, and many did after him. To the best of my knowledge Saaralaa Mahaabhaarata has not yet been translated into any language, except for a small part of it into Bengali, but this translation is unavailable now. This book retells some of Sarala’s stories in English in an attempt to introduce the poet’s great and timeless composition to the non-Odia readers. Most of these stories are from episodes which are not there in Vyasa’s Mahabharata and some of these occur in the Sanskrit classic in a different way. It tells us how Sarala gave a local colour to the story, and much else. I hope that this book will provide to the non-Odia readers a flavour of the originality and the creative genius of Sarala, the story, teller par excellence.

The author has an interesting style of storytelling; his narration is nicely fused with his interpretation of the stories. Presented in this work are the author’s interpretation of Sarala’s concepts of dharma and moksha, and karma and rebirth, the negative and the positive forces operating in the world, the human condition and its limitations and possibilities, the nature of divine intervention in the affair of humans, the moral issues a war raises and the short- and long-term consequences of a war, among many, many others. Many characters that generally do not receive attention in discussions on Mahabharata are discussed in considerable detail here: Balaram, Subhadra, Satyabati, Shantanu, Dussasana, for instance. The characters are treated with understanding in right perspective.

This book is the outcome of a two-year fellowship of Central Institute of Indian Languages that the author availed of. I hope it will be well received by all those interested in the Mahabharata.

PREFACE

Sarala’s Mahaabhaarata is a truly wonderful retelling in verse in Odia of the classical Mahabharata story. This remarkably creative storyteller conceptualised parts of the great narrative differently; as a result, among others, some of his characters do not resemble their counterparts in the canonical version. Sakuni is one. Gandhari is another. Similarly there are numerous episodes in his retelling which have no correspondence in Vyasa — the canonical - Mahabharata. Duryodhana’s crossing of the river of blood, the ripening of the mango of truth, and the worship of Krishna in the form of Nilamadhaba after his passing away are just three of the many. Some episodes take a different form; for instance, the archery test which Arjuna won, Draupadi’s disrobing and Aswasthama’s revenge. Unlike in the classical narrative in which the Pandavas did not know that he was their brother when Karna was alive, it was no secret to anyone in this narrative - everyone in Saaralaa Mahaabhaarata knew who he was ever since his childhood. And Sarala’s Krishna is not the same as the Krishna in the classical version; the two differ in many ways including the extent of the avatara’s involvement in human affairs, which shows that Sarala had a somewhat different understanding of the nature of divine intervention. These apart, Sarala has given us a purer story; much of the deliberations of a philosophical nature, whether on statecraft or the duty of a king or on virtuous living, in Vyasa Mahabharata are not to be found in Sarala’s retelling.

Saaralaa Mahaabhaarata is said to be the first complete retelling by any one poet of the canonical text in an Indian language. This monumental work has not been rendered into English. It has not been rendered into any Indian language either with the exception of Bengall, but it seems only a part of this rendering that dates back to the sixteenth century is available now. I have not attempted to provide a translation of this great composition here. All I have tried to do is quite humble. I have tried to give a flavour of it to those who do not know or cannot read Odia. I have only presented some episodes in English which bring out Sarala’s visualization of the ancient story and his "localization" (used here in the non-technical sense of giving the original non-local a local colouring) of bits of it. My remarks and observations are more or less in the style of a purana pathaka (one who does purana patha) in a purana patha, a traditional religious practice of reciting and explaining a purana, which is still to be found in some temples and bhagabata gharas (one-roomed houses in villages where the sacred text, Srimad Bhagavata, is kept and worshipped and occasionally recited as ritual to whosoever cares to listen) in many places in Odisha, especially in the small towns and villages. These remarks and observations, consonant with the spirit of the narrative, aim to provide some organization to the presentation of the stories chosen almost randomly. Besides, when one tells another’s story with some involvement, one feels almost compelled to add a bit of one’s own thinking about aspects of it in some form: comments, observations, interpretations and the like. It is especially so when the story is as comprehensive and as profound as Mahabharata and is also one with which one has grown up and which has become a significant part of one’s cultural identity. In a word, I have tried to retell bits of Sarala’s magnum opus, following the ancient retelling tradition of our eternal narratives: the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

My telling of the stories of Sarala is not linear. This apart, sometimes I have presented a story at two or three places, a bit of it here and a bit elsewhere, highlighting some aspect of it at one place, and some at another. And Sarala’s stories and my ruminations on them are kind of mixed up in the presentation. One will have no problems, I believe, in figuring out the broad outlines of Sarala’s narrative, and enjoying his incredible creativity. One who is familiar with at least the main episodes of Vyasa Mahabharata would have a better understanding of Sarala’s retelling.

**Contents and Sample Pages**









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