In India's rich cultural heritage there are many fascinating mythological stories that attract our attention and one such stories is the legendary "MAHABHARATA". Mahabharata is an ancient historical work written in Sanskrit by Krishna-Dvaipayana (Veda Vyasa). Mahabharata is known as the 5th Veda because it portraits all the things present in today's society good and bad. Mahabharata was written 5000 years ago and it has 1 lakh shlokas written in 2 chandassus. It is so scientific that we feel astonished that something like that could have been written 5000 or more years before now.
Writing relevance of Mahabharata in modern Indian society in a single article is akin to gathering the waters of the ocean in our palm. Because the Mahabharata is not just an epic, not just a poem, not just a story, it is something way beyond that it is about philosophy, about life, about battles about human beings. The Mahabharata is not about good and evil, it is about human beings, about their personal complexities, their insecurities it is a veritable ocean, the more we explore it, the lesser we know about it. We could spend our entire lifetime studying the Mahabharata but still we find that we know less. It is again a tale which can be interpreted in various ways. If Shakespeare's plays were the basic of western literature, than it can be safely said that the Mahabharata is the fountain head of Indian culture, literature, are the tradition. Unlike the Ramayan, where the lines between good and evil were clearly defined. In Mahabharata it is not. It defines the problems, and solutions which are completely relevant with the present scenario and all of its features contains the representation of things that are used in today's world in a modified form.
If we want to gain extensive knowledge on many topics by reading just one book then it is Mahabharata for us. As sage vyasa the author of this epic himself has told in this book "whatever is therein this world to be known concerning the various ways and goal of life is there in this book, and whatever is not here is nowhere to be found."
The great Indian epic is big store house of stories. There are stories inside a story. Each story in itself is the source of knowledge and new learning in various fields of human life esp. management. Every character of Mahabharata teaches us something. It is for us to understand the lesson and follow a patch in life that brings joy and peace in life. The story also tells the consequences of giving too much indulgence to children and how things get ruined therefore. The story tells of the bond of friendship through the Duryodhan and Karna relationship. It also tells how a wicked and scheming person (as Shakuni) can poison not only grownups (as Dhritarashtra), but children as (Duryodhana and Dushshasan and all Kauravas). So be it the fight within a family for a piece of land or the issue of an “illegitimate” child and its impact on a family and the society as a whole have been mentioned quite beautifully in this magnificent epic. This story which starts with the birth of the great Bhisma who also happened to be the grand uncle of both Pandavas and the Kauravas. It was this event that eventually lead to the great battle between the cousins as also providing a lot of lessons for the future generations to come in the Indian society. Unfortunately even today the Indian society has miserably failed to understand the pearls of wisdom on life that this great epic gives. For example the simple fact that the Mahabharata was based on a fight for a piece of land i.e. Indraprastha between brothers of the same family which eventually leading to the great war and the final destruction of clan.
Yet unfortunately we as a society still do not understand the true value of a compromise due to the simple reason that our own petty ego and greed comes in the way of our logic and as a result we are not willing to compromise to get the appropriate solution. This then results in complete destruction of the fabric of a family. Another aspect that has been mentioned in this epic and which is also relevant in the present Indian society is that of the issue of the “illegitimate” child which was portrayed in the epic through the character in Karna. In today’s Indian society there are so many cases of parent’s abandoning their child either due to lack of finance or due to the sex being female which unfortunately in many parts in India is still considered a curse rather than a boon.
Another feature in this epic which is quite striking is the love and respect shown towards a teacher. Unfortunately in today’s society this seems to be sorely missing and it is simply due to the fact that the younger generation have started to take things for granted. The perfect example in the Mahabharata is the love Arjun had for his teacher Dronacharya and vice versa. Such was his love for his teacher that he refused to kill Dronacharya even though he was with the Kauravas during battle. Unfortunately for today’s generation a teacher is just another professional doing his job and nothing more than that. Having said this unfortunately today’s teacher’s are also equally responsible for this sad state of affairs and, get into this noble profession only to make money and, not to educate the students with the right knowledge and values. What also is amazing in this epic is that it also provides some insight on how actual political leadership should be done to manage a country. In the epic it is the character of Lord Krishna which shows us the kind of political leadership that India solely requires at the moment. The most important lesson from the Mahabharata comes in the form of the Bhagvad Gita in which Lord Krishna shares his great knowledge on the philosophy of life with the shattered Arjuna in which he says “Just do your duty first and forget about your rewards” which unfortunately has not been understood by the current Indian society which believes only in thinking about getting rewards first and then doing the duty accordingly which is a real shame.
In the Mahabharata we see examples of tolerance not only regarding the other ways of spiritual pursuit, but even in actual war situation where violence is supposed to be practiced. There are definite rules to follow in the battle, like not killing or injuring the women or children. In the words of Christopher Isherwood:
In the first place, it is sometimes said that the battle of Kurukshetra cannot possibly be compared to a battle in modern war. It was, in fact, a kind of tournament, governed by all the complex and human rules of ancient chivalry. A soldier mounted upon an elephant may not attack a foot soldier. No man may be struck or shot at while running away. No one may be killed who has lost his weapons. And we are told in the Mahabharata, that the opposite armies stopped fighting every evening, and even visited each other and fraternized during the night.
Pg. 35. Bhagvad Gita, The Song of God
In Bhagwad Gita of Mahabharata, whatever Krishna speaks is so scientific that it became a base to all the religious books in the world. Krishna has told in the Bhagwat Gita to Arjuna, ” U cannot create anything , nor u can destroy anything , your role is to only convert things from one form to another, only I the supreme power can create or destroy”. What do u get reminded of when u hear this? “The law of conservation of energy” ,matter can neither be created nor be destroyed! and Veda vyasa said this 5000 years ago! Even the concept of democracy is showcased in Mahabharata, when the king Bharata chose someone else to be the king on public views and not one of his sons!
In Conclusion the most important theme in the Mahabharat is that of Dharma. In fact, the author vyasa says himself that the purpose of Mahabharat is "to engrave dharma in the minds of men." Dharma is essentially the principle of righteousness, following the correct moral ways Dharma is supreme in this world. Dharma brings material prosperity (artha) fulfillment of wishes (Kama) and final liberation (moksha). It is surprising that people do not pay attention to the need for practice of dharma, when everything can be achieved through it. So this book is for humanity, not just for Indians or Hindus as anyone who reads it gains wealth of practical knowledge that leads him to success, happiness and prosperity.
Dr. Anita Gupta