What are the authentic sources for learning the Mahabharata?
Transcriptionby– VandanaGoel and Keshav Gopal Das
Question – What are the authentic sources where we can read or learn about the Mahabharata?
Answer– The Mahabharata is itself a book in sanskrit. It is by farthe biggest book in the whole world. The biggest poem with a hundred and ten thousand verses. The sagas ____Iliad and Odyssey which are considered to be very long, the Mahabharata is eight times longer than both Iliadand odyssey combined together. Because of its staggeringlength oneproblem is preservation so sometimes something gets interpolated, sometimes something get removed. One of Prabhupada’s disciples, KrishnaDharmaprabhu has done a beautiful contemporary retelling of the Mahabharata. He has given a big book which itself gives good understanding of the Mahabharata. It isin a contemporary language, in a dramatic presentation for absorbing reading that is the best presentation. It also gives the good understanding on the ethical issues of the war.
There is site called vedabase.com where the digital copy of the book is also available. There are other devotees also who have done brief retellings of the Mahabharata. There is Purnapragyaparbhu and Shree GalilPrabhu(?) but I personally found Krishna Dharma prabhu’s Mahabharata the best. This is condensedformas I said Mahabharata is very big. If you want full Mahabharata it has been translated only twice in English, both by Bengali scholars from ninetieth century. Their English is little archaic but there is M.N.Dutta whose translation Prabhupada recommended. So he gives the Sanskrit as well as the English. Then there is Kisari Mohan Ganguly, he has also translated. His translation is also available freelyonpublic space. There are many websites which has this.Sacred-textsis one websites, sacred-texts.com where the full Mahabharata translated by KM Ganguly is there. MN Dutta the full hard copy is a huge volume. If somebody wants Mahabharatain Hindi The Gita Press has translated and their translation is fairly good. They have not translated in English till now.
If we want to understand the ethical issues around the Mahabharata, because reading of the book is one thing another is there are many paradoxical issues, many questions that come up. Madhavacharya wrote a book long ago called, Mahabharata TatparyaNirnaya that analyses many of the issues.
I have done online course on Mahabharata. There are seventy five classes which are there. My website thespiritualscientist.com, there thespiritualscientist/Mahabharata has seventy five lectures on that. What I have done is I have taken sixteen important characters from Mahabharata across four generations. I have described their lives and analyzed learning some lessons, resolved controversies and explained the socio-cultural norms of those times.
Apart from this there are not many exhaustive classes on the Mahabharata but Krishna Dharma Prabhu’s book is a very good book for the detailed understanding of the main story of the Mahabharata. Actually the Mahabharata become very long not just because the story is long but because there are also the conversations. Say for example the full Mahabharata if it is say in English translation just the core story of the Mahabharata is three thousand pages and just the discussion between Yudhishatara and Dharma,that discussion that was held at the lake of death that discussion itself is five times the whole length of the Mahabharata. So the Mahabharata story is three thousand pages then the discussion between them is fifteen thousand pages. Bhishma’s instruction on death bed in Shanti Parva and AnushasanParva is also huge. So the main story is not very difficult. As far as the TV rendering of the Mahabharata, most of them have taken lot of dramatic license and that is why they are good for entertainment to some sense but they are not good for the understanding the Mahabharata in itself as it originally was.
Most of the television serials about the Mahabharata they often skip aroundthe moral issues that means they don’t really analyze the issues very seriously. There are certain devotees who are hoping to make the Mahabharata itself and use the proper philosophical understanding but it’s a huge project. We hope and pray that in near future that happens but I feel that by reading the books that devotees have translated that is a fairly good understanding of the Mahabharata’s essential story and its ____.