Category: Review

The Mahabharata and the Ramayana are epic poems in the Hindu religion that are popular among people for their entertainment, philosophical, and moral lessons. The tales in the two epic poems have been passed from one generation to another across different cultures in India and South Asia. Both poems have offered and continue to offer valuable lessons and points of reference in matters relating to conduct, statecraft, family, and societal values. Notably, the two poems do not prescribe particular human conduct. Instead, they tell stories that provide examples for the audience to consider, reflect, and apply according to the contexts of their lives. For example, most of the interesting and memorable tales in the poems involve warfare. An examination of the factors provoking the wars in these poems and the manner in which these wars are resolved reveals the likely objectives of the two poems. It appears that these two poems guide the audiences on the ways of conduct during war and peace, and the ways of propagating love, virtue, and justice during times of conflict. At the same time, the notable villains in the poems are characteristically greedy, lustful, and covetous. This essay briefly examines the two poems with a view of proving the significance of each poem in the Hindu religion. Imperatively, the independent analysis of each poem considers the subtle differences in the contents of the poems.

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The Mahabharata

This poem, purportedly composed between 300BC and 300AD, is renowned as the longest epic in the world literature. The original versions contained approximately 100, 000 2-line stanzas although the modern versions have approximately 89,000 2-line stanzas. The literal greatness of the Mahabharata in terms of length is evidenced by the fact that it surpasses Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, two of the world’s most popular contemporary tales, by eight times. In addition, the Mahabharata is three times as long as the Bible, which is regarded as the best-selling book in the world. Imperatively, the main story of the Mahabharata is composed of only 4000 lines. The rest of the lines in the poem are myths and teachings that give the story many perspectives and interpretations.

The poem contains 18 books that narrate the 18-day war among 18 armies that are recounted in the first nine books. The poem commences with the background information on the events leading to the wars. For example, books 1 to 5 are the opening of the poem, the court, the forest, Virata’s Kingdom, accomplishment. The tales about the war are contained in books 6 to 10, while the virtues of peace and honor are contained in books 11 to book 18. Vyasa is the narrator of the poem and purportedly the father of Pandu and Dhritarashtra.

The poem’s storyline can be described as follows. The whole story explains how the world of Kali Yoga came into existence and the factors leading to the deterioration of the world. The Mahabharata revolves around the battle between the first cousins. In this case, the Pandavas are the five sons of Pandu. Yudhishthira, the King, is the eldest son followed by Bhima, renowned for his strength as a warrior. The third-born son of Pandu is Arjuna and he is the companion of Krishna in addition to being the greatest warrior. Sahadeva and Nakula are the twins of Pandu that make up the five brothers. The successes of the sons of Pandu provoke envy in the sons of Dhritarashtra, Pandu’s brother. Dhritarashtra’s son, Duryodhana, resents the Pandavas so much that he tricks his cousin, Yudhishthira, into a game of dice. Yudhishthira loses the game of dice to the extent of gambling himself and loses the right to Kingship. For this reason, the Kaurava brothers assume leadership of the kingdom and force the Pandavas into exile. The Pandavas, however, reclaim their kingdom by battling their cousins with the support of Krishna. Although the Pandavas reclaim the kingdom and kill Duryodhana, the violence introduced to the world during the battle changes the world forever. In this case, the experiences of the war imply that victories come at a great price.