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Essays on the Mahabharata.

This substantial volume contains twenty-three articles in all on various aspects of the Mahabharata; however, the first ten of them have been published already in the Journal of South Asian Literature 20.1, 1985, and are republished here with only minor revision (and the unexplained transposition of the fifth and sixth papers). The usefulness of having these available in book form, and indeed the value of the whole volume, would have been enhanced by better proofreading; practically every page is disfigured by a misprint, usually minor, but occasionally more serious, as for example on p. 10, where a Telugu manuscript "is dated saka 1974 (c. 1973 A.D.)," and the omission of the appendices to the first article.

Two of the original articles are primarily textual in nature--John Dunham's on the manuscripts used in the Critical Edition and that by Daniel Ingalls and son using a computer to produce a concordance of the text--and they are now joined by Madhav Deshpande's well-argued investigation of "The Epic Context of the Bhagavadgita." The last links also with several on the structure and nature of the Mahabharata: Ruth Katz, "The Sauptika Episode in the Structure of the Mahabharata" and James Fitzgerald, "India's Fifth Veda" from before, to which are added Braj Sinha's survey of Arthasastra categories in the Mahabharata (perhaps more on Buddhist texts than epic ones), a study of Janamejaya's snake sacrifice by Christopher Minkowski, and a stimulating essay by A. K. Ramanujan, "Repetition in the Mahabharata," which suggests the replication of episodes as a central structuring principle of the epic. There are also implications for its nature in Gary Tubb, "Santarasa in the Mahabharata," which examines Anandavardhana's views. Several articles look more specifically at the mythical and religious aspects: Mary Carroll Smith, "Epic Parthenogenesis," Alf Hiltebeitel, "Two Krsnas, Three Krsnas, Four Krsnas, More Krsnas," Klaus Klostermaier, "The Original Daksa Saga," and also much of Ruth Katz's article. In contrast to Hiltebeitel's approach stands Bimal Matilal's "Krsna: In Defence of a Devious Divinity"; two other character studies are Bruce Sullivan, "The Epic's Two Grandfathers" and Vidyut Aklujkar, "Savitri: Old and New," the second of which, in contrasting K. Santhanam's 1963 short story with the original Sanskrit epic, belongs also with the numerous articles on later works based on the Mahabharata. These progress from the excellent translations of Bhasa's Karnabhara and Urubhanga by Barbara Stoler Miller and Edwin Gerow, respectively, through Indira Peterson's thoughtful study of the interplay of rasa and bhakti in Bharavi's Kiratarjuniya and David Gitomer's "Raksasa Bhima," interestingly comparing his portrayal in the Sanskrit epic and Bhatta Narayana's Venisamhara, to a joint article on Jain versions by Sumitra Bai (Sanskrit, Prakrit and Apabhramsa) and Robert Zydenbos (Kannada) and some on modern aspects: William Sax on the Pandavalila of Garhwal, John Leavitt on variations in the story of Bhima's alliance with Hidimba found in the Kumaon hills, and Victoria Urubshurow and T. R. Singh on a contemporary bhakta and healer who draws his inspiration from the Mahabharata war.

In so rich and varied a selection of articles there is something for everyone who is seriously interested in Indian culture, let alone those more directly concerned with the epic. Arvind Sharma has brought together a significant contribution to epic studies, which can be widely recommended.
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Author:Brockington, J.L.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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