- Paperback: 528 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd (27 July 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143425153
- ISBN-13: 978-0143425151
- Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 3.4 x 14.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #23,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Mahabharata: Volume 2 Paperback – 27 Jul 2015
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About the Author
Bibek Debroy is a member of Niti Aayog. He is an economist who has published popular articles, papers and books on economics. He also writes on Indology and Sanskrit. Penguin published Sarama and Her Children: The Dog in Indian Myth in 2008 and his translation of the Bhagavad Gita in 2006. Bibek Debroy was awarded the Padma Shri in 2015.
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BTW, I was confused by the listing claiming this was a paper back - especially because some other sites claimed to have hard cover versions. I bought from multiple sites since I wanted my 8 volume set to be all of the hard cover type. Even then I had to buy a couple of them as "paperback" editions. However, I found that all of them were of the same semi hard cover type.
* Draupadi rejects Karna at her swayamvar, saying that he is of low caste. This book does not mention Karna’s presence at the swayamvar at all.
* Balaram wants to get Subhadra married to Duryodhan, so Krishna advises Arjuna to kidnap her. Krishna advises Arjun to let Subhadra hold the reins of the carriage during the kidnapping. Later, when Balaram wants to punish Arjun, Krishna comments that it looks like Subhadra had kidnapped Arjun and not the other way around. This book only mentions that Arjun kidnaps Subhadra by force, nor the previous plan to get Subhadra married to Duryodhan.
* Krishna cuts his finger while killing Shishupal, and Draupadi puts a bandage on it, and Krishna blesses her. In the book, Draupadi does not exist in this scene.
* The killing Jarasandha involved splitting his body into 2 parts, and Krishna indicated this by splitting a leaf. The book only mentions that Bhim killed Jarasandh while wrestling.
* At Indraprastha, Draupadi laughs at Duryodhan, calling him a blind man’s blind son. This incident is important, because it is sometimes cited as the main reason behind Duryodhan’s aggressive humiliation of her in the court. In the book, Bhimsen and Arjun laugh at Duryodhan.
* The story of Shakuni’s origin, of his dice being made of his father’s bones who had been killed by Bhishma. At least I have not seen this story till the point I have read so far.
Only the following two missing incidents have been noted as footnotes, saying that they are missing in the critical edition:
* The sun god gifts akshay patra to Draupadi when they are in the forest. Also missing is the additional story about the akshay patra, when Krishna eats one grain of rice from it and says that the whole universe is satisfied, thereby avoiding the curse of Durvasa.
* Apsara Urvashi’s desire for Arjuna, which he refuses, and then Urvashi curses him to be a hijra. Later this curse is reduced to a period of one year, which Arjuna utilizes in the thirteenth year.
At first I thought that the problem was with the critical edition on which Debroy’s translation is based. But I checked for some of the stories in Ganguli’s edition also (available at Amazon kindle), and they don’t exist there also (eg in Ganguli’s edition also, Draupadi does not laugh at Duryodhan).
So, while I like this translated edition, I would have liked it even better if the Debroy had added footnotes explaining the absence of these very well-known stories, and in which edition they can be found. That would have made a very scholarly and helpful edition indeed. That’s why I am giving it a 3* and not a 5*.
But in spite of these missing incidents, we have to note that the real essence of this book lies in its deep philosophical dialogues. For example, the debate for and against forgiveness, between Draupadi Yudhisthir and Bhim, is sheer poetry (Volume 2, page 348-376). From this and other such passages, we understand why this book has remained a timeless treasure.
And we also have to keep in mind that there are multiple layers of interpretations for the passages of this book, besides the historical incidents and moral or philosophical dialogues. For example, the analysis as presented in “God talks with Arjuna” (by Paramahansa Yogananda) is a remarkable psychological interpretation of the characters and events of the book, and serves as a guide book for yoga practitioners. In this interpretation, the characters are symbols of human psychological traits (ego, habits, desire, etc), and the great battle is a man’s daily battle between good and evil.
The Sabha Parva ends with the Pandavas having lost the second round of gambling, where a single stake, exile for thirteen years, sees Yudhishtra losing, once again, to Shakuni. The next parva in the book, as per the eighteen parva classification, is the Aranyaka Parva. It is not completed in this book, and goes on for much of the third volume also.
Bibek Debroy, the translator, is an economist with a difference. How so? Well, consider this. In the early 1980s, while at the Presidency College in Kolkata, the author wrote a paper where he did a "statistical test on the frequency with which the five Pandavas used various weapons in the Kurukshetra war." Yes. Different. While his interest in the Mahabharata "remained, I got sidetracked into translating. Through the 1990s, there were abdridged translations of the Maha Puranas, the Vedas and the eleven major Upanishads."
The author has followed the Critical Edition from the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, in Pune, for his translation. There have been only five unabridged translations of the Mahabharata to-date, three of them by Indians, and two that have originated in the United States (one from the University of Chicago, and the other from the Clay Institute - both translations are as yet unfinished). This work is therefore, the sixth such translation.
Given the extent to which I have had to edit and truncate this review to meet the review guidelines, I really don't know what to include and what to remove from this review. Hence the brevity. Please see my blog post for the entire review.
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