Many Mahābhāratas

Edited by Nell Shapiro Hawley & Sohini Sarah Pillai

Subjects: Hindu Studies, India And South Asian Studies, Asian Literature, Comparative Literature, Asian Religion And Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Hindu Studies
Hardcover : 9781438482415, 462 pages, May 2021
Paperback : 9781438482408, 462 pages, January 2022

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Note on Transliteration

Paula Richman

1. An Introduction to the Literature of the Mahābhārata
Nell Shapiro Hawley and Sohini Sarah Pillai

Part I: The Manyness of the Sanskrit Mahābhārata

2. Ā Garbhāt: Murderous Rage and Collective Punishment as Thematic Elements in Vyāsa's Mahābhārata
Robert Goldman

3. The Invention of Irāvān
David Gitomer

4. Bodies That Don't Matter: Gender, Body, and Discourse in the Narrative of Sulabhā
Sally J. Sutherland Goldman

Part II: Sanskrit Mahābhāratas in Poetry and Performance

5. The Remembered Self: Arjuna as Bṛhannalā in the Pañcarātra
Nell Shapiro Hawley

6. The Lord of Glory and the Lord of Men: Power and Partiality in Māgha's Śiśupālavadha
Lawrence McCrea

7. What Are the Goals of Life? The Vidūṣaka's Interpretation of the Puruṣārthas in Kulaśekhara's Subhadrādhanañjaya
Sudha Gopalakrishnan

8. How Do We Remember Śakuntalā? The Mahābhārata and Kālidāsa's Drama on the Contemporary Indian Stage
Amanda Culp

Part III: Regional and Vernacular Mahābhāratas from Premodern South Asia

9. An Old Dharma in a New Age: Duryodhana and the Reframing of Epic Ethics in Ranna's Sāhasabhīmavijaya
Timothy Lorndale

10. Three Poets, Two Languages, One Translation: The Evolution of the Telugu Mahābhāratamu
Harshita Mruthinti Kamath

11. The Fate of Kīcaka in Two Jain Apabhramsha Mahābhāratas
Eva De Clercq and Simon Winant

12. The Power-Politics of Desire and Revenge: A Classical Hindi Kīcakavadha Performance at the Tomar Court of Gwalior
Heidi Pauwels

13. Blessed Beginnings: Invoking Viṣṇu, Kṛṣṇa, and Rāma in Two Regional Mahābhāratas
Sohini Sarah Pillai

Part IV: Mahābhāratas of Modern South Asia

14. How to Be Political without Being Polemical: The Debate between Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay and Rabindranath Tagore over the Kṛṣṇacaritra
Ahona Panda

15. The Epic and the Novel: Buddhadev Bose's Modern Reading of the Mahābhārata
Sudipta Kaviraj

16. Draupadī, Yājñasenī, Pāñcālī, Kṛṣṇ ā: Representations of an Epic Heroine in Three Novels
Pamela Lothspeich

17. From Excluded to Exceptional: Caste in Contemporary Mahābhāratas
Sucheta Kanjilal

18. A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away: The Mahābhārata as Dystopian Future
Philip Lutgendorf

List of Contributors

A major contribution to the study of South Asian literature, offering a landmark view of Mahābhārata studies.


Many Mahābhāratas is an introduction to the spectacular and long-lived diversity of Mahābhārata literature in South Asia. This diversity begins with the Sanskrit Mahābhārata, an early epic poem that narrates the events of a catastrophic fratricidal war. Along the way, it draws in nearly everything else in Hindu mythology, philosophy, and story literature. The magnitude of its scope and the relentless complexity of its worldview primed the Mahābhārata for uncountable tellings in South Asia and beyond. For two thousand years, the instinctive approach to the Mahābhārata has been not to consume it but to create it anew.

The many Mahābhāratas of this book come from the first century to the twenty-first. They are composed in nine different languages—Apabhramsha, Bengali, English, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Sanskrit, Tamil, and Telugu. Early chapters illuminate themes of retelling within the Sanskrit Mahābhārata itself, demonstrating that the story's propensity for regeneration emerges from within. The majority of the book, however, reaches far beyond the Sanskrit epic. Readers dive into classical dramas, premodern vernacular poems, regional performance traditions, commentaries, graphic novels, political essays, novels, and contemporary theater productions—all of them Mahābhāratas.

Because of its historical and linguistic breadth, its commitment to primary sources, and its exploration of multiplicity and diversity as essential features of the Mahābhārata's long life in South Asia, Many Mahābhāratas constitutes a major contribution to the study of South Asian literature and offers a landmark view of the field of Mahābhārata studies.

Nell Shapiro Hawley is Preceptor in Sanskrit at Harvard University. Sohini Sarah Pillai is a PhD candidate in South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.


"Overall, the anthology is an excellent read. It thoroughly enriches and updates the field of Mahābhārata Studies. This is a groundbreaking volume assembling a range of eminent scholarship." — Religious Studies Review