Re-ending the Mahābhārata

The Rejection of Dharma in the Sanskrit Epic

By Naama Shalom

Subjects: Hindu Studies, India And South Asian Studies, Asian Religion And Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Hindu Studies
Paperback : 9781438465029, 266 pages, January 2018
Hardcover : 9781438465012, 266 pages, April 2017

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Table of contents


1. Rejecting Dharma and Narrative-wholeness: Mahābhārata Explorations of "the right thing to do"

2. Re-ending the Mahābhārata: Significant Absence and Careful Omissions in Sanskrit Adaptations of the Svargārohaṇa

3. Recognition and Suppression of the Svargārohaṇa: The Ambivalent Stance of Sanskrit Theoreticians on the Mahābhārata

4. "The real Mahābhārata" Debate and Scholarly Misrepresentations of the Svargārohaṇa

5. The Inconceivable Denial of Dharma: The Case of the Bhārata-prabandha, a Hitherto Unknown Retelling of the Mahābhārata

Conclusion: Mahābhārata Cycles of Disrupted Sacrifice and Subverted World-order


Offers a fresh perspective on the Mahābhārata based on an exploration of its ending, the Svargārohaṇa parvan.


This book challenges two prevalent assumptions about the Mahābhārata: that its narrative is inherently incapable of achieving a conclusion and that its ending, the Svargārohaṇa parva, is an extraneous part of the text. While the exegetic traditions have largely tended to suppress, ignore, or overlook the importance of this final section, Shalom argues that the moment of the condemnation of dharma that occurs in the Svargārohaṇa parva, expressed by the epic protagonist, Yudhiṣṭhira, against his father, Dharma, is of crucial importance. It sheds light on the incessant preoccupation and intrinsic dismay towards the concept of dharma (the cardinal theme around which the epic revolves) expressed by Mahābhārata narrators throughout the epic, and is thus highly significant for understanding the Mahābhārata narrative as a whole.

Naama Shalom is Assistant Professor in the Humanities Department at Shalem College, Jerusalem.