In the Western narrative, the scriptural texts of India became mere works of poetry with mythological construction and this error was further reinforced after independence by historians who looked at Bharat from an ideological perspective.
A phenomenon, now distinctly visible in India, testifies to a distinct desire among the people to connect to their roots. This reflects a pushback against an agenda, fostered by foreign rulers over the past millennia, in which the local belief systems of the Indian people were denigrated, distorted or sought to be destroyed. Indian scriptures have been belittled and portrayed as medieval, backward, archaic and out of step with modern times. This constant attempt to destroy the spiritual and cultural heritage of India was part of a construction aimed at breaking the spirit of its people. It was a deliberate act, attempted by the sword during the period of Muslim rule. The British, however, were more subtle. They overhauled the educational system to create a body of Indians who, as Thomas Babington Macaulay put it, would be “Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, opinion, morals and intellect.” The purpose in both cases was to emphasize the superiority of the conquerors, to enable them to rule India in perpetuity. To do this, it was essential to create a feeling of inferiority in the subjugated population by dissociating them from their roots.
In the worldview of the occupying powers, whether Muslim or British, an entire race could be permanently enslaved if they could be forced or coerced into changing their religion, language and culture. But despite the onslaught of a thousand years, the Indian civilizational ethos could not be subdued. The people fought back, even when the odds were huge against them. This is why Indian civilization has survived, despite repeated assaults on its very foundations. Today, when all other ancient civilizations have been swept away by the sands of time, Indian civilization stands tall and proud, unbroken, if a little battered perhaps. But such an onslaught has left a void in the spiritual and cultural aspirations of the masses. The resurgence we are currently witnessing is a reflection of this deep desire to learn more about our heritage and our spiritual and cultural moorings from the perspective of Indigenous people and not as seen and told by foreign invaders.
As a result of such an indigenous upsurge, a body of scholarly literature has emerged over the years, encapsulating the depth of spiritual learnings of ancient times. This book, Connecting with the Mahabharata, is one such work, perfectly researched and written with a fluid elegance rarely seen in works of this nature. To this end, the authors, Mrs. Neera Misra and Air Vice Marshal Rajesh Lal, have crafted not just a book, but a true masterpiece.
While the Mahabharata has always been a source of deep philosophical and spiritual learning, the precious knowledge of our sacred Itihasa continued to be undermined, even after independence, by a series of authors who veered towards a communist ideology. virulent. While holding the levers of power in education, they continued to write such subjective history and dilute Bharat’s scriptural and spiritual heritage. In the Western narrative, the scriptural texts of India became mere works of poetry with mythological construction and this error was further reinforced after independence by historians who looked at Bharat from an ideological perspective. The historicity of Ram and Krishna has therefore been removed, making it even more important now to correct centuries of misinterpretations and misperceptions about our sacred historical texts. And that is what this marvelous book sets out to do.
Presented in eight chapters, the opening chapter gives a comprehensive introduction to the Mahabharata. Chapter 2 is interesting because it presents the geographical context in which the Mahabharata is located. Bharatavarsha, as described in our scriptures, is the arc-shaped region stretching from the Himalayas in the south to the oceans. The people who inhabited this region were indigenous and were called Arya or the enlightened ones. This dispels the distortion caused by the now discredited theory of the Aryan invasion. This chapter also gives an account of the term Yuga, as used by ancient Bhartiya scholars to describe various eras of ancient Bharata – Sat Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvarpa Yuga and Kali Yuga. Mention is made of the geography of the rivers and their tributaries as expounded in the Rig Veda, which also contains the rivers in which the Mahabharata story takes place. The maps used to support the narrative are truly fascinating, with the story unfolding across the geography of the country.
The third chapter describes the political, socio-economic and cultural landscape of the greater expanse of Bharata, from which comes the term Mahabharata. The 18 Parvas or episodic parts of the Mahabharata are described in this chapter, again with beautiful illustrations. Chapter 4 discusses the archaeological evidence supporting the authenticity of the Mahabharata. It covers a wide swath, from Gandhara (now Kandahar in Afghanistan) to Magadh in eastern India and gives a fascinating insight into the excavations carried out by pillars of the caliber of BB Lal. The dating of the Mahabharata is covered in Chapter 6, which provides another fascinating account of the probable dates when the events covered in the Mahabharata took place. This is important because it dispels the false narrative, which refers to Indian scriptures as mythology, without historical context. The penultimate chapter deals with Mahabharata in the arts while the last chapter covers the genealogy and roots of the Mahabharata family tree.
The book, presented as a coffee table book, is a unique work, written in elegant prose alongside breathtaking artwork to accompany the storyline. It serves to educate the reader on India’s rich spiritual and scriptural heritage in an easily understandable way. For a book of this magnitude, with such beautiful illustrations, its price is modest at Rs 1,199, in hardcover. For all Indians who want to reconnect with their roots, here is a book they will be proud to own.
Major General Dhruv C. Katoch (Retired) is an Army veteran.