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Options in Teaching the Mahabharata

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The Mahabharata is a Sanskrit epic based on an internecine struggle between two sets of cousins for the most powerful throne in North India in the late second millennium B.C.E. Around this core are strung other stories and bits of mythology, as well as philosophical and religious
compendia. One such is the Bhagavadgita, in which Krishna, as God, addresses one of the central heroes, Arjuna, as Everyman, in regard to doing his duty without concern for the fruits of his labors—an emphasis on means over ends which was to be a hallmark of Mahatma Gandhi’s ethical philosophy in this century. Another is the Sakuntala episode, which inspired Kaladasa’s famed play in approximately the middle of the first millennium C.E., and relates the birth of India’s great ancestor, Bharata, a name (or, more accurately, its derivative) by which India is known in Indian languages (hence, Mahabharata, or the story of the great descendants of Bharata).