Friday, March 16, 2012

Episode 97 - The End

Episode 97 - So this is it-- the final installment from the Mahabharata.  Book 18, the Svargarohanika Parva, is done, and the 18 parvas of the Mahabharata are now complete.

Please be sure to visit my blog and let me know you made it!  And then treat yourself to something nice, because you have really accomplished something.

We've reached the end of the story, but this isn't quite the end of the podcast.  You can expect a few more episodes-- an epilogue where the story is carried forward up to the time of the Snake Sacrifice.

Following that, if you have any questions or points of discussion, I'd like to make the 100th episode a summing up of the entire podcast.  If there's anything you'd like me to address, let me know soon!

Lawrence

36 comments:

  1. Dear Lawrence,

    Yes, here is to let you know I made it with you until the end. 97 episodes - great listening from beginning till end. Loved it all the way and sad to part, but that is how it has to be.
    Thanks and compliments,

    Anne

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  2. You rock lawrence. I heard all your episodes, even though I know the epic very well. I love the perspective you bring, critical and at the same time time not over judgmental.

    I would like to you briefly discuss, what you think of the main characters of the story especially analyzing them from a modern perspective.

    WOuld you also do a podcast on Srimad Bhagvatam ?
    A big thank you to you.

    -ashu

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  3. hi Lawrence, so sad its over :(
    a lot of the stories told in this epic are repeated in the bhagvataam (the entire Krsna past times are from the bhagvataam)
    It would be nice if you could do that for your next series, or even the ramayan?

    a big thank you for all your hardwork,
    from your followers in london, u.k

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  4. Hi Lawrence,

    I made it with you. Thank you. It was an amazing experience and I am so blessed to have gone through this weekly. I would always look forward it. May all the blessings bestowed to one who reads this epic poem come upon you.

    - Ganesh

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  5. Dear Lawrence,
    Brilliant series, I am glad to have come a cross it and increase my understanding of such an epic. Thank you for doing this

    Shankar (Cambridge, UK)

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  6. Your telling of the great epic was wonderful to experience and is sure to be an auspicious event for all who encounter the podcast.

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  7. Hey Lawrence

    Made it. I have read the Mahabharata so many times, and yet it was a real pleasure to listen to your series. You have done an amazing job of keeping the narrative contemporary, fun and in a very accessible manner. Looking forward to more podcasts from you. I love the ideas in this forum of doing a podcast of the Bhagavad Gita. Or perhaps the Ramayana?

    Best wishes

    Kartik

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  8. I can only echo the sentiments of all the others. I've loved listening. I've even used quotes from your telling in my yoga class. Beautifully done. I'd love to hear more of your opinions and conjectures.

    Thanks!

    Amanda

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  9. Hey Lawrence,

    I've read and heard the stories of Mahabharatha for as long as I can remember; and yet this podcast was refreshingly wonderful. No amount of thanks can suffice for all the effort you put in! I have listened to each episode at least twice whilst waiting for the next one to be published. Do continue podcasting! Thanks again! :)

    Karthik.

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  10. Hi Lawrence,

    Thanks, Thanks, Thanks, Thanks!!

    It has been a wonderful experience learning about this great epic.

    Ramayana Next????? :-)


    Mark (Bournemouth, UK)

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  11. Namestee Lawrence,
    I read and heard the Mahabharata in English and many Indian languages yet this podcast has become one of the dearest to my intellect. What I liked of this podcast is the way you got us involved with the old and the new.
    Thanks

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  12. Thanks a lot Lawrence,

    please do one more episode, explaining the reason you started this episode and how do you feel about the Bhishm, Krsna, Arujun, Yudhishtar and Karn.

    I am sure you will be rewarded (may be a short meeting with Krsna :)) in heaven for telling this story.

    Thanks again

    Sumit Kapoor

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    1. I'm on it-- I've got a couple of episodes as an epilogue, to carry the story forward up to the Snake Sacrifice. And then, for #100, I'll do a summing up. If there's anything else you'd like discussed in that episode, let me know soon!

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  13. Hi Lawrence,
    I discovered your podcast when you had done around 40 episodes;so the initial months were spent catching up on them and once I was with you;I would eagerly wait for a new one; I have really enjoyed all of them; I was a huge fan of the epic when it was shown on Indian TV when I was a kid and then I had just sort of drifted away from it; Have enjoyed all episodes but loved your narration of the Abhimanyu's death; I will be extremely disappointed if you stop after 100 episodes; have become so used to this; May be after a break would love if you do a series on Bhagvat Purana or the Ramayana; or may be a discussion on the motives and the actions of main characters; i recently read a book: Yuganta by Irawati Karvewhich is a marvellous critique of the main characters of the epic; http://books.google.co.in/books/about/Yuganta_The_End_of_an_Epoch_2nd_Edn.html?id=uJz4ZWsRcsAC&redir_esc=y

    Would love you to continue in some way;Thanks once again

    Ruchik

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    1. Now this is frustrating! I found the book-- for sale in India, but the site would not ship outside India!

      I had been thinking along the lines of the title-- which is that the end of the Dwapar Yuga was so significant that it inspired not only the Mahabharat, but also all of the Puranas. Basically, most of India's mythic literature was spawned as a result of this event.

      I'll keep looking for it, and maybe I'll find someone willing to ship to California! Thanks.

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    2. No need to ship just print:
      http://gyanpedia.in/Portals/0/Toys%20from%20Trash/Resources/books/yuganta.pdf

      -ashu

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    3. That is awesome-- Thank you! I am more than half way through the book. The author makes some assumptions about the story that are not in the text, such as the Nagas are a tribal people and NOT snakes, and that all the talking animals are really tribal people. We can't know that, because the text never explains it.

      But it is really helpful to get this overview of the epic while I am trying to get a broader perspective on the story anyway. Thanks again, it was a big help.

      -Lawrence

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    4. Even I am half way through it .I feel Yuganta is an effort at understanding the real story of Mahabharata, away from the divine and the magical elements. What Irawati Karve has done is to analyze the story and the characters through the lens of realism and rationalism. She tries to explain the happenings as if in a real world and thus distances the mystical elements that corrupt the vision and understanding of the common reader. For eg the way she tries to unravel the divine intervention in the birth of the Pandavas or the theory she proposes about Karna being born with Kundals and Kavach being metaphorical rather than the fact. Thus, Irawati Karve manages to take the myth away from the epic and infuses it with realism and rationality

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    5. I just finished the book Yuganta, and I highly recommend it to all of our listeners. It couldn't have come to me at a better time. I feel a bit guilty that I did not purchase it. Maybe I could buy a copy online and have it shipped to a school or library in India? Would an institution appreciate that?

      As for the realism/rationality approach taken in parts of that book: I confess that I did have some fun speculating that Kunti's first child (Karna) was actually fathered by Durvasa; especially considering her emotionality when she described the incident. But such speculation is completely unsubstantiated by the text, so I have tried very hard not to drift from the text, and to accept its assertions at face value.

      It seems in our modern age, there have mainly been two approaches to reading these ancient religious texts. Either, like many Christian Fundamentalists today, you take them literally as God's Word, or you take a materialistic approach, in which anything magical must be explained away.

      I have seen folklorists attempt a third option, which is to simply take the text on its own word. For example, if it says Arjun's quiver never ran out of arrows, we must simply accept that as being true, unless or until we get more information to explain it better. The epic itself declares that what it stated is what actually happened, so what choice do we have?

      There is occasionally one small way out of this conundrum, and that is by playing the "interpolation" card. This is a dangerous route, and Karve goes there a bit recklessly at times. I admit that Karve is better qualified than just about anyone to do this, but that makes it no less dangerous. Basically, if there is anything you don't like about the epic, you can just say it was added in later by the Bhargava priests or some other editor. I've looked into this, and it seems hopeless, beyond the Critical Edition itself, to come up with a genuine Ur-Text.

      Furthermore, what do we know about magic, anyway? Just because we don't see it in our day-to-day existence doesn't mean it is not real. I have not ruled out the possibility that some of the magic described in the epic really happened. Maybe even all of it!

      The danger, which I see very often regarding this tale, is that we make assumptions about the story to make it fit better in our view of how we think things should work. People call Yudhistira a "gambling addict", or try to make Karna into the real hero. Neither of these are supported by the text, but once you start mentally editing the story, you can turn it into anything you want it to be! Just say that all the times where the Vyasa himself says that Karna was wicked were later interpolations, and that really, he was a good guy. How can we know that?!?

      My position is that we can have all the fun we want speculating about the epic, but we should always do it carefully, stay mindful of what we are doing; and always let everyone know when we are speculating, and when we are drawing from the text itself.

      Take care,
      Lawrence

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    6. Lawrence, You have hit the nail; couldn't have put it better. At the beginning of the book it was a little bit hard to understand why Karve wanted to humanize the characters (above all Krishna!) seen that they are divine and a lot of things about them can be understood only if we let them their "divinity". Also the epic being so vast and open to so many interpretations; makes it possible to read the Mahabharata in the same way as one reads a modern literary novel, relevant to us not in a facile, connect-the-dots, moralistic sense but in a more general, abstract way: for the glimpses it offers into the hearts, minds and conflicts of an array of very different individuals—their encounters with their circumstances and how they transcend or succumb to them.

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  14. I found the podcast just a few months before the end, so I was able to listen to many hours all at once as I caught up. I loved it all. It would probably be good for me to listen all again. Thanks for your wonderful effort.
    Many golden cows and blessings to you. Leslie from Idaho

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  15. Hi! Thanks so much for sharing this: I just hit episode 97 last month. It was fantastic to be able to put the many anecdotes I've heard from this epic into a proper linear account. Thanks for all your work on this, and keep us informed about any other podcasty things you do in the future!

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  16. Thanks Lawrence.. very well done. I'm definitely going to miss this. Thank you so much for doing this!

    May I suggest you do something similar now - say.. the Puranas? Whatever you decide, please put a podcast about that in Mahabharata podcast, so that we would know.

    Vishal

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  17. I made it!...
    I caught this podcast when it was in single digit episodes. It was around the same time I wanted an indept understanding of the Mahabharata. I found a podcast telling Tulsi Ramayana but was not complete (hint) but then thinking why can't there be a Mahabharata podcast it would fit so nicely ...found it on itunes, and awaited your episodes every week from then .Thanks for increasing my knowledge.

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  18. Made it! You did a fantastic job of narrating and commenting on this epic piece of literature. I especially appreciate your historic and cultural perspective.

    I loved listening to it an will definitely miss it.

    Thank you,
    Ophir

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  19. Hi Lawrence
    It’s a great feat on your part to complete this great epic. Its herculean effort to keep motivated oneself for around 2 years to work on creating Podcasts out of this great epic and you deserve all praise for that.
    Now you have your place in history secured by being the first person to re-tell this great epic in Internet space for people like us you are the modern Vaisampayana 
    You know I am one of the early listeners of your podcast and following you since first 2-3 Podcasts were uploaded on itunes, I always waited for the next episode to come and it will be sad to see it coming to an end. I specifically loved the way you explained things & try to go into reasoning & philosophy behind some acts and clearly expressed what your thoughts are, when you speculate/guess and what author of text thinks.
    I listened some of the episodes again n again and every time I listen I have something to comment upon but most of the time I listen it while cooking/eating in the evening and forget go to your site and leave a comment but here I am writing this one, also would like to say that you have got so many silent listeners who’s been listening the episodes but never leave a comment.
    May god bless you for the great effort to make Mahabharata available online. I hope soon we will see some other great epic recited by you.. Looking forward to it..
    Regards,
    Ravi

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  20. Hi Lawrence
    It’s a great feat on your part to complete this great epic. Its herculean effort to keep motivated oneself for around 2 years to work on creating Podcasts out of this great epic and you deserve all praise for that.
    Now you have your place in history secured by being the first person to re-tell this great epic in Internet space for people like us you are the modern Vaisampayana 
    You know I am one of the early listeners of your podcast and following you since first 2-3 Podcasts were uploaded on itunes, I always waited for the next episode to come and it will be sad to see it coming to an end. I specifically loved the way you explained things & try to go into reasoning & philosophy behind some acts and clearly expressed what your thoughts are, when you speculate/guess and what author of text thinks.
    I listened some of the episodes again n again and every time I listen I have something to comment upon but most of the time I listen it while cooking/eating in the evening and forget go to your site and leave a comment but here I am writing this one, also would like to say that you have got so many silent listeners who’s been listening the episodes but never leave a comment.
    May god bless you for the great effort to make Mahabharata available online. I hope soon we will see some other great epic recited by you.. Looking forward to it..
    Regards,
    Ravi

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  21. I never thought I would find The Mahabharata on learn out loud, for free. One day I just gave it a try and there is was. Thank you so much for all the work you have put into this. I listened to the entire epic in a week and a half.
    I'm sure you will get blessings for this. I also would love to hear the Ramayna

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  22. I have finished the epic in a week and a half. thank hope you will do the Ramayna

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  23. Hi Lawrence,
    Thanks a lot for this great story and I enjoyed every episode of this epic even though I know the story in some of many different versions that prevail in India. Nevertheless I learnt a lot listening to your podcast. I learnt about the epic from multiple sources and in multiple ways but never from a single source, the way you have done it.

    One thing that I learnt from this book which I thought is missing from your podcast is the characteristic shades of each character based on the context. For example, in the context of dealing with Pandavas, Duryodhana looks or may be presented bad. But in every other manner - for example the way he conducted his friendship with Karna, the way he ruled the land during pandavas 14 years of exile period is almost unparallel where later yudisthara had to adopt a lot of Duryodhana's polices and administrative styles for better governance. Karna on the other hand is known to the world's best giver who has the reputation of never saying NO to anyone who asked him. Both Duryodhana and Karna is well known icons for friendship more than Krishna and Arjuna. And one more thing, Karna's killing of a cow of brahmin is also a doing of Indra who acted like a tiger about to eat the brahmin's cow. when Karna fires an arrow, Indra vanishes and the arrow hits the cow, which later made the brahmin mad and curse Karna. This is explained as a way to beat Karna in the war who otherwise stands as an equal or in a way may be a better archer than Arjuna just like Bhisma.

    Considering the length of tale you need to cover for a podcast, I cant expect you cover these deviations even though I admire that you cover a lot of sideline stories. The point I want to make is not every character can be classified as Good or Bad. There are both positive and negative shades in each of the characters of this epic just like every human being has.

    That's why they say - There is nothing that can happen in this world that is not happened in this Mahabharata epic. And its true because this is the epic that deals with every emotion possible to the human being and every action of any human being is guided by his emotions. There cant be an action without any emotion and as every action possible for every emotion is covered in this epic, this in itself becomes wholesome :) .

    Once again, thanks

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I should say however that I did my best to present the epic as I found it. I tried to be clear about my sources, which are mostly Ganguli's translation and of course the Critical Edition. Neither of those versions of the epic include your stories about Durhodhana's statecraft or Indra's trick with the cow.

      I think the same explanation applies to any judgement on the characters in the story. I simply presented the opinions of the characters and the author. I try to make my personal opinions clear and separate from the main story. I have no personal grudge against Duryodhana, and it is quite possible that Vyasa exaggerated his negative characteristics. Since this is the only source we have on the period, we cannot judge these characters outside of the information provided in the epic itself.

      Of course, it is fun to speculate on how Vyasa may have been biased in favor of one group or against another, but we should be careful not to forget that it is only speculation! They say that during our existence between lifetimes on earth, that we are able to view historical events like watching them on a movie screen. The first thing I plan on doing after I die is to find out what really happened on the bloody field of Kurukshetra!!!

      Thanks again. I am so happy you enjoyed listening, and I especially appreciate hearing back from you.

      Take care,
      Lawrence

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  24. Laurence Bhai!

    I made it thru the entire podcast. I must let you know that some audios are not working on the android application. Everything on the website works perfect.

    thanks for bringing the Mahanharata Podcast.

    Take care.

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  25. I loved your podcast. Thanks for your brilliant effort.

    In your research on Mahabharata, what interesting things have you found about the practice of Niyoga. The english translation of S.L.Bhyrappa's kannada book Parva has a lot to say about Niyoga.

    Link to the book titled Parva, written by S.L.Bhyrappa:

    http://gen.lib.rus.ec/search.php?req=bhyrappa&lg_topic=libgen&open=0&view=simple&res=25&phrase=1&column=def

    Also,

    In your podcast, in Episode 93, @12:50 you describe a scene in the forest where Yudhistira encounters Vidura in deep meditation.

    Irawati Karve, in her book Yuganta, extrapolates from this scene that Vidura is the father of Yudhistira.
    ------------------

    Vidura gave Dharma everything — his life, his organs, his brilliance. This behaviour at the time of death is like that of father and son. In the Upanishad there is a description of what a man nearing death is to do: he should lie on the bare ground, and make
    his son lie on top of him, saying “Son, I give you my organs.” The son should reply, “I accept.” In this way the dying man transfers all his power, wealth, and intelligence to his son. This last visit of Dharma and Vidura seems to describe this same kind of transfer.

    ...

    It is said in the later Shastras that a man should sleep with his brother’s wife only when necessity arises to create a son in his brother’s name.

    ...
    If Dharma is the natural son of Vidura and the legal son of Pandu, the whole Mahabharata conflict is no longer between the sons of Dhritarashtra and Pandu, but among the sons of all three brothers.
    ------------------
    Your thoughts?

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    1. Thanks for the link to the book. I haven't read it yet, but it looks interesting. Regarding niyoga and the Pandavas' possible parentage; there is one reference (that I recall) to the practice of niyoga in the previous generation-- Vyasa stands in for Santanu as father of Vidur, Pandu & Dhrtarashtra.
      As for the father of the Pandavas, we only have the Mahabharata as a source, and it is adamant about them being the sons of devas. There is no mystery about it, and no room for speculation. I appreciate how people want to make real-life sense out of the story and try to fit it into the realm of the believable, but the epic itself allows no room for such speculation.
      As I discussed in one of the last episodes, there are parts of the story that are ambiguous, such as why Yuddistira kept playing the dice game until all was lost and how it was that the Kauravas won every round. I think we are free to speculate on that because the narrator really doesn't give us a clear answer.
      But in the case of the Pandavas' fathers, Vyasa is very clear as to what took place. If we are going to start throwing out parts of the story that don't fit our belief system, then we'll have nothing at all-- just opinions.
      The supernatural aspects of the story remain a puzzle, but we can't ignore them just because they seem unrealistic. That would be like when Thomas Jefferson cut all of the miracles out of the gospels in the New Testament! Who is he to say that Jesus could not heal lepers or raise the dead?!? Once you claim that certain assertions in the text are incorrect, you undermine the validity of the entire text.
      In my opinion, all we can do is appreciate the story for what it is and savor the mystery! We can also look to it for clues as to what the ancient (pre-flood) world was really like, and how people saw the world at that time. The Mahabharata has been believed and passed on to later generations for many thousands of years, so it must have been credible to those ancient listeners. None of them said it was impossible for devas & women to have children together.
      There certainly are parallels with other traditions of "gods" having hybrid children with human wives. For example, look at the Nephilim in Genesis 6 as well as the Greek myths. The biblical tradition considers all of these demi-gods to be negative, while in the Mahabharata all of the demi-gods are good guys (the Kauravas are genetically modified humans with the souls of Asuras).
      The Mahabharata is a huge mystery, and if there is any truth to it at all, it must be telling us that in a prior age we had more magic, and the devas physically interacted with mortals much more often (and openly) than today. I'm inclined to believe that explanation over any attempt at removing the supernatural elements from the story.
      Take care!
      -Lawrence

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