Sunday, October 24, 2010

Episode 29 - Damayanti & Nala, part 2

Episode 29 - We finish the story of Nala.  Brhadashva suggested that this story would cheer up the Pandavas, since there was indeed a king who had it worse than they.  But shortly after hearing the story, they get news that Arjun was up on a mountain top starving himself and they were once again plunged into depression and hopelessness.  At least Yuddistira learned Nala's dicing secrets, so he need not worry about another match with Shakuni.

The story of Nala as it is told in the Mahabharata has some significant discrepancies in the storyline.  They are too obvious and numerous to list out in full, but an example would be that Damayanti remained in hiding in her aunt's palace even though she could have told the queen the truth at any time, and could go home at any time.  Stranger still, the queen mother does not recognize her neice, because the girl was covered in mud all the time and so her famous mole was concealed by the dried muck.

On the other hand, the scenes are very dramatic and would have made a wonderful 19th century opera.

I found the detail about the size of Nala's army to be interesting.  Clearly, chariots were not the most common vehicle on the battle field.  There were 19 elephants and numerous horses, and hundreds of infantry, but just one chariot.  Perhaps by this time the chariot was more of a status symbol than an effective military weapon; alternatively, were they so expensive that one chariot was all that could be afforded on this mission!?!

Finally, thanks for the feedback on the identity of Kali.  They tell me that Kali is the kali in kaliyuga.  His buddy Dvapar is of the Dvaparyuga.  I had always thought the names Dvapar & Kali, in that context, were modifiers that somehow described these various epochs.  But now it seems Kaliyuga is the epoch that is dominated or (perhaps) ruled by the entity Kali.

I always thought a little better of the Dvaparyuga, since during that period people were more humane, but the character of Dvapar is not at all appealing.  As for Kali, he comes off as a small-minded little bastard-- hardly fitting for the demon who dominates an entire Epoch!


  1. These are great summaries of the epic!! Very helpful in the classroom. You have entire college class now listening to these or at least that were informed about them.

    I hope you continue educating the world.

  2. I'm glad to hear it. I hoped some college students would be interested, so I hit up some professor friends of mine to look into it, but they are all luddites! None of them knew what a podcast was. I'm sure their students knew...

    Please spread the word. So far I'm a bit disappointed with the size of my audience, but I don't know how to reach the tiny portion of people who both are interested in this epic AND understand how to subscribe to a podcast!

  3. Hi Lawrence, I am a Listener from London , U.K. I wanted to thank you for turning the Mahabhata into a podcast, I am spreading the word.
    I love the way you tell the epic, very easy to listen to.
    Just wondering when the rest of the episodes will be put up?

  4. Thanks for the feedback. As for "the rest of the episodes", those will be posted as I write them, record them, edit and produce them! It all takes work, and I do have a "day job" that underwrites this effort!
    I've been producing an episode a week for the past months, and that's about as fast as I can do it. If I just read the epic from one of the translations, no one would listen, because it is SO BORING. The story is great on many levels, but the ancient style of language is very difficult to work through, so I have to re-interpret the story as I go, and it takes work to make it easy to follow...

    Hang in there, it will be a while before I get to the end of this thing!

  5. You are doing great work! I'm about to marry an Indian girl and your podcast really helps me so much understanding more of her culture and background. Plus I can drop a few names here and there and "impress" her family.
    I'm spreading the word where I can. Even some of my Indian friends (who should know this inside out) want to subscribe now.
    Thanks again!