I have always wondered why the Mahabaratha has remained relevant over the many millenniums. There is this interesting book written in 1905 by C V Vaidya – The Mahabaratha – A Criticism. On the Author of Mahabaratha he says:
To summarise the above, the present Mahabharata is, as it were, a redaction of Vyasa’s historical poem called “Triumph” edited by Vaishampayana as Bharata, and reprinted or reissued by Sauti, with notes and additions, and with an introduction and a table of contents prefixed to it.
On the age of the epic, the author has to say this:
Again we have the mention of a Nagna Kshapanaka (naked Jain) in the Paushya Akhyana in the Adi Parva. The origin of Jainism is usually believed to have been laid by Mahabira about 500 B.C., i.e., about the same time as Buddhism. The Mahabharata does not directly refer to Buddhism or to any of its votaries. But this is not an argument to put it before Buddhism. Discussions and discourses in the nature of Buddhistic controversies are hinted at in the Mokshadharma section of the Shanti Parva. Buddhism and Jainism had assumed an offensive appearance, and were threatening to be powerful rivals of the orthodox Aryan religion, and it may be assumed that, while no direct mention is made of Buddha or his tenets, the recasting of the Bharata was due to this very growing evil. At that time Brahmin teachers probably thought it necessary to bring together, en masse all the floating materials, for the preaching of their religion, into one focus, and hence we have the spectacle of a vast didactic work raised on the foundation of the legend of the Bharata war. Here we find the clue to the fact that the Mahabharata is constantly preaching Dharma and the sanctity of its exponents. Dharma and its preachers, the Brahmanas, appear to have been in danger, and adherence to Dharrna and obedience to Brahmanas is constantly insisted upon throughout the Mahabharata. This is, in our opinion, the most probable reason why we find an epic, the Baharata of Vaishampayana or Vyasa, turned into a Dharma Grantha, a Smriti as it is believed to be, a vast didactic work embracing all the departments of the Aryan religion and morals as they were in the days of Megasthenes.
To me this makes a lot of sense. Keeping this in mind, read the following extract from the Book – Mahabharata – An Inquiry in the Human Condition – by Badrinath Chaturvedi:
And the antagonism most commonly narrated in the Mahabharata was between brahmana and kshatriya. It was an antagonism that has existed throughout human history, as it exists today, between the thinker and intellectual and those invested with the governing power of the state. The intellectual asks questions; the functionaries of the state resist any questioning. The thinker points to a greater reality from which the power of the state must derive its justification; the functionaries of the state believe power to be its own and the only justification. The Mahabharata depicts that antagonism through the metaphor of ‘the right of the way’. Between the thinker and the king, who has the right of the way? In the following story, to be read throughout metaphorically, as it was meant to be, the quarrel was ‘who should give way, even physically: the brahmana to the king, or the king to the brahmana?’
Once upon a time there was a king, Kalmashpada by name, and he was a very powerful king. Going on a hunt one day, he wandered around strenuously for game, and hunted down many animals. On his way back, thirsty and hungry, he happened to come to a pathway so narrow that only one person could pass through it. On that path, he saw a sage, Shakti by name, the eldest son of sage Vashistha, coming from the opposite side. The King said to him: ‘Move out of my way’. Very gently, Shakti said to the king: ‘The established dharma is that it is the king who should give way to a brahmana. It is you who should move out of my way’. A quarrel broke between them on the right of the way. And neither of them gave way to the other. Thereupon, seeing that as an insult to his majesty as king, Kalmashpada started whipping Shakti brutally. Blinded with hurt and anger, Shakti used the only weapon a helpless Brahmana always had – the power of a curse. He pronounced a curse upon the king: ‘You so low among kings, like a demon you are hitting an asetic. Be a demon from now on, a man eating demon, and wander around hungry for humans for the rest of your life. Now go from here.’ And the curse comes true: a demon takes possession of the king. Thus possessed, Kalmashpada lost awareness of everything except his demonic power.
The current reality is not very different. I am not saying that all or even the majority of the critics of the Government are intellectuals or thinkers. But what has happened is that the Natural Critics – the Media – has let down the Society by refusing to play its natural role.