The Mahābhārata has existed in various forms for well over two thousand years:
The Mahābhārata was one of the two most important factors that created the "Hindu" culture of India (the other was the other all-India epic, the Rāmāyaṇa, pronounced approximately as Raa-MEYE-a-na), and the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa still exert tremendous cultural influence throughout India and Southeast Asia.
But the historical importance of the Mahābhārata is not the main reason to read the Mahābhārata. Quite simply, the Mahābhārata is a powerful and amazing text that inspires awe and wonder. It presents sweeping visions of the cosmos and humanity and intriguing and frightening glimpses of divinity in an ancient narrative that is accessible, interesting, and compelling for anyone willing to learn the basic themes of India's culture. The Mahābhārata definitely is one of those creations of human language and spirit that has traveled far beyond the place of its original creation and will eventually take its rightful place on the highest shelf of world literature beside Homer's epics, the Greek tragedies, the Bible, Shakespeare, and similarly transcendent works.
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Copyright © 2009 James L. Fitzgerald
1.4 Created and maintained by James L. Fitzgerald, Das Professor of Sanskrit, Department of Classics, Brown University
Updated May 9, 2009