I have had quite a treat over the past fortnight: two research seminars on the Mahābhārata in as many weeks. The first was Brian Black (Lancaster University), who gave a paper in our Religious Studies research seminar series entitled ‘Subverting Dharma: Dialogues with Women in the Mahābhārata’, in which he analysed three key dialogues of the epic and used them to demonstrate some of the benefits of the dialogic form. The second was Edinburgh doctoral student Piyush Roy, who, at the Centre for South Asian Studies seminar, presented his analysis of the disrobing of Draupadi scene in the new Indian TV series according to the classical system of nine rasas.
I thoroughly enjoyed both talks as well as the conversations that they prompted, and I was surprised by the resonances between them. In his analysis of dialogues between women and powerful men, Brian noted the idea that the dicing match and subsequent disrobing of Draupadi loom over the whole epic, and that her debate with the men of the court during this scene therefore affects our understanding of other debates and dialogues in the text. In his visually stimulating presentation, Piyush explored this very scene for its dramatic possibilities, and its ability to convey all nine rasas, or aesthetic moods, even in a modern TV version.
Each of the talks also pointed me in the direction of more Mahābhārata fun: Piyush inspired me to seek out and watch the recent Indian TV series, while Brian – in a conversation about my recent conversion to podcasts – directed me to a full podcast version of the epic, which can be found here, and which I am very much looking forward to sampling!
Since I read the epic back in 2013 I haven’t had much in the way of Mahābhārata entertainment, but it seems I am about to make up for that in a big way…