The Mahabharata refers to a tradition of religious epic, which has lived in various cultural niches including written, oral, vernacular, and Sanskrit. It has existed for over two thousand years in South and Southwest Asia (Fitzgerald, 52). It has played a chief role as a sacred scripture in defining the Hindu world and culture. The Mahabharata is dramatized by puppets, dancers, and actors for entertaining the audience. In addition, it serves as part of festivals and rituals of the Hindu community. During the 1990s, the Mahabharata was broadcast in the Indian Television and had many viewers (Fitzgerald, 52). The Mahabharata is centrally about three great Hindu “aims of life” these include dharma (social and moral law/duty/ ethic/responsibility), artha (profit, political power, material gain), and moksha (spiritual liberation from rebirth).
The written Sanskrit Mahabharata was promulgated in Northern India around 300 and 450 CE, about the time of the Gupta Empire. This written work is a regular topic of discussion. The Mahabharata went through the stage of the classical heroic epic and was partially transformed into a religious educational epopee. The Mahabharata is a unique epic as it combines the features of all key three main stages of historical development. The anti-Mauryan holds that proper reign should be brahmanya (Fitzgerald, 53). This implies that proper rule should be based on respect for the unique priority of Brahma in determining the cultural, social, and political concerns. Governance and its inherent violence are unsuitable for people of the most sophisticated natures and responsibilities.
The Mahabharata developed as a response to the damage that caused by the rise of empires at Pataliputra and the heathen religions between 300 and 100 BCE. The ‘aims of life’ described in Mahabharata inspire the basis for living a good life in society in a good polity. In Mahabharata, good polity is protected whether the king exists or not (artha). The king, in Mahabharata, exerts the rod of force as the imposition of punishment and his army. The king is self-restrained and energetic and follows the guidance of Brahmans, whom he preserves from harm and supports materially (Fitzgerald, 54). One of the ways that the King prevents Brahmans from harm is by ensuring that people in society make four different forms of contribution to the whole. The society is characterized by the existence of Brahmans, the unseen, essential reality of the world. The hymns of the Vedas elaborate this. The mode of the ruling is passed by a word of mouth from one generation to another. According to Fitzgerald (54), rulers guarantee the general welfare and prosperity of society in life and after death. In this case, the good society has special men known as Ksatriyas, who are the rulers and warriors (armed force). Rulers and warriors protect the society. The ordinary people are the basic economic producers of the society.
People are expected to use effective ritual formulas of the rites of divine worship of Brahmans Veda. Sudra is an order who do not necessarily use the religious services of Brahmans directly. However, they contribute to the general social role by obeying the services of the higher orders. The king is charged with the responsibility of keeping engaged in their own legitimate kinds of work. At times, people fail to perform their appropriate work by doing the tasks of others. This is opposite to the writings of Mahabharata. The legitimate work is referred to as (dharma). When people fail to perform their right work, the orders in the society become indistinct and break down. In fact, at times they cease to exist (Fitzgerald, 55). The outcome of the mixture leads to a disappearance of the Brahmans as a distinct group making a valuable and good contribution to the social wellbeing. When one performs what Vedic rites require, he or she accumulates merit. This gives one benefits and guarantees good life after death. This is the vision by most people as life in a heavenly world, regarded as a good rebirth (moksha).
The rhetoric of the Mahabharata mostly directed as rulers and warriors, as well as, the good life for them involved gaining riches and glory, dying bravely of wounds in battles and wars, and going to heaven. The Mahabharata lays down the foundations of Hinduism. According to Bhagavad Gita, “as moths speeding full tilt to their demise fly right into a fire,” so have men rushed to the war. The war is the mouth of god eagerly devouring the whole world and everyone in it” (Fitzgerald, 74). This is a different opinion from that in Mahabharata.
Dharma is a subtle thing in the Mahabharata. Sometimes, dharma comes into conflict with artha, and the results are not good. The clan of Krishna Vasudeva illustrates this. After the end of the war, people slaughtered each other (Fitzgerald, 68). A similar case is represented by the plague of evil for Indra after killing Vitra.
Moksha is easy to define but difficult to achieve. There are different methods through which Krishna teaches Arjuna about how to gain moksha. One is that of action ((Karma Yoga). This means being intent on actions. Another method is that of knowledge (Jnana Yoga). This comes in the form of being able of differentiating between what is true and what is not. The other method is that of devotion (Bhakti Yoga). This comes in the form of an entire loving devotion to Krishna.
In the modern content, the salvaging the treatment of dharma by Mahabharata, as well as, Gita’s treatment of moksha is important as they would make individuals do what is right (ethics). They are all relevant in Hinduism.
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