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Towards an architecture of the mahabharata by Vishwa Adluri

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Presentation made by Vishwa Adluri at the International Seminar on Mahabharata organized by Draupadi Trust in April 2012 at New Delhi.

Presentation made by Vishwa Adluri at the International Seminar on Mahabharata organized by Draupadi Trust in April 2012 at New Delhi.

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  • 1. Vishwa AdluriHunter College, CUNYvadluri@hunter.cuny.eduWWW.Presocratics.OrgTowards an Architectureof the MahābhārataPaper presented at the International Seminar on:The Mahābhārata: Its Historicity, Antiquity, Evolution & Impacton CivilizationOrganized by the Draupadī Trust, Delhi, April 2012
  • 2. “Notre seule source, ce sont les manuscritseux-mêmes, donc, en dernière analyse, lesstemma. Nous n’avons donc pas le droit derépudier leur témoignage sous le prétexte qu’ilnous paraît absurde.” — R. Marichal, “La critique des textes”“Our only source are the manuscriptsthemselves, then, in the final analysis, thesestemma. We therefore do not have the right torepudiate their evidence under the pretext thatit appears absurd to us.”
  • 3. A. The Mahābhārata Archetype
  • 4. A. The Mahābhārata Archetype (contd.) Slide 1: Textual tree of Ādiparvan versions, illustrating the stemmatic relationships Source: Sukthankar 1933
  • 5. A. The Mahābhārata Archetype (contd.) Slide 2: Illustrating the distinction between the space of meaningful discourse (sense and reference, and sense) and nonsense (neither sense nor reference)
  • 6. A. The Mahābhārata Archetype (contd.) Slide 3: Unrooted phylogenetic tree illustrating the separation of the Mahābhārata tradition into three broad groups: Southern, Northern, Kaśmīri, and the position of the CE vis-à-vis these three (source: Phillips-Rodriguez, Howe, and Windram 2009)
  • 7. A. The Mahābhārata Archetype (contd.) Vishwa Adluri & Joydeep Bagchee, eds., Reading the Fifth Veda: Studies on the Mahābhārata, Essays by Alf Hiltebeitel, vol. 1 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2011) & When the Goddess was a Woman: Mahābhārata Ethnographies, Essays by Alf Hiltebeitel, vol. 2 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2011)
  • 8. A. The Mahābhārata Archetype (contd.) Vishwa Adluri, ed., “The Critical Edition and its Critics: A Retrospective of Mahābhārata Scholarship,” Special issue of the Journal of Vaishnava Studies 19,2 (Spring 2011).
  • 9. A. The Mahābhārata Archetype (contd.) Vishwa Adluri & Joydeep Bagchee, The Nay Science: A History of German Indology (Oxford: Oxford University Press). Vishwa Adluri & Joydeep Bagchee, Philology and Criticism: A Guide to Mahābhārata Textual Criticism (forthcoming).
  • 10. A. The Mahābhārata Archetype (contd.) Slide 4: Illustrating the distinction between witness texts, source texts, and archetype
  • 11. B. From Archetype to Architecture
  • 12. B. From Archetype to Architecture (contd.) Slide 5: Structure and divisions of the constituted text
  • 13. B. From Archetype to Architecture (contd.) Slide 6: Division of the Mahābhārata into 3 triads of 6 chapters each
  • 14. B. From Archetype to Architecture (contd.) Slide 7: The return to the Sauti-Śaunaka frame in the Nārāyaṇīya
  • 15. B. From Archetype to Architecture (contd.) Slide 8: The circular narrative architecture of the epic, illustrating the exit from the text of nivṛtti and the continuation on into pravṛtti
  • 16. B. From Archetype to Architecture (contd.) Slide 9: Organization of pravṛtti into four “Gestalts” or “Genera,” each with its respective remainder, form of immortality, and defect
  • 17. C. Expansion versus Architecture
  • 18. C. Expansion versus Architecture (contd.) Slide 10: A fanciful interpretation of the epic’s genesis (source: Gupta and Ramachandran 2007)
  • 19. C. Expansion versus Architecture (contd.) Slide 11: Comparing interpreters’ different attitudes toward the epic Part 1: Kṣatriya Epic versus Brahmanic Revision
  • 20. C. Expansion versus Architecture (contd.) Slide 12: Comparing interpreters’ different attitudes toward the epic Part 2: Addition versus Loss
  • 21. C. Expansion versus Architecture (contd.) Slide 13: Comparing interpreters’ different attitudes toward the epic Part 3: Versions versus Levels
  • 22. C. Expansion versus Architecture (contd.) Slide 14: Comparing interpreters’ different attitudes toward the epic Part 3: Versions versus Levels
  • 23. C. Expansion versus Architecture (contd.) Slide 15: Vyāsa’s narrations of the Mahābhārata, showing how Śaunaka in the Āstīkaparvan forges together the Āstīka narrative with Vaiśaṁpāyana’s narration
  • 24. 1. The thesis of different versions of the epic is:• A creation of 19th century (German) Orientalism.• Part of a search for heroic Āryan origins.• Projection of German fantasies of a militaristic masculine culture onto the ancient epic.• Part of a program of vilification of indigenous intellectual traditions (as “Brahmanism” or “Hinduism”).Slide 16a: Summary of the results of our investigation thus far
  • 25. 2. The thesis of different versions of the epic:• Lacks all support in the epic itself.• Ignores the fact that a text can have different levels of meaning.• Ignores the epic’s explicit claim to being the “thought entire” (mataṁ kṛtsnaṁ) of Vyāsa.• Makes no distinction between what can be shown historically-archaeologically (e.g., settlements or Painted Grey Ware, etc.) and what cannot be shown historically- archaeologically (i.e., is only a textual point).Slide 16b: Summary of the results of our investigation thus far
  • 26. 3. This is a literary, poetical, and aesthetic claim:• It should not be caricatured to mean that there was a historical Vyāsa and that we mean that this personage wrote the entire thing.• It does not rule out historical or archaelogical investigations, but shows that we must exercise caution regarding what such investigations can show.• Specifically, we must be cautious against the attempt to take the text hostage for a pugnacious political ideology such as “Aryan theory” or “Indo-European theory.”Slide 16c: Summary of the results of our investigation thus far
  • 27. Slide 17: Motif of ascent and descent: The Vasu narratives in the Ādiparvan and Nārāyaṇīya
  • 28. • The story of liberation. Garuḍa is born into servitude, along with his mother Vinatā. The very reason given for his birth is to liberate Vinatā. In doing so, he also shatters the wheel of pain that separates mortals from the pot of immortality.• Liberation occurs through the structural motif of an ascent. This ascent begins on a mountain.• The liberation includes two segments: one to Indra’s heaven to steal amṛta, and another to a height beyond Viṣṇu. Let us call these two ascents the “Indra segment” and “Viṣṇu segment” respectively.• These two ascents are related to each other as a series, not as parallel alternatives.• A tree and a flag-pole are closely associated with these two ascents.• The tree turns out to be an unsteady support, and Garuḍa is forced to discard it. Viṣṇu’s flag-pole, in turn, is achieved through equanimity (Garuḍa’s even-keeled flight) which impresses Viṣṇu.• The Viṣṇu segment is achieved by explicitly forsaking the Indra segment. Garuḍa explicitly asks for immortality without the aid of amṛta. No one is saved by it in this narrative.• The Indra segment is antagonistic to ṛṣis who practice tapas. Indra mocks them but they best him by creating Garuḍa. The antagonism reveals a deep divide, the one of pravṛtti and nivṛtti.• Indra’s sovereignty is one of pravṛtti, powered by sacrifice and vulnerable to fall. Such a sacrifice is the pravṛtti-powering sacrifice.• Garuḍa’s attainment to a region above Viṣṇu is a different kind of achievement. It is one of nivṛtti.• In order to proceed on the path of nivṛtti, Garuḍa must overcome the four genera of becoming: sacrifice, cosmology, genealogy and war.• Garuḍa represents a different kind of sacrifice, a non-Agni i.e., a non-pravṛtti sacrifice. Let us call it nivṛtti- conducive sacrifice.• The Indra segment also prominently features a friendship: Indra seeks out Garuḍa’s friendship.• The Viṣṇu segment leaves the Indra segment intact. Indra is not unseated, his claim to the immortality of amṛta is challenged but not toppled. Slide 18: Summary of Garuḍa’s ascent
  • 29. All this is rooted in Time, to be or not to be, to be happy or not to be happy. Time ripensthe creatures. Time rots them. And Time again puts out the Time that burns down thecreatures. Time shrinks them and expands them again. Time walks in all creatures,unaverted, impartial. Whatever beingsthere were in the past will be in the future, whatever are busy now, they are all thecreatures of Time—know it and do not lose your sense.Mahābhārata 1.1.187-190.In this book, Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana has uttered a holy Upaniṣad…. And Kṛṣṇa Vāsudeva isglorified here, the self-eternal Blessed Lord—for He is the truth and the right and thepure and the holy. He is the eternal Brahman—the supreme Surety, the Everlasting lightof whose divine exploits the wise tell tales.From Him begins existence that is not yet, and the non-existent that becomes. His is thecontinuity and the activity. His is birth, death and rebirth.Mahābhārata 1.1.191, 193-195. Slide 19: Time and Eternity as the basic concerns of the epic
  • 30. Vishwa AdluriHunter College, CUNYvadluri@hunter.cuny.eduWWW.Presocratics.OrgTowards an Architectureof the MahābhārataPaper presented at the International Seminar on:The Mahābhārata: Its Historicity, Antiquity, Evolution & Impacton CivilizationOrganized by the Draupadī Trust, Delhi, April 2012

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