3. Textual Mahabharata


Sanskrit plays generally follow the textual mba and reproducing the sentiments expressed by Sanjaya and the sutas. But even there there are isolated voices of dissent. One is of
Bhasa. He is a critical insider. Bhasa is not far distanced from Vyasa. Hence at times he corrects Vyasa and leads him to the alternatives. Bhasa has six plays based on
mba. Madhyamavyayoga is during the exile.Pancaratram at the end of the exile and Dutavakyam before starting the war. The last three are during the Great War. Dutakhatotkaca on the 12th day after the fateful fall of Abhimanyu, Karnabhara on the 17th day followed by Urubhanga on the 18th day with the death of duryodhana. All except Pancaratra are
one act plays. Pancaratra is in three acts. The feud between the brothers end without war by the intervention of Drona. They share the country and live happily. Bhasa dreams a mba without kurukshetra. Vyasa says war is inevitable. There is no alternative. Bhasa co rrects there is alternative. Who was responsible for war? Gandhari says Krishna is responsible. Hence she curses him. W are discussing whether it is principal agency or subordinate agency. Bhasa says –no the silence of the elders cost the war. We will call it negative agency. To be fare I will borrow a better term from Dr.Howard zinn to explain the situation‐ safety of silence. Wilful Silence in crucial moments a nation perishes when the intelligentsia keep silent. Yes it is what the wise men are for. It may cost their positions, perhaps even lives. John the Baptist lost his head. It was presented in a golden plate in Herod. Yet they do not keep quiet. Our elder’s fate in the most ignoble context of offending the modesty of a woman in the royal court.Pancaratram thus is Bhasas critique of
intelligentsia. The silence of Kunti also comes under this category. We call it negative agency but the victims of her silence cannot endorse our views. Kinti by her silence
was making herself safe. There is an interesting story by Mahasweta devi.At the fag end of Kunti’s life before being burned by the forest fire she comes across a woman
who was the eldest daughter in law of the nishadhini who was burned in the jatugriha with her sons. The woman reminds Kunti of her crime in burning six innocent tribal’s to death to serve her self interest. Kuntz cannot absolve herself from the responsibilities of these acts.


Base’s Karnabharahas been variously interpreted. What is the burden of Karna? Prof.Bhattacharya in his illuminating introduction told that the burden of Karna was his past. I beg to differ. Krishna had offered him the kingdom and even Draupadi on the sixth year. He could have easily accepted it. Kunti also would have been very happy. But his moral
consciousness. Sense of loyalty did not permit him. This leads to his tragic end. Bhasa is shocked. How Dharma becomes a burden? Karnabhara can also be read in a subaltern perspective. We did so during mandal agitation. Two more Bhasa plays can be read in this perspective. In Madhyamavyayoga the situation is abhasa’s imagination. Here he presents hidumbi and khatotkaca in bright colours. The situation in Dutaghatotkaca is also not in the mba. After the death of the son of Arjuna Bhasa sends deliberately the son of Bheema to the kaurava court. Those live in the city have only contempt for him; but his behaviour is highly dignified. When khatotkaca fell bravely fighting for pandavas Krishna is overjoyed. One reason was that Karna lost his last defence. The more he danced celebrating the death. He did not think even of Bheema who lost his son. This is the nature of the official release of Sanjaya. Bhasa’s dissent was against this. He admired Duryodhana, sympathised Karnaand sided with subalterns. He was perhaps inviting us to the other side of mba.