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May 10, 2001 Conference on the Mahabharata, India's great epic






by Dr. T.S. Rukmani, Chair in Hindu Studies

The Chair in Hindu Studies, in association with the Department of Religion at Concordia University, has organized an international conference to recognize a century of solid scholarship (both Indian and Western) that made the epic Mahabharata accessible to a wider audience beyond India.

Leading scholars from around the world—the U.S., U.K., Japan, Israel, Mexico, Australia, India, Norway, and others—will present papers in the field of Mahabharata studies.

A treasure of Indian lore

The Mahabharata is a veritable encyclopedia dealing with issues of enduring human interests. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it reflects the inmost depths of the soul of humanity. It has been justly recognized as a priceless treasure house of Indian lore, both secular/humanist and religious.

The perennial, worldwide appeal of this epic was the rationale behind Peter Brook’s nine-hour-long recreation of The Mahabharata as a play, which premiered at the French Festival of India in Paris in 1987.

In 1901, M. N. Dutt single-handedly completed in 12 volumes a verse-by-verse English translation of this authoritative Sanskrit epic in 100,000 stanzas of law, morality, social and political philosophy. Subsequently, the critical edition of the Mahabharata, partly sponsored by the International Council for the Philosophy and Humanistic Studies, UNESCO, was brought out by an international team of scholars at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, India, in 28 volumes between 1923-1972.

The University of Chicago, well known for its enduring commitment to Indological research, saw fit to commission an annotated and critical English translation based on the Pune edition. Between 1973 and 1978, three volumes appeared, edited by A. van Buitenen, the renowned Dutch Indologist.

Teaching the Mahabharata

Over three days, from May 18 to 20, more than 30 scholars of international repute will present their papers on the methodological problems of teaching the Mahabharata, character analysis based on ethical issues, and challenge and response, in the context of philosophical, social and other issues.

The chief speaker will be Professor Gerald Larson, who holds the Rabindranath Tagore Chair at the University of Indiana, U.S.A. and is a highly respected scholar of India-related studies.
Professor Larson will be introduced by Rector Frederick Lowy at the conference’s inaugural session on May 18, which starts at 9:30 a.m. in Room 110 of the Henry F. Hall Building.