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Whose Mahabharat is it anyway!

Socio-political relations between India and Indonesia date back centuries and Indonesia even finds mention in the Ramayan.

Indonesian author and journalist Ayu Utami discussed the similarities between the two countries with Mrityunjay Kumar Singh, former director of the Jawaharlal Nehru Indian Cultural Centre, Jakarta, and Indian Cultural Centre, Bali.

“The word ‘Indo’ is derived from the word ‘India’,” said Utami, explaining the influences of Indian mythology and Sanskrit on language and everyday life in Indonesia.

Singh cited the use of characters from the Mahabharat and Ramayan, like Garuda, after whom the Indonesian airline is named, and Garuda’s depiction in Indonesia’s national emblem.

“What people don’t know is that when an Indian goes to Indonesia, and he mentions the Mahabharat to be of Indian origin, Indonesians feel very offended. They feel that the Mahabharat is equally theirs if not only theirs. And so are the claims for Ramayan,” said Singh.

Utami, the author of Saman and other novels, also spoke about sexuality and morality.

“This morality is misleading. I chose to use direct words instead of euphemisms,” said Utami, adding how the word ‘orgasm’ was translated as ‘anger’, and ‘orgy’ as ‘religious party’ in a dictionary in Indonesia!

Swati Gautam, a city-based entrepreneur, found the session “wonderfully and shockingly informative”. “Utami surprised me with her fearlessness and confidence. I loved it,” she said.