The Telegraph
Sunday , January 26 , 2014
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Epic effort unveiled

Nrisinghaprasad Bhaduri. (Anindya Shankar Ray)

For Nrisinghaprasad Bhaduri, “The Iliad or The Odyssey can at best be a footnote to The Mahabharata. Look at its panoramic vision…. It is so much more than a story of clan war” — spoken with a conviction that comes from living and breathing the epic for more than three decades.

Bhaduri, who has been writing serialised columns on The Mahabharata, has come up with a compilation called Katha Amritasaman, the first volume of which was launched by Dey’s Publishing recently. Bhaduri’s retelling of the epic in Bengali, based directly on the Sanskrit text of the Chitrashala Press edition, often quotes the original slokas and is enriched with his own commentary addressing the contemporary reader.

“None of the characters in The Mahabharata is a mere individual. Each is a process which leaves its resonance even after the person’s death. That’s why to understand the epic you need to understand its social, economic and racial context,” Bhaduri said. The marriage of Draupadi to Pandavas, for instance, has to be seen in the context of her father King Dhrupada being insulted by Dronacharya. “Her swayambara was evolved keeping Arjuna’s strength in mind, so that an alliance could be forged with the Pandavas.”

The first volume of Katha Amritasaman ends with the birth of Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura. “I already have material for three more volumes,” smiled the 63-year-old, who is now focusing on an encyclopaedia of the Puranas.

Ask Bhaduri who his favourite character is and he replies: “Yudhisthir. He strives to be perfect in every tricky situation though he makes mistakes too.... I am floored by his responses to the Yaksha.”

The book and its cover are illustrated by Ramananda Bandyopadhyay. “The Mahabharata is never still. I have tried to capture a few moments from the flow of events, preserving the vitality in the sketches,” the artist said.