If you are into Indian mythology, you may know what I am referring to but if you are not, then this post will contain enough to ease you into reading it and hopefully liking it. Mahabharata is one of the two major texts of Sanskrit (the other is Ramayana). For the purposes of this article, I am considering Mahabharata to be a fantasy work instead of a religious text. Mahabharat has many components that make fantasy books fun, gods, demigods, demons, wars, friendship, back stories and much more.
So, why should you read it?
1. If you like mythology- If you like mythology and haven’t found the rich mythology of Asia, then you should do do. China and India have some great mythology which you are welcome to search if such things interest you. Mahabharata, is part of Indian mythology, and one of the places to start Indian mythology. It is like the Trojan War of Indian myths.
2. If you like fantasy- You can even treat Mahabharata as a high fantasy text. Though some of the places mentioned exist but anything of that period has been buried and those places have no relics of the time, so the setting is fantastical. And then there is an epic war, which is something to look forward to. I know some people who consider Mahabharata to be the first fantasy book they ever read.
3. Back Stories- I don’t know about you but I like complex back stories. And Mahabharata does not lack in complex back stories. There are back stories stretching back generations. Sadly, most versions cut short backstories and begin the story with birth of Pandavas.
4. Convergence- I don’t know a better word of it and I am borrowing it from Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson. There are these random, unrelated events taking place and somehow the come together to an epic conclusion, which is the final battle in this case.
5. Complex characters- It becomes irritating when all good characters are on one side and all bad characters on the other, right? Well Mahabharat makes choosing sides difficult. The good side, generally considered honourable, also known as the winning side, wins only through trickery. The losing side has some of the most honourable characters of Mahabharata.
6. If you like history- Mahabharat does provide glimpses into history. I found this link which tells some of the historical facts about Mahabharat.
I think that is enough for reasons. Now getting to the more interesting part…where can you find it to read.
1. Project Gutenberg- Mahabharata of Krishna- Dwaipayana Vyasa translated to English can be found here. Its free so you can’t say its expensive.
2. Free Kindle ebook- Another free resource! You can find Mahabharata of Krishna- Dwaipayana Vyasa Books 1, 2 and 3 here. Books 4 to 7 can be found here (also for free). Books 8 to 12 are here and 13 to 18 are here.
3. Mahabharata Series by Ashok K. Banker- This series is quite good (speaking from experience here) and contains lot of backstories. The first book of the series, The Forest of Stories, can be found here. Second book is The Seeds of War .
4. Comic- If you want to read the comic (graphical novel) version, it is available here. It is a highly abridged version.
5. The Place of Illusions by Chrita Banerjee Divakaruni- I have not read this book but quite a lot of people have recommended it to me. It can be found here if anyone is interested.
I am pretty sure if you search for Mahabharata, you can find lots of more things. But hopefully this was enough to catch your interest and set you on your way to reading this.