Politics in the Indian Epics
September 22, 2008 9:23am CST
We have a pair of epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata by name. These two epics are treasures of the world literature and these two are embedded in the religious ideas and conceptions of the ancient India to such a degree that many Indians still today believe in the historicity of the characters of those writings. I should not move to that domain at present. Rather the contents of these epics, to my observation, tell us in very simple way the tale of the political conditions of the time. In the Ramayana we find the expansion of a kingdom, some measures to take a few minor power centers away from Ayodhya into confidence and actually subjugate them gradually and finally stretch the kingdom to far south, that is, Dakshinatyo, and even crossing the Indian Ocean. Inside the royal palace, brewing up of some individual ambition to frame conspiracy (the Kaikeyee-Monthora-Bharat episode)has also been noticed. Hence the political consideration has some strong presence in the Ramayana. The Mahabharata presents the crisis of monarchy in more matured dimension. The crisis of kingship, the conspiracies in the royal dynasty, the attempts to confirm supremacy of one over the others and at last the great war of Kurukshetro in which all the contemporary kings and warriors have participated, and aim of Shakunee to revenge Hastinapur's domination and means of coercion and the role of Krishno as a hardcore diplomat and thousands of such things point to the political purpose embedded in the epic. The two epics have confirmed that in literature the theory of "art is for art's sake" needs a fresh debate.