Perspectives of Mahabharata Studies in North East India

The Mahabharata has been for centuries, perceived within a ‘zone of contact’, where far from ‘being’ the narrative has been in a state of ‘becoming’ whereby regional and community-specific legends have enriched the narrative with new interpretations and perspectives. Even though the central narrative of the epic is the destructive war of supremacy between the kauravas and Pandavas and the series of events leading to it, the story line is interspersed with several episodes containing legends and anecdotes from regions across the country. The interpolation of many local versions from time to time in various spatio-temporal locations has kept the epic narrative in a constant state of flux. Many of these regional variations have focused on specific characters, which are then perceived in accordance with the local beliefs and attitudes. Some characters are defied and are worshiped as gods and goddesses, with temples being erected in their honour. In the Mahabharata the reference to north east India is found to Pragjyotisha. The demon king Naraka is referred to in the Mahabharata, whose son Bhagadatta participated in the battle of Kurukshetra on the side of the Kauravas. Few tribal communities like Dimasa Kachari also connect themselves with various characters like Hidimba, Bhim, Ghatotkacha etc. The Dimasa trace their lineage to Hidimba. Myths have it that Babhruvahana, the son of Arjuna and Chitrangada belonged to Manipur. Mahabharata can be studied in north east India from the perspectives to examine these regional variations in terms of the local connections as well as genealogical reference prevalent among the communities from the north east India.

This has been discussed during the Jaya Utsav organized by IGNCA, New Delhi

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