I remember as a child listening raptly to the Mahabharata and Ramayana verbally told by many tongues..it was always fascinating, because every telling brought forth a different viewpoint, that of the narrators. But more than the 'Ramayana', it was the 'Mahabharata' that fascinated me, perhaps because the Mahabharata is never old, in its wisdom, in its conflict, in its grandeur it is always contemporary.
As I grew up, my fascination with this epic increased, I saw more and more versions of it and yet there have been innumerable questions that have alluded me. Why Shatriya Dharma was more important that the Darma of life & loving... Why Dhritarashtra chooses to remain blind and not hear of bloodshed on the battlefield, when he is already blind in more ways than the physical ? That the Mahabharata, is a political piece perhaps needs no reiteration. But the classic appeal of the epic lies where it rises from being a simple political piece into the play of Dharma, intricately weaved into the fabric of magic and miracles and simple truths of life.
In a scene in Peter Brook's 'Mahabharata', Ganesha who calls himself the first scribe, while keeping account of the poem, suddenly lies down, tuns over and opens his mask to reveal Krishna himself. The narrator of the poem, then becomes one with the one who construe s it.
As a youngster I was introduced to Teejan bai by my father. I remember him saying, ' She can recite the entire Mahabharata!' Teejan Bai, who gave her first performance at 13, sings pieces of the Mahabharata, especially those from the stories of the 'Pandavas'in the Kapalik style. Which was till then dominated by men. She uses the oral tradition of telling stories and enacts the 'Mahabharata', with her voice and the help of an 'Ektara'.
Astonishingly, the ektara sometimes becomes a prop that signifies the 'Gada'( mace) of Bheema or the bow of Arjuna or even the hair of Draupadi being pulled by Dusshasana.
Ironically, this woman who sings the epic that talks of Dharma, was ostracised by her own community, for singing Pandavani, being a woman. Life or stories..they always come a full circle..& that is Karma?
( Video courtesy Youtube)