The great Indian epic The Mahabharata is at least 3,500 years old. In its original, in the Sanskrit language, it runs to one hundred thousand stanzas in verse, by far the longest of the world's epics. Also, together with the Ramayana, it embodies the very essence of Indian cultural and religious heritage, laying down values of individual life and society which have shaped the texture of Indian life. The Mahabharata fairly bursts with an astonishing treasure of riches. At one level it is a great tale with a huge, truly memorable cast of vivid characters; men, noble and ignoble, warriors, saints, kings, and women of beauty. Unbearable sacrifice, shining nobility, great courage and virtue, insatiable greed, satanic hared and sinister intrigue are all part and parcel of the dynastic struggle between two branches of a family which culminates in a bloody 18 day war on the plains of Kurukshetra.
At another level, the tragic battle of Kurukshetra symbolizes man's constant struggle to distinguish between right and wrong, of choosing correct action over misdeed, issues tackled in the Bhagavadgita which forms a part of this epic and which is perhaps the single most influential scripture if Indian philosophic thought and spiritual understanding. R.K. Narayan's splendid retelling offers the modern reader a magnificent initiation into The Mahabharata. With the consummate skill of a great writer, he recreates the rhythm and grandeur of this great epic which has endured through the ages with astonishing vitality.