This is a smaller print edition of 'The Mahabharata', complete and unabridged. In the world of classical literature The Mahabharata is unique in many respects. It is the mightiest single endeavor of literary creation of any culture in human history. An 11 lb. edition of the gargantuan epic which is said to contain the solutions to all the problems of human life. A treasure-house of Indian spirituality with jaw-dropping adventures galore, this is a true classic of world literature.
A 4 Volume Set.
Since there has been some discussion of the Mahabharata on Saragrahi, I thought I would write my own review of this incredible shastra. This is an unabridged translation of the Mahabharata, and I recommend it highly to all hardcore Mahabharata junkies (self included). It is extremely long (the page numbering sequence is funky, so I can't tell you how many pages it is), a 4 volume set of books 2.5 inches thick and 8 inches high, with that very thin Indian paper; probably considerably over 10,000 pages. To read this edition takes a serious time commitment and attentive reading, but it is entirely worth the effort, both in terms of philosophical/ethical value and entertainment value.
To begin with, the Mahabharata unabridged contains gigantic sections which have been heavily censored or altogether excluded from abridged versions. One gets an entirely new perspective on “Vedic” women, and their husbands, which is quite different from what is spoon-fed to Vaishnavis. It contains a good many highly instructive passages regarding moral behavior, which I was surprised to learn were left out of many unabridged versions (my favorite being Bhima and the rakshasa disguised as a Vaishnava at Badarikashrama).
I also found that the saying “anything in creation can be found in the Mahabharata, but if it's not in the Mahabharata, then it doesn't exist,” was not in the least exaggerating. The Mahabharata is filled with guns, nuclear weapons, guided missiles, transsexuals, and more, all in the first volume. If you don't believe me, read it for yourself. For entertainment value alone, the unabridged Mahabharata cannot be surpassed. The plot is intense, complex, funny, tragic, dramatic, and ultra-violent; full of romance, scandal, intrigue, and magic; and, on top of all that, consciousness-raising. The blurb on the cover says that the Mahabharata is a liberal arts education in itself, and I think that is a perfectly accurate appraisal.
That said, one has to be seriously interested in reading the Mahabharata to be able to withstand reading the unabridged version. There are many, many lists of names and places that go on for pages; for example, a list of tirthas visited by Bhishma is about ten pages long and exceedingly dry (one will find that such boring passages are followed by an assurance that the person who reads, recites, or hears them with attention will surely gain all the benefits of actually visiting all the tirthas, performing 10,000 horse sacrifices, giving mountains of gold to Brahmins, etc., or all of the above).
Also, the reader unfamiliar with the Mahabharata's basic story may find himself confused by the fact that all of the characters have multiple names (Karna, Vasusena, and Radheya are all the same person), and that many people have the same names (Rama, the son of Jamadagni; Rama the brother of Krishna; and Rama the son of Dasaratha, are good examples that come up frequently). A further complication for this edition is that diacritical marks are used erratically, so that Krsna and KrsnĂ¤ (Draupadi), are at times indistinguishable. In addition, the main story is interrupted constantly by smaller stories, which in turn are interrupted by still smaller stories, and so on and so on, without much notice being given to the reader. One has to be able to devote absolute attention to reading, or become lost almost instantly. The Mahabharata requires a great deal of attention in order to get a grasp on the flow of action, and can't be read as lightly as other literature. It is also best read first in an abridged format (censorious as they may be), after which the enthusiast will be able to better understand an unabridged version.
In short, if you already love the Mahabharata, you will be sure to enjoy Ganguli's translation, which is absolutely fulfilling and devotes a great deal of time to every plot point. Ganguli's use of language is somewhat endearing (“Govinda of inconceivable soul”) and quite formal, peppered with “thee,” “ye,” “thy,” etc. He also puts in a great many footnotes, to explain certain rituals to the reader, and to tell us when he was unsure of the proper translation of a word or phrase; and he is, in general, a very considerate translator. He also is a member of the culture to which the Mahabharata belongs, and is therefore much more sensitive and less speculative in his interpretation and introduction, which is much more than can be said for other translators of the Mahabharata (J.A.B. van Buitenen comes to mind). His translation is beautifully and respectfully rendered, and unlikely to offend the Vaishnava reader.- Maharani Devi Dasi