“Astonishing. . . . [Satyamurti’s Mahabharata] brings [the] past alive . . . as though it were a novel in finely crafted verse.”—Vinay Dharwadker
Originally composed approximately two thousand years ago, the Mahabharata tells the story of a royal dynasty, descended from gods, whose feud over their kingdom results in a devastating war. But it contains much more than conflict. An epic masterpiece of huge sweep and magisterial power, “a hundred times more interesting” than the Iliad and the Odyssey, writes Wendy Doniger in the introduction, the Mahabharata is a timeless work that evokes a world of myth, passion, and warfare while exploring eternal questions of duty, love, and spiritual freedom. A seminal Hindu text, which includes the Bhagavad Gita, it is also one of the most important and influential works in the history of world civilization.
Innovatively composed in blank verse rather than prose, Carole Satyamurti’s English retelling covers all eighteen books of the Mahabharata. This new version masterfully captures the beauty, excitement, and profundity of the original Sanskrit poem as well as its magnificent architecture and extraordinary scope.
In her vibrant retelling of this set of tales from ancient India, British poet Satyamurti (Countdown) elegantly captures stories of family conflict, family rivalry, jealousy, pride, ambition, honor, defeat, and love woven through the long Sanskrit poem. Satyamurti works from other scholarly translations using K.M. Ganguli's unabridged 5,000-page English prose translation as her primary guide to condense all 18 books of the poem into blank verse, remaining faithful to its structure and dramatic range. At the core of the work is the bitter ongoing conflict between two rival families for control and possession of the Bharata kingdom and its capital of Hastinapura, the "city of the elephant," on the Ganges River in northern central India. Satyamurti includes the epic battles at the core of the book, preserving the ambivalence and courage displayed by the warriors Arjuna and Karna: "They fought like gods. All the other warriors/ dropped their weapons so they could observe/ the well-matched pair." She brings to life Krishna's discussion of dharma, or duty, in the central section that is called the Bhagavad Gita: "Follow duty for duty's sake,/ without straining after rewards..../ Let your action be informed by discipline..../ Cultivate a calm and stable mind,/ your own right understanding, Arjuna./ Only then will you escape delusion." Satyamurti succeeds in making this ancient masterpiece accessible to modern readers.