It is strange that Ramayana, hailed as poetry (Adi Kavya), has, comparatively speaking, more of history than Mahabharata, acclaimed as history (Itihas, whose?) but stuffed more with ''poetry''- of spectacle, of fantasy, and fancy. Another striking feature of Hindu society over the millennia has been its abiding ambivalence about the two epics. It has sworn by Ramayana, the ideal, but lived by the Mahabharata, the practical. The former is a paean to reclusive renunciation, the latter a rhapsody of thuggery-grab and cunning, viciousness and violence, deceit and lust. The one forges and celebrates bonds, the other revels in snapping and rupturing them. The Ramayana sees magnificence in modesty, the Mahabharata seeks it in meannes, manipulation, and mendacity.
As to why and how, that constitutes the substance of Basu's innovative discourse and critical discovery, of which anon.
But before that, I would like to draw the attention of the reader to two points. One, that it was work of many writers is evident from this startling imprecation of Arjuna against Yudhisthir : ‘‘In the three worlds of animate and inanimate beings, your notoriety will be eternal in the killing of Drona, like Rama's in that of Bali’’ (Drona Parva, Narayanastra Parva, sholka 35.Gita Press). Two, that reasons of state promted matrimonial maythem and sexual exploitation, is exemplified in a very brutal way in the case of Yayati marrying his daughter Madhawi four times successively for one year each, three of her ''husbands'' being kings of Ayodhya (Haryashwa), Kashi (Divodas), and Bhojpur (Ushinar), and the fourth a ''rishi'', none other than the redoubtable Vishwamitra. That she was ravished and violated repeatedly is clear from the narrattive, particularly form its explicit verbs and adjectives. But a crude device has been invented to camouflage the outrage: she was given a boon by a Brahmavadin that after every delivery she would become a virgin, again and again! (Vol.2, Udyoga Parva, Bhagawadyan Parva, Canto 116, verses 10-11, Gita Press). Only a feral instict or imbecile faith can find here anything noble or commendable. And this Yayati, highly acclaimed in the epic, had borrowed youth from his son. This was naked exploitation of progency for appetites, carnal and political.
However, Yayati's perfidy has escaped Basu's notice, or it was not germane to her main thesis. Even so, it is a slew of monumental outrages and monstrous violations of morality in Mahabharata that Basu has
ruthelessly stripped and excoriated, pinpointed the motives, and unmasked the perpetrators. Her basic postulate and prime conclusion is that the epic records the victory and vengeance of non-Aryan natives, their debunking and subversion of the Aryan pretensions of racial superiority. Towards this thesis the following arguments, deductions, and a long chain of causes and consequences would add weight and substance:
The main theme of Mahabharata relates to the non-Aryan Satyawati and her illegitimate son Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa (the dark, the dreadful, the smelly, living on an island). Vidur was the son of a female slave. His upbringing with the princes Pandu and Dhritarashtra was the handiwork of Satyawati. Vidur, publicized to be Dharma incarnate, an inveterate crook, was a partisan of the Pandavas. Having appointed himself the Prime Minister of blind Dhritarashtra at the instance of Satyawati, he availed of the opportunity to realize his ambition of enthroning his son Yudhisthir on Shantanu's throne. When the time came for anointing Duryodhana as the Crown Prince, Vidur, the trickster, sprang up Pandavas no one knew from where, declared Yudhisthir as senior to Duryodhana, and Pandavas the kshetraj sons of Pandu (Kshetraj = born of wife from others).
With unremitting malice Vidur painted Duryodhana as evil since the latter had brayed at birth, which only he had heard. How come? In furtherance of his aim Vidur had Pandu and Madri murdered. In the racket of the yagya, Krishna got Shishupal assassinated foully. Similar treachery by Bhim-Arjun, at his prodding, had Jarasandh killed. Vyasa escapes from knotty situations by fabricating fairy tales regularly. Without fighting any battle Arjuna was declared hero of the times. All Kuru warriors were killed not in open combat but from violations of the rules of war, in underhand ways, Jayadrath, Bhurishrawa, and Karna being the more egregious examples. The illegitimate, swarthy, non-Aryans — Vidur, Vyasa, Yudhisthir hatched the conspiracy of depriving the Kauravas of their kingdom, accessories to the crime and co-conspirators being the non-Aryan women like Satyawati, and a rank reprobate, Krishna. He and Yudhisthir wanted war at all costs. Yudhisthir confessed as much to Draupadi and Bhim. They could resort to any meanness, any mendacity, any murderous scheme. They flouted the Kshatriya code of honour all their lives. Ganga and Draupadi, their fathers unknown, are non-Aryan. Satyawati, father unknown, sultry and svelte like Draupadi, was irresistible for Shantanu. Drupad adopted a tribal boy Dhrishtadyumna for reasons of state. Ganga had