PROFESSOR A.R. KRISHNASASTRI needs no introduction in the world of Kannada literature and scholarship. One of the rarefied gems of the modern Renaissance of Kannada language, literature and scholarship, he dedicated himself to these endeavours which he regarded as a sacred lifelong calling and produced a vast treasure of writings that continue to endure for their quality, insights, and value.
Of these, his acclaimed classic, Vacanabharata, an abridged Kannada translation of India's national epic Mahabharata, has run into multiple reprints over more than seven decades. There is arguably no cultured Kannada home that has not adorned its bookshelf with Vacanabharata.
In hindsight, it can be said that Vacanabharata was a response inspired by divinity to a cultural challenge posed at a critical juncture in India's--or at any rate, in Karnataka's history. It was first published just a year before India's constitution was formally adopted amidst much chaos, tumult and uncertainty about the future. The dense Sanatana cultural atmosphere that had permeated Karnataka for eons was fast eroding, and a new crop of Kannada writers which was still nascent was nevertheless confident in a misplaced assumption that breaking away from the Sanatana past was their route to literary salvation and undefined notions of progress.
For countless centuries, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were not "read" but transmitted on the laps of parents and grandparents, in fields, temples, through songs, dance, drama, poetry and proverbs to the extent that the lay person found no need to pick up the actual text. But by Prof. Krishnasastri's time, this tradition was poised on the verge of certain extinction, which has occurred in our own time. This is one of the meanings of the aforementioned response to a cultural challenge. Among other things, It is also what makes Vacanabharata an invaluable work.
In less than four hundred pages, Vacanabharata gives the complete, unadulterated and truthful rendering of the Mahabharata, a prodigious feat by any standard. That it is written in simple Kannada understandable even by a middle-school student is an additional feather. That it continues to be savoured even today by people of all ages is one of its crowning glories.
If cultural erosion was the threat that Prof Krishnasastri's era faced, vandalism, debasement and destruction of language, the vehicle of culture, is the lived reality of our era. It increasingly appears that the Kannada people have to now learn their own language via English. It is the ultimate triumph of colonisation: military power is no longer needed. This colonisation-in-absentia has led to an explosion of English language writing by Indians. The other perilous ongoing consequence of this colonisation is the glut of "English Mahabharatas" in the Indian and global market, almost uniformly characterized by proud ignorance, wilful distortion, and that mother of all chicaneries: "interpretation."
In a manner of speaking, recognition of this tragic contemporary reality motivated the translation of Vacanabharata into English by the talented duo, Arjun Bharadwaj and Hari Ravikumar. The translation titled, The Essential Mahabharata is inspired by the same profound ideals that inspired its original author. It faithfully retains not only the original form but intent, content and substance, steering clear of "interpretations," "textual criticism," ideological perfidies and author-generated personal fancies. The rock-solid support and guidance that the translation has received from the cultural colossus of our time, Shatavadhani Dr. Ganesh makes it the diamond-studded work it is. The la creme da la creme of the translation appears in the form of an extraordinary tribute to Prof. A.R. Krishnasastri by the living legend, Dr. S.R. Ramaswamy.
As someone who has witnessed the evolution of The Essential Mahabharata in its early stages, I can and will joyously testify to the kind of dedication, commitment, passion, and patient polishing that went behind its making for three-plus years. This final, finely polished gem is now available for the reading joy of the public who I am sure will not only welcome it with open arms but will read and reread it.
-- Editor, The Dharma Dispatch
Published by Prekshaa Pratishtana, The Essential Mahabharata is now available for preorder. The following is its succinct description provided by the publisher along with details for preordering.
The Essential Mahabharata is an abridged rendering of Maharshi Veda-vyasa's original Mahabharata. It is an English adaptation of Prof. A.R. Krishnasastri's celebrated Kannada classic - Vachana Bharata.
The book will be in the market in the next ten days.
In the meantime, we are taking pre-orders with special discounts. Please do fill out the form below if you are interested in procuring copies. The copies will be shipped to your address.
The book is a must-read for anyone who would like to savour a reliable and condensed version of the grandest Epic of the world. The work also includes a scholarly introduction by Prof A.R. Krishnsasastri, 'About the Book' by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh and an intimate sketch of the author's profile by Nadoja Dr. S.R. Ramaswamy.
To place your order, click here.
(On behalf of Prekshaa Pratishtana)
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