The Mahabharata by Adapted by Jean-Claude Carrière


Classical Sanskrit epic of India, probably composed between 200 BC and AD 200, The Mahabharata, comprising more than 90,000 couplets, usually of 32 syllables, is the longest single poem in world literature. The 18-book work is traditionally ascribed to the ancient sage Vyasa, but it was undoubtedly composed by a number of bardic poets and later revised by priests, who interpolated many long passages on theology, morals, and statecraft. It is the foremost source concerning classical Indian civilization and Hindu ideals. While there are many subplots and irrelevant tales, the Mahabharata is primarily the fabulous account of a dynastic struggle and great civil war in the kingdom of Kurukshetra, which in the 9th cent. BC encompassed the region around modern Delhi.

The work recounts the events before, during and after the great battle for kingship waged at Kuruksetta between the Pandavas and Kauravas branches of the Kuru lineage of descendants of Bharata (whence is derived the Sanskrit meaning of The Mahabharata, "the great [tale of] Bharata's descendants").

Poster of the MahabharataThe action of The Mahabharata simultaneously proceeds on several levels. First is the typically Indo-European heroic tale of the battle of good against evil, modeled after the specifically Indo-Aryan version of the theme, the devas (gods, here incarnate in the Pandavas) against the asuras (demons, reflected in the Kauravas, who incarnate raksasses). From this point of view, the Kuruksetta war is visualized as a gigantic sacrifice conducted by semi-divine epic heroes. Mixed with this semi-mythical material is consideration of the human-centered issue of the decline of dharma at the onset of Kali-yuga, the present degenerate age of history, which the Mahabharata conceives as having begun at the time of the Kuruksetta war. Dharma suffered a huge setback at the Pandava-Kaurava dice game played early in the epic. From then on, the lines of right and wrong were drawn less clearly than the Indo-European substructure of the epic might cause one to expect, for example the "good" Pandavas defeat the "evil" Kauravas, but only by trickery and deceit. One high point of human uncertainty in the work is the episode of the Bhagavad-Grita, in which the Pandava hero Arjuna casts down his weapon before the war begins, dismayed at the prospect of having to fight against his relatives and elders on the other side. In the Bhagavad-Grita and throughout The Mahabharata, it is a "Hindu" element, revolving particularly around the character of the god Vishnu, incarnate as Krishna, and his alliance with the Pandavas, which resolves the tension. "Where Krishna is there is dharma... there is victory." Orchestrated by Krishna, the Kuruksetta war is a cosmic event. Through its emphasis on Krishna, The Mahabharata becomes the locus of a bhakti (devotional) synthesis, which characterizes Hinduism from this time onward. (Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997)

Some facts

Ciarán about The Mahabharata:

It's larger than all of us, it has a special life force (Source: The Mahabharata - Peter Brook's Epic in the Making by Gary O'Connor)

Adapted into English and directed by Peter Brook
Set and costumes designed by Chloe Obolensky

Kunti Miriam Goldschmidt Nakula, Aswhattaman Ciarán Hinds
Gandhari's servant, Subhadra Corinne Jaber Ganga, Gandhari, Gudeshna Mireille Maalouf
Satyavati, Draupadi Mallika Sarabhai Madri, Hidimbi, Urvasi Tam-Sir
Amba Hélène Patarot Dushassana Urs Bihler
Dhritarashtra Ryszard Cieslak Duryodhama Georges Corraface
Bhima Mamadou Dioume Djayadratha, Salva Richard Fallon
Ekalavya, Uttara, Abhimanyu Nolan Hemmings Karna Jeffery Kissoon
Bhishma, Parashurama Sotigui Kouyate King of the fishermen Tucel Kurtiz
Vyasa Robert Langdon Lloyd The Sun Mavuso Mavuso
Arjuna Vittorio Mezzogiorno Ganesha, Krishna Bruce Myers
Drona, Kitchaka Yoshi Oida Yudishtira Andezj Seweryn
Pandu, Siva, Salya, Maya Tapa Sudana Sahadeva Mahmoud Tabrizi-Zadeh

Company/theatre: World Tour
Run: 1987


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