R.K. Narayan

The Mahabharata
The Ramayana

Vision Books 1987
A book review by Danny Yee © 2001 http://dannyreviews.com/
Indian novelist Narayan has produced accessible English translations of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the great Sanskrit epics. Drastic abridgment limits their scholarly use — the entire Bhagavid Gita section of the Mahabharata, for example, is condensed into a couple of paragraphs — but they preserve the central stories and characters. In the Mahabharata the five Pandava brothers (Yudhistira, Arjuna, Bhima, Nakula, and Sahadeva) struggle to obtain their inheritance, culminating in the great battle of Kurukshetra. The Ramayana centres on Rama, avatar of Vishnu, covering his marriage, the theft of his wife Sita by the demon-king Ravana, and the search and struggle to recover her. Both epics have a plethora of side stories, covering the adventures of the heroes in exile and the deeds of their supporters and opponents.

The epics have been retold and reworked many times (Narayan's Ramayana is itself based on an eleventh century Tamil version by Kamban), but simple accessible versions have an important place. The Mahabharata and the Ramayana pervade south and southeast Asian religion, art, literature, and popular culture; they are a central part of the world's literary heritage and should be better known in the West. To this end, Narayan's versions could be used in schools and read by (or to) children, along with the stories of biblical and Greek mythology. To help those unfamiliar with the setting and context, he includes with each volume a brief introduction, a list of characters, and a glossary of Indian words.

January 2001

External links:
The Mahabharata
- buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
The Ramayana
- buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Related reviews:
- R.K. Narayan - The World of Nagaraj
- books about India + Indian history
- more Indian literature
- more mythology
%T The Mahabharata
%A Narayan, R.K.
%I Vision Books
%D 1987
%O paperback
%G ISBN 8170943043
%P 192pp

%T The Ramayana
%A Narayan, R.K.
%I Vision Books
%D 1987
%O paperback
%G ISBN 8170943035
%P 175pp