Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Spines of the Mahabharata - 2

When I wrote "The Spines of the Mahabharata Books" in Feb 2013, only the first six volumes of Dr. Bibek Debroy's unabridged translation of the Critical Edition of the Mahabharata had been published. The seventh volume (my review) was published in June 2013, while the eighth (my review) was published in late November 2013 - this one was somewhat delayed because of issues with getting the binding right I believe. So I thought it was time to update my post, actually write a new one, covering the spines of these two volumes. The ninth and tenth are going to be published in November 2014, so there is some time to go before that event.
As I had written, each volume of the series contains a motif that is associated with the content in the volume. You can read my earlier post, "The Spines of the Mahabharata Books", for a description of the spines of the first six volumes. As you may recall, especially if you read my reviews, the seventh volume marked the end of the Mahabharata war, with Karna killed on the seventeenth day on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, beheaded by an arrow shot by Arjuna at an unarmed Karna who had got down from his chariot to extricate its wheel that had been mired in mud. Hence the spine of the seventh volume has an illustration of a wheel partially submerged in mud. Given the inclination to avoid persons on the spines, the fifth volume was the sole exception, Duryodhana's battle with Bhima was therefore not a candidate.

What about the eighth volume?
My personal inclination would have been to see a tree with an owl and crows. Why? As a dejected yet seething with rage Ashwatthama spent the night in the forest, thinking of how to avenge the death of his friend Duryodhana, he saw a lone owl descend on a tree full of sleeping crows, and massacre them without remorse. This seeded the thought in his mind that led to the midnight raid on the Pandava camp by him, Kritavarma, and Kripa. But a substantial part of the eighth volume is also Bhishma's deathbed advice to Yudhishthira, lying on a bed of arrows. Hence the eighth volume has an illustration of arrows on its spine. Dr. Debroy was also of the opinion that not many people would know of the story of the owl and crows.

Which leaves the ninth and tenth volumes to speculate about. The tenth is an easy one, I hope. It has to be imagery from the Mausala Parva (मौसल पर्व) - perhaps the fateful club that was to be the undoing of the entire Yadava race, the instrument through which Gandhari's curse would be effected. Or, then again, it could contain an image of a dog - Sarama - which accompanied the Pandavas on their journey to heaven.

And what about the ninth volume? The ninth volume will complete the Shanti Parva, and be somewhere in the Anushasana Parva, so some imagery from either of these two Parvas will be needed. I wait.

My reviews of: Vol 1Vol 2Vol 3Vol 4Vol 5 (and also this), Vol 6 (and this and this too), Vol 7, Vol 8

© 2014, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.