As much as Mahabharata is appreciated for the practical wisdom conveyed throughout the ithihasa, there are yet so many critical of it, and call it a chronicle of wars and warring behavior with a god who is more clever and cunning than good.

I have, for my part, arrived at a few conclusions regarding the ithihasa.

1. Shows how powerful delusions (maya) are: It is hard for anyone to get over duality. That is what is portrayed by the Karna character. All along, he is stigmatized by the fact that he is only raised by a humble charioteer, and the word, "Charioteer's son" torments him even more when he becomes a king. He falls in love with the princess of the kingdom of Chandradesh, and eventually marries her too! But only after hiding the fact that he is raised by a charioteer. When later his father-in-law, the king of Chandradesh finds out the fact, he is furious. Refuses to send his daughter with her husband Karna. Although we find this behavior bad/wrong, the practical implications behind a great and prosperous King having a charioteer as his in-law and his equal via deceit elicits sympathy in us! After all, it is a dual world! And it is difficult to transcend this duality.

A story from Bhagavatham comes to mind. Sage Narada who is a great bhakta claims to Sri Vishnu that he has attained perfection and no more desirous of anything material world can offer! Narayana laughs. Shortly, Narada is deluded into marriage after seeing a beautiful damsel, and is happily locked in matrimony with her, producing children and forgetting his Narayana! After a long, long time passes this way, there is a huge deluge wherein Narada loses his loved wife and children, at which time, Narayana emerges before him reminding of who he is! Saying, "thus is the power of maya!".

So this maya-factor is emphasized by Mahabharata. Even when the Kauravas refuse to give even 5 tiny villages to the Pandavas who lost in the game of dice, we see 'maya' in play. Because not only are the Kauravas so desirous, they are disillusioned to not make much out of Krishna's association with the Pandavas!

Mahabharata cautions the reader to be mindful of maya always!

2. Never trust anyone's words or follow them blindly:

This is the next lesson the book offers. For, Kunti, the virtuous mother of the Pandavas, mothers Karna and floats the child away, when her own survival is at stake. Whereas the 'evil' Dhuryodhana, who will not refrain from disrobing a good, married lady in front of a crowd, is married and committed whole-heartedly to one lady, does not doubt her chastity ever even if circumstances seem suggestive otherwise (the dice game with Karna and Dhuryodhana's wife implied here), does not mind Karna's birth details and makes him a king, treats him his equal, etc. He seems to have a large heart too, at times!

Thus, the characters all have flaws and positive points about them, whether they belong to the good side or bad side.

Thus, the ithihasa offers the reader the valuable suggestion, to evaluate anyone's deeds and words carefully before blindly following them or dismissing them.


The above are a few lessons I could glean. What's your 'take home' from mahabharata? Kindly share.

Thanks and regards.