Narratology in Shiv.k.kumar's Mahabharata
Well...ths s my presentation as a part of my core course..i.e "Revisiting Indian Classics"
The focus of my ppt as te title says...'narrative structure' of te above mentioned novel.
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Narratology in Shiv.k.kumar's Mahabharata
“Realisation of one’s own being is the true knowledge”-Answered by
Yudhisthira to the question of the spirit of the pool in chapter No-26.
Do all of you ever wonder why even after
4000 years or more the Mahabharata epic still
exist amongst us???
After all its made by man who himself is a
mortal being of 60-100years. But the epic
tale Mahabharata has survived down all the
It is now generally accepted that the
Mahabharata originally composed by Vyasa
and then recited, at his instance, first by
Vaisampayana for the benefit of Janamejaya
at the latter's snake sacrifice.
This epic has come down to us not in its
original form but with many additions made
in it. And One such addition is that of Shiv.K
The study of ‘Narrative’ is called ‘Narratology.
The term ‘Narratology’ was used by Tzvetan
Todorov in 1969.
Narratology became the prime area of study in
the schools of Russian Formalism and later in
So then the word ‘Narrative’ is derived from the
Latin terms ‘narrare’( to relate) and
‘gnarus’(knowing). The meaning of the word
‘gna’ in Sanskrit is ‘to know’. So ‘Narrative’
means to relate in order to know. A narrative
relates a sequence of events.
Narrative encompasses most of the activities of
human beings and its simple meaning is anything
that tells a story. This ‘anything’ includes novel,
short story, drama, film, painting, history book,
comic strip, gossip, newspaper etc.
The word story may be used as a synonym of
narrative. In semiotics and literary theory a
narrative is a story or part of a story.
In general the set of events is the story and how
these set of events are told is the narration. And
narrative is that narration narrated by a narrator
to a narrate.
According to T.S.Eliot narratology is the
“convention-any selection, structure, or
distortion, any form, or rhythm imposed upon
the world of action; by means of which- it should
be added that- our apprehension of the world of
action is enriched or renewed”.
Eliot’s opinion echoes that narrative technique
leaves an impact on the readers and inspires
them to ponder over it.
Narrative technique is the base for writers,
without which they can write nothing relevant.
Point of view
Curse and Boon
Insults: Violence and Revenge
Point of view describes the narrator’s position in
relation to the story being told. So depending on
this point of view there are different modes of
The ancient Mahabharata of Vyasa is in the first
person narrative mode where the story is
presented by a narrator who is also a character
within the story.
Now whereas Shiv K Kumar’s Mahabharata is in
the third person narrative mode where the
narrator is merely an uninvolved person that
conveys the story i.e not a character of any kind
within the story being told.
The third- person narrative mode is usually categorized
along two axes. The first is the subjectivity axis, with
“subjective” narration describing one or more character’s
feelings and thoughts, while the second is “objective”
narration does not describe the feelings or thoughts of any
Now shiv k kumar falls in to the category of third person
subjective mode of narration. And hence shiv k kumar when
interviewed by Hari about his version of the Mahabharatha
says,“I have romanticized it without departing from the main
story”. And in the foreword the writer says,”I have, therefore,
endeavoured to lend some colour and fragrance to this epic.”
•Mahabharata starts with a curse and ends with a curse.
•Parashu was cursed by sage Vasista on the theft of the cow nandini and so Bheeshma
borns symbolising the spark of Mahabharata and his death-bed indicates nearing end of
mahabharata. So, the writer has called the chapter No.-58 as “The End of the Era” instead
of the tenth day of the war or end of Bheeshma as he has slept on the bed of arrows.
•This curse even brought the godly Krishna’s family tree to an end as the result of
•Then the curse given to Pandu holds its own importance.
•So as the curse hurled at Karna by sage Parashuram and a demon.
•The curse given to Krishna and Karna are not on the account of false deeds(for Gandhari
Krishna’s act appears to be immoral but at the same time a woman as virtuous like
Gandhari cant lookdown her sons mistake.) which tells us that pre-destined force works
acts behind in the story.
Just like the curses even the boon adds to the
contribution of story-making which are
described with pinch of magicality.
The boons leads to the continuation of the clan
of Bharatavarsha as Kunti, Madri, Gandhari, and
Uttara are destined with motherhood with
blessing boon of various god and a sage.
So, keeping aside the social discourse regarding
who are eligible to grant and receive curse and
boon, we can know that the above two narrative
device act as the key ingredients for story telling.
•Violence and revenge is the thrusting force in Mahabharata.
Insult is the driving force behind this act of violence and revenge. This
exchange of tantrums initiated the spark of Mahabharata war.
•In chapter 17 (Krishna honoured) we see the first outbreak of insult leading to
vengeance, where Draupadi jeered down at Duryodhana as ”There falls the
blind son of the blind father”.
•Here it is uncertain that Draupdi insulted Duryodhana because of Bheema
being poisoned and left to drown in water and because of the death trap he
conspired in the palace of lac.
•May be the above two motives might had lead Draupadi to behave in that
manner but this inturn infuriated Duryodhana who took revenge of this in the
game of dice which inturn lead the pandavas(Esp.Bheema) to take revenge on
•So in this way the story of Mahabharata is formed by the continuous cycle of
violence and revenge against the exchange of tantrums.
Promises in this story are at times the sudden
willing and unwilling result of compulsion of the
situation, insult, and love weaved in the light of
Amba taking a vow to avenge Bheeshma, the
vows of Bheema to kill Duhsasana and zap the
thigh of Duryodhana, Draupadi’s vow to apply
Duhsasana blood to her hairs, then Arjuna’s vow
to kill Jayadratha are the prominent promises.
Then ofcourse Bheeshma’s vow of celibacy is the
most striking of all and the writer reveals the ritul
side of the vow.
So mahabharata thrives and enriches as the
characters strive to fulfill their promises.
Mahabharata is a gigantic torrent of life and thought.
The writer himself says in the foreword, ”It depicts almost every
conceivable human emotion-love&hate, forgiveness&revenge,
truth&false, magnanimity&greed, friendship”.
Then the ups& downs, flatness of the characters are depicted
which portrays the taintedness of Bhisma, Yudhisthira, Karna,&
The theophanical character like Krishna also meeting a death at
the arrow of hunter which strikes at the feet beholds the reader.
The dialogues of the characters(chapters like’ tryst with a mother
and son’ and ‘Yudhisthira visits Bheeshma’) make them to outlive
even the living being like us and so they can never be confined
to as any work of fiction.
So the characters like Bheeshma, Karna, Abhimanyu and many
others will emerge as the role models to the readers.
•Theophany means a divine being or attribution of divine characteristics to a
•So, this Mahabharata is composed of many theophanical narratives where the
characters like Gandhari, Vyasa, Abhimanyu, Karna, Pandavas, Bheeshma, Drona
and Ashvattamma are at times are shaded with divine features.
•The striking feature of the theophanical narrative is that the human (Pandavas)
tragedies and conflicts are resolved by the divine intervention of the god
(Krishna). And obviously Mahabharata is composed with human
enterprise(Purushakara) and divine ordination(daiva).
•So as the writer says it in the foreword, the revelation of Krishna’s ultra form to
Arjuna and then the answers given by Yudhistira to the questions of the divine
pool are the quintessence of the human knowledge.
•So in totality theophanical narrative fantasizes the story which gains the
amusement of the readers.
The ancient Mahabharata epic is primarily based on the
“Veeryarasa.” So this epic is action packed.
The writer also has depicted the warfare strategies like the
formation of the army in a battle field.
So, the action and it’s strategies gives a thrill for the readers.
From T.S.Eliots remark on narratology we understood that to the
world of action in the story or novel certain spices are added
which makes it much more tastier.
So here the curse,boon,insult,promises are not only just part of
the story but are the driving forces to form and the growth of the
Then the theophanical and war narratives grasp the attention of
readers by romanticizing the story.
Then the multilayer characterization of every characters arouse
curiosity and the reader is keen to know the development of the
story till to the end.
So, finally the above narrative devices of the narratology makes
Mahabharata more like a living organism which is the
amalgamation of human world of 3 parameters i.e ideologies,
feelings and actions and the epic as withstood the test of time
and place as Mahabharata is valid throughout the ages because
we the humans are always formed/controlled/live for the same
above 3 parameters.
A.V.Ashok’s Narrative: A Student’s approach.
James.W.Laine’s Visions of God: Narratives of
Theophany in the Mahabharata.
Major General G.D.Bhakshi’s artilce: ‘War and
Strategy in Mahabharata’.
M.A.Mehendale’s article: ‘Interpolations in
N.C.Kelkar’s article: ‘The riddle of curse.’
“..I can now read your message between the folds
of a rose bud, unravel the mystery of the mole on the moon’s face, walk
through a dense forest at night without the pole star’s taper.”-Arjuna.
“Father dreams are not just fantasies they carry their own messages”-
“Water is thicker than blood”-Duryodhana
“A nation that doesn’t honour a women is destined to extinction”-
“Spirit:-What is it that flies faster than wind???
Yudhisthira:- Mind flies faster than wind.”
“The way to see is to go blind.”-Bheeshma.
“The voice of human experience is more authentic than that of divinity”-
“It is a pity that the only time in my life that I have to deny something to
someone is my dear mother..”-Karna.
“Friendship believes only in commitment-to love and loyalty”-Karna.
“That’s man’s ultimate frailty, O warrior, to
know what lies beyond the horizon..”-