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   Heroic Krsna
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
30 Nov 2013

The heroics of a cultural icon

Endowed with enormous virtues, Krsna has been differently understood: as an epitome of beauty, as an invincible warrior and as a mythological reincarnation. It has perhaps been so because the pre-classical figure existed in three distinct roles: as a charming pastoral figure; as a warrior hero; and as the divine incarnation. Of these three, Kevin McGrath analyses the role of Krsna as a military strategist and a moral teacher. His Krsna is mortal, endowed with a great fluidity of speech. Throughout his kshatriya life, Krsna excelled as a dextrous and agile performer in all situations, never inflexible, always responsive but without losing control. If Krsna could be viciously obdurate one moment, he was gentle sage the other moment. Since he doesn’t draw any blood in the battlefield, his words become the most potent weapon used in the war.

McGrath depicts the heroic life of Krsna which apparently pre-existed his divine status. This (assumption) lends objectivity to his analysis of the complex friendship and profound amity between a charioteer and his hero - sometimes referred to as 'two krsnas' for being partners both in fighting and in intimate camaraderie. Probably compiled during the Bronze Age, the composition of epic Mahabharata went through the hands of at least four composers. No wonder, the author observes few inconsistencies in rendering of the verses.

Spread over eight chapters, the book offers a radical peep into the heroic character of Krsna as he conducts himself as an intimate companion, as an invincible warrior and as a fine poet. Laced with intricacies, the epic offers studies in contrast of its central characters. Heroic Krsna is an absorbing study of the period that is distanced from our imagination. Despite the characters and the events of the epic Mahabharata frozen in time, the narrative help relive those glorious moments and their relevance for the present. Using Sanskrit verses, McGrath interprets the many stories and sub-stories that have formed the cultural basis of India.

Heroic Krsna is not a work of Brahminical literature but one that is pitched around academic enquiry to understand the cultural icon.

Heroic Krsna
by Kevin McGrath
Harvard University Press, Harvard
Extent: 278, Price: $85


 
 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
 
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

 
Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

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Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
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