AAR Member Note

Sohini Sarah Pillai

Books and Publications

Krishna's Mahabharatas: Devotional Retellings of an Epic Narrative

From the publisher:

"Recognized as the longest poem ever composed, the ancient Sanskrit Mahabharata epic tells the tale of the five Pandava princes and the cataclysmic battle they wage with their one hundred cousins, the Kauravas. This story is one of the most popular and widely-told narratives in South Asia, let alone the world. Between 800 and 1700 CE, a plethora of Mahabharatas were created in Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Konkani, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu, and several other regional South Asian languages.

Krishna's Mahabharatas: Devotional Retellings of an Epic Narrative is a comprehensive study of premodern regional Mahabharata retellings. This book argues that Vaishnavas (devotees of the Hindu god Vishnu and his various forms) throughout South Asia turned this epic about an apocalyptic, bloody war into works of ardent bhakti or “devotion” focused on the beloved Hindu deity Krishna. Examining over forty retellings in eleven different regional South Asian languages composed over a period of nine hundred years, it focuses on two particular Mahabharatas: Villiputturar's fifteenth-century Tamil Paratam and Sabalsingh Chauhan's seventeenth-century Bhasha (Old Hindi) Mahahbharat.

Through close comparative readings, this book reveals the similar ways poets from opposite ends of the Indian sub-continent transform the story of the Sanskrit Mahabharata into devotional narratives centered on Krishna. At the same time, it also shows how these Mahabharatas are each unique pieces of religious literature that speak to different local audiences in premodern South Asia."

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