Prof Robert Goldman received the President of India’s award for 2013. If anyone attended this talk at DU yesterday, please post the video here. It deserves a detailed analysis:
From: Seminar Committee Department of History, DU <email@example.com>
Invitation: Talk by Professor Robert P. Goldman, 2:30 PM, 10th January
The Department of History, University of Delhi is delighted to invite you to a talk by Professor Robert P. Goldman, 2:30 PM, 10th January 2018 in Room No 6, Satyakam Bhawan, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Delhi.
“Ā Garbhāt: Murderous Rage, Collective Punishment and Ultraviolence as Thematic Elements in Vyāsa’s Mahābhārata”
The dark thematic of the Mahābhārata set in a world helplessly caught up in the momentum of its own self-destruction and in a civilization tottering toward the brink of the age of chaos is one of the most striking and disturbing aspects of the monumental poem. For the epic’s central tale is that of God, acting as the inexorable force of Time (kāla) carefully stage managing a brutal internecine war of destruction whose purpose is the slaughter of virtually all the warriors of the last heroic age. It is, in fact, a veritable Indian Götterdämmerung.But the great, eighteen-day slaughter on the killing fields of Kurukṣetra is merely the centerpiece of a vast web of tales of violence, vengeance and genocidal retribution that frames the core of the poem. From the very framing of the work’s recitation to its bitter end, its grim mood and narrative is deeply embedded in a network of savage reprisals, collective punishment and attempted genocide, perhaps best symbolized by the phrase in the repeated tales of the murderous rampages of the brahman warrior, Rāma Jāmadagnya, ā garbhāt, slaughter of a group, class, or species “down to the embryos in the womb.” This persistent concern with the destruction of the fetuses of a hated group resurfaces n a numerus of other episodes both in the framing narratives of the epic poem and the central story itself.
In homage to Professor Upinder Singh [daughter of Manmohan Singh] on the completion of her magnum opus on the representation of violence in early India, the present paper will examine the Mahābhārata authors’ fascination with such genocidal violence and what it may tell us about the work the world in which it was created and even the imagined and actual violence that has been a part of our collective history from antiquity to the present day.
Short Bio: Professor Goldman is the William and Catherine Magistretti Distinguished Professor of Sanskrit at the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
The following comment was sent in an email group, by Rakesh Kaul, author of “The Last Queen of Kashmir”. (By the way, we are schedule to record a discussion between us on his book, which I will put on this channel at some time in the future.)
By way of full disclosure, I am a founding contributor to the Chair that Professor Goldman occupies. I used to know him when I was in San Francisco almost 27 years ago. He is a very bright and respected scholar.
Now, there is no surprise here for those who follow Professor Goldman’s works. He has dedicated his life to the Mahabharata.
All historical epics are violent and sexual. Take Homer’s Iliad, the epic of Gesar, the epic of Gilgamesh, King Arthur etc. This is consistent with the brilliant deduction of the Kashmirian Rasa framework that the heroic and the erotic are the two dominant rasas. The Mahabharata is thus following the rule and is not in any way the exception. There is no fascination that the author of the Mahabharata had with genocidal violence that Homer did not display in the total annihilation of Troy.
When one digs into the Bhargava aspect which Goldman is fascinated by it actually is helpful to the current caste conflict that is roiling the Indian scene. Here is Parasurama who is a descendant of Bhrigu a contributor to the Manusmriti and hence a Manuvadi, is on the side of the asuras and yet one who destroys the Kshatriyas who the lower caste primarily served! Parasurama and not Che should be the hero to these Leftist types. But the problem is that he is Brahmin.
The primary and highest thematic element of Mahabharata is Dharma. From a literary point of view it is written in the Santa Rasa style. Unlike the Greek phenomena of catharsis, violence, sex, anger and all of the other human emotions are purified through the story in a manner that leads to deep peace that is chamatkara. It is what makes the Mahabharata an enduring story. Goldman knows this. The fact that Dharma and Santa Rasa are politically unacceptable but self-flagellation on ‘Hindu genocidal tendencies’ is reflects more on us not on the authors or the grand epic or the times that they lived in.