Cultural and Ethnic Studies

choose only ONE of the following;

1. The just war
Many scholars consider the Mahabharata to be the first text which examines the concept of a “just war.” What makes it a just war? Take care to note that unlike actual historical wars, the purpose of the Kurukshetra war is neither bound to territorial expansion (such as Hitler’s invasions) nor to the enforcement of ideology (such as is the purpose of so called “holy wars” i.e. the crusades). Despite the fact that the war breaks many of its own rules (which you should mention) and this is done by both sides, one hopes to the very end that the Pandavas will emerge victorious. Why? What are they fighting for?
2. Morality is varied
One of the innumerable ideas the Mahabharata proposes is that dharma (translated as “righteousness” in your show) varies and depends on the situation one finds him/herself in, as well as the intent behind a deed. Such being the case, some deeds which appear immoral become good due to the intention of the characters, whereas other acts which follow the rules are perceived as unjust. Take as an example the Pandavas’ marriage to Draupadi vs. the game of dice. All the accepted moral and social norms were broken in the former and all were followed in the latter (that is, the game of dice was technically in accord with the rules set out for it before its start). Yet, the polyandrous marriage was a virtuous deed whereas Duryodhan’s intentions made the dice game malicious. In this view of moral variance, how can one decide when a deed is righteous and when it isn’t? If morality lies in abiding by certain rules, when do rules in turn become immoral?
3. Draupadi – feminist icon or tragic heroine?
Draupadi, the tritagonist of the Mahabharata, is one of the most revered literary icons for the contemporary woman. Unlike Sita, she is perceived to have independent thought, to be of fiery nature and not afraid to speak out against injustice. In addition, her polyandrous marriage has been the subject of much inspiration and fascination for modern women. What does Draupadi really represent? She is Yajnaseni (a fire born). Agni is both a tirtha and a dham, hence simultaneously a messenger to the gods and a contact to the divine world, a dwelling place for the divine and a purifier (note that Agni played a significant role in the Ramayana as well). At the time of her birth it is predicted Draupadi will change the future of the Aryan region and Krishna often alludes that the Kuru dynasty will be cleansed because of her. Is she an inspiration to the heroes, a catalyst for the course of events, a unifying force, a victim or a hero? Is she to be pitied or admired? Who is Draupadi? To the Pandavas? To Krishna? To the epic? In her own right as a character?
4. Karna – hero or fool?
Karna is one of the most relatable characters in the Mahabharata, perhaps because he is a person one can encounter today – someone who perceives him/herself to be on the constant receiving end of injustice and who believes they are always wronged by the privileged class. In a way Karna is also an iconic figure because he seeks to gain respect for his indisputable skills. Is Karna a victim of circumstance? Can one really justify his actions up to the very end? When does sympathy for him drain from the reader (in your case viewer) and why? Is he a hero or is he a villain? Protagonist or antagonist? Victim or oppressor? Why is his relationship with his brothers so tragic? Why is his perception of the world what ultimately leads to his downfall?
5. The allegory of life
The Bhagavad Gita takes place on a battlefield between two opposing armies. What does this represent allegorically? Use clues you find in the Gita to answer this question. In addition, how does this metaphor tie in with the Katha Upanishad (the story of Nachikketa who goes to Yama/Death and asks for three boons)?
6. Dhrithrashtra and Gandhari vs Yudhishtir and Draupadi
Both the couples mentioned are rulers, both have children. Yet, one could argue that Yudhishtir and Draupadi are considered and emperor and an empress, even when they are stripped of their kingdom, whereas Dhrithrashtra and Gandhari, despite always retaining their wealth, are simply considered parents (both by scholars and characters in the epic itself). Why? What is the meaning of this comparison?

 

 

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