Saturday, May 21, 2011

The temptation of Karna - A twist in Dharma

As you all know, I faithfully follow the Mahabharata Podcast. I desperately want to get a grip on this (for me) exotic and ancient string of tales and I must admit: that is not easy at all. The Mahabharata is long, filled with countless characters with difficult names and the stories are following unfamiliar patterns. There does seem to be some kind of inherent logic to the tales, but strangeness also here plays its part. (feed)

Another idea I tried to project onto the multitude was that this great epic may have one underlying theme. A good candidate for that theme would be the question of Dharma, or in other words, what is the right thing to do? It shows that in the Mahabharata's take on ethics, this is personal or at least class-related dharma. The right thing to do for a priest would be different than what is the right thing for a warrior, or a beggar - obviously. And the Mahabharata seems to help you get a hold on this changeface normativity by means of the many different examples.

If you want to get an unexpected example within this theme, I recommend you listen to the installment The Temptation of Karna and proceed to listen and pay special attention to the unexpected interpretations of the right thing for this character. Where Karna could have joined the good guys in the story as he finds out he is their half-brother, he chooses to stick to his original and mistaken class in life and stay with the baddies. How is that for a twist in Dharma? It makes Karna one of the most fascinating persons in the epic.

More Mahabharata Podcast:
Flood tales; Noah, Gilgamesh and Manu,
Indian roots of the Unicorn,
Endless cloth,
The Mahabharata Podcast.

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