Wednesday, February 8, 2012

India and the Mahabharata

Professor Vinay Lal (UCLA) can be heard again on podcast with his History of India (UCLA - History 9A) (feed), about which I have written before in 2009 when it was also podcast. As then, also this time, there is a considerable difference in the characteristics of the material delivered between the first lectures and that those towards the end of the course. Whereas the history is more recognizably history, that is political history, economic history, as we approach the present, the very early history of the Indian subcontinent is presented by Lal with very little political and economic data. Much of the first 10 lectures are spent on discussing culture, religion (as much as the term can be applied, which is doubtful according to Lal) a bit of archeology and the literary traces of old India the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

Two years ago, the series of lectures that discussed hardly any data, but delved into those texts were very hard for me to follow and I am happy to report it is different this time around. The kudos in this respect go entirely to another podcast: The Mahabharata Podcast (feed). Lawrence Manzo's retelling of the Mahabharata, which has progressed to the 90th episode (Bhisma's Final Teachings part 2), has made the story as well as the cultural scope of the epic much more familiar to me. As a consequence, whenever Lal is referring to the Mahabharata's characters and anecdotes, they are familiar, easy to place and his point is coming through.

I want to recommend Manzo's podcast to anyone, regardless whether you are thinking of latching on to History 9A. The Mahabharata is a most fascinating, entertaining and at times mind boggling tale to engage with. Should you seek some shorter preparation, you can also turn to Rick ALbright's series on World Literature (feed) which has a two part issue addressing the Ramayana.

Next on Lal's schedule is the Kama Sutra, which, incidentally was also discussed on the last program of BBC's In Our Time. (feed)

More History of India:
History of India - the search goes on
8 podcasts I listened to,
History of India or Europe?
History of India.

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

More Rick Albright's English 205:
World Literature.

More In Our Time:
In Our Time Archive,
A reminder of the great BBC podcasts,
Diarmaid MacCulloch in podcast,
The Indian Rebellion of 1857,
Frankfurt School.