Skip to main content

Mahabharata was about family property dispute, "justified" violence: British Lord

By Our Representative
Making an unusual statement, India-born British economist Meghnad Desai, who is professor emeritus, London School of Economics and a Labour Party Lord has said that Mahabharata was about "property dispute in a family" on who would rule Braj. Desai's statement acquires significance, as he had been praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's style of governance till recently, when he said that "people are disappointed" with Modi and they feel, "somehow, the feeling is that 'acch din ab tak nahin aaye' (the promised good days have not come in yet)".
Also known as Marxist Lord, delivering this year's Pravin Visaria Memorial Public Lecture, an annual event in Ahmedabad organised by the Gujarat Institute of Development Research (GIDR) in the memory of of one India's topmost demographers, Desai said, he finds the war in Mahabharata fascinating, one reason why he has tried as a scholar to have a look at its historicity. The epic suggests how violent Indian society was.
Contending that he has tried to look at different claims of the number people who died in the Mahabharata, Desai quotes top ancient India historian DD Kosambi, who had called the epic a book of fiction basing on its description: Kaurava and Pandava armies had 11 and 7 akshauhinis respectively; a total of 18. Each akshauhini had 21,870 chariots, 21,870 elephants, 65,610 horses and 109,350 foot soldiers. Desai calculated, this would add up to about two million deaths, as only a handful of warriors (10) survived.
Desai said, it is indeed not possible for so many people to have died, because as a rule, not more than 5% of the population die in a war. Referring to the "Atlas of Population History", published in 1978, he added, presumably, India had a population 10 to 50 million under different periods of history in the entire country, depending on when the Mahabharata could have taken place.
However, as the geographical area of the Mahabharata did not include South India, and the war took place only in North India, he wondered if India's population at the time of Mahabharata was 100 million.
Be that as it may, the British Lord noted, the war suggested the kings at that time were willing to pay for so many deaths; they were fighting on dead bodies. Calling the deaths in the Mahabharata a genocide, Desai said, there is no comparison in history or other epics with this kind of a war and, if it actually took place, it was the biggest war of those times.
He added, what however is clear is that it was possibly a very costly war in which no young men were left, with none knowing as to what happened to the widows.
Pointing out that all this and more are a matter of research, and suggesting there are many grey areas here, Desai said, at one place one finds a Malthusian explanation to so many deaths. He was referring to the 19th century British scholar of political economy Thomas Robert Malthus, who became famous for his theory that population growth would always tend to outrun food supply and that it was a source of misery (e.g., hunger, disease, and war), which would inevitably afflict society.
Interestingly, in a recent book, ‘Who Wrote the Bhagavad-Gita?', even as pointing out that the Bhagavad-Gita was originally not part of the Mahabharata and was inserted in the epic much later, Desai had suggested, his is a secular inquiry into a confused philosophical book, pointing out, all kinds of people have liked it from Hitler and serious philosophers to Sufi saints and other seekers. But, the fact is, it justifies violence, he underlined.

Comments

TRENDING

Gujarat refusal to observe Maulana Azad's birthday as Education Day 'discriminatory'

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government decision not to celebrate the National Education Day on !monday has gone controversial. Civil society organizations have particularly wondered whether the state government is shying away from the occasion, especially against the backdrop of "deteriorating" level of education in Gujarat.

Rushdie, Pamuk, 260 writers tell Modi: Aatish episode casts chill on public discourse

Counterview Desk
As many as 260 writers, journalists, artists, academics and activists across the world, including Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist, Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, and Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet and novelist, have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the decision to strip British Indian writer Aatish Taseer of his overseas Indian citizenship.

Visually challenged lady seeks appointment with Gujarat CM, is 'unofficially' detained

By Pankti Jog*
It was a usual noon of November 10. I got a phone call on our Right to Information (RTI) helpline No 9924085000 from Ranjanben of Khambhat, narrating her “disgraceful” experience after she had requested for an appointment with Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani. She wanted to meet Rupani, on tour of the Khambhat area in Central Gujarat as part of his Janvikas Jumbesh (Campaign for Development).

Violent 'Ajodhya' campaign in 1840s after British captured Kabul, destroyed Jama Masjid

Counterview Desk  Irfan Ahmad, professor at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany, and author of “Islamism and Democracy in India” (Princeton University Press, 2009), short-listed for the 2011 International Convention of Asian Scholars Book Prize for the best study in Social Sciences, in his "initial thoughts" on the Supreme Court judgment on the Babri-Jam Janmaboomi dispute has said, while order was “lawful”, it was also “awful.”

Bullet train acquisition: Land holding worth Rs 1.5 crore, Gujarat govt 'offer' Rs 8 lakh

By RK Misra*
Foundation stones laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi litter India’s cities, towns and villages, but there are few projects which he has pursued with such perseverance and tenacity as the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train one. However, the overwhelming state power notwithstanding, the farmers, whose lands are being acquired for the Modi government’s dream project, have no plans to give up the fight.

There may have been Buddhist stupa at Babri site during Gupta period: Archeologist

By Rajiv Shah
A top-notch archeologist, Prof Supriya Varma, who served as an observer during the excavation of the Babri Masjid site in early 2000s along with another archeologist, Jaya Menon, has controversially stated that not only was there "no temple under the Babri Masjid”, if one goes “beyond” the 12th century to 4th to 6th century, i.e. the Gupta period, “there seems to be a Buddhist stupa.”

VHP doesn't represent all Hindus, Sunni Waqf Board all Muslims: NAPM on SC ruling

Counterview Desk
India's top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), even as describing the Supreme Court's Ayodhya judgement unjust, has said, it is an "assault on the secular fabric of the Constitution". In a statement signed by top social workers and activists, NAPM said, "The judgement conveys an impression to Muslims that, despite being equal citizens of the country, their rights are not equal before the law."