The Bhagavad Gita
Translated by Eknath Easwaran
Vintage Books, 122pp., $15.00
Many years ago, when I was still a graduate student, I traveled by train from central India to Simla, then the summer seat of the British government in India. We had not been long out of Delhi when suddenly a chattering of voices disturbed my reverie. I asked the man next to me if something had happened. “Kurukshetra!” he replied. “The next stop is Kurukshetra!”
I could understand the excitement. Kurukshetra, “the field of the Kurus,” is the setting for the climactic battle of the Mahabharata, the vastest epic in any world literature, on which virtually every Hindu child in India is raised. Its characters, removed in time by some three thousand years, are as familiar to us as our relatives. The temper of the story is utterly contemporary; I can imagine it unfolding in the nuclear age as easily as in the dawn of Indian history.
The Mahabharata is literature at its greatest – in fact, it has been called a literature in itself, comparable in its breadth and depth and characterization to the whole of Greek literature or Shakespeare. But what makes it unique is that embedded in this literary masterpiece is one of the finest mystical documents the world has seen: the Bhagavad Gita. [Read more…]