Many Mahābhāratas Preconference Proposal

As is evidenced by the number of volumes that study different retellings of the story of Rāma (the most well known of which inspires our title), the Rāmāyaṇa tradition has become a staple of South Asian Studies. Our proposed preconference will draw attention to the outstanding diversity of the other great epic tradition of South Asia: the Mahābhārata. Since the compilation of the Sanskrit Mahābhārata, innumerable Mahābhāratas have lived in nearly every South Asian language and artistic genre. Our preconference will shed new light on these “Many Mahābhāratas,” some of which will be entertaining sustained academic study for the first time.

We hope that the preconference will serve as an opportunity to think about the Mahābhārata tradition (and the Sanskrit epic itself) in innovative ways. The array of languages, media, genres, time periods, and disciplinary perspectives that will be represented over the course of “Many Mahābhāratas” befits this goal. Our group of sixteen senior scholars and graduate students will present on Mahābhārata retellings/reworkings in Hindi, Bangla, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, English, and Sanskrit. In analyzing tellings from the eighth century to the twenty-first, they will explore the scope of Mahābhārata narrative art from classical and premodern epic poetry, regional performance traditions, and the commercial theater to modernist literature, devotional posters, and comic books. The preconference will integrate approaches from the fields of comparative literature, religion, theater and performance studies, anthropology, history, postcolonial studies, and gender studies. After all, it would not be a true Mahābhārata gathering without there being something for everyone.

Organizers: Nell Hawley, Sohini Pillai
Participants: Amanda Culp, Aparna Dharwadker, David Gitomer, Robert Goldman, Sally Sutherland Goldman, Meghan Hartman, Nell Hawley, Harshita Kamath, Sudipta Kaviraj, Timothy Lorndale, Philip Lutgendorf, Lawrence McCrea, Ahona Panda, Sohini Pillai, Frederick Smith, and Bruce Sullivan.