The two-day critical reading workshop on Mahābhārata, Dharma Darśanaṃ, organized by Amrita Darshanam, International Centre for Spiritual Studies (ICSS), Amritapuri campus was conducted on 11 and 12 September 2021. Ms. Aiswarya Mohan (Faculty Associate, Amrita Darshanam) handled an ice-breaking session on 10 September 2021 to introduce and encourage the active participation of the attendees in the workshop.
Dharma Darśanaṃ was inaugurated by Dr. Balakrishnan Shankar (Dean, Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Amritapuri campus) on 11 September at 9:30 am. Dr. Balakrishnan Shankar in his inaugural address congratulated Amrita Darshanam and the team for the workshop. He mentioned the Mahābhārata is one of the itihāsa-s which has marked its importance by influencing Indian thought, culture, philosophy, and minds for thousands of years. The Mahābhārata proves itself as history or itihāsa through the availability of evidence such as geographical and archeological. He also mentioned the need to read and critically study the Mahābhārata because much of our understanding is misled by wrong interpretations given by entertainment media and narratives, etc., and also, we need to enrich ourselves with the knowledge of dharma, philosophy and more.
Followed by the inauguration and the introduction of the workshop, the first session was addressed on “Sources: What to Read?” by Br. Sivanandan D. S. (Assistant Professor, Amrita Darshanam, Amritapuri campus). The session focused on identifying the sources to learn and understand the Mahābhārata in three segments. The initial segment was a lecture on non-textual sources, the second segment was the reading and discussions on selected portions from various sources of the Mahābhārata, and the final segment was on textual sources of the Mahābhārata.
Br. Achyutāmrita Chaitanya, Ph.D. (Associate Professor, Amrita Darshanam, Amritapuri campus) presented “The Purpose of the Mahābhārata” in the second session. The talk introduced the term “prayojana” at/in three levels/contexts, namely in general, in literary works and in scriptural studies, to the participants. The session further focused on the prayojana and how to imbibe the prayojana of the Mahābhārata which is to give knowledge which leads one to mokṣa.
Followed by a lunch break, Br. Rupesh K. (Assistant Professor, Amrita Darshanam, Amritapuri campus) facilitated a self-reading session “A Case Study on the Mahābhārata Character” which included the interpretation of the sources. The session provided 65 pages of the reading material from diverse sources followed by a discussion based on the understanding of the participants on the provided material. The session taught that while studying an itihāsa, an understanding of the big picture is a necessity to enhance a holistic view and inferences.
Day 1 of the workshop concluded with a feedback and opinion session handled by Ms. Aswathi Chandran (Faculty Associate, Amrita Darshanam).
Day 2 of Dharma Darśanaṃ started with a session by Sri. Harikrishnan Venugopal (Faculty Associate, Amrita Darshanam) on “Critical Reading and Discussions from the Mahābhārata”. The discussion focused on the selected characters of the Mahābhārata by studying from different textual sources.
The session was followed by a reading session “Narratives” by Sri. Sooraj Rajendran (Faculty Associate, Amrita Darshanam). The session gave an insight to the participants on understanding and researching on the articles which are available through poems, blogs, social media posts, magazines and journals, etc.
The workshop concluded with a feedback and comment session from all participants and instructors followed by a conclusion session by Dr. Ramakrishnan M. (Visiting Faculty, Amrita Darshanam, Amritapuri campus). He remarked that the Mahābhārata, the age-old itihāsa, is a multifaceted, difficult to interpret, inscrutable text which will continue to live. Dr. Ramakrishnan concluded by stressing the importance to understand the text in the historical context of the commentary.