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Monday, June 5, 2023

Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute suffers from a colonial hangover?

I have refrained from writing this thread, I should have written this while I was attending the very first Mahabharat Parvan class organised by Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI), Pune.

While this thread below by BORI is lovely, the teachings by their Professors during the 23 days class was anything but enlightening.

BORI and the associated teachers who take the Mahabharat lessons come with a heavy colonial hangover and look at the Mahabharat through a Western lens. The professors take great pride and go into painstaking details on how this initiative of writing the critical edition was lauded by Western academics.

The entire first lecture came off sounding thankful and grateful to western academicians who gave a nod of approval to BORI. Quite cringe!

Not only this, several teachers throughout the course made claims and explanations as given below:

1. Not believing in the historicity of the Mahabharat and taking about it only as a well crafted poem.

2. Calling Mahabharat a series of penances that people took only for the sake of revenge.

3. Not seeking any logical explanations for events mentioned in the Mahabharat because it is an ‘exaggerated’ text.

4. How Mahabharata views life as a series of tragedies and it is a tragedy on the lines of Iliad and Odyssey.

5. Because Bhagwan Krishna was on Pandavas side, the Pandavas were right because who can question Krishna.

6. A big ruckus was created when one of the professors said Duryodhana was virtuous and deserving of the throne. When students questioned it, the professor corrected themselves and said Duryodhana was righteous, if not virtuous. They stuck to their ground saying that the Mahabharat is a ‘nuanced’ text and we, the students, needed to read it to appreciate the intricacies.

7. How advanced and forward thinking Draupadi was, how the Mahabharat is so rich in laying out the roles, responsibilities and privileges of women, but of course, we can’t take it seriously because this is only a poem and this never happened.

8. And of course, very smartly inserting Gautam Buddha and his teachings across lectures, often saying that whatever we learn from the Mahabharat was already taught by Buddha too, thus very sneakily trying to predate Buddha.

I can go on and on, but the gist is that BORI has been misusing their goodwill and standing to teach a substandard and half-baked course on the Mahabharat with many teachers who themselves question the text, the motives, the depth and the historicity of this epic.

These are not people engaging in critical debates on various characters and analyses. These are teachers who want to upend the very learnings and meanings by calling the Mahabharat a series of illogical events and Adharmic characters, and a text that should only be appreciated for its poetry.

I was hoping to engage in and learn from the BORI teachers but the whole course, materials and teaching left me enraged and stunned. I would NOT RECOMMEND anyone learn their Mahabharat from the people at BORI.

(This article has been compiled from the tweet thread of Mukta Matta @alltalk with minor changes to improve readability)

HinduPost Note

Attempts to show the Mahabharata as a post-Buddha or post-Ashokan text have also been made by the dubious Marxist historian Romila Thapar.

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