Museological Mahabharata: Visualizing the Vedic Past in the Epic Legends of Visvamitra
By way of analogy with the modern museum, this presentation will explore how the tangled web of stories embedded in the Sanskrit Mahabharata, the longest work of literature ever composed in the premodern world, is designed both to allow the epic’s audiences to visualize the ‘significant’ past and to regulate–as much as possible–this public knowledge experience. In particular, we will examine the Mahabharata’s ‘exhibit’ of Visvamitra, the legendary king who becomes a Vedic Brahmin, and how the structure and design of the epic itself controls how we are to make sense of his stunningly counter-normative achievements.
Dr. Adheesh Sathaye is Assistant Professor in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia. His areas of interest include the Sanskrit epics, drama, and story literature, alongside issues of performance, textuality, and literary culture.