In his Gonda Lecture James Fitzgerald, Professor of Sanskrit, Brown University (USA), will show how its inspired emplotment invested the Mahabharata successively with two different divine registers to make lasting arguments about the Good.
Once an epic arguing the Good of manly heroism in battle, the Mahabharata remains an immensely popular narrative three thousand years later, long after the bold self-assertion of manly heroism expired as an ideal. The Mahabharata still argues the Good, that is dharma, but it is a greater Good than individual heroism. Rather than juxtaposing the heroically human and the meddlesome divine antagonistically, as did Homer’s Iliad, the ingenious poets of the Indian epic fused the human and the divine to argue that there is a greater Good than everlasting glory, that dharma is about larger matters first: society and the world itself. And it made this move twice.