[INDOLOGY] Stories within stories in the Mahābhārata

Alex Watson alex.watson at ashoka.edu.in
Sat Nov 18 06:25:54 UTC 2017

Dear All

Any responses to the question below – about whether any parts of the
Mahābhārata imply a rereading or reevaluation of the Hidimbi/Hidimbā story
– would be gratefully received.  It is from a Professor in the English
department at Ashoka: Jonathan Gil Harris.

"I am writing a book on Indian “masala” adaptations of Shakespeare, and I
am currently puzzling through the ways in which Shakespeare’s use of the
device of the play-within-a-play — particularly in The Taming of the Shrew
— resonates for many Indian readers with the Mahabharata’s nesting of
stories-within-stories.  I am particularly interested in how this device
allows readers to shift perspective on a tale, and reread (or doubly read)
a tale-within-a-tale or its framing tale.  I am focusing for now on the
episode in the Mahabharata (9th sub-parva of the Adi Parva) where Bhima
meets and marries the rakshasa forest-dweller Hidimbi, a witch or “chudail”
in modern Hindi; her magic passes on to their son Ghatotkacha, who fights
for the Pandavas.  Reading the story at face-value, it might be interpreted
simply as an illustration of how a potentially dangerous feminine threat is
defused and how the magical powers associated with it are patriarchally
appropriated.  But how might the Mahabharata’s readers RE-read the story in
light of the subsequent stories-within-stories?  Is there anything else in
the Mahabharata that allows us to retrospectively re-interpret Hidimbi, her
dangerous magical powers, and Bhima’s/the Pandavas’ appropriation of
these?  (I’m thinking here of parallels with the tale of Medea in Book 4 of
Ovid’s Metamorphoses, where an interpretive metamorphosis is enabled by its
tales-within-tales — she is first presented as a dangerous, murderous black
witch who submits in love to Jason, but she is subsequently seen more
sympathetically as a woman wronged by a greedy man.)"

Alex Watson
Professor of Indian Philosophy
Ashoka University

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://list.indology.info/pipermail/indology/attachments/20171118/3f646c46/attachment.htm>

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list