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Mahabharata Podcast by Lawrence Manzo

Mahabharata Podcast

Re-telling the Ancient Indian Epic

by Lawrence Manzo

Product Details

User Rating
  5.0  Stars Based on 5 ratings

Description

The original, unabridged Mahabharata is ten times larger than the Iliad and Odyssey combined, full of archaic language, repetitive and opaque.  Buried beneath all this, is a really fascinating story.  Plus, it is the only way one can become familiar with one of the world's greatest religious figures: Krishna.


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Reviews & Ratings
User Reviews         Rate this title  

Really great podcast
Reviewer Salty
 October 05, 2011
I have been listening to this nonstop recently. I love the comments which bring voice to what I'm thinking. The stories of the Gopi's made me angry. Also, this is a good podcast. This comment's a half-year late, but what'r you gonna do.

Great job
Reviewer sgnglobal
 December 13, 2010
I like your podcast and every week I wait for it.
excellent job

Great job
Reviewer sgnglobal
 December 13, 2010
I like your podcast and every week I wait for it.
excellent job

Great job
Reviewer sgnglobal
 December 13, 2010
I like your podcast and every week I wait for it.
excellent job

Podcast Episodes




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Episode 100 - Summing up

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Wed, Apr 11, 2012


Episode 100 - I've put together my review of the epic, in its totality.  I discuss the strange way in which the epic goes into fine detail on some parts of the story, and breezes over others.  Some of the most critical moments in the story, like when Dhrtarastra was skipped and then later made king, or during the dice game, or in dealing with the birth & death of Krishna, the story is ambiguous and full of holes.  The only explanation that I can come up with is that the author himself may not have known exactly what took place in those scenes, so he tells us what he knows-- which isn't much.

I talk about the three layers of religious philosophy in the epic-- Vedic Sacrifice, Karma Yoga, and Bhakti.  I propose that Karma Yoga was an innovation introduced by the Mahabharata, and I believe Bhakti was inspired by the epic, and subsequently the epic was modified to include that religion.  That would explain Krishna's promotion from country cousin to Top God...

Next, I discussed some of the characters in the story-- reviewing their actions and whether they were fairly rated "good guys" or "bad guys" by the epic, and by modern listeners in general.

Finally, I compare the epic with other literature, and compare the religious philosophy of the epic with other works and other religions.  I hope no one gets overly offended!  Please write in my blog and let me have it if I did.  I apologize in advance!


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Episode 99 - Epilogue 2: The Snake Sacrifice

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Mar 27, 2012


Episode 99 - This is the final piece that brings us around, back to the beginning.  We covered some of this territory before, back in Episode 2, but at the time, it was hard to explain that Parikshit was Arjun's grandson and that Takshaka had an ancient feud with the dynasty going back to the fire at the Khandava Forest.  Also, back then we were anxious to get going with the story itself, and all the digressions with angry brahmins and talking snakes only made things confusing at the time.

So now we have re-visited the beginning at our leisure, and now you know the circumstances in which the Mahabharata was first publicly recited.  The burnt snake guts must have still been warm when Vyasa's disciple Vaishampayana began the tale.

So that's all for a while.  I am working on a commentary for episode 100-- reviewing the story and considering what was included and what was left out.  Please visit this blog (http://mahabharatapodcast.com) and leave comments, or questions, or any requests for what I should include in my final summing up of the epic!

Thanks, Lawrence


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Episode 98 - Epilogue 1: The Beginning

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Thu, Mar 22, 2012


Episode 98 - This is the first of two episodes that take us from the death of the Pandavas down to the Snake Sacrifice, held by Arjun's great-grandson.  We skimmed over this back at the beginning of the podcast, because back then we were unfamiliar with who all these people were.  But now it makes sense to bring it around to the beginning again.

Not much is recorded about the life of Parikshit.  We only know about how he died, and the many snakes and Rishis who were involved in the process.

So, I'm not quite through yet!


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Episode 97 - The End

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Fri, Mar 16, 2012


Episode 97 - So this is it-- the final installment from the Mahabharata.  Book 18, the Svargarohanika Parva, is done, and the 18 parvas of the Mahabharata are now complete.

Please be sure to visit my blog and let me know you made it!  And then treat yourself to something nice, because you have really accomplished something.

We've reached the end of the story, but this isn't quite the end of the podcast.  You can expect a few more episodes-- an epilogue where the story is carried forward up to the time of the Snake Sacrifice.

Following that, if you have any questions or points of discussion, I'd like to make the 100th episode a summing up of the entire podcast.  If there's anything you'd like me to address, let me know soon!

Lawrence


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Episode 96 - The Death of the Pandavas

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Thu, Mar 15, 2012


Episode 96 - Arjun returns home with some bad news and some good news.  The bad news is that they have lost their powers and have lost their friends.  The good news is that they finally get to retire.  Yudhistira doesn't hesitate.  He strips off his fine garments and leads his brothers into retirement.  Krpa is put in charge of defense, Yuyutsu is made regent, and Parikshit is king.  Parikshit's grandmother Subhadra (Krishna's sister) is made Dowager Empress.

The Pandavas then take a final tour of India, visiting even the former site of the magical city of Dwarka.  Finally, they head north, for Heaven, with their little dog Dharma.


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Episode 95 - Arjuna's Defeat

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Mar 13, 2012


Episode 95 - Krishna is dead.  Balaram is dead.  The city of Dwarka sinks beneath the waves, and the refugees of that once-great city are making their way to Indraprastha with only Arjun as their protector.  But the influence of the Kali Yuga pervades the earth, and Arjun is not the man he once was.  When the vulnerable procession is attacked by bandits, his magic quivers run out of arrows and his magical weapons no longer obey his command.  Only a fragment is saved, along with Krishna's grandson Vajra, who is made King of Indraprastha.


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Episode 94 - The Kali Yuga

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Mar 06, 2012


Episode 94 - The Dark Age is now unquestionably upon us.  The elder Kurus, living austere lives in the forest, found themselves consumed by a forest fire of their own creation.  Let this be a lesson to all you Hindu campers out there to douse your sacred campfires!!

18 years later, things go from bad to worse when news arrives of the death of Krishna and all his relatives.  This story alone is deserving of an extended treatment, but we only get a sketchy account of how things went down.

With the death of the Vrshnis, Krishna's work on earth is done.  He accepts his fate and embraces death when it comes to him.

The Kali Yuga is here to stay, so I'll warn you now, don't expect things to get better!


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Episode 93 - The Ashwamedha Sacrifice

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Feb 28, 2012


Episode 93 - The white horse returns home, only to be tied to a post, killed, & cut up into little pieces.  The priests do their best to follow the old rules, but there's no way Draupadi is going to pretend to copulate with a dead horse!

Jump ahead 15 years and Dhrtarastra finally decides to take leave of worldly cares, and he, Gandhari, & Kunti leave for a forest ashram.  One year after that, the Pandavas and many citizens pay a visit to the old folks, where Vyasa allows them all to re-unite with their fallen relatives and friends.

While some of the early books went on endlessly, the last few books of the epic are quite short, and we are going through about one book an episode at this point-- the story is nearly over!


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Episode 92 - The Anugita and the Wayward Stallion

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Feb 21, 2012


Episode 92 - This is another eventful episode.  Krishna & Arjun take a break and go on a leisure trip to Indraprastha, where it appears Arjun is king.  Both heroes have forgotten the Gita, so Krishna recalls another dialog along the same lines, which is called the Anugita.

Krishna goes home, while the Pandavas go prospecting for gold in the hills.  While they are away, Parkshit is born, or rather still-born.  Krishna arrives in time to make good his promise and revives the kid.

When the Pandavas return with their treasure, the white horse is set loose and the Ashwamedha is begun.  Arjun follows the beast across the length and breadth of India, defeating all comers and sending them as his guests to the sacrifice. Arjun meets one of his sons, the Prince of Manipur, and gets killed & revived along the way.


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Episode 91 - The Death of Bhisma

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Feb 14, 2012


Episode 91 - We get treated to a last handful of the Final Teachings, and then Bhisma dies.  The poor guy set quite an objective for himself.  It must have been mid autumn when he was shot through with arrows, yet he clung to life until the Winter Solstice before finally giving up the ghost. He says he lived on the bed of arrows for a total of 58 days.

Following his death, Yuddistira has another one of his fits of sorrow & regret, but he's snapped out of it by hearing a story about how the ancient king Marutta left a pile of gold in the mountains as part of his Ashwamedha sacrifice.  Yuddistira needs this gold, since his treasury was depleted by the war, and now everyone is telling him he needs to perform a super-expensive sacrifice!


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Episode 90 - The Final Teachings, part 2

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Feb 07, 2012


Episode 90 - A few more stories from Bhisma's final teachings.  We learn that Vyasa had a son, named Suka, who really did not seem to be pleased to be born.  And Bhisma himself tells us what he really thinks of Buddhist philosophy!


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Episode 89 - The Final Teachings, part 1

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Wed, Feb 01, 2012


Episode 89 - For some reason, the first three full-fledged stories from the Anusasana Parva all center around a Banian tree.  They also share the theme of low-caste hunters and their cruelty.   Remarkably, in the 2nd story the three characters are all saved, but all three die violently.  In the 3rd story, the Brahmin Gautama is an unreformed scoundrel, but he is brought back to life!

NOTE:  I ran out of allotted space on my ISP, so this audio file got truncated.  I've modified this post to point to another site: http://home.comcast.net/~lmanzo/MBp89.mp3.  If you find that it cuts out after 5 minutes, please delete then reload the mp3.  If you are still having trouble, let me know and I'll re-issue it under another posting.


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Episode 88 - The Book of Peace

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Wed, Jan 11, 2012


Episode 88 - This episode begins the voluminous Last Teachings of Bhisma.  As Bhisma lies on his bed of arrows, the Pandavas, Krishna & Satyaki gather around to listen.  Yuddistira poses the questions, which mostly revolve around Dharma and kingship, and Bhisma answers.

These teachings are exceptionally difficult to convey in the form of a podcast, mostly because they are so boring.  There are very few stories, and most of the stories revolve around conversations in which one character instructs the other on good behavior.  I have tried to extract the more interesting details from the book, and I included the most interesting of the stories.  Hopefully this is enough to convey the nature of this part of the epic, which makes up nearly a third of the entire text!



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Episode 87 - Rama's Famous Genocide

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Dec 27, 2011


Episode 87 - Yuddistira is finally convinced that he should remain king, and he gets down to business.  He marches straight to the palace and has himself anointed and consecrated.  He appoints his council and gets his kingdom in order.  As soon as he has a chance to catch his breath, Krishna suggests that they hurry over to uncle Bhisma, who isn't long for this world.

Along the way, Krishna tells the story of Battleaxe Rama, who wiped out the race of Kshatriyas 21 times in succession.

The podcast may be taking something of a hiatus after this episode.  We are now entering the section of the Mahabharata that is dedicated to Bhisma's teaching on Dharma.  This constitutes nearly one-third of the entire text, and from what I've seen so far, is extremely legalistic and detailed.  This means I will need to pour over a lot of text to extract enough information to make a full episode.  That may take a while.

On the positive side, once we are through this section of Bhisma's teachings, we are almost at the end of the story!

Thanks for sticking with me on this long journey.  I'll be sure to keep you posted as things develop.  Just keep watching this blog!


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Episode 86 - To be (king), or not to be...

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Dec 20, 2011


Episode 86 - It seems like Yuddistira always had a secret desire to give up the world and live like a sadhu.  But now he has a pretty good justification-- after all, he even killed his elder brother.  Crimes like this demand extreme penance, and Yuddistira would like nothing better than to embrace that lifestyle.

No one else agrees with the new king however, and his brothers, Krishna, and the Rishis all take turns trying to convince him that the best use of his life would be to take up the crown and rule, according to his dharma.

They never quite seem to convince him, but Krishna and Narada at least manage to distract him with a story of a boy who crapped gold nuggets (Suvarnashthivin).  Also, Yuddistira has learned to always obey Krishna, and Krishna is adamant that he take up the throne and rule.  


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Episode 85 - Remembering Karna

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Dec 13, 2011


Episode 85 - We begin the Book of Peace, the Shanti Parva.  After boasting to his uncle about his special clairvoyant powers, Yuddistira is blindsided by the news that he & Karna shared the same mother.  Now the Dharma Raja has learned that he killed his own brother-- aside from killing one's parents, perhaps one of the worst things a person could do.

The brothers spend a month outside in the city walls as a sort of penance, and are joined by the great sages of the ancient world.  Narada comforts the brothers by telling stories of Karna's past.  The sage argues that Karna's life & circumstances were custom-designed to spark this war and ensure its completion.

We finally learn of Karna's tutelage under Rama Jamadagnya (Parasurama), and we get the story of how he was cursed for killing a Brahmin's cow.  


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Episode 84 - The Book of the Women

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Dec 06, 2011


Episode 84 - Vidur & Vyasa tell a few parables to help Dhrtarastra pull himself together.  When the king is finally pacified, he leads all the bereaved women of Hastinapur in a great procession to deal with their fallen men.  They march along the banks of the Ganga to Kurukshetra, where they encounter Ashwatthaman, Krpa & Krtavarman, who are still on the run after killing the Pandava's sons & allies.

Ashwatthaman heads of to Vyasa's ashram, Krpa goes home to Hastinapur, and Krtavarman also heads for home.

The procession later meets up with the Pandavas, fresh from Ashwatthaman's downfall, and together they proceed to the battlefield.  Following the great cremation, a memorial is conducted on the banks of the Ganga.  Kunti joins in and tells her sons to honor their fallen brother-- this is the first time the Pandavas were told they had a brother!


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Episode 83 - Daksha's Sacrifice

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Nov 29, 2011


Episode 83 - The brothers learn of the massacre of their sons & allies, and summon Draupadi to break the news.  As usual, all she wants is revenge.  Thus the Pandavas go off on one final mission to avenge the death of their sons.  They track down Ashwatthaman and find him hanging out with Vyasa and Narada.  As soon as they set eyes on each other, the boy Brahmin sets off his Brahmashira weapon, which is 100s of times more powerful than the Brahmastra, and sounds a lot like a hydrogen bomb-- "All living things are destroyed and no rains fall for 12 years."

The Rishis step in and order Arjun to put his guns away, but Ashwatthaman cannot retract this weapon once it is unleashed, so instead, he turns it loose on the wombs of the Pandava women, making them sterile and killing their one remaining heir-- Uttara's unborn son Parikshit.

Fortunately, Krishna revives the kid, but there shall be no more Pandava offspring after this.

To help explain how Ashwatthaman was able to pull off this massacre single-handedly, Krishna tells a few stories about Shiva, and just how temperamental and dangerous he can be.  In fact, Shiva really comes off as more of a force of nature than a Saddhu living in the hills.

My guess is, that if we understood the physics of Time, we might realize that Shiva stands in for one of the main functions of time, which is change.  The other aspects of time are novelty (Brahma), and the moment of Now, which I believe is represented by Vishnu.


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Episode 82 - Blowback

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Nov 22, 2011


Episode 82 - Well, it seems there is no end to the tit for tat revenge cycle that Duryodhana forced into motion so long ago.  Now that he has been defeated, his survivors seek revenge for his fall.  Ashwatthaman is unable to let it go, and since he is vastly outnumbered, he prays to Shiva for the power to kill his enemies.  Shiva allows him to exterminate the remains of the Pandava army while they sleep.  So now there will be another vendetta.  How much further can this go?  Find out next time!


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Episode 81 - Downfall

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Mon, Nov 14, 2011


Episode 81 - So this is it; the moment everyone has been waiting for.  Ever since Episode 7 when Duryodhana was born, he has finally received his well-deserved defeat.  But even as he falls, the finger pointing, hand-wringing and grief at the price that has been paid for this victory has already begun.

Balaram shows up just in time to referee the final death match between Bhima & Duryodhana, only to get really annoyed when Bhima is forced to bend the rules a bit in order to win.


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Episode 80 - Kurukshetra, Day 18: Shalya & the dissolution of the Kauravas

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Thu, Nov 10, 2011


Episode 80 - This episode covers the final day of the great war.  If you were expecting things to go out with a bang, you'll be disappointed.  Once the Kaurava general Shalya is killed, things just sort of disintegrate.  Duryodhana's remaining brothers are all killed.  Shakuni is killed.  Karna's sons are exterminated.  The Pandavas make one final sweep over the field, killing literally everyone who was left standing.  They spend the rest of the day sifting through the corpses in search of Duryodhana.

By this point, the only survivors are Krpa, Aswatthaman, Kritavarman, Sanjay, & Duryodhana.  Everyone else is dead.  The Pandavas still have their tight group of heroes and Draupadi's sons, but most of their troops are dead.

Duryodhana finds himself standing alone, abandoned & on foot in the midst of the battlefield.  Everyone is dead or has fled the scene.  Stunned, he wanders off the field and makes his way aimlessly towards Hastinapur.  Sanjay finds his prince, filthy in blood & gore, in a state of shock, standing by a lake shore.  When the Kaurava finally comes to his senses, he submerges himself into the lake, where he intends to rest, indefinitely.

Aside from Duryodhana, blind king Dhrtarastra still has one son yet living.  It is his illegitimate son Yuyutsu, who had joined with the Pandavas at the beginning of the war.  He is given leave to comfort his brothers' retainers & womenfolk and returns with them to Hastinapur.  There are no recriminations for his having gone over to the enemy.  Now they are just glad that some one son of Dhrtarastra has survived to carry on the line.


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Episode 79 - Kurukshetra, Day 17: Down with Dushasan/Killing Karna

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Mon, Oct 31, 2011


Episode 79 - This is a big day in the war.  Bhisma fulfills one of his oaths by killing Dushasan and drinking his blood.  Now he will be gunning for Duryodhana.

Arjun & Karna finally get busy with their final showdown.  The whole universe apparently took sides in this conflict, with everyone choosing a champion to cheer for.  The pair begin fighting with conventional weapons, but soon escalate to magical weapons.

At one point, Arjun gets the upper hand, and strikes Karna until he's lost his wits and drops his weapons. Arjun then allows his opponent to recover somewhat before they resume fighting.  Krishna scolds Arjun (not for the first time!), for failing to strike the enemy when he's down.  Arjun has quit arguing with Krishna over these things, so he resolves to kill Karna at the next possible opportunity.

At this point, Fate and Mother Earth have had enough and they intervene directly.  Mother Earth seizes Karna's chariot wheel, bringing her enemy to a halt.  Karna jumps down to pull free the wheel, but it won't budge.  He asks Arjun to think of the Warrior Code, or his Dharma, and not to fire until he could fix his chariot and get moving again.

This annoys Krishna, who scolds Karna for even bringing up the subject of Dharma.  Where was his Dharma when Draupadi was molested?  This speech both shames Karna and enrages Arjun, who finally obeys Krishna's orders and kills his enemy.

There's that wheel again!  What does it mean that in the course of this war, we've had a Wheel Formation (that killed Abhimanyu), and Arjun's son dies using a Chariot wheel as his only weapon, and then Karna dies, clinging to a wheel which was stuck in the earth.  Is there some deeper meaning to the image of a wheel in this war?


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Episode 78 - Kurukshetra, Day 17: A Counterfeit Curfuffle

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Mon, Oct 24, 2011


Episode 78 - Karna begins the 17th day of the war by fighting each Pandava except Arjun.  He is actually defeated by both Yuddistira and Bhima, but then he defeats Nakul and Sahadev.   Both of the elder brothers spare his life, out of consideration for Arjun's oaths.  Yuddistira then goes for a second round with Karna, but this time it doesn't work out so well.

Karna defeats Yuddistira and nearly captures him, but he reconsiders and lets the Pandava go.  Yuddistira then flees to his camp to have his wounds tended to, and there he slips into a strange funk.  What follows seems completely bogus to me.  Arjun retreats to the camp to check on his brother's health, and Yuddistira perversely assumes that he must have already killed Karna.

Yuddistira admits that he's been terrified of Karna and hasn't slept for 13 years out of fear for him. When he finds out that Karna isn't killed, he gets really mad at Arjun and suggests that Arjun hand his bow to Krishna and that they change places.  Arjun takes great exception to this, and pulls an oath out of his ass that he says he swore when he was younger.  This oath was to kill anyone who suggested that he give up his Gandiva bow.  So now he must kill Yuddistira.

Pretty lame, eh?  Krishna is there, and he does his usual thing, by coming up with a "workaround", in which Arjun need only insult his brother, then brag about himself.




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Episode 77 - Kurukshetra, Day 16: Karna's in charge

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Oct 18, 2011


Episode 77 - Drona is dead and a new commander is needed.  Ashwatthaman proposes that Karna be given the position and everyone else agrees.  Karna leads the army through a rather desultory day of fighting and then complains that what he is missing is a good driver.  Shalya is drafted to be his charioteer.
Shalya had promised to cause trouble should things come to this pass, and he lives up to it by constantly bickering with Karna.  For some reason, Karna chooses this moment to confess how he deceived Rama Jamadagnya in order to obtain the Brahma weapon.  When Rama finds out Karna is just a Suta disguised as a Brahmin, he curses Karna.


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Episode 76 - Some thoughts on the story so far...

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Oct 11, 2011


Episode 76 - I present my wild theories and hypotheses about the Mahabharata.  Among other things, we discuss its relationship to the Precession of the Equinoxes and the Yuga cycle as defined by Markandeya and Sri Yukteshvar.  We look into the role of magic in the story and our prospects for regaining this lost knowledge in the future. We delve into the mystery of the metaphysical origins of the Pandavas and consider whether the five brothers might have originally been based on just a single hero-- the proto-Arjun.


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Episode 75 - Kurukshetra, Day 15: Ashwatthaman goes Ballistic!

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Mon, Oct 03, 2011


Episode 75 - Earlier in day 15, Drona is killed by Dhrstadyumna.  The Kaurava army literally comes unraveled until Ashwatthaman hears the news.  The boy is outraged at the way his father was treated and swears revenge on both Dhrstadyumna (for killing him), and Yuddistira (for betraying his trust).

Drona's son then pulls the army together and rushes to battle waving his WMD.  First he tries to use the Narayana weapon, but Krishna is too tricky for that-- he knows its weakness, which is that it is ineffective against unarmed men.  The Pandavas all drop their weapons and the bomb is a dud.  One other problem with the Narayana weapon: it's only good for one shot.  So much for that.

Next, he pulls out his Agneya weapon, which is pretty much like a thermonuclear device.  Without a second thought, he gets into range with Arjun and sets the thing off.  It wipes out perhaps half of the Pandavas' remaining army, but Arjun & Krishna simply brush off the ashes and resume fighting.  Not even nukes can take out the incarnated Rishis Nar & Narayan!

Ashwatthaman asks heaven why his nuke failed to have the desired effect, and Vyasa shows up to explain that while his power derives from Shiva, Krishna's power derives from Narayana, so there's no comparison.

Finally, we find a funny reference to Sanjay rushing back to Hastinapur to report on the war.  What happened to his divine vision?  My guess is that originally the author had him running back & forth from the battle to the palace to report to the king what had happened.  This proved to be too limiting for the author's desires, so he switched the premise to include divine sight.  But then he forgot to expunge the earlier device from the books he'd already written! 


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Episode 74 - Kurukshetra, Day 15: Drona

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Mon, Sep 26, 2011


Episode 74 - Two significant deaths this episode-- first Gatotkacha basically gets sacrificed by Krishna so that Arjun need not face Karna's special unstoppable Indra Dart.  It's a mean trick, but Krishna explained that one of the purposes of this war is to eradicate the race of Rakshasas, so if they didn't have Karna kill him, then they would have had to do it themselves.  Besides, it was a small price to pay in order to save Arjun for the final showdown.

The second big shot to go down is their old guru Drona.  I must confess that I never really took a shine to this fighting brahmin.  He always seemed over-proud and a bit prickly.  Also, I never liked the way he manipulated the Pandava kids into fighting his own grudge match with King Drupad.  After he took half of Drupad's kingdom, he said that they could be friends again.  Some friend-- he then kills Drupad earlier in the day without a second thought.

And what the hell is a brahmin doing fighting anyway?  They are supposed to merit their honor of being the priestly caste by dedicating their lives to ritual and spirituality.   But here's this guy who demands the highest honor for being from the priestly caste, and yet he fights dirty-- in ways that a kshatriya would be ashamed to fight, such as using magic weapons against footsoldiers.  His ounce of loyalty goes to the guys who feed him & pay him, and all the rest of his love is for his own skin, and that of his dear son, Ashvatthaman.  More on that punk later.

Man, I really don't like Drona!

Anyway, next time we'll find out what Ashwatthaman does when he hears the news.


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Episode 73 - Kurukshetra, Day 14: Killing Jayadratha

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Sep 20, 2011


Episode 73 - We continue with the events of the 14th day of war.  You can relax because we find out that both Satyaki and Bhim made it to Arjun's side, and everyone is OK after all.  Arjun finally spots Jayadratha, but he is very well protected, and the sun is about to set.  It is time for one of Krishna's tricks!

Following Jayadratha's "exploding head syndrome", the Kauravas are so bent out of shape that they ignore the sunset and just keep fighting.   Next episode will cover the night battle of the 14th day.

Thanks for all your nice comments.  I love to hear from you!  If you haven't already, please visit my blog at mahabharatapodcast.com and leave a message.


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Episode 72 - Kurukshetra, Day 14: Killing Alambusha

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Wed, Sep 14, 2011


Episode 72 - We begin the 14th day of the war.  The morning starts with many dark omens, but no one is quite sure for which side they portend doom.  Arjun sets off immediately to fight his way through the Kaurava army and to find and kill the miserable king Jayadratha.  He & Krishna soon disappear into the hordes while Yuddistira struggles to avoid capture at the hands of Drona.

By mid-day, with no news from the two Krishnas, Yuddistira begins to worry about them.  He hears their conches and interprets the sound to have some urgency.  Eventually, his concerns are too much, and he sends Satyaki, his very best bodyguard, off on a solo mission to find and rescue their kinsmen.

Then Satyaki also crashes through the enemy lines and disappears.  Not long after, the lack of news from either Satyaki or the Krishnas again proves too much for Yuddistira's nerves.  This time, he sends Bhima away to find the others.

Now Yuddistira has only Dhrstadyumna to protect him, and the rest of his very best fighters are lost and alone, deep in the hordes of the Kaurava army.

This was all too much to fit into a single episode, so we need to wait until next time to find out how the 14th day comes to a close.  Will Satyaki and Bhima make it through?  Will Arjun complete his vow to kill Jayadratha before sunset?  Find out next time!


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Episode 71 - Kurukshetra: A Dramatic Interlude

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Sep 06, 2011


Episode 71 - Vyasa finishes his comforting storytelling, and then vanishes, leaving it up to Yuddistira to deal with breaking the news to Arjun that his son is dead.  Arjun comes home expecting a party, only to find the camp in mourning over the loss of his son.  He responds by swearing to kill Jayadratha by sunset tomorrow.

The Kauravas find out about his oath and hastily make plans to keep the prince safe long enough for Arjun's vow to fail.  That is all it will take to get the Pandava out of the war!

Now Arjun is a bit worried, but still he's got Krishna to help out.  Even though the oath was sworn without Krishna's advice, he arranges a meeting with Shiva.  Shiva provides a magic missile that should take care of everything.  Arjun still has a long row to hoe-- we'll see how it works out tomorrow!



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Episode 70 - The death of Abhimanyu

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Aug 30, 2011


Episode 70 - Drona has been in charge now for two days, and so far he has failed in his mission to capture Yuddistira.  This despite the fact that they have sacrificed a whole nation of warriors just to keep Arjun away long enough for them to grab his brother.  The Trigartas are nearly all dead so they need to come up with a new idea.  This time, Drona implements a fancy new formation, based on a wheel, which few know how to break.

It turns out that Abhimanyu is one of those who know its secrets.  But with Arjun busy, he is the only one.  Helpless to protect himself and his followers any other way, Yuddistira sends the boy wonder into the jaws of death.  Even then, they could have protected the boy, except they were stopped by old Jayadratha of Sindh.

Remember this guy?  He's actually related in marriage to Duryodhana-- he married Duryodhana's sister.  But one wife wasn't good enough for him, and he stupidly tried to run off with Draupadi, without first defeating the Pandavas.  He paid the price of humiliation for his impudence: he was beaten severely and had his head shaved by an arrow head by Bhimasena.  Too humiliated to return home, Jayadratha remained in the woods, praying to Shiva.  When he finally coaxed Shiva to grant him a wish, he asked for the ability to kill all five Pandavas!

This was a bit too much even for Shiva. The best he could do was grant him the ability to stop the Pandavas briefly, but not Arjun.  Obviously, now was a perfect moment to use this boon, so Jayadratha rode out to forstall the Pandavas, while Drona, Krpa, Karna & Ashvatthaman ganged up on young Abhimanyu and killed him in an ambush.  It was Dushasan's son, Daushasani, who dealt the death blow.

What is Arjun going to say when he finds out they let his son get killed?!?


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Episode 69 - Kurukshetra, Days 11 & 12: The Drona Parva

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Aug 23, 2011


Episode 69 - Bhisma is out of commission, and his book is nearly over.  In one last scene, Karna comes to meet his fallen nemesis.  Bhisma is quite affectionate toward his prodigal nephew, and he tells him that he was only pretending to be antagonistic.  He really didn't mean it, he just wanted to discourage Karna from enabling Duryodhana's evil ways.

Bhisma begs Karna to forget his grievances and to join with his brothers and end the war this moment.  But Karna is too far gone.  He owes Duryodhana too much, and he has nursed his grievances for far too long to ever reconcile with the Pandavas.  It is better that he exit this world in the most honorable manner possible-- on the field of battle, at the loving hands of his famous brother, Arjuna.

This scene ends the Bhisma Parva, and we pick up the story the next morning, in the Drona Parva.  Drona is made commander of the Kaurava army, and their strategy is to kidnap Yuddistira.  If they get him, then they could force him to gamble and send the Pandavas back to the forest.  But Arjun presents a major problem with this plan.

After one fruitless day of battle, the Kauravas decide to distract Arjun with a suicide squad.  The entire army of the Trigartas volunteer to go to their deaths in order to keep Arjun away from protecting his brother.  On day 12, they almost pull it off, sacrificing the lives of one half their numbers, but Arjuna is too much for them, and he breaks away just when it seemed Yuddistira would be taken.

Now, at the end of day 12, there is still another half of the suicidal Trigartas, so a final attempt will be made on grabbing Yuddistira on day 13.  13 is an unlucky number, and someone will have to pay for Yuddistira's freedom!


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Episode 68 - Kurukshetra, Day 10: The Bed of Arrows

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Aug 16, 2011


Episode 68 - I know it feels like this war is really dragging on; but I think that is precisely how Vyasa wanted us to feel by this point in the battle.  We are all getting tired of the unending violence.  Even the main cause of all the violence, Bhisma, is getting tired of this, and he has begun looking for a way out.

On day 9, the old Kuru apparently relieved himself of the last of his commitments, which was to wipe out the army of the Saumakas.  Now the only thing left for him to do was to find the most noble way to meet his death.  On the evening of the ninth day, the Pandavas visit their grand-uncle in his tent and walk away with the old man's permission and even blessing to kill him on the tenth day.

So this is it-- Arjun is finally committed to this action, and Sikhandin is put at the head of the attack.  By the time they are done, Bhisma is literally a human pincushion.  He is impaled by so many arrows that his body does not touch the ground when he finally falls.

Arjun kindly provides a pillow of arrows and a nice little drinking fountain, so Bhisma may wait until the seasons change and the sun finally resumes its northward course in the heavens.  Until then, he's content to hang out on his prickly bed and watch the action from the sidelines.


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Episode 67 - Kurukshetra, Day 9

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Mon, Aug 22, 2011


Episode 67 - On the previous day, Duryodhana was quickly losing faith with his uncle.  He began to suspect that Bhisma was throwing the contest in favor of the Pandavas.  Karna didn't help any when he offered to take charge in place of the old man.  So Duryodhana asked the old man to either fulfill his oaths or get out of the game.  Now today, on the 9th day, Bhisma sets out to finish off his Dharma so he could move on to the next phase in his life.

On the battlefield, he kills hundreds of thousands, including the entire nation of the Saumakas.  Bhisma takes out a large chunk of the Pandava army.  If he keeps this up another day or two, there will be no one left to fight on the Pandavas' side.

So that night, after the battle, they go unarmed to Bhisma's tent and ask him what they should do about this and how they should win the war.  Of course, they've known what they needed to do all along, but it's nice to have Bhisma tell you himself and to even give his blessing!  We'll see tomorrow if Arjun finally carries through with his duty...



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Episode 66 - Kurukshetra, Days 7 & 8

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Aug 02, 2011


Episode 66 - The seventh and eighth days of the War.  Bhisma kills a few more Dhartarastras, king Virata loses another son, and we meet Arjun's son Iravat, a Naga prince from Arjun's tour of the holy places, long long ago.

We meet Iravat only to see him killed by the demon Alambusha.  Alambusha is also the son of a famous father-- none other than the peculiar half-deer Rshyashrnga!  In the story we get from the epic, Rshyashrnga's son is the child of a Kshatriya princess, and becomes Raja of the kingdom.  We are not told where or on whom he begot this demon!

Arjun and Bhisma seem ready to get down and fight, but it never seems to happen.  Maybe on day 9?  Duryodhana is quickly losing faith in his general, and Karna is making trouble on the sidelines, so he'd better do something big on day 9...


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Episode 65 - Kurukshetra, Days 5 & 6

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Jul 26, 2011


Episode 65 - The fifth and sixth days of the great war.  Arjun wipes out an army of 25,000, and we find out Satyaki has 10 fully grown sons.  Soon after we learn about these sons, they get decapitated by King Bhurishravas.  In return, Satyaki kills off the king's entire army, but the pair are too well-matched and both must be dragged off of the battlefield after sunset.

Bhima can't resist an opportunity to kill more cousins, but risks getting himself killed or captured behind enemy lines.  Dhrstadyumna rescues him, only to require rescuing by Abhimanyu.


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Episode 64 - Kurukshetra, Days 3 & 4

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Mon, Jul 18, 2011


Episode 64 - The third and fourth days of the great war.  It seems like the tide may be turning somewhat, since both days of fighting were dominated by Arjun and Bhimasena.  Despite having the honor of receiving Krishna's teaching firsthand, Arjun still seems to be holding back somewhat.  His lassitude gets so bad that Krishna finally gets annoyed with him, and takes matters in his own hands.

Contrary to the way I've always heard the story told, Krishna does not take any consideration for his oath not to fight, and does not use a chariot wheel as his weapon.  Instead, he just pulls out his Sudarshana Chakra, and sets out to destroy the Kauravas in one blow.

Arjun does not explain why this cannot happen.  He just dives for his friend and tries to tackle him before any damage could be done.  Meanwhile, Bhisma is waiting with open arms to receive his lord.

Having made his point, Krishna puts out his frisbee and takes up the reins again.  Arjun promises to do better next time.  But it still seems like he's holding back!

Aside from that drama, many heroic feats are performed, especially by Abhimanyu & friends.  Also, Bhima gets to make a big showing, fighting off the combined Kaurava forces almost single-handedly, and to top it off, he gets his hands on 14 of his odious cousins and sends them straight to Yama for safekeeping!


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Episode 63 - Kurukshetra, Day 2

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Wed, Jun 29, 2011


Episode 63 - The second day of battle comes and goes.  If the first day went to the Kauravas, the 2nd day certainly belonged to the Pandavas.  The day ends with Bhimasena and Arjun dominating the field, and the Kaurava soldiers crapping their pants.  The cream of Kalinga manhood has been exterminated on the field, and even their enemies are forced to admire the way the two brothers cleared the field of all comers.

Lots more people died, but so far, not much has been accomplished.  Maybe day 3 will go better?  I doubt it!


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Episode 62 - Kurukshetra, Day 1: Concluded

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Wed, Jun 22, 2011


Episode 62 - Let's admit it, we were all impatient for this war to get started.  Like the characters in the story, we concluded many episodes back that there was never going to be a peaceful solution, and it would take nothing less than a massive bloodletting to make sure the bad guys were punished and the good guys got their rightful honors.

But now that the war has started, those frustrating days of exile in the forest are looking more attractive.  Sure, we all feel that Duryodhana deserves a good kick in the ass, but wars are never that satisfying.  Entire nations of warriors will be extinct before Duryodhana gets his first bruise.  And then there are the other 98 Kaurava brothers.  Sure, they might have collectively done some sneaky things, but how exactly did they earn the fate of preceding their elder brother into the underworld, like some primitive escort?

We might have learned thousands of years ago that war can never have a satisfactory outcome, and by now we should have found better ways of resolving our differences.  But here we are today, a bunch of "civilized" readers, looking forward to the battle books and anticipating the final denouement of the evil Kaurava brothers.

There is no such satisfaction on this, the first day of war.  Instead, Virata was deprived of both of his sons, and we found out too late that his second son Shveta was a fine Kshatriya and would have made a great ally.  But now he's dead; another life wasted.

Brace yourself, however, because there is much more of this yet to come...


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Episode 61 - Kurukshetra, Day 1: War is Hell

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Wed, Jun 15, 2011


Episode 61 - It is the morning of the first day of battle.  Already Krishna has revealed his great song to Arjuna, and now there are some final formalities, as Yuddistira runs to his elders on the enemy side for their blessings.  Krishan tags along and tries to tempt Karna over to the Pandava side, just until Bhisma is dead.  It must have been tempting, since it would have given him the chance to even kill the old bugger.  But Karna is too loyal to go for such an under-handed thing.  He turns Krishna down without a second thought.

Finally, just as Yuddistira returns to his lines, he invites anyone who'd like to change sides.  Yuyutsu, Dhrtarastra's 101st son, the illegitimate son of a serving girl, volunteers to change sides.  Now at least the old king can reasonably hope to have a son who survives this war and can make offerings to his ghost.

With this betrayal, Duryodhana starts the fight with a raid directly on his cousins.  What follows is a litany of the numerous duels, none of which ended in a fatality, and the violent slaughter of the un-named masses.  There is a bloody stalemate until the sun reached mid-day, and Bhisma launched a frontal attack on his enemies.  More on that next time!


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Episode 60 - The Gita, part 2: The Godhead

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Mon, Jun 06, 2011


Episode 60 - This concludes Krishna's dialog with Arjun about Dharma, Bhakti, Yoga, and the Gunas.  During the course of this, Arjun is granted divine sight, and is able to catch a glimpse of Krishna's true appearance; it nearly blows his mind.

Getting back to Arjun's original question-- Does Arjun's Dharma really require him to kill his relatives and gurus? and how can this can be a good thing?  It seems like a lot of Krishna's teaching is addressed to posterity, because advice to meditate more often isn't exactly going to propel Arjun into the battlefield.  I think the convincing part of it for Arjun was the divine vision in which he saw his enemies rushing inexorably to their deaths. Whether he followed his Dharma, or ran away, these guys were dead men walking.  So the decision to fight was a personal one.  Whether he fired the arrow that killed his grandfather or not, the sin of murder would not be on his conscience.

This ends the Gita.  We have only one small formality to take care of, and then finally the battle will begin-- next episode!


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Episode 59 - The Gita, part 1: Arjun's Dejection

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Mon, May 23, 2011


Episode 59 - We begin the famous holy book, the Bhagavad Gita.  The scene for this revelation is the midst of the fateful battlefield of Kurukshetra.  Arjun surveys the field, seeing his relatives, friends, cousins, uncles, elders and gurus, all ready to draw each other's blood and die for the sake of his dynastic dispute.  For the good guys to win, Arjun will personally be responsible for the death of the people he respects the most in the whole world.

He simple cannot go on with it.  Arjun drops his bow and sits down.  Better to die than to go forward with the slaughter.  Fortunately, Krishna is right there to remind him, and us, what life is really about.  It is not about sitting around, worrying about the outcomes of our actions.  We are here to get on with the story, keep moving, and most of all, follow our Dharma.

We get a lesson in cosmology, philosophy and even advice on how to meditate.  It's good stuff, and there's more to come.  We're about half-way through the Gita.  We'll get to the remainder next time!


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Episode 58 - The Bhisma Parva

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, May 17, 2011


Episode 58 - The Battle Books, but not the battle, begin here.  Since we are at the second most important beginning of the epic, aside from the very beginning, there is a lot of unnecessary material stuffed into the narrative.  I tried my best to make sense of it, and to leave out the voluminous details that had nothing to do with the story at hand.  I also tried to iron out the repeated descriptions of the armies' dispositions, and the scene of the two sides lined up prior to battle.  This is one of the most difficult episodes I've had to produce, so I hope I was able to make some sense out of it.

We also belatedly get an explanation for Sanjay's magic vision.  It turns out Vyasa popped in and granted him that ability.  Maybe this scene really occurred when Krishna was still in town for negotiations, because it was Krishna's conversation with Karna that Sanjay was first able to report on without actually being there.  Otherwise, there is no explanation for those earlier feats of clairvoyance.

This confusing little prelude leads right up to the Bhagavad Gita, which is the very next chapter in the Bhisma Parva.  We'll begin on that in the next episode.

It is also worth repeating the observation J.A.B. van Buitenen made about the composition of the two armies facing off at Kurukshetra.  It turns out that the armies that allied with the Pandavas all came from kingdoms to the south and east of Hastinapur, while the Kauravas' allies were all from the north and west.

The timeless pattern of Indian migrations and invasions has always been a flow of people coming out of the northwest and conquering or settling in the richer lands of the south and east.  If there is some macro-economic or demographic movement happening behind the human drama, perhaps we are looking at a folk recollection of some past invasion, which was stopped by the Indian heroes and their advisor Krishna.  Maybe Alexander was in there somewhere, on the Kauravas' side?!?


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Episode 57 - Amba, part 2

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, May 10, 2011


Episode 57 - Bhisma finishes bringing us up-to-date on who Sikhandin is, who he used to be, and why Bhisma won't fight him.

This also finishes the Udyoga Parva; the Book of the Effort.  Next time, we start in on the Bhisma Parva, the first of the eight Battle Books.  Don't assume that the war is about to start, just because we end off on the dawn of the first day of the war.  We still have a lengthy introduction in the Bhisma Parva, and then there is the Bhagavad Gita, which will take a few episodes-- we don't want to rush things!




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Episode 56 - Amba, part 1

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, May 03, 2011


Episode 56 - Bhisma begins telling the story of Amba/Sikhandin-- the only person, barring the Pandavas, whom he will not fight in the coming battle.  The reason for this is that Sikhandin had once been a female.  She was not just any female at that-- she was Draupadi's sister, and in her past life, she'd had a bad run-in with Bhisma, making her his sworn enemy from beyond the grave.

We begin the story with Amba's abduction, along with her sisters Ambika and Ambalika, by Bhisma to provide wives for his brother.  When she announces her pre-arranged betrothal with Shalva, she is freed to go to him.  A comedy of errors ensues when he questions her virtue, and then she breaks from her escort, ruining her reputation.  But this is a deadly serious matter.  The girl is now unmarriageable, and her father would be unlikely to take her back.  She has died to her caste and is possibly the most vulnerable person in all of India.

Amba seeks shelter with the Brahmins & ascetics, and finally enlists Rama Jamadagni as her champion.  Bhisma is too stubborn to even allow his own guru to make him take a woman of questionable virtue into his house, so Rama kills him.  Bhisma has a near-death experience and is reminded of his past existence as one of the divine Vasus, and discovers that his holy brothers are still looking out for him.

Bhisma cannot die now, because his appointment with Destiny has already been set with the incarnation of the Primeval God, Nara Prajapati-- Arjuna Kaunteya.



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Episode 55 - Cutting the Muster

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Apr 26, 2011


Episode 55 - As if intending to seal his fate, Duryodhana warms up the Pandavas by sending over an odious gambler Uluka as a messenger to goad them into fighting.  Then Bhisma kindly gives us an inventory of the fighters who will take place in the coming battle.

There are a bunch of guys who I've never heard of, and do not seem to have any important role to play in the story, so I've left them out, trying to keep the cast of characters under control.  As for the rest, they are all rated between Rathas and Atirathas.

Finally, Bhisma assures the Kauravas that he could personally beat anyone on the opposing side, except for Arjun, but not to worry about Arjun, because he would never kill his elders or gurus.  The others he would not kill: the Pandavas, any women, and anyone who used to be a woman.   It turns out, there is one of these trannies on the Pandava side-- it's Drupad's 2nd son, Sikhandin.  Next episode, Bhisma will tell us why it is he cannot kill this particular warrior.


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Episode 54 - The March on Kurukshetra

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Tue, Apr 26, 2011


Episode 54 - Krishna returns from his mission to Hastinpur with war on his mind.  Yuddistira, having spent the last 12-14 years undergoing massive hardship to prevent this war, is reluctant to accept this truth.  He begs for more information, trying to find any way out of this situation.  So Krishna obliges by giving us the details of a few more speeches made in the Kuru court, but none of it helps.  War is truly inevitable.

So both sides round up their armies and march on Kurukshetra.  When they arrive, each side appoints a Commander in Chief.  It is Bhisma on the Kaurava side, and King Drupad on the Pandavas' side.

From this point until the end of the war, the main narrative frame of the story will be told in terms of a conversation between Sanjay and Dhrtarastra.  The Epic has so far not explained how it is that Sanjay knows what is going on at the far-off battlefield, but somehow he knows everything, and is able to relate it all to his king.  Occasionally, Dhrtarastra will interrupt with questions or react to the events, so it will be through his blind eyes that we shall perceive the coming war.

But don't be deceived that just because we are on the eve of war, that we will be soon getting to it.  The Epic always takes its time, and there will still be quite a few more episodes before the action really starts.  After al, we still need to get through the Bhagavad Gita!!!



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Episode 53 - The Temptation of Karna

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Mon, Apr 18, 2011


Episode 53 - This episode is devoted to the classic scene of the Mahabharata in which Krishna reveals to Karna his true descent.  He never was the Son of a Suta, which everyone called him with scorn.  No, he was in fact the eldest of the Pandavas-- the original Partha.  Now that the truth was out, all Karna needed to do was embrace his Dharma, join his brothers, and assume the title of King of India.

Poor Karna, always the victim of bad timing.  It was way too late for such an offer.  Perhaps if Kunti had stood up and claimed him as her son during the Pandavas' first military exhibition, he might have come around then, but now there was too much water under the bridge.  Karna had been tossed out as a baby like the day's garbage, and had been scorned as a Suta when he tried to display his Kshatriya nature.  His modest Suta parents and the evil Kauravas had been the only ones to come to his aid, and he would never give them up.

Krishna failed in turning Karna, but somehow he allowed Sanjay to know of the entire conversation, so the story of Karna's descent and temptation was made known to all the Kauravas.  Kunti caught wind of the encounter, and she made a go at turning him.  She also failed, but she at least got the promise that he would spare her other sons, and should Arjun die, Karna would take his place as her fifth son.



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Episode 52 - Krishna reveals Himself

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Wed, Apr 13, 2011


Episode 52 - The peace talks break down completely.  It starts well, when no one can come up with a rebuttal to Krishna's speech.  Narada and Kanva tell a couple of parables to help with the decision making, but Duryodhana was not interested.  It seems he believed that the terms of the Dice Game were that the Pandavas were to go to the forest forever, not just 13 years.  Maybe it's true?  What if the Pandavas had indeed been banished for life, but they decided to change the rules when Krishna & Drupad offered to help them overthrow their cousins?  How would we know, since we only get the version of the story as told by the survivors of this war!?!

In any case, Duryodhana stuck to his story, and was adamant about refusing to bow to threats.  They began talking of restraining the boy and sending him in fetters to the Pandavas, and Duryodhana in turn planned on capturing Krishna. When news of this arrived at the palace, Dhrtarastra blew his top and yelled at the boy.  Then Krishna revealed his true nature, in front of the Kuru court.

The peace talks have failed.  There is nothing more to do but get ready for war.  But Krishna will stick around a little longer to meet with Kunti and then stir up some trouble by telling Karna about his true descent...


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Episode 51 - Krishna comes to Town

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Mon, Apr 04, 2011


Episode 51 - Sanjay's mission clearly did not accomplish much, so this time Krishna offers to go to Hastinapur as the Pandavas' chief negotiator.  When the Kauravas hear he is coming, Dhrtarastra plans on bribing him, while Duryodhana hopes to imprison him.

Krishna senses all the bad vibes and decides to only stay & eat with Vidur.  He also visits with the Pandavas' poor widowed mother Kunti, whom he tries to console.  Surprisingly, Kunti blames her father for all her suffering.  Kunti's father, Sura, was also Krishna's grandfather, and for some reason he gave her up for adoption to the chieftain Kuntibhoja.  It was there, while living under Kuntibhoja's roof, that she was assigned to serve the creepy saddhu Durvasas.  The result was that poor Kunti was saddled with an illegitimate baby-- young Karna.

Krishna assures his aunt that the Pandavas will soon make their comeback and all will be well.  Then he pays a visit to Duryodhana.  Duryodhana attempts to bribe him, but Krishna refuses to even eat with them.  The following day, Krishna is summoned before the court of Hastinapur, where he makes his case for a settlement with the Pandavas.

The king and his councilors really don't have much to say by way of a rebuttal, so Parashurama breaks the silence by offering to tell a couple of parables.  Next time, we'll hear these parables and then see how the negotiations turn out.




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Episode 50 - The Kauravas React

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Mon, Mar 28, 2011


Episode 50 - Sanjay returns to Hastinapur with messages and intelligence from the Pandava camp.  The king's charioteer delivers this information before the royal assembly, while Dhrarastra, Duryodhana, Bhisma and Karna argue over the significance of these threats.

Having gone a good long while since Karna last washed his feet, the mess must have started getting to him, because he finally blows his top at Bhisma and swears he will not fight until Bhisma is dead.

In the course of this debate, we get hints at some other tales that we are yet to hear about.  One of these involves Bhisma and Sikhandin.  We only get a few tantalizing hints at their back story, but we are told that this warrior is destined to kill Bhisma.  Rest assured that Bhisma will tell the full story a little later in the current book.

The other unfinished tale involves Karna's enrollment as Parashurama's student.  Again, we only get a brief summary, but we hear that Karna had lied to the old Brahmin about his birth, saying he was a fellow Brahmin in order to learn the secrets of the Brahma-head missile.  When Parashurama discovered Karna's deception, he cursed him, saying that the weapon would fail him when he needed it the most.  I'm not sure when we will get the full version of this tale, because it does not show up in the Book of the Effort, and I do not have an index for the books to follow.  It's a good story, so I hope we get to it soon!

Karna is kind of a pitiable figure.  While Arjun is getting magical weapons by the cartload heaped on him lovingly by the best of the Gods, poor Karna is forced to sacrifice his natural-born armor for a single measly arrow from Indra, and must compromise his reputation and sacrifice his spiritual tapas in order to get the Brahma-head missile.  Despite the sacrifices, both weapons are fatally flawed, since Indra's weapon cannot be used against the Pandavas, and the Brahma-head has been cursed to fail in its objective.  Poor Karna-- he never seems to be able to catch a break!

Finally, in a more private setting, Sanjay reveals that he has converted to a new religion!  Krishna and Arjun are beginning shed their human aspects and increasingly appear as divine beings.  The charioteer was quick to notice the transformation, and he appears to be an early adopter of the new cult of Krishna-worship.  With Vyasa present to endorse his newfound religious zeal, Sanjay presents the king with the first tenet of Bhakti worship.  Duryodhana remains obstinate, but the king & queen both become converts.


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Episode 49 - Peace talks begin

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Mon, Mar 21, 2011


Episode 49 - Now that both sides are armed to the teeth and infested with vast armies, they are ready to talk peace terms.  The Pandavas start the first round by sending Drupad's unnamed priest as their ambassador.  This priest travels to Hastinapur and asks only for the terms of the Dice Game to be fulfilled.  Dhrtarastra responds well enough, sending his Charioteer Sanjay as the returning ambassador.  Sanjay's message is also for peace, but the terms are rather unacceptable.  The Kauravas suggested that the Pandavas simply disarm, and go away.  No land, no titles, no nothing.

Yuddistira sends Sanjay back with his counter-arguments and counter-proposal.  When the charioteer returns home, it is late, so he drops in on Dhrtarastra just to let him know he's back and will be delivering the Pandavas' rejoinders in the morning.  Now the old blind king is left to stew all night.

Dhrtarastra cannot sleep, so he summons his younger brother Vidur to entertain him.  Vidur treats us to some lengthy speeches on virtue and Dharma, and by the end of the night, he is apparently channeling spirits!  We hear from the immortal sage Sanatsujata, but this guy is apparently senile, because none of his teachings make any sense!

Next time, we'll find out what the Pandavas have to say in reply to Dhrtarastra's niggardly terms.


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Episode 48 - War by other means

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Mon, Mar 14, 2011


Episode 48 - The Pandavas have come out of hiding and are demanding their lands back from the Kauravas.  Duryodhana has already indicated that he has no interest in giving these back, so it would be best to negotiate from a position of strength.  An arms race ensues, with both sides scrambling to get commitments from their allies across India and beyond.

Duryodhana wins the first couple of rounds at this game.  He rushes to Dwaraka, and gets Krishna to commit his armies to the Kaurava side.  The Pandavas get Krishna; as an unarmed advisor.  Duryodhana also plays on the generosity of the Pandavas' ally King Shalya, by providing hospitality to Shalya's army while it was on the march.  When Shalya offers a boon to his host, Duryodhana presents himself, and asks for Shalya's support in the war.  The king has no choice but to grant the request.

The king journeys on to meet with the Pandavas and tells them what had happened.  Since Duryodhana fooled them fair & square, Yuddistira accepts the fait accompli.  He only asks that Shalya do whatever he can to throw Karna off his game when the big chariot duel between Arjun & Karna takes place.

Shalya also takes the sting off a bit by telling the story of Indra's Victory.  This is a strange story in which the brahmins completely dominate the course of events.  A brahmin picks a fight with Indra, and although Indra acts in self-defense, he is nevertheless guilty of brahmin-murder, and he suffers accordingly.  The force of the punishment makes Indra sort of resign his post and go into hiding.

The Man-God Nahusha is then nominated king of heaven (by brahmins & gods), and the brahmins give him his very own superpower.  When Nahusha turns out to be a power-hungry lecher, the brahmin priest Brhaspati advises the gods on how to get their old Indra back.  Indra is powerless at this point, so he suggests to his wife that the best way to take down Nahusha would be to get him into a fight with the brahmins.  Nahusha walks right into the trap, makes himself a brahmin-drawn chariot, and ends up offending the entire race of priests.  It's all over when he specifically annoys Agastya, and gets cursed to life as a snake for 10,000 years.  It seems that in this story the "kshatriya" gods are just pawns in a brahmin game!

Finally, the Pandavas and Kauravas have gathered their allies-- 7 grand armies for the good guys, and 11 armies for the bad guys.  Now the negotiations can commence!


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Episode 47 - The Wedding

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Mar 06, 2011


Episode 47 - The brothers formally come out of hiding, and thick-headed Virata finally realizes he has been sheltering the famous Pandavas.  To avoid any question of scandal, Virata's daughter is quickly married to Arjun's son, Abhimanyu.  The allies are summoned for the wedding, and the brothers set up a temporary headquarters at Virata's second city, Upaplavya.

This ends the book of Virata.  Next time, we'll start the Udyoga Parva-- the Book of the Effort.


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Episode 46 - The Cattle Raid

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Feb 27, 2011


Episode 46 - News of Kicaka's death reaches the neighboring kingdoms, and precipitates an attack from the Trigartas and the Kauravas.  Virata sends his entire force against the Trigartas and leaves the rest of the country open for the Kuru's sneak attack.

Kanka, Balava and the twins are all recuited into the army, but Brhannala is left at home.  Thus, it is up to the young crown prince and the eunuch to rescue the kingdom from invasion.  As they are riding out to meet the Kurus, the 13th year of exile comes to an end.  Arjun is free to reveal himself, so he retrieves his magic weapons and takes charge of the defenses.

Arjun and Karna finally get their chance to fight, but Karna's boasts don't amount to much, after all.  Arjun literally blows him off the battlefield one time, and then later, when Karna gives it another go, he shots an arrow right into Karna's chest, knocking him unconscious and off the battlefield once again.

Thanks for all your comments.  Please keep visiting my blog at www.mahabharatapodcast.com and let me know what you think!


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Episode 45 - The Book of Virata

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Feb 20, 2011


Episode 45 - The Pandavas send away their hangers-on, and enter hiding at the kingdom of the Matsyas, in the service of King Virata.  Things go well for the first 10 months, but then the king's brother-in-law gets smitten with the Queen's new serving girl.  Kicaka takes his infatuation a little too far, and Bhima ends up restoring her virtue the hard way.  By the end of this ordeal, everyone is terrified of Draupadi and her Gandharva husbands.

King Virata is so frightened of her that he sends the queen to beg her to leave town as soon as possible.

Next time we'll find out what happens as news spreads of the killing of Kicaka.


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Episode 44 - Karna cuts a deal

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Feb 13, 2011


Episode 44 - We finish off the Book of the Forest with a couple of the more famous vignettes from the epic.  The first is the classic tale in which Karna is forewarned that Indra will come to beg from him his magical armor & earrings, but Karna refuses to prevent it.  He lives up to his claim of complete generosity and literally flays the armor off of his body and hands it all over to Indra.

Since transactions with Gods usually go both ways, Karna for his part demanded the "Never-failing Spear", which he figured would be good enough to take out his nemesis Arjun.  This spear will get used, but the outcome will be quite unexpected.

The second story is probably equally famous-- Yuddistira is tested by his father, who is disguised as a yaksha pretending to be a duck.  Yuddistira passes the test with flying colors, and is granted in return the assurance that he and his brothers would not be discovered during the year in hiding.

Next episode, we'll get started on Book 4, the Book of Virata.


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Episode 43 - Savitri and Rama

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Mon, Feb 07, 2011


Episode 43 - Despite the offensive raid on their camp by Jayadratha, old Markandeya is still hanging out with the Pandavas.  Yuddistira, feeling sorry for himself and for Draupadi, goes to him for consolation.  Markandeya replies with the entire story of the Ramayana.

I've spared you the re-telling of that epic, since it would have us out on a sidetrack for possibly months, and, really, the Ramayana deserves a podcast of its own, right?

So, jumping over that chapter, we find ourselves back where we were; Yuddistira moping around feeling sorry for himself and for Draupadi.  Again, he goes to Markandeya for consolation.  This time Markandeya replies with the story of Savitri.

This time, the story apparently works, because at the end of the chapter Vaisampayana tells us that the Pandavas  spent the rest of their exile in Kanyaka "without sorrow or fear".  That's a pretty effective story!

As it turns out, this is the last of the Markandeya stories.  We are nearly at the end of the Book of the Forest, and next episode we'll get back to the main plot with one of Karna's adventures.


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Episode 42 - Kidnapped!

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Jan 30, 2011


Episode 42 - Vyasa stops by the Pandava camp and tells the story of Mudgala, who turns down the opportunity to go bodily to heaven because it wasn't permanent enough!  He chose instead to stay on earth, eking out his miserable existence until his natural death, when he finally attained total extinction.

That seems to be Vyasa's only mission, because after the story, he leaves.  Soon after, King Jayadratha of Sindh passes by the camp while the brothers are away hunting.  He spots Draupadi alone and undefended, so he grabs her and runs off.

The brothers quickly get wind of this and pursue him through the jungle.  The princess is retrieved and Jayadratha's followers decimated, but the king himself has his life spared because he happens to be a kinsman of theirs-- he is Ghandari's nephew.

Jayadratha is not nearly so forgiving as the Pandavas, and he seeks revenge for the humiliation he suffered during his captivity at the hands of Bhimasena.  He lives in the wilderness, worshipping Shiva until the god offers him a boon.  After some negotiation, they settle on granting him the ability to stay the brothers during a cavalry attack, except for Arjun, whom even gods have a hard time stopping!


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Episode 41 - The Golden Plough

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Jan 23, 2011


Episode 41 - This one covers Duryodhana reaction to the humiliation of being captured by the Gandharvas and then released by the valor of his hated cousins the Pandavas.  Unable to face his clan after the ignominious defeat, the prince resolves to sit down and starve himself to death.

This decision sets off alarm bells in Hell, where the Daityas and Danavas have big plans for Duryodhana.  They summon a genie and have her deliver Duryodhana to them, and they tell him about the cosmic nature of this conflict, that powerful Asuras have already taken their places for the great war, and only he can see it through to victory.

Duryodhana returns, his old attitude back, and he leads his brothers back to Hastinapur, as if they had just conquered half the world.  But the boy's ego was a fragile thing, and when Bhisma scolds him, he needs something to cheer him up.  Karna first proposes another Rajasuya, but that is limited to one per family, so they must settle for the Vaishnava ritual, which involves a golden plough, which Duryodhana would use to plow a sacred enclosure.

The episode ends with Duryodhana once again feeling bad about himself, and Karna going to ever greater lengths to keep his patron happy.  This time he swears to never wash his feet again until Arjun is dead!  This will probably contribute to some of the trouble he has later one while in command of the Kaurava forces!


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Episode 40 - The Cattle Expedition

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Jan 16, 2011


Episode 40 - This one starts with some girl talk.  Draupadi and Satyabhama get bored of Markandeya's endless mythologies, and sneak off for a more private conversation.  Satyabhama wants to know how Draupadi maintains her hold over all five husbands.  Draupadi then advises us on the behaviors a woman should perform to keep her husband from straying to other women's beds.

Krishna too finally gets bored of Markandeya and decides it is time to head for home.  He loads up the wife and they head out.  If he knew of the impending attack on his friends, he didn't bother to tell them.  The scene then changes to the court at Hastinapur, where Dhrtarastra is getting news of Arjun's return from heaven with the WMD and how they seem intent on waiting out their exile before taking revenge.

Duryodhana overhears Dhrtarastra's lament, and calls a meeting of his cronies.  Karna suggests they go out to watch the Pandavas in their misery and laugh at them.  What ensues is the Cattle Expedition.


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Episode 39 - The Markandeya Sessions Pt. 3

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Jan 09, 2011


Episode 39 - Two more stories from the Sage Markandeya.  The first is a rousing fight story, where the king of Ayodhya gets super powers from the god Vishnu and defeats a dragon.

I find the second story more interesting.  Yuddistira wants to know about the specific problems that women and servants must have in following their dharma.  Markandeya replies with a story about a short-tempered Brahmin Kaushika, who encounters a particularly wise peasant woman, whose devotion to her husband grants her great wisdom and insight.  Noticing that the brahmin could use some advice on dharma, she sends him to the local butcher, who, it turns out, knows even more about dharma than the woman.

We are nearly through with Markandeya.  Next episode we'll get back to the main protagonists, with a tete-a-tete between Draupadi and Krishna's wife Satyabhama.


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Episode 38 - The Markandeya Sessions Pt. 2

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Dec 26, 2010


Episode 38 - The Sage Markandeya continues with his storytelling.  He begins with his own version of the Four Ages or Yugas.  One interesting point is that in his reckoning, the Kali Yuga lasts 1,200 years in total.  Since we are told elsewhere that the Kali Yuga began for us on the death of Krishna, then the Kali Yuga must have ended centuries ago, and we happy people have made it into the next Golden Age!

After an apocalyptic vision of the future, Makandeya gives us the Tale of the Frog, which culminates in a showdown between the brahmin Vamadev and a pair of stubborn kings.  The brahmin, of course, comes out the victor!

There are more stories to come in the next episode, so the Markandeya Sessions will continue...


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Episode 37 - The Markandeya Sessions Pt. 1

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Dec 19, 2010


Episode 37 - While Krishna is still hanging out at the camp, the sages Narada and Markandeya show up.  After some prodding, Markandeya finally opens up and gives us his take on reincarnation, sin and the afterlife.  He follows that up with two stories about Brahmins, and then gives us his rendition of the Fish, Manu, and the Flood.

I also present my theory that the five Pandavas are somehow correllated with the five extremities of the human body.  Yuddistira is clearly the head, while Bhima is associated with the right arm.  Arjuna, the "Left-Handed Archer", seems pretty clearly to be linked with the left arm, and the twins make up the pair of legs.  Since they are all incarnations of a single being-- Indra-- perhaps Indra had himself dismembered and each limb became a different Pandava.

There is also something sexual about Arjun that is different from the others.  We haven't gotten to that part of the story yet, but during the year in hiding, Arjun is disguised as an hermaphrodite, Brihanala, which literally means "Woman with large penis".  Much later in the story, we'll discover that of the five sons of Draupadi, it is Arjun's son and grandson who carry on the line of kings.

Markandeya is still telling stories, so we'll have more from him next time.


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Episode 36 - Bhima and the Snake

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Dec 12, 2010


Episode 36 - The Pandavas journey south, out of the Himalayas and back to the plains.  Along the way, Bhima goes hunting and finds himself captured by a giant magical snake.  The Snake takes his time and tells Bhima his life story before proceeding to eat the hero.  Meanwhile, Yuddistira sees dark omens and heads off to look for his brother on his own.  For the purposes of the later story, Arjun stays at home and Yuddistira does the rescuing.

When Yuddistira gets to the scene, Bhima tells him what is going on, and that the snake is under a curse.  If Yuddistira can answer the snake's question, then all would be well.  Yuddistira is good at quiz games; the question is basically whether one is a Brahmin by birth or by behavior.

The Snake and Yuddistira hit it off really well, and the two discuss questions of the Soul and Karma for a while.  Finally, the snake releases Bhima and then dies, his soul returning to heaven.  The brothers return to the camp, where the Brahmins scold Bhima-- "He shouldn't have been out hunting anyway!  Hunting is bad!"

The Pandavas then journey onward to the Kanyaka forest-- the place where they began their exile 10 years earlier.  At the Kanyaka forest they meet up once again with Krishna.  This time he brings his first wife Satyabhama, and they intend to stay a while.

Krishna brings news of the Pandavas' five sons.  They are teenagers now, and are all being raised at Dwarka, learning the arts of war with Krishna's eldest son Pradyumna.

Finally, two more guests arrive; Narada and Markandeya.  Markandeya has appeared several times in the past, but he has always been a man of few words.  This time he apparently has a lot he wants to say.  We'll get started on it next time!


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Episode 35 - Welcome back, Arjun

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Dec 05, 2010


Episode 35 - It's deja-vu all over again, as the Pandavas move from the hermitage of Nar-Narayan to another one on the slopes of Mt Kailash, named for Arstisena.  Another flower wafts down the hill, and Draupadi again sends Bhima off in search of the source.  Bhima completely forgets Yuddistira's injunction about making trouble and he invades Kubera's kingdom, starting a war with the god's "genial leprechaun" army.

There's no Hanuman this time around, but we do at least get an explanation for Kubera's toleration of Bhima's vandalism and slaughter-- it turns out that Kubera's buddy Manimat had been cursed by Agastya, and was doomed to die at the hands of a mortal.  Bhima was only fulfilling the inevitable.

During the course of this adventure, the fifth year of Arjun's mission comes to an end.  He comes flying in on Indra's chariot, with a load of WMD in the back.  After a joyful reunion, Arjun tells us of his last mission for Indra.  This story is another replay.  It is basically the same story as Krishna's battle with Shalva and his Saubha "flying city".  This time the flying city is inhabited by Nivatakavacas ("beings clad in air-tight armor"), and Arjun fights them to the death, breaking in his new weapons.

Now re-united, the brothers hang out in the gardens of the far north for another four years, making it a total of 10 years they have spent so far in exile.  Next time, they will begin heading south and making preparations for their year in hiding.


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Episode 34 - Monkey's Uncle

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Nov 28, 2010


Episode 34 - The Pandavas resume center stage as the main characters of this episode.  They continue their trek through the mountains until the going gets too rough for Draupadi.  Bhima summons his half-Rakshasa son, Gatotkacha, who can fly, and they are carried the rest of their journey to the Ashram of Nar-Narayan.
While hanging out at this heavenly retreat, Draupadi sends Bhima off to find her some special lotus blossoms.  Along the way, Bhima meets up with Hanuman, who it turns out is his brother (both are sons of the Wind God).
The quest for the Lotus Blossom finally leads Bhima to Kubera's Pleasure Garden, which is guarded by hordes of Rakshasas.  Bhima makes short work of them and takes a dip in Kubera's pond.
Yuddistira gets suspicious and has Gatotkacha take them to Bhima.  Kubera takes the destruction of his gardens and the death of his guards pretty lightly, and he allows the Pandavas to stay in his garden as long as they like.  We leave them there until next Episode, when Arjun finally makes his return.


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Episode 33 - The Hawk and the Dove

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Nov 21, 2010


Episode 33

These are the last three stories of the long series of tales in the Book of the Forest.  The Pandavas are finishing up their pilgrimage across India and are moving northward for their rendezvous with Arjun.  The first story, Yavakrita, is particularly interesting in that the protagonist is not a Twice-born.  In this case, he's a rude and uppity Vaishya, but he's the main character nonetheless.  I find the little detail about the Shudra gaurd particularly interesting.  He works for Yavakri's father, and he inexplicably blocks the boy from getting to safety, which results in Yavakri's death.  I can only guess that it was thought fitting that a Vaishya rapist be killed at the hands of an even lower-caste menial.

Jantu seems to fit in among these stories in that it is another case of a Brahmin helping a king with his fertility problems.  In contrast to many of the other stories, the king's wives are distinctly un-heroic.

The last story, the Hawk & the Dove, stands out as the most unusual of all the stories so far, especially because it involves a king, two gods, but NO BRAHMINS!  Where are the Brahmins?  The Book of the Forest is a very strong piece of propaganda about the importance of having well-bred Brahmins for all occasions, but then this strange tale caps them all off.

This story has the strongest feel of Buddhism that I've seen so far in the Mahabharata.  The king's self-sacrifice is strongly reminiscent of other Buddhist stories in which the Boddhisatva sacrifices his own life for another's benefit.

Next time, we'll finally get back to the deeds of our heroes, as they make their way to the hermitage of Nar-Narayan way up on the slopes of Mt. Kailash.


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Episode 32 - Sukanya and Cyavana

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Nov 14, 2010


Episode 32 - Two more stories from the Book of the Forest.  The first involves another Bhrgu Brahmin with a Kshatriya wife.  The second story, about Mahdhatar, is short, but interesting in how it differs from all the other stories we've had so far from Lomasha.

The first story in this series, Nala, is about a King and his very loyal wife.  The subsequent stories were by and large about Brahmins with very loyal (Kshatriya) wives.  So each story so far has the element of an obedient wife despite hardship.  Mandhatar breaks strongly from this pattern in that the boy doesn't even have a mother (he is born from his father's side), and Indra gives the boy his finger to suckle, thus the boy was entirely free from any female influence.

If this lack of a woman's touch had any influence on his life and later events, we cannot say, because we are given a very stereotypical summary of his later career.  He's just another super king who conquered the world, far back in the past.


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Episode 31 - Rshyashrnga

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Nov 07, 2010


Episode 31 - The Pandavas continue their pilgrimage to all the holy sites of India.  With Lomasha as their guide & storyteller, they hear the stories of Rshyashrnga and then the story of Rama Jamadagnya, or "Battle-Axe" Rama, who cut his own mother's head off and single-handedly killed off the entire race of Kshatriyas 21 times!

Also, J.A.B. Van Buitenen, our translator for most of the podcast so far, gives us a hypothesis that the story of Rshyashrnga made its way to Medieval Europe in the form of the Unicorn myth.  It is certainly interesting that it took a virgin to capture the unicorn for the king.


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Episode 30 - Agastya

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 31, 2010


Episode 30 - The four Pandavas who were left in the forest set off on a tour of the sacred sites of Ancient India, with the Sage Lomasha as their guide.  At a stopover near the historic hermitage that once belonged to Agastya, we are treated to one of the stories about this fabled hermit.

I have to confess to skipping a second story, because I simply couldn't make much sense of it.  While it tangentially involved Agastya, it also involved King Sagara, whose wife gave birth to a pumpkin and he was advised to put the seeds each in a vat of warm ghee, and each seed turned into a baby boy.  The king had 1,000 sons from this pumpkin.  The story then veers off to the draining of the ocean, and how the Ganga was drawn out of the heavens to re-fill the ocean, and how Shiva caught the stream in his dreadlocks.  I guess I'll leave that bit for the unabridged podcast!

Next time, we'll get the story of Rshyashrnga, who was born from a deer!


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Episode 29 - Damayanti & Nala, part 2

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 29 - We finish the story of Nala.  Brhadashva suggested that this story would cheer up the Pandavas, since there was indeed a king who had it worse than they.  But shortly after hearing the story, they get news that Arjun was up on a mountain top starving himself and they were once again plunged into depression and hopelessness.  At least Yuddistira learned Nala's dicing secrets, so he need not worry about another match with Shakuni.

The story of Nala as it is told in the Mahabharata has some significant discrepancies in the storyline.  They are too obvious and numerous to list out in full, but an example would be that Damayanti remained in hiding in her aunt's palace even though she could have told the queen the truth at any time, and could go home at any time.  Stranger still, the queen mother does not recognize her neice, because the girl was covered in mud all the time and so her famous mole was concealed by the dried muck.

On the other hand, the scenes are very dramatic and would have made a wonderful 19th century opera.

I found the detail about the size of Nala's army to be interesting.  Clearly, chariots were not the most common vehicle on the battle field.  There were 19 elephants and numerous horses, and hundreds of infantry, but just one chariot.  Perhaps by this time the chariot was more of a status symbol than an effective military weapon; alternatively, were they so expensive that one chariot was all that could be afforded on this mission!?!

Finally, thanks for the feedback on the identity of Kali.  They tell me that Kali is the kali in kaliyuga.  His buddy Dvapar is of the Dvaparyuga.  I had always thought the names Dvapar & Kali, in that context, were modifiers that somehow described these various epochs.  But now it seems Kaliyuga is the epoch that is dominated or (perhaps) ruled by the entity Kali.

I always thought a little better of the Dvaparyuga, since during that period people were more humane, but the character of Dvapar is not at all appealing.  As for Kali, he comes off as a small-minded little bastard-- hardly fitting for the demon who dominates an entire Epoch!


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Episode 28 - Damayanti & Nala, part 1

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 28 - While Arjun remains in heaven, relaxing with his father Indra, news reaches the Kaurava court of Arjun's exploits.  Dhrtarastra then has one of his bouts of regret while Sanjay scolds him for being so stupid.  We then cut over to the rest of the Pandavas, who are still living off the dirt in the foothills of Dehra Dun.  Bhima is ready to chop off some heads and he takes his frustration out on his elder brother.

The sage Brhadashva then shows up with a story of a king who actually had it worse off then even the Pandavas; he recites the story of Nala and his clever wife Damayanti.

It is interesting to think how this story would have been told in different cultures.  If this had been an ancient Greek story, it would have been Indra/Zeus who was the offended one and cursed Nala, rather than a more obscure god.  And if this story had been told in Medieval Europe, then the Five World Guardians would have been human noblemen, and Nala & Damayanti would have been from the middle class.  These noblemen would all have wanted her to be their mistress, but she chose instead an upright townsman whom she loved instead.  Then the noblemen, in their outrage at having been passed over in favor of a commoner, would have taken their revenge in a more traditional manner-- rape & pillage!


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Episode 27 - Arjun goes to Heaven

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 27 - We follow Arjun's journey into the Himalayas and beyond.  This episode includes Arjun's famous battle with the Mountain Man.  He doesn't come out of the fight very well-- Shiva crushes him into a meatball and ends the fight.  I like to think that he killed Arjun and then revived him and sent him on to Heaven, but the text is a bit vague; did he just get crushed, lose his eyesight and cease breathing?  Or did he go all the way and die on us?  Either way, he's sent off to his dad's kingdom up in Heaven where he acquires WMD in preparation for the big battle.

Meanwhile, the remaining brothers and their angry wife are left waiting in the jungle, swatting flies, while Arjun spends five years in paradise with Indra.  After Arjun has learned all the secrets of Indra's weapons, he is sent to Citrasena to learn the arts of music & dance.  Indra dispatches the sage Lomasha to visit the other Pandavas and tell them to tour the pilgrimage sites while Arjun finishes up his training.

Next time, we'll see how Dhrtarastra reacts to news of Arjun's trip to heaven, and we'll hear the famous story of Nala and Damayanti!


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Episode 26 - Debating Dharma

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 26 - We begin this episode with the tale of Krishna's adventures when he might otherwise have helped his friends in their distress.  At least he got a few good fight scenes out of it, including his son Pradyumna performing heroic feats defending Dwarka, and a ground-to-air battle with a flying city!

When Krishna is done with his exciting tale, the allies pack up and head for home.  The tacit understanding seems to be that they will wait until the 13 years are up and only then will they come up with a plan for action.  You can imagine Draupadi stewing as all this goes on. 

Things only get worse after the allies leave, and the Brahmins move back in.  They surround their beloved ascetic king and praise him for his meekness and self-control.  The Brahmins re-iterate how important it is for a king to keep lots and lots of Brahmins around at all times.

This is finally too much for poor Draupadi.  She finally gets fed up and starts berating her husband.  The two begin debating the relative value of Dharma vs. Karma.  Sitting in the woods like a Saddhu certainly did not appear to be the Dharma for a King!  Kings should be men of Action.  They should act now and keep acting until they have either succeeded or have died trying, because that is what Kings do!

Bhima also chimes in and picks up the argument, taking up Draupadi's side.  He points out that the ritual calendar is not the same as normal time, and 13 months constitutes 13 years ritually, so they are already done and can start the war right away!  But Yuddistira always out-argues them all, and besides, he's the boss.  Fortunately, things are not allowed to get out of control because Vyasa shows up and gives them something to keep them busy-- find a new forest to camp in, and send Arjun north in search of Weapons of Mass Destruction!


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Episode 25 - Draupadi's Lament; Krishna's Excuses

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 25 - The continuing adventures of the Pandavas in the forest.  The story picks up with Maitreya's curse and angry departure from the court at Hastinapur.  Dhrtarastra, apparently tired of all the dire predictions decides it is time for a fight scene, and asks Vidur to tell the story of Bhima and Kirmira.  Vidur then recites the battle scene as Bhima kills another Rakshasa.

We then move back to the forest where a meeting of the Pandavas' allies is taking place, Krishna among them.  Krishna and Arjun enjoy a brief love fest, telling each other how wonderful they were and such close friends.  Draupadi finally gets fed up with it and demands to know why the outrages perpetrated against her have still not been avenged, yet she is surrounded by the greatest heroes on the earth.

She points out that if Krishna were so great as everyone keeps saying, then how did this calamity even take place?  Krishna's reply is rather surprising.  There is none of the mystical teachings here-- he wasn't far away because he was far from their hearts.  He wasn't ever-present and yet directing events towards the final great war.  No, none of that.  He was just out of town at the time, fighting king Shalva and his flying saucer, and just hadn't heard the news until it was too late!

Next time, Draupadi will turn on her husbands and really let them have it.  Stay tuned!


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Episode 24 - Into the Forest, part 2

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 24 - The Pandavas are now settled into their forest encampment and receive a surprise visitor.  The Kauravas plot to kill the Pandavas while they are defenseless in the forest.  Vyasa himself steps in to put a stop to this outrage, and he then introduces the sage Maitreya, who scolds Duryodhana, and then finally curses him to be struck in the "thigh" by Bhima.

If you ever felt uncomfortable about the fact that Bhima had to cheat and hit Duryodhana below the belt in their final battle, you can now rest assured that it wasn't Bhima's fault.  Maitreya made him do it!


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Episode 23 - Into the Forest, part 1

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 23 -This episode covers the Pandava's departure for the forest and the initial fears of theKauravas as they considered what they had done.  As things washed out, only the five brothers, Draupadi and a gaggle of Brahmins went into the forest.  Yuddistira did some yoga and some austerities and memorized the 108 names of Surya, and was able to get the Sun God to give him the ability to magically feed everyone while they were in the forest.

Please leave comments at iTunes.  The more the better!  Thanks!


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Episode 22 - The Second Dice Game

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 22 - At the end of the First Dice Game, it really seemed like King Dhritarastra had put everything back the way it was.  He restored the Pandava's freedom, titles and wealth.  Unfortunately, Bhima had sworn some pretty serious oaths to kill his cousins, and cousin Duryodhana was too filled with hate and fear to allow things to be left the way they were.

The blind king then ordered Yuddistira to return for one final round of dice.  The loser would give up his possessions and retire to the forest for 12 years.  The 13th year would be a year of hiding during which, if they were caught, they would be sent back to the forest for another 12 years.

Since Shakuni once again had control of the dice, you can imagine the outcome...  This ends Book 2 of the Mahabharata.  Next time we'll pick up with Book 3!

I put out another appeal to please visit iTunes and comment or rate my podcast.  I hope it will make this more available for other listeners to find it and tune in!  Thanks!


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Episode 21 - The First Dice Game

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 21 - This is a big one; this episode covers the tangled details of the incident that sets off the rest of the story.  At the heart of it, it is about Duryodhana and Shakuni cheating at dice to win from the Pandavas all their possessions and even their freedom.  That much is clear, and the match culminates in the deliberate humiliation of Draupadi before the court.  Bhima swears oaths to kill both Duryodhana and his younger brother Dushasan, and the future conflict all arises from the fears and hatred born from this moment.

In detail however, many facts are quite confounding.  For instance, Shakuni says Yuddistira is addicted to dicing but is not good at it.  Where did this come from?  There is no detail either before or after this story that would lead anyone to believe this about Yuddistira.   Then there is the question of Yuddistira's determination to lose everything in the match.  While he may be excused for going forward with the dice game ("for that is the eternal oath I have sworn"), but who really made him gamble away his kingdom, his brothers and his own freedom?   These stakes were his decision and no one else's.

Finally, everyone loves Bhisma and considers him a good man, but on this day he is strangely impotent and brain-addled.  What explains the odd reticence among the Kuru elders?  How is it that the entire court stood by and allowed the maltreatment of one of their own women? 

There is something oddly somnambulistic about this whole scene, where it seems the events had to work themselves out in a certain way, and therefore a spell was cast over the players to ensure things had their proper outcome...

One thing is certain, and that is relations between the Pandavas and the Kauravas will never be the same from here on, and are trending for the worst!


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Episode 20 - King of the World

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 20 - The Pandavas range the Four Directions and conquer the world, bringing home mountains of treasure.  Soon after, the Rajasuya Sacrifice commences.  Krishna is given the top honor among the guests and this causes a tumult of disgruntled kings and nobles.  They point out the problem that has become apparent in the story, which is that Krishna is a nobody in terms of societal ranking.  He's a former cowherder from a caste of shudras who claims his father is a prince (alas, there were no witnesses to his alleged birth by Devaki).  But even if he were not lying about his descent, he was still a noble of the 3rd tier, and from an insignificant backwater kingdom, where they had been forced to move by Jarasandh's armies.

The general of that army, Sishupal of Chedi, was particularly outraged by this elevation of a milkman over the heads of all the kings of India.  Sishupal had other grievances against Krishna, since his fiance Rukmini had been abducted by Krishna, his boss had been killed by Krishna's plan, and his friend and ally Rukmi had been killed by Krishna's brother.

So Sishupal points out what should be obvious to us all-- that Krishna was a low-class cowherd, who boasted about killing a vulture and a cow, a woman, and an ox cart!  Who said that these animals and the woman and the cart were demons?  Furthermore, Krishna killed his own king-- a treasonous act of regicide that should be obhorred by anyone who desires law & order in society.

Finally, Sishupal suggests that maybe Rukmini had already been used & put aside by himself before Krishna took her as his wife.  That does it for Krishna.  His killer frisbee comes flying and Sishupal is Beheaded.  Check out that link, it's to the picture I mentioned in the podcast.  It's pretty cool.

This episode ends with a little vignette of Duryodhana wandering the Pandavas' palace and getting fooled by the illusions of the place.  He falls into a pond and gets laughed at by his cousins.  I've got more to say about how this scene gets changed over time, but we'll get into that in a later episode.


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Episode 19 - Killing Jarasandh

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 19 - This episode, Yuddistira gets it into his head that he should be King of the World! As he has been inclined to do since becoming king, he calls for Krishna to advise him on how to accomplish this task. Krishna tells him to send Bhima and Arjun to Magadha and get rid of his main rival to the imperial title, King Jarasandh.

And so, Krishna, Bhima and Arjun go down to Magadha and pick a fight with Jarasandh. Bhima wrestles the old guy for fourteen days and finally body-slams him, killing him instantly.

This whole Rajasuya thing will result in 13 years of misery for the Pandavas, and finally the destruction of nearly the entire race of Kshatriyas. Since dieing on the battlefield is one of the surest means of getting to heaven, I guess it all worked out OK for the men. All those widows probably wished Yuddistira had stuck to his little kingdom of Indraprastha, and been content with his reservation at Lord Yama's palace...
Sorry I've slowed down my production lately. I've had some musical commitments that have eaten up my free time. That's mostly over, so hopefully things will pick up a bit from now on! If you'd like to encourage me, please send a message; it certainly helps morale. Also, it would be great if you were to go into iTunes and rate my podcast. It would help increase its visibility for other potential listeners. Thanks!


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Episode 18 - Arjun Slept Here

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 18 - This is a longer, pithy episode, covering the way the brothers decided to prevent future conflicts over their shared wife, and Arjun's subsequent adventures when he breaches those rules.  Despite the punishment he receives for breaking the oath he swore, Arjun ended up having a lot of adventures and getting to know a lot of hot princesses around India.  Draupadi would have been better off keeping him closer to home!

So Arjun ends up coming back from his year-long exile with a new wife-- Krishna's sister-- and leaving a trail of baby boys across the sub-continent.  After his return home, he and Krishna spend a lot of time together in Indraprastha, and we are told that they are the re-incarnation of the ancient seers Nar and Narayan.

While they are hanging out together, Krishna suggests that they go to the river for a kind of picnic, and while they are there, Agni the god of fire meets them and requests their aid in burning down the Khandava Forest, which was the home of Taksaka the snake and under the protection of Indra.

Arjun and Krishna get some cool new weapons as part of the deal.  Arjun gets the famous Ghandiva Bow and an inexhaustible quiver of arrows. Krishna gets his Sudarshana discus.  The pair of friends then help the Fire God to burn down the forest, fighting off legions of magical creatures and even an army of Gods.

It is interesting that Arjun's marriage to Subhadra was in large part the result of Krishna's suggestions.  I also noticed that the pair were sitting near the forest where they could meet the Fire God due to Krishna's suggestion that they have a picnic.  I'm going to keep score on this and we'll see just how much of this story moves along due to Krishna's well-placed suggestions!  It's going to be a lot!!!

This episode actually covers the end of  Book 1 of the Mahabharata, called the Book of the Beginning.  There are 18 books in total, and we'll start Book 2 next time, which is called the Book of the Assembly Hall.

In case you were not able to figure it out, I did start using some of the alternate names for Krishna and Arjun in this story. Some of Krishna's alternate names are: Vasudev & Madhusudana.  I refer to Arjun as Partha, Dhananjaya, and Gudakesha.


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Episode 17 - Cut the Baby in Half

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 17 - With this episode, we finally get back to the main characters and the main storyline.  The news of the Pandava's emergence from obscurity has reached Hastinapur, and King Dhrtarastra has to make a decision-- does he go along with his favorite son and launch a surprise attack on Pancala?  Or does he follow his uncle Bhisma's advice to make Yuddhistira heir to the throne.  His conclusion is to try to strike an impossible balance between these two extremes, and he divides the kingdom, making Yuddhistira king of the lesser half of the Kuru lands.

This episode has a little more commentary than I usually give, and I hope no one is too bent out of shape by my critique of the Bhagavata Purana and the way Krishna is portrayed in there.  If you have anything to say that might change my opinion on the matter, please leave some comments on this blog.  I'd love to hear from you!

Unfortunately, my day job has gotten busy lately, so I've not been able to produce new episodes at the rate I was doing it in February and March, but I'm already started on the next episode, and I've come up with a new way to produce the material that will hopefully make up for the limited amount of time I have for this project!


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Episode 16 - Don't Mess with Balaram

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 16 - This is the final installment of the "Krishna Episodes", where I've covered Krishna's back story up to and beyond the point when the Pandavas met him in Panchala.  There are still some interesting details in the Bhagavata Purana which I want to compare with later events in the Mahabharata, so I'm not completely done with that book, but for the upcoming episodes, we'll get back to the Mahabharata and see what the Pandavas do next.

I have to apologize for narrating this one kind of fast.  I guess I just had a cup of coffee before I got started, because I did some fast talking.  Next time I'll make it a glass of wine, and I promise I'll slow down a bit, as was suggested to me in one of the comments!


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Episode 15 - Kamsa Goes Down

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 15 - This episode is about Krishna's spectacular entry into international politics.  Having established his manhood by cuckolding the entire tribe of cowherders, Krishna returns to Mathura to get his revenge on Kamsa.  Killing Kamsa has repercussions, however, because Kamsa had a powerful ally in King Jarasandh.  Krishna ends up killing more than 130 million soldiers as he defeated 17 armies raised by Jarasandh and an 18th army belonging to the Black Greek.  You'd think there were no soldiers left in ancient India after that, but Krishna is only getting started!  Krishna also checks in on his cousins the Pandavas, sending an embassador to report back on how the boys are being treated.

Our two stories are beginning to come together, so next episode we'll have some more adventures of Krishna and Balaram, get them married off (16,000 wives!!!), and see how their sons come along, and then we'll finally be caught up, and will resume the story of the Pandavas.


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Episode 14 - Krishna and the Gopis

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 14 - Things get hot and heavy this episode, when Krishna plays a tune on his magic flute and all the girls come running.  The association of religious devotion with carnal love is found in Sikhism, Sufi Islam and even mystical Christianity.  I've always suspected that the idea was born in India as Bhakti and then gradually made its way westward through the Islamic world and finally into Western Christianity.  It would be an interesting study-- the timelines certainly fit!  Next episode, we'll get back to the bloodletting and chopping of heads, so never fear, this sexy stuff is nearly behind us!


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Episode 13 - Top God

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 13 - The further adventures of young Krishna.  This time we cover his youth and teenage years.  He kills a bunch of demons, imitates every boy in the clan plus all the calves, kicks Indra's butt, and then compels the girls to emerge naked from the river to retrieve their clothing-- all in the name of religion of course!  He promises to each one of them that he will make love to them before the end of Autumn, and next episode, he'll make good on it!


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Episode 12 - Krishna at Play

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 12 - We finally get started with Krishna.  His mother and father were both of the house of Yadu in Mathura-- Krishna's mother Devaki was King Ugrasena's daughter.  Unfortunately, Devaki's brother, Crown Prince Kamsa was a bad guy, and he got an early warning that his sister's eighth child would be the death of him.  After a palace coup, King Kamsa threw Devaki and Vasudeva into prison and killed their first six babies as soon as they were born.

The seventh child, Balaram, was magically transported into the womb of Rohini-- Vasudevas other wife living in Vraja with the Gopas.  Unlike Balaram, Krishna managed to be born in his natural mother's womb, but was secretly exchanged with the Gopa chieftain's daughter within hours of their birth.  As far as anyone could tell, Krishna was born to the Gopi Yashoda, and Devaki had a daughter who was killed by Kamsa as soon as she was discovered.

So, while Krishna and Balaram are technically full brothers, it appeared as if they were unrelated, and Krishna was simply the son of a cowherder chieftain.  This arrangement worked well in keeping him hidden from Kamsa, but it must have been tricky convincing everyone that he really had royal blood and wasn't just some low-caste nobody!  We'll see how he pulls this off in later episodes.

The Bhagavata Purana is so utterly dazzled by Krishna's divinity that these everyday practicalities seem to fade out in the glare, but I'll try to keep a lookout for how the mundane folks around him-- those who did not recognize his divinity-- tried to make sense of his story and his position in society.

I have to admit that so far Balaram is a bit of a cipher to me.  We are told that he is the avatara of Adisesha, who is the Cosmic Snake; Vishnu's pal.  Somehow Adisesha appears as himself when Vasudeva makes his journey with Krishna to Vraja, but Balram was already a child at the time.  Later, we are told that Balaram and Krishna are equally avataras of Vishnu.  Hopefully we'll be able to untangle this riddle as we go along.  So far, I admit that I don't quite get it!

If anyone can explain to me how Balaram relates to Krishna, I'd love to hear it.  I'll try to come up with an analysis of the two characters as we move further along into the story.  They make an amazing contrast, often taking opposite sides on important issues.


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Episode 11 - The Loves of King Yayati

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 11 - This episode is the first in  a series that will break away from the Mahabharata and use the Bhagavata Purana as the primary source instead.  This is necessary if you want to find out Krishna's life stories.  Up until the Pandavas meet Krishna at Draupadi's Swayamvara, no mention is made of Krishna's birth, childhood, or rise to power.  That information is only available in other books, and the main source is the Bhagavata Purana.

The first time I read a faithful translation of the Mahabharata, I was shocked that Krishna just appears in the story, fully grown, and no information is given about his background.  So in the next two or three episodes, I will try to rectify that, starting with Krishna's common ancestor with the Pandavas, King Yayati.

I meant to push on and cover Krishna's birth and childhood in this single episode, but I was afraid that all the names and details would get overwhelming if I tried to put all this together, so next episode we'll cover Krishna's birth and toddler-hood.

The story is getting much more complicated, and we're meeting many new characters, so I'm doing my best to keep it all as clear as possible in the narrative.  Please send feedback and let me know how I'm doing, and whether there is anything I could do to make the story easier to follow.  Please leave comments on my blog, or email me:  mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net.  I'd love to hear from you!


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Episode 10 - Five Men and One Woman

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 10 - This is a long one - over 30 minutes, but I'm pretty happy with how it came out.  You might have noticed that I'm still experimenting with the audio, and I think this one came out clearer than the rest.  I'm trying to keep the file sizes under control, so it is a matter of striking a good balance.

Also, the story is getting interesting.  We've got a few good fight scenes, plus Vyasa intervenes a couple of times to keep the story on track, and we get to meet Krishna for the first time!  By the end, we have our heroes married off to Draupadi and enjoying their honeymoon at King Drupada's palace.  We'll leave them to enjoy that for a while, and in the upcoming episodes, I'll go back in time to cover Krishna's story from the start.

Please visit my blog and leave comments.  I'm really interested to hear what you all think of the production so far!


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Episode 9 - Burning down the House

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 9 - This episode begins with Drona's revenge against King Drupada for reneging on a promise to share his wealth with his former schoolmate.  The princes have come of age, and perform a demonstration of their battle skills.  The pageant is interrupted by a mysterious Suta, son of a charioteer, named Karna.  Karna has an inexplicable resentment for Arjun and challenges him.  Duryodhana is delighted with the turn of events, and quickly befriends Karna. 

When the battle is about to commence, the master of ceremonies asks him to recite his lineage.  Karna reveals that he is from a lower class, so Duryodhana rectifies the situation by making him King of Anga.  The day is over by then, so nothing is settled between Karna and Arjuna.

Later, Duryodhana schemes to have the Pandavas sent to a neigboring town, and has a house built for them that is highly flammable.  The house burns down, but the boys escape with their mother.  While in the woods, there is a brief episode where Bhima fights with a Rakshasa and kills him.  Bhima marries the Ogre's sister and fathers a powerful half-breed son.

The brothers then wander off incognito, until they settle down in a small town called Ekachakra.  We leave them there until the next episode!


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Episode 8 - Princes in Training

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 8 - This is the last episode that covers Book 7 of the Mahabharata, called "The Origins".  Almost all of the story I have covered so far comes from Book 7.  The earlier books are much shorter, and full of geneologies and creation myths that are almost impossible to make narrative sense of, so I left a lot of that out! 
I spend some time at the beginning of this episode describing what we're up against in terms of the original Mahabharata as a source.  Then the story gets under way, where we meet the two Gurus Krpa and Drona, and find out some of the early enmities between the Pandavas and their cousins the Kauravas.  Duryodhana's maternal uncle Shakuni makes his debut in the role of chief conspirator, which he will maintain to his dying day! 
I think you'll also agree that the good guys are not 100% good after all-- Bhima is kind of a bully, and Arjun is a serious kiss-up to their teacher and is not above a little cheating to make sure he is unchallenged as the top student!


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Episode 7 - The Heroes and the Villains are born

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 7 - This episode covers the marriage of the three princes Dhritarastra, Pandu and Vidura.  Here's the map I promised of India during the time of the Mahabharata.  What's important to notice is that first, the Kuru nation was in a very central location and must have been very important in the politics of the age.  The Himalaya mountains acted as an enormous bulwark, keeping each kingdom safe from attack from the north.  Thus the marriage alliances seemingly secured peace with neighbors to the west and south, and Pandu was able to wage a military campaign against the kingdoms dowstream along the Ganges to the east.
It is interesting how Pandu eventually thought of his natural father and tried to convert to a Brahmin later in life, giving up the crown.  In addition to all that, the five Pandavas (good guys) and the 100 Kauravas (bad guys) are born, then Pandu dies, leaving his five sons orphans.  Everyone agrees that the eldest Pandava, Yudhistira should be the first in line for the throne, but his blind uncle King Dhrtarastra has good reason to be resentful for how things worked out, and he won't let us forget it!


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Episode 6 - No Good Deed Unpunished

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 6 - In this episode, Bhisma's extreme oath comes back to bite them all, when both his brothers die childless and there is no one to continue the Dynasty.  But never fear, because Satyavati has another son, the very author of this story, and he can step in from time to time to set things right.  In this case, he gives us the three brothers, blind, pale & bastard!
Please visit my site - http://www.mahabharatapodcast.com/, and leave comments, I'm interested to hear your feedback!


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Episode 5 - Shantanu & Sons

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Wed, Aug 10, 2011


Episode 5 - I briefly give my opinion of the previous episode on Shakuntala and Dushanta, and then get going with the birth of mighty Bhisma and his two not-so-mighty brothers. 

This is an important episode, because in many ways, it is Bhisma's over-reaction to his father's desires that ultimately sets the whole tragedy in motion.


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Episode 4 - Shakuntala and King Bharata

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 4 - The episodes are getting a little longer now, as the stories get more detailed.  Before the book gets to the "direct line" of characters, it takes a bit of a detour to introduce some of the important ancestors in the Bharata Dynasty.  These include Bharata himself, plus his ancestor Yayati (and his son Puru), as well as Bharata's descendent Kuru.  The sketches are in fact quite brief, and the lengthy portions are generally about very specific aspects of their lives.  In the case of Bharata, we'll hear a lot of information about his conception and the questions of his legitimacy, and that's about all. 
As for Kuru, we only hear that he recovered the throne of Hastinapur sometime after his father lost it to the King of Panchala.  The story of Yayati and his sons is much longer, but it is also quite odd.  I'm going to save it for later because it also bears on the descent of Krishna, plus I'm anxious to get going with the main story!
So for this time, it's the story of Bharata, his mother Shakuntala, and his jerk of a father, King Dushanta...


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Episode 3 - A Fishy Beginning

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 3 - Vaisampayan begins telling the Mahabharata, beginning by telling us that Vyasa spent three years daily working on the poem. Following that, we hear about the Fishy-Fragrant Satyavati and Vyasa's birth.


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Episode 2 - The Origins

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 2 -The story begins. In this episode I describe how the Mahabharata begins, with the storyteller Ugrasravas telling the hermits in the forest about the great Snake Sacrifice of King Janamejaya, and how Vyasa's composition was told during the festivities.


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Episode 1 - Introduction to the Podcast

mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net (Lawrence Manzo)Author: Lawrence Manzo
Sun, Oct 24, 2010


Episode 1 - I'm excited to announce that the first episode of my podcast about the Mahabharata is now available. There are more episodes to come shortly. This one is just a brief introduction to let you know what this project is all about.

There are a lot of different interpretations of the Mahabharata out there, and they are all so different from each other, because the original writing is often so obtuse that it is very hard to get past. But buried beneath all the archaic language and reptition is a really fascinating story. My problem with the abridgements and adaptations out there is that they all without exception change the facts of the story, and skip a lot of the detail that I think gives one a real feeling for the authors' original intent. I will try to remedy this as best I can in this podcast. Finally, I really appreciate all those great podcasts out there that help me to while away the boring moments of my life, and I hope this offering is a way of giving back.  I hope you enjoy it!


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More Details

  • Published: February 2010
  • LearnOutLoud.com Product ID: M034538