In the context of the mixed perception among scholars whether the Mahabharat
is a pacifist or a militant text, this paper analyzes the rhetorical project of the epic to examine its position on violence. Highlighting the existence of two main arguments in the Mahabharat
, this paper argues that the author has crafted a grand rhetorical project to question the dominant war ideology of the time that Krishna presents as the divine necessity. Historically, the emergence of Krishna—one of the major characters of the epic—as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu in Hindu tradition and the extraction and elevation of the Bhagavad Gita
from the epic as an independent text have undermined the complexity of Vyas’ rhetoric. This paper places Krishna’s argument within the broad rhetorical scheme of the epic and demonstrates how Vyas has represented Krishna’s rhetoric of ‘just war’ only to illustrate its pitfalls. By directing his narrative lens to the devastating consequences of the war in the later parts of the epic, Vyas problematizes Krishna’s insistence on the need to suppress human emotions to attain a higher cognitive and ontological condition. What emerges is the difference between how Vyas and Krishna view the status of feeling: the scientist Krishna thinks that human emotions and individual lives are trivial, incidental instances in the cosmic game—something not worthy of a warrior’s concern; Vyas’ rhetoric, this paper argues, restores the significance of ordinary human emotions. It is a war—not human life and feeling—that arises as a futile enterprise in Vyas’ rhetoric.
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