WEEKEND SHOPS: SAST 368 / RLST 186: The Mahabharata / Hugh Flick

The Mahabharata

Q. You teach a class called “The Mahabharata.” But what is that?

A. The Mahabharata is one of the major heroic epic poems of India. It’s the world’s longest epic poem, and has 1,000,000 two-line verses.

Q. The Mahabharata is often separated from other epics since its time, and not just for the length of the poem. What makes this course, and the readings, so distinct from other literature courses taught at Yale?

A. The course does not merely analyze a text, [because] the Mahabharata, in its subtexts, deals with many different life issues. Even though it was composed more than 2500 years ago by Indians, it’s especially relevant because it contains the “Bhagavad Gita” within it, which is the Hindu counterpart of the Bible.

Q. What’s the importance of the Mahabharata, especially to students at Yale?

A. Studying the Mahabharata raises existential questions: how can you live a life that is worthwhile? [Students] can learn a lot about themselves in this process of studying the epic.

Q. What’s the best part about teaching this class?

A. The class is a seminar. With its small scale, the best part about it is the discussion section with the students. Yale students always raise questions and express insights that I hadn’t previously considered. As I teach different students in the course every year, I find myself learning new and interesting things myself.

Q. How did you, as an American, get into the Mahabharata?

A. We read parts of the Mahabharata when I was learning Sanskrit and then realized just how powerful the text is. And thus, the class!

Comments