Preface to the Mahabharata: C. Rajagopalachari - A Complete Study

About the author of Preface to the Mahabharata

The full name of C. Rajagopalachari is Chakravarti Rajagopalachari. He is popularly known as 'Rajaji' or 'CR'. He was a great patriot, a great politician and a great thinker. It is he who has left an indelible impression on Indian political horizon. He served the nation selflessly. He served the nation as the Chief Minister of Madras, Governor of Bengal, Home Minister and the first Indian Governor General of India. C. Rajagopalachari was the founder of Swatantra Party. He was the first recipient of the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award of India. He was an accomplished writer. He wrote in his mother tongue Tamil and English both. His books on the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads are very popular. His retelling of the Mahabharata is appreciated in the entire world. His writing gets appreciation for originality and simplicity. This great soul was born in 1878. He left this world in 1972.



Preface to the Mahabharata: C. Rajagopalachari (Text)

It is not an exaggeration to say that the persons and incidents portrayed in the great literature of a people influence national character no less potently than the actual heroes and events enshrined in its history. It may be claimed that the former play an even more important part in the formation of ideals, which give to character its impulse of growth.

In the moving history of our land, from time immemorial great minds have been formed and nourished and touched to heroic deeds by the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. In most Indian homes, children formerly learnt these immortal stories as they learnt their mother tongue at the mother's knee. And the sweetness and sorrows of Sita and Draupadi, the heroic fortitude of Rama and Arjuna and the loving fidelity of Lakshmana and Hanuman became the stuff of their young philosophy of life.

The growing complexity of life has changed the simple pattern of early home life. Still, there are few in our lands who do not know the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Though the stories come to them so embroidered with the garish fancies of the Kalakshepam (devotional meeting where an expert scholar and singer tells a story to his audience) and the cinema as to retain but little of the dignity and approach to truth of Vyasa or Valmiki. Vyasa's Mahabharata is one of our noblest heritages. And it is my cherished belief that to hear it faithfully told is to love it and come under its elevating influence. It strengthens the soul and drives home, as nothing else does, the vanity of ambition and the evil and futility of anger and hatred.

The realities of life are idealised by genius and given the form that makes drama, poetry or great prose. Since literature is closely related to life, so long as the human family is divided into nations, literature cannot escape the effects of such division.

But the highest literature transcends regionalism and through it, when we are properly attuned, we realise the essential oneness of the human family. The Mahabharata is of this class. It belongs to the world and not only to India. To the people of India, indeed, this epic has been an unfailing and perennial source of spiritual strength. Learnt at the mother's knee with reverence and love, it has inspired great men to heroic deeds as well as enabled the humble to face their trials with fortitude and faith.

The Mahabharata was composed many thousand years ago. But generations of gifted reciters have added to Vyasa's original a great mass of material. All the floating literature that was thought to be worth preserving, historical, geographical, legendary, political, theological and philosophical, of nearly thirty centuries, found a place in it.

In those days, when there was no printing, interpolation in a recognised classic seemed to correspond to inclusion in the national library. Divested of these accretions, the Mahabharata is a noble poem possessing in a supreme degree the characteristics of a true epic, great and fateful movement, heroic characters and stately diction.

The characters in the epic move with the vitality of real life. It is difficult to find anywhere such vivid portraiture on so ample a canvas. Bhishma, the perfect knight; the venerable Drona; the vain but chivalrous Karna; Duryodhana, whose perverse pride is redeemed by great courage in adversity; the high souled Pandavas with godlike strength as well as power of suffering; Draupadi, most unfortunate of queens; Kunti, the worthy mother of heroes; Gandhari, the devoted wife and sad mother of the wicked sons of Dhritarashtra, these are some of the immortal figures on that crowded, but never confused, canvas.

Then there is great Krishna himself, most energetic of men, whose divinity scintillates through a cloud of very human characteristics. His high purposefulness pervades the whole epic. One can read even a translation and feel the over whelming power of the incomparable vastness and sublimity of the poem.

The Mahabharata discloses a rich civilisation and a highly evolved society, which though of an older world, strangely resembles the India of our own time, with the same values and ideals. When India was divided into a number of independent kingdoms, occasionally, one king, more distinguished or ambitious than the rest, would assume the title of emperor, securing the acquiescence of other royalties, and signalised it by a great sacrificial feast. The adherence was generally voluntary. The assumption of imperial title conferred no over lordship. The emperor was only first among his peers.

The art of war was highly developed and military prowess and skill were held in high esteem. We read in the Mahabharata of standardised phalanxes and of various tactical movements. There was an accepted code of honorable warfare, deviations from which met with reproof among Kshatriyas. The advent of the Kali age is marked by many breaches of these conventions in the Kurukshetra battle, on account of the bitterness of conflict, frustration and bereavements. Some of the most impressive passages in the epic center round these breaches of dharma. The population lived in cities and villages. The cities were the headquarters of kings and their household and staff. There were beautiful palaces and gardens and the lives led were cultured and luxurious. There was trade in the cities, but the mass of the people were agriculturists.

Besides this urban and rural life, there was a very highly cultured life in the seclusion of forest recesses, centered round ascetic teachers. These ashramas kept alive the bright fires of learning and spiritual thought. Young men of noble birth eagerly sought education at these ashramas. World-weary aged went there for peace. These centers of culture were cherished by the rulers of the land and not the proudest of them would dare to treat the members of the hermitages otherwise than with respect and consideration.

Women were highly honored and entered largely in the lives of their husbands and sons. The caste system prevailed, but intercaste marriages were not unknown.

Some of the greatest warriors in the Mahabharata were brahmanas. The Mahabharata has moulded the character and civilization of one of the most numerous of the world's people.

How did it fulfill, how is it still continuing to fulfill, this function? By its gospel of dharma which like a golden thread runs through all the complex movements in the epic by its lesson that hatred breeds hatred, that covetousness and violence lead inevitably to ruin, that the only real conquest is in the battle against one's lower nature.
Source: English Language and Indian Culture, Madhya Pradesh Hindi Granth Academy Bhopal.

I. Summary of Preface to the Mahabharata

Preface to the Mahabharata is a beautiful prose composition by C. Rajagopalachari. Here the author highlights the importance of the Mahabharata in man's life. According to him Vyasa's Mahabharata is one of our noblest heritages. Its story strengthens our soul. This story shows the futility of high ambition and it underlines the evil of anger and hatred. The characters of this epic move with the vitality of real life. This epic presents a rich civilization and a highly evolved society. According to the author in the Mahabharata the art of war was highly evolved. He says that in the Mahabharata there  was an accepted code of warfare. In short, the Mahabharata teaches us that hatred breeds hatred. The covetousness and violence lead inevitably to ruin.

II. Objective Type Questions:

1. The Mahabharata by C. Rajagopalachari is a retelling of:
a. The Ramayana
b. The Ramcharitmanas
c. The Mahabharata
d. The Gita
Ans: c. The Mahabharata
2. The full name of C. Rajagopalachari is:
a. Chief Rajagopalachari
b. Charles Rajagopalachari
c. Chakravarti Rajagopalachari
d. None
Ans: c. Chakravarti Rajagopalachari
3. C. Rajagopalachari is popularly known as:
a. Mahatma
b. Netaji
c. Guruji
d. Rajaji
Ans: d. Rajaji 
4. The first Indian Governor General of India was:
a. C. Rajagopalachari
b. J.L. Nehru
c. M.K. Gandhi
d. Rajendra Prasad.
Ans: a. C. Rajagopalachari
5. C. Rajagopalachari was the founder of:
a. Congress Party
b. National Party
C. Swatantra Party
d. Revolutionary Party
Ans: C. Swatantra Party
6. The first recipient of the Bharat Ratna was:
a. C. Rajagopalachari
b. J.L. Nehru
c. M.K. Gandhi
d. Rajendra Prasad.
Ans: a. C. Rajagopalachari
7. When was C. Rajagopalachari born in:
a. 1876
b. 1877
c. 1878
d. 1879
Ans: c. 1878
8. C. Rajagopalachari left this world in:
a. 1970
b. 1971
c. 1972
d. 1973
Ans: c. 1972 
9. C. Rajagopalachari is popular for:
a. His retelling of the Mahabharata
b. His retelling of the Kamayani
c. His retelling of the Ramcharitmanas
d. His retelling of Panchatantra.
Ans: a. His retelling of the Mahabharata
10. Who is the author of the Mahabharata:
a. Kalidasa
b. Tulsidas
c. Vyasa
d. Valmiki
Ans: c. Vyasa
11. Kunti was the mother of:
a. Bhishma
b. Drona
c. Duryodhana
d. Arjuna
Ans: d. Arjuna
12. Gandhari was the devoted wife of:
a. Bhishma
b. Drona
c. Pandu
d. Dhritarashtra
Ans: d. Dhritarashtra
13. Duryodhana is the son of:
a. Draupadi
b. Kunti
c. Gandhari
d. None
Ans: c. Gandhari

III. Short Answer Type Questions:

Q1. Who is the author of Preface to the Mahabharata?
Ans: C. Rajagopalachari is the author of preface to the Mahabharata.
Q2. What is Rajagopalachari's Mahabharata?
Ans: Rajagopalachari's Mahabharata is the retelling of Vyasa's Mahabharata.
Q3. What is the full name of C. Rajagopalachari?
Ans: The full name of C. Rajagopalachari is Chakravarti Rajagopalachari.
Q4. Who is popularly known as 'Rajaji?
Ans: C. Rajagopalachari is popularly known as 'Rajaji'.
Q5. Who is popularly known as 'CR'?
Ans: C. Rajagopalachari is popularly known as 'CR'.
Q6. Who was the first Indian Governor General of India?
Ans: C. Rajagopalachari was the first Indian Governor General of India.
Q7. Who was the founder of Swatantra Party?
Ans: C. Rajagopalachari was the founder of Swatantra Party.
Q8. Who was the first recipient of the Bharat Ratna?
Ans: C. Rajagopalachari was the first recipient of the Bharat Ratna.
Q9. When was C. Rajagopalachari born?
Ans: C. Rajagopalachari was born in 1878.
Q10. When did C. Rajagopalachari die?
Ans: C. Rajagopalachari died in 1972.
Q11. What role do literary characters play in the making of a nation?
Ans: The literary characters play a very significant role in the making of a nation.
Q12. What do children learn from such characters as Sita and Draupadi, Rama and Arjuna, Lakshman and Hanuman?
Ans: Children learn the lessons of sweetness and sorrow from Sita and Draupadi, the heroic fortitude from Rama and Arjuna and the loving fidelity from Lakshmana and Hanuman. 
Q13. In what way does the modern narration differ from the original epics of Valmiki and Vyasa?
Ans: The modern narration differs from the original epics of Valmiki and Vyasa in dignity and  approach to truth.
Q14. What elements have been added to the Mahabharata during the past thirty centuries?
Ans: Literary, historical, geographical, legendary, political, theological and philosophical elements have been added to the Mahabharata during the past thirty centuries. 
Q15. What do Bhishma and Kunti (or Drona and Karna) represent?
Ans: Bhishma represents the perfect knighthood; Kunti represents the worthy motherhood; Drona represents venerableness and Karna, chivalrousness.
Q16. What is Krishna's place in the Mahabharata?
Ans: Krishna place in the Mahabharata is pivotal.
Q17. In the age of Mahabharata did India have an emperor?
Ans: Yes, in the age of Mahabharata India had an emperor. 
Q18. On what code was a war fought in the period of the Mahabharata?
Ans: In the period of the Mahabharata a war was fought with an accepted code of honorable warfare.
Q19. Why were ashramas established in forests?
Ans: Ashramas were established in forest so that knowledge could be imparted peacefully.
Q20. What was the role of ashramas then?
Ans:The role of ashramas then was to produce young men with knowledge and morality.
Q21. How did the Mahabharata mould the character and civilization of India?
Ans: The Mahabharata moulded the character and civilization of India by imparting the lesson that hatred breeds hatred. The covetousness and violence lead inevitably to ruin.
Q22. Where was the battle of Mahabharata fought?
Ans: The battle of Mahabharata was fought in Kurukshetra.
Sandal S Anshu, Satna


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