The ancient Indian Sanskrit tradition produced text more intriguing, or more persistently misunderstood or underappreciated, than the Mahabharata. Its intricacies have waylaid generations of scholars and ignited dozens of unresolved debates. In this text, Alf Hiltebeitel offers a unique model for understanding the great epic. Employing a range of literary and narrative theories, he draws on historical and comparative research in an attempt to discern the spirit and techniques behind the epic's composition. The author focuses on the education of Yudhisthira, also kwn as the Dharma King, and shows how the relationship of this figure to others - especially his author-grandfather Vyasa and his wife Draupadi - provides a thread through the bewildering array of frames and stories embedded within stories. Hiltebeital also offers a revisionist theory regarding the dating and production of the original text and its relation to the Veda.
Alf Hiltebeitel is a professor of religion and director of the Human Sciences Program at The George Washington University. He is the author or editor of numerous books including the two-volume Cult of Draupadi and Rethinking India's Oral and Classical Epics, both published by the University of Chicago Press.