Perspectivism and The Mahabharat

Perspectivism is the term coined by Friedrich Nietzsche in developing the philosophical view (touched upon as far back as Plato’s rendition of Protagoras) that all ideations take place from particular perspectives. This means that there are many possible conceptual schemes, or perspectives in which judgment of truth or value can be made. This is often taken to imply that no way of seeing the world can be taken as definitively “true”, but does not necessarily entail that all perspectives are equally valid.

Today we take a look at a few scenes from the Indian epic “The Mahabharat” and try to analyse the multi perspectives that various characters would have had to the same situation.

Scene 1: The archery contest

(Kripacharya) Sutputra no compete with prince.

(Kripacharya) Sutputra no compete with prince.


images (1)

(Karna) Y u no lemme?

images (2)

(Kunti) My son.

Scene 2: Draupadi’s Svayamvar

images (3)

(Draupadi) No sutputra be allowed.

images (4)

(Karna) Why me again?



(Arjuna) Bring it on!

Scene 3: Draupadi’s marriage to the five Pandavas


images(Kunti) Divide whatever you got.

images (3)(Draupadi) Wait, what you saying’?


images (5) (Arjuna) Mother? Okay.



Scene 4: Draupadi’s humilitation at the Hastina court

images (6)(Karna) Paybback. Eh?


images (1) (Bhishma) What do we do?

images (7)(Draupadi) Die, you beasts.

Scene 5: The 18 day war

download(Lord Krishna)

images (8)

(Pandavas, Kauravas) No, Lord.

images (8)



While the plot is linear in so far as it follows the original story line, the change of perspective posits very different views on each scene, partially changing the ‘value of truth’. Each character, in accordance with his beliefs and values, seeks to be justified in his acts and omissions.

In scene 1, while from Kripacharya’s perspective, insulting a sutputra is not as big an issue so far as his standing is concerned, for that sutputra, it becomes a huge question of existence. For Kunti, pain of separation overshadows all questions of honour.

In scene 2, while it is an opportunity to gain support and power for Arjun, all other considerations becoming irrelevant, for Karna, it is again a question of salvaging the hurt honour and pride. For Draupadi, the biggest question is the achievement of an objective and while Karna’s presence and subsequent humiliation holds a relatively important consideration, the two characters’ motives are completely irrelevant to her own context.

In scene 3, while all characters are agreed on the unjust nature of the situation, the act on part of Kunti and the omissions on part of other characters have very different motives and contexts. For Kunti, the preservation of the unity of the sons, for Draupadi, a question of conduct, and for the Pandavas, an order to be followed.

In scene 4, while on the one hand, the excitement and insanity raging in the court plays background to the heinous acts of perpetrators, the cold evaluation of Bhishma with respect to his principles of right and wrong explains his omission and the first person account of humiliation goes on to justify Draupadi’s harsh verbal retaliation.

Scene 5 presents a radical example where on the one hand, the impersonal take of a neutral God justifies the war in the bigger picture, the generally radically opposed perspectives of Kauravas and Pandavas tend to circle around similar values.

-Shivani Chauhan
(Edited by Shruti Slaria)


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