In Raja Yudhi??hira, Kevin McGrath brings his literary, ethnographic, and analytical knowledge of the Mahabharata to bear on the representation of kingship in the epic. He shows how the Mahabharata depicts both archaic and classical models of kingly and premonetary polity and how the king becomes a ruler who is seen as ritually divine. McGrath then addresses the idea of heroic religion in antiquity and the present, for bronze-age heroes still receive great devotional worship in modern India and communities continue to clash at the sites that have been—for millennia—associated with these epic figures.
One of the most important contributions of Raja Yudhi??hira is the revelation that neither of the contesting side of the royal Hastinapura clan triumphs in the end, for it is the Yadava band of K???a that achieves real victory. That is, it is the matriline and not the patriline that secures ultimate success: it is the kinship group of K???a—the heroic figure who was to become the dominant Vai??ava icon of classical India—who benefits most from the terrible Bharata war.
This book will appeal to scholars in the field of Mahabharata Studies as well as to students of early Hinduism and of late bronze-age cultural and political tradition. It will also be of interest to scholars of early Indian history, kinship, religious studies, and poetry.
Kevin McGrath is an Associate of the Department of South Asian Studies, Harvard University.
Foreword by Gregory Nagy
1. The Beginnings
3. Ideals of Kingship
4. The End
Appendix on Epic Time
Appendix on Epic Preliteracy