What is a summary of R.K. Narayan's Mahabharata?

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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It is important to note that Narayan wrote a modern prose version of the actual Mahabharata here.  It is not the actual cultural and religious text in Hindu history.  The main story, however, is the same.  Although this novel has many subplots, there is a main thread that runs through the book:  the generational struggle in India for the Throne of Hastinapura, which is the area directly under Kuru clan rule. 

In Narayan's version (and in the original), there are two families that continually struggle for the Throne of Hastinapura: the Pandava family and the Kaurava family.  One of the issues is that the latter is actually considered the dominant family branch while the former is considered submissive; however, the oldest member of the Kaurava branch is younger than the oldest member of the Pandava branch.  Therefore those two people (Duryodhana of the Kaurava family and Yudhisthira of the Kaurava family) both claim birthright to the Throne of Hastinapura. 

The climax of the modern version of the Mahabharata is the battle of Kurukshetra.  Who wins?  The Pandava family.  Therefore the Kaurava family becomes the dominant branch due to the result of this great battle.  During the battle itself, this eNotes educator is always reminded of the issues of the American Civl War (and especially in this modern prose version by Narayan).  Here we can find brother against brother, loyalty against morality, and family against friends. 

In conclusion (and the conclusion to the book), it is important to note a significant death at the end: the death of Krishna.  Again, it is in modern prose form and not the actual, anonymously written Mahabharata.  This is the end of his family rule and the Pandava brothers' entrance to heaven.  This begins the Kali Yuga Age of man.  (This is supposed to be the very last age of humanity where morality and nobility are history.)