Best English translation of the Mahabharata?
November 12, 2010 11:52 AM   Subscribe

Please tell me, what is the best English translation of the Mahabharata? I'm not particularly concerned that it be a verse translation. I would prefer something that's available in electronic form (for reading on my Nook). Something that's public domain, and therefore available on Google books, even better. But these are preferences, not hard requirements. I'm more concerned with reliability of the translation.

Also: are there other pieces of Indian literature, or (alternatively) secondary sources, that I should read prior to approaching the Mahabharata? Anything that would provide a good grounding in the cultural assumptions at work in the text? You may safely assume that I'm completely ignorant on questions of ancient Indian history, Hinduism, or epic verse in general.
posted by Ipsifendus to Writing & Language (5 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I have not read it in full, but I found the Amar Chitra Katha series helpful in understanding the storyline and would highly recommend that as a precursor to your reading the original work.

Download for iPhone from cnet

Related Titles: The Gita, Krishna, Dashavatar, Tales of Arjuna, Bheeshma, Drona, Abhimanyu, Karna
posted by The Lady is a designer at 12:17 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I like the R. K. Narayan version, but it is an abridged version (a good introduction, nevertheless).
posted by prenominal at 2:05 PM on November 12, 2010

Here's a brief, informal, but scholarly assessment of this question. See also. BTW, the Mahabharata is huuuuuuge. The Ramayana (different, more straightforward Hindu epic) or the Bhagavad Gita (key excerpt from the Mahabharata) are much more approachable for absolute beginners. I second the recommendation of the Amar Chitra Katha comic books as well.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:20 PM on November 12, 2010

There are Amar Chitra Katha downloads for iphone???!

When I took a "World Scripture as Literature" course, we focused more on the Ramayana than the Mahabharata. I'm not sure whether it's because it's "more accessible", or because it fit into our syllabus better. But as someone who's dabbled in Indian literature, I'd say the Ramayana is probably a good place to start.
posted by Sara C. at 5:58 PM on November 12, 2010

Best answer: If you want something readable and enjoyable and understandable, but drastically re-written/ shortened, the William Buck translations are good. They are what were assigned to me in my intro class on Hinduism with Diana Eck.

There are more comprehensive translations covering several large volumes. If that's what you're after, let me know and I'll dig up the reference.
posted by tavegyl at 2:23 AM on November 13, 2010

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