Shashi Tharoor’s The Great Indian Novel (1989) is an astonishing title derived from the ancient epic The Mahabharata. In Sanskrit, ‘Maha’ means ‘great’ and ‘Bharata’ means ‘India’. The Great Indian Novel is modern English Prose novel Whereas Ved Vyasa’s Mahabharata is an epic poem in Sanskrit. Tharoor reinvents India with a dazzling marriage of Hindu myth and modern history, which is clear at every step and in every moment of the novel. The writer presents an apt correlation of ancient Hastinapur and the pre-independent India. In order to build up the gap between the old and the new, Ved Vyas’s Mahabharata to some extent is shown with reference to the autobiographies of Rajaji, Nirad C. Choudari and Gandhiji. Tharoor’s Ganapathi is a Southern Indian like Bhishma is correlated to Mahatma Gandhi. Ghandhari of Mahabharata is blind-folded whereas Kamala is invalid. Dhritarashtra, is India’s first Prime Minister, Nehru; while the chaste Kaurava pater familias Bhishma, generally referred to Gangaji, is Gandhi. But rather than a hundred sons, Tharoor’s Dhritarashtra fathers a single daughter, Priya Duryodhani -the oldest Kaurava in the Mahabharata is called Duryodhana-, hailed as the future ruler of all India: an obvious reference to Indira Gandhi. Shishupal is correlated to Lal Bahdur sastry. Draupadi, who represents the “body politic”, or Indian democracy and wilts visibly with the imposition of Duryodhani’s “siege” -a reference to Indira Gandhi’s State of Emergency from 1975 to 1977. Yudhistir is correlated to Morarji Desai. In his novel, Jarasandha may be taken as a personification of East and West Karnistans, which are both inhabited by Muslims but are totally separated by the Indian army with Bhim as a soldier, Arjun as a spy and Krishna as the thinker. Ekalavya is correlated to V.V.Giri. Jaya prakash Drona is correlated to Jayaprakash Narayana. Karna, Kunti Devi’s child by the sun, becomes Muhammad Ali Jinnah, first president of Pakistan, etc. There are, however, countless other literary allusions, such as those to Paul Scott’s novels of the Raj.
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