Epic Indian poem about royal dynasty to be dramatised in St Albans

Mahabharata reading

Mahabharata reading - Credit: Archant

Key passages from a new version of an epic Indian poem are being performed in St Albans next Friday, November 20.

The world’s longest epic poem, The Mahabharata offers a gateway to the rich culture and history of India and for many scholars it is as important as the Bible, Shakespeare or Homer in the development of civilisation.

The new version is the work of Carole Satayamurti and has won the prestigious Roehampton Prize for the Poetry Book of the Year. It will be dramatised by the Ver Poets next Friday using three voices, one of which is distinguished local poet John Mole.

Composed around 2,000 years ago, the poem tells the story of a royal dynasty, descended from the gods, whose feud over their kingdom leads to a terrible war.

It contains much more than conflict. An epic masterpiece of huge sweep and power, it is “a hundred times more interesting than the Iliad and the Odyssey,” according to the American scholar Wendy Doniger.

The other major theme is the tension between predestination and free will, illustrated by the crucial dice game when a king is powerless to prevent himself from gambling away everything – his kingdom, his five brothers and finally their wife.

Carole Satyamurti said: ”I decided to re-tell the Mahabharata because it is one of the world’s great neglected masterpieces – and because none of the existing versions seem to do it justice.”

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The dramatisation is being held from 8pm at St Michael’s Church Hall in St Albans and admission is £4 including refreshments.