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Yuganta: The End of an Epoch
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Yuganta: The End of an Epoch

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  876 ratings  ·  96 reviews
Yuganta studies the principal, mythical-heroic figures of the Mahabharata from historical, anthropological and secular perspectives. The usually venerated characters of this ancient Indian epic are here subjected to a rational enquiry that places them in context, unravels their hopes and fears, and imbues them with wholly human motives, thereby making their stories relevan ...more
Paperback, 217 pages
Published 2008 by Disha Books (first published 1967)
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Riku Sayuj
Irawati Karve strips the great epic of its embellishments and additions to lay out before us this stark, thought-provoking. character study. This picture forces us to expand our views on the epic and the people tossed about in it. Full review to follow.

Edit: Irawati Karve deserves much less credit than I initially attributed to her. Most of the radical ideas were in play in Randamoozham and MT does not even try to sensationalize them as Karve later did.
Dec 06, 2011 PSmith rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all who are interested in ancient Indian culture
Recommended to PSmith by: Manasi Vaidya via group read suggestion
this was a 'fantabulous' book. I had not even heard of this before being recommended for our Group Read by a fellow member. I am glad to have read it. To my understanding this book is a critical analysis of the characters of the great Indian epic, 'Mahabharata' the true events of which were said to have taken place around 1000 BC. I had read Mahabharata as a child, the abridged version, as well as many stories from it detailed in various other books. I had also imbibed the great Hindu puranas an ...more
What a brilliant work of analysis. Irawati Karve studies the key characters of the Mahabharata, strips them of their mythical powers and presents them as ordinary humans struggling and grappling with issues that are as alive today as they were 3000 years back. Pick of the lot for me was be the essay on Bhishma! Spellbinding.
Akash Nair
Once in a while you read a book you will cherish all your life. This is such a book. It took me a paltry 3 days to read it but the things I have learnt from it will stay with me forever.
The book is a critical analysis of the characters of Jaya(Mahabharatha). All characters are dealt as humans and all divine references are avoided. There are many points in the book which can be contested and debated.
The author highlights the differences between the literary style of Mahabharatha and Ramayana. She
Apoorva Sripathi
Every little flaw of every character in The Mahabharatha is pointed out and I haven't come across such a brilliant piece of work in this genre before. If you're a fan of Indian myth (esp. The Mahabharatha) then I suggest you go for this after you read the epic.
Irawati Karve (antropologa, pedagogista e scrittrice indiana) ci offre un'interpretazione molto interessante del Mahabharata.
I personaggi vengono spogliati della loro divinità e vengono analizzati nella loro umanità mettendo a nudo le emozioni e i sentimenti terreni: rabbia, sete di vendetta, invidia, passione, amore.
Irawati Karve mette a confronto anche le varie edizioni del Mahabharata evidenziando le incongruenze e le parti che sono state aggiunte successivamente sicuramente per mano dei brah
after hearing about Irawati Karve endlessly, everyday in college from my Sociology professors and even my English Literature profs, i decided to hunt for this 'classic'...

i stumbled upon it at my favorite store where i'd rather go than DisneyWorld, Crossword. i began reading an hour after i bought it, however, it took me a while to finish the enormously rewarding task it was.

Mahabharata has always been a fascinating piece of work for me with so many characters wherein each of them have a unique
That Mahabharata is a wonderful work of literature needs no mention and Irawati Karve made reading Mahabharata an out-of-the-world experience. There is so much to Mahabharata than the magic and occult we know of. My only knowledge of Mahabharata was from the television soap that aired in Doordarshan decades ago and then the only attraction was the phantasmagorical scenes of weapons being suspended in mid-air emanating bright rays, of demons raiding jungles, of the macho Bhima and his mighty blow ...more
Girish Malkarnenkar
This is definitely one of the best analysis of the Mahabharata or rather of the major characters from the Mahabharata that I have read. The book is written in the form of various long essays most of which are critiques of different characters such as Gandhari, Kunti, Draupadi, Karna and Krishna while a few dwell on relationships such as the ones between Yudhistira & Vidura or Ashwhathama & Drona.

The original book is written in Marathi, of which I read a translated and revised English ve
Suman Srivastava
Loved the book. I am surprised that it isn't better known. Irawati Karve brings to life (as opposed to caricature) the characters of the Mahabharata and relates their actions to social mores of that period. This is a must read for everyone who is interested in the epics and in Indian cultural history. Good thing that she wrote this in the 1960s. Not sure the Hindutva brigade would have allowed this to be published in today's era.
Arun Divakar
Note : This is an insanely long review which I did not think much of until I finished and posted. So consider yourself warned !

A short while ago, five of us undertook a road trip which was roughly over 3000 KM in all. As road trips go, it was truly one of the most memorable trips that we had undertaken. Since there was also a lot of driving involved at night, we resorted to telling stories to keep each other awake. Being an incorrigible Mahabharata lover, I chose to tell them in detail of the
She wields the pen like a scimitar and her mind like a microscope.

As she dissects various personas of Mahabharata, she is brutal, incisive and decisive.
Usually, many scholars leave alone Krishna, for fear of a (?religious/fanatic) backlash. But not Irawati. She finds him 'Ambitious' , even a little cold-blooded.' But she sums him up aptly as, 'He did not merely speak the Gita; he lived it.'
Her unemotional perspectives on Bhishma, Gandhari ,Kunti and Karna are equally original and path-breaking.
i have always been fascinated by the history or religion - how we came to believe in what we believe today, and how our myths and folklore have been created.

i am also a rationalist, who looks to find the kernel of truth which has grown into the mythic belief. So my interest was obviously aroused when i heard of this book which critically analyses the main characters of Mahabharata, and actually dares to say Krishna was a mere mortal! i was hoping that the book will give me a different point of v
A series of essays on a demythologised Mahabharata was a frustrating mixture of omg I finally got it moments intersected with annoyances at the fragmented structure of the book and the occasionally abstruse writing. I really wish I could read it in the original as I suspect the translation hasn't done justice to the authors voice. Despite this I had to read the book from end to end..a knowledge of the mahabharata is assumed, so be prepared to flick back and forth to check on who's who. The autho ...more
Shweta Ganesh Kumar
Written by Irawati Karve, India's first woman anthropologist, this Sahitya Academy Award winning book is an attempt to peel of the multiple layers of the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata.
Yuganta is an effort to delve under the interpolations that have become part of the structure over the years and to get to the actual crux of the story that it was.
And this is the "Eternally human' vivid depiction of the life and ethos of a whole era and class."

It is also an attempt to bring closure to many e
Tanupriya Mukherjee
Unputdownable. A must read for all. The thorough character dissection of the five protagonist of Mahabharata & a way of vedic life, as portrayed by Karve is one of its kind.
Kalpana Behara
Such a practical logical take on Mahabharata. This book is for keeps and I anticipate reading it multiple times.
Saurabh Sharma
Dec 15, 2011 Saurabh Sharma rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of History, Mythology, Fiction, Epic
Recommended to Saurabh by: Goodreads
Yuganta is a really well written book by Irawati Karve. It is an analysis of the various elements from the epic Mahabharata. The book is an attempt at understanding the Mahabharata in its true sense, as an historical event, distanced from the divine and magical elements that became a part of the epic over the centuries. The writer focuses on the major characters such as Bhishma, Kunti, Gandhari, Karna, Krishna etc. and tries to unravel the motives and the intentions behind their acts. She looks ...more
Swatie Chawla
a detailed, neat, well carved and comprehensive illustration on draupadi! be it draupadi's longing for arjuna; the nubile bride's mind play on repressive questions; or her ultimate ability to see love in Bhima... irawati karwe sketches each of her characters with utmost sincerity. such is her writing that she throws these volley of questions that boggle the mind. unknowingly, the reader is carving their own version of the characters. her questions have a theme. Figure this: so this happened (the ...more
Komal Mehta
I picked this book up as small, easy, light read, to revive the little Indian mythology, I know through the TV episodes of Mahabharata. I was also longing to find out how can someone epitomise a cult of hundreds of page into a small book.

The hand picked characters are intrigued thoroghly in the light of modern, scientific thinking, not expecting them to be any magical characters. For example, calculation of Bhisham's age, at the time of the great war is unmatched. But I still missed the portrait
Pushpam Singh
This is yet another commentary on the greatest epic written ever "The Mahabharata". But this book is slightly different from books I have read so far. Here the author has critically examined the characters in the story and has written down a detailed commentary on them. it includes their actions and their behaviour. The book examines Yudhisthir, Arjun, Karna, Gandhari, Krishna.
It tries to bring the story to the level of reality and makes us believe that the people in the story were real humans

This a series of essays on most of the main characters in the epic of Mahabharata. Focussing on the social, political and gender aspects of the story, the author shows her acumen in highlighting aspects of the story that aren't so easily revealed.

She brings a strong feministic viewpoint to the many female characters of the epic and rightly so perhaps gives a voice to their troubles. She highlights the several deficiencies of the male characters and heroes and perhaps give a strong critical asp
One of the best critic of the Mahabharata. The same story with totally different philosophy. Book contains very bold remarks and conclusions on the events depicted in the Mahabharata but the evidence and calculations done by an author are remarkable which makes us think about those facts with more scrutiny. Research done by an author is impressive. On other side, author has considered only few events and characters for the conclusions. May be those are not that important but I think it could hav ...more

(a) the mythical characters of the epic Mahabharata and how human they really were.

(b) the various Indian literatures (comparative analysis with the Ramayana)


Language: Simple, with explanatory parentheses and footnotes

Style: Analytical


The writer presents a compendium of essays she has written on the characters in the Mahabharata. The preface reads: “There is only one purpose behind speech or writing- to communicate to others something one feels strongly. This is an irrepre
The book analyses the characters from Mahabharata, one of the most engaging story of all times.

What makes the book an excellent read is how the author strips the characters of their imposed divinity and looks at them in their human avatar :-) Humans, who have their fair share of virtues and vices, the good with the bad. The story is treated like an ancient piece of history and not exactly like some religious text. The author tries to understand the actions of the protagonists in the context of t

(a) the epic Mahabharata

(b) the various Indian literatures (comparative analysis with the Mahabharata)


Language: Simple, with explanatory parentheses and footnotes

Style: Analytical


The writer presents a compendium of essays she has written on the characters in the Mahabharata. The preface reads: “There is only one purpose behind speech or writing- to communicate to others something one feels strongly. This is an irrepressible primary impulse…” And thus, this book contains no
This book is an absolute must read, it is one of those that challenges the traditional notion of one of the the world's greatest epics. By depicting the characters in the epic as humans (which they may actually have been?), the book takes a critical view of each of the actions and the results of actions, of the key players. It is interesting to see that some of the great scenes of the war are being analyzed with logic as opposed to mystique. I however, am not sure, where and how the Gita origina ...more
Dec 25, 2011 Ajay rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: myth
The book is amazing. The way the author has stripped all the characters of the Mahabharat of all its extra features is just what Steve Jobs had done for his Apple.
The best part of the book being that it is based on the critical mahabharat i.e taking only the minimalistic version of Mahabharat and just filling gaps in small areas which makes it all the more believable.
It might not be as devoid of magic as the Prem Panicker's Bhimsen (available on Good reads which is adapted from MT Vasudevan Nair
Ramkumar Chokkalingam
Excellent character-wise analysis on the most significant guys involved in Mahabharatha. Completely enjoyed the 'ERC' style reasoning. Also, liked the way how she rationalized some over-human mythology elements and diving references used - but she herself accepts why she can't account for all that has been said in the Original version and how things have changed over years with new additions. Loved her comparison of Mahabharatha with Ramayana with outlining the similarities and contrasts.Being a ...more
It is really a very informative book for me atleast; didn't remember Mahabharata in detail ;)
Amazingly written, easy to comprehend and I could actually understand the very epoch in a simpler way. It also made clear all the myths, the magic and godly activities which were not there in the true story and got interpolated in the later versions of Mahabharata.It shows how Hindu culture evolved thereafter and perhaps why such interpolations were done.

Can't comment on the critique presented by the wri
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Yuganta : The End of an Epoch Review 1 6 Apr 23, 2014 02:46AM  
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Karve received a master's degree in sociology from Mumbai University in 1928 and a doctorate in anthropology from a university in Berlin, Germany in 1930.
Karve served for many years as the head of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Deccan College, Pune (University of Pune).
She presided over the Anthropology Division of the National Science Congress held in New Delhi in 1947.
She wrote
More about Irawati Karve...
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