What quality did the Duryodhana show?

Summary of Mahābhārata

Ancient Indian society in upheaval

In the first millennium BC, India, whose population lived primarily from agriculture and cattle breeding, experienced an expansion of its agriculture and steady population growth. While the elites from the older Vedic times were still predominantly semi-nomads, whose wealth consisted primarily in herds of cattle, from the middle of the millennium on, land ownership played an increasingly important role. With increasing sedentariness and urbanization, the first early forms of political communities emerged, especially in the eastern part of the country. In the area where the Mahābhārata mainly plays, i.e. in northern India on the upper reaches of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, state formation and urbanization took place more slowly. The predominant form of political community here was tribal rule on a certain territory, led by the most powerful families of the warrior nobility. Time and again there were clashes within tribes and as a result whole family clans split off.

Not only political and tribal law, but also religious differences shaped this time. From the fifth century BC Buddhism and other deviating religious tendencies spread in the eastern plain of the Ganges. Under the rule of emperors, which encompassed almost all of India Ashokas, a professed Buddhist, this religion gained a foothold in the third century BC. It threatened the ancient Indian social order, which was based on Vedic rituals and a strict social structure and divided society into four groups:

  • the highest caste of the Brahmins: priests and scholars who were responsible for the transmission of the sacred texts and for rituals of sacrifice and purity;
  • the Kshatriyas: the warrior nobility who held political power and from whose ranks came kings and rulers;
  • the Vaishyas: farmers, artisans and traders;
  • and finally the great mass of the Shudras: servants and dependents who were not allowed to participate in the Vedic rituals. With the establishment of an urban culture linked to work, the importance of the warriors, but also of the peasants and tradesmen, gradually grew.

The Brahmins and the warrior nobility traditionally both claimed the leadership role in society. This long-standing competitive relationship was also reflected in the religious debate. While the Brahmins tried to defend the traditional Vedic beliefs and rituals, the aristocratic warrior caste was fundamentally open to new religious directions, because these gave secular power a greater role than the old Vedic tradition.


The history of the Mahābhārata extends to the first millennium BC BC back. At first it was an orally transmitted narrative in various versions, which was gradually put down in writing. The handwritten tradition indicates that the text has been changed again and again over time. It was Brahmin priests and scholars who, through countless revisions over the centuries, gave the work its final form and the final ideological polish. Their will is clearly noticeable to defend the old social system, in which they were given the leadership position, rhetorically against new, supposedly heretical tendencies. The main part of the work appears to be in the second century BC. The last version of the text probably dates from the fifth century AD. The entire work was first published in print in Calcutta between 1834 and 1839.

Impact history

Practiced that in India Mahābhārata had a profound effect on the philosophy, religion, visual arts and literature of the Hindu tradition. Many later dramas and epics, including modern poets, are based on the narrations of the work. At the same time, it served as a source of wisdom and moral instruction and has served as a model in some areas of India to this day. A 94-part television series broadcast in the late 1980s with episodes of the Mahābhārata reached over 100 million viewers. In the west, the epic was received more and more from the 18th century. The first German partial translation appeared in 1824. The English director Peter Brook 1989 filmed his own theatrical version of the epic - the film is nine hours long.