A Review of “Parva” by S.L. Bhyrappa

Kumar Harsh
3 min readMar 17, 2024

“Parva” by S.L. Bhyrappa intricately reimagines the Mahabharata, presenting it through a humanistic lens devoid of metaphysical embellishments. Through monologues Parva takes us to rounds on the central pertinent question of life — was it even worth it? All the efforts, all the deceptions for what?

When delving into a tome exceeding 600 pages, particularly one as intricate and multi-layered as the Mahabharata, comprehending every aspect in a single reading is an endeavor beyond human capability. Parva, the highly praised novel by SL Bhairappa, exemplifies this reality.

Parva narrates the epic of the Mahabharata devoid of miracles, portraying its characters on a purely human scale. Viewing figures like Shri Krishna not as divine allegorical entities, but as ordinary humans akin to ourselves, amplifies our reverence and admiration manifold.

Structured as a series of monologues by various characters, Parva revisits the narrative from diverse perspectives, each elucidating the intricacies of their lives and choices. The crux of their analysis delves deep into the lengths about the things they went far & beyond to safeguard — values, principles, honor, oath — sacrificing self and even demanding sacrifices from others, traversing a tumultuous path to end at the existential dilemma — was it even worth it? This existential query permeates the fabric of the book.

Through Parva, the Mahabharata emerges not merely as a conflict between Pandavas and Kauravas, delineating who was righteous or wicked, but as an inevitable conflagration dictated by the exigencies of the era — a necessity of its time. The primary purpose, it seems, was not victory or defeat, but ensuring everyone’s participation and shared loss, marking an unprecedented cataclysmic event and collective tragedy — a lesson of not for individuals but for humanity itself.

The war underscores the dissolution of societal constructs, values, and ideals held in high esteem. Bhishma’s unwavering commitment to his vow, Gandhari’s voluntary blindness despite sight, and other such societal norms elevated to pedestals of morality but hindered the fulfillment of their duties and purposes. Similarly, Yudhishthira’s pursuit of righteousness divorced from action, and his eventual engagement in destructive deeds, rationalized under the guise of Kshatriya duty. Even the Pandavas’ semblance of morality is tested, prompting introspection on its worthiness.
The narrative reflects on our attachment to certain definitions, statuses, and moral principles, often for the sake of validation, superiority, or comfort, thereby impeding genuine engagement with life’s experiences and pursuits. Despite reluctance to relinquish these constructs, there lingers a latent fear of existence devoid of them. Ultimately, the pertinent question persists: Was it all worthwhile?
People and society often find themselves in a murky space between Dharma (righteousness) and Adharma (wrongdoing), entangled by misleading self-serving ideals. However, it is essential to recognize that this state is not ideal. True Dharma endures only when driven by a resolute intention to act righteously. This comes clealy as the utlimate objective of Mahabharat.

A striking juxtaposition emerges in “Parva” regarding the influence of mother on the character development of offspring. While both Kunti and Gandhari were erudite women, Kunti’s pragmatic counsel steered the Pandavas away from moral pitfalls, fostering their resilience against moral decay. S.L. Bhyrappa’s adept portrayal of strong female characters, evident across his oeuvre including “Parva,” “Uttar Kanda,” and “Orphaned,” underscores his commitment to depicting multifaceted women in literature.

As elucidated in the book’s introduction, the Mahabharata stands as the fifth Veda, a repository of timeless wisdom in Indian epic literary tradition. “Parva” serves as a gateway, inspiring readers to delve into the original epic, further enriching their understanding of ancient Bhartiye ethos. It has isnpired to read the originial now — will begin soon.

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Kumar Harsh

Mostly from experience - of tribal Jhabua, and the struggle of learning 'selfless passionate dedication for people'.