World Sanskrit Conference (WSC) (17th : 2018)

Book 4 of the Mahābhārata and the Omphale-Heracles Story : Methodological Questions Wulff Alonso, Fernando

Abstract

My hypothesis is that Book 4, as with the whole Mahābhārata, was created by an author who draws upon written materials from the Greco-Roman world (though of course not only upon those sources). In particular, Book 4 bears such striking parallels to the Omphale and Heracles story that we can infer the author of the former had access to written versions of the latter. I suggest criteria to test this hypothesis, some focusing on the story itself and others on the author’s working methodology. I briefly develop the existence of a whole common draft, i.e., a shared overall plot skeleton between the two stories, some remarks on the author’s process of adapting stories and characters from one work to another (stories, characters…), the possibility of interpreting the presence of otherwise bizarre elements as a consequence of the borrowing and adaptation, and the high density of direct literal borrowings of words and expressions. By understanding the author’s use of the Greco-Roman materials, we can better grasp a substantial part of the structure and contents of the Book. Such a degree of borrowing strongly indicates the need for any analysis of these works to take into account the multicultural world in which they were generated, such as post-Ovid 1st century, CE. These findings have implications for the validity of the received text, too.

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