Between 1919 and 1966, scholars at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, compared the various manuscripts of the epic from India and abroad and produced the Critical Edition of the Mahabharata, on 13,000 pages in 19 volumes, followed by the Harivamsha in another two volumes and six index volumes. This is the text that is usually used in current Mahabharata studies for reference. This work is sometimes called the "Pune" or "Poona" edition of the Mahabharata.
Many regional versions of the work developed over time, mostly differing only in minor details, or with verses or subsidiary stories being added. These include the Tamil street theatre, terukkuttu and kattaikkuttu, the plays of which use themes from the Tamil language versions of Mahabharata, focusing on Draupadi.
Outside the Indian subcontinent, in Indonesia, a version was developed in ancient Java as Kakawin Bhāratayuddha in the 11th century under the patronage of King Dharmawangsa (990–1016), and later it spread to neighboring island of Bali where today remains a Hindu majority island, despite today Indonesia is the most populous Muslim majority nation. It has become the fertile source for Javanese literature, dance drama (wayang wong), and wayang shadow puppet performances. This Javanese version differ slightly from the original Indian version. For example Draupadi is only be wed to Yudhisthira, not to the entire Pandavas brothers, this might demonstrate ancient Javanese opposition of polyandry practice. The author later added some female characters to be wed to the Pandavas. Arjuna for example is described as having many wives and consorts next to Subhadra. Another difference is Shikhandi did not undergone sex change and remains as a woman, to be wed to Arjuna, and took the role as a warrior princess during the war. Another twist is Gandhari was described as antagonist character that hates Pandava so much. Her hate was out of jealousy, because during svayambara for the hand of Gandhari, she was actually in love with Pandu, but later being wed to his blind elder brother instead, whom she does not love, as a protest she then blindfold herself. Another notable difference is the inclusion of Punakawans, the clown servants of the main characters in the storyline, which is not found in Indian version. This characters includes Semar, Petruk, Gareng and Bagong, they are much-loved by Indonesian audiences. There are some spin-off episode developed in ancient Java, such as Arjunawiwaha composed in 11th century.
A Kawi version of the Mahabharata, of which eight of the eighteen parvas survive, is found on the Indonesian island of Bali. It has been translated into English by Dr. I. Gusti Putu Phalgunadi.
A Persian translation of Mahabharta, titled Razmnameh, was produced at Akbar's orders, by Faizi and `Abd al-Qadir Bada'uni in the 18th century.
The first complete English translation was the Victorian prose version by Kisari Mohan Ganguli, published between 1883 and 1896 (Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers) and by M. N. Dutt (Motilal Banarsidass Publishers). Most critics consider the translation by Ganguli to be faithful to the original text. The complete text of Ganguli's translation is in the public domain and is available online.
Another English prose translation of the full epic, based on the Critical Edition, is in progress, published by University Of Chicago Press. It was initiated by Indologist J. A. B. van Buitenen (books 1–5) and, following a 20-year hiatus caused by the death of van Buitenen, is being continued by D. Gitomer of DePaul University (book 6), J. L. Fitzgerald of Brown University (books 11–13) and Wendy Doniger of the University of Chicago (books 14–18).
An early poetry translation by Romesh Chunder Dutt and published in 1898 condenses the main themes of the Mahabharata into English verse. A later poetic "transcreation" (author's own description) of the full epic into English, done by the poet P. Lal is complete, and in 2005 began being published by Writers Workshop, Calcutta. The P. Lal translation is a non-rhyming verse-by-verse rendering, and is the only edition in any language to include all slokas in all recensions of the work (not just those in the Critical Edition). The completion of the publishing project is scheduled for 2010. Sixteen of the eighteen volumes are now available.
A project to translate the full epic into English prose, translated by various hands, began to appear in 2005 from the Clay Sanskrit Library, published by New York University Press. The translation is based not on the Critical Edition but on the version known to the commentator Nīlakaṇṭha. Currently available are 15 volumes of the projected 32-volume edition.
Indian economist Bibek Debroy has also begun an unabridged English translation in ten volumes. Volume 1: Adi Parva was published in March 2010.
Many condensed versions, abridgements and novelistic prose retellings of the complete epic have been published in English, including works by Ramesh Menon, William Buck, R. K. Narayan, C. Rajagopalachari, K. M. Munshi, Krishna Dharma, Romesh C. Dutt, Bharadvaja Sarma, John D. Smith and Sharon Maas.
Bhasa, the 2nd- or 3rd-century CE Sanskrit playwright, wrote two plays on episodes in the Marabharata, Urubhanga (Broken Thigh), about the fight between Duryodhana and Bhima, while Madhyamavyayoga (The Middle One) set around Bhima and his son, Ghatotkacha. The first important play of 20th century was Andha Yug (The Blind Epoch), by Dharamvir Bharati, which came in 1955, found in Mahabharat, both an ideal source and expression of modern predicaments and discontent. Starting with Ebrahim Alkazi it was staged by numerous directors. V. S. Khandekar's Marathi novel, Yayati (1960) and Girish Karnad's debut play Yayati (1961) are based on the story of King Yayati found in the Mahabharat. Bengali writer and playwright, Buddhadeva Bose wrote three plays set in Mahabharat, Anamni Angana, Pratham Partha and Kalsandhya. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni wrote a version from the perspective of Draupadi entitled The Palace of Illusions: A Novel, which was published in 2008.
Amar Chitra Katha published a 1,260 page comic book version of the Mahabharata.
In film and television
In Indian cinema, several film versions of the epic have been made, dating back to 1920. In Telugu film Daana Veera Soora Karna (1977) directed by and starring N. T. Rama Rao depicts Karna as the lead character. The Mahabharata was also reinterpreted by Shyam Benegal in Kalyug. Prakash Jha directed 2010 film Raajneeti was partially inspired by the Mahabharata. A 2013 animated adaptation holds the record for India's most expensive animated film.
In the late 1980s, the Mahabharat TV series, directed by Ravi Chopra, was televised on India's national television (Doordarshan). In the Western world, a well-known presentation of the epic is Peter Brook's nine-hour play, which premiered in Avignon in 1985, and its five-hour movie version The Mahabharata (1989).
Uncompleted projects on the Mahabharata include a ones by Rajkumar Santoshi, and a theaterical adaptation planned by Satyajit Ray.