Mahabharata Imagery

Yudhisthira's Heavenly Hall

There's a slapstick moment immediately following Yudhisthira's consecration when Duryodhana tries to exit the great hall but constantly mistakes what he's walking into. He twice pulls up his garments because he thinks that the floor is a pool of water, only to fall in an actual pool of water that he mistakes for elaborate decoration. When he's leaving, he hits his head on an open door that he thinks is closed, then stands in front of a closed door he things is open. The image of Duryodhana having such a difficult time assessing the material reality of the room—and becoming the butt of the joke to Arjuna and Bhima—speaks to the fundamentally mistaken way that Duryodhana sees and assesses the world.

Krsna's True Body

At the end of the section when Krsna recites the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna, Krsna reveals his true body, and Arjuna is awestruck by its ornamentation and how it contains the gods. In Krsna's body, he sees the infinitude of gods and a brilliance of light he's never known before. Here, in the midst of a battle, the image of Krsna's true body is used to remind us of the profound difference between gods and men, and to remind Arjuna of the awesome power dictating his destiny.

Karna's Slain Body

When Karna is killed, his body is discussed in the language of awe-inspiring phenomena one might find in nature. His body is described as looking like a thunderstruck mountain, and his blood is described as flowing with mineral ore. He can be seen blazing with a fiery energy that shoots up into the sky. The image of Karna, in death, imposing his surroundings like a mountain and flowing into the sky is yet another conflation of the human with the godly, and a reminder of the blessed stock that Karna descends from.

The Funeral Pyre

When Duryodhana's body is burned in a funeral pyre along with the other Kauravas, the pyre is described "looking like planets in a cloudless sky." The spectacular image of the pyre is likened to a cosmic phenomenon to illustrate how profound, how extraordinarily significant, the war that just ended seemed to be. It suggests a scale great than the earthly or the human.