Dr. Srinivasa Kumar N Acharya - Mahābhārata in the Age of Digital Humanities

Updated: Jan 23, 2021

Dr. Acharya began by explaining the three aspects of the topic that he is going to talk about in the lecture. The first aspect explicated what is Mahābhārata, the second aspect explicated what is digital humanities and the third aspect covered the relation between the first two aspects. Before engaging with the question what is Mahābhārata? Dr. Acharya, addressed some vital questions such as which one is Mahābhārata? Is there only one Mahābhārata or not? And Why Mahābhārata? These questions are important as they lead us to another series of questions, answers, and discourses. These questions, answers and discourses are not just observations, but they are important experiences.

Acknowledging its multidimensionality as literature (sahitya), Sanskrit Literature (Sanskrit sahitya), poetic literature (kavya sahitya), philosophical literature (darśana), historical and mythological text, comprising logic, epistemology, economics, Dr. Acharya reiterates that it can also be read as a text of politics and sociology. Moving on further, Dr. Acharya, covered various aspects of Mahābhārata and talked briefly about “Why Mahābhārata?” and says that Mahābhārata does not only speaks about the stories of Pandavas and the concern is not only revolving around the Pandavas, Mahābhārata is not a memoir or a diary. Further while explaining how Mahābhārata focuses on important notions, Dr. Acharya explained how different characters from the epic have different roles and how they portray different life lessons from their actions and to explain this notion he shared with the audience a story of Karṇa and his loyalty towards friendship but also his egoistic nature.

Dr. Acharya then explains how individual perspective is important when we talk and perceive the world. He says “I cannot jump into someone’s shoes and start perceiving the world as they are, but I look at the world as the way I am” it is in this reference he explained how Dvaita philosophy explains that it is the subjective experience of objective reality is mokṣa.

He then talked about Vedānta philosophy and explained that though Vedānta philosophy is generally ascribed to Saṅkarācarya there are many other branches of Vedānta that are left out unconsidered. He says that if one wants to connect all of the Vedānta philosophy with that of Mahābhārata it is manually impossible, and this is where digital humanities comes into picture where the applications like text mining, data mining, topic modelling and so on. Dr. Acharya, briefly explained these applications and also talked about contextual tagging. He the talked about the abundance of literature present in the form of historical texts, philosophical texts, texts on aesthetics and so on and explained that MAHE Manipal compiled all those texts in a software. He through a brief presentation showcased the work he and his colleagues have done and after an illuminating description, Dr. Acharya closed his lecture.

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