Yuganta studies the principal, mythical-heroic figures of the Mahabharata from historical, anthropological and secular perspectives. The usually venerated characters of this ancient Indian epic are here subjected to a rational enquiry that places them in context, unravels their hopes and fears, and imbues them with wholly human motives, thereby making their stories relevant and astonishing to contemporary readers. Irawati Karve, thus, presents a delightful collection of essays, scientific in spirit, yet appreciative of the literary tradition of the Mahabharata. She challenges the familiar and formulates refreshingly new interpretations, all the while refusing to judge harshly or venerate blindly.
Irawati Karve (1905–1970) was born in Burma and educated in Pune. A Master’s degree in Sociology from Bombay in 1928 and a Doctoral degree in Anthropology from Berlin in 1930 marked the onset of a long and distinguished career of pioneering research. She wrote in both English and Marathi, on academic subjects as well as on topics of general interest, and thus commanded an enviably wide circle of readership. Whether through her Hindu Society: An Interpretation, a scholarly treatise in English, or through Yuganta: The End of an Epoch, her study in Marathi of the characters and society in the Mahabharata, we obtain ample illustration of the range and quality of Irawati Karve’s mind.