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Lessons That The 7-Year-Run TV Serial Mahabharata Has Taught Us

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“The mother of all wars, the mother of all rivalries, the cauldron of emotions, insecurities, jealousies and powerplay — The Mahabharata! Riveting and a master lesson for the entire mankind,” as introduced by its makers, The Mahabharata (Sanskrit for ‘Great Epic of the Bharata Dynasty’) is one of the two Sanskrit epic poems of ancient India that are an important source of information on Hinduism and regarded as texts about Dharma (The Righteous) and history.

While years ago, The Mahabharata was called a myth, it is now termed as “Thus it was“, and is a creation that needs to be read by people of all age groups and communities. We need to pay tribute to the scholars, authors, archivists, playwrights, film-makers and storytellers, both ancient and modern, who have worked towards keeping this grand and ancient epic alive through their songs, dances, stories, plays, novels, performances, films and teleserials for over 3,000 years.

Swastik Productions Pvt. Ltd., under Mr Siddhart Kumar Tewary, made an attempt to release the epic drama for the current generation to acknowledge these lessons. The series from September 16, 2013, to August 16, 2014, on StarPlus. As The Mahabharata celebrates seven years, here’s a tribute to the artists and makers, and seven short valuable lessons for the readers from seven characters for the readers (it would be impossible to sum up in few lines, but here I give my best):

1. Shaheer Sheikh as Arjuna

Sheikh Shaheer Nawaz, better known as Shaheer Sheikh, was born on Monday, March 26, 1984, in Bhaderwah, Jammu. He started working as a model. He, then, gave audition for the TV serial Kya Mast Hai Life and got selected for the show. Sheikh started his acting career in 2005 with the TV series Sanya. Next, he appeared in TV serials including Kya Mast Hai Life, Jhansi Ki Rani, and Best Of Luck Nikki.

He came in the spotlight after playing the role of Anant Bajpai in the TV serial Navya..Naye Dhadkan Naye Sawaal. Sheikh gained huge popularity after playing the role of Arjuna in the Indian mythological TV series The Mahabharata. Sheikh was also praised for his performance in the TV serial, Kuch Rang Pyar Ke Aise Bhi in which he plays the role of Devrath Dev Dixit. In 2019, Sheikh played the role of Abir Rajvansh in the serial Yeh Rishtey Hain Pyaar Ke.

Life Lessons: The character of Arjuna teaches us that it is important to identify our interest as soon as possible and start utilising our energy in order to brush ourselves to near to perfection. We need to put ourselves in different situations and analyse our behaviour and work in order to remain stable even during tough situations. Life is neither easy nor fair to anybody, but our reaction and courage to fight is what makes the difference. The letter “S” in the word ‘Success’ stands for Sacrifice. There are times, when our preparation seems to be insufficient, for circumstances aren’t in someone’s control, the character of Arjuna teaches us to ignore everything but follow the path of the right. Life might take too much from you, but after-all every sacrifice is paid back.

2. Arpit Ranka as Duryodhana

Arpit Ranka was born on June 30, 1984, and is an Indian actor and model from Bhilwara, Rajasthan, India. He made his acting career bebut by appearing in Star Plus TV’ serial The Mahabharata (2012) as Duryodhana. Arpit Ranka also works in Tamil and Telugu films.

Life Lesson: He had everything and yet he wanted everything. Endless greed and the wish to outshine his cousins taught the world the perks of unjustified desire. Murder, regicide, fraud, bullying — Duryodhana tried it all and more. Hate is its own poison. He lived in luxury, yet, was forever burning with hate. His hate consumed his own family and family of millions who followed him. Yet, he teaches us the truth of friendship, the importance of following the right path, and what endless greed may lead to.

3. Aham Sharma as Karna

Aham was born on July 22, 1989, in Barh, Bihar, India. He decided to become an actor after his completion of graduation. He played both positive and negative roles in films and TV serials. He started his acting career in 2008 by playing the role of Rehan in the TV serial Chand Ke Paar Chalo. He has acted in numerous episodic roles in TV serials including Aahat, Season 4 and Season 5 in 2010, Fear Files Season 1 in 2013, and CID, Season 3 and Season 4 in 2013. He also acted in some Bollywood films including Blue Oranges (2009), Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai (2012), Karle Pyaar Karle (2014), and 1962 My Country Land (2016). He ranked 26 on the list of 50 Sexiest Asian Men in the World by Eastern Eye in 2014.

Life Lessons: Being raised in a low caste household, Karna fought against caste discrimination all his life, abandoned by his mother at birth, discarded by his teacher Drona, rejected by the society for his lineage. His story generates a feeling of mercy, but the story teaches us the importance of choices. It is good to be loyal. But Karna used prejudice against himself by others as an excuse to justify his acts. But as said in one of the dialogues, no injustice in life gives you the license to follow the path of unrighteous!

4. Satyanti Ghosh as Satyavti

She was born on September 6, 1984, and is an Indian television actress best known for her roles in Kumkum,  Itna Karo Na Mujhe Pyaar, Naamkarann and Naagin. She was a contestant on the 2012 reality series Bigg Boss. 

Life Lessons: Satywati was just another human being — she went through loads of tough situations through her lifetime — and such situations forced her to make the easy choice, but not necessarily the right choice. It’d only be unfair to judge her based on choices she made without giving a thought about context. But seeing the positive side, this character teaches us to be bold in tough situations. One needs to keep trying than giving up. She teaches us how our deeds pay us back.

5. Pooja Sharma as Draupadi

Pooja Sharma is a famous Indian actress. During her college days, she was selected for a sports-based talk show for Doordarshan India. She was also the anchor of some of the famous shows that aired on DD National and Zoom. In 2006, she participated in the Femina Miss India 2006 beauty contest and she was among the top 10 finalists. After completing her studies, she started working as a model and walked the ramp during various events.

Sharma made her acting debut in 2012 with the TV serial Teri Meri Love Stories, in the role of Sia Bhel. After that show, she got a lead role of Draupadi in the mythological  TV serial The Mahabharata, which got her huge fame. She made a special appearance in some TV serials like Ajab Gajab Ghar Jamai in 2014 and Dosti… Yaariyan… Manmarziyan. In 2017, she got the lead role of Mahakali in the popular mythological TV serial Mahakali – Anth hi Aarambh hai which streamed on Colors TV.

Life Lessons: The character of Draupadi is the most powerful one. But the most important thing one can learn from Draupadi is self-esteem. Even though all five Pandavas accepted the slavery of Duryodhana, she didn’t gave up her dignity of being a Queen. She taught us why one should follow the path of righteous always, and never accept unrighteous. She taught us the difference between justice and revenge. And most importantly, she taught us the meaning of compassion.

6. Arav Choudhary as Bheeshma

Arav is an Indian model and actor hailing from Jaipur, India. He has graduated from the Hollywood Film Institute and done theatre at the Ravindra Manch in Jaipur. He did stage plays like Dil Ka Haal Sune Dilwala under the direction of Nikhilesh and the revision of the Westside Story. In 2004, he was seen in the action thriller film Dhoom as Rahul and Bollywood’s war drama film Lakshya in 2004. He also appeared in Gulaal and Laado, for which he won the National Award.

Life Lessons: The character of Bheeshma teaches the importance of thinking twice before taking a decision. However, he accepted all the injustices happening right in front of him in the name of a dynasty and his oath. He taught mankind to not to go against Nature. When you are able to do good to a larger section of people, they shouldn’t prefer one individual to the section of people. He choose the King over the kingdom. He showed loyalty to Dritharastra against the people of Hastinapur. When you are able to uphold dharma, don’t remain silent. Your silence would spell your doom and God restores Dharma.

7. Praneet Bhatt as Shakuni

Praneet Bhat is an Indian television actor and model, He is known for television shows Kitni Mast Hai Zindagi, Kaajjal, The Mahabharata, Rishton Ka Chakravyuh, Porus, Aladdin etc. Praneet hails from Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir.

Life Lessons: When life throws lemons, one should not loose their morals. He is initially seen as a completely different character than what he becomes later, a person full of love. But the feeling of revenge can actually consume an entire civilisation, a whole order of things. He also teaches us the fact that one must keep trying. One can see that no matter how many times his plans failed, he never admitted defeat till his last breath.

And a bonus,

8. Sourabh Raaj Jain as Lord Krishna

Sourabh Raaj Jain is a popular TV actor best known for his role of Lord Krishna in the mythological TV serial The Mahabharata. Saurabh’s acting career began when he got an opportunity to act in the TV serial Remix for the role of Amandeep Chadha and later got a chance to act in the Hollywood film Karma: Crime. Passion. Reincarnation (2008). He also acted in many mythological TV serials — Jai Shri Krishna (2008-2009) as Lord Vishnu, Devon Ke Dev…Mahadev (2011-2014) as Lord Vishnu/Lord Krishna, The Mahabharata (2013-2014) as Lord Krishna/Lord Vishnu and Mahakali – Anth hi Aarambh hai (2017) as Lord Shiva. The makers of The Mahabharata were so keen to cast him for the role of Lord Krishna that they kept Saurabh on hold for a year, by paying him a lump sum amount every month, so that he could not do any other project.

Life Lessons: No single person can sum up the lessons he has taught to mankind. But one of the things I learnt from him is his calmness, his trust towards fate. “Jo Qismat mein hai, wo hokar rahega (Whatever is written is your fate, will surely happen).”

Star spent ₹5.1 billion (US$72 million) on the project and spent another ₹410 million (US$5.7 million) on marketing the show, making it India’s most expensive TV series.

It won the trophy for Best Drama in Star Guild Awards 2013 as well as a number of accolades in other award shows. The show also won the Best Historical Serial award at the Indian Television Academy Awards. It won the Indian Telly Awards for Actor in a Supporting Role (Drama), which was given to Aham Sharma for his portrayal as Karna. Actor in a Negative Role Award was given to Praneet Bhatt in 2014. The crew members also won the awards for Best Costumes for a TV Programme, Best Make-Up Artist, and Best Stylist and international broadcasting.

There are thousands of versions of the epic, yet what is important is what one learns from it.

About the author: Riya Handa is a Class 12 student from Ganaur, Haryana.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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