In this lecture, I explore the form and function of the Sanskrit Mahabharata. I take up features of its design, its explicit statements about itself and its most prominent themes in order to make some suggestions as to what the Mahabharata sought to do, culturally and intellectually,in early South Asian society. I combine this with an analysis of the presence of the Mahabharata in select literary and epigraphical sources of the first millennium in order to explore the impact of the text from Guptan north India to Kerala and Kashmir.
The term japa is one that has a long history within the family of Hindu traditions but the difference between the murmuring of Vedic mantras as an accompaniment to sacrificial rituals and the meditative repetition of a divine name in bhakti traditions is considerable. In an attempt to find some evidence for the development process involved, I shall examine theJāpakopākhyāna (MBh 12.189–93), a text which seems in some ways incongruous in its context, and will also survey the occurrence of japa and its cognates throughout theMahābhārata. I seek to unravel the textual history of the passage and