The Names of the Mahabharata

While reading the Upanishads and Vedas, the thing that strikes you first are the names of Rishis and the Seekers of Knowledge. Vamadeva, Viswamitra, Angirasa, Bhrigu and more. Leave alone understanding of mantras, the very mention of these names seem to wake some primordial impulse to Truth and Godhood. So it should be, since to the Rishi every God, every named power, could be invoked and meditated upon until they manifested in him in all their power. So it is my idea to dwell on these ancient names to perhaps draw something, worth the try I would think.

So it struck me, what of works that I seem to know, what names lurk in there, what powers or qualities do other names hold for the eager seeker? So I picked the Mahabharata, specifically the version available at Project Gutenberg, translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli from the original Sanskrit of Krishna Dwaipanya Vyasa. With some help from Python, NLTK and writing a basic entity recognition algo I managed to extract all the names from the english text of Ganguli. That done, I fed them into the excellent WordCloud in Python tutorial code by Andreas Mueller. And just like that they came out..the heroes, villains, gods, demi-gods..all of them 🙂

So without further ado, let me humbly offer this tiny fruit of my labour for your curiosity and pleasure. Note that each image links to high resolution versions (1200 x 900).

Adi Parva

Mahabharata Adiparva

Sabha Parva

Mahabharata Sabhaparva

Vana Parva 1

Mahabharata Vanaparva1

Vana Parva 2

Mahabharata Vanaparva 2

Virata Parva

Mahabharata Virataparva


Go ahead download and see how many names are familiar to you. It is interesting how mentions of characters varies as the plot progresses. Vaisampayana is the narrator, hence the number of mentions. Arjuna establishes himself as key at the start and the end. In the middle sections Yudhisthira plays a bigger role and so on.

If there is interest I can release my code that did the basic entity recognition with some help from NLTK. In addition I also plan to put out a clickable version of this word cloud, so that curious folks can head to Wikipedia directly.

Let me know if this sort of analysis and visualization on Hindu scriptures and epics seems interesting to you.

Technical Notes:

The size of the image is based on the frequency of mentions in the text and normalized for overall word count. The top 200 names have been pulled out. As you can see the entity recognition could be a lot better. The list of left out names are much larger, I need to try another route to present all of them.

Credits to Python community, the awesome natural language processing library NLTK and Andreas Mueller for enabling this, would not have been possible otherwise.

Sri Aurobindo Speaks of Scriptures actually Relevant for Future

Sri Aurobindo speaks about which religion, philosophy will be relevant, survive and actually help the spiritual path.

Only those Scriptures, religions, philosophies which can be thus constantly renewed, relived, their stuff of permanent truth constantly reshaped and developed in the inner thought and spiritual experience of a developing humanity, continue to be of living importance to mankind. The rest remain as monuments of the past, but have no actual force or vital impulse for the future.

The recent episode where priests refused entry to a so-called low-caste in Orissa. I f**cking rage in fury when I hear the term low-caste. What the f**k is low caste anyway?! Don’t the idiotic priests in Orissa know “Sarvam Kalvidham Brahmam”, “All that exists is the Divine”? Every thing, every damn thing is the discriminate against fellow men in the name of caste is effin horrible. Of course, I don’t want you to let the marauding barbarian who wants your wealth, land and women inside your house. Discriminate men on the basis of their intent and deal with them, but bloody caste..destroy that crap.

Hinduism is said to live in its traditions and some would argue that this untouchability thing is a tradition. But honestly how many of thousands understand what a tradition is? How many have realized any truths within themselves? Traditions handed down by posterity is immediately treated with veneration..without once questioning what the truth is, whether the truth has come to us undiluted, or whether we actually realized the truth of a tradition ourselves. Bottom line test and know for yourself before accepting a tradition.

Of course Hinduism is infinitely better than other major religious systems, you know which, because it enables an infinite variety of form and practice. But for a few hundred years, the so called upper caste priests have lost the plot. A Brahmin was supposed to be a man of knowledge, a knower of Brahman. We all know the majority are no longer knowers of Brahman. Which means they cannot be arbiters of tradition, as in the Orissa temple case, nor should we give them the veneration deserving to a knower of Brahman. Conversely we should also not pour spite on them as the Christian Missionaries, Marxists and Pseudo-Atheists like the Tamil Nadu, India based politicians do.

Sorry, back to tradition. Some people talk of tradition as if it has been forever. But that is not the case, every tradition..the most hallowed and mundane tradition had been seen within by a Seer/Rishi and shared with common people. Remember, every damned tradition was founded that way. What mattered was the spiritual realization of the person who founded the tradition. Remember no committee sat and discussed what followers will read from then on, no council of descendants argued stuff..just one guy had the realization and shared with followers. If it worked for the followers, the tradition got handed down or else it died naturally. Nothing could be more beautiful or ideal than this arrangement. But we have not had major realized souls like Swami Vivekananda or Chaitanya or Meera lately to drive home truths with the force of their realizations. Now we have media savvy folks, semi-realized folks and so on. Infinitely better than the Abrahamic systems of course, but not good enough for Hinduism.

So what am I getting at? Nothing, just that spiritual realization alone matters. Tradition if it helps us get there sooner then fine, else create a new tradition. We Hindus are not fanatics, we have no perverse need to convert people compulsively like the missionaries do to barely known spiritual truths. Or to enforce semi-moral strictures with the sword. We are descendants of Rishi Vishwamitra, Vyasa, Valmiki and the numberless realized souls of Sanatana Dharma. Let us live and act that way. Hare Krishna!