The 7 Strangest Retellings of India's Greatest Epic Tales - Atlas Obscura
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The 7 Strangest Retellings of India’s Greatest Epic Tales

At the Bhagavad Gita Museum, one of the India’s greatest stories—700 lines of the Mahabharata in which Arjuna and Krishna discuss their values and ideals—is retold by a series of talking clay robots. As unusual as that might be, it’s only one of the many odd ways that the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita have been reimagined—as a comic book, a board game and a golf movie.

For centuries, these stories were retold in formal religious settings, as in the bas-reliefs at Angkor Wat in Siem Riep, Cambodia.


A battle scene from the Mahabharata. (Photo: PhotoDharma/Flickr)

Angkor’s art focuses on the dramatic scenes, like the battle of Kurukshetra, where two royal families go to war against each other. But Arjuna and Krishna are there, too, in the midst of the battle.

And it’s not a huge leap to imagine these scenes in comic books…


Grant Morrison’s 18 Days (Image: Courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment)

In 2010, Grant Morrison, one of DC comics’ top writers, teamed up with the artist Mukesh Singh to turn the story into 18 Days.


Grant Morrison’s 18 Days. (Image: Courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment)

There were plans to turn the story into a video game (although they don’t seem to have ever made it to fruition), but there is a Mahabharata board game

Peter Brook, the British producer and director, turned the story into a nine-hour play…which became a 1989 miniseries.

And, more recently, Chindu Sreedharan, a professor in England, retold the story on Twitter. (His adaptation is now also a book.)

There’s a Bollywood film, of course.

Disney’s planning on making its own live-action version. And there’s already a slick animated adaption—Arjun: The Warrior Prince.

But perhaps the most strangest and surprising retelling of the Bhagavad Gita is a movie about golf.

That’s The Legend of Bagger Vance. The book, by Steven Pressfield, pays more obvious tribute to its inspiration. But here’s one pretty obvious clue: the golfer’s name is Rannulph Junuh…That’s R. Junuh…as in Arjuna. That makes Will Smith’s character the stand-in for Krishna. It’s not exactly a traditional treatment—and probably not the best one either. The movie only scored 43 percent on Rotten Tomatoes—which means that the Bhagavad Gita museum’s talking clay robots might actually be a better and more entertaining bet.

Join us at the Bhagavad Gita Museum on Obscura Day. We promise it’ll be better than The Legend of Bagger Vance.