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Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest

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by long time New Vrindaban resident and award-winning storyteller Sankirtana Das

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In the late 1960’s, while in college, Sankirtana Das discovered an old book in the library. The Indian Story Book (1914) by Richard Wilson, a collection of India’s ancient stories, included some from the epic Mahabharata. Sankirtana majored in Theater/ Film and turned one of the Mahabharata stories into a one act play. His theater class chose the piece as one of several plays they performed for elementary schools in New York City.

Sankirtana Das was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1973 and has resided in New Vrindaban for over 37 years. He developed the theater program here and wrote, acted and directed numerous plays throughout the 80′s and into the early 90′s. He and Lokamangala prabhu developed and performed a two-actor, two hour Mahabhharata drama for Off Broadway in NYC (1987), which they also toured to temples, colleges and special events for four years. Their performance touched many people who were fascinated that each of the actors took on several roles, including the role of storytellers. Devotees would often suggest that they develop a full length Mahabharata film. But that was not to be.

Sankirtana started working on his Mahabharata manuscript in 2000. He explains the intent of his rendition was threefold, “to deliver the story as good literature, to give it a cinematic slant, as potentially the basis for a film, and to keep it at a length that could easily be studied in college classrooms.” Gradually, the manuscript came together as he tried to find the unique elements of each part of the story. He recalls, “Sometimes it was exhilarating. Sometimes it was discouraging. I wondered if I could really pull it off successfully. Sometimes I would stop writing for weeks or months at a time and go on to other projects. But over the years, writing Mahabharata has been a wonderful meditation for me.”

Now the book, entitled Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest is finally available. It has received acclaim from scholars across the country:

“Fresh, fast-paced and cinematic! This book captures the scope and breath of this great epic.” Subhash Kak, PhD, Oklahoma State University (from the book’s Foreword)

“To condense the profound wisdom and rich culture of Mahabharata into a book of this size constitutes a formidable challenge. In his offering, Sankirtana Das has distilled the essence of the expansive scripture and has skillfully crafted a book which is accessible and comprehensible to a universal audience.” Varshana Swami, Author & Vaisnava Scholar

“Sankirtana Das maneuvers through the story’s monumental terrain with ease. His powerful narrative captivates and sustains the reader.” Kevin Cordi, PhD, Professor, Ohio Dominican U.

“Both entertaining and erudite, This rendering of the ancient Sanskrit epic delivers a text that is readily accessible to the layperson and refreshingly insightful to the scholar. A delight to read – and ponder over.” Greg Emery, PhD, Director, Global Leadership Center, Ohio University

“A stirring and authentic version. My prayer is that this Mahabharata will be enjoyed, studied and appreciated by people for years to come.” Dr. Laxmi Narayan Chaturvedi M.D, Author, “The Teachings Of Bhagavat Gita”

“A wonderful, rich narrative! Sankirtana Das does a fine job keeping all the threads clear, even as they interweave. I see his long career of storytelling at work on every page… it’s obvious how much work has been put into it… this book should be in every high school and college library.” Dr. Robert Rosenthal, Philosophy Chair, Hanover College, Indiana

For the last 20 years Sankirtana has offered professional storytelling programs and workshops in a variety of venues: schools, colleges, libraries, museums, temples, churches and special events. He is a recipient of a WV Artist Fellowship Award. His workshop, In Search of Story, delves into the creative process to help participants explore and share the stories of their life’s journey.

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