Death And Violence During The Mahabharata And The Tale Of The Heike Essay

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DEATH AND VIOLENCE IN THE MAHABHARATA AND THE TALE OF THE HEIKE Death, and the process of dying and killing, is central to the plots of the ancient Indian Mahabharata and the ancient Japanese Tale of the Heike. These epics, though the products of different cultures, describe similar beliefs and practices regarding death, focusing on death in relation to the religious beliefs and societal roles of the warriors classes—the Vedic Kshatriyas and the Japanese samurai. This great significance attached to death appears to act as a driving force and justification behind many of the violent acts of war in these narratives. It can therefore be argued that the belief in the cycle of death and rebirth, the acceptance of death as part of the warrior identity, and the idea of dying honourably lead to the normalization of violence in both the Mahabharata and the Tale of the Heike. Both epics show similar and overlapping religious beliefs; specifically, the belief in the cycle of death and rebirth. This belief is used in various instances to soften the significance of death and justify acts of violence which bring death. The conversation between the warrior Arjuna and Krishna, an incarnation of the god Vishnu, in the Bhagavad Gita highlight this. When Arjuna is reluctant to fight and kill his family members on the opposing side, Krishna argues that, due to the cycle of death and rebirth, the act of killing is not as bad as it seems. He asks “That which is unborn and imperishable, how does
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