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Mahabharata on Twitter – A Narrative Experiment with Tweets

Mahabharata is one of the longest epic - 100,000 stanzas – and is one of the most important holy scriptures in Hindu religion. Twitter is a short messaging service – a tweet can only 140 characters – that works over multiple networks and devices. Mahabharat, which is an ocean, is being taken drop by drop and is slowly being collected in Twitter.

The person behind this unique literary attempt is Chindu Sreedharan, a Kerala-born journalist doing media research in England. According to him, Mahabarata on Twitter is a retelling of the Mahabharata – an experiment into if/how a narrative can be developed as tweets. The narrative used on twitter is mainly inspired by the novel Bhimsen by Prem Panickar.

Mahabharata on Twitter is seen through the eyes of Bhima.

A single message on twitter should be limited to 140 characters. You can read it on the internet or on your mobile.

Here are few tweets

A tweet - We had all lived in the forest. Us five, Mother, father Pandu and aunt Madri. The rishis there called Father king. I didn’t understand that.

Another tweet - I didn’t understand many things. Yudhistira said I was slow and stupid. But if father was a king, why were we living in a forest lodge?

Another tweet - I never got answers. Still, life was fun. Yudhistira sat with rishis, Arjuna played at archery; I wandered, hunted rabbits with my toy mace.

The New India Express reports

“Rather than an omniscient narration, using a first-person point of view makes the tale a lot more easy to tell - the reader needs be told only what the protagonist - Bhim - is capable of knowing, seeing,’’ Chindu said in a chat with Express from England.

His biggest challenge was to “see if a complex, lengthy narrative can be adapted to something as ‘pop’ as Twitter, for a different generation.’’ “It is an experiment in utilising a social media tool to present a novel-length narrative,’’ he said.

Epicretold begins with the first visit of the young Pandavas to Hastinapur.

Here is the first tweet, Bhima’s first words on Twitter: “I can’t help staring at the lady with the black cloth over her eyes. I feel disturbed, scared - but I can’t look away.’’

Says Chindu: “The attempt is not to capture the essence in just one tweet (140 characters), but a series of tweets. So we are talking of hundreds of Twitter 'episodes’ before we are done.’’ As a rule, he will avoid SMS language. “Will only use mainstream abbreviations (can’t, won’t - that sort of thing), and not @, & and so on. Just feel that it can be done in ‘proper’ English.’’

There are two reasons why Chindu chose Mahabharat. The obvious one: “Because it is, at its core, the story of a conflict which provides for fantastic dramatic tension. Easy to keep the narrative moving, easy opportunities for cliffhangers, conflict-escalation, partial denouements and so on.’’

You can read the Mahabharata on Twitter here - twitter.com/epicretold