Long before Sir Edwin Arnold began his second and last lecture last night at Sanders the theatre was filled to its utmost.
The lecturer spoke as foilows: The Mahabharata, the grandest poem in Indian literature, dates back about 2000 years. It is a mere jumble of episodes, some tedious, some ridiculous, and some as noble and musical as the best parts of Homer. The poem contains 220.000 lines, with 18,000 supplementary ones, and is held in such high honor by Indians that it is learned by heart. The Indians sit around some Brahmin, and consider it one of the greatest boons to listen to him recite episode after episode. The metre is easily mastered and therefore easily imitated; this quality has led to many editions by Brahmins who desired to express their own ideas, and has made of what must originally have been a most noble and grand monument of ancient literature, a mass of tedious episodes. Even though it has been increased and added to, it is still the greatest work in oriental literature.
As a story the Mahabharata is interesting and consistent. As its name teils, it describes the greatest war of King Bharata, a war which was trivial both in its causes and its effects. The tale runs about as follows: King Bharata sees his end drawing near, and divides his kingdom amongst his sons and nephews. His eldest son, Udostheera, a man of spotless character, was dominated by the master passion of gambling. Udostheera lost all his property, his wealth, his lands and his kingdom, and finally he agrees to leave his kingdom and to live with his four brothers and his wife in the forest for thirteen years. After thirteen years of incredible adventures they all return and fighting begins. The war is described interestingly for 100 pages, the other 1000 are extremely tedious. Udostheera is victorious, but had to commit a sin to gain complete victory. He returns in triumph to the great joy of all the inhabitants.
At this part of the Mahabharata an addition has been made recently, but although spurious it is up to the mark of the best parts of the work. This addition is the "horse sacrifice" and tells how Udostheera and his army followed a white horse and conquered nation after nation. Peace and prosperity then came upon Udostheera's kingdom but he is not content, and abdicates. With his wife, four brothers, and a black dog, who is justice in disguise, he goes towards a sacred mountain for meditation. On the road all his companions except the dog drop dead, and these-two-soon reached the summit. A golden chariot arrives to take Undostheera to Heaven; he, however, steadfastly refuses to go without the dog. Justice leaves his disguise and Undostheera ascends to Heaven. Here he is greatly disappointed at not finding the souls of his relatives, and soon leaves Heaven by the Sinner's Grove in search of his kin. He succeeds in finding them after a long journey, and after many unsuccessful temptations the gods reward Undostheera by permitting his relatives to enter Heaven. Undostheera is elevated to the gods, and the story ends.
At the close of the lecture Sir Edwin Arnold addressed the students and begged them to do all they could to further the study of Indian literature.