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Arnav Gorantala

7th Grade

25 - 2 - 19

Individuals and Societies

A Comparison of two Epics from Different Cultures

The two texts that I have chosen to compare are The Trojan War from the Greek mythology

and The Mahabharata – one of the epics from the Hindu mythology. These two myths form

significant parts of their respective cultures and form mythologies. The Trojan War, from

Greek Mythology, was a war that was caused due to love and prophecy had a major role to

play. Mahabharata is a mythological war from Indian Mythology that explores human

jealousy, greed and misuse of power. This essay will explore how these myths go beyond just

being explicit accounts of the fight, to a symbolic level. The two plays explore greed and

jealousy as determining factors that influence people’s actions.

The thematic similarities between the two myths are in fact very strong, yet there are

differences that cannot be ignored such as the cultural connotations, and morals of the two

stories, and most importantly, the causes. The Trojan War is about Love and Pride. When

Paris chose Aphrodite’s gift, he fell in love with Helen, the queen of Sparta, and ran away

with her as mentioned in ‘Beauty’s Daughter: The Story of Hermione and Helen of Troy, (36

and 115)’. As a result of which, the Greeks were offended and attempted to get her back

along with a lot of Troy’s food supplies lines. The Trojans were not willing to give them their

supply lines as it would leave them broke. This disagreement started the war. This part of the

myth shows us that there was more to the war than just taking back the queen of Sparta. In

many versions of this myth, the authors recreate Paris taking Helen from Sparta as just an

excuse for the Greeks to go to war with the Trojans so that the Greeks could get all of Troy’s
supply and profits as those were the things that made Troy prosperous. Some of these

versions of The Trojan War are, ‘Troy’, ‘Troy: Fall of a city’, and ‘Beauty’s Daughter: The

Story of Hermione and Helen of Troy’. The portrayal has been a larger than life one where

every aspect of humanity is glorified. In Mahabharata the spur was Duryodhana - the eldest

of the Kauravas, developed a fit of early jealousy and hatred for his cousins, as most of them

were better than him in weaponry. The hatred, jealousy and greed are the common human

emotions that have played important roles in both the works. Both the Mahabharata and the

Troy employ characterization to indirectly personify the emotions that puts the basic thematic

aspects in the centre stage.

In terms of plot and setting the stories are unique, they were composed in different

styles and for a culturally different audience. For example, The Trojan War was composed as

a two-sided war where the composer uses dual narrative that allows the two perspectives to

be brought out showing a good and a bad side. Moreover, on the plot level instead of dividing

the blame between the two sides like Paris and Helen whose actions were the primary cause

for the war to start, the Greeks chose to claim Troy’s food supplies and exert their authority,

leading to the suffering of many. The Mahabharata, on the other hand, is a single narrative

from the perspective of the Pandavas, and clearly portrays the Kauravas as evil and being on

the wrong side. The motives behind the two wars are also noteworty, in the Trojan War, one

of the reasons the Greeks fought the Trojans was to take over their city and to expand their

empire as the war was then between two different kingdoms and their allies. The

Mahabharata is a war fought between two sides of a family while the Pandavas tried to take

back their kingdom from their cousins.

Despite the many differences in these two myths, there are quite a few similarities, such as

the role the gods play in these two myths, how the prophecies of these two myths are similar,
and the casualties and the loss of lives in the two wars. In the Trojan War, the actions the

Gods portrayed showed their part in the war. Like in ‘Beauty’s Daughter: The Story of

Hermione and Helen of Troy, (36)’, the narrator accused the Gods of being responsible for a

war, as the book stated that “Aphrodite knew his weakness: he loves women. She promised

him the most beautiful woman on this Earth as his bride. And so, Zethus continued, Paris

picked Aphrodite.” The narrator justified his statement by explaining how the gods took

advantage of Paris’s weakness without noticing the drawbacks and the effects of this gift.

Similarly, in a book about The Mahabharata - ‘Awaken Bharata: A Call for India’s Rebirth,

in the paragraph about Vedic Non-Violence’, the god Krishna encouraged Arjuna and the

Pandavas towards sacrificing for their kingdom and go to war after failing to convince the

Kauravas in returning the Pandavas rightful piece of land. Even after the Pandavas retaliated

against the act of fighting their family, teachers, and friends, Krishna reminded them of all

the things the Kauravas did to them and that it was their duty as warriors to fight for what's

right. He also encouraged the Pandavas to fight without dharma, a major Hindu principle,

because the Kauravas had resorted to unfair acts in the war.

The two myths also bear thematic similarities and both the myths are based on prophecy. For

example, in both stories, ‘according to www.lonelyphilosopher.com,’ Paris was prophesied to

cause the destruction of Troy in The Trojan War, as many different versions suggest that

when Paris was born, through the sacrifice which was made, the dove’s blood was black

which in Greek mythology meant that the new-born was bad luck, and Paris’s prophecy

depicted that he would be the reason Troy’s empire would fall. Likewise, in The

Mahabharata, Duryodhana was to be the destruction of the Kaurava race as predicted by the

head brahmin of the palace. These two prophecies played one of the biggest roles in these

two wars as they depicted that they would take place. This showed that humans didn’t have
much control over life and what happens. It presents to us what should happen and no matter

how hard we try, we cannot stop it. This shows how limited our choices are in life and how

less power we have over ourselves.

In both the wars, either side suffered many casualties. Like in The Trojan War, according to

the book ‘by Victor Davis Hanson, A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans

Fought the Peloponnesian War, ( 157 )’, the Greeks had lost a lot of their best warriors like

Achilles and Achilles’ nephew. While the Trojans lost everything and almost everyone with

just a minimum number of survivors left out of which almost all were taken as slaves. This

was important as it made Troy a complete wasteland as there was no life in the area where

Troy once stood. Likewise, in The Mahabharata, from the Pandavas’ side, ‘according to

www.indiatimes.com,’ apart from the five brothers and Krishna, there were very few warriors

who made it out of the war, alive. While almost all the warriors from the Kauravas’ side

either died or were imprisoned by the Pandavas. There was however one warrior who

retaliated against the unfair acts of the Pandavas and killed almost the entire army at their

camp while they slept. This loss of lives is very important as it had made a big impact on the

Hastinapur army as they had lost more than 85% of their soldiers in the war. Even their allies

had lost soldiers and leaders as they took sides in the war as well causing them to be unable

to fight against any enemies. Because of which, the reign of the Pandavas in Hastinapur was

overruled shortly after.

Many of these similarities and differences are very important as it shows the resemblance

of both mythologies. The comparison of the prophecies and God’s involved in the two myths

are a good example of the ideas that showed us more about the mythologies. In conclusion,

we can really understand that mythologies from different cultures depict different themes and

styles of writing and enhances the audience’s experience in different ways but such as in both
cases the composers write the story in a very unique and culturally relevant making the two

relatable.