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Meghnad Desai questions number of lives lost in Mahabharata battle

Meghnad Desai was delivering the lecture on ‘Mortality in the Mahabharata-Exploration in Historical Demography’ organised by Gujarat Institute of Development Research at Ahmedabad Management Association.

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad |
January 4, 2019 3:37:46 am
Meghnad Desai questions number of lives lost in Mahabharata battle Economist Lord Meghnad Desai. (Express photo by Pradip Das)

Delivering the 7th Prof Pravin Visaria Memorial Public Lecture here on Thursday, Meghnad Desai questioned the plausibility of the number of lives lost in Mahabharata battle in the context of historical demography.

“What is the degree of possibility of such an event happening and can we scale it down to make it work? Were there enough men on ground to fight the Mahabharata battle,” questioned Meghnad Desai, adding, “Could two million people have died? Where were they cooking? Where were they bathing everyday? There is no lunch break so everyone had to take breakfast so who was cooking for them? Who was cleaning the bodies of the dead? Till the end of the 18th day, not a single body has been cleared including Abhimanyu who had died very early in the war. How did they manage?”

Desai was delivering the lecture on ‘Mortality in the Mahabharata-Exploration in Historical Demography’ organised by Gujarat Institute of Development Research at Ahmedabad Management Association.

Referring to The Atlas of World Population History published in mid-70s, Desai said, “How can it be possible (the Mahabharata) considering what would have been the population at that time? According to the The Atlas of World Population History, population of Indian subcontinent in 10,000 BC was about 1,00,000. In 4,000 BC, it was 1 million, by 2,000 BC it was estimated to be at 5 million, by 500 BC, it was 25 million and by 200 BC it was 20 and 30 million. Also, considering that Mahabharata involves the north undivided India only, how could it be possible that 2 million people died?”

Answering to objections raised by the audience on the conflict between mythology and history, Desai said, “On one hand there is extreme accuracy on the number of horses used. We can say 20,000 or 30,000 but it says 21,821 horses used. Also, it mentions Gandhari reaching Kurukshetra from Hastinapur in hours. Even if Saraswati river was running nearby how is it possible? People went to Dwarka overnight or within the same day. Even if Dwarka was not sunk how is it possible?”

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