YS 209 | The Mahābhārata

Available for Self-Study


Course Description

This course is designed to be a first foray into an enduring work of world literature, the great Sanskrit epic, the Mahābhārata. One of the beloved cradle tales of Hinduism, the Mahābhārata tells the famous story of a war fought by two sides of the Bharata clan, the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The Kauravas are numerically superior, but the Pandavas have God on their side, in the form of Krishna. Around this premise is spun an intricate tale involving a cast of literally thousands of characters. There are holy humans and misbehaving gods, virtuous demons and women of indomitable will, murder, love, self-sacrifice, and a God disturbingly prone to dirty tricks. In a tale of heroism and humour, friendship and honour, the Mahābhārata interweaves the loftiest of human aspirations with its tragic frailties, using the story of the Pandavas and Kauravas ultimately to tell the story of us—of living and dying, of happiness and sorrow, of Time, the weight of existential suffering, of discipline and self-mastery, and our yearning for tranquillity.

Over the course of six weeks, we will acquaint ourselves with the parameters of this wonderful tale. Who are we, and what is the world around us? Who is God, and what is his purpose? What is dharma, what is justice, and how do I come to peace with myself? These are some of the questions that will occupy us in our study of the Mahābhārata.


Even at its simplest, the Mahābhārata is a complex and involved tale, and it will be difficult in six weeks to absorb it in its entirety. We will read excerpts out of an abridged translation by John D. Smith in addition to the Gītā (itself a short excerpt out of the sixth volume of the Mahābhārata.) All readings will be provided in the course, no additional purchase is necessary.

Course Modules

Module 1 — It’s History! It’s Epic! It’s the Story of God! The Mahābhārata: What is it?
Module 2 — A Tale of Gods and Mortals: The Kuru-Pancala Story
Module 3 — Churning the Ocean and Misbehaving Gods-Foundational Myths and Structure
Module 4 — Doing the Right Thing: Violence and Non-violence
Module 5 — Women and Secrets: 4 Case Studies
Module 6 — The Self, maybe God, and Liberating Wisdom

Students Will Receive: 

  • 12 Pre-recorded class sessions (90 min each)
  • 5 YS Credits
  • 18 Hours of CE credit with YA
  • Course Syllabus (PDF)
  • Weekly Readings (PDF)
  • 6 Multiple Choice Quizzes
  • Yogic Studies Certificate (PDF)
  • Access to the private Community Forum

Dr. Arti Dhand

Associate Professor of South Asian Religions, University of Toronto

Arti Dhand's specializations include the great Sanskrit epics, the Rāmāyaṇa and the Mahābhārata. Her 2009 book Woman as Fire, Woman as Sage explored ideologies of sexuality in the Mahābhārata. Her current work is The Twin Epics, a comparative analysis of the architecture of thought in the Sanskrit epics. She is also the host of the The Mahabharata Podcast, in which she aims to recount the text in its entirety!

Enrollment is OPEN for Self-Study

Regular Tuition


One-Time Payment

  • Lifetime access to YS 209

Regular Tuition

$100 x 2

Two Monthly Payments

  • Lifetime access to YS 209

Membership Program


Monthly Subscription

  • Access to YS 209

  • Access to all YS + BS courses—including live and future courses 

  • Access to SKT 100a + SKT 100b


This course is eligible for 18 hours of Continued Education (CE) credits with Yoga Alliance

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