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Series / Mahabharata

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"I am Time! And only I can recite this epic tale stretching across many generations, because only I have existed throughout the past, present and future."
The personification of Time

The ancient Indian epic poem received a Hindi language television adaptation on India’s Doordarshan channel. Produced by longtime Bollywood movie producers Baldev Rai Chopra and his son Ravi, this show was a Long Runner with 94 episodes. It premiered on Sunday morning Oct 3 1988 and all 94 episodes were aired continuously with no season breaks or reruns, until the Series Finale aired on July 14th 1990. To this day, the show remains the most watched TV show in India, with apocryphal stories of normally busy streets being near empty while this show was on.

The show starred Bollywood actor Raj Babbar as King Bharat in a cameo, Mukesh Khanna as Bhishma, Girija Shankar as King Dhritharashtra, Bollywood villain Puneeth Isaar as Duryodhan, Gufi Paintal as Shakuni, Gajendra Chauhan as Yudhistir, former Olympic athlete Praveen Kumar as Bhim, Arjun (real name Firoz Khan) as Arjun, Sameer as Nakul, Sanjeev as Sahadev and Bengali actress Roopa Ganguly as Draupadi.


Now has a Recap page.

Tropes specific to this TV adaptation are

  • Altar Diplomacy: Occurs a lot.
  • Arc Words: These phrases are repeated over the entire series.
    • “Ambition and Filial Love”
    • “Bound by my oath”
    • “Caught in the Swamp of X”
    • “History Will Hold You Answerable For This War”
    • “Krishna Had The Power to Prevent This War”
    • “These Insulted Strands”
    • “War for Virtue”
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: So many avoidable events could have ensured a long happy existence for Hastinapur’s Royal Family. Namely
    • Had Shantanu just moved on and returned to a normal life after having been prevented from marrying Satyavati, Devavrat wouldn’t have abdicated and Hastinapur would have had a strong and popular king, instead of the crisis it got.
    • Had Satyavati followed Vyasa’s advice and waited a year for him to complete his penance and clean himself up before sleeping with Ambaalika and Ambika, they would have borne healthy babies. The elder of the two would have been the undisputed king, with his firstborn inheriting the throne in due order. The younger son’s children would have had no claim.
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    • Had Rishi Kindam decided to remain in human form in order to make love to his wife, Madri wouldn’t have sent Pandu to hunt the “tiger”. Pandu wouldn’t have killed Rishi Kindam, he wouldn’t have had to abdicate, thereby Dhritharashtra would never have become king, and Pandu’s son would have duly inherited the kingdom.
    • Had Yudhistir rebuffed the dice game challenge, he would have comfortably ruled Indraprasth for decades.
  • Engagement Challenge: Called a “swayamvar” in Sanskrit, this ancient practice required princes vying for a princess’s hand to complete any challenge she decrees. In some instances, the princess sets no challenge and just picks a suitor. In other instances, a challenge is issued.
  • Flynning: Played straight for sword fights. Not so, for mace fights.
  • Foreshadowing: Multiple episodes foretell or foreshadow important events that will occur later.
  • Gold and White Are Divine: Played straight and subverted. Although the virtuous Yudhistir and Arjun dress in white with some gold accessories, so do the Obviously Evil Dushasan and the Punch-Clock Villain Bhishma.
  • Gold Makes Everything Shiny: All the princes are decked out in sparkling gold, from golden crowns, gold earrings, gold chains, golden armor and golden arm bands.
  • The Good King / The Emperor: Bharat, Shantanu, Pandu and his son Yudhishtir.
  • I Am X, Son of Y: Many characters refer to themselves and others in this manner, with the Y equally being the father or mother.
  • I Gave My Word: Over multiple episodes, this concept is Deconstructed as putting people either In untenable situations, or being forced to commit outright evil.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: If there is a sword fight, chances are that the loser ends up with one end going into and the other emerging from his torso.
  • Large Ham: The 1988 TV adaptation was infamous for all characters really hamming it up.
  • Manly Tears: The men in this show are not afraid to let the waterworks flow publicly. That said, death of a friend or loved one is the only reason they cry openly. And since this series ain’t exactly short on deaths ...
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Bhishma over time realizes just how insidiously evil such thinking is.
  • Narrator: The personification of Time narrates every episode, since only he has existed throughout its progress.
  • No-Sell / Invincible Hero: Krishna is immune to multiple attacks throughout the series, be it poison, fire, blunt force trauma, sharp instruments, even arrows.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Karna’s robes are bright pink.
  • Repeated For Emphasis: This is done rather melodramatically by many characters! Many Characters!
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: While commoners speak plainly, the princes tend to speak in very flowery language.
  • Threatening Suicide: Duryodhan uses this tactic many times to bend Dhritharashtra to his will. Kichak uses this to force Sudeshana to send Draupadi to him. A fed up Draupadi then uses this tactic to force Bhim to kill Kichak.
  • Third-Person Person: Many characters refer to themselves this way.
  • You Fool!: Shakuni berates Duryodhan this way, many many many times.

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