The Mahabharata is the story of two warring factions of cousins - 100 demons in human form against five sons of gods. Woven into this epic martial tale of great and bloody battles are numerous narrative digressions and much religious instruction - including the wisdom of Bhisma, give from a deathbed of arrows, and the legendary Bhagavadgita, spoken by Krsna on the very verge of war. The enactment of eternal conflicts, it is also a vital Hindu text on the nature of dharma - the right way for each person to live his or her life, and the only way to secure an improved lot in future births.
John D. Smith was born in Nottingham in 1946. He attended Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he read Sanskrit and Hindi. In the early 1970s he held a research fellowship at Christ's College, Cambridge; this was followed by nine years as lecturer in Sanskrit at the School of Oriental and African Studies in the University of London. In 1984 he returned to Cambridge, where he is now emeritus Reader of Sanskrit. He has worked on both Sanskrit and modern Rajasthani, and his publications include The Visa?adevarasa: a restoration of the text (Cambridge, 1976) and The epic of Pabuji: a study, transcription and translation (Cambridge, 1991).