Who is the Hero of Mahabharata? Bhīma? Arjun? Krishna or Duryodhana?

A reader who is a self-proclaimed follower of Hindu Aikya Vedi called me and asked: “Udayji, who is the real hero of Mahabharata? Recently, India’s biggest movie was announced – The Mahabharata – an adaptation of MT Vasudevan Nair’s Randamoozham (Second Turn) of Malayalam language in which Bhīma is the hero…”
“It’s not the adaptation of Ved Vyasa’s Mahabharata and they should not give that title.”
I read MT Vasudevan Nair’s Randamoozham (Second Turn) while it was being published as a serial in a newsweekly during the early 1980s when I was a college student. Based on the Indian epic Mahabharata, the novel tells the story from Bhīma’s perspective, the second of the Pandavas. I had the opportunity to interview MT, who was my favorite writer then, about this novel. Later he had got Jnanpeeth Award for the novel.
Now, Randamoozham is becoming India’s biggest ever motion picture, the veteran actor Mohan Lal is acting as Bhima, the protagonist of the novel.
“The great Sanskrit epic has been a topic of creative adaptation in various formats in all art forms for many decades. Many have written novels based on Mahabharata. So, what’s wrong with this novel? It is an exciting novel…” I asked him.
“We are not against the movie or novel. But it should not be titled Mahabharata. Bhīma was not the hero of Mahabharata right?” he asked.
“I have read Mahabharata many times. I always found it difficult to understand who is the real hero of the epic – because every character in the epic is unique and important. If you try to remove one character, the entire epic will collapse – it is an unparalleled mastery craft that never ever can be imitated. That’s why it is said, “Vyasochishtam jagat sarvam,” or whatever you find in the universe, Vyas has said it before. Such well-crafted epic”
“But it is a known fact that Arjun is the hero and Duryodhana is the villain of Mahabharata…”
“Yes, if you read Mahabharata with a Semitic mindset of Good Guys Vs. Bad Guys. But Veda Vyas tried to prove a totally different dimension. There is no hero-villain concept in this great epic.”
“Whatever said and done, Bhīma is not the hero, right?”
“Hmmm…You tell me then, who are the villains? The conventional hero needs conventional villains.”
“The Kauravas (100 sons of the King of Hastinapur, Dhritarashtra, and his wife Gandhari) are the villains”
“OK, the hero should be one who kills all the 100s right?”
“It was Bhīma who killed all the 100 Kauravas – no one else had any role in it. He single-handedly finished all Kauravas. In ancient days it was the responsibility of the King to kill the enemy King. Bhima killed Duryodhana. So isn’t Bhīma the hero? As MT said, he should have been the King, right?”  … From my book: “The Secret of Krishna’s Birth: Deciphering The Krishna Code”
For further reading: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B091YP2GWS

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Udaylal Pai
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