Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
Arjuna and the Hunter

Arjuna and the Hunter


Edited and translated by Indira Viswanathan Peterson

ISBN 9780674504967

Publication date: 01/05/2016

The first complete English translation of one of the great court epics of Sanskrit literature.

Kirātārjunīya, or Arjuna and the Hunter, is one of the great court epics of the Sanskrit literary canon. Written by the sixth-century poet Bharavi, it is also the first and most remarkable reinterpretation of a pivotal episode in the Mahābhārata, India’s ancient epic. The warrior Arjuna travels to the Himalayas to perform penance and win a boon from the god Shiva that will help his brothers, the Pandavas, overcome their enemies in righteous war. Appearing in the guise of a hunter, Shiva tests Arjuna’s courage in combat, ultimately reveals himself, and bestows upon the hero an invincible weapon.

In Bharavi’s hands, the episode is turned into a masterful contemplation of heroic action, ethical conduct, ascetic discipline, and religious devotion—core values in India’s classical civilization and enduring themes in Indian literature. But the poem’s fame rests above all on its aesthetic achievement. With its elegant, epigrammatic verse, powerful imagery, dramatic speeches, and vivid descriptions, Arjuna and the Hunter, now made available for the first time in a complete English translation and accompanied by the Sanskrit original in the Devanagari script, will dazzle and move contemporary readers no less powerfully than its first courtly connoisseurs.


  • Even as stand-alone English text, without the supporting material, Arjuna and the Hunter is a very enjoyable piece of work. This excellent edition, providing also the original Sanskrit, a helpful Introduction (and notes on the translation) as well as detailed supporting material, gives readers a chance to delve deeper into what is remarkable and very rewarding work.

    —M. A. Orthofer, Complete Review


  • Indira Viswanathan Peterson is David B. Truman Professor of Asian Studies at Mount Holyoke College.

Book Details

  • 480 pages
  • 5-1/4 x 8 inches
  • Harvard University Press