iPads and the Mahabharata

Satendra Khanna, Associate Professor of the Practice, Asian & Middle Eastern Studies

During the Fall semester, Satendra (Satti) Khanna taught a Hindi course that made use of iPads borrowed from the Duke Digital Initiative.

In Satti’s words, “The object of the class was to follow the flow of an epic narrative, the Mahabharata, across a few centuries of Indian culture.  The students in the Topics in Hindi class were working with a literary text, the twentieth century poet Nirala’s retelling of the Mahabharata story, and two video texts, Chopra’s 96-episode television version and Peter Brooks’ 3-hour DVD version.  The iPad enabled ready crossover from literary text to YouTube or mp4 images of the epic.  We would settle on an event in Nirala’s retelling (e.g. the graduation competition in archery) and compare parallel versions in the Chopra and Peter Brooks videos.  The special quality of our use of these resources came from ease of transition from literary medium to video and back again.”

The iPad allowed an almost seamless connection between the different versions of the Mahabharata story and allowed Satti to facilitate classroom discussions that compared specific literary and cinematic moments easily.

There were limitations to using the iPads. As Satti explains, “We don’t have apps which provide reconstructions of material culture in North India three thousand years ago and we don’t have apps which allow students to video sketch their images of ordinary life in Ancient India.  But in the iPad (and, especially in iPad2, which enables video editing) we have the means to lay literary and imagic material in parallel in an unprecedented way.”

Satti Khanna’s course provided an initial look at how the iPad can integrate multiple forms of media into the curriculum easily. As additional apps are developed that focus on other aspects of Ancient India, the iPad’s impact in the curriculum will continue to grow.