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Traditional Essay Option: Even though Indra is not a central character in either the Mahabharata or the Ramayana, you have now read many stories and anecdotes about Indra, including his involvement this week in the story of Nala and Damayanti. Find at least two other stories you know from your previous reading about Indra and write an essay where you summarize the main characteristics and traits of this god. Try to choose incidents that bring out different aspects of Indra's character.
Creative Writing + Analysis Option: Provide your imaginative retelling of the encounter between Indra and Karkotaka when Indra asks the naga to help him rescue Nala from possession by Kali. Make sure you provide a dialogue between the two characters, and also a physical description of both of the god and the naga. Whose idea is it for Karkotaka to bite Nala? How does Karkotaka feel about this situation? How does Karkotaka regard Indra's role in this story? After you tell your story, don't forget to include some analysis of Indra's character as it is revealed through the arrangement he makes with Karkotaka.


Traditional Essay Option: Vyasa tells the story of Nala to Yudhishthira in order to give Yudhishthira some perspective on his own situation. What are the things that Yudhishthira and Nala have in common? What are the differences between them? What do you think Yudhishthira can learn from a study of Nala's character?
Creative Writing + Analysis Option: Imagine the scene when Nala is rejoined with Damayanti and write out the dialogue between them. What would the two of them say to each other? Make sure you pay careful attention to Nala's role in this scene. What does Damayanti need to learn from him? What does he need to learn from Damayanti? After you finish the dialogue, provide an explanation of the character traits of Nala that you tried to bring out in this scene.


Traditional Essay Option: Write an essay in which you compare and contrast Sita, Draupadi and Damayanti. What do these three women have in common? What are the differences between them? What are the outstanding character traits of Damayanti, and does she share those feature in common with these other women? What do you think Draupadi could learn from Damayanti's story? What could Sita learn from her story?
Creative Writing + Analysis Option: Although the ascetics in the forest tell Damayanti to return home, she ignores their advice and goes with the caravan to Chedi. Why does Damayanti not follow their advice? Imagine the thoughts that are going through Damayanti's mind as she decides to follow the caravan. What are her hopes? her fears? Why does she choose to ignore the advice that was given to her? What are the main thoughts in her mind as she sets off on the journey to Chedi? After you finish your portrait of Damayanti, provide a brief analysis of the character traits you tried to bring out in this portrait.


Traditional Essay Option: What do you make of Śakuni's character? How does his character suit him for the role that he plays in the plot of the epic? Compare and contrast Śakuni's character with that of Karna and that of Duryodhana, the three characters who are most destructive to the Pandavas. What are the motivations of these three characters, and how does Śakuni contribute to their group dynamic? Do you notice any striking differences in the way Śakuni was presented in Narayan's version of the story and the way that Śakuni is presented by Buck?
Creative Writing + Analysis Option: Śakuni is Gandhari's brother, yet we do not see a scene where the two of them confront one another. Imagine a confrontation between Śakuni and Gandhari before the game of dice. Gandhari has heard about the plans, and she confronts her brother about it. What would Śakuni say in his own defense? How would he explain himself to his sister? (You may or may not have other characters participate in this conversation as well.) After you tell your story, don't forget to include some analysis of Śakuni's character and how you see his role in the court at Hastinapura.



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