On the theory of Canon

“If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen. And I here make a rule—a great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting—only the deeply personal and familiar.”

– East of Eden (John Steinbeck)

One of my friends, is busy building the skeleton for the ‘theory of Canon’, partly inspired by my work on AV observation of Mahabharata text.  My friend will present and expand on his theory in future.   He suggested the theory few months ago.  Since then I have come across numerous instances of corroborative evidence, from the pages of India’s great epics.

But enough of that for now.

This morning, as I was re-reading ‘East of Eden’, I ran into above words (from ‘East of Eden’) and they caught my attention, precisely because I had this ‘theory of Canon’ in the back of my mind, coupled with the fact that I am also re-reading through Mahabharata text (in the context of my upcoming work – The Mahabharata: An Ancient Narrative).

There are numerous instances in the Mahabharata text, where likes of sage Narada, Durvasa, Vyasa appear repeatedly, and out of nowhere.  Note that likes of Narada and Durvasa are founds everywhere, in all epics and also in Purana, and they appear suddenly and repeatedly, and in almost all these cases, with their characteristic eccentricities.

It is my speculation that writers of these works chose to represent specific character appearing in that historical instance by ‘canonical characters’ such as ‘Narada or Durvasa or Vyasa’ since what they said was more important than their individual identity.


And this choice, I suggest, was driven by the logic stated in ‘East of Eden’, above.

This may also explain presence of repetitive ‘mythologized narrations’ of astronomy observations/phenomenon among ancient epics (e.g. Mahabharata or Ramayana).  Many of these narrations ‘appear’ like children’s stories.  I speculate that this may be deliberate, and consistent with principle of making these memories ‘great’, ‘personal’, ‘familiar’ and  hence ‘lasting’.


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