Writing of the Mahabharata is perhaps the most ancient record of writing in action.
Ten Commandments which Moses got, on tablets, on Mount Sinai may be the oldest memory of writing. But, the writer was absent there.
They were God's own writing in light(ening). Apouresheya like the Rg Veda. The writer is conspicuously absent there.
Ganesha, on the other hand, was very conspicuous as a scribe. The Mahabharata starts with the story of his writing.
Ganesha was also the first reader and critic of the Text. Vyasa, from the great Editor Clan of the Vedas, wanted to create a compendium of knowledge centered around power play (ie, business of life.)
Shudras were banned from the Vedas, in ancient India. Even the upper classes could only hear the Rks from the priest class only.
Vyasa wanted a democratization of knowledge for some reason. But, he was not to wield the pen himself.
He wanted a writer.
And Ganesha was the writer.
The Mahabharata challenges the tradition of oral translation of heritage across generations. Thus, it also challenges restriction of knowledge to certain powerful classes.
However, in later recital of the Mahabharata, by
Vaiśampāyana, and even later by Sauti, that restriction was
The tradition of orature, and learning through guidance, returned.
But, the idea of objective transfer of knowledge had been established in the clan memory, by then.
And the new narrators were not necessarily Brahmins! Sauti was not Brahmin.
There were two reasons behind Vyasa's conditions imposed on Ganesha. He asked Ganesha to write non-stop.
He made a further imposition that Ganesha would not write even a single word without understanding its meaning and context fully.
Why did Vyasa need a writer?
Could he not write himself?
Or, did he create the verses and the prose sentences in a hypnotic trance? He could not write as he did not want the outpouring of the unconscious to break.
Was it automatic narration? And Ganesha played just the role of the psychoanalyst?
Even today when a writer writes, what does s/he writes?
Where does writing originate? Does the ideas raise their heads from the traditions in which the writer is submerged?
Are the diction and the style guided by schooling?
Is the discourse always popular discourse, either pro-culture or counter?
Where the does the writer stand vis-à-vis the text and the reader?
Is the writer's biography totally absent in the text?
Is the text serving the writer as an autobiography only?
Are the writer and text always in a dialectical relationship?
What does the writer want?
Do the texts write themselves through the external agencies of the writer?
May the writer literally die now, in the machine age?
Would texts write themselves through the external agencies of the externalized consciousness called the net?
The Writer is dead. Long live the Writer!