I am eager to start a live reading group to meet weekly here where I live in Florida just nearby a large rural Hare Krishna community and begin with "Mahabharata." I was trying to find some quotes by the generally accepted Acharya AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to support starting a group like this since he himself did not actually translate the "Mahabharata." I mean, really, how many books can a person translate and comment on. His list of books is very long. He did mention several times how important "Mahabharata" is and how people should be familiar with it. How he would have liked to translate and comment on it but time did not allow.
There are many English translations and I found one that was easy to read. Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari was an Indian lawyer, independence activist, politician, and writer. Check out this biography to get detailed information on his life.
A few years ago I came across the free online version of "Mahabharata" as retold by C. Rajagopalachari.
I found it very easy to read since it was presented very clearly unlike most of the other translations which were written in "Old Time" English and were very long. His version was like an overview. Concise and to the point hitting the main points and capturing the drama very nicely.
Over the next several months I read and recorded his "Mahabharata" in 106 Chapters and posted it to social media including Steemit and Youtube.
I came across a transcription of a conversation between Srila Prabhupada and an India guest. The topic of "Mahabharata" came up and in particular C. Rajagopalachari:
"Indian man: Rajagopalāchari, he has written in "Mahābhārata" that Kṛṣṇa was killed by a hunter.
Prabhupāda: Therefore the hunter is...
Indian man: "Kṛṣṇa Passes Away," the heading of his chapter.
Harikeśa: You said about a couple of years ago that "What ordinary man would be killed if he was shot in the arrow by a heel," I mean, "shot in the heel by an arrow?" No ordinary man dies that way.
Prabhupāda: So who reads Rajagopalācāri's "Mahābhārata?" (laughter) They are rotting at Bharatiya Vidyabhavan."
But I do not see the offense in C. Rajagopalachari's description of the passing away of Krishna.
"Krishna saw all his people thus destroy themselves as predestined. When he saw the passing of Balarama, he roamed about in deep meditation in the wilderness, pondering on the completion of His avatar. "The time has for me to go," He said to himself and, lying on the ground fell asleep. In that wooded beach, a hunter, prowling for game, saw Vasudeva lying on the ground among the shrubs. From a distance, the hunter mistook Krishna for a wild animal resting on the ground. He bent his bow and shot an arrow at the prostrate figure which, piercing His foot in the insteep, went fully through his body. Thus did the great Vasudeva depart from the world of men." Ch 105
Sometime a guest or disciple would present something to Srila Prabhupada in such a way that Srila Prabhupada would respond very forcefully just to make a point very clear. Here the discussion was focussed on how Krishna is not an ordinary person and how His appearance and disappearance should not be seen as something mundane. He is not at all influenced by the material energy although He can appear within the material energy. Looks like Srila Prabhupada threw Rajagopalacari under the bus in the conversation to smash home the point that Krishna is not an ordinary person.
I am still inclined to C. Rajagopalachari's translation. I respect that he did not try to preach when one way or another when the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna took place on the battlefield, which is accepted as the "Bhagavad Gita."
Rajagopalachari left it open for the reader to research for themselves. He is not presenting himself as a spiritual master but is offering in his own way some service. I do not find him pretentious at all. Which is a great relief since many who claim to be authorities are still very much full of pretention.
I think he has been very careful to respect a sensitive issue, the Divinity of Krishna, and has captured very nicely the historical and mystical drama that unfolds in "Mahabharata." His rendition could very easily be performed as a stage play or drama.