The scope of Mahabharat is much more vast than the Ramayan. It deals with military strategy, war craft, politics, administration, life, human pyschology. And then there is the Bhagvad Geeta within it, that is virtually an entire treatise on life, Dharma, Destiny, duty. Where Ramayan is more or less a straightforward narrative, the Mahabharat is far more complex, layered, not to mention the numerous sub stories within it. And that makes it much more relevant to modern times. The entire Kurukshetra war, the strategies and formations used on both sides, are pretty much similiar to what has been applied in latter day battles. The tactics used by Shakuni and Duryodhan against the Pandavas, and the counter tactics used by Krishna, pretty much sum up today’s political world. The Vidura Neeti, deals with administration, duties of a king. Mahabharat to me is not just an epic, it is a virtual repository of wisdom and information on life and the world.
The characters in Mahabharat are much more identifiable than those in the Ramayan. No character in the Mahabharat is perfect, including Lord Krishna, as every one follows the end is greater than the means principle. Every character in Mahabharat has their own grey areas, no one is fully good or bad. Arjun does not hesitate to kill Karna when he is totally helpless, likewise the latter has no compunctions in teaming up with Duryodhan to kill a defenseless Abhimanyu. The Mahabharat in that sense, is more closer to the modern world, a world where only survival matters, where the end is greater than the means, it is much more closer to reality.
The tales within the Mahabharat by themselves are fascinating, Karna’s tale of misfortune, his friendship with Duryodhan. How Bhishma’s vow of not being the ruler of Hastinapur, in a way contributes to it’s own downfall. The Pandava’s exile in the forest, and their living incognito in Virat during the Agnahtha Vaas, the entire Kurukshetra War. The tale of Drupad and Drona, friends turning enemies, and how the former uses Arjun to get back at his own Guru. The plots hatched by Shakuni against the Pandavas, and his own back tale.
The Ramayan sets the standards for what an ideal human being should be like, and how deviation from that, can cause one’s down fall. The Mahabharat on the other hand, is about how ordinary human beings react to the situation, of how everything is fair, when it comes to the cause of Dharma. Both of them have their own appeal, the Mahabharat though would be something, every one feels much closer to