Who Were the Sutas The narrator of the Mahābhārata as we know it is Rishi Ugrashravā Sauti. He was the son of Rishi Lomaharshan and belonged to the Suta community. Hence, the appellation ‘Sauti’. The community was considered a ‘mixed jāti’8 of offsprings of a Brāhmin mother and Kshatriya father. Sutas were considered expert sārthis9. The role of the charioteer was significant in ancient India. Charioteers were usually those who were close friends and confidants of the person they worked with. Their role became even more important in a war. They were to not just steer the chariot but also ensure the warrior they were driving stayed safe and motivated. They acted as guides in the war. The importance of a charioteer becomes evident from the fact that Arjuna asked Krishna to be his charioteer. To match Krishna, Karna asked Shalya, the old king of Madra, to drive his chariot. In addition, Sutas were engaged as storytellers, history keepers and ministers in royal courts. Many were also warriors and commanders. Famous Sutas in the Mahābhārata are: 1. Sanjay, the narrator of the Bhagavad Gitā and the Kurukshetra war to Dhritarāshtra. He played the role of charioteer, friend, trusted messenger and mentor to Dhritarāshtra. 2. Sudeshnā, the queen of King Virāta of Matsya desh, Uttarā’s mother and Abhimanyu’s mother-in-law. She was the maternal grandmother of Parikshita. 3. Keechak, the commander of King Virāta of Matsya desh. He was the brother of Sudeshnā and amongst the most powerful men in Matsya. 4. Karna, though born to Kunti, was raised in a Suta family of Adhiratha and Rādhā. He married women from the Suta community and his children were brought up as Sutas. Duryodhana crowned him the King of Anga desh. A great warrior, considered equal to Arjuna in archery, he was the commander of the Kaurava army after the death of Dronāchārya. Not only Karna but the sons of his foster parents were also trained warriors. They had participated in the Mahābhārata war on the side of the Kauravas. 5. Rishi Bandi, a great sage whose story is narrated in the Vana Parva of the Mahābhārata. In the Rāmāyana, one of the closest confidants and an important minister of King Dashratha of Ayodhyā is Sumantra, who belonged to the Suta community.
Ami Ganatra (Mahabharata Unravelled: Lesser-Known Facets of a Well-Known History)