Manuscript illustration of the Battle
) is one of the two major Sanskrit epic
of ancient India
, the other being the . The
epic is part of the Hindu itihāsa
(or "history"), and forms an important part of Hindu mythology
It is of immense importance to culture in the Indian subcontinent
, and is a major text
. Its discussion of human goals
or duty, artha
or purpose, kāma
, pleasure or desire and moksha
or liberation) takes place in a
long-standing tradition, attempting to explain the relationship of
the individual to society and the world (the nature of the
') and the workings of
The title may be translated as "the great tale of the Bhārata
dynasty". According to the
s own testimony it is extended from a shorter
version simply called Bhārata
of 24,000 verses.
Traditionally, the authorship of the Mahabharata
attributed to Vyasa
. There have been many
attempts to unravel its historical growth and composition layers.
Its earliest layers probably date back to the late Vedic period
(ca. 8th c. BCE) and it probably
reached its final form by the time the Gupta period
began (ca. 4th c. CE).
With about one hundred thousand verses, long prose passages, and
about 1.8 million words in total, the Mahabharata
longest epic poem
in the world. It is
roughly ten times the length of the Iliad
combined, roughly five times longer than Dante's Divine Comedy
, and about four times the
length of the Ramayana
the , the Mahabharata
has a total length of more than
Besides its epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War
and the fates of the
and the Pandavas
, the Mahabharata
material, such as the Shrimad Bhagavad
(6.25-42) which has a very high level of philosophical and
religious content, or a discussion of the four "goals of life" or
latter are enumerated as dharma
(right action), artha
Beside being rich with philosophical and religious jewels , the
epic also reveals complexity of human relationship in various
dimensions which can be related even with the modern complexity of
the human relationships.
claims all-inclusiveness at the beginning
of its first parva
("book"): "What is found here, may be
found elsewhere. What is not found here, will not be found
elsewhere."Among the principal works and stories that are a part of
are the following (often considered
isolated as works in their own right):
- the Bhagavad Gita in book 6
(Bhishmaparva): Krishna advises and teaches Arjuna when he is ridden with doubt.
- the story of Damayanti, sometimes
called (Nala and Damayanti) in book 3 (Aranyakaparva), a love
- An abbreviated version of the Ramayana,
in book 3 (Aranyakaparva)
- Rishyasringa, the horned boy and
rishi, in book 3 (Aranyakaparva)
Arshia Sattar states that the central theme of the Mahabharata, as
well as the Ramayana, is respectively Krishna's and Ram's hidden
divinity and its progressive revelation.
Textual history and structure
The epic is traditionally ascribed to Vyasa
who is also one of the major dynastic characters within the epic.
The first section of the Mahabharata
states that it was
who, at the request of Vyasa, wrote
down the text to Vyasa's dictation. Ganesha is said to have agreed
to write it only on condition that Vyasa never pause in his
recitation. Vyasa agreed, provided Ganesha took the time to
understand what was said before writing it down.The epic employs
the story within a story
structure, otherwise known as frametales, popular in many Indian
religious and secular works. It is recited to the King Janamejaya
who is the great-grandson of Arjuna
, by Vaisampayana
a disciple of Vyasa. The recitation of Vaisampayana to Janamejaya
is then recited again by a professional story teller named Ugrasrava Sauti
, many years later, to an
assemblage of sages.
It is usually thought that the full length of the
has accreted over a long period. The
itself (1.1.61) distinguishes a core portion
of 24,000 verses, the Bharata
proper, as opposed to
additional secondary material, while the Ashvalayana Grhyasutra
(3.4.4) makes a
similar distinction. According to the Adi-parva
the text was originally 8,800 verses when it was composed by
and was known as the Jaya
(Victory), which later became 24,000 verses in the Bharata
recited by Vaisampayana
, and finally
over 90,000 verses in the Mahabharata
recited by Ugrasrava Sauti
Research on the Mahabharata
has put an enormous effort
into recognizing and dating various layers within the text.
The state of the text has been described by some early 20th century
as unstructured and chaotic.
that the original poem must once have carried an immense "tragic
force", but dismissed the full text as a
The earliest known references to the Mahabharata
date back to the Ashtadhyayi
6.2.38) of Pāṇini
century BCE), and in the Ashvalayana
(3.4.4). This may suggest that the core 24,000
verses, known as the Bharata
, as well as an early version
of the extended Mahabharata
, were composed by the 4th
century BCE. Parts of the Jaya
's original 8,800 verses
possibly may date back as far as the 9th-8th century BCE.
The Mahabharata is presumed to predate the Greek epic Iliad
, and some episodes of the Mahabharata are
said to identify with
the story of the Iliad. Christian
, in his Indische Alterthumskunde
, supposed that
the reference is ultimately to Dhritarashtra's sorrows, the laments
of Gandhari and Draupadi, and the valor of Arjuna and Duryodhana or
Karna. This interpretation, endorsed in such standard references as
's History of
, has often been repeated.
copper-plate inscription of the Maharaja
Sharvanatha (533-534) from Khoh (Satna District,
Pradesh) describes the Mahabharata as a
"collection of 100,000 verses" (shatasahasri
this large body of text was carried out after formal principles,
emphasizing the numbers 18 and 12. The addition of the latest parts
may be dated by the absence of the Anushasana-parva
, the oldest surviving Sanskrit philosophical
manuscript dated to the first century, that contains among other
things a list of the books in the Mahabharata
. From this
evidence, it is likely that the redaction into 18 books took place
in the first century. An alternative division into 20 parvas
appears to have co-existed for some time. The division into 100
sub-parvas (mentioned in Mbh. 1.2.70) is older, and most parvas are
named after one of their constituent sub-parvas. The Harivamsa
consists of the final two of the
100 sub-parvas, and was considered an appendix (khila
proper by the redactors of the 18
The 18 parvas
The division into 18 parvas is as follows:
||Adi Parva (The Book of the
||How the Mahabharata came to be narrated by Sauti to the
assembled rishis at Naimisharanya. The recital of the Mahabharata
at the sarpasattra of Janamejaya by Vaishampayana at . The
history of the Bharata race is told in detail and the parva also
traces history of the Bhrigu race. The birth and early life of the
Kuru princes. (adi means first)
||Sabha Parva (The Book of the
||Maya Danava erects the palace and court (sabha), at
Indraprastha. Life at the court,
Yudhishthira's Rajasuya Yajna, the game of dice, and the eventual
exile of the Pandavas.
||Vana Parva also Aranyaka-parva,
Aranya-parva (The Book of the Forest)
||The twelve years of exile in the forest (aranya).
||Virata Parva (The Book of
||The year in incognito spent at the court of Virata.
||Udyoga Parva (The Book of the
||Preparations for war and efforts to bring about peace between
the Kurus and the Pandavas which eventually fail (udyoga
means effort or work).
||Bhishma Parva (The Book of
||The first part of the great battle, with Bhishma as commander for the Kauravas and his fall
on the bed of arrows.
||Drona Parva (The Book of Drona)
||The battle continues, with Drona as
commander. This is the major book of the war. Most of the great
warriors on both sides are dead by the end of this book.
||Karna Parva (The Book of Karna)
||The battle again, with Karna as
||Shalya Parva (The Book of
||The last day of the battle, with Shalya
as commander. Also told in detail is the pilgrimage of Balarama to
the fords of the river Saraswati and the mace fight between Bhima
and Duryodhana which ends the war, since Bima kills Duryodhana by
smashing him on the thighs with a mace.
||Sauptika Parva (The Book of the
||Ashvattama, Kripa and Kritavarma kill
the remaining Pandava army in their sleep. Only 7 warriors remain
on the Pandava side and 3 on the Kaurava side.
||Stri Parva (The Book of the
||Gandhari, Kunti and the women
(stri) of the Kurus and Pandavas lament the dead.
||Shanti Parva (The Book of
||The crowning of Yudhisthira as king
of Hastinapura, and instructions from Bhishma for the newly anointed king on society,
economics and politics. This is the longest book of the Mahabharata
(shanti means peace).
||Anushasana Parva (The Book of
||The final instructions (anushasana) from Bhishma.
||Ashvamedhika Parva (The Book
of the Horse Sacrifice)
||The royal ceremony of the Ashvamedha
(Horse sacrifice) conducted by Yudhisthira. The world conquest by
Arjuna. The Anugita is told by Krishna to Arjuna.
||Ashramavasika Parva (The
Book of the Hermitage)
||The eventual deaths of Dhritarashtra, Gandhari and Kunti in a
forest fire when they are living in a hermitage in the Himalayas.
Vidura predeceases them and Sanjaya on Dhritarashtra's bidding goes
to live in the higher Himalayas.
||Mausala Parva (The Book of the
||The infighting between the Yadavas with
maces (mausala) and the eventual destruction of the
||Mahaprasthanika Parva (The
Book of the Great Journey)
||The great journey of Yudhisthira and his brothers across the
whole country and finally their ascent of the great Himalayas where
each Pandava falls except for Yudhisthira.
||Svargarohana Parva (The Book
of the Ascent to Heaven)
||Yudhisthira's final test and the return of the Pandavas to the
spiritual world (svarga).
||Harivamsa Parva (The Book of
the Genealogy of Hari)
||Life of Krishna which is not covered in
the 18 parvas of the Mahabharata.
The Adi-parva includes the snake sacrifice (sarpasattra
of Janamejaya, explaining its motivation, detailing why all snakes
in existence were intended to be destroyed, and why in spite of
this, there are still snakes in existence. This
material was often considered an independent
tale added to a version of the Mahabharata
attraction" (Minkowski 1991), and considered to have particularly
close connection to Vedic
) literature, in particular the Panchavimsha Brahmana
as originally performed by snakes, among
which are snakes named Dhrtarashtra and Janamejaya, two main
characters of the Mahabharata'
Takshaka, the name of a snake also in the Mahabharata
account of an Ashvamedha
According to what one character says at Mbh. 1.1.50, there were
three versions of the epic, beginning with Manu
(1.3, sub-parva 5) or Vasu
respectively. These versions would correspond to the addition of
one and then another 'frame' settings of dialogues. The
version would omit the frame settings and begin with
the account of the birth of Vyasa. The astika
would add the sarpasattra
from Brahmanical literature, introduce the name
, and identify Vyasa as the work's author. The
redactors of these additions were probably Pancharatrin
scholars who according to
Oberlies (1998) likely retained control over the text until its
final redaction. Mention of the Huna
in the Bhishma-parva
however appears to imply that this
parva may have been edited around the 4th century.
The historicity of the Kurukshetra
is unclear. Some historians like A L Basham estimate the
date of the Kurukshetra war to Iron Age
of the 10th century
Other historians like M Witzel have also corroborated that the
general setting of the epic has a historical precedent in the Iron
) India, where the Kuru
kingdom was the center of political
power during roughly 1200 to 800 BCE. A dynastic conflict of the
period could have been the inspiration for the Jaya
core on which the Mahabharata corpus was built, with a climactic
battle eventually coming to be viewed as an epochal event.
lists associated with the Mahabharata narrative.The evidence of the
Puranas is of two kinds. Of the first kind, there is the direct
statement that there were 1015 (or 1050) years between the birth of
Parikshit (Arjuna's grandson) and the accession of Mahapadma Nanda,
commonly dated to 382 BCE, which would yield an estimate of about
1400 BCE for the Bharata battle. However, this would imply
improbably long reigns on average for the kings listed in the
genealogies.Of the second kind are analyses of parallel genealogies
in the Puranas between the times of Adhisimakrishna (Parikshit's
great-grandson) and Mahapadma Nanda. Pargiter accordingly estimated
26 generations by averaging 10 different dynastic lists and,
assuming 18 years for the average duration of a reign, arrived at
an estimate of 850 BCE for Adhisimakrishna, and thus approximately
950 BCE for the Bharata battle.
B. B. Lal
used the same approach with a more
conservative assumption of the average reign to estimate a date of
836 BCE, and correlated this with archaeological evidence from
Painted Grey Ware
association being strong between PGW artifacts and places mentioned
in the epic.
Attempts to date the events using methods of archaeoastronomy
have produced, depending
on which passages are chosen and how they are interpreted,
estimates ranging from the late 4th to the mid 2nd millennium
BCE.The late 4th millennium date has a precedent in the calculation
of the Kaliyuga epoch, based on planetary conjunctions, by Aryabhata
(6th century). His date of February
18 3102 BCE has become widespread in Indian tradition (for example,
inscription of Pulikeshi II, dated
to Saka 556 = 634 CE, claims that 3735 years have elapsed since the
Another traditional school of astronomers
and historians, represented by Vriddha-Garga
(author of the Brhatsamhita
) and Kalhana
(author of the Rajatarangini
), place the Bharata war 653
years after the Kaliyuga epoch, corresponding to 2449 BCE.
Other evidence exists for estimating the date of the Mahabharata
war. These include: Aihole inscriptions, Hisse Borala inscriptions
of Deva Sena and records from the Greek ambassador Megasthenes
. P.V. Vartak provides an extensive
summary of the different evidences available based for dating the
Some scholars have noted parallels between the Mahabharata, the
The Rape of the Sabine
in Roman mythology
the Æsir–Vanir War
story of the work is that of a dynastic struggle for the throne of
Hastinapura, the kingdom ruled by the Kuru clan.
The two collateral branches
of the family that participate in the struggle are the Kaurava
and the Pandava
Although the Kaurava is the senior branch of the family, Duryodhana
, the eldest Kaurava, is younger than
, the eldest Pandava. Both
Duryodhana and Yudhisthira claim to the first in line to inherit
The struggle culminates in the great
battle of Kurukshetra
, in which the Pandavas
are ultimately victorious. The battle
produces complex conflicts of kinship and friendship, instances of
family loyalty and duty taking precedence over what is right, as
well as the converse.
itself ends with the death of Krishna
, and the subsequent end of his dynasty, and
ascent of the Pandava brothers to heaven. It also marks the
beginning of the Hindu age of Kali
), the fourth and final age of
mankind, where the great values and noble ideas have crumbled, and
man is heading toward the complete dissolution of right action,
morality and virtue.
The Older generations
Janamejaya's ancestor Shantanu, the king of Hastinapura has a short-lived marriage with the goddess
Ganga and has a son, Devavrata
(later to be called Bhishma), who becomes
the heir apparent.
Many years later, when the king goes hunting, he sees Satyavati
, the daughter of a fisherman and asks
her father for her hand. Her father refuses to consent to the
marriage unless Shantanu promises to make any future son of
Satyavati the king upon his death. To solve the king's dilemma,
Devavrata agrees not to take the throne. As the fisherman is not
sure about the prince's children honouring the promise, Devavrata
also takes a vow of lifelong celibacy to guarantee his father's
promise.Shantanu has two sons by Satyavati, Chitrangada
. Upon Shantanu's death,
Chitrangada becomes king. He lived a very short uneventful life and
dies. Vichitravirya, the younger son, rules
Hastinapura. Meanwhile, The King of Kāśī arranges a swayamvara for his three
However, he does not invite the royal family of
Hastinapur. In order to arrange the marriage of the young
Vichitravirya, Bhishma goes to Kāśī for a swayamvara
of the three princesses Amba, Ambika
and Ambalika, uninvited. He abducts them on account of his
strength, rather than their will in his anger. Ambika and Ambalika
consent to be married to Vichtravirya. The oldest princess Amba,
informs Bhishma she wished to marry Shalvaraj (king of Shalva) whom
Bhishma defeated at their swayamvar. Bhishma lets her leave and
marry Shalvaraj but Shalvaraj refuses to marry her, smarting at his
humiliation under Bhishma. Amba then returns to marry Bhishma but
he refuses due to his vow of celibacy. Amba then becomes enraged
and becomes Bhishma's bitter enemy, holding him responsible for her
plight. Later she is reborn to King Drupada
(or Shikhandini) and causes
Bhishma's fall with help of Arjuna
battle of Kurukshetra.
The Pandava and Kaurava princes
When Vichitravirya dies young without any heirs, Satyavati asks her
first son Vyasa to father children on
widows. The elder, Ambika, shuts her eyes when she sees him and her
is born blind.
Ambalika turns pale and bloodless, and her son Pandu
is born pale and unhealthy (the term Pandu may
also mean 'jaundiced' 
). Due to the physical challenges of the
first two children, Satyavati askes Vyasa to try once again.
However, Ambika and Ambalika send their maid instead, to Vyasa's
room. Vyasa fathers a third son Vidura
the maid. He is born healthy and grows up to be one of the wisest
characters in the Mahabharat. He serves as Prime Minister
(Mahamantri or Mahatma) to King Pandu and King Dhritarashtra.
When the princes grow up, Dhritarashtra is about to be crowned king
by Bhishma. However, Vidura intervenes and uses his knowledge of
politics to come to the conclusion that a blind person cannot be
the king. This is because a blind man cannot keep control and
protection of his subjects. The throne is given to Pandu because of
Dhritarashtra's blindness. Pandu marries twice, to Kunti
, a princess from Gandhara,
who blindfolds herself so that she may feel the pain that her
husband feels. Her brother Shakuni
enraged by this and vows to take revenge on the Kuru family. One
day, when Pandu is relaxing in the forest, he hears the sound of a
wild animal. He shoots an arrow in the direction of the sound.
However the arrow hits sage Kindama
sage curses him that if he engages in a sexual act, he will die.
Pandu then retires to the forest along with his two wives, and his
brother Dhritarashtra rules thereafter, despite his
Pandu's older queen Kunti however, had been given a boon by Sage
Durvasa that she could invoke any god she wanted to using a special
mantra. Kunti asks Dharma
the god of justice,
the god of the wind, and Indra
the Lord of the heavens for sons; by using the
boon granted by Durvasa. She gives birth to three sons Yudhisthira
through these gods. Kunti shares her
mantra with the younger queen Madri
, who bears
the twins Nakula
through the Ashwini
twins. However Pandu and Madri, indulge in sex and Pandu dies.
Madri dies on his funeral pyre
of remorse. Kunti raises the five brothers, who are from then
usually referred to as the Pandava
Dhritarashtra has a hundred sons through Gandhari
, all born after the birth of Yudhishtira.
These are the Kaurava
brothers, the eldest
, and the second Dushasana
. Other Kaurava brothers were Vikarna and
Sukarna. The rivalry and enmity between them and the
Pandava brothers, from their youth and into manhood leads to the
(The House of Lac)
After the deaths of their mother (Madri) and father (Pandu); the
Pandavas and their mother Kunti come back to the palace of
Hastinapur. Yudhisthira is made Crown Prince by Dhritarashtra,
under considerable pressure from his kingdom. Dhritarashtra wanted
his own son Duryodhana to become king and lets his ambition get in
the way of preserving justice.Shakuni, Duryodhana and Dusasana plot
to get rid of the Pandavas. Shakuni calls the architect Purvanchan
and makes him build a palace out of flammable materials like lac
and ghee. He then arranges for the Pandavas and the Queen Mother
Kunti to stay there, with the intention of setting it alight.
However, the Pandavas are warned by their wise uncle, Vidura
, who sends them a miner to dig a tunnel. They
are able to escape to safety and go into hiding. Back at
Hastinapur, the Pandavas and Kunti are assumed dead.
Marriage to Draupadi
Arjuna piercing the eye of the
During the course of their hiding the Pandavas learn of a swayamvara
which is taking place for the hand of
. The Pandavas enter the competition
in disguise as Brahmins. The task is to string a mighty steel bow
and shoot a target on the ceiling, which is the eye of a moving
artificial fish, while looking at its reflection in oil below. Most
of the princes fail, many being unable to lift the bow. Arjuna
succeeds however. The Pandavas return home and inform their mother
that Arjuna has won a competition and to look at what they have
brought back. Without looking, Kunti asks them to share whatever it
is Arjuna has won among themselves. Thus Draupadi ends up being the
wife of all five
After the wedding, the Pandava brothers are invited back to
Hastinapura. The Kuru family elders and relatives negotiate and
broker a split of the kingdom, with the Pandavas obtaining a new
territory. Yudhishtira has a new capital built for this territory
. Neither the Pandava
nor Kaurava sides are happy with the arrangement however.
Shortly after this, Arjuna elopes with and then marries Krishna's
. Yudhishtira wishes to
establish his position as king; he seeks Krishna's advice. Krishna
advises him, and after due preparation and the elimination of some
opposition, Yudhishthira carries out the rājasūya yagna
ceremony; he is thus recognised as pre-eminent among kings.
The Pandavas have a new palace built for them, by Maya
They invite their Kaurava cousins to Indraprastha. Duryodhana walks
round the palace, and mistakes a glossy floor for water, and will
not step in. After being told of his error, he then sees a pond,
and assumes it is not water and falls in. Draupadi
laughs at him and ridicules him by saying
that this is because of his blind father Dhritrashtra
. He then decides to avenge his
The dice game
Shakuni, Duryodhana's uncle, now arranges a dice game, playing
against Yudhishtira with loaded dice. Yudhishtira loses all his
wealth, then his kingdom. He then even gambles his brothers,
himself, and finally his wife into servitude. The jubilant Kauravas
insult the Pandavas in their helpless state and even try to disrobe
Draupadi in front of the entire court, but her honour is saved by
Krishna who miraculously creates lengths of cloth to replace the
ones being removed.
Dhritarashtra, Bhishma, and the other elders are aghast at the
situation, but Duryodhana is adamant that there is no place for two
crown princes in Hastinapura. Against his wishes Dhritarashtra
orders for another dice game. The Pandavas are required to go into
exile for 12 years, and in the 13th year must remain hidden. If
discovered by the Kauravas, they will be forced into exile for
another 12 years.
Exile and return
The Pandavas spend thirteen years in exile; many adventures occur
during this time. They also prepare alliances for a possible future
conflict. They spend their final year in disguise in the court of
, and are discovered just after the end
of the year.
At the end of their exile, they try to negotiate a return to
Indraprastha. However, this fails, as Duryodhana objects that they
were discovered while in hiding, and that no return of their
kingdom was agreed. War becomes inevitable.
The battle at Kurukshetra
sides summon vast armies to their help, and line up at Kurukshetra for a war. The Kingdoms of Panchala, Dwaraka, Kasi, Kekaya, Magadha, Matsya, Chedi, Pandya and the
Yadus of Mathura and some other clans like the Parama Kambojas were allied with the
Pandavas. The allies of the
Kauravas included the kings of Pragjyotisha,
Anga, Kekaya, Sindhudesa
(including Sindhus, Sauviras and Sivis), Mahishmati, Avanti in Madhyadesa, Madra,
Kambojas and many others.
war being declared, Balarama
, had expressed
his unhappiness at the developing conflict, and left to go on
, thus he does not take part in
the battle itself. Krishna takes part in a non-combatant role, as
charioteer for Arjuna.
Before the battle, Arjuna, seeing himself facing his great
and his teacher Drona
on the other side, has doubts about the battle
and he fails to lift his Gāndeeva bow. Krishna wakes him up to his
call of duty in the famous Bhagavad
section of the epic.
Though initially sticking to chivalrous notions of warfare, both
sides soon adopt dishonourable tactics. At the end of the 18-day
battle, only the Pandavas, Satyaki, Kripa, Ashwathama, Kritavarma,
Yuyutsu and Krishna survive.
The end of the Pandavas
After "seeing" the carnage, Gandhari
had lost all her sons, curses Krishna to be a witness to a similar
annihilation of his family, for though divine and capable of
stopping the war, he had not done so. Krishna accepts the curse,
which bears fruit 36 years later.
The Pandavas who had ruled their kingdom meanwhile, decide to
renounce everything. Clad in skins and rags they retire to the
Himalaya and climb towards heaven in their bodily
A stray dog travels with them. One by one the brothers
and Draupadi fall on their way. As each one stumbles, Yudhishitra
gives the rest the reason for their fall (Draupadi was partial to
Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva were vain and proud of their looks,
Bhima and Arjuna were proud of their strength and archery skills,
respectively). Only the virtuous Yudhisthira, who had tried
everything to prevent the carnage, and the dog remain. The dog
reveals himself to be the god Yama (also known as Yama Dharmaraja),
and then takes him to the underworld where he sees his siblings and
wife. After explaining the nature of the test, Yama takes
Yudhishtira back to heaven and explains that it was necessary to
expose him to the underworld because (Rajyante narakam dhruvam) any
ruler has to visit the underworld at least once. Yama then assures
him that his siblings and wife would join him in heaven after they
had been exposed to the underworld for measures of time according
to their vices.
Arjuna's grandson Parikshit
them and dies bitten by a snake. His furious son, Janamejaya,
decides to perform a snake sacrifice (sarpasattra
) in order to destroy the
snakes. It is at this sacrifice that the tale of his ancestors is
narrated to him.
Versions, translations, and derivative works
Many regional versions of the work developed over time, mostly
differing only in minor details, or with verses or subsidiary
stories being added. These include some versions from outside the
Indian subcontinent, such as the Kakawin Bharatayuddha from Java.
plays of the Tamil
, use themes from the Tamil
language versions of Mahabharata, focusing on Draupadi.
1919 and 1966, scholars at the Bhandarkar Oriental
Research Institute, Pune, compared
the various manuscripts of the epic from India and abroad and
produced the Critical Edition of the Mahabharata,
on 13,000 pages in 19 volumes, followed by the Harivamsha in
another two volumes and six index volumes.
This is the text
that is usually used in current Mahabharata
reference. This work is sometimes called the 'Pune' or 'Poona'
edition of the Mahabharata.
poet Maithili Sharan Gupt
has written an
epic poem on two days of the Mahabharata battle called Jayadratha Vadha
(The death of Jayadratha
). Another Hindi poet Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar'
epic-poetry on various themes of Mahabharata, such as:
novelist S.L. Bhyrappa
wrote a novel in Kannada (now translated to most Indian languages
and English) titled Parva
giving a new interpretation to the story of Mahabharata. He tried
to understand the social and ethical practices in these regions and
correlate them with the story of Mahabharata.
Malayalam writer M. T. Vasudevan Nair
's novel Randamoozham
(English: Second Turn
) tells the Mahabharata from
's point of View. Mrityunjay (English:
Triumph Over Death
) written by Shivaji Sawant
is a Novel with Karna
as the central character of Mahabharata.
In Indian cinema
, several film
versions of the epic exist, dating back from 1920. The
director Satyajit Ray
also intended to direct a
theatrical adaptation of the epic, but the project was never
realized during his lifetime.
In the late 1980s, the Mahabharat TV series
directed by Ravi Chopra, was televised and shown on India's
national television (Doordarshan
Western world, a well-known
presentation of the epic is Peter
Brook's nine-hour play, which premiered in Avignon in 1985, and its five-hour movie version The Mahabharata
literary reinterpretations of the Mahabharata the most famous is
arguably Sashi Tharoor's major work
entitled "The Great Indian
Novel", an involved literary, philosophical, and political
novel which superimposes the major moments of post-independence
India in the 20th century onto the driving events of the
Mahabharata was also reinterpreted by Shyam Benegal
. Kalyug is a modern-day replaying of
Western interpretations of the Mahabharata include William Buck's Mahabharata
Elizabeth Seeger's Five Sons of
The first complete English translation was the Victorian
prose version by Kisari Mohan Ganguli
, published between
1883 and 1896 (Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers) and by M. N. Dutt
(Motilal Banarsidass Publishers). Most critics consider the
translation by Ganguli to be faithful to the original text. The
complete text of Ganguli's translation is in the public domain
and is available online.
English prose translation of the full epic, based on the
Critical Edition, is also in progress, published by
Of Chicago Press, initiated by Chicago Indologist J.
B. van Buitenen (books 1-5) and, following a 20-year hiatus caused
by the death of van Buitenen, is being continued by D. Gitomer of DePaul
University (book 6), J.
L. Fitzgerald of Brown
University (books 11-13) and W. Doniger of the University of
Chicago (books 14-18).
A poetic translation of the full epic into English, done by the
poet P. Lal
complete, and in 2005 began being published by Writers Workshop
, Calcutta. The P. Lal
translation is a non-rhyming verse-by-verse rendering, and is the
only edition in any language to include all slokas in all
recensions of the work (not just those in the Critical
). The completion of the publishing project is
scheduled for 2010. Sixteen of the eighteen volumes are now
to translate the full epic into English prose, translated by
various hands, began to appear in 2005 from the Clay Sanskrit Library, published by
The translation is based not on the
but on the version known to the
commentator Nīlakaṇṭha. Currently available are 15 volumes of the
projected 32-volume edition.
Many condensed versions, abridgements and novelistic prose
retellings of the complete epic have been published in English,
including work by William Buck
, Romesh C. Dutt,
and Bharadvaja Sarma.
A Kawi version is found on the Indonesian island of Bali and was
translated by Dr. I.
Gusti Putu Phalgunadi
the eighteen parvas, only eight Kawi manuscripts remain.
Kuru family tree
Key to Symbols
- a: Santanu was a king
of the Kuru dynasty or kingdom, and was some generations removed
from any ancestor called Kuru. His marriage to
Ganga preceded his marriage to Satyavati.
- b: Pandu and Dhritarashtra were fathered by Vyasa after Vichitravirya's death. Dhritarashtra, Pandu
and Vidura were the sons of Vyasa with Ambika, Ambalika and a maid
- c: Karna was born to
Kunti through her invocation of Surya, before her marriage to Pandu.
- d: The Pandavas were
acknowledged sons of Pandu but were begotten
by Kunti's invocation of various deities. They
all married Draupadi (not shown in tree).
- e: Duryodhana and
his siblings were born at the same time, and they were of the same
generation as their Pandava cousins.
The birth order of siblings is correctly shown in the family tree
(from left to right), except for Vyasa
whose birth order is not described,
and Vichitravirya who was born after them. The fact that Ambika
sisters is not shown in the family tree. The birth of Duryodhana
took place after the birth of Karna, Yudhishtira and Bhima, but
before the birth of the remaining Pandava brothers.
Some siblings of the characters shown here have been left out for
clarity; these include Chitrangada
eldest brother of Vichitravirya. Vidura
half-brother to Dhritarashtra and Pandu. The family tree continues
through the descendants of Arjuna
, and these
have also not been shown here.
In the Bhagavd Gita, Krishna explains to Arjuna his duties as a
warrior and prince and elaborates on different Yogic
philosophies, with examples and analogies. This has led to the Gita
often being described as a concise guide to Hindu philosophy
and a practical,
self-contained guide to life. In modern times, Swami Vivekananda
, Bal Gangadhar Tilak
, Mahatma Gandhi
and many others used the text
to help inspire the Indian
- bhārata means the progeny of Bharata, the
legendary king who is claimed to have founded the Bhāratavarsha
- Van Buitenen; The Mahabharata - 1; The Book of the Beginning.
Introduction (Authorship and Date)
- Spodek, Howard. Richard Mason. The World's History. Pearson
Education: 2006, New Jersey. 224, 0-13-177318-6
- Amartya Sen, The Argumentative Indian. Writings on Indian
Culture, History and Identity, London: Penguin Books,
- SP Gupta and KS Ramachandran (1976), p.3-4
- Brockington (1998, p. 26)
- Cited approvingly in Max Duncker, The
History of Antiquity (trans. Evelyn Abbott, London 1880), vol. 4,
- For example, John Campbell Oman, The Great Indian
Epics (London 1895), p. 215.
- 18 books, 18 chapters of the Bhagavadgita and the Narayaniya
each, corresponding to the 18 days of the battle and the 18 armies
- The Ashvamedhika-parva is also preserved in a separate
version, the Jaimini-Bharata
(Jaiminiya-ashvamedha) where the frame dialogue is
replaced, the narration being attributed to Jaimini, another disciple of Vyasa. This
version contains far more devotional material (related to Krishna)
than the standard epic and probably dates to the 12th century. It
has some regional versions, the most popular being the
Kannada one by
Devapurada Annama Lakshmisha (16th century). The Mahabharata
- In discussing the dating question, historian A. L. Basham says:
"According to the most popular later tradition the Mahabharata War
took place in 3102 BCE, which in the light of all evidence, is
quite impossible. More reasonable is another tradition, placing it
in the 15th century BCE, but this is also several centuries too
early in the light of our archaeological knowledge. Probably the
war took place around the beginning of the 9th century BCE; such a
date seems to fit well with the scanty archaeological remains of
the period, and there is some evidence in the Brahmana literature
itself to show that it cannot have been much earlier." Basham, p.
40, citing HC Raychaudhuri, Political History of Ancient
- M Witzel, Early Sanskritization: Origin and Development of
the Kuru state, EJVS vol.1 no.4 (1995); also in B. Kölver
(ed.), Recht, Staat und Verwaltung im klassischen Indien. The
state, the Law, and Administration in Classical India,
München, R. Oldenbourg, 1997, p.27-52
- A.D. Pusalker, History and Culture of the Indian
People, Vol I, Chapter XIV, p.273
- FE Pargiter, Ancient Indian Historical Tradition,
p.180. He shows estimates of the average as 47, 50, 31 and 35 for
various versions of the lists.
- Pargiter, op.cit. p.180-182
- B. B. Lal, Mahabharata and Archaeology in Gupta and
Ramachandran (1976), p.57-58
- Gupta and Ramachandran (1976), p.246, who summarize as follows:
"Astronomical calculations favor 15th century BCE as the date of
the war while the Puranic data place it in the 10th/9th century
BCE. Archaeological evidence points towards the latter."
- Gupta and Ramachandran (1976), p.55; AD Pusalker, HCIP, Vol I,
- AD Pusalker, op.cit. p.272
- P.V.Vartak, Swayambhu (in Marathi), Ved Vidnyana Mandal,
- Mallory (2005:139).
- Book 1: Adi Parva: Jatugriha Parva
- Book 2: Sabha Parva: Sabhakriya Parva
- Plant Cultures - picture details
- Bhandarkar Institute, Pune—Virtual Pune
- (1920 film)
- (1988-1990 TV series)
- (1989 mini-series)
- What makes Shyam special...
- Several editions of the Kisari Mohan Ganguli translation
of the Mahabharata incorrectly cite Pratap Chandra
Roy as translator and this error has been perpetuated into
secondary citations. See the publishers preface to the current
Munshiram Manoharlal edition for an explanation.
- The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa
translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli at the Internet Sacred Text
- Introduction to the Bhagavad Gita
- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; On The Bhagavad Gita; A New Translation
and Commentary With Sanskrit Text Chapters 1 to 6, Preface p.9
- Stevenson, Robert W., "Tilak and the Bhagavadgita's Doctrine of
Karmayoga", in: Minor, p. 44.
- Jordens, J. T. F., "Gandhi and the Bhagavadgita", in: Minor, p.
- Chaturvedi Badrinath, The Mahabharata : An Inquiry in the
Human Condition, New Delhi, Orient Longman (2006)
- J. Brockington, The Sanskrit Epics, Leiden
- Alf Hiltebeitel, The Ritual of Battle, Krishna in the
Mahabharata, SUNY Press, New York 1990.
- E. W. Hopkins, The Great Epic of India, New York
- H. Oldenberg, Zur Geschichte der
Altindischen Prosa, Berlin (1917)
- Jyotirmayananda Swami, Mysticism of the Mahabharata,
Yoga Research Foundation, Miami 1993.
- Paule Lerner, Astrological Key in Mahabharata, David
White (trans.) Motilal Banarsidass, New Delhi 1988.
- Ruth Cecily Katz, Arjuna in the Mahabharata,
University of South Carolina Press, Columbia 1989.
- R.V.Bhasin, "Mahabharata" published by National
Publications, India, 2007.
- Krishna Chaitanya (K.K. Nair), The Mahabharata, A Literary
Study, Clarion Books, New Delhi 1985.
- Th. Oberlies, 'Ritual an und unter der Oberfläche des
Mahabharata', in: Neue Methoden der Epenforschung (ed. H.
L. C. Tristram), Freiburg (1998).
- H. Oldenberg, Das Mahabharata, Göttingen (1922).
- Mallory, J. P (2005). In Search of the Indo-Europeans.
Thames & Hudson. ISBN
- M. Mehta, The problem of the double introduction to the
Mahabharata, JAOS 93 (1973), 547-550.
- C. Z. Minkowski, Janamehayas Sattra and Ritual
Structure, JAOS 109 (1989), 410-420.
- C. Z. Minkowski, 'Snakes, Sattras and the
Mahabharata', in: Essays on the Mahabharata, ed. A.
Sharma, Leiden (1991), 384-400.
- Bruce M. Sullivan, Seer of the Fifth Veda, Krsna Dvaipayana
Vyasa in the Mahabharata, Motilal Banarsidass, New Delhi
- Nicholas Sutton, Religious Doctrines in the
Mahabharata, Motilal Banarsidass, New Delhi 2000.
- N. B. Utgikar, The mention of the Mahabharata in the
Ashvalayana Grhya Sutra, Proceedings and Transactions of the
All-India Oriental Conference, Poona (1919), vol. 2, Poona (1922),
- M. Witzel, Epics, Khilas and Puranas:
Continuities and Ruptures, Proceedings of the Third Dubrovnik
International Conference on the Sanskrit Epics and Puranas, ed. P.
Koskiallio, Zagreb (2005), 21-80.
- Gupta, S.P. and K.S. Ramachandran (ed.), Mahabharata: myth
and reality. Agam Prakashan, New Delhi 1976.
- Pargiter, F.E., Ancient Indian Historical Tradition,
London 1922. Repr. Motilal Banarsidass 1997.
- Majumdar, R.C. and A.D. Pusalker (ed.), The History and
Culture of the Indian People, Vol I. "The Vedic Age",
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan 1951.
- Original text online
- Abridged versions
- Textual resources
- Kisari Mohan Ganguli translation
- Articles on the Mahabharata