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Mahabharata

Mahabharata

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Published by Sougata Pramanick
by C Rajagopalachari
by C Rajagopalachari

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Published by: Sougata Pramanick on May 23, 2008
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05/09/2014

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MAHABHARATA retold by C. Rajagopalachari
 
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Contents
1. Ganapati, the Scribe2. Devavrata3. Bhishma's Vow4. Amba And Bhishma5. Devayani And Kacha6. The Marriage Of Devayani7. Yayati8. Vidura9. Kunti Devi10. Death Of Pandu11. Bhima12. Karna13. Drona14. The Wax Palace15. The Escape Of The Pandavas16. The Slaying Of Bakasura17. Draupadi's Swayamvaram18. Indraprastha19. The Saranga Birds20. Jarasandha21. The Slaying Of Jarasandha22. The First Honor23. Sakuni Comes In24. The Invitation25. The Wager26. Draupadi's Grief27. Dhritarashtra's Anxiety28. Krishna's Vow29. Pasupata30. Affliction Is Nothing New31. Agastya32. Rishyasringa33. Fruitless Penance34. Yavakrida's End35. Mere Learning Is Not Enough36. Ashtavakra37. Bhima And Hanuman38. I am No Crane39. The Wicked Are Never Satisfied40. Duryodhana Disgraced41. Sri Krishna's Hunger42. The Enchanted Pool43. Domestic Service44. Virtue Vindicated45. Matsya Defended46. Prince Uttara47. Promise Fulfilled48. Virata's Delusion49. Taking Counsel50. Arjuna's Charioteer51. Salya Against His Nephews52. Vritra53. Nahusha54. Sanjaya's Mission55. Not a Needle-Point Of Territory56. Krishna's Mission57. Attachment and Duty58. The Pandava Generalissimo59. Balarama60. Rukmini61. Non-Cooperation62. Krishna Teaches63. Yudhishthira Seeks Benediction64. The First Day's Battle65. The Second Day66. The Third Day's Battle67. The Fourth Day68. The Fifth Day69. The Sixth Day70. The Seventh Day71. The Eighth Day72. The Ninth Day73. The Passing Of Bhishma74. Karna and the Grandsire75. Drona in Command76. To Seize Yudhishthira Alive77. The Twelfth Day78. Brave Bhagadatta79. Abhimanyu80. The Death Of Abhimanyu81. A Father's Grief82. The Sindhu King83. Borrowed Armor84. Yudhishthira's Misgivings85. Yudhishthira's Fond Hope86. Karna And Bhima87. Pledge Respected88. Somadatta's End89. Jayadratha Slain90. Drona Passes Away91. The Death Of Karna92. Duryodhana93. The Pandavas Reproached94. Aswatthama95. Avenged96. Who Can Give Solace?97. Yudhishthira's Anguish98. Yudhishthira Comforted99. Envy100. Utanga101. A Pound Of Flour102. Yudhishthira Rules103. Dhritarashtra104. The Passing Away Of The Three105. Krishna Passes Away106. Yudhishthira's Final Trial
 
MAHABHARATA retold by C. Rajagopalachari
 
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AUTHOR'S PREFACE
IT is not an exaggeration to say that the persons and incidents portrayed in the great literature of a people influencenational character no less potently than the actual heroes and events enshrined in its history. It may be claimed thatthe former play an even more important part in the formation of ideals, which give to character its impulse of growth.In the moving history of our land, from time immemorial great minds have been formed and nourished and touchedto heroic deeds by the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. In most Indian homes, children formerly learnt these immortalstories as they learnt their mother tongue at the mother's knee. And the sweetness and sorrows of Sita and Draupadi,the heroic fortitude of Rama and Arjuna and the loving fidelity of Lakshmana and Hanuman became the stuff of theiryoung philosophy of life.The growing complexity of life has changed the simple pattern of early home life. Still, there are few in our land whodo not know the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Though the stories come to them so embroidered with the garishfancies of the Kalakshepam (devotional meeting where an expert scholar and singer tells a story to his audience) andthe cinema as to retain but little of the dignity and approach to truth of Vyasa or Valmiki. Vyasa's Mahabharata is oneof our noblest heritages. And it is my cherished belief that to hear it faithfully told is to love it and come under itselevating influence. It strengthens the soul and drives home, as nothing else does, the vanity of ambition and the eviland futility of anger and hatred.The realities of life are idealised by genius and given the form that makes drama, poetry or great prose. Since literatureis closely related to life, so long as the human family is divided into nations, literature cannot escape the effects of suchdivision.But the highest literature transcends regionalism and through it, when we are properly attuned, we realise theessential oneness of the human family. The Mahabharata is of this class. It belongs to the world and not only to India.To the people of India, indeed, this epic has been an unfailing and perennial source of spiritual strength. Learnt at themother's knee with reverence and love, it has inspired great men to heroic deeds as well as enabled the humble to facetheir trials with fortitude and faith.The Mahabharata was composed many thousand years ago. But generations of gifted reciters have added to Vyasa'soriginal a great mass of material. All the floating literature that was thought to be worth preserving, historical,geographical, legendary political, theological and philosophical, of nearly thirty centuries, found a place in it.In those days, when there was no printing, interpolation in a recognised classic seemed to correspond to inclusion inthe national library. Divested of these accretions, the Mahabharata is a noble poem possessing in a supreme degreethe characteristics of a true epic, great and fateful movement, heroic characters and stately diction.The characters in the epic move with the vitality of real life. It is difficult to find anywhere such vivid portraiture on soample a canvas. Bhishma, the perfect knight; the venerable Drona; the vain but chivalrous Karna; Duryodhana, whoseperverse pride is redeemed by great courage in adversity; the high souled Pandavas with godlike strength as well aspower of suffering; Draupadi, most unfortunate of queens; Kunti, the worthy mother of heroes; Gandhari, the devotedwife and sad mother of the wicked sons of Dhritarashtra, these are some of the immortal figures on that crowded, butnever confused, canvas.Then there is great Krishna himself, most energetic of men, whose divinity scintillates through a cloud of very humancharacteristics. His high purposefulness pervades the whole epic. One can read even a translation and feel the overwhelming power of the incomparable vastness and sublimity of the poem.The Mahabharata discloses a rich civilisation and a highly evolved society, which though of an older world, strangelyresembles the India of our own time, with the same values and ideals. India was divided into a number ofindependent kingdoms.Occasionally, one king, more distinguished or ambitious than the rest, would assume the title of emperor, securing theacquiescence of other royalties, and signalised it by a great sacrificial feast. The adherence was generally voluntary.The assumption of imperial title conferred no overlordship. The emperor was only first among his peers.The art of war was highly developed and military prowess and skill were held in high esteem. We read in theMahabharata of standardised phalanxes and of various tactical movements. There was an accepted code of honorablewarfare, deviations from which met with reproof among Kshatriyas. The advent of the Kali age is marked by manybreaches of these conventions in the Kurukshetra battle, on account of the bitterness of conflict, frustration andbereavements. Some of the most impressive passages in the epic center round these breaches of dharma.The population lived in cities and villages. The cities were the headquarters of kings and their household and staff.There were beautiful palaces and gardens and the lives led were cultured and luxurious. There was trade in the cities,but the mass of the people were agriculturists.Besides this urban and rural life, there was a very highly cultured life in the seclusion of forest recesses, centerd roundascetic teachers. These ashramas kept alive the bright fires of learning and spiritual thought. Young men of noble birtheagerly sought education at these ashramas. World-weary aged went there for peace. These centers of culture were
 
MAHABHARATA retold by C. Rajagopalachari
 
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cherished by the rulers of the land and not the proudest of them would dare to treat the members of the hermitagesotherwise than with respect and consideration.Women were highly honored and entered largely in the lives of their husbands and sons. The caste system prevailed,but intercaste marriages were not unknown. Some of the greatest warriors in the Mahabharata were brahmanas. TheMahabharata has moulded the character and civilisation of one of the most numerous of the world's people.How did it fulfil, how is it still continuing to fulfil, this function? By its gospel of dharma, which like a golden threadruns through all the complex movements in the epic. By its lesson that hatred breeds hatred, that covetousness andviolence lead inevitably to ruin, that the only real conquest is in the battle against one's lower nature.
1. GANAPATI, THE SCRIBE
BHAGAVAN VYASA, the celebrated compiler of the Vedas, was the son of the great sage Parasara. It was he whogave to the world the divine epic of the Mahabharata.Having conceived the Mahabharata he thought of the means of giving the sacred story to the world. He meditated onBrahma, the Creator, who manifested himself before him. Vyasa saluted him with bowed head and folded hands andprayed:"Lord, I have conceived an excellent work, but cannot think of one who can take it down to my dictation."Brahma extolled Vyasa and said: "O sage, invoke Ganapati and beg him to be your amanuensis." Having said thesewords he disappeared. The sage Vyasa meditated on Ganapati who appeared before him. Vyasa received him withdue respect and sought his aid."Lord Ganapati, I shall dictate the story of the Mahabharata and I pray you to be graciously pleased to write it down."Ganapati replied: "Very well. I shall do as you wish. But my pen must not stop while I am writing. So you must dictatewithout pause or hesitation. I can only write on this condition?"Vyasa agreed, guarding himself, however, with a counter stipulation: "Be it so, but you must first grasp the meaning ofwhat I dictate before you write it down."Ganapati smiled and agreed to the condition. Then the sage began to sing the story of the Mahabharata. He wouldoccasionally compose some complex stanzas which would make Ganapati pause a while to get at the meaning andVyasa would avail himself of this interval to compose many stanzas in his mind. Thus the Mahabharata came to bewritten by Ganapati to the dictation of Vyasa.It was before the days of printing, when the memory of the learned was the sole repository of books. Vyasa first taughtthe great epic to his son, the sage Suka. Later, he expounded it to many other disciples. Were it not so, the book mighthave been lost to future generations.Tradition has it that Narada told the story of the Mahabharata to the devas while Suka taught it to the Gandharvas, theRakshasas and the Yakshas. It is well known that the virtuous and learned Vaisampayana, one of the chief disciples ofVyasa, revealed the epic for the benefit of humanity. Janamejaya, the son of the great King Parikshit, conducted a great sacrifice in the course of which Vaisampayananarrated the story at the request of the former. Afterwards, this story, as told by Vaisampayana, was recited by Suta inthe forest of Naimisa to an assembly of sages under the lead of the Rishi Saunaka.Suta addressed the assembly: "I had the good fortune to hear the story of the Mahabharata composed by Vyasa toteach humanity dharma and the other ends of life. I should like to narrate it to you." At these words the asceticseagerly gathered round him.Suta continued: "I heard the main story of the Mahabharata and the episodic tales contained therein told byVaisampayana at the sacrifice conducted by King Janamejaya. Afterwards, I made an extensive pilgrimage to varioussacred places and also visited the battlefield where the great battle described in the epic was fought. I have now comehere to meet you all." He then proceeded to tell the whole story of the Mahabharata in the grand assembly.After the death of the great King Santanu, Chitrangada became King of Hastinapura and he was succeeded byVichitravirya. The latter had two sons, Dhritarashtra and Pandu. The elder of the two being born blind, Pandu, theyounger brother, ascended the throne. In the course of his reign, Pandu committed a certain offence and had to resortto the forest with his two wives where he spent many years in penance.During their stay in the forest, the two wives of Pandu, Kunti and Madri gave birth to five sons who became wellknown as the five Pandavas. Pandu passed away while they were still living in the forest. The sages brought up thefive Pandavas during their early years.When Yudhishthira, the eldest, attained the age of sixteen the rishis led them all back to Hastinapura and entrustedthem to the old grandsire Bhishma. In a short time the Pandavas gained mastery over the Vedas and the Vedanta aswell as over the various arts, especially pertaining to the Kshatriyas. The Kauravas, the sons of the blind Dhritarashtra,became jealous of the Pandavas and tried to injure them in various ways.

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