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Mahabharata

Mahabharata

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Published by: pavika on Apr 18, 2011
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BHAGAVAN VYASA, the celebrated
compiler of the Vedas, was the son of the
great sage Parasara. It was he who gave 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 on
Brahma, the Creator, who manifested

himself before him. Vyasa saluted him
with bowed head and folded hands and
prayed:
"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 these words he
disappeared. The sage Vyasa meditated on
Ganapati who appeared before him. Vyasa
received him with due 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 dictate without
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 of what 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 would
occasionally compose some complex
stanzas which would make Ganapati
pause a while to get at the meaning and
Vyasa would avail himself of this interval
to compose many stanzas in his mind.
Thus the Mahabharata came to be written
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 taught the
great epic to his son, the sage Suka. Later,
he expounded it to many other disciples.
Were it not so, the book might have 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, the
Rakshasas and the Yakshas. It is well

known that the virtuous and learned
Vaisampayana, one of the chief disciples
of Vyasa, 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 Vaisampayana
narrated the story at the request of the
former. Afterwards, this story, as told by
Vaisampayana, was recited by Suta in the
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 to teach
humanity dharma and the other ends of
life. I should like to narrate it to you." At
these words the ascetics eagerly gathered
round him.
Suta continued: "I heard the main story of
the Mahabharata and the episodic tales
contained therein told by Vaisampayana at
the sacrifice conducted by King
Janamejaya. Afterwards, I made an
extensive pilgrimage to various sacred
places and also visited the battlefield
where the great battle described in the
epic was fought. I have now come here 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 by Vichitravirya.
The latter had two sons, Dhritarashtra and
Pandu. The elder of the two being born
blind, Pandu, the younger brother,
ascended the throne. In the course of his
reign, Pandu committed a certain offence
and had to resort to 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 well known
as the five Pandavas. Pandu passed away

while they were still living in the forest.
The sages brought up the five Pandavas
during their early years.
When Yudhishthira, the eldest, attained
the age of sixteen the rishis led them all
back to Hastinapura and entrusted them to
the old grandsire Bhishma. In a short time
the Pandavas gained mastery over the
Vedas and the Vedanta as well 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.
Finally Bhishma, the head of the family,
intervened to bring about mutual
understanding and peace between them.
Accordingly the Pandavas and the
Kauravas began to rule separately from
their respective capitals, Indraprastha and
Hastinapura.
Some time later, there was a game of dice
between the Kauravas and the Pandavas
according to the then prevailing Kshatriya
code of honor. Sakuni, who played on
behalf of the Kauravas, defeated
Yudhishthira. As a result, the Pandavas
had to be in exile for a period of thirteen
years. They left the kingdom and went to
the forest with their devoted wife
Draupadi.
According to the conditions of the game,
the Pandavas spent twelve years in the
forest and the thirteenth year incognito.
When they returned and demanded of
Duryodhana their paternal heritage, the
latter, who had in the meanwhile usurped
their kingdom, refused to return it. War
followed as a consequence.
The Pandavas defeated Duryodhana and
regained their patrimony. The Pandavas
ruled the kingdom for thirty-six years.
Afterwards, they transferred the crown to
their grandson, Parikshit, and repaired to
the forest with Draupadi, all clad humbly
in barks of trees.

This is the substance of the story of the
Mahabharata. In this ancient and
wonderful epic of our land there are many
illustrative tales and sublime teachings,
besides the narrative of the fortunes of the
Pandavas.
The Mahabharata is in fact a veritable
ocean containing countless pearls and
gems. It is, with the Ramayana, a living
fountain of the ethics and culture of our
Motherland.

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