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Manuscript illustration of the Battle of Kurukshetra

The Mahābhārata (Devanagari: महाभारत), /məɦaːbʱaːrət̪ə/ is one of the two

major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana.

With more than 74,000 verses, long prose passages, and about 1.8 million words in total,
the Mahābhārata is one of the longest epic poems in the world.[1] Including the
Harivamsa, the Mahabharata has a total length of more than 90,000 verses.

It is of immense importance to the culture of India and Nepal, and is a major text of
Hinduism. Its discussion of human goals (artha or wealth, kama or pleasure, dharma or
duty/harmony, 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 'Self') and the workings of karma.

The title may be translated as "the great tale of the Bharata Dynasty", according to the
Mahābhārata's own testimony extended from a shorter version simply called Bhārata of
24,000 verses[2] The epic is part of the Hindu itihāsa, literally "that which happened",
which includes the Ramayana and the Purāṇas.

Traditionally, Hindus ascribe the Mahabharata to Vyasa. Because of its immense length,
its philological study has a long history of attempts to unravel its historical growth and
composition layers. Its earliest layers date back to the late Vedic period (ca. 5th c. BCE)
and it probably reached its final form in the early Gupta period (ca. 4th c. CE).


• 1 Influence
• 2 Textual history and organization
• 3 Historicity
• 4 Structure and authorship
• 5 Synopsis
o 5.1 The elder generations
o 5.2 The Pandava and Kaurava princes
o 5.3 Laakshagriha (The House of Wax)
o 5.4 Marriage to Draupadi
o 5.5 Indraprastha
o 5.6 The dice game
o 5.7 Exile and return
o 5.8 The battle at Kurukshetra
o 5.9 The end of the Pandavas
• 6 Versions, translations, and derivative works
o 6.1 Critical Edition
o 6.2 Modern Interpretations
o 6.3 English Translations
 6.3.1 Lal version
 6.3.2 Clay Sanskrit Library version
 6.3.3 Chicago version
 6.3.4 Ganguli version
• 7 Kuru family tree
• 8 See also
• 9 Notes
• 10 References

• 11 External links

[edit] Influence
Part of a series on

Hindu scriptures

Rigveda · Yajurveda
Samaveda · Atharvaveda

Samhita · Brahmana
Aranyaka · Upanishad

Aitareya · Brihadaranyaka
Isha · Taittiriya · Chandogya
Kena · Mundaka · Mandukya
Katha · Prashna · Shvetashvatara

Shiksha · Chandas · Vyakarana

Nirukta · Jyotisha · Kalpa
Mahakavaya (epics)

Mahabharata · Ramayana
Other scriptures

Smriti · Śruti
Bhagavad Gita · Purana
Agama · Darshana
Pancharatra · Tantra · Sutra
Stotra · Dharmashastra
Divya Prabandha
Tevaram · Akhilathirattu
Shikshapatri · Vachanamrut
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In its scope, the Mahabharata is more than simply a story of kings and princes, sages and
wise men, demons and gods. Vyasa, says that one of its aims is elucidating the four goals
of life: dharma (duty),artha (wealth),kama (pleasure), and moksha (liberation). The
narrative culminates in moksha, believed by Hindus to be the ultimate goal of human
beings. Karma and dharma play an integral role in the Mahabharata.

The Mahabharata includes aspects of Hinduism, stories of the gods and goddesses, and
explanations of Hindu philosophy. Among the principal works and stories that are a part
of the Mahabharata are the following (often considered isolated as works in their own

• Bhagavad Gita (Krishna advises and teaches Arjuna when he is ridden with doubt.
• Damayanti (or Nala and Damayanti, a love story. Aranyakaparva.)
• Krishnavatara (the story of Krishna, the Krishna Lila, which is woven through
many chapters of the story)
• An abbreviated version of the Ramayana. Aranyakaparva.
• Rishyasringa (also written as Rshyashrnga, the horned boy and rishi.
• Vishnu sahasranama (a hymn to Vishnu, which describes his 1000 names;

The Mahabharata expresses an epic tendency towards all-inclusiveness at the beginning

of its first parva (section): "What is found here, may be found elsewhere. What is not
found here, will not be found elsewhere."

[edit] Textual history and organization

It is undisputed that the full length of the Mahabharata has accreted over a long period.
The Mahabharata 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 of the
Mahabharata (shlokas 81, 101-102), the text was originally 8,800 verses when it was
composed by Vyasa 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 Ugrasravas.[3]

As with the field of Homeric studies, research on the Mahabharata has put an enormous
effort into recognizing and dating various layers within the text. The complex structure
had caused some early Western Indologists to refer to it as chaotic.[4]

The earliest known references to the Mahabharata and its core Bharata date back to the
6th-5th century BC, in the Ashtadhyayi (sutra 6.2.38) of Pāṇini (c. 520-460 BC), and in
the Ashvalayana Grhyasutra (3.4.4), while various characters from the epic are also
mentioned in earlier Vedic literature.[3] This indicates that the core 24,000 verses, known
as the Bharata, as well as an early version of the extended Mahabharata, were composed
by the 6th-5th century BC, with parts of the Jaya's original 8,800 verses possibly dating
back as far as the 9th-8th century BC.[5]

The Greek writer Dio Chrysostom (ca. 40-ca. 120) reported, "it is said that Homer's
poetry is sung even in India, where they have translated it into their own speech and
tongue. The result is that...the people of India...are not unacquainted with the sufferings
of Priam, the laments and wailings of Andromache and Hecuba, and the valor of both
Achilles and Hector: so remarkable has been the spell of one man's poetry!"[6] Despite the
passage's evident face-value meaning—that the Iliad had been translated into Sanskrit—
some scholars have supposed that the report reflects the existence of a Mahabharata at
this date, whose episodes Dio or his sources syncretistically identify with the story of the
Iliad. Christian Lassen, 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 Suyodhana(or aka Dhuryodhana) and Karna.[7] This interpretation,
endorsed in such standard references as Albrecht Weber's History of Indian Literature,
has often been repeated without specific reference to what Dio's text says.[8]

Later, the copper-plate inscription of the Maharaja Sharvanatha (533-534) from Khoh
(Satna District, Madhya Pradesh) describes the Mahabharata as a "collection of 100,000
verses" (shatasahasri samhita). The redaction of this large body of text was carried out
after formal principles, emphasizing the numbers 18[9] and 12. The addition of the latest
parts may be dated by the absence of the Anushasana-parva from MS Spitzer, 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) to the Mahabharata proper by the redactors of
the 18 parvas.

The division into 18 parvas is as follows:

parv sub-
title contents
a parvas

Introduction, birth and upbringing of the

1 Adi-parva 1-19

Life at the court, the game of dice, and the exile

2 Sabha-parva 20-28 of the Pandavas. Maya Danava erects the
palace and court (sabha), at Indraprastha.

Aranyaka-parva (also
3 29-44 The twelve years in exile in the forest (aranya).
Vanaparva, Aranyaparva)

4 Virata-parva 45-48 The year in exile spent at the court of Virata.

5 Udyoga-parva 49-59 Preparations for war.

The first part of the great battle, with Bhishma

6 Bhishma-parva 60-64
as commander for the Kauravas.
The battle continues, with Drona as
7 Drona-parva 65-72

8 Karna-parva 73 The battle again, with Karna as commander.

The last part of the battle, with Shalya as

9 Shalya-parva 74-77

How Ashvattama and the remaining Kauravas

10 Sauptika-parva 78-80 killed the Pandava army in their sleep

Gandhari and the other women (stri) lament the

11 Stri-parva 81-85

The crowning of Yudhisthira, and his

12 Shanti-parva 86-88
instructions from Bhishma

The final instructions (anusasana) from

13 Anusasana-parva 89-90

The royal ceremony of the ashvamedha

14 Ashvamedhika-parva[10] 91-92
conducted by Yudhisthira.

Dhritarashtra, Gandhari and Kunti leave for an

15 Ashramavasika-parva 93-95
ashram, and eventual death in the forest.

The infighting between the Yadavas with maces

16 Mausala-parva 96

The first part of the path to death

17 Mahaprasthanika-parva 97 (mahaprasthana "great journey") of
Yudhisthira and his brothers.
The Pandavas return to the spiritual world
18 Svargarohana-parva 98

khila Harivamsa-parva 99-100 Life of Krishna.

The Adi-parva is dedicated to 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 sarpasattra material was often
considered an independent tale added to a version of the Mahabharata by "thematic
attraction" (Minkowski 1991), and considered to have particularly close connection to
Vedic (Brahmana literature), in particular the Panchavimsha Brahmana which describes
the Sarpasattra as originally performed by snakes, among which are snakes named
Dhrtarashtra and Janamejaya, two main characters of the Mahabharata's sarpasattra, and
Takshaka, the name of a snake also in the Mahabharata. The Shatapatha Brahmana gives
an account of an Ashvamedha performed by Janamejaya Parikshita.

According to Mbh. 1.1.50, there were three versions of the epic, beginning with Manu
(1.1.27), Astika (1.3, sub-parva 5) or Vasu (1.57), respectively. These versions probably
correspond to the addition of one and then another 'frame' settings of dialogues. The Vasu
version corresponds to the oldest, without frame settings, beginning with the account of
the birth of Vyasa. The Astika version adds the Sarpasattra and Ashvamedha material
from Brahmanical literature, and introduces the name Mahabharata and identifies 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.

[edit] Historicity
For historical context of the tale, see Kingdoms of Ancient India
Map of "Bharatvarsha" (Kingdom of India) during the time of Mahabharata and
Ramayana. (Title and location names are in English.)

Some people believe that "The epic's setting certainly has a historical precedent in Vedic
India, where the Kuru kingdom was the center of political power in the late 2nd and early
1st millennia BCE. A dynastic conflict of the period could very well have been the
inspiration for the Jaya, the core on which the Mahabharata corpus was built, and
eventually the climactic battle came to be viewed as an epochal event. Dating this
conflict relies almost exclusively on textual materials in the Mahabaharata itself and
associated genealogical lists in the later Puranic literature." [citation needed]

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 lead
to an estimate of about 1400 BCE for the Bharata battle.[11] F.E. Pargiter rejected this
because it would imply improbably long reigns on average for the kings listed in the
genealogies.[12] 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 the lists of ten
different dynasties, and assumed 18 years for the average duration of a reign to arrive at
an estimate of 850 BCE for Adhisimakrishna, and thus approximately 950 BCE for the
Bharata battle.[13] 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 sites, the association being strong
between PGW artifacts and places mentioned in the epic.[14]
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.[15] The late 4th millennium date has a
precedent in the calculation of Aryabhata (6th century), based on planetary conjunctions.
His date of February 18th 3102 BCE has become widespread in Indian tradition (for
example, the Aihole inscription of Pulikeshi II, dated to Saka 556 = 634 CE, claims that
3735 years have elapsed since the Bharata battle.[16]) Another traditional school of
astronomers and historians, represented by Vriddha-Garga, Varahamihira (author of the
Brhatsamhita) and Kalhana (author of the Rajatarangini), place the Bharata war 653
years after the Kaliyuga epoch, corresponding to 2449 BCE.[17]

In discussing the dating questions historian A. L. Basham says:

"According to the most popular later tradition the Mahabharata War took place in 3102 B.C.,
which in the light of all evidence, is quite impossible. More reasonable is another tradition,
placing it in the 15th century B.C., 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
B.C.; 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

[edit] Structure and authorship

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
by Vaisampayana, a disciple of Vyasa.

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
Ganesha who, at the behest 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, providing that Ganesha took the time to understand what was said before
writing it down. This also serves as a popular variation on the stories of how Ganesha's
right tusk was broken (a traditional part of Ganesha imagery). This version attributes it to
the fact that, in the rush of writing, his pen failed, and he snapped off his tusk as a
replacement in order that the transcription not be interrupted.

[edit] Synopsis
The core 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 Yudhisthir, the
eldest Pandava. As a result, both Duryodhan and Yudhisthir claim to the first in line to
inherit the throne.
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

The Mahabharata 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 (Kali Yuga), 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.

[edit] The elder 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.

Satyavati is the daughter of a fisherman in the kingdom, and she already has a son, Vyasa.
Many years later, when the king goes hunting, he sees her and asks to marry her. 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

Shantanu has two sons by Satyavati, Chitrangada and Vichitravirya. Upon Shantanu's
death, Chitrangada becomes king. After his death Vichitravirya rules Hastinapura. In
order to arrange the marriage of the young Vichitravirya, Bhishma goes to Kashi for a
swayamvara of the three princesses Amba, Ambika and Ambalika. He wins them, and
Ambika and Ambalika are married to Vichtravirya.

[edit] The Pandava and Kaurava princes

A motif depicting Bhima in the battle ready posture at Hampi, Karnataka

Vichitravirya died young without any heirs. Satyavati then asked her first son Vyasa to go
to Vichitravirya's widows and give them the divine vision of giving birth to sons without
losing their chastity. Vyasa fathered the royal children Dhritarashtra, who is born blind,
and Pandu, who is born pale. Through a maid of the widows, he also fathers their
commoner half-brother Vidura.

Pandu marries twice, to Kunti and Madri. Dhritarashtra is married to Gandhari, who
blindfolds herself when she finds she has been married to a blind man. Pandu takes the
throne because of Dhritarashtra's blindness. Pandu while out hunting deer, is however
cursed that if he engages in a sexual act, he will die. He then retires to the forest along
with his two wives, and his brother rules thereafter, despite his blindness.

Pandu's elder queen Kunti however, asks the gods Dharma, Vayu, and Indra for sons, by
using a boon granted by Durvasa. She gives birth to three sons Yudhishtira, Bhima, and
Arjuna through these gods. Kunti shares her boon with the younger queen Madri, who
bears the twins Nakula and Sahadeva through the Ashwini twins. However Pandu and
Madri, unable to resist temptation, indulge in sex and die in the forest, and Kunti returns
to Hastinapura to raise her sons, who are then usually referred to as the Pandava brothers.

Dhritarashtra has a hundred sons through Gandhari, the Kaurava brothers, the eldest
being Duryodhana, and the second Dushasana. There is rivalry between the sets of
cousins, from their youth and into manhood.

[edit] Laakshagriha (The House of Wax)

Duryodhana plots to get rid of the Pandavas and tries to kill the Pandavas secretly by
setting fire to their palace which he had made of lac. However, the Pandavas are warned
by their uncle, Vidura, who sends them a miner to dig a tunnel. They are able to escape to
safety and go into hiding, but after leaving others behind, whose bodies are mistaken for
them. Bhishma goes to the river Ganga to perform the last rites of the people found dead
in the burned palace, understood to be Pandavas. Vidura then informs him that the
Pandavas are alive and to keep the secret to himself.

[edit] Marriage to Draupadi

In course of this exile the Pandavas learn of a swayamvara which is taking place for the
hand of the Panchala princess Draupadi. 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
while looking at its reflection in oil below. Most of the princes fail, being unable to lift
the bow. Arjuna succeeds, and all five brothers marry her.

At this juncture they also meet Krishna, who would become their lifelong ally and guide.

[edit] Indraprastha
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 at
Indraprastha. Neither the Pandava nor Kaurava sides are happy with the arrangement

Shortly after this, Arjuna marries Subhadra. Yudhishtira wishes to establish his position;
he seeks Krishna's advice. Krishna advises him, and after due preparation and the
elimination of some opposition, Yudhishthira carries out a Rajasuya Yagna ceremony; he
is thus recognised as pre-eminent among kings.

The Pandavas have a new palace built for them, by Maya the Danava. 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 he is

[edit] The dice game

Sakuni, 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

Dhritarashtra, Bhishma, and the other elders are aghast at the situation, and negotiate a
compromise. The Pandavas are required to go into exile for 13 years, and for the 13th
year must remain hidden. If discovered by the Kauravas, they will be forced into exile for
another 12 years.

[edit] Exile and return

The Pandavas spend twelve 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 Virata, and are discovered at or 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.

[edit] The battle at Kurukshetra

Main article: Kurukshetra war

The two 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, Gandhara, Bahlikas, Kambojas and many others. Prior to war being
declared, Balarama, had expressed his unhappiness at the developing conflict, and left to
go on pilgrimage, 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 great-uncle Bhishma and his teacher
Drona on the other side, has doubts about the battle and he fails to lift his Gandiva bow.
Krishna wakes him up to his call of duty in the famous Bhagavad Gita section of the epic.

Though initially sticking to chivalrous notions of warfare, both sides soon adopt into
dishonourable tactics. At the end of the 18-day battle, only the Pandavas, Satyaki,
Ashwathama and Krishna survive.

[edit] The end of the Pandavas

After seeing the carnage, Gandhari who 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 form. 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 Dharma, who reveals the nature of the
test and assures Yudhishtra that his fallen siblings and wife are in heaven. Yudhisthira
alone reaches heaven in his bodily form for being just and humble.

Arjuna's grandson Parikshita rules after 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] Critical Edition

Between 1919 and 1966, the 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 2 volumes and 6 index volumes. This is the text that is usually
used in current Mahabharata studies for reference.[19] This work is sometimes called the
'Pune' or 'Poona' edition of the Mahabharata.

[edit] Modern Interpretations

Krishna as depicted in Yakshagana from Karnataka which is based largely on stories of


The acclaimed Kannada novelist S.L. Bhyrappa wrote a novel in Kannada (Translated to
most of the Indian languages and English) titled Parva, giving new interpretation to the
story of Mahabharata. He carried years of research where Mahabharata happened, in the
plains of North India, Uttarakhand and Garwal region in particular. He tried to understand
the social and ethical practices in these regions and correlating with the story of
Mahabharata. He gave a realistic, rational explanation of the characters and events of

In the late 1980s, the Mahabharata TV series [20] was televised and shown on India's
national television (Doordarshan). The series was written by Dr. Rahi Masoom Reza and
directed by B. R. Chopra and his son Ravi Chopra. The concept was by Pt. Narendra
Sharma - a well-known poet and lyricist. It became the most popular Indian TV series in
history. It entered the Guinness Book of World Records as having been watched by a
majority of Indians around the world at the time.[21] It was also shown in the UK by the
BBC, where it achieved audience figures of 5 million, unheard of for a subtitled series
being aired in the afternoon.[22]
In the West, the most acclaimed and well known presentation of the epic is Peter Brook’s
nine hour play premiered in Avignon in 1985 and its five hour movie version The
Mahabharata (1989) [23], which was shown on other TV networks, including PBS
(through the "Great Performances" show) and Danmarks Radio (credited in the movie's

However, there have been film versions of the Mahabharata long before these two
versions, the earliest of which was shown in 1920.[24]. Another upcoming Indian film
version The Mahabharata is currently in production.

Among 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 epic.
An acclaimed book, "The Great Indian Novel" also contemporized well-known characters
of the epic into equally well-known politicians of the modern era (e.g. Indira Gandhi as
the villainous Duryodhana).

Mahabharata was also reinterpreted by Shyam Benegal in Kalyug. Kalyug is a modern-

day replaying of the Mahabharat, with the Pandava industrial family being locked in a
titanic battle with their Kaurav rivals. But the times are different from the original
Mahabharat's, and external forces impinge on feudal values causing disconcerting

Western interpretations of the Mahabharata include William Buck's Mahabharata and

Elizabeth Seeger's Five Sons of King Pandu.

[edit] English Translations

[edit] Lal version

A poetic translation of the full epic into English, done by the poet P. Lal is 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 Edition). It is both
poetic and swift to read, and is oriented to the oral/musical tradition in which the work
was originally created. The completion of the publishing project is scheduled for 2008.
Six of the eighteen volumes are now available:

Vol 1: Adi Parva, 1232 pages, 2005, ISBN 81-8157-370-6

Vol 2: Sabha Parva, 520 pages, 2005, ISBN 81-8157-382-X
Vol 3: Vana Parva, 1580 pages, 2005, ISBN 81-8157-448-6
Vol 4: Virata Parva, 400 pages, 2006
Vol 5: Udyoga Parva, 970 pages, 2006, ISBN 81-8157-530-X
Vol 17: Mahaprasthana Parva, 30 pages, 2006 ISBN 81-8157-552-0
[edit] Clay Sanskrit Library version

A project to translate the full epic into English prose, translated by various hands, began
to appear in 2005 from the Clay Sanskrit Library, published by New York University
Press. The translation is based not on the Critical Edition but on the version known to the
commentator Nīlakaṇṭha. Currently available are portions of Parvas two, three, four,
seven, eight, and nine.

[edit] Chicago version

Another English prose translation of the full epic, based on the Critical Edition, is also in
progress, published by University Of Chicago Press, initiated by Chicago Indologist J. A.
B. van Buitenen (Parvas 1-5) and, following a 20-year hiatus caused by the death of van
Buitenen, is being continued by D. Gitomer of DePaul University (Parvas 6-10), J. L.
Fitzgerald of The University of Tennessee (Parvas 11-13) and W. Doniger of Chicago
University (Parvas 14-18):

Vol. 1: Parva 1, 545 pages, 1980, ISBN 0-226-84663-6

Vol. 2: Parvas 2-3, 871 pages, 1981, ISBN 0-226-84664-4
Vol. 3: Parvas 4-5, 582 pages, 1983, ISBN 0-226-84665-2
Vol. 4: Parva 6 (forthcoming)
Vol. 7: Parva 11, first half of parva 12, 848 pages, 2003, ISBN 0-226-25250-7
Vol. 8: Second half of Parva 12 (forthcoming)

[edit] Ganguli version

Until these three projects are available in full, the only available complete English
translations remain the Victorian prose versions by Kisari Mohan Ganguli,[26] published
between 1883 and 1896 (Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers) and by M. N. Dutt (Motilal
Banarasidoss Publishers). Most critics consider the translation by Ganguli to be faithful
to the original text. The complete text of Ganguli's translation is available online (see
External Links).

[edit] Kuru family tree

Parashara Satyavati Santanua Ganga

Vyasa Bhishma
Ambika Ambalika
Dhritaras Gandh Ku Pand
Shakuni Madri
htrab ari nti ub

Yudhishti Nakul Sahade

Karnac Bhimad Arjunab
rad ad vad

Duryodhanae Dushasana (98 sons)

Key to Symbols

• Male: blue border

• Female: red border
• Pandavas: green box
• Kauravas: red box


• 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.
• 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. In particular:
o Yama or Dharma (Dharmadeva), for Yudhishtira
o Vayu, for Bhima
o Indra, for Arjuna
o The twins, Nakula and Sahadeva were born to Madri through her
invocation of the The Ashvins
• 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 Vichitravirya who was born after Vyasa and Bhishma. Some siblings of the characters
shown here have been left out for clarity; these include Chitrangada, the younger half-
brother of Vichitravirya, and Vidura, half-brother to Dhritarashtra and Pandu. The family
tree continues through the descendants Arjuna, and these have also not been shown here.
[edit] See also
• Bhagavad Gita
• Kakawin Bhāratayuddha
• Kingdoms of Ancient India
• Kurukshetra war
• Ramayana

[edit] Notes
1. ^ It is roughly ten times the size of the Iliad and Odyssey combined, and about four times
the size of the Ramayana. The only epics claimed to be longer are the Tibetan Epic of
King Gesar and the Kyrgyz Epic of Manas .[citation needed]
2. ^ bhārata means the progeny of Bharata, the legendary king who founded the
Bhāratavarsha Empire.
3. ^ a b Subhash Kak. The Mahabharata and the Sindhu-Sarasvati Tradition (pg. 4-5).
4. ^ Oldenberg (1922) stipulated that the supposed original poem once carried an immense
"tragic force", but dismissed the full text as a "horrible chaos." The judgement of other
early 20th century Indologists was even more condemning, Winternitz (Geschichte der
indischen Literatur 1909) opted that "only unpoetical theologists and clumsy scribes"
could have lumped the various parts of disparate origin into an unordered whole.
5. ^ Brockington (1998, p. 26)
6. ^ Dio Chrysostom, 53.6-7, trans. H. Lamar Crosby, Loeb Classical Library, 1946, vol. 4,
p. 363.
7. ^ Cited approvingly in Max Duncker, The History of Antiquity (trans. Evelyn Abbott,
London 1880), vol. 4, p. 81.
8. ^ For example, John Campbell Oman, The Great Indian Epics (London 1895), p. 215.
9. ^ 18 books, 18 chapters of the Bhagavadgita and the Narayaniya each, corresponding to
the 18 days of the battle and the 18 armies (Mbh. 5.152.23)
10. ^ 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 [citation needed]
11. ^ AD Pusalker, History and Culture of the Indian People, Vol I, Chapter XIV, p.273
12. ^ 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.
13. ^ Pargiter, op.cit. p.180-182
14. ^ B. B. Lal, Mahabharata and Archaeology in Gupta and Ramachandran, Mahabharata:
myth and reality, p.57-58
15. ^ Gupta and Ramachandran, op.cit., p.246, who summarize as follows: "Astronomical
calculations favor 15th century B.C. as the date of the war while the Puranic data place it
in the 10th/9th century B.C. Archaeological evidence points towards the latter." (p.254)
16. ^ Gupta and Ramachandran, p.55; AD Pusalker, HCIP, Vol I, p.272
17. ^ Ad Pusalker, op.cit. p.272
18. ^ Basham, p. 40, citing HC Raychaudhuri, Political History of Ancient India, pp.27ff.
19. ^ Bhandarkar Institute, Pune—Virtual Pune
20. ^ Mahabharat at the Internet Movie Database (1988-1990 TV series)
21. ^ Trivia for "Mahabharat". IMDB.
22. ^ Epic Hindi Language Series Mahabharat Launches Exclusively on Rogers OMNI
Television Channels In Ontario and British Columbia
23. ^ The Mahabharata at the Internet Movie Database (1989 mini-series)
24. ^ Mahabharat at the Internet Movie Database (1920 film)
25. ^
What makes Shyam special...
26. ^ 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.

[edit] References
• Chaturvedi Badrinath, The Mahabharata : An Inquiry in the Human Condition,
New Delhi, Orient Longman (2006)
• Basham, A. L. (1954). The Wonder That Was India: A Survey of the Culture of the
Indian Sub-Continent Before The Coming of the Muslims. New York: Grove
• J. Brockington, The Sanskrit Epics, Leiden (1998).
• Alf Hildebeitel, The Ritual of Battle, Krishna in the Mahabharata, SUNY Press,
New York 1990.
• E. W. Hopkins, The Great Epic of India, New York (1901).
• Keay, John (2000). India: A History. Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-3797-0.
• 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.
• Majumdar, R. C. (general editor) (1951). The History and Culture of the Indian
People: (Volume 1) The Vedic Age. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd..
• 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).
• M. Mehta, The problem of the double introduction to the Mahabharata, JAOS 93
(1973), 547-550.
• C. Z. Minkowski, Janamehayas Sattra and Ritual