Mahabharata

Mahabharata

Overview



The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit
Sanskrit literature
Literature in Sanskrit begins with the Vedas, and continues with the Sanskrit Epics of Iron Age India; the golden age of Classical Sanskrit literature dates to late Antiquity . Literary production saw a late bloom in the 11th century before declining after 1100 AD...

 epic
Indian epic poetry
Indian epic poetry is the epic poetry written in the Indian subcontinent, traditionally called Kavya . The Ramayana and Mahabharata, originally composed in Sanskrit and translated thereafter into many other Indian languages, are some of the oldest surviving epic poems on earth and form part of...

s of ancient India
History of India
The history of India begins with evidence of human activity of Homo sapiens as long as 75,000 years ago, or with earlier hominids including Homo erectus from about 500,000 years ago. The Indus Valley Civilization, which spread and flourished in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent from...

 and Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

, the other being the Ramayana
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

. The epic is part of itihasa
Indian epic poetry
Indian epic poetry is the epic poetry written in the Indian subcontinent, traditionally called Kavya . The Ramayana and Mahabharata, originally composed in Sanskrit and translated thereafter into many other Indian languages, are some of the oldest surviving epic poems on earth and form part of...

.

Besides its epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War
Kurukshetra war
According to the Indian epic poem Mahābhārata, a dynastic succession struggle between two groups of cousins of an Indo-Aryan kingdom called Kuru, the Kauravas and Pandavas, for the throne of Hastinapura resulted in the Kurukshetra War in which a number of ancient kingdoms participated as allies of...

 and the fates of the Kaurava
Kaurava
The term Kaurava is a Sanskrit term, that means the descendants of Kuru, a legendary king who is the ancestor of many of the characters of the Mahābhārata.The term is used in the Mahābhārata with two meanings:...

s and the Pandava
Pandava
In the Hindu epic Mahābhārata, the Pandava are the five acknowledged sons of Pandu , by his two wives Kunti and Madri. Their names are Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva. Although, Karna is told by Lord Krishna that according to the laws and ethics he is the first son of Kunti making...

s, the Mahabharata contains much philosophical
Hindu philosophy
Hindu philosophy is divided into six schools of thought, or , which accept the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures. Three other schools do not accept the Vedas as authoritative...

 and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four "goals of life" or purusharthas
Purusharthas
In Hinduism, refers to a goal, end or aim of human existence...

(12.161). The latter are enumerated as dharma
Dharma
Dharma means Law or Natural Law and is a concept of central importance in Indian philosophy and religion. In the context of Hinduism, it refers to one's personal obligations, calling and duties, and a Hindu's dharma is affected by the person's age, caste, class, occupation, and gender...

(right action), artha
Artha
Artha is a Sanskrit term meaning "purpose, cause, motive, meaning, notion".It refers to the idea of material prosperity. In Hinduism, artha is one of the four goals of life, known as purusharthas. It is considered to be a noble goal as long as it follows the dictates of Vedic morality...

(purpose), kama (pleasure), and moksha
Moksha
Within Indian religions, moksha or mukti , literally "release" , is the liberation from samsara and the concomitant suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and reincarnation or rebirth.-Origins:It is highly probable that the concept of moksha was first developed in...

(liberation).
Among the principal works and stories that are a part of the Mahabharata are the Bhagavad Gita
Bhagavad Gita
The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...

, the story of Damayanti
Damayanti
Damayanti , a character in Hindu mythology, was the princess of Vidarbha Kingdom, who married king Nala, of Nishadha Kingdom, and their story is told in the Mahabharata.-The story:...

, an abbreviated version of the Ramayana, and the Rishyasringa
Rishyasringa
Rishyasringa or ' was a boy born with the horns of a deer in Hindu-Buddhist mythology, who became a seer and was seduced by a King's daughter, which had various results according to the variations in the story.-Hindu versions of the...

, often considered as works in their own right.

Traditionally, the authorship of the Mahabharata is attributed to Vyasa
Vyasa
Vyasa is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyasa , or Krishna Dvaipayana...

.
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The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit
Sanskrit literature
Literature in Sanskrit begins with the Vedas, and continues with the Sanskrit Epics of Iron Age India; the golden age of Classical Sanskrit literature dates to late Antiquity . Literary production saw a late bloom in the 11th century before declining after 1100 AD...

 epic
Indian epic poetry
Indian epic poetry is the epic poetry written in the Indian subcontinent, traditionally called Kavya . The Ramayana and Mahabharata, originally composed in Sanskrit and translated thereafter into many other Indian languages, are some of the oldest surviving epic poems on earth and form part of...

s of ancient India
History of India
The history of India begins with evidence of human activity of Homo sapiens as long as 75,000 years ago, or with earlier hominids including Homo erectus from about 500,000 years ago. The Indus Valley Civilization, which spread and flourished in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent from...

 and Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

, the other being the Ramayana
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

. The epic is part of itihasa
Indian epic poetry
Indian epic poetry is the epic poetry written in the Indian subcontinent, traditionally called Kavya . The Ramayana and Mahabharata, originally composed in Sanskrit and translated thereafter into many other Indian languages, are some of the oldest surviving epic poems on earth and form part of...

.

Besides its epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War
Kurukshetra war
According to the Indian epic poem Mahābhārata, a dynastic succession struggle between two groups of cousins of an Indo-Aryan kingdom called Kuru, the Kauravas and Pandavas, for the throne of Hastinapura resulted in the Kurukshetra War in which a number of ancient kingdoms participated as allies of...

 and the fates of the Kaurava
Kaurava
The term Kaurava is a Sanskrit term, that means the descendants of Kuru, a legendary king who is the ancestor of many of the characters of the Mahābhārata.The term is used in the Mahābhārata with two meanings:...

s and the Pandava
Pandava
In the Hindu epic Mahābhārata, the Pandava are the five acknowledged sons of Pandu , by his two wives Kunti and Madri. Their names are Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva. Although, Karna is told by Lord Krishna that according to the laws and ethics he is the first son of Kunti making...

s, the Mahabharata contains much philosophical
Hindu philosophy
Hindu philosophy is divided into six schools of thought, or , which accept the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures. Three other schools do not accept the Vedas as authoritative...

 and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four "goals of life" or purusharthas
Purusharthas
In Hinduism, refers to a goal, end or aim of human existence...

(12.161). The latter are enumerated as dharma
Dharma
Dharma means Law or Natural Law and is a concept of central importance in Indian philosophy and religion. In the context of Hinduism, it refers to one's personal obligations, calling and duties, and a Hindu's dharma is affected by the person's age, caste, class, occupation, and gender...

(right action), artha
Artha
Artha is a Sanskrit term meaning "purpose, cause, motive, meaning, notion".It refers to the idea of material prosperity. In Hinduism, artha is one of the four goals of life, known as purusharthas. It is considered to be a noble goal as long as it follows the dictates of Vedic morality...

(purpose), kama (pleasure), and moksha
Moksha
Within Indian religions, moksha or mukti , literally "release" , is the liberation from samsara and the concomitant suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and reincarnation or rebirth.-Origins:It is highly probable that the concept of moksha was first developed in...

(liberation).
Among the principal works and stories that are a part of the Mahabharata are the Bhagavad Gita
Bhagavad Gita
The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...

, the story of Damayanti
Damayanti
Damayanti , a character in Hindu mythology, was the princess of Vidarbha Kingdom, who married king Nala, of Nishadha Kingdom, and their story is told in the Mahabharata.-The story:...

, an abbreviated version of the Ramayana, and the Rishyasringa
Rishyasringa
Rishyasringa or ' was a boy born with the horns of a deer in Hindu-Buddhist mythology, who became a seer and was seduced by a King's daughter, which had various results according to the variations in the story.-Hindu versions of the...

, often considered as works in their own right.

Traditionally, the authorship of the Mahabharata is attributed to Vyasa
Vyasa
Vyasa is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyasa , or Krishna Dvaipayana...

. There have been many attempts to unravel its historical growth and compositional layers. The oldest preserved parts of the text are not thought to be appreciably older than around 400 BCE, though the origins of the story probably fall between the 8th and 9th centuries BCE. The text probably reached its final form by the early Gupta period
Gupta Empire
The Gupta Empire was an ancient Indian empire which existed approximately from 320 to 550 CE and covered much of the Indian Subcontinent. Founded by Maharaja Sri-Gupta, the dynasty was the model of a classical civilization. The peace and prosperity created under leadership of Guptas enabled the...

 (ca. fourth century CE). The title may be translated as "the great tale of the Bhārata dynasty". According to the Mahabharata itself, the tale is extended from a shorter version of 24,000 verses called simply Bhārata.

The mahabharata in its longest version consists of over 100000 shloka
Shloka
A ' is a category of verse line developed from the Vedic Anuṣṭubh. It is the basis for Indian Epic verse, and may be considered the Indian verse form par excellence, occurring, as it does, far more frequently than any other meter in classical Sanskrit poetry. The Mahabharata and Ramayana, for...

or over 200000 individual verse lines (each shloka is a couplet ), long prose passages, or about 1.8 million words in total, the Mahabharata is roughly ten times the length of the Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

and Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

combined, or about four times the length of the Ramayana. W. J. Johnson has compared the importance of the Mahabharata to world civilization to that of the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, the works of Shakespeare, the works of Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

, Greek drama, and the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

.

Textual history and structure



The epic is traditionally ascribed to Vyasa
Vyasa
Vyasa is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyasa , or Krishna Dvaipayana...

, who is also a major character in the epic. The first section of the Mahabharata states that it was Ganesha
Ganesha
Ganesha , also spelled Ganesa or Ganesh, also known as Ganapati , Vinayaka , and Pillaiyar , is one of the deities best-known and most widely worshipped in the Hindu pantheon. His image is found throughout India and Nepal. Hindu sects worship him regardless of affiliations...

 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
Story within a story
A story within a story, also rendered story-within-a-story, is a literary device in which one narrative is presented during the action of another narrative. Mise en abyme is the French term for a similar literary device...

 structure, otherwise known as frametales, popular in many Indian religious and secular works. It is recited to the King Janamejaya
Janamejaya
Janamejaya was a Kuru king. He was the son of Parikshit and Madravati. He was the grandson of Abhimanyu and the great-grandson of Arjuna, the valiant warrior hero of the Mahābhārata. He was ascended to the Kuru throne following the death of his father. His significance comes as the listener of the...

 who is the great-grandson of Arjuna
Arjuna
Arjuna in Indian mythology is the greatest warrior on earth and is one of the Pandavas, the heroes of the Hindu epic Mahābhārata. Arjuna, whose name means 'bright', 'shining', 'white' or 'silver' Arjuna (Devanagari: अर्जुन, Thai: อรชุน, Orachun, Tamil: Arjunan, Indonesian and Javanese: Harjuna,...

, by Vaisampayana
Vaisampayana
Vaishampayana was the traditional narrator of the Mahabharata, one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. He was an ancient Indian sage who was the original teacher of the Black Yajur-Veda. The Ashvalayana Grihya Sutra mentions him as Mahabharatacharya...

, a disciple of Vyasa. The recitation of Vaisampayana to Janamejaya is then recited again by a professional storyteller named Ugrasrava Sauti
Ugrasrava Sauti
Ugrashravas was the narrator of several Puranas, including Mahābhārata, Bhagavata Purana, Harivamsa, and Padma Purana, with the narrations typically taking place before the sages gathered in Naimisha Forest...

, many years later, to an assemblage of sages performing the 12 year long sacrifice for King Saunaka Kulapati in the Naimisha forest
Naimisha Forest
Naimisha Forest or Naimiṣāraṇya was an ancient forest mentioned in the epic Mahabharata and the Shiva Purana. It lay on the banks of the Gomati River . It lay between the Panchala Kingdom and the Kosala Kingdom...

.

Jaya, the core of Mahābhārata is structured in the form of a dialogue between Kuru king Dhritarashtra and Sanjaya
Sanjaya
Sanjaya is a character from the ancient Indian epic Mahābhārata.In Mahabharata, a story of war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, the blind king Dhritarashtra is the father of the principals of the Kaurava side. Sanjaya is Dhritarashtra's advisor and also his charioteer...

, his advisor and chariot driver. Sanjaya narrates each incident of the Kurukshetra War, fought in 18 days, as and when it happened. Dhritarāshtra sometimes asks questions and doubts and sometimes laments, knowing about the destruction caused by the war, to his sons, friends and kinsmen. He also feels guilty, due to his own role, that led to this war, destructive to the entire Indian subcontinent.

In the beginning, Sanjaya gives a description of the various continents of the Earth, the other planets, and focuses on the Indian Subcontinent and gives an elaborate list of hundreds of kingdoms, tribes, provinces, cities, towns, villages, rivers, mountains, forests, etc. of the (ancient) Indian Subcontinent (Bhārata Varsha). He also explains about the military formations adopted by each side on each day, the death of each hero and the details of each war-racings. Some 18 chapters of Vyasa's Jaya constitutes the Bhagavad Gita
Bhagavad Gita
The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...

, the sacred text of the Hindus. Thus, this work of Vyasa, called Jaya deals with diverse subjects like geography, history, warfare, religion and morality. According to Mahabharata itself, Vaisampayana's Bharata expanded on the story, with Vyasa's Jaya embedded within it. Ugrasrava eventually composed the final Mahabharata, with both Vyasa's Jaya and Vaisampayana's Bharata embedded within the epic.

Accretion and redaction


Research on the Mahabharata has put an enormous effort into recognizing and dating various layers within the text. Some elements of the present Mahabharata can be traced back to Vedic times. The background to the Mahabharata suggests the origin of the epic occurs at a time "after the very early Vedic period
Vedic period
The Vedic period was a period in history during which the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, were composed. The time span of the period is uncertain. Philological and linguistic evidence indicates that the Rigveda, the oldest of the Vedas, was composed roughly between 1700–1100 BCE, also...

" and before "the first Indian 'empire' was to rise in the third century B.C.". That this is "a date not too far removed from the eighth or ninth century B.C." is likely. It is generally agreed that "Unlike the Vedas, which have to be preserved letter-perfect, the epic was a popular work whose reciters would inevitably conform to changes in language and style," so the earliest surviving components of this dynamic text are believed to be no older than the earliest external references we have to the epic, which may include an allusion in Panini's fourth century BCE grammar (Ashtādhyāyī 4:2:56). It is estimated that the Sanskrit text probably reached something of a "final form" by the early Gupta period
Gupta Empire
The Gupta Empire was an ancient Indian empire which existed approximately from 320 to 550 CE and covered much of the Indian Subcontinent. Founded by Maharaja Sri-Gupta, the dynasty was the model of a classical civilization. The peace and prosperity created under leadership of Guptas enabled the...

 (about the 4th century CE). Vishnu Sukthankar, editor of the first great critical edition of the Mahabharata, commented: "It is useless to think of reconstructing a fluid text in a literally original shape, on the basis of an archetype and a stemma codicum. What then is possible? Our objective can only be to reconstruct the oldest form of the text which it is possible to reach on the basis of the manuscript material available." That manuscript evidence is somewhat late, given its material composition and the climate of India, but it is very extensive.

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. At least three redactions of the text are commonly recognized: Jaya (Victory) with 8,800 verses attributed to Vyasa
Vyasa
Vyasa is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyasa , or Krishna Dvaipayana...

, Bharata with 24,000 verses as recited by Vaisampayana
Vaisampayana
Vaishampayana was the traditional narrator of the Mahabharata, one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. He was an ancient Indian sage who was the original teacher of the Black Yajur-Veda. The Ashvalayana Grihya Sutra mentions him as Mahabharatacharya...

, and finally the Mahabharata as recited by Ugrasrava Sauti
Ugrasrava Sauti
Ugrashravas was the narrator of several Puranas, including Mahābhārata, Bhagavata Purana, Harivamsa, and Padma Purana, with the narrations typically taking place before the sages gathered in Naimisha Forest...

 with over 100,000 verses. However, some scholars such as John Brockington, argue that Jaya and Bharata refer to the same text, and ascribe the theory of Jaya with 8,800 verses to a misreading of a verse in Adiparvan (1.1.81).
The redaction
Redaction
Redaction is a form of editing in which multiple source texts are combined and subjected to minor alteration to make them into a single work. Often this is a method of collecting a series of writings on a similar theme and creating a definitive and coherent work...

 of 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 and the Virata parva from the "Spitzer manuscript". The oldest surviving Sanskrit text would date to the Kushan Period (200 CE).

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
Harivamsa
The Harivamsha is an important work of Sanskrit literature, containing 16,374 verses, mostly in metre. The text is also known as . This text is believed as a khila to the Mahabharata and is traditionally ascribed to Krishna Dvaipayana Veda Vyasa...

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.

According to what one character says at 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 would correspond to the addition of one and then another 'frame' settings of dialogues. The Vasu version would omit the frame settings and begin with the account of the birth of Vyasa. The astika version would add the sarpasattra and ashvamedha material from Brahmanical literature, introduce the name Mahabharata, and identify Vyasa as the work's author. The redactors of these additions were probably Pancharatrin
Pañcaratra
Pāñcarātra are the Vaishnava Sanskrit texts dedicated to worship of Narayana and form part of the Agamas.Unlike Vaikhanasa tradition, the Pancaratric tradition of Agamas prescribe image worship in the place of rituals like Yajnas, mentioned in the Vedas...

 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 Adi-parva includes the snake sacrifice (sarpasattra) of Janamejaya
Janamejaya
Janamejaya was a Kuru king. He was the son of Parikshit and Madravati. He was the grandson of Abhimanyu and the great-grandson of Arjuna, the valiant warrior hero of the Mahābhārata. He was ascended to the Kuru throne following the death of his father. His significance comes as the listener of the...

, 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 a particularly close connection to Vedic
Vedic Sanskrit
Vedic Sanskrit is an old Indo-Aryan language. It is an archaic form of Sanskrit, an early descendant of Proto-Indo-Iranian. It is closely related to Avestan, the oldest preserved Iranian language...

 (Brahmana
Brahmana
The Brāhmaṇas are part of the Hindu śruti literature. They are commentaries on the four Vedas, detailing the proper performance of rituals....

) literature. The Panchavimsha Brahmana
Panchavimsha Brahmana
The Tandya Mahabrahmana , also known as the Panchavimsha Brahmana from its consisting of twenty-five prapathakas...

 (at 25.15.3) enumerates the officiant priests of a sarpasattra among whom the names Dhrtarashtra and Janamejaya, two main characters of the Mahabharatas sarpasattra, as well as Takshaka, the name of a snake in the Mahabharata, occur.

The state of the text has been described by some early 20th century Indologist
Indology
Indology is the academic study of the history and cultures, languages, and literature of the Indian subcontinent , and as such is a subset of Asian studies....

s as unstructured and chaotic. Hermann Oldenberg
Hermann Oldenberg
Hermann Oldenberg was a German scholar of Indology, and Professor at Kiel and Göttingen .His 1881 study on Buddhism, entitled Buddha: Sein Leben, seine Lehre, seine Gemeinde, based on Pāli texts, popularized Buddhism and have remained continuously in print since their first publication. With T. W...

 supposed that the original poem must once have carried an immense "tragic force", but dismissed the full text as a "horrible chaos." The judgement of other early 20th century Indologists was even less favourable. Moritz Winternitz (
Geschichte der indischen Literatur 1909) considered that "only unpoetical theologists and clumsy scribes" could have lumped the various parts of disparate origin into an unordered whole.

Historical references



The earliest known references to the
Mahabharata and its core Bharata date back to the Ashtadhyayi (sutra
Sutra
Sūtra is an aphorism or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual. Literally it means a thread or line that holds things together and is derived from the verbal root siv-, meaning to sew , as does the medical term...

 6.2.38) of Pāṇini (fl. 4th century BCE), and in the
Ashvalayana Grhyasutra (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.

A report by the Greek writer Dio Chrysostom
Dio Chrysostom
Dio Chrysostom , Dion of Prusa or Dio Cocceianus was a Greek orator, writer, philosopher and historian of the Roman Empire in the 1st century. Eighty of his Discourses are extant, as well as a few Letters and a funny mock essay In Praise of Hair, as well as a few other fragments...

 (ca. 40-ca. 120 CE) about Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

's poetry being sung even in India seems to imply that the
Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

had been translated into Sanskrit. However, scholars have, in general, taken this as evidence for the existence of a Mahabharata at this date, whose episodes Dio or his sources syncretistically
Syncretism
Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word...

 identify with the story of the
Iliad.

Several stories within the Mahabharata took on separate identities of their own in Classical Sanskrit literature. For instance, Abhijñānashākuntala
Abhijñānaśākuntalam
Abhijñānashākuntala or Abhijñānaśākuntalam) , is a well-known Sanskrit play by Kālidāsa. Its date is uncertain, but Kalidasa is often placed in the period between the 1st century BCE and 4th century CE....

 by the renowned Sanskrit poet Kālidāsa
Kalidasa
Kālidāsa was a renowned Classical Sanskrit writer, widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in the Sanskrit language...

 (ca. 400 CE), believed to have lived in the era of the Gupta
Gupta Empire
The Gupta Empire was an ancient Indian empire which existed approximately from 320 to 550 CE and covered much of the Indian Subcontinent. Founded by Maharaja Sri-Gupta, the dynasty was the model of a classical civilization. The peace and prosperity created under leadership of Guptas enabled the...

 dynasty, is based on a story that is the precursor to the Mahabharata. Urubhanga
Urubhanga
Urubhanga or Urubhangam, , is a Sanskrit play written by Bhasa in the 2nd or 3rd century AD. Based on the well-known epic, the Mahābhārata, by Vyasa, Urubhanga focuses on the story of the character Duryodhana during and after his fight with Bhima...

, a Sanskrit play written by Bhāsa
Bhasa
Bhāsa is one of the earliest and most celebrated Indian playwrights in Sanskrit. However, very little is known about him.Kālidāsa in the introduction to his first play Malavikagnimitram writes -...

 who is believed to have lived before Kālidāsa, is based on the slaying of Duryodhana by the splitting of his thighs by Bhima.

The copper-plate inscription of the Maharaja
Maharaja
Mahārāja is a Sanskrit title for a "great king" or "high king". The female equivalent title Maharani denotes either the wife of a Maharaja or, in states where that was customary, a woman ruling in her own right. The widow of a Maharaja is known as a Rajamata...

 Sharvanatha (533–534 CE) from Khoh (Satna
Satna
Satna is a city in central India and a municipal corporation in Satna district in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. It is the administrative headquarters of Satna District. Satna is a border city of the state and is touched by the borders of the state of UttarPradesh.-History:Satna got its name...

 District, Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh , often called the Heart of India, is a state in central India. Its capital is Bhopal and Indore is the largest city....

) describes the Mahabharata as a "collection of 100,000 verses" (shatasahasri samhita).

The 18 parvas


The division into 18 parvas is as follows:
Parva title sub-parvas contents
1 Adi Parva
Adi Parva
Mahabharta Book 1 Adi Parva is a book about how the Mahabharata came to be narrated by Sauti to the assembled rishis at Naimisharanya. The recital of the Mahabharata at the Sarpasatra of Janamejaya by Vaishampayana at . The history of the Bharata race is told in detail and the parvan also traces...

 (The Book of the Beginning)
1–19 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)
2 Sabha Parva
Sabha Parva
Mahabharata Book 2 Sabha Parva is a book about how Maya Danava erects the palace and court , at Indraprastha. Life at the court, Yudhishthira's Rajasuya Yajna, the game of dice, and the eventual exile of the Pandavas....

 (The Book of the Assembly Hall)
20–28 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.
3 Vana Parva
Vana Parva
Mahabharta Book 3 Vana Parva is the book in the Mahabharata that discusses the twelve-year exile of the Pandavas in the forest....

 also Aranyaka-parva, Aranya-parva (The Book of the Forest)
29–44 The twelve years of exile in the forest (aranya).
4 Virata Parva
Virata Parva
Mahabharta Book 4 Virata Parva is the book of the Mahabharata about the 13th year of exile spent incognito at the court of Virata.-External links:* by Kisari Mohan Ganguli....

 (The Book of Virata)
45–48 The year in incognito spent at the court of Virata
Virata
Virata , in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, was a king in whose court the Pandavas spent a year in concealment during their exile. Virata was married to Queen Sudeshna and was the father of Prince Uttara and Princess Uttarā, who married Abhimanyu son of Arjuna. Their son Parikshit succeeded...

.
5 Udyoga Parva
Udyoga Parva
The Udyoga Parva is the fifth Parva of the Mahabharata, abounding with incidents appertaining to war and peace. It is the Book of the effort in preparations for war ....

 (The Book of the Effort)
49–59 Preparations for war and efforts to bring about peace between the Kurus and the Pandavas which eventually fail (udyoga means effort or work).
6 Bhishma Parva (The Book of Bhishma) 60–64 The first part of the great battle, with Bhishma
Bhishma
Bhishma or Bheeshma or Devavrata or 'Bhishma Pitamah' was the eighth son of Kuru King Shantanu who was blessed with wish-long life and had sworn to serve the ruling Kuru king. He was one of the most prominent characters of the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata. He was the grand uncle of both the...

 as commander for the Kauravas and his fall on the bed of arrows.
7 Drona Parva
Drona Parva
Mahabharata Book 7 Dronaparvan is the seventh Parva of Mahabharata.-External links:* by Kisari Mohan Ganguli....

 (The Book of Drona)
65–72 The battle continues, with Drona
Drona
In the epic Mahābhārata, Drona or Dronacharya was the royal guru to Kauravas and Pandavas. He was a master of advanced military arts, including the Devastras. Arjuna was his favorite student. Dronas love for Arjuna was second only to his love for his son Ashwatthama...

 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.
8 Karna Parva
Karna Parva
Mahabharata Book 8 Karna Parva is the eighth Parva of Mahabharata.-External links:* by Kisari Mohan Ganguli.More about Karna click the link below:http://www.karna.org/story_behind_karna.html...

 (The Book of Karna)
73 The battle again, with Karna
Karna
Karna or Radheya is one of the central characters in the epic Mahābhārata, from ancient India. He was the King of Anga...

 as commander.
9 Shalya Parva
Shalya Parva
The Mahabharata Book 9 Shalya Parvan is the Book of Shalya, the last part of the battle, with Shalya as commander.After all the great warriors had been slain, the king of Madra became the leader of the army. The encounters one after another, of charioteers, have been here described. Then comes the...

 (The Book of Shalya)
74–77 The last day of the battle, with Shalya
Shalya
In the epic Mahabharata, King Shalya was the brother of Madri , as well as the ruler of Madra-desa or the kingdom of Madra. Thus, he was the maternal uncle of Nakula and Sahadeva and was loved and revered by the Pandavas. When he was young, he entered a competition among princes and nobilities to...

 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 Bhima kills Duryodhana by smashing him on the thighs with a mace.
10 Sauptika Parva (The Book of the Sleeping Warriors) 78–80 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.
11 Stri Parva (The Book of the Women) 81–85 Gandhari
Gandhari (character)
Gāndhārī is a character in the Hindu epic, the Mahābhārata. In the epic, she was an incarnation of Mati, as the daughter of Subala, the king of Gandhara, or the modern Kandahar, a region spanning northwestern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, from which her name is derived...

, Kunti and the women (stri) of the Kurus and Pandavas lament the dead.
12 Shanti Parva (The Book of Peace) 86–88 The crowning of Yudhisthira
Yudhisthira
In the great Hindu epic Mahabharata, Yudhisthira , the eldest son of King Pandu and Queen Kunti, was king of Indraprastha and later of Hastinapura. He was the leader of the Pandava side in the Kurukshetra War...

 as king of Hastinapura, and instructions from Bhishma
Bhishma
Bhishma or Bheeshma or Devavrata or 'Bhishma Pitamah' was the eighth son of Kuru King Shantanu who was blessed with wish-long life and had sworn to serve the ruling Kuru king. He was one of the most prominent characters of the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata. He was the grand uncle of both the...

 for the newly anointed king on society, economics and politics. This is the longest book of the Mahabharata (shanti means peace).
13 Anushasana Parva (The Book of the Instructions) 89–90 The final instructions (anushasana) from Bhishma.
14 Ashvamedhika Parva (The Book of the Horse Sacrifice) 91–92 The royal ceremony of the Ashvamedha
Ashvamedha
The Ashvamedha was one of the most important royal rituals of Vedic religion, described in detail in the Yajurveda...

 (Horse sacrifice) conducted by Yudhisthira. The world conquest by Arjuna. The Anugita is told by Krishna to Arjuna.
15 Ashramavasika Parva (The Book of the Hermitage) 93–95 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.
16 Mausala Parva
Mausala Parva
Mausala Parva denotes the incidents related to the death of Krishna, Balarama, the destruction of the Yadavas through an internal strife, the mourning of the Yadava ladies over their dead husbands and the subsequent submersion of Dwaraka in Sea. This Parva is the last third Parva preceding the last...

 (The Book of the Clubs)
96 The infighting between the Yadavas
Yadu
Yadu is one of the five Indo-Aryan tribes mentioned in the Rig Veda . The Mahabharata, the Harivamsha and the Puranas mention Yadu as the eldest son of king Yayati and his queen Devayani. The prince of King Yayati, Yadu was a self-respecting and a very established ruler...

 with maces (mausala) and the eventual destruction of the Yadavas.
17 Mahaprasthanika Parva
Mahaprasthanika Parva
This Parva starts with the great journey of the Pandavas across the whole country and finally their ascent on the great Himalayas. On their way, Draupadi and other Pandava brothers die midway except for Yudistra. Yudistra was the only person to reach the Heaven with the mortal body directly...

 (The Book of the Great Journey)
97 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.
18 Svargarohana Parva (The Book of the Ascent to Heaven) 98 Yudhisthira's final test and the return of the Pandavas to the spiritual world (svarga
Svarga
In Hinduism, Svarga is a set of heavenly worlds located on and above Mt. Meru. It is a heaven where the righteous live in a paradise before their next reincarnation...

).
khila Harivamsa Parva
Harivamsa
The Harivamsha is an important work of Sanskrit literature, containing 16,374 verses, mostly in metre. The text is also known as . This text is believed as a khila to the Mahabharata and is traditionally ascribed to Krishna Dvaipayana Veda Vyasa...

 (The Book of the Genealogy of Hari)
99–100 Life of Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

 which is not covered in the 18 parvas of the Mahabharata.

Historical context


The historicity of the Kurukshetra War
Kurukshetra war
According to the Indian epic poem Mahābhārata, a dynastic succession struggle between two groups of cousins of an Indo-Aryan kingdom called Kuru, the Kauravas and Pandavas, for the throne of Hastinapura resulted in the Kurukshetra War in which a number of ancient kingdoms participated as allies of...

 is unclear. Many historians estimate the date of the Kurukshetra war to Iron Age India
Iron Age India
Iron Age India, the Iron Age in the Indian subcontinent, succeeds the Late Harappan culture, also known as the last phase of the Indus Valley Tradition...

 of the 10th century BCE. The setting of the epic has a historical precedent in Iron Age (Vedic) 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, the foundation on which the Mahabharata corpus was built, with a climactic battle eventually coming to be viewed as an epochal event.

Puranic literature
Puranas
The Puranas are a genre of important Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religious texts, notably consisting of narratives of the history of the universe from creation to destruction, genealogies of kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, and descriptions of Hindu cosmology, philosophy, and geography.Puranas...

 presents genealogical 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
B. B. Lal
Braj Basi Lal , better known as B. B. Lal, is an Indian archaeologist. He was the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India from 1968 to 1972, and has served as President of the World Archaeological Congress. He also worked in for UNESCO committees...

 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.

Attempts to date the events using methods of archaeoastronomy
Archaeoastronomy
Archaeoastronomy is the study of how people in the past "have understood the phenomena in the sky how they used phenomena in the sky and what role the sky played in their cultures." Clive Ruggles argues it is misleading to consider archaeoastronomy to be the study of ancient astronomy, as modern...

 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
Aryabhata
Aryabhata was the first in the line of great mathematician-astronomers from the classical age of Indian mathematics and Indian astronomy...

 (6th century). His date of February 18 3102 BCE has become widespread in Indian tradition (for example, the Aihole inscription
Aihole
Aihole is a temple complex in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka, India. It is a very popular tourist spot in north Karnataka. It lies to the east of Pattadakal, along the Malaprabha River, while Badami is to the west of both....

 of Pulikeshi II, dated to Saka 556 = 634 CE, claims that 3735 years have elapsed since the Bharata battle.)
Another traditional school of astronomers and historians, represented by Vriddha-Garga, Varahamihira
Varahamihira
Varāhamihira , also called Varaha or Mihira, was an Indian astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer who lived in Ujjain...

 (author of the Brhatsamhita) and Kalhana
Kalhana
Kalhana , a Kashmiri, was the author of Rajatarangini , an account of the history of Kashmir. He wrote the work in Sanskrit between 1148 and 1149. All information regarding his life has to be deduced from his own writing, a major scholar of which is Mark Aurel Stein...

 (author of the
Rajatarangini
Rajatarangini
The Rājatarangiṇī is a metrical chronicle of North west of the Indian subcontinent particularly the kings of Kashmir from earliest time written in Sanskrit by Kalhaṇa. The Rājatarangiṇī often has been erroneously referred to as the River of the Kings. In reality what Kalhana means by Rājatarangiṇī...

), place the Bharata war 653 years after the Kaliyuga epoch, corresponding to 2449 BCE.

Synopsis


The core story of the work is that of a dynastic struggle for the throne of Hastinapura
Hastinapura
Hastinapur is a town and a nagar panchayat in Meerut district in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.-History:Hastinapur was the capital of the kingdom of the Kauravas, belonging to the Kuru dynasty of kings. The throne of this city was the prize over which the Kurukshetra War of the epic...

, the kingdom ruled by the Kuru clan. The two collateral branches of the family that participate in the struggle are the Kaurava
Kaurava
The term Kaurava is a Sanskrit term, that means the descendants of Kuru, a legendary king who is the ancestor of many of the characters of the Mahābhārata.The term is used in the Mahābhārata with two meanings:...

 and the Pandava
Pandava
In the Hindu epic Mahābhārata, the Pandava are the five acknowledged sons of Pandu , by his two wives Kunti and Madri. Their names are Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva. Although, Karna is told by Lord Krishna that according to the laws and ethics he is the first son of Kunti making...

. Although the Kaurava is the senior branch of the family, Duryodhana
Duryodhana
In the Hindu epic the Mahābhārata, Duryodhana is the eldest son of the blind king Dhritarashtra by Queen Gandhari, the eldest of the one hundred Kaurava brothers, Emperor of the world at that time which means Emperor of India or Bharatvarsha as it was known at that time, cousin and the chief...

, the eldest Kaurava, is younger than Yudhisthira
Yudhisthira
In the great Hindu epic Mahabharata, Yudhisthira , the eldest son of King Pandu and Queen Kunti, was king of Indraprastha and later of Hastinapura. He was the leader of the Pandava side in the Kurukshetra War...

, the eldest Pandava. Both Duryodhana and Yudhisthira claim to be first in line to inherit the throne.

The struggle culminates in the great battle of Kurukshetra
Kurukshetra war
According to the Indian epic poem Mahābhārata, a dynastic succession struggle between two groups of cousins of an Indo-Aryan kingdom called Kuru, the Kauravas and Pandavas, for the throne of Hastinapura resulted in the Kurukshetra War in which a number of ancient kingdoms participated as allies of...

, 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.

The Mahabharata itself ends with the death of Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

, 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 (Demon)
In Hinduism, Kali is the reigning lord of Kali Yuga and archenemy of Kalki, the 10th and final Avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu...

 (Kali Yuga
Kali Yuga
Kali Yuga is the last of the four stages that the world goes through as part of the cycle of yugas described in the Indian scriptures. The other ages are Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga...

), the fourth and final age of mankind, in which great values and noble ideas have crumbled, and man is heading toward the complete dissolution of right action, morality and virtue.

Arshia Sattar states that the central theme of the Mahabharata, as well as the Ramayana, is respectively Krishna's and Rama's hidden divinity and its progressive revelation.

The older generations


King Janamejaya's ancestor Shantanu, the king of Hastinapura
Hastinapura
Hastinapur is a town and a nagar panchayat in Meerut district in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.-History:Hastinapur was the capital of the kingdom of the Kauravas, belonging to the Kuru dynasty of kings. The throne of this city was the prize over which the Kurukshetra War of the epic...

, has a short-lived marriage with the goddess Ganga and has a son, Devavrata (later to be called Bhishma
Bhishma
Bhishma or Bheeshma or Devavrata or 'Bhishma Pitamah' was the eighth son of Kuru King Shantanu who was blessed with wish-long life and had sworn to serve the ruling Kuru king. He was one of the most prominent characters of the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata. He was the grand uncle of both the...

, a great warrior), who becomes the heir apparent. Many years later, when King Shantanu goes hunting, he sees Satyavati
Satyavati
Satyavati was the queen of the Kuru king Shantanu of Hastinapur and the great-grandmother of the Pandava and Kaurava princes . She is also the mother of the seer Vyasa, author of the epic...

, the daughter of the chief of 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 resolve his father's dilemma, Devavrata agrees to relinquish his right to 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, Chitrāngada
Chitrangada
Chitrāngada , was the elder son of Shantanu and Satyavati. Since his elder half brother Bhishma took a vow of not ascending the throne of Hastinapura, he became the king after Shantanu and was very successful. Unfortunately, his success angered a Gandharva king of the same name...

 and Vichitravirya
Vichitravirya
Vichitravirya in the Hindu epic Mahabharata is the younger son of queen Satyavatī and king Śaṅtanu. His elder brother, Chitrāngada, had initially succeeded their father to the throne of Hastinapura, but when he died childless, Vichitravirya succeeded him.Vichitravirya was still a child when he was...

. Upon Shantanu's death, Chitrangada becomes king. He lives a very short uneventful life and dies. Vichitravirya, the younger son, rules Hastinapura
Hastinapura
Hastinapur is a town and a nagar panchayat in Meerut district in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.-History:Hastinapur was the capital of the kingdom of the Kauravas, belonging to the Kuru dynasty of kings. The throne of this city was the prize over which the Kurukshetra War of the epic...

. Meanwhile, the King of Kāśī
KASI
KASI is a radio station licensed to serve Ames, Iowa. The station is owned by Clear Channel Communications and licensed to Citicasters Licenses, Inc. It airs a News/Talk radio format....

 arranges a swayamvara
Swayamvara
Swayamvara , in ancient India, was a practice of choosing a husband, from among a list of suitors, by a girl of marriageable age. Swayam in Sanskrit means self and vara means choice or desire ....

 for his three daughters, neglecting to invite the royal family of Hastinapur. In order to arrange the marriage of young Vichitravirya, Bhishma attends the swayamvara of the three princesses Amba, Ambika and Ambalika, uninvited, and proceeds to abduct them. Ambika and Ambalika consent to be married to Vichitravirya.

The oldest princess Amba, however, informs Bhishma that she wishes to marry king of Shalva whom Bhishma defeated at their swayamvara. Bhishma lets her leave to marry king of Shalva, but Shalva refuses to marry her, still smarting at his humiliation at the hands of Bhishma. Amba then returns to marry Bhishma but he refuses due to his vow of celibacy. Amba becomes enraged and becomes Bhishma's bitter enemy, holding him responsible for her plight. Later she is reborn to King Drupada
Drupada
Drupada , also known as Yajnasena, is a character in the Mahābhārata. He is king of the land of Panchala.In his youth he studies with, and becomes a friend of Drona. Drupada makes him promise to share all his fortunes with him. Later, when Drupada becomes king of Panchaladesa, Drona reminds him...

 as Shikhandi
Shikhandi
Shikhandi is a character in the Hindu epic, the Mahābhārata. He was originally born as a girl child named 'Shikhandini' to Drupada, the king of Panchala...

 (or Shikhandini) and causes Bhishma's fall, with the help of Arjuna
Arjuna
Arjuna in Indian mythology is the greatest warrior on earth and is one of the Pandavas, the heroes of the Hindu epic Mahābhārata. Arjuna, whose name means 'bright', 'shining', 'white' or 'silver' Arjuna (Devanagari: अर्जुन, Thai: อรชุน, Orachun, Tamil: Arjunan, Indonesian and Javanese: Harjuna,...

, in the battle of Kurukshetra.

The Pandava and Kaurava princes


When Vichitravirya dies young without any heirs, Satyavati asks her first son Vyasa
Vyasa
Vyasa is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyasa , or Krishna Dvaipayana...

 to father children with
Niyoga
Niyoga is an ancient Hindu tradition, in which a woman would request and appoint a person for helping her bear a child. According to this Hindu tradition the man who was appointed must be or would most likely be a revered person...

 the widows. The eldest, Ambika, shuts her eyes when she sees him, and so her son Dhritarashtra
Dhritarashtra
In the Mahābhārata, Dhritarashtra was King of Hastinapur at the time of the Kurukshetra War, the epic's climactic event. He was born the son of Vichitravirya's first wife Ambika, and was fathered by Vyasa. He was blind from birth, and became father to a hundred children by his wife Gandhari...

 is born blind. Ambalika turns pale and bloodless upon seeing him, and thus her son Pandu
Pandu
In the Mahābhārata epic, King Pandu is the son of Ambalika and Rishi Ved Vyasa. He is more popularly known as the father of the Pandavas and ruled Hastinapur.-Birth:...

 is born pale and unhealthy (the term Pandu may also mean 'jaundiced'). Due to the physical challenges of the first two children, Satyavati asks Vyasa to try once again. However, Ambika and Ambalika send their maid instead, to Vyasa's room. Vyasa fathers a third son, Vidura
Vidura
Vidura was an important figure in the Mahabharata, a major Hindu epic. He was half-brother to the kings Dhritarashtra and Pandu of Hastinapura, born the son of the sage Vyasa and a lady-in-waiting to the queens Ambika and Ambalika of the city...

, by the maid. He is born healthy and grows up to be one of the wisest characters in the Mahabharata. 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 when Vidura intervenes and uses his knowledge of politics to assert that a blind person cannot be king. This is because a blind man cannot control and protect his subjects. The throne is then given to Pandu because of Dhritarashtra's blindness. Pandu marries twice, to Kunti and Madri
Madri
In the Mahābhārata epic, Madri was a princess of the Madra kingdom and the second wife of Pandu.On his way to Hastinapur, King Pandu encountered the army of Shalya, King of Madra. Very soon, Pandu and Shalya became friends and Shalya gave his only sister, Madri to Pandu, as a gift of their...

. Dhritarashtra marries Gandhari
Gandhari (character)
Gāndhārī is a character in the Hindu epic, the Mahābhārata. In the epic, she was an incarnation of Mati, as the daughter of Subala, the king of Gandhara, or the modern Kandahar, a region spanning northwestern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, from which her name is derived...

, a princess from Gandhara, who blindfolds herself so that she may feel the pain that her husband feels. Her brother Shakuni
Shakuni
Shakuni , an avatar of Dvapara, the personification of Dvapara Yuga, was the brother of Gandhari in the Mahābhārata. He was portrayed as an extremely intelligent but devious old man, who was very fond of his nephew Duryodhana. He won the kingdom of the Pandavas' for his nephew, as a wager in a...

 is 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 the sage Kindama
Kindama
In the epic Mahābhārata, Kindama was a rishi who lived in the woods, and could transform himself into an animal form. His curse on Pandu was a major factor in the epic's plot....

, who 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 blindness.


Pandu's older queen Kunti, however, had been given a boon by Sage Durvasa that she could invoke any god using a special mantra. Kunti uses this boon to ask Dharma
Dharma
Dharma means Law or Natural Law and is a concept of central importance in Indian philosophy and religion. In the context of Hinduism, it refers to one's personal obligations, calling and duties, and a Hindu's dharma is affected by the person's age, caste, class, occupation, and gender...

 the god of justice, Vayu
Vayu
Vāyu is a primary Hindu deity, the Lord of the winds, the father of Bhima and the spiritual father of Lord Hanuman...

 the god of the wind, and Indra
Indra
' or is the King of the demi-gods or Devas and Lord of Heaven or Svargaloka in Hindu mythology. He is also the God of War, Storms, and Rainfall.Indra is one of the chief deities in the Rigveda...

 the lord of the heavens for sons. She gives birth to three sons, Yudhisthira
Yudhisthira
In the great Hindu epic Mahabharata, Yudhisthira , the eldest son of King Pandu and Queen Kunti, was king of Indraprastha and later of Hastinapura. He was the leader of the Pandava side in the Kurukshetra War...

, Bhima
Bhima
In the Mahābhārata, Bhima is one of the central characters of Mahabharata and the second of the Pandava brothers...

, and Arjuna
Arjuna
Arjuna in Indian mythology is the greatest warrior on earth and is one of the Pandavas, the heroes of the Hindu epic Mahābhārata. Arjuna, whose name means 'bright', 'shining', 'white' or 'silver' Arjuna (Devanagari: अर्जुन, Thai: อรชุน, Orachun, Tamil: Arjunan, Indonesian and Javanese: Harjuna,...

, through these gods. Kunti shares her mantra with the younger queen Madri
Madri
In the Mahābhārata epic, Madri was a princess of the Madra kingdom and the second wife of Pandu.On his way to Hastinapur, King Pandu encountered the army of Shalya, King of Madra. Very soon, Pandu and Shalya became friends and Shalya gave his only sister, Madri to Pandu, as a gift of their...

, who bears the twins Nakula
Nakula
Nakula, also spelt "Nakul" was one of the five Pandava brothers according to the epic Mahābhārata. Nakula and Sahadeva were fraternal twins born to Madri, who had invoked the Ashvins using a mantra for a son, the mantra shared by Kunti...

 and Sahadeva
Sahadeva
Sahadeva was one of the five Pandava brothers according to the epic Mahābhārata. He was one of the twin sons of Madri, who invoked Ashvins using a mantra shared by Kunti for a son. His twin brother was named Nakula...

 through the Ashwini
Ashvins
The Ashvins , in Hindu mythology, are divine twin horsemen in the Rigveda, sons of Saranya , a goddess of the clouds and wife of Surya in his form as Vivasvat. The Ashvins are Vedic gods symbolising the shining of sunrise and sunset, appearing in the sky before the dawn in a golden chariot,...

 twins. However, Pandu and Madri indulge in sex, and Pandu dies. Madri dies on his funeral pyre
Sati (practice)
For other uses, see Sati .Satī was a religious funeral practice among some Indian communities in which a recently widowed woman either voluntarily or by use of force and coercion would have immolated herself on her husband’s funeral pyre...

 out of remorse. Kunti raises the five brothers, who are from then on usually referred to as the Pandava
Pandava
In the Hindu epic Mahābhārata, the Pandava are the five acknowledged sons of Pandu , by his two wives Kunti and Madri. Their names are Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva. Although, Karna is told by Lord Krishna that according to the laws and ethics he is the first son of Kunti making...

 brothers.

Dhritarashtra has a hundred sons through Gandhari
Gandhari (character)
Gāndhārī is a character in the Hindu epic, the Mahābhārata. In the epic, she was an incarnation of Mati, as the daughter of Subala, the king of Gandhara, or the modern Kandahar, a region spanning northwestern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, from which her name is derived...

, all born after the birth of Yudhishtira. These are the Kaurava
Kaurava
The term Kaurava is a Sanskrit term, that means the descendants of Kuru, a legendary king who is the ancestor of many of the characters of the Mahābhārata.The term is used in the Mahābhārata with two meanings:...

 brothers, the eldest being Duryodhana
Duryodhana
In the Hindu epic the Mahābhārata, Duryodhana is the eldest son of the blind king Dhritarashtra by Queen Gandhari, the eldest of the one hundred Kaurava brothers, Emperor of the world at that time which means Emperor of India or Bharatvarsha as it was known at that time, cousin and the chief...

, and the second Dushasana
Dushasana
Dushasana was the second son of the blind king Dhritarashtra and Gandhari in the epic Mahābhārata, and the younger brother of Duryodhana.-Birth and development:...

. 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 Kurukshetra
Kurukshetra
Kurukshetra is a land of historical and religious importance. Historically the land belonged to Punjab now a district in Haryana state of India. It is a holy place and is also known as Dharmakshetra . According to the Puranas, Kurukshetra is named after King Kuru, the ancestor of Kauravas and...

 war.

(The House of Lac)


After the deaths of their mother (Madri) and father (Pandu), the Pandavas and their mother Kunti return 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 to 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
Vidura
Vidura was an important figure in the Mahabharata, a major Hindu epic. He was half-brother to the kings Dhritarashtra and Pandu of Hastinapura, born the son of the sage Vyasa and a lady-in-waiting to the queens Ambika and Ambalika of the city...

, 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 presumed dead.

Marriage to Draupadi



During the course of their hiding the Pandavas learn of a swayamvara
Swayamvara
Swayamvara , in ancient India, was a practice of choosing a husband, from among a list of suitors, by a girl of marriageable age. Swayam in Sanskrit means self and vara means choice or desire ....

 which is taking place for the hand of the Pāñcāla princess Draupadī
Draupadi
In the epic Mahābhārata, Draupadi, also known as ' is the "emerged" daughter of King Drupada of Panchāla and the wife of the five Pandavas. When Yudhisthira becomes the king of Hastinapura at the end of the war, Draupadi becomes the queen of Indraprastha...

. 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. On explaining the previous life of Draupadi, she ends up being the wife of all five brothers.

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 however.

Shortly after this, Arjuna elopes with and then marries Krishna's sister, Subhadra
Subhadra
Image:Jagannath, Baladev and Subadra in Radhadesh.jpg|thumb|right|250px|alt=|Subhadra, flanked by her brothers Balarama and Jagannatha . Deities of the Radhadesh temple in Belgium...

. 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
Mayasura
In Hindu mythology, Maya , or Mayāsura was a great ancient king of the Asura, Daitya and Rakshasa races upon earth. He was also the chief architect of the people of the netherworld.-Tripura:...

 the Danava
Danava (Hinduism)
In Vedic mythology the Danavas were a race of the Asuras.The Danavas were the sons of Danu, who in turn was a daughter of Daksha. Danu is connected with the waters of heavens and she is probably associated with the formless, primordial waters that existed prior to the creation. The name is...

. 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
Draupadi
In the epic Mahābhārata, Draupadi, also known as ' is the "emerged" daughter of King Drupada of Panchāla and the wife of the five Pandavas. When Yudhisthira becomes the king of Hastinapura at the end of the war, Draupadi becomes the queen of Indraprastha...

 laughs at him and ridicules him by saying that this is because of his blind father Dhritrashtra. He then decides to avenge his humiliation.

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 Virata
Virata
Virata , in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, was a king in whose court the Pandavas spent a year in concealment during their exile. Virata was married to Queen Sudeshna and was the father of Prince Uttara and Princess Uttarā, who married Abhimanyu son of Arjuna. Their son Parikshit succeeded...

, 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


The two sides summon vast armies to their help, and line up at Kurukshetra
Kurukshetra
Kurukshetra is a land of historical and religious importance. Historically the land belonged to Punjab now a district in Haryana state of India. It is a holy place and is also known as Dharmakshetra . According to the Puranas, Kurukshetra is named after King Kuru, the ancestor of Kauravas and...

 for a war. The Kingdoms of Panchala
Panchala
Panchala is an ancient region of northern India, which corresponds to the geographical area around the Ganges River and Yamuna River, the upper Gangetic plain in particular. This would encompass the modern-day states of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. During the ancient times, it was home to a...

, Dwaraka, Kasi, Kekaya
Kekaya
Kekayas or Kaikeyas were an ancient people attested to have been living in north-western Punjab—between Gandhara and Beas river since remote antiquity. They were the descendants of the Kshatriyas of the Kekaya Janapada hence called Kekayas or Kaikeyas...

, Magadha
Magadha
Magadha formed one of the sixteen Mahājanapadas or kingdoms in ancient India. The core of the kingdom was the area of Bihar south of the Ganga; its first capital was Rajagriha then Pataliputra...

, Matsya
Matsya
Matsya was the first Avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism. The great flood finds mention in Hindu mythology texts like the Satapatha Brahmana, where in the Matsya Avatar takes place to save the pious and the first man, Manu and advices him to build a giant boat.-The Legend:According to the Matsya...

, Chedi
Chedi Kingdom
Chedi kingdom was one among the many kingdoms ruled during early periods by Paurava kings and later by Yaduvanshi Rajput kings in the central and western India. It falls roughly in the Bundelkhand division of Madhya Pradesh regions to the south of river Yamuna and along river Betwa or Vetravati...

, Pandya, Telinga, and the Yadu
Yadu
Yadu is one of the five Indo-Aryan tribes mentioned in the Rig Veda . The Mahabharata, the Harivamsha and the Puranas mention Yadu as the eldest son of king Yayati and his queen Devayani. The prince of King Yayati, Yadu was a self-respecting and a very established ruler...

s of Mathura and some other clans like the Parama Kambojas were allied with the Pandava
Pandava
In the Hindu epic Mahābhārata, the Pandava are the five acknowledged sons of Pandu , by his two wives Kunti and Madri. Their names are Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva. Although, Karna is told by Lord Krishna that according to the laws and ethics he is the first son of Kunti making...

s. The allies of the Kaurava
Kaurava
The term Kaurava is a Sanskrit term, that means the descendants of Kuru, a legendary king who is the ancestor of many of the characters of the Mahābhārata.The term is used in the Mahābhārata with two meanings:...

s included the kings of Pragjyotisha, Anga
Anga
Anga was a kingdom that flourished on the eastern Indian subcontinent in the 6th century BCE until taken over by Magadha in the same century. Counted among the "sixteen great nations" in Buddhist texts like the Anguttara Nikaya, Anga also finds mention in the Jain Vyakhyaprajnapti’s list of...

, Kekaya, Sindhudesa (including Sindhus, Sauviras and Sivis), Mahishmati, Avanti
Avanti (India)
Avanti was an ancient Indian janapada , roughly corresponded to the present day Malwa region. According to the Buddhist text, the Anguttara Nikaya, Avanti was one of the solasa mahajanapadas of the 6th century BCE...

 in Madhyadesa, Madra
Madra
Madra, Mada or Madraka is the name of an ancient region and its inhabitants, located in the north-west division of the ancient Indian sub-continent.-Uttaramadra division:...

, Gandhara
Gandhara
Gandhāra , is the name of an ancient kingdom , located in northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. Gandhara was located mainly in the vale of Peshawar, the Potohar plateau and on the Kabul River...

, Bahlikas, Kambojas
Kambojas
The Kambojas were a kshatriya tribe of Iron Age India, frequently mentioned in Sanskrit and Pali literature.They were an Indo-Iranian tribe situated at the boundary of the Indo-Aryans and the Iranians, and appear to have moved from the Iranian into the Indo-Aryan sphere over time.The Kambojas...

 and many others. Prior to war being declared, Balarama
Balarama
Balarama , also known as Baladeva, Balabhadra and Halayudha, is the elder brother of the divine being, Krishna in Hinduism. Within Vaishnavism Hindu traditions Balarama is worshipped as an Avatar of Vishnu, and he is also listed as such in the Bhagavata Purana...

, had expressed his unhappiness at the developing conflict, and left to go on pilgrimage
Pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

, 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 grandfather Bhishma
Bhishma
Bhishma or Bheeshma or Devavrata or 'Bhishma Pitamah' was the eighth son of Kuru King Shantanu who was blessed with wish-long life and had sworn to serve the ruling Kuru king. He was one of the most prominent characters of the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata. He was the grand uncle of both the...

 and his teacher Drona
Drona
In the epic Mahābhārata, Drona or Dronacharya was the royal guru to Kauravas and Pandavas. He was a master of advanced military arts, including the Devastras. Arjuna was his favorite student. Dronas love for Arjuna was second only to his love for his son Ashwatthama...

 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 Gita
Bhagavad Gita
The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...

 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
Satyaki
Yuyudhana , better known as Satyaki , was a powerful warrior belonging to the Vrishni clan of the Yadavas, to which Krishna also belonged. According to the Puranas, he was grandson of Shini of the Vrishni clan, and son of Satyaka. Satyaki was devoted to Krishna and his best friend Arjuna, with...

, Kripa
Kripa
Not to be confused with "Kripa" , a female given name.Kripa , also known as Kripacharya or Krupacharya is an important character in the Mahābhārata, one of the seven Chiranjivin .He was the son of Shardwan and Janapadi, born in a particularly extraordinary manner Not to be confused with "Kripa" , a...

, Ashwatthama
Ashwatthama
A hero of the Indian epic Mahābhārata, Ashwatthama or Ashwatthaman was the son of guru Drona. He is one of the seven Chiranjeevins. Dronacharya loved him very dearly. The rumours about his death in the Kurukshetra war, led to the death of his father from the hands of Prince Dhrishtadyumna...

, Kritavarma
Kritavarma
Kritavarma was an important Yadava warrior and chieftain, and a contemporary of Krishna. He finds mention in several ancient Sanskrit texts including the Mahābhārata, the Vishnu Purana, the Bhagavata Purana and the Harivamsa....

, Yuyutsu
Yuyutsu
Yuyutsu in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, was the only son of Dhritarashtra who survived the Kurukshetra war.Fearing problems with Gandhari's pregnancy which had continued for over a year, Dhritrashtra married a woman from Vaisya Varna, from whom he bore a son, Yuyutsu...

 and Krishna survive.

The end of the Pandavas



After "seeing" the carnage, Gandhari
Gandhari (character)
Gāndhārī is a character in the Hindu epic, the Mahābhārata. In the epic, she was an incarnation of Mati, as the daughter of Subala, the king of Gandhara, or the modern Kandahar, a region spanning northwestern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, from which her name is derived...

 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 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 Yudhishthira 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 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.

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
Kakawin Bharatayuddha
Kakawin Bhāratayuddha is an Old Javanese poetical rendering of some books of the Mahabharata by Mpu Sedah and his brother Mpu Panuluh in Indian meters . The commencement of this work was exactly November 6, 1157. The year of the composition is given in a chronogram sanga-kuda-śuddha-candramā which...

 from Java
Java
Java is an island of Indonesia. With a population of 135 million , it is the world's most populous island, and one of the most densely populated regions in the world. It is home to 60% of Indonesia's population. The Indonesian capital city, Jakarta, is in west Java...

. The plays of the Tamil
Tamil culture
Tamil culture is the culture of the Tamil people. Tamil culture is rooted in the arts and ways of life of Tamils in India, Sri Lanka, and across the globe...

 street theatre, terukkuttu
Terukkuttu
Terukkuttu or Kattaikkuttu is a Tamil street theatre form practised in Tamil Nadu state of India and Tamil-speaking regions of Sri Lanka. Terukuttu is a form of entertainment, a ritual, and a medium of social instruction. The terukkuttu plays various themes...

, use themes from the Tamil language versions of Mahabharata, focusing on Draupadi.

Critical Edition


Between 1919 and 1966, scholars at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute
Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute
The Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute is located in Pune, Maharashtra, India. It was founded on July 6, 1917 to honor the life and work of Dr. Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar , long regarded as the founder of Indology in India...

, Pune
Pune
Pune , is the eighth largest metropolis in India, the second largest in the state of Maharashtra after Mumbai, and the largest city in the Western Ghats. Once the centre of power of the Maratha Empire, it is situated 560 metres above sea level on the Deccan plateau at the confluence of the Mula ...

, 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 studies for reference. This work is sometimes called the 'Pune' or 'Poona' edition of the Mahabharata.

Modern interpretations



The Tamil
Tamil people
Tamil people , also called Tamils or Tamilians, are an ethnic group native to Tamil Nadu, India and the north-eastern region of Sri Lanka. Historic and post 15th century emigrant communities are also found across the world, notably Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, South Africa, Australia, Canada,...

 writer S. Ramakrishnan
S. Ramakrishnan
S. Ramakrishnan is a noted Tamil author and Tamil film dialogue writer. He was born in Mallankinaru, Virudhunagar district, Tamil Nadu. Ramakrishnan is noted for his column Thunai Ezhuthu in the magazine Ananda Vikatan. His short stories have been translated in German, French, Kannada, Hindi and...

 has written a critically acclaimed book based on the Mahabharata called "Uba Paandavam". It discusses the story in a non-linear manner from a traveller's point of view.

The Kannada
Kannada language
Kannada or , is a language spoken in India predominantly in the state of Karnataka. Kannada, whose native speakers are called Kannadigas and number roughly 50 million, is one of the 30 most spoken languages in the world...

 novelist S.L. Bhyrappa wrote a novel in Kannada (now translated into most Indian languages and English) titled Parva
Parva (novel)
Parva is a Kannada language novel written by S L Bhyrappa based on the Sanskrit epic, Mahabharata. It is a non-mythological retelling of the Mahabharata and is widely acclaimed as a modern classic. The story of the Mahabharata in Parva is narrated in the form of personal reflections of some of the...

, 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
M. T. Vasudevan Nair
Madathil Thekkepaattu Vasudevan Nair , popularly known as MT, is an Indian author, screenplay writer and film director. He was born in Kudallur, a small village in the present day Palakkad District, which was under the Malabar District in the Madras Presidency of the British Raj...

's novel Randamoozham (English:
Second Turn
Second Turn
Randamoozham is a 1984 Malayalam novel by M. T. Vasudevan Nair. It is widely credited as his masterpiece. It was translated into English as Second Turn in 1997. M. T...

) tells the Mahabharata from Bhima
Bhima
In the Mahābhārata, Bhima is one of the central characters of Mahabharata and the second of the Pandava brothers...

's point of view. Mrityunjay (English:
Triumph Over Death) written by Shivaji Sawant
Shivaji Sawant
As per Mr. Mandar Rane opinion Shivaji Sawant was an acclaimed Indian writer in Marathi. He was born in a small farmer family of Aajra village in Kolhapur district...

 is a novel with Karna
Karna
Karna or Radheya is one of the central characters in the epic Mahābhārata, from ancient India. He was the King of Anga...

 as the central character of Mahabharata.

In Indian cinema
Cinema of India
The cinema of India consists of films produced across India, which includes the cinematic culture of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal. Indian films came to be followed throughout South Asia and...

, several film versions of the epic exist, dating back to 1920. The internationally acclaimed parallel
Parallel Cinema
The Indian New Wave, commonly known in India as Art Cinema or Parallel Cinema as an alternative to the mainstream commercial cinema, is a specific movement in Indian cinema, known for its serious content, realism and naturalism, with a keen eye on the sociopolitical climate of the times...

 Bengali film
Bengali cinema
Bengali cinema refers to the Bengali language filmmaking industries in the Bengal region of South Asia. There are two major film-making hubs in the region: one in Kolkata, West Bengal, India and the other in Dhaka, Bangladesh .The history of cinema in Bengal dates back to the 1890s, when the first...

 director Satyajit Ray
Satyajit Ray
Satyajit Ray was an Indian Bengali filmmaker. He is regarded as one of the greatest auteurs of 20th century cinema. Ray was born in the city of Kolkata into a Bengali family prominent in the world of arts and literature...

 also intended to direct a theatrical adaptation of the epic, but the project was never realized.

In the late 1980s, the Mahabharat TV series
Mahabharat (TV series)
Mahabharat is a successful Indian television series based on the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata. The 94-episode series originally ran from 2 October 1988 to 24 June 1990. It was produced by B. R. Chopra and directed by his son, Ravi Chopra. The music was composed by critically acclaimed music...

, directed by Ravi Chopra, was televised and shown on India's national television (Doordarshan
DoorDarshan
Doordarshan is an Indian public service broadcaster, a division of Prasar Bharati. It is one of the largest broadcasting organizations in India in terms of the infrastructure of studios and transmitters. Recently, it has also started Digital Terrestrial Transmitters. On September 15, 2009,...

). In the Western world
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

, a well-known presentation of the epic is Peter Brook
Peter Brook
Peter Stephen Paul Brook CH, CBE is an English theatre and film director and innovator, who has been based in France since the early 1970s.-Life:...

's nine-hour play, which premiered in Avignon
Avignon
Avignon is a French commune in southeastern France in the départment of the Vaucluse bordered by the left bank of the Rhône river. Of the 94,787 inhabitants of the city on 1 January 2010, 12 000 live in the ancient town centre surrounded by its medieval ramparts.Often referred to as the...

 in 1985, and its five-hour movie version
The Mahabharata (1989)
The Mahabharata (1989 film)
The Mahabharata is a 1989 film version of the Indian epic, Mahabharata, directed by Peter Brook. Brook's original 1985 stage play was 9 hours long, and toured around the world for four years. In 1989, it was reduced to under 6 hours for television . Later it was also reduced to about 3 hours for...

.

Among literary reinterpretations of the Mahabharata is Shashi Tharoor
Shashi Tharoor
Shashi Tharoor is an Indian politician and a Member of Parliament from the Thiruvananthapuram constituency in Kerala...

's major work entitled
The Great Indian Novel
The Great Indian Novel
The Great Indian Novel is a satirical novel by Shashi Tharoor. It is a fictional work that takes the story of the Mahabharata, the epic of Hindu mythology, and recasts and resets it in the context of the Indian Independence Movement and the first three decades post-independence...

, an involved literary, philosophical, and political novel which superimposes the major moments of post-independence India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 in the 20th century onto the driving events of the Mahabharata epic.

Mahabharata was also reinterpreted by Shyam Benegal
Shyam Benegal
Shyam Benegal is a prolific Indian director and screenwriter. With his first four feature films Ankur , Nishant Manthan and Bhumika he created a new genre, which has now come to be called the "middle cinema" in India although he himself has expressed dislike in the term preferring his work to...

 in Kalyug
Kalyug (1980 film)
Kalyug is a Hindi film made in 1981, and was directed by Shyam Benegal.The film is known as a modern day version of an Indian mythological epic Mahabharat depicted as an archetypal-conflict between rival business houses.-Overview:...

. Kalyug is a modern-day replaying of the Mahabharata.

Amar Chitra Katha
Amar Chitra Katha
Amar Chitra Katha Stories") is one of India's largest selling comic book series, with more than 90 million copies sold in 20 Indian languages. Founded in 1967, the imprint has more than 400 titles that retell stories from the great Indian epics, mythology, history, folklore, and fables in a comic...

 published a 1,260 page comic book version of the Mahabharata.

Western interpretations of the Mahabharata include William Buck's
William Buck
William F. Buck was a professional baseball umpire.Buck umpired 2 National Association games in , as the home plate umpire in both games.-References:...

 Mahabharata and Elizabeth Seeger's Five Sons of King Pandu.

Persian translation



It was translated into Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 at Akbar's orders, by Faizi
Faizi
Shaikh Abu al-Faiz ibn Mubarak, popularly known by his pen-name, Faizi was a poet of late medieval India. In 1588, he became the Malik-ush-Shu'ara of Akbar's Court. He was the elder brother of Akbar's historian Abul Fazl...

 and `Abd al-Qadir Bada'uni  (1761–1763) and named Razmnameh .

English translations


The first complete English translation was the Victorian
Victorian literature
Victorian literature is the literature produced during the reign of Queen Victoria . It forms a link and transition between the writers of the romantic period and the very different literature of the 20th century....

 prose version by Kisari Mohan Ganguli
Kisari Mohan Ganguli
Kisari Mohan Ganguli was an Indian translator, who is most known for the first complete English translation of the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata published as The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa Translated into English Prose between 1883 to 1896 by Pratap Chandra Roy , a Calcutta bookseller,...

, published between 1883 and 1896 (Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers) and by M. N. Dutt (Motilal Banarsidass
Motilal Banarsidass
Motilal Banarsidass is a leading Indian publishing house on Sanskrit and Indology since 1903, located in Delhi, India. It publishes and distributes serials, monographs, and scholarly publications on Asian religion, philosophy, history, culture, arts, architecture, archaeology, language,...

 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
Public domain
Works are in the public domain if the intellectual property rights have expired, if the intellectual property rights are forfeited, or if they are not covered by intellectual property rights at all...

 and is available online.

Another English prose translation of the full epic, based on the Critical Edition, is also in progress, published by University Of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

 Press, initiated by Chicago Indologist J. A. B. van Buitenen
J. A. B. van Buitenen
Johannes Adrianus Bernardus van Buitenen was an Indologist at the University of Chicago where he was the George V. Bobrinskoy Professor of Sanskrit in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations...

 (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
DePaul University
DePaul University is a private institution of higher education and research in Chicago, Illinois. Founded by the Vincentians in 1898, the university takes its name from the 17th century French priest Saint Vincent de Paul...

 (book 6), J. L. Fitzgerald of Brown University (books 11–13) and Wendy Doniger
Wendy Doniger
Wendy Doniger is an American Indologist and Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago Divinity School, the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the Committee on Social Thought...

 of the University of Chicago (books 14–18).

A poetic "transcreation" (author's own description) of the full epic into English, done by the poet P. Lal
P. Lal
Purushottama Lal was an Indian poet, essayist, translator, professor and publisher. He was the founder and publisher of Writers Workshop in Calcutta, established in 1958.-Life and education:...

 is complete, and in 2005 began being published by Writers Workshop
Writers Workshop
Writers Workshop is a Calcutta-based literary publisher founded by the poet-professor P. Lal in 1958. Over the next few decades it published many new authors in urban literature of the post-independence period. These authors later became big names.-History:...

, 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). The completion of the publishing project is scheduled for 2010. Sixteen of the eighteen volumes are now available.

A project to translate the full epic into English prose, translated by various hands, began to appear in 2005 from the Clay Sanskrit Library
Clay Sanskrit Library
The Clay Sanskrit Library is a series of books published by New York University Press and the JJC Foundation. Each work features the text in its original language on the left-hand page, with its English translation on the right...

, published by New York University
New York University
New York University is a private, nonsectarian research university based in New York City. NYU's main campus is situated in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan...

 Press. The translation is based not on the
Critical Edition but on the version known to the commentator Nīlakaṇṭha. Currently available are 15 volumes of the projected 32-volume edition.

Indian economist Bibek Debroy
Bibek Debroy
Bibek Debroy is an Indian economist. Since March 2007, he has been professor at Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. He has also been Visiting Honorary Senior Research Fellow for Institute for South Asian Studies in National University of Singapore from May 2009.Debroy studied at Ramakrishna...

 has also begun an unabridged English translation in ten volumes. Volume 1: Adi Parva was published in March 2010.

Abridged versions


Many condensed versions, abridgements and novelistic prose retellings of the complete epic have been published in English, including works by William Buck
William Buck
William F. Buck was a professional baseball umpire.Buck umpired 2 National Association games in , as the home plate umpire in both games.-References:...

, R.K. Narayan, C. Rajagopalachari
C. Rajagopalachari
Chakravarti Rajagopalachari , informally called Rajaji or C.R., was an Indian lawyer, independence activist, politician, writer and statesman. Rajagopalachari was the last Governor-General of India...

, K. M. Munshi, Krishna Dharma
Krishna Dharma
Krishna Dharma is a British Hindu scholar and author.Krishna Dharma is "the author of the world's most popular editions of India's great epics": the Ramayana: India's Immortal Tale of Adventure, Love, and Wisdom and the Mahabharata: The Greatest Spiritual Epic of All Time...

, Romesh C. Dutt
Romesh Chunder Dutt
Romesh Chunder Dutt, CIE was an Indian civil servant, economic historian, writer, and translator of Ramayana and Mahabharata.- Formative years :...

, Bharadvaja Sarma, and John D. Smith
John D. Smith
John Dargavel Smith is a former professor of sanskrit at Cambridge.His studies have primarily focused on topics in the language/literature/culture of Rajasthan...

.

A Kawi version is found on the Indonesian island of Bali and was translated by Dr. I. Gusti Putu Phalgunadi
I. Gusti Putu Phalgunadi
I Gusti Putu Phalgunadi is an Indonesian scholar who has translated many of Indonesian scriptures from the Kawi language to English.- Mahabharata :Of the eighteen parvas, only eight Kawi manuscripts remain....

. Of the eighteen parvas, only eight Kawi manuscripts remain.

Derivative works


Bhasa
Bhasa
Bhāsa is one of the earliest and most celebrated Indian playwrights in Sanskrit. However, very little is known about him.Kālidāsa in the introduction to his first play Malavikagnimitram writes -...

, the 2nd or 3rd century AD Sanskrit playwright, wrote two plays on episodes in the Marabharata, Urubhanga
Urubhanga
Urubhanga or Urubhangam, , is a Sanskrit play written by Bhasa in the 2nd or 3rd century AD. Based on the well-known epic, the Mahābhārata, by Vyasa, Urubhanga focuses on the story of the character Duryodhana during and after his fight with Bhima...

(Broken Thigh), about the fight between Duryodhana
Duryodhana
In the Hindu epic the Mahābhārata, Duryodhana is the eldest son of the blind king Dhritarashtra by Queen Gandhari, the eldest of the one hundred Kaurava brothers, Emperor of the world at that time which means Emperor of India or Bharatvarsha as it was known at that time, cousin and the chief...

 and Bhima
Bhima
In the Mahābhārata, Bhima is one of the central characters of Mahabharata and the second of the Pandava brothers...

, while
Madhyamavyayoga
Madhyamavyayoga
Madhyamavyayoga or Madhyama Vyāyoga , is a Sanskrit play attributed to Bhāsa. There is no real consensus regarding when the play was written, and it has been dated variously from 475 BCE to the 11th century CE...

(The Middle One) set around Bhima and his son, Ghatotkacha
Ghatotkacha
Ghatotkacha , is a character in the Mahabharata, the son of Bhima and the giantess Hidimbi . His maternal parentage made him half-rakshasa and gave him many magical powers that made him an important fighter in the Kurukshetra war, the climax of the epic...

. The first important play of 20th century was
Andha Yug
Andha Yug
Andha Yug is 1954 verse play written in Hindi, by renowned novelist, poet, and playwright Dharamvir Bharati . It was the first important play of 20th century India...

(The Blind Epoch), by Dharamvir Bharati
Dharamvir Bharati
Dr. Dharamvir Bharati was a renowned Hindi poet, author, playwright and a social thinker of India. He was the Chief-Editor of the popular Hindi weekly magazine Dharmayug....

, which came in 1955, found in
Mahabharat, both an ideal source and expression of modern predicaments and discontent. Starting with Ebrahim Alkazi
Ebrahim Alkazi
Ebrahim Alkazi is one of the most influential Indian theatre directors and Drama teachers in 20th century Indian theatre. He also remained the Director of National School of Drama, New Delhi He has also been a noted art connoisseur, collector and gallery owner, and found Art Heritage Gallery in...

 it was staged by numerous directors. V. S. Khandekar's Marathi novel,
Yayati (1960) and Girish Karnad
Girish Karnad
Girish Raghunath Karnad is a contemporary writer, playwright, screenwriter, actor and movie director in Kannada language...

's debut play
Yayati (1961) are based on the story of King Yayati
Yayati
Yayati was a Puranic king and the son of king Nahusha and one of ancestors of Pandavas. He was a great scholar of Vedas. He had five brothers, Yati, Samyati, Ayati, Viyati and Kriti. He had two wives, Devayani and Sharmishtha. Devayani was the daughter of Shukracharya, the priest of Asuras ....

 found in the Mahabharat. Bengali writer and playwright, Buddhadeva Bose wrote three plays set in Mahabharat,
Anamni Angana, Pratham Partha and Kalsandhya.

Jain version


Jain
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

 version of Mahabharata can be found in the various Jain texts like Harivamsapurana (the story of Harivamsa) Trisastisalakapurusa Caritra (Hagiography of 63 Illustrious persons), Pandavacaritra (lives of Pandavas) and Pandavapurana (stories of Pandavas). From the earlier canonical literature, Antakrddaaśāh (8th cannon) and Vrisnidasa (upangagama or secondary canon) contain the stories of Neminatha (22nd Tirthankara), Krishna and Balarama. Prof. Padmanabh Jaini
Padmanabh Jaini
Prof. Dr. Padmanabh Shrivarma Jaini is a India born scholar of Jainism and Buddhism, currently living in Berkeley, USA. He was born in a Digambar family, however he is equally familiar with both the Digambara and Svetambara forms of Jainism...

 notes that, unlike in the Hindu Puranas, the names Baladeva and Vasudeva are not restricted to Balarama and Krishna in Jain puranas. Instead they serve as names of two distinct class of mighty brothers, who appear nine times in each half of time cycles of the Jain cosmology
Jain cosmology
Jain cosmology is the description of the shape and functioning of the physical and metaphysical Universe and its constituents according to Jainism, which includes the canonical Jain texts, commentaries and the writings of the Jain philosopher-monks...

 and rule the half the earth as half-chakravartins. Jaini traces the origin of this list of brothers to the Jinacharitra by Bhadrabahu swami (3–4 century BCE). According to Jain cosmology
Jain cosmology
Jain cosmology is the description of the shape and functioning of the physical and metaphysical Universe and its constituents according to Jainism, which includes the canonical Jain texts, commentaries and the writings of the Jain philosopher-monks...

 Balarama, Krishna and Jarasandha are the ninth and the last set of Baladeva, Vasudeva, and Partivasudeva. The main battle is not the Mahabharata, but the fight between Krishna and Jarasandha who is killed by Krishna. Ultimately, the Pandavas and Balarama take renunciation as Jain monks and are reborn in heavens, while on the other hand Krishna and Jarasandha are reborn in hell. In keeping with the law of karma, Krishna is reborn in hell for his exploits (sexual and violent) while Jarasandha for his evil ways. Prof. Jaini admits a possibility that perhaps because of his popularity, the Jain authors were keen to rehabilitate Krishna. The Jain texts predict that after his karmic term in hell is over sometime during the next half time-cycle, Krishna will be reborn as a Jain Tirthankara and attain liberation
Moksa (Jainism)
' or Mokkha means liberation, salvation or emancipation of soul. It is a blissful state of existence of a soul, completely free from the karmic bondage, free from samsara, the cycle of birth and death. A liberated soul is said to have attained its true and pristine nature of infinite bliss,...

. Krishna and Balrama are shown as contemporaries and cousins of 22nd Tirthankara, Neminatha. According to this story, Krishna arranged young Neminath’s marriage with Rajamati, the daughter of Ugrasena, but Neminatha, empathizing with the animals which were to be slaughtered for the marriage feast, left the procession suddenly and renounced the world.

Kuru family tree


Key to Symbols
  • Male: blue border
  • Female: red border
  • Pandava
    Pandava
    In the Hindu epic Mahābhārata, the Pandava are the five acknowledged sons of Pandu , by his two wives Kunti and Madri. Their names are Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva. Although, Karna is told by Lord Krishna that according to the laws and ethics he is the first son of Kunti making...

    s: green box
  • Kaurava
    Kaurava
    The term Kaurava is a Sanskrit term, that means the descendants of Kuru, a legendary king who is the ancestor of many of the characters of the Mahābhārata.The term is used in the Mahābhārata with two meanings:...

    s: yellow box


Notes
  • a: Santanu
    Santanu
    Shantanu was a Kuru king of Hastinapura, who is mentioned in the great epic of the Mahābhārata. He was a descendant of the Bharata race, of the lunar dynasty and the ancestor of the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The Rigveda mentions Shantanu. He was the youngest son of King Pratipa of Hastinapura...

     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
    Satyavati
    Satyavati was the queen of the Kuru king Shantanu of Hastinapur and the great-grandmother of the Pandava and Kaurava princes . She is also the mother of the seer Vyasa, author of the epic...

    .
  • b: Pandu
    Pandu
    In the Mahābhārata epic, King Pandu is the son of Ambalika and Rishi Ved Vyasa. He is more popularly known as the father of the Pandavas and ruled Hastinapur.-Birth:...

     and Dhritarashtra
    Dhritarashtra
    In the Mahābhārata, Dhritarashtra was King of Hastinapur at the time of the Kurukshetra War, the epic's climactic event. He was born the son of Vichitravirya's first wife Ambika, and was fathered by Vyasa. He was blind from birth, and became father to a hundred children by his wife Gandhari...

     were fathered by Vyasa
    Vyasa
    Vyasa is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyasa , or Krishna Dvaipayana...

     after Vichitravirya
    Vichitravirya
    Vichitravirya in the Hindu epic Mahabharata is the younger son of queen Satyavatī and king Śaṅtanu. His elder brother, Chitrāngada, had initially succeeded their father to the throne of Hastinapura, but when he died childless, Vichitravirya succeeded him.Vichitravirya was still a child when he was...

    's death. Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura were the sons of Vyasa with Ambika, Ambalika and a maid servant respectively.
  • c: Karna
    Karna
    Karna or Radheya is one of the central characters in the epic Mahābhārata, from ancient India. He was the King of Anga...

     was born to Kunti through her invocation of Surya
    Surya
    Surya Suraya or Phra Athit is the chief solar deity in Hinduism, one of the Adityas, son of Kasyapa and one of his wives, Aditi; of Indra; or of Dyaus Pitar . The term Surya also refers to the Sun, in general. Surya has hair and arms of gold...

    , before her marriage to Pandu
    Pandu
    In the Mahābhārata epic, King Pandu is the son of Ambalika and Rishi Ved Vyasa. He is more popularly known as the father of the Pandavas and ruled Hastinapur.-Birth:...

    .
  • d: Yudhishtira, Bhima
    Bhima
    In the Mahābhārata, Bhima is one of the central characters of Mahabharata and the second of the Pandava brothers...

    , Arjuna
    Arjuna
    Arjuna in Indian mythology is the greatest warrior on earth and is one of the Pandavas, the heroes of the Hindu epic Mahābhārata. Arjuna, whose name means 'bright', 'shining', 'white' or 'silver' Arjuna (Devanagari: अर्जुन, Thai: อรชุน, Orachun, Tamil: Arjunan, Indonesian and Javanese: Harjuna,...

    , Nakula
    Nakula
    Nakula, also spelt "Nakul" was one of the five Pandava brothers according to the epic Mahābhārata. Nakula and Sahadeva were fraternal twins born to Madri, who had invoked the Ashvins using a mantra for a son, the mantra shared by Kunti...

     and Sahadeva
    Sahadeva
    Sahadeva was one of the five Pandava brothers according to the epic Mahābhārata. He was one of the twin sons of Madri, who invoked Ashvins using a mantra shared by Kunti for a son. His twin brother was named Nakula...

     were acknowledged sons of Pandu
    Pandu
    In the Mahābhārata epic, King Pandu is the son of Ambalika and Rishi Ved Vyasa. He is more popularly known as the father of the Pandavas and ruled Hastinapur.-Birth:...

     but were begotten by Kunti's invocation of various deities. They all married Draupadi
    Draupadi
    In the epic Mahābhārata, Draupadi, also known as ' is the "emerged" daughter of King Drupada of Panchāla and the wife of the five Pandavas. When Yudhisthira becomes the king of Hastinapura at the end of the war, Draupadi becomes the queen of Indraprastha...

     (not shown in tree).
  • e: Duryodhana
    Duryodhana
    In the Hindu epic the Mahābhārata, Duryodhana is the eldest son of the blind king Dhritarashtra by Queen Gandhari, the eldest of the one hundred Kaurava brothers, Emperor of the world at that time which means Emperor of India or Bharatvarsha as it was known at that time, cousin and the chief...

     and his siblings were born at the same time, and they were of the same generation as their Pandava
    Pandava
    In the Hindu epic Mahābhārata, the Pandava are the five acknowledged sons of Pandu , by his two wives Kunti and Madri. Their names are Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva. Although, Karna is told by Lord Krishna that according to the laws and ethics he is the first son of Kunti making...

     cousins.


The birth order of siblings is correctly shown in the family tree (from left to right), except for Vyasa
Vyasa
Vyasa is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyasa , or Krishna Dvaipayana...

 and Bhishma
Bhishma
Bhishma or Bheeshma or Devavrata or 'Bhishma Pitamah' was the eighth son of Kuru King Shantanu who was blessed with wish-long life and had sworn to serve the ruling Kuru king. He was one of the most prominent characters of the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata. He was the grand uncle of both the...

 whose birth order is not described, and Vichitravirya who was born after them. The fact that Ambika and Ambalika
Ambalika
Ambalika was the daughter of Kashya, the King of Kashi and queen of Vichitravirya, King of Hastinapura.Along with her sisters Amba and Ambika, she was taken by force by Bhishma from their Swayamvara, the latter having challenged and defeated the assembled royalty...

 are 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 Chitrāngada
Chitrangada
Chitrāngada , was the elder son of Shantanu and Satyavati. Since his elder half brother Bhishma took a vow of not ascending the throne of Hastinapura, he became the king after Shantanu and was very successful. Unfortunately, his success angered a Gandharva king of the same name...

, the eldest brother of Vichitravirya. Vidura
Vidura
Vidura was an important figure in the Mahabharata, a major Hindu epic. He was half-brother to the kings Dhritarashtra and Pandu of Hastinapura, born the son of the sage Vyasa and a lady-in-waiting to the queens Ambika and Ambalika of the city...

, half-brother to Dhritarashtra and Pandu.

Cultural influence


In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains to Arjuna his duties as a warrior and prince and elaborates on different Yogic
Yoga
Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India. The goal of yoga, or of the person practicing yoga, is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility while meditating on Supersoul...

 and Vedantic philosophies, with examples and analogies. This has led to the Gita often being described as a concise guide to Hindu philosophy
Hindu philosophy
Hindu philosophy is divided into six schools of thought, or , which accept the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures. Three other schools do not accept the Vedas as authoritative...

 and a practical, self-contained guide to life. In modern times, Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda , born Narendranath Dutta , was the chief disciple of the 19th century mystic Ramakrishna Paramahansa and the founder of the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission...

, Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Lokmanya Tilak –, was an Indian nationalist, teacher, social reformer and independence fighter who was the first popular leader of the Indian Independence Movement. The British colonial authorities derogatorily called the great leader "Father of the Indian unrest"...

, Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi , pronounced . 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement...

 and many others used the text to help inspire the Indian independence movement
Indian independence movement
The term Indian independence movement encompasses a wide area of political organisations, philosophies, and movements which had the common aim of ending first British East India Company rule, and then British imperial authority, in parts of South Asia...

.

External links


Original text online

Textual resources

Kisari Mohan Ganguli translation

Articles on the Mahabharata

Visuals