Thursday, May 13, 2010


Mahabharat is the story of Great Bharat [India] - right upto the`The Great War’ between the Pandavas and the Kauravas [the ruling family]and thereafter.
It is the longest Sanskrit epic ever written - a collection of more than 74,000 verses, divided into 18 books.
The Mahabharata contains the Bhagawad Gita - dwelling on the important goals of human beings in their mortal life. It aims to make people realize the relation between the individual and the society and how they both are inter dependent on each other.
This epic revolves around the struggle for the throne of the kingdom of Hastinapura, between two branches of the same family - the Kauravas - one hundred sons of the blind king Dhritarashtra and Pandavas - five sons of Pandu, who died of a curse. The five brothers named Yudhisthira (eldest son), Arjuna, Bheema, Nakula and Sahdeva were obedient, dutiful and most loved in the kingdom. Each of Pandavas had a special virtue in them that made them stand apart from the rest of the world. The Kauravas were jealous and wanted to get rid of them. 
As time went by, the Pandavas got married and shared a common wife named Draupadi. The Kauravas got even more enraged and challenged the Pandavas to a game of gamble. The Pandavas lost and were banished from the kingdom for an exile of 12 years. There was a condition that if they were recognized by the end of 12 years, they would have to begin from scratch. 
One of the most important and dramatic character in this epic is Lord Krishna. He was the sole advisor, guide and true friend of the Pandavas and helped them in each and every difficulty in their exile. He is said to be the incarnation of God, who came to earth in human form to relieve the world of evil people and restore faith in his devotees. During the great battle of Kurukshetra fought between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, Lord Krishna took upon himself the duty of driving Arjuna's chariot. He imparted the valuable and practical lessons of the Bhagawad Gita, a text of the conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, where Lord Krishna shows Arjuna a glimpse of his majestic divine form. 
The Pandavas won the battle and ruled over Hastinapura for a number of years. It is said that Dhritarashtra and his wife retired into the forest to lead a stress-free life of an ascetic and Krishna left after around thirty six years after the battle took place. When the Pandavas realized that it was time to leave this earth, they all set out on a journey towards the North on foot. It is said that the gates of heaven opened on the northern horizon. One by one they dropped dead, until Yudhisthira finally reached the gates of heaven to be united once again with his brothers and wife.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The 18 Parvas

The division of 18 parvas are as follows:

1. Adi Parva (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 Takshila. 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 (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 also Aranyaka-parva, Aranya-parva (The Book of the Forest) - 29-44 - The twelve years of exile in the forest (aranya).
4. Virata Parva (The Book of Virata) - 45-48 - The year in incognito spent at the court of Virata.
5. Udyoga Parva (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 as commander for the Kauravas and his fall on the bed of arrows.
7. Drona Parva (The Book of Drona) - 65-72 - The battle continues, with Drona as commander. This is the major book of the war. Most of the great warriors on both sides are dead by the end of this book.
8. Karna Parva (The Book of Karna) – 73 - The battle again, withKarna as commander.
9. Shalya Parva (The Book of Shalya) - 74-77 - The last day of the battle, withShalya 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, 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 as king of Hastinapura, and instructions from Bhishma for the newly anointed king on society, economics and politics. This is the longest book of the Mahabharata (shanti means peace).
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 (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 (The Book of the Clubs) – 96 - The infighting between the Yadavs with maces (mausala) and the eventual destruction of the Yadavas.
17. Mahaprasthanika Parva (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).
Khila - Harivamsa Parva (The Book of the Genealogy of Hari) - 99-100 - Life of Krishna which is not covered in the 18 parvas of the Mahabharata.