A Summary of the Adi Parva

Note: The Adi Parva is the first of the 18 books that make up the Mahabharata. This parva contains 19 sub-parvas which are further divided into a total of 227 chapters. These 227 chapters contain 8884 slokas. What follows is a brief outline of all the 19 sub-parvas.

Anukramanika Parva

This parva begins with the bard, Ugrasrava Sauti, going to the Naimisha Forest to meet the rishis who had assembled at Saunaka Kulapati’s 12-year yagna. The rishis express a desire to hear the composition of Ved Vyasa called Bharata, and thus, the entire story of The Mahabharata is narrated by Ugrasrava Sauti to the rishis.

Sangraha Parva

Sauti explains the meaning of one Akshauhini, to the rishis, in this parva. He also provides various summaries of the Mahabharata.

Paushya Parva

The Paushya parva deals with the greatness of Utanka

Pauloma Parva

We learn about the history of sage Bhrigu and his descendants, in this parva.

Astika Parva

The Astika Parva describes the birth of Garuda and of the Nagas (snakes), the churning of the ocean, and the birth of the celestial horse Uchchaihsrava. This parva also contains a description of King Bharata’s dynasty.

Adivansavatara Parva 

This parva contains several stories of Pandava and Kuru princes.

Sambhava Parva

The Sambhava parva describes the birth of several kings and heroes from Bharatavarsha. It also tells us how the sage, Krishna Dwaipayana, was born. Then, it goes on to describe the partial incarnations of various deities, the birth of powerful danavas, yakshas, serpents, gandharvas, birds, and of all other creatures. King Bharata’s life and adventures are also described in this parva. 

The greatness of the Ganga, the births of the Vasus as children of King Shantanu, and their ascension to heaven are also described here. In this parva, we learn about why Bhishma renounced the throne of Hastinapur, his terrible vow, and how he protected Chitrangada and Vichitravirya (the sons of Shantanu and Satyavati). Herein are also contained the stories of the births of Dhritarashtra and Pandu, and also the birth of their children.

Jatugriha Parva

This parva tells us how Duryodhana plotted to burn the Pandavas in a house of lac in the village of Varnavata. We learn about how Vidura, based on a gut feeling about Duryodhana’s dark plan, warned Yudhishthira about the dangers that lay ahead. To ensure that his words were not understood by others who were present at that spot, Vidura spoke with Yudhishthira in the secret mlechchha language. This parva narrates the story of how the Pandavas escaped from the dangerous house of lac, and, how the evil man, Purochan, was burned in that house, instead of the Pandavas.

Hibimba Parva

In this parva, we read about the Pandavas journey through a dangerous forest where they met Hidimba who fell in love with Bhima. We learn about the anger of her demonic brother and how Bhima slayed him. Hidimba and Bhima get married in this parva and Hidimba gives birth to their son, Ghatotkacha.

Vaka-vadha Parva

This parva describes the meeting of the Pandavas with Vyasa after escaping from the house of lac. He advises them to stay in disguise in the city of Ekachakra at a brahmana’s house. Also contained is the story of how Bhima slays the asura Vaka. Later, we also learn about the extra-ordinary births of King Drupada’s children: Draupadi and Dhrishtadyumna;

Chitraratha Parva

In this parva, the Pandavas go to Panchala, upon the advice of Ved Vyasa. On the way to Panchala, Arjuna had to battle with a gandharva, called Angaparva. Arjuna won the battle and, because the gandharva was impressed with Arjuna’s skills and bravery, they became friends. The gandharva tells the stories of Tapati, Vasishtha, and Aurva to Arjuna.

Swayamvara Parva

The Swayamvara Parva, describes the journey of the Pandavas (who were disguised as brahmanas) to Panchala. In Panchala, Arjuna successfully pierced the mark set by Drupada and Princess Draupadi garlanded him in front of all the kings. A fight erupted in the swayamvara hall between Arjuna and Bhima on one side and several other kings, led by Karna, on the other. When Krishna and Balarama saw the valor of those two disguised men, Krishna immediately recognized them as Bhima and Arjuna. Finally, we learn about King Drupada’s dejection when he finds out that his daughter, Draupadi, will be marrying five husbands.

Vaivahika Parva

This parva contains the wonderful story of the five Indras, who were born as the Pandavas, and were divinely ordained to marry the celestial Goddess, incarnated as Draupadi.

Viduragamana Parva

In this parva, Vidura arrives at King Drupada’s palace. The Pandavas leave Panchala for Hastinapura with the blessings of Drupada and Krishna. There is an attempt to reconcile the differences between the Pandavas and their Kaurava cousins. Eventually, the Pandavas are given half the kingdom (the region of Khandavaprastha). Their capital city, Indraprastha, is also constructed in this parva.

Rajya-labha Parva

This parva contains sage Narada’s advice to the Pandavas regarding their marriage. Also narrated here are the stories of Sunda and Upasunda.

Arjuna-vananasa Parva

This parva describes Arjuna’s exile to the forest because he broke the vow by having seen Yudhishthira and Draupadi seated together. During the exile, Arjuna meets Ulupi, the daughter of a naga (serpent). Arjuna also visited several sacred places, and, in one such place, he saved five maidens who had been turned into alligators by the curse of a brahmana. The parva ends with the meeting of Krishna and Arjuna at the holy place called Prabhasa.

Subhadra-harana Parva

This parva deals with the story of how Arjuna fell in love with Subhadra and carried her away, in a special chariot, on the counsel of her brother Krishna. 

Harana-harana Parva

In this parva, we see that the warriors of the Vrishni clan were angered when they found out that Subhadra had been abducted by Arjuna. However, eventually, the warriors calm down and agree to Arjuna and Subhadra’s wedding. Also mentioned in this parva is the birth of Subhadra and Arjuna’s son, Abhimanyu, as well as the five children of Draupadi.

Khandava-daha Parva

This parva begins with the pleasure trip of Krishna and Arjuna to the banks of the Jamuna. There, they met Agni who sought their help to devour the Khandava forest. They helped Agni, and, in gratitude, Agni presented Arjuna with the bow called Gandiva. Agni also presented the discus – Sudarshan Chakra – to Krishna.


Credits: The featured image was created originally by Ramanarayanadatta astri and is available in the public domain at https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21154315


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