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When Sanjaya (the son of Gavalgana) heard his king wail and sigh like a serpent, he consoled  Dhritarashtra with these words of great importance.

Note: Sauti narrated to the ascetics in Naimisha Forest, the words spoken by Sanjaya to King Dhritarashtra. The words below were spoken by Sanjaya to console the king.

O King, you have heard Ved Vyasa and Sage Narada speak of immensely powerful men who have exerted great effort in the world. These men, who were born into grand royal families shone with worthy qualities. They were well-versed in the science of celestial weapons. They were akin to Indra in their glory. They conquered the world with justice, performed sacrifices with fit offerings to the brahmanas, and were greatly renowned in the world. But, in the end, they had to succumb to the influence of time.

Note: Sanjaya names a few such great kings to Dhritarashtra. I have listed them in bullet points for ease of comprehension.

  • Saivya: the valiant maharatha.
  • Srinjaya: one of the greatest conquerors.
  • Suhotra, Rantideva, and Kakshivanta: kings that were great in their glory.
  • Valhika, Damana, Saryati, Ajita, and Nala.
  • Viswamitra: the destroyer of foes.
  • Amvarisha: of immense strength.
  • Marutta, Manu, Ikshaku, Gaya, and Bharata.
  • Rama: the son of Dasaratha.
  • Sasavindu and Bhagiratha.
  • Kritavirya and Janamejava: the greatly fortunate kings.
  • Yayati: who was assisted by the celestials in performing sacrifices and by whose sacrificial altars were spread across the entire earth.

When Saivya was afflicted due to the loss of his children, Rishi Narada told him the story of these twenty-four kings.

There were many other noble-minded and virtuous kings who lived before these great monarchs. They were:

  • Puru
  • Kuru
  • Yadu
  • Sura and Viswasrawa of great glory
  • Anuha
  • Yuvanaswu
  • Kakutstha
  • Vikrami
  • Raghu
  • Vijava
  • Virihorta
  • Anga
  • Bhava
  • Sweta
  • Vripadguru
  • Usinara
  • Sata-ratha
  • Kanka
  • Duliduha
  • Druma
  • Dambhodbhava
  • Para
  • Vena
  • Sagara
  • Sankriti
  • Nimi
  • Ajeya
  • Parasu
  • Pundra
  • Sambhu
  • The holy Deva-Vridha, Devahuya, Supratika, and Vrihad-ratha
  • Mahatsaha
  • Vinitatma
  • Sukratu
  • Nala: the king of the Nishadas
  • Satyavrata
  • Santabhaya
  • Sumitra
  • The chief Subala
  • Janujangha
  • Anaranya
  • Arka
  • Priyabhritya
  • Chuchi-vrata
  • Balabandhu
  • Nirmardda
  • Ketusringa
  • Brhidbala
  • Dhrishtaketu
  • Brihatketu
  • Driptaketu
  • Niramaya
  • Abikshit
  • Chapala
  • Dhurta
  • Kritbandhu
  • Dridhe-shudhi
  • Mahapurana-sambhavya
  • Pratyanga
  • Paraha
  • Sruti

O great one, even before these, there were hundreds and thousands and millions of kings of great power, wisdom, valor, generosity, magnanimity, faith, truth, purity, simplicity, and mercy who could not avoid death. Their records have been published by sacred bards of former times. They all met the same fate in the end, even though they were blessed with every virtue.

On the other hand, O King, your sons had an evil disposition. They harbored the desire to harm others and were inflamed with great passion and greed. 

You are intelligent, wise, and well-versed in the sastras, O king. Those whose understanding is guided by the sastras never sink under the pressure of misfortune. You know that fate is sometimes kind, and sometimes, severe. Nobody can avert the decrees of fate. Nobody can change the way marked out for him by Divine will. Therefore, it is not appropriate for you to grieve for that which had to happen.

Existence and non-existence, pleasure and pain: everything is rooted in time. It is time that creates everything and it is time that destroys it also. It is time that burns creatures and it is time that extinguishes the fire. All states (the good and the evil), in the three worlds, are caused by time. Time destroys things and creates them anew. Time alone is awake when all things are asleep. No one can overcome time. Time passes over all things without stopping. You know very well, O great King, that everything in the past, present, and future are offsprings of time. Do not throw away your reason, O King, and fall into such intense grief.

Note: After narrating the words of Sanjaya, Sauti tells the ascetics in Naimisha Forest, that Ved Vyasa took these principles as a fact and composed a holy Upanishad (the Mahabharata) that was published to the world by the sacred bards, in the Puranas composed by them.

Table of Contents

Previous: Dhritarashtra’s Lamentation: A Summary of Main Events till the end of the War

Next: The Benefits of Reading the Mahabharata

Image of Dhritarashtra by Raja Ravi Varma

Note: In the previous post, Sauti gave a very brief summary of the Mahabharata, beginning with King Pandy retiring to the forest and ending with the great war at Kurukshetra. In this post, Sauti describes what happens when Dhritarashtra learns about the loss of the Kauravas and the destruction of his race. He is overcome with grief and recollects all the incidents that gave him an intuitive feeling they were heading toward great destruction. Through this lamentation, we also get a summary of all the important events beginning from the Pandavas escaping from the house of lac till the end of the war.

When King Dhritarashtra heard about the victory of the Pandavas in the great war at Kurukshetra, he remembered the decisions of Duryodhana, Karna, and Sakuni and said the following words to Sanjaya:

“Listen to all I have to say about this war, Sanjay, without feeling contempt for me. You are intelligent, wise, and well-versed in the shastras. I was never inclined to go to war, nor did want to destroy my race. I thought of Pandu’s sons as my own. My own sons despised me because I am old and they insisted on doing things they knew were harmful. I am blind, and because of my affection for them, I did not oppose their behavior. I was foolish in my affection for Duryodhana, who himself was constantly growing in folly rather than wisdom. He was unable to accept the wealth and good fortune that the sons of Pandu had acquired. To make matters worse, he was insulted for his awkwardness while walking in their assembly hall. He did not have the strength to defeat the sons of Pandu on the battlefield, nor did he want to put in the effort to obtain wealth and good fortune for himself. As a result, with the help of the king of Gandhara (Sakuni) he conspired to play an unfair game of dice with the Pandavas.”

“Now, I will tell you Sanjaya, everything that happened in the past and my thoughts about those events. You will soon realize that I could see, ahead of time, the consequences of those actions.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Arjuna had successfully bent the bow and pierced the strange target at Draupadi’s swayamvara.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Arjuna had married Subhadra (Krishna’s sister) after kidnapping her in Dwarka, and her brothers, Krishna and Balarama, entered the Pandava’s capital city, Indraprastha, as friends of Arjuna without any resentment.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Arjuna, using his celestial arrow, prevented the downpour caused by Indra (the king of the Gods) and gratified Agni by allowing him to devour the Khandavaprastha forest.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the Pandavas along with their mother, Kunti, had escaped from the house of lac, and they were assisted by none other than Vidura, in escaping.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the brave Panchalas had joined the Pandavas after Arjuna pierced the target at Draupadi’s swayamvara.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard Bhima had slain the king of Magadha, Jarasandha, with his bare arms.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the Pandavas had performed the grand Rajasuya Yagna after conquering all the other kings and chiefs.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Draupadi, her eyes filled with tears and heart filled with suffering, had been dragged into court during her season of impurity, wearing only one garment,”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the wicked wretch Dussasana attempted to strip Draupadi of that single garment, and he kept on pulling the cloth without reaching its end.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Yudhishthira’s powerful brothers remained loyal to him even after he had lost the entire kingdom upon being defeated by Sakuni in the game of dice.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Yudhishthira’s virtuous brothers followed him to the forest and made every effort to reduce his discomfort.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the Snatakas and noble-minded Brahmins who lived on alms followed Yudhishthira into the forest.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Arjuna had obtained that great weapon, the Pasupata, after pleasing the god of gods (Tryambaka), who had appeared to Arjuna in the form of a hunter.

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the just and renowned Arjuna had visited the celestial regions and obtained obtained celestial weapons from Indra himself.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that after obtaining the celestial weapons, Arjuna vanquished the Kalakeyas and Paulomas who had become arrogant on account of a boon they had obtained that made them invincible even to the celestials,”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Arjuna, the chastiser of enemies, vanquished the asuras who were threatening Indra’s region.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Bhima, accompanied by the other sons of Kunti along with Vaisravana, reached the country that was not accessible to humans.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that my sons were captured by the Gandharvas when they went to Goshayatra (upon Karna’s advice) and were later freed by Arjuna.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Dharma (the God of justice) disguised himself as a Yaksha and proposed certain questions to Yudhishthira.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that my sons had failed to discover the Pandavas, who were staying at Virata’s palace,  in their year of disguise.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the main warriors from my side had been vanquished by the noble Arjuna who had fought all of them alone.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Vasudeva, of the race of Madhu, who had once covered the whole earth with one foot, was keenly interested in the welfare of the Pandavas.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the king of Matsya had offered his virtuous daughter (Uttara) to Arjuna, and the latter accepted her for his son, Abhimanyu.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Yudhishthira, who had lost all his wealth, who was exiled and separated from his connections, had still managed to assemble an army of seven akshauhinis.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard Narada mention that Krishna and Arjuna, were in reality, Nara and Narayana, and he had seen them together in the regions of Brahma.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Krishna who was keen to make peace between the Kauravas and Pandavas (for the benefit of mankind) had to leave unsuccessfully after meeting the Kauravas.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Krishna showed himself as the entire universe when Karna and Duryodhana tried to imprison him.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Krishna consoled a sorrowful Kunti before leaving.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the Pandavas were counseled by Krishna and Bhishma, and Drona (son of Bharadwaj) blessed them.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Karna refused to fight until Bhishma was on the battlefield.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that three powerful energies (Krishna, Arjuna, and the bow Gandiva) had come together.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Krishna showed Arjuna all the worlds within his body when the latter was filled with hesitation and compassion on the battlefield.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Bhishma, the destroyer of foes, killed tens of thousands of charioteers every day in the battle, but had not slain any of the five Pandavas.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Bhishma (the righteous son of Ganga) had himself told the Pandavas how they could defeat him in battle.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Arjuna placed Shikhandin before him in his chariot and wounded Bhishma of infinite courage.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the aged hero Bhishma, after having slain several warriors of the Shomaka race, was overcome by wounds and lay on a bed of arrows.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Arjuna pierced the ground to bring forth a spring of water to quench Bhishma’s thirst when he was lying with thirst on the bed of arrows.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Vayu, Indra, and Surya united as allies for the success of the sons of Kunti, and beasts of prey created fear in us through their inauspicious presence.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Drona who fought on the battlefield using various modes of warfare, did not slay any of the superior Pandavas.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the Maharatha Sansaptakas of our army appointed for slaying Arjuna were slain by Arjuna himself.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that our impenetrable forces defended by Bharadwaja himself were entered singlehandedly by Abhimanyu – the brave son of Subhadra.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that our Maharathas who were incapable of overcoming Arjuna in battle, celebrated with jubilant faces after surrounding and slaying the boy Abhimanyu.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the foolish Kauravas were shouting in joy after slaying the boy Abhimanyu, and, hearing the news, Arjuna made the famous speech referring to Saindhava.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Arjuna had vowed to slay Saindhava and fulfilled his vow in the presence of his enemies.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that when Arjuna’s horses were exhausted, Krishna released them, made them drink water, harnessed them, and continued to guide them as before.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that when Arjuna’s horses were exhausted, Arjuna stayed in his chariot and succeeded in keeping his attackers at bay.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Yuyudhana (of the Vrishni race) created much confusion and fear in Drona’s unbearably powerful army and, having done so, returned to Krishna and Arjuna.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that even though Karna had overpowered Bhima, he allowed the latter to go after addressing him in contemptuous terms and dragging him with the end of his bow.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Drona, Kritivarma, Salya, and the son of Drona could not prevent Saindhava from being slain by Arjuna.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Krishna, through his strategy, had caused Karna to use the celestial weapon (the Sakti) given to him by Indra, on Ghatotkacha.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the Sakti that would have certainly slain Arjuna, had to be used by on Ghatotkacha in the battle between Karna and Gjatotkacha.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Dhrishtadyumna broke the rules of battle and slew Drona when the latter was alone in his chariot and had resolved to end his life.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Nakula (the son of Madri) in the presence of the entire army engaged the son of Drona in a one-on-one combat and rode his chariot around him in circles proving himself equal in prowess to Drona’s son.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that upon the death of Drona, his son misused the weapon called Narayana but failed to achieve the destruction of the Pandavas.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Bhima drank the blood of Duhsasana on the battlefield without anyone being able to prevent him.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the infinitely brave Karna, invincible in battle, was slain by Arjuna in that war between brothers that was mysterious even to the Gods.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Yudhishthira the just overcame, in battle, Duhsasana, the heroic son of Drona, and the fierce Kritivarman.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the brave king of Madra (Salya) dared Krishna in battle but was slain by Yudhishthira.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the wicked Suvala (Sakuni), who had magical powers, and was the root cause of the game of dice and the ensuing feud, was slain in battle by Sahadeva.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the exhausted Duryodhana took refuge in a lake and lay there alone without his chariot and without any strength.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the Pandavas, accompanied by Krishna, went to that lake and started insulting Duryodhana, who was incapable of putting up with such harsh words.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that Duryodhana was unfairly slain according to the counsel of Krishna.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that the son of Drona committed a horrible deed when slaying the Panchals and the sons of Draupadi.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that when the son of Drona was pursued by Bhima, he discharged a dangerous weapon (the Aihshika) and injured the embryo in Uttara’s womb.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that when the son of Drona discharged the Brahmashira, Arjuna successfully repelled it with another weapon called the Sasti, and ultimately, the son of Drona had to give up the jewel-like outgrowth on his head.”

“O Sanjaya, I had no hope of success when I heard that when the son of Drona injured the embryo in Uttara’s womb, he was cursed by both Ved Vyasa and Krishna.”

“Alas! Gandhari, who now doesn’t have any children, grandchildren, parents, brothers, and relatives, is to be pitied.”

“The Pandavas have achieved the difficult task of recovering a kingdom without a rival.”

“Alas! I have heard that only ten warriors are alive after the war. Three from our side and seven from the Pandavas’ camp. In this dreadful conflict, eighteen akshauhinis of kshatriyas have been slain. There is utter darkness around me and I am so overcome with emotion, that I might lose consciousness.”

Dhritarashtra thus cried over his fate and became overcome with extreme sadness. He lost consciousness for some time, but soon came back to his senses and addresses Sanjaya, saying: “After all that has happened, O Sanjaya, after all that has happened, I wish to end my life immediately. I do not find any purpose in this life now.”

Table of Contents

Previous: A Very Brief Summary of the Mahabharata

Next: Sanjaya Consoles Dhritarashtra

Mahabharata scroll

Note: In the previous post, Sauti compared the Mahabharata to a tree. In this post, he outlines a brief summary of the Mahabharata. Sauti provides several summaries of the epic one after another, beginning with this one, with each summary going into greater detail. As a reader, I find the summaries very useful because they give me a bird’s eye view of the whole epic before it begins. Without the summaries, it is very easy to get lost in the various stories and stories within stories that adorn the Mahabharata. 

These words are spoken by Sauti to the ascetics in Naimisha Forest. He begins this summary with King Pandu.

After subduing many kingdoms with his wisdom and prowess, King Pandu left his kingdom to live in a certain forest with the Munis. He spent his time hunting animals and imbibing wisdom from the sages. One day, while hunting, he killed a stag that was coupling with its mate. The stag cursed hunter. This curse brought severe misfortune upon Pandu and it served as a warning to his sons about the correct conduct of princes. 

Because of the curse, Pandu had to abstain from having a physical relationship with his wives, Kunti and Madri. Therefore, in order to have children, his wives embraced the Gods: Dharma, Vayu, Sakra (Indra), and the Ashwin twins. The five sons, born of celestial fathers, grew up under the care of two mothers. They were also surrounded by ascetics and holy people in the sacred groves of the forest.

After Pandu died, those ascetics took the five children to King Dhritarashtra. The sons of Pandu, who had till now lived as brahmacharis with their hair tied in knots on their heads, followed the ascetics to Hastinapur. There, the ascetics addressed Dhritarashtra and said, “these are our students. They are like your sons. They are the Pandavas.” And saying this, the ascetics disappeared.

When these boys were introduced as the sons of Pandu, the distinguished citizens of the kingdom shouted with joy. The remaining citizens were divided. Some agreed that they were indeed the sons of Pandu while others disagreed. A few wondered how could they be Pandu’s sons when the latter had been dead for such a long time. 

In any case, all the citizens welcomed them to Hastinapur and said: “The family of Pandu has come to us through divine intervention! Let their welcome be announced!” 

After the voices of the citizens ceased, the invisible spirits applauded the Pandavas and caused every point of heaven to resound with their celebration. Sweet-scented flowers were showered from the sky along with the sound of kettle drums and conch shells.

Such are the wonderful events that happened upon the arrival of the young princes, who had already studied all the Vedas and several other shastras in the forest. 

In the days that followed, these princes were respected by all and resided in Haspinapur without fear from anyone.

The principal men were pleased with the purity of Yudhishthira, Arjuna’s courage, Kunti’s respectful attention to her superiors, and the humility of the twins: Nakula and Sahadeva. Everyone rejoiced in the heroic virtues of the princes.

Several years later, Arjuna obtained the virgin Draupadi (also known as Krishnaa) at her swayamvara by performing a very difficult feat of archery. After performing that difficult feat, he was greatly respected among the archers of the world. He was also respected on the battlefield, where he appeared like a sun – difficult to behold by his foes. Soon after the wedding, he vanquished all the neighboring kingdoms and tribes to help his eldest brother – Yudhishthira – perform the Rajasuya yagna.

Yudhishthira succeeded in performing the yagna with the help of Vasudeva’s wise advice and the valor of his brothers after they slayed Jarasandha (the king of Magadha) and Shishupal (the last Chedi king). 

Abundant provisions and offerings were made during the Rajasuya yagna and immense transcendent merits were acquired through it. 

Duryodhana also attended Yudhishthira’s yagna. There he saw the great wealth of the Pandavas scattered all around in the form of various offerings, precious stones, gold, and jewels. A great number of cows, elephants, and horses. Garments in exquisite textures, precious shawls, and furs. Carpets made from ranku skin. 

Duryodhan was filled with envy when he saw all this wealth. And then, when he saw the grand assembly hall of the Pandavas, built by Maya danava (the asura architect), he was inflamed with anger. He set out to wander in that assembly hall, but was confused by certain architectural deceptions, and fell into a pond of water. Bhima laughed derisively at Duryodhan when he saw him fall into the water. Sri Krishna was also present when Bhima laughed at his cousin. All this filled Duryodhan with jealousy, anger, and displeasure due to a sense of lack in comparison to the Pandavas.

Duryodhan returned to Hastinapur, with an afflicted mind filled with anger and jealousy. It caused him to become pale, ill, and listless. When King Dhritarashtra learned about his son’s condition, he consented to a game of dice between the Kauravas and Pandavas. The king gave his consent because of his affection for his son, Duryodhan. Krishna was furious when he learned about this game. However, he did nothing to prevent the disputes that arose on the day of the vile game. He ignored the unjustifiable actions of the Kauravas, but in due time, he caused all the kshatriyas to kill each other in a terrible war.

Table of Contents

Previous: Sauti Compares The Mahabharata to a Tree

Next: Dhritarashtra’s Lamentation

Note: In the previous post, we learned how Lord Ganesha became Vyasa Muni’s scribe to help him write his epic – (Maha)Bharata. In this post, we will see how Sauti uses the simile of a tree to describe the various characters and parts of the Mahabharata. These words are spoken by Sauti to the ascetics in Naimisha Forest.

I know 8800 hundred verses of the Bharata. So does Suka, and perhaps Sanjaya. But many slokas are closely knit and difficult to understand. No one has been able to fully understand their meaning. Even the omniscient Ganesha took a moment to reflect on their true meaning, and while Ganesha was reflecting, Vyasa continued to compose other verses in abundance.

The wisdom of this work, through its discourses on religion, profit, pleasure, and final release, has illuminated many people’s minds and dispelled the darkness of ignorance. 

This Purana (The Bharata) expands human intelligence just like the full moon expands the petals of the water lily. Thus, through the lamp of history, that destroys the darkness of ignorance, all of nature is properly and completely illuminated.

Note: The Mahabharata consists of 18 parvas. You can think of the parvas as books that form a series. Each parva consists of several sub-parvas, that can be thought of as chapters. The first parva of The Mahabharata is the Adi Parva which has several sub-parvas such as Pauloma Parva, Astika Parva, Sambhava Parva, etc. In the next paragraph, Sauti first compares 3 sub-parvas of the Adi Parva to different parts of a tree and then continues the comparison with several (main) parvas. Through this comparison, the reader gets to know the name of the parvas and their role in the epic.

This work (The Bharata) is like a tree.

The chapter of contents is the seed. 

The Pauloma and Astika sub-parvas are the roots. The Sambhava sub-parva is the trunk. 

The Sabha and Aranya parvas are the roosting perches. 

The Arani parva is the knitting knot. 

The Virata and Udyoga parvas are the pith. 

The Bhishma parva is the main branch.

The Drona parva is like the leaves. 

The Karna parva is like the fair flowers. 

The Salya parva is like their sweet smell. 

The Stri and Aishika parvas are like a refreshing shade. 

The Santi parva is the mighty fruit. 

The Aswamedha parva is the immortal sap. 

The Asramavasika parva is the spot where the tree grows. 

The Mausala parva is an epitome of the Vedas and is held in great respect by the virtuous brahmanas. 

This inexhaustible tree of the Bharata will be a source of livelihood for all distinguished poets.

Note: Vichitra-Virya was the son of Shantanu and Satyavati. Satyavati also had another son, Ved Vyasa, from Rishi Parashara.

I will now tell you about the beautiful and fruitful productions of this tree. In former times, the virtuous Ved Vyasa was urged by his mother (Satyavati) and the grandsire of the Kuru race (Bhishma) to father children with the two wives of Vichittra-Virya in order to continue the Kuru lineage. 

Ved Vyasa fathered three sons in all. They were Dhritarashtra, Pandu, and Vidura. After performing his duty to the Kuru lineage, Ved Vyasa returned to his home, where he stayed as a reclusive hermit, and continued with his religious practices.

Ved Vyasa published this story – The Bharata – in the region of humans, only after these three sons had grown up and left their physical bodies on the supreme journey of the soul. Much later, Vyasa Muni was present at a sacrifice conducted by Janamejaya (great-grandson of Arjuna and son of King Parikshit). There, he was urged by Janamejaya and thousands of brahmins to recite the (Maha)Bharata. Thus requested, he asked his disciple Vaishampayana to recite the (Maha)Bharata during the intervals in the ceremony.

In this epic composition, Vyasa Muni has fully represented the greatness of the Kurus, the virtuous principles of Gandhari, the wisdom of Vidura, and the constancy of Kunti. The noble Rishi has also described the divinity of Vasudeva, the righteousness of the sons of Pandu, and the evil practices of the sons and supporters of Dhritarashtra.

Vyasa Muni’s original composition contained 24,000 verses. Only these verses are called the Bharata by the learned people. Afterward, he composed 150 verses consisting of the introduction with the chapter of contents. 

He first taught these verses to his son, Suka, and then to his disciples who had the same qualifications as his son. 

After teaching the main verses, he created another compilation consisting of 6,000,000 verses. These are partly known in different regions, as follows:

  • 3,000,000 verses were transmitted by Narada Muni to the devas.
  • 1,500,000 verses were transmitted by Devala to the pitris.
  • 1,400,000 verses were transmitted by Suka to the gandharvas, yakshas, and rakshasas.
  • 100,000 verses were recited by Vaishampayana in the world of humans.

Note: Next Sauti compares the Pandavas, Krishna, Brahma, and the brahmanas to a tree.

  • Yudhishthira is a vast tree, formed of religion and virtue.
  • Arjuna is its trunk.
  • Bhimasena, its branches.
  • The two sons of Madri (Nakula and Sahadev) are its full-grown fruit and flowers.
  • The roots of this tree are Krishna, Brahma, and the brahmanas.

Full Index: Table of Contents

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Next: A Brief Summary of The Mahabharata

Lord Ganesha writing the Mahabharata

Note: After describing the origin story of the universe and the order in which various beings and devas come into existence, Sauti went on to tell the story of how Lord Ganesha became Vyasa Muni’s scribe to write the Mahabharata. These words were spoken by Sauti to the ascetics in Naimisha forest.

Rishi Vyasa has made this knowledge (the wisdom contained in his epic) available in both detailed and concise forms. The learned wish to possess both. 

Some people read this composition (also referred to as a Purana by many) beginning with the initial mantra (invocation) while others begin with the story of Astika and yet others with the story of Uparichara. Some brahmanas study the whole from the beginning to the end. Learned people comment on the composition to display their knowledge. Some people are skillful in explaining it, while others are in remembering its contents.

Vyasa Muni, who was the son of Satyavati and Rishi Parashara, analyzed the eternal Veda through penance and deep meditation. Only after analyzing the Veda, did he compose this holy history – The (Maha)Bharata. However, Vyasa Muni was worried about how he would teach this new composition to his disciples. 

Meanwhile, Lord Brahma (the all-knowing one and the world’s preceptor) understood Vyasa Muni’s dilemma and went to meet him in person. When Lord Brahma approached, Rishi Vyasa was seated with various tribes of holy people. Surprised to behold the great Lord, Rishi Vyasa immediately stood up, folded his palms, bowed to Lord Brahma, and had a seat brought for him. After Hiranyagarbha (another name for Brahma) took the seat, Vyasa Muni circumbulated him and stood next to him awaiting further instructions. When Lord Brahma asked the sage to take a seat, he sat down, full of affection and joy, next to Brahma’s seat.

The glorious Vyasa then addressed Brahma and said: 

“O Divine Brahma, I have composed a poem that is studied by many learned people. I have explained several subjects in the poem, such as the mystery of the Veda, several rituals of the Upanishads, and the compilation of the Puranas.” 

“I have named the three divisions of time: past, present, and future. I have explained the determination of the nature of decay, disease, existence, and non-existence.”

“I have described the beliefs and principles by which people live and their modes of life. I have described the rules for the four varnas and the importance of all the Puranas. I have given an account of asceticism and explained the duties of a religious student.” 

“I have described the dimensions of the sun, the moon, other planets, the constellations, and the stars. I have explained the duration of the four ages.” 

“I have spoken about the Rik, Sama, and Yujur Vedas. I have described adhyatma.” 

“I have spoken about the sciences called nyaya, orthoepy, and treatment of diseases.” 

“I have spoken about charity and pasupatadharma. I have spoken about celestial and human birth and their purpose. 

“I have spoken about places of pilgrimage and other holy places along the rivers, mountains, forests, and the ocean. I have spoken about heavenly cities and the kalpas.” 

“I have spoken about the art of war. I have described different kinds of nations and languages. I have described the nature of different types of people. I have spoken of the all-pervading spirit.”

Rishi Vyasa further addressed Lord Brahma and said, “I have mentioned all these topics in the poem, but I am unable to find a suitable person on earth to write this work.”

Brahma said. “I esteem you greatly for your knowledge of divine mysteries. I know your composition reveals the Divine word from its very first utterance, in a truthful language. Your composition, which you call a poem, shall remain unequaled by any other poet. O muni, think of Ganesa to help you with writing your composition.” 

After giving this advice, Brahma returned to his abode and Vyasa Muni began to think of Lord Ganesha.

Ganesa, the destroyer of obstacles, was always ready to fulfill the desires of his followers. As soon as he realized that Vyasa Muni had thought of him, he himself went to the place Vyasa where was seated. After saluting Lord Ganesha and offering him a seat, Vyasa requested him to write the composition (Bharata) that he had formed in his imagination.

Ganesha answered: “I will write your composition provided my pen does not cease writing (due to pauses by Vyasa Muni).”

Vyasa Muni replied, “I agree, but you must stop writing if you come across a passage that you do not fully understand.”

Ganesa agreed by saying the word Om! 

Vyasa began narrating the Bharata and he composed some passages in such a way that even Ganesha had to pause to fully comprehend their meaning. Thus, he narrated the entire (Maha)Bharat to Lord Ganesha who in turn wrote it for Vyasa.

Full Index: Table of Contents

Previous: Creation Story of the Universe as Explained in the Adi Parva

Next: Sauti Compares The Mahabharata to a Tree

The egg of creation (Image source:

Note: Here, Sauti describes the creation story of the universe (as described in the Adi Parva of The Mahabharata) to the ascetics in Naimisha Forest. I have presented this description using bullet points for ease of comprehension. 

In the beginning, this world was in total darkness. The primal cause of creation came into being, out of this darkness, at the beginning of the yuga. This primal cause is called Mahadivya – a mighty egg and the one inexhaustible seed of all created beings. This mighty egg contained the true light Brahma: the eternal and omnipresent being, the invisible and subtle cause of all creation, and whose nature included entity and non-entity.

Note: In the paragraph above, the phrase ‘mighty egg’ may be a metaphor for a metaphysical concept.

The first beings to emerge from this egg were Pitamaha Brahma (the true Prajapati) along with Suraguru and Sthanu. After them, all of creation emerged in the following order:

  1. Then appeared the twenty-one Prajapatis: Manu, Vasishtha, Parameshthi, etc.
  2. After that came ten Prachetas, Daksha, and the seven sons of Daksha. 
  3. Then appeared the man of inconceivable nature whom all the Rishis know and so the Viswe-devas, the Adityas, the Vasus, and the twin Aswins.
  4. The Yakshas, the Sadhyas, the Pisachas, the Guhyakas, and the Pitris came next.
  5. After these were produced the wise and most holy Brahmarshis, and the numerous Rajarshis, distinguished by every noble quality.
  6. The water, the heavens, the earth, the air, the sky, the points of the heavens, the years, the seasons, the months, and the fortnights (called Pakshas, with day and night in due succession). And thus were produced all things which are known to mankind.

However, all these (apparent) beings and things, whether animate or inanimate, will be destroyed at the end of the yuga, and their essence will return to the source to be renewed into existence when the next yuga begins. Thus, this cycle continues without a beginning or end.

Note: After describing the creation of the universe and various beings, Sauti went on to describe the creation of devas in detail.

33,333 devas were created.

Div had 10 sons: 

  1. Brihadbhanu
  2. Chakshus
  3. Atma 
  4. Vibhavasu
  5. Savita
  6. Richika
  7. Arka
  8. Bhanu
  9. Asavaha
  10. Ravi. 

Mahya was the youngest son among these Vivaswans (might mean Suns or great souls)

Mahya had a son called Deva-vrata. Dev-vrata had a son called Su-vrata, and Su-vrata had three sons: 

  1. Dasa-jyoti (who eventually had 10,000 offspring)
  2. Sata-jyoti (who eventually had 100,000 offspring)
  3. Sahasra-jyoti (who eventually had 1,000,000 offspring)

The offsprings of Dasa-jyoti, Sata-jyoti, and Sahasra-jyoti gave rise to the various illustrious families of the Kurus, Yadus, and Bharata. The families of Yayati and Ikshwaku were also descendants of these offspring and so were all the Rajarshis. 

Numerous generations were produced from these illustrious families. These beings and their homes were full of abundance.

Note: Sauti goes on to describe Ved Vyasa’s breadth of knowledge and how he incorporated it into the Mahabharata.

Ved Vyasa has seen various books written on the subjects of the threefold mysteries of the Vedas, Yoga, and Vijnana Dharma, Artha, and Kama. He has seen books on Dharma, Artha, and Kama. He has also seen books about the rules of the conduct of mankind as well as histories and discourses with various srutis.

All these books are represented in his composition: (Maha)Bharata.

Full Index: Table of Contents

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Ugrasrava Sauti narrating the Mahabharata to Saunaka Kulapati and other sages

Om! We utter the word Jaya only after bowing down to Narayana, Nara (the most exalted human), and the Goddess Saraswati. 

Author’s Note: In the Unabridged Mahabharata, the entire epic is narrated by Ugrasrava Sauti (a bard) to the ascetics assembled in Naimisha forest in the hermitage of Rishi Saunak Kulapati. The epic begins with Ugrasrava Sauti approaching the ascetics and engaging in a conversation with them. While conversing, the ascetics ask Sauti to narrate the story of Bharata and the great war that took place at Kurukshetra. That’s how Ugrasrava Sauti begins narrating the epic.

A few more points:

  1. In the following paragraphs, the words ascetics, sages, and rishis are used interchangeably.
  2. Janamejaya was the son of King Parikshit and the grandson of Uttara and Abhimanyu. He is often referred to as a royal sage in the Mahabharata.
  3. Dwija means twice-born. The first birth is the physical birth and the second birth is spiritual.
  4. Dwaipayana-Vyasa is Rishi Ved Vyasa, the composer of the Mahabharata.

One day Ugrasrava Sauti, son of Lomaharshana, and well-versed in the Puranas, humbly approached the great sages who had participated in Saunak Kulapati’s twelve-year sacrifice in the Naimisha forest. The ascetics, keen to listen to Sauti’s marvelous stories, began to call out to Sauti as they saw him approach. Sauti was welcomed with due respect by the sages. Soon, he folded his palms and inquired about the progress of their asceticism. The ascetics offered a seat to Sauti, and after he was rested, one of the rishis asked him where he was coming from and how he had been spending his time. The ascetic wished to know everything in detail.

Location of Naimisha Forest

Note: More details about Naimisha Forest and its importance.

Sauti was well-accomplished in speech. He gave a detailed answer to the assembled sages using words and phrases that were appropriate to their way of life.

Sauti said, “I was at the snake sacrifice conducted by the royal sage Janamejaya. After the sacrifice, I wandered around visiting many sacred water bodies (lakes, rivers, etc) and holy shrines. Then I visited a place called Samantapanchaka. This place, venerated by the Dwijas, was also the site where the battle between the sons of Kuru and Pandu was fought. All the kings of the earth fought in that battle for either of the two sides. 

Keen to meet you, I came here from Samantapanchaka. O sages, all of you are like the great God Brahma to me. O greatly blessed ones, you shine in this place of sacrifice like the solar fire. You have completed the silent meditations and fed the holy fire. And now you sit here without a care in the world. O Dwijas, which stories would you like to hear? Should I tell you stories from the Puranas that contain wise words about religious duty and worldly profit? Or should I narrate to you the actions of illustrious saints and great kings?”

The rishi, who had initially addressed Sauti, answered, “The Purana first composed by the great rishi Dwaipayana-Vyasa is the most eminent narrative that exists. This Purana is highly esteemed by the Gods and Brahmarishis. Its passages have been obtained from the Vedas and possess subtle meaning in a logically combined manner. It includes subjects from several books and is presented in elegant prose. This Purana contains the essence of the four Vedas and its subtlety is clarified by other texts.”

The rishi continued, “We would like to hear that Purana. That history called Bharata composed by the wonderful sage Dwaipayana-Vyasa. That text which is known to dispel evil. We would like to hear it just as it was recited by rishi Vaishampaya at the snake sacrifice of Janamejaya.”

Having heard the rishi, Sauti said, “I bow down to the primordial being Isana who is adored by everyone. Isana is the true incorruptible one: the Brahma, perceptible, imperceptible, and eternal. Isana is both a non-existing and an existing-non-existing being. Isana is the universe and also distinct from the existing and non-existing universe. Isana is the creator of high and low. Isana is ancient, exalted, and inexhaustible. Isana is Vishnu, beneficent and beneficence itself; pure and immaculate. Isana is Hari, the ruler of all faculties and guide of all things moveable and immovable.”

Sauti continued, “I will now recite the sacred thoughts of the great rishi Vyasa, of marvelous deeds, and worshipped by everyone in this assembly. Some bards have already recited this history, some are reciting it now, and yet others will propagate it in the future. This Purana is a great source of knowledge established throughout the three regions of the world. The Dwijas know of this Purana both in its detailed and concise forms. It is a delight of the learned because it is decorated with elegant expressions, human and divine conversations, and many poetic measures.”

Table of Contents

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Next: Creation Story of the Universe as Explained in the Adi Parva

As a child, my fovourite book was the Amar Chitra Katha version of The Mahabharata. I still remember the cover of Sri Krishna showing his viraat swaroop to Arjuna on the battlefield. I remember being mesmerized by that image. Sometimes, I’d just sit and look at it for hours. I think I must have read it more than a dozen times in my childhood.

Much later, when I was in college, I read a 700-plus page translation of the epic, and then, recently, I read another abridged version.

However, one day, quite by chance, I watched a video discussion about the Mahabharata on Youtube. Intrigued by the discussion, I went on to watch a few more videos. That’s when I realized that I had missed the most important parts of the epic by reading the abridged versions. The summarized versions of the Mahabharata contained just the story, however, they did not give me any insights about the subtle thread of dharma that runs right from the beginning to the end of the epic. 

The Mahabharata is a lot more than simply a story of the rivalry between the Kauravas and Pandavas, the mention of Gods and Goddesses, and the admonishment given by Sri Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield. First and foremost, it is a story about subtle dharma. We see the subtle dharma in situations and characters that are not clearly good or bad. However, despite being in the gray area, there emerges in the situation a clear course of action that aligns with the truth. This clear action can roughly be called the “truth of the moment”. That is the subtle dharma that Sri Krishna tells us can be understood by the cultivation of yogastha buddhi

Besides this, the Mahabharata is also called the fifth Veda because it combines knowledge of all four Vedas and many Upanishads. Rishi Ved Vyasa, the composer of the epic said that the Mahabharata contains every possible human story. 

The parts of the epic where the subtle dharma comes out in its full glory are the specific discussions in dharma, interactions between characters, decisions, and the reasons for making those decisions.

All these points that make the epic worthy of reading for the student of dharma are lost in the summarized translations because they focus primarily on the events and a few discussions and decisions.

One option, then, is to read the entire unabridged epic to obtain its full benefit. But there are several challenges on this path. The unabridged version of the Mahabharata is huge. Kisari Mohan Ganguli’s translation is over 7500 pages and Bibek Debroy’s translation, based on the BORI version, is about the same length.

The good news is that a reader who wants to focus mainly on the subtle dharma does not need to read the entire epic. It’s because the Complete Mahabharata contains extensive description of the geography along with the flora and fauna of that time. It also contains large discourses on statesmanship and governance. It contains several long lists of names (eg: names of all the 100 Kaurava brothers, etc). Finally, discussions are very repetitive in nature.

I’m publishing this web book as a two-tiered book for an audience of readers who are interested in the subtle dharma. Let me explain…

Tier-I will be the summarised version of The Mahabharata. It will contain all the events, passages on the dharma, discussions, conversations, decisions made by various characters, as well as the reasons for those decisions.

Tier-II will contain other details such as geography, flora, fauna, statesmanship, and governance.

Excessive repetition from both tiers will be rephrased in a concise and clear way.

The image shown below explains this concept in a visual manner.

Besides being a two-tiered narrative, this version has several other features:

  1. Every page has a comment section, where readers can ask questions.
  2. Wherever possible, I will embed videos and link to external resources for details or nuances about the topic covered in the page.
  3. Difficult to comprehend relationships will be presented visually instead of an incomprehensible wall-of-text.
  4. Many posts will contain journaling entries that will help you explore your own life, swadharma, and swabhāva.

Dear reader, I hope you enjoy perusing this translation and you glean from it the subtle dharma that Rishi Ved Vyasa had intended for his readers to imbibe.

I dedicate my translation to the Goddess Adi Para Shakti who incarnated as Draupadi to facilitate the transition from Dwapara Yuga to Kali Yuga.


Devi Draupadi worshipped as a goddess 
(Image Source:

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