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