By Swami Harshananda
The Harivanśa is considered as the khila part of the great epic Mahābhārata. Its main purpose is to supply the details of the Kṛṣṇa story, especially of the childhood and the boyhood days. It is sometimes classed among the upapurāṇas, as it contains the five well-known characteristics of a standard purāṇa.
Classification in Mahābhārata
It has three sections and each section is designated as a ‘parva’. The following are the details:
Classification in Mahābhārata's Critical Edition
However, in the Critical Edition of the Mahābhārata, the details are as follows:
The Harivanśaparva gives detailed geneologies of Yadus, Vṛṣas, Andhakas, Vṛṣṇis and Madhus. The list is quite exhaustive.
Difference from Viṣṇuparva & Bhāgavata
Harivanśa gives the details of Kṛṣṇa’s life. The story is almost same as in the Viṣṇuparva and Bhāgavata. Some minor differences between the details given in Harivanśa and the two purāṇas may be noted here:
- The word ‘Rāsakridā’ has been substituted by ‘Halliśakriḍā’ which means the same thing
- When the people of Gokula were not willing to go to Vṛndāvana, as suggested by Kṛṣṇa, he created a very large number of wolves from his own body to frighten them and force them to leave
- In the Govardhana hill episode, the description of Indra’s defeat is less ignominious to him
- The incident of taking away the pārijāta tree from svargaloka (heaven) has also been described in a similar vein
- The Bhavisyatparva includes the following stories:
- Janamejaya’s sacrifice
- Creation of the world by God
- Episode of the king Pṛthu
- Destruction of Dakṣa’s sacrifice
- Stories of some of the avatāras or incarnations of Viṣṇu, Śiva and Kṛṣṇa
- Kṛṣṇa’s killing of several demons
- Khila part is known as an appendix or addendum.
- It is also called Vanśaparva.
- Harivanśa 2.9
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore