Mahabharata

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By Krishna Maheshwari

The Mahabharata is the worlds greatest epic and longest poem. Composed of 110,000 sanskrit couplets, it is seven times the length of the Iliad and Odyssey combined, or three times the length of the Judeo-Christian Bible. It is often referred to as the "fifth Veda", and is a historical treatise. It covers every conceivable topic and states at the beginning that "what is found here may be found elsewhere but what is not found here cannot be found elsewhere."[1]

Table of Contents

The Mahabharata is organized into 18 books known as Parva.

Book Title Chapters Contents
1 Adi-parva 1-19 Introduction, birth and upbringing of the princes.
2 Sabha-parva 20-28 Life at the court, the game of dice, and the exile of the Pandavas. Maya Danava erects the palace and court (sabha), at Indraprastha.
3 Vana-Parva 29-44 The twelve years in exile in the forest (aranya).
4 Virata-parva 45-48 The year in exile spent at the court of Virata.
5 Udyoga-parva 49-59 Preparations for war.
6 Bhishma-parva 60-64 The first part of the great battle, with Bhishma as commander of the Kauravas.
7 Drona-parva 65-72 The battle continues, with Drona as commander.
8 Karna-parva 73 The battle again, with Karna as commander.
9 Shalya-parva 74-77 The last part of the battle, with Shalya as commander.
10 Sauptika-parva 78-80 How Ashvattama and the remaining Kauravas killed the Pandava army in their sleep (Sauptika).
11 Stri-parva 81-85 Gandhari and the other Women (stri) lament the dead.
12 Shanti-parva 86-88 The crowning of Yudhisthira, and his instructions from Bhishma.
13 Anusasana-parva 89-90 The final instructions (anusasana) from Bhishma.
14 Ashvamedhika-parva 91-92 The royal ceremony of the ashvamedha, conducted by Yudhisthira.
15 Ashramavasika-parva 93-95 Dhritarashtra, Gandhari and Kunti leave for an ashram, and eventual death in the forest.
16 Mausala-parva 96 The infighting between the Yadavas with maces (mausala).
17 Mahaprasthanika-parva 97 The first part of the path to death (mahaprasthana "great journey") of Yudhisthira and his brothers.
18 Svargarohana-parva 98 The Pandavas return to the spiritual world (svarga).

Interpretations

The Mahabharata is traditionally interpreted in three distinct ways:

  • Externally, it is the story of a particular royal family that becomes involved in a fierce fratricidal war. At this level, it elucidates such qualities as heroism, courage, and saintliness.
  • On the ethical plane, the war is seen as the perennial conflict fought in daily life between good and evil, justice and injustice, right and wrong. Essentially Dharma vs adharma.
  • On the spiritual level, it is seen as the battle between the higher and lower self, the war between man's spiritual calling and the dictates of the body, mind, and senses.

Authorship

  • Jaya” is the core of the Mahabharata and was authored by Vyasa and written by Lord Ganesha.
  • Jaya became “Bharata” when Vaishampayan added details and conveyed it to Janamejaya.
  • Bharata became the “Mahabharata” when Suta/Sauti added further details and conveyed it to the Rishis in the Naimisharanya Forest.

Topics

The Mahabharata covers a variety of topics. In the beginning, it is stated:

narayanam namaskrtya narain caiva narottamam 
devim sarasvatim caiva tato jayam udiryer

Narayana and Nara, the divine and the human their personal encounters and discussions of Dharma, Artha, Kama and moksa, are to be found here.

It is a veritable encyclopedia and it carries this verse about its own scope. It is said that what is found here may be found elsewhere but what is not found here cannot be found elsewhere. The poetic, imaginative and questing spirit, the deeper thoughts and emotions, not easy sentiments, find expression in this great epic. We come across characters, varied and many, who have entered into the bloodstream of our history. They are known also in Indo-China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand and other places[2].

Amoung other things, it includes:

  • a dynastic lineage of over 50 kings from King Barhi to Maharaj Parikshit[3]
  • A summary version of the Ramayana
  • The Bhagavad Gita
  • The Anu Gita
  • The Bhramana Gita
  • Vishnu Sahasranama
  • Astronomy, including the existence of Uranus (Shweta) and Neptune (Ksharaka)
  • Geography, covering lands as far as Cambodia (Kamboja), Kazakhstan, and Scandinavia (Uttarakuru)
  • Mathematics, covering the range of numbers from 10<super>-16</super> to 10<super>16</super>
  • Weapons which resemble modern day weaponry including nuclear and/or chemical weapons
  • Complex military formations and strategies.
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Spirituality
  • Politics
  • Management Lessons
  • A treatise on cosmogony, a code of universal ethics[4]

Conclusion

Rishi Vyasa concludes: "Dharma is eternal; life, its joys and sorrow are not. Do not give away the eternal for the temporal values of life."[5]

Timeline of Events

  • Karna's Birth : Magha Bright half 1st day. It is said that he was older than Yudhisthira by 16 years.
  • Emperor Pandu reached Mount Saptashrunga in Paramodoota Ashwin Bright 5th day. Just one year after Yudhisthira was born.
  • Yudhisthira's Birth : Yudhisthira was born on Pajothpatti Ashwin Bright 5th day, in Jyeshta Star, in Sagittarius Lagna, at midday Abhijit Muhurta. That was just years. 127-5-25 prior to Kaliyug.
  • Bhima's Birth : Bhima was born on Agnirasa Ashwin dark 9th day in Magha Star, after midday. He was younger than Yudhishtira by 1 year and 19 days.
  • Arjun's Birth : Srimukha Phalguna Full Moon Day during the day in Uttara Star. Younger than Bhima by yr. 1-4-21
  • Nakula and Sahadev's Birth : Bhava Phalguna New Moon day, Midday, in Star Ashwini. Younger than Arjuna by yr. 1-0-15
  • Lord Krishna was born on Shrimukha Shravana Dark 8th day, just after midnight in Taurus Lagna.
  • Duryodhana's Birth : Just one day after Bhima's birth. From that day onwards everyday the rest 99 Kauravas and their sister were born. Similarly, Hidimba, Baka and Kichaka were born in the same period between Magha and Swati Stars.
  • Emperor Pandu expired on Sarvadhari Chaitra Bright 12th day in Uttara Star. Arjuna was then yrs. 14-0-7 days old. Yudhistira was then yrs. 16-6-7 years old.
  • Pandavas were brought in Hastina on Sarvadhari Chaitra Dark 13th day, that is, 16 days after their father's death. Death rituals lasted for 12 days from Sarvadhari Chaitra Dark 13th day to Vaishakh Bright 10th day. Yudhisthira was 16 years, 6 months and 28 days of age.
  • Pandavas stayed in Hastinapur for 13 years from Sarvadhari Vaishakha Bright 10th day to Plava Vaishakha Bright 10th day. Yudhisthira was yrs. 29-6-23 days old. They learnt archery under Drona.
  • Archery exhibition : Plava Vaishakha Full Moon Day.
  • King Drupada taken captive : Fight with Drupada from Plava Vaishakha Dark 5th day for a period of of yr. 1-4-5 days, that is upto Shubhakrit Bhadrapada Bright 10th day. Yudhisthira was yrs. 31-0-5 days old.
  • Yudhishthira ws made Crown-Prince on Shubhakrit Ashwayuja Bright 10th day when he was 31-0-5 days old.
  • Pandavas stayed at Hastinapur for yrs. 5-4-20 days, upto Plavanga Maagha New Moon Day. Yudhishthira was yrs. 36-4-25 days old.
  • Entered Varnavrata : Plavanga Phalguna Bright 8th Day. Yudhishtir was yrs. 36-5-3 days old.
  • The Lac Palace was set on fire on Keelaka Phalguna 13/14th Day night in the third Jhamu or Quarter. ( A day consists of 8 prahars, 4 during day time and 4 during night.) Pandavas crossed river Ganga on Keelaka Phalguna New Moon Day morning.
  • Demon Hidimba was slain : on Sowmya Chaitra Bright 1st Day. 19. Ghatotkacha was born on Sowmya Ashwin Bright 2nd Day, and he grew up as an adult immediately.
  • Pandavas stayed in Salihotashramam for 6 months, that is from Sowmya Ashwayuja Bright 2nd Day to Sadharana Chaitra Bright 2nd Day. Yudhishtira was yrs. 38-5-7 days old.
  • Panadavas lived in Ekachakrapuram for 6 months from Sadharana Chaitra Bright 2nd Day to Ashwayuja Bright 2nd Day.
  • Demon Baka was slain : on Sadharana Bright 10th Day. Yudhisthira was yrs. 39-0-5 days old.
  • Pandavas stayed in Ekachakrapuram for 1 month 10 days more, upto Sadharana Margashirsha Dark 5th Day. Then they headed for Panchal Kingdom, and in 3 days reached Dhoumya's Ashram. They stayed there for 15 days, and on the 18th day, reached the capital of Panchal Kingdom, that is, on Sadharana Pausha 7th Day.
  • Princess Draupadi's Swayamvaram took place on Sadhrana Pausha Bright 10th Day.
  • In Panchala Kingdom, Pandavas stayed there for yr. 1-0-15 days, that is, till Virodhikrithu Pausha New Moon Day. Yudhishthir was yrs. 40-3-25 days old.
  • Pandavas were recieved in Hastinapur on Virodhikrithu Maagha Bright 2nd Day and were granted half-Kingdom. They stayed in Hastinapur for 5 years and 6 months, upto Pingala Shravana Bright 2nd Day. Yudhishthira was yrs. 45-9-27 days old. Indrapratha City was being built during this period.
  • Yudhisthira was coronated on Pingala Ashwayuja Bright 10th Day. He was then 46-0 years old.
  • Arjuna went on pilgrimage for 12 years. He started in Kalayukthi and returned in Pramodhoota. He married Subhadra on Pramodhoota Vaishakh Bright 10th Day. Abhimanya was born in the year Pramodhoota.
  • Draupadi had one son each from her 5 Pandava husbands. 30. The Khandava Forest was burnt down after Pramodhoota Shravana Bright 2nd Day. Yudhishtira was yrs. 58-10-15 days old. Mayasabha took yrs. 1-2-0 days for construction.
  • Panadavas entered Mayasabha on Prajopatthi Ashwayuja Bright 10th Day. Yudhisthira was years 60-0-5 days old.
  • Rule in Indraprastha for 16 years, upto Sarvajit Ashwayuja Bright 10th day. Yudhishthira was yrs. 76-0-5 days old.
  • Wrestling started between Bhima and Jarasandha on Sarvajit Kartika Bright 2nd Day. It continued for 14 days, and Jarasandha was killed on 14th evening.
  • The Rajasooya Yadnya began on Sarvadhari Chaitra Full Moon Day. Yudhisthira was yrs. 76-6-15 days old.
  • Dice plays : The two Dice plays were played between Sarvadhari Shravana Dark 3rd Day and 7th Day. Yudhishthira was yrs. 76-10-2 days old.
  • So Pandavas ruled for a period of yrs. 36-6-20 days from Virodhikritu Maagha Bright 2nd Day to Sarvadhari Shravana Dark 7th Day.
  • Forest Life : Forest life started on Sarvadhari Shravana Dark 8th Day. Yudhisthira was years 76-10-18 days old. Demon Kimeera was killed on the 3rd Day, that is, Dark 10th Day.
  • 12 years forest exile ended on Sarvari Shravan Dark 7th Day.
  • The 13th year of anonimity ended on the Plava Shravan Dark 7th Day.
  • Kichaka was killed on on Plava Ashadha Dark 8th Day at night. His brothers were killed the next day, Dark 9th Day.
  • Since these are lunar years, there were two Adhik Masas every 5 years, and in 13 years there were 5 Adhik Mases and 12 days. But these were merged in the lunar years as Adhik Mases. Tithiwayas and likewise, Bhishma and Yudhishthira followed this calculation as correct, but Duryodhana insisted on anonimity solar years, which was unacceptable in those days.
  • Since the period was over the previous day, Arjuna declared his identity. Arjuna was carrying his bow Gandiva for 30 years from Pramodoota to Sarvari, and he told Uttara that he will carry it for another 35 years. The next day, on Dark 9th Day, Pandavas declared their identity. Yudhishthira was yrs. 89-10-9 days old.
  • Pandavas stayed in Upaplavyam for yr. 1-2-17 days. During these days, consultations, marriage between Uttara and Abhimanyu in Shubhakrit Jyeshta month, marshaling of armies, Peace talks by Draupadi's Purohit and Sanjaya took place.
  • In Aswayuja month, there were lunar and solar eclipses, portending evil and destruction.
  • Shri Krishna's Peace talks : Shri Krishna started on Shubhakrit Kartik Bright 2nd Day, in Revati Star, reached Hastinapur on the 13th Day, and held peace talks up to Dark 8th Day. On his last day, His Vishwaroopa was shown. Since talks failed, he started on his return journey the same day in Pushyami Star, told Karna that in 7 days, on New Moon Day in Jyeshta Star, all should assemble at Kurukshetra for the Great War, and returned to Upaplavya.
  • So Pandavas stayed in Upaplavya for yr. 1-2-17 + 15 days = yr. 1-3-2 days.
  • Both the Pandava and Kaurava armies marched to Kurukshetra on the New Moon Day. The period from Margashirsha Bright 2nd Day to 12th Day, was taken up by installation of tents, arranging Army rehearsals etc. etc.
  • The Great Mahabharat War started on Shubhakrit Margashirsha Bright 13/14th Day, Tuesday in Bharani Star. Yudhishthir was yrs. 91-2-9 days old. Just the previous day 11/12th Day, when armies were rehearsing Vyuhas, Arjuna fell into a gloom, occasioning Lord Krishna's famous BhagavadGeeta discourse with Arjuna.
  • Bhishma's Fall : On Margashirsha Dark 7th Day.
  • Abhimanyu's Death : Abhimanyu was killed on Margashirsha Dark 10th Day. He was aged 32 years (From Pramodoota to Shubhakrit). Since marriage was in Jyeshta month, he led only 6 month's family life, and Uttra was 6 months pregnant.
  • Saindhava's Death : Saindhava was killed on Margashirsha Dark 11th Day.
  • The battle was continued even into the night.
  • Drona was killed on Margashirsha Dark 12th Day at noon.
  • Karna's Death : Karna was killed on Margashirsha Dark 14th Day.
  • Salya was killed on Margashirsha New Moon Day at noon.
  • Duryodhana's Fall : He fell on Margashirsha New Moon Day/Pausha Bright 1st Day in the evening. He died the next morning on the Bright 1st Day.
  • Balrama started on pilgrimage on Kartik Dark 5th Day, in Pushyami Star. So, date-wise and star-wise also, the pilgrimage took 42 days.
  • Ashwatthama murdered Pandava's sons during the same night on Margashirsha New Moon/Pausha Bright 1st Day night, and conveyed the dire information to the dying Duryodhana on Bright 1st Day early morning. Defeat of Ashwatthama : on Pausha Bright 1st Day.
     Pandava Army: 7 Akshouhinis[6] = 1,530,900
     Kaurava Army: 11 Akshouhinis = 2,405,700
     Total: 18 Akshouhinis = 3,936,600
  • Except Pandavas, Krishna. Satyaki and Yuyutsu on Pandavas side, and Kripa, Krutavarma and Ashwatthama on Kaurava's side, all were killed. Yudhishthira told Dhritarashtra that Great Warriors (MahaRathis) killed in the War, were more than 94 crores (940 million).
  • No clear details are available in the Epic of how the Pandava Warriors disposed off the Kaurava armies. Abhimanyu on the 13th Day, killed more than 0.50 Akshouhini army, and Arjuna on the 14th Day killed 5 Akshouhinis.
  • Attacking Pandavas side,
     Bhishma killed nearly 1.27 Akshouhinis = 277,749
     Drona killed nearly 1.00 Akshouhinis = 218,700
     Karna killed nearly 2.37 Akshouhinis = 518,319
     Salya killed nearly 0.29 Akshouhinis = 63,423
     Ashwatthama killed nearly 0.09 Akshouhinis = 19,683
     Rest of the warriors 1.98 Akshouhinis = 433,026
     TOTAL 7.00 Akshouhinis = 1,530,900
  • Yudhishthira's age was yrs. 91-2-27. Pandavas observed 12 days mourning from Pausha Bright 1st Day to 13th Day. Mass cremations were done on the 14th day, and the same evening, the Pandavas proceeded to Hastinapur.
  • Yudhishthira was crowned on Shubhakrit Pausha Full Moon Day. Yudhishthira was yrs. 91-3-10 days old.
  • Pandavas called on Bhishma (who was prostrate on a bed of arrows) on Pausha Dark 2nd Day, stayed upto 8th Day, listened to Bhishma's advisory discourse, returned to Hastinapur, stayed for 15 days and went to Bhishma again on Maagha Bright 8th day. On 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th day, Bhishma was in meditation. He renounced his mortal coil on 12th day. Hence 8th-12th of Pausha Dark Fortnight is called Bhishma Panchakam. Bhishma fell prostrate on Margashirsha Dark 7th Day. From 8th Day to Maagha Bright 11th Day, 48 days elapsed. "AshtaPanchasatam ratryassayana syasyama gatha" that is, Bhishma said that he completed 58 (10+48) days on the battlefield. Sarashu nisitagresu yatha varsha satam tatha" meaning, by lying on pointed arrows, it appeared although it was 100 years. Tribhaga seshah pakshyam suklo" meaning, it is Bright Fortnight, and still 3 parts remained. ( By dividing Bright Fortnight into 10 parts, 7 parts = 10.5 days or 11th day is in progress, and still 3 parts = 4.5 days remained upto Full Moon Day.)
  • Ashwamedha Yadnya began on Shobhakrit Maagha Bright 12th Day. Just earlier, Parikshit was born to Uttara as posthumas premature, stillborn male baby at 8/9 months, but was revived by Krishna.
  • 15 years later, in Kartik month, Dhritarashtra left for the forest. 3 years later, Pandavas went to the forest to see Dhritarashtra etc. Vidura's death.
  • After 1 month, Dhritarashtra, Gandhari and Kunti got killed in a forest fire.
  • Thirty six years after the Great War, that is in Bahudhanya year, evil omens in Dwaraka were observed. Samba became pregnant and a iron rod (musalam) was born.
  • Yudhishthir ruled for yrs. 36-2-15 days. From Shubhakrit Pushya Full Moon Day to Bahudhanya Pushya Full Moon Day, it was 36 years and adding 0-2-15 days, it was Pramadi Bright 1st Day, when Kailyug started and Shri Krishna finished his Avatar.
  • Seven days later, on Bright 7th Day, Dwarka city was submerged by the Ocean. Saptarishis were in Magha Star, 75 years prior to Kaliyug and remained there for 25 years after Kaliyug.
  • Yudhishthir Shaka started from his coronation day that is, Krishna finished his Avatar in Yudhishthir Shaka yrs. 36-2-15.
  • Pandavas started for their Final End after 0-6-11 days, that is, on Pramadi Ashwayuja Bright 12th Day. Yudhishthir was aged yrs. 128-0-6. Parikshit, 36 years old, was coronated on the same day at Hastinapur.
  • Swargaarohanam is not clearly stated in the Epic. It may be 26 years afterwards. Sage Veda Vyas dictated the Great Epic to Ganapati only after Swargarohanam of the Pandavas, that is, after 26 years of Kaliyug.
  • Parikshit ruled for 60 years, coronated his 25 year old son Janamejaya, and died.
  • Bhagavatha was written by Sage Veda Vyas soon after Mahabharat was over, and before the 60th year of the Kaliyuga.[7]

Dating Mahabharata

Personalities

Related Articles

Notes & References

  1. Rosen, Steven J., The Hidden Glory of India, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 2004. ISBN: 0-89213-351-1
  2. S. Radhakrishnan, "Our Heritage", p. 39-41
  3. Mahabharat, Myth or Reality? by Prasad Gokule
  4. Facets of Indian Culture - R. Srinivasan Publisher: Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan p. 214-215
  5. Veda Vyasa, Mahabharata
  6. 1 Akshouhini = 21,870 chariots, 21,870 elephants, 65,610 horses and 109,350 foot-soldiers (in a ratio of 1:1:3:5) = 218,700 warriors
  7. The Mahabharat Chronology By Dr.K.N.S. Patnaik