Mahābhārata

The Mahābhārata (Devanagari: महाभारत), Sanskrit mahā (great) + Bhratam (of the Bharatas, descendants of the ancient Indian king Bharata.) It is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana. With more than 74,000 verses, long prose passages, and some 1.8 million words in total, it is one of the longest epic poems in the world. Taken together with the Harivamsa, the Mahabharata has a total length of more than 90,000 verses.

Overview

“The Epic,” as it is sometimes called, continues to be performed and read all over India. The title may be translated as "the great tale of the Bharata Dynasty", according to the Mahābhārata's own testimony extended from a shorter version simply called Bhārata of 24,000 verses, “The Epic,” is part of the Hindu itihāsa, literally "that which happened", along with the Ramayana and the Purāṇas.

320px-Kurukshetra.jpg
The Kurukshetra War

It is of immense importance to the culture of the Indian subcontinent, and is a major text of Hinduism. Perhaps most important, it is considered a reliable source for questions having to do with Dharma (proper actions and social arrangements) and the relations between the human and divine worlds.

The Mahābhārata describes events that took place in ancient Bharata around 5000 BCE (before common era - also known as B.C.). The main event was the appearance of Shri Krishna — the 8th avatara (decent of Supreme Being on earth) of Shri Vishnu towards the end of dwapara yuga1. A greater account of Shri Krishna's life can be found in the Bhagavata Purana2. Shri Krishna's revelation to Arjuna also known as Shrimad Bhagavad Gita3. In the Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna reveals the essence of the vedas. The Puranas, Mahābhārata and the Bhagavad Gita are considered (both-independently and together) by many as a fifth veda.

Scope

In brief, the salient features of the Mahābhārata are:

  • A historical account especially of the kuru and paandu dynasties circa 5000 BCE
  • The appearance of Bhagawaan Shri Krishna
  • The Bhagavad Gita

Besides its epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kauravas and the Pandavas, the Mahabharata contains much philosophical and devotional material, such as the Bhagavad Gita, or a discussion of the purusharthas or four "goals of life". The latter are enumerated as dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth), kama (pleasure), and moksha (liberation) takes place in a long-standing tradition, attempting to explain the relationship of the individual to society and the world (the nature of the 'Self') and the workings of karma.

The Mahabharata claims all-inclusiveness at the beginning of its first parvan ("book"): "What is found here, may be found elsewhere. What is not found here, will not be found elsewhere." Among the principal works and stories that are a part of the Mahābhārata are the following (often considered isolated as works in their own right):

  • the Bhagavad Gita in book 6 (Bhishmaparvan): Krishna advises and teaches Arjuna when he is ridden with doubt.
  • the Damayanti or Nala and Damayanti in book 3 (Aranyakaparvan), a love story.
  • An abbreviated version of the Ramayana, in book 3 (Aranyakaparvan)
  • Rishyasringa, the horned boy and rishi, in book 3 (Aranyakaparvan)

Author

The author of the Mahābhārata is Vyāsa, a particularly powerful rishi (sage). The epic was dictated by Vyāsa to the elephant-headed bhagawaan Gaṇeśa, who used one of his tusks as a pen. Vyāsa is also said to have brought the Vedas themselves to humanity. There is a tradition that holds Vyāsa as the begetter of the Bharatas, the ancestors of both the Pāṇḍavas and Kauravas the warring parties in the Mahābhārata. In fact, the authorship of the epic was collective and gradual. The central issue of the epic is the war between the Pāṇḍavas and the Kauravas, which, according to tradition, took place on the sacrificial field of Kurukṣetra in ancient times.

18 Chapters

In its present form, the mahaabhaarata has eighteen parvas (chapters or books).

  1. aadi
  2. sabhaa
  3. vana
  4. viraaTa
  5. udyoga
  6. bhiishma
  7. droNa
  8. karNa
  9. shalya
  10. sauptika
  11. strii
  12. shaanti
  13. anushaashana
  14. aashvamedhika
  15. aashramavaasika
  16. mausala
  17. mahaaprasthaanika
  18. swargaarohaNa

Historical Account

The Great War of Mahabharat between the Pandavas and the Kauravas happened in 3139 BC. The Pandavas, after winning the Mahabharat war, ruled Hastinapur for 36 years and 8 months until the beginning of kali yuga in 3102 BC. Since the Mahabharata war and the beginning of Kali Yuga were important historical events, they have been widely documented in Bhartiya scriptures and frequently referenced by great scholars such as Mahakavi Kalidas, the greatest poet, writer and the literary figure of his time and Aryabhatt, the greatest astronomer and mathematician. There are astrological, natural, geographical, physical, inscriptional and scriptural evidences that unquestionably establish the date of Mahabharat war as 3139 BC and the beginning of kaliyug as 3102 BC.

ankormahabharat.JPG
Scene from Mahabarata, Angkor Wat

History

The dynasty of Surya Vansh of Kaushal (Ayodhya) ends with Sumitra (Bhagwatam 9/12/16); the dynasty of Chandra Vansh of Hastinapur ends with Chemak (Bhagwatam 9/22/44, 45); and the dynasties of the kingdom of Magadh flourished up to the Gupt dynasty (80’s BC).

The kingdom of Hastinapur, after Chemak, was constantly ruled by the people who took over the throne. An ancient book describing the date-wise chronology of all the kings of Hastinapur (Indraprasth or Delhi) from Yudhishthir up to Vikramaditya was found by the proprietors of the fortnightly magazine of Nathdwara (Rajasthan) called “Harishchandra Chandrika and Mohan Chandrika” in about 1872 AD. The proprietor of the magazine printed the entire description in two of its issues (called kiran) 19 and 20 of 1882.

The description is detailed to year-month-days of each and every king who ruled. By adding the total number of years of the four dynasties from Yudhishthir to Vikramaditya, it comes to 3,148 years which is 3111 Kali era or 9 AD, which represents the date when Vikramaditya left this earth planet. Vikramaditya ruled Hastinapur for 93 years from 83 BC to 9 AD. Accordingly, the date for the Mahabharat war comes to (3148 – 9 = 3139 BC).

According to the Bhavishya Puran and Rajtarangini, Vikramaditya lived between 102 BC and 15 AD; and according to the above details his period ends by 9 AD. There is only a difference of 6 years in the date-wise record of 70 kings who ruled Hastinapur for 3,055 years. A discrepancy of 6 years in 3,000 years of record could be a copying or printing mistake, and is thus negligible when dealing with a longer span of years.

Astronomical Account

The greatest astronomer and mathematician, Aryabhatt, was born in 476 AD. His work in astronomy is an asset to the scholars. He gave an accurate figure for pi () 3.1416. He finished his book “Aryabhattiya” in 499 AD in which he gives the exact year of the beginning of kaliyug. He writes, “When the three yugas (satyug, tretayug and dwaparyug) have elapsed and 60 x 60 (3,600) years of kaliyug have already passed, I am now 23 years old.” It means that in the 3,601st year of Kali era he was 23 years old. Aryabhatt was born in 476 AD. Thus, the beginning of kaliyug comes to 3,601 - (476 + 23) = 3102 BC.

Shri Krishna ascended to His Divine abode at the end of Dwapara Yuga and immediately Kali Yuga started in 3102 BC. When Bhagwan Shri Krishna left the earth planet and ascended to His Divine abode a catastrophic rain, storm and sea deluge, that lasted for seven days, totally drowned and destroyed Dwaraka town. This catastrophe was also recorded in Babylonia’s ancient town Ur (which was described in the West as Noah’s flood) and the ancient Mayan records. The dates of both are the same.

References

Bibliography
1. Mahabharata, Answers.com
2. Mahabharata, Wikipedia
3. The Mahabharata, Hindunet, The Mahabharata
4. Bhartiya History - Mahabharat, The Vedic Foundation

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