Mahabharata – A brief introduction

The Mahabharat or Mahabharata, is one of the two greatest epics available for Hindus, the other being the Ramayan. Mahabharat includes the stories from Dwapar yuga. This epic contains the facts from fascinating battle between Pandavas and Kauravas. It is said that a sage called Ved Vyasa narrated this epic to the Lord Ganesha. Ganesha, in turn, penned it. It is believed that it has existed well over two thousand years for now.

Ved Vyasa and Ganesha – writing Mahabharat

Bhagvad Gita

The famous Bhagavad-Gita, which is widely read in the western world is part of Mahabharat.  This comes from Chapters XXV through XLII of Bhishma Parva (the sixth volume). This is a short diversion prior to the great battle.

Srimad Bhagwatam

Vyasa also wrote the Srimad Bhagavatam, which contains much of the life of Krishna. The Hare Krishna’s are a good source for a copy of this work.  The other great Indian epic is the Ramayana. The Ramayana was compiled by Valmiki at an earlier date than the Mahabharata.

The Mahabharata in its longest version consists of over 100000 shloka or over 200000 individual verse lines (each shloka is a couplet ) , long prose passages, or about 1.8 million words in total, the Mahabharat is roughly ten times the length of the Iliad and Odyssey combined, or about four times the length of the Ramayana. W. J. Johnson has compared the importance of the Mahabharata to world civilization to that of the Bible, the works of Shakespeare, the works of Homer, Greek drama, and the Qur’an. [Excerpt taken from Wiki]

The central character of thus epic is Shri Krishna. Others being  with Pandavas and Kauravas. The famous battle of Mahabharat took place in Kurukshetra, which lasted for eighteen days.

Vyasa and Ganesha writing Mahabharata
Vyasa and Ganesha writing Mahabharata

In brief, it tells the story of the birth of five Pandava brothers – Yudhishthira, Arjuna (the main characters of the Bhagavad Gita), Bhima, Nakula and Sahadeva.  Krishna also plays an important part.  During a game of dice, Yudhishthira loses his kingdom. The 5 Pandavas are exiled for 12 years, and they must return in the 13th year. They need to remain undiscovered in society or face a further 12 years exile.  They complete the sentence, and ask Duryodhana for half their kingdom back.   He refuses.  The battle of Mahabharat follows,  and the story concludes with the lineage of the descendants of Arjuna.  Lineage, wisdom and moral counselling is imparted throughout the story.  Historians are agreed that a battle took place, but the date is not agreed – it may have been around 800 – 1100 BC. It may be much older, say 3000 BC.

Historical importance of the Mahabharata is not the sole reason to read the Mahabharata.  The Mahabharata is a powerful and amazing narrative which inspires awe and wonder and the same time teaches a few things.  Many a times, the reader is just spell struck by the complexity it brings but yet this is so interesting. It presents sweeping visions of the cosmos and humanity and intriguing glimpses of divinity in an ancient narrative that is accessible, interesting, and compelling for anyone.

This narrative details about Indian Mythology gods and more fittingly, Krishna. Krishna made sure that Pandavas come out as the winners from the battle of Mahabharata.

4 thoughts on “Mahabharata – A brief introduction”

  1. As per our Hindu Tradition, the Mahabharatha or Jaya was narrated by Sage Veda Vyasa and was written down by none other than our God Ganesha. Before writing the Mahabharatha God Ganesha had put forth a tricky condition to Sage Vyasa.

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