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Books on the Mahabharata

The Mahabharata war took place in 3139 BC. The Pandavas, after winning the war, ruled for 36 years and 8 months till Kaliyuga began in 3102 BC.

Interpreted on the mundane plane, the Mahabharata deals with the realistic account of a fierce fratricidal war of annihilation with its interest centered on the epic characters. The meaning on the ethical plane views the Mahabharata war as a conflict between the principles of dharma and adharma, between good and evil, between justice and injustice, in which the war ends in the victory of dharma.

On the transcendental plane, which takes us beyond dharma and adharma, the Mahabharata war is fought not only in Kurukshetra but also in our own minds; this perpetual battle between the higher self and the lower self of man for establishing mastery over the body is symbolized by the fight between the cousins for sovereignty.

The Mahabharata is a veritable encyclopedia of Indian tradition, and no other single work gives an insight into the innermost depths of the soul of the people as it does. It is a ‘Song of Victory’ (Jaya), commemorating the deeds of heroism in a war fought to avenge insults to womanhood, and to maintain the just rights of a dynasty that extended the heritage of Bharata and knit together the North, East, West, and South of India into one empire.

The Mahabharata is a magnificent poem describing in inimitable language the fury of the battle field, the stillness of the forest hermitage, the majesty of the roaring sea dancing with billows and laughing with foam, the just indignation of the true daughter of a warrior line, and the lament of the aged mother of dead heroes. It is an authoritative book of law, morality, and social and political philosophy, laying down rules for the attainment of dharma, artha, and kama, called trivarga, and also showing the way to liberation expounding the highest religious philosophy of India, and inculcating reverence not only for Narayana, the supreme Spirit, Saraswati, from whom flow all learning and the arts, and Nara, the superman, the ideal fighter and seer and the close associate of God, but also for mankind in general.

The characteristic traits of women, and the place they occupied in society are clearly brought out in several stories in the Mahabharata. In the story of Savitri, we have the ideal wife wrestling with the god of death for the life of her husband. In Draupadi we have the fiery yet dutiful wife. In Kunti we see a brave and sacrificing mother of powerful Kshatriyas, who, after her sons had won the war, chose to serve her brother in law and his wife, who belonged to the losing side.

Books on the Mahabharata for all levels: Comics for children and translations of the complete text. Studies of the Mahabharata from different perspectives: Dharma in the Mahabharata, State of Mahabharata studies all over the world, Quiz Books on the Mahabharata, Index to Names in the Mahabharata, Board Games on this great epic, Lessons from the Mahabharata, Principal Characters and Women in the Mahabharata.

The most authoritative commentary on the Mahabharata is that of Nilakantha, written in the later half of the seventeenth century. It is available in Seven Volumes.


Q1. Is it good to keep the Mahabharata book at home?


There is a widely-spread belief, which is just a superstition, that one should not keep the Mahabharata scripture at home. People think that it will bring calamities, factions, bad omens, and troubles in the family. People feel that Mahabharata is all about the fight, war, and cunningness (which are symbolic of the fight between good and bad)--so, if we keep something like this at home, we are inviting similar tendencies and environment in our homes too.


I don't feel there is any connection between inviting chaos and calamities if you keep this epic at home. Mahabharata is a beautiful epic and worthy of reverence.

Q2. How many types of Mahabharata books are there?


18 Parvas or books of Mahabharata:


Adi Parva, narrates the Bharata race, the Bhrigu race, the life of the Pandavas and Kauravas, and the marriage of Draupadi.


Sabha Parva : game of dice ending with the exile of the Pandavas. The Rajasuya Yajna


Vana Parva or Aranya Parva the life of the Pandavas during their exile in the forest


Virata Parva, Udyoga Parva, Bhishma Parva, Drona Parva, Karna Parva, Shalya Parva, Sauptika Parva, Stri Parva, Shanti Parva, Anushasana Parva, Ashvamedhika Parva, Ashramavasika Parva, Mausala Parva, Mahaprasthanika Parva, and Svargarohana Parva: narrates Ascent to Heaven. It describes Yudhishthira’s arrival in heaven

Q3. What are the benefits of reading Mahabharata?


Here are 7 important lessons:


·        A revengeful instinct leads to one's doom.


·        Stand by what's right; Krishna reminded Arjuna to stand by Dharma (duty).


·        The eternal bond of friendship: The friendship between Krishna and Arjuna and between Karna and Duryodhan.


·        Half knowledge can be dangerous: Abhimanyu knew how to enter the Chakravyuh, but was unaware of the way out.


·        Don't be swayed by greed: Like Yudhistra who lost his kingdom, wealth, and even his wife, Draupadi.


·        Don't give up despite all hurdles: Karna devoted his kavaj kundal (his life-saving power) to his mother.


·        Even a woman can be fiery: like Draupadi.

Q4. How did Mahabharata influence the world?


The scale of the Mahabharata is grand and overwhelming, the characters are larger than life, and highly dramatic events take place in the epic. But at the same time, it is the most exhaustive exploration ever of the human condition. It thus covers passion (Kama) and its exhaustion (Moksha) and the in-between, the wealth of happiness (Artha) and balance or order (Dharma) – the means of its achievement.


The real fight was not just between Pandavas and Kauravas, even world forces were also a part of it. The war caused widespread destruction, and totally destroyed the social structure and survival of humanity.

Q5. How is Mahabharata relevant for everyday life?


Ato Dharmastato Jayah (Sanskrit: यतो धर्मस्ततो जयः), means "Where there is Dharma, there is Victory". The main theme of the Mahabharata is the idea of sacred duty. Every character belongs to a particular social group, or caste, that follows the duty prescribed to it by the sacred law. The characters that perform their sacred duty are rewarded, while those who do not, are punished.


It implies that we should object to the wrongdoers and fight against them even if they are our own. We should never feel erroneous while standing up for the right. Both Krishna and Karna proved their undying loyalty to their clans.

Q6. Why Mahabharata cannot be kept at home?


Since Mahabharata is a story about the war between brothers there is a superstition that if one keeps Mahabharata at home, it would lead to fighting, fraction, and division between brothers or family members. Hence, there is a widely-spread belief that one should not keep the Mahabharata scripture at home. Being a bad omen will bring troubles to you.


According to the best Vastu Shastra in India, Mahabharata is all about war, cunningness, and disputes among families. Keeping its book or picture, we are inviting similar tendencies and environments in our homes too. This is why one should never keep anything related to Mahabharata at home.

Q7. What is the real name of the Mahabharata book?


‘Jaya Samhita’ is the original name of Mahabharata. Mahabharata was written down by Lord Ganesha and narrated by Maharishi Ved Vyasa. It had only 8800 shlokas. This version, which expanded to 24000 shlokas, came to be known as Bharata. It was further expanded over the years to 100,000 shlokas, known as Mahabharata.


The title translated as "Great India", or "the great tale of the Bharata Dynasty", according to the Mahabharata's testimony extended from a shorter version simply called Bharata of 24,000 verses The epic is part of the Hindu Itihasas, "that which happened", along with the Ramayana and the Puranas.

Q8. Where is the oldest copy of Mahabharata?


The original copy is stated to be located at the ‘Vyas Gufa’ The cave of Veda Vyasa. – The place where Mahabharata was written. It is located in Mana village in the state of Uttarakhand, India. Very near to the Indo-Tibetian Border the place is located around 5 km from the sacred Badrinath Temple.


Sage Vyas composed the Mahabharata in this place with the help of Lord Ganesh. The Vedas and the eighteen Puranas as well as Brahma Sutra were written here. Sri Adi Shankara met Rishi Vyas in this cave to discuss his Bhashyam, the explanatory notes for Brahma Sutras.

Q9. What type of literature is Mahabharata?


The Mahabharata is the longest epic poem originally written in Sanskrit and has been described as the largest single literary work in existence. Consists of over 100,000 slokas or over 200,000 individual verse lines, and long prose passages divided into eighteen books, or parvas. Consisting of 1.8 million words and it is believed that it could have taken over 600 years to write! The oldest surviving piece of text is believed to be dated from 400 BCE.


Mahabharata is a dynamic epic and it contains a vivid description of battles, forests, palaces, and settlements. Today it is available in the world’s leading languages.