Om! Having bowed down to Narayana and Nara, the most exalted male being, and also to the goddess Saraswati, must the word Jaya be uttered.
Ugrasrava, the son of Lomaharshana, surnamed Sauti, well-versed in the Puranas, bending with humility, one day approached the great sages of rigid vows, sitting at their ease, who had attended the twelve years’ sacrifice of Saunaka, surnamed Kulapati, in the forest of Naimisha. Those ascetics, wishing to hear his wonderful narrations, presently began to address him who had thus arrived at that recluse abode of the inhabitants of the forest of Naimisha. Having been entertained with due respect by those holy men, he saluted those Munis (sages) with joined palms, even all of them, and inquired about the progress of their asceticism. Then all the ascetics being again seated, the son of Lomaharshana humbly occupied the seat that was assigned to him. Seeing that he was comfortably seated, and recovered from fatigue, one of the Rishis beginning the conversation, asked him, ‘Whence comest thou, O lotus-eyed Sauti, and where hast thou spent the time? Tell me, who ask thee, in detail.’
Accomplished in speech, Sauti, thus questioned, gave in the midst of that big assemblage of contemplative Munis a full and proper answer in words consonant with their mode of life.
“Sauti said, ‘Having heard the diverse sacred and wonderful stories which were composed in his Mahabharata by Krishna-Dwaipayana, and which were recited in full by Vaisampayana at the Snake-sacrifice of the high-souled royal sage Janamejaya and in the presence also of that chief of Princes, the son of Parikshit, and having wandered about, visiting many sacred waters and holy shrines, I journeyed to the country venerated by the Dwijas (twice-born) and called Samantapanchaka where formerly was fought the battle between the children of Kuru and Pandu, and all the chiefs of the land ranged on either side. Thence, anxious to see you, I am comeinto your presence. Ye reverend sages, all of whom are to me as Brahma; ye greatly blessed who shine in this place of sacrifice with the splendour of the solar fire: ye who have concluded the silent editations and have fed the holy fire; and yet who are sitting–without care, what, O ye Dwijas (twice-born), shall I repeat, shall I recount the sacred stories collected in the Puranas containing precepts of religious duty and of worldly profit, or the acts of illustrious saints and sovereigns of mankind?”
“The Rishi replied, ‘The Purana, first promulgated by the great Rishi Dwaipayana, and which after having been heard both by the gods and the Brahmarshis was highly esteemed, being the most eminent narrative that exists, diversified both in diction and division, possessing subtile meanings logically combined, and gleaned from the Vedas, is a sacred work. Composed in elegant language, it includeth the subjects of other books. It is elucidated by other Shastras, and comprehendeth the sense of the four Vedas. We are desirous of hearing that history also called Bharata, the holy composition of the wonderful Vyasa, which dispelleth the fear of evil, just as it was cheerfully recited by the Rishi Vaisampayana, under the direction of Dwaipayana himself, at the snake-sacrifice of Raja Janamejaya?’
“Sauti then said, ‘Having bowed down to the primordial being Isana, to whom multitudes make offerings, and who is adored by the multitude; who is the true incorruptible one, Brahma, perceptible, imperceptible, eternal; who is both a non-existing and an existing-non-existing being; who is the universe and also distinct from the existing and non-existing universe; who is the creator of high and low; the ancient, exalted, inexhaustible one; who is Vishnu,
In this world, when it was destitute of brightness and light, and enveloped all around in total darkness, there came into being, as the primal cause of creation, a mighty egg, the one inexhaustible seed of all created beings. It is called Mahadivya, and was formed at the beginning of the Yuga, in which we are told, was the true light Brahma, the eternal one, the wonderful and inconceivable being present alike in all places; the invisible and subtile cause, whose nature partaketh of entity and non-entity. From this egg came out the lord Pitamaha Brahma, the one only Prajapati; with Suraguru and Sthanu. Then appeared the twenty-one Prajapatis, viz., Manu, Vasishtha and Parameshthi; ten Prachetas, Daksha, and the seven sons of Daksha. Then appeared the man of inconceivable nature whom all the Rishis know and so the Viswe-devas, the Adityas, the Vasus, and the twin Aswins; the Yakshas, the Sadhyas, the Pisachas, the Guhyakas, and the Pitris. After these were produced the wise and most holy Brahmarshis, and the numerous Rajarshis distinguished by every noble quality. So the water, the heavens, the earth, the air, the sky, the points of the heavens, the years, the seasons, the months, the fortnights, called Pakshas, with day and night in due succession. And thus were produced all things which are known to mankind.
And what is seen in the universe, whether animate or inanimate, of created things, will at the end of the world, and after the expiration of the Yuga, be again confounded. And, at the commencement of other Yugas, all things will be renovated, and, like the various fruits of the earth, succeed each other in the due order of their seasons. Thus continueth perpetually to revolve in the world, without beginning and without end, this wheel which causeth the destruction of all things.
The generation of Devas, in brief, was thirty-three thousand, thirty-three hundred and thirty-three. The sons of Div were Brihadbhanu, Chakshus, Atma Vibhavasu, Savita, Richika, Arka, Bhanu, Asavaha, and Ravi. Of these Vivaswans of old, Mahya was the youngest whose son was Deva-vrata. The latter had for his son, Su-vrata who, we learn, had three sons,–Dasa-jyoti, Sata-jyoti, and Sahasra-jyoti, each of them producing numerous offspring. The illustrious Dasa-jyoti had ten thousand, Sata-jyoti ten times that number, and Sahasra-jyoti ten times the number of Sata-jyoti’s offspring. From these are descended the family of the Kurus, of the Yadus, and of Bharata; the family of Yayati and of Ikshwaku; also of all the Rajarshis. Numerous also were the generations produced, and very abundant were the creatures and their places of abode. The mystery which is threefold–the Vedas, Yoga, and Vijnana Dharma, Artha, and Kama–also various books upon the subject of Dharma, Artha, and Kama; also rules for the conduct of mankind; also histories and discourses with various srutis; all of which having been seen by the Rishi Vyasa are here in due order mentioned as a specimen of the book.
The Rishi Vyasa published this mass of knowledge in both a detailed and an abridged form. It is the wish of the learned in the world to possess the details and the abridgement. Some read the Bharata beginning with the initial mantra (invocation), others with the story of Astika, others with Uparichara, while some Brahmanas study the whole. Men of learning display their various knowledge of the institutes in commenting on the composition. Some are skilful in explaining it, while others, in remembering its contents.