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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
The son of Satyavati having, by penance and meditation, analysed the eternal Veda, afterwards composed this holy history, when that learned Brahmarshi of strict vows, the noble Dwaipayana Vyasa, offspring of Parasara, had finished this greatest of narrations, he began to consider how he might teach it to his disciples. And the possessor of the six attributes, Brahma, the world’s preceptor, knowing of the anxiety of the Rishi Dwaipayana, came in person to the place where the latter was, for gratifying the saint, and benefiting the people. And when Vyasa, surrounded by all the tribes of Munis, saw him, he was surprised; and, standing with joined palms, he bowed and ordered a seat to be brought. And Vyasa having gone round him who is called Hiranyagarbha seated on that distinguished seat stood near it; and being commanded by Brahma Parameshthi, he sat down near the seat, full of affection and smiling in joy. Then the greatly glorious Vyasa, addressing Brahma Parameshthi, said, “O divine Brahma, by me a poem hath been composed which is greatly respected. The mystery of the Veda, and what other subjects have been explained by me; the various rituals of the Upanishads with the Angas; the compilation of the Puranas and history formed by me and named after the three divisions of time, past, present, and future; the determination of the nature of decay, fear, disease, existence, and non-existence, a description of creeds and of the various modes of life; rule for the four castes, and the import of all the Puranas; an account of asceticism and of the duties of a religious student; the dimensions of the sun and moon, the planets, constellations, and stars, together with the duration of the four ages; the Rik, Sama and Yajur Vedas; also the Adhyatma; the sciences called Nyaya, Orthoephy and Treatment of diseases; charity and Pasupatadharma; birth celestial and human, for particular purposes; also a description of places of pilgrimage and other holy places of rivers, mountains, forests, the ocean, of heavenly cities and the kalpas; the art of war; the different kinds of nations and languages: the nature of the manners of the people; and the all-pervading spirit;–all these have been represented. But, after all, no writer of this work is to be found on earth.’
“Brahma said. ‘I esteem thee for thy knowledge of divine mysteries, before the whole body of celebrated Munis distinguished for the sanctity of their lives. I know thou hast revealed the divine word, even from its first utterance, in the language of truth. Thou hast called thy present work a poem, wherefore it shall be a poem. There shall be no poets whose works may equal the descriptions of this poem, even, as the three other modes called Asrama are ever unequal in merit to the domestic Asrama. Let Ganesa be thought of, O Muni, for the purpose of writing the poem.’
“Sauti said, ‘Brahma having thus spoken to Vyasa, retired to his own abode. Then Vyasa began to call to mind Ganesa. And Ganesa, obviator of obstacles, ready to fulfil the desires of his votaries, was no sooner thought of, than he repaired to the place where Vyasa was seated. And when he had been saluted, and was seated, Vyasa addressed him thus, ‘O guide of the Ganas! be thou the writer of the Bharata which I have formed in my imagination, and which I am about to repeat.”
“Ganesa, upon hearing this address, thus answered, ‘I will become the writer of thy work, provided my pen do not for a moment cease writing.” And Vyasa said unto that divinity, ‘Wherever there be anything thou dost not comprehend, cease to continue writing.’ Ganesa having signified his assent, by repeating the word Om! proceeded to write; and Vyasa began; and by way of diversion, he knit the knots of composition exceeding close; by doing which, he dictated this work according to his engagement.
I am (continued Sauti) acquainted with eight thousand and eight hundred verses, and so is Suka, and perhaps Sanjaya. From the mysteriousness of their meaning, O Muni, no one is able, to this day, to penetrate those closely knit difficult slokas. Even the omniscient Ganesa took a moment to consider; while Vyasa, however, continued to compose other verses in great abundance.
The wisdom of this work, like unto an instrument of applying collyrium, hath opened the eyes of the inquisitive world blinded by the darkness of ignorance. As the sun dispelleth the darkness, so doth the Bharata by its discourses on religion, profit, pleasure and final release, dispel the ignorance of men. As the full-moon by its mild light expandeth the buds of the water-lily, so this Purana, by exposing the light of the Sruti hath expanded the human intellect. By the lamp of history, which destroyeth the darkness of ignorance, the whole mansion of nature is properly and completely illuminated.
This work is a tree, of which the chapter of contents is the seed; the divisions called Pauloma and Astika are the root; the part called Sambhava is the trunk; the books called Sabha and Aranya are the roosting perches; the books called Arani is the knitting knots; the books called Virata and Udyoga the pith; the book named Bhishma, the main branch; the book called Drona, the leaves; the book called Karna, the fair flowers; the book named Salya, their sweet smell; the books entitled Stri and Aishika, the refreshing shade; the book called Santi, the mighty fruit; the book called Aswamedha, the immortal sap; the denominated Asramavasika, the spot where it groweth; and the book called Mausala, is an epitome of the Vedas and held in great respect by the virtuous Brahmanas. The tree of the Bharata, inexhaustible to mankind as the clouds, shall be as a source of livelihood to all distinguished poets.”
“Sauti continued, ‘I will now speak of the undying flowery and fruitful productions of this tree, possessed of pure and pleasant taste, and not to be destroyed even by the immortals. Formerly, the spirited and virtuous Krishna-Dwaipayana, by the injunctions of Bhishma, the wise son of Ganga and of his own mother, became the father of three boys who were like the three fires by the two wives of Vichitra-virya; and having thus raised up Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura, he returned to his recluse abode to prosecute his religious exercise.
It was not till after these were born, grown up, and departed on the supreme journey, that the great Rishi Vyasa published the Bharata in this region of mankind; when being solicited by Janamejaya and thousands of Brahmanas, he instructed his disciple Vaisampayana, who was seated near him; and he, sitting together with the Sadasyas, recited the Bharata, during the intervals of the ceremonies of the sacrifice, being repeatedly urged to proceed.