Mahabharata (English)

by Kisari Mohan Ganguli | 2,566,952 words | ISBN-10: 8121505933

The English translation of the Mahabharata is a large text describing ancient India. It is authored by Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa and contains the records of ancient humans. Also, it documents the fate of the Kauravas and the Pandavas family. Another part of the large contents, deal with many philosophical dialogues such as the goals of life. Book...

"Vyasa said,—

'Asses are taking births in kine. Some are having sexual pleasure with mothers. The trees in the forests are exhibiting unseasonable flowers and fruits. Women quick with child, and even those that are not so, are giving birth to monsters. Carnivorous beasts, mingling with (carnivorous) birds, are feeding together.

Ill-omened beasts, some having three horns, some with four eyes, some with five legs, some with two sexual organs, some with two heads, some with two tails, some having fierce teeth, are being born, and with mouths wide open are uttering unholy cries. Horses with three legs, furnished with crests, having four teeth, and endued with horns, are also being born. O king! in your city is also seen that the wives of many utterers of Brahma are bringing forth Garudas and peacocks. The mare is bringing forth the cow-calf and the bitch is bringing forth, O king, jackals and cocks, and antelopes and parrots are all uttering inauspicious cries.[1]

Certain women are bringing forth four or five daughters (at a time), and these as soon as they are born, dance and sing and laugh. The members of the lowest orders are laughing and dancing and singing, and thus indicating direful consequences. Infants, as if urged by death, are drawing armed images, and are running against one another, armed with clubs, and desirous of battle are also breaking down the towns (they erect in sport). Lotuses of different kinds and lilies are growing on trees. Strong winds are blowing fiercely and the dust ceases not.

The earth is frequently trembling, and Rahu approaches towards the sun. The white planet (Ketu) stays, having passed beyond the constellation Citra. All this particularly bodes the destruction of the Kurus. A fierce comet rises, afflicting the constellation Pusya. This great planet will cause frightful mischief to both the armies.

Mars wheels towards Magha and Vrihaspati (Jupiter) towards Sravana.

The Sun’s offspring (Sani) approaching towards the constellation Bhaga, afflicts it.

The planet Sukra, ascending towards Purva Bhadra, shines brilliantly, and wheeling towards the Uttara Bhadra, looks towards it, having effected a junction (with a smaller planet).

The white planet (Ketu), blazing up like fire mixed with smoke, stays, having attacked the bright constellation Jeshtha that is sacred to Indra.

The constellation Dhruva, blazing fiercely, wheels towards the right. Both the Moon and the Sun are afflicting Rohini.

The fierce planet (Rahu) has taken up its position between the constellations Citra and Swati.[2]

The red-bodied (Mars) possessed of the effulgence of fire, wheeling circuitously, stays in a line with the constellation Sravana over-ridden by Vrihaspati.

The earth that produces particular crops at particular seasons is now covered with the crops of every season.[3]

Every barley-stalk is graced with five ears, and every paddy-stalk with a hundred. They that are the best of creatures in the worlds and upon whom depends the universe, viz., kine, when milked after the calves have their suck, yield only blood. Radiant rays of light emanate from bows, and swords blaze forth brilliantly. It is evident that the weapons behold (before them) the battle, as if it were already arrived. The hue of weapons and the water, as also of coats of mail and standards, is like that of fire. A great slaughter will take place. In this battle,[4] O Bharata, of the Kurus with the Pandavas, the earth, O monarch, will be a river of blood with the standards (of warriors) as its rafts.

Animals and birds on all sides, with mouths blazing like fire, uttering fierce cries, and displaying these evil omens, are foreboding terrible consequences. A (fierce) bird with but one wing, one eye, and one leg, hovering over the sky in the night, screams frightfully in wrath, as if for making the hearers vomit blood? It seems, O great king, that all weapons are now blazing with radiance.

The effulgence of the constellation known by the name of the seven high-souled Rishis, has been dimmed.

Those two blazing planets, viz., Vrihaspati and Sani, having approached the constellation called Visakha, have become stationary there for a whole year. Three lunations twice meeting together in course of the same lunar fortnight, the duration of the latter is shortened by two days.[5]

On the thirteenth day therefore, from the first lunation, according as it is the day of the full moon or the new moon, the moon and the sun are afflicted by Rahu. Such strange eclipses, both lunar and solar, forebode a great slaughter.[6]

All the quarters of the earth, being overwhelmed by showers of dust, look inauspicious. Fierce clouds, portentous of danger, drop bloody showers during the night.

Rahu of fierce deeds is also, O monarch, afflicting the constellation Kirtika. Rough winds, portending fierce danger, are constantly blowing. All these beget a war characterised by many sad incidents.[7]

The constellations are divided into three classes. Upon one or another of each class, a planet of evil omen has shed its influence, foreboding terrible dangers.[8] A lunar fortnight had hitherto consisted of fourteen days, or fifteen days (as usual), or sixteen days. This, however, I never knew that the day of new-moon would be on the thirteenth day from the first lunation, or the day of full-moon on the thirteenth day from the same. And yet in course of the same month both the Moon and the Sun have undergone eclipses on the thirteenth days from the day of the first lunation.[9]

The Sun and the Moon therefore, by undergoing eclipses on unusual days,[10] will cause a great slaughter of the creatures of the earth. Indeed, Rakshasas, though drinking blood by mouthful, will yet not be satiated. The great rivers are flowing in opposite directions. The waters of rivers have become bloody. The wells, foaming up, are bellowing like bulls.[11] Meteors, effulgent like Indra’s thunder-bolt, fall with loud hisses.[12] When this night passes away, evil consequences will overtake you. People, for meeting together, coming out of their houses with lighted brands, have still to encounter a thick gloom all round.[13]

Great Rishis have said that in view of such circumstances the earth drinks the blood of thousands of kings. From the mountains of Kailasa and Mandara and Himavat thousands of explosions are heard and thousands of summits are tumbling down. In consequence of the Earth’s trembling, each of the four oceans having swelled greatly, seems ready to transgress its continents for afflicting the Earth.[14]

Fierce winds charged with pointed pebbles are blowing, crushing mighty trees. In villages and towns trees, ordinary and sacred, are falling down, crushed by mighty winds and struck by lightning. The (sacrificial) fire, when Brahmanas pour libations on it, becomes blue, or red, or yellow. Its flames bend towards the left, yielding a bad scent, accompanied by loud reports. Touch, smell, and taste have, O monarch, become what they were not. The standards (of warriors), repeatedly trembling are emitting smoke. Drums and cymbals are throwing off showers of coal-dust. And from the tops of tall trees all around, crows, wheeling in circles from the left, are uttering fierce cries. All of them again are uttering frightful cries of pakka, pakka and are perching upon the tops of standards for the destruction of the kings. Vicious elephants, trembling all over, are running hither and thither, urinating and ejecting excreta. The horses are all melancholy, while the elephants are resorting to the water. Hearing all this, let that be done which is suitable, so that, O Bharata, the world may not be depopulated.'"

Vaisampayana continued,—"Hearing these words of his father, Dhritarashtra said,—

'I think all this has been ordained of old. A great slaughter of human beings will take place. If the kings die in battle observing the duties of the Kshatriya order, they will then, attaining to the regions reserved for heroes, obtain only happiness. These tigers among men, casting away their lives in great battle, will win fame in this and great bliss for ever in the next world.'

Vaisampayana continued,—"O best of kings, thus addressed by his son Dhritarashtra, that prince of poets, the Muni (Vyasa) concentrated his mind in supreme Yoga. Having contemplated for only a short space of time, Vyasa once more said,—

'Without doubt, O king of kings, it is Time that destroyes the universe. It is Time also that creates the worlds. There is nothing here that is eternal. Show the path of righteousness to the Kurus, to your kinsmen, relatives, and friends. You are competent to restrain them. The slaughter of kinsmen has been said to be sinful. Do not do that which is disagreeable to me. O king, Death himself has been born in the shape of your son. Slaughter is never applauded in the Vedas. It can never be beneficial. The usages of one’s race are as one’s own body. Those usages slay him that destroyes them. For the destruction of this race and of those kings of the earth it is Time that makes you deviate into the wrong path like one in distress, although you are competent (to walk along the path of righteousness). O king, in the shape of your kingdom has calamity come to you. Your virtue is sustaining a very great diminution.[15] Show what righteousness is unto your sons. O you that art invincible, of what value is that kingdom to you which brings sin to you? Take care of your good name, your virtue, and your fame. You will then win heaven. Let the Pandavas have their kingdom, and let the Kauravas have peace."

"While that best of Brahmanas was saying these words in a sorrowful tone, Dhritarashtra, the son of Ambika, accomplished in speech, once more addressed him, saying.—

'My knowledge of life and death is similar to thine. The truth is known to me as regards these. Man, however, in what concerns his own interests, is deprived of judgment. O sire, know me to be one who is an ordinary person. Of immeasurable power you are. I pray you to extend thine towards us. Of soul under complete control, you are our refuge and instructor. My sons are not obedient to me, O great Rishi. My understanding too is not inclined to commit sin.[16] You are the cause of the fame, the achievements, and the inclination for virtue, of the Bharatas. You are the reverend grandsire of both the Kurus and the Pandavas.'

"Vyasa said,—

'O royal son of Vicitravirya, tell me freely what is in your mind. I will remove your doubts."

"Dhritarashtra said,—'O holy one, I desire to hear from you of all those indications that happen unto those that become victorious in battle."

"Vyasa said,—

'The (sacred) fire assumes a cheerful radiance. Its light ascends upwards. Its flame bends towards the right. It blazes up without being smoky. The libations poured on it yield a fragrant scent. It is said that these are the indications of future success. The conches and cymbals yield sounds that are deep and loud. The Sun as well as the Moon gives pure rays. It is said that these are the indications of future success. Crows, whether stationary or on their wings, utter cries that are agreeable. They again that are behind, urge the warriors to advance; while they that are ahead, forbid all advance.[17] Where vultures, swans, parrots, cranes, and wood-peckers utter delightful cries, and wheel towards the right, the Brahmanas say that their victory in battle is certain. They whose divisions, in consequence of ornaments, coats of mail, and standards, or the melodious neigh of their steeds, become resplendent and incapable of being gazed at, always conquer their foes. They who utter cheerful shouts, those warriors, O Bharata, whose energies are not damped and whose garlands do not fade, always cross the ocean of battle. They who utter cheerful shouts having penetrated into the divisions of the foe, who utter even kind words,[18] to the enemy, and who, before striking, forewarn the foe, win victory.

The objects of hearing, vision, taste, touch, and smell, without undergoing any change for the worse, become auspicious. This also is another indication of a victorious army, viz., there is joy among the combatants at all time. This also is another indication of success, viz. the winds that blow, the clouds, and the birds, all become favourable; while the clouds (so favourable) and the rain-bows drop beneficial showers. These, O king, are the indications of armies to be crowned with victory, while O monarch, all these become otherwise in the case of those that are about to be destroyed. Whether the army be small or large, cheerfulness, as an attribute of the combatants, is said to be a certain indication of victory. One soldier, struck with panic, can cause even a large army to take fright and fly. And when an army, struck with panic, takes to flight, it causes even heroic warriors to take fright.

If a large army is once broken and put to rout, it cannot like a herd of deer disordered in fright or a mighty current of water be easily checked. If a large army is once routed, it is incapable of being rallied; on the other hand, beholding it broken, even those well-skilled in battle, O Bharata, become heartless. Beholding soldiers struck with fear and flying, the panic spreads in other directions, and soon, O king, the whole army is broken and flies in all directions. And when an army is routed, even brave leaders, O king, at the head of large divisions consisting of the four kinds of forces, are incapable of rallying them. An intelligent man, always exerting himself with activity, should strive (to win success) by the aid of means. It is said that that success which is won by negotiation and other means is the very best.

That which is achieved by producing disunion (among the foe) is indifferent. While that success, O king, which is won by battle, is the worst. In battle are many evils, the initial one, as it is said, being slaughter. Even fifty brave men who know one another, who are underpressed, who are free from family ties, and who are firmly resolved, can crush a large army. Even five, six, seven men, who are unretreating, win victory. Vinata’s son Garuda, O Bharata, beholding even a large concourse of birds, asks not the aid of many followers (to vanquish them). The strength in number, therefore of an army is not always the cause of victory. Victory is uncertain. It depends on chance. Even they that become victorious have to sustain loss.'"

Footnotes and references:


Both the Bengal and the Bombay editions have Kukkuran for Kukkutan as the Burdwan Pundits correct it. A bitch producing dogs and bitches would be no anomaly.


Unlike the Bengal editions, the Bombay edition correctly includes this sloka, or rather half sloka, within the 17th, making the 17th a triplet instead of a couplet. For the well-known word Dhishthitas however, the Bombay text has Vishthitas.


The Bombay text reads Paricchanna for Paricchinna. The former is better.


Vaisase is explained by Nilakantha as Virodhe. Conttavarta—-a river having bloody eddies.


Conitam cchardayanniva. I have adopted Nilakantha’s explanation. The Burdwan Pundits take it as referring to "weapons" instead of "hearers." The passage, however, may mean that the bird screams so frightfully as if it vomits blood. The only thing that militates against this interpretation is that cchardayan is a causal verb. In the Mahabharata, however, causal forms are frequently used without causal meaning.


This sloka is omitted in many editions, though it is certainly genuine. I have rendered it very freely, as otherwise it would be unintelligible. The fact is, three lunations twice meeting together in course of the same lunar fortnight is very rare. The lunar-fortnight (Paksha) being then reduced by two days, the day of full-moon or that of new moon, instead of being (as usual) the fifteenth day from the first lunation becomes the thirteenth day. Lunar-eclipses always occur on days of the full-moon, while solar-eclipses on those of the new moon. Such eclipses, therefore, occurring on days removed from the days of the first lunation by thirteen instead of (as usual) fifteen days, are very extraordinary occurrences.


Vishamam is battle or war, and akranda is weeping or productive of grief. The latter word may also mean a fierce battle. If understood in this sense, Vishamam may be taken as indicating hostility, or absence of peace.


Nilakantha explains this in a long note the substance of which is appended below. Kings are divided into three classes, viz., owners of elephants (Gajapati), owners of horses (Asvapati), and owners of men (Narapati). If an evil-omened planet (papa-graha) sheds its influence upon any of the nine constellations beginning with Asvini, it forebodes danger to Asvapatis; if on any of the nine beginning with Magha, it forebodes danger to Gajapatis; and if on any of the nine beginning with Mula, it forebodes danger to Narapatis. What Vyasa says here, therefore, is that one or another papa-graha has shed its influence upon one another of each of the three classes of constellations, thus foreboding danger to all classes of kings.


Vide note ante.


Aparvani, i.e., not on Parva days or days of full-moon and new-moon as ordinarily coming. The Bombay edition, after aparvani, reads grahenau tau. A better reading unquestionably grastavetau, as many Bengal texts have.


Pratisrotas; strict grammar would require pratisrotasas; the meaning is that those that flowed east to west now flow west to east, &c. For kurddanti some texts have narddanti which is certainly better. Kurddanti means play or sport; wells playing like bulls would be unmeaning, unless the sport is accompanied by bellowing.


The Burdwan Pundits reads suskasani for sakrasani. The latter, however, is the true reading.


The original is very obscure. Uluka is explained by Nilakantha as a brand (used for want of lambs). The line, however, is elliptical. The Burdwan Pundits introduce an entirely new line.


Mahabhuta is swelling greatly.


Parena is explained by Nilakantha as atisayena.


Some of the Bengal texts read anugraham (making the initial a silent after maharshe, in the vocative case). There can be no doubt however, that this is incorrect. The true reading is nadharmam which I have adopted. The Bombay text reads na ca dharmam. The introduction of the article ca needlessly makes the line incorrect as to metre.


The second line of the 67th sloka is very obscure. I have followed Nilakantha in translating it thus. The sense seems to be, that when crows hover behind an army, that is an auspicious sign; while it is an inauspicious sign if they are seen ahead. I am not sure that Nilakantha is right in taking the pronoun you as referring to even crows.


Such as "don't fight, for you will be dead men soon." &c.


This concludes Section III of Book 6 (Bhishma Parva) of the Mahabharata, of which an English translation is presented on this page. This book is famous as one of the Itihasa, similair in content to the eighteen Puranas. Book 6 is one of the eighteen books comprising roughly 100,000 Sanskrit metrical verses.

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