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...


"Yudhishthira said, 'What should be the characteristics, O grandsire, of the legislators, the ministers of war, the courtiers, the generalissimos, and the counsellors of a king!'

"Bhishma said, ’such persons as are possessed of modesty, self-restraint, truth, sincerity, and courage to say what is proper, should be your legislators. They that are always by your side, that are possessed of great courage, that are of the regenerate caste, possessed of great learning, well pleased with you, and endued with perseverance in all acts, should, O son of Kunti, be desired by you for becoming your ministers of war at all seasons of distress, O Bharata! One who is of high descent, who, treated with honour by you, always exerts his powers to the utmost on your behalf, and who will never abandon you in weal or woe, illness or death, should be entertained by you as a courtier. They that are of high birth, that are born in your kingdom, that have wisdom, beauty of form and features, great learning, and dignity of behaviour, and that are, besides, devoted to you, should be employed as officers of your army. Persons of tow descent and covetous dispositions, who are cruet and shameless would court you, O sire, as long as their hands would remain wet.[1] They that are of good birth and good behaviour, that can read all signs and gestures, that are destitute of cruelty, that know what the requirements are of place and time, that always seek the good of their master in all acts, should be appointed as ministers by the king in all his affairs. They that have been won over with gifts of wealth, honours, regardful receptions, and means of procuring felicity, and who on that account may be regarded by you as persons inclined to benefit you in all your affairs, should always be made sharers of your happiness. They that are unchangeable in conduct, possessed of learning and good behaviour, observant of excellent vows, large-hearted, and truthful in speech, will always be attentive to your affairs and will never abandon you, They, on the other hand, that are disrespectable, that are not observant of restraints, that are of wicked souls, and that have fallen away from good practices, should always be compelled by you to observe all wholesome restraints. When the question is which of two sides should be adopted, you should not abandon the many for adopting the side of one. When, however, that one person transcends the many in consequence of the possession of many accomplishments, then you should, for that one, abandon the many. These are regarded as marks of superiority, viz., prowess, devotion to pursuits that bring fame, and observance of wholesome restraints. He, again, that honours all persons possessed of ability, that never indulges in feelings of rivalry with persons possessed of no merit, that never abandons righteousness from lust or fear or wrath or covetousness, that is adorned with humility, that is truthful in speech and forgiving in temper, that has his soul under control, that has a sense of dignity, and that has been tried in every situation, should be employed by you as your counsellor. High descent, purity of blood, forgiveness, cleverness, and purity of soul, bravery, gratefulness, and truth, are, O son of Pritha marks of superiority and goodness. A wise man who conducts himself in this way,[2] succeeds in disarming his very foes of their hostility and converting them into friend. A king that has his soul under restraint, that is possessed of wisdom, and that is desirous of prosperity, should carefully examine the merits and demerits of his ministers. A king desirous of prosperity and of shining in the midst of his contemporaries, should have for ministers persons connected with his trusted friends, possessed of high birth born in his own kingdom, incapable of being corrupted, unstained by adultery and similar vices, well tested, belonging to good families, possessed of learning, sprung from sires and grandsires that held similar offices, and adorned with humility. The king should employ five such persons to look after his affairs as are possessed of intelligence unstained by pride, a disposition that is good, energy, patience, forgiveness, purity, loyalty, firmness, and courage, whose merits and faults have been well tested, who are of mature years, who are capable of bearing burdens, and who are free from deceit. Men that are wise in speech, that are possessed of heroism, that are full of resources under difficulties, that are of high birth, that are truthful, that can read signs, that are free from cruelty, that are conversant with the requirements of place and time, and that desire the good of their masters, should be employed by the king as his ministers in all affairs of the kingdom. One who is bereft of energy and who has been abandoned by friends can never work with perseverance. Such a man, if employed, fails in almost every business. A minister possessed of little learning, even if blessed with high birth and attentive to virtue, profit, and pleasure, becomes incompetent in choosing proper courses of action. Similarly, a person of low descent, even if possessed of great learning, always errs, like a blind man without a guide, in all acts requiring dexterity and foresight. A person, again, who is of infirm purposes, even if possessed of intelligence and learning, and even if conversant with means, cannot long act with success. A man of wicked heart and possessed of no learning may set his hand to work but he fails to ascertain what the results will be of his work. A king should never repose trust on a minister that is not devoted to him. He should, therefore, never disclose his counsels to a minister that is not devoted to him. Such a wicked minister, combining with the other ministers of the king, may ruin his master, like a fire consuming a tree by entering its entrails through the holes in its body with the aid of the wind. Giving way to wrath, a master may one day pull down a servant from his office or reprove him, from rage, in harsh words, and restore him to power again. None but a servant devoted to the master can bear and forgive such treatment. Ministers also become sometime highly offended with their royal masters. That one, however, amongst them, who subdues his wrath from desire of doing good to his master,—that person who is a sharer with the king of his weal and woe,—should be consulted by the king in all his affairs. A person who is of crooked heart, even if he be devoted to his master and possessed of wisdom and adorned with. numerous virtues, should never be consulted by the king. One who is allied with foes and who does not regard the interests of the king’s subjects, should be known as an enemy. The king should never consult with him. One who is possessed of no learning, who is not pure, who is stained with pride, who pays court to the king’s enemies, who indulges in brag, who is unfriendly, wrathful, and covetous should not be consulted by the king. One who is a stranger, even if he be devoted to the king and possessed of great learning, may be honoured by the king and gratified with assignment of the means of sustenance, but the king should never consult him in his affairs. A person whose sire was unjustly banished by royal edict should not be consulted by the king even if the king may have subsequently bestowed honours upon him and assigned to him the means of sustenance. A well-wisher whose property was once confiscated for a slight transgression, even if he be possessed of every accomplishment should not still be consulted by the king. A person possessed of wisdom, intelligence, and learning, who is born within the kingdom, who is pure and righteous in all his acts, deserves to be consulted by the king. One who is endued with knowledge and wisdom, who is acquainted with the dispositions of his friends and foes, who is such a friend of the king as to be his second self, deserves to be consulted. One who is truthful in speech and modest and mild and who is a hereditary servant of the king, deserves to be consulted. One who is contented and honoured, who is truthful and dignified, who hates wickedness and wicked men, who is conversant with policy and the requirements of time, and who is courageous, deserves to be consulted by the king. One who is competent to win over all men by conciliation should be consulted, O monarch, by the king that is desirous of ruling according to the dictates of the science of chastisement. One upon whom the inhabitants of both the capital and the provinces repose confidence for his righteous conduct, who is competent to fight and conversant with the rules of policy, deserves to be consulted by the king. Therefore, men possessed of such qualities, men conversant with the dispositions of all and desirous of achieving high acts, should be honoured by the king and made his ministers. Their number also should not be less than three.[3] Ministers should be employed in observing the laches of their masters, of themselves, of the subjects, and of the foes of their master. The kingdom has its root in the counsels of policy that flow from ministers, and its growth proceeds from the same source. Ministers should act in such a way that the enemies of their master may not be able to detect his laches. On the other hand, when their laches become visible, they should then be assailed. Like the tortoise protecting its limbs by withdrawing them within its shell, ministers should protect their own counsels. They should, even thus, conceal their own laches. Those ministers of a kingdom that succeed in concealing their counsels are said to be possessed of wisdom. Counsels constitute the armour of a king, and the limbs of his subjects and officers. A kingdom is said to have its roots in spies and secret agents, and its strength is said to lie in counsels of policy. If masters and ministers follow each other for deriving support from each other, subduing pride and wrath, and vanity and envy, they may then both become happy. A king should also consult with such ministers as are free from the five kinds of deceit. Ascertaining well, in the first instance, the different opinions of the three amongst them whom he has consulted, the king should, for subsequent deliberation, repair to his preceptor for informing him of those opinions and his own. His preceptor should be a Brahmana well versed in all matters of virtue, profit, and pleasure. Repairing, for such subsequent deliberation, to him, the king should, with collected mind, ask his opinion. When a decision is arrived at after deliberation with him, the king should then, without attachment, carry it out into practice. They that are conversant with the conclusions of the science of consultation say that kings should always hold consultation in this way. Having settled counsels in this way, they should then be reduced to practice, for then they will be able to win over all the subjects. There should be no dwarfs, no humpbacked persons, no one of an emaciated constitution, no one who is lame or blind, no one who is an idiot, no woman, and no eunuch, at the spot where the king holds his consultations. Nothing should move there before or behind, above or below, or in transverse directions. Getting up on a boat, or repairing to an open space destitute of grass or grassy bushes and whence the surrounding land may be clearly seen, the king should hold consultations at the proper time, avoiding faults of speech and gestures.'"

Footnotes and references:


i.e., as long as they are paid and have in their hands what has been given to them.


i.e., shows these virtues in his conduct.


Tryavarah is explained by Nilakantha as "not less than three." The number laid down generally is five. In no case it should be less than three.


This concludes Section LXXXIII of Book 12 (Shanti 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 12 is one of the eighteen books comprising roughly 100,000 Sanskrit metrical verses.

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