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, indeed, is good for a man that is sunk in dire distress, when loss of friends or loss of kingdom, O monarch has occurred? In this world, O bull of Bharata’s race, you are the foremost of our instructors. I ask you this. It behoves you to tell me what I ask.'

"Bhishma said, 'For one that has been deprived of sons and wives and pleasures of every kind and wealth, and that has been plunged into dire distress, fortitude is of the highest good, O king! The body is never emaciated of one that is always possessed of fortitude. Grieflessness bears happiness within it, and also health that is a superior possession. In consequence again of this health of body, once may again acquire prosperity. That wise man, O sire, who adheres to a course of righteous conduct (while afflicted by distress) succeeds in acquiring prosperity, patience, and perseverance in the accomplishment of all his objects. In this connection is once more cited the old narrative of the discourse between Vali and Vasava, O Yudhishthira! After the battle between the gods and the Asuras, in which a large number of Daityas and Danavas fell, had come to an end. Vali became king. He was deceived by Vishnu who once more established his sway over all the worlds. He, of a hundred sacrifices was once more invested with the sovereignty of the deities. After the rule of the deities had thus been re-established, and the four orders of men had been re-established in the practice of their respective courses of duty, the three worlds once more swelled with prosperity, and the Self-born became glad at heart. At that time, accompanied by the Rudras, the Vasus, the Adityas, the Asvins, the celestial Rishis, the Gandharvas, the Siddhas, and other superior orders of beings, the puissant Sakra, seated in splendour on his four-tusked prince of elephants, called Airavata, made a progress through all the worlds. One day, while thus engaged, the wielder of the thunderbolt beheld Virocana’s son Vali within a certain mountain cave on the sea-shore. Seeing the prince of Danavas, he approached him. Beholding the chief of the deities, viz., Indra, thus seated on the back of Airavata and surrounded by the several orders of the celestials, the prince of the Daityas showed no signs of sorrow or agitation. Indra also, seeing Vali staying unmoved and fearless, addressed him from the back of his foremost of elephants, saying, 'How is it, O Daitya, that you are so unmoved? Is it due to your heroism or your having waited with reverence upon aged persons? Is it due to your mind having been cleansed by penances? To whatever cause it may be due, this frame of mind is certainly very difficult of attainment. Hurled from a position that was certainly the highest, you are now divested of all your possessions, and you have been brought under the sway of your foes. O son of Virocana, what is that by having recourse to which you dost not grieve although the occasion is for grief? Formerly, when you were invested with the sovereignty of your own order, unrivalled pleasures were thine. Now, however, you are divested of your wealth and jewels and sovereignty. Tell us why you are so unmoved. You were before this a god, seated on the throne of your sire and grandsires. Beholding thyself stripped today by your foes, why dost you not grieve? You are bound in Varuna’s noose and hast been struck with my thunderbolt. Your wives have been taken away and your wealth also. Tell us why you dost not indulge in grief. Divested of prosperity and fallen away from affluence, you indulgest not in grief. This, indeed, is something that is very remarkable. Who else, O Vali, than one like you, could venture to bear the burthen of existence after being shorn of the sovereignty of the three worlds?' Hearing without any pain these and other cutting speeches that Indra addressed to him, asserting the while his own superiority over him, Vali, the son of Virocana, fearlessly answered his interrogator, saying the following words.'

"Vali said, 'When calamities have oppressed me, O Sakra, what dost you gain by such brag now? Today I behold you, O Purandara, stand before me with the thunderbolt upraised in your hand! Formerly, however, you couldst not bear thyself so. Now you have by some means gained that power. Indeed, who else than you could utter such cruel speeches? That person who, though able to punish, shows compassion towards a heroic foe vanquished and brought under his sway, is truly a very superior individual. When two persons fight, victory in the battle is certainly dubious. One of the two certainly becomes victorious, and the other becomes vanquished. O chief of the deities, let not your disposition be such! Do not imagine that you have become the sovereign of all creatures after having conquered all with your might and prowess! That we have become so is not, O Sakra, the result of any act of ours.[1] That you have become so, O wielder of the thunderbolt, is not the result of any act of thine. What I am now you will be in the future. Do not disregard me, thinking that you have done an exceedingly difficult feat. A person obtains happiness and misery one after another in course of Time. You have, O Sakra, obtained the sovereignty of the universe in course of Time but not in consequence of any especial merit in you. It is Time that leads me on in his course. That same Time leads you also onward. It is for this that I am not what you are today, and you also art not what we are! Dutiful services done to parents, reverential worship of deities, due practice of any good quality,—none of these can bestow happiness on any one. Neither knowledge, nor penances, nor gifts, nor friends, nor kinsmen can rescue one that is afflicted by Time. Men are incapable of averting, by even a thousand means, an impending calamity. Intelligence and strength go for nothing in such cases. There is no rescuer of men that are afflicted by Time’s course. That you, O Sakra, regarded thyself as the actor lies at the root of all sorrow. If the ostensible doer of an act is the real actor thereof, that doer then would not himself be the work of some one else (viz., the Supreme Being). Hence, because the ostensible doer is himself the product of another, that another is the Supreme Being above whom there is nothing higher. Aided by Time I had vanquished you. Aided by Time you have vanquished me. It is Time that is the mover of all beings that move. It is Time that destroys all beings. O Indra, in consequence of your intelligence being of the vulgar species you seest not that destruction awaits all things. Some, indeed, regard you highly as one that has acquired by his own acts the sovereignty of the universe. For all that, how can one like us that know the course of the world, indulge in grief in consequence of having been afflicted by Time, or suffer our understanding to be stupefied, or yield to the influence of error? Shall my understanding or that of one like me, even when we are overwhelmed by Time, coming in contact with a calamity, suffer itself to be destroyed like a wrecked vessel at sea?[2] Myself, thyself, and all those who will in future become the chiefs of the deities, shall have, O Sakra, to go the way along which hundreds of Indras have gone before you. When your hour matures itself, Time will surely destroy you like me,—you that art now so invincible and that now blazest with unrivalled splendour. In Time’s course many thousands of Indras and of deities have been swept off yuga after yuga. Time, indeed, is irresistible. Having attained to your present position, you regardest thyself very highly, even as the Creator of all beings, the divine and eternal Brahman. This position of thine had been attained by many before you. With none did it prove stable or unending. In consequence, however, of a foolish understanding, you alone regardest it to be immutable and eternal. You trustest in that which is not deserving of trust. You deemest that to be eternal which is not eternal. O chief of the deities, one that is overwhelmed and stupefied by Time really regards oneself after this manner. Led by folly you regardest your present regal prosperity to be thine. Know, however, that it is never stable in respect of either you or me or others. It had belonged to innumerable persons before you. Passing over them, it has now become thine. It will stay with you, O Vasava, for some time and then prove its instability. Like a cow abandoning one drinking ditch for another, it will surely desert you for somebody else. So many sovereigns have gone before you that I venture not to make an enumeration. In the future also, O Purandara, innumerable sovereigns will rise after you. I do not behold those rulers now that had formerly enjoyed this earth with her trees and plants and gems and living creatures and waters and mines. Prithu, Aila, Maya, Bhima, Naraka, Samvara, Asvagriva, Puloman, Svarbhanu, whose standard was of immeasurable height, Prahlada, Namuchi, Daksha, Vippracitti, Virocana, Hrinisheva, Suhotra, Bhurihan, Pushavat, Vrisha, Satyepsu, Rishava, Vahu, Kapilasva, Virupaka, Vana, Kartasvara, Vahni, Visvadanshtra, Nairiti, Sankocha, Varitaksha, Varaha, Asva, Ruciprabha, Visvajit, Pratirupa, Vrishanda, Vishkara, Madhu, Hiranyakasipu, the Danava Kaitabha, and many others that were Daityas and Danavas and Rakshasas, these and many more unnamed, belonging to remote and remoter ages, great Daityas and foremost of Danavas, whose names we have heard,—indeed, many foremost of Daityas of former times,—having gone away, leaving the Earth. All of them were afflicted by Time. Time proved stronger than all of them. All of them had worshipped the Creator in hundreds of sacrifices. You are not the one person that hast done so. All of them were devoted to righteousness and all of them always performed great sacrifices. All of them were capable of roaming through the skies, and all were heroes that never showed their backs in battle. All of them had very strong frames and all had arms that resembled heavy bludgeons. All of them were masters of hundreds of illusions, and all could assume any form they wished. We have never heard that having engaged themselves in battle any of them had ever sustained a defeat. All were firm observers of the vow of truth, and all of them sported as they wished. Devoted to the Vedas and Vedic rites, all of them were possessors of great learning. Possessed of great might, all of them had acquired the highest prosperity and affluence. But none of those high-souled sovereigns had the least tincture of pride in consequence of sovereignty. All of them were liberal, giving unto each what each deserved. All of them behaved properly and duly towards all creatures. All of them were the offspring of Daksha’s daughters. Endued with great strength, all were lords of the creation. Scorching all things with the energy all of them blazed with splendour. Yet all of them were swept off by time. As regards you, O Sakra, it is evident that when you shalt have, after enjoying the earth, to leave her, you will not be able to control your grief. Cast off this desire that you cherishest for objects of affection and enjoyment. Cast off this pride that is born of prosperity. If you actest in this manner, you will then be able to bear the grief that attends the loss of sovereignty. When the hour of sorrow comes, do not yield to sorrow. Similarly, when the hour of joy comes, do not rejoice. Disregarding both the past and the future, live contentedly with the present. When Time that never sleeps came upon me that had always been heedful of my duties, turn your heart to the ways of peace, O Indra, for that same Time will very soon come over you! You piercest me with your words, and you seemest to be bent upon inspiring dread in me. Indeed, finding me collected, you regardest your own self very highly. Time had first assailed me. It is even now behind you. I was at first vanquished by Time. It was for that reason that you didst afterwards succeed in vanquishing me for which you roarest in pride thus. Formerly, when I happened to become angry, what person was there on earth that could stand before me in battle? Time, however, is stronger. He has overwhelmed me. It is for this reason, O Vasava, that you are able to stand before me! Those thousand (celestial years), that are the measure of your sway, will surely come to an end. You shalt then fall and your limbs will become as miserable as mine now even though I am possessed of mighty energy. I have fallen away from the high place that is occupied by the sovereign of the three worlds. You are now the actual Indra in heaven. In this delightful world of living beings, you are now, in consequence of Time’s course, an object of universal adoration. Canst you say what is that by having done which you have become Indra today and what also is that by having done which we have fallen off from the position we had? Time is the one creator and destroyer. Nothing else is cause (in the universe for the production of any effect). Decline, fall, sovereignty, happiness, misery, birth and death,—a learned person by encountering any of these neither rejoices nor indulges in sorrow. You, O Indra, knowest us. We also, O Vasava, know you. Why then dost you brag in this fashion before me, forgetting, O shameless one, that it is Time that has made you what you are? You didst thyself witness what my prowess was in those days. The energy and might I used to display in all my battles, furnish sufficient evidence. The Adityas, the Rudras, the Sadhyas, the Vasus, and the Maruts, O lord of Saci, were all vanquished by me. You knowest it well thyself, O Sakra, that in the great encounter between the gods and the Asuras, the assembled deities were quickly routed by me by the fury of my attack. Mountains with their forests and the denizens that lived in those forests, were repeatedly hurled by us. Many were the mountain summits with craggy edges that I broke on your head. What, however, can I do now? Time is incapable of being resisted. If it were not so, do not think that I would not have ventured to kill you with that thunderbolt of thine with even a blow of my fist. The present, however, is not the hour with me for the display of prowess. The hour that has come is such that I should adopt tranquillity now and tolerate everything. It is for this reason, O Sakra, that I put up with all this insolence of thine. Know, however, that I am less able to bear insolence than even you. You braggest before one who, upon his time having matured, is surrounded on all sides by Time’s conflagration and bound strongly in Time’s cords. Yonder stands that dark individual who is incapable of being resisted by the world. Of fierce form, he stands there, having bound me like an inferior animal bound with cords. Gain and loss, happiness and misery, lust and wrath, birth and death, captivity and release,—these all one encounters in Time’s course. I am not the actor. You are not the actor. He is the actor who, indeed, is omnipotent. That Time ripens me (for throwing me down) like a fruit that has appeared on a tree. There are certain acts by doing which one person obtains happiness in Time’s course. By doing those very acts another obtains misery in the course of Time. Versed as I am with the virtues of Time, it behoves me not to indulge in grief when it is Time that has assailed me. It is for this reason, O Sakra, that I do not grieve. Grief cannot do us any good. The grief of one that indulges in grief never dispels one’s calamity. On the other hand, grief destroys one’s power. It is for this that I do not indulge in grief.'

"Thus addressed by the chief of the Daityas, he of a hundred sacrifices, viz., the puissant and thousand-eyed chastiser of Paka, restrained his wrath and said these words.'

"Sakra said, 'Beholding this upraised arm of mine, equipped with the thunderbolt, and those nooses of Varuna, who is there whose understanding would not be agitated, including the very Destroyer himself that compasses the death of all beings? Your understanding, however, so firm and so endued with vision of the truth, has not been agitated. O you of invincible prowess, verily, you are unmoved today in consequence of your fortitude. Beholding all things in this universe to be fleeting, who is there in it, endued with body, that would venture to repose confidence on either his body or all the objects of his desire? Like thyself I also know that this universe is not eternal, and that it has been thrown into Time’s conflagration that is dreadful though hidden from the view, that is continuously burning, and that is truly endless. Every one is assailed here by Time. Nothing among beings that are subtile or gross enjoys an immunity from Time’s sway. All things are being cooked in Time’s cauldron. Time has no master. Time is ever heedful. Time is always cooking all things within itself. No one who has once entered the domain of Time which is ceaselessly going on, can escape therefrom. All embodied beings may be heedless of Time, but Time is heedful and is broad awake behind them. No one has ever been seen to have driven off Time from him. Ancient and eternal, and the embodiment of justice, Time is uniform in respect of all living creatures. Time cannot be avoided, and there is no retrogression in its course. Like a usurer adding up his interest, Time adds up its subtile portions represented by kalas, and lavas, and kashthas, and kshanas, and months, and days and nights. Like the current of a river washing away a tree whose roots are reached by it, Time, getting at him who says, 'This I will do today but this other act I will do tomorrow' sweeps him away. Time sweeps away one and men exclaim, 'I saw him a little while ago. How has he died?' Wealth, comforts, rank, prosperity, all fall a prey to Time. Approaching every living creature, Time snatches away his life. All things that proudly raise their heads high are destined to fall down. That which is existent is only another form of the non-existent. Everything is transitory and unstable. Such a conviction is, however, difficult to come at. Your understanding, so firm and endued with true vision, is unmoved. You dost not, even mentally, realise what you were some time ago. Time that is strong, assailing the universe, cooks it within itself and sweeps away everything without consideration of seniority of years or the reverse. For all that, one that is being dragged by Time is unconscious of the noose thrown round one’s neck. People, given to jealousy and vanity and cupidity to lust, wrath, and fear, to desire, heedlessness, and pride, suffer themselves to be stupefied. You, however, art acquainted with the truth of existence. You are possessed of learning and endued with wisdom and penance. You behold Time as clearly as if it were an emblic myrobalan on the palm of your hand. O son of Virocana, fully conversant art you with the topic of Time’s conduct. You are well-versed in all branches of knowledge. You are of cleansed Soul and a thorough master of your persons. You are, for this, an object of affection with all persons endued with wisdom. You have, with your understanding, fully comprehended the whole universe. Though you have enjoyed every kind of happiness, you are never attached to anything, and hence you have not been stained by anything. The qualities of Passion and Darkness do not soil you for you have conquered your senses. You waitest only upon your Soul which is divested of both joy and sorrow. The friend of all creatures, without animosity, with your heart set upon tranquillity, beholding you thus, my heart is inclined to compassion towards you. I do not desire to afflict an enlightened person like you by keeping him in an enchained condition. Abstention from injury is the highest religion. I feel compassion towards you. These nooses of Varuna, with which you have been bound, will loosen Time’s course in consequence of the misconduct of men. Blessed be you, O great Asura! When the daughter-in-law will set the aged mother-in-law to work, when the son, through delusion, will command the sire to work for him, when Sudras will have their feet washed by Brahmanas and have sexual congress fearlessly with women of regenerate families, when men will discharge the vital seed into forbidden wombs, when the refuse of houses will begin to be carried upon plates and vessels made of white brass, and when sacrificial offerings intended for the deities will begin to be borne upon forbidden vessels, when all the four orders will transgress all restraints, then these bonds of thine will begin one by one, to loosen. From us you have no fear. Wait quietly. Be happy. Be divested of all sorrow. Let your heart be cheerful. Let no illness be thine.' Having said these words unto him, the divine Indra, having the prince of elephants for his vehicle, left that spot. Having vanquished all the Asuras, the chief of the deities rejoiced in gladness and became the one sole lord of all the worlds. The great Rishis hymned the praises of that lord of all mobile and immobile creatures. The deity of fire once more began to bear the libations of clarified butter that were poured (by all) into his visible form, and the great god took charge of the nectar that was committed to his care. His praises hymned by the foremost of Brahmanas engaged in sacrifices, the lord Indra, blazing with splendour, his wrath pacified, and his heart tranquillised, became gladdened, and returning to his own abode in heaven, began to pass his days in great happiness.'"[3]

Footnotes and references:


The we here is the pronoun of dignity, applying to the speaker only and not to both the speaker and the listener.


The sentence is an interrogative one. The Burdwan translator mistakes the Meaning. K.P. Singha is correct.


These things had not happened for many days in consequence of the wickedness of the Asuras. With the victory of Indra. sacrifices returned. and with them universal peace.


This concludes Section CCXXVII 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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