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...


"Bhishma said, 'Then upon the expiration of the great Kalpa, when the celestial Purohita Vrihaspati was born in the race of Angiras, all the deities became very happy. The words, Vrihat, Brahma, and Mahat all bear the same sense.[1] The celestial Purohita, O king came to be called Vrihaspati because he was endued with all these attributes. King Uparicara, otherwise called Vasu, became a disciple of Vrihaspati and soon became the foremost of his disciples. Admitted as such, he began to study at the feet of his preceptor that science which was composed by the seven Rishis who were (otherwise) known by the name of Citrasikhandins. With soul cleansed from all sorts of evil by sacrifices and other religious rites, he ruled the Earth like Indra ruling the Heaven. The illustrious king performed a great Horse-sacrifice in which his preceptor Vrihaspati became the Hota. The sons of Prajapati (Brahman) themselves, viz., Ekata, Dwita, and Trita, became the Sadasyas in that sacrifice.[2] There were others also who became Sadasyas in that sacrifice, viz., Dhanusha, Raivya, Arvavasu, Parvavasu, the Rishi Medhatithi, the great Rishi Tandya, the blessed Rishi Santi, otherwise called Vedasiras, the foremost of Rishis, viz., Kapila, who was the father of Salihotra, the first Kalpa, Tittiri the elder brother of Vaisampayana, Kanva, and Devahotra, in all forming sixteen. In that great sacrifice, O monarch, all the requisite articles were collected. No animals were slain in it. The king had ordained it so. He was full of compassion. Of pure and liberal mind, he had cast off all desires, and was well-conversant with all rites. The requisites of that sacrifice all consisted of the products of the wilderness. The ancient God of gods (viz., Hari), became highly gratified with the king on account of that sacrifice. Incapable of being seen by any one else, the great God showed himself to his worshipper. Accepting by taking its scent, the share offered to him he himself took up the Purodasa.[3] The great God took up the offerings without being seen by any one. At this, Vrihaspati became angry. Taking up the ladle he hurled it with violence at the sky, and began to shed tears in wrath. Addressing king Uparicara he said,—Here, I place this as Narayana’s share of the sacrificial offerings. Without doubt, he shall take it before my eyes.

"Yudhishthira said, 'In the great sacrifice of Uparicara, all the deities appeared in their respective forms for taking their shares of the sacrificial offerings and were seen by all. Why is it that the puissant Hari only acted otherwise by invisibly taking his share?'

"Bhishma continued, 'When Vrihaspati gave way to wrath, the great king Vasu and all his Sadasyas sought to pacify the great Rishi. With cool heads, all of them addressed Vrihaspati, saying,—It behoves you not to give way to anger. In this Krita age, this anger to which you have given way, should not be the characteristic of any one. The great deity for whom the share of the sacrificial offerings was designed by you, is himself free from anger. He is incapable of being seen either by ourselves or by you, O Vrihaspati! Only he can see Him to whom He becomes gracious.—Then the Rishis Ekata, Dwita, and Trita, who were well conversant with the science of morality and duties compiled by the seven Rishis, addressed that conclave and began the following narration.—We are the sons of Brahman, begotten by a fiat of his will (and not in the ordinary way). Once on a time we repaired to the north for obtaining what is for our highest good. Having undergone penances for thousands of years and acquired great ascetic merit, we again stood on only one foot like fixed stakes of wood. The country where we underwent the austerest of penances, lies to the north of the mountains of Meru and on the shores of the Ocean of Milk. The object we had in mind was how to behold the divine Narayana in his own form. Upon the completion of our penances and after we had performed the final ablutions, an incorporeal voice was heard by us, O puissant Vrihaspati, at once deep as that of the clouds and exceedingly sweet and filling the heart with joy. The voice said,—You Brahmanas, well have you performed these penances with cheerful souls. Devoted unto Narayana, you seek to know how you may succeed in beholding that god of great puissance! On the northern shores of the Ocean of Milk there is an island of great splendour called by the name of White Island. The men that inhabit that island have complexions as white as the rays of the Moon and that are devoted to Narayana. Worshippers of that foremost of all Beings, they are devoted to Him with their whole souls. They all enter that eternal and illustrious deity of a thousand rays.[4] They are divested of senses. They do not subsist on any kind of food. Their eyes are winkless. Their bodies always emit a fragrance. Indeed, the denizens of White Island believe and worship only one God. Go thither, you ascetics, for there I have revealed myself!—All of us, hearing these incorporeal words, proceeded by the way indicated to the country described. Eagerly desirous of beholding Him and our hearts full of Him, we arrived at last at that large island called White Island. Arrived there, we could see nothing. Indeed, our vision was blinded by the energy of the great deity and accordingly we could not see Him.[5] At this, the idea, due to the grace of the great God Himself, arose in our minds that one that had not undergone sufficient penances could not speedily behold Narayana. Under the influence of this idea we once more set ourselves to the practice of some severe austerities, suited to the time and place, for a hundred years. Upon the completion of our vows, we beheld a number of men of auspicious features. All of them were white and looked like the Moon (in colour) and possessed of every mark of blessedness. Their hands were always joined in prayer. The faces of some were turned towards the North and of some towards the East. They were engaged in silently thinking on Brahma.[6] The Yapa performed by those high-souled persons was a mental yapa (and did not consist of the actual recitation of any mantras in words). In consequence of their hearts having been entirely set upon Him, Hari became highly pleased with them. The effulgence that was emitted by each of those men resembled, O foremost of ascetics, the splendours which Surya assumes when the time comes for the dissolution of the universe. Indeed, we thought that Island was the home of all Energy. All the inhabitants were perfectly equal in energy. There was no superiority or inferiority there among them.[7] We then suddenly beheld once more a light arise, that seemed to be the concentrated effulgence of a thousand Suns, O Vrihaspati. The inhabitants, assembling together, ran towards that light, with hands joined in reverential attitude, full of joy, and uttering the one word Namas (we bow you!) We then heard a very loud noise uttered by all of them together. It seemed that those men were employed in offering a sacrifice to the great God. As regards ourselves, we were suddenly deprived of our senses by his Energy. Deprived of vision and strength and all the senses, we could not see or feel anything.[8] We only heard a loud volume of sound uttered by the assembled inhabitants. It said,—Victory to you, O you of eyes like lotus-petals! Salutations to you, O Creator of the universe! Salutations to you, O Hrishikesa, O foremost of Beings, O you that art the First-born! Even this was the sound we heard, uttered distinctly and agreeably to the rules of orthoepy.[9] Meanwhile, a breeze, fragrant and pure, blew, bearing perfumes of celestial flowers, and of certain herbs and plants that were of use on the occasion. Those men, endued with great devotion, possessed of hearts full of reverence, conversant with the ordinances laid down in the Pancaratra, were then worshipping the great deity with mind, word, and deed.[10] Without doubt, Hari appeared in that place whence the sound we heard arose. As regards ourselves, stupefied by His illusion, we could not see him. After the breeze had ceased and the sacrifice had been over, our hearts became agitated with anxiety, O foremost one of Angira’s race. As we stood among those thousands of men all of whom were of pure descent, no one honoured us with a glance or nod. Those ascetics, all of whom were cheerful and filled with devotion and who were all practising the Brahma-frame of mind, did not show any kind of feeling for us.[11] We had been exceedingly tired. Our penances had emaciated us. At that time, an incorporeal Being addressed us from the sky and said unto us these words—These white men, who are divested of all outer senses, are competent to behold (Narayana). Only those foremost of regenerate persons whom these white men honoured with their glances, become competent to behold the great God.[12] Go hence, you Munis, to the place whence you have come. That great Deity is incapable of being ever seen by one that is destitute of devotion. Incapable of being seen in consequence of his dazzling effulgence, that illustrious Deity can be beheld by only those persons that in course of long ages succeed in devoting themselves wholly and solely to Him. You foremost of regenerate one, you have a great duty to per-form. After the expiration of this the Krita age, when the Treta age comes in course of the Vivasvat cycle, a great calamity will overtake the worlds. You Munis, you shall then have to become the allies of the deities (for dispelling that calamity).—Having heard these wonderful words that were sweet as nectar, we soon got back to the place we desired, through the grace of that great Deity. When with the aid of even such austere penances and of offerings devoutly given in sacrifices, we failed to have a sight of the great Deity, how, indeed, can you expect to behold Him so easily? Narayana is a Great Being, He is the Creator of the universe. He is adorned in sacrifices with offerings of clarified butter and other food dedicated with the aid of Vedic mantras. He has no beginning and no end. He is Unmanifest. Both the Deities and the Danavas worship Him.—Induced by these words spoken by Ekata and approved by his companions, viz., Dwita and Trita, and solicited also by the other Sadasyas, the high-minded Vrihaspati brought that sacrifice to a completion after duly offering the accustomed adorations to the Deities. King Uparicara also, having completed his great sacrifice, began to rule his subjects righteously. At last, casting off his body, he ascended to heaven. After some time, through the curse of the Brahmanas, he fell down from those regions of felicity and sank deep into the bowels of the Earth. King Vasu, O tiger among monarchs, was always devoted to the true religion. Although sunk deep into the bowels of the Earth, his devotion to virtue did not abate. Ever devoted to Narayana, and ever reciting sacred mantras having Narayana for their deity, he once more ascended to heaven through Narayana’s grace. Ascending from the bowels of the Earth, king Vasu in consequence of the very highest end that he attained, proceeded to a spot that is even higher than the region of Brahman himself.'"[13]

Footnotes and references:


Paryaya literally means a list. The fact is, in all Sanskrit lexicons words expressive of the same meanings occur together. These lists are known by the name of Paryaya. A more definite idea of the meaning of this word may be had by the English reader when he remembers that in a lexicon like Roget’s Thesaurus, groups are given of words expressive of the same signification. Such groups are called Paryayas.


The Hotri has to pour libations on the sacrificial fire, reciting mantras the while. Sadasyas are persons that watch the sacrifice, i.e., take care that the ordinances of the scriptures are duly complied with. They are, what is called, Vidhidarsinas.


Clarified butter offered in sacrifices, with cakes of powdered barley steeped in it.


Professor Weber supposes that in this narrative of the three Rishis Ekata, Dwita, and Trita, the poet is giving a description of either Italy or some island in the Mediterranean, and of a Christian worship that certain Hindu pilgrims might have witnessed. Indeed, a writer in the Calcutta Review has gone so far as to say that from what follows, the conjecture would not be a bold one that the whole passage refers to the impression made on certain Hindu pilgrims upon witnessing the celebration of the Eucharist according to the ordinances of the Roman Catholic Church. The HonÂ’ble K. P. Telang supposes that the whole passage is based on the poets imagination. Ekantabhavepagatah is taken by some to mean worshippers of the divine Unity. I do not think that such a rendering would be correct.


The Bombay reading is tadapratihato abhavat. This seems to be better than the Bengal reading tato-apratihata. If the Bengal reading be adhered to, apratihatah should be taken in the sense of nasti pratihatoyasmat. The meaning, of course, would remain the same.


Yapa means the silent recitation of certain sacred mantras or of the name of some deity. In the case of the inhabitants of White Island, the silent recitation was no recitation of mantras or words, but was a meditation on incorporeal Brahma. The next verse makes this clear.


This would seem to show that it was the Roman Republic which the pilgrims saw.


Professor Weber thinks that this has reference to the absence of idols or images. The pilgrims saw no deities there such as they had in their own temples.


Professor Weber wrongly renders the words Purvaja and sikshaksharaiamanvitah. The first word does not, as he renders it, imply, eldest son of God, but simply first-born. It is seen in almost every hymn in the Mahabharata to the Supreme Deity. It is synonymous with Adipurusha. Then siksha etc. does not, as he thinks, mean 'accompanied by teaching, but it is the science of Orthoepy and is one of the Angas (limbs) of the Vedas. The Vedas were always chanted melodiously, the science of Orthoepy was cultivated by the Rishis with great care.


The Panca-kala, or Panca-ratra, or Sattvatas vidhi, means certain ordinances laid down by Narada and other Rishis in respect of the worship of Narayana.


The sense is this; as all of them were practising that frame of mind which resembles Brahma, they did not regard us, I.e., neither honoured nor dishonoured us.


Both the vernacular translators have erred in rendering this simple verse.


The construction seems to be this: Parangatimanuprapta iti Brahmanah samanantaram naishthikam sthanam, etc. It does not mean, as K. P. Singha puts it, that he proceeded to Brahman’s region, nor, as the Burdwan translator puts it, that having gone to Brahman’s region he attained to the highest end. The sense, on the other hand, is that as his was the very highest end, he, therefore, ascended to a spot that is higher than Brahman’s region. The simple meaning is that king Uparicara attained to identification with Brahma.


This concludes Section CCCXXXVII 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.

Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: