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C. V. VAIDYA, M.A., LL.B, 

Honorary Fellow of the University of Bombay. 
















WITH DRAUPADI. . . . .in 

BLAGE* 124 











,, ,, II THE SUB-PARVAS .... 

THE BHARATA . . . * . 




A CRITICAL study of the Mahabharata and the 
Rajnayana, in conjunction with other works 
bearing on the subject, has suggested to me 
several new ideas about them which I propose to 
place before the public in three instalments. The 
present volume contains my views on the Maha- 
bharata, considered from the literary and historical 
stand-points. If the views published in this 
volume impress the public favourably, I may be 
encouraged to publish a second volume giving my 
views on the Ramayana from the same stand- 
points. In a third volume I intend to take a 
survey of the social, religious and intellectual con- 
ditions of the Aryans of India between 3000 *and 
300 B.C, as evidenced by these venerable epics. 

"Sankshipta Mahabharata" or " Mahabharata; 
abridged/' a book recently published by me. if read 
along with this book, will be found to contain most 
of the original Shlokas of the Mahabharata on 
which this criticism is based. 

Owing to the haste with which this JDook 
was carried through the press, some errors of 


spelling have crept in, especially with regard to 
Sanskrit words, the spelling of which does not often 
conform to the now generally adopted rules of 
writing Sanskrit words in English characters. I 
hope the indulgent reader will overlook such 

It is just possible that some of my readers may 
have facts or arguments to advance againsMhe 
views propounded in this book views which at 
present seem to be unshakeable. If therefore any 
of my readers wish to communicate with me in 
addition to, or instead of, criticising the work 
in the press, such communications should be 
addressed to me, to the care of Mr. Yande, 
Manager of the Induprakash Press, to whom my 
thanks are due for the interest he took in the 
publication of this volume. 


BOMBAY, December 1904. 






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THAT the Mahabharata in Its present form is the second 

amplification of an orginally much smaller work, nobody 
can consistently deny. We have the authority of the 
Mahabharata itself for the statement that Vyasa, the 
author of the original work, taught it to five pupils, one 
of whom was Vaishampayana. Vaishampayana recited 
the poem before king Janmejaya at the time of theSarpa- 
satra (serpent sacrifice), performed by him. Now in the 
Mahabharata, as we have it, there are several questions 
asked by Janmejaya, and Vaishampayana: gives suitable 
answers. How can these questions and answers have 
formed part of the original epic composed by Vyasa ? 
I We must hold that Vaishampayana, or some one who 

I heard the recitation and the dialogue, amplified the 

I original work. Then, again, this amplified Bharata was 

I recited by Sauti before Shaunaka at his twelve years' 

sacrifice, and certain questions are asked by Shaunaka 
and answered by Sauti, These cannot have formed part 
either of the original work or the amplified edition of 
Vaishampayana. We are, therefore, compelled to admit 
that Sauti, or some one else who heard his recitation, 
amplified the original work a second time. 

The Mahdbharata : A Criticism. 


These three editions, if we may so call them, can 
further be proved by various other statements still pre- 
served in the Mahabharata itself, either by oversight or 
owing to absence of motive to expunge them. We 
have thus the statement that the work is supposed to 
have three beginnings. Some believe, it is said, that 
the Mahabharata begins with Uparichara, others with 
Astika, and others still with the word Manu. 1 Different 
lengths are also assigned to the work, and different 
divisions are also mentioned, and even different names 
can be easily discovered. We shall see how these 
different names, divisions and lengths can well be ex- 
plained on the theory that there were two amplifications 
of the original work. 

7 he Original Work.Tnv original epic was probably 
in its nature a history and not a didactic work. It is 
specially called an Itihasa or history, and the name 
which Vyasa g^ve to this history was Jaya or " Tri- 
umph'*. 2 The very first invocation verse contains a 
mention of this name "Tato jayamudirayet." We have 
the same name again given to the work in the last Parva 
alss. The length of this historical poem of Vyasa 
canjiot be ascertained with any exactness, though it is 
probable that it must have been a long one even then, 
considering the ambitious scheme of the author, the 
importance and the grandeur of the events described, 
and the facility with which Anushtub shlokas can 
be composed by a gifted author. MacDonell remarks 

1 Manvadi Bharatam kechidastikadi tathaparc. 
Tathoparicharadyanye viprah samyn#adhiy:ite~Adi, n-^a* 
2 Jayo nametihasoyam. Swargarohana Parva* 

The Three Editions of the Work. 3 

that the length of the original poem of Vyasa is men- 
tioned as 8,800 shlokas. This is in our opinion not 
true, and for this remark, perhaps, a foot-note in Weber 1 
is responsible. This figure 2 is given in the Mahabharata, 
as the number of Kuta shlokas or riddles, of which we 
shall have to speak hereafter, and not as the number of 
shlokas in the original Mahabharara itself. It is men- 
tioned in the Mahabharata that the industrious Krishna- 
dwaigayana or Vyasa composed his poem in three years, 
working day and night. It would be natural to expect 
that Vyasa would begin his work with an account of 
himself, and the idea that Bharata really begins with 
Uparichara seems very justifiable indeed. In the 
chapter preceding the 63rd Chapter which begins with 
u Rajoparicharo nama," a praise of the Mahabharata 
and some facts about its composition are given by Vai- 
shampayana which clearly shows that these 62 chapters in 
the Adi Parva are later additions made by either Vai- 
shampayana or Sauti. This does not mean that the work 
subsequent to Chapter 62 is in the words of Vyasa 
himself.. For, it seems probable that the whole has 
been so overhauled that it is impossible now to point 
to any portion of the succeeding work as the composition 
of the original author himself. 

The Second Edition. We now come to the second 
edition, w#., the edition of Vaishampayana, who^shas 
been stated before, was Vyasa's own pupil and was 

1 Foot-note 206, Weber, page 187. The same statement is 
given by Mr, Dutt. 

a Ashtau shloka sahasrani ashtau shloka sbatanicha 

Aham vedmi shuko vetti Sanjayo vetti va na va. Adi. 81-3. 

I 4 TheMahabharata:A Criticism. 

taught the Bharata along with four others, viz., Sumantu, 

Jaimini, Pailaand Shuka, the son of Vyasa. There is 

a statement in the Bharata itself that each one of these 

five pupils published a different edition of the Bharata. 

This is an express authority for us to hold that Vai~ 

shampayana almost recast the whole, and brought out his 

own version. That version is the only one now preserved 

to us, though we have one doubtful Ashwamedha Parva 

under the name of Jaimini. It seems, however, probable 

, I that five different versions were really extant in the clays 

n of Ashwalayana who has enumerated all these five 

,'i Rishis as Bharatacharyas or the editors of Bharata. 

j This also shows that Vaishampayana and his co-pupils' 

i; works first came to be called Bharata. The extent of 

L Vaishampayana's Bharata appears to have been 24,000 

' j verses ; for, there is a shloka in the Mahabharata that* 

;| Vyasa composed Bharata Samhita (this word is im- 

j portant) of that extent, and that work without its Upa~ 

I khyanas is called Bharata. In this Bharata there was 

; a summary chapter at the beginning, covering 150 

|j shlokas, in which the number of chapters and the Parvas 

;\ w r ere r also mentioned. Vaishampayana would naturally 

M begin his version with an account of Janmcjaya, and his 

Jt Sarpasatra, where he recited his poem, and thus we have 

'fj , r " tne second beginning assigned to the Mahabharata, wk, 

i with the Astikopakhyana. 

{ ! The Third Edition. We lastly come to the third 

edition of Sauti. That Sauti did recast or elaborate 
the work of Vaishampayana can be proved from his 
own lips. "Know ye, Rishis/ 1 says he, " I have 
recited the Bharata in one hundred thousand shlokas; 

The Three Editions of the Work. 5 

Vaishampayana being the first reciter in this human 
world." T This is a clear admission by Sauti of having 
recited the work of Vaishampayana in one lac of shlokas. 

The chapters which precede the Astika story cannot 
have formed part of Vaisham pay ana's book, and thus we 
have the third beginning- assigned to the Mahabharata, 
mz., with the word Manu, B as properly applicable to Sauti's 
edition. This edition has come down to us nearly in 
the fom which Sauti gave to it. For anticipating* the 
modern idea of an edition, Sauti has added to his work 
a preface, an introduction and a table of contents. It 
thus assumed almost a fixed form. The present Maha- 
bharata, in fact, contains about a thousand less shlokas 
than the number given by Sauti (96,836, see Appendix 
No. i), though additional shlokas and chapters are found 
here and there. The commentator generally notkes the 
excess, if any, at the end of a Parva, and strangely 
enough, ascribes it to the mistake of writers. Such 
shlokas and chapters in excess are chiefly to be found 
in the Adi and the Drona Parvas.s 

In addition to the preface in which Sauti gives the 
occasion when, and the place where this recast l^fafya- 
bharata was recited, Sauti gives us an introduction, 
giving a summary, as it were, of the long story by the 
mouth of Dhritarashtra. The 69 shlokas, all beginning 

1 Asminslu manushc lokc Vaishampayana uktavan * 

Ekam shatasahasramtu mayoktam vai nibodhata. Adi. 1-107. 

y There is no shloka beginning- with Manu in the Adi Parva, but 
the commentator takes it as identical with Vaivaswat.- Adi. i. 

a For instance, at the end of Adi Parva the commentator says 
that there are 237 chapters in the Parva instead of 5527, mentioned 
by Vyasa. 

* I 
' I 

6 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

with " Yadashrausham, " to be found in the first chapter, 
cannot have formed part of the original introduction, 
and being- in long metre, are evidently an addition 
made by Sauti. This is, however, a very ingenious 
way of summarising a story from the mouth of one of 
the actors themselves. There was a short summary of 
the Bharata given by Vaishampayana, as has already 
been remarked, but that chapter was only in 150 shlokas, 
while the present chapter exceeds by many sUlokas,, 
and this is a further proof of the whole chapter having 
nearly been recast by Sauti. 

Sauti probably gave the work the name of Maha- 
bharata first. Bharata and Mahabharata arc names 
separately mentioned by Ashwalayana, and we arc not 
stretching our guess too far when we assign the name of 
Bharata to the work of Vaishampayana, and appropriate 
the latter name to Sauti's voluminous edition. For, 
Sauti himself has said that the name Mahabharafa was 
given to the work owing to its greatness and its weight* 
Weber again has pointed out that the name Maha- 
bharata occurs in Panini, but with an entirely different 
signification (viz., a great Bharata warrior). As Panini 
mentions Yudhishthira and other names familiar to the 
Bharata story, we have another proof in support of the 
idea that the name Mahabharata, as applied to the poem, 
had r^o existence in the days of Panini. 

Sauti adopted a new division for this now bulky poem, 

and divided it into 18 Parvas. Another division is 

mentioned in the Mahabharata itself, which has the 

same name of Parva, though the number is greater. 

1 Mahatvatbharatatvachcha Mahabhamtamuchyate, 

The Three Editions of the Work. 7 

It is impossible that these two divisions could have 
been made at one and the same time, and by one and 
the same author ; for, in that case, the greater and 
smaller divisions would certainly have been called by 
different names. For example, if a work is divided into 
books, the sub-divisions of the latter cannot be called by 
the same name of books, but will have to be styled 
chapters or sections. We should, at least, expect that 
the w.ord " smaller" would be attached to the sub- 
divisions. This clearly shows that Vaishampayana's 
work was not divided into 18 Parvas, but into a large 
number of smaller divisions, which were called Parvas 
by him. Sauti adopted a larger and more suitable 
division, but retained the same name of Parva. We 
have thus sometimes the absurdity of a sub-Parva having 
the same name as the big Parva, e.g., there is a Sauptika 
Parva under the big Sauptika Parva, a Sabha Parva 
under the bigger Sabha Parva. These Parvas are again 
subdivided into Adhyayas or chapters. Vyasa's origi- 
nal work was presumably divided into Parvas and 
Adhyayas also, but the number of Parvas was most 
likely less than 100, the number assigned to Vaisham- 
payana's edition. As usual, we have strong confirmation 
of this view in the Mahabharata itself. In Chapter II, 
Adi Parva, where the hundred Parvas are given, we are 
told that the Harivamsha 1 is a Khila Parva, i.e., a Parva 
bdtrowed from another place. The HarivamsTba, it 
follows, did not form part of Vyasa's work, and was 
brought in by Vaishampayana. No doubt, the story of 

1 Hanvanishastatah parva puranam khila samjnitam 
Etatparva shatam purnam Vyasenoktam mabatmana. 

8 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

the Mahabharata war does not look complete without a 
Parva giving the life and exploits of Shri Krishna, in 
the same way as. the story of the Ramayana would not 
have been complete without an account of Ravana's life 
and exploits; and the Harivamsha stands to the 
Bharata in the same relation as the Uttarkanda stands 
to the Ramayana. Harivamsha, contrary to the Uttar- 
kanda, however, is usually left out of the Mahabharata, 
which stands by itself and ends as if nothing is tojfollow 
it. The hundred Parvas of Vaishampayana, still retained 
n the Mahabharata, are given in the appendix. The 
number of Parvas, as they are enumerated in the Adi 
Parva, Chapter I, certainly exceeds one hundred, and 
this is itself sufficient to show that the Bharata of 
Vaishampayana was amplified by Sauti. These hundred 
Parvas Sauti put together in 18, as he himself admits. 
For, he says, " these hundred Parvas " were composed 
by Vysa, but thereafter Lomaharshani, the son of Suta, 
recited 18 Parvas only in the Naimisharanya. 

To summarise the above, the present Mahabharata is, 
as it were, a redaction of Vyasa's historical poem called 
" Triumph" edited by Vaishampayana as Bharata, and 
reprinted or reissued by Sauti, with notes and additions, 
and with an introduction and a table of contents prefixed 
to it. . We shall now pass on to discuss whether these 
reputed authors were real beings. 


THE author of the original epic is generally believed 
to be.Vyas, whose personality is doubted by many. 
Now we have already seen that the final redaction was 
made by Sauti, and not by Vyasa. There is, more- 
over, no reason why a general tradition should not be 
believed if it is not absurd or impossible in itself, or is 
not disproved by contradictory cogent arguments. 
Vyasa is believed to have arranged the Vedas, 1 and not 
the Mahabharata. That there was really a Rishi by 
name Vyasa Parasharya we find from the Black Yajuh 
Kathaka. What part he took in the events of the Maha- 
bharata, and when he lived, we shall discuss later 'on. 
But there is no reason to doubt that he wrote a history of 
the war between the Kurus and the Panchalas from per- 
sonal knowledge. The work evidently bears the impress 
of a narration by one who had an intimate acquaintance 
with the events it describes. Characters and people are 
described with a vivacity and truthfulness which can 
only belong to the evidence of an eye-witness. Names, 
such as Srinjayas, are often mentioned without any in- 
troduction or description, much in the way of a contem- 
porary narrator who is never struck with the necessity 
of such an introduction or description. It is generally 
1 Vedam vivyasa yasxnattu Vyasa ityabhidheeyate. 


The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

,,( admitted that the actors in the Mahabharata strike us 

I' as real living beings. This is so, it will be admitted, 

\ because there is a nucleus in the poem which is the 

I composition of one who knows, and not of one who 

\ imagines. Nay you sometimes come across state- 

I ments of facts and sentiments which, like fossils not 

yet obliterated, give a clue to a real by-gone age. 
In short, we think, that there is ample ground to be- 
lieve that there was an original author, who wrote from 
personal knowledge, and that there is no harm in be- 
lieving that that author was Vyasa Parasharya. 

Vaishampayana is represented as a pupil of Vyasa. 
Looking to the tradition that he recited his poern before 
Janmejaya, the great-grandson of Arjuna, Vyasa's con- 
temporary, this relation does not seem impossible. 
That he was a real person may also be granted from 
the fact that his name is mentioned as an Acharya of 
Bharata by Ashwalayana. The evidence of language 
also is very important in this connection. Although 
the language of the whole Mahabharata strikes us as 
old, and differs distinctly from classical Sanskrit, within 
thp Mahabharata itself there are certain portions the 
language of which looks more ancient than that of 
others. It is deep, sonorous and weighty in its very 
simplicity. Its grammar and construction are archaic. 
It strikes us as the language of an adept using a spoken 
tongue. We may instance the Bhagwat Gita, which, 
if not the composition of Vyasa, must, at least, be that 
of Vaishampayana, whose date, from the evidence of 
language, must not have been very distant from the 
date of the Upanishadas. 

Vyasa, Vaishampayana and Sauti. n 

We now come to Sauti, the last reciter of Mahabharata, 
His personality is not so clear as that of Vishampayana 
or Vyasa. He is sometimes styled in the Mahabharata 
itself as Suta only, and not the son of Suta. His name 
is given as Ugrashrava, the son of Lomaharshana. 
He is sometimes styled a Puranik, i.e., a reciter of 
Puranas. Strangely enough, in the Mahabharata there 
are two places where he is said to have come to Shaunak. 
In the very beginning of the poem we are told (the 
first sentence of the Mahabharata in prose) that Sauti 
Ugrashrava, son of Lomaharshana, came to Shaunak 
Kulapati while he was engaged in a twelve years' 
sacrifice. Being asked whence he came, he said he 
came from the Sarpa-satra (serpent sacrifice) of Janme- 
jaya where he heard various stories from the Maha- 
bharata, composed by Vyasa and related by Vaisham- 
payana, and then he first went to see Kurukshetra or 
Syamanta Panchaka where the great battle was fought. 
At the beginning of Chapter IV, Adi Parva, we have 
the same sentence in prose again, and the story begins 
as if the previous 3 Adhyayas were not there. Shaunak 
here does not ask Sauti whence he came, but w s^ys 
"Your father learned the whole Purana formerly. 
Have you learned the same? If so, tell us the legend 
of the family of Bhrigus." Hereafter come the words 
" Suta uwacha, and not Sauti uwacha." This dj> es nbt 
make Suta a contemporary of Vaishampayana, but re- 
presents him merely as one who has studied the 

The commentator has seen the absurdity of these 
two beginnings, mz.> of Chapter I and of Chapter *IV, 

, I2 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

and gives the usual explanation based on the supposi- 
tion of two Sutas belonging to different Kalpas. Per- 
haps, there were actually two persons who laboured 
at the recasting of the Mahabharata into its present 
voluminous form, and they may have been related to 
each other as father and son. They were Puraniks 
or persons whose occupation it is to recite the Puranas. 
The commentator represents them as Brahmins, though 
the word Suta means a person born of a Brakmana 
woman from a Kshatriya. Probably the Sutas by caste 
followed the occupation of learning the Puranas or old 
stories by heart, and like the Bhatas of the present day 
rose in the estimation of the people. Sauti and his 
father were generally helped by their Puranik lore when 
recasting the Bharata into its present shape. When 
this recasting took place and with what purpose, we 
shall presently see. 


WEBER observes: "The first evidence of the existence 

of an epic with the contents of the Mahabharata comes 
to us from Rhetor Dion Chrysostom who flourished in 
the second half of the first century A.D. Since Megas- 
thenes says nothing of this epic, it is not an improbable 
hypothesis that its origin is to be placed between 
Megasthenes and Chrysostom." Weber, the only ble- 
mish of whose deep and really wonderful research is a 
kind of bias, has here forgotten that we have not the 
work of Megasthenes before us. That most valuable 
book has been lost. It is only from fragments of it 
quoted by others that we get some information about 
India as it was in 300 B.C. But even these fragments 
mention, as observed .by Weber himself, a Herackles 
and a Pandia, who can be identified as Krishna anci His 
sister. It thus appears clear that the Pandava legend 
was well known even in the days of Megasthenes (we 
shall return to this topic in the second book). It cannot, 
therefore, be believed with Weber that the origin 1>f the 
Mahabharata is to be placed between 300 B.C. and 50 
A.D. This is a very short period indeed for its birth 
as well as for its growth to such an enormous volume. It 
seems, however, probable that the last recasting 

14 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

Mahabharata by Sauti into its present shape took place 
between these dates. We have, on the one hand, the 
direct evidence of Dion Chrysostom that the Maha- 
bharata, with its one lac of verses, was well known 
even in the south of India in 50 A.D. Various argu- 
ments, on the other hand, can be adduced to prove that 
the Mahabharata in its present shape cannot be placed 
earlier than 300 B.C. The first and the foremost among 
them is the fact that the Yavanas are frequently men- 
tioned in the Mahabharata as a very powerful people. 
The Indians came into contact with the Yavanas or the 
Greeks, for the first time, in the days of Alexander, and 
their connection lasted from that time to about the 
beginning of the Christian Era. They often defeated the 
Indians in battle, though they were eventually driven 
out of India. The following shloka (one amongst 
many) shows how the Mahabharata looked upon the 
Yavanas admiringly : 

Na shahsaka vashi kartum yam Pandurapi viryavan 
Sorjunena vasham nito rajasidyavanadhipah. 
"The king of the Yavanas, whom even the powerful 
Pandu could not subdue, was- reduced to subjection 
by Arjuna." 

Again we have the mention of a Nagna Kshapanaka 
(naked Jain) in the Paushya Akhyana in the Adi Parva. 
The origin of Jainism is usually believed to have been 
laid Sy MaKabira about 500 B.C., i.e., about the same 
time as Buddhism. The Mahabharata does not directly 
refer to Buddhism or to any of its votaries. But this 
is not an argument to put it before Buddhism. Dis- 
cussions and discourses in the nature of Buddhistic 

When and why the Bharata was recast. 15 

controversies are hinted at in the Mokshadharma section 
of the Shanti Parva. Buddhism and Jainism had assumed 
an offensive appearance, and were threatening to be 
powerful rivals of the orthodox Aryan religion, and it 
may be assumed that, while no direct mention is made 
of Buddha or his tenets, the recasting of the Bharata 
was due to this very growing evil. At that time Brah- 
min teachers probably thought it necessary to bring 
together, en masse all the floating materials, for the 
preaching of their religion, into one focus, and hence we 
have the spectacle of a vast didactic work raised on the 
foundation of the legend of the Bharata war. Here we 
find the clue to the fact that the Mahabharata is constant- 
ly preaching Dharma and the sanctity of its exponents. 
Dharma and its preachers, the Brahmanas, appear to 
have been in danger, and adherence to Dharrna and 
obedience to Brahmanas is constantly insisted upon 
throughout the Mahabharata. This is, in our opinion, 
the most probable reason why we find an epic, the 
Baharata of Vaishampayana or Vyasa, turned into a 
Dharma Grantha, a Smriti as it is believed to be, a vast 
didactic work embracing all the departments of the 
Aryan religion and morals as they were in the dayS of" 

It may, perhaps, be urged that the shlokas contain- 
ing a reference to the Yavanas and the Shakas may have 
been introduced after 300 B.C. while the rest of the pt>em 
may have been reconstructed at an earlier date. If any 
confirmation, however, of what has been urged above, 
is needed, the state of society, religion and knowledge, 
depicted generally in the Mahabharata, corresponds 

1 6 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

very closely with what has been described about India 
by Megasthenes. We find the castes almost exclusive ; 
flesh-eating, though still practised, going out of fashion ; 
Shiva and Vishnu-worship fully established. The 
geographical knowledge of the whole country had been 
acquired, and the Mahabharata locates the people of 
India much in the same way in which Greek geogra- 
phers have located them. Curiously enough, a people 
who cover themselves with their ears, are mentioned 
in the Mahabharata, and this absurdity of nature is 
spoken of and believed in by Megasthenes. Grammar, 
Logic and Vedanta were already formulated and 
studied. We shall discuss this subject in detail in 
a separate book, but it is sufficient here to remark 
that the present Mahabharata discloses a state of things 
which cannot have been earlier than the days of Megas- 

Astronomy furnishes us with still more definite data 
in this connection. In fact, the progress in the develop- 
ment of astronomical knowledge, disclosed by the 
Mahabharata, shows us the different stages through 
which the work must have passed. We have thus in 
ttie * Mahabharata the Nakshatras or constellations 
beginning with Krittikas, a system which must have 
been introduced thousands of years ago (as we shall 
show later on) and which reminds us of the time when 
VyaSk must have composed the original epic. We 
have again a reference to the time when the winter 
solstice took place in Dhanishtha, as mentioned in the 
Vedanga Jyotisha, whose date Dixit calculates on this 
b^sis at about 1400 B.C. We have further still a 

When and ivhy the Bharata *was recast. 17 

reference to the time .when the winter solstice fell in 
Shravana, and the Nakshatras were counted as begin- 
ning with that constellation. This new arrangement is 
mentioned as having been introduced by Vishwamitra, 
" who created another world of his own, and made the 
Nakshatras begin with Shravana," Adi Parva, Chapter 
71. The same beginning is referred to in the Ashwa- 
medha Parva, Chapter 44. This must have been the 
case according to Dixit's calculation about 450 B.C. 
The receding of the winter solstice is due, as those 
who are conversant with astronomy are well aware, to 
the precession of the equinoxes, and furnishes with very 
reliable data in fixing the limits, if not an actual date. 
The present Mahabharata thus, which contains a refer- 
ence to the Shravana beginning of the Nakshatras, 
cannot be earlier than 450 B.C. (see Dixit's History of 
Indian Astronomy, p. 14). 

Dixit's very valuable work called "The History of 
Indian Astronomy," referred to herein, has unfortu- 
nately not yet been translated into English. Dixit's 
deep researches in this subject, and his conclusions, are 
generally unbiased and worthy of respectful considera^ 
tion. In one point, however, he seems to have*bdfen 
misled, and we have to refer to it because it is relevant to 
the inquiry now before us. It is admitted by all, and by 
Dixit also, that the Mahabharata, as it is at present, 
makes no mention whatever of the Rashis (the division 
of the ecliptic into twelve houses) and of the Varas (week 
days). Dixit believes that the Rashis were invented 
by Indian astronomers about 425 B.C. (p. 139, Dixit's 
work). It seems, however, very probable that Dixit Jhas 

iS The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

wrongly assigned this date to this event in order that it 
may not be possible to contend that the Rashis were 
borrowed from the Greeks, with whom India came into 
contact in 323 B.C., for the first time, and whose con- 
nection with this country lasted for about three centuries. 
How far Indian astronomy is indebted to the Greeks, is 
a subject on which much has been written on both sides. 
This much cannot, however, be denied that Indian 
astronomy derived a fresh impetus and received a new 
direction from its contact with Greek astronomy. All 
the Siddhantas, which give methods for calculating the 
exact positions of the planets, date subsequent to 300 
B.C., as Dixit himself has admitted. Now these 
methods are based on the division of the ecliptic into 
Rashis and degrees, and not on the division of the 
ecliptic into Nakshatras hitherto prevalent in India. The 
conclusion is thus very strong that the Rashis must have 
been borrowed from the Greeks. Dixit in denying this 
conclusion relies on two arguments chiefly. (P. 515-16.) 
He says that the Rashis have Sanskrit names, and 
secondly, that as Aries or Mesha is made to begin with 
the constellation Ashwini, this connection must have been 
established, according to his calculation, about 471 B.C. 
Now Dixit has forgotten to notice the fact that the 
Sanskrit names of the Rashis are the exact equivalents 
of their Greek names. The figures (the Ram, the Bull, 
&c.) which are supposed to be formed by the constella- 
tions (Ashwini, Sec.) are all imaginary ones, a fact also 
admitted by Dixit himself. How can it be possible, 
then, that two nations independently imagined the same 
figures ? The names of the Rashis, though in Sanskrit, 

When and 'why the Blwrata 'was recast. 19* 

to our mind are an argument in favour of their Greek 
origin rather than against it. Nay, Greek names of the 
Rashis were known to the Indian astronomers and are 
often used by them as equivalent of the Sanskrit names. 
The other argument also is not of any avail. The only 
thing that it proves, is that the Rashis cannot have 
been introduced in India earlier than 475 B.C. But 
they may have been and were actually introduced later. 
For, no Indian astronomer has taken the first point of 
Aries as coincident with Batarius, the first star in the 
Ashwini constellation. On the contrary, the Surya 
Siddhanta gives the first point of Aries at eight degrees 
behind this star. Taking 72 years as the period taken 
by the equinoxes to recede one degree, this shows that 
the Surya Siddhanta speaks of a time about 576 years 
later, i.e., 100 A.D. There is even now a difference of 
opinion among the Indian astronomers of about four 
degrees with regard to the exact position of this first 
point. We can only say that the Rashis were introduced 
into India when the Vernal equinox was somewhere 
between the Ashwini and the Rewati stars, a very wide 
period extending frorn 475 B.C. to about 100 A.D. It 
seems, however, very probable that the Rashis *\vd!*e 
introduced in India about 200 B.C., the date Dixit 
assigns to the oldest Indian Siddhanta (now lost of 
course) which uses them. 

We have some further evidence to show tfrat the 
Rashis were introduced about this time and not about 
450 B.C. The old method of referring to time by the 
position of the moon among the constellations which 
we see in use even in the Mahabharata as it is, is also 

20 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

used by the Buddhistic scriptures, the Tripitakas. So 
far as we have gone through them there is no mention 
of the Rashis in any of them. The same time-honoured 
Nakshatras are used for calculating time, and the conclu- 
sion forces itself upon our mind that the Rashis were not 
in vogue in India in the days of Ashoka or at the latest 
in the first council of Buddhism where these Tripitakas 
were formulated. It seems therefore certain that the 
Rashis were borrowed by us about 200 B.C. frpm the 
Greeks who had invaded India long ago and whose 
connection was already threatening to be permanent. 
As the present Mahabharata mentions the Yavanas 
admiringly, but does not anywhere mention the Rashis, 
one is justified in holding that it was recast into its 
present shape some time between 300 and 200 B.C. 

We cannot leave this subject without discussing one 
more reference in the Mahabharata of an astronomical 
character. In the Saraswati Akhyana in the Gada 
Parva a Vriddha or old Garga is mentioned, who, having 
purified his soul by austerities on the banks of the 
Saraswati, obtained knowledge of time and also its 
march of the cross motions of planets and of good and evil 
orfieri^. Now an astronomer by name Garga Parashara 
is spoken of by Panini whose date is generally fixed at 
about 500 B.C. But since this Garga is called Vriddha 
or old, it might be supposed that a younger Garga had 
come Into fame at the time when the Mahabharata was 
recast. The date of this Garga some fix at 145 B.C. 
from a reference in this work to the investment of Saketa 
by the Greeks under Menander. If this is so, then the 
recasting of the Mahabharata would appear to have 

When and why the Bharata ivas recast. 21 

taken place at about 140 B.C., or at the latest before roo 
B.C. Garga's work, it seems, makes no mention of 
the Rashis, and the introduction of the Rashis must also 
be brought down to about after this date. If we take all 
the evidence heretofore detailed into consideration we 
may conclude generally that the Mahabharata assumed 
its present form between three to one hundred B.C. 





I HAVING so far discussed when and why the Maha- 

\ bharata was extended, we shall now proceed to discuss 

how it attained to its present bulk. An inquiry of this 

, kind must necessarily be a task both difficult and delicate. 

Strong proof cannot be expected on a subject like this, and 

the suggestion that a particular chapter or story in the 

Mahabharata is a subsequent addition would always 

be distasteful and exasperating to the ear of a Hindu. 

But I think a criticism on the great epic cannot well 

be complete without an inquiry of this kind, and certain 

1 well-defined inferences naturally suggest themselves to 

one who studies the epic carefully inferences which 

I tfrHh not ca P a ble of being substantiated by irrefutable 

( proof have still the probabilities in their favour. We 

1, shall therefore proceed to state such inferences in this 

i chapter. 

I Legendary Store. The first and the foremost reason 

., by which the Mahabharata appears to have been 

extended is the ambition of Sauti, the last editor, to 

'I make it an all-embracing repository of legendary lore. 

'! In fact, he begins the Mahabharata with the assertion 

""Whatever is to be found here will be found elsewhere 

How the Mahabharata Attained to its Present Bulk. 23 

and what is not here will not be found elsewhere too. " 
It thus seems probable that all the floating smaller 
legends (or Akhyanas) and historical stories (or Itihasas) 
which existed independently of the Bharata were brought 
in by Sauti so that they might not be lost or that they 
might be found together. It was as if a collection of 
old Aryan legends in a slightly modified form made 
for the purpose of invigorating the current cries of 
Aryanism, confronted as it was by Buddhism which 
was not slow in developing a legendary store of its own 
by fashioning older legends to suit its doctrines. It 
does not appear, however, nor is it contended that the 
Akhyanas and Upakhyanas, thus brought in, were all 
new inventions of the imagination. On the contrary it 
is very probable that they were older national legends 
which had independent existence in the form of Gathas, 
Itihasas and Puranas. They were nevertheless inter- 
polations in the Mahabharata, that is to say, they did 
not form part of the original Bharata of Vaishampayana 
or Vyasa, and their interpolated nature can well be dis- 
cerned as one reads the epic. In fact, the Mahabharata 
itself states that the Bharata was in 24,000 verses jgrigi- 
nally and that Bharata meant the Mahabharata without 
the accessory legends (Upakhyanas). Nobody has 
found, nor has it been anywhere stated, which these 
Upakhyanas are, and which are the original 24,000 
Shlokas. Such a statement can only be explained on 
the admission that there was a Bharata of 24,000 Shlokas 
before the Upakhyanas were added by some person later 
on. We shall now give some glaring examples of these 
subsequently [added Upakhyanas. 

24 The Mahcibharata : A Criticism. 

A very typical instance of this kind of interpolation 
in the Saraswati Upakhyana is the Gadaparva. Herein 
is given an account of the Saraswati river, its rise, the 


tracts it flows through, the Tirthas or holy places on its 
banks, and their glory. It is undoubted that this is not an 
imaginary account and that it is an old legend perhaps 
as old as when the Saraswati was an actual river and 
not an imaginary bed as it now is. But all the Same it 
is an interpolation here which does not fit in^ The 
story of the war has reached its highest interest, the 
fates of the contending parties, after all the terrible 
loss of life, is still trembling in the balance and is 
about to be decided by the uncertain result of a duel 
between Duryodhana and Bhima, two great athletes* 
Balrama arrives from his pilgrimage and is hailed by 
both parties and asked to be a spectator. Janmejaya 
interrupts the story at this point and asks what were 
the Tirthas which Balrama visited and what was their 
greatness, and there is thus a digression of many 
chapters and many hundreds of Shlokas. One is almost 
. exasperated at this inopportune digression, and it is cer- 
tainly a very unpoetic one, of wbich neither Vyasa nor 
Vaishampayana would have been capable. The Saras- 
wati Upakhyana has on the face of it been clumsily 
interpolated by Sauti, who took advantage of the mere 
mention of the name of the Yatra from which Balrama 
had returned to introduce it. Nay, there is even an inde- 
pendent proof of its being an interpolation. It is in this 
Adhyaya that many personages, whose date must be 
supposed to be later than that of Vyasa or Vaisham- 
payana, such as Vriddha Garga or Shakalya and j others 

How the Mahabharata Attained to its Present Bulk. 25 

are mentioned. Another instance of the same sort, though 
less glaring, is that of the Ramopakhyana in the Vana 
Parva. DraupadPs being carried away by Jayadratha, 
and being subsequently rescued and brought back, affords 
Sauti an occasion to introduce the story of Rama. The 
Upakhyana is an extensive one, perhaps the longest in 
the whole Mahabharata. It strikes the reader, however, 
as an abstract of another work which must have existed 
prior to it. The story is no doubt given in the words of 
Sauti himself whose language has a charm of its own. 
But that it is an interpolation is very probable from its 
very length. For no sensible author would give in his 
own work an extensive abstract of the work of another 
extending over 750 Shlokas. 

Of Knowledge. Sauti not only intended to make the 
Mahabharata a depository of learning, but also of know- 
ledge. An instance of this is afforded by the Jambukhanda 
and the Bhukhanda sections in the Bheeshmaparva. 
The author is about to begin an account of the actual 
fighting in the great war, and Dhritarashtra most unpoeti- 
cally asks Sanjaya the question what is the earth for 
which so many people are about to fight and whatsis its 
extent, and we have a geographical treatise, as it were, 
interpolated giving the geography of the whole world 
and of the Jambudwipa particularly. The description 
given of the universe is the usual orthodox one, perhaps 
prevalent in India from many centuries. But that it is 
an interpolation here may easily be gathered from the 
break in the context. At the end of Chapter 12 of the 
Bheeshmaparva where the Bhumikhanda ends, we have 
Dhritarashtra and Sanjaya talking to each other. The 

js6 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

next chapter begins as follows : " Thereafter Sanjaya, 
having returned from the battlefield after seeing every- 
thing with his own eyes, told Dhritarashtra that 
Bheeshma was dead/' This chapter should properly 
have been the beginning of the Bheeshmaparva and if 
not the first, it should at least have been the second. 
For it is nowhere stated when Sanjaya went to the battle- 
field and when this dialogue betweenSan jay a and Dhrita- 
rashtra about the extentof the world took place. Another 
.similar instance, though not so clear, is where Narada 
an the beginning of the Sabhaparva asks Yudhishthira 
how he governs his kingdom. Here we have the whole 
.science of political government, as it was then under- 
stood, given in the form of questions. Here we have a 
picture of a well-governed kingdom as it was conceived 
about the time of Alexander's conquest. For this science 
cannot have attained to such a perfection as is depicted in 
this chapter in days so old as the Mahabharata war. 

Of Moral and Religious Teaching. That the Maha- 
bharata was made a vehicle of moral and religious 


instruction is so apparent that it hardly requires any 
proo In fact the work has almost lost its character 
as an epic poem and has become, and has always been 
acknowledged, as a Smriti and a Dharma Shastra. 
Native writers and authors of treatises, so old as the 
Brahma Sutra, quote passages from the Bharata with 
the feeling of reverence due to a Dharma Shastra. 
The leaven which has thus been introduced is so 
general and so extensive that it is difficult to point out 
to any particular section as an interpolation. The 
Shintiparva and the Anushasanaparva have probably 

How the Mahabharata Attained to its Present Bnlk* 27 

been added to, to a very great extent with this object, 
though it is not possible to say that these Parvas are 
entirely new additions made about the time of the last 
recasting of the Bharata about 200 B.C. For certain 
portions of these Parvas are indeed very old as we shall 
have occasion to show hereafter, and it is probable that 
these did form part of the original Bharata. The 
additions made can, however, never be regretted, for 
here we have a vast collection of old stories, doctrines 
and rituals, which enables us to determine the social, 
moral and religious condition of the Ary as 2,000 years 
ago and earlier ; we shall make an attempt of this kind 
in a subsequent book which will contain one of the most 
interesting inquiries undertaken in this book. 

Repetition. The second fruitful source of extension 
is repetition. Repetition may sometimes be useful for 
the purpose of impressing a subject on the reader's 
mind ; but it must be acknowledged as a repetition. In 
the Mahabharata, however, we find the same story 
repeated twice and even thrice without any reason or 
acknowledgment. The repetition grates on the ear 
and the reader is puzzled to know why the storv^ has 
been repeated and whether the author was himself 
aware of it. This repetition can be seen over the whole 
length of the work and sometimes without long intervals. 
Innumerable instances can be cited, but we content 
ourselves here with a few of them which are most 
striking. In the Adi Parva we have the story of Astika 
twice given, the second only after a few chapters after 
the first. The second is more detailed than the first 
It seems as if Sauti was not satisfied with the mea*gre 

28 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

relation of Vaishampayana and gave the story over again 
with many additions, but often using the same Shlokas. 
The story of Kashyapa and Takshaka is also repeated, 
as also that of Yayati and of Pandu killing a Rishi 
in the guise of a deer. In the Vana Parva the Tirthas 
are twice enumerated, the second time with greater detail 
than the first Unfortunately India was not as ex- 
tensively known in the days of Vaishampayana as in the 
days of Sauti, and the latter probably found it necessary 
to make a second enumeration of the holy places in 
India. These and other instances of repetition made, 
often with very little intervals, are sometimes explained 
away by Janmejaya asking for greater details of the 
same subject or story. The 16 kings' legend is, on the 
other hand, an instance of repetition made at places 
widely separated from each other. The legend is first 
told, as far as we can remember, in the Drona Parva after 
the death of Abhimanyu, by Vyasa to Yudhishthira 
to console him for the sad loss he had suffered. And 
the same legend is told over again in the Shanti Parva 
by Krishna to Yudhisthira for the purpose of inducing 
him to lessen his grief and to enjoy the fruit of his 
success in war. And it is strange to see that Yudhish- 
thira has forgotten (it is likely he may have) the story. 
For he asks Krishna who was Srinjaya's son and how 
he had died. Narada, who first told the legend to 
Srinjaya to console him for the death of his son and 
whose narration both Vyasa and Krishna had given 
second-hand, now comes forward and tells Yudhishthira 
who Srinjaya was, and how he lost and regained his 
son! In short, the repetition made is extremely awkward 

How the MahabJiarata Attained to its Present Bulk. 29 

and can only take place in a vast work like the Maha- 
bharata. The legend all the same is a very fine one, 
and probably very old. It is perhaps copied after the 
Shata-patha Brahman, Kanda 13, where a list is given 
of the famous kings of old who performed the Ashwa- 
medha sacrifices. Two or three of these kings are the 
same, and the Shlokas in their eulogy are also almost 

Imitation. The third head under which additions 
may be put is imitation. This is, in fact, another phase 
of repetition. An episode is imagined and added re- 
sembling one already existing. It is, in fact, the same 
feeling as has led to the composition of the many 
" Messengers" in imitation of the beautiful little poem 
of Kalidas, called the " Cloud Messenger". Very 
many additions can be recognised as made under this 
impulse. The most striking example of this is the 
Yaksha-prashna episode at the end of the Vana Parva. 
Nakul goes to drink of a pond in the jungle which is 
under the enchantment of a Yaksha, and drinking the 
water against his caution dies. Each of the remaining 
brothers goes in search of him, and with the exception 
of Yudhishthira dies similarly. Yudhishthira alone 
does not drink the water, and after satisfactorily answer- 
ing one hundred questions put by the Yaksha succeeds 
in propitiating him, and the Yaksha is pleased to 
restore life to his brothers. The episode, one suspects, 
resembles the Nahusha episode already given in Chap- 
ter 195 in which Yudhishthira sirnilary rescues his 
brothers from difficulty. The, Yaksha-prashna episode 
can be proved to be an addition subsequently made, fey 

30 The Mahdbharata: A Criticism. 

independent considerations. For it is strange that 
Sahadeo, Arjuna and Bhima should each drink the water 
without caring to see what had happened to his prede- 
cessor, and in spite of the warning given each time by 
the Yaksha. It looks absurd that even the predecessor's 
death should not have sufficed to prove the truth of the 
Yaksha's warning. The questions put are, moreover, 
like riddles, and do not look as belonging to a great 
author. Further than this, there is a break in thepontext 
at this Akhyana. In this episode, which is the last 
in the Vana Parva, the Yaksha directs Yudhishthira 
to pass his days of concealment in Virata's city. And 
yet we find in the beginning of the next Parva that 
Dharma is at a loss to see where to go and live incognito. 
Again, at the end of the Yaksha-prashna episode 
Dharma dismisses all the Brahmans, and only the five 
brothers with Draupadi and Dhaumya remain ready to 
dive into obscurity. And yet in the beginning of the 
Virata Parva the Brahmans are still there and they have 
yet to be dismissed. These considerations would lead 
us to think that the story would properly run on if the 
Yaksha-prashna episode had not been there, in other 
words it has been added subsequently. 

Another instance of this kind, though not quite so 
clear, is that of the Anu Gita. This is an episode in 
the Ashwamedha Parva and is fashioned after the Gita 
as is implied in the very name of it. Arjuna, after all 
the toils of the war are over, asks Shrikrishna to give 
him the same instructions as he had given him at the 
beginning of the war. Shrikrishna says that he could 
n<3t rise to the same inspiration again, but would tell 

How the Mahabharata Attai?ied to its Present 

him what some one else had told another, and thus 
comes in the Ann Gita. It is naturally and admittedly 
not what the Gita is and preaches no new doctrine. It is 
probably a second-rate imitation of the Gita, and has 
perhaps been subsequently added. 

Poetical Embellishment. The desire for poetical em- 
bellishment has also led in a potent manner to the 
extension of the Mahabharata. It is natural that Sauti 
should have taken the advantage of every opportunity 
that offered itself to exhibit his poetical powers. Battles 
natural sceneries and lamentations are the chief objects 
of a poet's delineation. The descriptions of battles in. 
the Mahabharata are generally florid and so extended 
that they are often tedious. Natural sceneries have also- 
been described with fullness, especially in the Vana 
Parva. The Stri Parva appears to have almost been 
recast. The scene, where Ghandhari having been 
given supernatural vision in the manner which is sa 
usual in the Mahabharata, describes the battle-field, and 
the widows of fallen heroes lamenting over their dead 
bodies, is probably an entirely new addition. That 
Ghandhari should have been chosen as the person 
through whose mouth these lamentations are uttered, is 
itself quite undramatic, and Vyasa or Vaishampayana 
would not have committed such an error. Moreover, 
the description and lamentations are somewhat sensual 
in taste, much in the fashion of later Sanskrit poets, the 
well-known Shloka " Ayam sa rasanotkarshi," &c., 
being found here. Further, it is improbable that these 
bereaved women would have been allowed to roam over 
the battle-field, covered as it must have been by indiS- 

32 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

tinguishable masses of bones of men and animals, and 
it is also improbable that dead bodies could have been 
-capable of identification as they were allowed to lie on 
the battle-field for many days, exposed to hungry beasts 
and birds of prey. How, for instance, can Abhimanyu's 
face be still fresh and shining as it is being kissed by 
his young wife? The whole scene is improbable, un- 
dramatic and unbecoming. A similar attempt may be 
discerned in the Virata Parva where scenes an$ female 
beauties are described with much more elaboration than 
elsewhere. But the scenes are here also undramatic as 
they do not bear out and develop the characters as they 
are conceived. For example, Uttara who a little while 
ago was a timid boy, as soon as Arjuna discloses him- 
self, becomes a brave man and a poet too. His de- 
scription of the bows of the five brothers as they are 
taken down from the tree where they are concealed, is 
very beautiful indeed, and two of the Shlokas are very 
fine riddles also. 

Here we may conveniently treat of the Kuta or riddle 
Shlokas. They appear to have been introduced by 
Sauti under the same impulse, vis., the desire to exhibit 
poetical powers. It is affirmed in the beginning of the 
Mahabharata that there are 8,800 Kuta Shlokas in all 
throughout the whole work, which gives one Shloka for 
every 12. It appears therefore probable that this num- 
ber lias been exaggerated. In the appendix are given 
as many Kuta Shlokas as we 'could find out while 
reading the work. Some of these Shlokas are really 
very ingenious and the two Shlokas in which Uttara 
describes two bows may be taken as the best examples 

How the Mahabharata Attained to its Present Bulk. 33 

of them. The riddle lies generally in the use of a word 
which has two meanings ; the most obvious of them 
occurring to tire reader first and thus throwing him off 
the scent. The worst example of such Kuta Shlokas, 
perhaps an interpolation of even a later date than Sauti, 
is to be found in the Kama Parva, Chapter 90. The 
Shloka No. 40 is a long metred (Shardul-vikridita) 
Shloka and uses the word " Gau " with its many mean- 
ings many times. 

Anticipation. Anticipation or suggestion of events 
Is a poetical art which authors are fond of using, and 
the Mahabharata is not without examples of it. The 
last editor Sauti has made several additions with this 
object. We have an instance of this in the Stri Parva 
where Gandhari is made to curse Shrikrishna for not 
having prevented the terrible slaughter shown by the 
state of the battle-field, that he too and his race would 
fight among themselves and slaughter one another. 
This scene in the Stri Parva, as we have already seen, 
is wholly an interpolation. Similarly before the be- 
ginning of the fight Dharma Raja goes to each one of 
the commanders on the-opposite side and asks himjtiow 
he could kill him, whereon each one anticipates the 
manner in which he was subsequently killed. Now 
this is very probably an interpolation ; it is derogatory 
to the character of not only Yudhishthira but also to 
that of these great commanders ; for it represents them 
as traitors. Moreover it is ludicrous to represent 
Yudhishthira asking openly so imbecile a question. 
To Shalya Yudhishthira is made to say that he should 
make the Tejobhanga of Kama (dis-spirit him) when 


^ Tlie Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

he would be asked to act as a charioteer to him. This is 
carrying the Bija sowing or poetical anticipation to an 
absurd length. Could anybody have then predicted 
that Shalya would be asked by Kama to drive his 
chariot on the battle-field, and even if it were so pro- 
bable, would anybody have thought that mere dis- 
couragement of Kama would have assisted the cause 
of Yudhishthira ? Even as the Mahabharata is, Shalya 
Is not represented as acting so meanly. On the contrary 
he does his self-imposed duty most faithfully and pro- 
tects and assists Kama whenever necessary. 

Explanation. The last category under which addi- 
tions appear to have been made is explanation of 
extraordinary conduct. Lapse of thousands of years 
between the events and the last recasting of the Maha- 
bharata made it necessary that certain actions should be 
explained away and Sauti appears to have added chap- 
ters here and there for this purpose. The most 
palpable addition under this head is the chapter wherein 
Vyasa seeks to explain to Drupada how it is that the 
five Pandavas may marry a single woman. The 
Bandavas are alleged to be all fndras (which is itself 
inconsistent with the idea stated elsewhere in the Maha- 
bharata that Arjuna alone was Indra) and when Dru- 
pada is not satisfied even then, the usual device, vis., 
the gjft of supernatural vision is adopted and Drupada 
sees that they are all Indras. Bhima's drinking warm 
blood from the throat of Dusshasana is also sought to- 
be explained away in the Stri Parva, Chapter 15, where it 
is suggested that he only made a feint of drinking the 
blood but did not actually do it in fulfilment of his vow. 

How the Mahnbharata Attained to its Present Bulk. 35 

Vyasds Appearance now and then. Vyasa's frequent 
appearance on the scene, of course by his supernatural 
powers, appears to have been arranged for the purpose of 
such explanation. He also often comes to warn, to advise 
and to console actors without apparent necessity or result. 
For instance, at the time of Duryodhana's birth Vyasa 
appears on the scene and warns Dhritarashtra of the evils 
of which he would be the cause and advises him without 
success fro thro whim into the Ganges. So again when the 
war is about to begin Vyasa appears before Dhritarashtra 
and tells him what evil omens are happening and how the 
war would be a dreadful one. Here are introduced a fresh 
(many having been already mentioned in the Udyoga 
Parva) number of evil omens and inauspicious conjunc- 
tions of planets which are probably imaginary and 
which have created a confusion of which we shall have 
to speak later on. The appearance of Vyasa is generally 
of no avail and the march of events is in no way hindered 
without it. 

Such are the principal heads under which additions 
appear to have been made by Sauti in recasting the 
Mahabharata. It is by no means suggested that the^lisfc 
is exhaustive or that the examples cited are the only 
examples of them. Two examples only have been given 
under each head so that the subject may not be tedious 
to the reader who is not supposed to have read the Maha- 
bharata. It would be tiresome to the general reader, to 
give here an exhaustive list of such chapters and epi- 
sodes as appear to have been added at the time of the last 
recasting of the Bharata, and we give in the Appendix a 
note in which this subject has been discussed in detail. 

^6 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

Notwithstanding the additions thus made it must be 
said to the credit of Sauti that he has succeeded in 
moulding a work of such an enormous extent into a har- 
monious and consistent whole. It is only rarely that we 
come across discrepancies, contradictions or breaks in the 
context. In fact they are rarer in the Mahabharata than 
in the Ramayana. In two places, however, Sauti has 
betrayed himself hopelessly. In the Bhishma Parva, 
where Yudhishthira asks Shalya to discourage Kama, 
an episode which we have already shown to be an 
addition, he is made to say " Carry out your promise 
made in Udyoga," by which is presumably meant the 
Udyogaparva. Now it is absurd to represent an actor 
giving a reference to a division of the drama or epic 
itself. Similarly Kunti in the Ashwamedha Parva, 
Chapter 66, requests Shrikrishna to carry out his 
promise made in " Aishika " (a previous Parva), mz., to 
resuscitate the child of Uttara if born dead. Flow Sauti 
could have put these references to the Parvas of the epic 
in the mouth of the actors it is difficult to explain, except 
on the supposition that the enormous length of the epic 
'made it pardonable even for the* actors to give references 
to its divisions. 



ALLIED with the subject of the preceding chapter is the 
question whether the Mahabharata was originally 
Vaishnavite, how the Vaishnavite element grew in it 
and what is its present attitude towards the Vaishnavite 
creed. It is an extremely interesting inquiry and, 
however distasteful or delicate it may be from the 
religious point of view, we cannot shirk it. 

That Vyasa was an admirer of_Shrikrishna and a wor- 
shipper of Vishnu appears clear from the very first verse 
of invocation which we cannot attribute to any one 
but Vyasa. Therein the God Narayana is invoked and 
is also identified with Shrikrishna. It may perhaps be 
necessary to state here that at the time of Vyasa, which 
is the same as the time of the Brahmanas, the Vedic 
Rishis had come to give predominance to Vishnu and 
to ignore the precedence of Indra so conspicuous in the 
Mantra portion of the Vedas, and we may believe it 
readily that Vyasa but reflected the general sentimefTt of 
the Rishis of the Brahmana period. There was another 
school which was trying to give predominance among 
gods to Shiva as we can see from the Atharva Man- 
dukya Upanishad, where instead of the words Tad 
Vishnoh Paramam Pandam we have the Supreme 
Being as typified in " One " called Shiva. This school 
appears to have been, however, in the minority, and the 
Rishis of the Brahmanic period laid down the diction 

?8 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 


(see the beginning of the Aitareya Brahmana of the Rig 
Veda) that among gods Agni or Fire was the last and 
Vishnu was the first. CShrikrishna, about whose per- 
sonality and preaching we shall speak in a separate 
book, was a contemporary of Vyasa and was believed to 
be an Avatara or incarnation of Vishnu. Vyasa was 
probably^one of those who believed so, and it is not at all 
impossible that the Itihasa or history called " Triumph n 
which he wrote was pervaded with the feeling of ^ad mi ra- 
tion which he entertained for him. We are therefore 
not stretching our guess too far when we hold that the 
original poem of Vyasa was written in glorification of 
Krishna or Narayana as of Arjuna or Nara. 

It must, however, be granted that Krishna worship 
was, as may naturally be expected, in its infancy when 
Vyasa wrote his poem ; and we find one or two places in 
the Mahabharata where Krishna is treated as an ordinary 
mortal. The statements which we are now g'oing to 
refer strike us- as invaluable fossils which are preserved 
in this vast work by mistake or accident and which give 
evidence of the fact that the original work of Vyasa was 
considerably different from its r present form. In the 
$[ausala Parva, where, after the Yaclavas had been 
destroyed in a terrible internecine feud, Arjuna is said 
to have led away the many wives of Krishna, it is stated 
that barbarians attacked Arjuna and carried away 
many from among his fair charge. "Some," it is 
added, " went away of their own choice/' Now had 
the author been thoroughly Vaishnavite he would not 
have represented some of Krishna's wives or rather 
women as eloping with the barbarians, although it is but 


The VaisJmamte Element in the Mahabharata. 39. 

natural to expect, where a man keeps an unwieldy 
harem, some of the women to be dissatisfied and in a 
mood to elope. But this fact is detrimental to the 
greatness of Shrikrishna as an incarnation of- Vishnu. 
Probably Vyasa here pointed out the only foible in his 
character great as it was and was not hindered by any 
particular sentiments from expressing his opinions 
freely. Similarly in the Gada-Parva where Duryo- 
dhana was, as he lay wounded on the battle-field, 
upbraided by Shrikrishna for his evil deeds, the former 
exculpated himself in a vigorous speech and exclaimed 
that he had lived a brilliant life and died a brilliant death, 
levelled down when fighting honourably by a dis- 
honourable blow dealt by one of those who wished to 
pose as honourable men. The poet adds : " The gods 
showered flowers on the dying man in approbation and 
all those present felt abashed." It is strange that we 
should find in the Mahabharata a work which glorifies 
Shrikrishna in every possible manner, a remark of this 
kind, strange that the gods of Heaven expressed their 
approval of the conduct of Duryodhana, conduct so 
vehemently denounced by Shrikrishna himself. It 
seems clear that Vyasa did not always side with Krfahntt 
but expressed his sentiments without bias. 

Vaishampayana was probably a more pronounced 
follower of the Vaishnavite creed than Vyasa. For 
his Bharata is recognised by the Vaishnavas to*have 
along with the Pancharatras, a special work belonging 
to that sect, the same sanctity as the Vedas themselves. 
The inclusion of the Bhagwat Gita and the Vishnu 
Sahasra Nama in the Bharata is probably the chief 

1 40 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

reason why it is held in so much reverence by the 
Vaishnavas, The Bhagwat Gita, undoubtedly the 

most precious book in non-Vedic Sanskrit literature, 
contains, in our opinion, the preaching of Shrikrishna, 
though not in his own words, but in the words of Vyasa. 
It may have been re-arranged and altered here and 
: there by Vaishampayana and made more Vaishnavite 

in appearance. But it is pre-eminently the thought of 
j Shrikrishna clothed in the language of Vyasa. The 

Vishnu Sahasra Nama may be attributed to Vaisham- 
payana being more antique than the rest of the poem as. 
I we can judge from the language. 

; What other additions and alterations Vaishampayana 

made in order to strengthen the cause of Krishna wor- 
ship it is not easy to detect at this distance of time ; but 
the critical reader of the Mahabharata cannot but be 
convinced that the Vaishnavite element is constantly 
accumulating. Krishna is glorified and praised when- 
1 ever opportunity offers, and the usual story of Avataras 

! given in the Puranas, namely, that the earth, oppressed, 

] goes to Vishnu in the form of a cow to implore for redress, 

and he comes, to life together with all the deities of 
1 ifeav^n for the purpose of destroying her oppressors, 

is found, though not in so many words, in the Bharata in 
a nucleus form. In Chapters 65 and 66 of the Bhishma 
; + Parva we have the theory of incarnation as believed 
in by the Vaishnavas given by the mouth of Bhishma, 
who wishes to impress on Duryodhana's mind, perhaps 
unsuccessfully, the greatness of Shrikrishna. "Brahma, 1 
, surrounded by Rishis and gods, suddenly saw burning 

light before him and praised Vishnu, the Supreme 

The Vaishnavite Element in the Mahabharata. 41 

Being, and implored him to be born for the deliverance 
of the earth. Vishnu thereon was pleased and promised 
to grant his request." Here are mentioned the four 
names of Vishnu which are invested with special mean- 
ings among the Vaishnavas, vis., Vasudeva, Sankar- 
shana, Pradyumna and Anirudhha, from the last of 
whom is said to have been born Brahma, the creator 
himself. The Devarishis and the Gandharvas were 
astonished and did not know, it is said, with whom 
Brahma held converse, and Brahma explained to them 
what had happened. 

But a different and somewhat quaint account of 
Vishnu's incarnation is to be found in Chapter 197 of 
the Adi Parva. It is probably the earlier version and 
preserved in the Mahabharata by accident or by a feeling 
of reverence for old texts in the same manner as other old;. 
texts already referred to have been saved. The story 
is well worth giving in full. Vyasa explains to king 
Drupada how the five Pandavas can marry one single 
woman. The gods once performed a sacrifice at 
which the god of death officiated as the Sharnitra (killer). 
Mortals consequently did not die and multiplied im- 
mensely. Indra and others being afraid weifc t<5 
Prajapati and said "We are afraid of men for, there 
is now no difference between mortals, and immortals. "' 
Prajapati replied "When the god of death will finish 
his work he will destroy men." Indra went t<5 see 
the sacrifice and on the way saw a golden lotus coming 
down the Ganges. Wishing to know whence it came,, 
he went to the source and saw a beautiful woman 
weeping and standing in the stream to take water. Her 

42 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

tear fell in the stream and became a golden lotus Imme- 
diately. Indra asked her why she wept and she requested 
him to follow her. He saw Shiva with his wife playing 
at dice and being disregarded exclaimed ct I am the Lord 
of the Universe. " Shiva looked at him and only 
laughed. Indra raised his hand but it was made mo- 
tionless. Shiva then said " You are proud. Look into 
that cave. There are four previous Indras confined 
there. Go you all to the earth and be born as mortals. 
This damsel who is the prosperity of heaven will be 
your wife. " Indra trembled and consented. They 
then went to Narayana, the Lord of the Universe, and 
told him what had happened. He too snatched two 
hairs, one white and the other black, from his body and 
they were laid in the womb of Devaki and Rhohini, the 
two queens of Vasudeva. Thus were born Balrama, 
the white, from ihe white hair and Krishna from the 
black one. The five Indras became the five Pandavas 
and the Laxmi of heaven is Draupadi. The commen- 
tator explains that the word hair meant semin and that 
Krishna was born directly of Hari or Narayana. He 
tries in this way to explain the apparent discrepancy 
ftom*the modern belief, wfc., that Krishna was a full and 
not a partial Avatara. But other discrepancies still 
remain. Balrama is not now believed to be an Avatara of 
Vishnu, though in the above he is shown to be as full an 
Avatara as Krishna himself. Moreover there is not that 
subordination of Prajapati and of Shiva to Vishnu in 
the above account which is to be found in the usual ver- 
sion. The Pandavas too are all looked upon as Indras 
anji Draupadi is merely the prosperity of heaven. 

The Vaishnamte Element in the Mahabharata. 43 

All these defects have been corrected in the account 
given in the Amshavatara, Chapter 167 of the Adi Parva, 
where every actor in the Mahabharata is shown to be 
the partial incarnation of some god or demon. It is the 
third version most probably adjusted by Sauti. Therein 
the oppressed earth goes to Brahma who directs all 
gods to go down to the earth and be born as mortals. 
They then all go to Narayana, and Indra implores him 
to be bprn on the earth by Amsha, and they make a 
compact and the gods are born by Amsha or portion 
only in the families of Kings and Brahmanas. In the 
list given hereafter Balrama is said to be born of Shesha 
and Draupadi is said to be born of Shachi, the wife of 
Indra. The sixteen thousand wives of Krishna are 
here said to be born of the Apsaras by the order of Indra. 
In Chapter 5 of the Swargarohana Parva the actors are 
said to have returned after death to the respective deities 
from whom they sprang. These women are said after 
death to have been united with the Apsaras, a thing* 
which we can scarcely reconcile with the statement 
about some of them referred to above. 

The Vaishnava sect or creed, which is based on 
Krishna worship, began with Krishna and gatTieretl 
strength as time rolled on. In the days of Magestheaes 
it was a fully established creed, and it is recorded by 
that historian that the god Heracles was worshipped by 
the Shoursene people who had two important Cities, 
vis., Methora and Chimbothro. It is difficult to identify 
the last, but the Shoursene people were those who were 
descended from Shurasena, the father of Krishna, and 
they lived in or 'about Mathura, which is even now' She 

44 The Mahabharata: A Criticism.. 

centre of Krishna worship. It is but natural to expect 
that the Bharata of Vaishampayana, which is pre-emi- 
nently concerned with the doings of Krishna as well as 
with the exploits of Arjuna, gathered accumulations as 
time went on in support of that creed. It will suffice if 
we quote two more examples, mz. y the Bhishmastavaraja, 
which is perhaps one of the best praises of the supreme 
deity, and the Narayanastramoksha Parva. 

But the worship of Shiva was as firmly established in 
the days of Magesthenes as the worship of Vishnu, and 
Sauti, who was concerned with the defence of the whole 
of the orthodox religion, , as it then existed, against 
Buddhism, had to introduce episodes and anecdotes 
in glorification of Shiva also. If the Bharata of 
Vaishampayana was distinctly Vaishnavite it appears to 
us that the Mahabharata of Sauti is distinctly non- 
sectarian. It is this aspect of the work as it exists 
to-day that has made it dear to all Hindus, and all 
creeds alike claim it as their sacred book. It is this 
unifying spirit which is the charm of this vast work 
from a philosophic point of view. In the Anushasana 
Parva is to be found the Akhy&na of Upamanyu in 
p"rais of Shiva, and .the beauty of it is that the story is 
related by Krishna himself. In Chapters 14 18 we 
find that Krishna went and performed austerities in the 
Himalayas and pleased Shankar and obtained a son for 
his Wife Jambuvati. The 1,000 names of Shiva are 
here- given, as recited originally by Tundi and told to 
Krishna by Upamanyu. Rishis are also mentioned as 
praising Shiva and obtaining boons. The unification 
of Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma, as it is believed in by 

The Vaishnamte Element in the Mahabharata. 43 

orthodox Hinduism, is also clearly apparent in this 
Akhyana, for it is stated that the Supreme Being sent 
forth Brahma from his right side to create the world 
and Vishnu from his left to protect it and Rudra at the 
time of its end. That Sauti introduced this Akhyana is, 
however, certain from its evident isolation in context, 
the language of these chapters and the frequent change 
in the metre. Krishna again is said by Bhishma to 
have performed austerities for a thousand years. This 
is extremely improbable, for no actor in the Maha- 
bharata is represented as of fabulous age. Their ages 
are the ordinary ages of human beings as they are now. 
Krishna even according to popular belief was only 84 
years and according to another theory 123 years 
old when the Mahabharata fight took place. All these 
circumstances lead us to think that this Upamanyu 
Akhyana is an addition made by Sauti. 

In many other places, chapters and incidents are intro- 
duced in praise of Shiva. In the Dronaparva, when 
Arjuna had vowed to kill Jayadratha and Drona had 
vowed to save him, Krishna thought that it was neces- 
sary to fortify Arjuna by a boon from Shiva, and Arjuna 
is said to have gone in'Samadhi to Shiva and obtained 
from him the Pashupatastra, Chapters 90 and 91, (This 
is rather strange as Arjuna had already got the Astra in 
Vanaparva where his fight with Shiva is so beautifully 
described.) In this incident also the beauty is that it 
is with the advice of Krishna that Arjuna contemplates 
Shiva, and in the contemplation both go to Shiva and 
praise him. Similarly when Ashwatthama is about to 
begin his night massacre of the sleeping survivors of 

46 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

the war he propitiates Shiva by offering himself as an 
oblation and obtains from him a deadly sword (Chapter 
7, Saupticparva). Here too Shankar says that Krishna 
is dear to him for many reasons and his devotion to 
Shankar among them. At the end of this Parva we 
have a reference to, and explanation of, the Linga 
worship, and there again the greatness of Shiva is 
described by the mouth of Krishna himself. It seems 
clear that all these references to Shiva worship are made 
in a spirit of unifying the diverse sects that existed when 
Sauti finally recast this poem. We find the Vaishnava 
and Pashupata sects, with their peculiar tenets in parti- 
cular point, discussed and refuted in the Brahma Sutras 
also, which cannot be supposed to be later than the 
beginning of the Christian Era. It is probably in the 
same spirit that Sauti made these additions and others in 
praise of Devi (Bhishmaparva) and Surya (Vanaparva) 
and Kartikeya (Vanaparva), who are' all looked upon as 
different manifestations of the Supreme Being. The 
Mahabharata as it is, consequently, Hnnof be looked 
upon as Vaishnavite, though it was perhaps so in the 
beginning and though the Vaishnavite element had 
b&en ^accumulating 1 before its final redaction. The 
Vaishanvas who look upon Bharata as one of their 
Scriptures are now driven to explain these praises of 

other gods as introduced to delude the world ! 


^hagvat-Gita, the 1,000 Names of Vishnu, the Prayer of Bhishma, 
the Rescue of the Elephant, and Anusmriti are said to be the five 
jewels to be found in the Bharata, The Rescue of the Elephant is 
to be found in a clearly interpolated manner in one of the Bombay 
edftions, while the last is to be found nowhere. 



DIVESTED of these additions and accumulations the 
Mahabharata indeed deserves to rank among the finest 
epic poems of the world. The epic poem which has 
ever been regarded as in its nature the most noble of all 
poetic performances must conform, in the words of 
Arnold, to the following conditions: "The subject of 
the epic poem must be some one, great, complex action. 
The principal personages must belong to ihe high 
places of society and must be grand and elevated in 
their ideas. The measure must be of a sonorous dignity 
befitting the subject. The epic is developed by a -mixture 
of dialogue, soliloquy and narration." We shall try to 
see how far these requisites which have been laid down 
since the days of Aristotle are fulfilled by the Mgha- 

The subject of this poem is the great war fought on 
the plain of Kurukshetra by the Pandavas and the 
Kauravas, two sections of the same race, assisted by the 
various nations of the whole of India as it was then 
known. This subject is introduced by the poet in the 
very first verse of invocation. u Having saluted the 
god Narayana and Nara, the best of men, and the goddess 
of speech, let us recite the ' Triumph. *" Here Vyaa 

48 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

.at once introduces us to the chief actors of his poem 
and his subject, mz^ the victory gained by them, 
just like Homer, who begins his Illiad with the name 
of Achilles, the hero of his poem, and his wrath 
the subject of it. Sauti does not fail in developing; this 
art of the original author in his introduction and takes 
us at once to the subject of the poem. " I have visit- 
ed/' says he to Shaunak, " the far-famecl battle-field, 
my curiosity having been excited by the stories I had 
heard about the great war from the mouth of Vaisham- 
payana at the great Sarpa-satra (Serpent-sacrifice) of 
Janmejaya." The subject of our poem then is the great 
Bharata war. 

It may perhaps be objected that the subject of the 
Mahabharata is not one great action but is rather in the 
nature of the life of a hero. The Mahabharata no doubt 
gives the life of the Pandavas from beginning to end 
.and should thus be classed a heroic rather than an epic 
poem. It seems, however, clear that the poet's princi- 
pal object is not to give a life of the Pandavas- The 
primary theme which the poet has set before himself is 
the great war. The events which lead up to the great 
warfare a necessary part of the subject and have there- 
fore been described in detail. The events which happen- 
ed after the war, such as the performance of the horse- 
sacrifice, and the Pandavas* final departure on their 
grea! journey, have undoubtedly no connection with 
the real theme. But the poet has given them merely 
for the purpose of satisfying the curiosity of the reader, 
for it is remarkable that these scenes have been de- 
scribed with a brevity and meagreness of detail which is 

Mahdbharata as an Epic Poem. 49 

in evident contrast with the rest of the poem. It is 
therefore, not improper if we take it that the subject of 
the Mahabharata, which has been classed by all writers 
as an epic poem, is the great war and not the life of the 

That this subject is complex, nobody will ever be 
disposed to deny. In fact, the word Mahabharata raises 
up in our mind the idea of a something which is vast 
and extremely diversified. But very few have realised 
the vastness and the complexity of the subject from a 
poetic point of view. The scenes and incidents in the 
Mahabharata suitable for poetic treatment are so numer- 
ous and diverse, that scarcely any interesting scene 
has ever been conceived by modern Sanskrit poets which 
has not its parent in the Mahabharata. " Like the big 
Banian tree," Sauti himself boasts in the beginning of 
the poem, "the Mahabharata is the resting place for 
all modern poets/* It is the perennial stream from which 
any poet may drink and derive inspiration. 

The incidents in the Mahabharata, very numerous 
and deversified as they are, have been so well knit to- 
gether in one story that; it is not possible to conceive of 
a ' plot more splendid and well laid. It has *?>fterl 
occurred to me that if the story of the Mahabharata is 
not a historical one it must indeed be the production of 
an imagination which is higher than that of Shakespeare. 
Diversity of characters and their truthfulness to nature 
which characterise Shakespeare's plays are to be found 
in the Mahabharata also ; but the wonder is that so 
many characters have been brought together in one 
plot. What Shakespeare exhibits in many dramas 

-o The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 


Vyasa has brought together in one vast plot, the parts 
of which in spite of their vastness are like the limbs 
of an elephant set together in one harmonious and 
graceful whole. 

It is well known that particular instances in the Maha- 
bharata have furnished subjects to later Sanskrit poets 
for their epics and dramas which are poetically complete 
in themselves. It is well known that modern Kathe- 
karies or Rhapsodists base their declamations lasting 
for hours together on single incidents in this vast fabric. 
But it is not well known that the story of the epic is not 
only vast and well knitted but is capable of still further 
development. In fact, the poet has constantly kept 
the chief subject, wb., the great war, before him and 
has not allowed himself to be drawn away by the 
allurements for extension which the plot afforded* 
Only one illustration would suffice to show what I mean. 
Duryodhana's wife appears nowhere on the scene 
in the Mahabharata. Nay her name even, which later 
poets have given as Bhanumati, so far as I can re- 
member, is not found there. There is no scene in the 
JMat^bharata like that in the IHiad between Hector and 
Andromache, a scene often copied by later poets, in 
which a brave warrior, who is about to engage in 
battle and is not very sanguine about the result, is 
takipg leave of his noble and loving wife. It may be 
observed that the author of the Mahabharata exhibits 
better art in avoiding such a scene, for the implacable 
and proud character of the hero's adversary is thus 
better sustained. We shall return to this subject 

Mahabharata as an Epic Poem. 51 

The greatness of the subject of the Mahabharata, like 
its complexity, is also beyond dispute. The great war, 
as it is usually called, ended in the total destruction of 
two vast armies, such was the dogged determination 
and the uncompromising hatred of the opposite parties. 
The war was further a memorable event. It marked 
the beginning of a decrepit age, at least so far as India 
is concerned, as history has but too truly proved. Al- 
though'then, the subject cannot compare with the subject 
of the Paradise Lost, the interest of which transcends 
the limits of a nation, it may well compare with the 
theme of Homer's Illiad. The Mahabharata was, and 
still is, the national poem of India as the Illiad was of 
Greece. It is the store-house of Indian genealogy, 
mythology and antiquity. 

Having thus far spoken about the subject of our epic 
poem we shall now speak of the characters. One cannot 
sufficiently admire the personages whose noble actions 
and high ideas the Mahabharata most effectively de- 
scribes. Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Kama, Drau- 
padi, Drona and, above all, Bhishma, to leave out of 
question Shrikrishna, have been and shall be foe all 
time to come models of greatness and virtue, ever 
inspiring the Aryan mind in India to deeds of self- 
sacrifice in the performance of duty. Even Duryodhana 
has a charm and splendour of his own. His unswerving 
determination, his ambition which knows no medium 
between death and the Imperial crown, are brought out 
most vividly by the poet and teach a lesson of their 
own. And here we may notice the -superiority of the 
poet's delineation of character over Homer or even 

52 The Mahabhanita ; A Criticism. 

Milton. The adversary of the hero in th 
the Paradise Lost has been so depicted 
creating disgust he enlists our sympathy, 
his will/' observes Arnold about Milton, "f^ 
well aware and is continually reminding ^ 
Satan ought to be represented as purely ^. 
continually places language in his niout^ 
which is inconsistent with such a concept^ 
larly with Homer's Hector the reader i^, 
pleased but is very often sympathising. - 
half feels for the brave warrior, who is trying- 
.save his country and his kingdom, though j 
a wrong cause. As already observed, th< 
picture which Homer has portrayed of the n c 
Hector and the fervid love with which he snat 
of his innocent child, though in itself a gt- 
scene, has marred the general purpose of 
The readers of Paradise Lost or of the Illiaj 
tempted to think that Satan or Hector is the t 
poem and not Adam or Achilles. 

The female characters of the Malmbhar 
|trik us as superior to those (if the I Iliad, 
even Andromache cannot rival Druupavli. 1 
sufficiently admire the stately character which : 
of the Mahabharata has built up in the 
Draypadi. She is a noble woman, ever co 
her dignity, never losing her temper in the wo 
trials, chaste and pure beyond all thought, 
human still. She often discusses the situation 
the vehemence of a female's susceptible temper > 
Insists upon things which her husbands are ' 

Mahabharata as an hpzc Poem. 53 

compelled to accept. She is not, however, lowly and fit to 
be discussed to the distaff as Hector does his wife. She is 
a Rajput woman with the Rajput's bravery and deter- 
mination illuminating her face. Nay when Kichaka 
or Jayadratha try to seize and take undue liberty with 
her, with the impulse of a Rajput woman she gives 
them a push, which throws them down. She has a 
presence of mind which even men may be proud of. 
For instance, she loses not a moment in telling Kama 
when he rises to string the bow at the Swayamvara, 
that she does not wish to marry a charioteer. And 
when she is alleged to have been won at the disgraceful 
game at dice she asks a question which confounds the 
courtiers of Duryodhana. Above all, her noble willing- 
ness to share the fortunes of Arjuna disguised as a poor 
Brahmin when he won her at the Swayamvara, or when 
she followed the Pandavas in the forest in their long exile, 
has always inspired Hindu women with courage and 
contentment in sharing the lot of their husbands. 

Kunti is another strong female character in the Maha- 
bharata. Although she remains in Vidura's house when 
the Pandavas with their wife go into 12 years' exile^the^ 
message which she sends with Krishna to her sons is in 
true Rajput fashion and is one of the most stirring calls 
to fight. She wishes her sons either to die or conquer. 
She, however, does not incite her sons to fight for^her 
sake. When the Pandavas are successful and estab- 
lished on the throne she leaves them and accompanies 
Dhritarashtra to the forest and dies in the performance 
of her duties, viz., attendance on the blind old man. As 
she starts Bhima implores her to stay arid enjoy the fruft 

54 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

of her advice, but she firmly replies : " I have had enjoy- 
ment enough during my husband's time. I incited you 
to fight because I did not wish you to beg/' Her last 
parting advice to her sons may be written in golden 
letters : u Believe in righteousness. Have minds ever 
great" It is the purport of the whole Mahabharata 
condensed into one single line. 

The female characters of the Mahabharata, elevated 
as they are, have a touch of humanity which makes the 
whole world kin. When Arjuna brings his second wife 
Subhadrato Indraprastha, Draupadi expresses her feeling 
of jealousy in a happy metaphor: "The first tie how- 
ever firm and strong relaxes when followed by another." 
Kunti when Kama appears in the lists of the tourna- 
ment faints. Uttara asking Arjuna to accompany her 
brother on his expedition against the Kauravas requests 
him to bring good pieces of cloth for the use of her dolls, 
never doubting that her brother would conquer their 
mighty hosts. These and other touches of the poet, 
illustrative of feminine weakness, make the female cha- 
racters of the Mahabharata all the more lovable. 
,- Thirdly, the divine charactersfin the Mahabharata are, 
unlike those in the Illtad, really divine and not comic* 
It has generally been remarked that if there are any 
comic scenes in the Illiad, for there is little room for 
comjc scenes in the grave march of an epic poem, they 
are those on the top of the Olympus. The gods in heaven 
squabble over affairs on the earth; they assist rnorrals in 
the most whimsical manner for very low motives. 
Even Jove, the Almighty God, is often distracted by the 
'importunities of his wife Juno, who has peculiar par- 

Mahabharata as an Epic Poem. 55 

tialities of her own, and has sometimes to threaten her 
with corporal chastisement. The gods in the Maha- 
bharata are much like the gods of the Greeks, but the 
poet never dethrones them from their high position. 
He introduces them with great effect into the poem and 
adds to the diversity of its characters. The gods of 
Vyasa rarely interfere with human affairs. If ever they 
do, they act as gods and not as selfish human beings. 
We may cite one instance. Indra is represented as going 
to Kama to deprive him of his natural armour, said to have 
been born with him, in order that his son, Arjuna, might 
not find him invulnerable in battle. Kama is well known 
as a donor who refuses nothing to Brahmanas, and Indra 
in the disguise of a Brahmana asks Kama to part with his 
armour. The generous man gives it to him knowing 
who he is. The Mahabharata does not represent Indra 
as walking off quietly with it, but as acting like a god. 
He is pleased and like a god grants a boon. Kama 
asks for a weapon from him which is infallible against 
one mortal, and Indra grants one to him not caring that 
it might be used against Arjuna himself. Again Arjuna's 
visit to the heavens or Indra's court and his encounter 
with and propitiation of Shiva an incident which 
Bharavi has developed into his Mahakavya, the Kirata- 
Arjuniya are described by the Mahabharata in a few 
brilliant touches and the divine characters act like jjods 
and not men. 

We will now pass to the question how Vyasa develops 
his Characters and his story. We may repeat the part of 
the definition of an epic poem given by Arnold. The epic 
is developed by a mixture of dialogue, soliloquy and 

36 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

rative. The author of the Mahabharata is equally strong 
in this as in the other characteristics of the epic poem. 
The Mahabharata is peculiarly powerful in its dialogues. 
In fact, we look upon the dialogue as the strong point 
of "the poern. As in the Illiad or the Paradise Lost the 
speeches here are well conceived, eloquent and forcible 
and are suited to the character of the speakers. It is not 
possible to give here any particular dialogues in extenso % . 
and we can only refer to some of the most brilliant speeches; 
such as the dialogue in the Adiparva between Duryo- 
dhana, Kama, Arjuna and Bhirna on the occasion of 
the exhibition of their skill in archery ; or the dialogue 
in the Sabha Parva between Shisupal and Bhishma, 
at the end of which Krishna killed Shisupala by the 
throw of his discus ; or the dialogue in the Vana Parva 
between Yudhishthira, Bhirna and Draupadi, the latter 
advising the use of stratagem to oppose stratagem ; 
or the dialogue in the Drona Parva between Dhrisht- 
dyumna, Satyaki, Arjuna and Yudhishthira when the 
former had killed Drona in a defenceless condition. 
Krishna's address to the Kauravas on the occasion of his 
jrned^tion for peace is a master-piece and may alone 
suffice to give the casual reader an idea of Vyasa's power 
of conceiving a powerful speech. Another example of 
Krishna's masterly speeches is the one in the Kama 
Parva wherein he tries to rouse the spirits of Arjuna as 
he advances to battle with Kama. These and other 
speeches, too numerous to mention, are a peculiar charm 
of the poem and almost convert it into a drama* 

J3ne peculiar trait of the speeches in the Mahabharata 
is their fearlessness. They are utterances of outspoken 

Mahabharata as an Epic Poem. 57' 

truthful persons who are not afraid to tell their hearers 
what they think of them. Vidura, for instance, is never 
afraid to upbraid Duryodhana in the strongest terms 
possible whenever he is doing a wrong act. But perhaps 
Vidura's position and relation were a shield, to him. 
Shakuntala had no such shield. The Shakuntala of 
Vyasa is a far different being from the Shakuntala of 
Kalidas. She is a country girl outspoken and fearless 
and conscious of the dignity of virtue. When the king 
denied in open court having ever seen, much less married 
her, she said : " I disclaim to keep company with you who 
have no respect for truth. Truth is more precious than 
husband or son." She does not swoon like the gentle 
heroine of Kalidasa's famous drama but leaves the court . 
in disgust. 

The conversation between Shalya and Kama in the 
Kama Parva is another instance of the out-spoken charac- 
ter of the speeches which Vyasa puts in the mouths 
of his characters. The story of a swan and crow is a 
splendid animal story told for the purpose of -illustrating 
a moral and is well worth a perusal. In fact Vyasa con-* 
trives to teach the highest morals through the mouth 
of his characters, his poem furnishing illimitable sayings 
and examples on the value of truthfulness, simplicity, 
honour, devotion to duty, generosity and self-restraint 
There is one feeling or virtue, which is, however, not 
touched, vis., patriotism, which forms a peculiar charm of 
some of the speeches in the Illiad. Probably the 
Aryans of India did not develop political virtues like 
their brethren of the West, or perhaps the theme of the 
Mahabharata did not afford opportunities for patriotic 

-8 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 


utterances, being a war between two sections of the 
same race. 

We now come to soliloquy. The Sanskrit poets 
have not much used this form of speech except in the 
drama wjiere also the 'Swagatas' are short and not 
very eloquent. The Mahabharata does not contain any 
soliloquy unless we can call the lamentations of Duryo- 
dhana as he lay wounded on the battle-field a soliloquy. 
We think soliloquy is not a natural form of utterance. 
One may sometimes think loudly, but very few, perhaps 
none give utterance to a sustained and impassioned 
speech when thinking to themselves. We are not, 
however, going to launch upon a controversy. It is 
enough to note that there are no soliloquies in the 

In narrative the author of the Mahabharata displays 
as great a power as Homer or Milton. The story is 
always told with force and perspicuity and the descrip- 
tions are often picturesque and grand. In relating the 
details of fighting especially Vyasa discovers a power 
which is almost unique. The descriptions of the in- 
dividual duels in the Mahabharata, one may be dis- 
posed to observe, are full of repetition ; one warrior 
throwing so many arrows at another who returns the so 
many, being the usual way of describing a duel and 
when the same scenes are repeated the reader is apt to 
get tired. Something of the same kind happens even 
in the Illiad. But we must transport ourselves to those 
ancient days when the chief offensive weapon was the 
arrow or the javelin, and when battles usually took the 
forin of duels between opposite chiefs. Even as it is, the 

Mahabharata as an Epic Poem. 59 

variety of the scenes which the poet conceives and the 
vigour with which they are described are really wonder- 
ful. The recitation of the Mahabharata, especially the 
war portion of it, like that of the Illiad, always roused 
the martial spirits of the hearers, and it is well-known 
that Shivaji drew his heroic inspiration from a hearing 
of this poern. 

In the description of natural scenes, the Mahabharata 
is not as successful as the Raniayana. There are very 
few descriptions of this kind in the whole poem. In the 
Vanaparva, however, we have a description of the Hima- 
layas which strikes us as coming from the pen of one 
who has seen or lived on the snow-clad northern barrier 
of India. The description of an avalanche in which the 
Pandavas and Draupadi were caught is so graphic and 
real, that we feel as if we are reading the newspaper 
report of snow-storms which even in these days occa- 
sionally overtake a Mail Tonga, sometimes with fatal 
results. In the description of the Gandha Madana hill, 
however, though very picturesque and full, we discover 
some touches added by Sauti as we find the Tal or 
the Palm trees mentioned among the trees adorning 
thehiIl T which seems to be drawn more from imagination 
than reality. 

In describing persons the Mahabharata is chaste and 
powerful. Female beauty is nowhere described in a 
sensual manner as is so habitual with later Sanskrit 
poets. The description of Draupadi which Yudhishthira 
gives when he stakes her at the game of dice is in the 
best fashion of Vyasa. " Draupadi, " says he, " neither 
tall nor short, neither lean nor stout, with eyes* as 

60 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

large and with breath as fragrant as an autumnal lotus y 
in temper, in beauty even as a man could ever wish 
his wife to be, she who goes to bed after and rises 
before me, her I stake Shakuni, come, play." Even the 
praise of Draupadi's charms which the poet puts in the 
mouth of Kichaka are not as turbid as one could have 
expected them from his mouth. Arjuna, disguised as 
Brihannada or a eunuch, is most charmingly and correct- 
ly described ; so also Bhishma and Drona as they go to 
battle and Kama as he enters the lists in the Adiparva, 
These instances would suffice as illustrations. 

The last point for consideration is the measure and 
the language of the poem. The Mahabharata is mostly 
told in the Anushtub metre and the Upajati metre is 
also frequently used. These are the recognised metres 
of an epic poem in the Sanskrit language. The well- 
known Mahakavyas are composed in these metres with 
a sprinkling of other metres. The Anushtub metre lias 
lost in dignity owing to the use of it in the PuranaSy 
the Upa-puranas, in works on sciences and on art It is 
apparently an hackneyed and easy metre. But we must 
remember that in the hands of capable authors Anushtub 
Snlokas are still dignified and powerful and we need 
only instance KalidasaVRaghuvamsha, Cantos i and 
4. Like the Iambic in English the Anushtub, though 
the recognised metre for all heroic or epic works, gains 
or loses in dignity according as the author is a real 
poet or a mere versifier. 

The language of the Mahabharata is also dignified and 
fit for an epic poem. It is distinguished by three cha- 
racteristics : simplicity, depth and correctness. Simpln 

Mahabharata as an Epic Poem. 6r 

city and depth are indeed two things which can rarely be 
combined. Later Mahakavyas are distinguished by 
dignity of expression but they have attained to it at the 
expense of perspicuity. The reader is charmed and 
pleased by the sound, but he has to stop and ponder 
over the letters before he gets at the meaning. It is not so 
In the Mahabharata. Later Puranas may compare well 
with the Mahabharata in simplicity, but they use ex- 
tremely* incorrect language, and commentators are fre- 
quently driven to explain bad forms as 'Arsh.' Nor is 
their language sublime and dignified. The language of 
the Mahabharata bears the impress of a writer who is the 
.master of a spoken language. It has been observed by 
Arnold that Milton, whose language, in spite of its 
ruggedness, corresponds in dignity with the dignity of 
the subject, does not use chaste and pure English. He 
uses Latin and Greek words and even Latin and Greek 
constructions in English garb. I think the language 
of the Mahabharata, though not ponderous like the 
language of the Paradise Lost, compares favourably 
with it in point of purity. 

Whoever wishes to realise the beauty of the language 
of the Mahabharata should read the Bhagwat Gita, which 
is indeed what the author has said about it, the nectar 
and essence of the whole poem. It not only contains 
the highest philosophy which the Mahabharata h^s to 
teach, but it exhibits the author's command over the 
Sanskrit language in the highest degree. In the whole 
range of non-vedic Sanskrit literature there is not a 
single work which can equal the Bhagwat Gita in simpli- 
city of language, in correctness of expression and the deep 

62 The Mahdbharata: A Criticism. 

sonorousness of its period. The words and sentences in 
this best of songs are indeed cast in pure gold, for they 
are small in compass, weighty and brilliant. 

The epic poem need have no moral. But the Maha* 
bharata has one distinctly. It is the binding cord 
which runs through the whole of this vast fabric holding 
fast its several parts. We are not left to guess what 
this moral is. The author has told it himself in his 
own words. The observance of Dharma, uitder any 
condition or in any adversity, is the duty which the 
Mahabharata tries constantly to inculcate throughout 
its length. One may render the word Dharma as our 
whole duty to God and man. There are four shlokas 
at the end of the Mahabharata which contain this moral 
and which are collectively called Bharata-Savitri. It was 
stated by a Shastri that Bharata-Savitri used to be recited 
every morning by pious Brahmins as a part of what is 
called the Pratahsmarana or morning prayer. We shall 
conclude this piece of criticism with quoting and trans* 
lating one of these shlokas : 

Rendered into English verse this stands as follows 

With arms uplifted, loud I cry ; 
But no one deigns to hear. 

* Pleasure and wealth from duty flow, 

Duty why not revere ? 






I THE Mahabharata war or rather battle is the first authen- 

| tic event in the ancient history of India. The authenti- 

city of the fight of Rama with the Rakshasa, king of 
Lanka, has been questioned by many ; but nobody has 
I doubted the truth of the event of the terrible battle on 

1 the plains of Kurukshetra which ended in the total 
destruction of two vast armies. When did the fight 
take place? That is a question on which diverse 
opinions have been recorded. The earliest date as- 

2 signed to the Mahabharata war is that fixed by Mr. 
? Modak on the basis of some astronomical data found 

in the Mahabharata. He thinks , that the vernal ' 
equinox at the time of the war was in Punarvasu 

*' , and hence about 7,000 years must have elapsed since 
then. Some thinkers, following the opinion of Varaha 

i Mihira, believe that the battle was fought in 2604 BT.C. 

European scholars on the other hand believe on the 
authority of a Shloka in the Vishnu Purana that the \var 

; took place about 1500 B.C. Mr. Dutta gives 1250 B.C. 

as the date of the Kuru-Panchal war on the basis o 
the Magadha annals which show that thirty-five kings 

1 5 

66 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

reigned in Magadha between the Kuru-Panchal war and 
the & timeof Buddha, Mr. Velandi Ayyar, in a pamphlet 
only recently published, calculates the exact date of the 
war or battle as the I4th of October 1194 B.C. The 
orthodox opinion, however, is that the war took 
place in 3101 B.C. calculating on the basis of the 
generally accepted belief in India that in 1899 A.D. five 
thousand years had elapsed since the beginning of the 
Kali-age. We agree with this orthodox opinion and 
will in this chapter discuss the evidence both internal 
.and external (the latter to be divided again into Indian 
and Foreign) on which we rely. 

The Mahabharata war is held among the Aryans of 
India as synchronous with the beginning of the Kali-age 
,and naturally enough. The Aryans of India had 
.arrived, as we will show in a separate place, at a very 
high state of both moral and material progress at the time 
of the war and the war was the beginning of its down- 
fall. Departures from fixed moral rules begun by one 
party were multiplied by the other in retaliation ; so 
much so that the last unpardonable action of Bhima in 
ireakrng the thigh of Duryodhana with his mace 1 was 
retaliated by Ashwatthama slaughtering innocent men 
.and children at night in sleep. This moral downfall 
was followed by the annihilation of the material power 
of both parties and the Aryans in consequence gradually 
fell, never to recover thereafter their former position, as 
'history has painfully proved. In short, Kali-yuga has 

i Krishna apologising to his enraged brother Balarama for this moat 
^lawful conduct of Bhima can only say Hit ^fHfJpf ftft 

The Date of the Mahabharata War. 67 

properly been believed to begin with the great war between 
the Pandavas and the Kauravas. 

It is suggested by Talboys Wheeler that Shrikrishna 
was not in existence at the time of this great war. But the 
great Krishna cannot be separated from the Pandavas. 
In fact, the Mahabharata would not have been what it 
is but for his wonderful personality. We have strong 
external evidence also in support of this connection. 
HeracleS, who is none other than Krishna, and Pandia 
have been talked of -together by Greek historians, 
though by similarity of sound the Pandias of the south 
have undoubtedly been mistaken for the Pandavas. 1 
The curious story is related by Greek authors that 
Heracles had a daughter by name Pandia on whom he 
raised progeny by incest and assigned to it a country 
which lies to the south and extends to the sea. 
( McCrindle's ancient India). Here is a jumble of names 
and facts. The Pandavas were no doubt the sons of 
Krishna's father's sister, and his own sister was the 
mother of the next heir. But the Pandias were a dif- 
ferent race of Indians altogether who settled in the south 
of India and among whom peculiar marriage institutions* 
obtained (probably copied from the native inhabitants), 
such as the marriage between sisters and brothers. 
The same story as stated by the Greeks has, I be- 
lieve, been copied by Feristah in the introduction to*his 
great work wherein he gives a summary of the ancient 
legendary history of India. To return to our point, even 

1 Weber refers to this fact and the natural inference, but makes 
light of it. He similarly disposes the Sutra of Panini wherein 
and 3T|pr are talked of together, page 137. 

58 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

this mistaken account given by Greek authors shows that 
so far back as 300 B.C. Shrikrishna and the Panclavas 
were inseparably connected in the public mind in India. 

We may therefore grant that the fixing of the date of 
the Mahabharata war is the same as the fixing of the 
date of the beginning of the Kali-age and the date of 
Shrikrishna. We shall now collect and discuss the 
evidence bearing on these three points. 

In discussing internal evidence we have to 'bear in 
mind that the original Mahabharata, as has already 
been shown in Book I, was at least twice recast, the last 
time about 300 B.C. It is often difficult to decide 
whether a particular sentiment, idea or statement of fact 
in the Mahabharata belongs to the last mentioned 
period, or to the time of the original nucleus of the Kpic. 
But we shall have to do so and we have already given 
some general principles on which this can be clone with 
tolerable accuracy. Bearing this in mind we shall first 
proceed to see what inference as to time can be drawn 
from the state of society and knowledge described in the 
original Mahabharata. 

r ThtT Vedic period is usually divided into two parts, the 
Mantra period and the Brahmana period. It appears 
pretty certain that the Mahabharata war took place 
in the middle of the Brahmana period, Holding, as 
we tito, that the author Vyasa was a contemporary 
of the event and wrote his poem some time after 
the war, we may derive some argument from the 
language of the original poem. The language of 
\yasa is simple and forcible, and bears the mark of a 
spoken language. It is also archaic in appearance and 

The Date of the Mahabharata War. 69 

stands on the same level with the language of the 
Upnishadas. The poet has often a fancy to indulge in 
the composition of metres after the Vedic fashion though 
Anushtub has been established on a firm basis as the 
metre of epic or Puranik poetry. The state of society 
described is very nearly the same as in the Upnishadas. 
The Aryans had arrived at a very high state of civiliza- 
tion. Kings, armies, palaces and gardens are spoken of 
in both. Caste had not become quite exclusive though it 
was gradually being stratified. Brahmanas had establish- 
ed a character for sanctity and were beginning to be 
revered as saintly beings who had attained to divine 
powers. Animal food, even beef, was freely eaten by 
Kshatriyas and Brahmanas. Sacrifices were the order of 
the day, though faith in these rituals had begun to be 
shaken by new principles preached as Sankhya, Yoga 
and Vedanta. We shall have to discuss this subject at 
greater length in a separate place ; but these salient 
features are enough to indicate that the Mahabharata 
war took place about the time when the Brahmanas were 
being and had partly been composed. 

This conclusion is not shaken by what we find from a 
consideration of external Indian evidence. The" Brah- 
manas contain no direct reference to the great war no 
doubt, but this is only a negative argument. For there 
are other indications which show that the war must have 
taken place about the middle of the Brahmana period. 
The older portions of the Shatapatha Brahmana speak 
of the Kurus and Panchalas as two flourishing com- 
munities. The later portions have a direct reference to 
Janmejaya Parikshita and his brothers Shrutasewa, 

7 o The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

Ugrasena and Bhimasena, the great-grand-sons of 
Arjuna. These facts would lead us to think that the 
great war must have taken place in the interval. We 
have again the direct mention of 'Krishna Devaki Putra' 
as a teacher of Vedanta in the Chhandoyoga Upnishad. 
Vyasa lastly is mentioned as a Rishi in one of the Pan- 
shishtas of the Kathaka Brahmana of the Black Yajus 
(Weber, p. 93), tho'ugh we have no mention of him earlier. 
Weber in commenting on the mention of Janmejaya 
Parikshitain the later portions of the Shatapatha Brah- 
mana observes, u Flow is this contradiction to be ex- 
plained. That something great and marvellous had 
happened in the family of the Parikshitas and that their 
end still excited astonishment at the time of the Brahmana 
has already been stated* But what it was we know not, 
After what has been said above, it Ccin hardly have been 
the overthrow of the Kurus by the Panchalas ; but at 
any rate it must have been deeds of guilt ; and indeed I 
am inclined to regard this as the yet unknown ' some- 
thing' which is the basis of the legend of the 
Mahabharata." (Weber, p. 136)- Mr. Dutta, follow- 
ing the train of thought started by Weber, says, 
^Th^ literature of the times which makes frequent 
mention of Janmejaya Parikshita has not a word 
to say about the Pandavas who are entirely unknown 
to Vedic Sanskrit Literature. Arjuna was still the 
nam of Indra and Indra's Vedic combats with the 
rain cloud have thus been mixed up with the facts of a 
historical war ! To take one more instance, Janmejaya 
Parikshita was, according to contemporaneous testimony, 
himself stained with the guilt of the war. In the 

The Date of the Mahabharata War. 71 

modern Epic Janmejaya is the great-grandson of Arjuna 
who was engaged in war/' (Dutta's ist Edition.) 1 

Here is another instance of a jumble of ideas. What 
contemporaneous testimony' states that Janmejaya was 
stained with the guilt of the war ? In fact, the war has 
not been mentioned at all in the Shatapatha Brahmana. 
Janmejaya is stated to have incurred the sin of Bramha- 
hatya and not the sin of waging a war. And whence 
does Weber derive his idea of the astonishing end of the 
PariksKitas ? The Brihadaranya only refers to a 
question put to Yadnyavalkya by a Gandharva as to 
where the Parikshitas were. It is a question which may 
be asked about any person whose end is not marvellous. 
This is a digression but one necessitated by the mistake 
which Mr. Dutta has committed of confounding the sin of 
Bramhahatya with the Mahabharata war. 1 The omission 
of the mention of the war in the Shatapatha Brahmana 
is not of great importance as we will show in the next 
chapter where the whole question is discussed in detail. 
Since we have the direct mention of Janmejaya Parikshita 
and of Amba, Ambika and Ambalaya and Subhadra and 
Arjuna and Falguna and other names familiar in the 
Bharata therein, we cannot doubt that the wa** must 
have taken place in the interval. 

It thus seems very probable from internal and external 
evidence that the Mahabharata war took place after the 
Shatapatha Brahman had been commenced, and certainly 
before the later portions of it, and some of the oldest 
Upnishadas, such as Chhandoyoga and Brihadaranya, 

i In the Second Edition of Dutta's Ancient Civilization of India 
these ideas and inferences have been dropped. 

] 72 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 


j were composed. This by itself does not lead us to any 

definite conclusions as to its date. But the time may 
still be approximately determined. Although European 
j scholars have generally assigned to the Vedas a very 

! late date, later researches, especially those of Mr. Tilak 

j and Shankar Dixit, have shown that the Mantra portion 

1 of the Vedas was composed at least about 4,000 years 

| before the Christian Era and that the Brahmanas were 

probably composed about 3,000 B.C. We do not wish 
I! here to capitulate the arguments of Dixit which relate to 

the date of the Mantra portion of the Vedas. We are 
only concerned with his arguments relating to the date 
of the composition of the Brahmanas. These arguments 
of Dixit are, in our opinion, very strong and do not admit 
of any controversy. Dixit's work "The History of 
Bharatiya Jyotish Shastra " has not, we believe, been 
jj translated into English, and we take the liberty of giving 

!J below his chief arguments. In the Shatapatha Brahmana, 

I K.2, it is said 'Etaha vai prachyaidishonachyavantc, Sar- 

I vani ha va anyani nakshatrani prachyai dishashchyavanti.' 

|! " These (the Krittika) do not swerve from the east, while 

|r all other Nakshatras do." This clearly proves that in the 

| 3ays of the Shatapatha Brahmana, Kand II, the Krit- 

tji tikas rose exactly in the east and must, therefore, have 

I- been on the celestial equator. This must have been ac- 

f * cording to Dixit's calculation about 3,000 years or more 

H before the Christian Era. And if we remember the 

\ r roughness of Vedic observations we shall have to allow a 
jj margin of two or even three centuries to the time above 

|, calculated. So far as we have been able to ascertain there 

;i ; seems no reason why the date fixed by Dixit within a 

The Date of the Mahabharata War. 73 

variation of one or two centuries should not be taken to 
be the date of the composition of the older portions of the 
Shatapatha Brahmana. The Bharata war happened 
some time after this and before the later portions of the 
Brahmana were composed. These later portions must 
have been composed long before theVedanga Jyotisha,the 
date of which from the astronomical Observations record- 
ed therein appears to be about 1500 B.C. (see Dixit) and 
they may safely be assigned to about 2000 B.C. at 
the latest. The Mahabharata war must thus have been 
fought between 3100 B.C. and 2000 B.C. 

The rising of the Krittikas exactly in the east referred 
to in the Shatapatha Brahmana, Kanda II, has furnished 
us with a reliable basis for fixing the date of that portion 
of the Brahmana. That the Mahabharata war took 
place soon after this, can be inferred from the almost 
unanimous testimony of Indian astronomers. As has 
already been stated, the Mahabharata war has always 
been looked upon as the beginning of the Kali-age and 
Indian astronomers have generally accepted and ex- 
pressed the same view. The Mahabharata itself preaches 
and maintains this idea, as will appear from the various 
quotations given below : 

Antare chaiva samprapte Kalklvaparayorabhut, Syamantapanchake 
yuddham Kurupandavasenayoh ; Adi Parva. 

Praptam Kaliyugam Viddhi pratijna Pandavasya cha, Gada Parva. 
Etatkaliyugam nama achiradyat pravartate ; Vana Parva. 

The same idea has been expressed by the astronomical 
Siddhantas, which probably date from the first century of 
the Christian Era, by the first Arya-bhatta who preceded 
Varaha Mihira and flourished about 450 A.D. and lastly 
by the Indian astronomers who lived after him down t& 

74 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

the present day. Taking 300 B.C. as the date of the 
recasting of the Mahabharata as we have it, we find 
1 that from 300 B.C. down to the present day, the belief in 

!' ' India has been that the Mahabharata war took place 
j about the beginning of the Kali-age.' Now all the 

Indian astronomers agree in stating that the Kali-age 
began in 3101 B.C. It follows naturally that; in the 
| opinion of the Indian astronomers, who range from 

I 100 A.D., the Mahabharata war took place about 

\ 3101 B.C. 

Whence did the Indian astronomers derive that date 
for the beginning of the Kali-age? That is a question 
which has puzzled many thinkers and Dixit: himself is 
one of them. It is suggested by him that the astrono- 
mers perhaps obtained that date by calculation. They 
supposed that the beginning of the Kali-age was marked 
by the coming of the planets near Ashwini and found 
the year 3101 B.C. as the one which most nearly ful- 
filled that condition. But there is no authority to hold 
that the Indian astronomers thought that the beginning 
of the Kali-age was marked by the coming together of 

I j the planets near Ashwini, Nor does it appear that the 
L J "real 'positions of the planets were near Ashwini in the 
V year 3101 B.C. Dixit takes Madhyama Grahas or their 
ij mean positions and bases his theory upon them. But 

II * Madhyama Grahas are of no use in this connection, 
i! as the Spashta or real positions of the planets often 
|,J differ by very large amounts from their Madhyama or 

l \\\ 

,| i The Surya-siddhanta speaks of Bharata as interchangeable- 

jlj with the beginning of the Kali-age when it speaks of Bharata Guru,. 

,,J " w Dixit, p. 193. 

The Date of the Mahabharata War, 75, 

mean positions. In fine, this theory of a fictitious 
beginning being obtained by calculation fails because 
the two premises on which it rests are themselves 

It appears very probable that the date of the begin- 
ning of the Kali-age, assigned by the Indian astrono- 
mers, was obtained by tradition in the same manner as 
the Mahabharata war has been by tradition identified with 
that beginning. We have come across a very strong 
piece of external evidence in support of this view. The 
Greek historians of India, who derived their information 
about this country at the time of Alexander and also 
from the now unfortunately lost work of Megasthenes, 
have recorded the following about the chronological 
beliefs which prevailed in those days in India, " From 
the time of Dionysos to Sandrakottos, the Indians 
counted 153 kings, and a period of 6,042 years. But 
among these a republic was thrice established. The 
Indians also tell us that Dionysos was earlier than 
Heracles by 15 generations " (McCrindle's Ancient India, 
p. 204). Now although there may be a doubt as to who 
this Dionysos was, it is admitted on all hands that 
Heracles was no other than Hari or Shrikrishna. * 
"This Heracles is held in special honour by the Shour- 
seni Indian tribe who possess two large cities, Mathora 
and Cleisobora. It is further said that he had a very 
numerous progeny (for, like his Theban namesake 
he married many wives)." (Ditto, p. 201.) This 
description of Heracles should, we think, be enough 
to identify him with Shrikrishna, the contemporary 
of the Pandavas. Since there were 153 generations from 

76 The MaJuMuirata : A Criticism* 

Dionysos to Chandragupta and Dionysos was 15 
generations earlier than Heracles it follows that Heracles 
preceded Chandragupta by 138 generations of kings, 
Taking 20 years as the average for each reign, we have 
an approximate period of 2,760 years separating the two, 
Chandragupta's date is 312 B.C which gives us 3072 
B.C. as the approximate date of Shrikrishna, It very 
nearly tallies with the date of the Mahafoharata war 
.given by Indian astronomers- 
Such was the tradition prevalent in India in 312 B. C, 
i.e., at a time when European scholars arc agreed that 
the Indians had not learnt or discovered the methods 
of calculating the positions of planets. That the inqui- 
sitive Greek ambassador at the court of Chandnigupta 
has left carefully sifted information about India without 
exaggeration or fabrication has also been admitted. 1 
The only possible way in which the above tradition may 
be impeached is by supposing that the Indians them- 
selves had exaggerated notions about their antiquity, 
This agrument, however, is not of much value as we 
have arrived at our figure by taking the generally 
^ -accented average of 20 years for each reign. It cannot 
be argued that even the number of generations has been 
exaggerated. The charge has often been brought 
-against the Indians that they had no idea of history, I 
think that the charge has been lightly made. Works 
known as histories or Itihasas were known even in 
Vedic times. The Mahabharata itself was originally a 
history. Historical facts, especially genealogies, were 
most carefully recorded at all times in ancient India. 

1 See Hunter's Indian Empire, 

The Date of the Mahabharata War. 77 

The detailed figures given by Megasthenes himself 
clearly prove that this was done in his time. Houen 
Tsang has recorded it as a fact that annals were care- 
fully recorded in each State. The Rajatarangini speaks 
of ancient histories of Kashmere. In the presence of 
such evidence extending over such a long period we 
cannot believe that history had no existence in India. 
Even now Rajput genealogies and even the genealogies 
of Banias and Mewatis are recorded very carefully by 
Bhatas who gain their living by this profession alone. 
It was, we believe only once, ms^ between 700 and 1000 
A.D. when Buddhism was overthrown and modern 
Hinduism established, that historical darkness came 
upon the land and most of the ancient annals were, 
either destroyed or tampered with. The evidence which 
we have adduced from Greek sources does not belong 
to this period but is as old as 312 B.C. and cannot be 
looked upon as exaggerated or tampered with. Even 
granting all that can be urged against us, this much at 
least cannot be gainsaid, viz., that the idea that the 
Mahabharata war took place about 3100 B.C. is as old 
as Megasthenes. ^ 

We are now in a position to consider the contra- 
dictory evidence adduced from the Vishnu Purana and 
the Bhagavata which presumably follows the former in 
this respect. We will use Mr. Dutta's translation of .the 
Vishnu Purana here. In the last section of Part IV 
Parashara says, " From the birth of king Parikshita 
up to the installation of king Nanda, it is to be known 
that 1065 years have passed." This, no doubt, would 
give to the Mahabharata war a date much later than 

-y8 The Mahdbharata: A Criticism. 

we have assigned, TO?., somewhere about 1400 B.C. 
But this statement in the Vishnu Purana is opposed 
to what has been stated in it a little before. The Vishnu 
Purana purports to have been recited when Parikshita 
was ruling the earth (see the last sentence of Section 
.20). At the end of Section 23 it is stated that kings of the 
Brihadratha race will rule in Magadha for 1,000 years. 1 
Then follows the Pradyota dynasty, of which it is 
predicted, " these five kings of the Pradyota race 
shall govern the earth for 138 years" (Section 24). 
Then follow kings of the Shishunaga race "who will 
lord over the earth for 362 years." Hereafter comes 
the Shudra king, Mahapadmananda, with his 8 sons, 
who will rule the earth for 100 years. Now adding up 
the periods of kings before Nanda we find 

Brihadratha dynasty 1,000 years, 

Pradyota dynasty X38 ,, 

Shishunaga dynasty ... 362 

1,500 years. 

The Brihadratha dynasty is counted from Sahadeva, 
c son of Jarasandha, killed by Bhima, and contemporary 
of the Mahabharata war, " How can the statement 
of 1,065 years, then, be reconciled with this ? Then 
again we have the following statement immediately 
after the former : " At the birth of the king Parikshita 
they (the Saptarishis) were in Magha and then the Kali- 
age began which consists of 1,200 divine years." It is 
thus admitted by the Vishnu Purana also that the 

1 A round figure like this is generally suspicious. 

The Date of the Mahabharata War. 79 

Kali-age began at the end of the Mahabharata war. It 
is therefore making a statement opposed to all the 
astronomers of India when it gives the interval between 
the war and the reign of Nanda as 1,065 years only. 
We further find that this length of 1,200 divine years is 
said to equal 360 800 human years, which is evidently a 
mistake. In our opinion the statements in the Vishnu 
Purana are not of much worth. The Purana must 
have beeh recast during the revival of Hinduism at the 
hands of illiterate men ; we know what value is usually 
attached to Puranika geography and astronomy ; and 
we do not think a better value can be attached to 
Puranik chronology. 1 Especially when we find that 
it is opposed not only to the evidence of Indian as- 
tronomers but also to the evidence of Greek his- 
torians who have recorded the traditions prevalent 
in India in 300 B.C., we cannot but regard this 
conflicting statement in the Vishnu Purana as of little 

The apparently contradictory statement of Varaha 
Mihira has next to be considered. The following shloka 
appears in his Brihatsamhita and is said by hi^n to 
have been quoted from Garga : 

* * Asanmaghasu munayah shasati Prithivim Yudhisthire Nripatau. 
Shad dwika panchadwiyutah shakakalah tasya rajnasheha." 
1 Weber observes, " Those works that have come down to us under 
the name of Puranas are all later productions and belong- all of them 
to the last thousand years or so. They likewise advert m a prophetic 
tone to the historic line of kings. Here, however, they come into the 
most violent conflict not only with each other but with chronology, in 
general, so that their historical value in this respect is extremely 
small. " (pp. 190, 191.) 

So The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

This is generally translated as follows: The J 
(the Saptarishis) were in Magha when king Yudh.Is? tl:113 a 
ruled the earth. And 2526 when added to Shakakala is tlie 
date of that king." This would mean, therefore, that: the 
great king peceded the Shaka Era by 2526 years a-nd not 
by 3, 179 years as is generally believed. Varaha Mihir^ is 
thus supposed to assign to the Bharata war a date la-tor* by 
653 years. It is impossible to believe that Varaha IVlil** ra 
could have differed from Arya-bhatta who prec^d^d txim 
in this one respect alone; for he agrees with all the 
other astronomers of India in giving 3101 B.C. as 
the date of the beginning of the Kali-age. That he 
should have believed the Bharata war to havo "been 
fought 653 years after that beginning, is evidently very 
strange; and we are naturally led to suspect that the 
verse quoted above means something else than -wliat 
it apparently does. A little reflection will show us tliat 
this must be so. The verse is quoted from Garg"^-, who 
is generally believed to have lived before the Christian 
Era. The word Shakakala used by Garga cannot tti o r e f ore 
refer to Shaliwahan Shakabda which was not even 
r born jp the days of Garga ; some other Shaka is TJL n ques- 
tionably referred to by Garga. Mr. Ayyar In his 
recently published pamphlet has pointed out tlals fact 
and believes-that the Nirvana Era which was tho only 
one current in Garga's days is referred to in the S 111 oka. 
The ingenious interpretation which he puts on * SIia,d~ 
dwika panchadwi' to suit his own theory cannot, however, 
be accepted. We think the compound means? ^566 
and not 2526, the component word 'dwika * meaning 
' twice' and not two, the whole word being- interpreted 

The Date of the Mahabharata War. 8r 

according to grammatical rules, as six twice five 
two. This, when added to the Nirvana Era 543, gives 
us 3109 B.C., a difference of only 8 years on the gene- 
rally accepted date of the Yudhishthira Era. What Garga 
intended by Shaks, Kala cannot be definitely deter- 
mined, but nobody can dispute the fact that the 
word in Garga's mouth cannot mean the Shalivahana 
Shaka. Although, therefore, we have not been able 
to reduce the verse to the exact figure, this much 
is certain that the discrepancy on which so much 
stress is laid does not exist and that Varaha Mihira 
did not assign to Yudhishthira so late a date as 
2526+78 = 2604 B.C. 

It is only a few years back that the date of Garga was 
determined and we now know that he lived about 154 
B.C. Kalhana, the author of the Rajatarangini, who 
lived in the nth Century A.D., did not probably know 
it and he naturally interpreted the above oft-quoted 
verse of Garga in the same manner as has hitherto been 
done. Kalhana was further confronted by the difficulty 
of reconciling the generally accepted chronology of the 
ancient kings of Kashmere with the belief that Gonand, 
the first king, was a contemporary of the Pandavas, for * 
the total of the years for all the kings did not run up 
to the traditionally accepted date of the war, in other 
words the date of the beginning of the Kali-age. Kalhana 
was, therefore, glad to take his stand on this verse 
of Garga and to maintain that the tradition which 
made the Mahabharata war coincide with the begin- 
ning of the Kali-age was mistaken. He thought, on 
the authority of this verse, that the war took place 


The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 
61*2 years after the Kali-age had begun and explained 

the chronology of Kashmere kings accordingly. 
Kalhana says, (Rajatarangini, Chapter I) " Misled 
by the tradition that the Bharata war took place at 
the end of Dwapara, some have doubted the truth 
of this number of years (given for Kashmere kings). 
But the Kauravas and Pandavas in reality flourished 
when six hundred and fifty-three years of the Kali-age 
had gone/' Kalhana then quotes as authority for 
his statement the well-known Shloka of Garga ex- 
plained above. 

Now that the verse of Garga has been differently inter- 
preted, the difficulty or discrepancy which confronted 
Kalhana again confronts us. The true solution seems 
to us to be that Gonand I was not a contemporary of the 
Pandavas at all as was doubted even in Kalhana's 
time. The ambition of ancient dynasties in India has 
generally been to connect themselves by hook or crook 
with the heroes of the Mahabharata or of the Rama- 
yana, the national epics of India. When Rajput 
Princes trace their descent from Rama's sons or from 
Shrikrishna we have a tinge of suspicion that they are 
f draWfhg more upon their imagination than on solid 
facts. A similar feeling must have influenced Kash- 
mere historians, and Kalhana among them, when 
they made Gonand I a contemporary of the Pandavas. 
We find some support for this argument in the fact that 
no king of Kashmere is mentioned or noticed in the 
Mahabharata Itself. We have gone over the various 
TIrtha Yatras and the conquest of the four quarters and 
the list of the kings engaged in the war ; but we have 

The Date of the Mahabharata War. 83 

not found any mention of Kashmere kings. 1 If, there- 
fore, we treat Gonanda's being a contemporary of the 
Pandavas, as itself a mistake, the difficulty which confron- 
ted Kalhana disappears and Rajatarangini or the history 
of Kashmere does not in reality conflict with the view 
above propounded. Kalhana himself admits that in his 
days too the tradition was that the Kaliyuga began with 
the end of the Mahabharata war. The same tradition 
prevailed in the days of the well-known astronomer 
Arya-bhatta; the same belief was held in 153 B.C. by 
Garga himself on whose verse Kalhana raises this 
controversy ; and we have shown that the same tradition 
prevailed at the time when the Mahabharata was last 
recast, about 300 B.C. We think the evidence is so 
strong on this point that we cannot disconnect the two 
events. One may assign to the beginning of the Kali- 
age and the war a date later than 3101 B.C, but 
it cannot be held that the latter happened 653 years 
after the former. 

We now turn to the argument based upon the astro- 
nomical references in the Mahabharata of which much 
has been made by some thinkers. We, on our part, 
believe that most of these references are of doubtful 
authenticity, in other words that they do not belong to 
the original Mahabharata of Vyasa but to its latest 
edition. It will be admitted by all that some of them 
are fanciful and absurd. The last editor probably wished 
to accumulate the number of the evil omens which 

1 Kalhana himself states further on that Gonand being- killed in a 
fight with Krishna, his son being an infant was not asked to take 
share in the fight between the Kauravas and Pandavas, 

g 4 The Mahabharata ; A Criticism. 

preceded the war and tried to put In such impossible 
combinations as he could bring together. For instance 
we may safely put aside as absurdities the statement 
that the sun and the moon were eclipsed at the same 
time [Chandradityawubhau grastau ekanha hi trayoda- 
shim (Bhishma parva)] or the statement that Arundhati 
went before Vasishtha among the Saptarishis. These 
may be classed with absurdities in the animal world men- 
tioned further on such as the birth of a cow frorr^ a mare 
or a jackal from a dog (Govatsam vadava sute shwa shri- 
galam Mahipate, &c.). Rejecting these we come to the 
mention of the planets occupying or oppressing two sets 
of constellations or Nakshatras on which principally 
this theory is based. In the days of the original Bharata 
the planets were probably not known, and even if they 
were, their progress along the several constellations 
could not have been marked. The progress of the 
moon and the sun was no doubt known and chalked 
out. It was in fact the basis of the measurement of 
time. We usually find in old works, even down to 
the Buddhistic Tripitikas, events marked by a re- 
ference^to the position of the moon among the constel- 
lations. Such observations as the following made by 
Balaram are typical of these days. ' Pushyena sampra 
yatosmi shravane punaragatah (Gadaparva.) J We will, 
however, try to explain to the reader how Modaka 
and his followers argue their date from the double 
positions of the planets, doubtful as they are, 
mentioned in the Mahabharata as we have it at the 
present day and we will show how far their theory is 

The Date of the Maha"bharata War. 85 

The following diagram which gives the 27 con- 
stellations will be useful for the better understanding .of 
this subject : 

ASHWllMl Y *\**" CHIfRA 


The double positions of the Moon, Mars and Jupiter 
mentioned in the Mahabharata are as follows : 

In ' Maghavishayagah somah taddinam pratyapadya- 
ta.' T The Moon is said to be in Magha while she ^jppear^ 
to be in Mriga at the beginning of the war from Bala ram's 
statement (' Pushyena samprayatosmi shravane punara- 
gatah,' Gada P.). Mars again is said to be in Magha 
(Maghaswangarako vakrah, Bhishma P.) as well as 
in Jyeshtha (Kritwa changarako vakram Jyeshthayam 
Madhusudana, Udyoclga P). 2 Jupiter is said to be in 
Shravana (Shravanecha Brihaspatih, Bhishma P.) as well 

86 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

as in Vishakha (Vishakhayah samipasthau Brihaspati 
shanaishcharau).' These double or supposed double 
positions are sought to be explained by what are called 
the Sayana and the Nirayana Nakshatras. It is alleged 
that two sets of Nakshatras were prevalent in those days 
and ought always to be accepted. As the vernal equinox 
recedes back among the constellations owing to the 
precession of the equinoxes we cannot stick to these 
fixed stars alone. The vernal equinox may be supposed 
to be the beginning of a set of conventional Nakshatras 
called Sayana, the first Nakshatra in this conventional 
set being called Ashwini. For example when the 
vernal equinox was in the real Nakshatra Mriga, it was 
the Ashwini Nakshatra in the conventional set and each 
succeeding Nakshatra changed its name accordingly. 
When both sets of Nakshatras are mentioned together 
which Nakshatra is to be taken as the conventional and 
which the real one, will depend upon the skill of the 
interpreter. The double positions of the planets men- 
tioned in the Mahabharata are explained by taking the 
vernal equinox in Punarvasu which in the conventional 
$set wiH be Ashwini. It is thus explained that the Mriga, 
Magha and Jyeshtha positions of the Moon, Mars and 
Jupiter are conventional or Sayana while the Magha, 
Jyeshtha and Shravana positions are real. These double 
positions thus indicate, it is said, only approximately, 
that the vernal equinox was situate near Punarvasu 
at the time of the Bharata war ; and this fact can show 
us how many years have passed since then j the vernal 
equinox receding nearly one degree in 72 years. Cal- 

The Date of the Mahabharata War. 87 

on this basis, vts., that the vernal equinox 

Jrae time of the war near Punarvasu, ?'.<?., 

degrees behind where it is now, Modaka 

about 7> years must have elapsed since 

ink that the absurdity of these positions (or 
-these interpretations of shlokas) is only equal- 
ie absurdity of their explanation. Not only 
theory not suffice to explain accurately all the 

mentioned in the Mahabharata but it is also 
y unsound. It takes for granted that the pre- 

the equinoxes was a thing known in the days 
auhabharata though as a matter of fact we know 
5- reeks discovered this precession only a little 
e Christian Era and in India even Varaha 
ho lived about 500 A.D., did not know it. 1 It 

for granted that the Nakshatras always began 
vini though we have evidence in the Brahma- 
"Vedang Jyotisha and the Mahabharata itself 
. to too A.D. they always began with Krittikas. 
jision which would necessarily be caused by 
"O sets of Nakshatras, one conventional and the 
., possessing the same names without any 
* as to their nature, has been admitted by these 
tiemselves. It would require an ingenious eye 
e to detect the nature of the constellation men-* 
d ancient sages were probably not fond of 
.g such confusion in names, well aware that 

men are always few and far between and they 

well-known shloka about the position of the ^TTRf in his 

38 The Mahdbharata : A Criticism. 

would certainly have added some epithet to mark the 
conventional Nakshatras. 

The different positions mentioned in the Mahabharata 
are no doubt difficult to explain. Perhaps Sauti, the 
last editor of the Mahabharata who inserted hundreds of 
Kuta shlokas in it, intended some of his shlokas to be 
astronomical riddles and the commentator of the Maha- 
bharata does treat the shloka ' Maghavishayagah sonia- 
staddinam pratyapadyata ' as a kind of riddle. , He has 
.solved it by showing that 'Maghavishayagah' meant 
that the moon was in the Pitriloka, i.e., it was really in 
Mriga. The word i Vishaya ' lends great support to 
this interpretation. If the shlokas are carefully inter- 
preted many of these apparent discrepancies disappear, 
especially if we interpret the word i pidayan r (oppress- 
ing) as meaning only oppressing by ' Vcdha ' or 
'Drishti' as it is called, either direct, i.e. 9 in opposi- 
tion or traingular as the commentator has done. It 
would be uninteresting to the general reader to enter 
into the examination of each passage here and we leave 
the subject to be dealt with in the Appendix (see 

note V). 
T * 

It now remains to consider the opinion of Mr. Dutta and 

Mr. Ayyar. Tjie Magadha annals on which the former 
bases his date are, I believe, the same as the Puranik 
accounts of which we have spoken before and he him- 
self has admitted the untrustworthiness of the Puranika 
annals (p. 30, Vol. II). These, therefore, require no 
separate notice and we proceed to notice the ingenious 
theory which Mr. Ayyar has propounded in his recently 
published book. From what has already been stated It 

The Date of the Mahdbharata War. 89 

will appear that Mr. Ayyar has only partially used the 
materials available in the Greek accounts of India. He 
has tried with great difficulty to identify Dionysos with 
Ikshwaku and has entirely ignored Heracles whose 
identification with Hari or Shrikrishna is so apparent. 
He has also tried to make profit out of Garga's statement 
" that after the destruction of the Greeks at the end of 
the Yuga seven powerful kings will reign in Oudh," 
and maki tains that the Kali-age, which even Garga 
admits, began with the Mahabharata war, was to last 
for only a thousand years and ended with the expulsion 
of the Greeks from India in about 150 B.C. It cannot 
be believed that Indian astronomers, who have always 
taken 1,200 divine years as the duration of the Kali- 
age (a divine day being equal to an ordinary year), 
ever believed that the Kali-age was only to last for 1,000 
human years. The ingenious meaning which Mr. Ayyar 
has assigned to the famous shloka of Varaha Mihira 
* Shacldwika Pachadwiyutah ' cannot be accepted and 
was not known to Kalhana. We have indicated above 
the chief points where Mr. Ayyar's theory seems to be 
pregnable and the limits of this work do not al]>w us^ 
to enter into a detailed discussion of his arguments. 

To take a resume ; the Mahabharata war has always 
been taken in India at least from 300 B.C. as the begin- 
ing of the Kali-age and Shrikrishna is a central 
figure of the war. The fixing of the elate of the Maha- 
bharata war, therefore, is the same as fixing the date of 
Shrikrishna and the beginning of the Kali-age. The 
Mahabharata war appears to have been fought when the 
Shatapatha Brahmana was being composed. From 

go The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

Shatapatha Brahmana, Kand II, it appears that when 
these earlier portions of the Brahmana were composed 
the constellation of the Krittikas always rose in the east, 
a thing which according to Dixit's calculation used to 
happen about 3000 B.C. We may thus assign to the 
composition of the Shatapatha Brahmana, Kand II, 
a date between 3600 to 3200 B-C- taking into con- 
sideration the roughness of Vedic observations. The 
war was the beginning of the Kali-age to which the 
Indian astronomers have assigned 3101 B.C. by tradi- 
tion. For the evidence of the Greek historians of India 
who have given the chronology of kings, as was then 
believed in, in India, shows that Heracles who is none 
else than Shrikrishna was removed from Sanclrakottos 
or Chandragupta by 137 generations, and taking 20 
years for each generation as an average, must thus 
be supposed to have lived 2,740 years before Chandra- 
gupta, i.e., about 3052 B.C. The Puranik annals which 
contradict this chronology are of very little historical 
value. These Puranas were recast about 800 A,D. 
by illiterate persons who probably did not know when 
* Nand^ lived and whose testimony, opposed as it is to 
Greek historians and all the Indian astronomers, 
is of no value. The date currently assigned to the 
Mahabharata war appears, therefore, to be the proper 
one and is one which has been assigned at least from 300 
B.C. downwards. The contradictory theory of Modaka 
is not based on strong grounds while that of Mr. Ayyar 
omits to take into account Heracles whose identification 
with Krishna is so palpable. It may perhaps be 
said that in accepting the orthodox date assigned 

The Dale i\f the Mttlwbharata THm 01 

to the Mahabharata war we are going too far hack 

into the hoary vista of antiquity. But if we look at 
the dates which modern researches have, established in 
connection with events in the histories of Egypt, Baby- 
lonia and China, it will appear that the date assigned 
to the first authentic event in the history of ancient India 
is not incredible. It: is believed that the highest 
pyramid of Egypt, which still survives and is one of the 
7 wondcra of the world, was built about 2500 B.C. and 
this presages a high, state of civilization and a settled 
form of government existing from several centuries 
earlier. 1 Babylonian history goes so far back as 2458 
B.C. and when it is admitted that civilization In 
Babylonia came from districts lower clown, " the 
beginnings of civilization in these districts may be 
placed not below than ^cxx> R,C n In China native 
historians go far still further back, but it is admitted 
that the historical king Ilangiwi came to the throne 
in 2332 B.C. His predecessor, it is said, taught 
agriculture to his people, established public markets 
and discovered the medical properties of herbs* Genea- 
logies of kings again with accurate information ^bout 
the duration of reigns, with the exception of exaggerated 
figures for a few kings in the beginning, were preserved 
in Egyptian temples when Herodotus visited them. 
Again Hebrew genealogies of Patriarchs of quite a 
similar character arc still preserved in the scriptures of 
these people and Chinese genealogies similarly are still 
"* ' If, thc*rofors we iwwmui that tin* pyramid?* were built about the 
year 3500 B.C. th b#tnnin# of higher civilization in the valley of 
the Niltf tjnnnot ht* placed litter than 3000 B.C. "-(History of Antiquity 
by Prof* Max* Hunker, Vol. i, p, 34.) 

2 The Mahdbharata : A Criticism. 

given in the histories written by Chinamen. It need 
not be wondered, therefore, that genealogies of kings 
with accurate figures for the several reigns, except 
perhaps for the kings In the beginning, were extant in 
the days of Megasthenes. In fine, it is not at all strange 
that the historical memories of the Indian Aryans, like 
those of the other great nations of antiquity, ,go so far 
back as 3101 B.C. 1 

1 In this connection we may bear in mind the fact that the products 
of the Indus and the Ganges (including the well-known silks of India) 
were brought by the ships of the Indians to Arabia about 2000 B. C." 
See Ditto p. 322.) 



HAVING In the previous chapter disposed of the contro- 
versy as to the date of the great war between the two 
kindred Aryan tribes, the Kurus and the Panchalas, we 
will now proceed to discuss the controversy as to the 
actors in the great struggle. It has generally been con- 
ceded that the Mahabharata has " as a historical back- 
ground an ancient conflict between two neighbouring 
tribes who finally coalesced into a single people." The 
most diverse opinions have, however, been held not 
only as to when this conflict took place but also as to 
who were the parties to it. Mr, Dutta following the argu- 
ments advanced by Weber and others believes that 
" the Panda vas must be set down as mythical heroes, " 
because there is no mention of them in contemporary 
Veclic literature, while other personages who figure in 
the Mahabharata war are frequently met with.* For 
example Janmcjaya, the son of Parikshita, is often 
mentioned, though Arjuna his great-grandfather and 
chief hero of the Bharata war is conspicuous by 
his absence, Arjuna is still the name of Indra in 
the Brahmanas- Before, therefore, we go on to give a 
historical sketch of the events which form the subject of 
narration in the great epic we must discuss the question 
whether the Pandavas were real or imaginary beings. 

.p4 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

Generally speaking, the mention of a person or an 
event in a work which professes to be a history is .suffi- 
cient evidence of the fact that such a person existed or 
that such an event happened. To prove the existence of 
Moses or Romulus no other evidence is required or can he 
forthcoming, except histories or the traditions on which 
such histories as cannot always have been written by 
contemporary persons, rest. Of course the evidence of 
tradition and of history may be rejected if rebutted by 
other evidence or if they are shown to be untrusworthy 
for cogent reasons. Prima facie we may take it there- 
fore, that the Pandavas and their opponents lived and 
acted as described in the Mahabharata which professes 
to be a history and not a novel, unless we are given 
strong arguments to the contrary. 

The negative argument which is often used to dis- 
parage these presumptions is sometimes used without 
much consideration* The absence of the mention of the 
Pandavas in contemporaneous or later Vedic literature, 
if we devote a little thought to the subject, would be of no 
import whatever, unless it was further shown that their 
mention therein was necessary. To take an extreme illus- 
traticfn hundreds of books were written at the time of the 
battle of Par-de-burgh and have been written since* 
But most of them contain no mention whatever of Lord 
Roberts or Lord Kitchener, undoubtedly the greatest 
heroes of the present day; nor even of the battle, 
It will be quite illogical to argue that because these 
books make no mention of Lord Roberts or Lord Kitche- 
ner these men never existed. Since the great battle of 
Panipat which was fought between the Marahtas and 

Were the Pandavas Real Beings ? 95 

the Afgans many books and poems, both in Marathi and 
English, have been written. It is absurd to expect in 
every one of them a reference to that battle or to the lea- 
ders in it Nobody would be justified in holding, that 
because one does not lincl any mention of Sadashiva Rao 
Bhau or of Jankoji Scindia in a particular book written 
after the battle of Panipat, no such beings therefore ever 
existed. These concrete illustrations though extreme, are 
enough to show the absurdity of the negative argument. 
It would Tbe different if the books referred to above were 
histories of the Boers or the Marahtas written at the 
time of these events or subsequently. For such his- 
tories must in the ordinary course contain a mention of 
these events and the persons who took part in them. 
Now it is well-known that Vedic Literature is generally 
concerned with the explanations of ceremonies and some 
times of philosophical and theological dogmas. Histori- 
cal references come in very rarely and that too by way 
of illustration. It would be impossible to suppose that 
Vedic works would mention by way of illustration every 
event that had happened or every person who had lived. 
In our opinion their silence about the great war or about 
the Pandavas cannot logically be construed into^a dis- * 
proof of them ; for the historical evidence we have in the 
Mahabharata has not been impeached on valid grounds. 
There arc, however further strong grounds why the 
theory that the Pandavas were imaginary beings can- 
not be accepted. In the original edition of his book Mr- 
Dutta expressed his belief that while the war was really 
fought the Pandavas were poetical additions subse- 
quently made, being the ideal personifications of certain 

96 The Mahabharata : A Criticism, 

moral excellencies. Several incidents in the life of the 
Pandavas related in the Mahabharata, however, do not 
fit in with this theory. For instance, the five brothers 
are related to have married one and the same woman, 
Now polygamy was not practised or rather countenanced 
by the Aryans of India at any time. The Vedic Rishts 
said "as one sacrificial cord cannot go round many 
sacrificial posts one woman cannot marry many men," 
though one man, in their opinion, could marry more 
than one woman as many sacrificial cords could be tied 
round one post. How then were these later personifica- 
tions of virtue represented to have done an act entirely 
opposed to Aryan notions of good behaviour? Even the 
Mahabharata itself admits the unusual character of this 
proceeding and we plainly see in the Epic different at- 
tempts made at different times to explain this seemingly 
inconsistent conduct of its s heroes. Again Bhima is said 
to have drunk the blood of Duhshasana when he killed 
him in battle in order to mark the revenge he had taken 
on him for his dastardly action in ill-treating DraupadL 
This '-barbarous act too is offensive to the sense of right- 
conduct in every man and cannot be supposed to have 
' been predicated of ideal heroes conceived in later times. 
In fact the Mahabharata here also makes an attempt in a 
subsequent chapter, evidently an interpolation of later 
days, to exculpate Bhima by stating that Bhima only 
made a show of drinking the blood and did not actually 
drink it These and other minor actions to our mind 
show that the Pandavas were real beings and not ima- 
ginary heroes. It may perhaps be urged that these 
conceptions belong to a time when polygamy may have 

Were the Pandcmas Real Beings? 97 

been practised by the Aryans of India or the drinking of 
human blood was not repugnant to their ideas. If we 
grant that this was the case, of which there is great doubt,, 
it will be conceded that this must have been so at a very 
ancient date indeed. This supposition, therefore, if not 
tantamount to the admission that the Pandavas were real 
beings, is at least not better. 

One may still be tempted to urge that the absence of the 
mention in later Vedic Literature of the heroes of such a 
vast and all-engrossing Epic astheMahabharata is at least 
very suspicious if not positively harmful. To them our 
answer is that theMahabharata, as shownin the first book, 
was not then what it now is. It was then only one of the 
many floating Itihasas or episodes mentioned in the Brah- 
mana Literature as a subject of study. It was not that 
comprehensive work which Sauti has made it nor had the 
incidents of the war been invested with that religious or 
mythological halo which is their engrossing charm in the 
present Epic. For Krishna worship was still an infant 
creed when the Brahmanas were composed and had not 
reached those dimensions which we find it had assumed in 
the days of Megasthenes. It is therefore quite compatible m 
with the possibilities of nature that the historical incidents, 
of the great war, not yet exaggerated nor associated with 
religious ideas, were not referred to by way of illustration 
by the Brahmanic Rishis. Lastly, the great war itself is 
nowhere referred to in the Brahmanas. If then in spite of 
the absence of its mention in the Brahmanas the truth of 
the great war has been conceded on all hands, one fails to 
see why the absence of the mention of its heroes should be 
taken to prove that they alone were not real but mythicaL 


^3 Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

We now pass on to the second issue, war., whether 
Janmejaya was the person who was really engaged in 
the Mahabharata fight. This has been a little anticipated 
in a previous chapter, but it would not be much amiss 
if the whole subject is here brought together as in a 
focus. Weber thinks that there is a great confusion in 
the Mahabharata as to who this Janmejaya was. He 
is sometimes represented as an ancestor. He is again 
said to be a son of Parikshita, the grandson of Arjuna. 
A Janmejaya Parikshita is mentioned in the I3th Kanda 
of the Shatapatha Brahmana, where it is related that he 
performed a horse-sacrifice with the help of the sage 
Indrota Devapi Shaunaka and was thereby absolved 
wholly from the sin of Brahmahatya. It is therefore infer- 
red that there was only one Janmejaya, the great-grand- 
son of Arjuna, and that the sin or guilt of which he was 
absolved was the sin of the great war. 

It is no doubt true that there is some confusion in the 
Mahabharata as to whether Parikshita Janmejaya was 
an ancestor or a descendant of the great heroes of the 
.Mahabharata war. The confusion, or rather contradic- 
tion, is due to the attempt of the last editor of the Maha- 

Y <T 

bharata, as has been shown in the first book, to increase 
the bulk of the Bharata of Vaishampayana by repetition 
.as well as by the bringing in of all the floating minor 
"historical episodes which were current in his days. In the 
Adi-Parva, Chapter 94, we have a genealogy of the 
Pandavas given in metre, while in the very next chapter, 
which is in prose, the same has been given again. It 
.seems probable that the metrical Chapter 94 is a subse- 
quent addition by Sauti as has already been remarked. 

Were the Pandavas Real Beings? 99 

For the two genealogies, differing from each other, give 
the descendants from Kuru to Shantanu as follows : 


Avikshita Janmejaya. 

1 1 

Parikshita. 7 other-sons. 

Janmejaya. Kukshasena. Ugrasena. Chandrasena. 
Indrasena. Sushena. Bhimasena. 

Dhritarashtra. Pandu. Balhika. 5 others. 

Pratipa. and others. 

, J [ T 

Devapi. Shantanava. Balhika. 












Devapi. Shantanu. Balhika. 

ioo Mahabharata: A Criticism, 

It is plain from Chapter 95 that there was a Janmejaya 
but not a Parikshita Janmejaya among the ancestors 
of the Pandavas. It is possible to reply that Parikshita 
may have had, besides Bhimasena, other sons, one of 
whom may have been Janmejaya. This supposition, it 
may further be urged, is strengthened by the fact that in 
Chapter 150 of the Shantiparva Bhishma relates to 
Yudhishthira how Janmejaya Parikshita was purified 
from the sin of Brahmahatya by the help ot Indrota 
Devapi Shaunaka. The Janmejaya Parikshita therein 
mentioned must necessarily have been an ancestor of 
both Bhishma and Yudhishthira. It seems, however, 
that this chapter has also been added subsequently by 
Sauti in order to collate the Vedic legend given in the 
Shatapatha Brahmana and in consequence of this addi- 
tion he had to make some alterations in the genealogy 
aS given in Chapter 94. For Janmejaya is pre- 
sumably the eldest of all the brothers in this chapter 
as well as in Vedic legend, while in Chapter 95, if 
Bhimasena had any brother by name Janmejaya, he 
must be supposed to have been a younger brother, as 
JBhimasena would not otherwise have been the repre- 
sentative of the family of Parikshita. Recurrence of 
names is met with in all genealogies, whether ancient or 
modern, Eastern -or European. The device adopted in 
modern histories to distinguish kings bearing the same 
name is to add their number. We distinguish kings of 
England as Edward I or Edward II or the Emperors 
of Dehli as Akabar I or Akabar II. The device 
adopted in the Vedic Literature appears to have been 
to add the name of the father or the mother. The 

Were the Pandavas Real Beings? 101 

Rishis are always spoken of as Baka Dalbhya, Ushasti 
Chakrayana and kings as Harlshchandra Aikshwaka 
or Janmejaya Parikshita. The genealogy given in 
the prose Chapter 95, gives a Janmejaya and also a 
Parikshita among the ancestors of the Pandavas, but 
that Janmejaya was not the son of Parikshita. It seems 
more probable that there was only one Janmejaya 
Parikshita than that there were two, one an ancestor and 

the other a descendant of the Pandavas. All these 

arguments go to support the idea that Sauti has inter- 
polated the genealogical Chapter 94 in verse in the 
Adiparva as also the legend of Janmejaya Parikshita 
and Devapi Shaunaka from the Shatapatha Brahrnana 
in Chapter 150 of the Shantiparva. There is another 
mention of Janmejaya Parikshita in the Mahabharata in 
Adiparva, Chapter 2, from which can be derived addi- 
tional support to the above idea. There we have, as in 
the Shatapatha Brahmana, the four brothers, Janmejaya, 
Shrutasena, Ugrasena and Bhimasena, mentioned to- 
gether, and the word Papakritya is also used there. 
This probably shows that here too we have the same 
Shatapatha legend and the chapter being- in prose 
strikes us as the remnant of an old Itihasa. In that 9 * 
chapter Janmejaya is admittedly the great-grandson 
of Arjuna and not an ancestor. It seems therefore 
certain that there was only one Janmejaya Parikshita 
and he was a descendant of the great heroes of the 
Mahabharata war. Granting, however, that there is a 
confusion about Janmejaya in the Mahabharata, how 
does it follow from this that the sin of Brahmahatya 
of which Janmejaya was absolved was the sin of the 

I0 2 Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

great war? It is indeed a long step to take from the 
mere mention of a Brahmahatya to the sin of waging- a 
great war. The Shatapatha Brahmana gives no hint 
whatever as to what that Hatya was which Janmejaya 
had committed. In the chapter in the Shanti Parva, 
where this Vedic legend has been repeated, we find it 
stated that Janmejaya had killed a Brahmin by acci- 
dent. Chapter II of the Adiparva, where the same Jan- 
mejaya Parikshita is mentioned, gives no clue \vhatever 
to the nature of his sin. In-the great war, so far as it is 
described in the Mahabharata, only one Brahmin was 
killed, mk, Drona. He was more a warrior than a Brah- 
min, and as he had come as a leader on the opposite 
side in order to kill others there was no sin whatever in 
killing him. The Dharma Shastra is clear on the point 
and has frequently been stated to be so in the Maha- 
bharata itself. We fail to see-how the simple mention 
of a Brahmahatya in the Shatapatha Brahmana can 
be expanded into and identified with the guilt of the 
Mahabharata war. 

There is another passage in the Vedic Literature 
which has been made the basis of mistaken inferences. 

r * 

In the Brihadaranya Upanishad of the Shatapathn Brah- 
mana Yajnavalkya is asked by his opponent in disputa- 
tion, " Where were the Parikshitas " (sons of Parikshit)? 
Yajnavalkya answers, " Thither where all the Ashvame- 
dha sacrificers go." This has led Weber to observe, 
"Consequently the Parikshitas must at that time have 
been altogether extinct. Yet their life and end must have 
been still fresh in the memory of the people and a sub- 
ject of general curiosity " and again in another place, 

Were the Pandavas Real Beings ? 103, 

"Janmejaya Parikshita appears in the last part of the 
Shatapatha Brahmana to be still fresh in the memory of 
the people with the rise and downfall of himself and his 
house." Now, so far as one can see, there is nothing in 
the passage of the Brihadaranya Upanishad above 
referred to which can suggest the idea that the sons of 
Parikshita fell or that their fall was terrible. Granting 
that the question and answer may be construed to con-* 
vey the idea that there was a doubt in the questioner's 
mind ab'out the sons of Parikshita having gone there, as 
perhaps he had their sin of Brahmahatya in his mind, 
how does it warrant the inference that the Parikshitas 
had any worldly fall ? Is it believed that the Parikshitas 
were defeated in battle? On the contrary the inference 
subsequently made by Weber is that they were the lead- 
ers in the Mahabharata war and had secured a victory 
and not a fall by means of treachery and sin. To our 
mind the former inference of Weber is not only baseless 
but opposed to what he himself has propounded in the 
latter place. Moreover, the whole passage was not 
considered, for the answer went on to say " there 
where the performers of the horse-sacrifice go, viz., 
beyond the world where there is a space as small as the 
wing of a fly or the edge of a razor, Sec." The ^passage? 
in question is only really meant to show, as can be seen 
from the commentary, that the performance of a horse- 
sacrifice led to the same goal where a sage could go by 
Adhyatma Viclya. Probably the questioner had not the 
sins of the Parikshitas at all in his mind even if they 
had committed any. 

To take a resume, the absence of the mention of the 
Pandavas and the Mahabharata war in the Vedic Liter- 

104 Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

ature which does not purport to be a history of events 
cannot be taken to .prove that the Pandavas t never 
existed or that the war was never fought, nor can they, 
from the actions ascribed to them, be looked upon as 
imaginary heroes. Again, although Janmejaya Parik- 
shita and his Brahmahatya are mentioned in the Sha- 
tapatha Brahmana there is nothing to show that that 
Brahmahatya was the guilt of the Mahabharata fight. 
Had it been so the Shatapatha Brahmana wo^uld very 
probably have said a word indicating the nature of the 
Brahmahatya. Nor does it seem that the Parikshitas 
had any worldly fall. On the contrary they were re- 
membered for their great horse-sacrifices, the perform- 
ance of which shows that they were in the height of 
their glory. 

Having so far shown that the Pandavas were real 
beings and that they and not Janmejaya were the parties 
to the great war, we will proceed to give a sketch of the 
events described in the Mahabharata omitting mytho- 
logical stories or simplifying them where possible. 


OF the lunar race of Kshatriyas, supposed to have been 
born of the moon from Ila, the daughter of Manu, Puru- 
rava was the first king of note. The loves of Pururava 
and Urvashi, a celestial nymph, are mentioned in the 
Rig Veda and have been immortalised by Kalidasa in his 
well-known drama Vikramorvashiyam. The next king 
of importance in the line was Yayati. The story of 
Yayati and his two queens, Devayani and Sharmishtha, 
is one of the most interesting episodes given in the 
Mahabharata and deserves to be given here in detail. 
The Kshatriyas of the lunar race appear to have beenstill 
beyond the Indus, for Yayati's kingdom is said to have 
been contiguous with the kingdom of Vrishaparva, the 
king of Asuras, who have been most properly identified 
with the Aryans of Iran. Sharmishtha was the daughter 
of the king of Iran, and Devayani was the daughter of his 
preceptor Shukra. The two girls once went out on a 
forest excursion and while bathing in a well fell out in 
consequence of an accidental interchange of ctothes- 
The imperious Brahmin girl abused the daughter of her 
master as if she were a slave, whereon Sharmishtha 
in the heat of anger pushed her into the well. Yayati 
came there by chance and being attracted by the cries 
of Devayani saved her life by helping her out of the well. 
She offered herself in reward for his gallant act and 
Yayati married Devayani with the consent of her father- 
She had yet to take revenge on her friend and insisted 

I0 5 The Mdhabharata: A Criticism. 

that Sharmishtha should be bestowed upon her as a 
slave. Vrishaparva had no recourse but to accept this 
humiliating demand of Devayani and handed over his 
guilty daughter to the married couple as their slave. 

Devayani confined her rival for years in the palace of 
Yayati, but little did she dream that the vengeance she 
had taken was in reality a boon conferred on Shar- 
mishtha. One day she was rudely awakened from her 
dream by the sight of two handsome yoking boys 
curiously resembling her husband in appearance and 
she learnt on inquiry that they were the sons of Yayati 
himself by her rival. In her rage she flew to her father 
for vengeance upon her own husband and Shukru cursed 
him by declaring that he would be prematurely old. The 
senseless Devayani thus harmed herself in seeking to 
harm her rival and in the end had to implore her father 
to assuage his curse. Shukra added that the old age was 
transferable. Yayati now asked his sons one by one to 
take his infirmity, but every one of them declined to do so 
with the exception of Puru. For years Yayati enjoyed 
the pleasures of this world with the youth borrowed 
from Puru. At last he exclaimed, so the poet says : 

** Desire stops not by gain of things desired, 
But fiercer burns like fire by oblations fed. 
All the gold, grain and women of this world, 
Would not suffice one man ; be content. 

Yayati called his son Puru and transferring to him his 
youth took upon himself the age he had lent him and 
taking his two queens with him retired to the forest like 
all the great kings of ancient India. He blessed Puru 
for his filial act and told him that sovereignty would 
continue in his line. 

The Ancestors of the Pandavas. 107 

The story of Yayati is not only beautiful for its moral 
but is also historically important. We have already 
seen that the lunar Aryans were still beyond the Indus. 
Again the intermixture of the two castes, Brahmins and 
Kshatriyas, was then a common thing. Thirdly, Yayati 
had five sons by name Yadu, Turvasu, Druhyu, Pura* 
and Anu, the last two by Sharmishtha. From Yadu 
sprang the Yadavas, from Turvasu the Yavanas, from 
Druhyu ijie Bhojas, from Puru the Paurvas, latterly 
known as the Bharatas, and from Anu the Mlenchha. 
peoples. Yayati is thus represented as the progenitor 
of many clans, three of which, the Yadavas, the Bhojas 
and the Pauravas, entered India, while the fourth, the 
Yavanas, went towards the west. It is possible that 
there is an interchange of names in this enumeration and 
the Yavanas should perhaps have been represented as the 
descendants of Anu which corresponds most in sound 
with Ion while the Mlenchha people should have been 
spoken of as the descendants of Turvasu, a name which 
sounds like the Turan of the Persians and the Turks 
of modern history. The mythological story of the 
transference of old age may be thus simplified 
historically. Yayati probably, though advanced iTi age, 
did not share the royal power with his grown up sons by 
Devayani, who may be believed to have inherited her 
rashness. They wanted him to resign that power and 
finding the old man still in vigour and still obstinate 
rebelled against. him. They were thus expelled by Yayati, 
who was supported in this action by his son Puru. 
Eventually Puru succeeded to the chiefship of the 
clan by his filial conduct. 

I0 8 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

The first king of note among the descendants of Puru 
is Dushyanta. The story of Dushyanta and Shakuntala 
the Apsara is known to every reader of Sanskrit poetry, 
"for the beautiful drama of Kalidas 'the lost ring,' about 
which Goethe is so enthusiastic in his admiration, 
is based on that history. But the Shakuntala of the 
Mahabharata is vastly different from the Shakuntala of 
Kalidas. She is not a refined timorous lady as Kalidas 
'has made her, but an honest country girl full of the 
dignity of moral greatness. She had married the king 
by choice when he had come accidently to her father's 
hermitage during her father's absence in the jungles, and 
there was no witness to their marriage. And when, 
after some years, she went with her son from her parents' 
hut to the capital of her husband, and the king in open 
court denied having ever married her, she exclaimed, 
"Truth is more precious than kings and even children," 
and she disclaimed to seek the company any longer 
of a man who had no respect for truth, even though he 
was her husband. At last the king, who had only 
-sought this device to convince his people, took her -into 
his household on hearing a voice from heaven that she 
was ifTdeed his wife. Bharata was the offspring of this 
union of choice and moral strength, and became the most 
illustrious king of the family of Puru. He appears 
to have conquered and sacrificed in India as far down 
as the confluence of the Jamna and the Ganges, and the 
Shatapatha Brahman quotes a historical verse in Kanda 
XIX eulogising him for the horse sacrifices he per-, 
formed on the banks of the Ganges and the Jamna. He 
..gave his name not only to his descendants but also to 

The Ancestors of the Pandavas. 109. 

the whole country, for India down to the present day is 
known in the Sanskrit Literature as the land of Bharata. 

The descendants of Bharata were a powerful people,, 
who inhabited the Punjab and gradually extended their 
settlements southwards towards the Ganges and the 
Jamna. The Bharatas are spoken of even in the Vedic 
Literature as a brave people (Dutt's India). One of the 
descendants of Bharata, by name Hasti, founded Hasti- 
napura on.the western bank of the Ganges, and it became 
the capital of a new country, for it appears that the 
Bharatas now permanently moved from the Punjab 
towards the Ganges and Hasti's great-grandson Kuru 
gave his name to the fertile tract between the upper cour- 
ses of the Ganges and the Jamna and also to the west of 
the latter river, northwards of Dehli. The Kurus now 
became a flourishing people and they are frequently 
spoken of along with the Panchalas (who had settled to 
the east of the Ganges and a little southward) in the 
Brahmanas as a highly civilized and gifted people. 

The kings of th,e Kurus, who subsequently reigned in 
this fertile and happy land, have been mentioned in the 
previous chapter. Here we may take up the line from 
Shantanu. Shantanu had a son Bhishma (by the" 5 river 
Ganges *), who is one of the most beautiful characters 
in the Mahabharata war. After Ganga had deserted 
Shantanu he fell in love with a fisher girl, by name 
Satyavati, but she refused to marry him unless the king 
promised her that her son would be his heir. Shantanu 
would not disinherit Bhishrna who, however, of his 
own accord relieved his father from difficulty, and not 

1 See note IV. 

no The Mahabharata : A Criticism, 

only renounced his right to the heirship but resolved 
not to marry at all so that there might be no progeny 
from him to quarrel with Satyavati and the sons that 
might be born to her. This resolve he carried to his 
grave, and his great self-denial and his pious character 
have hallowed his name, which is always mentioned 
with high reverence by the Aryans of India. 

sShantanu had two sons by Satyavati, one of whom 
died in infancy. Vichitravirya succeeded his. father in 
the kingship of the Kurus, but he died childless, though 
Bhishma had married him to two wives, Ambika and 
Ambalaya, whom he had brought by force from the king 
of Kashi. Satyawati had, before her marriage with 
Shantanu, a son born to her by the sage Parashara. 
That son was none other than Vyasa, the author of the 
Mahabharata and the compiler of the Vedas. Vyasa 
was now called to 'raise progeny on the widows of his 
half-brother by Satyawati with the consent of Bhishma, 
the guardian of the family, and two sons, Dhritarashtra 
and Pandu, were thus born to Vichitravirya by Niyoga 
or levirate as it was called among the Jews. A third 
son Vidura was born to Vyasa by a " Dasi." Dhrita- 
rashtra was blind, and Pandu ruled the kingdom for 
some time, when he retired to and died in a forest 
Dhritarashtra, it is said, had by his wife Gandhari 
(daughter of the king of Gandhara) a hundred sons, the 
chief of whom were Duryodhana and Duhshasana. 
It is these that fought the great battle, called the Maha- 
bharata war, with the Pandavas or the sons of Pandu. 
How these sons were born to Pandu we shall describe in 
the next chapter. 



THE Ma^abharata relates that Pandu took to hunting, 
leaving the kingdom to be governed by Dhritarashtra 
under the guidance of Bhishma. He loved to live in the 
forest with his two wives, and roamed about killing deer 
and other beasts of the jungle. One day he killed a deer 
in the act of copulating with his mate, and was stunned to 
see that he had in fact killed a Rishi, who had in his 
fancy assumed that animal form. The Rishi cursed him 
that he too would diein the same condition. Pandu, touch- 
ed by remorse thereafter, gave up associating with his 
wives and went to the Himalayas with the object of per- 
forming austerities. For years he lived a life of penance, 
but remembering that no man could have absolution 
unless he had sons asked his wives Kunti and Madri 
to resort to Niyoga for that purpose. Kunli had 
obtained from a Rishi in her maidenhood five Mantras 
by which she could call up five deities. These she now 
called and had by Dharma (Righteousness), Vayu 
(Wind), Indra (God of War), three sons born to her, who 
were named Dharma, Bhima and Arjuna, respectively. 
She gave the remaining two Mantras to Madri, her 
co-wife, and she too had two sons by the Ashwini Kumar 
(Twin Gods of Beauty), who were named Nakul and 

U2 The MahaWiarata : A Criticism. 

Sahadeo. Pandu was now satisfied, but forgetting his 
curse one day fell a victim to his amorous inclination. 
Madri burned herself upon his pyre, while Kunti with 
her five sons was reached by the Brahmans of the 
forest to Hastinapura. The sons of Dhritarashtra, jealous 
of these new members, raised some objections, but 
Dhritarashtra and Bhishma hailed them as the sons of 
Pandu and admitted them to the family. 

Such is the mythological account of the r birth of 
the Pandavas, the heroes of the Mahabharata war. 
All nations and all religions have invested the origin 
of their heroes and their prophets with mysterious and 
supernatural surroundings. And we need not wonder 
howthe Hindus attribute divine origin to their heroes sup- 
posed to have been born five thousand years ago. There 
are, however, some who look to noble and divine deeds 
only and care little for divine or supernatural birth. 
Such men like to simplify mythological stories into 
their natural aspects, and one would not find it difficult 
to rationalise the above account if one omits the curse 
and the divine Mantras mentioned therein. 

We^ may here state who Kunti and Madri were. 
Kunti, the Mahabharata relates, was the daughter of 
Shura, the father of Vasudeva, and grandfather of 
Krishna. She was called Pritha, or the big, and was 
given in adoption to the king of Kunti Bhoja, who 
was his (Shura's) paternal uncle's son, and was hence 
called Kunti. She married Pandu at a Swayamvara. 
The Bhoja kingdom was towards the south of Hastina- 
pura and extended probably over the western limits 
of Central India. The Bhojas and the Yadavas, 

Their Birth, Early Life and Marriage 'with Draupadi. 113 

as we have already seen, were kindred races. Madri 
was the daughter of the king of the Madras whose country 
lay towards the frontier. The Madras were presumably 
a very fair people, coming, as they didj from a colder cli- 
mate. It seems it was a fashion for Aryan kings of 
India to rnarry a daughter of that country. Bhishma 
got Madri for Pandu by giving presents to the Madra 
king. Madri's brother, Shalya, was a leader in the 
Mahabhayata war and fought against the Pandavas. 

It appears probable that Pandu, after he had establish- 
ed himself firmly on the throne of the Kurus, gave 
himself up to the pleasures of hunting and to the com- 
pany of his wives, and lived mostly in the cool regions 
of the Himalayas. It is not difficult also to believe 
that he soon fell a prey to the pursuit of pleaure. 
Either during his life-time or after his death his wives 
raised by Niyoga five sons, ,for progeny was valued 
beyond everything among the ancient Aryans of 
India, especially among kings, a fact we see even in 
these days. As might have been expected the sons of 
Pritha were strong, while those of Madri were hand- 
some. All of them were fine warriors and lived a noble 
life ; and noble and divine deeds, such was the belief 
of the ancient Aryans, betokened noble parentage. A 
story in the Chhando-yoga Upanishad clearly brings this 
firm belief of the ancient Aryans. When Satyakama 
Jabala went to a sage for Upadesha or teaching and 
was asked his name and his father's name, he said 
"I am Satyakama Jabala and my mother said to me she 
did not know who my father was/' " Thou art the 
son of a Brahman, " said the sage, "for thou speakest 

H4 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

the truth/' We not therefore wonder that the Panda vas 
were attributed a divine origin by their contemporaries 
and their successors. 

Sceptics and questioners are, however, found in every 
age and the Mahabharata itself furnishes the evidence 
that the legitimacy of the Pandavas was doubted even 
then. Some said in Hastinapura that they were the 
sons of Pandu, and others said, how could they be, for 
Pandu was dead long since. But after all .they said 
" welcome are they; happy are we to hail the sons 
of Pandu." * It was this doubt probably about their 
origin which was at the root of the ever-increasing 
jealousy which sprung between them and the sons of 
Dhritarashtra and which at last ended in the great 
conflict on the plains of Kuru Kshetra. 

Yudhishthira or Dharma was older than Duryodhana 
by one year, while Bhima and Duryodhana are said in 
the Mahabharata to have been born on the same day. 
The other brothers appear therefore to have been 
younger each at least by one year. It is not mentioned 
how old the Pandavas were when they were brought to 
Ha$4papura, but their early training was imparted to 
them in the ancestral home under the eye of Drona, a 
Brahmin teacher 'versed in the Vedas as well as in 
archery. He was specially engaged for the purpose and 
taught the hundred and six boys given to him as pupils 
with the same care. But Arjuna, the middle Pandava, 
was his favourite pupil and outshone all the others in 
the apt of throwing the arrow. The bow and the arrow 

1 Ahuh kechinnatasyaite tasyaite iti chapare, &c. 17 and 18, 
Adhyayas Adiparva. 

Their Birth^ Early Life and Marriage with Draupadi. 115 

was the highest weapon in those days a-s^he gun and 
the bullet is in these, and we shall have to speak of this 
weapon at greater length in a subsequent chapter. 
Bhimaand Duryodhanawere athletes and became equally 
versed in wrestling and the use of the mace, but Bhima 
was the stronger of the two. The superior strength 
and skill of the Panda vas added fuel to the fire of hatred 
already burning fiercely in the heart of Duryodhana and 
his brothars, and they one day threw Bhima while asleep 
into the Ganges on the banks of which they had all 
gone to play. When Bhima did not return with the 
rest of his brothers, his mother Kunti was in great waiL 
Bhima is said to have been taken to the Nagaloka by 
serpents and there to have drunk the nectar of life. He 
returned safe next day to the surprise of his enemies and 
the joy of the Pandavas and their mother. Probably 
Bhima did not die in the cold water in consequence of a 
snake-bite and came up alive the better and stronger for 
the venom which he had digested. 

The education of the princes was finished in a few 
years and the result was exhibited in a tournament 
which has been beautifully described in the Mahab^arata 
and which shows the manner of education imparted in 
Aryan India to the sons of kings. A large arena or amphi- 
theatre was erected outside the city by orders of Dhrita- 
rashtra at the instance and under the auspices of Drona. 
On an appointed day the inhabitants of the city flocked 
to the theatre to witness the grand tournament. Blind 
Dhritarashtra with his wife Gandhari, Kunti and other 
members of the royal family went and had their seats 
in the appointed places. Now sounded the trumpets 

n6 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

announcing the coming of the exhibitors when the 
crowd became quiet, and Drona, who looked grave with 
his white beard and white dress, led the princes one by 
one into the arena. There they exhibited their skill in 
bending the bow and throwing the javelin, riding the 
horse and driving the elephant, fighting with the scimitar 
or wielding the mace. The audience shouted cries of 
acclamation when Duryodhana and Bhima, of splendid 
physique, entered the lists with maces in th^ir hands, 
and as they moved about the field and struck each other 
at every opportunity with force, there was a division 
among the spectators, some betting for Duryoclhana 
and others for Bhima. Drona finding the division 
and fight assuming an unpleasant aspect asked his 
son Ashwatthama to stop the fighting and announced 
that he would now bring forth his best and most 
favourite pupil, dearer to him, as he said, than his 
own son. Then entered Arjuna, clothed in a golden 
armour with protection covers for his hands and his 
head, with the bow in his left hand and the arrow in his 
right. Trumpets blew, conches were filled and Dhrita- 
rashtra inquired what the matter was, when Vidura told 
him that Arjuna, the best of archers, had entered the 
field. Arjuna now showed his skill at the bow, sending 
five arrows in quick succession, as if they were one, 
through the mouth of a swinging boar made of iron, and 
performing similar other feats, and then showed his 
mastery over Astras or supernatural missiles (of which 
we shall speak in a subsequent chapter). He then 
moved about in a chariot ascending and descending 
from it with ease and agility and practised with the 

Their Birth, Early Life and Marriage with DraupadL 117 

mace and the sword. Acclamations after acclamations 
greeted him at every act and trumpets blew again when 
he had finished. Scarcely had their sound ceased when an 
uproar rose at the entrance, and a warrior, tall and strong, 
striking his arms, making a sound, deep and sonorous 
with a slap, bearing the bow and arrow, entered the 
lists. Drona and his pupils and every man and woman 
in the amphitheatre looked towards the entrance, and 
Kama bpwing to Drona and Kripa almost slightingly 
said to Arjuna, " Whatever feat thou hast performed I 
wilL Think not high of thyself." The spectators sprung 
to their feet in amazement and curiosity, and while Duryo- 
dhana's face brightened with delight, Arjuna felt a little 
abashed and enraged. Drona, however, permitted Kama 
to proceed, and he exhibited his skill at the bow, perform- 
ing one by one all the feats shown by Arjuna, " Wel- 
come thee, Oh warrior/' said Duryodhana embracing 
him, " Be my friend and enjoy the kingdom of the 
Kurus." " I value nothing more than thy friendship,'* 
said Kama, " I earnestly long for a duel with Arjuna." 
"Well, spoken," said Duryodhana, "thou art indeed 
well-fitted to place thy foot on. the neck of my enemies." 
Arjuna naturally thought he had been insulted, and 
cried " Oh Kama, I will instantly send thee to that fate 
which awaits those who come in uncalled and speak 
unasked." "But," retorted Kama, "the arena is a 
public place and prowess is the passport for every act. 
I can punish thee even in the presence of thy 
Acharya." Drona now permitted Arjuna to fight a 
duel with Kama, and Arjuna embracing his brothers 
and bowing to his preceptor stood ready for the 

nS The Mdhabharata : A Criticism. 

fight. Kama also embraced his new friend and 


prepared to receive him ; the audience was now divided 
between the two warriors, but Kunti swooned, for she 
knew not what to do. At this point to her relief step- 
ped forth Kripa well versed in the laws of duels, and 
cried "Here is Arjuna, son of Kunti and of Pandu, of 
the race of the Kurus ; proclaim thou thy name, for 
kings' sons fight not a duel with men of unknown 
family." At these words down went Karna's head 
like a wet lotus hanging down under a drizzling rain. 
"Acharya/' interposed Duryodhana, "there are three 
classes of kingsthose who are so by birth, those who 
are brave, and those who command armies. But if 
Arjuna has an objection to fight with one who is not an 
actual king, I bestow on Kama the kingdom of the 
Angas." Immediately a white umbrella was held over 
his head and they saluted him with the words " success 
tothee." "What shall I give thee in return," said 
the grateful Kama, "Nothing but thy friendship" 
replied Duryodhana. Here entered an old man, a chario- 
teer by caste, supporting himself on a stick and shed- 
ding tears of joy at the fortune and fame to which his 
son had suddenly attained. Kama in respect bowed 
down his head which the old man wetted with tears in 
bestowing on him the kiss of blessing. At this Bhima 
laughed loudly and cried " Oh Kama, thou clost not 
deserve to be killed by Arjuna. Throw away the bow 
and take up a whip. Thou dost not deserve even the 
kingdom of the Angas." Kama throbbing with rage 
only looked at the sun in the heaven, but Duryodhana 
shot forth from among his brothers and said "Bhimasena, 

Their Birth, Early Life and Marriage with Draupadi. 119 

you speak unfairly. Strength is the highest merit 
of a Kshatriya and the lowest Kshatriya if strong may 
fight. Even 'Brahrnans are born of Kshatriyas, for 
Vishwamitra and others became Brahmins by their 
worth. Everybody knows how you were born. This 
warrior deserves to be the king of the whole world, 
what then of the Angas alone? He who does not ap- 
prove of my action let him step forward and bend the 
bow." Consternation reigned in the whole arena at 
these words, but the sun at that time set, and Duryodhana 
taking Kama by the hand walked out of the arena fol- 
lowed by his brothers by the light of torches. 

We have thought fit to give the above passage in 
extenso not only as an instance of the many splendid 
spirited dialogues which are the peculiar charm of the 
Mahabharata but because it so finely brings out the 
manners of the times and the characters of the actors. 
We feel as if we are transplanted into the midst of those 
Western Aryans of old whose chivalry has been beauti- 
fully described by Scot We feel we are in the com- 
pany of stern warriors, bold, fearless and truthful, of 
men who fought duels under strict rules of honour, 
of men who honoured merit as high as parentage, of 
women who lived an exemplary life though they had 
by a regrettable chance once gone astray in early life. 
The characters strike us as real but not prosaic, and 
are brought out in bold relief : the proud Duryodhana, 
the vain yet faithful Kama, the impetuous Bhima, and 
the strong but steady Arjuna, and we cannot but admit 
that each in his own way is an exemplary yet inimitable 

I2o The Mdhabharata : A Criticism. 

The tournament over and it may almost be called the 
embryo of the future conflict, Dhritarashtra went home 
ruminating over the split which had evidently sprung 
between the cousins. He fell an easy prey to the advice 
of a minister (Kanikaby name) the principles of whose 
machiavelian policy are well set forth in the Mahabharata 
and are known as Kanika Niti. He lent a willing ear to a 
plot which his sons now concocted to destroy the Pan- 
davas by underhand means. A palace with walls filled 
with lac and other combustible materials was erected 
in Varanavata, a distant town, and the five brothers with 
their mother were asked to go thereto reside foratime in 
order to prevent a quarrel between the brothers. Vidura, 
however, came to know the danger and warned Yudhish- 
thira of it, speaking to him at the time of departure in 
a Mlenchha or un-Aryan tongue. Diggers sent by him 
had already prepared a subterranean passage from within 
the house to a distance from the town ; and the live 
brothers and their mother escaped by it when the palace 
was burnt as if by accident on the next clay of their ar- 
rival, though people believed that they were all burnt 

Wetieed not pursue the warriors in their wanderings In 
the forest It may be that Bhima married Hidimba, the 
daughter of a Rakshasa or cannibal, but the story of 
Baka is evidently a childish interpolation of later times. 
The brothers dressed as Brahmins emerged out of their 
obscurity at the Swayamvara of Draupadi which was 
shortly held at the capital of the Panchalas, 

ThePanchala kingdomas described in the Mahabharata 
may be supposed to have extended from Rohilkhand 

Their Birth, Early Life and Marriage with Draupadi. 121 

In the north to the Chambal in the south. The portion 
of it to the north of the Ganges of which Ahichhatra 
was the capital had been wrested from Drupada, the 
king of the Panchalas, by the Kurus led by Drona and 
his 1 06 pupils. Drupada now ruled to the south in Kam- 
pilya and was burning to have his vengeance on Drona. 
He is said to have performed a sacrifice from which sprang 
Krishna or Draupadi, the future queen of the Pandavas, 
and a son, named Dhrishtadyumna, who was destined to 
kill Drona. Drupada wished to secure Arjuna for his son- 
in-law, but not knowing his whereabouts proclaimed a 
Swayamvara of his beautiful daughter at which the victor 
was to bend a bow specially constructed for the occasion 
and shoot arrows specially made at a moving target hang- 
ing in the sky. Kings ancl princes assembled at the capi- 
tal of the southern Panchalas and were received and en- 
camped to the north of the town in a great camp, having 
streets laid with sandal-scented water and beautified with 
arches at the gate. On the appointed day the competitors 
assembled in the Swayamvara hall and seated themselves 
on golden seats spread over with costly coverings,anxious 
to have a look at the beauteous bride. Krishna having 
bathed and put on a superb dress and precious ornaments 
now entered the hall bearing in the hand a gold-laced 
garland. The preceptor of the family of the Panchalas 
sacrificed at the family altar and taking the blessing of the 
Brahmanas stopped all music. Dhrishtadyumna now 
took his sister by the hand and addressed the assembly 
of princes and Brahmanas in a clear and sonorous voice : 
"Here is this bow, "said he, "and here the arrows. Wlio- 
ever will send them in the hole of the target hanging 

122 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

above, him shall my sister marry." The kings and 
princes assembled, smitten with love and jealous of each 
other, one by one tried their hand at the bow but could 
not even string it. Abashed and enraged they returned 
to their seats. Kama then stepped forth, took up the bow, 
strung it and was about to take up the arrows when 
Draupadi exclaimed "I am not prepared to marry a 
charioteer." His face fell and the bow fell from his hands 
and looking up at the sun he too returned to his seat 
There was now a pause and Arjuna rose from among the 
Brahmans. There was a murmur both of approbation 
and disapprobation among them as he went towards the 
bow. But heeding not either, he took up the bow and 
having strung it sent the arrows in quick succession 
through the hole of the target. A cry of applause from 
the Brahmins hailed him. They said, " A Brahmin has 
risen superior on the field. A Brahmin has won Drau- 
padi." Yudhishthira with his brothers now stood up and 
without waiting any further started back for his home. 
Arjuna taking hold of the hand of Draupadi, whose face 
was radiant with the smile of love and whose heart was 
filled with delight at having secured a husband valiant 
as the Son, followed her. 

Such is the description of the Swayamvara of Draupadi 
and it speaks volumes of the manners of the times. It 
shows how Kshatriyas and Brahmins vied with each 
other even in the field of arms, how Brahmins often won 
and married Kshatriya daughters, how brides were grown 
up and fearless at the time of marriage, how princesses 
followed their husbands gladly into obscurity and priva- 
tion. When the brothers reached home, they said to 

Their Birth, Early Life and Marriage with Draupadi. 123 

their mother that they had brought alms and she asked 
them to share them among themselves. This is the fan- 
tastic explanation given in the Mahabharata of the mar- 
riage of the five brothers with a single woman. Nobody 
would believe that a casual command given by mistake 
would be obeyed so literally, nor is it likely that 
Kunti would have said what she is made to say. Alms, 
ordinarily, would be grain, and grain had to be cooked 
before it ^ could be partaken by the brothers. Other 
explanations have also been given in the Mahabharata, 
but are equally unsatisfying. A sentence, however, has 
been preserved in the epic, a fossil as we have said 
elsewhere, which gives a clue to the right solution of the 
question. "This is our family custom," said Yudhish- 
thira to the wavering king of the Panchalas, "and we do 
not feel we are transgressing Dharma in following it."' 
We shall have to return to this subject in another place. 



"SHRIKRISHNA first appears on the scene in the Maha- 
bharata here and he is introduced without any reference 
to his previous history (nor has his history been sepa- 
rately given in any place in the Epic). He was one of 
those princes who had come to witness the grand 
Swayamvara and was glad to find that his cousins 
were not only alive but had also won the beauteous 
bride. He paid his respects to Kunti, his paternal 
aunt, congratulated the Pandavas on their success 
and made valuable presents to them on the occasion 
of their marriage. Dhritarashtra trembled in his 
shoes when he heard that the sons of Kunti were 
alive and were married to the daughter of the 
powerful Panchala king. The crafty old monarch now 
protested his great love for the sons of Pandu as dear 
to him, he said, as his own sons and sent Vidura with 
many presents to call them back to Hastinapura. The 
Pandavas were quite happy to return home and went 
there accompanied by Krishna. They were received 
by Bhishma and others with great affection and honour. 
Dhritarashtra now divided the kingdom between his 
sons and the Pandavas in order to avoid future dissen- 
sions between them, assigning the latter as their portion 

The Founding of Indraprastha or Dehli, &c. 1 25 

Khandavaprastha and the territory to the west of the 
Jamna, a very large part of which was covered with 
thick jungle of which the brave warriors, so the old 
monarch said, would not be afraid. 

The brothers founded a new capital in their kingdom 
which they called Indraprastha, of which the remnants 
are even now pointed out by the side of the modern Dehli* 
The capital was soon filled with Brahmanas from all 
quarters,, traders who spoke different languages, arti- 
ficers of every description. Slowly the capital was 
also surrounded by gardens filled with mango trees 
and pleasure houses. The country had to be cleared of 
its forests and the Nagas, who are unquestionably a 
mythological transformation of the aboriginal people 
who molested the Aryans in their peaceful settlements. 
An atrocious device was adopted which has also been 
transformed into the legend of the burning of the Khan- 
dava forest, Agni or fire, it is stated, once appeared 
before Arjuna and Krishna and requested the two war- 
riors to assist him in devouring the forest which was 
under the special protection of Indra or the God of rain* 
Agni gave a divine bow called Gandiva to Arjuna and 
he and Krishna watched while Agni devoured th forest. 
Not a single animal was allowed to escape and the 
fierce fire raged for fifteen days reducing the vast jungle 
to ashes and destroying thousands of beasts and birds 
and probably human beings. Only six are represented 
to have escaped, zrasr., Takshaka Ashvascna (of whom 
we shall speak again towards the end), Maya and four 
sparrows whose miraculous preservation it would be 
out of place to give here. This device of burning a 

!26 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

large forest and of destroying the beasts, and probably 
-the jungly aborigines transformed latterly into Nagas 
and Asuras, who interfered with the cultivation of land, 
does indeed seem atrocious and would not be tolerated 
in these days. It was, however, in those days of first 
settlement believed to be a sacrifice to Agni and was not 
looked upon as heinous, and the country thus cleared 
of forest and the molesters of peaceful agriculture soon 
attained to a prosperous condition under the strong 1 but 
just rule of the five brothers. 

The union of the Pandavas and the Yadavas was now 
further cemented by the marriage of Arjuna to Subhadra, 
sister of Shrikrishna. It was not a marriage of reci- 
procal love as is represented by modern poets. Accord- 
ing to the Mahabharata it was a marriage by seizure, for 
it is stated that Arjuna while on a pilgrimage to Dwarka 
saw the beautiful girl in a festival wherein men and 
women had gone out from Dwarka to the Raivataka 
hill. By the advice of Krishna, who said he did not 
know whether Subhadra liked him or not, Arjuna forcibly 
seized and carried her away in his chariot Krishna's 
brother Balarama was about to pursue and chastise the 
abductor, but was prevailed upon by Krishna to ac- 
quiesce in the marriage. Of this union was born Abhi- 
manyu, the favourite son of Arjuna and nephew of 
Krishna. Draupadi too had five sons born to her from 
the five Pandavas. 

Conscious of their increased strength and emboldened 
by their alliance with the Yadavas and the Panchalas, 
the Pandavas now began to revolve schemes for the 
assumption of universal sovereignty, and Yudhishthira 

The Founding of Indraprastha or Dehli, &>c. 127 

called and consulted Krishna as to how far the scheme 
was practicable. The Idea of a Chakravarti or Emperor 
of India originated, according to Krishna's explanation, 
in the humiliation of the Kshatriya race by the Brahman 
Parashurama. The Kshatriyas who escaped death in 
the war of extermination waged by that relentless 
Brahman warrior against them, formed themselves into a 
coalition of which one was appointed the Chakravarti or 
the Emperor. What was, however, intended originally 
to oppose the Brahmins became in the end the cause 
of their own destruction, for every ambitious king 
aspired to be the Chakravarti and tried to subject others 
to his rule. Jarasandha, Krishna said, was the Emperor 
then and had kept hundreds of princes in confinement 
at his capital Rajagriha, subsequently known as Patali 
Putra or modern Patna. Even -Krishna had fled from 
Mathura and gone to Dwarka in fear of him. But as 
Hansa and Dhimbhaka, two warriors whom he had in 
his service, were dead, it was easy for Bhima supported 
by Krishna and Arjuna to slay him in single combat. 
Permitted by Yudhishthira forth started the three war- 
riors in the garb of Brahmin mendicants. Reaching the 
city of Rajagriha by forced marches they entered it by 
a side way and struck and broke the great drum that 
was kept on the gate. Walking through the streets 
they took garlands from a flowerman by force and be- 
decking themselves with them defiantly entered the palace 
of Jarasandha, no one stopping them either through fear 
or in respect for their dress. Jarasandha received them 
in due form offering them water and honey, but as none 
of them accepted the presents his suspicions were roused 

128 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

and he asked them the reason of their strange actions 
and false garb. Krishna replied " know thou that we are 
thy enemies and therefore have entered the city by a side 
way. We are decked in flowers because victory greets 
those who put on flowers. We are Kshatriyas ready to 
fight with thee. Come, fight with any of us if thou ,art 
not prepared to release the princes whom thou hast un- 
justly confined." Jarasandha now knew the truth and 
accepted the challenge and prepared to fight wjth Bhima 
without arms. It was a fight for victory or death, and 
having taken the blessings of the Brahmans and taking 
off his crown he stepped into the list. There the two 
gladiators with their arms only as their weapons fought 
untired, unceasing, taking no food nor rest till at last on 
the I4th day Jarasandha retired seeking rest for a time. 
Krishna beckoned to Bhima not to lose the opportunity, 
and Bhima springing upon his tired foe whirled him 
round, broke his back-bone by the pressure of his knee, 
and taking hold of his legs tore the body into two halves. 
It was a terrible scene, and the roar of the dying man 
and triumphant warrior sent a thrill of terror through 
the whole palace. The three then threw the dead body 
at the gate of the palace and left the place in Jarasandha's 

Such is the awful description of the mortal fight 
between Jarasandha and Bhima. There may be a great 
deal of exaggeration in it, but we cannot doubt the vein 
of reality which runs through the whole narration. 
That the art of building up a strong 1 body had reached 
great success in ancient India, we may fairly accept 
from what we see of athletes even now in this country and I 

The Founding of Indraprastha or Dehli, &c. 129 

prize jSghts ending in the death of one of the combatants 
were formerly witnessed even in western countries. The 
fight between Jarasandha and Bhima, as described in the 
Mahabharata, is not so absurd as it has subsequently 
been made by later poets, who state that the two 
halves of Jarasandha's body joined together as often 
as they were severed, and Krishna at last asked Bhima 
to change sides in throwing the halves which then could 
not join to, form a body. 

Jarasandha destroyed, there remained nobody who 
could oppose tha Pandavas in their ambitious designs. 
To assume, however, universal sovereignty a formal con- 
quest of the four quarters of the known world was 
necessary, and Arjuna, Bhima, Nakula and Sahadeva, 
taking divisions of armies with them, went north, east, 
west and south, receiving submission from and fighting 
with, where necessary, the various peoples who lived in 
those regions. An enumeration of these people is made 
in the Mahabharata and is very important as it shows 
the geographical knowledge at the time of Chandra 
Gupta if not of the Pandavas themselves. Having thus 
conquered the whole world the Pandavas with the 
advice of Krishna decided to declare themselves the 
master of the Aryan world. Among the ancient Aryans 
of India every event was celebrated by the performance 
of a sacrifice as in modern Europe by the delivery of a 
speech. The assumption of universal sovereignty was 
in ancient India signalised by the performance of what 
was called the Rajasuyayajnya. A great hall like the 
amphi-theatre which was just erected in Dehli had been 
built by the Asura Maya in gratitude for his deliverance 


!3o The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

from the Khandava conflagration. It was built of 
costly materials, brought from the Himalayas, and the 
architect had employed his skill so successfully that in 
some places hard ground looked like a watery surface and 
water looked like hard ground. Hundreds of princes 
assembled from the four quarters to pay homage to the 
Emperor and were put up in beautiful palaces specially 
built outside the town. Brahrnans were feasted from 
day to day and the sacrificial fire burned with the 
oblations of the flesh of various animals. Bhishma and 
Drona, Duryodhana and his brothers were also present 
and were assigned honorary duties in connection with 
the Imperial sacrifice. Duryodhana was especially 
charged with the duty of receiving presents from the 
.assembled kings. 

On the last day of the sacrifice on which every one 
present had the opportunity of bathing with holy waters 
(Avabhritasnana) with the Emperor, Brahrnans and 
princes assembled in the inner sacrificial grounds, 
Bhishma according to custom called upon Yudhishthira 
to make Argha or presents to the assembled kings. 
The^ Emperor asked Bhishma who deserved the first 
honour. Whereon Bhishma declared that Krishna 
was the proper person to begin with. Sahadeva then 
at the command of the Emperor presented Krishna 
with Argha, which he accepted according to the 
rules of the ceremony. The first place of honour 
is always a cause of contention and Shishupala, 
the king of the Chedis, rose up in protest. He 
upbraided Bhishma for his wrong advice and attri- 
buted it to his old age. He then reviled Krishna 

The Founding of Indraprastha or Dehli, &c. 131 

himself for his acquiescence in accepting the first 
place when there were present older men than 
himself like' his father Vasudeva and Drupada, wiser 
men like Vyasa and Drona, and mightier kings like 
Duryodhana and Shalya. Bhishma calmly explained 
that Krishna rightly deserved the first place as he 
was the mightiest, the wisest and the most honoured 
of all. He was in fact the incarnation of Vishnu, 
This gave^ a fresh subject for reviling to Shishupala 
who was not one of those who believed so. He came 
down upon Krishna for deluding the world by false 
pretentions to divinity and upbraided Bhishma as a 
supporter of false claims who deserved to be stoned to 
death or burned like the old bird in the well-known 
fable by his brother princes. This was too much even 
for the old philosophic Bhishma and he exclaimed in 
the heat of passion " My death is at my will, I count the 
kings present, not so much as a straw. It is useless to 
argue without end. Here is Krishna who deserves to be 
honoured first and has been so honoured by us. Let him 
who disapproves of this come forward and fight with 
him." Shishupala stepped forth at once and challenged 
Shrikrishna to fight. Krishna said : " I have pardlbned 
thee one hundred times according to my promise but 
cannot pardon thee any longer." With these words he 
cut his head off by throwing his discus. It was a 
ghastly end to a joyous beginning. The princes assem- 
bled were cowed down and raised no protest. But there 
were many who burned within with a desire to wreak 
vengeance on the party guilty of open assassination. 
The sacrifice, however, was quietly finished and 

i^2 The Mahabkarata : A Criticism. 

Yudhishthira dismissed the princes to their homes with 
costly and suitable presents. 

The assembling of princes for the purpose of pro- 
claiming the assumption of the Imperial Power cannot 
always be a successful proceeding. Moreover the display 
of wealth and power rouses jealousy in the heart of the 
evil-disposed, while the coming together of many persons 
whose high position makes them sensitive on points of 
honour, unavoidably furnishes occasion tp many for 
being displeased and discontented. Thus in spite of his 
efforts in the right direction, Yudhishthira soon found 
that he had by his actions given a point to the height of 
glory to which he had risen and that there must be a 
descent for some time at least, however much he might 
fondly hope that there were pinnacles after pinnacles of 
glory rising one above the other like the peaks of the 
Himalayas. He had created an unconquerable feeling of 
hatred and envy in the heart of his cousin which soon 
bore its evil fruit as we shall see in the next chapter. 



DURYODHANA returned home burning with the desire 
to humble the Pandavas and to possess himself of their 
wealth and called to counsel his friends Kama and 
Shakuni. Open attack was impossible, and Shakuni 
suggested that they should take advantage of Yudhish- 
thira J s failing, &., his love for the dice. The ancient 
Aryans of India were as fond of gambling as their 
brethren of Germany, and the rules of honour did not 
allow a challenge given to be declined. The trio de- 
cided upon making false dice and inviting Yudhishthira 
to a game with Shakuni, who was an expert, and to cheat 
him out of his kingdom and wealth. Old Dhritarashtra 
was prevailed upon to consent to the plot by his ambiti- 
ous son who gave most glorious descriptions of Yudhish- 
thira 's wealth, swelled as it had been by the presents 
he had received from the kings of India. He directed 
the erection of an assembly-room in imitation of the 
wonderful hall built for Yudhishthira by Maya and sent 
Vidura, in spite of his warnings, to invite Yudhishthira 
on pretext of seeing the great hall built by Duryodhana, 
Vidura went to Indraprastha and delivered the message 
to king Yudhishthira, and added of his own accord : 
" You may do what you think best, for gambling is a 

134 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

dangerous thing." With a heavy heart, and saying that 
the inevitable must happen, the king started with his 
brothers and his beautiful queen and reached Hastina- 
pura in due time. There they were joyously received 
by their friends and relations, and the next day the five 
brothers went to the new hall where many princes and 
respectable men had assembled to greet them. "Let 
us have a game at dice," said Shakuni. " Gambling," 
replied Yudhishthira, " is a sin and a kind of fraud. Do 
not conquer me in this disreputable fashion. Aryas do 
not speak un-Aryan language nor walk in the paths of 
fraud." " A strong man," rejoined Shakuni, " conquers 
a weak one, a learned man a fool, but nobody looks 
upon that as a fraud. Why should a man clever at dice 
not conquer one who is less so? But if you think it is 
fraud you are at liberty to decline." It was too much 
for Yudhishthira, and saying that it was not his wont to 
refuse when called upon to play, he started the game 
without more ado. Stake after stake he lost, and mad- 
dened by his continuous failure he staked successively 
his wealth, his kingdom, his sons, his brothers and at 
last r himself. u There still remains your wife," said 
Shakuni, with the sting of a gambler. " Have one more 
stake and you may win back everything." " I stake my 
wife," said the senseless king, "the beautiful Draupadi, 
neither short nor tall, neither thin nor bulky, with eyes 
as large and white and with breath as fragrant as an 
autumnal lotus flower ; she who is as beautiful as kind 
and as well-behaved as a man may ever wish his wife to 
be. Her I stake. Shakuni, play." "Shame, shame/' cried 
the spectators, who could not bear to see the disgraceful 

The Disgraceful Game at Dice and its Consequences. 135 

game; but nothing abashed Shakuni played and cried, 
"I have won, I have won." The joy of the trio knew 
no bounds, and Duryodhana called upon Vidura to 
go and bring Draupadi to the hall that she may 
be sent as a slave and made to work in the household 
and sweep the ground. "Fool," cried the outspoken 
Vidura, u thou art doomed; speak not unspeakable 
things ; do not exasperate the lions ; seest not thou that 
thou art overhanging a precipice?" The infatuated 
monarch however heeded him not and said to his servant 
Pratikami, " Go thou to Draupadi, tell her that she has 
been vanquished at game, and bring her here." The man 
went to Draupadi and spoke to her as desired, and return- 
ing, asked in the name of the clever queen of the Panda- 
vas whether a man who had already staked himself away 
had a right to stake his wife. "Fool, thou art afraid of 
the Pandavas," said Duryodhana who was not to be balked 
by such nice subtleties, and he asked his brother Duhsha- 
sana to go and bring Draupadi to the assembly-hall. Off 
started Duhshasana, and entering the apartment of the 
queen of the Pandavas said : " Come, Draupadi, you have 
been won at game, give up bashfulness and see Duryo- 
dhana in the hall." Draupadi saw that it was usefess to 
argue with the ruffian and in her anguish, ran towards the 
apartments of Dhritarashtra's wife. But Duhshasana 
sprang forward like a wolf, caught her by the hair gnd 
dragged her along by force. She pleaded her uncleanli- 
ness and her wearing one garment only, but Duhshasana 
heeded not her waitings and brought her by force to the 
assembly-hall. "Speak, sirs," said the tortured Drau- 
padi, "am I rightly won? Had Yudhishthira, who had 

!^6 The Mahdbharata ; A Criticism. 

sold himself, the right to stake me ? It is sin if those who 
sit in the council do not give right judgment" Nobody 
answered hen Bhishma only said it was a difficult and 
delicate question, considering the position of a wife. 
There she stood in vain pleading for release, with her 
hair caught firmly by Duhshasana, her upper half of the 
body uncovered. It was a sighfc enough to exasperate 
anybody, but even her husbands only hung down their 
heads. Bhima alone could not control Jiis rage. 
"Gamblers," said he, " have female slaves, but they do 
not stake them even. Oh, Yudhishthira, thou hast 
gambled thy wife away. Sahadeva, bring fire, I will bum 
the hands of this shameless gambler.-" "How," exclaimed 
Arjuna, " you never saicl such words before ; do you forget 
he is our elder brother? A Kshatriya cannot refuse 
to play when called upon by others. Do not allow your 
enemies to conquer you by making you go astray from the 
path of duty." Vikarna, the illegitimate son of Dhrita- 
rashtra, tried to save Draupadi by giving it as his opi- 
nion that she had not been properly won, but Kama told 
him to keep quiet where far wiser heads hesitated to 
decide, and he called upon Duhshasana to deprive the 
Pandavas and Draupadi of their clothes. The Pan- 
davas laid aside their valuable dress and sat almost 
naked. -But what could Draupadi do? It was a plight 
miserable enough to be dragged by the hair before 
elders and strangers, but to be deprived of clothes it was 
rifbre than enough even for the courageous queen, and 
as Duhshasana seized her garment she could do nothing* 
but cry and implore the Almighty. Covering Jier face 
with her hands, and stooping down she sent her fervent 

The Disgraceful Game at Dice and its Consequences. 137 

prayers to -Han, the protector of the weak, the Lord of 
the Universe, Krishna, the chief of Yogins. There was 
a miracle. Every garment that was taken off gave place 
to another. Garment after garment was taken off, but 


Draupadi was still covered. He who clothes the naked 
Tiad come to her assistance. The princes and the people 
present were wonderstruck and praised Draupadi, up- 
braiding Duhshasana for his shameless persecution. It 
was a noble and awful sight, the tormentor in vain 
trying to expose the virtuous queen of the Pandavas. 
He sat down at last tired and abashed. 

Such is the story of Draupadi's clothing by Krishna, 
- and it is sung in countless Hindu homes these thou- 
sands of years, ever encouraging Hindu women to pre- 
serve in the path of virtue. It would be ruthless to 
dethrone this beautiful episode from its high pedestal 
and to subject it to the process of simplification. Those 
who believe in miracles will not doubt its truth. Those, 
however, who do not, and there were men even in that 
assembly who explained the event as a trick of witch- 
craft, may ignore it altogether. Dhritarashtra now 
thought that the game had gone too far and said to 
Draupadi: "My dear daughter, I am pleased* by thy 
noble conduct; ask a boon of 'me." " Release my 
husbands," said she "from their bonds." " Granted/' 
said he, " go, Yudhishthira, with thy brothers and 
with thy wealth, go rule thy kingdom in peace with thy 
cousins. For I know you are all noble and will Islr- 
give the foolishness of rny sons for my sake." It seemed 
to be a most joyous termination to the disastrous pro- 
. ceeding of the day, and the brothers with their faithful 

I ^S The MahaWiarata: A Criticism. 

wife left Hastinapura without much ceremony. But 
that was not to be. The old king was terrified again 
when his sons told him that he had let off roused 
serpents. If he wanted his sons to live he must call the 
Pandavas back and send them to live in the forest for 12 
years and to live one year more incognito to go into 
exile again if discovered. They were ready to go into 
exile themselves if they lost the game. As fate would 
have it Dhritarashtra sent for the Pandavas again and 
unable to refuse as true Kshatriyas they played once 
more and lost the game and their kingdom. 



IT was a bloodless triumph. The Pandavas had been 
humbled and their kingdom and their empire wrested 
from them without a blow. < ' To-day begins the im- 
perial rule of the son of Dhritarashtra," cried Kama, at 
which the avaricious blind monarch was perhaps not a 
little tickled. The poor victims of Duryodhana's fraud 
left the city in the guise of anchorites followed by their 
now illustrious queen and a few servants. Hundreds 
went to see them off, blaming the sons of Dhritarashtra 
for their cruel spoliation. Vidura asked Yudhishthira to 
allow Kunti, the aged mother of the Pandavas, to remain 
with him, and as she stayed behind she gave a touching 
parting blessing to Draupadi. * ' Daughter , " said she, "do 

not grieve in the terrible trial in thy life, Thou knowest 


well the duties of a wife and art gifted with a sweet 
temper. It is not necessary for me to tell thee how to 
behave towards thy husbands, for thy chastity has 
adorned and purified both families. Fortunate indeed 
are the Kurus whom thou hast not burned to ashes by 
thy enraged sight. Go without hesitation. A good 
woman never loses her temper in the hour of difficulty 
and tfcou wilt soon be blessed and happy." Draupadi 
with tears flowing from her eyes and with a single 

I4 o The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

blood-stained garment covering her body and with her 
hair untied and flowing down her shoulders said "Amen," 
and unhesitatingly followed her husbands, 

It is not necessary to follow the Pandavas in their 
rambles in forests, which probably adjoined the territory 
they had lost. They generally lived by hunting and 
passed their vacant time in hearing mythological stories 
related by the Brahmans to Yudhishthira. Two of these 
episodes deserve to be related here. The story *of Nala 
and Damayanti is well-known and has been translated 
into many languages, both Indian and Foreign. It was 
related to king Yudhishthira by Brihadashwa in answer 
to the query whether any king before him had been 
deprived of his kingdom by gambling. Brihadashwa at 
the end of the story taught the king the art of throwing" 
the dice in which he himself was expert. The second 
story, ^2 that of Satyavan and Savitri was related by a 
Rishi in answer to the question whether there was any 
other lady who had so saved her husband by her 
chastity. Both the stories, if imaginary, are lovely pro- 
ductions of the poetical brain, and Damayanti and Savitri 
are two of the most noble conceptions of female charac- 
ters. T&e latter is particularly revered in Hindu homes, 
where every woman observes a fast on the I5th of 
Jyeshtha in her blessed memory. 

During their exile the Pandavas made a pilgrimage 
.., throughout India as it was then known, visiting holy 

j places in the company of Brahmans. They visited 

r | ^ various places in Bengal, the Northern Sircars, on the 
!, West Coast of India as far down as Dwarsamudra, in 

i Kathiawar, Sindh, the Punjab and the Himalayas. The 

The Twelve Years of Exile and One Year of Disappearance. 141 

geographical indentification of these places is a subject 
of importance which we will notice in our geographical 
section. Having visited the holy places and having com- 
pleted the 12 years of exile they returned to Dwaitavana 
and resolved to pass their one year of incognito at the 
capital of Virata, the king of the Matsyas. 

Directing Dhaumya, their Guru, to take their sacrificial 
fires to the house of Drupada and sending Indrasena and 
other servants with their chariots to Dwaraka, the Panda- 
vas with their queen marched for some days on foot along 
the banks of the Jam na, representing themselves as the 
huntsmen of king Virata. As they approached the capi- 
tal, which was somewhere to the south of the Jamna, they 
saw a big Shami tree standing near the burial ground of 
the town. Qn that tree Sahadeva deposited, at the instance 
of Yudhishthira, their arms. They then changed their 
dresses and severally went into the city. Yudhishthira, 
who was now expert in the art of gambling, entered the 
service of Virata as a Brahman courtier who played with 
the king at dice. Bhima, versed in the art of cooking, be- 
came master-cook and also a gladiator. Arjuna elected to 
be a eunuch proficient in the art of dancing, which he is 
said to have learnt at the court of Indra in heaven, where ' 
he had gone during the exile to learn Astraviclya. He 
concealed the rough spots on the arm caused by constant 
use of the bow by wearing brass armlets and put on white 
bangles and let loose his hair. Thus dressed as a 
eunuch he entered Virata's service and taught dancing 
to his daughter and other girls- Nakula and Sahadeva 
became respectively horseman and cow-herd and passed 
their *time accordingly. The queen of the Pandavas 

1^2 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

was the most difficult to be disguised. Strong in her 
virtue and possessed of courage, she dressed herself as a 
Sairandhri, or a servant girl, a class of which we have 
no idea now, and being seen wandering without em- 
ployment by Sudeshna, the wife of Virata, was taken up 
by her. The entry of five new men and a woman into 
Virata's service ought to have raised suspicion, but 
probably they took up their duties at different times 
and Arjuna's disguise as a eunuch was the Jeast ex- 
pected and the least likely to be detected, for eunuchs 
are usually tall and bony. Thus they passed almost the 
whole of their period of incognito ^ when an event raised 
suspicion about their character. Virata had a commander- 
in-chief by name Kichaka, who was a Suta by caste and 
who had many of his eastern en in his service also called 
Kichakas, probably that being their family name. They 
were all athletes and the head of them wielded very real 
power in Virata's kingdom. He treated himself as 
the brother of Virata's queen Sudheshna, though in 
reality she was the daughter of the King of the Kaikcyas. 
Seeing Draupadi one day in attendance on the queen 
his lust was excited, and as she rejected his amorous 
offers ffe succeeded in inducing Sudeshna to send her 
to his house on some pretext. Sudeshna asked Sai- 
randhri to bring a cup of wine for her from Kichaka's 
house, and suspicious though she was she had to go, 
It is needless to say that Draupadi resisted personal 
violence and giving a strong back push to the villain 
ran to Virata's court for redress. Kichaka enraged 
and abashed at being thrown down pursued her, and 
as she stood in the royal presence seized her by the 

The Twelve Years of Exile and One Year of Disappearance. 143 

hair and kicked hen It was an indignity worse than 
death itself, but as Virata said nothing she cried : " Oh, 
the five Gandharvas who are my husbands and who see 
me thus treated, will they too keep silent ? Heavens ! 
this is a life which I cannot bear." Yudhishthira, 
Kanka by his assumed name, replied : <c Go, Sairandhri, 
back to Sudeshna's apartment. Your husbands perhaps 
do not see time yet to rescue you." Draupadi went as 
desired, but she was not satisfied. Burningwith the insult 
she had received, she went clandestinely to Bhima and 
apprised him of what had happened. She swore she 
would not live if Kichaka was not dead the next day. 
Bhima then conceived a plan to catch Kichaka in a 
trap. He asked her to make an appointment with him 
to meet at dead of night in the dancing hall which 
remained unoccupied by night. He would lie there in 
wait and would kill him when he came. The plot was 
well conceived and was duly carried out. The infatuat- 
ed villain fell an easy prey to the representation of 
Draupadi, and going to the dancing hall at night was 
in single combat killed by the enraged Bhima. In the 
morning people saw the dreadful spectacle of a heap 
of flesh and bones literally kneaded together* in the 
dancing hall of Kichaka who was to be found nowhere. 
It was clear that Draupadi's Gandharva husbands had 
killed him at night. The enraged followers of Kichaka 
seeking to have vengeance on her caught hold of her 
as she stood looking from a distance and tied her to the 
pier of Kichaka saying they would burn the woman with 
her unsuccessful lover. Poor Di^upadi, trials after trials 
were taking away her patience. Bhima was, however, 

!44 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

there to rescue her. Hearing her cries he ran to 
the burial ground and attacked the Upa-Kichakas, killed 
some of them, while others fled away believing him to 
be the Gandharva husband of Draupadi. Draupadi 
was set free and reached home followed by Bhima. As 
she entered Sudeshna's apartment, she said looking at 
Bhima, "I bow to thee, Gandharva prince, who had 
rescued me from death." 

The slaying of Kichakaby a Gandharva was a great 
event and Duryodhana's spies, who were located in every 
town to discover the hidden Pandavas, informed him of 
it. The clue was worth following. Duryodhana asked 
the king of the Trigartas, who had been before defeated 
by Kichaka, to attack king Virata on the southern side 
and seize his cattle, while he himself with his army would 
attack him on the north. The Mahabharata is precise in 
stating that it was on the 8th that the Trigartas attacked 
Virata, while Duryodhana attacked on the gth, but 
strangely enough it is not stated what month it was. 
Virata, accompanied by the four Pandavas, went out to 
meet the Trigartas on the south, leaving the town in 
charge of his young son Uttara. When the Kaurava 
army s.eized the cattle on the north, cow-herds ran to 
Uttara for help. The inexperienced boy boasted that 
he would gladly go out to meet the Kauravas, but 
unfortunately he had not a good charioteer. Sairandhri 
suggested that Brihannada (that was the name Arjuna 
had assumed) could do the duty for him if his sister 
Uttara would ask her teacher in dancing to do so, 
It was soon arranged* and Arjuna took out TJttara in 
a chariot. The boy as soon as he saw the vast army 

Twelve Years of Exile and One Year of Disappearance. 145 

of the Kauravas lost courage, and jumping down the 
chariot ran towards the town. Arjuna, however, know- 
ing that it was time for the Pandavas to declare them- 
selves, pursued him and catching him by the hair 
brought him back to the chariot. He told him he would 
fight for him and asked him to drive the chariot. The 
chariot was then taken to the Shami-tree and the 
bows which had been concealed by Sahadeva therein 
were taken down. Uncovering his own bow Arjuna 
said, "Ttiis is the famous Gandiva bow which I have 
used these 32 years and a half, and I am Arjuna." This 
gives us an idea of Arjuna's age at this time. The 
bow was given him by Agni when the Khandava 
forest was burned, a little after the founding of Indra- 
prastha and the Pandava's marriage with Draupadi. 
If we suppose that Arjuna was at the time of his 
marriage about 20 years of age, it follows that they 
enjoyed peace and reigned in Indraprastha for 20 years. 
They were then deprived of their kingdom and lived 
in jungles about 12 years and a half. Arjuna was thus at 
this time about 52. If we take the ages of the five 
brothers as differing by one we find that the eldest 
Yudhishthira was 55 years old when this fight* took 

Armed with his powerful bow and driven by Uttara, 
Arjuna went to fight with the Kaurava army and 
defeated them. The generals in the Kaurava army, 
Bhishma and Drona, did not probably fight in earnest, 
nor did Duryodhana insist on this, as his object had 
been gained. " We have discovered Arjuna," he said 
to BhisMna, "before the stipulated time and the Panda- 

146 The Mahdbharata: A Criticism. 

vas must go into exile again. "Well," said Bhishma, 
"the question is a difficult one. In every five years 
two months are found in excess. In these thirteen 
years 5 months and 12 nights are in excess. The 
Pandavas are versed in science and might claim these 
to be deducted. The Pandavas have observed their 
faith so far and would not have come forward unless 
they felt justified. They do not wish to take anything 
unjustly, but they would not give up what they can 
justly claim." The evil-minded Duryodhana said no- 
thing and the army of the Kauravas returned to 

It was the first lesson in war Uttara had learnt and it 
was under a great master. On returning home he 
found that his father also had returned successful, assist- 
ed as he had been by the four Pandavas- He at once 
informed his father who Brihannada was, and the grate- 
ful king offered to give his youthful daughter in mar- 
riage to Arjuna, Arjuna said he had taught her as a 
pupil and stood to her in the relation of a father. He 
however accepted her for his son and the marriage was 
celebrated with becoming festivities when Abhimanyu, 
Arjufta's son, came from Dwaraka accompanied by 
Krishna and his sister Subhadra. The aged king Dru- 
pada also ' came to congratulate his sons-in-law on the 
end of their trouble, and he and Virata now asked them 
to try with their assistance to regain their kingdom. 


YUDHISHTHIRA now encamped himself at Upaplavya, a 
town on the frontier of the Matsya kingdom, and began 
to collect^ an army in view of the impending struggle. 
Kings Drupada and Virata were already there with 
their available forces, and many others joined Yudhish- 
thira in response to invitations sent by them conjointly. 
Duryodhana in the meanwhile was not inactive, for he 
was watching the movements of Yudhishthira carefully, 
and he too sent invitations to the princes of India to 
join him in opposing Yudhishthira. Krishna's aid 
was sought by both and he gave the first choice to 
Arjuna either to take him unattended and unarmed 
-or his army of Gopas or cow-herds. Arjuna preferred 
the former and Duryodhana was glad to have the latter. 
Balarama, Krishna's brother, stood aloof in order to 
avoid participation in the war and decided to go on 
a pilgrimage. The kings mentioned by namfe, who 
elected to join the Pandavas, were ; first, Yuyudhana 
or Satyaki, king of the Satyavatas, who were a clan 
of the Yadava family ; second, Dhrishtaketu, king 
of the Chedis (he was the son of Shisupala and it seems 
strange that he joined the Pandavas) ; third, Jayatsena, 
son of Jarasandha (according to the strange manners 
of the Kshatriyas a daughter of Jarasandha married 
Bhima after he had slain him in combat) ; fourth, the king 

148 The Mahabharata ; A Criticism. 

of the Pandias ; fifth, Drupada, and sixth, Virata, already 
mentioned. All these kings brought an Akshauhini 
or what may be called an army corps, and each 
minor addition, headed by kings not named, formed 
one more corps, making thus 7 Akshauhinis in all 
on the side of the Pandavas. 

On the side of Duryodhana were ranged first, Bhaga- 
datta, king of the Northern barbarians of yellow colour ; 
second, Bhurishrava ,* third, Shalya, king of the Madras 
(he joined the Kauravas though Nakula and Sahedeva 
were his sister's sons) ; fourth, Kritvarma, king* of the 
Bhojas, a section of the Yadava race ; fifth, Jayadratha 
with his brothers , king of Sindhusauviras ; sixth, 
Sudakshina, king of the Kambojas and Yavanas ; 
seventh, Nila, king of Mahishmati, capital of the Dcccan; 
eighth, the two kings of Avanti ; ninth, the king of the 
Kaikeyas with his brothers. These brought an Akshau- 
hini each, and together with the army consisting of three 
Akshauhinis brought by minor kings, the total strength 
on the side of Duryodhana was n Akshauhinis. 
There is some mistake apparently in this calculation^ 
for there would be thus 12 Akshauhinis. 

The strength of an Akshauhini is stated in the 
Mahabharata as 21,870 elephants, 21,870 chariots, 
65,610 horses, and 1,09,350 foot. The lowest unit is 
called a Patti and consists of elephant, one chariot, 
three horses and five foot. Rising from the Patti 
the scale ends in Akshauhini* which consists of 

*3 Pattis = r Senamukha. t agSenamukhas =n Gulma, 
3 Gulmas=:i Gana. 3 Ganas = i Vahini. 

3 Vahimsssx Pritana. 3 Pritanas = x Chswnu. 

3 Chamus=i Anikani. xo Anikanissai Akshaubmi,. 

Preparations for War. 149 

21,870 of this lowest unit. Calculating on this 
basis we find that on the Pandava side there were 
I j53>90 elephants, 1,53,090 chariots, 4,59,270 horses, 
and 7,65,450 foot, while oft the side of Duryodhana 
were 2,40,570 elephants, 2,40,570 chariots, 7,21,610 
horses, and 12,02,850 foot. These figures do not seem to 
be inordinately exaggerated if we remember that in the 
last battle of Panipat fought on the same plain the 
total strength on the side of the Marhatas was 3 lacs, 
while opposed to them was one lac on the side of the 
Mahomedans. Ashoka is said to have led armies vaster 
than these. The number of elephants seems however 
incredible. It cannot stand to reason that the propor- 
tion between foot and elephants was as 5 to i. A vast 
army of elephants numbering about 5 lacs would re- 
quire an amount of food which almost seems unobtain- 
able, nor does it appear probable that the jungles 
of India could ever have supplied such a large number, 
supposing of course that much of the fertile country 
then as now, was inhabited by men. In the Udyoga 
Parva, where a different definition of Akshauhini 
is given, the proportion between elephants and 
horses is i to 100. The commentator has ngl been 
able to explain the discrepancy, except on the 
supposition that the total physical strength, not 
the number on both the sides, was proportionate 
as ii to 7. 

According to rules of war both ancient and modern 
messages began to be exchanged counselling peace 
and anjicable settlement. Dhritarashtra sent Sanjaya 
first with a message, which was more an insult than a 

j^o The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

message of peace. The crafty son-loving monarch 
affected deep concern for the welfare of the world and 
appealed to Yudhishthira's righteousness and love for 
humanity, saying that it was expected of his goodness 
that he would rather live by begging (not in his king- 
dom but in the country of Drupada and the Yaclavas) 
than go to war and be the cause of a terrible destruc- 
tion of human life. The reply of Yudhishthira has 
been finely conceived and was eloquent and full of 
his sentiment of love for mankind. He threw himself 
entirely at the mercy of Dhritarashtra, who had brought 
the Pandavas up from their childhood and who had 
himself given them a kingdom to rule. He ended by 
saying that he would be content with five villages 
even, one for each brother, but firmly added that 
he was prepared for both peace and war. When San- 
jaya delivered the reply in council Duryodhana 
thought that the Pandavas were afraid of his vast 
army and treated the reply with contempt 

The Pandavas now on their side decided to send 
Shrikrishna as a messenger of peace. They expected 
that his high position and his power of persuasion would 
enable Jiim to effect a reconciliation between the con- 
tending parties. Each of the five brothers charged Shri- 
krishna with a separate message, but all were for peace, 
though not peace at any price. Their queen however 
was not satisfied. With tears flowing copiously down 
her cheeks she showed Shrikrishna her still unbraided 
hair by which she had been dragged almost naked to 
the council hall and wondered how her husbands, how 
Bhima particularly, Bhima her ever ready champion* 

Preparations for War, 151 

now advocated peace ! Krishna comforted her by saying : 
" Thus shall weep the wives of thy tormentors if they do 
not listen to my counsel," and started in his far- 
resounding chariot. He passed through a prosperous 
country covered with cultivated fields, for it was the 
month of October and the country had known no war 
for years together under the rule of the Kauravas. 
Hundreds of men flocked to see the great man on the 
way. Bhfehma and Drona and princes and people came 
out of Hastinapura to receive him. He drove through 
decorated streets full of men and women anxious to have 
a look at him who was believed to be an Avatara or in- 
carnation of Vishnu. He reached the palace of Dhri- 
tarashtra, but decided to stay for the night at the house 
of Vidura. The two friends passed the whole night in 
conversation, talking on things past and present. Hav- 
ing bathed in the morning and performed the proper 
religious duties, Krishna went to the council hall where 
the blind monarch surrounded by his sons and council- 
lors like Bhishma and Drona and princes assembled 
from all parts of India were already present dnxious to 
hear him. The speech which the poet makes him 
deliver is a masterpiece and was applauded by al^ but it 
fell flat on the ears of the infatuated Duryodhana. Dhri- 
tarashtra admitted the force of all that he said and asked 
him to bring his obdurate son to a sense of his duty on 
this momentous occasion. Krishna now addressed 
Duryodhana and described the iniquities of which he had 
been guilty, and told him that the fate of thousands of 
human Beings trembled in the balance and would be dis- 
posed of by his word. The proud prince was incensed 

JJ2 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

rather than pleased at the words of disparagement 
addressed to him, and rising up walked away. It was 
an insult which Shrikrishna could scarcely bear. l < Con- 
fine, oh, Dhritarashtra, ''he said, " confine thy unruly 
son and conclude peace with the Pandavas, thus saving 
the Kaurava family from destruction. One man should 
be abandoned to save a whole family, one family to save 
a whole village, one village to save a whole country." 
While he was thus counselling the restraint of Duryo- 
dhana, he and his councillors were proposing the arrest 
of Krishna himself ; for the Pandavas, they said, with- 
out Krishna would be like serpents deprived of their 
teeth. Their purpose was suspected by Satyaki, who was 
waiting outside the hall, and he informed Krishna of it 
Vidura at the same time said to Dhritarashtra : * 'Thy ill- 
fated son wishes to arrest Krishna, the Lord of the Uni- 
verse." But Krishna interposed and said : " Oh, king, 
allow me to seize Duryodhana andlet him, if he can, seize 
me. If you give me permission I will nip the war in the 
bud." Dhritarashtra only had his son brought to him 
and chid him severely for his sinful and absurd design, 
Krishna rose up in disgust, and as he walked away 
Dhritsrashtra said : " Oh Janardana, you have seen how 
my son is beyond my control. I wish the Pandavas 
no ill as everybody here has seen. 1 ' Krishna turned 
towards all present and said : " You too have seen 
what happened to-day in the council, how the foolish 
Duryodhana walked away unceremoniously and how 
Dhritarashtra says he is powerless. Farewell, sirs, 
I go to Yudhishthira." With these words he w$nt out, 
followed by all present, ascended the chariot which 

Preparations for War. 153 

was ready under Satyaki's escort and left for Vidura's 

Before leaving Hastinapura Krishna paid his re- 
spects to his aunt Kunti, who was at Vidura's house, and 
asked if she had any word to send to her sons. The 
message with which she charged Krishna is one of the 
most powerful incitements to fight. "Tell my sons," 
said she, " what Vidula said to her young boy who had 
run away Jfrom the battlefield and was lying in bed in 
fear. ' Arise, thou coward : thou only pleasest thy 
enemy and none else. He who has no courage is 
doomed for life. Get up and try for thy welfare. Do 
not think low of thyself, nor content thyself with little. 
It is better to put thy hand in the mouth of a serpent than 
die like a dog. It is better to burn fiercely for a time 
than merely smoke for years. Get up then and show thy 
prowess or die according to thy duty, for what else is 
thy life for?' ' Do you wish me dead/ said the boy, 
* what will you do without me? J i Foolish man,' said 
Vidula, * when thou wilt see thy mother and thy wife 
begging thou wilt thyself think thy life a burden.' 
Vidula's exhortation was effective and the boy went to 
fight again and succeeded. Tell Yudhishthira /then, 
nothing is more galling to me than that with sons like 
the Pandavas I am dependent on others for my food. 
Help, Krishna, my sons to the utmost of thy power." 

Krishna bade her farewell and started on his return 
journey. Kunti, consistent with feminine wisdom, in 
order to weaken the strength of the Kauravas went to 
Kama tjiat day and told him who he was and asked 
him as his mother to give up the cause of Duryodhana* 


The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

But the honourable man was firm. He upbraided her 
for not having disclosed her relation earlier when he 
might have been spared many a dishonour. Having 
been assisted by Duryodhana all his life, and having 
stood to him as a friend all along, it would be most 
ungrateful on his part to give him up at that critical 
time. " Depart, mother, as you have come," said the 
proud man, " I will do one thing for you, I will kill 
none of my brothers except Arjuna." 



THE armies of the contending parties marched by 
common consent to Kurukshetra, a vast plain to the 
north-west of Dehli. Duryodhana's camp, according 
to the Mahabharata, extended over a length of 20 miles, 
and it was as beautiful and commodious as Hastina- 
pura itself. Naturally his line of front must have 
extended for miles together. The front of the Pandava 
army was not so extended, for Yudhishthira said to 
Arjuna. " Brihaspati has laid it down that a small force 
should fight in a compact body. It should take the 
formation of a cone." Duryodhana placed his eleven 
divisions under eleven generals and Bhishma was 
appointed the generalissimo of the Kaurava army. 
Arjuna too placed his seven divisions under seven 
generals and appointed Dhrishtadyumna as their com- 
mander-in-chief. * 

Having bathed and said their prayers in the early 
morning the fighters moved to their positions by sun- 
rise. It was an ominous day as the sun rose dark and 
dim. The human mind usually believes that portents 
precede and accompany terrible events. Perhaps the 
commotion in a vast mass of human brains is communi- 
cated to the material world by that unseen link which 
connects the spiritual with the mental and is therefore 

!^6 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

attended by similar commotions in the sky, the heavens 
and the terrestrial globe. The sky was thus at that 
time full of dust, the sun was lightless and pale, and 
the ground shook under a quake of the earth. Un- 
daunted, however, by these omens the forces took their 
positions, the Kauravas facing the west and the 
Pandavas facing the east At the head of the Kaurava 
force stood Bhishma clothed in white, with a white turban 
on his head, a white banner waving over hischariot, to 
which were yoked four white horses strong and bony. 
Opposed to him stood Arjuna in a golden chariot, the 
horses of which were also white and which was driven 
by Shrikrishna himself. 

It was an awful moment and an awful scene, well-fitted 
to arouse emotions of the highest order. That lacs of 
men, friends, brothers and relations stood face to face, 
ready to take one another's life, for the sordid purpose of 
deciding a dispute about a small kingdom, was enough to 
arouse a kind and sympathetic heart like that of Arjuna, 
,and in disgust he threw down his bow refusing to kill his 
revered grandfather for the sake of a paltry living. He 
would rather beg than do the atrocious deed. Krishna 
is saSJ to have then preached his famous Gita, a book 
of philosophy, which has always been and will always 
be the solace and the wonder of the thinking world. 
We are not concerned here with the philosophy of that 
-book ; it is enough for us to state that he succeeded 
in enabling Arjuna to tide over his weak moment and 
making him ready to fight again. 

Swayed by an emotion of another kind, king yudhish- 
thira took off his armour and jumping down the chariot 

Tfa Fight. , S7 

ran on foot towards the Kaurava army. His brothers 

not knowing what he was going to do followed him. 

Princes and people laughed at him, believing he was 

afraid to enter on the tough contest and wished to sue 

for peace. Yudhishthira went straight and falling at 

Bhishma's feet said : 4 * We crave thy permission to fight 

with thee. Bless us, oh grandfather, in this contest 

forced upon us." The old man was pleased with his 

filial conduct and blessed him* Yudhishthira similarly 

asked for and obtained the blessing of Drona and Kripa 

and his uncle Shalya, and then before returning- cried 

loudly, u Whoever wishes to join us let him come to us 

and fight on our side.* 1 Yuyutsu, the illegitimate son of 

Dhritarashtra, alone responded to his call and was hailed 

by the Pandavas as a representative of Dhritarashtra, 

who might at least survive. Yudhishthira and the four 

brothers having returned, the forces arranged themselves 

as before and then met in a terrible onset which can 

better be imagined than described. 

The battle soon took the form of duels between oppo- 
site chiefs and between Rathis or warriors fighting 
from chariots. Many of these were killed and others 
made senseless and in that condition taken away^From 
the battle-field. Others still had their drivers killecl and 
their chariots strayed unguided. Some again had their 
horses killed and they had to dismount and fight on 
foot. Bhima often grappled single-handed, mace in 
hand, with an army of elephants and killed many of 
them. Arjuna and Bhishma, Drona and Dhrishta- 
dyumna, Duryodhana and Bhima, and many others 
fought duels, which it would not be interesting to the 

Mahabharata : A Criticism* 

reader to describe at length and which no pen but that 
ofVyasa can invest with interest and variety. Thus 
the armies fought on till it was sunset, when the leaders 
on both sides sounded retreat and the armies returned 
to their camp. It was thus from day to day. The fight 
in fact resembled much what the Peshawa and the 
Afagan armies did when they were encamped facing 
each other on the same plain for about a month, fighting 
duels from day to day wherein noted chiefs^ were killed 
or disabled. Bhishma is said to have fought on for 
nine days and killed 10,000 car-warriors every day. 
On the tenth day the Pandavas instead of allowing 
Arjuna to fight a duel with Bhishma selected Shikhandi, 
a son of Drupada, for that purpose. As Bhishma had 
made a vow not to fight with him, he as expected, 
laid down his bow, when Shikhandi assailed him in 
this condition. Arjuna and others from all sides shot 
arrows at him, which stuck into his body in numbers 
till at last they looked like the feathers of a por- 
cupine, and the old man fell from his chariot. The 
battle was instantly stopped. Chiefs on either side as- 
sembled round the revered warrior anxious to make 
theiplast obeisance to him. The stern warrior lying on 
a beef of arrows exhorted Duryodhana to stay the war 
for his sake and give the Pandavas half the kingdom. 
"Let the hostility cease," said he, " with the fall of 
Bhishma, for Arjuna is the foremost of all the archers as 
a Brahmin is amongst -men." The expostulation of 
Bhishma was, however, of no avail, and the princes dis- 
persed to their camps after having dug a ditch round 
Bhishma to prevent *ild beasts approaching hfm, for the 

The Fight 159 

sage warrior was not to die till the auspicious beginning 
of the Uttarayana ( sun's turning towards the north). 

By the advice of Kama, Duryodhana now appointed 
Drona thecommander-in-chiefof the Kaurava army, and 
he, an old man of 85, yet as vigorous as a boy, led the 
Kauravas to the battle-field. For two days he fought as 
effectively as Bhishma. On the third he posted his 
army in what is called the Chakravyuha or the form of a 
circle within a circle. Arjuna was engaged by the 
Sarnsapta&as or 7 clans who came probably from the 
Afagan borders and were composed of strong and power- 
ful warriors and whom Drona had specially deputed 
for the purpose of drawing Arjuna away. The Pandava 
army, thus deprived of Arjuna, was unable to make any 
impression on their enemy's array. Arjuna's young son, 
born of Subhadra, Krishna's sister, a boy only 16 years 
old, proposed to enter the Kaurava army and to shatter 
its formation, and king Yudhishthira through mistake or 
chagrin allowed him to do so. He entered the Kaurava 
army followed byBhima and other leaders who were, how- 
ever, stopped and defeated by Jayadratha at the entrance. 
Abhimanyu was now alone in the midst of a vast army, 
but fought with courage and determination till <tt last 
he was overpowered by six warriors throwing arfows at 
him at the same time, contrary to the rules of war. De- 
prived of his bow and arrows, his horses and charioteer 
killed, he sprang down, mace in hand, and was engaged 
by Duhshasana's son. At last he dropped down and his 
head was instantly smashed by his opponent's mace. 

Arjuna, having defeated the Samsaptakas, returned 
to the Fandava force which he found shattered and 

X 6o The Mdfidbharata : A Criticism* 

cheerless. His heart sank within him as he proceeded 
further and found his brothers steeped in grief. " Where 
is my son, the darling child of Subhadra ?" cried he. " I 
do not see him. Did he die like a brave warrior ?" 
Yudhishthira told him what had happened and Arjuna 
fell down insensible. When brought round he vowed : 
" To-morrow will I kill Jayadratha. If I do not, may I 
not go to the place where my forefathers have gone. I 
will burn myself on a pyre if I do not kill him before 
sunset to-morrow." Krishna in exultation filled his conch 
and so too Arjuna. There was a terrible acclamation 
which rose to the skies and which startled the Kauravas 
in their sleep. 

The next day the fight was stubborn. The Kauravas, 
having placed Jayadratha in their rear, fought stoutly 
and sternly and tried their utmost to prevent Arjuna 
from approaching him. Bhima and Arjuna performed 
wonders that day and Duryodhana every moment saw 
how he was mistaken in refusing to listen to Krishna's 
proposal for peace. When Jayadratha was at last killed 1 
he upbraided Drona for his pusillanimity, his evident 
regard for Arjuna coming in the way of his fighting 
honestly. The old man was stung to the quick and 
declared that he would not terminate the fight till either 
he had conquered or was dead, and that to please Dur- 
yodhana he would now kill with his Astras or divine 
missiles all indiscriminately. (It was a rule of war that 
these Astras should only be used against those who knew 

1 There is no mention in the Mahabharata as 'is described by later 
poets that Jayadratha hacl kicked Arjuna's son and hence had in- 
creased his wrath, nor is it stated that Arjuna finding the sun setting 
kindled fire to die. 

The FighL 161 

their use. ) It was dark and the foot on both the sides 
lighted and held up torches, in the glare of which the 
arms of the combatants flashed as they closed in des- 
perate duels. Bhima's son Ghatotkacha, a Rakshasa, 
wrought terrible destruction till at last he was killed by 
Kama by the use of a supernatural missile which he 
had kept for Arjuna. After some fight the armies rested 
by common consent for a few hours. Horses, elephants 
and men tired by incessant work slept on the battle- 
field, which presented for a time a curious aspect. The 
moon rose and acting upon the sea of human beings 
set in motion the tide of fight which surged again 
into tempest. In a few hours the sun rose above the 
horizon and the forces fought on, the old leader of the 
Kaurava army being the most unsparing. Thousands 
of men, horses and car-warriors were slain by him 
by the use of ordinary and supernatural missiles. The 
Pandavas were now advised by Krishna to use a 
stratagem. It was given out by Bhima, who killed 
an elephant by name Ashwatthama for the purpose, that 
Ashwatthama was dead and when Drona heard the cry 
his bow fell from his hand. While in this defence- 
less condition, Dhrishtadyumna suddenly ranup to 
him and cut off his head with his sword. The Kaurava 
army tired and harassed was ready to give way at the 
slightest disaster, and the death of their commander-in- 
chief, as in many Indian battles, was the signal for a 
general rout. The most undaunted warriors set their 
face against the field till Ashwatthama coming to know 
what had happened, in rage and grief made a deter- 
mined stand. His efforts were, however, of no avail, 

1 62 The Mahdbharata : A Criticism. 

and he too gave up the fight in despair and returned to 
the Kaurava camp. 

The next day the forces of Duryodhana came out again 
to fight under the leadership of Kama, in whose prowess 
and vain promises he had lain his greatest hopes. 
That day the armies fought without much result, but 
Kama saw that Arjuna had the advantage of having 
a skilful charioteer. In his vanity he asked Shalya to 
do a similar turn to him and Shalya consented at the 
importunity of Duryodhana. The second day Kama 
started, bragging in the vainest terms, though often 
put down by Shalya. He sought a duel with Arjuna, 
and for a time the two champion archers fought an 
equal fight. Unfortunately one wheel of Kama's 
chariot sank in a ditch, and while he was extricating it 
Arjuna shot him with arrows in spite of his protests 
that it was not a fair fight. " Was it a fair proceed- 
ing," retorted Krishna, " when you asked Duhshasana 
to divest Draupadi of her garments ? " The vain, yet 
honourable man submitted to his fate and laid down 
his life on the battle-field. The same day Bhima had 
his vengeance on Duhshasana. In a duel which they 
foughfrfrom chariots, Duhshasana was worsted and be- 
came insensible. Like an eagle suddenly stoopino" 
down from the sky and pouncing upon a serpent on 
the ground, Bhima sprang from his chariot and running 
up to Duhshasana planted his foot on his chest. Calling 
aloud to Kama, Duryodhana and others, he drew his 
scimitar, broke open Duhshasana's chest and drank his 
warm blood, saying, " To those who then said, she is a 
cow, she is a cow, I now say, you are cows, "you are 

The Fight. 163 

cows." It was a terrible and ghastly sight, an Arya 
drinking human blood. . Nobody dared to interfere 
with him and many ran away in fright, believing he was 
a veritable Rakshasa. Such was the vengeance which 
Bhima and Arjuna took upon those who had tormented 
and insulted the noble queen of the Pandavas on the 
day when the disgraceful game at dice was played in 
Hastinapura 13 years before. 

Plunged in grief Duryodhana returned to his camp. 
-His army had nearly been destroyed and his best 
generals had fallen. His cause seemed almost hopeless 
to every man and Kripacharya thought it was his duty 
to address him a few words of advice. He requested 
him to propose peace to Yudhishthira who would, even 
in his ascendancy, relinquish his rights of success and 
give him half the kingdom as before. Every man's 
life was dear to him, and there was nothing dishonour- 
able if Duryodhana now saved his life and the lives of 
thousands of his soldiers who were still left to him. 
The reply of Duryodhana was typical of a proud and 
honourable Aryan : < How shall I, having stood at the 
head of all the princes, live to enjoy a kingdom by the 
sufferance of Yudhishthira? I have offended the IJanda- 
vas most grievoftsly. Shall I now go to them and ask 
to be pardoned ? Happiness is not everlasting in this 
world, and the kingdom, if gained by me, will not for ever 
last. Everlasting is fame and for that I will even die. 
Moreover a Kshatriya ought not to die on a bed in his 
house. His death-bed is the battle-field. My grand- 
father Blyshma is dead and so is JDrona, Karna, Jaya- 
dratha and others. How shall I live now and what 

!64 The Mahabharata ; A Criticism, 

pleasure shall I derive even if I get a kingdom from 
Yudhishthira's grace ? The world will spit at me if I 
save my life now, having destroyed so many noble lives 
for me. In fine, I will fight and die on the battle-field 
and follow those who have already gone to Heaven." 
These noble and inciting words from his mouth were 
received with acclamations by all who were present, 
and the Kshatriyas resolved to fight in spite of their 
reverses. Shalya was appointed commandeMn-chief by 
Duryodhana and he promised to do all he could. He 
strictly advised his generals not to fight duels but 
engage their opponent's forces generally, a caution 
which was not eventually heeded owing to the habits of 
the warriors. 

Next day the forces again assembled on the battle- 
field in the morning, A tough battle began, the de- 
scription of which in the Mahabharata strikes us as very 
real and may be compared with the description of 
modern battles. The fight in the centre, the wings, the 
flanks and the rear, is described with minuteness, and the 
general fight did not for a time resolve into duels. It 
was a fight which resembled much the fight between 
the Peshwa Sadashiva Rao and Ahamad Shaha AbdalL 
Shalya, like Vishwas Rao, was killed bout noon. But 
the fight continued in spite of his death. Shakuni, who 
made repeated attacks with his horse on the rear of 
the Pandavas, was turned away by Sahadeva who was 
sent by Yudhishthira specially to attack him. In the 
afternoon the Kaurava army gave way and the .men 
began to run away in an irrepressible tide, noi towards 
their camp but wherever they could find safety. There 

The Fight. 165 

was consternation in the camp itself. Most of the guards- 
men fled, leaving valuable things behind, and the 
keepers of the women of Duryodhana' s zenana could, 
with difficulty, find conveyance for them. They were, 
however, safely reached to Hastinapura, where their 
sudden return was the signal for general bewailing. 
Duryodhana, finding that nobody heeded his attempts tp 
stay the tide of flight, left the battlefield and concealed 
himself in a lake. Only three warriors inquired 
about him, mz^ Ashwatthama, Kripa and Kritavarma, 
and Sanjaya who had seen Duryodhana, told them 
that he lay concealed in the lake and had sent with 
him word to his father Dhritarashtra. They went 
to the lake and Ashwatthama deeply touched bewailed 
his sad condition. He asked him to corne out, and aided 
by them to fight again with the Pandavas, victorious as 
they were. Duryodhana however said he was tired and 
would wait till the next morning. He asked the three 
loyal men to run away and pass the night somewhere 
in safety. The conversation -was overheard by- some 
huntsmen of the Pandavas who were about on their 
work. They informed the Pandavas who, after having 
vainly searched for Duryodhana, had returned tt> their 
camp. Overjoyed to get the news of their life-long 
enemy the Pandavas set out for the lake and standing 
on its bank Yudhishthira called upon Duryodhana to 
come out and not to conceal himself like a coward. 1 

1 The Mahabharata does not explain what Duryodhana did when he 
entered into water after staying it by the force of Miyi, nor does 
it tell us when and where he learnt this M&y&. Perhaps he con- 
cealed himself in a house surrounded by water and the access to the 
house was difficult and hidden. 

!66 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

Duryodhana replied that he was tired and would fight 
the next day, adding at the same time that he, alone as 
he was, had now no desire to rule the earth and would 
resign it to him. "Fool," cried Yudhishthira, " you 
were not ready to give even a needle-point of earth ; 
how do you now resign the whole earth ? We do not 
wish to take a gift from you, but will conquer it from 
you. Come, get out, and fighting with us either con- 
quer us or die." 

Goaded by reproaches Duryodhana came out and, single 
as he was, offered to fight a duel with any single person. 
Yudhishthira was elated with success and said, iC Well, 
fight with any one of us and with any weapon and rule 
the earth if you conquer." The witless king had again 
begun to gamble and Krishna cried : " What have you 
said, Oh Yudhishthira. Do you mean to stake the whole 
gain of 18 days' fight on the result of a duel, or is it that 
Pandu's children are fated to live for ever in the forest?" 
Duryodhana, however, elected to fight with Bhima, his 
equal in mace-fight, and Bhima assured Krishna that he 
would conquer his adversary. The combatants, mace 
in hand, now prepared themselves to fight, and princes 
and people sat in a circle to look on. As the fight was 
about to begin, Balarama arrived and was hailed by both 
the combatants as he was their master in that art. On 
the combatants went, taking rounds and rounds and 
striking at each other with their maces, making a terrible 
sound of thud. Duryodhana was the lighter and the 
more agile of the two and often avoided the heavy blows 
dealt at him by Bhima. It even appeared ap if the 
stronger of the two might fail, and Arjuna inquired 

The Fight. 167 

anxiously of Krishna what the result would be. There 
was a momentary pause, the combatants resting for a 
while to take breath. They soon began afresh and 
Bhima dealt a blow which the other evaded and had a: 
heavy blow on his chest in return. His prodigious 
strength alone could sustain him under it. Burning 
with rage and the desire for vengeance repressed for 13 
years, he sprung upon his adversary and dealt a tremen- 
dous blow. Though Duryodhana jumped up to avoid 
it, Bhima did not stop and the blow fell full on his thighs, 
the bones of which were crushed to pieces. Duryodhana 
fell down a dying man, and Bhima going up to him 
kicked his head with his foot saying, "This is the reward 
for your insulting Draupadi." It was a terrible moment : 
the -spectators were taken aghast. Balarama rose up 
exasperated at the clear disregard of the rules of fight 
which did not allow a blow with the mace to be dealt 
below the waist. Yudhishthira too was displeased at the 
conduct of Bhima who had dishonoured the crowned 
head of a king for nothing. Krishna however assuaged 
all and said: "Remember, Oh brother, the Kali-yuga has 
begun. Moreover, Bhima had vowed to break Duryo- 
dhana's thighs when he asked Draupadi to sit % m his 
lap." He then Upbraided Duryodhana for all the evil 
deeds he had been guilty of and for the terrible loss of 
life for which his obstinacy alone was responsible, and 
told him that he would go to hell. The proud Duryo- 
dhana was unbending even in death. He defended 
himself arduously. He had performed many sacrifices 
and had.ruled the people righteously. He was sure he 
would go to Heaven as he had fallen on the battle-field. 

1 68 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

He counter-accused the Pandavas for the evil practices 
with which they had gained their victory, the last of 
which, by which they had broken his thighs contrary to 
rules, was not the least. The Mahabharata goes on to 
state that at the end of this speech flowers fell on Duryo- 
dhana from Heaven and Shrikrishna and others felt 
abashed and confused. Perhaps upon this statement is 
based the idea that the original Mahabharata represent- 
ed the Kauravas as having the right on their side and 
as having been successful in the war. Whatever may 
be said about its ethics there is nothing in the statement 
which would support the idea that the Bharata at any 
time represented the result of the war as anything but 
favourable to the Pandavas. 



THE victorious Pandavas left the wounded Duryo- 
dhana to .die on the battlefield and went for rest at 
night to his camp. An immense spoil consisting 
of gold and jewels, tents and animals fell into their 
hands, and the survivors of 18 days' struggle eagerly 
possessed themselves of whatever they could lay their 
hands on and joyously laid themselves for rest in 
their new tents. They little dreamt how dearly they 
were soon to pay for this. The Pandavas with Drau- 
padi and Krishna alone stayed out of the camp for 
the purpose of performing some religious ceremonies. 

It was a strange custom with the ancient Aryans of 
India that they left the dead and the dying in battle 
unheeded on the field of battle to be devoured by birds 
and beasts of prey. Probably like the Aryans of 
Persia they believed that this was the most fitting* burial 
to those who had the merit of dying in battle. AshwaU 
thama, Kripaand Kritavarma, hearing of Duryodhana's 
duel, came now to the battle-field and saw the great 
man still alive bewailing his misfortune. Aswatthama 
was grieved to see the master of i i army corps in that 
pitiable condition and bitterly upbraided the Pandavas 
for their iniquities and cried for vengeance. Duryodhana, 
relentless even in death, was highly gratified at his 

jyo The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

loyalty and ordered Kripa to bring water and anoint him 
as his commander-in-chief to carry on war even after his 
death. Having done this and satisfied that he would be 
revenged, Duryodhana, as the poet says, entered into 
that obscurity which is the terror of all created beings. 

The three left the battle-field at nightfall and rested 
themselves under a large banian tree for the night. 
Though his companions were soon asleep Ashwatthama 
was awake and restless, revolving diverse schemes 
of vengeance. He suddenly got up on seeing an owl 
enter into the foliage of the tree and devour crows who, 
blind at night, were resting there in fancied security. 
He took a hint from the owl and awakening his com- 
panions asked them to assist him in destroying the 
Pandavas in sleep. He heeded not their argument that 
the act was treacherous and dishonourable. Had not 
the Pandavas done more treacherous deeds? Had they 
not deceived his father and killed him when unarmed? 
He would go alone if they did not like to assist him. 
Carried away by his enthusiasm they too followed him 
as he went towards the Pandavas ' new camp. 

The two warriors stood at the entrances of the new 
camp Oith bows and arrows, while Ashwatthama, fear- 
less and fearful, entered it clandestinely. *He first entered 
the tent occupied by Dhrishtadyumna and as he lay 
asleep throttled him to death. He scarcely gave him 
time to cry. He next killed Shikhandi, next the five 
sons of the Pandavas. An uproar was raised, but 
guards and warriors could not understand what was 
going on. Ashwatthama killed men, elephants and 
horses, and people began to run bewildered and unarmed. 

The Triumph turned into a Disaster. 171 

The archers at the entrance plied their bows most 
unerringly and unceasingly, and thousands were put to 
death in their defenceless condition. 

When the news reached the Pandavas they ran to the 
camp only to find their sons, their relations, their friends 
murdered in cold blood. It was a terrible sight and too 
much even for Yudhishthira, who cried, " Thus have we, 
the conquerors of all, been conquered at last through 
our carelessness, carelessness than which nothing is 
more fatal." When Nakula brought Draupadi to the 
camp the poor woman fell down insensible at the sight 
of her murdered sons and brothers. Coming to her 
senses she cried vehemently for vengeance on Ashwat- 
thama. 1 "Unless he isJkilled," said she, " I will take 
no food. Bhima, you are matchless in strength ; kill 
the destroyer of my innocent sons." Bhima, her ever 
ready champion, responded to her call, and with Nakula 
for his charioteer immediately went in pursuit of Ashwat- 
thama. Krishna taking with him Yudhishthira and 
Arjuna followed him in another car. The brothers saw 
, the Brahman bathing on the banks of the Ganges and a 
fight was about to begin, for he too was ready with his 
bow, when Krishna and Arjuna stopped it. Th^y did 
not wish to kill* the only son of the preceptor of the 
Pandavas. They called upon him to deliver over the 
priceless jewel on his head in token of subjugation and 
to depart, abated being who had murdered innocent men 
and children in sleep, to be tormented by the reproaches 
of his own conscience. Ashwatthama did as he was 
desired and the five brothers went back to Draupadi and 
told her that Ashwatthama had been vanquished though 

ijz The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

not killed. It was enough to satisfy the noble and ever 
obedient queen of the Pandavas. The lucky survivors 
of this terrible fight could, however, ill-conceal their 
grief as they marched towards Hastinapura to assume 
the supreme sovereignty of India. It was more a 
funeral procession than a triumphant march. 

Dhritarashtra overladen with grief and followed by 
Gandhari and other bereaved women of the royal family 
came out of Hastinapura to bathe in the Ganges and 
do the obsequies of the departed. Yudhishthira went 
to him and made his obeisance. The old monarch, 
a powerful man, in his rage wished to crush Bhima in 
his embrace, but Krishna suspected his purpose and 
foiled it When Yudhishthira, s went towards Gandhari 
he saw she was about to curse him and said: " Do 
curse me, oh queen, the destroyer of thousands of 
human beings. Bereft of elders, friends and sons, there 
is nothing left for me to live for." Her rage was 
assuaged and she consoled Draupadi with the words, 
" Grieve not, Draupadi, look at me who have lost a 
hundred sons." Kunti was no doubt happy to see 
her tj sons conquer, but Draupadi asked her, " Where are 
thy grandsons and where is Abhimanyu? They do 
not run up to thee and play in thy lap as before/' In 
fine it was a scene of lamentation and mutual condolence. 
The last duties performed in the Ganges, the five 
brothers came up preceded by their blind uncle. 
Yudhishthira sat down unable to enter the city. He 
was entirely undone and shook to see the terrible loss 
caused not only in his own but in every Kshatriya 
family. He called his brothers, wife and friends and 

The Triumph turned into a Disaster. 173 

asked their permission to retire from the world. The 
episode of 16 ancient kings who had preceded him and 
signalised their reigns by the performance of Ashwa- 
medha sacrifices and who in spite of their greatness 
had after all left this world was then related to him by 
Krishna. Arjuna, Bhima and Draupadi asked him to 
remember how he had promised them in their wanderings 
in the forest that the period of trial would be succeeded 
by happiness. He was at last induced to get up and he 
entered the city in a triumphant procession. There 
were some, however, who were the friends of Duryo- 
dhana and hostile to him, and Charvaka spoke aloud as he 
passed : " Fie upon thee, destroyer of thy own race. It 
is better to die than to live like this." King Yudhishthira 
however by the suavity of his reply disarmed all opposi- 
tion : "I bow to all. I deserve, steeped in distress 
as I arn, I deserve to be pitied but not hissed at." 
There were many however who disclaimed all such 
sentiments and they blessed king Yudhishthira. Passing 
on, Yudhishthira occupied Duryodhana's palace and 
was there with Draupadi crowned Emperor, Krishna 
himself sprinkling the holy water on their head. 
Brahmins chanted Vedic blessings in sonorou^ tones 
and at the end praised his merits to the skies. Yudhish- 
thira then addressed those assembled thus : " Blessed 
indeed are the sons of Pandu who are extolled by the 
Brahmanas. Know ye all that Dhritarashtra, my uncle, 
is adored by me. Those who wish to please me should 
always obey his orders/* Then began in Hastinapura 
the benign rule of Yudhishthira, who, like Rama, made 
the happiness ofthe people his highest aim. 

!74 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

After a few days Yudhishthira went to the Kurukshetra 
again where his grand-uncle Bhishma was lying on a 
bed of arrows waiting for the auspicious beginning of 
the Uttarayana. Hundreds of Brahmin sages and 
princes, including Krishna, accompanied him. Having 
bowed to him in due form and inquired after his health, 
Yudhishthira asked Bhishma to teach him the duties of 
kings, of persons placed in difficulties and of those who 
had given up the world. The Shanti-parva and the 
Anushasana-parva, wherein are given the answers given 
by Bhishma to the questions put by Yudhishthira, are 
a mine of information regarding the state of society and 
of religion and philosophy as it then existed. Bhishma 
having answered all his questions and satisfied all 
his doubts dismissed him advising him to forget his 
grief for the past and to enjoy the fruit of the hard 
fought contest. The ancient sage warrior called 
Yudhishthira again when the favourable moment arrived 
and gave up his soul in peace in the contemplation of 
S God, and his obsequies were duly performed by the 


Yudhishthira now thought of performing an Ashwa- 
medha* or horse-sacrifice for his purification from sin. 
But where was the money to come frCm ? He could 
not lay the princes of India under contribution, for they 
had already suffered much. He was advised by Vyasa 
to go to the Himalayas where untold wealth was lying 
from the time of the sacrifice performed by Marutta. 
Accordingly the brothers went on an expedition to the 
Himalayas where having sacrificed to God Shiya they 
found what they had come for. 

The Triumph turned into a Disaster. 175 

During their absence Uttara, Abhimanyu's wife, gave 
birth to a dead child. He was probably born 7 months 
old and had suffered in the womb owing to the shock 
which his mother must have received on hearing Abhi- 
manyu's death. The last ray of hope of future progeny 
was thus gone and a cry of wailing came from the female 
apartments of the Pandavas' palace. Shrikrishna who 
had come there for the Ashwamedha was moved by the 
lamentations of Subhadra, his sister, Kunti, his father's 
sister, Draupadi and Uttara. He took the still-born child 
in his lap and swore : " As I have not spoken an untruth 
even in joke let this child come to life. As I have never 
run away from battle, as I have always held Dharma and 
Brahmanas dearest to me, as I have never gone to fight 
for the sake of quarrel alone, let this child come to life/' 
And slowly the child began to breathe and the joy of the 
Bharata women knew no bounds. The child thus saved 
by the Yogic power of Krishna was named Parikshit. 

When Parikshit was a month old the Panda vas re- 
turned from the Himalayas bearing with them immense 
loads of gold and jewels ; they were overjoyed to hear 
Krishna's last act of kindness towards them and they 
worshipped him as their life-long benefactor. Pr^para- 
tions were immediately begun for the performance of 
the sacrifice. A horse was let loose and it roamed about 
the world followed by Arjuna. There were very few 
who could oppose the hero of the Bharata war, and the 
few that could, gladly tendered their submission to him. 
Later poets have, however, related another Mahabharata 
over this world-conquering tour of Arjuna and the 
Ashwamadha of Jaimini is an illustration of it. When 

iy6 The MaJiaWiarata : A Criticism. 

the horse returned to Hastinapura, Yudhishthira gave 
valuable presents to commemorate his joy, and he 
with his queen was at once ordained for the sacrifice. 
The horse was slain by the Brahmanas and his 
entrails were according to the Shastras thrown as 
oblation into the sacrificial fire. The sacred smell 
issuing therefrom was taken by Yudhishthira and his 
brothers and the Brahmanas present. At the end of 
the sacrifice Yudhishthira said: "The Dakshina for 
Ashwamedha is the earth itself. Arjuna conquered it 
for me and I give it to Vyasa. Let Vyasa and the 
Brahmanas divide it among themselves. I with my 
brothers and wife will retire into the forest." " Amen," 
said Draupadi and the Pandavas ; and a thrill of amaze- 
ment and admiration went over those who were present, 
Vyasa praised them for their generosity and goodness, 
but said, "You have given me the earth and I give it 
back to you and give me its equivalent in coin." A 
crore into crore gold coins were then given by Yudhish- 
thira, and these, together with all the golden utensils 
made for the sacrifice were divided by the Brahmanas, 
who loaded with riches, left Hastinapura blessing the 
Pandnvas for their liberality. Vyasa gave his share to 
Kunti, who again gave it away in charity. Thus ended 
the horse-sacrifice of Yudhishthira, the only bright spot 
in the after-life of the Pandavas, a sacrifice in which 
thousands were daily feasted with rich food and drink 
and which in the words of the poet " gleamed with 
heaps of gold and jewels and was a veritable sea of wine 
and liquor." " It was the universal talk of praise among 
the inhabitants of different countries." 



IT is stated* in the Mahabharata that the Pandavas ruled 
in Hastinapura for 36 years after the war, but it does 
not seem probable that they could have pulled on so 
long in the enjoyment of their fortune, saddened as it was 
by the death of their nearest and dearest. Dhritarashtra, 
who was apparently treated with respect, had in reality 
to suffer from the insults of the never-forgiving Bhima, 
and sometimes had to pass his days without food. Like 
a true Kshatriya he therefore resolved to retire into a 
forest and apprised Yudhishthira of his intention. It 
was a shock to the already disgusted mind of Yudhish- 
thira. He could not persuade Dhritarashtra to give up- 
his intention, and led by Gandhari and Kunti walking on 
either side and followed by Vidura and Sanjaya the 
blind monarch left Hastinapura amid the lamenl^itions 
of the Pandavas &nd the people. The former implored 
Kunti to stay behind and enjoy the fruit of the war to 
which she herself had incited them. But the strong- 
minded lady replied, u I wanted you not to beg and 
therefore advised you to fight. It was not for my enjoy- 
ment, for I had enough of it in my husband's time. 1 '" 
Thus sajyng she went on, not heeding their importu- 
nities or the lamentations of Draupadi. Her parting 

ijS The Mahabharata: A Criticism* 

advice to her sons was most laconic and pithy : "Put 
faith in righteousness ; have minds ever great." The 
departure of Dhritarashtra must have taken place a 
few years after the horse-sacrifice ; for he could not 
have borne his ill-treatment for 18 years as the pre- 
sent Mahabharata represents. Two years after their 
departure came the news of their death in a jungle 
fire in the Himalayas, and the brothers were greatly 
grieved to learn the news and performed -their obse- 
quies according to due form. 

Some years after this ( the present Mahabharata gives 
the period as 15 years ) came the news of the destruction 
of the Yadavas and the death of Shrikrishna. The 
Yadavas were a turbulent people addicted to drink. In 
revelry Satyaki once taunted Kritavarmawith the atrocity 
of his action in the night surprise on the Pandava camp. 
The latter retorted and rebuked him for his dishonour- 
able conduct in killing Bhurishrava and the two at once 
drew their swords. Hundreds joined the combatants 
and fell by each other's hand. Krishna himself took part 
in the fight on seeing his sons killed and slew many, 
At last he retired from the scene and while lying in 
mediation under a tree was shot by a hunter in the sole 
of his foot. Balarama too died a similar death, being 
attacked by the local tribes, who must have been em- 
boldened by the slaughter of the Yadavas among them- 

The news of the Yadavas fighting among themselves 
a war as destructive as the Mahabharata war, leaving 
only children and females alive in the city, caused great 
concern to the Pandavas, and Arjuna hastened to 

The Sequel. 179 

Dwaraka to take care of the defenceless survivors. He 
was hailed by them as their deliverer, and taking them 
with him he started on his return journey to Hastinapura* 
Reaching the country of the five rivers ( he probably 
took a circuitous route ) he was attacked by barbarians 
armed with sticks only, their cupidity being aroused by 
the beauty and wealth of the women he escorted. The 
Mahabharata relates that Arjuna's never-failing arrows 
failed and*he at that time even forgot the divine missiles. 
Although he fought bravely with his bow used as a stick, 
the barbarians succeeded in carrying away many women 
and some indeed went of their free will. Such is the testi- 
mony of the truth-loving Vyasa, who does not conceal 
the fact and it is a fitting commentary on the custom of 
keeping many women in the harem. 

The death of Shrikrishn.a cut off the last tie which 
bound the Pandavas to this world and Dharma observed 
to Arjuna that Destiny bound all persons high or low. 
"Destiny! Destiny! Destiny!" cried Arjuna and the 
word was echoed by Bhima, Nakula and Sahadeva. The 
five Pandavas now resolved to leave the world and 
start on Mahaprasthana. The ancient Aryans of India, 
usually ascetic in spirit, disdained to die a wrStched 
death at home. When the business of life was over and 
life was thought to be a burden, many courage- 
ous Aryans made Mahaprasthana or the great journey. 
It was a regular ceremony recognised by the Dharma- 
shastras. The Pandavas placed Parikshit on the 
throne in Hastinapura and Vajra, Krishna's nephew, "in 
Indrapr^stha. They asked Subhadra to remain behind 
to take care of the two young princes thus installed, 

i8o The Mahabharata : A Criticism 

they being, respectively, her grandson and nephew. 
Kripa was appointed Parikshit's guardian and Yuyutsu 
was appointed minister. Yudhishthira's parting advice 
to Subhadra was to "preserve in the path of Dharma 
or righteousness/' a watchword of the great Epic. The 
Pandavas having sacrificed to the fire for the last time 
threw it into the Ganges and, followed by their wife 
Draupadl, started towards the north-east. They crossed 
the Himalayas, proceeded beyond the great -desert and 
went onwards till at last one by one they fell down dead. 
Parikshit, it has already appeared, was born about 
two or three months after the Mahabharata war was over 
and was, by the dispositions made by the Pandavas, 
evidently a minor at this time, probably not more than 
16 years of age. How many years Parikshit ruled it 
does not appear ; probably the supreme sovereignty of 
India was enjoyed by him, though his rule was un- 
doubtedly weak. For the people called the Nagas re- 
belled against him. The story of Parikshit's death as 
related in the Mahabharata may be thus simplified. 
Takshaka, who was a leader of the Nagas, was the here- 
ditary enemy of Parikshit The Nagas had been 
destroyed in the Khandava forest by Arjuna and Tak- 
shaka was one of those who escaped r> from the confla- 
gration. Takshaka probably founded a small kingdom 
in Takshashila, which was named after the Takshaka 
people. He appears to have fought against the Pan- 
davas in the great war and aided Kama, for Kama is 
said in the Mahabharata to have used Takshaka as an 
arrow against Arjuna unsuccessfully. Having 1 missed 
his aim Kama refused to use Takshaka again. Failing 

The Sequel. iSi 

in his desire to take vengeance while Arjuna was alive 
Takshaka appears to have waited for his opportunity 
against his grandson. Parikshit having been cursed by 
a Rishi to be bitten by a serpent confined himself in a 
water palace to which no access was allowed to anybody. 
A Brahmin once presented fruit to Parikshit and from 
one of these a small worm came out which Parikshit 
took up in jest and said, " Let this worm bite me in 
order that the sage's curse may be fulfilled 1 ," and verily 
the worm grew into Takshaka himself who bit him and 
then flew away in the sky. This story in the Maha- 
bharata probably means nothing more than that 
Parikshit was invested in his own city Hastinapura, 
and was eventually assassinated by Takshaka in his 
own palace, to which he gained access in the dress of a 

The minister of Parikshit made a firm stand and re- 
pulsed the attack of Takshaka, who retired to his place. 
"Janmejaya, the young son of Parikshit, was placed on 
the throne of Hastinapura and grew up into a daring 
and resolute monarch. When he heard how his father 
had been murdered by Takshaka he resolved to take 
a signal vengeance on him. The story of Sarp*isatra 
given in the MaUabharata Adi-parva is only a mytholo- 
gical transformation of the deadly war of extermination 
which he waged against Takshaka and his people. He 
attacked Takshashila and reduced it to submission. 
Every Naga or serpent was hunted out and sacrificed in 
the Sarpasatra, which was not an ordinary sacrifice pre- 

1 This agcount somewhat differs from the story given in the Bhaga- 
wata, where Parikshit is not represented to have jested. 

i$2 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 

scribed in the Vedic ritual but specially ordained for 
Janmejaya. Serpent after serpent was sacrificed or put 
to death and in terror Takshaka ran to Indra for shelter. 
A Brahmin now saved Takshaka in the person of 
Astika, who was born of a serpent mother and who pro- 
mised to use his influence with Janmejaya to save his 
mother's kindred. He appeared before the king and 
having pleased him by his praises and his learning ask- 
ed a boon of him which he granted. " Spare he lives of 
those serpents/* said he t "who are yet alive," and the 
king said " Amen/ 1 Astika was ever since revered by the 
serpents as their saviour, and to this day whenever a 
Hindu sees a serpent, he cries "Astika," " Astika," and 
the serpent, it is believed, does no harm. 

It was at the Sarpasatra that the poem composed by 
Vyasa is said to have been recited to Janmejaya by 
Vaishampayana. And this does not seem unnatural. 
Janmejaya would undoubtedly be anxious to know the 
details of the great war fought by his illustrious 
ancestors in which Takshaka, the enemy he now 
pursued, fought against them. Having heard the great 
poem and having finished the serpent-sacrifice or the 
campaign against the serpents by granting an amnesty 
to thfi survivors, Janmejaya return ecj, (so the Maha- 
bharata relates ) from Takshashila to Hastinapura, It 
thus appears probable that the Bharata was first recited 
in Takshashila. 

Janmejaya, son of Parikshit, was no doubt a powerful 
king known not only for his Sarpasatra or campaign 
against the Nagas but also for the horse-sacrifice he 
performed. His horse-sacrifice was, according to the 

The Sequel* 183 

Harivamsha, where its story is given, the last that was 
performed in India, for horse-sacrifices thenceforth were 
interdicted. The descendants cf Janmejaya are also 
given in the Harivamsha. They appear to have retain- 
ed kingly power in the family for a long time till at last 
the Pandavas disappeared from among the ruling princes 
of India and were known in the days of Buddha only as a 
mountain tribe. The Tuars, the only Rajput tribe, who 
claim to be descended from the Pandavas, re-established 
an empire at Delhi in the 8th century A.D. under 
Anangapal and continued to be the foremost race of India 
till the beginning of the I3th century, when Prithvi Raj 
( who was not a Tuar but a Chavan ), a relative of the 
last Tuar king, lost the empire of India in the famous 
battle of Panipat fought on the same Kurukshetra 
against the Mohamedan Shahabudin Ghory. The Tuars 
then sought refuge across the Chambal and are now to be 
found there under the Gwalior Raj in bare fulfilment of 
the prophetic blessing given by Yayati to his filial 
son Puru : 

The sun may perish and the silvery moon, 
But not the line of Puru on this Earth. 



The following table will show the number of chap- 
ters and shlokas in the 18 Parvas as Sauti has given 
the figures in Chapter I of the Adiparva and also the 
number of chapters and shlokas as they are actually 
found in the Bombay edition of the Mahabharata. 



No. as recited in 
the Mahabharata. 

No. actually found 















Adi *.. 


7 8 



3 2 9 





J 4732 







3 8 9 


49 g 7 


Vana ... 
Bhishma .- 
Drona .. 
Stri ... 

Shanti ** 
Mahaprasthanik ... 
Khil and Harivamsha ... 

Total ... 





iS6 The Mahdbharata : A Criticism. 

From the above table it will appear, first, that the 
reputed extent of the Mahabharata, msr., 100,000 shlokas. 
is ah approximate figure, the actual extent being, even 
as enumerated by Sauti, 96,826, and, secondly, that the 
Mahabharata, as we have it in the Bombay edition, 
contains 95,826 shlokas, that is to say, contains i,oiO' 
shlokas less than the number declared by Sauti. 


The minor parvas as given by Sauti are as follows : 

i ADIPARVA, 18. 

i Paushya legend. 2 Paulomi legend. 3 Astika. 
legend. 4 The genealogy. 5 The birth of the Pandavas. 
6 The burning of the lac house. 7 Hidirnba. 8 The 
killing of Bakasura. 9 Meeting with Chitraratha. 
10 Swayamvara of Draupadi. 1 1 The Marriage, 12 The 
coming of Vidura. 13 The attainment of a separate 
kingdom. 14 Arjuna's pilgrimage. 15 The abduction 
of Subhadra. 16 Marriage presents given by Krishna. 
17 The<pburning of the Khandava forest. 18 The appear- 
ance of Mayasura. 


i Erection of an assembly hall. 2 Counsel for the 
assumption of imperial dignity. 3 The destruction of 
Jarasandha. 4 The conquest of the four quarters* 
5 The Rajasuya sacrifice. 6 The presentation of 

Appendix. 187 

honours. 7 The killing of Shishupala. 8 The game 
at dice. 9 The second Dyuta. 


i The killing of Kirmira. 2 The departure of Arjuna. 
3 His combat with Kirata. 4 His arrival at the Indra- 
loka. 5 The episode of Nala. 6 The pilgrimage of the 
Tirthas. 7 The killing of Jatasura. 8 Battle with 
Yaksha, 9 Battle with Nivatakavacha. 10 Meeting 
with the great serpent. n Markandeya Samasya. 
12 Conversation of Draupadi and Satyabhama. 13 Cattle-" 
lifting. 14 Deer appearing in dream before Yudhish- 
thira. 15 Vrihidraunika. 16 The abduction of Drau- 
padi. 17 The releasing of Jayadratha. 18 The episode 
of Rama. 19 Praise of the chastity ofSavitri. 20 The 
depriving of Kundalas. 21 Araneya. 22 Aindra- 


i The entry of the Pandavas into the capital of 
Virata, 2 The keeping up of the agreement, 3 The 
killing of Kichaka. 4 The capture of the cows. 
5 The marriage of Uttara. 


i Mustering the forces. 2 The departure of Sanjaya. 
3 The waking of Dhirtarashtra. 4 Sanatsujata. 5 The 
point of departure. 6 The departure of Shrikrishna 
for mediation. 7 The departure of the armies. 8 Uluka- 
dutagamana. 9 Ratha tirtha. 10 The episode of Amba* 
1 1 Quarrel between Bhishma and Kama. 

igS The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 


i The installation of Bhishma, 2 The geography 
of Jambukhanda. 3 The description of its extent 

4 The Bhagawatgita. 5 The death of Bhishma. 


, i The installation of Drona. 2 The killing of Sam- 
saptakas. 3 The killing of Abhimanyu. 4 Arjuna's vow. 

5 The killing of Jayadratha. 6 The killing of 
Ghatotkacha. 7 The death of Drona. b The discharg- 
ing of Narayanastra. 



i Shalya's death. 2 Duryodhana hiding in a lake. 
,3 The duel. 4 Saraswata. 

i Sauptika. 2 Aishika. 


i Giving water to the dead. 2 The lamentation of the 

women,, 3 Shraddhaparva. 


i The duties of a king. 2 Duties in adversity. 
3 Mokshaparva. 4 The checking of Charvaka. 5 Coro- 
nation of Dharmaraja. 6 The division of houses. 

i Dana Dharma, 2 Bhishma's ascending to heaven. 

Appendix. 189 


i The horse- sacrifice. 2 The Anugita. 

i Dhritarashtra's resort to the forest. 2 The sight of 
a son. 3 The coming of Narada. 




1 Hari Vamsha. 

2 Vishnu Parva. 

3 Bhavishya Parva. 

The above will eminently serve as a table of contents. 
The total number of Parvas is thus 107, but by omitting 
some of them, attempts are made to reduce the number 
to 100. For instance the commentator takes 16 Sub- 
parvas under Vanaparva whereas we have taken them 
to be 22. The shlokas, we think, in the Mahabharata 
Chapter II, Adiparva, beginning from 42 to 84, wherein 
these Parvas are enumerated, cannot give less thui 107 
Subparvas. TShus Saraswataparva is enumerated as 
such in shloka 73 and yet the commentator does not 
count it as a Parva. It is probable that the number 
100 assigned by Sauti for the Subparvas is like the 
round number assigned by him for the Shlokas, only an 
approximate one. As a matter of fact the number of 
Parvas in Vaishampayana's work must have been much 
less than 100. 

i go The Mahdbharata: A Criticism. 


Kuta or riddle shlokas are to be found throughout the 
Mahabharata, but principally in the first Parvas and 
rarely in the later Parvas. The following are some of 
the glaring examples : 


1. "NagairivaSaraswati." The last word is explained 
-as a landscape containing a lake. 

2. "Bhaganetraharam haram." Bhaga is explained 
-as Kama or cupid ; Netra as Sharira or body, Haram 
as Nashanam or destroyer. 

3. " Kamayanamiva Striyah tyajanti." Kamayanam 
is explained as Kamatah yanam yasya, 2.0., he who 
wanders about at pleasure. 


T. " Mansatalam bherim." Mansa is twelve and 
>taja a short span, z.<?., a drum with 12 spans as diameter. 
2. <** Sangrame tarakamaye." 


1. c< Tridashanabhyavarshanta danadagdha ivadra- 

2. " Parthiva-putra-pautrah." 

3. " Attashulah janapadah shiva^shulah chatush- 
pathah: kesha-shulah striyo rajan bhavishyanti 
Ichshaye." " 

Appendix. !Q X 

The commentator quotes the following explanatory 
shloka : 

Attamannam shivo vedah Brahmanashcha chatushpa- 
thah ; Kesho bhagam samakhyatam shulam tadwikryam 


1. Sarvashweteva maheyi vane jata tri-hayani." 
" Upatishthata Panchali vasiteva nararshabham." 

2. "The well-known shloka " Nadijalamkeshva- 
nari-ketun Nagavhayo nama Nagari-sunu ; Eshon- 
ganaveshdharah Kiriti, Jitwa vayam neshyati chadya 

3. "Bindavo jatarupasya shatam yasminnipatitah, 
sahasrakotisanvarnah kasyaitaddhanuruttamam." 

4. u Shalabhayatra sauvarnah tapaniyavibhushitah". 
Sahasrakoti is explained by the commentator as sahasra 
strong and koti the ends of a bow and sauvarna in the 
next shloka meaning sandal or chandana. 


1. " Ekayadwe vinishchitya trichaturbhirvasham 
kuru, Pancha jitwa shadwiditwa sapta hitwa, sukhi 
bhava." , 

2. a Sa kritwa Pandavan satram lokam sammohaya- 
nniva, Adharmanaratan mudham dagdhumichhati te 
sutah," Satra is explained as Misha. 

3. " Kinasha iva varnah." 

i. "Tudanti mama gatrani maghama segawa iva. 1 ' 

ZQ2 The Mahabharata : A Criticism. 


1. u Natanartakaganclharvaih purnakaih vardha- 

2. "Tato Bhagirathi Ganga Urvashi chabhavatpura 
duhitritwam gata rajnah puttratvvamagamattada." 

3. " Yenayatau makhamukhau dishashavihapadapah 
Tenashasthatumichhanti tamgatarajanishwaram." 

4. " Kalasya grasato yodhan Dhrishtadyumnena 

5. Eka chakramivarkasya ratham saptarshayo 


1. " Hamsamshugauraste sena hamsah shara ivavi- 

2. " Govarclhano nama varah subhadram nama 

3. The following is the worst example of its kind : 
" Gokarna sumukhi kritcn ishuna goputrasampre- 

shita, goshabdatmaja bhushanam suvihitam suvya- 
ktagosuprabham, drishtwa gogatakam jahara muku- 
tam goshabda~go-puri vai, gokarnasanamardana- 
shcjia nayaya na prapya mrityorvashairu" 
The word " Go " is in its different senses used here. 


1. ' c Chaturbhischa chaturbhischa dwabhyam 
panchabhirevacha ; huyatecha punar dwabhyam sa me 
Vishnuh prasidatu." 

2. " Kokilasya varahasya meroh shunyasya veshma- 
nah, Natasya bhakti-mitrasya yatshreyah tatsamacharet." 

Appendix. jo^ 

. 3. "Tirthanam rhidayam tirtham shuchinam rhida- 
yarn shuchih." 


i. " Varanasyamupatishthat Maitreyam swairini 

The commentator explains Swairini as swan irayatiti, 
dharmaya prerayati munishrenih. 


The additions subsequently made to the Bharata. 

In this note we intend to give all the chapters or 
Adhyayas which appear to us to have been subsequently 
added to the Bharata of Vaishampayana by Sauti. 


1. The Paushya legend is evidently a subsequent 
addition as it is entirely irrelevant. It has no connec- 
tion with the Mahabharata story and is only linked to 
it at the end. But the connection breaks off again. 

(Chapl 3.) 


2. The Paulbmi Akhyana is also irrelevant. This 
is introduced by the coming of Suta to Shaunaka and 
begins as if nothing had been written before this. The 
story is an Arabian Night story and is intended to glorify 
the obedience of Kshatriyas to Rishis. (Chap. 4 12.) 

3. The Astika story is repeated. All these Akhysnas 
are infefior in composition. The shlokas -beginning 


194 The Mahabharata: A Criticism* 

with " Tadagata jvalitam " describing the battle of f 
gods and the demons are irrelevant and not very poeti- 
cal. Similarly, the description of the sea when Vinata 
and Kadru came to it and crossed it is out of place. 
The Stutisof Indra and Surya are of the hackneyed kind 
identifying everything with the God praised. The way 
in which these stories are knit together is in the fashion 
of the Arabian Nights being usually introduced by a 
casual mention or haphazard question. (Chap. 13 58.) 

4. The story of Kashyapa and Takshaka and of 
Parikshita's death Is repeated. 

5. The Amshavatara is a subsequent addition * each 
.actor in the great scene is described as the incarnation 
of some god or demon. The details here given some- 
limes contradict what is stated in other places. 

(Chap. 5966,) 

6. The story of Yayati is repeated. (Chap. 75 85.) 

7. The "Uttara Yayati Akhyana " is a subsequent 
addition and is unconnected with the principal story. It 

is also given in long metred shlokas. It gives the 
tenets of Hinduism, however, in short pithy language 
and iS well worth studying. (Chap. 86 93.) 

8. The chapter in prose giving the genealogy of the 
Pandavas is followed by another in verse. The latter 
is an interpolation as has been shown in the book. 

(Chap. 95,) 

9. The story of " Ani Mandavya " is repeated. 

(Chap. H>7~ 108.) 

Appendix. 195 

10. Vyasa's appearance on the scene and advice to 
Dhritarashtra to throw away his son is a subsequent 
addition for reasons mentioned in the body of the book. 

(Chap. 158.) 

11. The names of Dhritarashtra's sons are twice 
repeated. (Chap. 115 116.) 

12. The story of Pandu killing a deer is twice re- 
peated, the shloka u Sarvabhutahite kale" being also 
repeated. (Chap. 118.) 

13. The appearance of gods in the heavens and the 
Akashavani vouchsafed every time is probably a sub- 
sequent addition. The poet finds an opportunity to dis- 
play his power of enumerating the gods and other 
divine beings, 

14. The birth of Kripa and Drona is wonderful. 
Rishis emitting semen at the sight of beautiful Apsaras 
and the semen germinating in some way into men is the 
usual Pauranic account of great men's birth. 

(Chap. 130.) 

15. The stories of Hidimba and Baka are like chil- 
dren's stories and very probably interpolations. 

t (Chap. 154166.) 

16. The story of Drona and Drupada is repeated 

17. The story of the king of Gandharvas playing in 
the Ganges water is an interpolation. Here we have 
the usual artifice adopted, *>&., the gift of divine sight to 

rg6 The Mahdbharata : A Criticism. 

18. The Gandharva and Arjuna sitting together aftec* 
a fight and telling stories of Tapati and Vishwamitra is 
almost comical and the Akhyanas are added here un- 
congenially, (Chap. 172175.) 

19. The stories of Vasishtha and Kalmashapada and 
Bhargava and Aurva are quite out of place. They are 
tedious and almost trying in the march of the proper 

story. (Chap. 177184.) 


20. The story which Vyasa relates to Drupada ex- 
plaining why Draupadi can have many husbands is a 
subsequent addition as has already been shown. 

(Chap. 198199.) 

21. The story of Sundopsaunda is a typical Pauranic 
story. Asuras inflated by the obtainment of a boon 
from Shiva destroy themselves. (Chap. 211214.) 


1. The Rishis mentioned in the Yudhishthira Sabha. 
are repeated. in the Brahma Sabha. (Chap, n 12.) 

2. The story of the game at dice is repeated* The 
repetition is explained by Janemejaya asking for greater 
details of the event. The same shlokas are often used. 

(Chap. 7380.) 


1. The Tirthas are repeated as already shown. 

(Chap. 8284.) 

2. The story of Agastya and his drinking up the sea 
is perhaps out of place here. (Chap. 103 104.) 

Appendix. 197 

3. The conversation in Chapters 132 134 is philoso- 
phical and tough for the commentator even. The 
whole conversation consists of shlokas which may be 
looked upon as riddles and the commentator has himself 
composed Stragdhara shlokas to explain the meaning 
of each. 

4. The story of Yavakrita is not charming and the 

language also not good. (Chap. 135 138.) 


5. The story of Varaha incarnation is entirely 
unconnected as no Tirtha suggests it. The language 
also is not good. (Chap. 142.) 

6. The story of Bhima meeting Hanuman is not 
probable as Bhima already knows who Maruti is. It is 
perhaps a later addition. (Chap. 147 150.) 

7. Maruti's description of the four Yugas and again 
of the Ashramas is entirely irrelevant. 

8. The story of Bhima trespassing into Gandha- 
madana and killing Mani at Draupadi's request is a 
repetition. Kubera chides Bhima in a manner which 
should lead him again to fight rather than submit. 
Bhima is represented as acting foolishly and herf, too 
submissively. * 

(Chap. 146,160, 161, 162.) 

9. Markandeya's coming and telling different stories 
is probably a later addition. The object is the extolling 
of Brahmanas and the glorification of Krishna as an 
incarnation of the supreme deity. We find here 
verse mixed with prose which seems to have been 

198 The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

introduced here as a variety. The story of Shyena* 
and Kapota is repeated, (Chap. 182 231.) 

10. The story of Kumara's birth is different from 
that given in the Puranas a,nd in Kaliclasa's well-known 
poem called Kumarsambhava. He is represented here 
as the son of Agni. (Chap. 222 225.) 

11. The conversation between Satyabhama and Drau- 
padi is puerile. The picture which the latter draws of a. 
good wife is that of a humble woman who washes the 
household pots and clothes, and not that of a queen. 

(Chap. 231234.) 

12. The story of Duryodhana being bound and 
carried away by Chitraratha is a later addition. It seems 
absurd for Indra to wish for Duryodhana's being taken 
to him bodily. (Chap. 241.) 

13. The subsequent story of Duryodhana sitting 
for Prayopaveshana, t.e., fasting<until death, and his 
being carried by a Kritya to Patala is an absurdity. 

(Chap, 250.) 

14. Durvasa's going to the Pandavas to tease is 
again*i,an absurd story subsequently added. Durvasa 
cannot be supposed to have descended so low. 

(Chap. 261.) 

15. The story of Kama's Kundalas being taken away 
by Indra is repeated here. The story has already been 
told in the Adiparva, and Janmejaya ought to have 
known it, yet Janmejaya asks questions here as if he 
knew nothing. Again, if Kama Is deprived of his 


'Kundalas at this time and from thence called Kama, he 
should not have been called Kama up to this time which 
we do not find to be the case. (Chap. 299309.) 

1 6. The Yakshaparashna episode, as has already 
been stated in the body, is an interpolation. 

(Chap. 312.) 


i. Uttara's running away from the chariot and then 
becoming an exceptional charioteer and a poet, has 
already been commentated upon. The Virataparva is 
the most poetical of all the parvas and the story is well 
diversified, but there are very few separate Akhyanas 
in it. (Chap. 424345,) 


1. Shalya's promise has been commentated on in the 
body of the book as absurd and unpoetical. (Chap. 7.) 

2. The story of Shakrajaya is a repetition of Vrittra- 
vadha related in the Vanaparva. Nahusha's story is 
also related in short (Chap.8 9.) 

3. Vidura Niti is a goo.d teaching for all times. But 
it is somewhat out of place. (Chap. 3* 39.) 

4. The dialogue between Sanatsujata and Dhrita- 
rashtra is too philosophical to suit a character like that 
of Dhritarashtra. (Chap. 4045.) 

5. The Chapter 48 of 109 shlokas is a tiresome addi- 
tion. Arjuna did not say anything of the kind to San T 
jaya, who yet gives a lengthy message as from him in 
long metre. 

2oo The Mahdbharata : A Criticism. 

6. The whole dialogue is unskilfully extended. The* 
question by Yudhishthira is out of place. 

7. Chapter 59 is clearly a later addition. Sanjaya 
is not before represented as speaking to Krishna and 
Arjuna in private. Moreover Krishna was not young 
then but old as stated in the Sabhaparva. 

8. The Rishis Kanva and Narada coming to exhort 
Duryodhana and relating several stories is an improbable 
interruption of the natural march of the story. 

9. Krishna's taking Kama with him and offering 
him empire after disclosing to him who he is, is unnatu- 
ral as it lowers Krishna's character, and how could 
Sanjaya have known it when both Krishna and Kama 
kept it a secret ? 

10. Unfavourable astronomical conjunctions and 
other bad omens are here added as has already been 

n. The message sent with Uluka is unnecessarily 
lengthy. The message actually delivered by him is, 
however, good and pointed. The replies given by the 
several Pandavas are again twice repeated. 

(Chap. 1591630 


i. The appearance of Vyasa and his proposal to give 
eyes to Dhritarashtra is a subsequent interpolation, 
"The Bhumi-Jkhanda " is also an interpolation as al- 
ready observed. (Chap, ri 12.) 

Appendix. 201 ! 



2, The praise of Devi appears also to be a later ( 

addition. | 

3. Chapters 65 and 66 are probably subsequent addi- ! 
tions in praise of Krishna and the support of the Vaish- 

nava sect, for after all this it is strange that Duryodhana 
remains firm. 

4. In the beginning of Chapter 69 we have " Duryo- 
dhana Uvacha " which is probably a mistake for 
" Bhishma Uvacha." 

5. Krishna's giving up the reins of Arjuna's chariot 
horses and running to kill Bhishma a fine scene is 
twice repeated. (Chap. 107 108.) The proposal to go 
and ask Bhishma how he should be killed, is also an 
absurdity already commented upon. 


1. This Parva seems to be more elaborate than the 
preceding ones and seems to have been entirely recast. 
The similes follow one upon another as in the modern 
Purana. There is a long metred shloka (Shardula- 
vikridita) *at the end of Chapter 7 which is strange. 
Again Dhritarashtra says that Drona had studied the 9 
four Vedas and the fifth Akhyana, by which is^neant 
usually the Bharata. How could he when Bharata had 

no existence in his days ? Dronaparva is also more 
imaginary and mythical. 

2. The long-metred shlokas in this Parva are diversi- 
fied. The consolation of Subhadra and her lamenta- m 
tions are probably interpolations, the same shlokas as 
those uttered by Arjuna being used. (Chap. 77.) 

202 The Mahdbharata: A Criticism. 

3. So also is the chapter where Arjuna in a dream is** 
taken to Shiva. (Chap. 80.) 

4. Similarly the next chapter where the splendour 
of Dharma's royal functions of bathing, etc., are de- 
scribed. This is clearly shown by the fact that the next 
chapter begins with Dhritarashtra's question "what 
happened the next day." The next day had already 
dawned and Sanjaya had already told Dhritarashtra 
what Arjuna and Krishna had done. (Chap. 84.) 

5. Dhritarashtra says "I do not hear to-day the 
same noise as usual in the houses of Saindhava." This 
shows that he was in camp or even if he was in Gajapura 
it is not every day that Sanjaya told him of the battle. 
It was only after Drona's death that he came to him and 
told him what had happened. (Chap. 85.) 

6. The story of the fight between Satyaki and Bhuri- 
shrava is a later addition. Probably Bhima was in 
Satyaki's chariot. When did he leave it ? The spectacle 
of two men discharioting each other is strange. So 
also their fighting like gladiators with naked arms In the 
midst of a raging battle ; and what was Arjuna doing all 
thewljile? (Chap. 142 143.) 


7. There is much of pure hyperbole in the account 
of Bhima's throwing away the chariot of Drona bodily 
7 times with his Hands. 

8. The chapters relating the second fight between 
Drona and Ghototkacha is a later addition probably. 
They revile each other and yet Drona does not refer 
to his previous defeat by him. Secondly, Ghatotkacha 

Appendix. 203; 

*brought with him one Akshaunhini but he is not said 
in the beginning to have brought one with him. Third- 
ly, he is said to have destroyed 8 and subsequently 7 
Akshauhinis, which is impossible. 

9. The appearence of Vyasa at the end of Chapter 
184 is unnecessary and useless. 

10. The commentator admits at the end that the: 
number of-shlokas in this Parva is more than the one 
given by Sauti and attributes the fact to the mistake 
of writers. How can the number increase by the fault 
of writers?" Interpolation is clearly admitted here. 


1. The story of Shankar killing Tripura is repeated 
and very closely to the previous story which appears at 
the end of the Drona Parva. (Chap. 34.)* 

2. The absurdity of Duryodhana telling the story, 
for stories should properly be told by elders, is explained 
in the poem " I heard this story when a Brahman 
related it to my father." 

3. Repetition and lengthening of scenes is , bad 
feature of Sauti'i composition. * - 

4. In the midst of bragging, Kama remembers two- 
curses pronounced upon him by a Brahmin which is- 
absurd. These are probably later additions. 

5. The mixed fight described in Chapters 55 to 63 is 
a tiresome extension of the same story. The speech of " 
YudhisSthira is also very long. 

204 ^ ie M&hobharata: A Criticism. 

6. The scene between Yudhishthira and Arjuna, the<^ 
former upbraiding the latter for nothing, and saying 
" accursed be thy bow" and the latter drawing his 
sword to kill him, is inconsistent with the character of 
both and not at all appropriate and pleasing. The 
solution given by Krishna is also not worthy of his 
teaching. (Chap, 68.) 


1. Shalya's fighting with Bhima is impossible as he 
'had already been removed from battle senseless. 

(Chap. 1 6.) 

2. Sanjaya's telling Dhritarashtra about Yuyutsu 
coming to Vidura and staying with him for the night, is 

absurd. How could Sanjaya know it? Vidura was 
with Dhritarashtra. In one place Sanjaya says " Dhri- 

.shtadyumna seized Sanjaya." which ought to have been 
'" me" if Sanjaya himself is the relator. (Chap. 29.) 


1. Janmejaya interrupting Vaishampayana at the 
-very time when the centre of interest is reached and 

the fight between Bhima and Duryodhana about to 

begin, for a description of the Saraswsfd river and the 

pilgrimage of Balarama has already been commented 

upon. (Chap. 35.) 

2. Krishna's coming to comfort Dhritarashtra and 
Gandhari is rather strange. It does not fit in with the 
story which is still told by Sanjaya. The last sentence 
of Sanjaya is "He went to Gandhari whose so*hs were 

Appendix. 205; 

killed." But Gandhari was not there, she having been 
sent away. Sanjaya could not also have seen this as 
his extraordinary vision had gone. Moreover, when 
Krishna appears he sees Dhritarashtra and Gandhari 
together. (Chap. 63.). 

3, The story of the chariot of Arjuna burning to 
ashes as soon as Krishna got down is absurd. For 
Krishna got down from the chariot every evening, and 
where is the beauty of describing Arjuna as destroying 
the Brahmastra of Drona and Kama by counter Astras? 1 


1. The propitiation of Shiva by Ashwatthama is a. 
later addition meant to add to the horror and success of 
his crime. (Chap. 7.) 

2, Ashwattharna's going back to Duryodhana to 
inform him of the slaughter of the innocent is also in- 
consistent, for the latter had already died at the end of 
the previous Parva. (Chap. 9.) 

3. The greatness of-Mahadeva and Linga worship* 
come in at the end of this Parva unnecessarily. 


1. Repetition* of scenes and even of the same shlokas 
is exemplified in the comforting speeches of Vidura and 
Sanjaya. (Chap. 24.) 

2. Vyasa giving sight to Gandhari is a repetition of 
the same idea. Her description of the battlefield is 
unpoetical and has already been commented upon. 

(Chap. 1617,) 

The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

3. The curse of Gandhari to Krishna Is an unneces-^ 
sary foretelling of future events as has already been 
shown. (Chap. 25.) 


1. Subhadra appears here to have been in Dwaraka 
while before she was in the camp and was comforted 
for Abhimanyu's death. 

2. There Is a deal of repetition in Vyasa's and 
Arjuna's speeches. The story of the 16 kings is here 
repeated. (Chap. 22, 27, 28, 29.) 

3. The story of Syamantapanchaka and Parasha- 
rama destroying Kshatriyas is repeated here. It has 
-already appeared in the Adiparva. 

4. Yudhishthira asking his brothers about Dharma, 
Artha and Kama, and Bhirna urging him to have 
beautiful women, etc., is thoroughly out of point and out 
of place. 

5. The stories of Bodhya and Kashyapa and Indra 
are probably later additions. (Chap. 178.) 

6. Chapters 190 and 192 are in prose and in the 
fashion of modem Shastras. They appear to be later 
additions. , 

7. The praise of Vishnu, the creation of the world and 
the working of the three Gunas are constantly touched. 

8. The conversation of Bali and Indra is repeated. 
Repetition in this Mokshaparva is almost irksome. In 
Chapter 248, Gunas and the elements are repeated, a 

Appendix. 207 

thing which has been done perhaps for the sth time. 
Shi okas from the Gita frequently recur. (Chap. 223, 

224, 227.) 

9. The story of Death or Mrityu is repeated. 

(Chap. 255, 257.) ; 

10. The story of Jajali and Tuladhara is a subse- ^ 
quent addition probably in support of Ahimsa. \ 

(Chap. 260, 263.) \ 


1. The story of Vishwamitra becoming a Brahmin is " | 
unnecessarily repeated here. (Chap. 3 4.) 

2. The Upamanyu Akhyana and the thousand names I 
of Shiva is a subsequent addition as has already been 

noted. (Chap. 17.) 

3. The next chapter is an abrupt breaking off on the 
evil disposition of women. 

4. The power and sanctity of Brahmins is reiterated. 
The story of Shibi is told once more. That these stories 
should come under Dana-dharma is strange. Probably 

in the original Anushasanaparva the only subject * 

touched was gifts. (Chap. 3* 33.) 

5. The story of Vishwamitra becoming a Brahmin 
is told once more in a fanciful form. 

6. The origin of gold is told and the story of Karti- 
teya'sbirth'is repeated. Popularly mercury is believed 
to have been born of Shiva's semen and not gold. 

(Chap. 84, 85, .86.) 

208 The Mahabharata; A Criticism. 

7. " I wish to know this Oh Brahman in detail.'^ 
(Chapter 95.) Here the word Brahman as addressed to 
Bhishma is strange. 

8. The Uma-Maheshwar Samvada is an interpolation 
and an absurdity. The hackneyed questions are asked 
again. A Brahman here is said to have been born and 
good conduct can only make one a Brahmana in the 

next life. (Chap. 140148.) 


9. Krishna and Durvasa is the same story as Chya- 
vana and Kaushika related before. (Chap. 159 160.) 

10. In the morning prayer, Chapter 166, the rivers 
are repeated again. 


1. There is a repetition of Dharmaraja's grief and 
his consolation by Vyasa and Krishna. (Chap. I 15,) 

2. It seems that the story of Uttanka and the Mani 
has already been told in the Adiparva in another form* 

(Chap. 53580 

3. How could the Earth console Subhadra at the 

death pf Abhimanyu. ? 

4. The chapter in which a nakula despises the horse 
sacrifice of Yudhishthira is a later addition in defence 
of Ahimsa. , (Chap. 90.) 

5. The story that the nakula was under a curse is 
still a later addition and inconsistent with the previous 
chapter. (Qlap. 92.) 

Appendix. 209 


1. Dhritarashtra's advice to Yudhishthira how to 
govern the kingdom is quite inconsistent ' with the 
character of both. (Chap. 6 7.) 

2. Narada said confidently that the gods were talk- 
ing among themselves that he (Dhritarashtra) would go 
to Kuber Loka. This is rather strange and probably an 
interpolation. (Chap. 38 39.) 

3. The description given of the Pandavas and their 
wives is quite out of place as Dhritarashtra could not 
have realised it, for he is not only blind but is now a 

4. The appearance of the dead is an old idea as 
old as the Bharata. Janmejaya being shown his father 
is, however, a clear later addition. 


i. The story of the Pandavas going west, south and 
east and seeing Dwaraka submerged is absurd. They 
could not have walked so long, and the Mahaprastjiana, 
according to the JDharmashastra, is only towards the 
north-east. (See Boudhayana's Dharrtiashastra.) 

(Chap, i, 2j 3.) 


i. The soul of each actor in this Epic is said to 
have returned after death to the deity from which it 
sprang. This is probably a later idea. 



The Mahabharata: A Criticism. 

2. The last chapter giving the description of 
Parvas is clearly an interpolation. Vaishampayana has 
gone away and Janmejaya has returned to Gajapuraand 
Suta has told Shaunka the merit of reading Bharata. 
It is strange that Janmejaya should come again to ask 
Vaishampayana to give a detail of the Parvas. More- 
over, we have here a mention of the Ramayana, the 
18 Parvas and the worship of Hari and Krishna. 


Explanation of the double positions of planets 
mentioned in the Mahabharata. 

The actual positions of the planets on or about the 
several dates assigned to the Mahabharata war are 
as follows. I am indebted for these calculations to 
Professor Apte of the Lashkar College : 

(Friday) Shake -3180, 


... 234 5# *" 
... 225 32' 52" 
... 218 26' 34" 
- 258 39' 43" 


Mercuf y . 
Venus" . 

Jupiter . 
Saturn . 
Rahu . 


314 55' 8" 
235 1 8' 29" 


Anuradha or Jyeshtha 

or Ut- 

Solar eclipse must have occurred. Lunar eclipse can- 
not have happened on the preceding full-moon day. 




(Saturday) Shake 2567. 

Uttara or Shravana or 

Jyeshtha or Mula. 
Jyeshtha or Mula. 
Purvashadha or Ut- 

21 9 5 6/ 3 1 " Anuradha. 




233 4 l' 20" 


241 22' 58" 

Venus ... 

278 43' 30" 

Mars ... 

238 22' 4" 

Jupiter (retro) ... 

237 28' 22" 

Saturn (retro) ... 

254 3'' Si" 

Solar eclipse highly probable. Lunar eclipse did 
occur on the preceding full-moon day. 


(Friday) Shake 




... 212 4 ' 5 8" 


- 214 27' 57" 

Venus ... 

... 255 58' 26" 



298 26' 9" 

13 42' 10" 

24 i5 7 3" 
162 43' 58" 



Vishakha or Anuradha* 

Purva or U.tfarasha- 

, Dhanishtha or Shata- 
. taraka. 

. Bharani. 

, Bharani or Krittika* 

No solar eclipse nor lunar possible. 


The Mahabhamta : A Criticism. 

(Sunday) Shake -1271. 
(Corresponding to 3ist October 1194 B.C.) 
(Date assigned by Mr. Ayyar.) 

Planets. Degrees. Nakshatras. 

Sun 231 13' 37" Jyeshtha or Mula. 

Mercury 246 41' 49" ... Mula or Purva. 

Venus 233 i8 ; 57" ... Jyeshtha or Mula. 

Mars .. ... 251 35' 24" ... Mula. 

Jupiter 322 52' 12" ... PurvabhadraTpada. 

Saturn 253 54' 27" ... Purvashadha. 

Rahu 88 5' 25" ... Punarvasu. 

No solar eclipse nor lunar possible. 
The happening of a solar eclipse immediately before 
the war is a fact which is probably true and cannot be 
supposed to have been invented later. From the above 
we gather further corroboration of the generally accept- 
ed date. The date given by Garga's dictum, according 
to my interpretation, fczi?., 2,566 years before the Shaka 
era, seems also a probable date. The other dates appear 
from the above to be improbable. 

This is, however, a diagression. Comparing these 
positions with the positions mentioned in the Maha- 
bharata we cannot but doubt that the latter are fictitious. 
Moreover, the chapter in the Udyoga Parva, wherein 
Krishim is represented as trying to we^n Kama from 
the cause of Duryodhana, we have already shown to be 
an interpolation. So is the chapter in the beginning of 
the Bhishma Parva, wherein Vyasa tries to induce Dhrita- 
rashtra to intervene and stop the impending fight, and 
offers to give him supernatural vision if he wishes to see 
it. In these two chapters, these astronomical references 
are chiefly to be found, and we have no doubt that they 
were introduced by Sauti to swell the list of evil omens 




"that were then happening. They, however, deserve to be 
carefully considered even supposing that they are later 
additions ; for, they must be supposed to have been 
cleverly introduced and not recklessly. We will, there- 
fore, try in this note to see how far these apparently con- 
tradictory statements can be reconciled and what the 
commentator has to say in this connection. 

Before going on to the subject, it will be necessary to 
place before the reader the Sarvatobhadra Chakra which 
the commentator sometimes refers to in explanation. 
The Chakra is quoted from the astronomical work of 
Narapati called Narapativijaya and frequently referred 
to on questions relating to war. We give below the 
barest outline of it as it will suffice our purpose. 

KRL Ron. j MKI. I ARD. 


214 The Mahabharata : A CHiicism. 

The Chakra places seven Nakshatras in each side* 
of a square, beginning with the Krittikas, and puts 4 
letters in the corners simply for convenience. The 
planet from any of these Nakshatras have Veclhas in 
different directions and chiefly in three. When the 
planet is retrograde it has a Vedha backwards, when 
forward in motion, it looks ahead and all have a Vedha 
in the cross line. There are other supplementary 
Vedhas which we need not refer to here. 

Now it is admitted by all that Krishna started on his 
mission of peace in the month of Kartika when the 
moon was in the Revati Nakshatra. *' Kaumude mast 
Revatyam sharadante himagame " Udyoga Parva, 
Chapter 82, He must have taken two or three days to 
reach Hastinapura and two days to finish his work. 
When he left, he said to Kama u Seven days hence 
there will be Amavasya and let fight begin on that day 
as it is presided over by Shakra." Now the com- 
mentator thinks that on the Amavasya day the moon 
was expected to be in Jyeshtha, and Mr. Ayyar, Author 
of the "Date of the Mahabharata" lately published, 
also thinks the same. The Jyeshtha Nakshatra is pre- 
sided over by Indra. Duryodhana ifioved his army 
on the Pushya Nakshatra, i.e., the next day or im- 
jmediately after Krishna left. From Pushya to Jyeshtha 
the moon could not apparently have passed in 7 days, 
and Mr. Ayyar surmises that 7 days is a mistake for 
10. But he forgets that that fortnight is said to have 
consisted of 13 days only, and the moon's motiypn must 
have been very rapid. 

Appendix. 215 

Kama, in his conversation with Krishna, makes the 
following observations (Chapter 142, Udyoga-Parva) : 
" The Nakshatra of Prajapati (Rohini) is oppressed by 
the evil planet Saturn. Mars turning back from 
Jyeshtha seeks Anuradha. Particularly the planet 
oppresses Chitra. The condition of the moon is re- 
versed and Rahu is approaching the sun." As the 
evil dark half is usually believed to begin from Vadya 5th, 
this was dspoken by Kama, presumably on or after the 
5th of the dark half of Kartika. Pushya or Punarvasu 
might easily fall on that day. 

Hereafter the armies of the contending parties move 
to, and encamp in, Kurukshetra. Convenient camps are 
pitched for different divisions, camps said to be more 
commodious and full of comforts than Hastinapura 
itself. This must have taken several days. Meanwhile 
Vyasa visits Dhritarashtra and makes an attempt at 
inducing the old man to stop the coming fight, but in 
vain. Vyasa mentions the following evil omens : 
" There is a comet standing over Pushya. Among the 
Maghas Mars is retrograde and Jupiter is in Shravana. 
Saturn is standing over the Bhaga Nakshatra (Purva) 
and Venus shines over the Purvabhadrapad^. The 
white planet stands over Jyeshtha. Both the un and 
the moon oppress Rohini. The evil planet stands between 
Chitra and Swati. The red planet, making counter- 
retrograde from retrograde, stands over Shravana, the 
Rashi of Bramha. Jupiter and Saturn stand near 
Vishakha. The sun and the moon were eclipsed together 
on the I3th. I have seen Amavasya on the I4th day, 
but never on the isth." (Chapter 2, Bhishma-Parva.) 

216 The Mahabharala : A Criticism. 

From this It appears clear that the actual fighting, 
commenced after the Amavasya or new moon and 
not before, as Mr. Ayyar thinks on the basis of 
Bhishma's remark on the day of his death, that he had 
been lying on his bed of spikes for 58 days. It also 
appears certain that the sun, the moon, and Rahti were 
together near Jyeshtha, as there could not have been 
an eclipse of the sun otherwise. We can thus under* 
stand Karna, speaking before Amavasya, jvhen he- 
remarks that Rahu is approaching the sun. Again, 
Vyasa's statement that both the sun and the moon 
oppress Rohini, is explicable as from Jyeshtha by cross 
Vedha the sun and the moon have an evil influence 
on Rohini. (See red line No. i.) Venus may be sup- 
posed to be in Uttara, from there shining over Purva 
Bhadrapada. (See cross red line No. 2.) Kama's 
statement " particularly the planet oppresses Chitra," 
and Vyasa's statement "the evil planet stands between 
Chitra and Swati," must both be taken to refer to a 
comet or some evil fictitious star. 

Having fixed the sun and the moon and Rahu, we 
will go on to locate Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Different 
statements regarding these have given rise to different 
interpretations. Mars is said to be retrograde in Magha, 
and counter-retrograde in Shravana, while from Kama's 
speech it appears that it was going back from Jyeshtha 
towards Anuradha. Modaka takes only two of these, 
mz.) Magha and Anuradha, and thinks that Magha is 
only a Sayana name for Anuradha, but he entirely 
ignores the third position mentioned, mz^ in Shravana. 
The commentator believes that Mars was really In 



*Magha and stood over Shravana by Vedha according 
to Sarvato-bhadra Chakra. But here the commentator 
forgets that Kama has located Mars between Jyeshtha 
and Anuradha. We think the proper explanation is 
that Mars being retrograde was going from Anuradha 
towards Vishakha when Vyasa spoke. Being retro- 
grade his Vedha from Anuradha goes to Magha, being 
the first Nakshatra in each side. Thereafter he turns 
counter-retrograde and from near Vishakha his Vedha 
goes forward to Shravana in the same way. In this 
manner can the three statements be best reconciled. 
Jupiter is said to be in Shravana and also near Visha- 
kha. The commentator thinks that Jupiter was in 
reality in Shravana and his Vedha went from there to 
Vishakha, being the last Nakshatra in each side. Simi- 
larly Saturn, he thinks, was in reality in Purva (or Bhaga 
Nakshatra) and his Vedha went from there to Vishakha 
also ; for this he refers to a second Chakra called the 
Shatapada Chakra. It is unnecessary to enter into 
what he propounds. We think that the word " Sami- 
pastha " is very clear and that both Jupiter and Saturn 
are represented by Souti as near Vishakha. Modak has 
not tried to explain the positions of Saturn at all. There 
is a third statement about wSaturn in Kama's speech, 
where he is said to oppress RohinL These statements 
may thus be explained. From Vishakha the Vedha of 
Jupiter goes to Shravana in the forward line. The 
Vedha of Saturn from near Swati (and whence he 
advanced towards Vishakha at the time of Vyasa's 
speech)^goes towards Rohini as shown by red line 
No. 3. "AS for the Purva or Bhaga Nakshatra which 

2 i8 The Mahabhamta: A Criticism. 

is said to be oppressed by Saturn, we can take the Vedhc? 
from between Swati and Vishakha to Ashwini by the 
transverse line and from thence direct to Purva. See 
red line No. 4*) 

It will appear that these different Vedhas or oppres- 
sions are nearly the same as astrological drishtis, 
as these are understood in modern astrology which 
recognises 4 kinds of drishtis, viz : (i) full or semi- 
circular, i.e., at a distance of 14 Nakshatras f (2) three- 
fourths or triangular, i.e., at a distance of 9 or 18 
Nakashatras; (3) one-half, i.e., quadrilateral, i.e., at a 
distance of 7 or 21 Nakshatras ; and (4) one-fourth or 
hexagonal, i.e., at a distance of 4 or 16 or 24 Naksha- 
tras taking figures approximately. Saturn's Vedha of 
Rohini and Purva is at distances of 16 and 24 Naksha- 
tras respectively. 

It may be added that the intention of Sauti in giving 
these Vedhas was to show that the Nakshatras apper- 
taining to life or creation, TOST., Rohini and Shravana, 
presided over by Brahma or the Creator, and Purva 
presided over by Bhaga and Magha presided over by 
the Pitris, were oppressed by the evil sights of planets. 
We rfxay also take it that Mars going retrograde and 
approaching Saturn, was then, as now, believed to be the 
sign of an impending destructive war. The Boer war 
was immediately preceded by a similar conjunction. 

We may here incidentally discuss the question when 
the actual fighting took place and here comes the famous 
shloka " That day the moon was in the * region ' 
of Magha and the seven planets appeared injthe sky 
shining." Mr. Ayyar relies on this, coupled with the 

Appendix. 219 

'declaration of Bhishma at the time of his death, mz.^ 
that be had been lying on his bed of spikes for 58 days, 
and believes that the moon was in the beginning of the 
fight in Magha, i.e., the fight began five days before the 
Kartika Amavasya. But this gives us only two days 
after the armies were moved on Pushya for the pitching 
of camps, etc., which seems quite insufficient and 
is inconsistent with all other statements in the Maha- 
bharata, especially that of Balarama who arrived on the 
last day of the fight and said "It is forty-two days since 
I started. I left in Pushya and have returned in 
Shravana." The commentator interprets Magha- 
vishaya as the region of the deity of Magha, 2.0., of 
the Pitris (souls of ancestors) which are believed to 
reside in the moon, which is again the deity of Mriga, 
and hence thinks that the moon was in Mriga and thus 
reconciles this fact with Balarama's arrival in Shravana 
(which is 1 8 Nakshatras from Mriga) on the i8th day 
of the fight. The Bharata Sawitri, a work which the 
commentator quotes, believes that the moon was in 
Bharani which is presided over by the God of Death 
and is thus allied with Maghavishaya. But the 
commentator objects that from Bharani to Skravana 
there are 21 Nakshatras which the moon could not 
go over in 1 8 days. But it is admitted by him that the 
fight began on the I3th of Mrigashirsha bright half, that 
Bhishma fell on the 8th of the dark half, that the terrible 
fight at night when Drona was commander-in-chief 
happened on the i2th, and thus the description in the 
'Mahaljharata that the moon rose about 3 a.m. on that 
night is consistent and that Duryodhana was killed on 

22O The Mahubhuntlti : A 

the Amavasya of Mrigashirsha. Now we have shown* 
before that on the Amavasya of Kartika when there 
was an eclipse of the sun the moon was in Jyeshtha. 
From Jyeshtha to Mriga there are 15 Nakshatras which 
the moon would ordinarily require 14 days to go over. 
The statement of Bhishma that he lay on his bed for 58 
days is reconciled by the commentator by a pun upon the 
word Ashtapanchashat which ordinarily means 58 but is 
made to mean 42 by deducting the same from one 
hundred. From Mrigashirsha 8th of the dark half when 
Bhishma fell wounded to Magha 5th bright half when he 
is supposed to have died we count 42 days only but not 
58 and the commentator has succeeded in transforming 
58 into 42. But he has forgotten to notice another 
remark in the Anushasanaparvd: where Yudhishthira is 
said to have stayed 50 nights in Hastinapura after the 
end of the war and then gone to see Bhishma, as he was 
to die when Uttarayana would commence. On our part 
we think it is impossible to reconcile these statements 
unless we change the reading of some of them as Ayyar 
has done or reject some as interpolations. It is safest 
and involves the least change to reject the last two state- 
ments *in the Anushasanaparva so that all the rest are 
reconciled and to hold that the moon was^either in Mriga 
or Bharani on the first day of the fight. Mr. Modak, 
who takes that the moon was in real Magha and Sayana 
Mriga, is not troubled by the discrepancy in the number 
of days intervening between Bhishma's Fall and death. 

The second half of the shloka is equally a riddle like 
the first. All the seven planets can never shine in the 
sky at the same time, for when the sun shines tlie rest 



must be invisible. But granting that this was then ob- 
served as an abnormal event it must at least be shown 
that the 7 planets were then above the horizon. If we 
believe along with the commentator that Jupiter was in 
Shravana he coulcl not then have been above the hori- 
zon but was below it and similarly with Venus. This 
clearly shows that the positions we have assigned to the 
planets are those which Sauti assigned them. From 
Amavasya to the I4th the sun might be supposed to 
have travelled from Jyestha to Mula and the moon from 
thence to Mriga. When the sun rose, therefore, on that 
day he rose along with Mercury, Mars and Jupiter, and 
Saturn near him, Venus a little above and the nearly 
full-moon near the west. It is possible that they might 
all have been visible and shining if the sun was cut by 
clouds as we are told in the next shloka. 



WHAT Janrnejaya's Brahmahatya was is a mystery and 
it is feared must remain so for ever. We have consulted 
many men versed in the Vedic and Puranic IcJfe but 
none has been able to find out any legend or any story 
in any Purana in this connection. The story given in 
Adiparva, Chapter II, seems to have been abruptly cut 
off. It would bejnteresting to give its substance here. 
Janmejaya Parikshita was performing a sacrifice when 
some dogs entered the sacrificial ground and were 
beaten $nd turned out 'Sarama, their mother, cursed 
Janmejaya and his brothers for ill-treating the dogs 

222 The Mahdbharata : A Criticism. 

for no fault of theirs, and said that an unforeseen eviU 
would befall them. The king in fright went to a Rishi y 
named Shrutashrava, who gave his son Somashrava 
as Upadhyaya to the king and told him that he would 
be able to purify him from all his Papakrityas except 
Mahadevakritya. The son, however, had one fault,, 
viz., that he would give to any one any boon asked 
of him. The king took him on that condition and 
having told his brothers to do whatever he orclered went 
to Takshashila which he conquered. Here the story 
ends and unfortunately (this is the only place in the 
Mahabharata where the context is so hopelessly cut off) 
no mention is further made as to what unforeseen evil 
befell the brothers and what help Somashrava gave to 
the king and what boon was asked of him and by whom. 
This Somashrava has not even been mentioned among 
the Rishis who were present at the Sarpa Satra per- 
formed by Janmejaya. Possibly Sauti purposely left out 
the remaining story and changed it into the subsequent 
story of an Ashwamedha performed by Janmejaya, 
given later on in Harivamsha where Indra is said 
to have ravished the queen of Janmejaya when she 
was ttVeide to lie down with the slaughtered sacrificial 
horse ^s is laid down by the ritual o| Ashwamedha* 
Janmejaya thereon in anger banished the Brah- 
manas engaged in the sacrifice and turned out the 
queen from his house. He was, however, induced to 
accept her back on intercession by* the Rishis but 
declared that none should thenceforth perform an Ashwa- 
medha. Thi prohibition is still observed by most 
Kshatriyas. *