Sub-Parvas of the Adi Parva Welcome to the Adi Parva, the beginning of beginnings of the Mahabharata. Mahabharata was originally called ‘Jaya’. Jaya means success. ‘Tato Jayam Udhee Raye’ – that means, after bowing down to Nara and Narayana and Saraswati Devi, you should utter Jaya – success, because it leads to success. It leads to cleansing of sins. The Mahabharata has 18 parvas. In each parva, there are many sub-parvas. Let us look at all of the sub-parvas of Adi Parva –Anukramanika, Sangraha, Paushya, Pauloma, Aastika, Adivamsavatarana, Sambhava, Jatugraha, Hidimbavata, Bakavada, Chaitrarodha, Swayamvara, Baivahika, Viduragamana, Rajyalabha, Arjunavanavasa, Subhadraharana, Haranaharika, Khandavadaha. So these are the 18 subparvas in the Adi Parva. “Do I need to remember all this? It all seems so complex.” Is a question that many people ask. In today’s educational system, we think that understanding is everything and memorization is looked at condescendingly. If we look at it deeply, understanding happens on the basis of memory. So memorizing the storyline is key, especially in the case of a complex epic like the Mahabharata. Also, memorizing the storyline helps us to connect the various characters, their background, though processes, rationale for their actions and the consequences. Hence, memory plays a very important role in understanding why a particular character acts a certain way.
Anukramanikaparva The story starts with Ugrashrava who was a Sauti. Sautis are people who have storytelling as their profession. Ugrashrava was the son of Lomaharshana. Several Rishis had assembled in the Naimisharanya. Kulapathi Shaunaka welcomed Ugrashrava. Kulapathi means the head or leader of the Kula or family. All the assembled Rishis enquired about the Mahabharata and how it all started. So Ugrashrava starts with Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice or Sarpa Yajna or Sarpasathra. During that yajna, Vyasa’s disciple (Vyasa is present) Vaisampayana narrates the entire Mahabharata for the benefit of the audience. Vyasa is called Krishna Dwaipayana. Krishna means ‘the dark one’. Dwaipayana means ‘one who is born in a Dwipa( or Island)’. So ‘Vyasa’ is the title given to a compiler of the Vedas. He compiles the Vedas. In fact, we celebrate Guru Poornima in Sri Vyasa’s memory. Mahabharata is supposed to be a discourse on the important principles of right living – mainly the Purushartha, meaning the purpose of a human being, the purpose of a person- Purusha-artha. They are four in number-Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.
Sangrahaparva Sangrahaparva is like an overview of all the parvas. But it starts with the story of Samantapanchaka. Samantapanchaka is the group of lakes near which the war of Mahabharata was fought. Samantapanchaka has a very wonderful history. Parasurama, another incarnation of Vishnu, is also called ‘the Bhargava’. ‘Bhargava’ means the descendent of Bhrigu. He exterminated the Kshatriyas 21 times. He collected all the blood in five lakes and propitiated his ancestors. His ancestors said “Stop this bloodshed now. We bless you”. Parasurama asked for a boon that this place become a holy Theertha, a place of pilgrimage. That’s how Samantapanchaka became an extremely holy place.
Paushya Parva Paushya is a king who is a friend of Janamejaya. Janamejaya conducts a sacrifice in which his brothers illtreat a dog, which happens to be Sarama’s son. Sarama is the celestial bitch. Hence, Sarama curses Janamejaya saying, “You’ll find ill luck”. Janamejaya is deeply saddened by this curse. During a hunting expedition, Janamejaya came to the Ashrama of Shuthashrava. Janamejaya wanted this son Somashrava to be his preceptor to be free from his curse. Shuthshrava was happy to send his son but mentioned the condition that his had the habit of giving anything that a Brahmana asks for. Janamejaya happily accepted this condition and Somashrava became the spiritual master of Janamejaya.
Story of Aruni Parallely, there is the story of Ayodhya Dhaumya. Dhaumya has three disciples. Aruni of Panchala, is one such disciple. He is sent to prevent the breach-the leak of water in the fields. He goes there, he tries hard, he does not succeed and so he places himself right there and plugs the leak. Everyone is worried at Dhaumya’s ashrama and they set out looking for Aruni. He says,”O Aruni!Where are you?” and Aruni replies, “I am here, Master, I am plugging the leak in the water course”. Dhaumya is very happy and blesses him, saying “Let all the Vedas and Dharmasastras shine in you”. Then, he sends him on his way. So he is graduated. That’s his graduation day. His final test.
Story of Upamanyu Then comes the story of Upamanyu, another disciple of Dhaumya. Upamanyu is sent to take care of the cattle. So he goes, he takes care of the cattle and when he returns, he’s still hale and healthy. So his Master asks, “How are you so fat? Hale and healthy? ”. Upamanyu simply replies, “By begging for food. For Bhiksha”. His Master says “You should not eat of the food without submitting it to me. Whatever I approve of, you must do. Not anything else”. So Upamanyu does as directed but he is still hale and healthy. So his Master asks “What now?”. Upamanyu replies “I beg a second time after giving it to you.You do not give it back to me, so I beg again”. The master curtails his movements, until one day, out of sheer hunger, Upamanyu eats some Harka leaves and goes blind. Then the Master asks him to pray to the Ashwini Kumaras, who give him a cake. Upamanyu offers the cake to his Master, who blesses him saying “Let all the Vedas and Dharmasastras shine in you”. Upamanyu regains his eyesight and he is successful in his endeavor.
Story of Veda, Utanka and Paushya Veda was another disciple of Dhaumya. Veda undergoes a lot of tests and he is also successful. Veda acquires many disciples, out of which a prominent one who is very important in the storyline is Utanka. Utanka is very well taken care of by his Master, because his Master suffered at the hands of his Master,and so he does not want to transfer that to his disciples. So Utanka has a very good time, he learns all the sastras, is prolific. Then, Veda has to go out on an errand and he makes Utanka in charge of his family-his household. During that time, the women of the household feel that it is season and Utanka should satisfy their desire of having child. Utanka refuses. Veda hears about this and is happy. He blesses Utanka. And when Utanka says “I want to do something for you, I want to give you a Guru Dakshina”, Veda asks him to enquire with his wife. She asks for the Queen’s earrings. So, Utanka proceeds on his way to the king, who happens to be Paushya. Thats’s why the Paushyaparva. On his way, he encounters a huge man on a huge bull. The man says “Eat of this bull’s dung and drink its urine”. Utanka refuses but the man said “Your Master did so. You also do so”. So just to be obedient to his Master, Utanka does it and proceeds on his way and reaches Paushya’s palace. He asks for the Queen’s earrings. Paushya says “You can enquire with the queen. If she is willing, take it”. So, he goes to the queen’s quarters, but he does not find anybody. He comes back. He is a bit annoyed with the king. The king says “Are you defiled?” Utanka remembers and says “Yes”. He does Archamana, he cleanses himself with water and then when he goes again, he perceives the queen. The queen is so subtle. She gives him her earrings and tells him that the Naga king, Takshaka was behind those earrings and to be careful. Utanka gets ready to leave, but the King says “We’ve just ended a sacrifice.Please have food and leave”. Utanka agrees. He has food, but the food is cold and it has a hair. He points this out to the king, who gets angry and says “How dare you impute this fault to me?”. The food served to you is of the highest quality. Nothing wrong happens in my kingdom”. There is a mutual curse-back and forth. Utanka departs. Utanka, on his way back, finds a beggar who appears on and off. And when when Utanka has to rest somewhere, this beggar who was Takshaka, the Naga king in disguise, takes away the earrings and disappears into the ground. Now, Indra helps Utanka with his thunderbolt Vajrayuda and Utanka is able to pursue the Naga king into Naga loka, where he sees beautiful palaces. Utanka is a poet, he is a trained Vedic scholar. So he praises the entire region-all the Nagas and so on. They are all happy with it, but still Takshaka does not return the earrings. Utanka notices a horse and a man which was actually Indra and the divine horse Ucchaisravas. The man asks Utanka to blow into the horse and on blowing into the horse, immediately the entire Nagaloka is aflame. Takshaka is frightened and he comes and returns the earrings. Utanka is able to immediately go and give the earrings to his Guru’s wife. Utanka is unhappy with Takshaka because he was about to be cursed by his Guru’s wife just because of Takshaka’s interference. So Utanka actually goes to Janamejaya and says “Your father was killed by Takshaka and you have not taken revenge on him”. This is how Janamejaya is actually motivated to take revenge and hence he conducts the snake sacrifice. This is how it begins. This is Paushyaparva.
To be continued…