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Mahabharata : Adi Parva: Part 1

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…

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