“Om! Having bowed down to Narayana and Nara, the most respected male being, and also to Goddess Saraswati, must the word Jaya be uttered.
“The son of Lomaharshana – Ugrasrava also known as Soota, well-versed in Puraanaas, bending with humility, one day approached the Maharishis of rigid vows (Vrata in Sanskrit), sitting at their ease, who had attended the twelve years’ yagna of (Rishi) Shaunaka, also known as Kulapati, in the forest of Naimisha (NaimishaAaranya in Sanskrit) (NaimishaAaranya lay on the banks of the modern-day Gomti river, Uttar Pradesh state, India). Those Rishis, wishing to hear his wonderful narrations, presently began to address him (Soota) who had thus arrived at that Rishi’s ashrama of residents of NaimishaAaranya. Having been entertained with due respect by those holy men, he (Soota) saluted those Munis with joined palms, all of them, and inquired about the progress of their Tapas. Then all Rishis being again seated, the son of Lomaharshana (Soota) humbly occupied the seat that was assigned to him.
“Seeing that he was comfortably seated, and recovered from tiredness, one of the Rishis beginning the conversation, asked him, ‘From where do you come, O lotus-eyed Soota, and where have you spent the time? Tell me, who ask you, in detail.’
“Accomplished in speech, Soota, thus questioned, gave in the middle of that big assembly of meditative Munis a full and proper answer in words agreeable with their mode of life.
“Soota said, ‘Having heard the various sacred and wonderful stories which were composed in his Mahabharata by Krishna-Dwaipaayana (popularly known Veda Vyaasa), and which were recited in full by (Rishi) Vaishampaayana at the Sarpa Satra of the high-souled Rajarishi Janamejaya and in the presence also of that chief of Princes, the son of Parikshit (King Parikshit), and having wandered about, visiting many sacred waters and holy shrines, I journeyed to the country worshipped by the Dwijas and called Samantapanchaka (modern-day Kurukshetra, Haryana state, India) where formerly was fought the battle between the children of Kuru and Paandu, and all the chiefs of the land (kings) ranged on either side. From there, anxious to see you, I am come into your presence. O respected sages, all of whom are to me as (Lord) Brahma; you greatly blessed who shine in this place of yagna with the splendour of the Surya and Agni; you who have concluded the silent meditations and have fed the holy Agni; and yet who are sitting — without care, O you Dwijas, what shall I repeat, shall I recount the sacred stories collected in the Puraanaas containing principles of duties of Dharma and of Arthaa, or the acts of illustrious Rishis and sovereigns (kings) of mankind?’
“The Rishi replied, ‘The Puraanaa (Mahabharata), first spread by the Maharishi Dwaipaayana (popularly known as Veda Vyaasa), and which after having been heard both by Devas and Brahmarishis was highly esteemed, being the most-great narrative that exists, diversified both in expression and division, possessing subtle meanings logically combined, and obtained from Vedas, is a sacred work. Composed in simple language, it includes the subjects of other books. It is explained by other Shaastraas, and includes the sense of four Vedas. We are desirous of hearing that history also called Bharata, the holy composition of the wonderful Vyaasa, which removes the fear of evil, just as it was cheerfully recited by the Rishi Vaishampaayana, under the direction of Dwaipaayana (popularly known as Veda Vyaasa) himself, at the Sarpa Satra of king Janamejaya.’
“Soota then said, ‘Having bowed down to the first being Ishaana, to whom many people make offerings, and who is adored by many people; (Lord) Brahma, who is the true incorruptible one, detectable, undetectable, eternal; who is both a non-existing and an existing-non-existing being; who is the universe and also distinct from the existing and non-existing universe; who is the creator of high and low; the ancient, noble, unlimited one; who is (Lord) Vishnu, generous and the doing of good itself, worthy of all preference, pure and clean; who is (Lord) Hari, the ruler of powers, the guide of all things moveable and immoveable; I will declare the sacred thoughts of the illustrious sage Vyaasa, of marvelous actions and worshipped here by all. Some poets have already published this history (Mahabharata), some are now teaching it, and others, in like manner, will hereafter propagate it upon the earth. It is a great source of knowledge, established throughout the three regions of the world. It is possessed by Dwijas both in detailed and brief forms. It is the delight of the learned for being elaborated with beautiful expressions, conversations human and divine, and a variety of poetical measures.
“In this world, when it was without brightness and light, and enveloped all around in total darkness, there came into being, as the primal cause of creation, a mighty egg, the one inexhaustible seed of all created beings. It is called Mahaadivya, and was formed at the beginning of the Yuga, in which we are told, was the true light Brahma, the eternal one, the wonderful and inconceivable being present alike in all places; the invisible and subtle cause, whose nature consumes of entity and non-entity.
“From this egg came out the lord Pitamaha Brahma, the one only Prajapati; with Suraguru (Devaguru Brihaspati) and Sthaanu (Lord Shiva). Then appeared the twenty-one Prajapatis, viz., Manu, Vasishtha and Parameshthi; ten Prachetas, Daksha, and the seven sons of Daksha. Then appeared the man of inconceivable nature whom all the Rishis know and so the Vishwadevas, the Adityas, the Vasus, and the twin Ashwins (also known as Ashwini Devas); the Yakshas, the Saadhyaas, the Pishaachaas, the Guhyakaas, and the Pitris. After these were produced the wise and most holy Brahmarishis, and the numerous Rajarishis distinguished by every noble quality. So, the water, heavens, earth, air, sky, points of the heavens, years, seasons, months, fortnights called Pakshaas, with day and night in due succession. Thus, were produced all things which are known to mankind.
“What is seen in the universe, whether movable or immovable, of created things, will at the end of the world, and after the end of the Yuga, be again mixed up. At the commencement of other Yugas, all things will be renovated, and, like the various fruits of the earth, succeed each other in the due order of their seasons. Thus, continues constantly to revolve in the world, without beginning and without end, this wheel which causes the destruction of all things.
“The generation of Devas, in brief, was thirty-three thousand, thirty-three hundred and thirty-three (33,333). The sons of Div were Brihadbhanu, Chakshu, Aatma, Vibhaavasu, Savita, Rucheeka, Arka, Bhanu, Ashaavaha, and Ravi. Of these ancient Vivaswatas, Mahya was the youngest whose son was Devabhraata. The latter (Devabhraata) had for his son, Subhraaja who, we learn, had three sons — Dashajyoti, Shatajyoti, and Sahasra-jyoti, each of them producing numerous offspring.
“The illustrious Dashajyoti had ten thousand (children), Shatajyoti ten times that number (10×10,000 = 100,000), and Sahasrajyoti ten times the number of Shatajyoti’s offspring (1,000,000 children). From these are descended the family of Kurus, of Yadus, and of Bharata; the family of Yayaati and of Ikshwaku; also of all Rajarishis (kings). In addition, numerous generations were produced, very abundant were the creatures and their places of abode. The mystery which is threefold — Vedas, Yoga, and Vijnana Dharma, Arthaa, and Kaamaa — also various books upon the subject of Dharma, Arthaa, and Kaamaa; also rules for the conduct of mankind; also histories and debates with various Shrutis; all of which having been seen by the Rishi Vyaasa are here in due order mentioned as a specimen of the book.
“The Rishi Vyaasa published this mass of knowledge in both a detailed and an abridged form. It is the wish of the learned in the world to possess the details and the abridgement. Some read the (Maha)Bharata beginning with the initial mantra (invocation), others with the story of Aastika, others with Uparichara, while some Brahmanas study the whole. Men of learning display their various knowledge of the institutes in commenting on the composition. Some are skillful in explaining it, while others, in remembering its contents.
“The son of Satyavati (Veda Vyaasa) having, by penance and meditation, analysed the eternal Veda, afterwards composed this holy history, when that learned Brahmarishi of strict vows (vow is called Vrata in Sanskrit), the noble Dwaipaayana Vyaasa, offspring of (Rishi) Paraashara, had finished this greatest of narrations, he began to consider how he might teach it to his disciples. The possessor of the six attributes (Gnana, Vairaagya, Aishwarya, Balaa, Sri and Keerthi), (Lord) Brahma, the world’s Guru, knowing of the anxiety of the Rishi Dwaipaayana (Veda Vyaasa), came in person to the place where the latter (Veda Vyaasa) was, for gratifying the Rishi (Vyaasa), and benefiting the people. When Vyaasa, surrounded by all the group of Munis, saw Him, he (Veda Vyaasa) was surprised; and, standing with joined palms, he bowed and ordered a seat to be brought. Vyaasa having gone round Him (Lord Brahma) who is called Hiranyagarbha seated on that distinguished seat stood near it; and being commanded by Brahma Parameshthi, he (Veda Vyaasa) sat down near the seat, full of affection and smiling in joy.
“Then the greatly glorious Vyaasa, addressing Brahma Parameshthi, said, ‘O divine Brahma, by me a poem (Mahabharata) has been composed which is greatly respected. The mystery of the Veda, and what other subjects have been explained by me; the various rituals of Upanishads with the Angas; the compilation of Puraanaas and history formed by me and named after the three divisions of time, past, present, and future; the determination of the nature of decay, fear, disease, existence, and non-existence, a description of Dharma and of the various modes of life; rule for the four varnas, and the meaning of all Puraanaas; an account of Tapas and of the duties of a student of Dharma; the dimensions of Surya and Chandra, planets, constellations, and stars, together with the duration of four Yugas; the Rig, Sama and Yajur Vedas; also the Adhyatma; the sciences called Nyaaya, Orthœphy (meaning Grammar) and Treatment of diseases; charity and Paashupata Dharma; birth Devas and human, for particular purposes; also a description of places of pilgrimage and other holy places of rivers, mountains, forests, the ocean, of heavenly cities and the kalpas; the art of war; the different kinds of nations and languages: the nature of the manners of the people; and the all-pervading soul (atma in Sanskrit) –all these have been represented. But, after all, no writer of this work is to be found on earth.’
“(Lord) Brahma said, ‘I respect you for your knowledge of divine mysteries, before the whole body of celebrated Munis distinguished for the purity of their lives. I know you have revealed the divine word, from its first utterance, in the language of truth. You have called your present work a poem (Shloka in Sanskrit), as a result for which it shall be a Shloka. There shall be no poets whose works may equal the descriptions of this poem (Mahabharata), as the three other modes called Ashrama are ever unequal in merit to the Grihastaashrama (family mode of life). Let (Lord) Ganesha be thought of, O Muni (Vyaasa), for the purpose of writing the poem.’
“Soota said, ‘(Lord) Brahma having thus spoken to Vyaasa, retired to his own abode (Brahmaloka). Then Vyaasa began to call to mind (meditate on Lord) Ganesha. (Lord) Ganesha, remover of obstacles, ready to fulfil the desires of his devotees, was no sooner thought of, than he travelled to the place where Vyaasa was seated. When he had been saluted, and was seated, Vyaasa addressed Him thus, ‘O Ganapathy! you be the writer of the (Maha)Bharata which I have formed in my imagination, and which I am about to repeat.’
“(Lord) Ganesha, upon hearing this address, thus answered, ‘I will become the writer of your work, provided my pen do not stop writing even for a moment (meaning Lord Ganesha says that Vyaasa must keep narrating the story without even leaving a gap for a second).’
“Vyaasa said to that divinity (Lord Ganesha), ‘Wherever there be anything you do not understand, stop to continue writing.’
“(Lord) Ganesha having signified his approval, by repeating the word ‘Om!’ proceeded to write; and Vyaasa began; and by way of diversion, he (Vyaasa) put the knots of composition exceeding close; by doing which, he dictated this work according to his engagement.
“I am (continued Soota) aware of eight thousand and eight hundred (8,800) verses, and so is Shuka (son of Veda Vyaasa), and perhaps Sanjaya. From the mysteriousness of their meaning, O Muni, no one is able, to this day, to penetrate those closely knit difficult shlokas. Even the all-knowing (Lord) Ganesha took a moment to consider; while Vyaasa, however, continued to compose other verses in great abundance.
“The knowledge of this work, like to an instrument of applying collyrium (kaajal in Hindi), has opened the eyes of the inquisitive world blinded by the darkness of ignorance. As the Sun removes the darkness, so does the (Maha)Bharata by its discourses on Dharma, Arthaa, Kaamaa and final release (Moksha), remove the ignorance of men. As the full-moon by its mild light expands the buds of the water-lily, so this Purana, by exposing the light of the Shruti (Vedas) has expanded the human intellect. By the lamp of history, which destroys the darkness of ignorance, the whole mansion of nature is properly and completely illuminated.
“This work (Mahabharata) is a tree, of which the chapter of contents is the seed; the divisions called Pauloma and Aastika are the root; the parva called Sambhava is the trunk (of the tree); the parvas called Sabha and Aaranya are the resting branches; the parva called Arani is the knitting knots; the parvas called Virata and Udyoga the heart; the parva named Bhishma, the main branch; the parva called Drona, the leaves; the parva called Karna, the fair flowers; the parva named Shalya, their sweet smell; the parvas entitled Stri and Aishika, the refreshing shade; the parva called Shanti, the mighty fruit; the parva called Ashwamedha, the immortal juice; the denominated Ashramavaasika, the spot where it grows; and the parva called Mausala, is an summary of Vedas and held in great respect by the Dharmic Brahmanas. The tree of the (Maha)Bharata, inexhaustible to mankind as the clouds, shall be as a source of livelihood to all distinguished poets.
“Soota continued, ‘I will now speak of the undying flowery and fruitful productions of this tree, possessed of pure and pleasant taste, and not to be destroyed even by immortals (Devas). Formerly, the spirited and Dharmic Krishna-Dwaipaayana (Veda Vyaasa), by the directions of Bhishma, the wise son of Ganga and of his own mother (Satyavati), became the father of three boys who were like the three fires by the two wives of Vichitraveerya; and having thus raised up Dhritarashtra, Paandu and Vidura, he returned to his Tapas ashrama to conduct his exercise of Dharma.
“It was not till after these (Dhritarashtra, Paandu and Vidura) were born, grown up, and departed on the supreme journey, that the Maharishi Vyaasa published the (Maha)Bharata in this region of mankind; when being requested by Janamejaya and thousands of Brahmanas, he instructed his disciple (Rishi) Vaishampaayana, who was seated near him; and he, sitting together with the Sadasyas, recited the (Maha)Bharata, during the intervals of the ceremonies of (Sarpa) Satra, being repeatedly urged to proceed.

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