Episode # 29 – The Mahabharata structure – Part 2 – Sage Pouranika explains!!!

In the previous episode, we had commenced witnessing the structure of the Mahabharata text. Sage Pouranika is explaining the structure in answer to the question raised by the other sages seated around as to what are the details pertaining to each of the eighteen “Parvas” of the Mahabharata text. As mentioned before, this is again an offshoot discussion from the main section of the “Aadhi Parva” in which we are currently in. In this way, we’ve witnessed the contents that make up the “Aadhi Parva”, “Sabhaa Parva”, “Vana Parva”, “Viraata Parva” and “Udyoga Parva”. We’ve witnessed that the “Aadhi Parva” talks about the introductory affairs wherein King Janame Jaya conducts the “Sarpa Yaaga” and Sage Vaishampaayana coming into the picture. Subsequently the birth of Bhishmacharya, King Paandu, Dhirdiraashtra, etc. are discussed along with the birth of the Paandava and Kaurava brothers. Subsequently the “Sabhaa Parva” talks mainly about the gambling game and how Draupati was insulted in the public courtroom. This paves the way for the rest of the Parvas to take place. In the “Vana Parva”, the Paandava brothers are sent on an exile for twelve long years, along with one more year of “Agnyaata-Vaasa”, wherein they should live in a disguised form, not being traceable by anyone. The next “Viraata Parva” talks about how the Paandava brothers spend that one year at Viraata-Nagara and how Duryodhana claims that he had seen them a day before their thirteen-year-period ends. There is enormous confusion in this, and with this, Duryodhana’s arrogance and frustration increases further. In the “Udyoga Parva”, the war clouds start building amidst both the Kaurava and Pandava camps as messengers from either sides try to pacify and doze down the situation. In this “Parva”, Bhagawan Krishna Himself goes as the messenger on behalf of the Paandava brothers to try and convince Duryodhana. As Duryodhana insults Bhagawan Krishna in public, there seems to be nothing else that could stop either sides to go on a full-fledged war. 

Post this, we now directly go into the war that happened in Kurukshetra. Now everyone have assembled at the battlefield and for the first ten days of the war, Bhishmachaarya is the “Senapathi” (Leader) of the Kaurava army. Thus, the next “Parva” is named after him and is called “Bhishma Parva”. At the end of the tenth day, Bhishmachaarya falls down on the ground, courtesy, Arjuna’s fiery firing of arrows on him. The “Bhishma Parva” has four “Upa-Parvas”, which in turn comprise of around 122 “Adhyaayas”. Subsequently after Bhishmachaarya fall down, someone else should lead the Kaurava army, isn’t it? Now it is the turn of Guru Dhronaachaarya to take the lead, and the next “Parva” that explains this in detail is named as “Dhrona Parva”. This “Dhrona Parva” comprises of 8 “Upa-Parvas” and 202 “Adhyaayas”. At the end of the “Dhrona Parva”, Guru Dhronaachaarya falls off, thanks to Drishtadyumna’s timely intervention and Bhagawan Krishna’s “trick” with Bhimasena and Yudishtra. We might be knowing this part of the story – As Bhimasena shouts on top of his voice “Ashwatthaama hathah kunjaraha!”, Guru Dhronaachaarya only hears the first phrase of “Ashwatthaama hatah”! With this, he thinks that his son Ashwatthaama has died in the war! However, the reality is that there was an elephant by name “Ashwatthaama”. Bhimasena had killed this elephant and not Guru Dhronaachaarya’s son. Bhagawan Krishna plays this trick and with this, Guru Dhronaachaarya confirms this news with Yudishtra. As Yudishtra says “yes” for his son’s death, Guru Dhronaachaarya sits on the ground, by putting down all his weapons. It is at this time, Drishtadyumna comes in and chops off Guru Dhronaachaarya’s head, on the spot! This marks the end of Guru Dhronaachaarya and with this, the “Dhrona Parva” comes to an end. 

Next comes the “Karna Parva”, wherein Karna is made the “Senapati” for the Kaurava army. It is this “Parva” I had mentioned earlier that has only one “Upa-Parva”. However, the “Karna Parva” comprises of 96 “Adhyaayas” and at the end of it, Karna too breathes his last, courtesy, Arjuna. Nex comes “Shalya Parva”. This is a very interesting event here – Actually, Shalya was the direct uncle of Nakula and Sahadeva. Ideally speaking, Shalya should have fought on the Paandava’s side. Shalya was the king of “Madra-Desha”, and it is this place which the Paandavas chose for their “Agnyaata-Vaasa” earlier. However with the passage of time, Duryodhana understood that Shalya is extremely powerful and skillful and wanted him to come into the Kaurava fold. Thus, Duryodhana treats Shalya as an esteemed guest and gives him all whatever hospitality he wants. Impressed by this, Shalya asked Duryodhana to express a wish to him. Duryodhana saw this as a chance to express his agenda that Shalya has to come into the Kaurava fold and fight against the Paandavas. Thus, Shalya had to fight on behalf of the Kauravas, although he was directly related to the Paandava brothers. We’re going to witness this in detial later. Thus, this “Parva” wherein Shalya is leading the Kaurava army is named as “Shalya Parva”. This is a short “Parva” again, and has only three “Upa-Parvas” and 66 “Adhyaayas”. 

It is only at the end of the “Shalya Parva” the Mahabharata war comes to an end. The “Gadhaa-Yuddha” between Bhimasena and Duryodhana that forms the marquee fight, takes place in this “Parva” only. Thus, with the “Shalya Parva”, the Kurukshetra war comes to an end. So for today, let us understand up till this point. Let us wait till the next episode to continue further with this discussion! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Published by Dr. Jeayaram

Holds a PhD in Management Psychology from Universite Paris Saclay, Paris, France. Also an Asst. Professor of Human Resources management at Bharatidhasan Institute of Management (BIM) Trichy, India A professional South Indian classical musician (singer) performing concerts. Through this blog, I'm trying to bring out the richness of Indian culture & values and I request your support and feedbacks in making this humble effort a success!!

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