Adi Parva-Summary Of The Mahabharata
Mahabharata is one of the two major Indian epics. Maharshi Vyasa, after doing austerities in a sacred cave in the Himalayas, remembered the whole story of the Mahabharata and composed it in his mind. This great story was recorded by Lord Ganesha according to the wishes of Maharshi Vyasa. There are 18 parvas (books) in the Mahabharata. Each parva is divided into some upa-parvas (sub-books) and each upa-parva is divided into some chapters. The first parva namely Adi Parva consists of 19 sub-books or upa-parvas and 236 chapters. The following is the Adi Parva summary of the Mahabharata.
1.Anukramanika Upa-parva (Chapter:1)
The story begins with Ugrashrava who was a Sauti. Sautis were people whose job was to tell stories. Ugrashrava was the son of sage Lomharshan. At that time a conclave of sages headed by Shaunaka had gathered in Naimisaranya. Shaunaka welcomed Ugrashrava. All the assembled sages asked about the Mahabharata and how it started. So, Ugrashrava started his story with the Sarpa Yajna or snake sacrifice of Janamejaya. During that Yajna, Vyasa’s disciple Vaisampayana narrated the entire Mahabharata in the presence of Vyasa for the convenience of the audience. Vyasa is called Krishna Dvaipayana. He was also the compiler of Vedas and different Puranas. In his memory we celebrate Guru Purnima.
2.Sangraha Upa-parva (Chapter:2)
It’s basically an overview of all the episodes. But it starts with the story of Samantapanchaka. Samantapanchaka is a group of several lakes. It is located near the place where the battle of Mahabharata took place. It has an amazing history. Parashuram, one of the 10 Avatars of Lord Vishnu, killed all male Kshatriyas on the earth 21 successive times to avenge the murder of his father and filled five lakes with their blood. He dedicated them to his ancestors. Then his ancestors said, “Stop this bloodshed now. We will bless you.” Later, Samantapanchaka became a place of pilgrimage by the blessings of Parashuram’s ancestors.
3.Paushya Upa-parva (Chapter:3)
Paushya is a king who was a friend of Janamejaya. Janamejaya organized a Yajna where his brother ill-treated a dog. The dog was Sarama’s son. Sarama was a celestial bitch. Sarama cursed Janamejaya and said, “You have to face misfortune.” Janamejaya was deeply saddened by this curse.
Once Janamejaya went hunting and came to its ashram (hermitage). Janamejaya wanted Shuthashrava’s son Somashrava to be his guru (spiritual teacher) and also wanted Somashrava to free him from the curse. Shuthashrava agreed to send his son, but the condition was that he (Janamejaya) should give him anything that a Brahmin asks for. Janamejaya agreed to this condition and Somashrava became his guru.
The story of Ayodhya Dhaumya is also narrated in this section. Ayodhya Dhaumya was a hard-minded guru. He had three disciples. Their names were Aruni, Upamanyu and Veda. Their devtional stories are narrated here.
Sage Dhaumya once sent Aruni to to go to the fields and repair the breach in the water canal feeding the fields. Unable to repair the breach in any way, Aruni decided to lay his body against the breach. Then the flow of water through the leakage was stopped. Looking for the disciple Aruni, Dhaumya came to the spot. Seeing the devotion and submission of Aruni to him, Sage Dhaumya blessed him.
Sage Dhaumya once gave his other disciple Upamanyu the responsibility of grazing cows in the field. When he came back, Sage Dhaumya asked him, how could he be fit without having any food for looking after the cows. Upamanyu answered that while looking after the cows he begged and by the alms he got from the people, he fed himself. Hearing that Sage Dhaumya said that he should not have eaten anything without offering his guru. Upamanyu agreed to that. The next day he again went to look after the cows. And when he came back, his guru saw him in good health. Dhaumya asked him the reason. He said that while he offered the alms of his begging to his guru, he went for a second time for begging. Being unhappy, the guru said he should not do such for in that matter he diminished the support of the people who lived upon begging. Upamanyu agreed. Again the next day when Upamanyu came back, Dhaumya was surprised to see that even after giving him the alms and not going to beg a second-time Upamanyu was in good condition. On asking the reason, Upamanyu answered, he lived upon the milk of the cows. His guru said he should not have done so without Dhaumya’s consent. The next day the same happened, Upamanyu was in good health. Dhaumya asked the reason. Upamanyu answered that now he lived upon the spume thrown out by the calves while sucking milk. Dhaumya said that it had been unlawful for Upamanyu to take the food of the innocent calves. Upamanyu also agreed to that. Now, Upamanyu had nothing to eat. Driven by extreme hunger he was forced to chew the leaves of a tree. As a result, he lost his sight. While wandering, he fell in a pit. Dhaumya suggested him to pray to the physician deities – twin Aswins. Upamanyu did so. Aswins were pleased and offered him a cake to cure him. But Upamanyu would not accept it without offering it to his guru, Dhaumya. He pleased the Aswins and they cured him.
Sage Dhaumya one day said to Veda, his third disciple to stay with him for sometime serving him. Veda agreed, and stayed for a long time in the Ashram in the service of the teacher. He performed his tasks the guru imposed on him with sincerity and dedication enduring all kinds of discomfort and hardships including acute hunger and thirst or extreme heat and cold. Sage Dhaumya was highly pleased and his blessings resulted in all prosperity and supremacy for his disciple Veda.
4.Pauloma Upa-parva (Chapters:4-12)
In this section, the reason for the destruction of snakes in the Sarpa Yajna or Snake Sacrifice has been mentioned. The episode of Chayavan and Ruru is very important in this part. The episode of Chayavan describes the power of Agni Deva to destroy everything. The story of Ruru and Pramadvara emphasizes the importance of non-violence which is the first moral lesson of the Mahabharata. Truthfulness, patience, etc. come after that. Maharshi Vyasa explained these with various examples.
5.Astika Upa-parva (Chapters:13-58)
In response to Sounka’s question about the Janmejaya’s Sarpa Yajna or Snake Sacrifice and why it was incomplete, Ugrasrava narrated the story of the churning of the cosmic sea, the story of Kadru and Vinata, and the episode of Parikshit. He then spoke about Astika. All this is part of this upa-parva (sub-book). The reason for Janmejaya’s snake sacrifice was the bite of a snake on his father. His minister and Udanka encouraged him in this regard. There are descriptions of stopping this sacrifice in Astika’s episode.
Janamejaya’s father Parikshit was a pious king. Like his great-grandfather, he was a hunting man. One day he went hunting and became very thirsty. He went to the sage Samika and asked about a deer that had escaped after being hit by an arrow. Sage Samika was observing Maunvrata (the vow of keeping silence) at that time so he did not say anything then. As a result, the king became angry and picked up a dead snake with his arrow and wrapped it around the sage’s neck. Sringi was the son of Samika. He had a great reputation for spirituality. When he was returning home with permission from his guru, he came to know about the incident from a friend of the ashram named Krisa. Being agitated, he cursed King Parikshit that he would die within a week of being bitten by a Takshak. Sage Samika forbade her son to curse but Sringi did not listen to her father. Then sage Samika warned King Parikshit about Takshak.
Kadru and Vinata were the two wives of sage Kashyapa. Kadru was the mother of snakes. Once upon a time there was a bet on the color of a horse called Tara which was created during the cosmic ocean churning. Kadru sought the help of his children to win the bet. Some agreed but some did not. Kadru said those who did not agree would be destroyed in the serpent of Janmejaya. Kashyapa’s other wife Vinata lost in the bet and Kadru got the job. He had two children named Arun and Garuda. Garuda wanted to free his mother from Kadru’s slavery. At Kashyapa’s advice, he became strong by eating an elephant and a tortoise. Then he snatched nectar from heaven and gave it to the snakes and freed his mother from slavery.
King Parikshit arranged everything to protect himself from Takshak. But nothing could save him from danger in the end. On the seventh day of Sringi’s curse, the king was killed by the poison of Takshak. Knowing this, Parikshit’s son, Janmejaya performed the Snake Sacrifice. It covers an important part of the story of the Mahabharata.
6.Amsavatarana Upa-parva (Chapters:59-64)
When Janmejaya asked Vaisampayana about the importance Mahabharata, Vaisampayana said that it took Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa three years to compose this epic. Dharma, Artha, Kama or Moksha which are seen in this text are seen everywhere. Vaisampayana described Uparichara and Satyavati, the birth of Vyasa etc. Abandoning the serpent sacrifice, one day Janmejaya asked Vyasa about the war of Bharats. Then Vyasadeva briefly narrated the story of this great book. He also described the birth of Vyasa, the son of Parashara and Matsyagandha on the Krishnadwip.
7.Sambhava Upa-parva (Chapters:65-142)
This section describes the history of the Kuru dynasty. In the beginning, Brahma originated from the navel of Lord Vishnu. Brahma’s mind born son, Maharshi Atri (one of the Saptarshi in Swayambhu Manvantara) was created from his eye. Anusuya, the wife of Maharshi Atri, gave birth to Chandra Deva. Chandra Deva had a son named Budha (Mercury), one of the Navagrahas. Budha’s son, King Pururavas established Chandravamsa (the Chandra dynasty) on the earth. Pururavas’ son was Ayus, Ayus’ son was Nahusha and Nahusha’s son was Yayati. Yayati had five sons. They were Yadu, Turvasu, Druhyu, Anu and Puru.
The eldest son of Yayati established Yadu dynasty and the youngest son established Puru dynasty. Lord Krishna and Balarama belonged to the Yadu dynasty. The lineage of the other three sons of Yayati became extinct over time.
One of the later generation descendants of emperor Puru was Dushyanta (Dushmanta). He married Shakuntala, the daughter of sage Vishwamitra and fathered a son named Bharata. Bharata was a famous emperor of the Puru dynasty and present day Bharat (India) was named after him.
Emperor Hasti was born several generations after Emperor Bharata. His kingdom was named Hastinapur. After four generations of Hasti, an emperor named Kuru was born. His dynasty was known as Kuruvamsa. After seven generations a king named Pratipa was born in Kuruvamsa. Pratipa fathered a son named Shantanu whom Goddess Ganga loved very much. Vaisampayan described the story of Shantanu, a descendant of emperor Bharata, in this part of the Mahabharata. Ganga and Shantanu had a son named Bhishma. Shantanu later fell in love with Satyavati, who was born from a fish. Long ago Satyavati had given birth to Maharshi Vyasa. Though Satyavati loved Shantanu, he agreed to marry him on her father’s condition that their children inherit the throne, denying the birthright of Shantanu’s eldest son (and crown prince) Bhishma. Santanu told his son Bhishma about this and Bhishma relinquished his right to the throne. Satyavati then married Shantanu. Later, Satyavati gave birth to two sons, Chitrangad and Vichitravirya. Chitrangad became a king. But he was killed in a battle and the young Vichitravirya took his place. Bhishma kidnapped three princesses from a neighboring kingdom in an attempt to perpetuate the royal dynasty. Two of them, Ambika and Ambalika agreed to marry Bhishma’s half-brother, Vichitravirya, and the third, Amba moved in with her true lover. Vichitravirya had died before any child was born. As he took the life long vow of celibacy, Bhishma told his half-brother Vyasa to give birth to children by Vichitravirya’s wives, Ambika and Ambalika. Thus Vyasa Deva begot two sons, Dhritarastra and Pandu from
Vichitravirya’s two wives, and another son, Vidura from a maid servant.
Pandu married Princess Kunti, who chose him as her husband through her Swayamvara ceremony. Pandu also married Madri as his second wife. He reigned as the king of Kurujangala living in the town of Hastinapur for a few years. After the retirement he went to the Himalayas with Kunti and Madri. One day while hunting, Pandu shot a deer that cursed him and predicted that he would die while approaching one of his wives with the intent of making love. Previously sexually dissatisfied Pandu avoided sexual contact with his wives. Then his wife Kunti and Madri gave birth to sons with the help of various gods. Thus Dharma, the god of justice, was the father of Yudhisthira; Vayu, the god of the atmosphere, was the father of Bheema; and Indra, the king of the gods, was the father of Arjuna. Madri gave twin sons Nakula and Sahadeva by a god named Ashwin. After Dhritarashtra became king, he married Gandhari, who decided to live a life blindfolded. According to Vyasa’s prophecy, Gandhari gave birth to one hundred sons and one daughter.
Several years later, Pandu succumbed to aspirations and embraced Madri. As per the curse of the dying deer, he died instantly. Pandu’s sons, who were known as the Pancha Pandavas (five Pandavas), returned to Hastinapur with Pandu’s widow Kunti. King Dhritarashtra welcomed them, and they grew up with his own sons. The princes were educated under the tutelage of teacher Kripacharya and Drona. Everyone was a heroic warrior. Drona’s son Ashvatthama was also a great hero. But Arjuna’s skill as a heroic warrior was incomparable. Besides Yudhisthira, Bhima and Arjuna, Kunti gave birth to another son with the help of the Sun god. His name was Karna. Kunti was unmarried then. For this reason he abandoned the infant son. Then a charioteer named Adhirath raised Karna. None of the Pandavas knew that Karna was their brother. Arjuna and Karna in the Mahabharata were enemies of each other despite being siblings. The secret behind the enmity between Arjuna and Karna is also mentioned in Atharva Veda (Chapter 5.30). Duryodhana and Karna were friends and fought for Kauravas in the battle of Mahabharata. In the battle led by Drona, the Pandavas invaded the nearby kingdom ruled by Drupada and captured half of his land. The Pandavas then returned to Hastinapur and Dhritarashtra made Yudishtira the crown-prince. But he was apprehensive about the progress of the Pandavas. Frightened by the same, Duryodhana proposed to his father to send the Pandavas to Varanavata. Dhritarashtra agreed to this proposal.
8.Jatugriha Upa-parva (Chapters: 143-153)
Duryodhana had entrusted Purochana with the task of building a Jatugriha (lac house) at Varanavata before the Pandavas reached there. Before going to Varanavata, Vidura warned Yudhisthira with a gesture which Yudhisthira understood. Kunti reached Varanavata with the Pandavas. Then the Pandavas came to know about the conspiracy of Duryodhana to set fire to Jatugriha through the messenger sent by Vidura. Bheema dug a tunnel under the house and planned an escape route through which they escaped. Duryodhana and other Kauravas thought that Kunti along with the Pandavas had been burnt to death.
9.Hidimba-vadha Upa-parva (Chapters:154-158)
Having escaped from the Jatugriha fire, the Pandavas travelled a long way with their mother. Disguised as Brahmin priests they reached Kamyaka Forest. A king of man-eating demons named Hidimba lived in that forest. He sent his sister, Hidimbi in search of people. Accordingly she appeared where the Pandavas were staying. Seeing Bheema there, Hidimbi wanted to get Bheema as her husband. After waiting for his sister for a long time, the demon king appeared at that place. Bheema killed Hidimba and married Hidimbi on Kunti’s orders. Hidimbi gave birth to Bheema’s son, Ghatotkacha.
10.Vaka-vadha Upa-parva (Chapters:159-166)
The Pandavas and their mother went to the town of Ekachakra and spent time there in disguise at the house of a Brahmin. They spent their days begging there. Outside the city there was a man-eating demon named Vakasura in the forest. Since he guarded the area, each householder in turn had to take turns sending a cart of food, two bulls, and a member of the household as food for the demon. Thus one day it was the turn of the Brahmin whose house the Pandavas were staying in. On learning the matter, Kunti sent Bheema to the demon. Bheema killed the Vakasura and restored peace to the residents of Ekachakra town.
11.Chaitraratha Upa-parva (Chapters:167-185)
After killing Vakasura, the Pandavas were studying the Vedas in the Brahmin house. A few days later an ascetic Brahmin came there and told about Drupada, the king of Panchal. He also said that a Swayamvara ceremony of the daughter of Drupada was going to be held. Curious to hear this, Kunti prepared to go to the kingdom of Drupada along with his five sons. There Vyasa Deva came to meet them. He told them about Draupadi’s pre-birth story. He predicted that Draupadi would marry the Pandava brothers and blessed them. Vyasa Deva advised Draupadi to marry the Pandavas. Then Kunti along with the Pandavas went to the kingdom of Drupada. On the way Arjuna fought with Angaraparna, the king of Gandharva and defeated him. Later Angaraparna made a friendship with Arjuna. He told them the story of Tapati and Samvarana and told them about Sage Vishwamitra and Vasishtha. On his advice Dhaumya was made a Pandava priest.
12.Swayamvara Upa-parva (Chapters:186-194)
The Pandavas disguised as Brahmin priests attended the Swayamvara ceremony of Draupadi. Drishtadyumna, the elder brother of Draupadi had played the leading role of Draupadi’s Swayamvara. A disc was hung over a wide vessel containing liquid material. The disc had a hole in the middle. Exactly over the middle hole, a fish was hanged. A competitor could woo Draupadi only if he arrowed the eye of the fish by looking into the image, reflected in the liquid below. Many princes attended the ceremony and participated in the competition but all of them failed. Only Arjuna succeeded in this task and got Draupadi as his wife. Then Arjuna brought her to Kunti. Without seeing anything, Kunti said from inside the house, what you got should be shared equally among all the brothers.
13.Vaivahika Upa-parva (Chapters:195-201)
The Pandavas then went to the royal court of Drupada. King Drupada was very delighted knowing that the Pandavas were alive. Yudhisthara announced according to his mother’s wish that all the brothers would marry Draupadi together. Vyasa Deva appeared there and persuaded Draupadi to marry them, reminding her of her previous birth. Draupadi married the five Pandavas together.
14.Viduragamana Upa-parva (Chapters:202-209)
After the marriage of the Pandava brothers with Draupadi, they stayed in the kingdom of Drupada for one year. Duryodhana came to know about this through his detective. He was jealous of the progress of the Pandavas and thought of bringing the enemies under control with the help of his father. Karna suggested the use of force. Dhritarashtra supported it. But he called Bhishma, Drona and other ministers for advice. Bhishma said that just as Kunti’s sons were with him, so were Gandhari’s sons. That is why he would protect both the Pandavas and the Kauravas. So it is like giving half of the kingdom to the Pandavas. Dronacharya also agreed to this. Vidura supported him. Dhritarashtra sent Vidura to bring the Pandavas to Hastinapur. Krishna came there. Dhritarashtra sent the Pandavas to Khandabprastha giving them half of the kingdom. Vishvakarma built the city of Indraprastha there under the direction of Krishna. The Pandavas were spending their days there happily.
15.Rajyalambha Upa-parva (Chapters:210-214)
One day Narada came there and told the story of Sunda and Upasunda. Narada told them to follow a rule about their wife Draupadi. According to the rules, Draupadi would stay with each brother for one year. At that time the other brothers will refrain from going there. Anyone who broke that rule would go on pilgrimage for one year.
16.Arjuna-vanavasa Upa-parva (Chapters:215-220)
One day some thieves stole the cattle of a Brahmin. Arjuna went to Yudhisthara’s house to fetch bows and arrows to protect the Brahmin’s cattle. Then he defeated the thieves and brought back the wealth of the Brahmin from them. Arjuna went on pilgrimage for 12 years on condition of breaking his promise. First he went to the Ganges and bathed in the Ganges. Ulupi (also known as Uluchi and Ulupika), the daughter of Kauravya (the king of Nagas), saw him as he rose from the water. Then Ulupi was attracted to him and he took Arjuna to her kingdom. Arjuna fulfilled her wish. Later, they returned to the Ganges. There Ulupi left Arjuna. Ulupi gave birth to Iraban. As a part of the pilgrimage, Arjuna then went to Manipur and married the princess Chitrangada there. Chitrangada gave birth to Bhavruvahana. Arjuna left the boy with Raja Chitravahana to make him his successor and proceeded to the next destination.
17.Subhadra-harana Upa-parva (Chapters:221-222)
Arjuna went to Prabhasa Tirtha. Hearing this, Krishna went there and met Arjuna. They reached Raibataka while walking around Prabhas Tirtha. There they spent the night and went to Dwarka in the morning. A few days later, the Yadavs organized a big ceremony in Raibataka. All the citizens of Dwarka participated in the event. Balarama was present there along with his wife Rebati. There Arjuna saw Krishna’s sister Subhadra and he was attracted to her. He sought Krishna’s help to get Subhadra. Then with the permission of Krishna, Arjuna kidnapped Subhadra.
18.Harana-harana Upa-parva (Chapter:223)
After returning from exile, Arjuna married Subhadra. Subhadra gave birth to Abhimanyu. Later, five sons or Upapandavas (Prativindhya, Sutasoma, Shrutakarma, Shatanika and Shrutasena) were born to Draupadi from each of the Pancha Pandavas.
19.Khandava-daha Upa-parva (Chapters:224-236)
Krishna and Arjuna went to the banks of the Yamuna one summer day with some friends. While travelling there, both Krishna and Arjuna reached a beautiful place. The place was near Khandava Forest. Agni Deva was present there at that time. He told them that he had been suffering from stomach problems for a long time after eating the ghee of King Swetaki’s Yajna. The only way to get rid of this problem was to burn the Khandava Forest. Agni Deva also told them that while doing this, he should be protected from Indra Deva. Krishna and Arjuna agreed to do that for Agni Deva. For this, Agni Deva gifted the Gandiva (a divine bow) and an inexhaustible quiver to Arjuna and the Sudarshan Chakra (a spinning, discus weapon) and the Kaumdaki (a divine mace) to Krishna.
Krishna and Arjuna defeated Devaraja Indra, the gods and demons and fulfilled the wishes of Agni Deva by completely destroying the Khandava Forest. Although Khandava Forest was completely destroyed, Takshaka’s son Aswasena, the artificer Maya and four Saranga birds escaped unharmed. Later, Maya built a palace for the Pandavas being grateful to them.
By Krishna Das