How does the Mahabharata Actually Begin? Adi Parva_1

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It begins with of course with the Mangalacharan as we mentioned before. Then the narration unfurls.

Sometime in the past, there was a forest called Naimisharanya. Varaha Purana has a mention of this forest, where Bhagawan explains to Gaura Mukha Muni how the forest got its name. Aranya is the Sanskrit word for forest. Bhagawan says that he had freed the Atma of a Rakshasa in Nimisha Matra, hence, this place came to be known as Nimisha-a-ranya; Naimisharanya.

In Naimisharanya lived Kulapati Maharshi Shaunaka. Kulapati is a title given to a highly intellectual and dharmic educator (ब्राह्मण) who can single handedly feed and take care of over 10,000 pupils. Maharshi Shaunaka was performing something called a satra. Satra is a dutiful action done with the aid of numerous students, through which the highest knowledge (Gyana) can be acquired. Satra spans 12 years, and Maharshi Shaunaka was amidst that, sitting among his pupils at the resting time, when Ugrashrava Sauti, the most knowledgeable of the puranas, entered most respectfully.

Known for his puranic narrations, Ugrashrava ji was quickly surrounded by the sages who had attended the 12-year sacrifice Satra in Naimisharanya. With utmost respect, they welcomed Ugrashrava ji and prepared a seat (asan) for him to sit upon. No sooner than he was rested upon his seat, one of the monks asked, “Whence comest thou, o Sauti, Where hast thou spent the time? Tell me, who ask thee in full?”

Being accomplished in speech and language, Sauti ji began speaking, “The son of Chakravarty Samrat Parikshit Maharaj, Janamejaya performed the snake sacrifice called the sarpayagya. It was here Sri Vaisampayana recited the verses of Mahabharata composed by Sri Krishnadwaipaya Vyas (Ved Vyasa). I am here after listening to those versus of Mahabharata, riddled with deep wisdom and meaning.”

Hence, Mahabharata was passed from Sri Krishnadwaipaya Vyas (also known as Ved Vyas, to Sri Vaisampayana, who then narrated to Janamejaya, son of Parikshit Raja, which was also heard by Ugrashrava ji, who then narrates to the sages in Naimisharanya. We are reading that narration, reiterated by Shanka Chakra in this article.

“I travelled the world, going to the different auspicious places (तीर्थ यात्रा), I went to Kurukshetra, the country where the Pandava and the Kaurava army fought. To experience the grace of your blessings, I have come here. I understand that you are all great men who shine wisdom brighter than the sun. As you are all bathed and have fulfilled your nitya karma (Personal Duties), I ask you, what would you like to hear from me today? Stories that contain precepts of religious duty and worldly profit (Dharma and Artha), or acts of illustrious saints and sovereign mankind?(Itihasa and purana)”.


The sages thus speak, “we are certain that the Mahabharata recited by Sri Vaisampayana, under the direct guidance of Sri Krishnadwaipayana harbours all the knowledge of the Vedas. Hence we would like to hear that, with your kindness and blessings.”

Sauti ji then begins narrating the Mahabharata.


This is the actual beginning of Mahabharata. There are many stories within the stories. And that unequivocally builds the complex state of affairs through this Itihasa (History). However, it is easy to get a grip once you begin to remember the names. Hence, all these articles are made short, for you to watch it in repetition so as to remember the numerous names and occurrences. That way when we progress with the narration, you will be able to recall the backstories more vividly.


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जय श्रीमन्नारायण

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