Author’s Note

As I stated in my Introduction, I have tried my best to remain faithful to the original text of the Mahābhārata, working mainly from Śrī Manmatha Dutt’s translation (the Calcutta edition of the northern manuscript). I am most grateful to that scholar for producing his excellent text. Of course, after five thousand years and at least as many retellings, one would expect there to be variations in the details of the story. The reader may thus have heard other details. Still, I think it is fair to say that the central story is common to almost all versions.

One of my main aims was to make the work accessible without losing the spiritual message, a message given its fullest expression in the Bhagavad-gita. I would recommend everyone to read the complete text of Bhagavad-gita; I have presented it only in an abbreviated form in this book. My own references to the Bhagavad-gita text were taken from the translation with elaborate purports by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (Bhagavad-gita As It Is).

In parts, I found the Mahābhārata translations in conflict with the Bhagavata Purana, and in such cases I deferred to the Puranic version (again I used as my reference Bhaktivedanta Swami’s translation, published as Srimad Bhagavatam). The Mahābhārata is a Vaiṣṇava text, intended to give us a better understanding of—and attraction for—the Supreme Lord, particularly in His original form as Kṛṣṇa. The Bhagavata Purana deals specifically with the Lord’s many incarnations, culminating in a description of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes on earth. I was concerned to properly present this aspect of the Mahābhārata, and therefore felt the Bhagavata Purana’s version would be best. The differences are minimal, however, and occur mainly in the final chapter.

As with Rāmayana, my earlier work, I have used the omniscient voice. This is also how the original is presented. The book was first written by the Ṛṣi Vyāsadeva, who is said in the Bhagavata Purana to be the “literary incarnation” of God. He was specifically empowered by the Lord to compile the Vedic literature. Even now he is said to be still residing somewhere in the Himālayas, practicing asceticism.

In order to keep the story flowing I have abridged some sections and omitted others. For example, there are lengthy narrations unrelated to the story of the Pāṇḍavas, such as the famous tale of Savitri. I omitted such sections. Perhaps in a later work I will present these stories separately. There is also one complete and lengthy parva devoted to Bhīṣma’s instructions (Shanti parva) delivered on the bed of arrows. I have also omitted that. His instructions formed two full books in my translation, worthy itself of a separate study.

This is not an academic work. I have tried to present the original as transparently as possible but, inevitably, in presenting the story I comment on the characters and action. I pray that by the grace of the great saints in our disciplic succession, which descends from Vyāsadeva, my perspective has been consistent with his intended meaning.

I hope in my attempt to share Mahābhārata with others I have not unwittingly offended anyone. I am open to hearing from my readers; and if any errors are found, then I will correct them in future printings.

Thank you for reading the book. I hope you found it enjoyable.