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Introduction

I expect that most people taking the time to read this introduction are newcomers to the text. For those already familiar with the story, no introduction is needed. They will want to immediately enter the deep waters of Mahābhārata, waters which are at once soothing and stimulating to both heart and mind. If this is your first reading, however, although it is a cliche, I have to say, "Welcome to the wonderful world of the Mahābhārata."

Welcome to a world where gods and heroes walk the earth, where virtuous kings lead the people, where our lifetimes are seen as simply one step along an eternal path leading to worlds of unending bliss. Here is a story which will enthrall you and at the same time deliver profound lessons about every aspect of life. It was first composed in Sanskrit about five thousand years ago by Vyasadeva, a mystic residing in the Himalayas. Its central theme is the true story of the lives of five powerful rulers, the Pandavas. Woven throughout the story are other tales. We meet sages, warrior kings, and a host of other colorful personalities. Among them is Krishna, a divine incarnation and, as you will discover, the pivotal character in the book. It is due to Krishna's presence that the work is revered as a sacred text. It does, in fact, contain the Bhagavad-gita, which Krishna spoke and which has become a spiritual treatise still read daily by millions of people (as indeed is the Mahābhārata itself).

My rendition is not an academic one, nor is it unabridged. Rather, I have written it as a novel in an attempt to bring my readers into the action and to help them experience the majestic mood of ancient times. In my experience, even readers who strongly desire to read Mahabharata find themselves unable to go through the very lengthy texts of unabridged scholarly translations that are available. I have therefore attempted to make the text as accessible as possible to all kinds of readers, but without sacrificing any of the essential details of the story. I have remained faithful to the translations to which I had access, and I believe that my book is as authentic a rendition as you are likely to find.

I will not delay your reading further. I have written a note at the end giving more background information, and you will also find glossaries and appendices delineating the Mahābhāratas many characters. Now I will leave you to immerse yourself in the great ocean of the Mahābhārata. All I can add is that the book has captivated me with its sublime message, making my life richer and fuller. I pray that it may give you as much pleasure as it has given me in my many readings.

dharme charthe cha kame cha mokshe cha Maratarshabha yad ihasti tad anyatrayan nehasti na tat kvachit

"In the realm of dharma, artha, kama, and moksha, (ethics, economic development, pleasure, and liberation), whatever is found in this epic may be found elsewhere, but what is not found here will be impossible to find anywhere else." Mahābhārata, Adi Parva 56.33)

Krishna Dharma September, 1998