Virata Parva

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In Book 2 of Mahabharata, the Pandavas agree to spend 13th year of their exile incognito. Virata Parva describes their efforts at living under concealed identities (shown above), traumas and adventures.

Virata Parva, also known as the “Book of Virata”, is the fourth of eighteen books of the Indian Epic Mahabharata.[1] Virata Parva has 4 sub-books and 72 chapters.[2]

It discusses the 13th year of exile which the Pandavas must spend incognito to avoid another 12 years of exile in the forest. They do so in the court of Virata.[3] They assume a variety of concealed identities. Yudhisthira assumes the identity of game entertainer to the king and calls himself Kanka, Bhima of a cook Ballava, Arjuna teaches dance and music as enuch Brihannala and dresses as a woman, Nakula tends horses as Granthika, Sahadeva herds cows as Tantipala, and Draupadi maids as Sairandhri to queen Shudeshna.[2][4]

Structure and chapters[edit]

This book has 4 sub-parvas (sub-books or little books) and 72 adhyayas (sections, chapters).[2][3] The following are the sub-parvas:

1. Pandava pravesha parva (sections: 1 - 13)[2]
The Pandavas discuss ways they can each conceal their identity for one year, and thus meet the pledge they made at the time of their exile. While Pandavas have grown up in a princely family, they must now assume non-princely professions to avoid being detected. If they are detected, the terms of their exile pledge would extend the exile by another 12 years. Yudhisthira assumes the name of Kanka, Bhima of Ballaba,[5] Arjuna dresses up in a saree and assumes the name of Vrihannala,[6] Nakula as Granthika, Sahadeva as Tantipala,[7] and Draupadi as Sairandhri.[4][8] The parva describes Pandavas' life as workers in Virata's kingdom, with king Virata as a famous cow baron.[1]
Maid Sairandhri (Draupadi) is humiliated in Virata's court by Kichaka (left) in the last month of the 13th year. Bhima kills Kichaka.
2. Kichaka-vadha parva (sections: 14 - 24)[3]
Kichaka,[9] the commander of king Virata's forces, sees maid Sairandhri (incognito Draupadi), lusts for her. Kichaka approaches the queen, and inquires about Sairandhri. The queen does not know the true identity of Sairandhri, and arranges a meeting. Sairandhri informs Kichaka that she is married, and his stalking of her is inappropriate and against Dharma. Kichaka offers her release from being a maid and a life of luxury. Sairandhri says it is wrong for him to continue pursuing her. Kichaka gets desperate, desires Sairandhri even more. Queen Shudeshna asks Sairandhri to go get wine for her from Kichaka's house. Sairindhri goes in fear to Kichaka house to get wine. Kichaka meets her there, tries to molest her, Sairandhri pushes him and runs to the court of king Virata. Kichaka chases her, catches and kicks her in the court of Virata in front of the king. Sairandhri (Draupadi) demands justice from the king. Virata and Kanka (Yudhisthira) console Sairandhri, promise due investigation of all facts and then justice. Sairandhri, upset with her humiliation, the delay in justice, scolds both the king and Kanka. The queen learns about the mistreatment of Sairindhri, promises death to Kichaka. Draupadi meets Bhima, describes her humiliation by Kichaka, as well as how frustrated she has been with the 12 years of exile, for suffering the vice of her husband Yudhisthira. Draupadi explains why Kichaka is evil, explains she repeatedly rejected Kichaka, and demands Kichaka's death. Next day, Kichaka again approaches maid Sairandhri, and harasses her. Sairandhri asks him to meet her at a hiding place. Bhima meets Kichaka instead, and kills Kichaka. Friends and family of Kichaka blame maid Sairandhri, for Kichaka's death, catch her and try to burn her to death. Bhima gets upset, attacks and kills all those trying to burn Sairandhri. Draupadi is saved.[2] The story presents the interconnectedness of crime to people related to the victim and the perpetrator, their emotions and how people take sides. Kichaka story from the Mahabharata is one of those that is dramatized in Indian classical dances, such as Kathakali.[10]
3. Go-grahana parva (sections: 25 - 69)[2][11]
Prince Uttara, with the help of Arjuna, defeats the attack by the army of Kuru brothers. He returns to his capital with wealth and cows that were looted from Matsya kingdom. This story is recited in Go-grahana sub-book of Virata Parva.[3]
The evil Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana disclose their spies have been looking for Pandavas in forests, villages, provinces and cities, unsuccessfully. Two more weeks are left of the 13th year of exile. Karna suggests they hire more competent spies, fan inside their kingdom, in holy places among ascetics, and in distant kingdoms. Drona recommends that instead of sending spies, Dhritarashtra should seek peace and welcome the Pandavas. Bhishma agrees with Drona, counsels Dhritarashtra to find the brothers where they are likely to be and bring them back. Bhishma speculates that the good and high souled people like Pandava brothers always create prosperity, peace, cheer and health of all creatures wherever they go. Look for them in places where prosperity and cheer has recently increased. Kripa agrees with Bhishma speculation, but suggests Dhritarashtra to prepare for war to kill Pandavas, as they are likely to be weak and without soldiers at the end of the exile. Susharma, the king of Trigartas, present during this discussion, suggests Virata kingdom fits this profile. Susharma recommends an attack on the Virata's kingdom of Matsya, seizure of its wealth of kine (cows) and recent prosperity. The army of Susharma attack Matsya, loot his kine and wealth, take king Virata captive. Bhima recommends immediate retaliation and war. Yudhisthira recommends caution and careful response. Pandavas join the war. Bhima frees Viarata, takes injured Susharma captive. Yudhisthira recommends that Susharma - the prisoner of war - be forgiven and freed, not killed. Virata, accompanied with Yudhisthira and Bhima, leaves his kingdom to bring back the kine and wealth from Susharma. In Virata's absence, Duryodhana and his army attack Viarata's kingdom of Matsya. Prince Uttara, the son of Virata, attempts a response, but is afraid of war. Arjuna becomes the charioteer of Uttara. Uttara and Arjuna enter the war. The parva then describes several battles, between Arjuna and Karna, Arjuna and Kripa, the battle of Ashwathama. Bhishma is defeated, Duryodhana retreats. Prince Uttara returns victorious with wealth and Arjuna.
4. Vaivahika parva (sections: 70 - 72)[3]
Arjuna discloses to king Virata that he and his Pandava brothers have been in his kingdom in disguise, over the 13th year of their exile. Virata's daughter princess Uttarā marries Arjuna's son Abhimanyu.

English translations[edit]

Several translations of the Sanskrit book Virata Parva in English are available. Two translations from 19th century, now in public domain, are those by Kisari Mohan Ganguli[3] and Manmatha Nath Dutt.[2] The translations vary with each translator's interpretations.

J. A. B. van Buitenen completed an annotated edition of Virata Parva, based on critically edited and least corrupted version of Mahabharata known in 1975.[1] Debroy, in 2011, notes that updated critical edition of Virata Parva, with spurious and corrupted text removed, has 4 sub-books, 67 adhyayas (chapters) and 1,736 shlokas (verses).[12] Debroy's translation of a critical edition of Virata Parva appears in Volume 4 of his series.[13]

Clay Sanskrit Library has published a 15 volume set of the Mahabharata which includes a translation of Virata Parva by Kathleen Garbutt. This translation is modern and uses an old manuscript of the Epic. The translation does not remove verses and chapters now widely believed to be spurious and smuggled into the Epic in 1st or 2nd millennium AD.[14]

Scholars such as E. Washburn Hopkins have suggested[15] the entire Virata Parva may be a later insertion in the original epic Bharata, and of recent origins. Where in the book does he state that? This is false statement.

His analysis is based on the different meter of the verses in Virata Parva, out of sequence matter,

Washburn in analaysis states that meter and sequence matter makes Virata older than Geeta and Santi Parva. Where does it state that Virata is a later insertion.

the sudden appearance of names of new goddesses (Durga) and their worship - names that do not appear in older verses of the Mahabharata or in other ancient texts of India, implied customs and social stratification that is absent or inconsistent in other books of the Mahabharata,

This statement is wrong as well, Washburn mentions that upajatis are not mentioned in Virata implying it is Older not later Parva.

as well as claims about the number of years Arjuna carried the bow before the battle in Go-grahana Parva - a claim that simply doesn't add up and is inconsistent with rest of the Mahabharata. 

It is not. Wasburn mentions this as example of issue with Abhimanyu being 16 years and his assumption that Arjuna's age was 65. Both the problems were cleared in Critical edition where the age of abhimanyu is never stated to be 16.

Washburn states that Virata changes were to reduce the godhood of Arjuna which is clearly proclaimed in as per Washburn Arjuna's godhead is proclaimed to him in iii, 41, 35, 43; 47, 7.

Washburn argues for Godhood of Arjuna as well. He is not pulling down Virata.

Actually Washburn mentions Virata term just three times in entire book and actually compares its age favorably to Santi Parva and Geeta. second time on keechaka vadha and third time saying pandava ally. He mentions Karna parva as the major issue and Karna stories as major interpolations and mentions Karna 27 times and 42 times Karna stories as problematic.

Washburn also indicates that Drona was killed correctly and later additions made it seem that he was killed by an untruth.

Buitenen takes a different view on Virata parva as per original poster's statement on Washburn.[16] He accepts that Virata Parva is a book that was added in the second major expansion of the Hindu Epic, yet the concerns of Hopkins, while true, do not establish the entire Parva was added at much later date. These insertions can be recent interpolations, corruption of text, and careless scribing over the centuries. Buitenen reminds that Matsya kingdom and king Virata play a significant role in Udyoga Parva, the great war and later books - all of which, in the style of the Mahabharata, require chapters that introduce king Virata and Matsya kingdom. This introduction, we find in Virata Parva.[15][16]

Quotations and teachings[edit]

Abhimanyu marries princess Uttarā in Virata Parva. Their story is often displayed in traditional Wayang (puppet, pop and theatre) in the Hindu culture found in Bali and pockets of Java, Indonesia.[17]

Pandava Pravesha Parva, Chapter 4:

A wise man should never contract friendship with the wife of the king nor with other attendants of his, nor with those whom he despises and who are hostile to him.

—Pandava Pravesha Parva, Virata Parva, Mahabharata Book iv.4.19[18]

Pandava Pravesha Parva, Chapter 14:

Tell me, O lady, who is this bewitching girl of fine beauty, endued with the grace of a goddess, and whose she is and where she comes from. She has brought me to subjection by grinding my heart. I think there is no other medicine to heal me, except her.

—Kichaka lusting for Draupadi, Pandava Pravesha Parva, Virata Parva, Mahabharata Book iv.14.8[19]

Kichaka-badha Parva, Chapter 21:

That wicked-souled Kichaka is war like, proud, outrager of female modesty and engrossed in all objects of pleasure. He steals money from the king. He extorts money from others, even if they cry in woe; he never stays in paths of rectitude nor does he even feel inclined to virtue. He is wicked-souled, of sinful disposition, impudent, villaneous and afflicted by Cupid's shaft. Although I have repeatedly rejected him, he will, I am sure, outrage me, whenever he happens to see me.

—Draupadi explaining her case against Kichaka, Kichaka-badha Parva, Virata Parva, Mahabharata Book iv.21.36-39[20]

Go-harana Parva, Chapter 38:

Uttara said: Let the Kurus take away the profuse riches of the Matsyas as they like; let men and women laugh at me, O Vrihannala. Let the kine go any where, let my city be desolate, let me fear my father, but I shall not enter into battle.
Vrihannala said: To fly is not the practice of the brave; death in battle is preferable to flight in fear.

—Vrihannala (icognito Arjuna) and Prince Uttara fearful of war, Go-harana Parva, Virata Parva, Mahabharata Book iv.38.26-29[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c J. A. B. van Buitenen (Translator), The Mahabharata, Volume 3, 1978, ISBN 978-0226846651, University of Chicago Press
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Virata Parva The Mahabharata, Translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1896)
  3. ^ a b c d e f Virata Parva Mahabharata, Translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli, Published by P.C. Roy (1884)
  4. ^ a b J. A. B. van Buitenen (Translator), The Mahabharata, Volume 3, 1978, ISBN 978-0226846651, University of Chicago Press, pages 9-10
  5. ^ sometimes spelled Ballava, Vallabha
  6. ^ sometimes spelled Brihannala, Bŗhannaḑā
  7. ^ Also spelled Tantripala. Sahadeva claims his family name is Arishtanemi; in some literature he is referred to as Arishtanemi
  8. ^ sometimes spelled Shairandhri, Sairaṃdhrỉ
  9. ^ sometimes spelled Kicaka, See cited J. A. B. van Buitenen source at pages 11-12
  10. ^ David Boland (2006), The Mahabharata in Kathakali Dance Drama, Global Vision Publishing, ISBN 978-8182201811, pages 105-129
  11. ^ Monier Williams (1868), Indian Epic Poetry, University of Oxford, Williams & Norgate - London, page 105-107
  12. ^ Bibek Debroy, The Mahabharata : Volume 3, ISBN 978-0143100157, Penguin Books, page xxiii - xxiv of Introduction
  13. ^ Bibek Debroy (2011), The Mahabharata, Volume 4, Penguin, ISBN 978-0143100164, Virata Parva
  14. ^ Kathleen Garbutt, Book IV, The Clay Sanskrit Library, Mahabharata: 15-volume Set, ISBN 978-0-8147-3183-3, New York University Press, Bilingual Edition
  15. ^ a b E. Washburn Hopkins (1901), The great epic of India: its character and origin New York Charles Scribner's Sons, University of Toronto Archives
  16. ^ a b J. A. B. van Buitenen (Translator), The Mahabharata, Volume 3, 1978, ISBN 978-0226846651, University of Chicago Press, pages 18-19
  17. ^ Parto, F. S. (2001), Recent history of Javanese classical dance: A reassessment. Contemporary Theatre Review, 11(1), pages 9-17
  18. ^ Manmatha Nath Dutt (1896), Virata Parva, The Mahabharata, Elysium Press
  19. ^ Manmatha Nath Dutt (1896), Virata Parva, The Mahabharata, Elysium Press
  20. ^ Manmatha Nath Dutt (1896), Virata Parva, The Mahabharata, Elysium Press
  21. ^ Manmatha Nath Dutt (1896), Virata Parva, The Mahabharata, Elysium Press

External links[edit]