Mausala Parva (Sanskrit: मौसल पर्व), or the "Book of Clubs", is the sixteenth of eighteen books of the Indian Epic Mahabharata. It has 9 chapters. It is one of three shortest books in the Mahabharata.
Mausala Parva describes the demise of Krishna in the 36th year after the Kurukshetra war had ended, the submersion of Dwaraka under sea, death of Balarama by drowning in the sea, Vasudeva's death, and an internecine fight among the race of Yadavas that kills them all. The story of complete extermination of the Yadavas becomes the reason why Yudhishthira and all the Pandava brothers renounce their kingdom and begin their walk towards heaven, events recited in the last two books of the Mahabharata.
Mausala Parva is significant for serving as a basis of archaeological studies for the Mahabharata, as well as being one of the eight Parvas found in Hindu culture of Java and Bali, Indonesia.
Structure and chapters
Mausala Parva (book) has 9 adhyayas (sections, chapters) and has no secondary sub-parvas (sub-books or little books). Of the 80,000 verses in the critical edition of the Mahabharata - Mausala parva represents about 0.25% of all verses of the Epic. This makes it one of the smallest books of the Epic.
Background to Mausala parva
In days after the 18-day Kurukshetra war, Lord Krishna meets Gandhari, a meeting described in Stri Parva. In anger and grief over the death of her sons and the Kaurava soldiers, Gandhari curses Krishna with the death of all Yadavas in a manner similar to the death of her sons. She blames Krishna for his inaction and believes that he could have prevented the war and the slaughter of hundreds of millions people who died in the war. Krishna accepts the curse, explains how he had tried many times to mediate peace, how Duryodhana refused. He also explained how Duryodhana and the Kauravas had tried many times to kill the Pandavas.
The chapter begins with the announcement at the court of Pandavas that all Yadavas men were exterminated in an internecine war fought with clubs made of eraká grass. Yudhishthira asks for details. Mausala parva then recites the details.
The events start near the city of Dwarka 35 years after the end of Kurukshetra war. The empire is peaceful and prosperous, the youth of Yadavas have become frivolous and hedonistic. Krishna's son Samba dresses up as a woman and his friends meet Rishi Vishwamitra, Durvasa, Vashista, Narada and other rishis, who were visiting Dwaraka for an audience with Krishna. The young man playfully pretending to be a woman claims he is pregnant, and asks the rishis to predict the gender of the baby.
One Rishi sees through the prank. In a fit of rage, he curses Samba will give birth to an iron bolt that will destroy his entire race. The youth inform King Ugrasena what has happened, who asks Samba to powder the iron bolt and cast it into the Prabhas sea. The king also issues an order that no intoxicating spirits shall be produced or distributed in the Yadavas kingdom.
The town then witnesses several dark omens, including the disappearance of the Sudarshana Chakra, the Panchajanya (Krishna's conch), Krishna's chariot and the plough weapon of Balarama. Pests multiply. Sinful acts multiply, yet no one feels any shame. Wives deceive their husbands, and husbands deceive their wives. Everyone has the same terrifying dreams. People insult and humiliate their seniors and teachers. Krishna gets concerned, asks everyone to go on a pilgrimage to the sacred waters of the Prabhas sea. They do. When they arrive, the Yadavas revel in merry making, dance and drink lots of alcohol.
Satyaki, inebriated with wine, goes over to Kritavarma, criticizes him for scheming with Ashwatthama and killing the remaining Pandavas army while they were sleeping (see Sauptika Parva). They begin to argue who did more wrong during the war. In the ensuing fracas, Satyaki kills Kritavarma. Other Yadavas kill Satyaki for killing Kritavarma. Krishna appears and noticing that Satyaki has been slain, takes the eraká grass in his hand, which miraculously becomes a club - it is with this club he begins to slay the violent. Others pick up the grass too, which transforms into an iron club in their hands. Everyone, inebriated with alcohol, attacks everyone else. Soon everyone who is battling is dead, except Vabhru, Daruka and Krishna. Balarama survives because he was not at the fracas, and not inebriated.
Balarama and Vabhru die next. Krishna asks Daruka to go to Pandavas, tell what had happened and ask Arjuna to come with help. While Daruka was gone, the parva describes how Krishna was killed. Some of the powder cast in the Prabhas sea had been swallowed by a fish. Inside the fish, the powder has become a metal piece. Jara, a hunter, catches that fish and finds the metal. Jiru sharpens it to make an arrow. He goes hunting, and accidentally shoots Krishna, while Krishna is meditating, thinking he is a deer. Krishna consoles Jara and then ascended with his four armed form to his abode.
Vasudeva dies next while he is meditating. Arjuna arrives with help, for the Yadavas old men, women and children who are the only survivors. They, including the 16,000 wives of Krishna, together set off for Indraprastha. As they are leaving, waters rise, Dwaraka sinks into the sea. As women, children and the army of Arjuna walk towards Indraprastha, they are attacked by Mlechhas and robbers. Arjuna tries to defend, but he fails, his weapons do not work and exhaust. Many women and children panic and run off in different directions. The rest continue with Arjuna and arrive at Indraprastha. Arjuna becomes depressed and full of doubts about his warrior abilities. He meets Vyasa, and explains he feels he has failed those that depended on him for their safety and security. Sage Vyasa explains that Arjuna and his brothers have served the purpose of their lives, it is time for them to retire and renounce their kingdom, give the responsibilities to the next generation. Arjuna takes leave of Vyasa, meets with Yudhishthira and tells them what had happened.
Mausala Parva was composed in Sanskrit. Several translations in English are available. Two translations from 19th century, now in public domain, are those by Kisari Mohan Ganguli and Manmatha Nath Dutt. The translations vary with each translator's interpretations.
Debroy, in 2011, notes that updated critical edition of Mausala Parva, after removing verses generally accepted so far as spurious and inserted into the original, has 9 adhyayas (chapters) and 273 shlokas (verses).
Archaeological studies on the Mahabharata
The details in Mausala Parva have served as a source for scholarly studies on whether the Mahabharata is entirely fictional, or it is partly based on an ancient war in India. The chapters in Mausala Parva that describe Dwarka, its submergence in the Prabhasa sea, and others books of the Mahabharata have attracted the attention of scholars. It has led to the hypothesis that if any city named Dwarka existed in ancient India, it is likely to have been in the modern state of Gujarat or Maharashtra. With funding from the Government of India, the Archaeological Survey of India and National Institute of Oceanography conducted various studies since 1955, particularly since late 1970s. These studies found remnants of various temples in Gujarat, variously dated to be from 9th century, 1st century and 1st millennium BC. The studies have also found ceramic artifacts, votive jar with inscriptions praising the sea god at Bet Dwaraka (island near Dwarka, Gujarat). These have been dated to be between 500 BC and 1500 BC. Archaeological investigations at Dwarka, both on shore and offshore in the Arabian Sea, have been conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India. The first investigations carried out on land in 1963 revealed many artifacts. The objective of the investigations conducted by the Marine Archaeology Unit of the National Institute of Oceanography and the Government of Gujarat was to reconstruct the history of maritime trade, shipbuilding and cultural status of ancient city of Dwarka of the prehistoric times. Excavations done at two sites on the seaward side of Dwarka brought to light submerged settlements, stone-built jetty of large size and triangular stone anchors with three holes. The settlements are in the form of exterior and interior walls, and fort bastions.
Chronology and spread of the Epic
Mausala Parva is one of the eight books that were discovered in parts of Indonesia. In islands of Indonesia, Dutch colonial officials discovered the Epic to consist of only eight books, instead of eighteen. It is unclear if this implies the original Epic had only eight books as and when it arrived in Indonesia, or some books were lost as the Epic spread in Southeast Asia. D. Van Hinloopen Labberton reports the eight parvas as: Adi, Virata, Udyoga, Bhixma, Ashramardtm, Mausala, Prasthdnika and Svargarohana.
- Mausala Parva The Mahabharata, Translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1905)
- Mausala Parva The Mahabharata, Translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli, Published by P.C. Roy (1893)
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- Iyengar, R. N., & Radhakrishna, B. P. (2005), Evolution of the Western Coastline of India and the probable location of Dwaraka of Krsna: Geological perspectives, Journal of the Geological Society of India, 66(3), pages 285-292
- D. Van Hinloopen Labberton (1913), The Mahabharata in Mediaeval Javanese, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Cambridge University Press, pages 1-22