The Stri Parva (Sanskrit: स्त्री पर्व), or the "Book of the Women," is the eleventh of eighteen books of the Indian Epic Mahabharata. It traditionally has 4 sub-books and 27 chapters, as does the critical edition.
Sometimes spelled Stree Parva, it describes the grief of women because of the war. The parva recites the grief of men too, such as of Dhritrashtra and the Pandava brothers. The chapters include a treatise by Vidura and Vyasa on passage rites with words of comfort for those who have lost loved ones, as well as the saṃsāra fable of the man and a well.
Structure and chapters
- 1. Vishoka parva
- 2. Stri parva
- 3. Shraddha parva
- 4. Jalapradanika parva
Stri Parva recites the trauma and grief of women after the war. It opens with a statement of Dhritrashtra's grief at the death of all his sons and grandsons. Sages Vidura and Vyasa console his grief with a treatise on death and emotional loss. These chapters present the theory of birth-rebirth. Dhristrashtra and Kaurava women then visit the battlefield. The women express their grief from loss and question war - they criticize both sides for unleashing the war and death.
In later chapters of Stree Parva, Pandava brothers and women from Pandava side meet Dhristrashtra. The blind Kaurava king attempts to kill Bhima in retaliation for Duryodhana's death - but fails because of an intervention by Krishna. Dhristrashtra repents. The Pandavas with Krishna and sages thereafter go to see Gandhari, the upset and weeping Kaurava mother who had lost all her sons and grandsons at the war. Sage Vyasa reminds her of the wisdom she taught to her sons, "victory follows righteousness", then counsels that the war was one fought for righteousness. Gandhari replies that she forgives the war, but finds it difficult to forgive actions during the war that were unjust. She demands to know why the rules of just war were abused, why cruelty (adharma) was practiced during the war. They debate whether the promise of quicker peace justify use of weapons that kill indiscriminately, other war crimes and horrors by one side against the other side. Bhima argues it does. The sages present provide a different perspective. Gandhari curses Krishna for not doing anything even though he had the power to prevent the slaughter and unjust actions during the war. Krishna accepts her curse, but reminds her that she applauded her sons when they committed wicked deeds before the war and she is questioning justice in and after war, a justice she denied others before the war.
After Gandhari, the Pandava brothers meet Kunti and Draupadi, two women on the side of Pandavas, who express their own grief for the war. They grieve and suggest war is easy to start but war never ends, and its consequences are painfully long. Dhristarashtra asks Yudhishthira as to how many people died and escaped from the 18-day Kurukshetra War on the two sides. Yudhishthira replies 1,660,020,000 human beings died, while 240,165 people abandoned the Kurukshetra war. The two sides together perform passage rites in river Ganges, in the memory of those who gave their lives during the war.
Stri parva includes Vyasa's and Vidura's treatise about death and grief, passage rites in last two Chapters, as well as saṃsāra through the fable of the man, the forest, the bees, the honey, the elephant and a well in Chapters 2 through 7.
Stri Parva was composed in Sanskrit. Some Sanskrit manuscripts discovered in different parts of India title the sub-books differently. 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.
Clay Sanskrit Library has published a 15 volume set of the Mahabharata which includes a translation of Stri Parva by Kate Crosby. 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.
Debroy, in 2011, notes that updated critical edition of Stri Parva, after removing verses and chapters generally accepted so far as spurious and inserted into the original, has 4 sub-books, 27 adhyayas (chapters) and 713 shlokas (verses).
Quotes and teachings
Jalapradanika parva, Chapter 2:
When all else is asleep, Time is awake, Time is irresistible.
Youth, beauty, life, possessions, health, and the companionship of friends, all are unstable.
It behoveth thee not to grieve for what is universal.
Do not indulge in your grief.
Grief itself, by being indulged in, never becomes light.
By dwelling on it, one cannot lessen it.
On the other hand, grief grows with indulgence.
One should treat mental grief by wisdom, just as physical grief should be treated by medicine.
Wisdom hath this power.
- Ganguli, K.M. (1883-1896) "Stri Parva" in The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa (12 Volumes). Calcutta
- Dutt, M.N. (1902) The Mahabharata (Volume 11): Stree Parva. Calcutta: Elysium Press
- van Buitenen, J.A.B. (1973) The Mahabharata: Book 1: The Book of the Beginning. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, p 477
- Debroy, B. (2010) The Mahabharata, Volume 1. Gurgaon: Penguin Books India, pp xxiii - xxvi
- Murdoch, J. (1898) The Mahabharata - An English Abridgment. London: Christian Literature Society for India, ppp 105-107
- Satya P. Agarwal (1 January 2002). Selections from the Mahābhārata: Re-affirming Gītā's Call for the Good of All. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 123–. ISBN 978-81-208-1874-3. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
- van Nooten, B. A. (1972) The Mahabharata. Twayne Publishers. ISBN 978-0805725643
- Stri Parva The Mahabharata, Translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1897)
- Bibek Debroy, The Mahabharata : Volume 3, ISBN 978-0143100157, Penguin Books, page xxiii - xxiv of Introduction
- James L. Fitzgerald, The Mahabharata, Volume 7, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-25250-7, pages 27-74
- Kate Crosby, Book X and XI, The Clay Sanskrit Library, Mahabharata: 15-volume Set, ISBN 978-0-8147-1727-1, New York University Press, Bilingual Edition
- Stri Parva The Mahabharata, Translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli (1889), Chapter 2, page 6 Abridged