Vana Parva

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The Pandavas go into exile (pictured) for 13 years - the first 12 years in forest, the last year incognito. Aranya Parva describes the first 12 years of the exile.

Vana Parva or Aranya Parva, also known as the "Book of the Forest", is the third of eighteen parvas of the Indian epic Mahabharata.[1] Aranya Parva traditionally has 21 sub-books and 324 chapters.[2][3] The critical edition of Aranya Parva has 16 sub-books and 299 chapters.[4][5] It is one of the longest books in the Epic.[6]

It discusses the twelve-year sojourn of the Pandavas in the forest, the lessons they learn there and how it builds their character.[7]

It is one of the longest of the 18 books in the Mahabharata, and contains numerous discussions on virtues and ethics, along with myths of Arjuna, Yudhishthara, Bhima tales of "Nahusha the snake and Yudhishthira" as well as "Ushinara and the hawk", love stories of "Nala and Damayanti", as well as "Savitri and Satyavan".[1][7]

Structure and chapters[edit]

This book traditionally has 21 sub-parvas (sub-books or little books) and 324[8] sections (chapters).[3][9] The following are the sub-parva(s):

1. Aranyak Parva (sections: 1–10)[9]
The Pandavas go into exile to the forest of Kamyaka. Sage Vidura advises Dhritarashtra to recall Yudhishthira and give him back his kingdom. Dhritarashtra refuses, so Vidura leaves and joins the Pandava brothers. Vyasa, as well as Maitreya counsel Dhritarashtra to conclude peace with the Pandavas. Dhritarashtra refuses.
2. Kirmirabadh Parva (section 11)
The battle between the man-eating demon Kirmira and the giant Pandava brother, Bhima. Kirmira is killed.
3. Arjunabhigamana Parva (sections: 12–37)[10]
The parva introduces Krishna, his accomplishments in the past. Krishna criticizes gambling as one of four sins that ruins a man, laments he was absent when Yudhishthira accepted the game of dice. Yudhishthira expresses remorse and anguish for his gambling habit. Krishna suggests persuasion, followed by force if necessary, is appropriate to prevent one's friend before he commits a sinful act such as gambling. Draupadi appeals to Yudhishthira to wreak vengeance on Kaurava (Kuru) brothers. In Chapters 27 through 36, the theory of forgiveness is debated between various characters - should one always forgive, never forgive, and forgive sometimes; when is it appropriate to forgive people or oneself, when it is not; what are appropriate and proportionate punishment? The chapters also discuss anger, how it is destructive to a person and to society at large. Draupadi offers arguments of cause and effect of actions (karma), suggests free will, and questions whether forgiveness defeats the principle of consequences. Yudhishthira disagrees with Draupadi, and presents the theory that virtue is its own reward. Draupadi praises those who believe in free will and shape the future, she censures those who believe in chance or destiny. Bhima questions whether virtue is virtue if it creates misery for everyone; suggests that Dharma (virtue) and Artha (profit) and Kama (emotional pleasure) should normally go together, thereafter he presents arguments for use of will and force to regain the kingdom. Yudhishthira disagrees with Bhima, argues one must keep one's pledge once made. The arguments are left open ended, with no consensus conclusion presented, the characters retire from the debate pensively. Vyasa arrives, and shares the theory and knowledge of Pratismriti with the Pandavas.
4. Kirata Parva (sections: 38–41)[9][11]
Arjuna meditates and lives like an austere Rishi in the forest, to gain knowledge. Due to his fierce penances, all Rishis went to god of gods Sthanu(Shiva) to relieve them. Knowing Arjuna desire, that god of Pinaka visits Arjuna, disguised as Kirata, accompanied by Uma(wife), spirits, and women in thousands. At that time, a boar is about to attack Arjuna. But was struck down by two shafts. They both quarreled that he himself is the one who killed boar not other. Then they battle each other, in which Arjuna get amused that all shafts that he fired, either got baffled or consumed by that person remaining unharmed, considering he is not an ordinary person but a divine. Soon Arjuna's shafts were exhausted, so he started to fight with his bow, but it was snatched by that god. Then Arjuna struck his golden hilt sword upon the head of that Kirata, but as soon as it touched his crown, broke into pieces. Then they both wrestled and fistfighted in which at last Kairata press Arjuna with his chest and Arjuna became deprived of his senses. Regaining senses, Arjuna started to worshipped Mahadeva offering floral garlands. However, he finds the garland that he offered, decking the crown of the Kairata he understands the whole situation. Shiva reveals his true identity and blesses Arjuna with the knowledge of Pasupata weapon. Indra and other deities visit Arjuna and provides him their weapon. Yama(god of death) gives his mace, Varuna(lord of water) his divine noose, and Kubera(lord of treasures) grant his favourite weapon called 'Antarddhana'(sleeping weapon).
5. Indralokagamana Parva (sections: 42–51)[3]
Aranya Parva has the love story of Nala and Damayanti, where Nala like Yudhishthira once suffered from gambling. The story describes how Nala overcomes his mistake and learns a life lesson. The story also describes how a swan introduces Nala to Damayanti, carries love messages between them, how at her Swayamvara - the time to choose whom she will marry, she picks Nala the human, from a parade of gods.[12][13]
Arjuna visits heaven. The parva describes the city of Indra. Gods furnish celestial weapons to Arjuna. Goddess Urvasi seduces Arjuna, enters his bedroom. Married Arjuna declines to mate with her. Urvasi gets angry, curses. Deity Indra converts the curse into a boon.
6. Nalopakhyana Parva (sections: 52–79)[9]
Yudhishthira continues in his anguish that his gambling error has caused, declares himself the most wretched person on earth. Vrihadashwa consoles him with the story of Nala, another prince who erred by gambling, and recovered from his mistake. Nalopakhyana parva recites the love story of prince Nala and princess Damayanti, who never met each other, yet fall in love with each other, after learning about each other's character, virtues, passions and beliefs through a hansa (swan). The feathery messenger transmits their love messages. Damayanti's father announces a Swayamvara - a contest between eligible bachelors so that Damayanti can watch and choose the man she wants to marry. The gods arrive to win over Damayanti, the gods pick Nala as their representative and messenger. Nala is in a bind, but tries honestly to convince Damayanti that she marry Indra, or one of the deities. Damayanti picks Nala, the human. One of the gods gets upset at Damayanti's choice, so he challenges Nala to a game of dice. Nala, like Yudhishthira, loses the game and the kingdom to Pushkara; he goes into exile, Nala and Damayanti are separated even though they want to be together. Damayanti runs away from her father's kingdom. Several chapters describe their various traumas and adventures. Damayanti's father finds her, she returns to the kingdom. A new, second Swayamvara is announced. Nala comes to the kingdom disguised as Vahuka. Damayanti discovers Vahuka, knows it is Nala. They meet, talk. Nala gets the kingdom back from Pushkara. Damayanti and Nala take over the kingdom, live happily ever after.[13] The story inspires Yudhishthira to focus on the future.
7. Tirtha-yatra Parva (sections: 80–157)[3]
Sage Narada visits the Pandava brothers. He suggests tirthas to Pandava brothers - a visit to holy places in India. The parva provides the benefits, directions and a list of tirthas - Kurukshetra, Ganga, Yamuna, Prayaga, Pratisthana, Brahmasara, and others. Pandavas start the Narada-recommended tirthas. The history of various gods is described. The parva includes the story of Ushinara, the pigeon and the hawk. The hawk wants to eat the pigeon, pigeon comes to Ushinara and requests protection from hawk. The hawk questions Ushinara as to why he is going against Dharma - the principles of life. Ushinara explains that it is his Dharma to protect the weak from the strong. The hawk claims that by denying him pigeon-food, Ushinara is denying food to his children and his wife in his nest, as well he who is oppressed by hunger; by protecting the pigeon, Ushinara is saving the pigeon but killing baby-hawks. The parva then presents the theory of contesting virtues,[14] that is when one good is in conflict with another good, how must one choose between two goods, between two conflicting virtues? Ushinara answers with the theory of preponderance, then offers to hunt and feed the hawk, an offer that is questioned and rejected on celestial Dharma grounds by the hawk. Finally, to save the pigeon's life, Ushinara offers his own flesh when asked by the hawk. Ushinara cuts his own flesh of volume equal to pigeon, and weighs it. It falls short, so he cuts and adds more of his own flesh. But the pigeon's weight keeps on increasing. Ushinara finally has to weigh his whole body to equal that of the pigeon - when he does so, the hawk reappears as deity Indra and the pigeon reappears as deity Agni. They restore Ushinara, praise his virtue and compassion. Other stories include king Janaka's sacrifice, king Somaka and his liberation from hell, how Bhagiratha brought Ganges river to earth from heaven, the births of Ashtavakra, Mandhata and Rishyasringa, the journey of Bhima for celestial lotuses.
8. Yaksha-yudha Parva (sections: 158–164)[9]
A demon kidnaps Yudhishthira, Draupadi and the twins. Bhima finds and slays the demon. Pandavas arrive at the hermitage of Arshtishena. Arjuna returns from heaven.
9. Nivata-kavacha-yudha Parva (sections: 165–175)[3]
Arjuna describes his travel, why he left, where he was, what he did. Arjuna shows the celestial weapons he now possessed. He demonstrates their effectiveness by destroying the aerial city of Hiranyapura, then proceeds to demonstrate before Yudhishthira his power further. In Chapter 175, sage Narada appears, counsels that war and weapons should not be unleashed unless there is necessary and compelling cause, that rash violence is destructive and wrong. This puts a stop to the violence.
10. Ajagara Parva (sections: 176–181)[9]
Pandavas arrive at Kailaca. A mighty snake, Nahusha ties up the giant Pandava brother, Bhima. Yudhishthira searches for Bhima, finds him in snake's grip. The snake offers to free Bhima if Yudhishthira answers his questions. The snake and Yudhishthira ask each other questions. This is a discourse on Dharma, the theory of birth-rebirth, transmigration and how to achieve moksha in Chapters 180 to 181. These chapters also offers a theory of caste - claiming it is very difficult to ascertain one's caste because all orders have had promiscuous intercourse. Ajagara Parva claims people from all the four castes are without restriction constantly interbreeding. All four have the same speech, cohabit, they all are born and die the same way. What matters, claims Yudhishthira, is the character of a person.[15] Yudhishthira and the snake then discuss the relative merit of four virtues (charity, kind speech, truthfulness and unenviousness), which virtue is better than the other? They discuss universal spirit and salvation from transmigration. The snake lets go of Bhima, is itself released from a curse, appears as Nahusha, and achieves salvation.
11. Markandeya-Samasya Parva (sections: 182–231)[9]
Markandeya presents the story of yugas (Kreta, Treta, Dapara and Kali yugas), and of Vami horses. Through Chapters 200 to 206, the parva offers contrasting views - both traditional and ritualistic, as well as knowledge and personal development - on vice and virtues.[16] The parva, in Chapters 207–211, presents one of the many discussions on Karma doctrine, in Mahabharata. Chapters 211 to 215 explain the relationship between self discipline, virtues and qualities (sattva, rajas and tamas), how these qualities enables one to achieve knowledge of the supreme spirit. Markandeya-Samasya parva recites the story of Vrihaspati and of Skanda.
12. Draupadi-Satyabhama Samvada Parva (sections: 232–234)[9]
Satyabhama asks Draupadi for advice on how to win affections of Krishna. Draupadi outlines duties of a wife.
Chapters 258–260 of Aranya Parva describe the meeting of Pandavas and sage Vyasa in the forest (above). The sage tells the story of Mudgala, who after his death, refuses to go to heaven, prefers the path of knowledge instead. The swans carrying Mudgala (below) signify his moksha.[3]
13. Ghosha-yatra Parva (sections: 235–256)[3]
Sakuni advises Duryodhana to confront the Pandavas in exile, but Dhritarashtra dissaudes Duryodhana. Taking permission from king, Duryodhana accompanied by Karna, Sakuni and by many of his brothers, surrounded by a large host, started for beholding the Dwaitavana (lake). They met Gandharvas there and ask them to leave the spot but were refused. Duryodhana filled with rage entered with his ranks into that forest. Chitrasena knowing this with rage commanded his followers to punish those wretches. Seeing the armed Gandharvas rushing towards them, the Kuru warriors started to flee. And beholding the Kuru soldiers all flying from field to the foe, the heroic Radheya came forward to check them. And he started to slaughter them great in number. Desirous of supporting Karna, all troops returned to fight against those Gandharvas. Then whole Gandharvas host began to fight with the Kauravas, but succeded not in resisting them. The angry Chitrasena seeing his army in fear, from outside of battle, used his weapon of illusion, making Kaurava warriors to deprive of senses, causing them to see each Gandharvas as ten. And Kaurava army thus greatly afflicted, struck with panic, fled from field. But while the entire host broke and fled, Karna, that offspring of the sun, stood there, immovable as hill, still slaughtering them by large. All the Gandharvas then, desirous of slaying Karna, rushed together by thousands towards Karna. Surrounding him on all sides with weapons, they broke his car into minute fragments. Thus attacked, Karna leaped therefrom with sword and shield in hand, and mounting Vikarna's car, fled for saving himself. But King Duryodhana refused to flee, thus captured. The soldiers, who were routed, approached Pandavas for help. Bhima started to speak cruel word in sarcasm for Duryodhan but Yudhishthira explains to him that its not about dispute and disunion it is the honor of the family bloodline at stake. Hearing these words, Arjuna vows to rescue Duryodhana. And casing themselves in mail and arming themselves they mount the chariot and proceeded to that spot. Arjuna reaching there asks them to leave Suyodhana, but they started to laugh, thus Arjuna attacks them with shower of arrows, and a battle commenced between them. Then Arjuna provoked, started to hurl against them his celestial weapons. By means of Agneya(fire) weapon, killed ten thousand Gandharvas at an instant. Then they rose up in the sky and started to attack from above. But Arjuna checked them also with net weapons. By weapons called Sthunakarna, Indrajala, Saura, Agneya and Saumya, he sent most of the Gandharvas to the abode of Yama. And seeing his army in fear, Chitrasena rushed, and started to attack Arjuna from above. But Arjuna resisted his attack. By means of his science, he concealed himself from view and began to fight. The heroic Arjuna, however, countered enemy attacks by his own celestial weapons. Then seeing thus he was checked by Arjuna celestial weaponry, he entirely disappeared from sight. But Arjuna broke his concealment, by weapon called Sabda-veda. Thus assassiled Chitrasena accepts defeat and told him all the plan of Duryodhana. Then they went to Yudhishthira to know his desire. Hearing everything, he represent them to liberate Duryodhana and applauded the Gandharvas. Till now, Indra had also discovered the way of reviving beings, and coming to that spot, revived those Gandharvas that had been slain by his son, by sprinkling the celestial Amrita(nectar) over them. This act of kindness by Yudhishthira makes Duryodhana despondent, and refused to go back to his Kingdom. Karna and Sakuni tries to soothe Duryodhana but fails, then inside of his mind Duryodhana sees a Demon who tells him his origin and asks him to let his grief cease as long as Bhisma, Drona, Karna who possess soul of slain Naraka(Demon) are by his side he should not fear. Having gained consciousness and considering everything as a dream, he then stood up cheerfully saying 'I shall defeat the Pandavas in battle' went back to his Kingdom. On returning, they were critisized by Bhisma. Karna then for showing his worth, said that he will single handed conquor this earth for him, which he does. Then Duryodhana organizes Vaishnava sacrifices, and also invites Pandavas to come, but they refused due to their vow of exile. Intelligence, further, brought by spies of Karna valor, Dharma's son became exceedingly anxious. And considering Karna of the impenetrable mail to be of wonderful prowess, he knew no peace.
14. Mriga Sapnovbhava Parva (section 257)[3]
Yudhishthira has a dream about a deer, who complains that the Pandavas living in the forest have invited many people to live there. The residents hunt indiscriminately, and the deer fear they will be exterminated. The deer pleads with Yudhishthira to move to another location, which will protect the deer species from extinction. Yudhishthira concludes that it is his Dharma to ensure the welfare of all creatures, including animals in a forest. The Pandava brothers discuss it, agree that wildlife deserves their compassion, and decide to move. The Pandavas move from DwaitaAranya forest to Kamyaka forest.
15. Vrihi Drounika Parva (sections: 258–260)[9]
Chapter 258 describes the 11th year of the Pandavas' exile. Sage Vyasa visits the Pandavas. He instructs on morality. Vyasa recites the story of Rishi Mudgala, who after his death refused to be taken to heaven - the abode of celestial happiness. The story then describes Parabrahma, a place of contemplation and Jnana yoga, which is the path Mudgala chose for his eternal emancipation.
16. Draupadi-harana Parva (sections: 261–270)
Draupadi is kidnapped by Jayadratha. Pandavas set out to rescue her. The story describes the battle and death of Jayadratha's followers and his capture. Jayadratha is not killed, but is questioned by Yudhishthira.
17. Jayadhratha Vimokshana Parva (section 271)
Yudhishthira sets Jayadratha free. Jayadratha returns to his house in anger, seeking ways to take revenge against the Pandavas.
The love story of Savitri and Satyavan is described in Aranya Parva.[17]
18. Rama Upakhyana Parva (sections: 272–291)[11]
The parva recites a short summary of Ramayana, the other Indian epic, in order to comfort Yudhishthira who laments the long exile his brothers have suffered. He narrated, Rama was born to Dasaratha along with three other sons. When they grew up in might, became conversant with Vedas, mysteries, and science of arms. Later on they got married. Rama was chosen as next ruler of the Kingdom. Kaikeyi, one of the wife of Dasaratha, was provoked by his maid, Manthara. She goes to King and asks as her boon that Bharata, her son, be the next King, and that Rama go into an exile of fourteen years. Rama and his wife, followed by Lakshmana, go to the forest. Bharata on returning, learning about the King's death and Rama's exile, criticizes his mother. He goes to bring Rama back but is ordered back to Ayodhya by Rama. Rama fearing repetition of intrusion, enters deeper into forest. There he was in inveigled into hostilities with Khara and Surpanakha. For the protection, the virtuous scion of Raghu's race slays fourteen thousand Rakshasas there. Surpanakha goes to her brother Ravana in Lanka, with mutilated nose and lips. Ravana was described as powerful ruler along with his brothers. They did severe austerities to please Lord Brahma and were granted boons. Ravana was granted invincibility to all except man. Kumbhakarna whose mind got clouded by darkness, long-lasting sleep. Vibhishana inclined path to righteousness. With this boon, Ravana defeated Kuvera(treasure lord), his brother and took from him his Pushpaka Vimana and sovereignty of Lanka. Kuvera curses Ravana and blesses Vibhishana before leaving. Ravana possessing power of changing form, terrible might, and passing through the air attacked god and wrested their valuable possession. So to relieve gods, Vishnu incarnated on earth as mortal Rama for that object. Ravana reaching that forest forces Maricha to assume form of a golden deer to captivate Sita. Rama goes after him. On learning deer was Rakshasa, Rama killed him. Struck, Rakshasa imitates Rama voice in distress. Sita speaking cruel words, sent Lakshamana to track Rama. Ravana seizing Sita went towards his Kingdom via Vimana. Huge vulture named Jatayu tries to rescue her but was slain. Sita during that time dropped her costly ornaments for Rama to track. Rama returns, inspects Jatayu and goes for Sita search. They slew the Demons stopping their path. They met Sugriva and Hanuman. Rama helps Sugriva to regain his Kingdom by killing his brother from behind, during Sugriva duel with Vali. During that time Sita was held captive in a garden, guarded by female Rakshasa. A Rakshasa woman name Trijata comforts her there. Sugriva in turn helps Rama search for Sita. Hanuman meets Jatayu brother Sampati who tells him Ravana palace. Hanuman remembering his prowess crossed sea to reach Lanka, met Sita there, set fire on Lanka, and returned to inform Rama. They were visited by Vibhishana who joins them. Rama reaching sea shore asks water-god Varuna to carve a path for them or he will dry up the ocean with his great weapon. Varuna tells him that if he carve a passage for his army, with their weapons other will command him to do same. He tells him of Nala as skillful mechanic in his army who is able to construct a bridge. They construct bridge with Nala help and crossed the ocean in month. Rama killed Ravana spies in his army, with Vibhishana help. Angada(son of Vali) goes as envoy of Rama to Ravana. There he was tried to be captured but Angada resisted before returning. A fight occurs between them. Ravana fights with Rama which goes to stalemate, so Ravana retreats. Ravana sends his brother Kumbhakarna to slay Rama. Kumbhakarna with his huge size enters battlefield crushing Rama army and eating them alive. By their attacks nothing happens to his armor except for laugh. Sugriva tries to stop him but gets seized. Lakshamana confronts him, and kills him with Brahma weapon. Ravana then sends his son Indrajit to vanquish them. He enters the field, using his power of illusion defeats both of them. But as he tried to capure the unconscious heroes, was resisted by Rama army surrounding him. Later on with the help of Vibhishana and gods, Lakshamana slew him. Ravana learning his son death, tried to kill Sita but was stopped by Avindhya saying if he successfully slay Rama, she will be slain too.Then Ravana enters the field and fights with Rama. Rama kills Ravana using Brahmastra and consumed by Brahma weapon, his flesh and blood were all reduced to nothingness,-so that the ashes even could not be seen. Rama meets Sita, afraid of the loss of his honour, doubts her morality. Sita goes through trials to show her purity, Rama accepts her. Vibhishana was made King of Lanka. Rama returns to his Kingdom in Pushpaka Vimana with Sita and meet his brothers. Rama became King of Ayodhya. Hanuman was given boon of long life, as long as Rama fame exists. Rama performs Horse-sacrifice.
19. Pativrata-mahatmya Parva (sections: 292–299)[3]
Pativrata-mahatmya parva describes the love story of Savitri - a princess, and Satyavan - a hermit. They meet, fall in love. Sage Narada informs Savitri of one defect of the virtuous man Satyayan, which is certain to kill him within a year.[18] Savitri accepts and weds Satyayan, nevertheless, saying, "Whether his years be few or many, be he gifted with all grace or graceless, him my heart has chosen, and it chooseth not again."[18] Savitri, who knows Satyavan will die soon, stays with him all the time. She follows him wherever, whenever he goes anywhere. One day Satyavan heads to the forest to collect wood, with Savitri following him. As predicted by sage Narada, the defect causes Satyayan's early death. Yama - the lord of death - appears before Savitri. Yama carries away Satyavan's soul; Savitri - in deep love for Satyayan, her husband - follows Yama.[19] The lord of death tries to console, discourage her and asks her to move on. Savitri refuses to relent, follows Satyayan's soul and Yama. She obtains four boons from Yama, which ultimately forces Yama to release Satyavan's life. Satyavan returns to consciousness. Savitri and Satyavan live happily together.
20. Kundalaharana Parva (sections 299–309)[9]
The parva describes the story of Karna, how he was born to Kunti and deity Surya, why Kunti placed the baby in a basket and let him adrift on river Aswa, how she felt sorry afterwards, how baby Karna was found by Radha and reared by Adhiratha. The chapters describe how Karna grows up and learns to be an expert bowman. Yudhishthira had always great fear, in respect of Karna. During the thirteenth year exile of Pandavas set in, Indra beg Karna of his ear-rings, to benefit his son, taking advantage of Karna character. Ascertaining Sakra intention, Surya, warned Karna in his dream previous night, to refuse his request of ear-rings, saying if he gives away his armor, he will meet with death, if not, be incapable of being slain by foes in battle, as they were sprung from Amrita(nectar). Karna refuses to do so due to his vow, saying he wish for eternal fame than his life, which everlast, so if Indra himself come to ask, he will bestow upon him his ear-rings and the excellent mail. Surya thus seeing Karna firm on vow, said to him, then better ask from Indra too his infalliable dart capable of slaying all foes in exchange and then that thousand-rayed deity vanished. Next day Indra guise as Brahmana goes to Karna and exchanges ear-rings for his Vasavi dart, on condition could be used only on single person as critical situation only once. Karna taking the blazing dart, peeled off his natural mail, witnessed and applauded by all demons and gods, and gave it to Vasava, still dripping. Indra heals wounded Karna scars and warned him,'Whom he seekest to slay with this dart, is protected by an illustrious personage, Narayana, as Krishna' and ascend to heaven making him famous. And it is for this fact that he came to be called Karna(peeler of skin.) And hearing that Karna had been beguiled, all the sons of Dhritarashtra became distressed and shorn of pride. And Pandavas, learning such plight had befallen the son of charioteer, were filled with joy. This introduction to Karna sets the stage for future chapters, as Karna plays a major role in later books of the Mahabharata.
Yudhisthir answering the questions of the Dharmaraj in form of a Yaksha
21. Aranya Parva (sections: 310–324)[3]
The Pandavas return to DwaitaAranya forest. They chase a deer who has carried away the firesticks of a priest. The deer is too fast to catch. The Pandava brothers rest from exhaustion and from thirst. Each goes, one after another, to a lake to fetch water, where, disregarding from pride the words of a mysterious voice, each drinks the cool water and drops dead. Finally, Yudhishthira goes to the lake, where he laments the death of his brothers. Yaksha, with a booming aerial voice, appears. He interrogates Yudhishthira with 124 questions about the nature of human life, the necessary virtues for a happy life, ethics and morality.[20] Yudhishthira answers the questions correctly. Yaksha then asks him to choose one of his brothers to be revived as a reward. Instead of asking life for one of his mother Kunti's sons (Arjuna or Bhima), he asks that his step-brother Nakula be revived, so that, for the sake of virtue, one son of each of his father's two wives remain. Yaksha impressed by Yudhishthira's morality, revives all the Pandava brothers, and reveals himself to be Dharma (Lord of justice and Yudhishthira's father). He awards Yudhishthira several boons that will help the Pandavas in their 13th year of exile for a concealed life, and returns the priest's firesticks.

English translations[edit]

Several translations of the Sanskrit book Aranya Parva in English are available. Two translations from 19th century, now in public domain, are those by Kisari Mohan Ganguli[9] and Manmatha Nath Dutt.[3] The translations vary with each translator's interpretations. For example:

Original Sanskrit:

कषमा धर्मः कषमा यज्ञः कषमा वेदाः कषमा शरुतम |
यस ताम एवं विजानाति स सर्वं कषन्तुम अर्हति ||
कषमा बरह्म कषमा सत्यं कषमा भूतं च भावि च |
कषमा तपः कषमा शौचं कषमया चॊद्धृतं जगत ||

— Kashyapa quoted in Arjunabhigamana Parva, Aranya Parva, Mahabharata Book iii[21]

Kisari Mohan Ganguli's translation:

Forgiveness is virtue; forgiveness is sacrifice, forgiveness is the Vedas, forgiveness is the Shruti. He that knoweth this is capable of forgiving everything. Forgiveness is Brahma; forgiveness is truth; forgiveness is stored ascetic merit; forgiveness protecteth the ascetic merit of the future; forgiveness is asceticism; forgiveness is holiness; and by forgiveness is it that the universe is held together.

— Kashyapa quoted in Arjunabhigamana Parva, Aranya Parva, Mahabharata Book iii.29[22]

Manmatha Nath Dutt's translation:

Forgiveness is virtue, forgiveness is sacrifice, forgiveness is the Vedas, forgiveness is Sruti,
he who knows all this is capable of forgiving all.
Forgiveness is Brahma, forgiveness is truth, forgiveness is accumulated and future (ascetic) merit,
forgiveness is the devout penance, forgiveness is purity, and by forgiveness is the universe sustained.

— Kashyapa quoted in Arjunabhigamana Parva, Aranya Parva, Mahabharata Book iii.29[23]

J. A. B. van Buitenen completed an annotated edition of Aranya Parva, based on critically edited and least corrupted version of Mahabharata known in 1975.[1] Debroy, in 2011, notes that updated critical edition of Aranya Parva, with spurious and corrupted text removed, has 16 sub-books, 299 adhyayas (chapters) and 10,239 shlokas (verses).[24] Debroy has published a translated version of a critical edition of Aranya Parva in Volume 2 and 3 of his series.[25]

Clay Sanskrit Library has published a 15 volume set of the Mahabharata which includes a translation of Aranya Parva by William Johnson. 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.[26]

Inspiration for later works[edit]

The Kirata sub-parva of Aranya Parva has inspired several major poems and expanded works, such as the Kirātārjunīya by Bhāravi - considered by Monier Monier-Williams as an example of the poetic inventiveness in ancient India enabled by Sanskrit grammar, its flexibility in compounding of words and the use of mathematical meter, all accomplished with spiritual meaning.[27]

Quotations and teachings[edit]

In Kirata sub-book of Aranya Parva, Mahadeva (Shiva) visits Arjuna, disguised as Kirata. They battle, which ends in a draw. Mahadeva reveals his true identity (pictured above). In the Indralokagamana Parva, Arjuna visits heaven as a guest of the gods.

Aranyaka Parva, Chapter 1:

O foremost of men, listen to the merits and demerits, as we indicate,
that respectively arise from associating with what is good and what is bad.
As cloth, water, sesame-seeds and ground are perfumed by their association with flowers,
so qualities are derived from association.

Association with the fools produces delusion,
as daily association with the honest and good produces virtue.
Therefore those who are virtuously inclined should associate with men,
who are wise, old, honest, and pure in conduct and who are ascetics.

We get sin by serving the sinful,
conversation and association with them, cause diminution of virtue.

Association with the mean and the low,
makes one's understanding mean and low;
Association with the indifferent makes it indifferent, and
association with the good makes it good.

— Aranyaka Parva, Aranya Parva, Mahabharata Book iii.1[28]

Aranyaka Parva, Chapter 2:

Thousand causes of grief and hundred causes of fear overwhelm the ignorant day after day, but not the learned.
Intelligent men never allow themselves to be deluded by acts which are opposed to true knowledge, which is fraught with every kind of evil, and which is destructive of salvation.

This world is afflicted with both bodily and mental sufferings,
Disease, contact with painful things, toil and want of objects desired — these are the four causes ef the sufferings of the body,
Disease may be allayed by the application of medicine, but mental ailments are cured by Yoga meditation.

As a hot iron ball makes the water of a jar hot, so mental grief brings bodily pains,
As water quenches fire, so knowledge allays mental ailments,
When mind enjoys peace, body also enjoys peace.

Attachment is the root of all misery and of all fear. Attachment produces joy and grief of every kind,
From attachment spring all worldly desires, and it is from attachment that springs the love of worldly goods,
The man that is influenced by attachment is tortured by desire, and from the desire that springs up in his heart, his thirst for worldly possessions increases.

This thirst is sinful, and is regarded as the source of all anxieties.
To many men, the wealth they possess is their bane. The man, who sees happiness in wealth and becomes attached to it, knows not what true happiness is.

— Aranyaka Parva, Aranya Parva, Mahabharata Book iii.2[29]

Aranyaka Parva, Chapter 2:

Pleasant looks, cheerful heart and sweet words are due to a guest. Rising up, the host should advance towards the guest; he should offer him a seat, and duly worship him. This is the eternal Dharma.

— Aranyaka Parva, Aranya Parva, Mahabharata Book iii.2[30]
Aranya Parva dedicates many chapters on Arjuna (pictured above in Bali, Indonesia). Arjuna visits heaven, meets Indra and other deities, receives celestial weapons as gifts. When he returns to the forest home of Pandava brothers, he demonstrates to them their power by destroying an aerial city. Sage Narada appears, demands to know why he is wrongly unleashing weapons of war without cause, just to show off. Arjuna stops the violence.

Arjunabhigamana Parva, Chapters 28-29:

Vali said: Does forgiveness lead to well-being, O father, or prowess or energy ?
Prahlada said:
Do you learn, my son, these two truths without any doubt — neither does prowess always lead to well-being nor does forgiveness,
He who forgives always, O my son, suffers many evils— servants, strangers and enemies always disregard him.
Perpetual forgiveness therefore, O my son, is avoided by the learned.

These and various other evils attend those who always forgive.
Listen, O son of Virochana, to (other) evils that beset a person that never forgives.

If an angry person, always beset by the quality of darkness, inflicts punishments,
by this own energy, upon deserving and non-deserving persons,
he is alienated from his friends and hated by outsiders as well as his own relations.

Therefore people should not be always angry or mild,
they should exhibit their anger or mildness in proper hours.

If your former benefactor commits a heinous offence you should forgive him considering his former benefaction,
Those that commit an offence out of ignorance or foolishness should be forgiven — for people cannot always easily attain to learning,
Those crooked men, who having committed an offence wittingly plead ignorance, should be punished even if their offence be trifling,

The first offence of all men should be forgiven; when they commit the second, they should not,
If a person unknowingly commits an offence — he should be pardoned, it is said, after having made a proper enquiry.
Strength might be vanquished by forgiveness, weakness might be vanquished by forgiveness; therefore forgiveness is truly fiercer.

Yudhishthira said:
Anger is in this world, the root of the destruction of mankind,
The angry man commits a sin; the angry man murders his preceptor; the angry man insults his ciders with harsh words.
The angry man cannot distinguish what should be and should not be said by him,
there is nothing which cannot be said or done by an angry man.
From anger a man may kill one who should not be killed and adore one that should be slain,
an angry man may even despatch his own self to the abode of Yama.

Anger is conquered by one desirous of excellent well being,
The wise man, though oppressed, treats his persecutor with indifference,
A wise man whether he be strong or weak, should always forgive his persecutor.
Renouncing anger a man can display his true energy,
Anger is equivalent to energy - anger has been given to mankind for the destruction of the world.

Forgiveness is the energy of the energetic,
forgiveness is the sacrifice,
forgiveness is the truth of the truthful,
forgiveness is the control of mind.

— Arjunabhigamana Parva, Aranya Parva, Mahabharata Book iii.28-29[31]

Arjunabhigamana Parva, Chapter 30:

By actions men are placed in different situations of life; consequences of action are inevitable, from ignorance people desire for the liberation from action.

— Draupadi, Arjunabhigamana Parva, Aranya Parva, Mahabharata Book iii.30[32]

Ajagara Parva, Chapter 180:

The snake asked: O king, whom can we call a Brahmana?
Yudhishthira said: O monarch of snakes, it is said that he is a Brahmana in whom are found the qualities of truthfulness, charity, forgiveness, good conduct, benevolence, asceticism and mercy.
The serpent said: O Yudhishthira, even in the Sudras are found truthfulness, charity, forgiveness, benevolence, mercy, kindness, and knowledge of the Veda which promotes the welfare of the four orders, which is true and which is the guide in religious matters.
Yudhishthira said: The Sudra in whom these characteristics are present is no Sudra, he is a Brahmna; and the Brahmana in whom these are wanting is no Brahmana at all, he is a Sudra.

— Ajagara Parva, Aranya Parva, Mahabharata Book iii.180[33]

Markandeya-Samasya Parva, Chapter 200:

Amongst all the senses, mind is the most dangerous.

These high-souled men who do not commit sin in word, in deed, in heart or in soul, really perform asceticism,
but not those who make their bodies emaciated by fasts and penances.
Fasts and other penances, however they may weaken and dry up the body, cannot destroy sins,
Through holiness and virtue alone, men can go to the regions of bliss.

Shaving one's head, abandoning home, having matted locks on head, observing daily fasts, worshipping fire, bathing in water - these cannot lead one to heaven,
Those only that are endued with holiness succeed with knowledge, and by observing virtuous deeds do they alone obtain a high state.

The knowledge of one's identity with the supreme soul is the sign of salvation,
Complete emancipation cannot be obtained without knowledge.

— Markandeya-Samasya Parva, Aranya Parva, Mahabharata Book iii.200.98-118[34]
In the Araneya sub-book, Yaksha kills four Pandava brothers, one after another, when they arrive at a lake to fetch water. Yudhishthira arrives at the lake (shown). Yaksha offers to revive their life, if Yudhishthira answers his questions correctly. Yaksha asks some 144 questions on nature of human life, virtues, ethics, duties and society. This is one of many discussions of virtues and ethics in Aranya Parva.

Vrihi Drounika Parva, Chapter 268:

Men experience happiness and misery by turn. No man ever enjoys unmixed happiness. A wise man, possessing high wisdom, knowing that life has its ups and downs, is neither filled with joy nor with grief. When happiness comes, one should enjoy it, and when misery comes one should bear it.

— Vrihi Drounika Parva, Aranya Parva, Mahabharata Book iii.268.13-15[35]

Aranya Parva, Chapter 312:

The Yaksha asked: What is the invincible enemy of men? What is their permanent disease ? Who is honest ? Who is dishonest ?
Yudhishthira replied: Anger is the most invincible enemy. Covetuousness is the incurable disease. He who is friendly to all creatures is honest. And he who is cruel is dishonest.
The Yaksha asked: What is the path ?
Yudhishthira replied: Discussions do not lead to definite conclusions. The Srutis are divided in opinion. And there is not a single Rishi whose opinions can be accepted as conclusive. Truth about religious matters is hidden in caves. Therefore that is the proper path which has been followed by great men.

— Araneya Parva, Aranya Parva, Mahabharata Book iii.312.91-92, iii.312.114-117[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c van Buitenen, J.A.B. (1975) The Mahabharata: Book 2: The Book of the Assembly Hall; Book 3: The Book of the Forest. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press
  2. ^ Ganguli, K.M. (1883-1896) "Vana Parva" in The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa (12 Volumes). Numerous editions
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Dutt, M.N. (1896) The Mahabharata (Volume 3): Aranya Parva. Calcutta: Elysium Press
  4. ^ van Buitenen, J.A.B. (1973) The Mahabharata: Book 1: The Book of the Beginning. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, p 476
  5. ^ Debroy, B. (2010) The Mahabharata, Volume 1. Gurgaon: Penguin Books India, pp xxiii - xxvi
  6. ^ Williams, M. (1868) Indian Epic Poetry. London: Williams & Norgate, p 103
  7. ^ a b Bibek Debroy (2011), The Mahābhārata, Volume 3, ISBN 978-0143100157, Penguin Books
  8. ^ Last Chapter of Aranya Parva The Mahabharat, Translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1894)
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Arany Parva Mahabharat, Translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli, Published by P.C. Roy (1884)
  10. ^ Aranya Parva The Mahabharata, Translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1894), pages 18-61
  11. ^ a b Monier Williams (1868), Indian Epic Poetry, University of Oxford, Williams & Norgate - London, page 104
  12. ^ Adelaide Rudolph (1902), Nala and Damayanti, The Kirgate Press, New York
  13. ^ a b Peter Sklivas (2013), The Secret of Enduring Love: Yoga Romance of Damayanti and Nala, ISBN 978-0989649605, Boston
  14. ^ See conflict problem in virtue ethics, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University (2012)
  15. ^ Aranya Parva Mahabharata, Translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1894), page 262 (Verses 31-34)
  16. ^ Aranya Parva Mahabharata, Translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1894), pages 300-314
  17. ^ Verma, K. D. (1977). Myth and Symbol in Aurobindo's Savitri, Journal of South Asian Literature, 12 (3/4), pages 67-72
  18. ^ a b Monier Williams (1868), Indian Epic Poetry, University of Oxford, Williams & Norgate - London, page 37-39
  19. ^ Aaron Shepard (1992), Savitri: A Tale of Ancient India, ISBN 978-0807572511, Albert Whitman & Company
  20. ^ Manmatha Nath Dutt The Mahabharata, Aranya Parva (Verses 41 through 133), p. 446, at Google Books
  21. ^ Aranya Parva, The Mahabharata, Verses 36-37
  22. ^ Aranya Parva, The Mahabharata, Translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli
  23. ^ Aranya Parva, The Mahabharata, Translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1894), page 42
  24. ^ Bibek Debroy, The Mahabharata : Volume 3, ISBN 978-0143100157, Penguin Books, page xxiii - xxiv of Introduction
  25. ^ Bibek Debroy (2011), The Mahabharata, Volume 3, Penguin, ISBN 978-0143100157, Aranya Parva
  26. ^ William Johnson, Book III - Volume 4, The Clay Sanskrit Library, Mahabharata: 15-volume Set, ISBN 978-0-8147-4278-5, New York University Press, Bilingual Edition
  27. ^ Monier Monier-Williams Indian Wisdom, Or, Examples of the Religious, Philosophical, and Ethical Doctrines of the Hindus - pages 451-453, p. 451, at Google Books; Example by Monier Monier-Williams: Kirātārjunīya verse XV.14 is constructed with just one consonant: "न नोननुन्नो नुन्नोनो नाना नानानना ननु । नुन्नोऽनुन्नो ननुन्नेनो नानेना नुन्ननुन्ननुत् ॥"; Translation: О ye, he indeed is not a man who is defeated by an inferior; and that man is no man who persecutes the weaker. He who is not defeated though overcome, is not vanquished; he who persecutes the completely vanquished is not without sin. Kirātārjunīya, inspired by Kirata sub-parva of Aranya Parva, also features palindromes within a verse and across multiple verses.
  28. ^ Aranya Parva Mahabharata, Translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1894), page 2
  29. ^ Aranya Parva Mahabharata, Translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1894), page 3-4 (Verses 19-40)
  30. ^ Aranya Parva Mahabharata, Translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1894), page 5 (Verse 55)
  31. ^ Aranya Parva Mahabharata, Translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1894), pages 40-42 abridged
  32. ^ Aranya Parva Mahabharata, Translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1894), page 43 (Verse 2)
  33. ^ Aranya Parva Mahabharata, Translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1894), page 261 (Verses 20-25 abridged)
  34. ^ Aranya Parva Mahabharata, Translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1894), page 300 (Verses 98-118 abridged)
  35. ^ Aranya Parva Mahabharata, Translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1894), page 372
  36. ^ Manmatha Nath Dutt The Mahabharata, Aranya Parva (Verses 91-92, 114, 117), p. 449, at Google Books

External links[edit]