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Book: Adi Parva Explorations : Mahabharata Book 1

Series: Mahabharata Unveiled : Q&A Edition

Book Title: Adi Parva Explorations - Book 1

Dive into Lengthy Topics with Short Questions and Answers

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Book Preface

English is undeniably an international language, and the fact that you’re reading this book signifies our shared ability to communicate through this common language of writing and reading. Yet, every language possesses distinct strengths and inherent weaknesses. Over time, certain languages have gained prominence due to business demands and governmental preferences. In the English language, we use two distinct words: ‘History’ and ‘Mythology.’
Understanding ancient texts within their rightful context isn’t a simple task. Without this context, we risk losing the essence of our humanity. What sets humans apart from other beings on this planet is our possession of language, modes of communication, and the ability to pass knowledge from one generation to the next. We maintain records of events, history, and chronology, analyzing them to draw lessons. The past offers us valuable insights into how events elsewhere in the world might guide us in our society today. However, without accurate documentation and proper analysis, we are at risk of repeating history due to our own ignorance.
Throughout history, societies have utilized various means to document their past. Paintings, music, books, architectural structures, inscriptions on walls, and even cave art are among these methods. However, the advent of the digital revolution is transforming these traditions. Today, much of our work is digitally stored. Yet, there remains a concern that if a catastrophic event were to occur, eradicating a significant portion of humanity, future generations might struggle to access information from today’s digital devices. Our current understanding of the past largely relies on inscriptions on walls or ancient manuscripts.

The term ‘History’ refers to an account of past events, as interpreted by the historian (the writer). Different historians can interpret the same event in diverse ways. The sequencing of events and the actors involved are crucial elements in understanding these historical events. The interpretation of historical events varies based on a historian’s affiliations, available facts, and personal perspectives. Consequently, different historians might offer varying interpretations of the same sequence of events. While recording history, the primary focus remains on the truth behind events—whether they occurred, the manner in which they transpired, and the involved actors. The narrative of history often reflects the historian’s desire to substantiate claims, personal biases, intellectual capacity, disposition, or inclinations.

In Bharat, two immensely popular texts hold significant cultural importance: the oldest being the Ramayana, followed by the Mahabharata. In the English language, these epics are regarded as ‘History,’ while in the Bharatiya language, they are known as ‘Itihas.’ ‘Itihas’ is a Sanskrit term that translates to ‘as it happened,’ taking into account ‘Dharma’ (one’s duties as per their position, location, and time). While narrating ‘Itihas,’ the emphasis is less on the actions of figures like Rama or Arjuna and more on their adherence to their respective Dharma. The author of ‘Itihas’ lives in the time of the events, acting as a witness rather than an active participant. They strive to maintain an impartial and self-realized perspective.

Mythology refers to stories that are not considered factual but rather mythical. They are narratives created within the human mind to entertain, impart moral lessons, or serve various other purposes.

In Bharat, we use two terms: Itihasa and Purana. Despite English being a prevalent global language for communication and understanding, we continue using the terms ‘history’ and ‘mythology’ to convey our narrative to the world. Not only that, but we also often blur the lines between these terms. Many individuals interchangeably use Itihas, history, mythology, and Purana. Those well-versed in texts like Mahabharat, Garuda Purana, or ‘Sivaji and The Rise of the Mahrattas’ distinctly understand the first as Itihas, the second as Purana, and the third as history.

Loosely, some might equate Mythology and Purana. However, Itihas, such as Mahabharat or Ramayana, fall into neither the category of history nor mythology. Referring to Mahabharat as history is an incorrect classification while labeling it as mythology is equally inaccurate.

Mahabharata is an extensive text, comprising approximately 100,000 Sanskrit slokas. Given its ancient Sanskrit origin, comprehending it is challenging for the world. Scholars have consequently written commentaries on this text. Commentaries serve to simplify the text. When we read the Mahabharata in English or Hindi, it is often a translation derived from these commentaries.
However, these commentary books are also extensive, spanning thousands of pages. To make this text accessible to those interested in ancient culture or learning from ancient works, various methods have been attempted. Summarizing chapters or Parvas is one such approach. Some authors have selected specific characters from the book and crafted stories around them. Books, podcasts, TV series, and movies have been inspired by this work.

In my opinion, when people are unfamiliar with a particular work, concise question-and-answer formats or quizzes can spark interest. If someone finds it intriguing, they can explore the complete text from its original or translated source. With this in mind, I am developing this series in a question-answer format. The aim is to pique people’s interest while providing insights from the work of Maharshi Vedvyasa.

Originally named ‘Jaya,’ Mahabharat evolved into ‘Bharat’ and eventually ‘Mahabharat’ over time. This monumental work is attributed to Krishna-Dwaipayana, also known as Vedvyasa or Maharshi Vedvyasad. Within Mahabharat, there are 18 Parvas plus 1 Hari Vansam (a type of Parva). Some English translations refer to Parvas as books. Each Parva contains Sub-Parvas, totaling 98. These Sub-Parvas further consist of multiple Adhyayas, referred to as sections. For the convenience of an international audience, I will use the term ‘sections.’ Mahabharat encompasses a total of 2113 sections or Adhyayas. Each Adhyaya contains numerous Sanskrit slokas.
Numerous translations of Mahabharat exist, with a popular copyright-free version by Kisari Mohan Ganguli (KM Ganguli) (1848–1908) available in the public domain. This edition, known as the Ganguli translation, is written in an older English style and may sometimes pose challenges in interpretation. However, for my work, I sought a copyright-free edition, hence selecting this translation. While creating the question-and-answer format, I have taken care to maintain an English style that I trust readers will comprehend and appreciate alongside the original work. Access to the original translated text is available on this webpage.
Should you find this format conducive to learning historical texts, feel free to share your feedback with us at hari.historywork@gmail.com.

Why Question-Answer Format to Learn Mahabharat?

Humans are one of the highly evolved intelligent life in the known cosmos. Asking questions is a sign that humans think and humans are intelligent. No single human being knows the answer to all the questions. But whatever answer we know, it is because we asked questions in our past. People ask questions for various reasons like the following:

  • To acquire knowledge
  • To eliminate confusion
  • To cause someone else to feel special
  • To guide a conversation in a direction
  • To demonstrate humility to another
  • To enable a person to discover answers for themselves
  • To gain empathy through a better understanding of another’s view
  • To influence/alter someone else’s opinion/view
  • To begin a relationship
  • To strengthen a relationship
  • To humbly show we have knowledge on a specific topic
  • To stimulate creativity and idea generation
  • To gain a person’s attention
  • To solve a problem
  • To reach agreement or to “agree to disagree” with clarity

Use of Artificial Intelligence

My doctoral and master’s degrees are in AI and Natural Language Processing (NLP). My thesis was titled ‘AI-Powered Historical Book Question Answering.’ Therefore, I’m utilizing AI technology for this task; otherwise, manually crafting hundreds of questions and ensuring their correctness and relevance would be an extremely challenging endeavor. Even with AI, rigorous quality checks, proofreading, and relevance assessments are essential.

Question answering presents another method of comprehending text. It’s more meaningful when the reader is familiar with the text, having read or heard it. For instance, questions like ‘What did the Rakshasa ask the flaming element?’ gauge the reader’s comprehension of the story. Some readers find these questions stimulating and delve into the full text, while others may opt to skip them. Contrastingly, questions like ‘Who killed Karna?’ don’t necessarily require context; they test general knowledge. Anyone with a basic awareness of the Mahabharata knows who Karna is, and if they don’t, it becomes a general knowledge query for them. Enhancing general knowledge or awareness about the topic can be achieved through two approaches: thorough reading of the entire text or attempting some questions and answers.

Certain questions might yield different answers for the same query in various chapters or contexts. For example, ‘What is the reward for listening to or reading this story?’ or ‘What was the name of the Purana recited by Krishna-Dwaipayana?’ While Krishna-Dwaipayana recited numerous Puranas, the name may differ based on the specific chapter or context. Thus, placing these questions towards the chapter’s end can provide coherence. Alternatively, readers can approach them independently, driven by their interest in the specific text’s full content.

Why different answers to the same question?

If you’re familiar with other translations of Mahabharat and find discrepancies between the answers in this book and your understanding, please notify me. I will assess whether it’s an AI-related issue or stems from differences in primary translation work among the authors.
Every English translation differs in several aspects, including writing style, word choice, story inclusion, and interpretation.

Why Question-Format to learn History?

The objectives of this question-answer format book are as follows:

  • Stimulate interest in readers to explore the original text.
  • Provide readers with a foundational understanding of the Mahabharata text.
  • Validate their comprehension and existing knowledge.
  • Acknowledge that different scholars offer diverse interpretations of the original work, leading to varied understandings.

What can you learn from these questions and answers?

  • Identifying characters in the Mahabharata book.
  • Understanding the relationships among different individuals in the Mahabharata era.
  • Determining actions taken by characters.
  • Discovering their dwellings.
  • Observing their responses to situations.
  • Understanding how they managed businesses, relationships, and royal courts, and ensured justice in those times.
  • Exploring the types of businesses they engaged in

Missing Sections (Adhyaya)

You may notice that certain sections are absent from this QA compilation. This doesn’t imply their lack of importance. The decision to omit specific sections was made while considering the following criteria:

  • To maintain a concise work.
  • To avoid redundant questions.
  • To minimize context-specific queries.
  • To exclude questions related to book statistics, as they may not significantly contribute to the readers’ understanding.

Introduction to Mahabharat Book 1 : Adi Parva

Adi Parva, meaning “The Book of the Beginning,” serves as the gateway to this monumental epic. It is here that the seeds of the colossal conflict between the Pandavas and Kauravas, which shapes the destiny of generations, are sown. Within its verses, myriad stories and teachings unfold, offering profound insights into the fabric of life, ethics, and duty.

This volume embarks on a journey through the Adi Parva, unraveling its intricate threads of lineage, valor, and morality. It introduces the lineage of the Kuru dynasty, the birth of the main characters, and the circumstances that set the stage for the grand epic war of the Mahabharata. Throughout this book, we delve into the lives, aspirations, and struggles of the characters, from the birth of the legendary figures to the initial conflicts that foreshadow the tumultuous events to come. Through a unique question-and-answer format, we navigate through the vast expanse of the Adi Parva, simplifying complex narratives into concise insights, fostering a deeper understanding of this timeless epic.

Adiparva has 225 sections (Adhyaya) and 7205 slokas. These statistics may be very little from the work which you have in your hands. In this book we are going to see 310 questions from this Adi Parva.

Sub Parva of Book 1: Adi Parva

  1. Anukramanika (Index) (Not in Ganguli Edition)
  2. Sangraha (Collection) (Not in Ganguli Edition)
  3. Paushya (King Paushya)
  4. Pauloma (Chyavan, Son of Puloma)
  5. Astika (Astika, Son of Jaratkaru)
  6. Ansh-ava-tarana (Partial Reincarnation)
  7. Sambhava (Birth)
  8. Jatugriha-daha (Burning of the House of Lacquer)
  9. Hidimva-vadha (Slaying of Hidimba)
  10. Vaka-vadha (Slaying of BakaSura)
  11. Chaitraratha (Chitraratha, a Gandharva)
  12. Swayamvara (Choosing the Bridegroom)
  13. Vaivahika (Nuptials)
  14. Viduragamana (Advent of Vidura)
  15. Rajya-labha (Acquirement of Kingdom)
  16. Arjuna-vanavasa (Exile of Arjuna)
  17. Subhadra-harana (Abduction of Subhadra, Krishna’s sister)
  18. Harana-harika (Fetching the nuptial present)
  19. Khandava-daha (Burning of Khandava Forest)
  20. Maya-Darsana(Meeting with Mayasura) (Not in Ganguli Edition and Bibek Debroy/BORI translation)