The 18 parvas
The division into 18 parvas is as follows:
1Adi Parva (The Book of the Beginning)1–19How the Mahabharata came to be narrated by Sauti to the assembled rishis at Naimisharanya. The recital of the Mahabharata at the sarpasattra of Janamejaya by Vaishampayana at Takṣaśilā. The history of the Bharata race is told in detail and the parva also traces history of the Bhrigu race. The birth and early life of the Kuru princes. (adi means first) 2Sabha Parva (The Book of the Assembly Hall)20–28Maya Danava erects the palace and court (sabha), at Indraprastha. Life at the court, Yudhishthira's Rajasuya Yajna, the game of dice, and the eventual exile of the Pandavas. 3Vana Parva also Aranyaka-parva, Aranya-parva (The Book of the Forest)29–44The twelve years of exile in the forest (aranya). 4Virata Parva (The Book of Virata)45–48The year spent incognito at the court of Virata.
5Udyoga Parva (The Book of the Effort)49–59Preparations for war and efforts to bring about peace between the Kurus and the Pandavas which eventually fail (udyoga means effort or work). 6Bhishma Parva (The Book of Bhishma)60–64The first part of the great battle, with Bhishma as commander for the Kauravas and his fall on the bed of arrows. (Includes the Bhagavad Gita.)
7Drona Parva (The Book of Drona)65–72The battle continues, with Drona as commander. This is the major book of the war. Most of the great warriors on both sides are dead by the end of this book. 8Karna Parva (The Book of Karna)73The battle again, with Karna as commander.
9Shalya Parva (The Book of Shalya)74–77The last day of the battle, with Shalya as commander. Also told in detail is the pilgrimage of Balarama to the fords of the river Saraswati and the mace fight between Bhima and Duryodhana which ends the war, since Bhima kills Duryodhana by smashing him on the thighs with a mace. 10Sauptika Parva (The Book of the Sleeping Warriors)78–80Ashvattama, Kripa and Kritavarma kill the remaining Pandava army in their sleep. Only 7 warriors remain on the Pandava side and 3 on the Kaurava side. 11Stri Parva (The Book of the Women)81–85Gandhari, Kunti and the women (stri) of the Kurus and Pandavas lament the dead. 12Shanti Parva (The Book of Peace)86–88The crowning of Yudhisthira as king of Hastinapura, and instructions from Bhishma for the newly anointed king on society, economics and politics. This is the longest book of the Mahabharata (shanti means peace). 13Anushasana Parva (The Book of the Instructions)89–90The final instructions (anushasana) from Bhishma. 14Ashvamedhika Parva (The Book of the Horse Sacrifice)
91–92The royal ceremony of the Ashvamedha (Horse sacrifice) conducted by Yudhisthira. The world conquest by Arjuna. The Anugita is told by Krishna to Arjuna. 15Ashramavasika Parva (The Book of the Hermitage)93–95The eventual deaths of Dhritarashtra, Gandhari and Kunti in a forest fire when they are living in a hermitage in the Himalayas. Vidura predeceases them and Sanjaya on Dhritarashtra's bidding goes to live in the higher Himalayas. 16Mausala Parva (The Book of the Clubs)96The infighting between the Yadavas with maces (mausala) and the eventual destruction of the Yadavas. 17Mahaprasthanika Parva (The Book of the Great Journey)97The great journey of Yudhisthira and his brothers across the whole country and finally their ascent of the great Himalayas where each Pandava falls except for Yudhisthira. 18Svargarohana Parva (The Book of the Ascent to Heaven)98Yudhisthira's final test and the return of the Pandavas to the spiritual world (svarga)
1. GANAPATI, THE SCRIBE
BHAGAVAN VYASA, the celebrated compiler of the Vedas, was the son of the great sage Parasara. It was he who gave to the world the divine epic of the Mahabharata. Having conceived the Mahabharata he thought of the means of giving the sacred story to the world. He meditated on Brahma, the Creator, who...