The fifth Veda

It is held that Vaisampayana narrates the Mahabharata when the Sarpa yaga conducted by Janamejaya to rid the world of all snakes is disrupted and left unfinished. Janamejaya had begun the yaga to take revenge on Takshaka, who was responsible for the death of his father Parikshit. Sage Astika intervenes and dissuades him from continuing with the Yaga and Janamejaya accedes. But he is upset at the turn of events. It is then that Vaisampayana, who has been taught the entire Mahabharata by Vyasa, offers to narrate the stories to him. Though reluctant initially, Janamejaya eventually gets drawn into the story that is truly encyclopaedic.

In a discourse, Sri M.V. Anantapadmanabhachariar drew attention to the fact that listening to the Mahabharata can be a panacea to the restless and disturbed mind as it turns out in this situation. The text is also narrated and discoursed as an expiatory act to counter ill effects. The inherent value of the Mahabharata lies in the detailed exposition about the goals of mankind, the Purusharthas — dharma, artha, kama and moksha. The text captures the essence of the philosophy and abstruse truths of life contained in the Vedas that are not easily accessible to all. It is hailed as the fifth Veda.

Sorrow and joy are not permanent even as human life is transient with the body succumbing to old age, disease and death. But dharma alone is permanent. We have to transcend the bonds of attachment. To Yudhishtira, the victory in the Kurukshetra war appears a defeat. Through Krishna’s grace, the valour of Arjuna and the power of his own dharma, the kingdom is protected and he has been proclaimed the sovereign. But what is the net result of all this gain, he wonders. He seeks Bhishma’s advice and his counselling he receives on dharma is an invaluable asset to posterity.

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 10:46:43 PM |

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