Om! Having bowed down to Narayana and Nara, the most exalted male being, and also to the goddess Saraswati, must the word Jaya be uttered.
Ugrasrava, the son of Lomaharshana, surnamed Sauti, well-versed in the Puranas, bending with humility, one day approached the great sages of rigid vows, sitting at their ease, who had attended the twelve years’ sacrifice of Saunaka, surnamed Kulapati, in the forest of Naimisha. Those ascetics, wishing to hear his wonderful narrations, presently began to address him who had thus arrived at that recluse abode of the inhabitants of the forest of Naimisha. Having been entertained with due respect by those holy men, he saluted those Munis (sages) with joined palms, even all of them, and inquired about the progress of their asceticism. Then all the ascetics being again seated, the son of Lomaharshana humbly occupied the seat that was assigned to him. Seeing that he was comfortably seated, and recovered from fatigue, one of the Rishis beginning the conversation, asked him, ‘Whence comest thou, O lotus-eyed Sauti, and where hast thou spent the time? Tell me, who ask thee, in detail.’
Accomplished in speech, Sauti, thus questioned, gave in the midst of that big assemblage of contemplative Munis a full and proper answer in words consonant with their mode of life.
“Sauti said, ‘Having heard the diverse sacred and wonderful stories which were composed in his Mahabharata by Krishna-Dwaipayana, and which were recited in full by Vaisampayana at the Snake-sacrifice of the high-souled royal sage Janamejaya and in the presence also of that chief of Princes, the son of Parikshit, and having wandered about, visiting many sacred waters and holy shrines, I journeyed to the country venerated by the Dwijas (twice-born) and called Samantapanchaka where formerly was fought the battle between the children of Kuru and Pandu, and all the chiefs of the land ranged on either side. Thence, anxious to see you, I am come into your presence. Ye reverend sages, all of whom are to me as Brahma; ye greatly blessed who shine in this place of sacrifice with the splendour of the solar fire: ye who have concluded the silent meditations and have fed the holy fire; and yet who are sitting—without care, what, O ye Dwijas (twice-born), shall I repeat, shall I recount the sacred stories collected in the Puranas containing precepts of religious duty and of worldly profit, or the acts of illustrious saints and sovereigns of mankind?” “The Rishi replied, ‘The Purana, first promulgated by the great Rishi Dwaipayana, and which after having been heard both by the gods and the Brahmarshis was highly esteemed, being the most eminent narrative that exists, diversified both in diction and division, possessing subtile meanings logically combined, and gleaned from the Vedas, is a sacred work. Composed in elegant language, it includeth the subjects of other books. It is elucidated by other Shastras, and comprehendeth the sense of the four Vedas. We are desirous of hearing that history also called Bharata, the holy composition of the wonderful Vyasa, which dispelleth the fear of evil, just as it was cheerfully recited by the Rishi Vaisampayana, under the direction of Dwaipayana himself, at the snake-sacrifice of Raja Janamejaya?’
“Sauti then said, ‘Having bowed down to the primordial being Isana, to whom multitudes make offerings, and who is adored by the multitude; who is the true incorruptible one, Brahma, perceptible, imperceptible, eternal; who is both a non-existing and an existing-non-existing being; who is the universe and also distinct from the existing and non-existing universe; who is the creator of high and low; the ancient, exalted, inexhaustible one; who is Vishnu, beneficent and the beneficence itself, worthy of all preference, pure and immaculate; who is Hari, the ruler of the faculties, the guide of all things moveable and immoveable; I will declare the sacred thoughts of the illustrious sage Vyasa, of marvellous deeds and worshipped here by all. Some bards have already published this history, some are now teaching it, and others, in like manner, will hereafter promulgate it upon the earth. It is a great source of knowledge, established throughout the three regions of the world. It is possessed by the twice-born both in detailed and compendious forms. It is the delight of the learned for being embellished with elegant expressions, conversations human and divine, and a variety of poetical measures.
In this world, when it was destitute of brightness and light, and enveloped all around in total darkness, there came into being, as the primal cause of creation, a mighty egg, the one inexhaustible seed of all created beings. It is called Mahadivya, and was formed at the beginning of the Yuga, in which we are told, was the true light Brahma, the eternal one, the wonderful and inconceivable being present alike in all places; the invisible and subtile cause, whose nature partaketh of entity and non-entity. From this egg came out the lord Pitamaha Brahma, the one only Prajapati; with Suraguru and Sthanu. Then appeared the twenty-one Prajapatis, viz., Manu, Vasishtha and Parameshthi; ten Prachetas, Daksha, and the seven sons of Daksha. Then appeared the man of inconceivable nature whom all the Rishis know and so the Viswe-devas, the Adityas, the Vasus, and the twin Aswins; the Yakshas, the Sadhyas, the Pisachas, the Guhyakas, and the Pitris. After these were produced the wise and most holy Brahmarshis, and the numerous Rajarshis distinguished by every noble quality. So the water, the heavens, the earth, the air, the sky, the points of the heavens, the years, the seasons, the months, the fortnights, called Pakshas, with day and night in due succession. And thus were produced all things which are known to mankind.
And what is seen in the universe, whether animate or inanimate, of created things, will at the end of the world, and after the expiration of the Yuga, be again confounded. And, at the commencement of other Yugas, all things will be renovated, and, like the various fruits of the earth, succeed each other in the due order of their seasons. Thus continueth perpetually to revolve in the world, without beginning and without end, this wheel which causeth the destruction of all things.
The generation of Devas, in brief, was thirty-three thousand, thirty-three hundred and thirty-three. The sons of Div were Brihadbhanu, Chakshus, Atma Vibhavasu, Savita, Richika, Arka, Bhanu, Asavaha, and Ravi. Of these Vivaswans of old, Mahya was the youngest whose son was Deva-vrata. The latter had for his son, Su-vrata who, we learn, had three sons,—Dasa-jyoti, Sata-jyoti, and Sahasra-jyoti, each of them producing numerous offspring. The illustrious Dasa-jyoti had ten thousand, Sata-jyoti ten times that number, and Sahasra-jyoti ten times the number of Sata-jyoti’s offspring. From these are descended the family of the Kurus, of the Yadus, and of Bharata; the family of Yayati and of Ikshwaku; also of all the Rajarshis. Numerous also were the generations produced, and very abundant were the creatures and their places of abode. The mystery which is threefold—the Vedas, Yoga, and Vijnana Dharma, Artha, and Kama—also various books upon the subject of Dharma, Artha, and Kama; also rules for the conduct of mankind; also histories and discourses with various srutis; all of which having been seen by the Rishi Vyasa are here in due order mentioned as a specimen of the book.
The Rishi Vyasa published this mass of knowledge in both a detailed and an abridged form. It is the wish of the learned in the world to possess the details and the abridgement. Some read the Bharata beginning with the initial mantra (invocation), others with the story of Astika, others with Uparichara, while some Brahmanas study the whole. Men of learning display their various knowledge of the institutes in commenting on the composition. Some are skilful in explaining it, while others, in remembering its contents.
The son of Satyavati having, by penance and meditation, analysed the eternal Veda, afterwards composed this holy history, when that learned Brahmarshi of strict vows, the noble Dwaipayana Vyasa, offspring of Parasara, had finished this greatest of narrations, he began to consider how he might teach it to his disciples. And the possessor of the six attributes, Brahma, the world’s preceptor, knowing of the anxiety of the Rishi Dwaipayana, came in person to the place where the latter was, for gratifying the saint, and benefiting the people. And when Vyasa, surrounded by all the tribes of Munis, saw him, he was surprised; and, standing with joined palms, he bowed and ordered a seat to be brought. And Vyasa having gone round him who is called Hiranyagarbha seated on that distinguished seat stood near it; and being commanded by Brahma Parameshthi, he sat down near the seat, full of affection and smiling in joy. Then the greatly glorious Vyasa, addressing Brahma Parameshthi, said, “O divine Brahma, by me a poem hath been composed which is greatly respected. The mystery of the Veda, and what other subjects have been explained by me; the various rituals of the Upanishads with the Angas; the compilation of the Puranas and history formed by me and named after the three divisions of time, past, present, and future; the determination of the nature of decay, fear, disease, existence, and non-existence, a description of creeds and of the various modes of life; rule for the four castes, and the import of all the Puranas; an account of asceticism and of the duties of a religious student; the dimensions of the sun and moon, the planets, constellations, and stars, together with the duration of the four ages; the Rik, Sama and Yajur Vedas; also the Adhyatma; the sciences called Nyaya, Orthœphy and Treatment of diseases; charity and Pasupatadharma; birth celestial and human, for particular purposes; also a description of places of pilgrimage and other holy places of rivers, mountains, forests, the ocean, of heavenly cities and the kalpas; the art of war; the different kinds of nations and languages: the nature of the manners of the people; and the all-pervading spirit;—all these have been represented. But, after all, no writer of this work is to be found on earth.’
“Brahma said. ‘I esteem thee for thy knowledge of divine mysteries, before the whole body of celebrated Munis distinguished for the sanctity of their lives. I know thou hast revealed the divine word, even from its first utterance, in the language of truth. Thou hast called thy present work a poem, wherefore it shall be a poem. There shall be no poets whose works may equal the descriptions of this poem, even, as the three other modes called Asrama are ever unequal in merit to the domestic Asrama. Let Ganesa be thought of, O Muni, for the purpose of writing the poem.’
“Sauti said, ‘Brahma having thus spoken to Vyasa, retired to his own abode. Then Vyasa began to call to mind Ganesa. And Ganesa, obviator of obstacles, ready to fulfil the desires of his votaries, was no sooner thought of, than he repaired to the place where Vyasa was seated. And when he had been saluted, and was seated, Vyasa addressed him thus, ‘O guide of the Ganas! be thou the writer of the Bharata which I have formed in my imagination, and which I am about to repeat.”
“Ganesa, upon hearing this address, thus answered, ‘I will become the writer of thy work, provided my pen do not for a moment cease writing.” And Vyasa said unto that divinity, ‘Wherever there be anything thou dost not comprehend, cease to continue writing.’ Ganesa having signified his assent, by repeating the word Om! proceeded to write; and Vyasa began; and by way of diversion, he knit the knots of composition exceeding close; by doing which, he dictated this work according to his engagement.
I am (continued Sauti) acquainted with eight thousand and eight hundred verses, and so is Suka, and perhaps Sanjaya. From the mysteriousness of their meaning, O Muni, no one is able, to this day, to penetrate those closely knit difficult slokas. Even the omniscient Ganesa took a moment to consider; while Vyasa, however, continued to compose other verses in great abundance.
The wisdom of this work, like unto an instrument of applying collyrium, hath opened the eyes of the inquisitive world blinded by the darkness of ignorance. As the sun dispelleth the darkness, so doth the Bharata by its discourses on religion, profit, pleasure and final release, dispel the ignorance of men. As the full-moon by its mild light expandeth the buds of the water-lily, so this Purana, by exposing the light of the Sruti hath expanded the human intellect. By the lamp of history, which destroyeth the darkness of ignorance, the whole mansion of nature is properly and completely illuminated.
This work is a tree, of which the chapter of contents is the seed; the divisions called Pauloma and Astika are the root; the part called Sambhava is the trunk; the books called Sabha and Aranya are the roosting perches; the books called Arani is the knitting knots; the books called Virata and Udyoga the pith; the book named Bhishma, the main branch; the book called Drona, the leaves; the book called Karna, the fair flowers; the book named Salya, their sweet smell; the books entitled Stri and Aishika, the refreshing shade; the book called Santi, the mighty fruit; the book called Aswamedha, the immortal sap; the denominated Asramavasika, the spot where it groweth; and the book called Mausala, is an epitome of the Vedas and held in great respect by the virtuous Brahmanas. The tree of the Bharata, inexhaustible to mankind as the clouds, shall be as a source of livelihood to all distinguished poets.”
“Sauti continued, ‘I will now speak of the undying flowery and fruitful productions of this tree, possessed of pure and pleasant taste, and not to be destroyed even by the immortals. Formerly, the spirited and virtuous Krishna-Dwaipayana, by the injunctions of Bhishma, the wise son of Ganga and of his own mother, became the father of three boys who were like the three fires by the two wives of Vichitra-virya; and having thus raised up Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura, he returned to his recluse abode to prosecute his religious exercise.