Comparing Mahabharata to Mahabharata

Persian and Indonesian Mahabharata Cases – Part 1

One of the tasks which the BORI Critical edition achieved was to push the date back on the story of Mahabharata we have now getting rid of many impurities and interpolations on the way. Most Indian manuscripts are from 17th cen AD and 14th cen AD. Many of these are based on copies of older works. That pushes the dates to the 8th cen AD which is also outer limit on the oldest manuscripts. The materials will degrade beyond that time. Finally, using the Nepali manuscripts of 11th cen provenance, they were able to date that copy as a copy of older text. The commentaries manage to push the date to 400 AD. That is current accepted limit. The last parts of the current version of Epic were written in 4th cen ad, the last major culling or removal of Ramayana from the text. The oldest portions are pushed to on linguistic grounds to 4th cen BC which the recent again Nepali finds push back another 200 years.

So Mahabharata we have is probably assembled in current form in 4th cen AD. The oldest parts of it are 1000 years older. The main changes are the upakhayanas and as Dr. Mendhale argued some of the Sanskrit plays written in these 800 years plus years.

Persian Mahabharata

Critical edition was not the first such exercise. The first such exercise was undertaken by Taimuri Badshah of the Gurgani Sultanate, Jalal-du-din Mohammed Akbar. He collected many recessions from around India and housed them in his library. He then asked the scholars to make a critical edition in Persian with drawings. His Persian advisors like Raja Todar mal told him that about a hundred and forty years before his time, that task was already undertaken by Persian scholars in 15th century.

They told Akbar that in 12th century, Abul-Hasan-Ali, Librarian of city of Jurjan on Caspian coast, translated Mahabharata into Persian based on translation by Abu-Saleh‘s famous Instruction to Princes where Abu-Saleh translated Mahabharata from Sanskrit to Arabic in 1026 AD and used it as teaching guide especially Santi Parva for the Abbasid princes. Abu Saleh’s work celebrated Mother Kunti and her Vidula dialogues are famous in Arab world.

French translator M. Reinaud translated the work in 1845. One interesting feature is that Yudhishthara sends his son Yuddharatha to rule in Sindh as Dushla’s grandson is too young. The Indonesian version of same story is Arjuna ruling in Sindh. (Sindh was the border province between Indian and Arabic cultural spheres of the day and dominates the stories.)

In this Persian translation, Madri did not commit Sati and lived with Kunti and her sons. The five Pandavas had five teachers, Yudhishthara for mighty rule and a firm ministery; Bhimasena for great strength; Arjuna for mastery of the bow; Newal for skill in horsemanship and courage; Shahdeva for wisdom, knowledge of hidden things & astronomy. The people of the empire under Dhritrashtra left the Kauravas to come to them and made them kings.

The Persian edition also has an uncle Bhimasena for Pandavas which is probably Vidura. In some cultures, second sons are named after their uncles after eldest named after fathers, so Persian edition knowing Bhimasena is a famous name makes Vidura as Bhimasena too.

In Persian edition, after lakshagraha in which Dhritrashtra tries to kill the seven Kunti, Madri and 5 brothers, Duryodhana thanks his father by killing him and becoming King. Meanwhile the brothers escape to country of Samana and marry Dropdi. They then move to Persia and have great number of adventures, too many to detail with jinns, Devas and demons. In Thirteen years, they conquer and rule Persia then they rule 20 more years and then are called by public crying for them. They come back and again share kingdom, because of attempt on chastity of their wife, the war was inevitable, the war happens. All kings come, the Pandavas win, Yudhishthara killing Duryodhana with an arrow. The story of Gandhari mad with grief eating flesh of her sons is here. Then Yudhishthara ruled all Hindustan and retired to Himalayas. Each of his brothers rule by turn and then retire to Himayalas doing religious austerities till death. Then their descendents are described.

There is no Krishna!!

But in 15th century, unknown Persian translated Mahabharata with Krishna and wrote a lengthy commentary as well. It is said that Feroze shah Tughlaq had got hold of many old Hindu texts from temple of Nagakote in Kangra. They were basis of this Mahabharata.

Anyway, Akbar started the Sanskrit text translations in 1572, by 1581, he had proclaimed a new religion Din-i-Ilahi and put forth his scholars to translate his new veda Mahabharata called Ramza-nama.

  • Badaoni had translated Atharvaveda
  • Faizi translated Bhagwada Gita and another book now lost
  • Abul Fazal wrote Gangadhar
  • Maulana Sheri wrote Haribans
  • Maulana Farniuli was fascinated by and wrote Yoga-Vashishtha.
  • When Badaoni was finished with Atharvaveda, he worked on Katha Sarita Sagar.
  • Abul fazal after writing Gangadhar, started and finished Kishan joshi. (Kishan leela).
  • Faizi then wrote Lilavati and then Nal Daman based on Nala Damayanti.
  • Abul Fazal wrote Gangadhar then Kishan Leela then Mahesh Mohananda on Siva.
  • Badaoni wrote Singhasana Batttissi as Nama-i-Khirid Afza.
  • After Harivamsa, Mullah Sheri wrote a treatise on elephants (though certain Salim Sheikhu baba is probably the real author!).
  • Badaoni then wrote Ramayana and then Mahabharata project was headed by him.

Badaoni states that Mahabharata he is using narrates the wars of the tribes of Kurus and Pandus who ruled in Hind more than 4000 years as per his calculations. 2449 BC is one of the dates for Mahabharata based on Badaoni’s arguments. Badauni was assisted by all the above plus Naqib Khan for summarizing.

Other authors from Akbar’s stables were Shiekh Bhawan, he was a converted Brahamin who was one of seventeen in Dil-i-Illahi. The Main Hindu authors were Debi Mishra who then wrote a commentary on Mahabharata called Bharata Artha Deepika.

Chaturbhuj Mishra who also used the experience to write a commentary on Mahabharata called Bharata Upaya Prakasaka Bharata Tatparya Prakashika. These two may have already written their commentaries and were called in as Experts to guide.

Then we have Madhusudan Mishra the dramatist who edited Mahanatakam, the play version of Mahabharata. These three were guides or teachers for Naqib Khan, Shaikh Sultan Thanesari, Mulla Sheri and Badauni to write the Persian text along with Satvadana, Rudra Bhattacharya and Sheikh Bhawan.

They wrote it as free text Persian adaptation. Badaoni wrote 2 of 18 books. Most work was done by Thanesari and the Hindus. Faizi took the free text and then composed an elegant language version. Thanesari loved the book, Badaoni hated Hinduism so he was bad chief editor. Thanesari saved most of the work. Badaoni was by the way given Santi parva and anushasana parva as emporer suspected badauni of importing his bigoted ideas.

The narration of Harivamsa was done on occasion of marriage of Salim and his first wife, daughter of Maun singh.

The main cleanest copy is with Jaipur royal family and because of court cases was unavailable to the editors of Critical edition. They could have used it (written in 1583) to remove more interpolations or defend some which might have been added since that period.

Second edition was made in 1598 and third in 1617.

The Main information that Ramzanama gives us is interesting: Vana Parva they had has 304 extra verses then we have from the 400 AD Sanskrit text. Udyoga had 460 extra verses than 400 AD Sanskrita text. Most Kaurava brothers died in Bheeshma Parva. Droma parva was the destruction of Kings who came and second generation of Kauravas.

The main changes come in Salya Parva. 90 chief Kaurava warriors died in 18th day. Then Duryodhana, his family and some of his brothers escape. They are killed mostly by foot soldiers, mace bearers, villagers in a hunt that goes on for 18 days. Some are killed by hanging. In some cases, the local villages cut them to pieces or beat them to death or stake them. In some cases, they are fed alive to wild animals before Pandavas could get to them. Yudhishthara feels the sheer anger of public against Kauravas and the sheer joy of the local women as they tell him how they brutally dismembered Dushasana. Duryodhan’s legs are broken and he is staked and then drowned with his son. Pandavas are barely able to save Dhritrashtra finding him covered in his blood and beaten by the mob. In our epic, only Duryodhana’s friend Charvaka is thus killed by mob. In the current Stree Parva Gandhari describes half eaten faces and hands of Vikarna, Durmukha, et all and Karna’s body so much eaten that it looks like moon just before Amavasya.

Now Badaoni and the hindu commentators state something about Santi Parva. The edition they have is 14725 verses, the edition we have in current circulation is 14732 verses. The 400 AD text version should have 19374 verses. Almost 4500 verses of Shanti Parva lost in Northern editions from 400 AD to 1500 AD.

Anushasana is exactly 8000 verses which in itself is interesting.

The Ashramavasika parva is 1506 slokas in Sanskrit edition, the Ramzanama edition is 300 verses. Most of Ashramavasika is interpolation as per Ramzanama. Again, some of the translators may not be comfortable with celestial descriptions.

The Harivamsa is 12000 verses as per Sanskrit editon, Ramzanama edition has 16374 verses. The difference is Vishnu Parva added sometime between 400 AD and 1500 AD.


Post Author: Mahabharata World

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