The Mahabharat is a huge work. It is broken into 18 books called as parvas. The 18 parvas can sub-grouped into three main groups – pre-war, the war and post-war.

Pre-War Parvas
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The Adi Parva or ‘the Book of the Beginning’ is the first part or book of the Mahabharat. It describes how the epic came to be recited by Sauti to the assembled rishis at Naimisharanya (the Naimisha Forest), after first having been narrated at the sarpasatra of Janamejaya by Vaishampayana at Takshashila. King Janamejaya was the son of King Parikshit who was the son of Abhimanyu. King Parikshit inherited the Hastinapur empire after the death of King Parikshit. Parikshit was bitten by the snake lord Takshak. Enraged by this, Janamajeya started the snake sacrifice or sarpasatra. It was during the conclusion of the sarpastra, that Mahabharat was recited. The history of the Bharata race is told in detail and the parva also traces the history of the Bhrigu race. The main part of the work covers the birth and early life of the Kuru princes.

This book is very long.

The Adi Parva begins with the life of King Shantanu and his meeting with Ganga. Then it describes the infanticide of the first seven children and stopped at the eighth born. Later on it describes Shantanu and Satyavati saga. This continues through to birth of Chitrangand and Vichitravirya, then Dhritarasjtra/Pandu/Vidur, Pandu’s coronation, his subsequent curse and renunciation. It then follows the birth of the Kuru children.

After the death of Pandu, Kunti and Pandavas return back to Hastinapur. Then begins the scuffle and tussle between Kauravas and Pandavas. Bheem is poisoned but he returns back stronger than ever. Dronacharya makes his entry and becomes the teacher. Yudhishthir is named the crown prince. Then comes the famous lakshagriha (laquer house) incident at Varnavat. The Pandavas escape from the burning mansion and struggle in the forest. Bheem meets Hidimbaa, slays her brother Hidimb and Gatotkach is born. Pandvas then land in Ekchakra Nagari where Bheem saves their Brahman host from Bakasur by slaying the rakashasa (demon). There, Pandavas hear about Draupadi swayamvar and land in Panchal nagari. Arjun wins Draupadi but due to mother’s decree (who spoke without looking and thinking), Draupadi becomes common-in-law wife of all five Pandavas.

The news of Pandavas being alive reaches Hastinapur. Dhritarashtra is forced to recall the Pandavas back home. The hatred between the sons of two brothers has reached the peak. As a compromise, the kingdom is divided and Pandavas get the barren land of Khandavprastha most of which is dense forest, hard rock and desert (the current geographical location of Delhi, part of Hariyana, upper MP, north East Rajasthan).

(to be continued) …

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