Rao Bahadur B. Venkateshachar

Introduction to Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya

The Mahabharata Tatparyanirnaya occupies a high place among the works of Sri Madhwacharya, in fact the Acharya himself is inclined to give it the  highest place. The work consists of 32 chapters and is in a large measure concerned with relating the incidents of the Mahabharata so as to bring  out the religious and philosophical import of the great epic. The three chapters at the beginning are of an introductory character. In the first, a rapid and yet comprehensive survey of the entire Brahmanical religious  literature of India including the Bramhasutras of Badrayana is made, and the fundamentals of Dvaita philosophy are established. In the second chapter, what has been established in the first is shown to be borne out by the teachings of the Mahabharata. This is done by quoting significant passages from the epic and commenting on them wherever necessary. According to Sri Madhva the Mahabharata contains the essence of all Indian religious literature and as an authority occupies the highest place. It is for this reason that he lays particular emphasis on what the epic teaches concerning the nature of the Supreme Being and the relation of the animate and inanimate world to the great Being. In the third chapter an account of the creation of the world and the order in which the Devas emerge from Sree Hari at the time of creation are given. The story of the Ramayana is related in the next six chapters. The Avathar of Sree Vyasa(Badrayana) forms the subject matter of the tenth chapter.

In relating the story of the Mahabharata to which the rest of the work is

devoted, the incidents described in the Harivamsa and Bhagvatha are dexterously woven into the fabric of the narrative. Throughout the work one of the main objects of the Acharya has been to reconcile the apparent inconsistencies  and contradictions which are found in these three great works. How convincingly the reconciliation has been effected, a careful student of the work cannot fail to recognize.

To the Acharya, the lives of the heroes and sages described in the epic illustrate the practical side of the philosophic teaching embodied in his own works. Religion and philosophy are to be the guides of right conduct and right living. "There is no greater sin" says Shree Madhva, "than for a man to profess religion and philosophy but lead a life that bears no relation to his professions."

In the Mahabharata Sree Vyasa has related the lives of the good and the wicked so that those who seek the grace of God may find in the lives of the good, examples to follow and see in the lives of the wicked what a righteous person should detest and avoid.

The main intention of the divine author in composing the epic is to narrate the glorious deeds of Parabramha Vasudeva. The following quotation taken from the very first adhyaya of the epic brings out this point quite clearly :

   vasudEvastu bhagvAn kirtyatEtra sanAtanah |

   sa hisatyamrutamchaiva pavitram puNyamEva cha ||

   shAshvatam bramha param dhruvam jyOtissanAtanam |

   yasya divyAni karmANi kathayanti manIshiNaha ||

   yam dhyAyanti sadA muktaha dhyAnayOgabalAnvitahah |

   pratibimbamivAdarshE yam pashyantyAtmani sthitam ||

   " In the Mahabharata the glory of Bhagvan Vasudeva is narrated. He is the Good, the True, the Holy, the Just, the Eternal Para Bramha,  the Unchanging and the Beginningless Light. It is His divine acts that  the learned delight to relate. The released souls possessing the power of contemplation, ever meditating on the Lord, see Him as in a mirror  seated in their hearts."

   Other subjects - the lives of the great warriors and sages, nay the great battle itself which is narrated at great length - must be viewed as subsidiary to this main theme and are significant only when understood in relation to it. The Avathars of Sree Vishnu take place when the  unrighteous, and the wicked flourish on the earth. The great Avathar of the Divine Being as Sree Krishna took place at a time when the great  Asuras such as Kali (Duryodhana) and Kalanemi (Kamsa) were born on the  earth and oppressed the righteous devotees of God. The Mahabharata itself is to be looked upon as a work depicting the ever recurring conflict between the two opposing aspects of human existence, namely, good and evil. God is always on the side of the righteous and in the epic we find Him espousing  the cause of the Pandavas. He is their unfailing friend and guide, for, does He not Himself say ?

  ekAtmyam mAm gatam vidhi pANdavairdharmachAribhihi ||

  "Know, Duryodhana, that I identify myself with the Pandavas whose guide in life is Dharma."  - (Udyoga Parva)

The most prominent figure among the Pandavas Bheemasena, represents goodness and virtue, just as on the opposite side Duryodhana, the  incarnation of Kali represents evil. A superficial reader of the Bharata would be inclined to place Arjuna as the most prominent among the Pandavas. This, according to the Acharya, does not represent the intention of the author of the epic. The real hero is Bheemasena. This will be clear when one assess the actual achievement in overcoming evil, for it is Bheema who slays Baka, Kichaka, Jarasanda and the hundered sons of Dhritarashtra including that archetype of wickedness, Duryodhana.

tamivamEva surAsurasamchayE harikrutam pravishEpamudIkshitum |

prativibhajyacha bhimasuyOghanau svaparakshabhidA kathitA kathA ||

  " To illustrate this difference in the treatment by Hari of the righteous (the Devas) and the wicked (the Asuras) the story of the Mahabharata is related as a conflict between two sides, the side of Sree Hari, that is of the Devas, being represented by Bheema and the side of the Asuras by Duryodhana."

   That Bheemsena is the most prominent figure among the Pandavas is borne out not only by his actual achievement in overcoming evil, but also by the express statements of those ranged against him on the opposing side. For instance, says Duryodhana in the first Adhyaya of Bhagavadgitha :

   aparyAptam tadasmAkam balam bhIshmAbhirakshitam |

   paryAptamtvidamEtEsham balam bhImAbhirakshitam ||

Duryodhana :- " I feel as though our army protected by Bhishma is not capable of withstanding the onslaught of the opposing Pandavas whereas the army of the Pandavas protected by Bheema appears quite equal to the task of overpowering  us."

Here, Duryodhana does not mention Arjuna or the Army Chief, Drishtadyumna,  but mentions Bheema as the one person of whom he is afraid, for he thinks that it is the valour and strength of Bheemasena which will be the deciding factor in the impending mighty struggle. Again, Dritarashtra laments over the folly  of his son Duryodhana and sees nothing but disaster to his sons in the ensuing battle. He has a clear vision of the indomitable courage and strength of Bheemsena, the terrible. For he says :

sarva etE mahOtsahA yE tvayA parikIrtitaha |

ekatastvEna tE sarvE samEtA bhIma ekataha ||

astrE drONArjunasamam vAyuvEgasamam javE |

mahEshvarasamam krOdhE kO hanyAbhdImamAhavE ||

agadasyApyadhanushO virathasya vivarmaNaha |

bAhubhyAm yudhyamAnasya kastishtEdagranaha pumAn ||

" Oh ! Sanjaya, all the warriors on the side of the Pandavas whose valour you hae described taken together are equalled by Bheema as a single combatant. In archery Bheema is equal to  Drona and Arjuna; in swiftness, he competes with the Wind; and in wrath he is teh equal of Maheshwara; who is there who can slay such a one on the battle-field ? Without the mace, not armed with bow and arrow, not seated in a chariot, with no armour, when Bheema begins to fight the foe with the bare strength of his two arms, who is there, bold enough to stand before him and oppose !"

The Mahabharata relates the story of the great battle so as to convey also an allegorical meaning. Here, Vrikodara (Bheemasena) represents  loving devotion to God, Divine knowledge coupled with the absence of desire for worldly things, power of quick apprehension, retentiveness, fortitude, steadiness, resourcefulness, vitality and strength. Vayu  embodies these ten attributes and so Bheema, an avathar of Vayu, must also be taken as representing these attributes. Saraswathi is the presiding  Deity over all knowledge and Draupadi, an incarnation of Saraswathi,  therefore, is the emblem of knowledge. Duryodhana the incarnation of the satanic Kali stands for ignorance, folly, and other evil attributes.  Dussasana is wrong knowledge, Sakuni stands for atheism and the other  followers of Duryodhana represents other evils. Those on the side of the Pandavas represent moral merit and their guiding star is the Supreme Being,Vishnu, the God of Righteousness. This allegorical significance, according to Sri Madhwa, must not be lost sight of by a student of the epic.

  Another point which Sree Madhwa wants to bring out in his Nirnaya is  that the Mahabharata when carefully examined reveals the gradation in the hierarchy of the Devas. In the second adhyaya a careful examination of the entire epic is made from this standpoint and the gradation is  determined. Great importance is attached to this gradation in the system of Sree Madhwa. That Sree Narayana stands supremely high at the top of  this heirarchy is the one realisation that will secure Divine grace  for the devotee leading to salvation. In the Githa this fact has been  declared by Sree Krishna Himself in the following emphatic words :

     yO mamEvamasammUDhO jAnAti purUshOtamam |

     sa sarvEkidbhajati ,a, sarvabhAvEna bhArat ||

  " He who thus devoid of all delusion understands me as the Highest Purusha will have grasped the essence of all the Shastras and served me in every way. "

Also in the Veda we have:

  "Among the Gods Agni is the lowest and Vishnu the highest, in

between come all the other Gods. "

agnirvaidEvAnAmavamO vishNoh paramastadantarENa sarvA anyAdEvatAhah ||

It is a matter for congratulation that Mr.B.Gururajah Rao has begun to translate this important work of the Acharya into English. He has now completed translating the first nine chapters. The task of translating a Sanskrit work into English is always a difficult one. It is not often easy to bring out the force of the original in a foreign language. But Mr. Gururajah Rao has executed this task with great skill and has given us a readable translation of the first nine chapters. It is to be hoped that he will be able to complete the task by translating the rest of the work. Those who cherish a desire to understand the precious religious philosophy treasured in the great works of our saints and thinkers but are not able to read the originals must feel grateful to the author for having placed before them the translation of a work composed by the great religious philosopher who by his work and his life showed the path that leads to Divine Grace.

     AnandatIrthanAmA sukhamayaghAmA yatirjIyAt |

samsArArNavatararNi yamihajanAhah kIrtayanti budhaha ||

"May the Saint Anandateertha, the home of abundant bliss whom the wise consider as the boat for crossing the ocean of bondage(samsara), shine victorious."

    (Baladeva Vidyabhushana's Prameya Ratnavali).


21-7-1941                                        B. Venkateshachar.

naahaM karta hariH karta