The Mahabharata is the longest epic ever written, generally thought to have been composed in the 4th century BCE or earlier. It is either categorized as history or as myth; it is both, while being neither. The Mahabharata is itihasa. The text was originally composed in Sanskrit, where the central narrative is about two branches of a family – the Pandavas and Kauravas – who battle for the throne of Hastinapura. Interwoven into this narrative are several smaller stories about people dead or living, and discourses on various sciences, philosophies, histories of ancient lineages and the universe too. Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa, himself a character in the epic, composed it; as, according to tradition, he dictated the verses and the elephant headed god, Ganesha wrote them down. Including within it the immensely well-known Bhagavad Gita, the Mahabharata is one of the most exemplary texts of ancient Indian, indeed world, literature.
King Shantanu of Hastinapura
married Ganga, the river goddess.
Their son was the mighty Devavrata,
famous for his invincible prowess.
Satyavati became King’s second wife
after he promised that only her offspring will ascend the throne.
For his father’s happiness, Devavrata vowed celibacy for life
In all three worlds, as Bheeshm he became known.
Chitrangada and Vichitravirya, the two sons of Satyavati
were brave and powerful in their own right.
Vichitravirya inherited the throne to the kingdom of Hasti
after Chitrangada was killed in a fight.
Ambika and Ambalika, two sisters of three
became queens to Vichitravirya, and his widows too soon.
The Kuru lineage was furthered by these princesses of Kashi
and Satyavati’s first child, Dvaipayana Vyasa’s boon.
Dhritarashtra, the eldest was powerful but blind.
Pandu from Ambalika, was named so for his pale complexion.
And third was a maid’s son, Vidura, wise and kind.
The princes flourished under Bheeshm’s tutelage and protection.
Sightless Dhritrashtra has a hundred sons and a daughter from his wedlock
with Gandhari, who remained blindfolded in devotion.
The pride of Pourava, Pandu won many battles, jewels and livestock;
This husband of Kunti and Madri, also won hearts of the entire nation.
Despite being younger, he was crowned king
But short lived was his valorous reign.
The curse of a sage disillusioned Pandu and renouncing
everything, he left Hastinapur, with his wives to live the life of a saint.
Pandu’s eldest child was the son of Dharma himself;
His name was pronounced Yuddhisthira, the righteous.
Vayu’s son Vikrodara, of unparalleled strength and excel,
was born next to Kunti, the pious.
From Shakra, Kunti begot the most extraordinary child;
Arjun’s birth was celebrated by beings celestial and from earth.
The Ashwins granted Madri twins, beautiful and mild;
As Nakul and Sahadeva, the youngest Pandavas took birth.
Loved and admired, by all forest dwellers and hermit sect
were the noble hearted sons of Pandu and his wives.
On one calamitous day, the sage’s curse took effect
And Madri and Pandu lost their lives.
It was time, the ascetics decided, for the Pandavas
to return to their glorious home and reclaim what was theirs
The whole of Gajashraya greeted them with awe and applause
Rejoiced by the arrival of the throne’s true heirs.