Mahabharata: History or a Grand Fiction?

Mahabharata is said to be evolved over a period of time. Originally it was just 8,800 verses, said to be written down by Lord Ganesha and narrated by the great sage Veda Vyasa and called the Jaya Samhita. Later, it became 24,000 verses, called the Bharata, when it was recited by Vaisampayana. Finally, it was recited as the 100,000 versed epic (the Mahabharata) by Ugrasravas, the son of Lomaharsana. It is divided into 18 parvas.

The first author of what became Mahabharata was Maharishi Ved Vyasa, who was the grandfather of the Pandavas and the Kauravas, the two families around whom this ancient epic revolves.

All Indians have grown up hearing tales and watching Mahabharata, the great Indian epic. Mahabharata is always associated with Hinduism and has an immense impact on Hindus and their cultural traditions. Mahabharata in many ways has sculpted Indian culture and beliefs.

Is Mahabharata a reality or just a tale? Well, readers across the world have their own beliefs and views on the same, giving rise to a great debate. The world seems to be divided on whether there is any historical evidence to the story of Mahabharata.

Facts presented by those who think Mahabharata is a reality, not fiction

  1. In Mahabharata, it is mentioned that it is an “Itihas”. Aryans had coined the terms “Puraan” which was used to categorize “ancient history” and “Itihaas” to categorize “recent events”. If the writer has intended to write a fictional story, he would have probably mentioned it as “Katha”.

  2. Bhagvat Geeta: Bhagvat Geeta is one of the holy books of our Hinduism, is a part of Mahabharta.

    It is believed that Bhagvat Geeta is a documented narrative of Lord Krishna to Arjun to fight in the war of Kurukshetra. If the whole story of Mahabharta was unreal and just fiction, then what was the purpose of the writer to write Geeta.

  3. Those who have read the Mahabharata thoroughly can’t deny the fact that all places described in Mahabharata are real places, all of them are well-known places and still exists with the same name.
    For Example Indraprastha, Dwarka, Hastinapur, Kurukshetra are the well-known places of India that still exist with their original names.

  4. There are many dynasties mentioned in the Mahabharata. There are around 50 kings are mentioned in Mahabharata from Barhi to the Pandavas. If the intention of Ved Vyas were just to create fiction then why would he elaborated all the details of the kings, their wives, their children, relatives, etc.?

  5. While Mahabharata has undergone changes over a period of time, many of the Mahabharata characters are mentioned in the Vedic texts that have not suffered interpolations as they were considered sacred, and hence these must be representing historical persons. For example, Krishna is mentioned in the Chandogya Upanisad. Other names like Vicitravirya, Santanu, Dhrtarastra, Janamejaya, and Pariksit have been mentioned in other Vedic texts.

  6. Kunti calls on the Mantra given by Maharishi Durvasa and summoned Surya Bhagwan who appeared on a seven horsed chariot in Morena, Madhya Pradesh. It is believed that the dazzling heat of the chariot melted the rock, leaving impressions on the rock.

  7. According to Marine archaeologists, they found an entire city submerged that is Dwaraka which was considered to be the ancient port city of Lord Krishna. They found massive fort walls and piers submerged under the ocean as described in the Mahabharata.

  8. The dynasties mentioned in the Mahabharata match with those mentioned in Ramayana. It is a well-known fact that these two epics were written by two different writers, then how is it possible that every detail matches? If they were just the imagination of writers then there must be some mismatch.

  9. If we go through the astronomical details mentioned in the Mahabharata, we can’t deny the fact that the planets and stars were exactly in the same position in the era. If the motive of the writer was just to create fiction then what was the need for such mathematical calculations?

  10. The name “Bharat Varsh” itself is the biggest proof of Mahabharata. The country is named Bhaarat after the name of king Bharat who was the son of Dushyant and Shakuntala.

  11. There is not too much description of the flora or fauna. Its point to be noted that isn’t descriptions of flora and fauna a part of fiction writing. Historical works concentrate more on events and characters.

Facts presented by those who think Mahabharata is fiction not reality

Mahabharata epic
  1. In Mahabharata, it has mentioned that iron weapons were used. But the establishment of iron was started around 1500BC.

  2. Just because there are references to the geographical locations in India, doesn’t make it a real event. It must be possible that the author used these popular places at that time, just like modern authors base their stories in Delhi or Paris. It may be that whoever wrote Mahabharata wrote it all according to the geography and places like marvel comics writes according to real places.

  3. The event of Jayadratha killing by Lord Krishna might have used the mechanics of eclipse to trick the enemy or the event may not have ever happened at all and may have added later to add more spice into the story.

  4. Krishna is supposed to have died around 3102 BC. While the oldest timeline for Pharaoh’s is around 1500 BC.

  5. According to Mahabharata, around 4 million people died in the war of Kurukshetra. But if we look at the population records of 1000BC, the total population of the world was 115 million. If Mahabharata is real, then why there is no evidence of bones of the 4 million soldiers in Kurukshetra

  6. If Mahabharata existed, that time must have other people apart from characters mentioned in the story like extremely rich people or scholars who would have impacted Mahabharata. There must have been normal people, who would have been affected by the war.

  7. How is it possible Mahabharata is the only text from that era that captures the great war?

  8. If we exclude all the magic and god related part from these stories we may find a story which is believable and might have happened. It is quite hard to believe that Gods took sides and fought in the war.

  9. According to the study of surrounding sites, the date of the structures of Dwarka may be between the Historical period and the late medieval period. The reports of the earlier theory about the spotting and dating of these structures in light of new shreds of evidence from the recent underwater explorations. It is hard to state that the findings are from ancient age and do not meet the criteria as per Lord Krishna’s Dwarka narration

Whether you believe Mahabharata is a myth or history, there are many learnings that we can have from this great narration. From teachings in Bhagvat Geeta to wisdom of Vidur Upanishad to the fate of greed and arrogance and finally that even though the humble and righteous are victorious in the end but such victory comes at a great cost and after a long perilous struggle.

There is a lot of symbolism in Mahabharata. The loyalty of Pandavas and Kauravas to their brothers is a way to tell society how families should act. The friendship of Krishna – Sudama and Karna – Duryodhana is a message to value friends. Similarly, the blindness of Dhritrashtra and a blindfolded Gandhari is symbolic of how children say from the path of truth when parents turn their eyes away from their welfare and are just driven by fear and greed.

The 5 Pandavas are said to be symbolic of the 5 traits that an ideal husband should have (Yudhisthira – Truthfulness, Bhima – Strength, Arjun – Focus, Nakul – master of animals and Sahdeva – Knowledge) and that’s why Kunti asked Draupadi to marry all 5 Pandavas.

Continuing with the symbolism, the era of Mahabharata also describes the great shift in the character of a role model moving from a righteous leader like Lord Rama to a deft politician and strategist like Lord Krishna, which is a characteristic change from “Treta Yug” to “Dwapar Yug”

This article does not intend to hurt anyone’s feelings but to impartially present arguments of believers and non-believers alike. As we mentioned above, whether you think it’s history or fiction, there is a lot to learn from this great story and improve your life and lifestyle.

If you liked our article, do let us know in the comment section below.

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