The Mahabharata is set in the kingdom of Kurukshetra on the northern plains of India along the Ganges River. The opening parvans (books) explain the ancestry of the major characters and provide background for the central conflict of the work. That conflict begins when the rightful heir to the throne of Kurukshetra, a blind prince named Dhritarashtra is passed over in favor of his younger brother Pandu. Instead of taking the throne, however, Prince Pandu goes to the Himalaya mountains to live as a hermit, leaving Dhritarashtra on the throne after all.
Before the Prince Pandu left Kurukshetra, his two wives Kunti and Madri gave birth to five sons, who are need no introduction are often collectively called as the Pandavas They lived at the royal court with their cousins, who were the one hundred sons of Dhritarashtra known as the Kauravas. The Kauravas were born to Dhritarashtra and his wife Gandhari as a result of her boon from lord Shiva.
Both the groups of cousins eventually grew together in the court at the kingdom of Hastinapur. When the Pandavas came of age, the eldest, Yudhishthira demanded the throne from his uncle, claiming that he was the rightful heir. This led to a cold war between the two groups of the family, and eventually the Kauravas forced the five Pandavas to go into exile in the forests.
During the period of their exile, the Pandavas entered a tournament to win the hand of a beautiful princess named Draupadi. The Kauravas also entered the contest, but the one of the Pandavas, named Arjuna, won the princess. However, according to rules back then, Draupadi ended became the common wife of all five Pandavas and hence she gets the name ‘Panchali’
After the Swayamvar of Draupadi, King Dhritarashtra realised his mistake and then called the Pandavas back to his court and divided the kingdom among them and his own sons. However, the Kauravas were unhappy with this settlement, and hence the Kauravas challenged the Pandavas to a game of dice (the modern day ludo) and won back the entire kingdom by cheating. They also attempted to disrobe Draupadi in the assembly of the court at Hastinapur. However, lord Krishna saved the respect of Draupadi. By the end of the day, once again, the Pandavas were forced into exile.
After many years of wandering, the Pandavas returned to reclaim the kingdom, but the Kauravas refused to give up control and both sides prepared for war not only to win the kingdom but to avenge the embarrassment that Draupadi had to face amongst the eminent and notable people. In this war, Lord Krishna supported the Pandavas. Although he took no part in the fighting, he served as charioteer for the Arjuna and gave him advice. Their conversations prior to the war and during the war at the Kurukshetra are the ones that constitute the section of the Mahabharata known as the Bhagavad Gita.
The Pandavas and Kauravas fought the battle for fourteen days at the ground of Kurukshetra. In the end, the Pandavas emerged victorious after killing all their hundred cousins, including their army. The Pandavas gained the kingdom, and the oldest brother, Yudhishthira was crowned as the King of Hastinapur.
The Pandavas ruled peacefully, although their uncle Dhritarashtra mourned the loss of his sons and frequently quarreled with his nephews. However, as time passed, Dhritarashtra eventually went to live in the forest along with his wife Gandhari and is said to have died there. A while later after this, King Yudhishthira gave up the throne and went with his four brothers and their wife, Draupadi, to live on Mount Meru, the abode of the god Indra.
In this story, the Kurukshetra war between the Pandavas and Kauravas constitutes just a part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. It includes many stories and legends about deities and heroes. An enormous range of topics and life-lessons are covered in this epic.
Theme of Mahabharata
One of the major epics of India and in Hinduism; and the longest poem in the world, the Mahabharata is a sacred Hindu text and needs no formal introduction amongst Hindus who grow up listening to stories from the Mahabharata. In Hinduism, tradition holds that an ancient sage, or wise man, called Vyasa authored the Mahabharata, it was almost certainly composed by a number of different poets and then collected into a single work. The epic reached its present form about two hundred years later. It contains nearly one hundred thousand verses and is divided into eighteen books called parvans (also called as sections). The work reflects Hindu beliefs about the historical rulers of a region of northern India, and also provides details about worship and codes of conduct in ancient Hindu culture.
The main theme of the Mahabharata is the idea of sacred duty. Every character in the epic is born into a particular social group, or caste, that must follow the duty prescribed to it by sacred law. The characters who perform their sacred duty are rewarded, while those who do not are punished. This is the great lesson that Lord Krishna gives Arjuna when he begins to doubt his role in the battle. Obeying one’s sacred duty is a key pillar of the Hindu religion.
Life lessons of Mahabharata
The epic narrative of Mahabharata had been written ages ago. However, this tale continues to find prominence in every form of art, and continues to overwhelm us even today. This is not only because of its poetic grandeur but that these stories and legends of the characters of the Mahabharata are the ones that almost all of us have grown up with hold relevance even during present times. Below are some life lessons that we can learn from the Mahabharata:
One should watch their actions
Mahabharata may revolve around the war of duty. But we cannot escape the fact that the major reason behind the destruction of all was revenge. The Kauravas lost everything to their blinded desire to ruin the Pandavas. The war did not even spare the children, including Draupadi’s five sons and Abhimanyu.
Stand by what’s right, even against your loved ones.
Arjuna was initially hesitant to wage war against his kin. But Lord Krishna reminded him that one has to stand by Dharma (duty), even it meant going against one’s own family. Therefore, Arjuna had to fulfill his responsibility as a great warrior of Dharma
source : templepurohit.com