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What is Mahabharata?

The Mahabharata (Devanagari: , phonetically Mahabharata - see note), sometimes just called Bharata, is one of the two major ancient Sanskrit epics of India, the other being the Ramayana. It is the second longest literary epic poem in the world (after the Tibetan Epic of King Gesar). Besides being hailed as one of the greatest literary accomplishments of humanity, The Mahabharata is also of immense religious and philosophical importance in India; in particular, the Bhagavad Gita, which is one of its chapters (Bhishmaparva), is a central sacred text of Hinduism.

The title may be translated as "History of the Great India" or, more accurately, "the Great Epic of the Bharata Dynasty" (bharata means the progeny of Bharata, the king believed to have founded the Indian kingdom of Bharatavarsha; "Bharat" has equal status as the official name of India in all Indian governments today and is still commonly used today). The work is part of the Hindu itihaasas, literally "that which happened", along with the Puranas and Ramayana. The full version contains more than 100,000 verses, making it around four times longer than the Bible, and seven times longer than the Iliad and the Odyssey combined.

Believed to be written 5000 years ago, Mahabharata is considered as the greatest Indian epic ever. Shown here are the two central characters of the Mahabharata: Arjuna and his charioteer Krishna. Artwork © courtesy of The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust

 All text of this article available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (see Copyrights for details

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