THE MAHABHARATA. 67 R&mayana, or story of the Aryan advance into Southern India. The Mahabharata. — The Mahabharata is a great collection of Indian legends in verse, some of them as old as the Vedic hymns. The main story deals with a period not later than 12 00 b.c. But it was not put together in its present shape till more than a thousand years later. An idea of the extent of the Mahabharata may be gained from the fact that it contains 220,000 lines; while the Iliad of Homer does not amount to 16,000 lines, and Virgil's Aeneid contains less than 10,000. Its Central Story. — The central story of the MahabhSrata occupies scarcely one-fourth of the whole, or about 50,000 lines. It narrates a struggle between two families of the ruling Lunar race for a patch of country near Delhi. These families, alike descended from the Royal Bharata, consisted of two brother- hoods, cousins to each other, and both brought up under the* same roof. The five Pandavas were the sons of King Pandu, who, smitten by a curse, resigned the sovereignty to his brother Dhrita-rashtra, and retired to a hermitage in the Himalayas, where he died. The ruins of his capital, Hastinapura, or the ' Elephant City,' are pointed out beside a deserted bed of the Ganges, 57 miles north-east of Delhi, at this day. His brother Dhrita-r£shtra ruled in his stead ; and to him one hundred sons were born, who took the name of the Kauravas from an ancestor, Kuru. Dhrita-rashtra acted as a faithful guardian to his five nephews, the Pandavas, and chose the eldest of them as heir to the family kingdom. His own sons resented this act of super- cession ; and so arose the quarrel between the hundred Kauravas and the five Pandavas, which forms the main story of the Mahabharata. Its Outline. — The hundred Kauravas forced their father to send away their five Pandava cousins into the forest, and there they treacherously burned down the hut in which the five Pandavas dwelt. The Pandavas escaped, and wandered in the disguise of Brahmans to the court of King Draupada, who had proclaimed a swayam-vara, or maiden's 'own-choice.' This was a contest of arms, or with the bow, among the chiefs, at which the king's daughter would take the victor as her husband. e 2
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