The two great epics of India - the Ramayana and the Mahabharata - are known to all Indians. The Ramayana relates the story of Rama (the 7th avataar of Lord Vishnu in the Treta Yuga), while the Mahabharata revolves around the bitter struggle between two branches of the same family culminating in a great war. In this Dharma Yuddha, Lord Krishna plays an important part. As everyone knows, Lord Krishna is the 8th avataar of Lord Vishnu. In this incarnation in the Dwapara Yuga, the Lord manifests Himself as a cowherd and gives easy access to the people. Hence, this avataar of the Lord is known as the Puma Avataar.
The Mahabharata is considered to be the longest epic poem in the world, with a hundred thousand verses divided into eighteen sections or "Parvas". An interesting point to be noted is that the Dharma Yuddha lasted eighteen days and that the combined strength of the armies involved added up to eighteen divisions. The sacred hymn, the Bhagavad Gita (with 18 chapters) is contained in the Mahabharata. It teaches us about the need to conduct our duties properly ... about the triumph of virtue over blind hatred. The qualities of the characters in the Mahabharata-like righteousness and hypocrisy, falsehood, envy and generosity, hatred and lust, loyalty and trickery, anger and excessive attachment, greed and gratitude, courage and respect for elders - are to be found even in today's world and this great epic reminds us that justice prevails in the end over evil intentions. The epic highlights how adherence to Dharma ultimately ensures success to the person who upholds it. So, this epic is also known as 'Jaya'.
It is said of the Mahabharata "what is found here may be found elsewhere, but what is not found here cannot be found elsewhere".
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