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Manuscript illustration of the Battle of Kurukshetra
Krishna and Arjuna at Kurukshetra, 18th-19th-century painting.

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The Mahabharata or Mahābhārata (US {{#invoke:IPAc-en|main}};<ref>"Mahabharata". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary,</ref> UK {{#invoke:IPAc-en|main}};<ref>"Mahabharata". Oxford Dictionaries Online.</ref> , Mahābhāratam, pronounced [məɦaːˈbʱaːrət̪əm]) is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana.<ref name=encindlit>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref>

The Mahabharata is an epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pandava princes. It also contains philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four "goals of life" or purusharthas (12.161). Among the principal works and stories in the Mahabharata are the Bhagavad Gita, the story of Damayanti, an abbreviated version of the Ramayana, and the Rishyasringa, often considered as works in their own right.

Traditionally, the authorship of the Mahabharata is attributed to Vyasa. There have been many attempts to unravel its historical growth and compositional layers. The oldest preserved parts of the text are thought to be not much older than around 400 BCE, though the origins of the epic probably fall between the 8th and 9th centuries BCE.<ref name=Brockington>Brockington (1998, p. 26)</ref> The text probably reached its final form by the early Gupta period (c. 4th century CE).<ref>Van Buitenen; The Mahabharata – 1; The Book of the Beginning. Introduction (Authorship and Date)</ref> The title may be translated as "the great tale of the Bhārata dynasty". According to the Mahabharata itself, the tale is extended from a shorter version of 24,000 verses called simply Bhārata.<ref>bhārata means the progeny of Bharata, the legendary king who is claimed to have founded the Bhāratavarsha kingdom.</ref>

The Mahabharata is the longest known epic poem and has been described as "the longest poem ever written".<ref name="Lochtefeld2002">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref><ref name="SharmaGaur2000">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref> Its longest version consists of over 100,000 shloka or over 200,000 individual verse lines (each shloka is a couplet), and long prose passages. About 1.8 million words in total, the Mahabharata is roughly ten times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined, or about four times the length of the Ramayana.<ref>Spodek, Howard. Richard Mason. The World's History. Pearson Education: 2006, New Jersey. 224, 0-13-177318-6</ref><ref>Amartya Sen, The Argumentative Indian. Writings on Indian Culture, History and Identity, London: Penguin Books, 2005.</ref> W. J. Johnson has compared the importance of the Mahabharata in the context of world civilization to that of the Bible, the works of Shakespeare, the works of Homer, Greek drama, or the Qur'an.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref>

Mahabharata sections
Intro  Textual history and structure  Historical context  Synopsis  Themes  Versions, translations, and derivative works  Jain version  Kuru family tree  Cultural influence  Editions  References  Sources  External links  

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