Maha-bharata, Adi Parva, Anukramanika Parva, Adhyaya 1, verses 1-5

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Adhyaya 1
The arrival of Sauti

narayanam namaskritya
naram caiva narottamam
devim sarasvatim caiva
tato jayam udirayet
“Before reciting this Maha-bharata, which is the very means of conquest, one should offer respectful obeisances unto the Personality of Godhead, Narayana, unto Nara Narayana Rsi, the supermost human being, and unto mother Sarasvati, the goddess of learning.” – 1

The Maha-bharata begins with a verse without saying who is the speaker. However during our study of the book it will be clear that the original speaker of the Maha-bharata and one of the main character is Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa. He is also the one who dictated to Ganesa what his own disciple, Vaisampayana, will narrate to King Janamejaya. This is Vyasa’s genealogy: Brahma – Vasistha – Saktri – Parasara – Vyasa. The story of his birth will be told later with much details.

We find this same verse, with the omission of the word “vyasam”, in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.4). This is what Srila Prabhupada says about this verse:
All the Vedic literatures and the Puranas are meant for conquering the darkest region of material existence. The living being is in the state of forgetfulness of his relation with God due to his being overly attracted to material sense gratification from time immemorial. His struggle for existence in the material world is perpetual, and it is not possible for him to get out of it by making plans. If he at all wants to conquer this perpetual struggle for existence, he must reestablish his eternal relation with God. And one who wants to adopt such remedial measures must take shelter of literatures such as the Vedas and the Puranas. Foolish people say that the Puranas have no connection with the Vedas. However, the Puranas are supplementary explanations of the Vedas intended for different types of men. All men are not equal. There are men who are conducted by the mode of goodness, others who are under the mode of passion and others who are under the mode of ignorance. The Puranas are so divided that any class of men can take advantage of them and gradually regain their lost position and get out of the hard struggle for existence. Srila Suta Gosvami shows the way of chanting the Puranas. This may be followed by persons who aspire to be preachers of the Vedic literatures and the Puranas. Srimad-Bhagavatam is the spotless Purana, and it is especially meant for those who desire to get out of the material entanglement permanently.

About Nara Narayana:
Nara and Narayana are one of the direct personal forms of the Supreme Lord (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 12.8.35). More in the same book: In the fourth incarnation, the Lord became Nara and Narayana, the twin sons of the wife of King Dharma. Thus He undertook severe and exemplary penances to control the senses. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.39)

Sarasvati:
Being Sarasvati the Goddess of knowledge and having to explain a difficult book like the Maha-bharata is more than proper to ask her for blessings.

 

One day when the great sages of difficult austerities, who were present at the twelve years’ sacrifice of Kulapati Shaunaka, were comfortably sitting in the Naimisharanya, Rishi Lomaharshana’s son, Ugrashrava, popularly known as Sauti, well-read in the Puranas, came to them with all humility. – 2

 

Sauti:
Ugrasrava, Sauti, Suta, and Suta Gosvami are different names for the same person, the son of Lomaharsana, or Romaharsana. His name means “he who has a mighty voice”, which means a great spiritual master.
Sauti means son of a Suta. The Suta was a class of professional historians. They were not pure Brahmanas, since it was a mixed class of a brahmana woman and a kshatriya man. It was for this reason that Vyasa didn’t entrust Lomaharsana with a Veda, which must be given only to pure Brahmanas. Vyasa gave Lomaharsana the Itihasas and the Puranas. His son Ugrasrava followed his father’s path.

Purana:
History books.

Rigid vows:
Samsita-vratah, having taken strict vows.

Kulapati:
Also known as Saunaka Rishi.

Naimisharanya:
Aranya means forest. So the sages had retired in a secluded place not to be disturbed by wordly people.

 

Desirous of hearing his wonderful stories, the ascetics addressed him who had come to their hermitage of Naimisharanya. – 3

Having been welcomed with due respect by those holy Rishis, Sauti, with joined hands, asked them all how their depute penances were progressing. – 4

After the Rishis had taken their seats, Lomaharshana’s son humbly took the seat assigned to him. – 5

 

 

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