Mahabharata

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Comment on the presence of the author as a character in the Mahabharata.

Vyasa's appearance as a character in his own epic makes a statement with strong historical implications. His name literally means “compiler” in Sanskrit, and Vyasa is also believed to be the one who first organized the vast body of ancient religious literature known as the Vedas. In addition to his divine status as a Hindu sage, Vyasa is also the father to the great Pandava dynasty of warrior kings who emerge victorious from the battles described in the poem's narrative.

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The traditional author of the epic war poem the Mahabharata is credited as Vyasa, who was born from a line of sages and is closely associated with the god Vishnu.

The first part of the Mahabharata frames a backstory in which Vyasa and the popular elephant-headed god Ganesha devise an arrangement by which Vyasa will dictate the lines to follow while Ganesha writes them down. With this device, Vyasa establishes both the poem’s and his own divine authority as creation and creator, before telling the story of his humble, illegitimate birth to a wandering holy man and a boat-woman.

Despite these lowly origins, Vyasa’s beautiful mother will marry a king, and Vyasa will be raised as a prince, who will eventually father Pandu, from whom the Pandava dynasty will follow. The historical event at the center of the Mahabharata's narrative, the Kurukshetra War, was fought between two royal houses, the Pandava and the Kaurava, for control of ancient Indian kingdoms.

With the Pandava’s victory, India entered a new phase of peace and political stability. This glory, as suggested by the Mahabharata and its accompanying legends, is ultimately owed to Vyasa.

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