“Whatever is here concerning the four aims of mankind may be found elsewhere, but what is absent from here does not exist anywhere.” This assertion, which prefaces and concludes the Mahābhārata narrative (at 1.56.33 and 18.5.38), illustrates well the encyclopedic nature of the larger of the two Sanskrit epics in its present form. The two epics are indeed among the largest literary works in the world: the Mahābhārata, “the great story/war of Bharata’s descendants,” traditionally contains 100,000 verses and even the text established in the Critical Edition has nearly 75,000, while the other epic, the Rāmāyaa, “the journey/career of Rāma,” though less than a third as long, still contains almost 20,000 verses.

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