|Author as well as a character in the Hindu epic Mahabharata|
Vyasa (Sanskrit: व्यास), literally "Compiler") is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyāsa (वेदव्यास, veda-vyāsa, "the one who classified the Vedas") or Krishna Dvaipāyana (referring to his complexion and birthplace). He is generally considered the author of the Mahabharata, as well as a character in it. He is considered to be the scribe of both the Vedas and Puranas. Vyasa is also considered to be one of the seven Chiranjivins (long lived, or immortals), who are still in existence according to Hindu belief.
In the Mahabharata
Vyasa appears for the first time as the compiler of, and an important character in, the Mahabharata. It is said that he was the expansion of the god Vishnu who came in Dwaparayuga to make all the Vedic knowledge available in written form which was available in spoken form at that time. He was the son of Satyavati, daughter of the fisherman Dusharaj, and the wandering sage Parashara (who is credited with being the author of the first Purana: Vishnu Purana). He was born on an island in the river Yamuna. There are two different views regarding his birthplace. One of the views suggests that he was born in the Tanahun district in western Nepal, other view suggests that he was born on Island in Yamuna river near Kalpi, Uttar Pradesh, India. Vyasa was dark-complexioned and hence may be called by the name Krishna, and also the name Dwaipayana, meaning 'island-born'.
Hindus traditionally hold that Vyasa categorised the primordial single Veda into three canonical collections, and that the fourth one, known as Atharvaveda, was recognized as Veda only very much later. Hence he was called Veda Vyasa, or "Splitter of the Vedas," the splitting being a feat that allowed people to understand the divine knowledge of the Veda. The word vyasa means split, differentiate, or describe.
The Vishnu Purana has a theory about Vyasa. The Hindu view of the universe is that of a cyclic phenomenon that comes into existence and dissolves repeatedly. Each cycle is presided over by a number of Manus, one for each Manvantara, that has four ages, Yugas of declining virtues. The Dvapara Yuga is the third Yuga. The Vishnu Purana (Book 3, Ch 3) says:
In every third world age (Dvapara), Vishnu, in the person of Vyasa, in order to promote the good of mankind, divides the Veda, which is properly but one, into many portions. Observing the limited perseverance, energy, and application of mortals, he makes the Veda fourfold, to adapt it to their capacities; and the bodily form which he assumes, in order to effect that classification, is known by the name of Veda-vyasa. Of the different Vyasas in the present Manvantara and the branches which they have taught, you shall have an account. Twenty-eight times have the Vedas been arranged by the great Rishis in the Vaivasvata Manvantara... and consequently eight and twenty Vyasas have passed away; by whom, in the respective periods, the Veda has been divided into four. The first... distribution was made by Svayambhu (Brahma) himself; in the second, the arranger of the Veda (Vyasa) was Prajapati... (and so on up to twenty-eight).
Author of the Mahabharata
Vyasa is traditionally known as author of this epic and likewise features as an important character in it. Vyasa told her that child would suffer from anaemia, and he would not be fit enough to rule the kingdom. Later this child was known as Pāndu. Then Vyasa told Satyavati to send one of them again so that a healthy child can be born. This time Ambika and Ambālika sent a maid in the place of themselves. The maid was quite calm and composed, and she got a healthy child later named as Vidura. While these are his sons, another son Shuka, born of his wife Pinjalā (Vatikā), daughter of the sage Jābāli, is considered his true spiritual heir. He makes occasional appearances in the story as a spiritual guide to the young princes.
In the first book of the Mahābhārata, it is described that Vyasa asked Ganesha to aid him in writing the text, but Ganesha imposed a condition that he would do so only if Vyasa narrated the story without pause. To which Vyasa then made a counter-condition that Ganesha must understand the verse before he transcribed it. Thus Vyasa narrated the entire Mahābhārata and all the Upanishads and the 18 Puranas, while Lord Ganesha wrote.
Vyasa is supposed to have meditated and authored the epic by the foothills of the river Beas (Vipasa) in the Punjab region.
Vyasa's Jaya, the core of Mahābhārata is structured in the form of a dialogue between Dhritarashtra (the Kuru king and the father of the Kauravas, who opposed the Pāndavas in the Kurukshetra War) and Sanjaya, his adviser and chariot driver. Sanjaya narrates the particulars of Kurukshetra War, fought in eighteen days, chronologically. Dhritarāshtra at times asks a question and doubts, sometimes lamenting, knowing of the destruction caused by the war to his sons, friends and kinsmen.
Sanjaya, in the beginning, gives a description of the various continents of the Earth, numerous planets, and focuses on the Indian subcontinent. Large and elaborate lists are given, describing hundreds of kingdoms, tribes, provinces, cities, towns, villages, rivers, mountains, forests etc. of the (ancient) Indian subcontinent (Bhārata Varsha). Additionally, he gives descriptions of the military formations adopted by each side on each day, the death of individual heroes and the details of the war-races. Eighteen chapters of Vyasa's Jaya constitutes the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text of the Hindus. Thus, Jaya deals with diverse subjects like geography, history, warfare, religion and morality.
Ugrasrava Sauti's Mahābhārata
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The final version of Vyasa's work is the Mahābhārata. It is structured as a narration by Ugrasrava Sauti, a professional story teller, to an assembly of rishis who, in the forest of Naimisha, had just attended the 12 year sacrifice known as Saunaka, also known as "Kulapati".
Reference to writing
Within the Mahābhārata, there is a tradition in which Vyasa wishes to write down or inscribe his work:
- The Grandsire Brahma (creator of the universe) comes and tells Vyasa to get the help of Ganapati for his task. Ganapati writes down the stanzas recited by Vyasa from memory and thus the Mahābhārata is inscribed or written.
There is some evidence however that writing may have been known earlier based on archeological findings of styli in the Painted Grey Ware culture, dated between 1100 BC and 700 BC. and archeological evidence of the Brahmi script being used from at least 600 BC.Template:Synthesis inline
Other texts attributed
The Brahma Sutra is attributed to Badarayana — which makes him the proponent of the crest-jewel school of Hindu philosophy, i.e., Vedanta. Vyasa was conflated with Badarayana by Vaishnavas with the reason that the island on which Vyasa was born is said to have been covered by Badara (Indian jujube/Ber/Ziziphus mauritiana) trees. Although some modern historians suggest that these were two different personalities.
There may have been more than one Vyasa, or the name Vyasa may have been used at times to give credibility to a number of ancient texts. Much ancient Indian literature was a result of long oral tradition with wide cultural significance rather than the result of a single author. However Vyasa is credited with documenting, compiling, categorising or writing commentaries on much of this literature.
In Brahm Avtar composition present in Dasam Granth, Second Scripture of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh mentioned Rishi Vyas as avtar of Brahma. He is considered as fifth incarnation of Brahma. Guru Gobind Singh had written brief account of compositions of Rishi Vyas, which he wrote about great kings like King manu, King Prithu, king Bharath, KingJujat, King Ben, King mandata, King Dilip, King RaghuRaj and King Aj.
- Jeaneane D. Fowler (2012). The Bhagavad Gita: A Text and Commentary for Students. Sussex Academic Press. p. 177. ISBN 9781845193461. https://books.google.com/books?id=zU4E5ZidVr0C&pg=PA177.
- Bibek Debroy (2011). The Mahabharata. 4. Penguin. p. xviii. ISBN 9780143100164. https://books.google.com/books?id=FRzcSZPahZ0C&pg=PR18.
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- According to legend, Vyasa was the son of the ascetic Parashara and the dasyu Satyavati and grew up in forests, living with hermits who taught him the Vedas. Encyclopædia Britannica
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- Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Puranas, Volume 1 (2001), page 1408
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- Vishnu Purana -Drauni or Asvathama as Next Vyasa Retrieved 2015-03-22
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- The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Edwin F. Bryant 2009 page xl
- Dasam Granth, Dr. SS Kapoor
- Line 8, Brahma Avtar, Dasam Granth
- Line 107, Vyas Avtar, Dasam Granth
- The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli, published between 1883 and 1896
- The Arthashastra, translated by Shamasastry, 1915
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- The Bhagavata-Purana, translated by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, 1988 copyright Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
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- Media related to Vyasa on Wikimedia Commons
- Template:Wikisource author-inline
- The Mahābhārata – Ganguli translation, full text at sacred-texts.com
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