Glory of Bharath  »  Literary Giants of Bharath - Part Two
Veda Vyasa

Every scripture in Hinduism begins with adoring salutations to Bhagavan Sri VedaVy?sa. No name in the Indian history and culture invokes such reverential sentiment and stirs widespread awe and as that of Bhagavan Sri VedaVyasa.

Bhagavan Sri VedaVyasa is the greatest seer, guru, author, poet and philosopher in the Hindu religion. He is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is considered as one of the seven Chiranjeevis (immortals) in the Hindu religion who live for the welfare of the world. He exemplifies righteousness and perfection.

Bhagavan Sri VedaVyasa is the ocean of knowledge who has illuminated the world through his divine literary accomplishments. He is the origin and the source all the Hindu scriptures. Bhagavan Sri VedaVyasa's immortal writings inspire the whole world to this day. He divided and arranged the single sacrosanct Veda into four Vedas. He authored the Brahma Sutras and eighteen Puranas. He is the author of the great epic Mahabharata, which contains the Bhagavad Gita, the crown jewel of Hindu Scriptures. He also wrote the most chanted Vishnu Sahasranama.

Vyasa is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyasa, the one who classified the Vedas into four parts or Krishna Dvaipayana (referring to his complexion and birthplace). There are two different views regarding his birthplace. One of the views suggests that he was born in the island of Yamuna River. He is 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 an incarnation of God Vishnu. The festival of Guru Purnima is dedicated to him. It is also known as Vyasa Purnima for it is the day believed to be both his birthday and the day he divided the Vedas.

Vyasa appears for the first time as the compiler of, and an important character, in the Mahabharata. Actually, he was the expansion of Lord Vishnu Himself who came in Dwaparyuga to make all the Vedic knowledge available in written form which was available in Sound form at that time. He was the son of Satyavati, daughter of a ferryman or fisherman, and the wandering sage Parashara (who is accredited for being the author of the first Purana: Vishnu Purana). He was born on the meet of two rivers Seti and Madi. The place is named after him as Vedavyas, possibly the modern-day town of Damauli in the Tanahu district of Nepal. He was dark-complexioned and hence may be called by the name Krishna (black), and also the name Dwaipayana, meaning 'island-born'.

Vyasa was grandfather to the Kauravas and Pandavas. Their fathers, Dhritarashtra and Pandu, adopted as the sons of Vichitravirya by the royal family, were fathered by him. He had a third son, Vidura, by a serving maid.

Hindus traditionally hold that Vyasa categorized the primordial single Veda into four. 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.

Author of the Mahabharata

Vyasa is traditionally known as author of this epic. But he also features as an important character in it. His mother Satyavati later married the King Shantanu of Hastinapura, and had two sons Chitrangada and Vichitravirya. Chittrangada died unmarried and Vichitravirya died without issue. Vyasa fathers the princes Dhritarashtra and Pandu by Ambika and Ambalika. Vyasa told them that they should come alone near him. First did Ambika, but because of shyness and fear she closed her eyes. Vyasa told Satyavati that this child would be blind. Later this child was named Dhritarashtra. Thus Satyavati sent Ambalika and warned her that she should remain calm. But Ambalika's face became pale because of fear. 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 Pandu. Then Vyasa told Satyavati to send one of them again so that a healthy child can be born. This time Ambika and Ambalika 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 auka, born of his wife, sage Jabali's daughter Pinjala (Vatika), 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 Mahabharata, it is described that Vyasa asked Ganesha to aid him in writing the text, however 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.

Vyasa's Jaya, the core of Mahabharata is structured in the form of a dialogue between Dhritarashtra (the Kuru king and the father of the Kauravas, who opposed the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra War) and Sanjaya, his advisor and chariot driver. Sanjaya narrates each incident of the Kurukshetra War, fought in 18 days, as and when it happened. Dhritarashtra sometimes asks questions and doubts and sometimes laments, knowing about the destruction caused by the war, to his sons, friends and kinsmen.

In the beginning Sanjaya gives a description of the various continents of the Earth, the other planets, and focuses on the Indian Subcontinent and gives an elaborate list of hundreds of kingdoms, tribes, provinces, cities, towns, villages, rivers, mountains, forests etc. of the (ancient) Indian Subcontinent (Bharata Varsha). He also explains about the 'military formations adopted by each side on each day, the death of each hero and the details of each war-racings. Some 18 chapters of Vyasa's Jaya constitute the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred text of the Hindus. Thus, this work of Vyasa, called Jaya deals with diverse subjects like geography, history, warfare, religion and morality.

Sri Veda Vyasa is also the author of Vishnu Sahasranama (thousand name of Vishnu).

His Works
Sri Veda Vyasa divided and re-arranged the Vedas into four Vedas. He taught the four Vedas to his four disciples (Rig Veda to Sage Paila, Yajur Veda to Sage Jaimini, Sama Veda to Sage Vaisampayana, Atharva veda to Sage Sumantu) and entrusted them to teach it to the world.

Sri Veda Vyasa composed the Brahma Sutras to render the correct import of the Vedas for the benefit of the competent souls. They are also called Vedanta Sutras, since they guide the enquiry about the true conclusion of all the Vedas. The Brahma Sutras are 564 and are divided into four chapters (adhyayas).
  1. Samanvaya - explains how the Vedas construe the concept of Sri Hari
  2. Avirodha - This proves the futility of the objections
  3. Sadhana - This describes the means of seeing Sri Hari
  4. Phala - This gives the results of seeing him.
Sri Veda Vyasa is the author of Puranas, the purpose of which is to take the essence of the Vedas to the common person. The eighteen main Puranas are as follows.
  1. Vishnu Puranas - Vishnu Purana, Naradiya Purana, Srimad Bhagavatha Purana, Garuda Purana, Padma Purana and Varaha Purana

  2. Brahma Puranas- Brahma Purana, Brahmanda Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Markandeya Purana, Bhavishya Purana, Vamana Purana

  3. Shiva Purana - Matsya Purana, Kurma Purana, Linga Purana, Siva Purana, Skanda Purana and Agni Purana
There are eighteen Upa-Puranas which are as follows - Sanatkumara, Narasimha, Brihannaradiya, Sivarahasya, Durvasa, Kapila, Vamana, Bhargava, Varuna, Kalika, Samba, Nandi, Surya, Parasara, Vasishtha, Devi-Bhagavatha, Ganesa and Hamsa.

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