Written By Aarav Kumar (Grade 8)
Today, Indian authors are renowned across the world. They have been the recipients of prestigious awards such as the Booker Prize. Many of us will have read their books, which delve into various topics, often relevant to our daily lives. However, Indians didn’t start their literary journey in the last few years, they have been prominent in this field for thousands of years. One such example is Ved Vyasa, often quite aptly called, the ‘greatest Indian author’.
Vyasa was born Krishna Dwaipayana, his first name referring to his dark complexion, and his surname referring to his place of birth, which was an island in the middle of the Yamuna. His parents were the great wandering sage and astrologer Parashara; and Satyavati, daughter of a fisherman who was ferrying Parashara across a river, and later wife of King Shantanu, ancestor of the Pandavas and Kauravas. Parashara was the author of the first Purana, the Vishnu Purana. He had done severe penance to Lord Shiva and had received a boon that his son would be a brahmarishi equal to even the great sage Vasistha. On becoming an adult, Dwaipayana went to start his penance, promising his mother that whenever needed, he would return to her. He later lived along the banks of the Ganges in Uttarakhand, near the ritual home of Vasistha.
In the beginning, there was just one primordial Veda, but Dwaipayana changed that. He split it into 3 Vedas – The Rig, Sama and Yajur Vedas. The Atharva Veda was recognized as a Veda much later. This made the Vedas easier to understand, enabling a far larger audience to read them. Thus, he contributed to the good of mankind. From this, he earned the name ‘Ved Vyasa’, the splitter of the Vedas. According to the Vishnu Purana, Ashwatthama, the son of Drona, will be the next Vyasa, splitting the Veda further.
Another of his works was the epic poem Mahabharata, which is popular across India even today. It is probably his most famous work. Vyasa’s Jaya, the core of the Mahabharata, is a dialogue between Dhritarashtra, the Kuru king and the father of the Kauravas; and Sanjaya, his adviser and charioteer. Large and elaborate lists are given, describing various kingdoms, cities and militaries. He also describes the rivers, jungles, mountains and other natural wonders of the subcontinent. Eighteen chapters of Vyasa’s Jaya constitute the Bhagavad Gita, a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna. It is said that Vyasa dictated the Mahabharata to Lord Ganesha without a pause, while the latter penned it down using his tusk.
Additionally, Vyasa authored the 18 major Puranas, which are works of literature that cover an encyclopedic range of topics about various scriptures. The Brahma Sutras are also attributed to him. These scriptures discuss the nature of human existence and the universe, and ideas about the metaphysical principle of Ultimate Reality called Brahman.
Vyasa’s works were not only numerous but also impactful. The Vedas are the most important texts in Hinduism; the Mahabharata is still playing out across India and has even been translated into English. At 200,000 verses, it is the longest poem in the world. The festival of Guru Purnima is celebrated to commemorate him. It is both the day when he was born and the day he split the Vedas. Hence, he truly deserves the title of the ‘greatest Indian author’.
Featured Image Courtesy – Hindu American Foundation