Mahabharata is a most popular epic in Sanatana-Dharma or Vedic Culture or Hinduism. I’ll be using the term ‘Sanatana-Dharma’ or ‘Vedic’ instead of Hinduism, since the word ‘Hindu’ or ‘Hinduism’ originated much later in the History and furthermore ancient Vedic texts has no reference to this word.
It is a common belief that Mahabharata epic is merely about the war of Kurukshetra, between Kurus’ and Pandu-sons, and events that lead the war. Certainly, but purpose of Mahabharata is formidable about the commencement of Kali Yuga and appalling effect of Kali Yuga in society, human consciousness and karma.
Mahabharata is a historic affair, dispensable but willfully staged by Lord Krisna, the 8th Avatara or incarnation of Supreme God Vishnu on Earth to re-educate and prepare people for outset of Kali Yuga. Mahabharata is all about Sri Krisna, not for anything beyond or outside of him, his teachings, desire, purpose and human being who forms a part of him.
In eternal Vedic texts [it can be a Mythology for whoever should choose to believe scripts as some legendary tales but it in reality is supreme Spiritual-Scientific knowledge, which is a direct descendant of Supreme consciousness] it has been well-illustrated that everything in Universe that exist, alive or inanimate, seen or unseen is the energy and manifestation of supreme lord Vishnu /Krisna. And Human being himself is a part of him and his consciousness, i.e. intelligent and capable to perform karma.
Hence, Lord Krisna appears on Earth at the outset of Kali Yuga to remind and guide Human being.
what is ‘YUGA’ According to Sruti [Sruti are the four Vedas or Sacred texts which is a direct inheritance, revelation of supreme Lord Vishnu or Krisna in his own words to mankind] Universe is subject to a perpetual cycle of creation and destruction, and one such cycle has four phase or Yuga, these are Satya [Truth] Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga and Kali Yuga.
Chronologically, with the dawn of every new yuga human race is fettered to a social and karmic degradation, worse off than the previous one. Until the beginning of last Kali Yuga wherein the intelligent-Human race is bound to gradually lose its objectivity, compassion, humility and above all ‘its purpose’, which is to serve the Supreme and follow a Satvik Karma, which in turn can liberate the individual from cycle of birth & death and unite with the Supreme Lord.
Mahabharata, like all the upanishads [upanishads are ‘Smruti’, written historic records] can be dated with the help of astronomical events mentioned in the epic for that time. There is a discreet branch or Shastra [means Science] known as Surya-Siddhanta that deals with Astronomical calculations, viz. positions, distances & duration.
With the help of Surya-Siddhanta and references within the epic many scientists, scholars are able to determine the date of Mahabharata War [3067 BCE, November 22]. There is some bias about the date, but is more or less closely related. Unfortunately, to add many Vedic texts has been lost in time, either physically or interpretation of them.
Mahabharata is simply a conch-shell blown to announce the beginning of Kali Yuga, and of all the horrific events and transition that should follow. It is a proclamation to advancement in the negative qualities & energy.
It will be a chaotic state were Spirituality will be taken over by Materialism, humility by greed and desires by ignorance, cruelty & indifference. Total age of Kali Yuga is 432,000 years and during this yuga a final incarnation, 10th avatara, of Lord Vishnu in the form of Kalki will descend to liberate.
Mahabharata epic gives a glimpse of every inappropriate deed that can take over human kind in Kali Yuga; viz. corruption, false karma, desire and greed over duties, killing of kins for wealth, honour or power, rape, and the greater of all sins, ignorance & silence towards the bad actions [i.e. akarmak or inactive karma] .
In this way through Mahabharata, Lord Krisna have tried to warn and educate people against all kind of mis-deeds and false desire.
Another sacred text, and the most important one by far is ‘Bhagavad Gita’.
Bhagavad Gita is a part or consequential outcome of Mahabharata. It can also be believed that another reason for events of Mahabharata is so Bhagavad Gita could be narrated again by Lord Krisna, and in this new Kali age directly to mankind, and also to establish the ‘Guru-Shishya parampara’, which translates as ‘Teacher- Disciple tradition’. [In Sanatana Dharma, Teacher is considered as God himself and without a divine Teacher- Disciple relationship knowledge and salvation is incomplete for any student].
Bhagavad Gita basically is a conversation happened between Lord Krisna and Arjuna, one of the greatest warrior and also one of the five sons of Pandu, on the battle ground of Kurukshetra. Both the armies are facing in battlefield and on observing his own kins, teacher, great grandfather, relatives as adversaries Arjuna is in dilemma about fighting the war. It is then Lord Krisna, Saarthi [charioteer] of Arjuna, unravel the words of his supreme self and wisdom, i.e. Bhagavad Gita, and purifies Arjuna of any doubt, hesitation, suspicion to fulfill his karma for truth and dharma. After the divine words are spoken Arjuna, who is also a friend and disciple, realises that Krisna himself is a Supreme godhead and unconditionally surrenders himself to the will of Lord Krisna.
During the conversation Lord Krisna enlightens Arjuna, and human being in general, about who ‘Lord Krirsna’ is in reference to all living and non-living elements of both material and transcendental Universe, with the reality of Maya, what this World /Universe is about, importance of Karma, purpose of humans as an enlightened being, and finally the eventuality of everything which in time is eternal.
In Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krisna guides us with an approach and means through which to live in a Kali Yuga, and lead a life that is free of any suffering or inordinate desires. Bhagavad Gita goes further with commandments which if followed will ultimately result in liberation of individual soul from the cycle of Rebirth and Death and enjoy the eternal bliss.
Lord Krisna departed from earth in 3031 BC. Bhagavad Gita was later composed.
Kali Yuga began somewhere in 3102 BCE.
Sanatana or Vedic Dharma and Bhagavad Gita are no religion or sect or culture. It is a way of life that anyone can learn and /or follow. Live a life without hate or sorrow, extreme desire or remorse and keep performing your Karma.
If this article has interest you then I’ll also recommend to listen and refer an english translation of Sanskrit sloka, ‘Chidananda Roopah’.
This article is a reflection of my understanding of Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita and Lord Krisna. None of the material has been directly or indirectly borrowed. I ‘m no scholar on this subject or Sanskrit, content written is purely from the insight and understanding hence if expert, Guru find any reference as wrong or deviating from its original meaning then please do suggest the correction.