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The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana. Besides its epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kauravas and the Pandava princes, the Mahabharata contains much philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four "goals of life" or purusharthas. Among the principal works and stories that are a part of the Mahabharata are the Bhagavad Gita, the story of Damayanti, an abbreviated version of the Ramayana, and the Rishyasringa, often considered as works in their own right.

The Mahabharata is the longest Sanskrit epic. Its longest version consists of over 100,000 shloka or over 200,000 individual verse lines (each shloka is a couplet), and long prose passages. About 1.8 million words in total, the Mahabharata is roughly ten times the length of the Iliad and Odyssey combined, or about four times the length of the Ramayana.

The author is believed to be Vyasa , who is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyasa (the one who classified the Vedas in to four parts) or Krishna Dvaipayana (referring to his complexion and birthplace). He is the author as well as a character in the Mahabharata and considered to be the scribe of both the Vedas, and the supplementary texts such as the Puranas.

This edition contains the first of the Mahabharata books - Adi Parva.

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