Sage Vyasa, the author of Mahabharata, had conceived his epic but did not know how to present it. The art of writing had not been mastered by the mortals. Brahma, the creator of the universe, advised him to approach the learned god, Ganapati. Vyasa prayed to Ganapati, who, pleased with Vyasa’s sincerity and devotion, agreed to write down Mahabharata on Vyasa’s behalf. But, he laid down one condition – that while transcribing Vyasa’s dictation, his pen must never stop. This implied that Vyasa would have little time to think. Sage Vyasa pondered a while and then told Lord Ganapati that he accepted the terms provided the Lord understood what he was writing. This would give Vyasa time to think. Ganapati gracefully accepted the challenge. The deal was made. In those early days, people used to write by primeval methods. Printing was unknown. In order that the epic is not lost to posterity, Vyasa made sure that it was also verbally transmitted to humans, gods and demons. The epic Mahabharata mentions Vichitravirya, the King of Hastinapura, who had two sons – Dhritarashtra and Pandu. Of the two, Pandu went on to become the King of Hastinapura even though Dhritarashtra was the elder. This could happen because the latter was blind. However, as a result of committing some offence, Pandu was banished to the forest, where, in course of time, his two wives gave birth to five sons.
They were called the Pandavas. As they grew up, they gained mastery in martial and other arts and also in Veda and Vedanta – the compilations of knowledge - as well as the Shastras – the codes of conduct for all professions prevalent in the ancient times. The Pandavas became the torchbearers of Dharma, which stands for everything that is right. But the sons of Dhritarashtra, the Kauravas, brave as they were, were of evil bent of mind. They grew up to hate the Pandavas. They would pick up fights and devise means to bring harm to their cousins. They even went to the extent of forcing Draupadi, the Pandavas’ wife, to strip herself of her clothing in a public gathering. Bhishma, the grand old man of the royal family, had to step in. He divided the kingdom between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. But the Kauravas were not happy sharing. Bent upon grabbing the entire kingdom, they waged a bloody battle against the Pandavas that eventually came to be known as Dharma Yuddha. The battle was fought at Kurukshetra, in which the Kauravas were obliterated and justice prevailed. The Pandavas ruled their kingdom for thirty six years.