A case for ‘interpolation’, really?

Shri Phadnis writes…

“After Yudhishthira’s return, under Ref. 130, there is again mention of Abhishek to Yudhishthira, payment of compensation to war victims, admin. appointments etc and spending 50 days in the town before realizing that the time to visit Bhishma had arrived. Had Yudhishthira not taken care of all these matters much earlier, immediately after returning from Ganga and entering Hastinapur? This description and mention of 50 days therefore is clearly an interpolation.”

My Response…

I have written a series (incomplete) on the subject of interpolation and the links are here,




Let’s look at details and context of reference  130 (from my book) – Anushasan GP 167:1-6 (CE 153:1-5)

Many of the details of Bhishma Nirvana (Chronology or astronomy evidence) come to us via a conversation between Vaishampayna & King Janmejaya.(actually, via someone who recorded this conversation…but I guess.. I have made my point, viz. as part of conversations between individuals many years after the actual incident of Bhishma Nirvana)

The description of activities of Yudhishthir in Hastinapur, post war, are described twice, as stated by Shri Phadnis.

Shanti Parva, GP chaptes 37 through 44 describes entering of Yudhishthir in Hastinapur, his Rajya-bhishek, his assignment of ministers, assignment of palaces for his brothers, providing compensation to the families of those who were killed in the war, etc.

At Shanti GP 45:1-2, King Janmejaya interrupted this narration of Vaishampayan, and asked,

“Please tell me what other things Yudhishthir do after acquiring kingdom. 45:1). What did Krishna also do? (45:2)”

Vaishmapayan continued his narration until 46:11, before beginning the descriptions of Yudhishthir approaching Krishna.  This is when Yudhishthir went to meet Bhishma, 56 days before the day of Winter solstice.

The descriptions of Yudhishthir Rajyabhishek, his honoring key leaders and compensating families of those killed in the war are briefly mentioned again (summary form in Anushasan 167:1-4).

Such repetitious summary of events (as required for smooth storytelling) is not at all uncommon in ancient Indian epics. To wit, while Mahabharata tends to summarize these in brief, when repeated; in Ramayana, one can find instances, when all details are repeated verbatim.

This can not be taken as evidence of interpolation.


2 thoughts on “A case for ‘interpolation’, really?

  1. Dear Nilesh,

    I am slowly trying to catch up with your blog. My God you have gone so much in details. Since, I recite Vishnu Sahastra naam every day, I do come across ” Vaishampayan Uavacha” now my question is when was the vishnu sahastra naam preached by Bheeshma to Youdhishtir? Is it that as Bheeshma chose to give up his life soon after, that he started to realize God …Vishnu and his greatness?

    Just a thought occurs to me everyday.

    Regards Shantanu

  2. The fact remains that Yudhishthira’s activities as the new ruler of Hastinapur are described twice. Question is which is the appropriate time for him to do it. He had to do all those things as soon as he entered the capital. In fact a lot of time had already elapsed after the end of war when these essential activities as a King had remained on Hold. Therefore the first occasion when it occurs in the story is quite appropriate. If Vaishampayan had genuinely recited it again, he would have said that ‘as I told you earlier, Yudhishthira did this and that after returning from Ganga bank’
    When the same event is talked of a second time in Mahabharat it is a generally a more elaborate or detailed version because someone says ‘I want to know more about it.’.
    In this instance, there is no such context for the second mention of Yudhishthira’s actions.

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