By Kisari Mohan Ganguli
Published by Protap Chandra Roy (1842-1895)
Printed at Bharata Press, Calcutta - 1887
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The Bhishma Parva or the Book of Bhishma, is the sixth of eighteen books of the Indian epic Mahabharata. Bhishma Parva traditionally has 4 sub-books and 122 chapters. The critical edition of Sabha Parva has 4 sub-books and 117 chapters.
Bhishma Parva describes the first 10 days of the 18-day Kurukshetra War, and its consequences. It recites the story of Bhishma, the commander in chief of the Kaurava armies, who was fatally injured and can no longer lead as the commander.
This book of Mahabharata includes the widely studied Bhagavad gita, sometimes referred to as Gita, or The Song of the Lord, or The Celestial Song. Bhagavadgita chapters describe Arjuna's questioning the purpose of war, ultimate effects of violence and the meaning of life. Arjuna's doubts and metaphysical questions are answered by Krishna. Other treatises in Bhishma parva include the Just war theory in ancient India, as well as strategies of war and troop deployment. This book describes the deaths of Uttarā kumarā (brother-in-law of Abhimanyu and brother of Uttara wife of Abhimanyu), Vrishasena (Elder son of Karna) and also Bhishma's fall respectively on 1st, 3rd and 10th days of the war. Karna did not fight in these first ten days on Bhishma's order.
About the Author and this book:
Kisari Mohan Ganguli (also K. M. Ganguli) was an Indian translator known for being the first to provide a complete translation of the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata in English. His translation was published as The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa Translated into English Prose between 1883 and 1896, by Pratap Chandra Roy (1842–1895), a Calcutta bookseller who owned a printing press and raised funds for the project.
The "Translator's Preface" in Book 1: Adi Parva, Ganguli mentions the sequence of events that led to the publication. Sometime in the early 1870s, Pratapa Chandra Roy, with Babu Durga Charan Banerjee, visited Ganguli at his home in Shibpur in Howrah, Bengal, requesting him to take up the translation project, which he took up after initial reluctance and a second meeting, when extensive plans were drawn, and the copy of a translation by Max Müller was left behind, made some thirty years ago, which on study Ganguli found to be literal and lacking in flow. Thus he started tweaking the text line by line, though "without at all impairing faithfulness to the original".
Soon a dozen sheets of his first 'copy' were typed and sent to noted writers, both European and Indian, and only receiving a favorable response from them that the project was initiated.
Ganguli wanted to publish the translation anonymously, while Roy was against it. Ganguli believed that the project was too mammoth to be the work of a single person, and he might not live to complete the project and adding names of successive translators to appear on the title page was undesirable. Eventually, a compromise was reached, though the name of the translator was withheld on the cover, the first book of Adi Parva, that came out in 1883, was published with two prefaces, one over the signature of the publisher and the other headed--'Translator's Preface', to avoid any future confusions, when a reader might confuse the publisher for the author.
However, by the time Book 4 was released, the withholding of authorship did create controversy, as "an influential Indian journal" accused Pratap Chandra Roy of "posing before the world as the translator of Vyasa's work when, in fact, he was only the publisher". Roy immediately wrote a letter to clarify, citing the preface, but the confusion persisted for many years amongst readers who overlooked the preface. Once the complete eighteen books were successfully translated, the name was no longer withheld from the publication. More recently, the scholars to correct this discrepancy were Ronald Inden and Maureen Patterson, compilers of the University of Chicago's Bibliography to South Asian Studies, K. M. Knott in the Janus Press Edition of the first two books of the Mahabharata and A.C. Macdonnell.
The Ganguli English translation of the Mahabharata is the only complete edition in public domain - to date. His translation was reprinted by Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers.
Bhishma on his deathbed of arrows.
From the collection of the Smithsonian Institution
Rare Book Society