Page:A history of Sanskrit literature (1900), Macdonell, Arthur Anthony.djvu/294

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epic cycle with which they deal; its epic kernel, moreover, which forms only about one-fifth of the whole work, has become so overgrown with didactic matter, that in its final shape it is not an epic at all, but an encyclopædia of moral teaching.

The Mahābhārata, which in its present form consists of over 100,000 çlokas, equal to about eight times as much as the Iliad and Odyssey put together, is by far the longest poem known to literary history. It is a conglomerate of epic and didactic matter divided into eighteen books called parvan, with a nineteenth, the Harivaṃça, as a supplement. The books vary very considerably in length, the twelfth being the longest, with nearly 14,000, the seventeenth the shortest, with only 312 çlokas. All the eighteen books, excepting the eighth and the last three, are divided into subordinate parvans; each book is also cut up into chapters (adhyāyas).

No European edition of the whole epic has yet been undertaken. This remains one of the great tasks reserved for the future of Sanskrit philology, and can only be accomplished by the collaboration of several scholars. There are complete MSS. of the Mahābhārata in London, Oxford, Paris, and Berlin, besides many others in different parts of India; while the number of MSS. containing only parts of the poem can hardly be counted.

Three main editions of the epic have appeared in India. The editio princeps, including the Harivaṃça, but without any commentary, was published in four volumes at Calcutta in 1834-39. Another and better edition, which has subsequently been reproduced several times, was printed at Bombay in 1863. This edition, though not including the supplementary book, contains the com-