You can read the previous post in this series here: Part 2

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The History of Samanta-Panchaka

A sage from the audience asked:

Sauti, what’s unique about this place called Samanta-Panchaka?

Sauti replied:

It was the interval between Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga¹. At that time, Jamadagni’s son, Parashu-Rama², destroyed the Kshatriya race, causing five rivers of blood!

Overpowered by wrath upon social evils, Rama lost his reason. He even offered oblations of blood to the ancestors. It is said that one of his forefathers³ appeared before him.

“Rama, the descendant of Bhrigu⁴, we are gratified by your valor. Illustrious one, please ask for a boon,” the forefather said.

“Dear forefather, please release me from my demerits. I’ve incurred a great deal of that due to my anger against the Kshatriyas. May these rivers of blood convert into a holy shrine.”

“Granted, Rama! Now, please become unperturbed.”

Samanta-Panchaka⁵ is that holy place. Again, in Dvapara Yuga and Kali Yuga’s interval, the same area saw another great battle. It was the encounter between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. In that, eighteen Akshauhini-s of warriors lost their lives.

Definition of Akshauhini

A sage from the audience asked:

Sauti, what makes up an Akshauhini?

Sauti replied:

That’s an army term. Let me give you some specifics:

  • Patti = 1 Chariot + 1 Elephant + 5 Foot-Soldiers + 3 Horses
  • Sena-Mukha = 3 x Patti-s
  • Gulma = 3 x Sena-Mukha-s
  • Gana⁶ = 3 x Gulmas
  • Vahini = 3 x Gana-s
  • Pritana = 3 x Vahini-s
  • Chamu = 3 x Pritana-s
  • Anikini = 3 x Chamu-s
  • Akshauhini = 10 x Anikini-s

Arithmeticians have calculated that in an Akshauhini, there are 

  • 21,870 Chariots
  • 21,870 Elephants
  • 109,350 Foot-Soldiers
  • 65,610 Horses

Illustrious sages, the Kaurava and Pandava armies constituted a total of eighteen Akshauhini-s!

 The Parva-s

Sauti continued his narration:

Time brought those warriors to one place and destroyed them all! It all happened within 18 days, under the leadership of various generals in the Kaurava army. Each of those notable Kaurava generals has a Parva⁷ assigned to them in this scripture⁸. 

The wise men accept that the final state of liberation is Vairagya, non-attachment. This scripture shows us the path to that state of Brahma Gyaan, Divine Wisdom.

There are eighteen Parva-s or main divisions in this scripture. At the end of this text, there is a Khila or appendix. It is a Purana known as the Khila-Vamsha or Hari-Vamsha⁹. Including those in the appendix, there are a hundred Parva-s or sub-divisions in this epic¹⁰.

Hey Ascetics! Like no other Ashrama¹¹ can surpass the Grihastha Ashrama, no other poem can surpass this poem. The Bharata uttered by Krishna-Dvaipayana is without any parallel. The one who listens to it does not need a bath in the sacred waters of Pushkara¹².

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Footnotes

  1. Yuga Cycle: In one Yuga cycle, there are four divisions. They are Satya YugaTreta YugaDvapara Yuga, and Kali Yuga. In the current Yuga cycle, the scriptures suggest that we’re living in the Kali Yuga.
  2. Parashu-Rama: His name was Rama. But, to distinguish him from King Rama of Ayodhya, the word Parashu was prefixed to his name. Parashu or an ax was a special weapon that Lord Shiva presented to him.
  3. Forefather’s Name: For those interested, Parashu-Rama’s forefather’s name was Richika.
  4. Bhrigu: Maharishi Bhrigu was one of the seven great sages, the Saptarshi-s. He was the first compiler of predictive astrology and the author of an astrological classic known as Bhrigu Samhita. He appears routinely in many Puranic tales.
  5. Samanta-Panchaka: This is a combination of three words. Sam means Complete. Anta means Destruction. Panchaka in this context means causing the five. Putting it all together, it means the five (blood rivers) caused due to the complete destruction (by Parashu Rama).
  6. Gana: Possibly why the Gana-s of Shiva were named that. It could’ve been the count of Shiva’s followers and those who lived in his abode of Kailasha!
  7. Parva: Depending on the context it could mean division, subdivision, or chapter.
  8. Author’s Note: Sauti gives a detailed description of each Parva. I’ve skipped that to prevent redundancy.
  9. Hari-Vamsha: This Purana which is an appendix of the Mahabharata has two parts. The first one known as Vishnu Parva covers the birth and history of Lord Krishna. The second part known as Bhavishya Parva includes a couple of alternate creation theories, hymns to Lord Shiva and Vishnu, and provides a description of the Kali Yuga.
  10. Parva-Samgraha: The current chapter is known as Parva-Samgraha Parva. It means, a listing of the Parva-s. Sauti lists all the books, chapters, and sections along with their verse count here. I’ve skipped this to prevent redundancy.
  11. Ashrama: Four life stages based on age and functions. Those are Brahmacharya or kids and youth, Grihastha or householder, Vanaprastha or retired, and Sannyasa or renunciate. As per the scriptures, the Grihastha Ashram is considered superior to all the other Ashrama. That’s because the householders are the backbone of society. Typically, they support the other three Ashrama-s through their hard work and finances.
  12. Pushkara: It was a sacred land where many saints performed penance.

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You can read the next part in this series here: Part 4

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