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One of the two major Sanskrit epics of India, valued for its literary merit and its religious inspiration. It tells of the struggle for supremacy between two groups of cousins, the Kauravas and the Pandavas. Many myths and legends are woven into the poem, along with didactic material on topics such as the proper conduct of a warrior and the way to attain emancipation from rebirth. Together with the second major epic, the Ramayana, it is an important source of information about the evolution of Hinduism. Contained within the Mahabharata is the Bhagavadgita, Hinduism's single most important religious text. The sage Vyasa (fl. c. 5th century BC) is traditionally named as the Mahabharata's author, but he probably compiled existing material. The poem reached its present form c. AD 400.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Mahabharata, visit Britannica.com.
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