Tales from the Srimad Bhagavatam: The Beginning – I

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Nilanjana retells the stories from the Srimad Bhagavatam1 , bringing alive the essential Indian wisdom of the yore. In the first part of the serialising the Hindu Holy Book, she recapitulates the doubts and confusions in the mind of a wise man, Ved Vyas, who authored the Vedas and the Mahabharata. When his gaze turns inwards, Narada visits him. Find out what transpired between the two great men. From this Thursday, we introduce the weekly column, Myth and Mythology. Here’s the dialogue of two great sages, exclusively in Different Truths.

Ved Vyasa, the author of the Vedas and Mahabharata, was sitting desolately staring at the placid waters of River Saraswati. His unfocussed gaze was no match for the fleeting day that was seriously headed towards a gloomy evening. His troubled look must have definitely unsettled the heavens for their messenger arrived in style just as the Sun was about to set.

Twanging of the veena (a classical string instrument) caught his ears as Ved Vyasa looked up. He saw the young sage Narada approach him. Ved Vyasa extended his cordiality to welcome the sage with all appropriate rituals, as was prevalent in those days.

“Narayana, Narayana…” Sage Narada began, as Ved Vyasa sat close to his guest.

“I am sure you are fine and not bothered by diseases of the world.” Narada began. Ved Vyasa merely nodded.

Narada continued, “You ought to be very happy since you have completed composing the Mahabharata – that is the storehouse of knowledge. This is a great achievement and will be of immense help to the world. You are also armed with the knowledge of Brahma Vidya (the ultimate knowledge) and should be without any sorrow, whatsoever.”

Since Ved Vyasa chose to be silent, Narada asked, “You do not look happy. Looks like you have not achieved what you wanted to. You do not look content. What is worrying you?”

“You are right. I am not happy, but I do not know why. You are the wise, the son of Brahma (the Creator). Can you clear my doubts? I have edited the Vedas, divided them into four parts (Rig, Sama, Yajur, Atharva) for better comprehension. I even trained my disciples so that they can disseminate the knowledge. For those who cannot study the Vedas, I composed the Mahabharata, where all the Vedic lessons are incorporated in the course of narration. I had thought I have completed everything. Can you tell me why I feel that something is still amiss?”

“That is because you have not done enough.” Narada was ready with the answer.

“Not done enough? I have done what I possibly could. Whatever is possible for a human being!” Ved Vyasa’s voice betrayed dismay.


“Yes, you have composed the Mahabharata. In that you have focussed on the righteous way of life, the duties of man and how to perform them selflessly. So your entire focus has been on Karma Yoga* (the yoga of action).

The Bhagavad Gita and all other discourses in the Mahabharata emphasises the Karma Yoga only. In that you have not spoken about Bhakti Yoga at all. Isn’t it the easiest path to be united with the Divine?”

Ved Vyasa could suddenly see a way out of his depression.

Narada advised, “Undying devotion to the divine surely liberates one. If you sing praises – albeit with wrong words and out of tune – of the divine, you are bound to be liberated.

In the Mahabharata, you had an objective point of view. You played out the characters and did not take sides. But now your author’s voice has to take over. It should demonstrate love and devotion to the divine. You should unravel the secret behind the avatars (incarnations). Explain the true nature of the divine. Help people understand why the divine has taken various forms, name and birth in this world and has played various roles. In short, lift the veil from the stage of the cosmic drama played out in the mortal world, where the divine plays different characters. You will then attain the peace that you are seeking. Sing the praises of the Divine. We all know that when we praise anybody we feel good. When we criticise, we also feel bad and petty. Isn’t it so? So praise the divine, focus on devotion, and weave stories that will lead more people to the path of Bhakti.”

Ved Vyasa was still quiet. The waves of Saraswati kept chuckling as the two sages maintained a long silent pause.

Suddenly, Narada plucked the strings of his divine Veena. He asked, “Do you know the story of my previous birth?”

(To be continued)


*Karma Yoga: There are three paths to be united with the Divine. Karma Yoga focuses on the right action that has to be performed selflessly. Jnana Yoga is the path through knowledge. Bhakti Yoga is the path through devotion to the Divine.


1 Srimad Bhagavatam is often called the Bhagavad Purana. Authored by Ved Vyasa, the stories are about the various avatars (incarnations) of Lord Vishnu, also known as Narayana.

©Nilanjana Dey

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A story-teller at heart, Nilanjana Dey is on a journey to experiment with fiction and poetry. Her first novel, largely aimed towards children, is titled ‘The Adventures of Puti – The Cheese Trail’. Her poems have been published at various prestigious portals. An alumni of English Literature from Jadavpur University (Kolkata), she is a marketing and communication professional based in Mumbai. She volunteers with a Mumbai based NGO working with the marginalised sections of the society.