Guru-Shishya, Vyasa and Jaimini

A Comparison

Vyasa had five disciples: Vaishampayana, Jaimini, Paila, Sumantu and his own son Shuka. After completing the study of the Mahabharata, they published their own versions of the epic, (Adi Parva, 1.1.63, 1.57.73-75) perhaps on Vyasa’s instructions. The legend goes that Vyasa trashed them all except the one written by Vaishampayana and one Parva—the Ashvamedhaparva—by Jaimini. The versions of all the disciples have disappeared but for Jaimini’s Ashvamedhaparva.[1]  Interestingly, there are indications in the text itself that other chapters preceding and succeeding the fourteenth existed making up the Jaiminibharata – another Mahabharata by another author. 

  • In the last verse of the book, Jaimini says to Janamejaya, “O lord of the earth, I have narrated fourteen Parvas to you. Now, O king, listen to the Parva named Ashramavasa.”
  • Secondly, Suta makes a sudden appearance at the end of chapter 36 and addresses a congregation of sages telling them, “O bulls among ascetics, I have described to you all that Jaimini had told the son of Parikshit.” Suta here has taken up the role of the Vyasan Ugrasravas-Sauti and must have begun the Jaimini-story, as Sauti does in the Vyasan Mahabharata.
  • Thirdly, the second verse of the Parva begins with a question from Janamejaya. This indicates that the Parva comes in the middle of a narrative since such a verse cannot be the beginning of a new work. K.N.Shastri and N.Ranganatha Sharma point out in the Preface to their Kannada translation of the Parva, “It is not proper tradition to begin a book without a proper context. One can guess that there might be other Parvas preceding this text.” [2]
  • Fourthly, in chapter 43 of Jaimini, Tamradhvaja suddenly becomes Suchitra. This indicates that the reader already knows who Suchitra is. The duality of name must have been explained in an earlier chapter. 

Besides such evidence from the book many other instances bolstering the claim of the possible existence of Jaiminibharata show up from time to time in bits and pieces. We have the hand-written copy of Abhimanyu Upakhyanam in grantha script, preserved in the Oriental Institute of Baroda which is most probably a part of the Drona Parva of the Jaiminibharata. (Janakinath Sharma, Introduction, Jaiminiyashvamedhaparva, n.d.) There are other texts : Sitavijaya or Sahasramukharavanacaritra in grantha script, a part of Jaimini’s Ashramavasa Parva dealing with Sita’s victory over the thousand-headed Ravana; Mairavanacaritra or Hanumadvijaya in grantha script dealing with Hanuman’s victory over Mairavana and claiming to be a part of Jaiminibharata; Setumahatmya describing the significance of Rameshvaram Setu in grantha script claiming to be a part of the Aranyakaparvam of Jaiminibharata; Harishchandropakhyanam describing the Harishchandra legend, a part of the Harivamsha section of the Jaiminibharata; Harivamshaparvam, Jaimini’s version of the Vyasan Harivamsha and claiming to be a part of the Jaiminibharata.[3]   Lastly, Jyesthamahatmya describing the holiness of the month of Jyestha or Jyaisthya is supposed to be a part of the Shantiparvan of the Jaiminibharata. (Petteri Koskikallio and Christophe Vielle, “Epic and Puranic Texts Attributed to Jaimini,” 2001, p. 67-93.) Unfortunately, even though we have these scattered pieces, the complete text of the Jaiminibharata remains elusive. One hopes that the National Manuscript Mission will track it down while cataloguing ancient manuscripts. 

There is also a controversy regarding Jaimini’s identity and time. Jaimini of Purva Mimamsa, one of the earliest texts belonging to the genre of Vedic literature (around 300 BC), cannot be the author of the Ashvamedhaparva, written most probably in 11-12th century. This is established by information contained in the text itself. Jaimini has referred to such characters and incidents as indicate that this text is a much later composition than Purva Mimamsa, e.g. references to Kamasutra, Varaha, Bhagavata, etc. The most telling reference is to the Ahalya episode: “…was the stone not redeemed on being touched by the feet of Rama?” – an episode which does not occur in the Ramayana but is found in Kathasaritsagara (Somadeva, 1070 AD). Because of all these reasons Derrett (1970: 24, 27) suggests 1100-1200 AD, a date that seems to be reasonable. (W.L.Smith, “The Jaimini Bharata and its Eastern Vernacular Versions”, 1999, p. 391) [4]

Therefore, Jaimini of Purva Mimamsa and Jaimini of Ashvamedhaparva cannot be coterminous. But then, this gives us the possibility of a series of Jaiminis. It is possible that an earlier Jaimini who was Vyasa’s disciple composed the ‘original’ Jaiminibharata and following the guru-shishya parampara (preceptor-disciple tradition), a later Jaimini, the present redactor, gave it the current form after updating it with interpolations of his own including contemporary references and using contemporary language. The intervening Jaiminis too could have added their own contributions. What happened to Vyasa’s Mahabharata could easily have happened to Jaiminibharata. In the Vishnu Purana (III.3) we find that there were as many as twenty-eight Vyasas. In shlokas 26-29 in the Mumuksha Khanda, Section 3 of the Yoga-Vashishtha Ramayana, Vashishtha says, “There have been ten successive incarnations of this Vyasa who has done such wondrous acts and is famed for his vast knowledge. Myself and Valmiki have been contemporaries many a time, as also born in different ages and very many times…This Vyasa will again be born eight times hereafter, and again will write his Mahabharata and the Purana histories.” Then why not a series of Jaiminis as well?    

Though there are vernacular versions of the book in almost all regional languages, this text had not been translated into English till now.[5]  The vernacular versions have mostly been selective. They have not included all the sections of the original and some added their own stories to the text. The existence of so many vernacular versions in so many Indian languages proves the extreme popularity of Jaimini at one time. Jaimini pervades not only the vernacular literature but also the performing arts, traditions, folklore and culture. To quote a few examples, we have temples dedicated to Vrishaketu in Himachal Pradesh, the story of Vrishaketu narrated in the patas of Bengal, stories of Chandrahasa, Yauvanashva, Anushalva, Tamradhvaja, etc in Yakshagana of the southern India.  The Jaimini text fascinated the Muslim Nawabs of Bengal who got them translated into Bengali so that common people too could understand – Paragali Mahabharata composed by Kabi Parameshvara at the instance of Paragal Khan, the governor of Chattagram and Chhuti Khaner Mahabharata by Srikara Nandi at the instance of Chhuti Khan, his successor. Even Akbar, preferred Jaimini’s version to Vyasa’s while compiling a Persian version of the Mahabharata that he named the Razmnama the book of war. In fact, in most of the translations of Vyasa’s Mahabharata, the Ashvamedhaparva has been replaced by Jaimini’s version.

Jaimini’s work is essentially different from Vyasa’s. The basic structure of the Parva is the same as Vyasa’s – both begin with Yudhishthira’s lament and go on to narrate the decision to perform the horse sacrifice, the tour of conquest under the leadership of Arjuna, the performance of the sacrifice and the story of the golden mongoose - but the details are different. There are of course a few similarities but most of the episodes are different. The purpose of this paper is to discuss some of the important points of similarity and difference including those outlined by R.D.Karmarkar in his introduction to the Parva in the Critical Edition. But before that it would be pertinent to give a brief description of Jaimini’s text in a tabular form for convenience of understanding. 

The Jaiminiyashvamedhaparva has sixty-eight chapters. The first fourteen chapters deal with Yudhishthira’s decision to perform Ashvamedha yajna on Vyasa’s advice, the description of the horse, the fetching of the horse from King Yauvanashva of Bhadravatipuri by Bhimasena, Vrishaketu and Meghavarna after a great battle, Anushalva’s attack on Krishna and his defeat at the hands of Vrishaketu, inauguration of the yajna and commencement of the horse’s tour under the protection of Arjuna. The tour, narrated in brief in the table below, continues till the sixty-second chapter. There are thirteen episodes that occur during the journey.





Main events



Pravira, Agni, Niladhvaja, Jvala


Battle. Pravira seizes the horse. Niladhvaja & Agni fight Arjuna. Niladhvaja surrenders. Story of Agni & Svaha. Queen Jvala’s discomfiture & Ganga’s curse on Arjuna.


Vindhya Mountain

Uddalaka, Chandi


Horse is stuck to a mountain. The story of Uddalaka & Chandi. Uddalaka’s curse on Chandi is dispelled by Arjuna & horse is unstuck.


Champa, Champakapuri

Hamsadhvaja, Sudhanva, Suratha





Battle. Hamsadhvaja seizes the horse. Sudhanva delays dallying with his wife & is thrown into boiling oil by the king on the orders of Shankha & Likhita but survives. Sudhanva vanquishes Arjuna & Krishna comes to help. Sudhanva’s death. Battle of Suratha & his death. Brothers honoured by Shiva. Krishna stops the battle, establishes peace & returns.


Forest lake


Horse turns into a mare on entering lake, then a tigress & again a horse because of a curse & the stories thereof.


Country of women



Battle ensues as Pramila seizes the horse. Gods stop the battle. Arjuna marries Pramila & sends her to Hastinapura


Strange countries


Tree-people & people with astonishing features.


Demon country




Battle & death of Bhishana. Hanumana & the female demons fight.










Lava, Kusha

22.86- 40

Battle after Arjuna insults Babhruvahana who seizes the horse. Story of Kusha & Lava & Rama’s Ashvamedha in which Lava & Kusha defeat Rama & all his brothers. Death of Arjuna & all the heroes at Babhruvahana’s hand. He fights with the Nagas & brings the life-giving jewel. Krishna & Bhima come to help. All are revived & peace is established. Bhima returns.



Tamradhvaja, Mayuradhvaja


Battle after Tamradhvaja seizes the horse. Arjuna & Krishna are defeated. Krishna tests Mayuradhvaja’s devotion by asking for half his body. Mayuradhvaja obliges & satisfied with his devotion Krishna assumes his four-armed form for Mayuradhvaja. Peace is established.



Viravarma, Yama,Malini


Battle of Viravarma & Yama with Arjuna & Krishna after Viravarma seizes the horse. Story of Malini & Yama. Description of diseases & their cure. Viravarma defeats Hanumana, Arjuna & Krishna & then surrenders



Chandrahasa Vishaya Madana



The story of Chandrahasa. His marriage to Vishaya and Champakamalini. Importance of Ekadashi & Shalagrama stone. He seizes the horse but there is no battle. Krishna assumes his four-armed form for Chandrahasa.


Ocean in the north

Bakadalbhya & the Brahmas


The story of Bakadalbhya and the many-faced Brahmas.


City of Jayadratha



Duhshala’s son dies of fear. Krishna revives him. Arjuna invites her to Hastinapura for the yajna.

Chapters 62 to 68 deal with the return of the horse, a very detailed description of the performance of the sacrifice and all the rituals, stories of the quarrelling Brahmins, the golden mongoose and, finally, the merits of listening to the story of the sacrifice.

The only major stories common to both texts are those of the Arjuna-Babhruvahana conflict, Arjuna-Subhadra encounter and the story of the mongoose and the Brahmin family, with major differences in the details of the first two. The main structure of the Babhruvahana story, once again, is the same – Arjuna reaches Manipura,[6]  berates Babhruvahana, battle takes place, Arjuna dies and is revived by Ulupi (Krishna in Jaimini) with the help of the jewel. But then the details of the story are quite different.   In Vyasa, Arjuna goes to Manipura after he visits Duhshala at Sindhudesha. In Jaimini he goes to the city of Jayadratha (he does not name the kingdom) much after his visit to Manipura. Jaimini makes Chitrangada daughter of a Gandharva king instead of Vyasa’s Chitravahana. Here, Chitrangada misses a beat while dancing and her father curses her to be a crocodile, later to be redeemed by Arjuna. How she is redeemed is not told but after the birth of a son, she goes away to Yudhishthira (!) and Babhruvahana is raised by Ulupi. In Vyasa there is no such story. In Vyasa the story of Barga and four other apsaras, turned into crocodiles by a curse and redeemed by Arjuna after he leaves Manipura, is unrelated to the Babhruvahana story. In Jaimini, Arjuna meets both Ulupi and Chitrangada at a pilgrimage place and marries, saving Ulupi from her guru’s curse. In Vyasa Arjuna marries Ulupi at a pilgrimage centre (there is no curse but satisfaction of Ulupi’s lust) and Chitrangada in her father’s kingdom. In Jaimini, Arjuna dies because the vengeful Jvala instigates Ganga to curse Arjuna and she herself becomes the death-arrow for Arjuna and enters Babhruvahana’s quiver. In Vyasa, Ganga does not curse but the Vasus do with Ganga’s approval. Ulupi comes to know about the curse and appeals to the Vasus through her father Vasuki to withdraw the curse. The Vasus assure him that when Arjuna dies at the hands of his son, he will be free of the sin of killing Bhishma unfairly. So Ulupi “arranges” the death of Arjuna so that he is free of the sin and revives him with the life-giving jewel which appears as she remembers it. In Jaimini, however, the story goes through various twists and turns, covering a space of six chapters, after Arjuna’s death. Ulupi sends an envoy to bring the life-giving jewel from the snake kingdom. When he fails due to court intrigue, an enraged Babhruvahana invades the Naga kingdom in Patala and after a great battle, snatches from the Nagas amrita and the Sanjivani jewel to revive Arjuna. It does not work as Arjuna’s severed head is stolen. So Krishna has to appear and with his divine power he brings the head back and revives Arjuna with the jewel. Ulupi has no role here.   Jaimini’s Babhruvahana story is long and quite involved but Vyasa’s is simple, straight-forward and bereft of complications. There is no Krishna, no Naga court, no battle with Nagas, no boon of the Nagas and no curse by Ganga. This episode also includes the Ramakatha which Vyasa tells in the Vana Parva. More about that later. 

The second similar story is that of Duhshala. In the Vyasan version, there is a battle between the Sindhu army and Arjuna. Duhshala’s son, the boy-king Suratha, dies of fright. Duhshala goes with her grandson and appeals to Arjuna to have mercy and stop the battle. Arjuna is embarrassed, takes her home but does not invite her to the sacrificial ceremony. In Jaimini, there is no battle, the boy-king (unnamed) dies, Duhshala berates Arjuna in no uncertain terms and appeals to Krishna (no Krishna in Vyasa) who is present. There is no grandson. Arjuna here is defensive, “I have not caused any distress to your son. Even then, forgive me for all the deeds I have committed in the past…O sinless one, conquering all the enemies I shall give the entire kingdom to you.” In Vyasa, he is much more intense and solemn, “We have fought like dogs over a piece of meat and the meat has lost its savour.” In Jaimini, Krishna revives the son and Arjuna invites her to the yajna. 

The mongoose story is the same except that Vyasa’s Krodha is Dharma in disguise whereas Jaimini’s Krodha is Krodha himself. One notices a rather interesting situation in this episode. On comparing the narration of this episode in the Critical Edition and the Jaimini version, one finds that 20 of 22 shlokas of 14.92 and 9 shlokas of the first 10 of 14.93 of the Critical Edition are repeated word for word in the first 29 shlokas of chapter 66 of Jaimini’s work. Jaimini just lifted these shlokas from his guru’s Mahabharata physically, without changing a word, and inserted them in his own work! If one searches diligently, other such similarities would surely be found in other parts of the two books. Unless Jaimini was a disciple of Vyasa he would not have plagiarised with such impunity. In the guru-shishya parampara (preceptor-disciple tradition) the disciple has every right over the guru’s creation. Since such a symbiotic relationship exists between the two, as proved by this example, one is tempted to believe the tradition that Vyasa did ask his disciples to write a Bharata and they did so. 

The points of similarity end here. For the rest, these two works are entirely different from each other. Jaimini’s book is substantially larger than Vyasa’s Ashvamedhikaparva. Jaimini’s is completed in 68 chapters and contains 5147 verses, whereas Vyasa’s has 3320 verses in 133 chapters. 

In Vyasa’s work, a substantial portion—almost two-thirds according to Karmarkar—has nothing to do with Ashvamedha, whereas everything in Jaimini deals essentially with the yajna and is entirely relevant (R.D.Karmarkar, Introduction to the Ashvamedhikaparvan in the Critical Edition of the Mahabharata, 1960, p.xlv). Anugita, Kamagita, the Utanka episode, Agastya’s yajna, Kashyapa-Sidhha dialogue, Brahmana-Brahmani dialogue, Yajnika-Yati dialogue, Janaka-Brahmin dialogue, Karttavirya episode, description of gunas, the Vaishnavadharmaparva, etc of Vyasa’s text have no relation with the yajna. In this Parva, Vyasa’s emphasis appears to be on philosophical insights. In Jaimini, though there are small sections of didactic nature, e.g. Vyasa’s description of varna-dharma, duties of widows and ways to stabilise Lakshmi in the household, Chandrahasa’s edicts on the importance of Ekadashi, Yama’s description of diseases and their cure, Galava’s description of the Arishtadhyaya (the signs of impending death), etc., philosophy does not seem to be his main concern. His text is overwhelmingly martial and lavishly soaked in bhakti—a good example of the blend of two rasas, bhakti and vira, where even the violence, the animus, is born from bhakti: worship the Lord as an enemy.

In Vyasa, immediately after Bhishma’s funeral, Yudhishthira breaks down. Dhritarashtra, Krishna, Vyasa and others console him. Vyasa suggests that he should perform the Rajasuya,[7]  Ashvamedha, Sarvamedha and Naramedha sacrifices, beginning with Ashvamedha like Bharata and Rama. In Jaimini, Yudhishthira is in his residence. Dhritarashtra and Krishna are not there. Vyasa arrives by chance, Yudhishthira laments and Vyasa consoles him, advises him to perform the Ashvamedha like Rama and tells him the procedure. Krishna arrives much later. Yudhishthira’s sorrow and his discussion with Vyasa are much longer in Jaimini.

Jaimini has glossed over the Marutta-Samvartta episode and has finished the entire episode within a few verses, whereas Vyasa has devoted a lot of space to it which includes how Yudhishthira collects the wealth. Though this episode is highly relevant to the yajna, yet Jaimini has ignored it almost completely. Many other stories of Vyasa, e.g. Krishna’s dialogue with Vasudeva, Parikshit’s birth, etc which are relevant have been completely ignored by Jaimini.

Continued to next page     


More by :  Maj. Gen. Shekhar Sen

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Views: 4002      Comments: 1

Comment where can I buy your book? I would love to read it. Thanks.

Mrunalini Newalkar
23-Mar-2015 01:23 AM

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