For the title for the divider of Vedas, see Vyasa (title). For the crater on Mercury, see Vyasa (crater). For the Brahmin community often pronounced as Vyas, see Bias Brahmin.


Author as well as a character in the Hindu epic Mahabharata
Spouse(s) Pinjalaa
Children Shuka (from Pinjalaa)
Dhritarashtra (from Ambika)
Pandu (from Ambalika)
Vidura (from Parishrama)
Titles/honours Festival of Guru Purnima, is dedicated to him, and also known as the Vyasa Purnima as it is the day, which is believed to be his birthday

Vyasa (Sanskrit: व्यास), literally "Compiler") is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyāsa (वेदव्यास, veda-vyāsa, "the one who classified the Vedas") or Krishna Dvaipāyana (referring to his complexion and birthplace). He is generally considered the author of the Mahabharata, as well as a character in it. He is considered to be the scribe of both the Vedas and Puranas. Vyasa is also considered to be one of the seven Chiranjivins (long lived, or immortals), who are still in existence according to Hindu belief.

According to the Vishnu Purana, "Veda Vyasa" is a title applied to the compilers of the Vedas who are avatars of Vishnu; 28 people with this title have appeared so far.[1][2]

The festival of Guru Purnima is dedicated to him. It is also known as Vyasa Purnima, for it is the day believed to be both his birthday and the day he divided the Vedas.[3][4]

In the Mahabharata

Vyasa appears for the first time as the compiler of, and an important character in, the Mahabharata. It is said that he was the expansion of the god Vishnu who came in Dwaparayuga to make all the Vedic knowledge available in written form which was available in spoken form at that time. He was the son of Satyavati, daughter of the fisherman Dusharaj,[5] and the wandering sage Parashara (who is credited with being the author of the first Purana: Vishnu Purana). He was born on an island in the river Yamuna.[6] There are two different views regarding his birthplace. One of the views suggests that he was born in the Tanahun district in western Nepal. He was born in vyas municipality of Gandaki zone of tanahun district, his name vedh "vyas" shows his story of his birth place "vyas". Other view suggests that he was born on Island in Yamuna river near Kalpi, Uttar Pradesh, India. Vyasa was dark-complexioned and hence may be called by the name Krishna, and also the name Dwaipayana, meaning 'island-born'.

Dhritarashtra born of Ambika, and Pandu, born of Ambalika and Vidura born to a maid, were born from vyasa's powers (Siddhis).[7]

Vyasa is believed to have lived on the banks of Ganga in modern-day Uttarakhand. The place was also the abode of sage Vashishta along with Pandavas, the five brothers of Mahabharata.| [8]

According to Mahabharatha, Maharishi Vyasand his disciples and sage Viswamitra decided to settle down in a cool and serene atmosphere after the Kurukshetra War. In the quest for a peaceful abode, he came toDandaka forest and, pleased with serenity of the region, selected this place. Since Maharishi Vyasa spent considerable time in prayers, the place was then called "Vasara" and turned into Basar in telangana due to the influence of the Marathi language in this region.

Veda Vyasa

Hindus traditionally hold that Vyasa categorised the primordial single Veda into three canonical collections, and that the fourth one, known as Atharvaveda, was recognized as Veda only very much later. Hence he was called Veda Vyasa, or "Splitter of the Vedas," the splitting being a feat that allowed people to understand the divine knowledge of the Veda. The word vyasa means split, differentiate, or describe.

The Vishnu Purana has a theory about Vyasa.[9] The Hindu view of the universe is that of a cyclic phenomenon that comes into existence and dissolves repeatedly. Each cycle is presided over by a number of Manus, one for each Manvantara, that has four ages, Yugas of declining virtues. The Dvapara Yuga is the third Yuga. The Vishnu Purana (Book 3, Ch 3) says:

In every third world age (Dvapara), Vishnu, in the person of Vyasa, in order to promote the good of mankind, divides the Veda, which is properly but one, into many portions. Observing the limited perseverance, energy, and application of mortals, he makes the Veda fourfold, to adapt it to their capacities; and the bodily form which he assumes, in order to effect that classification, is known by the name of Veda-vyasa. Of the different Vyasas in the present Manvantara and the branches which they have taught, you shall have an account. Twenty-eight times have the Vedas been arranged by the great Rishis in the Vaivasvata Manvantara... and consequently eight and twenty Vyasas have passed away; by whom, in the respective periods, the Veda has been divided into four. The first... distribution was made by Svayambhu (Brahma) himself; in the second, the arranger of the Veda (Vyasa) was Prajapati... (and so on up to twenty-eight).[10]

As per Vishnu Purana, Guru Drona's son rishi Aswatthama will become the next sage Vyasa (title), who in turn divide the Veda in 29th Mahayuga of 7th Manvantara.[11]

Author of the Mahabharata

Ganesa writing the Mahabharat
Vyasa narrating the Mahabharata to Ganesha, his scribe, Angkor Wat.

Vyasa is traditionally known as author of this epic and likewise features as an important character in it. According to the legend, sage Vyasa was the son of Satyavati and parashara. During her youth Satyavati was a fisherwoman who used to drive boat. On one day sage parashara was in a hurry to attend a yaga. Satyavati helped the sage to cross the river borders.On this account, sage Parashara offered a mantra which would result in begetting a son who will be a sage with wisdom and all good qualities. Satyavati immediately recited the mantra and thus Vysa was born. She kept this incident as secret and she didn't even narrate the incident to King Santanu. After many years, Santanu and Satyavati had two sons named Chitrata and Vichithraviriya. Chitrata was killed by Gandharvas in a battle while Vichitraveriya was so weak and ill all the time. Satyavati then asked Bhisma to fetch queens for Vichitraveriya. Hence, Bhisma attend the swaymvara conducted by king of kasi(Present day Varanasi).Bhisma attend the swaymvara and defeated all the kings.He forcefully abducted the three princess Amba,Ambika and Ambalika. This latter will create trouble for Bhisma. The Princess Amba was already in love with prince of Shalva. Thus, she refused to marry Vichitraviriya and later she vowed to kill Bhishma. During wedding ceremony, Vichitraviriya collapsed and died.Hence, Satyavati didn't know how to save the clan from perishing. She asked Bhisma to marry both the queens but, he refused as he already made a promise to her and her father that he will not marry anyone and there will be no hire to the kingdom by him. Later she relived the secret to Bhisma about her past life and asked him to bring Vyasa to Hastinapur. Sage Vyasa asked to his mother to send Ambika to the waiting room. By his tapsya, Vysa granted a child to Ambika. On being afraid, Ambika was panic. Later Vysa told her that due to her mistake in tapsya, she will have the child who is blind. This child is known as Dhirdharashtra.Later he asked ambalika to attend the waiting room.He granted a child. Later this child was known as Pāndu. Then Vyasa told Satyavati to send one of them again so that a healthy child can be born again. This time Ambika and Ambālika sent a maid in the place of themselves. The maid was quite calm and composed, and she got a healthy child later named as Vidura. While these are his sons, another son Shuka, born of his wife Pinjalā (Vatikā),[12] daughter of the sage Jābāli, is considered his true spiritual heir. He makes occasional appearances in the story as a spiritual guide to the young princes.

Vyasa with his mother (Satyavati)

In the first book of the Mahābhārata, it is described that Vyasa asked Ganesha to aid him in writing the text, but Ganesha imposed a condition that he would do so only if Vyasa narrated the story without pause. To which Vyasa then made a counter-condition that Ganesha must understand the verse before he transcribed it. Thus Vyasa narrated the entire Mahābhārata and all the Upanishads and the 18 Puranas, while Lord Ganesha wrote.

Vyasa is supposed to have meditated and authored the epic by the foothills of the river Beas (Vipasa) in the Punjab region.

Vyasa's Jaya

Vyasa's Jaya, the core of Mahābhārata is structured in the form of a dialogue between Dhritarashtra (the Kuru king and the father of the Kauravas, who opposed the Pāndavas in the Kurukshetra War) and Sanjaya, his adviser and chariot driver. Sanjaya narrates the particulars of Kurukshetra War, fought in eighteen days, chronologically. Dhritarāshtra at times asks a question and doubts, sometimes lamenting, knowing of the destruction caused by the war to his sons, friends and kinsmen.

Sanjaya, in the beginning, gives a description of the various continents of the Earth, numerous planets, and focuses on the Indian subcontinent. Large and elaborate lists are given, describing hundreds of kingdoms, tribes, provinces, cities, towns, villages, rivers, mountains, forests etc. of the (ancient) Indian subcontinent (Bhārata Varsha). Additionally, he gives descriptions of the military formations adopted by each side on each day, the death of individual heroes and the details of the war-races. Eighteen chapters of Vyasa's Jaya constitutes the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text of the Hindus. Thus, Jaya deals with diverse subjects like geography, history, warfare, religion and morality.

Ugrasrava Sauti's Mahābhārata

The final version of Vyasa's work is the Mahābhārata. It is structured as a narration by Ugrasrava Sauti, a professional story teller, to an assembly of rishis who, in the forest of Naimisha, had just attended the 12 year sacrifice known as Saunaka, also known as "Kulapati".

Reference to writing

Within the Mahābhārata, there is a tradition in which Vyasa wishes to write down or inscribe his work:

The Grandsire Brahma (creator of the universe) comes and tells Vyasa to get the help of Ganapati for his task. Ganapati writes down the stanzas recited by Vyasa from memory and thus the Mahābhārata is inscribed or written.

There is some evidence however that writing may have been known earlier based on archeological findings of styli in the Painted Grey Ware culture, dated between 50000 B.C. and 30000 B.C.[13][14][15] and archeological evidence of the Brahmi script being used from at least 300 B.C.[16]

Other texts attributed

Vyasa is also credited with the writing of the eighteen major Purāṇas. His son Shuka is the narrator of the major Purāṇa Bhagavat-Purāṇa.

The Yoga Bhashya, a commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, is attributed to Vyasa.[17]

The Brahma Sutra is attributed to Badarayana — which makes him the proponent of the crest-jewel school of Hindu philosophy, i.e., Vedanta. Vyasa was conflated with Badarayana by Vaishnavas with the reason that the island on which Vyasa was born is said to have been covered by Badara (Indian jujube/Ber/Ziziphus mauritiana) trees.[18] Although some modern historians suggest that these were two different personalities.

There may have been more than one Vyasa, or the name Vyasa may have been used at times to give credibility to a number of ancient texts.[19] Much ancient Indian literature was a result of long oral tradition with wide cultural significance rather than the result of a single author. However Vyasa is credited with documenting, compiling, categorising or writing commentaries on much of this literature.

In Sikhism

In Brahm Avtar composition present in Dasam Granth, Second Scripture of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh mentioned Rishi Vyas as avtar of Brahma.[20] He is considered as fifth incarnation of Brahma. Guru Gobind Singh had written brief account of compositions of Rishi Vyas, which he wrote about great kings like King Manu, King Prithu, King Bharath, King Jujat, King Ben, King Mandata, King Dilip, King Raghu Raj and King Aj.[20][21]

Guru Gobind Singh attributed him the store of Vedic learning.[22]

See also


  1. Jeaneane D. Fowler (2012). The Bhagavad Gita: A Text and Commentary for Students. Sussex Academic Press. p. 177. ISBN 9781845193461.
  2. Bibek Debroy (2011). The Mahabharata. 4. Penguin. p. xviii. ISBN 9780143100164.
  3. Awakening Indians to India. Chinmaya Mission. 2008. p. 167. ISBN 81-7597-434-6.
  4. Editors of Hinduism. What Is Hinduism?: Modern Adventures Into a Profound Global Faith. Himalayan Academy Publications. p. 230. ISBN 1-934145-00-9.
  5. According to legend, Vyasa was the son of the ascetic Parashara and the dasyu Satyavati and grew up in forests, living with hermits who taught him the Vedas. Encyclopædia Britannica
  6. Essays on the Mahābhārata, Arvind Sharma, Motilal Banarsidass Publisher, p. 205
  7. [Mahabharata]
  8. Strauss, Sarah (2002). "The Master's Narrative: Swami Sivananda and the Transnational Production of Yoga". Journal of Folklore Research. Indiana University Press. 23: 221. JSTOR 3814692.  via JSTOR (subscription required)
  9. Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Puranas, Volume 1 (2001), page 1408
  10. "Vishnu Purana". Retrieved 2014-03-15.
  11. Vishnu Purana -Drauni or Asvathama as Next Vyasa Retrieved 2015-03-22
  12. Skanda Purāṇa, Nāgara Khanda, ch. 147
  13. S. U. Deraniyagala. Early Man and the Rise of Civilisation in Sri Lanka: the Archaeological Evidence.
  14. N. R. Banerjee (1965). The Iron Age in India. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal.
  15. F. Raymond Allchin, George Erdosy (1995). The Archaeology of Early Historic South Asia: Emergence of Cities and States. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-37695-5.
  16. T. S. Subramanian. Skeletons, script found at ancient burial site in Tamil Nadu. Institute for Oriental Study, Thane.
  17. Ian Whicher. The Integrity of the Yoga Darsana: A Reconsideration of Classical Yoga. SUNY Press. p. 320.
  18. Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 74.
  19. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Edwin F. Bryant 2009 page xl
  20. 1 2 Dasam Granth, Dr. SS Kapoor
  21. Line 8, Brahma Avtar, Dasam Granth
  22. Line 107, Vyas Avtar, Dasam Granth


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