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In the translation of Mahabharata by K. M. Ganguli, we see a paragraph note in the page which states:

The Santi Parva is a huge interpolation in the Mahabharata, in the genre known as 'wisdom literature.' The narrative progression is placed on hold almost from the first page. Instead we get a long and winding recapitulation of Brahmanic lore, including weighty treatises on topics such as kingcraft, metaphysics, cosmology, geography, and mythology. There are discussions of the Sankya and Yoga philosophical schools, and mentions of Buddhism. It is apparent that the Santi Parva was added to the Mahabharata at a later time than the main body of the epic.

Is it possible? Because it is not normal that such sections suddenly talk of cosmology and philosophies in detail.

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    Btw who has authority to state whether Shanti Parva is interpolation or not?.. – Tejaswee Mar 13 '17 at 13:14
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    @Tezz the same authority based on which the translation has been made. – Rakesh Joshi Mar 13 '17 at 13:22
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    shanti parva is a dialogue between bhishma & yudhishtira.. where bhishma gives lot of advice to yudhishtir since he does not have peace even after winning the war. so what's the need for narrative (3rd person historical) progression ? also, i personally dont believe translations very much. the words of saints can only be understood by other saints or disciplined spiritualists. linguists can only read lines, while saints can read in between them to get true meaning.. for e.g yaksha prashnam - all answers given by yudhishtir seem ordinary but cryptic messages are hidden in each. – ram Mar 13 '17 at 17:27
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    @KeshavSrinivasan the less we talk of these acharyas the better it is. – Rakesh Joshi Mar 14 '17 at 6:56
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    @RakeshJoshi In this instance, problem is not with the acharyas but the interpolated scriptures were considered "the written law" by their gurus and the gurus' gurus etc. The Monkeys and Ladder experiment explains this very well... :) BTW, I heard in a recent discourse where the learned speaker was saying how peacock and peahen mate using tears and not the natural way :P It's funny how some users are still spreading this false theory on this site also - see this answer. – sv. Mar 14 '17 at 18:38
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Ganguli was right. Irawati Karve in her book Yugānta also states that Śānti-parva is an interpolation and not part of Vyāsa's original Mahābhārata:

Even at the end Bhishma's fate pursued him. He did not die by Arjuna's arrows. He only fell down wounded. Now he could have used his father's gift and found release. But the sun was in the south; dying souls could find no rest. Bhishma had to use his blessing to prolong his death for six more months. For six months Bhishma's body lay immobilized, but his eyes could see, and with them he had to watch the carnage of the Kuru clan. He could hear, and with his ears he had to hear the laments of the widowed Kuru women. He could talk. And with his lips, later authors made him speak the banalities of Shantiparva.

Had Bhishma accomplished anything in keeping his vows? The question remains.

Also, it appears there were originally 4 slightly-different versions of the Mahābhārata:

In this story, too, the Kshatriya hero came out better than Parashurama. Without complaint Karna accepted the curse, as he had accepted the training of his teacher. This story does not deserve much attention. At the time of the cattle raid on the Viratas, Arjuna had completely routed Karna in an open battle. It was, therefore, hardly extraordinary that he should have defeated him again in the last fight. The object of the story is obviously to show that Karna was a great warrior and he would not have been defeated except for the curse of Parashurama. According to legend, each of the four disciples of Vyasa has given a slightly different version of the Mahabharata story. The present version is supposed to have been told by Vaishampayana. The same story is also said to have been told by Jaimini. The Kauravas and the Pandavas quarrelled, they fought a war, the Pandavas won, and their descendants ruled Hastinapura — these were facts that Jaimini could not deny. But his version of the story is said to be partial to the Kauravas. Of this version only the Ashvamedha chapter is extant. In it he shows that Arjuna was defeated many times, and each time had to be rescued by Krishna and others. The fact that Karna was killed by Arjuna was indisputable. The story of the curse is obviously an invention to avoid the conclusion that Arjuna was the greater hero. In this whole episode there is nothing that contributes to the main story of the Mahabharata.

She further explains how exactly the original Mahābhārata was interpolated:

The late Professor V. S. Sukthankar has pointed out that the Mahabharata saga came into the hands of the Bhrigus, a Brahman clan. These Brahmans inserted the stories of their own family into the narration of the Mahabharata. All the Brahman stories referred to above are part of these later interpolations. They have no relationship whatsoever with the original story of the Mahabharata. We can, therefore, dismiss them. If all these accretions are dropped, the Mahabharata gains in beauty, economy, and movement.


Did Bhishma really live for another 6 months?

This is what the Ganguli tr. says:

Having slain in that battle, O monarch, (his foes) by hundreds and thousands, there was not in Bhishma's body space of even two fingers' breadth that was not pierced with arrows.

Imagine a 90-year old getting stabbed 100 times in his torso. What are the chances of him surviving for another 6 months with or without medication? Very slim.

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Mahabharata contains 100 parvas which are further grouped into 18 major parvas

Adi Parva gives list of 100 parvas which includes Santi as well:

Then the coronation of the wise Yudhishthira. The next is called the 'Grihapravibhaga'. Then comes 'Santi', then 'Rajadharmanusasana', then 'Apaddharma', then 'Mokshadharma'. Those that follow are called respectively 'Suka-prasna-abhigamana', 'Brahma-prasnanusana', the origin of 'Durvasa', the disputations with Maya. The next is to be known as 'Anusasanika'.

...

The high-souled Vyasa composed these hundred parvas ...

As you can see above that these 100 parvas including Santi were composed by Vayasa.


The same Adi Parva chapter describes Santi Parva:

Twelfth in number cometh the Santi Parva, which increaseth the understanding and in which is related the despondency of Yudhishthira on his having slain his fathers, brothers, sons, maternal uncles and matrimonial relations. In this Parva is described how from his bed of arrows Bhishma expounded various systems of duties worth the study of kings desirous of knowledge; this Parva expounded the duties relative to emergencies, with full indications of time and reasons. By understanding these, a person attaineth to consummate knowledge. The mysteries also of final emancipation have been expatiated upon. This is the twelfth Parva the favourite of the wise. It consists of three hundred and thirty-nine sections, and contains fourteen thousand, seven hundred and thirty-two slokas.

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Is Shanti Parva an interpolation?

Mahabharata itself says that originally it had 24,000 verses exclusive of the episodes. Only later there was another compilation that extended it to 100,000 verses.

Vyasa executed the compilation of the Bharata, exclusive of the episodes originally in twenty-four thousand verses; and so much only is called by the learned as the Bharata. ............. After that he executed another compilation, consisting of ...one hundred thousand in the regions of mankind.

Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Section I translated by Sri K. M. Ganguli

This pretty much states that the majority of the text we see today was a later addition. So while there may have been a Shanti Parva in the first version of Mahabharata (Shanti or peace must come after the 18-day war) there is no doubt that a lot of the material in the Shanti handed down to us is a later addition.

Does all this matter? Does Hinduism depend on whether the Shanti or any other parva has interpolations? Does Bhishma speak only banalities in the Shanti?

The answer is a firm no to all three. Mahabharata is not a source text of Hinduism. The Vedas and particularly the Upanishads are the source texts. The ten Upanishads commentated upon by Shankaracharya and the Upanishads mentioned by him in the commentary are accepted by scholars as authoritative.

Upanishads are the most important sources of Vedanta philosophy. The ten Upanishads on which Sankara (A.D. 788-820) wrote commentaries have been accepted as more ancient and authoritative. Mandukyoupanishad, the smallest of these, has the unique distinction of being commentated upon by Gaudapada (7th cent. A.D.), the teacher of Govindapada (8th cent. A.D.) who was himself the teacher of Sankara.

A concise encyclopedia of Hinduism by Swami Harshananda

What is the role of Mahabharata?

The wisdom of this work, like unto an instrument of applying collyrium, hath opened the eyes of the inquisitive world blinded by the darkness of ignorance. As the sun dispelleth the darkness, so doth the Bharata by its discourses on religion, profit, pleasure and final release, dispel the ignorance of men. As the full-moon by its mild light expandeth the buds of the water-lily, so this Purana, by exposing the light of the Sruti hath expanded the human intellect. By the lamp of history, which destroyeth the darkness of ignorance, the whole mansion of nature is properly and completely illuminated.

Mahabharata Adi Parva Section I translated by Sri K. M. Ganguli

Has Mahabharata lived up to its promise? I think the answer is yes. A short section of the Mahabharata, Gita, has reached the status of one of Prasthanatrayi in the Vedanta school.

Is the Shanti Parva banal as claimed by some scholars? I have given below an excerpt from Shanti.

Bhishma said: Even the words heard from an ignorant person, if in themselves they be fraught with sense, come to be regarded as pious and wise. In days of old, Usanas said unto the Daityas this truth, which should remove all doubts, that scriptures are no scriptures if they cannot stand the test of reason.

Mahabharat Shanti Parva Section CXLII translated by Sri K. M. Ganguli

In my opinion the idea that scriptures must also satisfy the test of reason is a sensational statement and proves the scholars wrong who claim that the Shanti parva indulges in banalities. Is the truth value of the Shanti Parva wisdom diminished if scholars who claim that a mortally wounded Bhishma did not speak them are proved right? I would think the answer is a firm no.

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  • 'Does all this matter? Does Hinduism depend on whether the Shanti or any other parva has interpolations? What is the role of Mahabharata?' - these are not part of OP's question. It was a simple yes/no question. – sv. Aug 2 at 13:16
  • 'In my opinion the idea that scriptures must also satisfy the test of reason is a sensational statement and proves the scholars wrong who claim that the Shanti parva indulges in banalities.' - So, a single statement you find interesting disproves whatever is stated in the other 150+ chapters. – sv. Aug 2 at 13:27
  • FYI, here's what Bhishma says about women: "There is no creature more sinful, O son, than women. Woman is a blazing fire. She is the illusion, O king, that the Daitya Maya created. She is the sharp edge of the razor. She is poison. She is a snake. She is fire. She is, verily, all these united together....The Creator himself is incapable of restraining them within the limits that are proper: what need then be said of men?" – sv. Aug 2 at 13:27
  • I have already answered the question with a yes. I just wanted to say that interpolation does not reduce the importance of Shanti Parva. I have found many gems in Shanti. The idea that even scripture must satisfy the test of reason is enough to make the Shanti Parva priceless. Let me give an example. The quote you have given about women is easy to understand given Bhishma's experience with women. We can use Bhishma's own advice that a scripture must satisfy the test of reason to reject his opinion about women. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Aug 2 at 13:51
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If some one else also says that Shanti parva is an interpolation, that is hardly a proof for such speculative and unfounded statement. There are some speculations that entire Bhagavad-gita is an interpolation. To draw such conclusion one of the following three must be true -

  1. There is difference in shaili (or style of writing)
  2. It contradicts the concepts stated in this work itself.
  3. It conflicts with other works of Vedavyasa.

None of these is true.

Bhishma did not prolong his death by six months, but only for about two months for him to go from Dakshinayana to Uttarayana. The war did not happen at the beginning of Dakshinayana, but almost end of dakShinayana. Also he did not die as soon as uttarAyana started. He waited for a good day which was “Magha Shukla AshTami”.

Keeping the vows itself is an accomplishment. That is not for accomplishing something else.

These simple facts indicate that the research was a bit sloppy.

To justify their irrational statements, some indologists and others tried to play the “Brahmana card”.

Bori’s critical edition team did enough research and their critical edition also contains Shantiparva. Also, In Adiparva, it lists all the parvas and there Shantiparva is also listed. It is not right to apply our rules of bearing the pain to Bhishma and talking about his age and concluding that such an old man could not bear that pain is not a strong argument at all, considering the kind of battle skills he exhibited.

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  • Welcome to Hinduism SE! Request you to kindly look at Guidelines for new users answering questions – Archit Aug 1 at 15:51
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    Compare the life of shuka deva for instance in bhagwatam and other puranas there are contradictions. To cover this up they say kalpa bheda excuse. Mahabharata was MADE UP to 1 lakh verses later on. In tatparya nirnaya you can see that madwacharya makes statements that ramayana and mbh have interpolation. Over the time with no press or printing it is very much a possibility. – Rakesh Joshi Aug 1 at 16:35

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