I heard that the original name of Mahabharat was "Jai Samhita".

Who had originally named as "Jai Samhita" and why?

Who had changed the name to "Mahabharat" and why?

3 Answers 3


The first chapter of the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata describes how the Mahabharata got its name:

In former days, having placed the four Vedas on one side and the Bharata on the other, these were weighed in the balance by the celestials assembled for that purpose. And as the latter weighed heavier than the four Vedas with their mysteries, from that period it hath been called in the world Mahabharata (the great Bharata). Being esteemed superior both in substance and gravity of import it is denominated Mahabharata on account of such substance and gravity of import. He that knoweth its meaning is saved from all his sins.

As far as I know, the name Jaya is never actually given in the Mahabharata as the name of the 8800 verses of Sanjaya's dialogue to Dhritarashtra. But the concept of these 8800 verses is mentioned in the same chapter:

I am (continued Sauti) acquainted with eight thousand and eight hundred verses, and so is Suka, and perhaps Sanjaya. From the mysteriousness of their meaning, O Muni, no one is able, to this day, to penetrate those closely knit difficult slokas. Even the omniscient Ganesa took a moment to consider; while Vyasa, however, continued to compose other verses in great abundance.

Also, the name Bharata, without the Maha, is given to a subset of the Mahabharata consisting of 24,000 verses, as described in the same chapter:

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. Afterwards, he composed an epitome in one hundred and fifty verses, consisting of the introduction with the chapter of contents. This he first taught to his son Suka; and afterwards he gave it to others of his disciples who were possessed of the same qualifications. After that he executed another compilation, consisting of six hundred thousand verses. Of those, thirty hundred thousand are known in the world of the Devas; fifteen hundred thousand in the world of the Pitris: fourteen hundred thousand among the Gandharvas, and one hundred thousand in the regions of mankind. Narada recited them to the Devas, Devala to the Pitris, and Suka published them to the Gandharvas, Yakshas, and Rakshasas: and in this world they were recited by Vaisampayana, one of the disciples of Vyasa, a man of just principles and the first among all those acquainted with the Vedas. Know that I, Sauti, have also repeated one hundred thousand verses.

It is the one hundred thousand verses known in the regions of mankind that we call the Mahabharata.

  • There's the well known 'invocation' that one recites before reciting parts of the MBH: "narAyaNam namaskrtya naram chaiva narottamam| devIm sarasvatIm vyAsam tato jayam udeerayet ||". Could you mention if this something added by later people? I had correlated it with the name 'jaya' of MBH. Commented Dec 26, 2017 at 2:30

I have the Brihad NArdaiya PurAna. And, it's 1st AdhyAya begins with this Sloka:

NArAyanam namaskritya naranchaiva narottamam |
Devim saraswatinchaiva vyAso tato jayamudirayet ||

After saluting NArAyana, Nara, Narottama, Devi Saraswati and VyAsa one should start reciting the Texts called Jaya.

The commentator/translator explains in the footnote that the 18 PurAnas+ the RAmAyana + the MahAbhArata are collectively known as "Jaya".

And, the reason they are called so is also given viz- "they are the means of SamsAra Vijaya" i.e means of winning over Samsara or the world. That's why these texts are so-named.

So, IMO, it's not that the original name was Jaya and which was later changed, but Jaya refers to all those aforementioned texts collectively which also include the MahAbhArata.

  • If the commentator explained it, that is the answer and that would be the main part of the answer which you are missing here. That should be added. Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 1:57

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Janamejaya said, 'O excellent Brahmana, thou hast, indeed, told me, in brief, the history, called Mahabharata, of the great acts of the Kurus. -chapter 62 of Adi Parva: Adivansavatarana Parva of Mahabharata

So it was named as Mahabharata in the Mahabharata itself.

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This history is called Jaya. It should be heard by those desirous of victory. -chapter 62 of Adi Parva: Adivansavatarana Parva of Mahabharata

So it was also named as Jaya in the Mahabharata itself.

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