The Mahabharata opens with this famous verse:
nārāyaṇaṃ namaskṛtya naraṃ caiva narottamam |
devīṃ sarasvatīṃ caiva tato jayamudīrayet ||
Om! Having bowed down to Narayana and Nara, the most exalted male being, and also to the goddess Saraswati, must the word Jaya be uttered.
Nara and Narayana were two ancient sages who were twin sons of Yama god of death and famously meditated in Badrikashrama. Nara was the previous birth of Arjuna, whereas Narayana was an incarnation of Vishnu and thus the previous birth of Krishna.
But my question is about the word "narottamam", which means "the best of men" or as the translation puts it, "the most exalted male being". Why is it that "narottamam" is referring to Nara and not to his brother Narayana? After all, in the Udyoga Parva of the Mahabharata, Vishnu's incarnation Parashurama says "Narayana, again, became superior to Nara in consequence of many more qualities." Also, a common name of Vishnu is Purushottama, which also means "best of men", so it seems like a logical epithet of Vishnu's incarnation Narayana.
Is it possible that Ganguli (the translator) made an error, and that narottamam actually does refer to Narayana and not Nara?