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Long ago in Bharatavarsha, as India was known then, there was a sage by name Krishna Dwaipayana. His name in Sanskrit meant, the dark one, born in an island, because he was dark and was born in an island. He was not merely dark. He was rather fierce looking as well. That was the reason why poor Ambika got frightened and closed her eyes when he entered her bedroom. But wait, this comes later in the story and there are many things to know before we reach there.
Krishna Dwaipayana was, by far, the most intelligent person of all times. He consolidated the four Vedas or eternal truth, which are like the four pillars on which the entire edifice of Hindu religion is built. This earned him the name Veda Vyasa, the elaborator of the Vedas. We shall also refer to him as Vyasa in future.
Vyasa had a great tale to relate to posterity. A tale in which he himself was an important character. But the tale was too big for any human to write it down. In fact, it took a god to write it.
One day the creator, Brahma, appeared before Vyasa. The sage prostrated before the god and stood with his hands joined. The god told Vyasa, “You appear to be disturbed. What is the reason?” Vyasa answered, “Venerable Lord, I need someone to write the epic tale of the Bharata War, which I have formed in verse in my mind.” The god advised Vyasa to meditate on the elephant-faced god, Vinayaka.
When Vyasa did as Brahma had advised him, Vinayaka materialized before his eyes. Vyasa told the god of his desire for an amanuensis to write his tale. “I can help you in writing down the tale," Vinayaka told Vyasa. "Actually, I can write it for you. But you must agree to a condition.” Vyasa replied, “It would be my privilege to observe any condition that you may lay down.”
Vinayaka said, “I am a busy god. I can give only one opportunity for you to dictate your story for me to write. You should recite the verses without a break. If you break even once, I shall stop and leave you.”
Vyasa agreed, but not before laying down a counter-condition. Vinayaka shouldunderstandevery verse that Vyasa dictated. The god smiled and nodded his head in agreement.
The tale was to be written on palm leaf. For a pen, Vinayaka broke one of his tusks and used the sharp edge. This is the reason why the elephant-god is always depicted with one tusk broken.
The tale Vyasa narrated was enormous. It ran into 88,000 verses. But Vyasa was a human. So many verses cannot be dictated without a break. He found a solution to this problem. Whenever he wanted a break he would recite a verse which was difficult even for the god to understand. While Vinayaka would try to fathom the meaning of the verse with his pen on his nose, Vyasa would utilize the interval to leave the god’s presence.
It is no wonder that Vyasa, who could manipulate the most intelligent god himself, found it quite easy to manipulate men and remained an influence on all the characters of his epic. It is hard to guess who was more tired at the end of the 88,000thverse, Vinayaka or Vyasa.
The number 18 has a mystical significance in the story that Vyasa told. The Great War, which is the centre piece of this epic tale, was fought for 18 days. The Gita, as told to Arjuna by Krishna, has 18 sections. And the narration itself has 18 chapters, or Parvas, in it. The first of these chapters is the Adi Parva.

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