Interpolations in the Mahabharata denying Vishnu's supremacy


When discussing the Parabrahman of Sruti, Smriti, IthihAsa and purAnA, it becomes clear upon a cursory read that it is only sriman nArAyaNa  who has been praised by all the devas, rishis, jnAnis and even by some asuras (sisupAla, mAricha and even rAvana have admitted it) as the possessor of infinitely auspicious attributes, the husband of srI, the foremost of gods, who alone is worthy of worship, the sole bestower of moksha and the master of all jivAs.
So far, we know how shruti praises nArAyaNa. We have seen how the rAmAyaNa and mahAbhArata praise nArAyaNa. We know how to classify the purAnAs and understand their true intent of declaring the parathvam of sriman nArAyaNa. We know how the brahma sutrAs declare pAncharAtra Agamas are alone authentic as compared to the shaiva and shakta agamas.

To those who are averse to these truths and find all the sAstras against their viewpoints, the only tactic they employ is to take shelter of various stray verses in the mahAbhArAta that they keep repeating endlessly. There are certain portions in the mahAbHArata which superficially appear to praise Rudra as supreme. But upon a logical examination of these sections, one can conclude that:

  1. These sections are legitimate interpolations,
  2. There are many verses ascribing limitations to Rudra, establishing his status as a jivA and born of Brahma,
  3. These verses which supposedly declare his supremacy negate themselves in the end!

Therefore, it would be good to examine what the mahAbHArata says. Considering that every vishnu dveshi immediately quotes the mahAbhArata when cornered, it is fruitful to dedicate an entire article to this subject.

Note that the mahAbHArata is a very large text and we may not produce the exact Sanskrit quotes in this article, as it would take too long to find. But we will do our best – and hope that the readers trust our integrity in this matter and possibly find the verses for themselves.


The mahAbhArata starts with “jaya nArAyaNam naram chaiva narOttamam…” and ends with “AlOkya sarva SAstrANi vicAryaca punaH punaH idamEkaM suniShpannaM dhyAyEn nArAyaNaM sadA”.
The numerous statements in the various parvas describing the supremacy of Vishnu, the identification of Krishna as the Parabrahman, the presence of the Gita and Vishnu SahasranAmA, the abode of Vishnu described as inaccessible to all but jnAnIs and a world from which one does not come back (analogous to “anAvrtti sabdat” and “na ca punarAvartatE”) and the loud proclamations of various rishis are all present here and quoted by various vedAntins to affirm that sriman nArAyaNa is the supreme deity.

For a detailed knowledge, please consult various works of vedAntin which quote these pramAnAs.


Rudra is described as being born of nArAyaNa, the son of Brahma and as a jivA who cannot grant moksha in various sections of the mahAbhArata. Here are select points:

Rudra was born from Vishnu

We have already quoted the section from sAnti parva where Krishna describes that he worshipped the antaryAmin of Rudra. He also states there that Rudra is born of his wrath.

In the same sAnti parva, Arjuna asks Krishna the following:

Arjuna -“While felling the enemies with arrows in the battlefield, I find a Person standing ahead of me. He is brilliant like Agni, with a Trisula in the hand. In whichever direction he goes, my enemies in that direction are burnt and killed by him. I follow him and attack the same persons, who have already been attacked by him. Onlookers are unaware of this truth and think that my enemies have indeed been attacked and felled by me.”

To this, Krishna replies,

Krishna – “Under my protection, you have won a great victory in Battle. Know, O Son of Kunti, that he whom you saw going before you in battle was none other than Rudra also known as Devadeva and Kapardin. They say he is Kala (time or reckoner of death for souls), Born of my Wrath. Those foes you have slain were, in fact slain by him. Hence adore with a controlled mind, that Umapati, Devadeva, of immeasurable greatness, Maheswara, the Changeless (in yoga).” 

Note the bolded words, “Born of my Wrath”. This shows again, as in many, many quotes, that Rudra was born of nArAyaNa. Now, we in all honesty, do not deny the greatness Krishna ascribes to him. He is changeless in yoga, he is a great deva, etc. But in a particular saivite site (which we will not care to provide the link for), while quoting the Sanskrit texts for this verse, they distort it as follows:

यस्तु तेह्यग्रतो याति युद्धे संप्रत्युपस्थिते
तं विद्धि रुद्रं कौन्तेय.................

Note the dots. The site, a shaiva one, from which I copied and pasted the Sanskrit verses conveniently deletes the part where it says Rudra was born of Krishna’s wrath and just adds dots in its place, while talking about the other things!

Thus, Rudra’s birth is confirmed. One can check Santi parva for these quotes.

Rudra cannot grant Moksha

In the tirtha yAtra section of vana parva, Arjuna relates how Shiva appeared to him as a hunter and gave him the pasupathastra. Arjuna quotes Shiva as saying to him,

Shiva to Arjuna – “O hero, express the desire that dwelleth in thy heart. I will grant it. Except immortality alone, tell me as to the desire that is in thy heart.”

Note what Shiva says. He can grant any material boon, but not moksha. Because, moksham icchet janArdhanAt.

This is the translation at sacred texts. The link for this page is here:

Interested people can check out the Sanskrit to confirm the English translation.

Vishnu is the antaryAmin of Rudra

nArAyaNAtmako GYeyaH pANDaveya yuge yuge” – Santi parva, quoted earlier in the website says Rudra is nArAyaNatmaka.

“ viṣṇuś cātmā bhagavato bhavasyāmita tejasaḥ” – Karna parva, quoted earlier, says that Vishnu is the Self of Bhava who has great tejas (because of it).

These have been quoted here already in various other articles. 

Rudra does not act without the approval of nArAyaNa, the supreme

The mahAbHArata contains the story of how 5 Indras were cursed by Shiva to be born as the 5 pAndavas. Shiva then, takes these Indras to nArAyaNa and asks approval for his actions as follows:

“Accompanied by all those Indras, the god Isana then went unto Narayana of immeasurable energy, the Infinite, the Immaterial, the Uncreate, the Old, the Eternal, and the Spirit of these universes without limits. Narayana approved of everything. Those Indras then were born in the world of men. And Hari (Narayana) took up two hairs from his body, one of which hairs was black and the other white. And those two hairs entered the wombs of two of the Yadu race, by name Devaki and Rohini.”

Note how nArAyaNa is described here as the supreme in relation to Rudra and Indra, whereas Isana (Rudra) does not enjoy such adjectives.

The link for that incident is here. Interested readers can dig out the Sanskrit verses:

Rudra is described as a jivAtmA with extended jnAnA

The same karna pArva which was quoted for showing how Rudra has Vishnu as his antaryAmin also says the following,

sarvātmānaṃ mahātmānaṃ yenāptaṃ sarvam ātmanā

This is how the text describes Rudra as he appeared in  numerous forms before the devas for the destruction of Tripura.

Now, this may appear as though it is praising Rudra as all-pervading, but those knowledgeable of the texts will interpret it as follows:

“He (Rudra), whose mind (jnAnA) pervades everywhere, so he is sarvAtmA. He is a mahatma due to his jnAnam. He is a friend, thus, to all the jivAs (as he is a jnAni who is equally disposed, sees no-one as an enemy and hence gives them knowledge of Vishnu).”

The sruti vAkya “brahmavid brahmaiva bhavati” says that the jivA becomes brahman on knowking brahman. Here, jivA is called brahman because of the greatness of its jnana (brahmatva means that which is great). The jiva has what is called dharma bhUta jnAnA, which radiates from it like light from a lamp. Just as light from a lamp is obstructed by placing a hand over it, karma contracts this radiating knowledge. The jnAnIs, who perform penance, get rid of these karmas and the knowledge blossoms forth like light. This knowledge radiates infinitely in moksha as per “sarva ha pasyam pasyati..” vAkya (he sees everything in moksha) and the jivA is omniscient.

So, “sarvAtma” says that Rudra’s knowledge has expanded greatly.  “AtmA” means “Buddhi” here. It does not mean “sarvAntarAtma”, but only a pervasiveness of buddhi, ie, knowledge. An expanded knowledge means one can remain anu (since jiva is anu) but by virtue of the knowledge, one can assume several bodies. So, Rudra was able to appear in many bodies. Similarly, Saubhari muni assumed many bodies as well. This also explains how he appears in linga and other forms. Unlike nArAyaNa who pervades by his svarUpa and svabhAva and hence is present everywhere, devas like Shiva are anu svarUpa, but pervade by their svabhAva (jnAnam) and control their lingas and other vigrahas/bodies.

Thus, in the face of all these pramanAs, it is not possible to call Rudra as  paramAtma.

Interpolations in the Drona Parva ascribing supremacy to Rudra

Vaishnavas never shy away from interpreting any text properly. We never use the word “interpolation” as an excuse to deny the truth, as many distorters of sAstra do. But undeniably, there are times when we have to accept that some minimal amount of texts are interpolated. 

Ancient vedAntins as early as the 13th century have admitted that the mahAbhArata has been interpolated. So, there are certain passages such as these:

The first link is the FIRST INTERPOLATION which contains a dialogue between vyAsa and ashwattama. Ashwattama was angered by the fact that his astra did not affect Krishna and Arjuna and inquires veda vyAsa as to what is the reason for this. Vyasa (or rather, the interpolator speaking from the viewpoint of vyAsa) makes the claim that nara-nArAyaNa worshipped Rudra in their avatArA, who gave them a boon that they would not be affected by it and goes on to praise Shiva as a supreme deity of sorts.

The SECOND INTERPOLATION immediately occurs after this section, occurs after immediately after the first, when Arjuna inquires about Rudra going in front and killing everybody which prompts our poor rishi veda vyAsa, a parama vaishnava to give an account of some names of Rudra from a shaiva context!! 

Here, the unfortunate srI veda vyAsa is again made the scapegoat for some vested interests. This section need not be considered as an interpolation if we concede that Rudra is the devata for the satarudriyam and hence, the meanings can be given superficial value at the most. But even so, the context is not right and the meanings given do not conform to sAstra. For one thing, Arjuna already asks Krishna elsewhere about the deity who is going in front and killing everyone, upon which Krishna replies, "That is Devadeva, Maheswara, who is born of my wrath and worthy of your respect" as quoted elsewhere in the Santi parva. This incident is quoted by Saivites as well (who conveniently turn a blind eye to the fact that Krishna says Rudra was born of his wrath as shown earlier). If so, what was the need to ask Vyasa again, or Krishna, if you consider the latter the second time?

The proof that these two portions are interpolations are manifold -

- Nowhere in any text besides this interpolated section is it said that nara-nArAyaNa avataras, whose purpose was to reveal the glories of the nArAyaNa sukta, worshipped Rudra. 

- The spurious passage seems to draw from certain genuine sections like HarivamSha, where Rudra says that Krishna will become more valiant than him!

- Elsewhere, the mahAbhArata says that Rudra came to BadarikAshramam and was engaged in a fierce fight with nara-nArAyaNa, which culminated in nArAyaNa strangling Rudra’s throat till it became black. Then, Brahma appeared and chastised Rudra and told him to worship the sages Nara-nArAyaNa, who were avatArAs of the supreme brahman, sriman nArAyaNa. So, this interpolation which talks of rishis nara-nArAyaNa worshipping Rudra contradicts the events stated in the mahAbHArata itself!

-  srI mAdhvA's mahAbhArata tAtparya nirnaya clearly says the following about this incident - that Ashwattama was furious about the ineffectiveness of his astra on Krishna and Arjuna. Veda Vyasa consoled Ashwattama and asked him to resume fighting. Sri Madhva does not refer to Rudra anywhere, whereas he does not hesitate to include some other incidents involving Shiva, such as Krishna showing Rudra to Arjuna for obtaining Pashupata astra, etc. and takes the time to interpret it in a vaishnava light.

Let us see how mAdhvachArya, who is the vedAntin to openly say that the mahAbhArata had been tampered with even as early as in his time, summarizes this section in his mahAbhArata tAtparya nirnaya.

“Ashvatthama arrived. He employed Narayana Astra. Sri Krishna asked Pandavas to offer
Pranamas to this astra and escape. All others followed Sri Krishna and escaped. However, Bhima
did not follow. The astra fell on the head of Bhima, a fire erupted around. Arjuna covered Bhima
by Varuna astra. Sri Krishna and Arjuna entered into the chariot of Bhima and brought him out
of chariot. The fire of Narayanastra did not burn this three.Narayana Astra has to be respected by
all. However, when an enemy employs it a Kshatriya has to fight it. Therefore Bhima did not
offer pranama to it. Moreover Vayu is abhimani of the Astra and hence the fire did not hurt him.
Then Ashvatthama employed Agnyastra which destroyed one akshauhini and Pandavas army.
Arjuna escaped with the help of Shri Krishna. Ashwatthama became disgusted by this and threw
away his bow. Sri Vedavyasa consoled him and asked him to continue to fight.” (~ mahAbhArata tAtparya nirnaya)

Note, that mAdhvachArya does NOT talk about vyAsa singing praises of Rudra here. He merely says vyAsa consoled Ashwattama. He also does NOT say vyAsa sung praises of Rudra to Ashwattama and does not mention anything about vyAsa speaking to Arjuna about Shiva. This clearly shows that these passages did not exist during his time.

SrI veda vyAsa was the rishi who raised his hands above his head and emphatically said the following - Satyam Satyam Punassatyam Udhrutya Bhujamuchyate Vedaachaastram Param Naasti Na Daivam Keshavaat Param.

Having said that, how could these portions, which talk of vyAsa praising Rudra and belittling nArAyaNa, be regarded as valid?

Lastly, one may make a claim that sri mAdhva purposely skipped explaining this. One need not be a Dvaitin (and yours truly is not one) to easily say that this is not possible because critics in that era would have immediately attacked any transgresses such as deliberately avoiding sections. Furthermore, srI mAdhva does not omit uncomfortable passages. Take another look at his interpretation of a particular incident in the mahAbHArata tAtparya nirnaya:

“If he (Arjuna) was not able to kill him (jayatradha) within the stipulated time he would offer himself to fire. At that night he had a dream. During that dream he was taken by Sri Krishna to Lord Shiva who strengthened Pashupatastra mantra already given to him. Though Sri Krishna could have fully protected him he wanted that the bestower of this astra should protect him.” (~MahabhArata tAtparya nirnaya, Abhimanyu vadham).

Notice here, mAdhva does not avoid mentioning that Shiva appeared in a dream to Arjuna, but only seeks to justify the supremacy of Vishnu in this incident. Whether you accept his explanation is another thing, but there is no denying his integrity in quoting even incidents which seem to support shiva on a face-value. 

(The link to the source for srI mAdhva’s quotes is here -

All this proves that he would not have ignored the previous passages if they had been genuine. So, they are interpolations indeed. 

Lastly, there is another section in the santi parva itself where Daksha seems to praise Shiva as supreme and embarks on a long stuti. This could be either genuine or interpolated, but can be easily explained because Shiva says the following at the end:

Shiva tells Daksha - The religion, however, which I have extracted, is unparalleled, and productive of benefits on every side. It is open to men in all modes of life to practise it. It leads to Emancipation. It may be acquired in many years or through merit by persons who have restrained their senses. It is shrouded in mystery. They that are divested of wisdom regard it as censurable. It is opposed to the duties laid down in respect of the four orders of men and the four modes of life, and agrees with those duties in only a few particulars. They that are well-skilled in the science of (drawing) conclusions (from premises) can understand its propriety: and they who have transcended all the modes of life are worthy of adopting it. In days of yore, O Daksha, this auspicious religion called *****PASUPATA***** had been extracted by me. The proper observance of that religion produces immense benefits. Let those benefits be thine, O highly blessed one! Cast off this fever of thy heart.

Note the starred word.  This resolves all issues.

Shiva says that Daksha is following the Pasupata religion in praising him. And as everyone knows, the brahma sutras openly denounce the pAsupata matham and embrace the pAncharAtra. Even shaivas accept this fact. 

Since the mahAbhArata and the brahma sutras are not held contradictory to one another, the only way to interpret this as a genuine incident is if we consider that Daksha was following an inferior religion, given by Shiva on purpose. As Daksha has ahaMkAram (as evidenced by his insult of shiva) and his mind is not sAttvik, he follows a religion based on his inclinations. In which case, his stOtra to Shiva praising him as the supreme is but in accordance with paShupata matham and hence, veda virodham as declared in the brahma sutrAs. The mahAbhArata simply records that incident and does not endorse it.

Or, if one wants to consider this an interpolation, that is also possible. In which case, the interpolator was not obviously aware that the pAsupata matham had been condemned in the brahma sutrAs and unwittingly gave himself away. Either way, it does not affect anything since the pAsupata matham is considered unvedic and the brahma sutra is an unassailable pramAnam.

srI rAmAnujar gives many quotations from mahAbHArata where the pAncharAtra alone is recommended as the true essence of the vedas in his sri bhAshya. So, we need not worry about this portion and can indeed consider it as genuine although nobody has quoted it. Its mention of pashupata mathaM itself renders the stOtra on shiva invalid.

There is also one interpolation of a “hari-hara aikya stuti” in the HarivamSha purana in the section on bAnAsura yuddham. This is clearly an interpolation because bAnAsura charithram has been quoted by many sri vaishnava acharyas and this stuti has never been mentioned by any achAryA and not even by shaivas. Furthermore, this stuti seems to follow appayya dikshitar’s philosophy closely, which suggests that it was an interpolation as late as the 16th century. Lastly, even if we consider this stuti as genuine, it would be very easy to grammatically interpret it in favour of Vishnu parathvam. Statements such as “Shiva is of the form of Vishnu and vice-versa” can be interpreted in favour of nArAyaNa parathvam only. So, it doesn’t pose problems at all.

To all this, opponents would say, “why not consider the ‘vaishnava’ portions which contradict these interpolations as the real interpolations?” To that we reply,

  1. Those other ‘vaishnava’ portions are well-supported by other sAstra such as sruti, smriti, etc. The entire body of sAstra is vaishnava in reality.
  2. The other ‘vaishnava’ portions are well accepted as genuine and quoted by vidwAns of the past, whereas these interpolated ones have never been quoted.
  3. The sections we claim to be interpolations clash with other sections of the mahAbhArata itself.
  4. In order to support the interpolated versions, you either need to reconcile these interpolations to sruti and other smriti like rAmAyaNa, Gita, etc (which is impossible) and also reconcile with the other sections of the mahAbhArat itself which directly contradict the interpolations.
  5. We do  not, unlike others, randomly shout “interpolations”, but have provide logical proof of the same.
This concludes the article. This is aimed at making readers understand what to accept and what to reject logically. Unlike some biased people who reject anything they do not like as “interpolation”, such as even well-known and commentated portions of rAmAyaNa, gita etc without justification simply because it doesn’t support their views and without examining everything properly, Vaishnavas give a lot of reasoning and logic if we actually call anything spurious or interpolated. And even then, we have only found very few interpolations in actuality after careful examination. These are those few.

This should clarify everything.

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