The antiquity of the Mahabharata is a matter of seemingly constant debate. Some put in the time range of 500-400BC, while others put it to be 500AD that the great epic was first written and composed. Whatever the final truth, a significant step has been taken towards it recently, when researchers at the Indian Institute of Science found an annotated copy of the Mahabharat by no less a figure than Chanakya, the celebrated Prime Minister of Chandragupta the Mauryan Empire. This sets the date of Mahabharat to at least as far back as 320 BC. Chanakya writes under the name of Vishnugupta, and he is the same man as Kautilya who composed the Chanakya Niti and Arthashastra texts, which give aphorisms for the governance of a kingdom.

The initial verses of this rendition of the Mahabharat carry many quotations by Chanakya. Here are a few brief excerpts.

I have thought it necessary to give the Story of the Mahabharata in as complete a detail as possible, so that the reader may be able to judge for himself whether the explanation, equally detailed and covering all important points, is consistent throughout, and the Epic a picture of all systems of Philosophy and religion. This is as necessary for the reader as the writer, for the object of both is not ingenuity of explanation but Truth, and the work must stand and fall as a whole. If the Mahabharata is really a picture of Philosophy and Religion, then it follows that all Sacred Books of the Hindus, from the Vedas to the Puranas, are of the same character, and must be re-interpreted to be properly understood. The effect of this on our present ideas and theories would be difficult to describe. The wisdom of the East has always had a message for the world, and perhaps the need for it is greater than ever today. And nowhere can we understand the fundamental unity of all Life, – in Science, Philosophy and Religion –equally applicable to the wisdom of the sage and the humblest task of the average man as we find in the Sacred Books of the Hindus.

All the great systems tell the same tale; only we do not understand. But a comprehensive account of all the essential problems of life, examined from all conceivable points of view, is given in the Sacred Books of the Hindus, and they need only to be re-interpreted to be understood. This need hardly cause surprise, for Sanskrit is admitted to be the oldest of all languages. Language is but a vehicle of thought, and what wonder if Sanskrit Philosophy and Literature, the oldest of all, can explain the secret of other languages too?

We are naturally proud of science and civilization; but some of the more recent works of philosophy have shown what a tremendous civilization existed thousands of years ago, and it is not impossible to believe that the great faiths have something fundamental in them, and the reconciliation between Science, Philosophy and Religion, which we are attempting today, was accomplished in the far off past.

I do not know if all that I have written will easily be accepted as true. For centuries we have been accustomed to different ways of thought, and it seems difficult to begin again, almost anew. But the Sacred Books of the Hindus have always been believed to be mysteries of the Divine and not idle tales, though no one has proved them to be such so far, and it seems difficult to imagine that any proof can be forthcoming now.

Whatever might be said about speculations and theories in general, a re-interpretation of the original text, following a certain definite and well-understood method, is a matter of fact, not faith; and nothing is more easy than to come to a conclusion whether it is correct or not. The present interpretation of the Mahabharata is based on the ancient method of Letter-analysis, known to all students of Sanskrit, but never before applied on so large a scale; and it should not be difficult for the reader to decide for himself whether it is correctly done or not. But if what I have written fail to convince, I trust that others may succeed along this or some other path. If it but stimulate a fuller and closer study of the Sacred Books, the present task will have been more than amply repaid.