Which is the best Mahabharata book to read? For this vast epic with mammoth popularity followed by overwhelming reading choices, this is an often asked question. Hence, here is a compilation of various handpicked titles from seven different genres or categories.

Enjoy the list & take your pick !

best mahabharata books
A handpicked list of Best Books on Mahabharata

Mahabharata Books & the Problem of Plenty

There is no Indian individual who’d hear the word Mahabharata for the first time. And then, there is no Indian individual who’d know of all the variations-retelling-transcreations-translations of Mahabharata that ever existed.

For the epic which has been a part of traditions like Shruti & Smriti, multiple variation beings written with authors’ perspective is all obvious. And due to this reason, none of the existing text can have a verbatim attribution to Jaya (earliest name of the epic). And this again led to the myriad options lying before readers with an obvious question – which Mahabharata should I read or which is the best book available? Hence, I compiled a list with reviews of those which is a worthy read within given category.

Read on …

Complete,Unabridged & Reference Edition

An Introduction :

What is found everywhere will be found here too, and what is to be not found in this book cannot be found anywhere else …

Above is the very notion that is ascribed with the tale of Mahabharata itself. This also goes true with such types of editions, reading which is nothing but a scriptural marathon. Whereas there is glut of abridged editions available everywhere, their unabridged counterparts are quite numbered. Hence, I’ve included all famous works in the list. These may well be considered as a reference or library material which draws the attention from serious readers or researchers.

Mammoth, exhaustive and unquestionable – Peace !

1. Pune Edition or BORI Edition or Critical Edition

mahabharata pune or BORI edition

Title : Pune Edition or BORI Edition
Author : Board of Scholars
Language : Sanskrit
Publisher : Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute

A pioneering effort produced by various board of scholars which is now an ultimate and most authoritative source of reference related to the epic. Inclusive of Harivamsha (in later years), this is now a final destination for various scholars, authors and researchers related to scripture. As an endeavor of Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI), saying this a Mother Edition will not be an overstatement. This particular edition includes everything that has been found in the manuscripts and vintage writings but hearsays don’t finds any space (for e.g. Draupadi being disrobed after the game of dice and Krishna playing savior finds no mention). Hence, critical edition is deprived of few interpolations which got added over the centuries as its feature. But, it is indeed attributed as a master edition from where many modern retelling and transcreation draws it umbilical cord with.

Full text can be accessed here

2. The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa by Kisari Mohan Ganguli (18 Vols)

mahabharata by kisari mohan ganguli

Title : The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa Translated into English Prose
Author : Kisari Mohan Ganguli
Language : English
Publisher : Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Buy From : AmazonIN  |  AmazonUS

Monumental piece of work in the history of Indian literature (and world literature also) which by all means qualifies as a national treasure. Also known as P C Roy’s Mahabharata till few decades ago, this has been a pioneering effort which has neither been paralleled nor been bettered. Apart from BORI/PUNE edition, this also serves as a reference material for many translations or retellings for many of the contemporary releases today. Kisari Mohan Ganguly now lives as a name for the achievement and contribution to the epic. The language may seem to be archaic at few places as it dates back to nineteenth century, but speaks volumes of Ganguly’s scholastic brilliance and the way each parvas have been dealt with great detail. Truly a vintage classic.

The work is now in public domain & Complete Text PDF can be downloaded here …

3. The Mahabharata by Bibek Debroy (10 Vols)

mahabharata by bibek debroy

Title : The Mahabharata
Author : Bibek Debroy
Language : English
Publisher : Penguin India
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Will begin with a salute to Bengal! What Vaishampayana did to Vyasa back then in Dwapar Yug (telling it to Janmejaya and then bringing Mahabharata to the knowledge of common people) is what Kisari Mohan Ganguli, P Lal & Manmath Nath Dutt did it in Kaliyug by bringing Mahabharata to masses with all the herculean effort involved. Continuing the contribution of his literary predecessors from the same land, Bibek Debroy is yet another Mahabharata transcreater (translator will be un understatement) with distinction who has done a commendable job by making BORI edition readable to common people. Extended to 10 splendid volumes, this particular edition will always sit in Top 10 list of any popular Mahabharata compilation. A collector’s delight with never-let-you-down content, this again is a Magnum Opus in itself !

Read complete review at Mahabharata.info

4. The Complete Mahabharata by Ramesh Menon (12 Vol)

the complete mahabharata ramesh menon

Title : The Complete Mahabharata
Author : Ramesh Menon (Series Editor)
Language : English
Publisher : Rupa Publications India
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For all those resentment colligated with K M Ganguli’s version with archaic English as discerning fact for modern readers, Ramesh Menon (with a pool of authors) has simplified the text to the starters comfort with great magnanimity. Hence, it is a direct derivative or transcreation of Ganguli’s work to make an easy read keeping contemporary readership in mind. I’ll just produce a small comparison while leaving it on readers to pick their own preference.

Ganguli’s Text : 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.
Menon’s Text : Aum! I bow down to Narayana and Nara, the most exalted Purusha, and to the Devi Saraswati, and utter the word Jaya.

So, apart from simplified English, few words have also been reverted to Sanskrit which may interest Indian readers whom author presumes might be well aware of its meaning.

5. Mahabharata from Gita Press (6 Vols.)

mahabharat gita press 6 volume

Title : Mahabharat
Author : Shri Ramnarayandutt Shastri Pandey
Language : Sanskrit-Hindi
Publisher : Gita Press
Buy From : GitaPressBookShop

No scriptural compilation or reference can be complete without the one from stable of Gita Press. This is the only version in my knowledge which imbibes Neelkhanth Chaturdhar’s commentary in majority, some southern influences and few lent from BORI edition making it fuller text overcoming the stated discrepancies of each. Precisely speaking, the corpus contains more than a lac Shlokas comprising 86600 North Indian commentaries, 6584 Southern recension & 7032 ‘uvachas’  with Hindi translation (verse by verse) of the same.

Note: More references for serious readers & Mahabharata enthusiasts can be found here


Comprehensive or Multi Volume Edition

An Introduction : Given that Mahabharata is a mammoth epic, confining them to a single volume of work is next to impossible. And for those who don’t want to miss a word or event, multi volume editions are the way to go for. Majority of them indeed are abridged works albeit it gives author enough ink and paper to pen them all.

6. Sankshipt Mahabharat from Gita Press

sankshipt mahabharata gita press 2 volume

Title : Sankshipt Mahabharat (2 Volumes)
Author : –
Language : Hindi
Publisher : Gita Press
Buy From : GitaPressBookShop

Going through them makes you feel like as if grandparents are telling the tale in Technicolor (for the simple language it adheres to with little or no literary embellishments)! For those who may take its 6 Vol counterpart by the same publisher bulky and limited for scholastic reference, this might come as a good story teller with most of the events inked in this Sankshipt edition. Gita Press books are also known for its offerings with cheapest price tag & this again makes it irresistible to have one (2 mega hardbound volumes for the price its comes for is more than a philanthropic activity than book selling business). But don’t expect any literary embellishments or the tone of modern retellings. They are simple and within the premises typical of Hindu wisdom. Still, highly recommended!

7. Mahabharata – A Modern Rendering by Ramesh Menon

mahabharata a moder rendering ramesh menon

Title : Mahabharata – A Modern Rendering (2 Volumes)
Author : Ramesh Menon
Language : English
Publisher : Rupa Publications India
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I simply ordered this because it appeared into the search results with convincing introductory lines – and a flat 50% discount! And it was worth every penny when I leafed through the pages. An English equivalent to Gita Press’ two volume sets, Ramesh Menon’s work draws its inspiration from Kamala Subramaniyam and Kisari Mohan Ganguli’s texts. Again, a must have edition for who can’t afford exhaustive version but also don’t want to compromise with super-condensed editions.

8. Mahasamar by Narendra Kohli

mahasamar by narendra kohli

Title : Mahasamar (8+1 Volumes)
Author : Narendra Kohli
Language : Hindi, English
Publisher : Vani Prakashan
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The greatest irony with the epic which originates from India is that there is very little or no work being written & published in Hindi which extends to multiple volumes. Though there are several works being penned as single book, but none ventured into as hefty as this one. Thus, Mahasamar is the only saving grace for Hindi lovers. And I too agree with the fact that it is Hindi (along with few other Indian languages) which does full justice to the Sanskrit translation and come closest to the essences soaked in original prose. Initially published in 8 Volumes, the new Silver Jubilee edition also packs a bonus addition named ‘Anushangik’ dealing with contradictions and inconsistencies eclipsing the epic. A very interesting revelations and rational thoughts are poured in 9th volume which has also baffled me at times (like how Shantanu who was neither a sage nor mystique can grant a boon of death-by-will to his son, why Kunti would ask distributing the daily bhiksha to her sons leading to Draupadi’s marriage with each, etc). A Collectible that is worth it!

*Mahasamar though spans upto 8-9 Volumes, I’ve chosen to shift it in multivolume edition than unabridged or comprehensive edition.


Beginner, Introductory & Abridged Edition

An Introduction : While multi volume may be a bulky read to do with and varying degree of patience in each reader may be a discerning fact, abridged editions are to the rescue. They are not authoritative by any means, but many a time would satiate the curiosity of first time readers or serve as an introductory text to the realm of great Indian epic.

9. Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik

jaya illustrated mahabharata by devdutt pattanaik

Title : Jaya – An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata
Author : Devdutt Pattanaik
Language : English, Hindi
Publisher : Penguin
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Was an instant bestseller when released and continues to be! Unconventional style of storytelling, anecdotal snippets & spellbinding sketches are the prominent USPs of this masterpiece. Though it pronounces itself an illustrated version, I chose to shift this in this category for two reasons – it is moderately illustrated and you have to read it for yourself to know the story where visuals are just interestingly complementary. If I have to pick only top five from the any best Mahabharata books list, this will certainly be one of them!

10. The Mahabharata (Penguin Classics) by John D Smith

mahabharata john d smith

Title : The Mahabharata
Author : John D Smith
Language : English
Publisher : Penguin
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A highly acclaimed work popular with both eastern and western readers. Mahabharata though is an eastern classic but have found similar interest and enthusiasm among western counterparts. Thus there are many brilliant works from other hemisphere too. Though concise in approach, J D Smith’s edition remains faithful to original text and footnotes with many events & narration are added bliss. A modern classic in mythological domain!

11. Mahabharata by C Rajagopalachari

mahabharata by c rajagopalachari book

Title : Mahabharata
Author : C Rajagopalachari
Language : English, Hindi
Publisher : Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
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A concise classic written by a statesman adhering to the general plot. Very basic in treatment but is mostly recommended to the one who will be reading the epic for first time. Rajaji’s other title like Ramayan & Bhagwad Geeta completes the tri-series which is more than enough to introduce anybody into the arena of this great epic with global readership.

12. Bal Mahabharat Katha from NCERT

mahabharata ncert book

Title : Bal Mahaharat Katha
Author : –
Language : Hindi
Publisher : NCERT

Yes, it’s a text book!

The simplicity it adheres to and the elementary highlights with which the story goes makes it a worthy mention here. Coming from the press of NCERT, this is the cheapest yet simplest variant of Mahabharata that money could buy.

Download NCERT Mahabharata Ebook from here

13. Mahabharat by Suryakant Tripathi Nirala

mahabharat suryakant tripathi nirala

Title : Mahabharat
Author : Suryakant Tripathi Nirala
Language : Hindi
Publisher : Rajkamal Prakashan
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An edition of Mahabharata that comes from the golden era of Hindi literature. The storyline though may seem to be generic, but is a breeze to read as it comes from the pen of a literary giant who is one of the most revered faces of Hindi literature.

14. Mahabharat by Kamala Subramaniam

mahabharata kamala subramaniam

Title : Mahabharata
Author : Kamala Subramaniam
Language : English
Publisher : Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
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This retains the spirit and atmosphere of the epic by all possible means. The author also takes the liberty of her own embellishments (by free translation than direct) to bestow dramatic intensity or flow wherever needed but again tries to remain faithful to the original text as much as possible. While many of the acclaimed editions are plagued with literal translation which takes away the essence of Sanskritized emotions, Kamala Subramaniam takes this to her account very seriously. Hence, she leaves it as it is. For e.g. if a woman is to be referred as ‘Madagajgaamini’ then literal translations like ‘O woman with the gait of elephant in her rut’ may sound both theatrical and awkward. So, she would let Arjuna to be addressed as ‘Bhatarshabha’ than ‘O Bull of the Bharat Race’! Her language and flow are neither archaic nor too modern to take away the classical beauty. As for the content, the mini grandeur has first 9 parvas as separate chapters, and after Shalya Parva, they are all in a consolidated form. Kamala Subramaniyam is one of the best things that happened to Indian epics in modern times (in context of her readworthy trilogy of Ramayana, Srimad Bhagavatam & Mahabharata she penned down).

15. Mayamahal & Dharmyuddh (Mahabharat Katha) by Neelabh

mayamahal dharmyuddh mahabharat katha by neelabh

Title : Mayamahal & Dharmyuddh (Mahabharat Katha Vol 1 & 2)
Author : Neelabh
Language : Hindi
Publisher : Harper Hindi
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Honestly put, I had very little expectation from it when it popped out while browsing through the ‘new release’ section of an online book store. But being a Mahabharata collector, I couldn’t resist it and ordered straight away without giving it a second thought as if my shelf was waiting for yet another worthy addition. Was still skeptical though. I was more than happy that my prejudices were minced apart when I leafed through the introductory pages. The only glitch is that the book is unnecessarily bifurcated into 2 volumes* though each one is acceptably slim (I don’t know if this was economics playing on behalf of its publisher or author did it for the sake of categorization – but the fact can be overlooked). This is not going to disappoint either first time readers or any other Mahabharata lover like me.

*have put it into this section than ‘Multivolume editon’ because of the stated reason.


Illustrated & Graphic Edition

An Introduction : They have their own inviting charm at any bookshelf and finds their readership with children and adults alike. Also a page turner with visual shots to reader’s delight, any graphic book or illustrated edition is potent story teller. Many titles here can also be referred as children edition.

16. Mahabharata (3 Vol) from Amar Chitra Katha

mahabharata amar chitra katha 3 volume set

Title : Mahabharata
Author : ACK Board
Language : English
Publisher : Amar Chitra Katha
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A masterpiece, a prized possession, a collector’s delight and above all, a racy visual odyssey with typical ACK flavor. Though a comic by genre, but will catch the fancy of adults too. The plot is very basic with ‘virtuous Pandvas & their evil siblings’ like approach, this tells the story in black and white than pushing children towards the gray shades of it. This the best a parent can buy for their children interested in epic which enjoys undisputable supremacy.

17. Mahabharata from Om Books International

mahabharata om books international

Title : Mahabharata
Author : –
Language : English
Publisher : Om Books International
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Lustrous, vivid, rich & colorful will be the best word to define this book which comes in a coffee table format. Visually striking with loads of colors spilled over glossy pages with story going in parallel is the major attraction. Story again is very general but majority of illustrated editions have this never-mind limitation. If you are pondering over a gift related to the epic for someone, look no further than this!

18. Adi Parva – Churning of The Ocean by Amruta Patil

adi parva by amruta patil

Title : Adi Parva – Churning of the Ocean
Author : Amruta Patil
Language : English
Publisher : Harper India
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From waterproof binding to spellbinding hand-drawn graphics inside, this is an exotic piece by Amruta Patil. The illustrations are being done with modern brushes and a form of art that is visually striking. Adi Parva is a good starter if publisher/author/illustrator has any further plans for remaining Parva’s release. A keepsake indeed.

19. The Puffin Mahabharata by Namita Gokhale

the puffin mahabharata by namita gokhale

Title : The Puffin Mahabharata
Author : Namita Gokhale
Language : English
Publisher : Penguin India
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What Jaya (by Devdutt Pattanaik) is to adults is Puffin Mahabharata is to children. But adults have an advantage to pick the both! Glistening content, colored pictures (by illustrator Suddhasattawa Basu.) & hardbound cover with bright yellow background will catch the interest of any children at the first sight itself willing to take a dip into this timeless epic. Spanning upto 200 pages, this endearing tale and presentation maybe called as an exhaustive treatment in children’s context. One of the best illustrated editions for children who’d like to take a plunge into the fascinating tale with complementary visuals. Parents, do them a favor – you both will be happy reading this!


Mahabharata with a Single Central Character or Perspective Retelling

An Introduction : Each characters of Mahabharata have their own swarm of admirers. And these admirers would like to read & know more about their favorite hero (or anti-hero) of the epic. And there is no dearth of titles that comes dedicated to given individuals either. Many a time, they are nothing but Mahabharata being re-told with their lenses reserving majority of events (both known and lesser known) to them only. This is also known as point-of-view retelling and may have biased flavor depending upon author, character and the overall perspective taken to construct a mythical tapestry.

20. Mrityunjaya by Shivaji Sawant

mrityunjay shivaji sawant

Title : Mrityunjaya
Author : Shivaji Sawant
Language : Hindi (translated from Marathi), English
Publisher : Penguin India
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One of the widely acclaimed book in its category and most respected among Karna admirers Mrityunjay is all about Karna tryst with his destiny. What makes this version unique against other one is the type of narration it sports. Sometime it is Shon (Karna’s brother) speaking for him, then Karna Himself, then Krishna and his wife Vrushali too. Each speaks of the event where they have been a central character and narrates the story of Karna being a sutradhar.

21. The Great Golden Sacrifice of the Mahabharata by Maggi Lidchi-Grassi

the great golden sacrifice of the mahabharata by maggi lidchi-grassi book

Title : The Great Golden Sacrifice of the Mahabharata
Author : Maggi Lidchi-Grassi
Language : English
Publisher : Random House
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Arjuna, one of the most admired characters of Mahabharata takes up the narration here. Being a sutradhara, he begins with childhood and takes up the journey till the end. The book is divided into 3 major parts, each relating to his different but discrete phases of life. Bulky, exhaustive but elevating, ‘Great Golden Sacrifice of the Mahabharata’ steals the show as Mahabharata retold.

22. The Palace of Illusion by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

the palace of illusion by chitra banerjee divakaruni

Title : The Palacae of Illusion
Author : Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Language : English, Hindi
Publisher : Random House
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Popular but not perfect, though one of its kind. Written and based on Draupadi’s dwelling with destiny, The Palace of Illusion has feminist tone questioning various instances which has been unfair to her. Passive questions raised within the book many a time will invite you to read them once again and this is where the author excels as a storyteller. This also went on becoming international bestseller.

23. Bhima – Lone Warrior by M T Vasudevan Nair

bhima lone warrior m t vasudevan nair

Title : Bhima – Lone Warrior
Author : M T Vasudevan Nair
Language : English (translated from Malayalam)
Publisher : Harper Perennial
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A remarkable and very much acknowledged work from South, ‘Bhima – Lone Warrior’ is a story of Mahabharata from one of the most loved character from the epic – the mighty Bhima. The story unfolds with Swargarohan Parva (Mahaprasthanam) where incidents are told in the flashback. Those characters which might have got ignored in the original text meet full justice here (not sure if that is retelling or researched work). A book not to be missed, especially Bhima admirers.

24. Urubhanga or Urubhangam by Bhas

urubhang or urubhangam bhas

Title : Urubhanga or Urubhangam
Author : Bhas
Language : Sanskrit, English, Hindi
Publisher : –
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A mythological piece of work that belongs to classical era. This I remember as the only play or work of literature in olden times that sees a villain (Duryodhana) with humility and projects it as the protagonist. I consider it as a precursor of modern writing which has now started to take up with evil counterparts with human qualities and heroic deeds. A re-imagined version of Mahabharata which is seeing an upward trend now.

The book is also available as Bhasa’s omnibus under Penguin Classics – The Shattered Thigh and Other Plays.

25. Yajnaseni (Draupadi) by Pratibha Ray

yajnaseni by pratibha ray

Title : Yajnaseni, Draupadi
Author : Pratibha Ray
Language : English, Hindi (translated from Oria)
Publisher : Rupa Publications India
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Pratibha Ray has written it with great audacity which is a mythological biography of Mahabharata’s most enigmatic character – Draupadi (Yajnaseni). This also deals with a Karna, Arjuna, Yudhisthira, Krishna etc with feminist but honest pen voicing a predicament of woman and the afflictions she underwent. The sacrifices of a vulnerable queen and the eventual hardships she met despite of having a supernatural birth (born from fire, thus Yajnaseni) sees a vivid portrayal in this unputdownable work.


Inspirations, Adaptations & Essays

An Introduction : They won’t tell you the story of the epic right from Adi Parva to Swargarohan Parva but will take the teachings or essence of Mahabharata as their foundation. Simply put, such books can be formally called as it-relates-to-Mahabharata types. Many a time, they are critical analysis over logical background or plain essays.

26. The Difficulty of Being Good by Gurcharan Das

the difficulty of being good by gurcharan das

Title : The Difficulty of Being Good – On the Subtle Art of Dharma 
Author : Gurcharan Das
Language : English, Hindi
Publisher : Penguin Publishers India
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Widely acclaimed piece of Gurcharan Das who has authored many other books based on India with this being his maiden venture into a writing which inherits essence of Mythology with practical aspects. The central theme of the whole book banks upon the practice of Dharma where Yudhisthira is mostly quoted as a cardinal figure. To each his own, Dharma is moreover explained as a matter of subjective treatment with entities left to ponder over the same.

27. Parva by S L Bhyrappa

parva s l bhyrappa

Title : Parva
Author : S L Bhyrappa
Language : English (translated from Kannad)
Publisher : Sahitya Akademi
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One of the most celebrated writers hailing from south, Bhyrappa gives an anthropological & sociological treatment to the epic. Told in new light with vivid portrayal of each, the novel examines the lives of central characters as social mortals. A must read for Mahabharata enthusiasts.

*it is more than an introductory read, hence, I haven’t put it in beginner or abridged section.

28. Yuganta – The End of an Epoch by Irawati Karve

yuganta the end of an epoch by irawati karve

Title : Yuganta – The End of an Epoch
Author : Irawati Karve
Language : English, Hindi
Publisher : Orient Longman
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While her contemporaries were still busy writing Mahabharata as an epic (both abridged or unabridged), Irawati Karve penned a distinct piece which still remains one of the finest work written over the epic. Touted as one of the most celebrated book on Mahabharata, Yuganta is a logical (and perhaps rational too) approach to deal with different key characters in epic with their merits and morals. Mini book with major message.

Read Full Review of Yuganta by Irawati Karve

29. Rashmi Rathi & Kuruksetra by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar

rashmirathi kurukshetra ramdhari singh dinkar

Title : Rashmi Rathi & Kuruksetra
Author : Ramdhari Singh Dinkar
Language : Hindi
Publisher : Lokbharti Prakashan, Rajpal & Sons
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Apart from his various exemplary works and literary creations, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar is best remembered for his epic poems Rashmi Rathi (based on Karna’s life) & Kurukshetra (war & its mayhem). These titles remain one of the most famous works of Hindi language, let alone Mahabharata. Sits proudly on Hindi shelves.

30. The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor

the great indian novel by shashi tharoor

Title : The Great Indian Novel
Author : Shashi Tharoor
Language : English
Publisher : Penguin India
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Of all his works, this for me remains his best literary masterpiece so far. Tharoor, who is an eloquent orator, great writer (and could have become a good statesman too, but …) induces an out of the box treatment to the mythological tale. A recast of epic characters meeting modern India faces that hails from a period of Indian uprising (and thereafter) is both interesting and entertaining. A work of genius who successfully drags wisdom & mythology into the court of satire. This 20th century Mahabharata can’t be missed. Simply put, Tharoor lets the epic marry Indian political history.

31. Locks, Mahabharata and Mathematics – An Exploration of Unexpected Parallels by V Raghunathan

locks mahabharata mathematics v raghunathan

Title : Locks, Mahabharata and Mathematics – An Exploration of Unexpected Parallels
Author : V Raghunathan
Language : English
Publisher : Harper India
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An interesting book which tries to draw parallel between three topics which are radically different from each other. For example, author talks about Rajasthani padlocks which has a feature of opening only when all the FIVE keys are available (a measure to manage joint family’s treasury with no one taking over other), then he discusses FIVE Pandavas whose strength lied in their unity and their triumph would have been next to impossible if anyone went missing. In terms of Mathematics, he goes on explaining 5 simultaneous equations in context of her marital rights observed with each Pandavas separately. Few assertions made by the author may sound too farfetched for a reader, but then again, it is both the pros and con of the book at the same time! This book is an out of the box treatment to the source of classic wisdom.

32. Vyasparva by Durga Bhagwat

vyasparva durga bhagwat

Title : Vyasparv
Author : Durga Bhagwat
Language : Hindi (translated from Marathi)
Publisher : Bhartiya Jnanpeeth
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Yet another Marathi Classic which was later translated to Hindi and other languages, Vyasparva by Durga Bhagwat is also a recipient of Jnanpeeth award. A collection of essays and her studies based on Mahabharata, Vyasparva is yet another critical dissection of the epic after Yuganta by Irawati Karve.


Incomplete but Famous Edition

An Introduction : Incomplete but famous or vice versa – both is true with them. These are works that were going great but was terminated due to many unfortunate reasons. Since Mahabharata is a story so vast, even a part of it, that too with great literary effort and accuracy is worth going through it. They may be incomplete, but still enjoys the supremacy of popular impressions.

33. Mahabharata (15 Vol. Set) from Clay Sanskrit Library

mahabharata clay sanskrit library

Title : Mahabharata (15 Volumes)
Author : Board of Editor & Translators
Language : English
Publisher : Clay Sanskrit Library
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Primarily based on Neelkantha’s commentary, an otherwise excellent project never met its completion. Slated to span upto 32 exhaustive volumes, the project was unfortunately terminated when it reached almost half of its totality. Its major attraction is that renowned Sanskrit scholars & translators were deployed for the task. If completed, this could have been one of the most authoritative resources in the premises of unabridged translations.

34. Mahabharata by J.A.B. van Buitenen

the mahabharata j a b Van buitenen

Title : Mahabharata
Author : J A B van Buitenen
Language : English
Publisher : University of Chicago Press
Buy From : AmazonIN | AmazonUS

Only a third could be completed by its writer. Later attempts were made to complete the project but still remain unfinished. I wonder if the modern efforts will keep up with scholarly & rigorous strokes that Buitenen did. One of the most famous and critically acclaimed translations of Mahabharata, this still sits as modern classic.

35. Krishnavatar by K M Munshi

krishnavatar k m munshi

Title : Krishnavatar (7 Volumes)
Author : K M Munshi
Language : Hindi, English
Publisher : Rajkamal Prakashan
Buy From : AmazonIN | AmazonUS

Unfortunately truncated at seventh volume following the demise of author, Munshi Ji’s Krishnavatar is a great medley spun around various events of Mahabharata revolving around Krishna. Incomplete when taken as a collective work, but each volume tells the discrete story which won’t let readers disappointed for absence of further volumes.


Worthy Mention (Other Good Reads)

Mahabharata by William Buck

Rise of Kali & Roll of the Dice (Duryodhana’s Mahabharat) by Anand Neelkanthan

The Mahabharata by Meera Uberoi

The Mahabharata by R K Narayan

Marvels and Mysteries of the Mahabharata by Abhijit Basu

The Mahabharata by Manmath Nath Dutt – A vintage edition which boasts of literal English translation from original Sanskrit text.

The Mahabharata of Vyasa (18 Vols) by P Lal – A transcreation of Mahabharata from Sanskrit.


End note :

1. This list will be perpetually edited & updated as and when required.

2. For the purpose of uniformity, while writing book info, the word ‘author’ has been used everywhere even though it may refer to a translator or a board of scholars. Similarly, the name of publishers may vary in some cases as few old editions were later picked by new publishing houses.

3. This Best Mahabharata Books review haven’t been written with any endorsement from publishers or authors alike. Above are the books that I personally own either in print or as an ebook (except few which has been sourced from online materials & references) & felt like sharing the best of them.

4. The compilation need to justify the word BEST. Hence, I had to maintain the flavor which goes with ‘chosen one’ than ‘include all’ approach. For later, you can refer to Mahabharata Resources which maintains a good list of almost every known & discovered titles.  I reiterate, this is not a COMPLETE LIST but the select one.

Share your favorite version in the comment section or do let me know if I’ve missed anything in this compilation.

Blessings !

25 COMMENTS

    • This indeed is a worthy addition from Badrinath Chaturvedi who also authored yet another book with feminine assessment of the epic ‘The Women of the Mahabharata : The Question of Truth’. Thanks for your input !

    • Well, above compilation showcases the title available in English or Hindi only (maybe translated from any other Indian languages). I’m not sure if Rajshekhar Basu’s version is currently available in any other language but Bengali.

  1. Please take a look at The Last Kaurava by Kamesh Ramakrishna, published November 2015, by Leadstart Publishing (Mumbai).
    It is a bit different from everything else…

  2. You’ve put up a comment on our website mentioning Professor P. Lal’s transcreation, but you haven’t mentioned it here in your list of notable translations. So I’m not sure I understand your comment.

    • Thank you for stopping by my blog and dropping your concern !

      Well, there are couple of reasons why P Lal’s transcreation don’t find a separate entry.

      1. I’ve already stated that it is a personal review which has been written from the books which I either own or have read/referred it somewhere. I’m yet to come across the whole set from Writer’s Workshop and go through them. It will be quite unfair to write something about which I haven’t ever come across.

      2. Initially, I intended to make a compilation for the Mahabharata books that are meant for general readers only. But later on made an entry for exhaustive editions. The whole compilation still has a flavor of ‘chosen one’ rather than ‘include all’, hence, I had to drop the titles from M N Dutt & P Lal among others.

      By the way, the one from P Lal already finds a link in Worty Mentions (concluding section) !

      • The Lal transcreation was actually projected to run 19 volumes, with Shanti Parva split into two books. Lal passed away after completing the first half of Shanti Parva. He completed 16 other parvas, leaving just the second half of Shanti and all of Anushasana Parva. Writer’s Workshop announced in a post dated 3/25/2015 that Dr. Pradip Bhattacharya had completed the second half of Shanti Parva, which they expected to publish late 2015, but apparently have not.

        I am currently reading his transcreation side by side with Bibek Debroy’s translation, and I’m enjoying Lal’s work very much. The hand-printed books are lovely.

  3. Hi Kumar Amit,
    Indeed a very great compilation. Thanks for this. I have been great Fan of Mahabharata – Read books mostly in my regional language Kannada. I have read Parva, Krishanavatara(of KM Munshi – Kannada version) and from Author – Dr. K.S Narayanacharya.

    I am also in search of any book which talks more from the angle of evidences of Mahabharata as a true history. I have found couple of books like – In search of Historical Krishna , but have not got any detailed research work this. Can you kindly suggest any book for the same.

  4. Amit,

    I may be very late to comment considering that this was posted last year, but this is an excellent post.
    I had read the F&D 2.1 music system reviews long back and thought of looking for any further reviews for speakers on your site and stumbled upon this.
    You have written it very nicely grouping the various Mahabharata books aptly.
    I liked this sentence the most
    A masterpiece, a prized possession, a collector’s delight and above all, a racy visual odyssey with typical ACK flavor.
    As I grew up reading Amar Chitra Katha it always finds a special place in reading portfolio especially the older editions on plain paper

    Any ways appreciate your efforts for this post
    Would also like to see more computer and technology related reviews

  5. HAVE ANY ONE IDEA ABOUT BOOK MAHBHARAT IN HINDI BY P SUNDARMURTY TRANSLATED IN HINDI OF THE ORIGINAL BOOK OF (C RAJGOPALCHARI IN ENGLISH)

    FROM WHERE I CAN GET THE BOOK OF HINDI EDITION OF MAHABHARAT C AJGOPALCHARI

  6. I would like to send you an alternative Mahabharata in which there is no Kurukshetra. I can send a soft copy by email or a hard copy if you send me your postal address.

    • Will be more than glad to come across that. You can send me soft copy if that seems convinient to you. Will definetely ask for a printed format if liked the content.

      Thanks a lot!

  7. Kumar Amit,

    Thanks for that great list! The link to KM Gaguli’s work available on public domain was very helpful indeed!

  8. Thank you deeply for your effort with detailing the available versions of the Mhb. It was very helpful. I have spent a week reviewing all the English options and Amazon reader reviews and I am down to two–Subramaniam or Memon. Perhaps if I tell you what I’m looking for, you might further guide me. I’ve already read and re-read 2 versions from a book on Hindu myths (Ananda Coomaraswamy) and Hinduism (Prabha Duneja) and the Gita (Prabhupada) so I am familiar with the story and characters. Also the videos on Youtube by Brooks are excellent. I am researching it daily, and now I’m looking for the best text that gives the detailed mythology background and character side stories. Even if it’s clunky and archaic I don’t mind, as I like to keep as close to the original Sanskrit translation as possible. Could Memon fit the bill? At nearly 900 pages, I would think I would find more side stories also in Subramaniam’s, but wonder if he added his own embellishments which strayed from being faithful or did he embellish while retaining the original meaning? Someone mentioned his version lacked Vyasa–which I can’t imagine. Blessings for sharing such wisdom and hope to hear back. /jojo

    • Thank you for stopping by my blog!

      Well, it will be very difficult to suggest if there is something like Menon vs Subramaniam. Though Menon have acknowledged that his work is inspired or draws it primary material from Subramaniam’s book (apart from K M Ganguli), but he still churns out a unique piece.

      When I meant embellishment, I didn’t mean adding something from her own imagination and making it a retold version from one’s pwn perspective. She here interprets the story here than to make the direct literal translation. For example Vishwamitra will be more simple to read and appreciate if written as Vishwamitra only than writing ‘Oh Friend of World‘ (Vishwa means world & Mitra means friend). And this is where she takes up her readers’ concern while writing them as it is presuming that readers must be knowing what it refers to.

      And yes, don’t take page numbers into consideration, nearly 1600 for Menon & 900 for Subramaniam, as the later uses more condensed text as print.

      If you can afford, buy both (Subramaniam’s Mahabharat being the first purchase)!

      Happy reading!

      • Your reply crystalized what I’ll do next. I had been leaning toward Subramaniam’s so I’ll get that. After that, I’ll be delving into the Vedas and Upanishads. In a year, If Menon still whispers, “Buy me” I will. I entered this realm when seeking a particular telling of the story of Mara in the book of “Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists” –as the Pali Cannon doesn’t present as detailed a rendering on the tempting of Buddha by Mara and the Bhumi sparsha murdra (Earth witness mudra). The book included the Ramayana and the Great battle and a new universe opened it’s petals, and has sprouted in my heart from seeing the pain and hope presented in the context of the Ramayana, MahaBharata and Gita as told by Coomaraswamy. The abridged-story form version of the 3 sagas has the fundamentals of characters and plot and is a true delight to read. It fostered a new-found love for Ganesha, Krishna and so many of the characters. (If you are looking for another version to check out this is a good one to put on your radar screen). May the fruits of your merit be plentiful! Thank you for helping me and all the best to you and yours. jojo _/l\_

  9. Many thanks for listing down all these really helpful for all the Mahabharata Enthusiasts. Now I feel more educated while making purchases. Going for Tharur’s and Raghunathan’s editions. Did not know these people have written books on this great topic.
    Thanks again for sharing this list.
    Best/Nirav

  10. Hi Amit…
    Thanks for the great list. I was wondering, from where did you get the wonderful images of the books, and if u would permit me to use them in my blog, with full credit given to you. I know it is one unexpected request, and there is absolutely no compulsion. Please feel free to refuse…:)
    Thanks,
    Amrita

    • Thanks Amrita for writing in! These are all custom images (original images modified for my blog). I don’t want to disappoint you, but for the sake exclusivity, I’m hesitant to see them shared elsewhere. But I’ll glad to do the one for you with separate (or even better!) images. Let me know if you’d be interested.

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