Translated by William J. Johnson

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Book Three of the great Indian epic the “Maha·bhárata,” ‘The Forest’ covers the twelve years of the Pándavas’ exile in the forest, a penalty imposed upon them by the Káuravas because they have lost a rigged dicing match. A number of the colorful stories told to relieve the tedium of life in ‘The Forest’ are now among the best known in Indian literature. The present volume consists of its concluding four episodes: “The Story of Rama,” “The Glorification of the Faithful Wife” (Sávitri’s story), “The Robbing of the Earrings” and “About the Drilling Sticks.” From a hero overcoming great odds, to a virtuous wife who rescues her family, and Indra tricking Karna, and Yudhi·shthira’s victory in the verbal contest with the tree spirit, these disparate stories speak to common human concerns across cultures and centuries.


Slender lady, I came out with you to gather fruit. I got a pain in my head and fell asleep in your lap. Then I saw a terrible darkness and a mighty person. If you know, then tell me—was it my dream? Or was what I saw real?


So speaks Sátyavat, newly rescued from the god of death by Sávitri, his faithful wife, at the heart of one of the best-loved stories in the literature of India.

374 pp.  |  ISBN-13: 978-0-8147-4278-5  |  ISBN-10: 0-8147-4278-5  |  Co-published by New York University Press and JJC Foundation

About the Translator

William J. Johnson is Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Cardiff University. He is the author of The Sauptikaparvan of the Mahābhārata: The Massacre at Night and The Bhagavadgītā translated with an introduction and notes.