The Mahĝbhĝrata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Rĝmĝyaṇa. See also Mahabharata.
With more than 74,000 verses, long prose passages, and about 1.8 million words in total, the Mahĝbhĝrata is one of the longest epic poems in the world. Including the Harivaṃśa, the Mahabharata has a total length of more than 90,000 verses.
It is of immense importance to the culture of the Indian subcontinent, and is a major text of Hinduism. Its discussion of human goals (artha or purpose, kĝma or pleasure, dharma or duty, and moksha or liberation) takes place in a long-standing tradition, attempting to explain the relationship of the individual to society and the world (the nature of the 'Self') and the workings of karma.
The title may be translated as "the great tale of the Bhĝrata Dynasty", according to the Mahĝbhĝrata's own testimony extended from a shorter version simply called Bhĝrata of 24,000 verses The epic is part of the Hindu itihĝsa, literally "history", which includes the Ramayana but not the Purĝṇas.
Traditionally, Hindus ascribe the authorship of the Mahĝbhĝrata to Vyasa. Because of its immense length, its philological study has a long history of attempts to unravel its historical growth and composition layers. Its earliest layers probably date back to the late Vedic period (ca. 8th c. BC) and it probably reached its final form by the time the Gupta period began (ca. 4th c. AD).