It has been observed that the Mahabharata is a philosophical treatise written in a peculiar form of Sanskrt. It is necessary, therefore, to understand this form before we can comprehend the ideas that underlie its "story". This leads us to a consideration of the character of the Sanskrt language.
It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to trace the origin of a language; and in the case of a language like Sanskrt, the parent of the Aryan stock, the difficulty is vastly increased. Sanskrt is commonly spoken of as the language of the gods, inasmuch as its literature, directly or indirectly, deals with their deeds. But tradition ascribes its origin to the great Eternal himself, to Mahadeva playing on his drum, the notes of which composed the Sanskrt alphabet. The idea conveys something more than a feeling of popular reverence for an ancient and sacred language; for in the various schemes of Hindu philosophy, as comprehensive as they are minute, Agni, the god of Fire, is spoken of as the deity of Speech; and Agni is identified with an aspect of the Sun which, conceived as an image of Buddhi or highest Intelligence, is a picture of the Eternal himself. All Speech is, therefore, an expression of the Supreme, the voice of the universal Fire (Agni Vaisvanara) that is imaged in the Sun as well as each created object.
But Sanskrt is a divine language in a very special sense. While it shares with all languages the voice of the Infinite, it is, even as its name implies, a "purified" and "reformed" language, conceived as a mirror of Life from the atom to the star. It might, in this connection, be observed that every letter of the Sanskrt alphabet, vowel or consonant, is given a number of meanings which, at first sight, do not appear to have any connection with one another. The Sanskrt Grammar, with its extraordinary comprehensiveness and wealth of detail, has a number of rules which would be difficult to explain on any rational principle of Phonetics; and Sanskrt literature, the richest and the oldest known, offers difficulties of interpretation, especially in the Vedas, which have yet to be overcome. Many of them are probably due to the ancient character of the language itself, preventing a proper understanding of meanings and rules and forms at this distance of time. But coupled with this is the extraordinary simplicity and clearness of some of the aspects of this ancient language; and it is difficult to reconcile this simplicity and complexity, this clearness and confusion in any systematic manner.
A New Language:
Were it possible to conceive that a great language could be constructed out of hand by the genius of man, with the object of impressing into each spoken word the image of an idea, illustrating, on the basis of a complete and comprehensive theory of the manifestation, growth and dissolution of Life, its manifold wonders and the relation of its component parts, it would not be difficult to show that Sanskrt is such a language; and the tradition that its alphabet is the echo of a drum played upon by Mahadeva, goes to strengthen such a theory. In modern times Esperanto is a small attempt at supplying a common basis for the diverse languages of the world; and if we could imagine the existence of a great and mighty civilization thousands of years ago, with a complete and perfected system of thought, simple and single, yet vast and multiform based on the conception of the universe created out of the union of the Male and Female energies, akin to the male and the female Cells, arising like one great Tree of Life out of which issue forth many branches of science and religion and philosophy, Sanskrt, a new, "ready-made, perfected, purified" language, intended, by means of its grammatical rules, inflections, conjugations as well as the different meanings attaching to the letters of its alphabet, to convey the many ideas of that science and religion and philosophy, would be the language of the learned world of India at the time, from where speculation and theory and practice of religion overspread the known world.
This theory is very different from the accepted ideas regarding the origin and character of the Sanskrt language; but its correctness or error must be tested by dispassionate examination. As, however, the creation of this language pre-supposes the existence of a systematic and perfected body of thought whose image and expression it was intended to be, it is necessary to understand the principal features of that thought before we can grasp the significance of the character of the Sanskrt language.
As the Mahabharata claims to be the essence of the Vedas, Upanishads and other sacred works of the Hindus, supplying a key to the knowledge of the universe, it would be best to understand the systems of Hindu thought in the language of what is believed to be the apex of all knowledge, the fifth and last of the Vedas. This will be supplemented by references to the Vedas, Upanishads, and other sacred books of the Hindus; but the Mahabharata, being a great commentary on them all, will be the easiest to understand.