Friday, 1 June 2007

Visiting 'Mahabharata' ...7 (revisiting in 2011)

(The story as it develops has everything! No wonder the pundits are vary of letting laymen read Mahabharata. )

The swayamvara at Kasi: As Bheeshma thinks of getting Vichitraveerya married to Amba, Ambika and Ambalika, the pretty daughters of King of Kasi, he hears that a swayamvara is already arranged for the princesses . This is an unpleasant surprise and a break in tradition as the princes of the Kuru invariably married the princesses of Kasi. Upset and feeling insulted, Bheeshma descends on Kasi.

There is derision in the voices of some of the assembled kings as they taunt Bheeshma and ask how he is  there as a suitor. They all know 'his oath of celibacy' ! Bheeshma seeks to correct their impression, his voice like the clap of the thunder proclaims, that he has come to take away the princesses as the brides of his brother in Hastinarapura.

The assembled kings fail in their attempts to stop him. The heroic king Salva fights the most furious battle and wounds Bheeshma, but looses his charioteer, horses and his weapons. Bheeshma who could have taken his life spares him and rides on unchallenged back to Hastinapura.

Bheeshma presents the beautiful princesses to Satyavati, who is very pleased and to Vichitraveerya, who falls at the feet of Bheeshma in gratitude. At this moment of  happiness, Amba trembling like a leaf speaks to them. She says that before Bheeshma arrived at the swayamvara she had already given her heart to king Salva and was about to garland him. Bheeshma while annoyed with Amba for not speaking up before she was brought to Hastinapura, concurs with his brother and sends Amba to King Salva with a proper escort.

King Salva does not accept her as she is now the property of Bheeshma according to Khastriya dharma and says he is not a beggar to accept gifts from his enemy. Humiliated and pained Amba goes back to Bheeshma and tells him that as he had pulled her by her right hand into the chariot and had fought with the other kings, she now belongs to him. She pleads with him to marry her as she has no one now.

Bheeshma while full of pity for her, explains that it was fate that stopped her from telling him earlier in Kashi that she had already chosen a husband and that he is unable to marry her as he is bound by his oath and walks away.

(It is difficult to distill  lessons to guide us from this story. Many things wrong here!

 Possibly there were reasons why king of Kashi decided to ignore tradition and did not approach the Kurus. Whether it was because Vichitraveerya was the son of a fisher woman, we do not know, at least in this version of the story.

 It is a pity about the charioteer being killed, but even today chauffeurs of VIP's are in danger.

Again names of old times are fascinating. I checked and found 'Vichitra-veerya' had many meanings depending on the context. It meant 'Beautiful and Valiant', but for me 'Vichitra' meant 'Strange'.      Indeed strange that the prince, a khastriya, was content to let his elder brother to find him wives. (Three in one go?). 

Stranger that I came across 'Amba' on the reality TV channel a few days ago. Modern 'Amba' also waited till she was married to tell her husband that she loved someone else. The man's family were interviewed and were very understanding! Wanted the woman to be happy and she was free to go to her lover! Anyway, she was still waiting and I have a strong feeling that the lover developed cold feet as he had not turned up even after three hours! I do not know how the story ended! But tough for the girl! )

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