Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The duel. ......Visiting Mahabharata. 56

 Krishna, Bheema and Arjuna, dressed as snataka brahmins, go past many places, mountains, rivers and the Mithila city, before they sight Girivraja, the capital of Magadha, from the Goratha hills. Soon they are at the gates of the city. They do not enter the city through its door but climb the nearby hill which acts as a boundary wall, destroy the three drums (bheri) placed at the top of the hill and sneak into the city.

As they enter the city, walking in an aggressive manner, they stop at a shop to buy garlands to wear and apply sandalwood paste on their bodies. Get into the palace under the pretext of seeing the goshala (Cowshed). People are amazed to see these men, tall like the sala trees, broad chested and strong like the elephants.

Climbing the three floors of the crowded palace, as if they own it, meet Jarasandha.  Offering them the hospitality due to bachelor brahmins, Jarasandha addresses them: 'Snataka brahmins do not wear garlands or apply sandal paste and your shoulders are seen to have marks of a bow. You also show the demeanor of rulers. Further you did not accept my hospitality. So tell me the purpose of your visit. Brahmins are known to be adept with their words!'

Krishna replies that they are indeed khsatrias. And adds: 'Our strength is in our bravery and not in words, our speech is blunt as you will see. We did  not walk in through your door as friends, but chose a devious route to enter as enemies would do. Those who enter an enemy territory with a purpose should not accept their hospitality, the reason why, we did not accept your hospitality.'

Jarasanda asks 'How did I become your enemy? I have no memories of having harmed you.' and says: 'If you blame an innocent person, not only will you stop being praiseworthy but you will also invite misfortune'.

Krishna accuses Jarasandha for imprisoning many khsatrias and says it is their purpose to release these men. He then reveals their identities and threatens: 'Release the khsatiryas or face death!' Jarasandha replies: 'I have defeated these kings and I have right to do with them as I please. It is khsatriya dharma. I am not afraid to fight. You can choose to fight a proper war or I am ready to fight one, two or all of you together.'

Krishna asks Jarasandha to choose one amongst them and he chooses Bheema. They fight for a long time (Fourteen days says Samhita!) and gradually Jarasandha tires. Krishna tells Bheema to demonstrate his special powers and Bheema lifts Jarasandha above his shoulders and whirls him around at great speed and smashes him to death. (Again there are variations in Kamala's narration. Bheema splits Jarasandha into two and throws away the split parts . The parts manage to come together and the fight starts again. Then Krishna demonstrates with a banana leaf how to turn the split parts away from each other so that they do not join again and Bheema gets it right the next time!)

The victorious trio then race to release the imprisoned kings, who swear allegiance to the victors. Krishna asks them to help Yudhisthira in the Rajasuya yaga. The son of Jarsandha surrenders and they install him as the new king of Maghada and return to Indraprastha.

 Krishna thus succeeds in getting Jarasandha killed and again demonstrates his cleverness, and returns to Dwaraka. Pandavas' fame spreads far and wide with this victory over Jarasandha. It also enhances the love of Draupadi for them.

(Read about Valmiki Ramayana being published in french. The author Denise was asked 'Why Ramayana, why not Mahabharata?' A good question! One of the reasons she gave was that she needed 7 volumes to complete Ramayana and Mahabharata would require 28 volumes. So she chose Ramayana. Very sensible decision. Those interested can buy it for 850 euros now. It will be 940 euros next year! Hurry up!)

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Jarasandha. Visiting Mahabharata 55

 I choose Samhita's version and her pictures. This story is better with pictures!

Krishna tells Bheema and Arjuna the story of Jarasandha as they proceed towards Maghada. 'Jarasandha's father had twin sisters for wives. He loved them equally and they loved him in return. But neither of them bore him a son. Worried about the question of the next heir to the throne of Maghadha, the king visited a great and a holy sage in the forest, taking with him many gifts.'

'The sage gave Jarasandha's father a mango and told him to give it to his wife. But before the king could mention that he had two wives, the sage had gone back to his meditation. Leaving the gifts at the ashram, the king headed back to the city.  He cut the mango in half and gave one to each of his wives. The sisters, in due course, gave birth to half a son each. But they quarrelled with each other and left the two halves as castaways near a rubbish dump.'

'Soon a demoness named Jara smelled the flesh and came to eat it. But she saw it was a baby who appeared to be cut in half. She had  magical powers and joined the halves. The baby started to cry loudly. On hearing this, the king and his queens rushed out. The demoness blessed the baby with immortal life and gave him to the queens. They named him Jarasandha, after Jara who had joined him.'

'When Jarasandha grew up, the king took him to the same sage who been the cause of his birth. The sage blessed him and said, 'Jarasandha, you will be the king of kings. Now Jarasandha has fulfilled the sage's prophecy. He is merciless and never forgets an insult.' concludes Krishna

Samhita had an answer to the question 'why only one mango?'  In Kamala's story, just one mango dropped from the tree under which the sage was sitting. Also Jara accidentally put the two halves together and a miracle happened. The body became alive and she did not have the heart to kill the baby and took it to the king. As usual details vary.

Notice that a demoness or rakshasi can be a good person. Actually the second in the epic. The first was Hidimbi who fell in love with Bheema.

Interesting that great people, in this case a sage, show such a short attention span even to a king. I am sure many who had to deal with big bosses can relate to this brief window of opportunity the high and mighty give to lesser mortals.

Yudhisthira's desire. Visiting Mahabharata. 54

Ever since the visit of Narada, Yudhisthira is lost in thought. He was leading a peaceful life and the message of his father carried by Narada changed it. So a peace-loving king is now thinking of Rajasuya yaga. Vachana Bharata says Yudhisthira thinks of Rajasuya on his own; Narada finds no mention.

He consults his brothers and others about performing the yaga and they all think that it is within their capability! Yudhisthira realises that this needs a deeper study and sends word to Krishna who had returned to Dwaraka with a request to come to Indraprastha.

He then broaches the subject with Krishna: 'It is not something that happens just because of your desire, my friends and well wishers tell me that I am capable; I however cannot decide without your opinion. It is true that, some because of their love for me, will over look the difficulties or our shortcomings; a few will think of the rewards they would get for speaking things that are pleasing to me. But I know you will view it dispassionately and tell me what is right!'

Krishna after a deep thought says:'Maharaja! You are indeed capable of performing a Rajasuya. You have the necessary qualities, still I need to say a few words. Jarasandhra has subjugated many kings and is proclaiming that he is an emperor. Sisupala and Dhantavakra who possess strong prowess are his  followers. The Bhojas, Shurasenas and many others unable to face him have scattered far and wide. After I killed Kamsa, Jarasandha went after us to avenge the death of his son-in-law and we in fear had to flee from Mathura to Dwaravati. So, it is impossible for you to perform Rajasuya as long as he is alive. Hence, in my opinion, we need to kill him and free the kings who have been imprisoned by him.'

The conversation that ensues between the Pandava brothers, Yudhisthira, Bhima and Arjuna and Krishna reflects the Khsatriya psyche and their priorities. While Yudhisthira still aspires to be an emperor, he is also hesitant to risk the lives of his beloved brothers and Krishna. 'Bhima and Arjuna are like my two eyes, and Krishna is like my mind. How can I live without my eyes and my mind.' And wants to give up his desire to do Rajasuya.

 Arjuna feels differently: 'Maharaja, did we not attain the astras, arms and territory for ourselves! We are warriors, and I like to do heroic deeds. Let us have courage and belief in our strength. We can be destroyed  if we lack this belief in our strength or if we are unduly overconfident. I think we have the ability to kill Jarasandha, so do not think we cannot do this. If we do not try, it is as good as not having any ability. We can surely have peace if we decide to wear saffron clothes! So if you want to be an emperor, we are ready to fight all those who oppose.'

 Krishna also supports Arjuna:' Arjuna has spoken like a true son of Bharatha vamsha. Surely, none of us can know the time we die, whether it is in the night or in the day! Even a man who does not fight cannot escape death. In our effort to save the kings, whether we kill Jarasandha or we get killed, it is certain that we shall go to heaven.' He then speaks of the need for the right strategy as there is no way they can be victorious in war against Jarasandha. It is best to fight him individually. The plan is to provoke him to fight when he is alone and he is sure that Bhima would be able kill him in such a man-to-man combat. And tells Yudhisthira 'If you believe in me. Send Bhima and Arjuna with me!' .

Yudhisthira is convinced as he has total confidence in Krishna and says: 'Those who are with you can never be unlucky.It is as if we have already killed Jarasandha and have performed Rajasuya. Please go ahead and do what you think is best.'

It is perhaps part of our nature to aspire for more. Whether for yourself as it is narrated in Vachana Bharata or for your forefathers when  Narada brings a message from above. Kamala's narrative also tells us that it is all part of Krishna's plan, purpose of his avatara, to reduce sin as mother earth is overburdened with it.

Our lives are often affected by events apparently not even directly linked to us. I am sure all of us have experienced this, some event or someone upsetting the proverbial apple cart. Reminded me of the chaos theory,  the butterfly effect, how a storm could be caused by a mere flutter of the wings of a butterfly.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Narada's visit. Visiting Mahabharata 53.

Yudhisthira rules by observing dharma, working for the common good and  without being partial. To him all were equal. Hence he had no enemies and was known as ajathashatru!. Thus there was peace in Indraprastha.

One day Narada arrived at the court of Yudhisthira. He is welcomed with reverence by Pandavas and Draupadi. Having heard about Mayasabha, he had come to see it. Yudhisthira was too happy to show Narada around and to see his reaction. Yudhisthira said: 'My lord, you have travelled in all the three worlds.  You must have seen many beautiful sabhas like the one I have. Can you tell me about them?'. Narada replies:'Yes. I have seen similar sabhas in other worlds. But let me assure you that your sabha is the best on the face of earth.' thus surely pleasing Yudhisthira .

Narada describes the other halls he has seen. He tells Yudhisthira that he saw the great king Harischandra sharing the throne with Indra. As he describes the court of Yama, he tells them about the many kings who were there, including Santanu and Pandu.

Yudhisthira goes silent for a while and then asks 'My lord, I notice from what you have said that most of the Kings are in the sabha of Yama and not Indra as I had imagined! My father was the purest of men. He was a saint among men. I want you to tell me the reason for this.'  Narada explains that only those who had performed Rajasuya Yaga would share the throne with Indra. And adds: 'I met your father. He said that my sons are now powerful on earth. If Yudhisthira performs a Rajasuya, I and my grandfather Santanu can go to Indraloka.'  and assures Yudhisthira that he could surely perform this difficult yaga with the help of his brothers and Krishna, blesses them and leaves.

Anyone tuned to our epics would be getting tense with this mixture of happines of mother Kunti, peace in Indraprastha and a visit by Narada. He is always there as per the wishes of  Narayana, read Krishna, to galvanise action which could often mean problems and trouble.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Maya builds a hall. Visiting Mahabharata 52.

While Arjuna aided and abetted Agni in the burning of the Khandava forest by not letting any living being escape, he even killed Takshaka's wife, he saves the life of Maya, a rakshasa, as Krishna is about to kill Maya with his chakra. This lone act of compassion could be because Maya falls at his feet asking for his mercy or for more complex reasons beyond his understanding. Anyway, as Arjuna promises not to harm him, Krishna allows Maya to live .

Maya, the architect of the asuras, wants to show his gratitude in some way. Arjuna does not want anything. But as he keeps insisting, Arjuna relents but lets Krishna decide: 'I will not accept anything for myself. Do something that will please Krishna'.

We are now let into the mind of Krishna by the Author: Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu, had been born on earth for the purpose of establishing dharma. Krishna knew that the time had come when the world had to be shaken out of its complacency. He was Narayana and Arjuna was Nara. They had been born on earth for a purpose. Mother earth had complained to him that she could not bear the burden of sin any longer. He had assured her that he would come to help. In his minds eye Krishna saw the future of the world. He saw the field of Kurukshetra strewn with the bodies of the kings of the world.....Krishna thought of all these things and decided to begin the act of destruction.

 Krishna then tells Maya that Yudhisthira is very dear to him and asks a unique Sabha be built to please Yudhisthira. Maya is very happy about this and starts planning the hall in his mind. Maya later discusses the plan with the Pandavas and Krishna and on an auspicious day, Maya begins the construction of the great palace known in the future as Mayasabha. Krishna then leaves for Dwaraka fondly seen off by the Pandavas till the outskirts of Indraprastha.

Maya gets busy with the preparations for the building. He goes to a lake called Bindusaras near mount Kailasa. A sacred spot where the river Ganga was released drop by drop from the matted lock of lord Shankara. Collects all the gems he had hidden there. Several hundreds of slaves carry these to Indraprastha. Also brings a conch called devadatta as a gift for Arjuna and a gada for Bheema. 

It takes Maya fourteen months to build it. It excels even Sudharma, the sabha of Indra, in its splendour. In the garden flowers bloom in season and out of season. The walls glistened and gleamed with the precious gems embedded in them. It was built so cleverly that one can see only the glow from the gems, and not the gems themselves. Maya went to the Pandava and told them that the sabha was ready. He took them round. They were speechless with amazement.  Arjuna and Maya embrace each other. Maya departs  honored by Yudhisthira with many gifts.

On an auspicious day, the Pandavas enter the sabha. Gifts are distributed profusely to the poor and to the brahmins. Fame of the sabha spreads far and wide. People from all over the world come to see, all except the sons of Dhritharastra. Several young princes who came, stay back to learn archery from Arjuna. Pandavas are very happy.

Kunti is now sure that her sons are well established! They are quite powerful.  It was not possible to harm the sons of Kunti. She thinks of the days following the burning of the house of lac, of the months spent in Ekachakra where they had to beg for food. All those dark days are over. Their sun had risen. They were safe, secure from the evil thoughts of Duryodhana and Sakuni.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Adiparva ends. Visiting Mahabharata 51

The eventful Pilgrimage comes to an end. In due time Subhadra delivers a boy, Abhimanyu. Krishna becomes very fond of his nephew and the parents dote on him.  Similarly Draupadi has five valiant children from the five Pandavas. Pandavas continue to rule with dharma from Indraprastha and people are content.

One day Arjuna feeling hot suggests a day's outing with their near and dears on the banks of Yamuna to beat the heat. They locate a nice picnic spot and enjoy themselves. There is plenty of food, drinks, laughter and also music. Krishna and Arjuna relax a little away from this group and have an enjoyable chat.

A brahmin approaches them. He is tall, golden in color and radiant.  Krishna and Arjuna greet him with due respect. He addresses them: 'Sirs, I have a big stomach and you must help me to fill it.' They respond with: 'Tell us the food you like to eat, we will try to provide it'. He replies: 'I do not eat like others! I am Agni, it is my desire to consume this Khandava forest, but Indra is protecting it and whenever there is a fire he douses it with heavy rains. It is because his friend Takshaka and his family live here and due to this a number of animals and birds also have found shelter. If you kindly help I can burn this forest'.

Arjuna replies: 'Agnideva! It is true that I have some  divine 'astras', but I do not have a bow to match my strength. I shoot with speed, so there are not enough arrows and a quiver to hold them. We do not have a chariot big enough to hold all the weapons we need to carry and horses able to draw such a chariot. It is the same with Krishna. If we are able to get these, we will try our best.'

Agni thinks of Varuna and he comes and at Agni's behest, gives Arjuna the great bow Gandhiva, an inexhaustible quiver with a never-ending supply of arrows, a shining chariot with splendid horses and a flag with Lord Hanuman seated in it. Srikrishna is given the powerful Sudharshana chakra. This chakra returns to the one who wields it after killing anyone intended, a raskshasa, a deva, a pisaacha or whoever. In addition he is given the mace Kaumodaki. Armed thus they are ready to face anyone, even Indra!

The fire spreads in the forest. Arjuna and Krishna guard either side of the fire and do not allow even a single animal to escape. Thousands of birds and animals die screeching and howling in pain. Some are half burnt and their eyes pop bursting and a few jump only to land back into the fire. Babies and mothers cling to each other in pain and fear and die as they are unable to get free from each other. The lakes boil and thousands of fish and turtles are cooked and go belly up and float. Fire dances all over in abandon.

Indra sends down heavy rain with clouds full of fiecre thunder. Arjuna creates a canopy over the forest  shooting arrows in such a speed that not a drop of water falls on the fire. Finally agni is satisfied.  Takshaka manages to escape, So do his son Ashwasena, Maya a rakshasa  and just four birds.

Even  Indra himself  with the help of devas cannot not stop Arjuna. Indra pleased with his son offers him a boon. Arjuna desires some Astras. Indra agrees and promises to give it to him at the time when Mahadeva is pleased with Arjuna.

 The final chapter of Adiparva is astonishingIt begins happily with an account Subhadra and Draupadi delivering children and the one day family picnic.  I have counted a total of nine Pandava offspring so far including these! And ends with a disastrous forest fire.

The description of the forest fire  made me sit up. I chose Vachana Bharata again for its unflinching narration! Kamala's version is equally brutal. There were birds which tried to rise up out of reach of the flames. The arrows of Arjuna hit them and they dropped back  into the leaping flames....At the time of burning, Takshaka, the serpent king, was away. His son Asvasena was caught up in the fire. He and his mother tried to get out of the forest. But Arjuna would not let them. His mother rose up in the sky to distract Arjuna and was killed by three sharp arrows shot by Arjuna. Indra overpowered Arjuna with a sudden deluge of water and allowed the prince to escape. Arjuna, furious assaults Indra.....

The fire during Mahabharata times could be classified as due to heavenly causes. Of course nurtured and helped by Krishna and Arjuna. 

I wondered how Agni actually started a fire. The picture gives us an idea. Courtsey: wikipedia.
Kamala says Agni assumed the form of flames. 

  While today most forest fires are man-made, there still are a few which are due to natural causes. We can ascribe it to gods, if due to lightening it is Indra, to dry weather it would be Surya and  if indeed it is due to earthquake and the volcanic flow, probably our mother earth is angry.

The episode had a purpose; of transferring the Astras used by devas in their earlier wars to Arjuna and Krishna, the story would also have had a salutary effect on the people who heard it. The only way of warning people those days about forest fires and its colossal effect on their lives.

Some pictures of the agni having his feed in Alaska and Australia. Courtsey: http://www.tiptheplanet.com/

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Arjuna abducts Subhadra. Visiting Mahabhrata 50

Arjuna continues his pilgrimage, khsatriya style, and it is very different!

When learning archery from Drona, Arjuna was friends with Gada, a cousin of Krishna. Gada had spoken so much about his cousin Subhadra and her beauty that he had fallen in love with her without even seeing her. He now remembered her and considered ways and means of seeing her without being seen. He knew that she was in Dwaraka.

The story, a love story, is the basis of movies and plays in many Indian languages and is known to most of us. Author Kamala  has also crafted a sweet story!

Arjuna disguises himself as an Yati and goes and stays in a place near Dwaraka. Krishna divines the intention of Arjuna and goes to meet him. Arjuna finally sets his eyes on Subhadra and is totally captivated by her beauty. Krishna manages a meeting between Arjuna and his half-sister Subhadra and she falls in love with Arjuna. They get married in the Ghandarva style when the rest of the family is away and elope. Krishna convinces an angry Balarama, who is all set to chase and kill Arjuna that it is best to accept, as he is a worthy husband to their sister.

As they reach Indraprastha, Arjuna is worried about how Draupadi would react, so he sends Subhadra, dressed as a milkmaid, ahead to meet Draupadi. Subhadra introduces herself as Krishna's sister. Meanwhile Arjuna meets his family and tells them about Subhadra and finally goes to Draupadi. She smiles archly at him and says: 'Do not worry. I have already met the milkmaid. She is very beautiful'. She takes the coy Subhadra in her arms and says: 'Who can resist you and your beauty? You have won my heart already, within a few moments. What chances could poor Arjuna have had against your charms?. A few days later,  the Vrishnis arrive in Indraprastha bearing costly gifts and celebrate the wedding of Arjuna and Subhadra.

It is different in Vachana Bharata: Arjuna forcefully abducts her, as advised by Krishna, in the true style of khastriya. Balarama reacts to the abduction thus: 'I suggest we chase them immediately and destroy the Kauravas'.  Krishna tries to calm him and others equally agitated, 'Arjuna has not insulted our clan, in one way it is an honor. He did not think us greedy, only thinking of the wealth the suitors would bring in a swayamvara! There is no adventure in a swayamvara. Kanyadhana is like passing cattle from one hand to another.There is no prestige in it. A man does not sell his daughter, so Arjuna had to abduct Subhadra. Even this act is Dharma and moreover, this connection is a good one, praiseworthy. Arjuna is from the lineage of Bharata, son of  Kunti, even Indra is no match for him in valor. It is not easy to fight him, especially as he is on my chariot drawn by my horses. Imagine the ignominy in case he beats us and escapes into his city. We loose nothing if go in peace and bring him back'. Thus convinced they go in peace and get Arjuna and Subhadra back and perform the wedding.

Subhadra: a conventional view

While the story takes our mind off the conflict between the cousins. It also tells us more about Krishna, his negotiating and convincing skills! It also introduces us to the very trusting and straight forward brother, Balarama, who is no match to Krishna in getting to the essence of conflicting issues.

As I think about the distance between Dwaraka (in Gujarat) and Indrparstha (Delhi), I wonder about the time Arjuna and Subhadra took to reach Indraprastha. It seems more plausible that they returned to Dwaraka as narrated in Vachana Bharata.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Arjuna's Pilgrimage! Visiting Mahabharata 49

The sage Narada appears by chance and Yudhisthira receives him with due honor. Narada was one of the sons of Brahma, the creator. He gives them valuable advice on many things. He tells them the story of Sunda and Upasunda, two inseparable brothers who fall in love with the same apsara and in their rivalry destroy each other. His message was 'You are powerful as long as you are united'.

The lesson goes home and the Pandavas take a decision. Draupadi will spend one year in the house of each of the five brothers. If, when alone with one of them, if any other brother should intrude on their privacy, he must go away to the forest and stay away for a year. (Vachana Bharata says 12 years!)

One day a brahmin comes to Arjuna. His cows are stolen and he asks Arjuna to recover them. Arjuna rushes to the palace where the weapons are kept and then stops as he remembers it is in the house of Yudhisthira and Yudhisthira and Draupadi are there by themselves. He tells the brahmin that he would recover the cows for him, but later.  The brahmin gets desperate and Arjuna relents and gets the weapons. Recovers the cows for the brahmin and is blessed by him.

Arjun seeks permission from Yudhsthira to go on a pilgrimage as he breached the code of conduct set. Yudhisthira says 'Arjuna it is unnecessary. It was an emergency'. But Arjuna argues that the conditions set should be followed and Yudhisthira reluctantly allows Arjuna go on this voluntary exile.

 Narada as I had seen him in plays and movies was a troublemaker. Here, his advice was well meant and in any case the outcome for Arjuna was not too bad! It could be that there was a couple of years of wait for his turn to come. Anyway the outcome of this happenstance gives us an entertaining break! 

First, on his journey he takes a bath in the river Ganga and is captured by a very beautiful maiden. Overcome with shyness as the astonished Arjuna looked at her with a smile in his eyes said: 'I am the daughter of the king of Nagaloka. My name is Ulupi. I saw you in the river and have fallen in love with you. You must accept my love'. Arjuna tells her who he is and how he is in exile for a year and adds: 'Now that you know everything, you must let me go. I have to observe brahmacharya.' She replies: 'I see what you mean. You have not, however, understood the conditions of your exile. Your brahmacharya stands as far as Draupadi is concerned. It does not apply to any other woman you are pleased to take'  and bends her head in shyness. Arjuna pleased with her and her beauty, spends a happy night with her and returns to earth the next day. He relates his adventure to the rishis on the banks of the Ganga and resumes his journey.

Arjuna travels to  the Himalayas, and then turns towards south. Bathes in the rivers Godavari and Kaveri. He then reaches Manalur, ruled by the king Chitrasena. He sees and falls in love with his daughter, Chitrangadaa and approaches the king for her hand. The king replies: 'In our family, for the last so many generations, there has been an only child. My daughter is all I have and her child will be heir to my throne. If you are willing leave the child to me as my heir and not claim it, I will be very happy to give my daughter to the greatest hero in the world'. Arjuna agrees and marries Chitrangadaa. Spends three months with her. He then moves further south and sees the southernmost end of Bharata and then travels along the west coast.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Khandavaprastha, the GIFT. Visiting Mhabharata 48

'Srinidhi seems to be revelling in his new-found enthusiasm for Mahabharatha'. This was the comment by Varad, his wife is a colleague of Tara at CIS. He blogs about India and the fun we NRI's have resettling in India. There are a few significant ones about corruption and the Anna Hazare movement. He is right, I am bitten by the Maha bug!

The gift to Panadavas, a dubious one, is treated very differently by the three versions I read. The briefest one is Vachana Bharatha.

Bheeshma and Dhirtarashtra send for Pandavas. Dhritarashtra says: 'Kaunteya,  you and your brothers pay attention to what I am about to say. By staying here, there may be fights, let us avoid it. Take half the kingdom and move to Khandavaprastha and be comfortable there. Thus Pandavas proceed to Khandavaprastha.

The place is a dense forest. Pandavas build a city, with a fort reaching the sky, surrounded by a moat as wide as the sea, heavenly multi-storied buildings, gardens with flowering plants and fruit bearing trees, creeper bowers with birds and peacocks, lakes full of lotus with swans and other birds floating in them.   Soon the city filled up with vedic scholars, experts in languages, merchants and artisans. Pandavas were happy as the rulers!

That was indeed brief! Kamala's version says: Vyasa appeared and there was a coronation in Hastinapura and Yudhisthira was installed as the king of Khandavaprastha, on an auspicious day chosen by Vyasa. The preparations were lavish.

Once they reach the place, Krishna summoned Indra and tells him to build a city which will be named Indraprastha and says; 'Make it so wonderful and so fertile that its equal will be only your world, the Indraloka'. Indra replies: 'Visvakarma, the divine architect, will take charge of this. It will become the most wonderful place in this entire world'.

Vyasa was there, again, to choose an auspicious day and recite holy incantations at the start of construction of Indraprastha!

                                                   Samhita's vision of Indraprastha.

She also adds that an enchanted palace was built by Maya, the asura architect, in gratitude for being saved by Arjuna when the forests were being burnt to make way for the city.
The construction workers!

For many reasons, the monuments we read about have not survived!  Here are a couple of links about our ancient times which are interesting:

(Courtsey wikipedia)
 Mohenjo- Daro with the great bath in front. Impressive and it surely is possible to imagine that Indraprastha built by a divine architect, could be more beautiful!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Assembly. Visiting Mahabharata 47

They were all there as invited: Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and Vidura prominent amongst them. Bheeshma in his deep sonorous voice speaks his mind. He advises Duryodhana not to nurse his anger against the Pandavas and expresses his pain at the state of affairs. 'They have as much right as you have, over the ancient kingdom of Kurus. You must ask them to come here and share the kingdom with you.'

He also speaks of the importance of a good name.'You perish when you loose it in the eyes of the good men...It looks as though fate has given you a second chance. Like the spoken word, like the lost chance, fate never comes back to redress the wrong done. God has allowed the Pandavas to live. If you behave with affection towards the Pandavas, the stigma attached to your name and that of your father, imputing the burnng of the house of lac to  you both, will all be washed away.'  Then praises Duryaodhana for his good qualites and urges: 'Give half the  kingdom to the Pandavas'. Drona who speaks next concurs. 'They must be asked to come here, to Hastinapura. It is the duty of the king to be kind to these orphans.'

But Radheya is not for this unnatural friendliness on the part of the Kauravas. He was for fighting. Then Vidura addresses his brother, concuring with both Bheeshma and Drona: 'All of us are here as well wishers. We really want to save your reputation and that of the your son. Please do not pay any attention to Radheya. He and Duryodhana do not realise the gravity of the situation'.

While he speaks of the stigma attached to them and holds that it is proper to give half the kingdom to Pandavas. Also reminds them of the realities of the present. 'They are now strong. Drupada and his son are related by marriage. They have support of Balarama and Krishna. Some of the kings tried recently and failed to defeat them.'  (Probably the arguments which tilted the scale towards a truce!)

Unable to defy his elders, Dhritarashtra agrees! There was still a spark of decency in his heart. Deputes Vidura to carry his message to Panchala. Tears flowed down the cheeks of Vidura when he meets Pandavas. The fact that they had escaped death made him realise how much they meant to him. He offers the gifts sent by Dhritarashtra and gives them the message, inviting them back to Hastinapura.

While Pandavas are not keen, as Drupada leaves it to them, Krishna thinks they ought to go! Vidura then goes and meets Kunti, falls at her feet. Tear from his eyes washed her feet. She comforts him and saiys: 'Your sons are now alive because of your wisdom and love. I think of you day and night. I do not know if it is safe to go to Hastinapura. My mind is upset: I cannot think for myself'. Vidura says: 'My dear sister, please do not be afraid. Very soon, you will see your sons as lords of the earth'.

The Pandavas set out for Hastinapura. They were accompanied by Krishna. The citizens were all eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Pandava princes. The city was beautifully decorated. The streets were sprayed with perfumed water. There were flowers everywhere. Sons of Dhritarashra, Vikarna and Chitrasena receive them. So does Drona and Kripa. On reaching the palace, they fall at the feet of Bheeshma and Dhritarashtra.

Duryodhana's wife receives the young bride and prostrates before Kunti. They then meet Gandhari and seek her blessings. Gandhari, who had the power to see into the future, tells herself as she embraces Draupadi 'This woman is fated to be the death of my sons' and blesses both Kunthi and Draupadi.

This narration is based Kamala's version.
The proceedings in the assembly is a classic case of conflicting views between the doves and hawks! Doves seem to have won now and the story could have ended here in very happy note! However, while Gandhari had a vision of the future, we know how the story developed. I guess my grandmother would have said; 'If only the cousin brothers had got along, there would not have been a Mahabharata war!'

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Panic in the kaurava court. Visiting Mahabharata 46

News of Pandavas being alive and their marriage reaches Kauravas. Sakuni, furious, suggests that they should attack. (Preemptive strike is not a new idea!) Some elders are not in favor; 'Pandavas are not helpless now! It is better to make up.' Karna has the opposite view, 'It is now or never, let us descend on them. We can vanquish them.' As this matched the mood of most, an army is collected and they march to Kampilya.

The war was short. The Kauravas are routed. The wrath of Pandavas was like that of a provoked snake. They were proved too strong! Duryodhana was inconsolable and heart broken. He was on the point of loosing his mind. 'Indeed the Pandavas are favored by gods. Here they are stronger than ever. Fate, after all, is too powerful. Strength and arms stand no chance against fate'.

Vidura having heard all the news, goes to his brother Dhirtarashtra. He uses the word Kuru deliberately while he speaks of children of Kuru house flourishing and adds: 'The eldest son is now married to the daughter of the king of the Panchalas'. Dhritharashtra falls into the trap set by his brother and thinks it is duryodhana and expresses his joy. When Vidura corrects his misunderstanding, he continues to pretend he is happy. 'It is even more pleasing news. I am very happy that the sons of my dead brother are alive and well'. Vidura replies; 'My lord, your words are now very sweet. I only hope that the feelings you have expressed will remain and your mind will not waver anymore'.

 This conversation makes it appear that the blind father is isolated from events around him and Vidura knows his brother too well! And that they are not comfortable with each other.

Duryodhana entering the palace overhears the later part of the conversation and is upset. After Vidura leaves he accosts his father 'What is all this I hear about the great joy in your heart on hearing that my hated cousins are alive? Are you dreaming? Are you not well?'. The king pacifies his son; 'I am more upset than you are. But I could not say it to Vidura. Tell me what should be done'.

 Duryodhana has no practical solutions. 'This hated team of five brothers has got to be broken. Can we bribe Drupada and make him friendly with us? Can Draupadi be used to bring dissension amongst them? We should kill Bhima. If he dies their spirit will be broken. Then it is easy for Radheya to kill Arjuna'. But laments; 'We are loosing time and I cannot bear to live if they come back to Hastinapura and live with us'.

Karna smiles at his friend but does not accept his friend Duryodhana's ideas. 'From the beginning, you under the advice of your uncle Sakuni have tried underhand methods. Have they succeeded? No! Not one! My suggestion is, fight. You are a Khastriya. You have us. The sooner we do it, the better. Fighting is the only honorable way. Saama, Daana, Bheda are all ineffective. You must use the fourth one, Danda.'

Dhritarashtra is pleased with the words of Radheya. 'Today there is to be a conference in the great Palace hall. Bheeshma, Drona and all the Kuru elders will be there to discuss the future of Pandavas and the Kauravas and let us proceed to the council hall'. The three then walk towards the council hall.

The atmosphere is now thick with politicking in the Kaurava court. I suspect very few would be aware of all this in those days, but today it would be a different story! I may be wrong! Walls had ears in those days too! 

Another interesting variation! Vachana Bharata does not mention the failed preemptive strike by Kaurvas which is narrated in Kamala's version.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Draupadi is married. Visiting Mahabharata 45

The wedding date was fixed. Relatives and friends, important people and distinguished brahmins of the city were invited. The arrangements were grand and the mantap decorated beautifully appeared like a clear night sky wherein stars shone like diamonds.

On the first day Draupadi and Yudhisthira had their auspicious bath and wore fine clothes and were decked with a lot of jewellery. They were married as they performed all the rituals with agni as their witness (agnisakshi). The next day it was Bhima and thus all the five were married, one wedding a day. Draupadi looked as fresh as ever on each day of the wedding!

Drupada gifted pandavas, with pleasure,  large amounts of gold, a hundred chariots each drawn by four horses adorned with golden chains and fitted with golden horseshoes, a hundred caparisoned elephants with gold ornaments, a hundred well dressed maids and clothes and jewelery. The Pandavas shone like Devendra in midst all this grandeur. Drupada felt strengthened with his new relationship with the Pandavas and thought 'I am not afraid even if devas attack me!'

Kunthi overjoyed blesses Draupadi with valiant sons with long life, many victories to enable her son to perform Ashwamedha yaga and urges her to follow her husbands like how goddess Lakshmi attends to Narayana. She is full of many such wishes and a lot of advice.

Sri Kishna sends them many precious ornaments and fine clothes, woolen blankets as well as chariots, horses, elephants; both male and female attendents and  large quantities of gold. Dharamaraja accepts all these gratefully to please Govinda.

Tempted to ask if any of you remember recent Indian weddings to equal this. Cannot remember?

Here are a few links just for fun.




Monday, 3 October 2011

Darupadi's swayamvara- all five of us will marry your daughter. visiting Mahabharata 44

Drupada welcomes his guests and is pleased to see that while they were covered with just deerskin, they walked like lions, were well built, tall and with wide shoulders like bulls. They even took the grandeur of the  palace in their stride and occupied their seats giving due importance to hierarchy. After a feast fit for kings, chose to occupy the area which was full of implements of war. This further pleased the king.

After treating them with reverence due to brahmins. He said 'Oh illustrious men! Please let us know who you are? Are you khsatriyas? Brahmins? Vaishyas or sudras? Siddhas from devaloka? We are confused. Be frank and clear our doubts so that we can arrange for the wedding suitably.'

Yudhisthira replies 'Maharaja, please do not be worried. Your daughter like the lotus has moved from one sarovara to the other. We are sons of  king Pandu'. Then introduces himself and his brothers and adds 'You are our respected elder and I have spoken the truth.'

Drupada overcome with happiness could not even speak and wanted to know all about their escape from the fire. Having heard the story is very upset with Dhritarastra; consoles and promises Pandavas his help in recovering their kingdom. He then suggests 'Let Arjuna now get married on a good day!' Dharmaraja replies; 'Maharaja even I have to be married!' Drupada says, 'In that case you or whoever you choose could marry.'

Yudhisthara comes up with this proposal; 'Maharaja let Draupadi become a queen for all of us. We have always shared and we are not keen to change this now! This is also my mother's wish. So let Krishne marry each one of us with agni as sakshi and become our dharmapatni.' Drupada counters with 'Kaunteya! We know a man has many wives, but have not heard of many husbands! How could such thoughts come to a man of dharma like you?'. Dharmaraja holds firm; 'Maharaja, dhrama is very intricate and we cannot really understand it fully. Anyway we feel it is right and my mother approves. Please to not hesitate or worry.'

Mother Kunthi and Drishtadyumna also join the discussions but the Pandavas do not yield. Finally Drupada agrees 'It seems to be  destiny and who can change it?'

As I am reading three versions, narration does get tricky and raises many questions!

For instance Samhita tells us that Draupadi stopped Karna from competing; 'Wait. I will not wed a charioteer's low caste son and bring down my honour as a princess.' Karna returns to his seat humiliated. (Why did his friends keep quiet? May be they were relieved as Karna had the skills and the best chance of a win!)

And it is sage Vyasa who clears the way for the Pandavas to marry Draupadi. Vyasa apears and says that in her last life, she did tapasya for a husband having lost one and mutters five times 'I want a husband.' Lord  shiva appears and grants her a boon. 'Since you have said five times, I want a husband, you shall have five husbands in your next birth.' and vanishes into thin air. (All she asked was a for a husband and probably in that life! Not sure that this had something to do with a widow wanting to marry!)

Kamala's version is similar about Vyasa appearing and clearing the way for the marriage. However he does not explain why she was granted a boon for five husbands. And in case of Karna, he misses the fish (the target) by a hair's breadth!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Draupadi's swayamvara ..Dhristadhyumna spies on Pandavas. Visiting Mahabharata 43.

Totally curious, Drishtadyumna follows Bhima and Arjuna and spies on them. He sees them go out and return with the alms they have collected. Kunthi calls Draupadi tells her 'Take the top portion of the food and offer it to gods. Give brahmins and others who ask for food. Divide the rest into two, give Bhima one portion and the other portion is shared by the rest of us.'  Draupadi does so with a smile; they all eat; later Sahadeva spreads dharba grass on the floor and they all place their krishnanjeena on top and sleep with their head facing south. Kunthi lies down near their head and Draupadi near their feet. Draupadi does not show any discomfort lying down on dharba or contempt towards Pandavas.

Dhrishtadyumna only hears discussions on war and related subjects as Pandavas chat before they sleep. He hurries back and Drupada who is worried asks his son; 'Son where is Krishne? Who are these people? Hope they are not from a low caste!' and still hopeful 'By chance did the Pandavas survive and was is it Arjuna who succeeded?'

His son sounding very happy recounts the whole episode from the time Arjuna splits the target; 'Krishne followed the good looking successful archer like a she elephant follows the male. The kings, angry and intolerant, attacked. His companion uprooted a tree and beat them back. Later they went to a potter's sala'. He continues with his story about what he saw and his conviction that 'Pandavas have escaped the fire and are moving about hiding their real identity. I am very sure of this!'

Drupada, very happy sends his priest to learn if they are really so. Pandavas while treating the priest with due respect are still unwilling to reveal their true identity. Yudhisthara politely tells the brahmin priest 'The king within his rights chose to have this contest and our veera has won her as per the terms of the contest. There was no mention of any one caste being permitted and there were no other limitations! Thus Drupada Raja has no cause for regret. Is it possible for any ordinary man to bend this bow? We feel that there is no occasion for the king to feel remorse or worry about his daughter.'

As they were conversing, another emissary from the king came with an invitation 'The king has arranged a feast to celebrate the swaymavara and requests that all of you participate along with Krishne. Superior chariots suitable for kings have been sent. Please make haste!' .Pandavas along with Kunthi and Krishne proceed in the chariots sent for them.

As the story develops we see a repetiton of the events, but as seen or described by different participants! There are variations in the emphasis given to events or from the perspective of that particular narrator. I tried to translate from Kannada and claim only a partial success.