Thursday, 3 November 2011

Death of Sisupala during Rajasuya yaga. Visiting Mahabharata 58

On the final day of Rajasuya, Bheeshma advices Yudhisthira to honor with reverence each one of the invitees and suggests that he begin with Krishna. Traditionally, अग्रपूजा, the highest act of reverence and honor, is offered to the best among them. Yudhisthira is too happy to honor Krishna first. But this is not liked by many, especially Sisupala. He is very sarcastic and vocal about his displeasure. 

Kamala's version illustrates the attitude and the language used by the kings of yore.

Sisupala was standing up. He said: 'Very nice! Very nice indeed! Here is a bastard who asks the son of  a river for advice. The advice is given. The special honour as the best amongst us is given to a cowherd. ...All the time, kings, who are great warriors, who are jealous of their honor, look on, like dumb animals....Till now you had been considered to be a righteous man. You have lost your reputation now.'

He continues his tirade against Krishna and strides out of the sabha. Yudhisthira follows to placate him and also tries to justify the choice, but only makes him angrier. Yudhisthira turns to Bheeshma for help. Bheeshma says: 'Do not be afraid my child. Here is a dog trying to bark at the lion....Let him talk if he likes to. His voice seems to please him.' This infuriates Sisupala further and he heaps insults on Bheeshma, calls him an eunuch. Says he did not take a woman, not because of his oath, but because he was an eunuch.

Bheema gets very annoyed and seeks permission from Bheesma to fight and kill Sisupala. Bheeshma tells Bheema not to be in a hurry and that it is ordained that Sisupala will be killed by Krishna and only Krishna and tells him the story of Sisupala.

'When Sisupala was born, he had three eyes and four arms. The parents were horrified at the monstrosity. A heavenly voice told them that as soon as the child was placed on the lap of the man who was to kill him, the extra eyes and arms would disappear.'

'When the child was placed on the lap of Krishna, the child lost the extra eye and the arms. Sisupala's mother and Krishna's aunt unhappy that her child would be killed by his own cousin, requests Krishna to spare her son. Krishna promises to forgive even a hundred insults which may be hurled at him by her son.'

Samhita's imagination!

'There is also the incident of Krishna carrying away Rukmini, at her request, on the day she was to be married to Sisupala, her brother's friend. Ever since Sisupala has been nursing a grievance against Krishna.'  Bheeshma then advises Bheema not to be rash and let Krishna do the needful.

Sisupala getting impatient at all these words, challenges Krishna: 'Come fight with me. Let the world see who is the better man. This is not like stealing a bride and running away with her without fighting with anyone. This is not like stealing clothes of helpless women when they are bathing in the river. This is not like stealing the loves of  Gopi women and cheating their husbands. Krishna this is a man-to-man fight. Let me see if you can fight for once.'

Krishna, while he did not want to spoil the Rajasuya, as a khastriya he could not refuse the challenge and prepares to fight. Bheeshma leads him into the chariot. Krishna addressed the kings who had assembled. He counters: 'He is the son of  a princess who is a daughter of the House of the Vrishnis. But he has been hating them all his life. This man entered Dwaraka while I was away and set fire to it....He captured the sacrificial horse sent by my father, his uncle, just to disturb the sacrifice...It is this man who steals the wives of others....Carried away a maid called Bhadra and many more from Dwaraka. There are a lot of  atrocities perpetrated by him. I have been patient because of my promise to my aunt. But now he has challenged me....I have to kill this sinner who has become impossible.

The fight begins as the unhappy Yudhisthira, who hates unpleasantness watches. He sees several evil omens and asks Narada about them, who tells him that these portends a great calamity. Meanwhile Krishna hurls his chakra at Sisupala. The chakra cuts the head from the his body.

The great Rajasuya, which had begun so well, ends disastrously. This incident spoilt the happiness of all. But nothing could be done about it. Nothing can stop the determined course of destiny.

Kamala also tells us another story about Sisupala. There was infinite love in Krishna's eyes when he did this. A glow left the body of Sisupala and approached Krishna and reached his feet and was lost in his blessed feet..... He had fulfilled his promise to his beloved attendants, Jaya and Vijaya. He had released one of them from human bondage forever and ever.

The death of Sisupala was followed by terrible upheavals in nature. The heavens rained without any reason. Earthquakes were evident. The seas threatened to overlap its boundary. These omens spelt some dreadful calamity as a result of this death.

Intriguing episode. As it veers away from the main story,  my mind wanders as well.

The upheavals after Sisupala's death reminds me of the pictures I saw of the Japanese factories  flooded in Thailand.  First it was the earthquake, than the tsunami in their own shores and now a flood in a country where they have a strong industrial presence. Wonder if they have myths similar to ours to explain the calamities. My sympathies are with the Japanese. They were very good to me in Thailand as customers.

Sisupala's story seems to be an omen, a precursor to the future. It is again the hatred of one cousin to another, which causes death. But it stops at one.

 Samhita's drawing reminded me of a story about a girl Lakshmi born with a parasitic twin. She was operated successfully two years ago. I checked about her on the net! She is doing well but is also in need of some more operations and help. Good to see a follow up on this girls life. The villagers thought she was reincarnation of goddess Lakshmi and did not want her to be operated, but the father went for it. I found one more heartwarming story of a boy Deepak with a parasitic twin operated and doing well.

Compare this with the reaction in Sisupala's times. It was a monstrosity for them, but destiny chose to make him alright through Krishna. God does work in mysterious ways. Today he has given us technology in place of miracles.

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