Friday, 20 January 2012

Aryanavasa ends for the pandavas. Mahabharata 86

Yudhisthira becomes calm after hearing the reassuring story of Savithri. They return to Dvaitanvana after a short stay at Kamyaka. Their twelve years of Aranyavasa ends while they are at Dvaitavana.  While at Dvaitavana they face a very serious calamity thanks to a brahmin. Yudhisthira is relaxing with his brothers when a brahmin comes running and makes a request. 'I had hung my अरणि (pieces of wood used for kindling fire) to the tree and it got stuck to the horn of a deer which was rubbing its body against it and it has run away with it. Now I am unable to perform sacrifices to agni. Please  get them back for me!'

The pandavas go chasing the deer and are unable to catch it in spite of shooting many arrows at it. Finally it runs out of their sight. They get very perturbed and tired and take a break under a tree. Nakula, seeking water, climbs a tree and spots a lake a little distance away. Dharmaraja sends him to  bring them water. Nakula reaches the place and as he is about to drink from the lake, a voice from the sky tells him not to dare touch the water. If he really needs to drink, he must first answer a  few questions put to him. Nakula ignores the warning, drinks and immediately falls down dead. As Nakula does not return for a long time, Yudhisthira, worried, sends Sahadeva to check. Sahadeva also ignores the voice from above and meets the same fate. Arjuna goes next, sees his two brothers dead, starts shooting arrows  at the voice which forbids him from drinking water.  He is unable to do any damage. Tired and thirsty takes a drink and falls down dead. It is then the turn of Bheema to die the same way as his brothers.

 Finally Yudhisthira goes and discovers the bodies of his dead brothers and is confused as he notices that they are not injured in any way. He wonders whether kauravas had a hand in it. Anyway he gets into the water to quench his thirst and the voice tells him to stop, 'I am the one who killed the other four and to avoid being the fifth, I suggest you answer a few questions before taking a drink from my lake'. Then a very forbidding looking Yaksha appears from above.  Yudhisthira replies 'Good people will not take things which belong to others, hence I do not desire what is yours, however I do not claim to be very intelligent, but I will try to answer your questions.'

Yaksha: Who is it that who makes the sun rise? Who are the ones going round it? Who gets him to set. Where does he reside?
Yudhisthira: It is Brahma who gets the sun to rise. The devatas go around him. Dharma ensures that the sun sets, Truth is where he resides.

There are many questions which are answered well by Yudhisthira. The answers validate his understanding of dharma and reflect his sense of values and the Yaksha is pleased. The questions seem easy to answer, but not really so.

Yaksha asks Yudhisthira  'What is it that  when relinquished,  makes you a pleasant person? When you forgo this, you are not unhappy, what is it? What is that when you give up, you become rich? And by forsaking this you become happy? 

I let you think of your own answers to these riddles!

Finally Yaksha very pleased, asks Yudhisthira to choose one of brothers who would be given his life back. Yudhisthira picks Nakula and the reason why he chose Nakula so impresses the yaksha that he gives life back to all the brothers.  

As one can easily guess, it is Dharma,  father of Yudhisthira who came down to meet his son and also test him.  

A very happy Dharmadeva offers Yudhisthira a boon. Yudhisthira requests that the pieces of wood needed by the brahmin be given back. Yudhisthira, offered another boon,  requests that  they will not be discovered when they live incognito for the next one year. Dharma bestows this boon and asks Yudhisthira to seek one more! Yudhisthira requests that he be given the ability to overcome greed, anger and desire and that his mind is able to concentrate on tapas, generosity and truth. Dharma blesses him and says that 'You already have these qualities!' and disappears from their view.

As I read though the questions and answers, it was an abridged one in vachana bharatha, it focused on the expected qualities of  brahmins and khsatriyas, only two out of the four varnas. I wonder why? I am not sure if the OBC's were ever classified as such during the epic period.  Is Varna in the present day social structure irrelevant? Apparently not! I suppose I am trying to open a pandora's box!

No comments: