Thursday, 11 October 2012

Ascending heaven, Mahabharata 207

Raghunath (Commenting on my last blog!)
'Is this the end? I thought Yudhishtira was taken through hell before seeing heaven. His reaction on seeing Duryodhana etc have also been recorded. He then sheds his mortal body. Am I right?
These last episodes bring one down to earth and emphasise the solitude of the final moments irrespective of the pinnacles one achieves in life(sic)'
 In fact, it is this blog in a nut-shell!
 My mind wanders a bit as I write the final chapter! Our gurus are sure that both heaven and hell exist, but say that their existence is non-verifiable by us mortals. I have read that young Nachiketa, of Kathopanishad fame, was able to go and meet Yama, some say he died and returned after being blessed back to his old life by the god of death. Arjuna was invited to Indralokha for a while to help the devas because of his abilities, (He also got into trouble with an apsara!),  and it is only Yudhisthira who went to heaven in his earthly body, because of his virutes and values.
One of the first sights shown in heaven shocks Yudhisthira. Duryodhana is seen amongst the devatas; he is glowing like the sun and is seated on a splendorous throne! Yudhisthira cannot tolerate this and just wants to go and meet his brothers. Narada tells him with a laugh, that in heaven there are no enmities. And Duryodhana has achieved this status because he fought a war as a khsatriya and has achieved veera swarga! In fact, Narada advises, 'All those who die in a war are equal to devatas. Do not bring your enmity into heaven!'
Duryodhana is only interested in learning about his brothers. If a wicked person like Duryodhana deserved heaven because of his death in a war, he wants to see the type of status his brothers and his people are given. He again insists that he only wants to meet his brothers and Draupadi. He is not interested in staying in heaven, unless it is with them! So a devadhootha, a servant (!), takes him to meet his brothers!
 Yudhisthira is taken through hell and cannot bear the terrible sights and smells and asks the servant 'How long do I have to travel in this route?' Even the servant is unable to bear the journey and is about to faint. He tells Yudhisthira he was meant be there only for a short time and turns back. As they turn back, people in hell request Yudhisthira to stay a while, his presence has made hell a lot better. He decides to stay for a while, feeling bad for them. He then gets curious to know who they are  and why they are in hell. The first one to speak says he is Karna, the next says he is Bheema, another is Draupadi and so on. All his relatives and friends are in hell!
This greatly angers Yudhisthira as he is unable to comprehend the reason. He wonders whether he
 is hallucinating. Finally becomes totally angry and curses the skewed dharma of the devatas and tells the dhoota, 'Go back to whoever sent you and tell them that I will stay here, at least my brothers who are suffering will feel much better.'
The dhootha goes and reports to Indra. Indra and other dharma purushas immediately come to meet Yudhisthira. As soon as they get near, the dark place is lit and there is no sight of the people who were languishing there, none of the torture equipments are seen. A nice breeze is swirling around the place. Indra tells Yudhisthira, 'The devatas are pleased with you, do not be angry. You and your brothers, friends and relatives have all attained permanent abode in heaven. All kings have to go through hell, as both good deeds and bad deeds in their life are kept separate. It is better to pay for your bad deeds first so that you can then stay permanently in heaven. I arranged it this way for your benefit. You lied to Dronacharya to help another, hence you had to experience hell. Similarly each one you had to pay. You are all now free. Come let us go meet them and the other who fought and died in the war. Let your mind be free! Stay with me, deva gandharvas and apsaras will be at your service. Enjoy the benefits of your Rajasuya and Ashwamedha yagas. Among kings your stature is very high. You will be with Harischandra, Bhageeratha and Bharata.'
'They reach 'Akasha ganga'. Indra tells Yudhisthira to take a dip in the holy river, revered by the three worlds. And tells him a dip will be refreshing and his human psyche will change. Dharma also speaks of the third test given and that Yudhisthira has passed. Praises him for his qualities and says that it was inevitable that he had to experience hell for a few moments.
As soon as Yudhisthira takes a dip in Ganga his mortal body goes and a divine body takes its place. All human frailties go away. He is without enmity, no more sad. Then the devatas take him around to show all the others he wanted to see.
Thus kauravas and pandavas  enjoy their share of heavenly bliss, and finally merge with the ones they belonged. Bheeshma joins the vasus. Drona merges with Brihaspati. Karna with Surya and Yudhisthira with Dharma and so on.
The story of kaurava and pandavas ends here. Janamejaya who heard this story from Vaishampayana during the yagna is astonished. yagna is completed and the snakes are released. The believers are happy. Janamejaya is also happy and leaves Takshashila and returns to Hastinapura.
The author includes three more stories as an attachment. One is that of the story of Shakuntala, the other of Yayathi and third the story of Sri Rama. In fact, the author has written a preface of almost seventy pages.
But I guess I need to wrap up the story here.  I started with one book and finished with another. Yes, the story is astonishing and I will probably conclude with a few observations in a blog or two, but the story does end here.

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