Monday, 1 October 2012

Pandavas have no peace of mind. Back to the forest to meet Kunti. Mahabarata 201

After their return, Pandavas have no peace of mind, they have no interest in the affairs of the kingdom. Worries about their mother, well being of Dhritharashtra and Gandhaari occupy their minds. In addition, the killing of their own relatives, death of Abhimanyu, thoughts about Karna and the murders of  pandava children dominate. The only thing that keeps them interested in life is Parikshit. One day the thought about their mother overwhelms them, they cannot even breathe. All want to go back to the forest and see for themselves how Kunti is doing  and decide to go. Yudhisthira announces their intention and invites whoever interested to join. They camp outside the town  till all preparations are made and proceed a few days later.

Stopping a little away from the hermitage, they walk quietly towards the ashram. As there are no movements of people, it is very peaceful. Some hermits stop and stare at them with curiosity. The group from the city ask 'Where is the ashram of Dhritharashtra?' and are informed that he and his wife have gone to bathe in Yamuna, get flowers and a jug of water. The group turns towards the river. Sahadeva sees them and runs towards Kunti and hugs her feet. Kunti tells Gandhaari, 'It is Sahadeva!'  Dharmaraja and others arrive and prostrate in front of the elders. Dhrithrashtra recognises their voices and speaks to them, inquires about the city and their well being. Yudhisthira wants to know about their life in the forest. Not seeing Vidura asks about him.

Dhritarashtra, 'Child, Vidura is well. He has given up food and is performing  a severe penance. People say he has become just skin and bones, he is rarely seen in the ashram!' At that moment, a movement is seen near the ashram. One of them says, 'There he is, seeing that ashram is full people he is going back in a hurry.'  Yudhisthira  runs after Vidura. It is difficult to keep track of him in the forest. Yudhisthira notices that Vidura is without clothes and his hair is matted and twisted on top of his head, his body is covered in dust. He shouts, 'Vidura! Vidura! I am your favourite, Yudhisthira!' and keeps after him with great difficulty. When they reach a lonely place, Vidura stops and support himself against a tree. He is very thin and only the shape of his body remains.

Yudhisthira approaches him, stands is front and announces, 'I am Yudhisthira.'  Vidura acknowledges with a sign and looks at him intently. Their eyes meet and  lock into each other. Vidura with his yogic powers enters Yudhisthira's body. His body, prana and his faculties merge with that of Yudhisthira. Vidura does not move and his eyes are staring  vacantly at nothing. Yudhisthira realizes that Vidura's body is lifeless. At the same time he experiences renewed energy, power in his body. 

 As he thinks about the ceremonies for the dead uncle, a voice from the sky above dictates, 'Hey king! Vidura's body is not to be cremated. He was in the state of a sage. No one should also grieve for him.' Yudhisthira returns to the ashram and informs Dhirtharashtra. Bheeema and others are astonished at the happenings. On that day their food consisted of only roots and fruits.

Raghu says Bheeshma and Vidura are two very important personalities in Mahabharata; especially known and respected for their loyalty. I hope he will tell us more in his own words thru this blog! Mahabharata fascinates in many ways.When the story is told in the human level; the personalities in the epic are etched well and clearly, we can actually visualise them. Here is a picture of Vidura borrowed from the internet which I think is closest to my imagination. I see sadness and vulnerability in his eyes, understandable when his status is not of a noble and he knows it. I had thought that he was a bachelor. But no, he is married to the daughter of a maid and a king, and has a family.

 Mahabharata has two streams running, one very human with palpable emotions and another, wherein paranormal comes into its own. Sages Vyasa and Narada flit in and out. Voice from above is heard at opportune moments.Many gods and humans interact. Krishna, whose personality is very complex at the human level, becomes easily understood as soon as he is deemed to be a god. Destiny becomes paramount as many things happen and are explained away as karma. Rishis are quick to throw a curse. Gods pleased with the severe penance of devotee gift away, generously, powerful astras with a capacity to destroy the world. None of these gestures are impulsive, they all have a reason. Part of a chain of cause and effect. 

I wondered if separating these two streams would make sense. I know it has been done by some. A few have a chosen a personality in the epic and have written about him/her as the focus.  I then came across  'Yuganta'  by Iravati Karve.

 A quote from the foreward:
 'The Mahabharata has often been characterized by students of Indian civilization as the
most informative work in all that country’s ancient literature. It is a growth over many
centuries, which incorporates material of many varieties drawn from many sources —
possibly a little history, certainly much myth, legend, fairy tale, fable, anecdote, religious
and philosophical writing, legal material, even anthropological items, and miscellaneous
data of other kinds. It is a genuine folk epic in basic character, which has been enlarged
to a kind of Indian — at least Hindu — cultural encyclopaedia.'

'But it is not this quality of the Mahabharata that has made it so absorbing to Dr.
Karve. She is attracted to it because it depicts a long roster of characters with all their
virtues and their equally numerous faults, openly, objectively, even more, mercilessly
especially when sought out by an inquirer like her, whose view of life is
secular, scientific, anthropological in the widest sense, yet also appreciative of literary
values, social problems of the past and present alike, and human needs and responses in
her own time and in antiquity as she identifies them.

The Mahabharata stands in contrast to the other great Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana.
The latter the Hindus characterize as elegant poetry, high literary art (kavya), a court epic
wherein the personalities are types illustrative of virtues and vices rather than emotionally
complicated beings. To Hindu tradition however, the Mahabharata is history (itihasa, a
word which means literally “thus it was”), and its character is like that of the Iliad and
other great folk epics.

Irawati Karve studies the humanity of the Mahabharata's great figures and no one of them
emerges for her as wholly good or wholly bad, few as even prevailingly good or prevailingly

1 comment:

lakshmi ramaswami said...

Uncle...i have not read each blog, but i did follow made it simple and easy to read....and you have been so regular as well....kudos.
i too have always been fascinated by teh mahabharata...from childhood and have read Yuganta too, many years ago though.
another interesting read is The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Divakaruni Banerjee