Category Archives: G. The Epics, Bhagavad Gita and the Rise of Bhakti

Valmiki

Dichotomous legends surround the historical existence of the first poet (adikavi) Valmiki, the believed composer of the Hindu epic Ramayana, or first poem (adikavya) (Eliade 184).  On one hand, folk legend reports that “the sage was born […] of a high- caste brahmin family”, while on the other hand he is surmised to have been a “sinner transformed into a saint” (Eliade 184).  Valmiki’s biography has varying versions, and scholars speculate on which account may indeed be the real one (or perhaps a combination of both).  However, the poetic form, sloka, which is accredited to him, has since been found throughout Hindu and Buddhist liturgy and remains an existent and tangible piece of evidence left by whoever the “legendary sage” truly was (Eliade 184, “Valmiki” n.d.).

The earliest documented mention of the name ‘Valmiki’ is in the Taittiriya Pratisakhya of the Black Yajur Veda school (Leslie 80).  While the exact date of this manual is impossible to determine, as is much early Sanskrit liturgy, it is postulated to have been composed sometime after Panini, but before Patanjali, in the period between c. 350 and c. 150 BCE (Leslie 80-81).  That being said, the name “Valmiki” has not always been connected unequivocally to the poet-saint of the Ramayana (Leslie 80).  However, for purposes here, the focus of the remainder of this article will be centered on the sage-author and sage-character of the epic.

The obstacle for historians is not that of supporting Valmiki’s title of adikavi, but, that of discovering who he actually was amongst the surfeit of lore and myth surrounding the historical grammarian (Leslie 79).  “The historicity of Valmiki is somewhat uncertain because the traditions referring to him are late and unsupported by anything other than still later texts repeating, modifying, or elaborating on the stories” (Sil).  “According to a legend, Valmiki was a robber who one day met a hermit who transformed him to a virtuous being” (Das).  This alludes to the poet-saint figure’s narrative which begins with his escaping from a termite mound to which he is bound and found reciting Rama’s name.  Rsis refer to the metaphorically reborn pupil as Valmiki, whom the god Visnu decrees to be the author of the Ramayana (Leslie 152).  This account of Valmiki seems to concern the earlier portion of his life.  In the first book of the Ramayana, the character Valmiki is presented as a “gifted saint […] from a hermitage in the valley of the river Tamsa”, situated in the northern region of India in the Kaimur Range in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh respectively, several miles south of Ayodhyā in north central India (Sil, “Tamsa River” n.d.).  Within book one, the initial four chapters provide a description of Valmiki in some detail, and begin with presenting him as an ascetic and notably “…the most potent of munis or munipumgava” (Leslie 97).  The Sanskrit translation which is most often applied to Valmiki, varies and can mean “saint, sage, seer, ascetic, monk, devotee, hermit, and so on”. Munis often undertake a vow of silence (maunavrata), therefore rendering a perfect English equivalent nearly impossible (Leslie 80).  That Valmiki is earnestly betrothed to the practice of asceticism is an important and continuous motif in the character and persona of this figure in the Ramayana (Leslie 97).

The second chapter of the epic reveals that Valmiki is an articulate and persuasive speaker as well as a virtuous man who is intelligent and has attracted his own following of devoted men (Leslie 97).  He is described as a “great souled…dvija” or “twice-born rsi” which usually indicated someone of Brahmin status in the epics (Leslie 97).  The third and fourth chapters of the Ramayana follow suit describing Valmiki as “saintly” and “holy”, giving an overall persona of an extraordinary individual – “…muni, rsi, ascetic; high-minded, innately wise, trained in religious ritual, and learned in matters of dharma…worthy of the company of the Gods” (Leslie 99).  It is at this point in the Ramayana that this great and holy man is bestowed with the spiritual vision, attained through meditation and not recitation, of the poetic story of Prince Rama, told eloquently in the epic through some twenty-four thousand sloka verses (Leslie 99, “Ramayana” 2016).  The problem with these rich descriptions is of course the lack of information regarding Valmiki’s early life.

In contrast to the latter descriptions of Valmiki, the Adhyatma Ramayaṇa  (esoteric Ramayaṇa), an anonymous work in Sanskrit, probably written in the fifteenth century, describes a very different person in historical question, and perhaps provides us with a window into the earlier, lesser-known life of this figure (Sil).  This version finds a younger Valmiki who, although Brahmin in status, is a questionable character.  He associates with other dubious characters, and takes to a life of burglary and corruption, even amidst married and parental life (Sil).  This account seems to concern his early life.  Legend describes a young man by the name of Ratnakara, who after a life of corruption, realizes that his family will not be a part of his sins, and thereafter leaves to live as a hermit among hermits, learning the Vedas for redemption (Sil).  “Thereupon the penitent reprobate began chanting Rāma’s name oblivious of time; gradually his body was covered under an anthill (valmika)” (Sil).  Questions have been raised by scholars regarding the class of Valmiki, since his early life does not denote that of a typical Brahmin.  Julia Leslie examines the possibility that he may have been of the Sudra class, or even lower as a dalit, or untouchable, in her in depth analysis of Valmiki (25-35).  Since there is no definitive documentation about this, it is open to interpretation (Leslie 25-35).

Worth mentioning with regard to a proper biography of the great poet Valmiki, is his legacy, the poetic form sloka (Leslie 97-98, “Valmiki” n.d.).  The story from the Ramayana describes perfectly how this form came to be (Leslie 97-98).  Valmiki, so stirred with compassion at the death of an Indian Sarus crane by the hands of a tribal hunter (nisada) bluntly utters a curse (or lament) in the sloka form:

‘May you find no peace, Nisada, for all eternity – because you killed the male of this loving kraunca pair when he was intoxicated by desire!’ (Ram, 1.2.14)

So inspiring is that moment of poetic creation that Valmiki’s delighted disciple promptly commits the verse to memory (v. 18) (Leslie 97-98).  The god Brahma then comes to speak with this man who ‘knows what is right’, addressing Valmiki as “brahmin” and “best of rsis” (Leslie 97-98).  “Brahma is impressed by Valmiki’s eloquence […] and asks him to compose the story of Rama in the form of slokas” (Leslie 97-98).  Thus, the epic the Ramayana was composed (Leslie 97-98).

            Sloka has a distinct and specific form.  It means “sound,” “song of praise,” “praise,” or “stanza”, it is the chief verse form of the Sanskrit epics” (“sloka” 2016).  A fluid meter that works well with extemporization in poetic verse, sloka lays itself out in two-verse lines, consisting of sixteen syllables each (“sloka” 2016).  Accordingly, “the Ramayaṇa is arguably one of the finest works of Sanskrit poetry in respect of both contents and form” (Sil).

What is the significance of this mythical author and his epic the Ramayana? Valmiki’s classic is far reaching and has survived many ages, and “over the centuries, the story of Rama has spread across the world” (Leslie 118).  There are various versions of the Rama story cross-culturally, including “the Pali Dasaratha Jataka of the Buddhist tradition” which is probably derived from Valmiki’s Ramayana (Leslie 118).  Not only is Valmiki’s Ramayana syncretic in nature, it has been translated into numerous vernacular languages as well, including but not limited to Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali, and Hindi (Leslie 160). The Ramayana is popular and timeless among Hindus, with its “themes of annyaya (injustice), darpa (arrogance), moha (infatuation), dharma (righteousness), and nyaya (justice) coinciding with the foundations of the Hindu worldview” (Sil).  The west was first exposed to Valmiki’s Ramayana in 1843, by an Italian named Gaspare Gorresio, with the provision of Charles Albert, King of Sardinia (Sil).

Mystery remains around the legendary author and sage Valmiki, the eminent author of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana.  “All that the biographer can do is gather traditions which deal with Valmiki, sift them, and study the evolution of his life-story as it becomes revealed in them” (Bulke, via Leslie 79).  While the undoubted importance of the first poet (adikavi) of the Ramayana remains indisputable, we are only able to make biographical sense of this Hindu hero in the present through deduction in myth from the past (Bulke via Leslie 79).

 

REFERENCES AND RECOMMENDED FURTHER READING

Bulke, Camille (1958) “About Valmiki (Materials for the biography of Valmiki, author of the first Ramayana.” Journal of the Oriental Institute.  8(2):121-131. Baroda.

Das, Subhamoy (2015) “Maharshi Valmiki: The Great Sage & Author of The Ramayana.” hinduism.about.com. Accessed February 6, 2016. http://hinduism.about.com/od/gurussaintsofthepast/a/valmiki.htm

Das, Subhamoy (2014) “The Ramayana: India’s Most Loved Epic.” hinduism.about.com. Accessed February 26, 2016. http://hinduism.about.com/od/epics/a/ramayana.htm

Eliade, Mircea Ed. (1987) “Valmiki.” The Encyclopedia of Religion. Vol. 15:184. NewYork: Macmillan.

Leslie, Julia (2003) Authority and Meaning in Indian Religions: Hinduism and the Case of Valmiki. Burlington: Ashgate Pub Ltd.

“Ramayana” (2016) In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://academic.eb.com.ezproxy.alu.talonline.ca/EBchecked/topic/490529/Ramayana

Sil, Narasingha P. (2004) “Valmiki.” Great Lives from History: The Ancient World, Prehistory 476 c.e. Editor: Salowey, Christina A. Hackensack: Salem. Accessed February 6, 2016. http://online.salempress.com.ezproxy.alu.talonline.ca

“Sloka” (2016) In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://academic.eb.com.ezproxy.alu.talonline.ca/EBchecked/topic/548917/sloka

“Tamsa River” (n.d) In Discovered India.com. Accessed February 20, 2016. Retrieved

http://www.discoveredindia.com/uttar-pradesh/attractions/rivers/tamsa-river.htm

“Valmiki” (n.d) In Wikipedia. Accessed February 20, 2016. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valmiki

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

muni pumgava

mauna vrata

Brahmin

adikavi

adikavya

sloka

The Ramayana

Taittiriya Pratisakhya

Black Yajur Veda School

The Mahabharata

Panini

Patanjali

The Puranas

annyaya (injustice)

darpa (arrogance)

moha (infatuation)

dharma (righteousness)

nyaya (justice)

Gaspare Gorresio

Charles Albert, the King of Sardinia

Dasaratha Jataka

Pali

Tamil

Malayalam

Bengali

Hindi

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://online.salempress.com.ezproxy.alu.talonline.ca

http://hinduism.about.com/od/epics/a/ramayana.htm

http://hinduism.about.com/od/gurussaintsofthepast/a/valmiki.htm

 

Article written by: Laura Gunn (Feb – April 2016) who is solely responsible for its content.

 

Drona

Drona was an important figure in the Mahabharata epic. First was his role in teaching the warring cousins, the Pandavas and Kauravas, in the arts of war, and then fighting in a battle with them on opposite sides. His death is also very important and has an entire section of the epic devoted to it; he is a central figure because of his influence over the two main characters of the story. Drona was a Brahmin by birth, but was also a master in the arts of war and he was the best archer in his time. He took up a position to teach these arts to the “grandsons” of Bhisma who were the Pandavas and Kauravas. The Pandavas and Kauravas were cousins who were always trying to best each other in anything they did, and both groups were taught by Drona.  Drona’s main part in the Mahabharata occurs when the Pandavas wage war on the Kauravas for banishing them into the forest, after the Kauravas cheated the Pandavas in a game of dice (Menon volume 1:2-4).  Drona fights alongside the Kauravas in a bloody battle against his former students, and he is eventually killed (Ly 134-137). Drona’s story actually begins well before he was a great master warrior and had no wealth to his name.

After the birth of his son Asvatthama, Drona set off in the hopes to gain wealth for his family, by becoming the finest archer of his time.  He first travelled to Mahendra Mountain, where he had heard that Parasurama Bhargava was giving away all of his possessions.  Unfortunately, when Drona reached the top, he was informed by Parasurama that he had already given away everything (Menon volume 1:110-111).  He then travelled to the Pancala kingdom where Drupada, an old friend and former student of his father, was king. When Drona was young and Drupada was still a prince, the two became close friends and Drupada had once told Drona, “when I am King, you must come and live with me in my palace.  My kingdom will be yours as much as it is mine.  Only, we must be friends forever” (Menon volume 1:110).  To Drona’s surprise when he met with Drupada, the king would not help him and cast him aside.  After being humiliated by the king, Drona, Asvatthama, and his wife Kripa went and lived with Bhisma – Drona’s brother in-law.  After a few weeks, Bhisma told Drona that he wanted him to be the martial arts master of his grandchildren and have the wealth that he wanted. He also told him that one-day would stand with Bhisma against the Pancala kingdom even if it meant war. (Menon volume 1:113).

After coming into this newfound position, Drona would start to teach the grandsons of Bhisma, although he is not the biological grandfather since he is celibate; he is more like the granduncle to the Pandavas and Kauravas.  Although, before he started to train them, he asked them to promise him that they would help him accomplish a mission that was close to his heart and that if they did, he would make them great Ksatriyas (warriors); without hesitation they agreed. (Menon volume 1:114).  One of the Pandava princes, Arjuna, became Drona’s star pupil and the greatest archer that he had ever known.  This is for a few reasons, one, Arjuna was the only prince that was allowed to shoot a wooden bird out of a tree since he saw only the bird and nothing else (Menon volume 1:117-119).  Secondly, because he also saved Drona’s life, he was bathing in the river Ganga and a crocodile tried to attack him, but before it could, Arjuna shot it through the eye and heart.  This was the moment Drona said Arjuna would be the greatest archer in the world (Menon volume 1:120-121).  This caused the Kauravas princes to feel upset although they did not say anything.

After many years of training, Drona and his students went to fight Drupada, as this was the mission that Drona’s students had promised to help him accomplish. After a long battle they all defeated Drupada, and with Arjuna’s sword at Drupada’s throat and the ability to kill him, Drona recognized Drupada’s loyalty and forgave him (Menon volume 1:157).  Drona only did so because of their long and old friendship. As a sign of good faith, he gave Drupada half of his lands back and the two became friends again.  Drupada had his own ulterior motives behind becoming friends with Drona.  He had noticed that Arjuna was the greatest warrior he had ever seen and that he wanted him to wed one of his daughters.  He hoped that they might have a son who would one day kill Drona for what he had done that day (Menon volume 1:157).  For the time being the two remained at peace.  Drona ruled the northern Pancala lands and Drupada ruled the remainder of his lands from Kampilya (Menon volume 1:157). Peace, however, did not last forever; due to events at the palace, the Pandavas were exiled to the forest by the Kauravas.

When the Great War described in the Mahabharata ensued, Drona, Asvatthama, and Bhisma fought with the Kauravas in Duryodhana’s armies, while Arjuna and the Pandavas fought against them (Stewart 113).  During the battle, Drona fought halfheartedly against his former students. He said that the only way he would be able to defeat the Pandava’s army was if Arjuna was removed from the battlefield (Pilikian 17). Knowing this, one of the king’s stepped forward, offering Arjuna a challenge he could not refuse, so that Drona could then defeat the army (Pilikian 17).  Drona and Bhisma were chosen to lead the chariots to victory against the Pandava’s archers.  Unfortunately, Bhisma was killed and Drona was appointed commander of Duryodhana’s armies (Pilikian 63).  According to The Mahabharata, with Drona as leader of the army, and Arjuna off the battlefield, Drona ‘unleashed his divine arsenal and the Pandavas and Srinjayas were eclipsed beneath his attacks as he went reeving through them like Indra among demons’ (Pilikian 75).  Drona “was like a tiger amongst men in the fight”, although he did have remorse and sympathy for the men he was killing, he felt that the fate they suffered was underserved (Pilikian 89).  Throughout the battle there were Pandavas soldiers all around Drona yelling “kill Drona, kill Drona” or the war is lost (Menon Volume 2:228).

In order to win the battle, Drona tried to capture Yudhisthira [to try and trick him into a game of dice so they could banish them back to the forest] (Menon volume 2:219). However after Drona killed many Pandava soldiers in order to get close enough to him, Yudhisthira leapt nimbly from his chariot, mounted the swiftest horse he can find and fled (Menon volume 2: 227).  In an attempt to capture Yudhisthira again, Duryodhana, (king of the Kauravas) devised another plan to distract Arjuna so Drona might capture Yudhisthira (Menon volume 2:224-224).  Once again this plan failed, but this time it was due to Arjuna’s son.  Yudhisthira used him to break the Kaurava’s defenses and this lead to Drona and five other warriors to face him (Menon volume 2:228-240).  Arjuna’s son was much more powerful than Drona and his men had anticipated and Karna [another warrior of Drona’s] feared that if they didn’t kill him they would all die (Menon volume 2:244-245).  Drona and his men had a long, grueling battle against Arjuna’s son, but in the end they sever his bow string, break his bow, kill his horses, his two guards, and then kill him with hundreds of arrows (Menon volume 2:243-246).

Then Drona, during a point in the battle when the fighting had stopped, sat alone at the edge of the field of death and a profound sense of doom came upon him.  He thought about Drupada and tears rolled down his face (Menon volume 2:331-332).  He remembered of how Drupada prayed for a son to kill him and now that he had killed Arjuna’s son, it was only a matter of time before Arjuna would come after him and try to kill him (Menon volume 2:332-333).  This introduces us to the dramatic death of Drona, which occurs in the Drona Parva part of the Mahabharata epic.  In order to kill Drona the Pandava’s king, Yudhisthira, lied to Drona saying that his son had been killed in a bloody battle (Ly 134).  When Drona heard that his son had been killed, his spirit was broken and the will to fight left him and he laid down his bow (Menon volume 2:341).  Before Drona could be killed, however, he picked up another bow and commenced to fight once again.  Drona was fear embodied once again.  His body was full of an uncanny light (Menon 2:342).  Earlier in the epic, Drona had killed three of Bhīma’s sons while he was trying to reach Drupada to kill him.  Now with Drona fighting for one last time to avenge his son’s death, Bhima, in disgust, yelled at him that although he was born a Brahmin he has now become a butcher (Menon volume 2:342-343).  These words finally made Drona cast aside his bow.  The war paused and Drona yelled, “I will not fight anymore, Drona’s war has ended, the rest is left to you”(Menon volume 2:343).  Sitting down in his chariot with his legs crossed Drona then shut his eyes and “yokes his spirit”, surrendering his greater self.  While this is happening Bhima jumped from his chariot and ran at Drona (Menon volume 2:343).  Arjuna wanted to take Drona alive but, could not stop Bhima, who was grieving for the loss of his sons and bent on vengeance, with a swing of his sword Bhima severed Drona’s head from his body, leaving him a lifeless corpse (Menon volume 2: 341-343).

 

REFRENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Pilikian, Vaughan (2006) Mahabharata: Drona Volume 1. New York: New York University Press.

Ly, Boreth. (2003). “Narrating the Deaths of Drona and Bhurisravas at the Baphuon.” Arts Asiatiques 58. 134–37.

Menon, Ramesh (2006) The Mahabharata: A Modern Rendering (volume 1). New york, Lincoln, Shanghai: iUniverse, Inc.

Menon, Ramesh (2006) The Mahabharata: A Modern Rendering (volume 2). New york, Lincoln, Shanghai: iUniverse, Inc.

Stewart, Frank. (2010). “The Mahabharata and Andha Yug: A Brief Summary.” Manoa 22 (1). 111–14.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Arjuna

Pandavas

Kauravas

Bhisma

Drupada

Yudhisthira

Indra

Brahmin

Duryodhana

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drona

http://troolyunbelievable.blogspot.ca/2010/06/dronacharya.html

http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=2779373

 

Article written by: Adam Geib (February 2016) who is solely responsible for its content.

 

 

Karna

Karna is an important figure in the Mahabharata Epic, which reputedly took place at the start of the Kali Yuga. The Mahabharata tells the story about a war between the five Pandava brothers and the Kaurava brothers. Karna was born to Kunti, the mother of the five Pandava brothers, and the Sun god Surya. Karna was born with an impenetrable armor and golden earrings which made him invincible. At the time of Karna’s birth, Kunti was unmarried and a virgin. As Kunti was an unmarried princess when she had Karna, she abandoned him in the Asva River, where he was found by, and adopted by Adhiratha and Radha, who were a charioteer (suta) couple. The couple raised him as their own son and named him Vasusena (see McGrath 28; Adarkar 4).

While growing up, Karna always used to pray to the Sun god and was generous to brahmins. He made a vow that he would always give alms to brahmins who approached him regardless of what their requirements were. One day, while Karna was praying to the Sun god, Indra, the god of thunder, came to Karna disguised as a brahmin and asked Karna to give him his armor and earrings as a gift. Even though Karna knew that this was a trick by Indra, he kept his promise and submitted his armor and earrings to Indra. Due to his actions, he earned the name of Vaikartana, “the flayed”, and received an infallible spear from Indra which would kill anyone it hit, but could only be used once (see Bryant 26).

As a young man, Karna was an exceptional warrior whose skills were equal to that of Arjuna. To learn the arts of warfare, Karna approached Dronacarya, the famous teacher of Arjuna. Drona refused to teach Karna because of his status as a suta. As his attempt to be Drona’s student did not work out, Karna left in search of the great brahmin warrior sage, Rama Jamadagni (see McGrath 29). Afraid of being rejected as a student due to his status of a suta, Karna disguised himself as a brahmin and sought Rama Jamadagni’s guidance. Under Rama Jamadagni’s guidance, Karna learned all the arts of warfare. One day, while his master was taking a nap on his lap, Indra, in the form of a bee, stung Karna until he started bleeding. Upon waking, Rama Jamadagni found out that Karna was not a brahmin and cursed Karna, stating “may he forget the weapon at the time he will be killed”. During his training Karna mistakenly killed a brahmin’s cow and the brahmin cursed him, saying “may the earth swallow his wheel at a time of greatest peril” (see Bryant 26). Later in his life, these two curses played a major role during his time in the Mahabharata.

Even though Karna was an exceptionally strong warrior and the only one who could match Arjuna, his status of a suta came in the way of showing his prowess. As Karna grew, his hate for the Pandava brothers grew, especially Arjuna. During an archery contest, Karna decided that he wanted to challenge Arjuna and see who the better archer was. Instead of accepting the challenge, Arjuna insulted Karna by calling him a suta and refused to accept his challenge. Infuriated, Karna vowed to kill his step brother. Throughout the Mahabharata, Karna is shown to best Arjuna in battle even when Arjuna had Krsna as his charioteer. Karna’s charioteer, Salya, demoralized Arjuna, trying to demolish his will to fight (See Adarkar 202-203; De Bruin and Brakel-Papenyzen 52). Even Arjuna’s father, Indra, believed that Karna was a major threat to Arjuna. Indra aided his son, by obtaining Karna’s armor, which made him invincible, and by creating Ghatotkaca, son of Bhima, in whose presence Karna had to use his infallible spear (see Adarkar 202). Due to these events, Karna was far more vulnerable but still had the edge against Arjuna in their final battle. Due to Krsna’s unorthodox strategy, which was against the ksatriya code, Arjuna was able to slay Karna.

Before going to war, Karna was confronted by his mother, Kunti, who revealed the entire truth. Karna, listening to his mother, realized that the Pandava brothers were his own brothers. Karna was the eldest of the six brothers. Kunti pleaded that Karna join the Pandava side and fight alongside his brothers. According to dharma, Karna was supposed to obey his mother. Instead, he replied “by casting me away, the wrong you have done me, destructive of fame and glory, is irreversible….When there was time to act, you did not show me this crying out [anukrosha]. And now you have summoned me, whom you have denied the sacraments. You never acted in my interest like a mother, and now, here you are, enlightening me solely in your own interests!” (see Bryant 32-33). Even though Karna refused to obey his mother, he vowed that he would spare his four brothers, and only fight Arjuna with intentions of killing him. He promised that regardless of who dies, Kunti would be left with five sons (see Lama 50-52).

During the Mahabharata War, Karna’s and Arjuna’s battle decided the outcome of the war. Krsna played a crucial role in Karna’s death, as he encouraged Arjuna to break the ksatriya code, in order to kill Karna. Throughout most of their battle Karna had the upper hand. Krsna saved Arjuna’s life more than once during the battle. When Karna was dominating over the battle, his curses took effect and eventually led to his demise. The first curse, which he received from the brahmin whose cow Karna unintentionally killed, took effect resulting in Karna’s chariot getting stuck in the mud. As Karna was about to die, his second curse, which he received from his mentor, finally affected him. Karna lost knowledge of all his weapons and was left defenseless (see Adarkar 6; Bryant 26). Upon listening to Krsna’s advice, a reluctant Arjuna fired arrows at a defenseless Karna and killed him by breaching the codes of ksatriya conduct (see Lama 53-54).

Throughout the Mahabharata, Karna’s life was that of suffering and injustice. Nonetheless, Karna stood by dharmic values and believed in duty and loyalty. Karna, like Yudhisthira, was tested twice in order to see if he upheld to dharma. He was loyal to two types of people, “one elevated, one low” (See Adarkar 99). He was loyal to his suta parents who raised him with love, and to his close friend Duryodhana. Karna proved his loyalty when he decided to fight alongside Duryodhana, even when he found out that the Pandavas were his real brothers. Karna believed that “birth or class determines nothing”, and always knew that what mattered most were his parents who raised him and friends who believed in him and gave him another opportunity in life (see Adarkar 113)

 

Sources and Bibliography

De Bruin, Hanna M and Papenyzen, Clara B (1992) The Death of Karna: Two Sides of a Story. Hawaii: University of Hawai’i Press.

Lama, Mahendra P (1990) Review: Lucid and Profound. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi.

Bryant, Edward F (2007) Krishna: A Sourcebook. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Adarkar, Aditya (2001) “Karna in the Mahabharata” PhD diss., University of Chicago

McGrath, Kevin (2001) The Sanskrit Hero: Karna in epic Mahabharata. Boston: Brill Publishers

 

Related Topics:

Mahabharata

Pandavas

Kauravas

Kunti

Krsna

Arjuna

Rama Jamadagni

 

Websites related to further reading:

http://www.britannica.com/topic/Mahabharata

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahabharata

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandava

http://www.vahini.org/downloads/familytree.html

http://www.dollsofindia.com/library/kunti-gandhari/

http://www.hindupedia.com/en/Kunti

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunti

http://www.swami-krishnananda.org/disc/disc_153.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishna_in_the_Mahabharata

http://www.hinduhumanrights.info/why-did-krishna-choose-arjuna-instead-of-karna-drona-o-bhishma/

http://www.ancient.eu/Arjuna/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arjuna

http://vipasana-vidushika.blogspot.ca/2014/10/sages-from-hindu-scriptures-jamadagni.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamadagni

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parashurama

 

Article written by: Shreyas Dhokte (March 2016) who is solely responsible for its content.

 

 

 

 

 

Bhakti Yoga as Described by the Bhagavad Gita

One of the fundamental aspects of Hinduism revolves around the spiritual paths one must take in order to reach a state of Moksa or enlightenment. As Moksha is the ultimate goal for any practitioner of the Hindu tradition, it is obvious that concerns over the correct way to achieve this end are approached in a wide variety of ways. Bhakti Yoga is one such path to achieving enlightenment within orthodox Hindu teachings. Bhakti Yoga, also commonly known as the Path of Devotion, teaches that Moksha is achieved by means of selfless and utter devotion, love, and trust towards a particular deity. Those on the Path of Devotion often listen to stories about God, sing devotional hymns, recite mantras, worship at temples and shrines at the home, and undergo pilgrimages in hopes of becoming closer to God. The word bhakti is made up of two parts, the root bhaj, meaning service and the suffix ktr, which means love. However, bhakti is a very flexible word which also means to be attached to, to be devoted to, or to resort to (Michael 250). Bhakti Yoga is a multi-faceted practice which requires both a commitment to God as well as a commitment to loving fellowship of those around oneself in order to succeed. In order to achieve Moksha following this pathway, one must have a pure devotion to God, as having other desires leaves one incapable of fully devoting themselves to God. Bhakti is additionally dualistic in that the term may describe both the path by which one realizes enlightenment, as well as the ultimate goal of enlightenment itself (Michael 250).

The Bhagavad Gita is a part found within the epic the Mahabharata that introduces the concept of the Yogas [spiritual paths that worshippers may take in order to reach a state of salvation or unification with God]. The Bhagavad Gita takes place during the middle of the Mahabharata, when the third Pandava Arjuna is filled with doubt when forced to fight blood relatives in the war of Kurukshetra. Through the course of numerous philosophical and theological discussions between Prince Arjuna and Krsna, the concepts and application of the Yogas are introduced. Despite the very influential nature and important contents of the Bhagavad Gita, it is not considered Sruti [divine in origin], but as Smrti [remembered verses], as it is a part of the Mahabharata. As the introduction of the Yogas is a foundational aspect of many varying sects of Hinduism, the Bhagavad Gita is still seen as one of the more important Smrti in the Hindu tradition. These spiritual paths have become significantly prominent aspects of the Hindu tradition and in many ways serve to define many of the different sects of Hinduism in the modern day.

The concept of Yoga that was introduced in the Bhagavad Gita specifically refers to the primary ways in which practitioners of Hinduism may achieve unification between themselves and God. There are three main paths that are described within the Bhagavad Gita as ways to achieve enlightenment. The first is Karma Yoga, also known as the Path of Action. This Yoga consists of proper and selfless action, the control or suppression of selfish desires, and providing selfless services to those who require it. The successful completion of these deeds are thought to be transformed into worship. This is best characterized by the saying of Yogaswami of Sri Lanka “All work must be done with the aim of reaching God” (Veylanswami 10). The second path is Jnana Yoga, otherwise known as the Path of Knowledge. This path is based on the attainment of philosophical knowledge and discrimination between what is real and unreal (Veylanswami 10). To attain this knowledge, a combination of listening to scripture, thinking or reflecting upon that scripture, and then deep, meaningful meditation is often the course of action of followers belonging to this path. The ultimate goal of this path is to determine the differences between the real and the unreal, giving one an understanding of their true identity within true reality. Bhakti Yoga is the third path that is seen as a means to salvation, by committing yourself entirely to the love and devotion of a specific deity. [Krsna and Siva are two of the more commonly worshipped deities within the Path of Devotion]. Bhakti Yoga is brought to light in the Bhagavad Gita when Krsna explains to Arjuna that those who manage to remain concentrated on him, worship him with unfaltering faith, are rescued from the cycle of life and death. This escape from the struggle of life and death that Lord Krsna refers to is commonly known as Moksha or enlightenment. A more recently conceived spiritual path that has been gaining significant following in recent history is known as Raja Yoga or the Path of Meditation. The inception of Raja Yoga is not considered to be from the Bhagavad Gita, but from the Yoga Sutras credited to Patanjali. Raja Yoga follows an eight tiered system that focuses on ethical restraint, religious observance, proper posture, breathing control, withdrawal, meditation, and a sense of oneness (Veylanswami 10). These eight features are practiced in hopes of concentrating one’s mental awareness, which is deemed essential to the tradition.

The Yogas that are spoken of in the Bhagavad Gita are in many ways interconnected. A commonly practiced approach to the Yogas is to choose one primary path to follow, while still observing the practices of the other Yogas in a secondary manner. While those who seek Moksha shall undoubtedly lean towards one particular path, true knowledge cannot be attained without at least a fundamental understanding of the remaining paths (Veylanswami 11). An approach to the Yogas that has gained traction recently is undertaking Bhakti, Karma, or Raja Yoga prior to taking Jnana Yoga to ensure that one has a real understanding of what it is that they learn and speak of along the Path of Knowledge. This concept is best illustrated by the words of Swami Vishnudevananda: “Before practicing jnana yoga, the aspirant needs to have integrated the lessons of the other yogic paths—for without selflessness and love of God, strength of body and mind, the search for Self Realization can become mere idle speculation” (Veylanswami 11).

While there is a strong degree of interconnectivity between the varying Yoga pathways, there are a number of fundamental differences between each practice, which inevitably leads to strong differences between the practitioners of each yogic path. The way in which the personality of an individual meshes with the fundamental principles of each path are a strong determinant as to which path an individual will choose. For those who are emotional, Bhakti Yoga is commonly recommended, for the physically active Karma Yoga is frequently suggested, while Raja Yoga is considered most appealing to meditative personalities, and Jnana yoga is deemed best suited for a more intellectual individual (Veylanswami 10). In addition to differences in general doctrine and follower personality, the selection of each Yoga path is also strongly related to the deity that an individual worships. Those who are affiliated with Krsna worship will have different views and affinities towards one path than those who worship Siva. [Vaishnava sects tend to promote Bhakti Yoga for their followers, while some Vedantic sects promote Jnana Yoga as the dominant means of salvation] (Veylanswami 11).

There are many ways in which the Bhakti Yoga path may be followed, with a near infinite number of ways to devote oneself to, unconditionally love, and otherwise worship a deity. Some may choose frequent temple worship as a primary means of connecting with God, while others may feel that the utterance of sacred mantra is the ideal way to worship. As there are many differences between practitioners of Bhakti yoga, naturally there is a large degree of variation within Bhakti yoga itself. These variations may be the result of regional variability, the plethora of deities that are available for worship, or even socioeconomic and social differences that exemplify the traditional caste (jati) and class (Varna) system of Hinduism. These differences are not static, but instead dynamic, changing over time and space. The methodology and frequency of forms of worship change continuously over time.

There are very notable differences when comparing varying sects of bhakti worship. In Bengali Shakta Bhakti yogic rituals are designed to bridle the uncontrolled passion and emotion that followers. The yogic rituals performed are meant to provide appropriate times and places for practitioners to have encounters and experiences with the goddess. In Gaudiya Vaisnava Bhakti, yogic rituals in which worshippers relive mythical and historical occurrences of great emotion are performed in order to increase devotion and provide understanding of the worshipper role that each person has to Krsna or Radha (McDaniel 54). While both of these sects follow the Path of Devotion, they perform different rituals for different purposes. Each of these traditions provides worship to their deity uniquely, in large part to the personality type of those who follow each tradition. Within the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition, members are taught and perform different ways of serving god. It may be entertaining guests, collecting water, or frequent prayer at a home shrine. A guru is often consulted to teach members what acts they can do to best serve their God, however once these methods have been learned and ultimately perfected over time, innumerable variations may be made to individualize the act of worship (Haberman 133). Thus, we can see variation not only between traditions but within traditions.

While many differences between bhakti traditions are relatively minor, there are occasions where practices can differ wildly from one group to the next; this can best be seen when comparing the diminishing practice of Sahajiya bhakti and the rituals of the Bauls with mainstream Gaudiya Vaisnava traditions. The Sahajiya believe that Krsna and Radha may come down from the heavens and enter the bodies of worshippers. As a result, the Sahajiya perform a sexual ritual so that members may experience the “love” of their deities. The Bauls, a group of wandering singers seek the love of Krsna and Radha and perform rituals involving the ingestion of taboo substances. By making the impure substance pure through the act of the ritual, members hope to become rasika (those who are able to see divine presences) (McDaniel 54). Both the Sahajiya and Baul traditions are subcultures of the Gaudiya Vaisnava bhakti, however the rituals, members, and ideals of the groups are in many ways opposed to one another. Historically, Bhakti Yoga became a popular choice for people to follow due to the open nature of the path. Any who felt that they could devote themselves to God were capable of following the path. This can be seen in the members of the bhakti movement previously in history; the heads of bhakti sects were not just Brahmin males as was custom for other paths, but those of high or low castes, male or female. The language used for bhakti literature such as doctrines and poetry were written not just in Sanskrit but in vernacular languages as well (Rinehart 51). This literature showed a great degree of variability between writers as well as regions; some wrote of gods not only reverently but negatively at times as well, while some questioned the appearances of the gods or their manner of speech (Rinehart 52). The large degree of differences found between traditions of various regions and sub cultures, both modern and historical serves to demonstrate the significant number of different manners in which Bhakti Yoga may be performed. Given the broad backgrounds from which members arise, the large amount of deities that are worshipped, and the incredibly broad manner in which an individual may choose to express his or her devotion to God. It is little wonder that the Bhakti Yoga tradition has become such a broad and encompassing division of Hindu tradition.

 

References and Further Recommended Reading

Bodhinatha Veylanswami, Satguru (2012) “Which Yoga Should I Follow?” Hinduism Today (Jul-Sep): 10-11.

Haberman, David (1988) Acting as a way of Salvation: A Study of Rāgānugā Bhakti Sādhana. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

McDaniel, June (2012) The Role of Yoga in Some Bengali Bhakti Traditions: Shaktism, Gaudiya Vaisnavism, Baul, and Sahajiya Dharma. College of Charleston.

Mehta, Varun (2011) “The Need for Balance in Faith” Hinduism Today (Jan-Mar): 9.

Michael, Pavulraj (2011) Bhakti Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita — An Easy Way for all to Search and find the Will of God. Rome: Pontificia Universita Gregoriana.

Rinehart, Robin (2004) Contemporary Hinduism: Ritual, Culture, and Practice. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.

Rosen, Steven (2010) Krishna’s other song: a new look at the Uddhava Gita. Santa Barbara: Praeger.

Kumar, Shashiprabha (2005) Self ,society, and value: reflections on Indian philosophical thought. Delhi: Vidyanidhi Prakashan.

 

Related Topics for Investigation

Jnana Yoga

Karma Yoga

Samadhi in Yoga

Dharana in Yoga

Krsna/Krishna and Arjuna

Cuntarar/Sundarar

The Bhagavata Purans

The Nayanars/Nayanmars

Ramprasad Sen

Campantar/Sambandar

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to Topic

www.bhagavad-gita.us/chapter-summaries-of-the-bhagavad-gita/

http://www.hinduwebsite.com/devotion.asp

http://www.krishna.com/karma-jnana-and-bhakti-yoga

http://www.indianetzone.com/1/bhakti_yoga.htm

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2002-12-14/edit-page/27319455_1_astanga-bhakti-yoga-yogic

 

Article written by: Andrew Gunderson (March 2013) who is solely responsible for its content.

 

Jnana Yoga

Jnana Yoga is one of the methods for attaining liberation and union with God, prescribed by the incarnate god Krsna to his friend and disciple Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. Jnana Yoga literally means “the path of union through knowledge (Prabhavananda 124).

The Bhagavad Gita (often shortened to the “Gita”) is a highly influential text embedded in the Mahabharata epic. It begins with the armies of the Pandavas and the Kauruvas assembled and ready for battle. The Pandava warrior Arjuna asks his friend and charioteer Krsna to drive between the armies so that he may survey his enemies before the battle commences. Arjuna sees among the rival army his friends, teachers, and other kin and is faced with a severe crisis, caught between his dharma (duty) as a ksatriya to fight and his wish to not harm his those he cares for (Theodore 27). Krsna chastises Arjuna, reminding him of his duty, and telling him that he should not grieve for those who will die, since only the body dies, not the soul which is eternal (Theodore 30). Arjuna remains uncertain and asks Krsna to become his guru and instruct him on how he should properly act (Theodore 29). What follows is a conversation between Krsna and Arjuna on such spiritual topics as the nature of the soul, reality, God, and the attainment of moksa (liberation), which occupies the remainder of the Gita.

During the course of the discussion, Jnana Yoga is described as a method for attaining spiritual liberation, along with Karma Yoga (the path of action), Bhakti Yoga (the path of devotion or love), as well as Raja Yoga (the path of meditation) (Prabhavananda 124). Jnana Yoga emphasizes focused contemplation, the object of which is the Divine (Theodore 106). The Jnana Yoga practitioner (jnani) must become adept at discriminating between the real and unreal. Our experiences and perceptions are impermanent and fleeting, having both beginning and end. The only abiding reality is that of Brahman (Absolute Reality), which is equated with the Atman, the Supreme Self (Prabhavananda 125). Krsna discusses what he terms “the Field” and “the Knower of the Field”. The “Field” includes the body, senses, and mind/ego. The knower of the field is the true Self, the Atman (Theodore 104). The jnani learns the true self through relentlessly analyzing, separating and distinguishing the elements that make up reality (Torwesten 90). Jnana Yoga is fundamentally the practise of proclaiming neti, neti (not this, not this), a concept seen in the Upanisads: the jnani comes to realize the true Self by defining what it is not, specifically the body, mind, senses, and any object or experience (“the Field”) (Prabhavananda 125).

As the jnani strips away these false notions of self, through self discipline he should restrain his senses and withdraw from the sensual world, likened to a tortoise withdrawing its limbs into its shell (Theodore 37). Having so withdrawn, the desire for sensual pleasures will remain; however, once the jnani attains a vision of the Supreme, this desire will disappear (Theodore 37). The jnani should become detached and indifferent to the world. Krsna describes the ideal sage as such:

One not agitated despite all kinds of distress, whose apsiration for happiness is gone, and who is devoid of pass, fear and anger…He who is not attracted to anything, and having attained this or that, good or bad, does not rejoice but is not averse either – his wisdom is firmly established (Bhagavad Gita 2.55-57).

Thus the jnani must strive to become indifferent to good and evil deeds, to all desires, to pleasure and pain. Instead, he attains the greatest happiness in the Self (Prabhavananda 125).

The end goal of all of the Yogas is the attainment of moksa, or liberation. Moksa is freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth, samsara (Theodore 3). When the yogi has realized Brahman and is fully absorbed in it, meditating on Brahman at the time of his death, he will be liberated from the endless cycle of samsara:

He who leaves the body while pronouncing the single syllable which is Brahman, the Om, while meditating on me, reaches the supreme goal. O Partha, I am easily reached by the yogi who always remembers me, is constantly and fully absorbed in me, and is thus ever yoked. Having come to me, these great souls do not undergo rebirth into that transient abode of misery, as they have attained the highest perfection (Bhagavad Gita 8.13-15).

Despite its emphasis of renunciation, practising Jnana Yoga does not necessarily mean withdrawing from all actions in life. Krsna advocates employing the methods of Karma Yoga even as one follows the Jnana path (Theodore 42). Under Karma Yoga, actions adhering to dharma (rituals, sacrifice, etc) are still performed, but are done without attachment to the fruits of their outcomes (Theodore 34). Indeed, Krsna repeatedly proclaims that while both Jnana and Karma Yoga lead to liberation, Karma Yoga is the preferable path: “Both relinquishing activity and yogic activity lead to the highest good, but of the two, karma yoga or yogic action exceeds renouncing altogether” (Bhagavad Gita 5.2). This is because the renunciation of worldly existence in Jnana Yoga is difficult to achieve without the support of Karma Yoga, as it requires the maintenance of a negative attitude of aversion which actually keeps the mind focused on the world (Theodore 55). This can lead to increased attachment to the world, hindering the development of true indifference (Theodore 55). Instead, through practising selfless action devoted only to Brahman, the yogi develops a sense of inner satisfaction which makes the attainment of true detachment much easier (Theodore 57). Furthermore, while the jnani should practise asceticism, extreme austerities are to be avoided according to Krsna:

The hearts of those who practise dreadful austerities not ordained by the scriptures, are filled with hypocrisy and egotism as they are motivated by lust and attachment. Those fools, who torture the aggregate of elements in their bodies as well as me, who dwell therein, know them to have a demonic resolution (Bhagavad Gita 17.5-6).

Instead, moderation in sleep, drinking, eating, and recreational activities is advocated in pursuit of the Jnana Yoga path (Prabhavananda 128).

Most of the ideas in the Gita and the practises of Jnana Yoga are substantially similar to those found in other Hindu schools of thought. Many of the verses about Jnana Yoga are taken directly from some of the middle and later Upanisads, including the Mundaka, Katha, and Svetasvartara Upanisad (Torwesten 89). The concepts of Brahman, the Atman, and the attainment of moksa are rooted in the Upanisadic tradition (Prahavananda 55). The Upanisads say that in order to realize Brahman/Atman and attain moksa, one must first renounce all selfish desires, with all thoughts of the individual self snuffed out by the oneness of Brahman, the same as the detachment advocated in the Gita (Prahavananda 65).

Elements from the Sankhya philosophy are also used extensively for the division and analysis of reality featured in Jnana Yoga. The Sankhya dualism of Purusa and Prakriti, supreme consciousness and material nature, are mirrored in the Gita conception of “The Field” and “The Knower of the Field” (Torwesten 90). The Gita also discusses at length the three gunas which make up Prakriti, specifically tamas (darkness, dullness, inertia), rajas (ego-driven activity), and sattva (lumosity, purity) (Torwesten 91).

Advaita Vedanta, one of the major schools of Hindu philosophy, advocates the practise of Jnana Yoga in order to achieve moksa (Deutsch 104). Advaita Vedanta outlines four general qualifications to be fulfilled by one seeking liberation, as well as three stages they must pass through: first, the aspirant must be able to discern what is real from what is only apparently real. Second, he requires a complete disregard and indifference toward sensual pleasure and petty desires, willingly giving up all that which distracts him and prevents his attainment of self-knowledge. Third, he must cultivate self-control (dama), endurance (titiksa), dispassion (uparati), mental tranquility (sama), intentness of mind (samadhana), and faith (sraddha). Fourth, he requires complete dedication to his quest for true understanding, focusing all his desire upon it alone (Deutsch 105).

The first general stage for the Advaita jnani is known as sravana (“hearing”), which involves the study of advaitic texts, listening to sages, studying the mahavakyas (great sayings) of the Vedas and thinking on their true meaning. This stage provides a framework which can be used for interpretation of the aspiring jnani’s own experiences (Deutsch 106). The next stage is known as manana (“thinking”), which involves prolonged self reflection, incorporating the advaita philosophical principals into himself. Facilitated by a guru, the jnani aspirant learns about the nature of Brahman, and how to discriminate between the different levels of reality (Deutsch 107). He must analyze the ways in which his knowledge of the world and of himself is constituted, realizing how he has falsely identified himself with mere partial expressions of his self (Deutsch 106-107). The final stage is nididhyasana (“constant meditation”). In this stage the jnani actively pursues self-realization, maintaining intense concentration upon his own self as Brahman (Deutsch 108). Detached from all egoism and distractions, he cuts away all lower level experiences and false identifications standing between him and the true Self (Deutsch 109-110). Upon the true realization that he is Brahman and Brahman is everything, the jnani achieves moksa, becoming a jivanmukta, one who is liberated while living (Deutsch 110).

A notable practitioner of Jnana Yoga was Ramana Maharsi (1879-1950). Born to a Brahmin family in South India, he was initially educated in Madurai, where he showed little interest in his studies or inclination toward spirituality (Sivaraman 362). A major transformation occurred when at seventeen he was suddenly struck with a petrifying fear of death. Rather than seek help, he decided to try and solve the problem himself: laying down and making himself stiff as a corpse, he contemplated his mortality. He realized that death only applied to the body and not the “I” within. Ramana lost all fear of death then and became engrossed in contemplation of the Self (Sivaraman 363). Subsequently a major change in Ramana’s behaviour was noticed by his brother: he had become totally indifferent to the world as a renouncer would (Sivaraman 363). Following his realization he left his home and travelled to Tiruvannamalai, taking residence in a cave on the sacred hill Arunachala where he remained for 16 years (Rodrigues 250). Ramana is considered to have achieved a state of sahaja-samadhi (effortless absorption) in the Self (Sivaraman 363). Being acquainted with neither the teachings of the Upanisads or Advaita, he was nonetheless able to independently attain the highest goal of those traditions (Sivaraman 364).

Ramana believed reality to be one and non-dual, regardless of the term used (eg. Brahman, Atman, etc). He used the Tamil term ullatu (“that which is”) to describe this singular principle of reality (Sivaraman 365). The perception of reality as a plurality of entities (eg God, man, and the world) was due to action of the mind or ego. When the ego ceases to function, the oneness of reality becomes evident (Sivaraman 366). Ramana advocated self-inquiry as the most direct means to ceasing the action of the mind/ego, relentlessly asking “Who am I?”, leading one to the source of the “I”, revealing the true Self (Sivaraman 371-72). This approach is different from introspection, where one takes stock of the contents of the mind, nor is it psychoanalysis, wherein the consciousness and unconsciousness are examined. The goal is instead to transcend the mind and discover its source (Sivaraman 374).

While Ramana thought self-inquiry was the most direct path to liberation, he acknowledged other methods as valid as well. Realizing that the same method may not work for everyone, he advocated paths such as Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, or Raja Yoga (Sivaraman 375). Ramana also did not think that living as a renouncer required giving up all of the activities of life. Rather, if these activities are performed with detachment, he believed that a householder could be considered a renouncer (Sivaraman 375). By following the path to enlightenment, Ramana believed that realization of the Self and liberation can be achieved here and now in life. Further, he believed the path of liberation is open to all, regardless of caste, class, race, or sex (Sivaraman 377).

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Bhaktivedanta, Swami (1968) The Bhagavad Gita As It Is. New York: The Macmillan Company.

Deutsch, Eliot (1969) Advaita Vedanta: A Philosophical Reconstruction. Honolulu: East-West Center Press.

Prabhavananda, Swami (1979) The Spiritual Heritage of India. Hollywood: Vedanta Press.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2006) Hinduism – The E-book. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online, Ltd.

Sivaraman, Krishna (1989) Hindu Spirituality: Vedas through Vedanta. New York: The     Crossroad Publishing Company.

Theodore, Ithalmar (2010) Exploring the Bhagavad Gita: Philosophy, Structure, and Meaning.     Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited

Torwesten, Hans (1991) Vedanta: Heart of Hinduism. New York: Grove Press Inc.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Karma Yoga

Bhakti Yoga

Raja Yoga

The Bhagavad Gita

The Mahabharata

Moksa

Samsara

Krsna

Visnu

Arjuna

Advaita Vedanta

The Upanisads

Atman

Brahman

Samnyasa

Sankhya

Ramana Maharsi

Swami Vivekananda

Sankara

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jnana_yoga

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advaita_Vedanta

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhagavad_Gita

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga

http://www.sivananda.org/teachings/fourpaths.html#jnana

http://www.dlshq.org/teachings/jnanayoga.htm

http://www.bhagavad-gita.org/index-english.html

http://www.bhagavad-gita.us/

http://www.asitis.com/

http://www.vedantaadvaita.org/

 

Article written by: Gordon Logie (April 2013) who is solely responsible for its content.

Bhisma

Bhisma was the ‘grandfather’ of the Kauravas and the Pandavas in the great Hindu epic The Mahabharata. He was a well-known and respected ksatriya and ascetic who on his deathbed taught lessons of dharma. Bhisma was regarded as the mortal form of one of the eight gods called Vasus. In the epic, these gods offended the sage Vasistha, who in turn cursed them to be re-incarnated on earth (Brodbeck and Black 183). There were several versions of what the Vasus did to incur this curse; Mother of Bhisma, the river goddess Ganga’s version was that Vasistha had a superior cow and the eight Vasus stole this cow and its calf, while the Vasus’ own version portrays them much more innocently and only states that they offended him in some way (Brodbeck 158). Also in Ganga’s version Dyaus, the ringleader of the Vasus and of the cow thievery, must survive because he was cursed specifically, but in the Vasus version all eight were cursed equally. In Ganga’s version she requested that one son survive, and the Vasus agreed only if he be childless; this eighth son, Dyaus, is Bhisma. The father of Bhisma and his seven brothers was king Samtanu, who was the reincarnation of the earthly king Mahabhisa. Mahabhisa’s virtues and dharmic life secured him a spot in heaven, but once there his audacious display of feelings toward the Goddess Ganga caused Brahma to sentence him to another life as a mortal on earth, and he was reborn as Samtanu. Meanwhile the eight Vasus approached the Goddess Ganga and urged her to embrace an earthly incarnation as their mother, with Samtanu as the father. Ganga was pleased to have a chance to continue the love between her and Samtanu that had begun in heaven, and so she agreed (Brodbeck and Black 183).

Once on Earth Samtanu met Ganga, they fell in love and he proposed to her. Ganga accepted only on the condition that no matter what she did, even if it displeased king Samtanu, she must never be stopped, questioned, or spoken to harshly. If Samtanu followed this prenuptial agreement, they would live in happiness, but if he broke the agreement she would forsake him and leave. Samtanu agreed to these prenuptial stipulations and the couple gave birth to seven sons, each of which Ganga immediately drowned. In keeping with his previous agreement Samtanu said nothing to Ganga about her murder of their sons, until she tried to drown their eighth son, when he finally spoke against her in the hopes of saving this son. Because Samtanu had now broken their prenuptial agreement, Ganga told him that she was leaving him and taking their eighth son with her, but that she would return him to Samtanu later; she also explained the curse upon the eight Vasus and why she had to drown each of their previous sons (Brodbeck 158).

Years passed and Bhisma returned to his father, who wished to be remarried to Satyavati, daughter of the king of the fisherfolk. Satyavati’s father refused to allow their marriage, because no matter how many children they produced together, Bhisma, or his children, would always be rightful heirs to the throne. In order to enable his father to remarry, Bhisma gave up his right to the throne and vowed to be celibate, meaning he would never succeed to the throne and he would never have any children who would one day do likewise (Hill 199). This oath is the reason for his name, Bhisma, which means ‘he of the terrible oath’. One good thing that came from this oath was that it so impressed the gods that they granted Bhisma the boon that he would be able to choose his own death. This gave him some power over his own life and also served to make him an unparalleled warrior, as he could not be killed.

Samtanu and Satyavati had two sons, the first, Citrangada died young, and so the second son, Vicitravirya became king. Bhisma abducted 3 Kasi princesses, Amba, Ambika and Ambalika, as wives for his brother, from an svayamvara hosted by the king of Kasi. Amba begged Bhisma to let her go back, as she was in love with another man, Salva, and Bhisma listened to her pleas and let her go. She soon discovered though that Salva would not have her back, as she could be impure from spending time with another man (Brodbeck and Black, 20). She returned to Bhisma and asked to either marry him or his brother, but he refused (Brodbeck and Black 204-205). According to Amba, Bhisma had ruined her life by spoiling her marital prospects and she vowed to exact revenge on him. For fourteen years the princess performed austerities to the gods until she was granted a boon, for which she chose Bhisma’s defeat. Siva swore that she would be reborn as a great warrior in the house of Drupada and would destroy Bhisma in battle. Amba then gathered firewood, made a giant pyre and committed suicide by stepping into it, saying “For Bhisma’s death” (Hill 160).

Seven years later King Vicitravirya died without fathering any sons between his two wives, Ambika and Ambalika. Bhisma should have been the one to inseminate his half brothers widows, so as to carry on their patrilineage, but he refused because of his vow of celibacy. At this time Satyavati revealed that she had a premarital son, Vyasa, and he was called upon to inseminate Victravirya’s widows, and the resulting children and grandchildren were the Kauravas and the Pandavas, and this is how, although celibate, Bhisma is referred to and known as the grandfather or grandsire of the Kauravas and Pandavas (Brodbeck 167).

Years later, the Kauravas and the Pandavas waged war over which side of the family were the rightful rulers of the kingdom. In this war, the great battle at Kurukshetra, Bhisma fought on the side of the Kauravas. For ten days Bhisma commanded the Kauravas forces, slaughtering many. Krsna stated that it was Arjuna who should fulfill the task of killing Bhisma (Hill 145), but because Bhisma was an unparalleled warrior and could choose the time of his own death this was an impossible task. At this point Yudhisthira remembered that Bhisma had sworn to reveal to the Pandavas how he could be killed when the chosen time for his death arrived. And so the Pandavas and Krsna went to Bhisma and were instructed to have Arjuna attack him from behind Sikhandin, because Bhisma would not attack a woman (Brodbeck and Black 193). After her death Amba, who had sworn revenge on Bhisma for kidnapping her, was reborn as the female Sikhandin to Drupada, but with the help of a yaksa she became a male, while the yaksa became female, but they would switch back upon Sikhandin’s death (Brodbeck and Black 217). Together Arjuna and Sikhandin would attack Bhisma. Because Bhisma knew that Sikhandin was in essence a woman, he laid down his arms and Arjuna and Sikhandin both skewered him with arrows (Brodbeck and Black 218).

After being pierced with arrows, Bhisma laid on a veritable bed of arrows, as he was skewered with so many arrows that not one part of his body touched the ground, and for many weeks he spoke and gave lessons on dharma, until choosing to die on the winter solstice, long after the great Bharata war ended (Brodbeck and Black, 190). During this time Bhisma gave lessons on things such as gift giving to cleanse the soul of sin (Hill 54-55), dharma and kinship (Hill 115) and lessons on the evils of time, and the expiation of sin (Hill 217). Finally when he was done dispensing his dharmic teachings, Bhisma engaged in yoga and released each limb of his body, freeing them of arrows and healing them. Once his entire body had been freed his soul split through his head and rose into the sky, and thus Bhisma chose his own death (Brodbeck and Black 190).

Today in modern Hindu society, Bhisma is celebrated on “the eighth lunar day of the light half of magha” (Verma 73), which falls either in January or February. This is regarded as the day on which Bhisma chose to die, and on which his soul journeyed up through the sky and into heaven. Since Bhisma did not marry or have any sons it is the Hindu duty to consider oneself as his great great grandchildren and to offer him oblations and libations on this day. An sraddha is performed and barley, sesame, flowers and gangajal are offered to Bhisma. Devotion to Bhisma on this day is said to guarantee successful progeny (Verma 73).

 

References

Black, Brian and Brodbeck, Simon (2007) Gender and Narrative in the Mahabharata. Oxon: Routledge.

Brodbeck, Simon Pearse (2009) The Mahabharata Patriline. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Ganguli, Kisari Mohan (1990) The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa Vol V Bhishma Parva. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.

Hill, Peter (2001) Fate, Predestination and Human Action in the Mahabharata: A Study in the History of Ideas. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.

Verma, Manish (2007) Fasts and Festivals of India. New Delhi: Diamond Pocket Books (P) Ltd.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

The Mahabharata

Pandavas

Kauravas

Amba/Sikhandin

Arjuna

Krsna

Kurukshetra

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhishma

http://www.mythfolklore.net/india/encyclopedia/bhishma.htm

 

Article written by Megan Perin, March 2013, who is solely responsible for its content.

The Relationship of Arjuna and Krsna

Arjuna and Krsna have what is described as a perfect warrior-friend relationship

(Katz 82). There are also many hints of the relationship being described as representing a great friendship between a man and god, as Krsna is Visnu, a god incarnate and Arjuna is a man. It is represented in many different stories throughout the Mahabharata. This relationship starts out as one of family members (cousins), both princes from neighbouring lands. It continues throughout the massive epic to grow and change as the two men grow and learn how to deal with life’s lessons and how to be dharmic in every scenario. Learning from one another as much as learning with one another. This is shown particularly in the stories of The Burning of the Khandava Forest, as well as the Great War of Kurukshetra. It is also well represented within the smaller appearances of Krsna in the lives of the Pandavas and Arjunas throughout the Mahabharata. The relationship of the two men grows through the devotion and loyalty shown by Arjuna and it is ultimately the saviour of the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra war (Katz 239-248).

The relationship starts out in the beginning of the Mahabharata with the birth of Arjuna, the son of the god Indra. Spoken by a figureless voice, comparisons between Arjuna to the god Visnu are made (Katz 29). The bodiless voice states that in one way or another Arjuna will bring as much joy to his mother as Visnu brought to his (Katz 29). This early comparison of the god and the man already foreshadows some of the experiences to be had by Arjuna and Krsna later on in the epic. It brings forth the idea that the two men really complete one another and are destined to be brought together in life. The symbolism of the ying and the yang is sometimes used to represent the friendship between these two men (Katz 83). Not that one is either the ying or the yang but that they both complete each other and make full contributions to the relationship (Katz 83). They are even referred to as the two Krsnas in some versions of the Mahabharata, the common meaning being that the two are so completely in sync with one another they are simply one and the same mind but two beings (Bryant 25).

The two men’s bond grows even stronger when Arjuna takes Krsna’s sister, Subhadra, as his wife. He first asks Krsna what his thoughts are on this idea of marriage to his sister and

Krsna approves right away exclaiming that Arjuna is the perfect match for his sister (Katz 63). Arjuna then sneaks into the kingdom where the princess lives and he causes her to fall in love with him. He then abducts the princess causing anger and an uproar within Krsna’s family. Krsna then speaks to his family in favour of the union between Arjuna and Subhadra and convinced his family that his sister’s marriage to Arjuna is not only a good thing but that Arjuna is the most suitable match for Subhadra (Katz 63). This shows a preference for Krsna’s friendship with Arjuna over that of his family’s wishes. It shows a strong commitment to a friendship in choosing Arjuna over his family. After this union of families Krsna and Arjuna are now brothers-in-law. This only strengthens their friendship as they are even closer relatives now; it also draws a parallel to them being actual brothers and therefore causing them to share an incredibly tight bond. They celebrate their new found brotherhood by going out to play in the water of a river, and so begins the story of The burning of the Khandava Forest.

In this story the two men show the reciprocity of their respect for one another and the equality of their relationship by teaming up and defeating gods and animals. This story starts out with the two, now brothers, running into the fire god Agni, who is hungry and asks to be fed. The two men comply with his requests and decide to burn down the entire forest and all the creatures within it (Rajagoplachari 41). According to C. Rajagoplachari editor of Mahabharata 6th ed. this story can be thought of as a connection of the two men’s souls as the growth of their friendship causes them to act as one/two people with one mind. It is about two men who are about to prove themselves to their fathers, themselves and their worlds (Rajagoplachari 79). This defeat of gods and father gives the description of the two men being outside of society’s judgments, as they are going against most of the lessons taught throughout the Mahabharata and killing the entire forest, alive with animals and plants (Rajagoplachari 79). This new opposing lesson causes reader/listeners to draw out the idea that these men must both have a deeper understanding of dharma and how to uphold it (Katz 79). Another similarity taken from this story would be that the two men know how to complement one another and by doing so how to fight off other warriors sufficiently. In the end of the story the men are granted a favour from the god Indra, who has now been defeated by Arjuna, a proven man to his father (the god Indra). Krsna chooses to remain close companions with Arjuna for all his life as his wish (Katz 82). This is an incredible request that lets us see the true companionship that Krsna feels with Arjuna and not just the devotion that is normally shown of Arjuna toward Krsna.

Part of the closeness between Arjuna and Krsna can be seen in its opposing relationship, between Krsna and Duryodhana. At one point Krsna goes to Duryodhana and shows him a truth. Much the same as when he shows Arjuna his true identity as the god Visnu in the story of the Bhagavad Gita. When Krsna does this Duryodhana, unlike Arjuna, denies Krsna’s truth and even threatens him (Katz 234). This little side story to the Mahabharata only accents the commitment and devotion that Arjuna holds for Krsna (Katz 234). The devotion that is shown by Arjuna for Krsna is a model throughout the Mahabharata. It shows up in many of Arjuna’s actions and words. For example when Arjuna stands at the foot of Krsna’s bed instead of the head, where Duryodhana stands, this shows Arjuna to be a humble man who is attached to the idea of Krsna as a great alliance rather than simply a strong weapon.

There are also references to the relationship between the gods, Indra and Visnu. Indra who is Arjuna’s father and Visnu, who is Krsna, represent fathers to both the men. The two gods have a friendship themselves and the friendship between Arjuna and Krsna hints at the same friendship as the one shared between the two father gods (Katz 83). This is an interesting side note as it leads to the idea of a strong eternal friendship between two equals.

Right after the Pandavas are exiled for thirteen years by Duryodhana they begin their journey into the forest. Krsna, hearing of their exile, rushes out to say goodbye to them and to see them off. He finds the Pandavas and appears to them in the forest. He comforts them, especially Draupadi, who is upset over her disrobing scene. He then assures vengeance on the Kauravas, then says goodbye and is on his way. This may represent the idea that god is always with you/always finds you (Mahabharata 54).

Before the great war of Kurukshetra, Arjuna and his cousin Duryodhana race to Krsnas kingdom in efforts of recruiting him for either side of the war. Krsna then gives Arjuna the choice of either using Krsna’s army for the war or Krsna himself as an advisor. Arjuna chooses Krsna as his advisor and chariot driver. In choosing Krsna as his advisor, Arjuna shows his loyalty and support in his friendship with Krsna.

At some points it is said that Arjuna is Krsna’s companion and in others it is said that Krsna is Arjunas companion (Katz 82). This friendship grows out of its equality, stability and emotional support on both sides. It is Krsna’s duty to guide Arjuna through life and keep him on the path of his dharmic duties (Bryant 8). Sometimes Krsna is needed to show Arjuna the path of dharma and this is what he does through some of the stories in the Mahabharata (Katz 83).
This way of the dharmic path Krsna shows to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita when he tells Arjuna what to do in the war in many different scenarios that make the dharmic path confusing even for such a man as Arjuna, son of a god, with such intensity, that of a true warrior (Rosen 12). This need for a teacher as well as another warrior that Arjuna possesses is a common theme throughout this history of literature as well as human life. It shows up in almost all aspects of his life, when he needs someone to help him convince people of things, or when he needs another set of hands to defeat enemies. He also needed a teacher to help him with his duties in his life as a warrior. The theme of the warrior friendship seems to hold common place among many stories throughout history [e.g., Patroklos and Achilles (Katz 82)]. Most often the friendships have a bit of a hero complex, meaning that one man is greater than the other, or is seen as more important than the other (Katz 82). It represents a relationship with god himself and how humans should treat god and be treated by god. It is seen as the perfect friendship with complete trust, enlightenment, teaching and support (Katz 82). The devotion of Arjuna to Krsna is spoken about in Arjuna and the Mahabharata by Katz. She writes about how Arjunas’ devotion to Krsna is what makes him the best of all his brothers (Katz 233). It is the extra characteristic he holds that completes him as a perfect being. As well as this unconditional devotion to Krsna shows him to be representing of the warrior class and their specific dharma (Katz 235).

The idea to take away from Arjuna and Krsna’s relationship in this myth would be that god is one’s true companion in whom rests a perfect relationship (Katz 83). The Mahabharata is a story told that portrays a friendship between two men. One who represents the great hero who is a perfect student and is in search of the truth (Katz 15); the other who portrays an advisor, seen as god or a more aware/enlightened version of the first man (Katz 15). When put together these two men makeup a great team, which seems to represent god and man working together as one. Together the two of them are unbeatable and working as equals who are supportive and respectful of one another, it is the perfect relationship between two people-god and man.

 

References and Further Recommended Readings

Bryant, Edwin F. (2007) Krishna: A Sourcebook. Oxford University Press.

Hiltebeitel, Alf (1990) The ritual of Battle: Krishna in the Mahabharata. State University of New York Press.

Katz, Ruth Cecily (198) Arjuna in the Mahabharata: Where Krishna is, there is Victory. University of South Carolina Press.

Prabhupada, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (1970) Krsna: The Supreme Personality of Godhead. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.

Rajagopalachari, C. (1950) Mahabharata 6th ed. New Delhi: Hindustan Times.

Rosen, Steven (2007) Krishna’s Song: A New Look at the Bhagavad Gita. London: Praegers Publishers.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Duryodana and Krsna’s relationship

The meaning of Krsna’s instructions

The Dharma of Krsna

Krsna as a trickster

 

Noteworthy websites

 

http://www.hinduhumanrights.info/why-did-krishna-choose-arjuna-instead-of-karna-drona-o-bhishma/

http://krishna.org/arjuna-is-krishnas-friend-eternally/

http://www.krishna.com/dharma-bhagavad-gita

 

 

Article written by Jolene Anderson (April 2013) who is solely responsible for its content.

 

 

Bhakti

Bhakti as a Word

The term bhakti describes loving devotion as a means of Hindu worship (Singh D 31). Record of its earliest use is found in the Rg Veda, a collection of hymns composed during early Vedic times. The word originates from the root word bhaj, a term generally known to mean “loving involvements” amongst many things—people, people and their possessions, and people and their gods. There was no initial distinction (Novetzke 258). It was only later that the word bhakti came to mean a devoted love between a worshipper and their gods and as such became associated with the secular word for love (prema) also called the “soul of bhakti”. Prema then evolved into param prema, a “higher love” (Singh R 225). Although found in the Rg Veda, bhakti, used in its evolved form, was first discovered in an early Buddhist text known as the Ther­agatha in the 4th century BCE. It was used in relation to the Buddha (Novetzke 259).

Bhakti as a Concept

The Bhagavad Gita, or Gita, also found in the Vedas, is one of the key texts that help explain bhakti. The main Vedic gods worshipped during those early times were Narayana, Hari, and Visnu. The term bhakti merely meant adoration until the personal worship of these gods came to the forefront. Then “for the first time sanction was given to this system of bhakti as an alternative means of moksha” (Singh D 28). Rituals, which had previously been the only prescribed way and had been performed in conjunction with priests, gave way to a more intimate connection between the gods and humans. These rituals involved temple visits, the chanting of mantras and of a god’s name, and the “surrender of the soul” (Singh D 28). The gods themselves were not remote or removed from the world; they frequently interacted with it. The Rg Veda referred to them as “father, mother, brother, relation, honored guest,” implying a sense of companionship between the worshippers and their gods (Singh R 223).

Meditation during these times became an important means of achieving bhakti. There was movement away from outward actions to inner introspection. While there was no mention of love yet, these self-examinations were meant to draw worshippers closer to their gods. “Self-surrender, self-control, contentment, and non-attachment,” were key goals, flourishing alongside the new idea of incarnation and the effect that one lifetime could potentially have on the ones to come (Singh D 29). It was during the period of Alvar saints, a group of saints who wrote songs and poems of their devotion to the gods, that bhakti became the only way to find moksa (liberation), with prescriptions such as song and dance also becoming prominent. No longer was the mere act of temple sacrifice and interactions with the priesthoods enough. Hindu worshippers all agreed that bhakti had become a matter of love. The Bhagavata Purana, as written by the Alvar saints, contained nine ways to worship, and in association with the Sandihya, another written work, proposed that worship was no longer something a worshipper had to do, but chose to do. It suggested that actions and knowledge could not accomplish bhakti because bhakti was not sraddha (belief); it was faith, which was far more superior (30).

Forms of Worship

Though worship had become an internal practice for Hindu worshippers, old and new rituals were still performed externally. Acts like going to the temple, fasting, practicing yoga, pilgrimages, decorating idols, and eating foods first consecrated by being offered to the gods, persisted. Two forms of yoga—karma yoga and jnana yoga—were prominent. Jnana yoga was “the gaining of cognitive knowledge of one’s separateness from Prakti and being an attribute of God,” where God was the all-encompassing word used to described all the gods in one, the Absolute God (Singh D 30). Other necessary acts included saying the name of the gods over and over again, reading sacred texts, and marking one’s body. Although the objective of worship remained undisputed, the mode of accomplishing it varied. There seemed to be two key movements operating at the same time, one that encouraged strict rituals and practices, and another that was more free-spirited. An example of this involves two popular systems at the time—Vallabha and Chaitanya. While Vallabha insisted on the formalities of praise and worship, Chaitanya encouraged a more unrestricted approach of “fervent singing and ecstatic dancing…swoon[ing] under the intensity of [one’s] emotion”. For Chaitanya, devoted worship between a human and a god bore great similarity to the intimacy in a marriage (Singh D 31). On the other hand a saint named Shankaradeva likened it to a relationship between a sisya (student) and guru (master). So within the broad concept of bhakti, there were several components that did not always agree. Still, the notions of bhakti spread to all areas of Hindu tradition, especially music and literature (Singh R 226).

Bhakti as a Liberator

During the initial introduction of bhakti, it was a form of worship prescribed only to the upper classes. The lower classes could only perform prapatti. The usual dividers based on castes, races, gender, were still in place. However, because it was considered to be an internal form of worship, once bhakti was popular, priests and their rules became less important. The inability to read or lack of access to a formal education did not limit anyone. Women could also participate in a way that they had never been permitted to before. In other words there was a new sense of freedom and a rebellion against the old ways. Devotion to the gods was something that everybody could do (Singh D 28). The Alvars, who were believed to be direct descendants of Visnu and whose words were considered divine, belonged to upper and lower castes themselves (Aleaz 451).

As for the case of spiritual liberation, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism all maintain a similar belief regarding love. According to these sects, love, faith and immortality go hand in hand. Once the first two are achieved, true contentment is found. There can be no fear of death. According to Raj Singh in the article titled Eastern Concepts of Love:

The ultimate urge in love is the urge for immortality, that is an escape from mortality or bland ordinariness of maya (illusory, worldly) existence. The drive in love is one that seeks and obtains an elevation from a lower, matter of course existence toward a higher, more fulfilling state. Moments of love let one abide in immortality. Love is therefore fundamentally of the nature of immortality (Singh R 226).

Many Hindus believe that bhakti is much more important than action and jnana (knowledge), and it is not limited to those who are educated or born into upper castes. The key reason for this is that “love is its own reward. Action and knowledge aim at something other than themselves, but only love aims at itself. Love wants basically (more) love” (Singh R 227). The act of seeking out those things—action and jnana, which together form karma—will often involve goals and motivations that are displeasing to the gods, such as egoism. The practice of bhakti however requires no other action other than the word itself and the will to accomplish it (227).

 

 

REFERENCES AND RECOMMENDED READING

Aleaz, K. P (2006) “Bhakti Tradition of Vaisnava Alvars and Theology of Religions.” Asia Journal Of Theology. Vol. 20, No 2: 451-454.

Eck, Diana L & Mallison, Francoise (1991) Devotion divine : Bhakti traditions from the regions of India. Paris: Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient.

Lamb, R (2008) “Devotion, Renunciation, and Rebirth in the Ramananda Sampraday.” Cross Currents. Vol. 57, No 4: 578-590.

Novetzke, C (2007) “Bhakti and Its Public.” International Journal Of Hindu Studies. Vol. 11, No 3: 255-272.

Orr, L. C (2002) “The Embodiment of Bhaki (Book).” Journal Of Religion. Vol. 82, No 1: 156.

Pillai, A (1990) “The Bhakti tradition in Hinduism, Bhakti yoga : an overview.” Journal Of Dharma. Vol. 15, No 3: 223-231.

Prentiss, Karen Pechilis (2000) The Embodiment of Bhakti. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sharma, Krishna (1987) Bhakti and the Bhakti movement: a new perspective : a study in the history of ideas. New Delhi : Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers.

Singh, D (1991) “The essentials of Sikh bhakti and Hindu bhakti.” Dialogue & Alliance. Vol. 5, No 3: 21-35.

Singh, R (2005) “Eastern Concepts of Love: A Philosophical Reading of ‘Narada Bhakti Sutra’.” Asian Philosophy. Vol. 15, No 3: 221-229

 

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Mukti

Moksa

Alvars

Gnana yoga

Padma-Purana

Sadhans

Sakhaya

Bhagvad gita

Vallabha Charaya

Chaitanya

Vaiswa bhakti

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.sanatansociety.org/yoga_and_meditation/bhakti_yoga.htm

http://hinduism.about.com/od/thegita/a/gitabhakti.htm

http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/concepts/bhakti.asp

http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_2/bhakti_or_devotion.htm

http://www.kamakoti.org/acall/ac-bhakti.html

Article written by Ruth Dada (March 2013) who is solely responsible for its content.

Arjuna

ARJUNA

The Warrior Son

Arjuna is a key characters in the Hindu epic, The Mahabharata, a collection of over 88 000 verses, and the longest epic in any language (Hodgkinson 8). The third of five Pandava brothers, Arjuna is described as a master ambidextrous archer, who is also highly skilled in the usage of other weapons, enabling him to earn the title of Maharathi, or outstanding warrior (Menon 2006a: 117).  Arjuna’s skill in warfare plays a pivotal role in the civil war being fought between two royal branches, the Pandavas, and their cousins, the Kauravas, where he single handedly kills many powerful warriors fighting for the opposing side.  Famously, Arjuna faces a moral dilemma over killing his kin before a great battle starts, and his resultant dialogue with Lord Krsna, his charioteer, who tries to convince him to fight, forms the subject of the Bhagavad Gita (The Song of the Lord) (Rodrigues, 233-234).
Due to a curse placed on King Pandu, he could not have sexual relations with either of his wives.  To ensure the king had an heir, his wife, Kunti, made use of a boon she had been granted that allowed her to beget a child by any deity she chose.  The third, and last child Kunti bore was Arjuna, begotten by the god Indra [Indra, in Hinduism, is the king of heavenly gods] (Hopkins 122).

Growing up, Arjuna is described by the epic as the most adept warrior among the five Pandava brothers.  Of all the other Pandava brothers, and the hundred Kauravas, Arjuna was the great warrior Drona’s most diligent student.  One Mahabharata story recounts an archery practice where Drona instructed each boy to aim at a wooden bird in a tree.  As each boy aimed, Drona asked him what he saw. After each boy had described the bird, tree, and landscape beyond, Drona told him to lower his bow.  Only when Arjuna replied to Drona’s question that he only saw the bird’s eye, was he allowed to shoot the target (Menon 2006a: 118-119).  This story highlights the importance of focus, and how focused Arjuna was as a student. Another example of Arjuna’s dedication to learning was his discovery that his brother Bhima ate at night as well as he did in the day. Since Bhima was so good at eating, this gave Arjuna the idea to practice archery in the dark, to become more skilled (Menon 2006a: 116). As a further advantage to his skill at archery, Arjuna gained the celestial bow Gandiva by assisting Agni in the burning of the forest Khandava (Menon 2006a: 302).
Arjuna used his skill with his bow to win the hand of Drapaudi at her swayamvara, by shooting a spinning wooden fish in the eye while only looking at it in a reflective pool. Together with his brothers, he married Drapaudi as a common wife (Rodrigues 231).  As a rule, when one of the brothers was alone with Drapaudi, the penalty for interrupting was a 12 yearlong exile.  When news of trouble among his subjects came, Arjuna realized he had left his weapons in the room that Drapaudi was occupying with one of his brothers.  So great was his sense of duty, that he obtained his weapons, defended his subjects, and voluntarily went on his exile immediately after (Menon 2006a: 259-260).  During this exile, Arjuna married many more wives to strengthen his family’s kingdom. Of his many wives, the four most important were Drapaudi, Chitrangada, Ulupi, and Krsna’s sister, Subhadra.  Arjuna fathered Abhimanyu with Subhadra.
In The Mahabharata, the eldest Kauravas, and rival of Yudhisthira for the throne, Duryodhana, challenged Yudhisthira to a game of dice. Yudhisthira had a weak spot for gambling, and it is said that due to Duryodhana’s treachery he lost everything he possessed, including his kingdom, his brothers, and Drapaudi.  After the results of the gambling were declared void by the king, due to the humiliation of Drapaudi, Yudhisthira agreed to one final game of dice in which the wager was 12 years in exile, followed by a year that the exiled must stay disguised, or else face another 12 year exile. Yudhisthira lost, and the five Pandavas and Drapaudi were exiled (Williams 31).
During his second 12 years in exile, Arjuna left his brothers and wife and went on a pilgrimage to the Himalayas to win favour with the gods and to gain celestial weapons to use in the unavoidable war against the Kauravas at the end of the exile.  In the Himalayas, he fought against Siva, who had disguised himself as a Kirata, (mountaineer).  Soon after the fight began, Arjuna found himself disarmed and overcome by his opponent, and ashamed of his defeat, started to worship Siva and ask for forgiveness  (Menon 2006a: 448).  For this devotion, Siva gave Arjuna Pasupata, his most powerful weapon, and restored his bruised body to even greater strength than before (Menon 2006a: 449). After his fight with Siva, Arjuna was taken into heaven by his father, Indra, and lived among the gods for many years (Menon 2006a: 459). After impressing the gods Indra, Varuna, Yama, and Kubera, each presented him with unique celestial weapons (Hopkins 149).
While in Indra’s court, the celestial nymph Urvashi fell in love with Arjuna, but cursed him to live life with impotence when he rejected her. Indra later influenced Urvashi to change the duration of the curse to one year. In the last year of exile, Arjuna uses the curse to his advantage and disguised himself as a eunuch, acting as the master of dance and music under Raja Virata (Bae 145).  At the end of the year, he helped Raja Virata defeat a Kaurava army, resulting in the marriage between Abhimanyu and Virata’s daughter, Uttara (Menon 2006a: 679).
With the terms of their exile completed, the Pandavas looked to the Kauravas for their rightful half of the kingdom.  Duryodhana refused them, and even refuses to give them five villages to live in, causing war to break out (Rodrigues 233).  The two armies gathered on the plains of Kuruksetra. Before the battle, Arjuna approached Krsna for help, where Krsna gave him an ultimatum. Choosing between having Krsna on his side, or his army, Arjuna chose to have Krsna as his charioteer and allowed Krsna’s armies to fight for the Kauravas, as Krsna had loyalties to both sides (Hodgkinson 9). It is here, with Krsna on his chariot, lining up for the battle, that Arjuna faces the terrible grief of the moral dilemma that is in front of him. Before him he sees many familiar faces in the opposing lines and realizes that the battle would result in him killing kin, and great teachers, such as Bhishma and Drona. Just as he is about to give up, to Arjuna’s surprise, Krsna revealed himself as a god, and revealed the subject matter that makes up the Bhagavad Gita in an effort to convince Arjuna to fight (Hiltebeitel 110). Krsna teaches Arjuna the whole philosophy of the Vedic tradition (Hodgkinson 10). Krsna teaches in gentle tones and exposes many types of yoga, and teaches to focus on upholding righteousness without consideration of personal loss, consequences and rewards, and that duty supersedes any other pursuit.  Krsna finally convinces Arjuna to fight by telling him that killing his kin doesn’t matter because, “by my hand these men are slain already” (Segal 170). From this point on, Arjuna becomes a devoted student and subject to Lord Krsna (Segal 171).
The battle at Kuruksetra is fought for eighteen days, and Arjuna defeats many warriors. The fifth day sees Arjuna singlehandedly killing thousands of Kaurava warriors (Rosen 94). On the tenth day he mortally wounded Bhishma; he defeated Susarman and his four brothers on the twelfth day, but also lost his son Abhimanyu (Rosen 95). He killed Jayadratha with a celestial arrow on the fourteenth day (Rosen 97).  On the seventeenth day, Arjuna dishonorably killed his nemesis, and maternal half brother, Karna, by shooting him with an arrow while his chariot was stuck in the mud (Rosen 98). By the end of the eighteenth day, only the five Pandava brothers, Krsna, and one other survive, ending the war with the Pandavas as victors (Hodgkinson 10).
Victorious, the Pandavas rule over Hastinapura, the devastated home of their ancestors.  The sage Vyasa reconciles the Pandavas and the Kauravas.  Yudhisthira rules as king and Arjuna protects the horse from his Asvamedha (horse sacrifice) as it roams the kingdoms (Menon 2006b: 505).  During these roamings, Arjuna conquered many kingdoms for his brother [See Arjuna on Wikipedia for general list of conquered kingdoms]. When the earthly form of Krsna decides to leave the world, the Pandava brothers decide to follow him.  In their old age, they make a final pilgrimage to the Himalayas to reach heaven, and along the journey they die, one by one (Hodgkinson 10). According to The Mahabharata, Arjuna is defeated by supporters of the Kauravas, the Abhiras, and dies.
In Hindu culture, Arjuna is one of the most popular heroes in The Mahabharata.  The Bhagavad Gita is a very popular portion of The Mahabharata as well, and it goes in depth into the character of Arjuna.  The popularity of Arjuna in Epic mythology stems from his exciting mastery of weaponry, his supernatural survivals in battle, and the depiction of his exciting life.  Furthermore, Arjuna is the model of the perfect student, is idyllically dedicated to God, and puts duty above all else, making him a popular role model. Arjuna is often used as a teaching tool for human character development in young Hindus.  The story of Arjuna is relatable to many other characters in epic works, as he stands as the typical reluctant hero, who initially tries to avoid his duty, but eventually performs his task with bravado (Segal 168).

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Bae, James (2003) In a World of Gods and Goddesses: The Mystic Art of Indra Sharma. Novato: Mandala Publishing.

Carriere, Jean-Claude (1987) The Mahabharata. New York: Harper & Row Publishers.

Framarin, Christopher (2007) “Good and Bad Desires: Implications of the Dialogue between Krsna and Arjuna.” International Journal of Hindu Studies, Vol. 11, No. 2: 147-170.

Ganguli, Kisari (1896) The Mahabharata. Calcutta: Bharata Press.

Hiltebeitel, Alf (1976) The Ritual of Battle: Krishna in the Mahabharata. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Hodgkinson, Brian (2003) The Bhagavad Gita: a verse translation. Delhi: Books For All.

Hopkins, Washburn (1969) Epic Mythology. New York: Biblo and Tannen Booksellers and Publishers, Inc.

Hudson, Dennis (1996) “Arjuna’s Sin: Thoughts on the Bhagavad-Gita in its Epic Context.” Journal of Vaishnava Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1: 65-85.

Katz, Ruth (1989) Arjuna in the Mahabharata: Where Krishna is, There is Victory. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.

Menon, Ramesh (2006a) The Mahabharata: A Modern Rendering, Volume 1. Lincoln: iUniverse, Inc.

Menon, Ramesh (2006b) The Mahabharata: A Modern Rendering, Volume 2. Lincoln: iUniverse, Inc.

Rosen, Steven (2006) Essential Hinduism. Westport: Praeger Publishers.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2006) Hinduism – The Ebook: An online introduction. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, Ltd.

Segal, Robert (2000) Hero Myths: A Reader. Maiden: Blackwell Publishers.

Smith, John (2009) The Mahabharata. Toronto: Penguin Classics.

Theosophical Publishing (2005) The Weakness of Arjuna. Whitefish: Kessinger Publishing.

Williams, David (1991) Peter Brook and the Mahabharata. London: Taylor & Francis.

RELATED TOPICS FOR FURTHER INVESTIGATION

Drona
Bhishma
Vyasa
Abhiras
Indra
Kauravas
Pandavas
Jayadratha
Virata
Maharathi
Varuna
Yama
Kubera
Kunti
Drapaudi
Heroism in Hinduism
NOTEWORTHY WEBSITES RELATED TO THE TOPIC

http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/concepts/arjuna.asp

http://www.mahavidya.ca/the-epics/the-mahabharata/

http://www.mahavidya.ca/the-bhagavad-gita/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arjuna

http://www.worldwideashram.org/html_files/age-of-heroes-india.html

http://www.naqt.com/YouGottaKnow/hindu-heroes.html

Article written by: Dennis Van Hell (March/April 2012) who is solely responsible for its content.

Nakula in the Mahabharata

NAKULA IN THE MAHABHARATA

 

Nakula and his twin brother Sahadeva were the youngest of the five Pandava brothers. The twins were born to mother Madri, the second wife of King Pandu, but mythologically Nakula and Sahadeva were the sons of the Aswins, the god-twins (see Wilkins 414-415). Due to a curse, King Pandu could not produce heirs with his wives, so he encouraged them to invoke a special mantra that allowed them to have children with the gods of their choice. With the mantra, Madri “thought of the twin Aswins, who coming to her with speed begat upon her two sons (Ganguli Vol 1: 260),” named Nakula and Sahadeva. Kunti, King Pandu’s first wife had three children by the gods, the oldest was Yudisthira son of the god Dharma, and then came Bhima from the wind god and last was Arjuna from Indra, the god of thunder (see Rodrigues 229).

The story of Nakula and his family is articulated in one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the Mahabharata. The Mahabharata tells the tale of the power struggle over the kingdom of Hastinapura between the descendants of King Pandu (the Pandavas) and those of his blind brother Dhrtarastra (the Kauravas). Although Nakula does not play a primary role in this epic, as one of the Pandavas he is instrumental in helping his brother king Yudisthira regain dominion over the Hastinapura kingdom. Throughout the Mahabharata Nakula is described as being “unrivalled on earth for personal beauty” (Ganguli Vol. 1: 260), an excellent swordsman, loyal to his brothers, a great car-warrior, intelligent, and most prominently, skilled in caring for horses. During the Pandavas’ thirteenth year of exile, Nakula interviewing for a job with King Virata, described himself as being highly knowledgeable about breaking horses, their temperaments, as well as knowing “how to correct vicious horses and all the methods of treating their diseases” (Ganguli Vol. 4: 20).

Nakula, along with his brothers and the Kauravas were all trained by the skillful teacher Drona, where “the twins (Nakula and Sahadeva) excelled everybody in handling the sword” (Ganguli Vol. 1: 282). Although Nakula used many weapons, he is said to have favored the sword because “a hero armed with the sword can, single handed, withstand many bowmen and many antagonists armed with maces and darts” (Ganguli Vol.8: 361). The Kauravas and the Pandavas were constantly fighting and tensions were exacerbated after King Pandu, as a result of his curse dies and Nakula’s mother, Madri performs sati.  The blind Dhrtarastra steps up as king of Hastinapura and the Pandavas, escaping a death trap set by the eldest son of Dhrtarastra, Duryodhana, go to live in the forest (see Rodrigues 230).

While living in the forest, the Pandavas attend the swayamvara of Princess Draupadi, and the skilled warrior, Arjuna wins her hand in marriage. Draupadi agrees to marry all five of the Pandavas and would later give birth to five sons, “all of whom were heroes of the foremost rank and immovable in battle like the hills” (Ganguli Vol. 1: 432), which was evident in Nakula’s son Satanika. Satanika played a helpful role in the great war between the Pandavas and Kauravas, he was even described as being “that crusher of foes” (Ganguli Vol.6: 217). Nakula also had another son “named Niramitra born to his second wife, Karenumati” (Williams 218), who was the daughter of the king of Chedi.

After returning to Hastinapura to make peace with their uncle, Dhrtarastra decided to give the Pandavas the territory of Indraprastha, which was densely forested and of no use to the king. One of Nakula’s greatest individual feats was the conquest of the western territory of Indraprastha, “the direction that had once been subjugated by Vasudeva” (Ganguli Vol. 2: 66), and was “presided over by the god Varuna” (Ganguli Vol. 2: 66).  On his quest, Nakula first conquered the mountain country of Rohitaka, then Sairishaka the desert country and had a dangerous encounter with the sage Akrosa. Among some of the powerful tribes subjugated by Nakula were “the Dasarnas, the Sivis, the Trigartas, the Amvashtas, the Malavas, the five tribes of the Karnatas, and those twice born classes that were called the Madhyamakeyas and Vattadhanas” (Ganguli Vol. 2: 66-67), as well as the tribes along the sea shore and living on fisheries. Also Nakula was welcomed by his uncle Salya in the west and took from him enough treasure to fill the backs of ten thousand camels.

After seeing how the Pandavas “transformed the harsh land of Indraprastha into a wealthy kingdom” (Rodrigues 231), Duryodhana, filled with jealousy, devised a plan to take the kingdom away from the Pandavas. Knowing that King Yudhisthira was both addicted and terrible at gambling, Duryodhana challenged him to a game of dice, in which Yudhisthira lost his kingdom, possessions, brothers and his wife. The terms of the final game of dice dictated that the loser would have to surrender their kingdom and go into exile for thirteen years; with the last year being of non-discovery on punishment of repeating the entire period of exile. Yudhisthira lost this round of dice as well, and true to his character Nakula, as well as the other Pandavas and Draupadi accompanied their eldest brother into exile (see Rodrigues 231-232).

Whilst in exile, the Pandavas were not only faced with difficulty and privation but also had many adventures along the way. One such adventure occurs when the brothers, exhausted after unsuccessfully hunting deer, sent Nakula to fetch water from a nearby lake. Before Nakula could drink from the lake, he heard the voice of Yaksha telling him to answer questions before quenching his thirst. The thirsty Nakula however could not resist the crystal clear lake and he “dropped down dead” (Ganguli Vol. 3: 601). King Yudhisthira then sent Sahadeva followed by Bhima and Arjuna who all meet the same fate before he himself ventured over to the lake. Yudhisthira successfully answerd Yaksha’s questions, and as a reward he would revive one of the Pandava brothers. Wanting to be fair to both of his father’s wives, Yudhisthira chooses Nakula, son of Madri and impressed with the king’s dharmic choice, Yaksha, who was actually the god Dharma in disguise, revives all of the Pandavas.

In their thirteenth year of exile, the Pandavas under disguise resided in the kingdom of Virata, where Nakula was employed as keeper of the horses to the king. Nakula impressed king Virata “by showing him fleet and well-trained steeds that followed him wherever he went” (Ganguli Vol.4: 22). Later, at the close of the year of non-discovery Nakula with the Pandava brothers helped King Varata fight off an attack launched by Duryodhana on the kingdom. When Duryodhana refused to give the Pandavas “even five small villages” (Rodrigues 233), an eighteen day war between the Pandavas and Kauravas was initiated (see Williams 204-205).

Although Nakula was not the most prominent hero in this war, he did play a key role in many battles during its course. It was said that Nakula, remembering his years of exile would “vomit the poison of his wrath like an angry snake, down their very lives” (Ganguli Vol.4: 112), and Dhrtarastra would regret going to war. During one battle Nakula and Sahadeva, “endued with great effulgence, became the protectors of Bhima’s wheels” (Ganguli Vol.5: 42) and Nakula faced many antagonists  including Dussasana, his uncle ruler of the Madras, Bhishma, Drona, Duryodhana, Karna and the warriors of Alayudha. Perhaps his main contribution in the war against the Kauravas, was Nakula’s battle against Karna’s sons. Nakula first encountered the son Chitrasena who possessed a near equal skill in battle. After a close back and forth combat, Nakula prevailed slaying Chitrasena and his brothers Sushena and Satyasena “rushed with speed against the son of Pandu like a couple of tigers” (Ganguli Vol.7: 24). Nakula was able to defeat both of Chritrasena’s brothers and “beholding the slaughter of Karna’s sons and the prowess of Nakula, thy army….fled away in fear” (Ganguli Vol.7: 26).

At the end of the eighteen days of war, the Pandavas emerged victorious and Yudhisthira was restored to his rightful place as king of Hastinapura. Nakula was appointed a military official with the duties of “keeping the register of the forces, for giving them food and pay and for supervising other affairs for the army” (Ganguli Vol.8: 85). King Yudhisthira additionally gave Durmarshana’s gold and gem-adorned palace to “Nakula who deserved it best and who had been emaciated (with the miseries of a life) in the great forest” (Ganguli Vol.8: 88).

After a long period of rule, Nakula accompanied his brothers in their journey towards the sacred mountain Meru, located in the north. The Pandavas entered a yogic state and like his brothers Sahadeva, Arjuna and Bhima, Nakula too fell to the ground (see O’Flaherty 53-54). Despite Nakula’s many virtues and dharmic actions, he falls from his yogic state because he “thought that there was nobody that equaled him in beauty of person” (Ganguli Vol.12: 28), and “what has been ordained for a person, must have to be endured by him” (Ganguli Vol.12: 28). In other words Nakula’s attitude towards himself as being the most beautiful was un-dharmic and as a consequence he was not accepted into heaven as was his dharmic brother Yudhisthira.

Although Nakula is not specifically worshipped within the Indian tradition, The Mahabharata is celebrated and remembered through the performance of Javanese shadow-puppet plays. Javanese shadow plays are “part of an oral tradition which has been transmitted from dhalang (puppeteer) to dhalang for centuries” (Sears 90), and are based on the characters and anecdotes of the great Hindu epics, The Ramayana and The Mahabharata. Throughout the epics themes of “courage, loyalty and integrity are implicit” (Knapp 48), and shadow plays attempt to convey these messages by attributing certain physical and moral qualities to each character. The costumes donned by the puppets also serve to enhance their character types, which further allows the audience to intimately know the characters and their personalities. Krsna for example may be portrayed with a black face, which represents for the Javanese “maturity, calm and virtue” (Knapp, 50), and are qualities that Krsna portrays in The Mahabharata; specifically in helping the Pandavas defeat the Kauravas. So although Javanese shadow-puppet plays are not particularly dedicated to Nakula, his personality traits and contributory role in The Mahabharata are remembered and preserved through these performances.

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Brodbeck, Simon P. (2009) The Mahabharata Patriline: Gender, Culture, and the Royal Hereditary. England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Embree, Ainslie T. (1966) Editor, The Hindu Tradition: Readings in Oriental Thought. New York: Random House, Inc.

Ganguli, Kisari M. (1970) Translator, The Mahabharata. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers PVT. Ltd. Vol. 1-12.

Knapp, B. (1984) Indonesian theater : a journal. Anima, 11(1), 47-61.

O’Flaherty Doniger, Wendy (1988) Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism. New Jersey: Barnes & Noble Books.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2007) Hinduism-the ebook. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books.

Sears, L.J. (1994) Rethinking Indian Influence in Javanese Shadow Theater Traditions. Comparative Drama, 28(1), 90-110.

Wilkins, W. J. (2009) Hindu Mythology. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd.

Williams, George M. (2003) Handbook of Hindu Mythology. California: ABC-Cilo, Inc.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Arjuna

Aswins

Bhima

Draupadi

Kauravas

King Pandu

Madri

Mahabharata

Pandavas

Sahadeva

Yudisthira

 

 

Noteworthy websites Related to the Topic

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nakula

http://www.mythfolklore.net/india/encyclopedia/nakula.htm

http://www.mythfolklore.net/india/encyclopedia/mahabharata.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahabharata

http://www.holybooks.com/mahabharata-all-volumes-in-12-pdf-files/

http://larryavisbrown.homestead.com/files/xeno.mahabsynop.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayang

Article written by: Kayla Plausteiner (Spring 2012) who is solely responsible for its content.