Category Archives: b. The Mahabharata

Duryodhana

The rivalry between cousins, the Pandavas and the Kauravas, is depicted in one of the longest documented Hindu epics, the Mahabharata. The author, “the sage Vyasa intended it to be a treatise on life itself, including religion and ethics (dharma sastra), polity and government (artha sastra), philosophy and the pursuit of salvation (moksa sastra)” (Narasimhan XIX). Duryodhana, being the eldest son of king Dhrtarastra and wife Gandhari and thus the eldest of the Kauravas, was regarded with great importance and plays a key role in the events that occurred in the Mahabharata. It is said that during Duryodhana’s time of birth bad ominous noises were heard from crows and beasts of prey. Seeing this Dhrtarastra’s brother Vidura and the present Brahmanas warned the king of his first born to be the exterminator of his race, hence needing to be abandoned. The strong emotions and love for his son forced the king not to adhere to the given advice (Narasimhan 19).

Caught of in the act of jealousy and hatred, Duryodhana hatched a plan of assassinating the Pandavas. Hastinapura’s king Dhrtarastra had convinced the Pandavas to visit the city of Varanavata for the festival of Pasupati (a festival for Siva). That’s when Duryodhana, along with close friend, Karna, and uncle, Sakuni, plotted to create a flammable palace in which the Pandavas would reside. All the arrangements were made and the Pandavas had reached the palace (Narasimhan 28). However, Pandavas brothers Yudhisthira and Bhima had been suspicious from the very beginning, thus not taking them long to figure out the true outcome of their trip. The Pandavas contacted their uncle, Vidura, who sent a close friend that would dig an underground tunnel for the Pandavas and their mother Kunti to use as an escape route during the fire. Duryodhana and his companions believed the Pandavas to be dead (Narasimhan 29). After some time, the Pandavas reencounter Duryodhana at Draupadi’s svayamvara where Arjuna won her as his wife.

Following a series of events in which the Pandavas were given half of the Kingdom, Duryodhana is invited to go to Indraprastha to attend Yudhisthira’s Rajasuya Yajna (an inauguration sacrifice performed by the king to become the emperor of the world). Duryodhana became mesmerized by the palace and had a hard time recognizing the Maya present. A representation of this is when Duryodhana lifted up his clothes to prevent them from getting wet while mistaking land for water and falling in puddles while believing that he was walking on land (Narasimhan 47). Draupadi, laughing and ridiculing him after the series of embarrassing moments, deeply hurt his ego (Mohan 167). “Symbolically when intellect begins to laugh at the failures of a wicked mid, the negative forces get angry. The evil forces never like to be openly observed and ridiculed. So they launch an all out offensive to get the intellect demanded” (Mohan 167).

Duryodhana’s self pride and ego did not let him live these incidents down. The embarrassment made him want to seize everything that Yudhisthira owned, including his property, kingdom, wealth, and pride. Duryodhana let his cunning uncle, Sakuni, create a master plan that would help him fulfill his wishes and take revenge on the Pandavas. Duryodhana and his companions, which included his younger brother Duhsasana, Sakuni, and Karna, planned to invite Yudhisthira to Hastinapura for a “friendly” game of dice, while being well aware of his natural inclination for gambling. “By cleverly suggesting that it is only a harmless pastime of the royalty, a game for the brave and finally prodding his vanity, Sakuni was able to make Yudhisthira agree to play the game. Consequently Yudhisthira loses everything, including his freedom to him self, his siblings, and worst of all, Draupadi also” (Mohan 172).

Soon after Duryodhana orders Duhsasana to bring Draupadi to the great hall. Duhsanana’s efforts of disrobing Draupadi in the middle of the hall were to vain because she prayed to Lord Krsna by repeatedly chanting the word/name Govinda. Individuals other than Duryodhana, Sakuni, Karna and the Kauravas in the great hall felt extreme remorse and pitied Draupadi (Narasimhan 53). Duryodhana invited Draupadi to sit on his lap by removing the cloth of his thigh. Responding to that Draupadi gave the whole Kuru clan a terrible oath, which terrified the kings present to such an extent that they had to offer the Pandavas their kingdom back. Sakuni’s sharp mind intrigued Yudhisthira into playing another game of dice that would direct the Pandavas to a 13-year exile into the forest. During this time period Duryodhana would be in charge of the kingdom and handling the responsibility of hunting the Pandavas in the 13th year (Mohan 172).

After the vain efforts of finding the Pandavas in their 13th year of exile Duryodhana refused to give them their half kingdom according to their deal. This ultimately destroyed any last chances of settlement and amendment. At this stage, war was inevitable (Duckworth 90). The following task for both groups was to retrieve as many allies as possible, for this both Duryodhana and Arjuna rushed to meet Krsna. Duryodhana reached before Arjuna and sat behind Krsna as he was sleeping. Arjuna, walking in later sat at Krsna’s feet. Waking up Krsna laid eyes on Arjuna first thus giving him the first choice on whether he would like to attain “his army of ten million gopas, each of whom is capable of slaying [him]” (Narasimhan 91). The other alternative was to choose Krsna himself, unarmed. “Arjuna unhesitatingly chose Krsna, who was not to fight the battle. And Duryodhana for his part choose the whole of that army” (Narasimhan 92).

During the war great warriors fell on either side. A time came when the Pandavas had to kill Duryodhana in order to win the war. Duryodhana seeing the empty battlefield filled decided to flee to a near by lake and use his power of wizardry to hide him self from the Pandavas. The Pandavas not being able to locate Duryodhana them selves sent out spies and quickly learned of his where about. Yudhisthira ultimately gave him an option to which he could still win the battle. All he would have to do is defeat one of the Pandavas brothers in a one on one battle with a weapon of his choice. Duryodhana chose to use the mace as his weapon and Bhima as his opponent (Narasimhan 171-172). “The duel then began. Duryodhana and Bhima fought like two bulls attacking each other with their horns. The clash of their maces produces loud peals like those of thunderbolts” (Narasimhan 172). The close battle worried Arjuna, he discussed the probability of Bhima winning with Krsna who stated that Bhima would not be able to win by battling fairly as Duryodhana is much more skilled than he is. Arjuna than striking his left signaled Bhima to hit Duryodhana below the belt (Narasimhan 172-173). “The mace, hurled by Bhima, broke the thighs of Duryodhana, and he fell down, so that the earth resounded” (Narasimhan 173). Balarama, Krsna’s elder brother, seeing the unfair attack approached the warriors and acknowledged Bhima as an unfair fighter and stated that the righteous Duryodhana will receive eternal blessedness (Narasimhan 173).

Later that night when the Pandavas were at peace and slept in their camps expecting no attacks form the opposition Asvatthaman promised Duryodhana to take revenge from the Pandavas by killing all of their remaining children. Duryodhana appointed Asvatthaman as the general for the remaining Kauravas army. Asvatthaman along with his companion slaughtered them that very night. Only one charioteer managed to escape and was able to report the incident to the Pandavas (Mehendale 3). Duryodhana was able to die with contentment; while the Pandavas felt like they had lost the war even thought they had won it (Mehendale 3).

This article was written by: Raina Sharma (Spring 2017), who is entirely responsible for its content.

References and related articles:

Mohan, S.Ram (2005) “Delineation of Evil in the “Mahabharata” and ‘the Gang of

Four'” Indian Literature 49, no. 1 (225): 162-72. 

MEHENDALE, M.A. (2000) “MESSAGE OF THE MAHĀBHĀRATA.” Bulletin of the Deccan College Research Institute 60/61: 3-13. Accessed March 28th, 2017

Narasimhan, C.V., and de Bary William Theodore. (1998) The Mahabharata: an English version based on selected verses. New York: Columbia University Press.

Duckworth, George E. (1961) “Turnus and Duryodhana.” Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 92 : 81-127. doi:10.2307/283804. Accessed Mrch 28th, 2017.

Mohanty, Prafulla Kumar. (2005) “The “Mahabharata”: A Reading in Political Structuring.” Indian Literature 49, no. 1 (225): 146-51

This article was written by Raina Sharma (Spring 2017), who is entirely responsible for its content.

Veda Vyasa, The Great Indian Sage

Vyasa was a central and admired figure of the Hindu Tradition. He was a famous Rsi in the longest epic (Rodrigues 177), The Mahabharata, and was also credited for the Epic (Rodrigues, 145).

Vyasa’s Birth and Family

According to the mythic sources, Vyasa was the son of Satyavati, the Daughter of a fisherman and Parashara who was a wandering sage. Satyavati used to row boats for passengers from one end of the shore to another. That was where Parashara and Satyavati met. Since Satyavati was the daughter of a fisherman, she smelled of fish hence Parashara gave her a boon that she would never smell like she had been around fishes ever again, she then gave birth to Krishna Dvaipayana on the shore of River Yamuna. At birth, he was given the name Krishna Dvaipayana (Ramesh 1-2). The name Krishna Dvaipayana came from his dark complexion meaning Krishna and Dvaipayana-came from the place he was born. He was born on the shore of Yamuna (which is a river in India) Dvipa (meaning island). He was married to the daughter of Rsi Jabali, named Vaachika. After marriage, he entered the stage of Grahasthashram and then fathered a son named Shuka.

Vyasa’s Achievements

According to legends, Veda Vyasa was the type of character that always had full loyalty and faith for the Vedas meaning he had Veda Niṣṭha. We know that he had full faith on the Vedas since at a very young age he had mastered Vedas as well as the Sastras, literature, mythology, history and other branches of knowledge. Another meaning of Nistha is steadiness, we see that he had steadiness in his life, he was always successful in what he wanted to do, we don’t see many obstacles coming in the way of his success in his lifetime. Later, then went on to Badarikashrama to perform ‘tapas’ meaning meditation. According to Vyasa, the Veda was not stabilized, since there was only one Veda, they weren’t separate at the time, it was hard for people to understand it due to which not many people would be able to read them. This caused the essence of the Veda to go down in society therefore the Veda was not stable. Vyasa wanted to restore Vedic Saahitya (literature) by doing the punar uddhar (revival) of the Vedas. To stabilize the Vedas, he decided to divide the Vedas into four sections. The Vedas were divided in such a way that all the hymns were grouped based on their requirements in the sacrificial rites. Each of the four Vedas were given to four different Rsis. Vyasa taught these four Vedas to his four disciples. Rg Veda was given to Paila Rsi, Atharva Veda was given to Sumanthu Rsi, Sama Veda was given to Jaimini Rsi and lastly Yajur Veda was given to Vaishampayana Rsi. As the Vedas were divided, the respective Rsis taught their part of the Vedas to their disciples who then passed down the knowledge to the society, and restoring the values and information of the Vedas among the society. It was easier to pass on the knowledge of the Vedas now since they were all divided (Sullivan 11-15). Two events took place after Vyasa had divided the Vedas. First was when he got the name Veda Vyasa; until then he was known as Krishna Dvaipayana. Second even was when Vyasa decided to write the Puranas. The Puranas were a way to spread the thoughts of the Vedas in the form of stories to the general people. Puranas contain stories about the Vedas for easier understanding, since the Vedas are too complex to understand by general people. There is a total of 18 Puranas, Vyasa did Sansodhana (research) and Adhyayana (study) in detail to achieve his goal. It takes such immense knowledge for a person to achieve so many achievements in life, like writing such great Epics that are still known till date. After writing the Puranas, he started writing the Brahma Sutra. The Brahma Sutra consists of four chapters, 16 Padas, and 555 Sutras. The Brahma Sutras are part of the Vedantas, which include Sankara’s Radical Non-dualism, Ramanujan’s Qualified Non-Dualism and Madhava’s dualism (Rodrigues 155-159).

It is said that Vyasa first composed the entire story of The Mahabharata in his head for years, after which he was encouraged by Lord Brahma that Vyasa should now write the story (Rodrigues 2016, 177). Vyasa asks Ganesha to aid him in writing the text, but Ganesha imposed a condition that he would do so only if Vyasa narrated the story without pause. Vyasa replied with a counter-condition, that Ganesha must understand the verse before he wrote it. Thus, Vyasa narrated the entire Mahabharata and all the Upanishads and the 18 Puranas, while Lord Ganesha wrote. At one point while writing, Ganesa ran out of ink, therefore he broke one of his tusk and continued writing The Mahabharata (Rodrigues 224). He had also composed the Great Bharata, which tells the story of Janamejaya’s, Pariksit’s son and Arjuna’s grandson. The book talked about Janamejaya’s ancestors, the descendants of King Bharata (Rodrigues 182).

What is The Mahabharata about?

The reason that The Mahabharata is a great epic is that it enlightens the 5 main aspects of human life, namely: psychology, sociology, economics, politics and philosophy. It also offers a vision on the four goals of life: Righteousness (Dharma), Wealth (Artha), Enjoyment (Kama) and Salvation (Moksa) (Ramesh 1). Vyasas way of representing these qualities to the society was through the characters of the Epic. The Mahabharata has characters such as Bhiṣma, Krṣṇa, Draupadi, The Paṇḍava and The Kaurava. Rsi Vyasa’s characters are said to be Padachyuta and Dhyeyachyuta. This means that none of them lost their focus from their goals. If we look at The Paṇḍava’s, their goal was to keep the kingdom of Hastinapura with the help of Dharma in place, whereas The Kaurava’s goal was to keep the kingdom of Hastinapura using Adharma. Even if all these characters were on opposite sides, they all stuck to their goals, no matter the situation and stayed focused on that goal. These characters teach us that we should stay focused to achieve our goal. They are the types of characters that even if death was headed their way, they stay focused and loyal to their beliefs. An example can be Abhimanyu (son of Arjuna). During the big Kuruketra war, there was a point that the Kauravas were planning an evil game to hurt the Paṇḍava’s, but despite no proper knowledge of how to escape the trap known as the ‘Chakra-Vyooha’ (Chaturvedi 5-6) which the Kauravas had set, he went into that trap and fought against all the evil until his last breath. He knew he was not coming out alive, before going in, but he still went in and fought for Dharma. All these characters make us feel like we can achieve something in life if we stay focused. They also show us the true meaning of Tyaga (sacrifice). The characters that were on the side of Dharma made many sacrifices to do the establishment of Dharma, no matter what the situation. These are the types of character that Vyasa gave us and through them we can learn many lessons in life. There is something to learn from every character despite them being evil or good and Dharmic (Righteous) or Adharmic (Non-Righteous), all characters were able to keep their goals through the Epic, this shows us their loyalty towards their goals and that they can go to any level to stay focused on their goals.

Vyasa’s involvement in Politics

In Ancient Indian Culture Legislation was in the hands of Rsi, and the execution was with the king. There are some examples from Vyasa’s life where we can see how he was related to politics.

One example was about the almost extinct Hastinapura kingdom. Satyavati (Vyasa’s mother) had two other sons Chitrangada and Vichitravirya. Vichitravirya was married to Ambika (had a maid named Parishrama) and Ambalika. Vichitravirya dies leaving the kingdom of Hastinapura without a heir. This was when Vyasa was called by Satyavati because at that time, if anyone other than the Rsi wife had a child with a Rsi, it was considered big. Vyasa decided to surrogately father the heirs of Hastinapura (Rodrigues 177). Vyasa visits the three queens of Vichitravirya. Since he was a Rsi, he had a beard, long hair with a bun on top. He was there to grant the three queens a boon so they can have children, and the boon was dependent on how the queens react when they see Vyasa. When the first queen Ambika saw Vyasa, she closed her eyes, which meant that her son was going to be born blind who came to be known as Dhritarastra, father of the Kauravas. Then, when the second queen Ambalika saw Vyasa, she got sick meaning her son would stay unfit for life; her son was Pandu, father of the Pandavas (Rodrigues 177). Since the two queens were not able to give birth to kids that will be very suitable for the throne, due to their disabilities, he decided to give a boon to Ambika’s maid as well. When Parishrama (the maid of Ambika) saw Vyasa, she didn’t react in a bad way, she was herself and gave birth to a son, Vidura, who was normal and was brilliant. However, he would never be considered to rule the throne since he was the son of a maid. This was the political step taken by Vyasa to save a dynasty from becoming extinct (Ramesh 3). With no descendant, there will be no king therefore Satyavati called Vyasa, even though he was a Rsi. Vidura, despite being a maid’s son, was honest and was against injustice. Therefore, according to Vyasa’s ‘political move’, Vidura was one of the ministers in the kingdom so he can give honest advice to the king. This shows his involvement in politics and since the legislation was in the hand of Vyasa he was authorized to punish the king, if king made any mistakes.

Another story about his involvement in politics was that when the Paṇḍava’s had grown up, he sent them to Drupada’s kingdom, where the swayamwara of Draupadi was going on (Rodrigues 179). His intention was that the Pandavas should have a wife like Draupadi who would be a great strength for the Paṇḍavas. He always wanted a powerful woman like Draupadi behind the Paṇḍavas, because she was the type of person who could stand up against injustice, as well as she was the daughter of the Agni. Draupadi was said to be the daughter of Lord Agni, since she came out of the fire pit. After Arjuna had won Draupadi in the swayamwara, Vyasa’s wanted Draupadi to be the wife of all five Paṇḍava’s, not just Arjuna’s wife. At a time when The Mahabharata took place, people thought what a female could not have more than one husband. But once Vyasa made the decision that Draupadi will have five husbands, no one had the audacity to say anything against Vyasa. He also wanted to keep all the brothers together, and so his strategy to make Draupadi the wife of the Pandavas was so that there will be no rift between them in the future. This incident shows us that Vyasa was given great respect from the people of the villages that they did not say anything about what he had done. Their culture did not allow such a practice, but their trust in Vyasa was so deep that they did not utter a word against him. This incident also shows Vyasa’s vision in favor of Dharma and the Pandavas, because if Draupadi was married to Pandavas her father kingdom will support Pandavas in the final battle for Dharma. Thus, by sending the Pandavas to the swayamwara, he had already played his ‘political move’ for the betterment of the Hastinapura kingdom, and the fact that he made Draupadi the wife of all the Pandavas would bring positive changes to the society where women will be given respect, not just considered lower than men, which is the M-1B state (Rodrigues 90).

The third example can be seen when the Pandavas were in exile for thirteen years, and in disguise for one year (Rodrigues 180). This was when Vyasa goes to give them a visit in the forest. When Vyasa paid the Pandavas a visit, he was furious at them for just sitting around, and not preparing for the future war of The Mahabharata in advance. Vyasa already knew there was going to be a war and to prepare the Pandavas he sent Arjuna to do Tapa (tenacity). This was his ‘political move’, by sending Arjuna to sit in meditation for Lord Siva, and by doing the meditation Arjuna would be able to impress Lord Siva, so when Arjuna impressed Siva, Siva gave Arjuna some Celestial weapons that would be useful for the war (Rodrigues 180).

What is the importance Guru Purnima and why is it celebrated?

This day dedicated to the great Sage Vyasa. A Guru is someone who removes our ignorance. The meaning of Guru comes from ‘Gu’ meaning ignorance and ‘Ru’ meaning remover of ignorance. Guru (teacher) Purṇima (full moon day) is also known as Vyasa Purnima because on that day Vyasa was born as well as he started writing the Brahma Sutras. Vyasa is considered as the original Guru of the Hindus. This festival is a symbol of the Guru and Sisya (student) relationship. Gurus are considered a link between the individual and the immortal. This festival falls in the Hindu month of Ashad (July-August). This is the day for the disciples to pay respect to their Gurus, since Gurus are given great importance in Hinduism. On this day, the disciples or devotees provide seva (service) to their Gurus which grants the disciples their Guru’s grace for their spiritual progress. If the Guru has passed away, then their portrait is worshipped instead. We pick our Guru based on their Gyan (knowledge) and Shraddha (faith) not the age. The word Upanishad also means sitting down with a Guru to gain knowledge. A famous philosopher Adi Sankaracharya has said that “If a person, despite possessing a disease-free body, fame, wealth, and studied the Vedas and Scriptures, and even if he wrote many scriptures, but has not surrendered himself to a Guru, then he would have achieved nothing” (Tumuluru 17-20). A Guru is someone who guides his disciple on the path of self-realization and strengthens their faith. On this day, Bhajans (songs for festivals and special occasions) and performances are organized by ashrams (hermitage). Kabir (Indian poet) said that “If we put God and Guru side by side, we have to pray the Guru first because he is the one through who you can realize God” (Tumuluru 17-20).

The study of the text the Guru Gita (Tumuluru 17-20) is recommended on this day as well as meditation at the Guru’s feet by waking up at 4am to obtain God’s grace. After waking up to do the meditation the devotees place flowers by the Guru’s picture and light a lamp, some may even keep moun (silence).

This day is observed by Monks when they give offerings to the Guru, they also start a four-month seclusion period (a four-month rainy season period) known as the Chatur Masa where they stay at a selected spot and have discourses. This is also an important day for Farmers because it marks the start of rainy season. This festival is also celebrated by Buddhists because it is the day that the Buddha gave his first sermon.

The best way to worship a Guru is to follow their teachings and do their seva by helping the Guru achieving their mission, by spreading the message of their teachings.

Bibliography:

Chaturvedi, B.K. (2002) Abhimanyu. New Delhi: Diamond Pocket Books (P) Ltd.

Ramesh, Sri B.G. (2012) Vyasa: Volume 3. Karnataka: Sapna Book House (P) Ltd.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2016) Hinduism—The Ebook. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, Ltd.

Sullivan, Bruce (1990) Krsna Dvaipayana Vyasa and the Mahabharata: A New Interpretation. Leiden: E.J.Brill.

Tumuluru, Kamal Kumar (2015) Hindu Prayers, Gods and Festivals. Haryana:Partridge Publishing India.

Related Research Topics for Veda Vyasa:

History and Family

Involvement in the Mahabharata

The types of characters he wrote about compared to Shakespeare

Guru Purnima

What kind of politics did Vyasa play throughout Mahabharata

His Achievements- Vedas, Puranas, and Brahma Sutras

Related Websites for the Topic:

http://hinduism.about.com/od/gurussaintsofthepast/fl/Maharshi-Veda-Vyasa.htm

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/Guru-Purnima-A-day-to-express-respect-gratitude/articleshow/14626193.cms

This article is written by: Aastha Patel (Spring 2017), and I am entirely responsible for the content.

The Savitri and Satyavat Myth

The myth of Savitri and Satyavat is the fictional love story of a Hindu wife following her husband through death and saving him with her great dharmic wisdom. The origin of the story dates back to the Mahabharata. The sage Vyasa had written the Mahabharata with the help of the god Ganesa to give to the world as a gift. Within Vyasa’s telling of the Mahabharata the ideology of dharmic character is clarified and expanded on through side stories such at Savitri and Satyavat. The Mahabharata tells the epic story of the Pandavas and the Kauravas were battling each other, and at one point, the Pandavas were exiled to live in the forest for 13 years. During this time, the brothers meet with the rishi Markandeya. The most dharmic brother, Yudhisthira, was lamenting the kidnapping of Draupadi, the Pandava’s wife, as she had been taken by Jaydratha (Anand 2). He asked the rishi if he had ever met a more dharmic woman than Draupadi. The rishi responded with the myth of Savitri and Satyavat, answering his question by telling of the most dharmic woman possible.

The king Asvapati of the land Mudra had no heirs. Worried that he would die before his bloodline would be carried on, he devoted himself to prayers and sacrifices, asking the gods for many sons. After eighteen years, the sun Goddess Savitri answered Asvapati’s hundred thousand hymns to her (Narayan 182). The goddess explained that although she knew he requested for many sons, she would instead bless him with a single daughter, for whom he should be grateful (Anand 3). Soon after, Asvapati’s eldest wife gave birth to a baby girl, whom he named Savitri after the goddess. When Savitri had grown up, her beauty was so astounding that suitors would not ask for her hand in marriage. When the king requested a reason, they responded she must be an incarnation of a goddess and could not be married. The princess Savitri then began a penance, as she waited for a proposal. However, none appeared. The king decided Savitri must be married, and came up with a plan for her to find a husband. Savitri was told to search for her own husband that was well suited and that was as good to her as she was to her father (Narayan 183). Savitri was unsure how to do so, but agreed to do his bidding. The king sent an assembly of his men to accompany his daughter who were under the order not to interfere with her decision.

A year later, she returned to her father who was with the heavenly sage Narada. Narada did not understand why she did not have a husband yet, but the king was ready to receive her answer. Savitri reported that she named Satyavat her husband [often called Satyavan]. Narada strongly advised against her decision. He explained that although Satyavat was perfectly suitable, he was cursed to die in exactly one year from that day. Asvapati tried to persuade his daughter to find another husband, but Savitri refused. Satyavat was her first and only choice for husband, and she would not choose again.

Satyavat was son of the exiled, blind king Dyumatsena, and he took care of him and his mother in their forest hermitage. Before the wedding, Asvapati asked the exiled king for his blessing on the marriage (Nadkarni 2012:np). Dyumatsena was hesitant but agreed. Once the blessing was given, Savitri married Satyavat and joined him in his forest home. Savitri was the ideal wife and daughter in-law, and brought joy to the household (Narayan 185). However, she always remembered the curse and silently counted down the days. When four days were left before the cursed day, Savitri began a triratra vow, a severe penance of fasting, praying, and standing, for three days and nights. Her parents in-law were worried for her and insisted she end this penance, but Savitri refused. On the fourth day, when Satyavat was to begin his daily journey into the forest, Savitri begged him to allow her to join him. Satyavat was hesitant but agreed only if Savitri gained approval from her in-laws. Asking her parents in-law, they granted her wish as Dyumatsena knew she had never asked for anything before (Narayan 186). Travelling deep into the forest, Satyavat was unaware of his fate, but Savitri could not focus on anything else (Narayan 186). As Satyavat was swinging the axe to cut trees, he suddenly felt fatigued. Savitri went to his aid and brought him to rest his head in her lap. She realized this must be the hour that Narada had foretold. Satyavat soon fell into a deep sleep. Savitri continued to hold him when a figure came to hover over them. As Savitri focused on this figure, she saw that it was the God of Death, Yama, coming to take Satyavat’s soul. Savitri rested Satyavat’s head on the ground, and rose to address the God of Death. Savitri asked the God why he himself had come (Dutt 423). Yama answered that because Satyavat was such a distinguished person, he wanted to honour Satyavat in his death by bringing him to death’s halls himself. Yama recognized Savitri as an auspicious wife with a rare gift of being extraordinarily sensitive. But unwavering, Yama continued to take Satyavat’s soul to his kingdom against Savitri’s requests.

However, Savitri had begun to follow him to the land of death, a place where she could not go. Yama tried to persuade her to turn back, but Savitri was refused, knowing that where her husband went, she went, as it was her dharmic duty as a wife to accompany her husband through life and death. Impressed by her knowledge of dharma, Yama told her to ask for any boon other than the life of her husband and he shall grant it (Nadkarni 2012:np). Savitri asked for the return of her father in-law’s sight. They continued their conversation and Yama is repeatedly impressed, granting 3 more boons. Savitri asked for Dyumatsena’s kingdom to be restored, her father to have a hundred noble sons and for a hundred sons for herself and Satyavat. Yama granted these, but then realized too late that for the final boon to be granted Satyavat must be returned to earth. Yama kept his word and gave his blessing and Satyavat’s soul back to Savitri to return to his body (Nadkarni 2012:np).

Restoring his soul to his body, Savitri and Satyavat hurried home to his parents’ hermitage as they were late to return. Dyumatsena, with his sight recently restored, and his wife were worried when Satyavat and Savitri had not returned at their normal time. Neighbours had come to comfort them. When Savitri and Satyavat finally arrived, a celebration was thrown in their honour. Questioned on their reason for such a late arrival, Savitri began her story of all the transpired events, beginning with Narada’s prophecy up until their return home. She explained in detail her interactions with Yama, the God of Death, and the boons he had granted her (Dutt 429). The next day, Dyumatsena was informed his enemy, who had seized the throne, had been killed by the hands of one of his own ministers. Dyumatsena was once again declared king of the Shalwa kingdom. Savitri and Satyavat had their 100 sons who were brave, noble, and never fled from war (Dutt 430). Asvapati was also blessed with 100 sons who kept his bloodline and lineage strong for generations.

Savitri is used as the example of the ideal Hindu wife; a woman who is willing to follow her husband through death and back. Savitri symbolizes the dharmic wisdom that overcomes death (Anand 2). The perfect wife is to maintain her position beside her husband for all of time. In each dharmic marriage the man has the responsibility to take care of his family in all the physical aspects of life, while the wife “embodies the power to sustain their existence” (Rodrigues 125). She must maintain this power by being as auspicious as possible, and by being loyal by following orders from her husband. This enhances her personal spiritual power, or sakti. Her whole family depends on this spiritual power for their survival. By having this power, she is responsible to take part in sati, the ritual where the wife is required to lie on her deceased husband’s pyre, showing that she is willing to die with him and to use her sakti to cleanse his soul in a spiritual sense (Pitchman 26). Savitri is the ideal wife because when she completed sati she brought Satyavat back to life with her, proving she was purely dharmic. Her higher understanding of the dharmic teaching and her commitment to Satyavat is what brought her husband back to life (Verma 67). As they are two parts of a whole, both the husband and wife rely on each other to live a dharmic life. Their devotion to each other, especially Savitri’s, deems her the ideal wife in Hindu culture.

REFERENCES AND RECOMMENDED READING

Anand, Subhash (1988) Savitri and Satyavat: A Contemporary Reading. Pune: Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute

Dutt, Manmatha Nath (1895) A Prose English Translation of the Mahabharata: (translated Literally from the Original Sanskrit Text). H.C. Dass.

Nadkarni, Mangesh V. (2012) Savitri-The Golden Bridge, The Wonderful Fire: An introduction to Sri Aurobindo’s epic. Auroville: Savitri Bhavan

Narayan, R. K. (1964) Gods, Demons, and Others. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press

Pintchman, Tracy (2011) Woman and Goddess in Hinduism: Reinterpretations and Re-envisionings. New York: Palgrave Macmillan

Rodrigues, Hillary (2016) Hinduism–The e-Book. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, Ltd.

Verma, K.D. (1977) Myth and Symbol in Aurobindo’s “Savitri”: A Revaluation. Michigan: Asian Studies Center, Michigan State University

Related Topics for Further Investigation

dharma

Draupadi

Ganesa

Kauravas

Mahabharata

Markandeya

Narada

Pandavas

sakti

sati

Sati

Vyasa

Yama

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

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

http://www.hindupedia.com/en/Aśvapati

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

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m03/index.htm

https://books.google.ca/books?id=wFtXBGNn0aUC&redir_esc=y

http://www.rsvidyapeetha.ac.in/mahabharatha/summary/eng/3.pdf

http://www.freeindia.org/biographies/vyasa/page10.htm

Article written by: Abby Neudorf (Spring 2017) who is solely responsible for its content.

Savitri and Satyavan

The Hindu myth of Savitri and Satyavan, found in the Mahabharata, is a tale of the love and devotion a Hindu wife was expected to have for her husband. In the Hindu tradition women are expected to show this devotion to their husbands above all else, and the tale of Savitri’s devotion is one of the most poignant and significant examples of this.

The story begins with Aswapati, a king, who was virtuous and lived what could be considered a perfect dharmic lifestyle. Despite this, Aswapati could not conceive a male heir; as he grew older this became more and more of a concern. After 18 years of a perfect dharmic lifestyle, including performing ten thousand oblations daily and reciting Mantras in honour of Savitri, Aswapati was visited by the goddess Savitri herself, who is also called Gayatri. Savitri could not grant him a son, but instead granted him a daughter, who the king named Savitri after the goddess. In some versions Savitri did not grant him the child herself, but informed Aswapati that Brahma was granting him a child (Sarma 329). Savitri grew up to become a beautiful woman, compared by the people to a goddess, and because of her intimidating beauty none would marry her. Aswapati sent her off in search of a husband, as none in his land would marry her. (Ganguli 570-571)

When she returned, she tells her father of another king, Dyumatsena. Dyumatsena was a wise, virtuous kshatriya king. Dyumatsena grew blind, and thus his kingdom was overthrown by an old enemy, ousting Dyumatsena and his family and forcing them into a hermitage. Dyumatsena’s only son, Satyavan, grew up in this state of hermitage. Savitri met the adult Satyavan, and chose him as the one she would marry. She praised his virtues to her father, listing his energy, wisdom, bravery, and forgiveness. She compared his noble attributes to those of various gods, to further emphasize just how perfect a match Satyavan was. Her father’s counselors, who accompanied Savitri on this journey supported her statements. The king asked his trusted advisor if this seemingly perfect youth had any defects, and it is revealed that Satyavan was to die exactly one year from this meeting. Aswapati urged Savitri to choose another, but she had already made up her mind and refused to change it, stating that she had already selected Satyavan and will not select again. The king relented on seeing the full extent of her devotion, and the two were wed. (Ganguli 572-574)

As the day of Satyavan’s death approached, Savitri offered prayers and ascetic observances for the three days prior to Satyavan’s preordained demise. Savitri and Satyavan went out in the woods on the day in question to pick fruits and cut down tree branches. Satyavan began to feel weak, and Savitri laid him on the ground with his head in her lap. The next moment, Yama, the god of death, appeared to Savitri. He had come to personally take Satyavan’s soul. He did so and departed, but Savitri proceeded to follow him out of her devotion to her husband. She spoke to Yama of Satyavan’s virtues, and he was impressed by her words and her devotion and granted her a boon, anything she wanted except Satyavan’s life. She requested that her father-in-law, Dyumatsena, regain his eyesight and his strength. Yama granted this, and continued on his way. Savitri followed him still, telling Yama more of Satyavan. Yama granted her a second boon, and she asked for Dyumatsena to regain his kingdom. She continued to follow him, this time speaking of mercy, and Yama granted her a third boon. She asked to beget children to continue her father’s line, and Yama granted her that she may have a hundred sons. She proceeded to speak about justice. Yama had heretofore been very impressed with Savitri’s devotion and extensive wisdom, and he granted her a fourth boon. She asked for a century of sons, begat by her and Satyavan, and Yama granted this before realizing the implication. He realized Savitri had tricked him and, impressed with her cunning, granted Satyavan’s life back, as she could not father sons with him if he was dead. This differs, as in some versions it is not by Savitri’s cunning, but by her continued devotion that she convinced Yama to give Satyavan back (Sarma 334). When Savitri and Satyavan returned, they found Dyumatsena’s eyesight and strength had returned, and he ascended once again to his rightful place at the head of his kingdom. Savitri and Satyavan had many children, and all was well (Ganguli 576-585).

Savitri’s devotion to her husband is the key theme of this myth. Even before they are married, she is unshakeable in her conviction to stand by Satyavan despite his impending death, and this devotion is what impresses her father so much that he allows the two to be wed. This is especially significant due to the inauspicious status of widows in the Hindu tradition, and the prohibition of remarriage (Rodrigues 127-128). She also shows devotion towards her husband’s family, who in the Hindu tradition essentially becomes her new primary family. Her requests of Yama to return her father-in-law’s sight, strength, and kingdom exemplify this ideal. Lastly, her devotion to Satyavan even in death is impressive. She follows Yama, death himself, and he grants her multiple divine boons, eventually even giving her Satyavan back. It is interesting to note however, that Savitri is not a helpless damsel following Yama because she is incapable of anything without her husband. If anything, after Satyavan’s death she shows her many other impressive characteristics in convincing Yama to bring Satyavan back.

The ideal of pativrata is described by Rodrigues as “ascetic dedication to [the woman’s] husband” (Rodrigues 124). It is the highest vrata, or ascetic observance, that Hindu women follow. The pativrata is closely related to sakti, spiritual power, and the husband was dependent on this spiritual power for his survival and strength. The story of Savitri exemplifies this, as Savitri’s devotion is very closely tied to her husband’s strength and survival, literally bringing him back from death. Savitri initially tries to prevent his death, performing vrata for three days just prior to the promised time. When this fails, she follows Yama, an extraordinary display of ascetic devotion, and her spirituality is a key factor in convincing Yama to bring Satyavan back.

Some scholars explore the similarities and differences between Savitri and Draupadi. Indeed, the entire reason this myth was told in the Mahabharata was in response to Yudhisthira asking if there had ever been a woman whose devotion matched Draupadi’s (Ganguli 570). Weiss looks at Savitri’s marriage as a sort of inversion of Draupadi’s. Savitri is an ascetic wife, while Draupadi is married to five men, both deviations from the Hindu norm. As Weiss states: “Savitri lowers her social status by an act that creates social discontinuity (ascetic practices terminate social lineage), and Draupadi limits the natural capacities of her husbands by marrying all of them.” (Weiss 268-269).  The feminist scholar Lohia gently criticizes Savitri in comparison to Draupadi, stating that loyalty was important, but only as a single aspect of a woman’s personality (Yadav 110). Ultimately, both women represent distinct aspects of the Hindu ideal.

The story of Savitri and Satyavan exemplifies Hindu ideals of a wife’s devotion to her husband. Savitri marries the man she chooses regardless of his impending death, and refuses to let him go. When he does die, it is her devotion and strength of character that brings him back to life. In my opinion, she epitomizes the ideal of pativrata, and is an example of how the Hindu epics teach how one should live through tales with simple moral principles.

Bibliography

Ganguli, Kisari Mohan (1990) The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa Vol.III (5th Edition). New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2016) Hinduism – The eBook. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, Ltd.

Sarma, Bharadvaja (2008) Vyasa’s Mahabaratam. Academic Publishers.

Weiss, Brad (1985) “Mediations in the Myth of Savitri.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion Vol. 53, No. 2: 259-270. www.jstor.org/stable/1464922

Yadav, Kumkum (2010) “Draupadi or Savitri: Lohia’s Feminist Reading Of Mythology.” Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 45, No. 48: 107–112. www.jstor.org/stable/25764190

Related Research Topics

pativrata

sakti

sati

Aswapati

Dyumatsena

Yama

Gayatri (goddess)

Brahma

Yudhisthira

Draupadi

Mahabharata

kshatriya

Related Websites

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

http://www.apamnapat.com/entities/Savitri.html

http://www.aaronshep.com/stories/006.html

http://www.kidsgen.com/fables_and_fairytales/indian_mythology_stories/satyavan_and_savitri.htm

This article was written by Thomas Hill (Spring 2017), who is entirely responsible for its content.


Bharata

Bharata was the second son of king Dasaratha of Ayodhya and his third wife kaikeyi. His mother was the daughter of Kekaya kingdom. During the naming ceremony, the spiritual guru Vasistha said, “the second son will sustain and support the universe and his name shall be Bharata” (Bhalla 38). Bharata is also considered to be one quarter of manifest Visnu. He was the husband of Mandavi, daughter of king Janaka’s brother kusadhvaja. They had two sons, Taksa and puskala(Poddar 2001).

When king Dasaratha decides to crown his elder son Rama, Kaikeyi asks for the two boons he owed her, fourteen-year exile for Rama and throne for Bharata. Bharata was away from Ayodhya when Rama went into exile. Bharata was at Kekaya, the kingdom of his maternal uncle and was unaware of the incident. Rama fulfills the promise and leaves Ayodhya accompanied by his wife Sita and brother Laksmana. The helpless king Dasaratha could not bear the separation from Rama and passes away. Bharata is called back to Ayodhya, but the cause is not revealed to him. He hurries to Ayodhya, ignorant of all that had taken place and enters the town. While coming back he felt the city very lifeless. “The brilliant gardens, where we heard the wild note of each rapturous bird, where men and women loved to meet, in pleasant shades, for past times sweets­­- These to my eyes this day appear joyless, and desolate and drear”(Griffith 179).

As soon as he reaches Ayodhya, he goes to the king’s palace to meet his father, but the king is not seen anywhere. He meets his mother Kaikeyi and asks about the whereabouts of his father. Kaikeyi, without realizing the misfortune that had fallen on her, explains to him in detail about what happened in his absence that led to the death of the king. With shock, Bharata gazes at her but does not utter a word. Kaikeyi tries to console him but it only adds fuel to fire and he burst out in anger. He even forgets that she is his mother and abuses her as a sinner, destroyer of the clan, one who waters the leaves after it has fell from the tree. ‘Flee, cruel, wicked, sinner, let not this kingdom harbor thee, thou who hast thrown all right aside, weep thou for me when I have died”(Griffith 182). He cried with anguish at the thought of his brother Rama, having to suffer so much on his account. Bharata, after performing his father’s funeral, declares his intention of bringing Rama back from the forest. Bharata reaches Chitrakuta and gives the unpleasant news of their father’s demise to Rama and Laksmana, and pleads with Rama to return to Ayodhya as emperor (Bhalla 104). However Rama declines on the grounds that such a deal would be unrighteous. Rama says, “here shall I live in all delight, make my ancestral fame brighter, tread in their path who walk a right, and to my oath adhere” (Griffith 203). Though heavily disappointed, Bharata comes back to Ayodhya and agreed to govern Ayodhya, not as its ruler but as Rama’s representative. The folks supports Bharata, as he became the king of Kosala and Ayodhya, but he himself placed Rama’s sandals at the foot of the royal throne. He neither sat upon the throne or crowned himself. Bharata’s reign was righteous and the kingdom was safe and prosperous, but he continuously longed for Rama’s return. During this period, he failed to forgive his mother Kaikeyi and faithfully served Kaushalya, Rama’s mother and Sumitra, laksmana’s mother.

After 14 years of exile when Rama returns to Ayodhya, he intended to crown Laksmana the yuvraja (crown prince), but laksmana remarked that Bharata’s excellent virtues and years of expertise, qualified him as the yuvraja. Therefore he was right away made Yuvaraja by Rama (Bhalla 2008) and Rama establish Ramrajya. When Rama decided to retire, both Bharata and Shatughana joined him. When Rama walked into the river Saryu, he transformed into his eternal and original Visnu form, Bharata and Shatrughana walked into the river also and united with him ( Griffith 522). Bharata total devotion to Rama and his unquestioned adoration are held as role models and shine like a beacon of ideal character, illuminating the path for those who follow.

 

Bibliography

Bhalla, Prem P (2009) The story of Shri Rama. Delhi: Peacock books.

Griffith, Ralph Thomas H (2008) Ramayana, translated in English. Canada: Project Gluenberg.

Poddar, H (2001) Balkand in Ramayana. Gorakhpur: Geeta press.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Rama

Sita

Kekaya

Yuvaraja

Ayodhya

Lakshmana

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/2016/aug/02/The-untold-story-of-Bharatha-in-Ramayana-1500786.html

http://www.exoticindiaart.com/article/bharata/

 

Article written by : Shambhavi kala(March 2017) who is solely responsible for its content.

The Myth of Nala and Damayanti

The myth of Nala and Damayanti is a story in the Vana Parva book of the Mahabharata. The epic is about the life of a couple who fall in love with each other. The main characters in the story are Nala, who is the king of Nishadha, Damayanti, the princess of Vidarbha, the demon Kali, and King Rituparna. Nala is a handsome, intelligent man with knowledge and expertise in horses and culinary skills. His one major weakness, that is at the root of his troubles in the story, is his addiction to gambling. Damayanti is the princess who fell in love with King Nala. she was a very attractive woman whom even gods wished to marry. She fell in love with Nala after hearing of his virtues from a golden swan before she had ever met him. On the night of her swayamvara (self-choice ceremony) the gods disguised themselves as Nala to try and fool her, but she saw right through them. Kali is a demon who tried to get chosen by Damayanti to be her husband. After Nala was chosen to be her husband Kali moved to his kingdom and waited for his time to get revenge (Pave 2). One day Nala forgot to cleanse himself before his prayers, causing him to become impure, and Kali took this perfect opportunity to bewitch the soul of Nala. King Rituparna, the king of Ayodhya, was the king who Nala went to after he was transformed into Bahuka, he was also a mathematician and a skilled dice player.

At the beginning of the epic, there is a Brahmin who enters Nala’s court to describe to him the beautiful princess of Vidarbha, Damayanti, with whom he fell in love with instantly. The next day, Nala catches a swan who begins to beg for freedom, the swan promises that if Nala allows him to be free, then he will talk to Damayanti on his behalf. Nala agrees and releases the swan so that Damayanti could know about all his great virtues. When the swan arrives in Vidarbha and begins to talk to Damayanti, she falls in love with Nala the same way Nala had fallen in love in with her. Although they had not met in person, they both loved the other person’s characteristics and virtues. The king of Vidarbha, Damayanti’s father, wanted his daughter to get married so that his kingdom would be secured; they planned a Swayamvara and sent messages to different kingdoms across the land. There were kings, princes, and even gods who came in the hopes of being picked to be Damayanti’s husband. The gods who came to this Swayamvara were Indra, Agni, Varuna, Yama, and the demon Kali. Damayanti chose Nala as her husband out of all the godly candidates.

After they were married, they moved to Nala’s kingdom of Nishadha, where they would rule for twelve years. Until the demon, Kali, who still bore a grudge against Nala for marrying Damayanti would take control of Nala and force him to play dice. Nala, who was being controlled by Kali, challenged his cousin Pushkara. Nala lost everything in the game which forced him and his wife into exile. Before they left for the forest, Damayanti sent their children to her father’s kingdom, along with some of Nala’s charioteers. Kali maintained control of Nala’s soul after him and his wife went into exile. After a few days, Kali convinced Nala to abandon his wife while she was asleep. Although Damayanti put a lot of effort towards finding her husband, she eventually stopped searching and took refuge in the kingdom of Chedi while she waited for Nala to come back. Nala, who was still under the control of Kali saved a serpent (Naga) named Karkotaka from a fire. The Naga bit Nala and injected him with deadly poison which tortured and forced Kali out of Nala’s body, the poison did not hurt Nala, although it twisted his image and transformed him into a dwarf. The serpent advised Nala to travel to king Rituparna for refuge, and to use the name Bahuka. Nala, who was now going by the name of Bahuka, listened to the serpent and traveled to the kingdom of Ayodhya, where he became a charioteer for the king.

Damayanti was found by one of her father’s charioteers and was brought back to her kingdom where her father forced her to do another Swayamvara. Letters were sent out to different kingdoms, and when king Rituparna got word that he was invited, there wasn’t enough time to travel to Vidarbha. Nala knew that with his chariot skills that he could make the trip in one day, so he convinces king Rituparna to allow him to be his charioteer. The king agreed and they start traveling to the Swayamvara. During the trip, the king asks Bahuka (Nala) what his secret was for being such a great charioteer. Nala made the deal that he would teach the king how to drive that fast and with that much control, on the condition that the king teaches him how to play dice. King Rituparna accepts the deal and by the time they get to Vidarbha, they have both mastered the skills. When they got to the kingdom, they realized that there was no Swayamvara, king Rituparna was angry but made his peace with the situation quite quickly. Damayanti was hoping that her husband would come back to her after hearing that there would be a second choosing. Although, when she didn’t see him by the end of the day she had given up hope, until she saw Bahuka, who she thought was her husband and started talking to him. When she realized that Bahuka was truly Nala, they were reunited and the curse was lifted which changed Nala back into his handsome self. After they were reunited, they travelled back to Nishadha, and with Nala’s new skill in dice he challenged his cousin Pushkara to a rematch and won all his wealth and kingdom back.

There are many relationships in this story that affect the different problems and events that occur. While Nala was on his way to the first Swayamvara, he encountered the four gods who asked him to be their messenger. This relationship between Nala and the gods was important because after Damayanti chose Nala, the gods were angry because he was supposed to get her to marry one of them. This relationship did change into a more grateful one after Damayanti said that even though she did not marry any of the gods, she will still pray to them and offer them thanks. The relationship between Kali and Nala is important for the story, even though it forced him and his wife into exile, since it was one of the main catalysts in the story. It caused multiple events to take place and proved the love between Nala and Damayanti. Although the relationship between Nala and the serpent Karkotaka was brief, it was mutually beneficial. Nala saved the serpent from the fire and, in return, the serpent saved Nala from the control of Kali and gave him advice that would help him get his former life back. The relationship between Nala and king Rituparna is a very important relationship in the story because it allowed both individuals to learn a new life skill; it gave Nala the chance to see his wife, and win his kingdom and wealth back from his cousin. The final and most important relationship is the one between Nala and Damayanti; their relationship is the main foundation of this story and is prevalent from start to finish. They fell in love with each other by hearing about each other’s virtues, and their love wasn’t solely based on looks. Damayanti could see through the disguises of the gods and find the real Nala, and even after exile, she was with him and never lost faith in him. She searched for him after Kali forced him to leave her in the forest, and it was their love and relationship that helped transform Nala to his handsome self after the serpent bit him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

References and further recommended readings

Adler, G. J (1866) The Mahabharata. Boston: The North American Review.

McGrath, Kevin (200) Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India. Oxford: American Anthropologist.

Parkhill, Thomas (1984) From Trifle to Story: A Study of ‘Nala and Damayanti’. USA: Oxford University Press.

Pave, Adam (2006) Rolling the Cosmic Dice: Fate Found in the Story of Nala and Damayanti. United Kingdom: Academic Search Elite.

Wadley, Susan (1999) A Bhakti Rendition of Nala-Damayanti: Todarmal’s ‘Nectar of Nal’s Life’. USA: Syracuse University.

Websites Related to Topic

Neelastro.in/articles/category/general/story-of-nala-damayanti/

www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content&sd=Articles&ArticleID=3570

www.apamnapat.com/entities/Damayanti.html

Related Research Topics

The god Agni

The god Indra

The Ramayana

Vyasa (writer of the Mahabharata)

Hinduism

This article was written by: Tyler Johnson (Spring 2017), who is entirely 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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.