MAHABHARATA: THE WAY OF LIFE
Mahabharata is a mega-saga full of enigmatic personalities, powerful matriarchs, invincible warriors, philosophical believers, and tormented heroes. Time tossed these characters to venture across the trails of righteousness and wickedness to face the subtleties of Dharma and survive the true spirit of a hero.
Artwork: Giampaolo Tomasetti
The epic embraces victories and sufferings, celebrates eternity and monotony as it continues to flourish in the minds of readers creating an eternal quest. Storytelling is an ancient art and this huge epic weaves many stories of each character, be it a male or female, big or small, the wicked or the good, be god or human.
From generations, these stories flow in our heart and mind in the form of contemporary discussions, meditative insights, affirmative actions, hypothetical questions, moral struggles that embodies human themes in today’s life.
Mahabharata is an intellectual, spiritual and emotional journey of our incomplete lives finding answers through intuitive awareness or universal mind.
“No other epic born in the land of Bharat than Mahabharata,
Has given birth to so many heroes of brilliance and excellence,
Each manifesting their own qualities,
Invigorating with penance and practice,
Some human, some celestial, some spiritual descended by fate,
To meditate on revenge,
Embrace death with pride,
But not willing to surrender in any plight.”
Each character creates their own unique mettle and excellence qualities that transform them into a great hero but even the epithet of a hero cannot delete their numerous faults and mistakes. Immortal, these characters, sole doers of their Karmas, have engraved a rich legacy of their own thoughts, actions, and values for us to reflect upon.
The unexpected twists of circumstances that happened in their lives find a stimulus for thinkers like us to analyze their personality or derive interesting inferences that bless us with wisdom to endure our own journey.
MAHABHARATA: THE GOOD AND THE BAD
Interesting stories of their previous incarnations, the birth of the characters, mythological secrets that reveal their purpose, and beautifully versed saga traces how their lives turned them into legends. The womb of this grand epic has mothered and cried in pain for her five hundred children born over five generations.
Each character outshines with their own combination of skills, personality, and qualities in the monumental panorama. An epic vast enough to accommodate each character, regardless of gender, age, caste or status as they play a prominent role as a sparkling ripple to create a momentary glitter in the vast ocean of Mahabharata. So many characters but only one of them accumulated karmas to reach the shores of Nirvana through deeds and dharma.
Though divine and powerful enough to become demi-gods on the earth, the thought of greater good or universal enlightenment could not move their focus from participation in an anticipated war. How come nothing in the universe could grasp their engagement perspective except vengeance, ego, and obligations?
Artwork: Giampaolo Tomasetti
The strengths and the accomplishments of Bhishma, the great-grandsire was immeasurable. The valor of Pandavas and Kauravas the paternal cousins had no metaphor. Warriors like Drona, Dhrishtadyumna, Karna, Eklvaya, Ashwathama could defeat anyone on the earth. Braver than their fathers were the royal sons of Pandavas - Ghatotkacha, Abhimanyu, Yaudheya, Sarvaga, Niramitra, Suhotra, UpaPandavas.
The sacrifice made by Barbareek, the grandson of Pandavas, at the time of war is remarkable. Lord Shiva’s blessings had endowed him mystical powers that could finish off the entire war in a duration of five minutes leaving no scope for Arjuna, Karna or Bheeshma to display their valor. So extraordinary were his strengths and powers that Lord Krishna had to demand his life to eliminate him from the war.
To appease Goddess Kali for victory in Kurushektra, Iravaan the son of Arjuna and Naga princess Uloopi had sacrificed his life without a moment’s hesitation. Such noteworthy was the sacrifice that he gained the status of worship and gratitude.
Sons of Kauravas like Lakshmankumar, and karna’s sons - Vrishasena, Vrishaketu, Chitrasena, Satyasena, Sushena, Shatrunjaya, Dvipata, Banasena, and Prasena were the strongest mortals ever born.
The extensive range of powers and ambitions prevailing on the earth motivated destiny to scheme the great Kurushektra war. The purpose of the war was to create an outlet for the entire combustion else each one of them had the potential energy to bring great destruction on the earth. While analyzing Mahabharata, we researchers cannot afford to ignore a single character or forget the smallest role played by anyone of them as we would lose the tool to understand a specific concept or perspective.
Artwork: Giampaolo Tomasetti
When had we seen so powerful war deities plotted together at the same time in the epics written by history?
Pandavas were willing to accept five villages or if required agreed to settle for one village instead of their kingdom of architectural splendor and marvelous beauty — Indraprastha to avoid the losses suffered by war.
Arjuna, Shri Krishna, and Lord Agni together burned the Khandava Prastha forest causing death to the entire species of nagas, birds, animals, giants destroying the inhabitants to construct the great kingdom of Indraprastha. Different stories of Mahabharata reflect contradictory values and conflicting interests that leave deeper questions for thinkers like us to meditate on.
Duryodhana tricked Yudhishthira using fraud means to convert the friendly game into a disastrous trap of shame, loss, and destruction. The consistent egoistic outlook and jealous feeling against the Pandavas forced Duryodhana to order the public humiliation of Draupadi that invoked immortal wrath in the heart and mind of Pandavas.
Artwork: Giampaolo Tomasetti
To blunt the edge of the fate he refused to give one ounce of land to Pandavas. This was the same Duryodhana who had no lust for the throne and had no intention of becoming a king by snatching his father’s crown. Duryodhana lived and died as the crowned prince of Hastinapura. History has no records of Duryodhana torturing or inflicting any cruelties on the people of Hastinapura including the womenfolk. Desirous to expand his kingdom, he was unlike many other barbaric kings and loved his elders, kingdom and dear ones in spite of knowing their love for the Pandavas.
The original Mahabharat inked by Vedvyasa mentions that Duryodhana was a man of his words and followed the Kshatriya code with due diligence. Few of his positive images as a true friend, a good brother, a dedicated husband who loved Bhanumati so much that he never married a second time to create any alliance relationships for the anticipated war are worth appreciating. He had requested Karna not to do anything for him under the obligation of his friendship.
Though painted as a villain, Duryodhana had a progressive mind and guts to create a social change at the time when traditions ruled, Duryodhana accepted him as his friend, crowned him the king of Anga, honoring Karna’s potential than his low-caste identity inherited from his adopted parents. Karna inflated to a heroic stature expanding his skills with divine weapons and celestial boons that posed a threat to the life of Pandavas and needed Krishna’s divine intervention.
These acts of goodness show that Duryodhana had a heart throbbing with love, kindness and affection had someone else other than Shakuni mentored him since his childhood.
MAHABHARATA: POWER TO CHANGE
Each character have shown their potential by challenging and rebelling against the orthodox traditions, established socio-culture that enforced caste discrimination, strict patriarchal rule, virginity concept, code of conducts, gender inequality is exemplary and found in no other epic in history.
Each character, be Satyvati, Amba, Kunti, Draupadi, Subhadra or Krishna, Bheeshma, Duryodhana, Yudhishthira, Arjuna, Karna, Vidura each in their own way, changed the old social order, influenced progression, embraced human responses and humanistic values, molded new social thoughts, and reinforced profound awareness for the ultimate regeneration of a radical society. These valuable insights derived from the meticulous meditation of Mahabharata act as an universal teacher to understand the philosophy of humans and human life.
Artwork : Giampaolo Thomasetti
Good or bad, obedience versus disobedience, truth or falsehood, the catalogue is endless as each character exhibits a wide range of emotions based on situations and surroundings. The agility and buoyancy of the characters is high, creating an extreme complexity level for researchers to interpret them in depth.
Empowered with powerful entities that have a larger than life personality, an aura of immortal greatness makes each chapter of the grand epic a magnum opus. Researchers mesmerized by the literary monstrosity peer through the whole kaleidoscope to see the ever-changing shades of human emotions, actions, and responses. On the vast terrain of Mahabharata, thinkers oscillate to and fro to draw a timeless generalization view of the perennial corpus.
“Seek what lies deeper, in the mysterious core,
The presence is always there but the task is to discover,
The quest will come to an end when it meets a rare stillness,
In the sacred silence, the solemn truth is communicated,
By the expressions of nature in the minds of the seeker.”
Artwork : Giampaolo Thomasetti
Loaded with interest and energy, I deep dived to explore the mystical consciousness and enter the sublime reigns of higher knowledge, connection and interpretations. I am sure, you would like to continue reading.
Our human body and superhuman brain can accomplish many amazing qualities and great feats but our real purpose on the earth is to act as a catalyst for co-creation. As we dive deeper into the mystical depths, we begin to realize that beautiful qualities of compassion, love, creation, truth inherited from the universal consciousness are powerful than materialistic desires.
The most extraordinary task for human beings is to unfold our innate qualities of goodness and truth while living our routine life. It needs spiritual courage, moral values, respect, universal awareness and healthy mind to sustain a culture of truthfulness in life.
MAHABHARATA: THE ULTIMATE VICTORY
Artwork : Giampaolo Thomasetti
Pandavas were the sons of Kunti, Madri invoked from the Divine Gods as their husband Pandu was impotent.
Yudhishthira — Son of Kunti and Lord of Dharma, known as Ajatashatru, was the eldest of the Pandavas and Kauravas. A skilled spearsman, he lacked the capabilities of Arjuna and the power of Bheema but his true asset was invincible Dharma (truth and righteousness). Despite the wicked plots played by the Kauravas, he managed to maintain a decorum of resilience and harness the anger into learning and empowering his knowledge.
Frequently, accused by his brothers mainly Bheema and Draupadi for the gambling game he ensured that the unity among them is yet firm and intact. The younger brothers looked upon him as their father, and he never allowed any personal bias to affect his decision or exhibited his sorrow to his younger brothers.
Artwork : Giampaolo Thomasetti
The Pandavas had maintained a rule that if any other brother enters the private chamber when another brother is with Draupadi, the guilty brother will have to go into an exile of twelve years. When Arjuna due to his warrior’s obligation enters the chamber, where Draupadi and Yudhishthira are in an intimate position, he becomes liable for the exile punishment. However, Yudhishthira forgives him from his heart and pleads with him not to go for the exile. His love for his brothers is valuable to him than anything else in the world.
Yudhishthira, known as Dharamraj, had revived his dead brothers by pleasing and satisfying the test of angry Yamraj, his divine father in the exile period. Patiently with a clean mind, he answers all the questions asked by the disguised Yamraj, giving the best philosophical insights to mankind. This episode is known as the Yaksha Prashna, or Dharma Baka Upakhyan or Ashkardhama conveys the loftiest ethics, sublime truths of life, enlightenment beyond the worldly appearances.
King Dhritarashtra was only afraid of Yudhishthira? Thinking, why so?
Yudhishthira’s angry eyes had the power to burn everything and reduce it to ashes that falls within the range of his instant glance.
Losing everything his wealth, kingdom, grace and self-respect in the game of dice, Yudhishthira leaves Hastinapura blindfolded to protect Hastinapura from burning. Yudhishthira teaches us the lesson that one cannot escape the moral consequences of their actions as scripted in the law of Dharma.
Bheema and Draupadi, reprimand Yudhishthira saying he had no anger within him and a Kshatriya is incomplete without anger, he was better as an ascetic due to his weak nature. Yudhishthira remained calm upon hearing these comments, he had learned to subdue his anger into learning mantras, secrets of powerful weapons, and a spiritual boon from respected sages and forwarded the knowledge to his brothers.
When the Brahmins determined an auspicious day and time, Yudhishthira taught Arjuna the Pratismriti mantras so that Arjuna could leave for the Himalayas to gain divine weapons and other celestial weapons. The Pratismriti mantras enabled Arjuna to travel at the speed of light and reach the desired destination in a fraction of a second. With his exemplary leadership skills, Yudhishthira navigated through uncertainties, hardships, challenges, disruption transforming adversity into opportunity and advantage. Whenever you find yourselves in an unprecedented situation dwell upon self-discovery and self-learning to attain growth.
Artwork : Giampaolo Thomasetti
Each person has an unique combination of strengths and weakness, no one is perfect be the mighty Bheema or Bheeshma or Karna. The exemplary unity displayed by Pandavas is a deep underlying symbolism that reveals the importance of strengths and weakness in creating a greater individual. Few lessons we learn are how to identify true strengths and weaknesses, use the resources to gain invulnerability to external threats, and complement our energies and limitations to achieve the shared mission and combined vision.
Be it Krishna or Bhishma or Dronacharya or Duryodhana or Karna or King Panchala or Bheema or any character of Mahabharata, each one had committed some sins, mistakes, and wrong deeds in their life. Nevertheless, Yudhishthira is a different soul representing virtue, benevolence, patience, truth, and selflessness, he was willing to forsake the war if Duryodhana granted them one village. It required constant efforts of Draupadi, Krishna, Mother Kunti, Bheema, and Nakula to instigate him for an inevitable war.
At the beginning of the war, Yudhishthira saluted and soften the main Kauravas warriors, Bheeshma, Drona, Kripacharya, King Shalya, winning the battlefield wherein they agreed to help him and unfolded the secrets of defeating them.
“Vows are offerings made to God,
Vows are promises made to Soul.”
Our protagonists be male or female characters loved vow-making. The wonderful legacy of vow-making started from Bheeshma and continued with full spirit by Amba, King Draupad, Draupadi, Arjuna, Bheema, Nakula, Krishna, Barbareek making it a style statement.
Arjuna had taken a secret vow, ’To kill anyone who insults his Gandhiva bow’.
During the battle of Kurukshetra, when Yudhishthira is angry as Arjuna could kill Karna on that particular day, he taunts Arjuna’s archery skills and insults his Gandhiva. Bounded by the vow, Arjuna pulls his sword to kill him. Shri Krishna intervenes and asks Arjuna to instead insult his elder brother. A younger brother insulting and abusing the elder brother in front of all family members including wives and children is painful than death. Yudhishthira swallows those words of Arjuna like a liquid poison, forgiving Arjuna when he realizes his mistake, regaining his calm composure, and continuing with the battlefield preparations. He knew when to stop and move on, he knew the exact limitations of an argument and he knew the unity should remain intact at any consequence.
MAHABHARATA: WHY YUDHISHTHIRA?
Whom did Duryodhana consult for astrological predictions? Do you know the name of the expert astrologer in the Mahabharata? Besides, Yudhishthira who else lived an honest life without a stain of a lie? Who possessed the mystical powers that could read the past, present, and future having divine consciousness as his mentor? Arjuna was Krishna’s favorite but who had first recognized Krishna as a God and a deity to worship.
The game of dice has made Yudhishthira guilty for the entire catastrophe that fell on Pandavas and Draupadi. Why is the youngest Pandava, Son of Madri (second wife of King Pandu), and Lord Ashwini Kumar side-lined in the epic? Sahadeva is a sacred hermitage vibrating positive energy, possessing knowledge equivalent to Devguru Brihasapati, performs ascetic austerities and meritious sacrifices, donates true astrological consultations to anyone who asks from him.
Meaning of the name Sahadeva - One who knows everything but still is silent.
Sahadeva preferred to keep his life as a mystery, remained silent most of the time, and spoke only when asked. Though skilled in economics, medicine, equestrian skills, bovine veterinary, politics, and humanities he remained suppressed due to the skills of Arjun and Bheema. Shri Krishna had taken a promise from Sahadeva that he will not use his sword in the Kurukshetra war else Bheema and Arjuna vows would have remained unfulfilled.
Pandu’s last wish was that his sons consume his brain to gain the full knowledge acquired by him after spending years meditating and living life like celibacy. Sahadeva fulfilled his father’s wish and consumed three bites of Pandu’s brain — the first bite imparted his powers to know the past and spirituality, the second bite showed him the present and omniscience, the third bite transmitted to him the future and Vedic knowledge. Every mystical power has access to unseen forces and the capability to unfold the secrets of the astral world. Krishna warned Sahadeva that he should not reveal the future to anyone including his dear and near ones, or his head would burst and he would instantly die.
Divine powers are like a double-edged sword, blessed with powers to heal and hurt leaving no exception for Sahadeva. Why challenge the God, thinking on these lines, till the end he continued his silence and answered when asked by anyone. The most silent and strongest character, Sahadeva, absorbed himself in spiritual development to strengthen his moral abilities, intellectual thinking, and psychic powers. Mahabharata mentions that an intelligent, transcendental power continuously protected and mentored him so that he illuminates other lives and creates a society made up of high moral values.
After his holy bath and morning prayers, if anyone asked Sahadeva for any astrological guidance, he would provide a genuine solution to their problems. Duryodhana had twice taken major astrological consultations from Sahadeva,
1.) The favorable date and time to win in the game of dice
2.) The favorable muhurta to perform Tarpana (offerings to ancestors) to win the Kurukshetra war against Pandavas.
Sahadeva advised Duryodhana to create the ritual on a new moon day (Amavasya) that would ensure his victory in the war. To protect Dharma, the alternative with Krishna was to create a misconception and trick the rishis, gurus. By his powers, Krishna created a miraculous eclipse, that confused, Duryodhana and he offered the tarpana one day before the day anointed by Sahadeva. This trick was the major reason for Duryodhana’s defeat and saved the Pandavas from losing the war like the game of dice.
Sahadeva’s psychic powers entitled him to recall the Bhagavad-Gita discourse given by Shri Krishna to Arjuna, an eternal message to the human race. A true devotee of Shri Krishna, an individual who knew everything, most intellectual person was the secret key of Pandavas success.
Some questions to ponder are why Sahadeva did not suggest Yudhishthira to refuse the dice game invitation? Why Sahadeva didn’t insist Krishna to join them in the dice game to avoid the entire humiliation episode. The intellectual person could at least contribute any suggestions, ideas, and advice for betterment. Yudhishthira condemned Sahadeva’s attitude of keeping knowledge to himself until consulted.
“Everyday sun will rise,
Knowledge will always shine!”
The books of Dharma elucidate, Silence is a sin when it causes trouble to Dharma and it is a greater sin when an individual prefers silence instead of speaking.
Why he did not take the efforts to create a knowledge databank consisting of written scriptures, astrological texts to disseminate his knowledge and illuminate the hungry minds. Sahadeva’s spiritual capabilities were so advanced that he could have become a Prophet but he preferred to continue in his existing role in assisting Yudhishthira.
Artwork : Giampaolo Thomasetti
After Shri Krishna’s death, Pandavas and Draupadi resigned from the royal duties to start their Mahaprasthanika journey to go to heaven. To reach swaraga they decided to climb the sacred cosmological Mount Meru to reach the realm of heavens. In Hinduism, Mount Meru is the most sacred and is the center of all physical, metaphysical, spiritual universes. The Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain cosmology have expressed the significance of Mt Meru, a polar center to seas and Himalayan Mountains, the height is 85 times the diameter of the entire earth.
Pandavas with Draupadi started their journey to cross Mount Meru and scale the empyrean Swargarohini Peak to make their ascent to heaven. The bright sun empowered them to walk in the dense woods, as they continued walking in the serenity of mountains, the silent valleys radiated a deep sense of calmness and peace.
Snow-covered peaks loomed ahead, as the trail made its way to the last inhabitant on the borders of India. Trailing the narrow mountain pass covered with dead leaves, foliages, and shrubs, the way opened at the banks of river Alaknanda where a small beautiful village lived. Mana, the isolated village with few homes, chirping birds, shepherds, ponds, pristine wilderness slept in silence and beauty unaware of the outside world. In this snow-capped beauty, Vyasa and God Ganesha scribed the Mahabharata epic in the seven feet high snow-capped caves to reveal the ultimate teachings to mankind. As Pandavas and Draupadi pass the narrow lanes of this enchanting village, history enveloped their minds and they stopped at the Vasundhara waterfalls to rejuvenate themselves.
The myth behind this waterfall is that the cascading nectar sweet water-drops of Vasundhara falls do not touch an impure heart. Saraswati River takes birth in Mana village and confluences with the roaring Alaknanda River. Draupadi was afraid to cross the gushing Saraswati River so Bheema picked up two big stones and constructed the Bheema Pul.
Draupadi, the divine emerged daughter of King Draupad, queen wife of Pandavas, the composite avatar of Goddess Shyamala (wife of Dharma), Bharati (wife of Vayu), Shachi (wife of Indra), Usha (wife of Ashwins) and Parvati (wife of Shiva) fell like a weak creeper on the way. She looked pale, her body was cold, she took her last breath on the Bheema’s lap and died in peace realizing his unconditional love. The last words she uttered to Bheema before dying were to be born as the elder brother in the next life.
Sahadeva the most intelligent, value-oriented person and astrology genius failed to reach the desired destination of Nirvana as he was proud of his knowledge and his silence was somewhat responsible for the destruction. Unrivaled on the earth in beauty, Nakula, the undefeatable horseman who could ride a horse at full speed in the rains and use his sword to deflect raindrops. He would emerge completely dry. However, he lost in the race to reach heaven as he was proud of his looks and beauty.
The admired warrior of Mahabharata, favorite devotee of Shri Krishna, son of Lord Indra and Kunti, Arjuna collapsed and died on way. Hero of the epic, restorer of Dharma, the great archer couldn’t escape the accountability of his sins. Proud and confident of his archery skills, unknowingly he had misused many divine weapons which affected and caused the extinction of innumerable species in the forestlands.
Arjuna would follow Krishna’s words at the expense of his principles and values. Krishna played the role of Arjuna charioteer in the Kurushektra war, and guided him to win the war. Obeying Krishna he killed Bhishma and Karna using unfair way but the definition of unfair is unfair in the books of Dharma.
Dharma means the path of righteousness and law. According to ancient literature, the concept of Dharma originates from the Vedas and other Vedic texts. Dharma refers to the applied knowledge, teachings, values that transform the moral conduct, obligations, and duties to maintain goodness, law, and justice. The meaning of the word, “Dhri” is to hold, maintain, and sustain that creates the root of Dharma. Let us understand the categorization of Dharma for our enrichment.
Universal law (rtam) — Rigveda defines rtam as the principle of natural order which regulates and coordinates the operation of the subatomic particles to galaxies in the universe.
Social Dharma (Varna Dharma) - represents both religious law and moral laws that abide an individual duties in a family, society, environment, nation and world with love, harmony and respect.
Human Law (Ashrama Dharma) - is the roadmap for human expression and evolution in accordance to the natural phases.
Self-Dharma (Sva-Dharma) - is the accumulation of your Karmas, actions, values, tendencies, emotions that determine the course of life you would be venture on.
As an individual, Arjuna is responsible for neglecting his other wives (excluding Subhadra and Draupadi), new-born son from these other wives, and leaving them in their father’s home post completion of marriage rituals. Arjuna considered marriage as an alliance strategy in the anticipated war.
The non-execution of the responsibilities attached to these marriages, as a husband, father, son-in-law made him guilty of violating the codes of Social Dharma. Though it was Guru Drona’s decision to ask Eklavaya to offer his right thumb as Gurudakshina, Arjuna stood there as a mere spectator and not even tried to make an attempt to change his Guru’s mind.
Bheema the man of vast size, enormous strength, gluttonous appetite, short-temper had a clean heart and simple attitude towards life. Though he was the perfect example of an angry young man, like a coconut he was loving, caring and sensitive from inside.
Some of the good qualities that distinguished him from others were –
Never to think of anyone as inferior - he respected all human beings and attended to anyone in need of help.
Not to expect anything from anyone - he served his brothers in exile, did the maximum amount of work, received less attention from Mother Kunti and Draupadi but he continued to oblige his Social Dharma.
Ghatotkacha the eldest child among Upapandavas received no royal attention, love or consideration like Abhimanyu or other sons but Bheema kept quiet.
To respect all human beings- he married Hidimba though she was a demoness because she loved him. Love matters to him!
Bheema’s love for food, excessive greediness was a bad practice as per the Dharma. Though Krishna had instigated Bheema to kill Duryodhana using unfair means, the accountability of the sin eroded his chance to reach heaven.
Yudhishthira reached the gates of heaven in his human form after a life-long journey of experiences and clearing the divine tests by the Gods. He was the only human being to enter heaven in his mortal body and gain status equivalent to Prophet. When the son of Kunti and Dharmraj, reached heaven his power of Dharma transformed him into a celestial being.
Yudhishthira’s journey to reach heaven did not start from the trail of Mount Meru, his journey started from his adolescence when he embraced the path of righteousness and sustained those values till the end of his life.
Mahabharata teaches Dharma in the imperfect world living with imperfect people and how situations continuously check the ever-changing human behavior and nature. The foundation of Dharma is outside the ambit of worship, rituals, principles, actions, charity but encompasses the inner motives, convictions, consciousness, wisdom and persistence.
An individual and the orientation of Dharma in the mind of the individual is constantly changing, eliminating the old, filtering, and absorbing the new experiences that create the ultimate transcendence. Dharma is slow, agile as per the universal good, you need the patience to understand the inner insights, and Yudhishthira, the son of Dharma, the incarnation of Dharma on the earth is the notable example.
Krishna, the supreme power of the universe, tells Yudhishthira the battle of Kurukshetra represents the conflict between dharma and adharma. It is important for dharma to win or it will affect people’s trust in dharma. If a lie is essential to win, then use that medium without hesitation to protect dharma. Speak the lie, let Drona face the consequences of siding with adharma.
Believing the logic and perspective mentioned by Krishna he uttered the first half-lie to his Guru Drona on the magnifying Kurukshetra ground. Drona had faith in Yudhishthira’s adherence to Dharma, hence hearing his words he lost his spirit to fight that became the reason for Drona’s death.
Humans cannot live as perfect models, and few slips will happen as even Drona was fighting against the truth. The most striking feature of Dharma is the honest and customized feedback of individuals based on their conditions and intentions.
Dawn is ready to break the sprawling silence after eighteen days of the ferocious and horrendous battle of Kurukshetra. A heap of corpses forms walls of dead bodies, vultures, and raucous crows hovering over dead bodies in whirls of dust storms. The voices of the wounded and affected has overgrown without going away, soft cries singing lullabies in the darkness, dying horses and elephants looking for water to quench their thirst and wounds, enough blood surged to make the river Hiranwati turn red, and in the night the sight looked most dangerous.
Artwork : Giampaolo Thomasetti
There on the apocalyptic battlefield laid the dead bodies of the greatest warriors history had ever known — Karna, Duryodhana, Bhishma, Uttar, Shalya, Dronacharya, Ghatotkacha, Abhimanyu, Dhrishtadyumna, UpaPandavas, Shikhandi, sons of Karna, Kauravas, Shakuni slain by each other. So, great was the productivity and strength of these warriors, if utilized effectively, the world would have witnessed an era of new social order, religious transformation, and knowledge expansion. The most fascinating part of Mahabharata is that every individual has a story to tell. A story that speaks in their own words, their viewpoints, and their heart attempting to revive the memories of a lifetime.
Inspiring tales that speak up their virtues, sacrifices, wisdom, foolishness, truth, loyalty tagged to their name. Some faults and misconceptions that compelled them to end their existence on a blood-soaked battlefield rather than searching higher truth.
Artwork : Giampaolo Thomasetti
Karna, the ultimate hero, the real emblem of Dharma, a true friend, an illegitimate son of Kunti, and Sun-god sacrificed his entire life supporting Duryodhana and fighting for him. Krishna recognized Karna as the best warrior with the potential to rule the entire land of Bharata. You will discover a culture made up of dedication, sacrifice, and loyalty ingrained in Karna.
Every individual has some grey shades in their life and Karna is no exception to it. Considering the magnitude of pain and suffering levied upon him, charity selflessly performed, goodness beneath the mask of obligation, dharma abundantly blessed him.
Lord Krishna in a Brahmin’s disguise approached Karna during the final Karna-Arjuna combat and asks to donate his dharma. A great donor, he immediately agrees and transfers his entire dharma to the Brahmin. Vedas say dharma is the soul of a human being and if an individual loses dharma, the inner flame of the individual begins to extinguish. Within some hours after losing dharma, Arjuna defeats and wins the war by killing Karna using unfair means.
A hero lies awaiting death on a blood-soaked bed, memories flashing, donating his last gift of golden teeth, leaving a legacy woven by his misfortune, drawbacks, betrayal, curses, resentment, and non-acceptance for us to introspect.
Shikhandi, a royal eunuch, brother of Draupadi, was so courageous he could alone fight with 100 warriors single-handled, is a real epitome to all the queer people — transgenders. Our ancient society neglected transgenders in society, and most of them faced social outcast. The vow of killing Bheeshma was more important to her than creating a difference in someone’s life.
Shikhandi, a royal prince, could have empowered other transgenders and provided them with sustainable means for their livelihood. However, the characters in this epic are full of energy to deeply engross in ego battles, revenge, intrigue, treachery, and hatred.
Bhishma, the incarnation of Vasu Kumar, Son of Mother Ganges and King Shantanu, senior-most family member of Hastinapura kingdom throughout remained bound by his vow to protect the throne. Knowing the orthodox perceptions associated with forcibly abducting a princess from their Swayamwar, he committed this mistake and later it became the cause of his downfall.
Bhishma is conscious of his strength and authority yet executes the role of a protector. Bounded in the promise of protecting the royal throne he turns a blind eye to the mistakes made by the subsequent rulers. Being the father-figure in the family, he never took the helm to punish the princes for their wrong acts or reprimand them for their anger, jealously, hatred, revenge orientation.
The mighty Mahabharata is a human, imperfect, loaded with flaws, goodness, virtues, emotions, growing alone without a sculptor to desire, mold, and create a transformed individual who will embrace the core principals of dharma.
Since ancient times, countless decisions are made under the weight of traditions and orthodox social values. A man of his verbatim, Bhishma respected and firmly believed in traditions and was not happy with certain decisions made by Pandavas. He knew the secret of Kunti’s illegitimate son but kept silent to preserve the honor of Hastinapura. Bheema’s marriage to demoness was partially approved by him as the feelings in the relationship were pure and it was Bheema’s duty to protect the alone lady.
In those days, the practice of niyoga existed but widow re-marriage was something no one even dared to imagine. Arjuna, his favorite, married the widowed naga princess, the news came as a terrible shock to his valiant heart.
Krishna convinces that Draupadi’s marriage to five brothers is a result of Shiva’s boon and Bhishma accepts the unusual marriage. But incidents like these continue, Vatsala eloping with Abhimanyu on her wedding day, humiliating the groom; Bhishma considers such acts as a threat to the royal traditions and culture. In comparison, no Kauravas disobeyed the royal traditions and cultural values making him feel close to the royal palace.
Countless choices lie under the weight of traditions and orthodox social values. Bhishma resisted change and hence could not be an immortal architecture of a new society. A society based on higher-good drawing modern interpretations of dharma for universal good. Instead of focusing on Hastinapura and the greater good he set his intent on the protection of the king and the king’s successors.
There is more to live for Bhishma!
Knowing Dhritarashtra’s blind love towards his son, Bheeshma could have taken the reins of decision-making but he remained a silent witness to every injustice suffered by the Pandavas. The Kurukshetra war is the price of all such silence.
It was Bheeshma’s responsibility to expand the resources of Hastinapura for creating a society with ideal civilization and moral values which would have served as a role model for upcoming civilizations.
Dronacharya, an incarnation of Brahma, an avatar of Brihaspati and descendent of sage Angirasa was a master of advanced military arts, possessor of divine weapons and an undefeatable warrior.
Bhishma appointed him as the royal preceptor of princes of Hastinapura, he loved the Pandavas. Arjuna’s dedication, talent, passion, and focus made him gain Drona’s affection which soon exceeded the love for his own son, Ashwattama. Drona’s participation in the war was only to repay the favors he received from the King and Duryodhana.
A Brahmin teacher by profession, he shifted his focus from disseminating knowledge, developing education to fighting battles for Hastinapura, and participating in the kurushektra war. He started using divine weapons against common soldiers, violates the war rules when Abhimanyu enters the Chakravyuh, forcing Krishna to form a trick to kill him. Drishtadyumna was looking for an opportunity to slay Drona and revenge his father’s insult which he treacherously uses.
Draupad had performed the Putrakameshti yagna to beget a daughter Draupadi who will marry Arjuna and a son Drishtadyumna who will kill Drona.
It was Drona’s goal to become a great teacher like his father and gain immortality by creating brilliant minds, positive learning environment. Circumstances changed him from a royal preceptor to a warrior fighting battles. We do appreciate his agility to accept change but was his decision right and in favor of the higher interest of the society?
The goal of Kauravas, Pandavas, other elder members, kins and relatives was to fight the Kurushektra war for revenge, dharma, and throne. So tight was the grip of Mahabharata that no one was thinking of the higher interests of society, nation and or even self-actualization. It seems the entire world appears to stagnate debating over the extremities of Kauravas and the righteousness of Pandavas.
Warriors tenfold times braver than Yudhishthra laid dead. Blood soaked bodies tumbled from here to there. Whirls of vengeance, blood, bubbles, saliva vacuumed the earth. Karna who donated his golden teeth while dying failed to achieve something higher limiting himself to the status of king, danveer (donor) and a true friend.
The eldest son of Pandu, Yudhishthira is full of truth, strongly adheres to Dharma, retains a calm mind in every calamity, and yet bears some weakness, misconceptions, manipulative tendencies. The three most notable incidents in Yudhishthira’s life - Game of Dice, Conversation with Nahusa (cursed to be a serpent), Yaksha Prashna, Yudhishthira has gifted mankind the answers to moral quests and spiritual, philosophical analysis.
Yudhishthira is a grand reservoir of dharma and his knowledge is immortal in form of thoughts, words, insights, and behavioral patterns. Besides, propagating dharma, Yudhishthira knows how to explore the emotions and use emotional intelligence to win over people. Knowing the hostile environment where they were living, the attractive character traits and good attitude characteristics of Yudhishthira bestows them popularity, affection, and trust among people, kings, sages, demi-gods, and Gods.
Seeing Dushassana dragging, kicking, abusing, and undressing Draupadi to feast Duryodhana’s hungry eyes he controls himself and his brothers in the most searing moments of their life. Though Krishna offers Draupadi an endless garment to protect her dignity, Yudhishthira realizes his biggest mistake and accepts stinging words, harsh blames of Draupadi, Bheema throughout his life.
He accepts the consequences of losing the game and accepts the tag of a slave for himself and his brothers. If he wanted his angry glance could have burnt Duryodhana, Karna, Shakuni, Dushassanan in a second but he doesn't misuse his powers. Using the combined power of his brothers they could have instantly declared war with Kauravas but Yudhishthira accepts his defeat with sensitive receptivity.
While in exile, Bhima and Draupadi are impatient and instigate Yudhishthira to seek vengeance, he keeps calm and makes them understand that the thirteen-year exile is a boon to refresh their learning, strengthen their skills, acquire mantras from sages, know other kingdoms, gain knowledge, enhance competencies to brace them up for the war.
Thinking deep in higher consciousness, he explains to his brother and Draupadi that he is an instrument for fulfilling the divine intent and to show the world that at a metaphysical level the game of dice is on between the divine soul and the materialistic self. There could be no other perfect example than the Pandavas in form of five senses, Draupadi representing the body, mind, and purity of soul.
Together the five senses work and each sense is important to ensure the proper functioning of the body, sending interpretation to the mind and connecting with the soul. The human entity is complete with the combination of five senses, a healthy body, an effective intellectual system, and the presence of a divine soul that can invoke divine intervention (Krishna) when needed.
Kauravas represent evilness, desires, or materialistic ambitions that obstruct your higher spiritual attainment and inner peace. In Kaliyuga, this will be exemplary to distinguish goodness and greed and the wise will derive true philosophical essence of living life from it.
Who else than Yudhishthira can be a perfect role model to analyze? From a larger perspective, the son of Dharma and Kunti is a school where we can learn Dharma, emotional intelligence, perception skills, personality traits, spiritual values.
Even at the gates of heaven, he refuses to leave the dog that accompanied them on their journey and enter heaven. At the last moment of leaving the earth and descending heaven, he weaved the most important story for mankind to comprehend.
The story of compassion, unconditional love, loyalty, and virtue.
Lord Indra asked him to abandon the dog as the dog is thin and old and unworthy of entering heaven. To cloud his thoughts, Indra tells him that his brothers and Draupadi are waiting for him in heaven. Not every earthly creature gains access to heaven was the decision of the King of Heavens. Yudhishthira’s reply to God Indra reveals his commitment and kindness to an animal.
“I am willing to abandon the joys of heaven, pleasures of damsels, immortality of your heaven but not the dog. Let my brothers and Draupadi be happy in your garden of Amravati. They deserve the comforts of heaven for the hard times we had on the earth. I shall repay my debt of causing exile and disgrace to my brothers and Draupadi.
The dog followed me in this tough journey with his full loyalty, loved us without any expectations, and is dependent on me so I will rather go to hell with my dog than your heavens. Forgive me for declining your invitation.”
I feel so amazed by his potential and capability to enter heaven in his normal human form. Extraordinary in managing his emotions and facilitating emotions to acquire results, he deserves a significant seat in comparison to other Mahabharata personalities. Karna is a powerful character than Yudhishthira, Karna is passionate by heart about following his own dharma and Yudhishthira immerses in dharma by learning, acquiring, absorbing and practicing.
The trail Karna follows is of adharma overshadowing his valor, goodness and genuine identity. Krishna is the supreme illumination, avataar of Mahaavataars, ultimate abode, eternal, transcendental, unborn and we cannot draw any comparison between Yudhishthira and primal source of creation, Krishna.
Such a meaningful character full of the highest virtue of Dharma is unlikely to repeat in upcoming generations. There exists only one of his kind unperturbed by any obstacles, a strong spiritual master who plays the role of a bridge to cross the materialistic existence and touch the sattavik ether element.
Truth is eternal, it will never fade or lose its significance gratifying the crest of immortality upon Yudhishthira. The ideologies, practicalities of Yudhishthira will continue to guide us in form of moral actions, thoughts, and behavior in our own quest to understand Dharma. You don’t need to have an extraordinary mind, great intelligence to understand his philosophies.
Opportunistic he always was, he molded thirteen years of exile in a learning advantage to gain harmony, strength, power and enrichment.
The thirteen years exile inspires us to thrive and forget the word ’survive’. Pandavas taught us the sustainable model of life and demonstrate to us that real spirit lies in transformation, innovation, and thriving. Yudhishthira manifests the true essence of human life is to create something sustainable or of eternal value in your lifetime.
The shining trail left behind by Yudhishthira is an open gateway to human beings irrespective of caste, creed, religion or gender. Following Dharma, we have the potential to achieve enlightenment and to reach our real source of emergence. Maybe the righteousness path can take us somewhere above the sky, in the womb of the higher universe, to embrace our eternal mother.
Follow his path, to see the world from his perspective!
The ability to accept the truth, consume the truth with accountability, and move with that truth shows Yudhishthira’s powerful association with Dharma. The eternal saga of truth will go on, look for that monumental moment that will grasp your feelings and rekindle the desire to reach new horizons of thoughts, and embrace the truth.
Mahabharata shows the way of life, but Yudhishthira is the only character who reveals the way of living life. Mahabharata is a grand epic and we cannot analyze it in one article or through one character or by one person’s thoughts.
I feel more inclined to study Yudhishthira for his extraordinary and impossible accomplishment of conquering death. He gained victory over death which no other character could achieve. Ashwattama is alive bearing Krishna’s curse, roaming invisibly, carrying people’s sins on his head and suffering in pain, bleeding on his forehead and incurable scars. Such a life is not an achievement.
The potential to conquer death disposes of the greatness of his soul mightier than Gandiva, Gada, Ichhamrityu boon, sword, beauty, kavachkundals, divine weapons or dices.
The thinking continues but to sum it up for now, I can conclude in three words that, Dharma protects you!
“I prostrate to the infinite splendor of Truth,
I prostate to the glorious goodness and virtues,
Before Yudhishthira I prostrate,
For his infinite pearls of wisdom.
May the Dharma embedded in you also guide my way forward in life.”
Illustrations by the courtesy of Italian artist Giampaolo Tomassetti
Giampaolo Thomasetti 25 majestic paintings of Mahabharata are exhibited in the Museum of Spiritual Art (MOSA) at Villa Vrindavana, Florence, Italy.