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MAHABHARAT

MAHABHARAT, the most comprehensive and greatest epic ever written !


THE BASIC PHILOSOPHIES OF MAHABHARAT

Before getting into the story proper, let us have an idea of the principles and philosophies which are resident in Mahabharat and whoceundercurrents are strongly felt althroughout.An important aspect is the question of merit v/s reservation. The story comes out strongly in favour of merit and castigates those who favor anytype of nepotism or corrupting practices to perpetuate reservations for aposition. Furthermore, the story itself is that of attempt on part of Dhritarashtra to upstage meritorious claims to the throne of Yudhishthir and his desire to find ways (even by bending or breaking laws) to place his son Duryodhan on the throne instead.

Infact, the same problem tough to lesser degree and with less dramatic consequences, was faced by King Sahnatanu when by default he paved the way for a peculiar situation in which his son Devavrata, out of his love for his father, takes the pledge of celibacy, thereby paving the way for his Father's second marriage.This event, which is at the root of Devavrata being rechristened "Bhishma(the one who is tremendous in deeds)" is also the one by which the authorities to tell the readers the consequences of making a decision by notlooking into it deeply enough. Throughout the story, there are many instances in which Bhishma blames himself for everything, hinting that if he had not taken the pledge, the entire cascade of events would be so different. This is also at the root of Bhishma's final departure from the earth. For, he had a boon from his father that he would die only when he chose and Bhishma, though pierced all over by Arjun's arrows,lived till the end of the war and called his death upon himself only afafter he heard the news of Pandava's final win and thereby he knew that Hastinapur was now in able, just and safe hands.

The story also tells the consequences of giving too much indulgence to children and how things get ruined therefore. The story tells of the bond of friendship through the Duryodhan and Karna relationship. It also tells how a wicked and scheming person (as Shakuni) can poison not only grown ups (as Dhritarashtra), but children as well (Duryodhana and Dushshasan and all Kauravas with the sole exception of Vikarna, who, eventually fights on the side of Pandavas).

It tells of the ills of gambling, the protective nature in a sibling relationship, the woes of the mother (in the woes of Gandhari and Kunti), the pain of children in broken families(as of Karna), the disastrous consequences of excess sexuality (as for Shantanu and Pandu),tells of inferiority complex (Dhritarashtra),devotion (Arjuna towards Krishna), truthfulness and honesty(Yudhishthir), Valour, pride and how events and situations may humble the mightiest. It tells of treating the cunning with equal cunning (as of dealings of Krishna in many situations), of peace, of war and strategies,of human patience and how it wears thin leading to breaking of rules (as in the war .... as it grows longer, more and more rules get broken and baser and baser methods get used).

It tells of God, of universe,of science, of philosophy, of social relationship, of morals and codes of conducts in different situations. It talks of perseverance and concentration in acquiring skills (as of Arjuna and Bhim), it tells of women and their problems(Draupadi, Kunti, Gandhari, Subhadra, Rukmini-- Krishna's wife).Mahabharat tells about politics, abot teachers, about common men and their behavior, of courage, of cowardice, of jealousy, of generosity, of lies, murder, of truth and how God works through men.

There are plenty of other aspects to mention, but they will come up as and when we come to them for without proper examples, the points may not be illustrated well enough. However, if we could keep in our head the vast number of areas it covers, we will be able to grasp many an implications as the events start to unfold. So, watch on ....From the next episode, we start with the early part of the story of Shantanu, whose life is important to understand so that we can understandthe various strained and not so strained relationships to come later.If there is a moment where you would like to change the style, narrative or require any kind of anything, just let me know, I shall do what I can(and that, as you know, applies to not the story alone, but you in totality).

As the introduction, the vital character of Mahabharat include:

Krishna ! The purpose here is not to delve into his earlier exploits,which by themselves form an epic. However, for the purpose ofour story here, it will suffice to say that Krishna's father was a cousin of Kunti, the mother of Pandavas, who are the central figures. So, that way, the Pandavas were related to Krishna.

In Mahabharat, Krishna is accepted as the God incarnate by those who were learned. This group included Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, the Pandavas and many kings from different parts of India. Draupadi and Krishna shared aspecial relationship. Though Krishna was not her brother, they both recalled that in an earlier birth, They were born as brother and sister.Therefore, their relationship was special as the basic sibling relation continued as an undercurrent throughout the story. She too knew of Krishna's divinity. Here it is important to recall that in this birth,Subhadra was Krishna's sister. This is a very important part. Again, it has to be realized that being divine, Krishna knows the outcome and every event always. However in spite of this, he never interferes in anything and lets events take their own course. The importance of this is in avery important chapter of the Gita where he reveals his divinity to Arjuna. When we reach the citing then, we shall come to it. However, then, when he talks of the universe aand the role of God, he tells Arjuna " though I am the final and every thing and I control all, yet I do not interfere,for it is the responsibility of the human being to do good deeds and enjoy its benefits." He then emphasises the dictum " what thou shalt sow,thou shalt reap."

Before we go to the glamorous characters, there is yet another character to be introduced : Sanjay. Now, Dhritarashtra had a charioteer, who, you may also recall, adopted Karna.Later, as we proceed, we will reach the situation where this charioteer leaves his job. Then, Bhishma recruits Sanjaya as Dhritarashtra's charioteer. Sanjaya stays with the king right till the end of the story. Incidentally, since Dhritarashtra was blind, he grew a desire to see the war when it occurred. Krishna, however, said that the King would not be able to toletate the devastation he would witness, so, he grants special vision to Sanjay by which he could see the war sitting at palace. From there, Sanjay relates the entire war to Dhritarashtra.

In Gita, you will often come across the introduction : "Sanjaya - vaacha ...." This means :"Sanjaya said". Thus, Sanjay relates the entire war to the King. That is how the war has been related : in a form of direct reporting to Dhritarashtra of the events in the war. It is also important to remember that the charioteer was a very important appointment, and often a political apointee. The charioteer was totally responsible for the charriot and its performance, of directing the vehicle and doing so safely. He was also responsible for determining the most advantageous position for the occupant for whatever purpose he was on the charriot.The charioteer was also the friend, guide and philosopher for the occupant. Therefore, while in war, the fighter excelled in valour, the charioteer not only had to have more valour (for not only was he driving and exposed, he never had the right to fight in the war directly,therefore his defences were limited to the fighting and protecting capability of the fighter he was varryi), he had to be an expert navigator, expert at logistics, good in reflexes, very far sighted and extremly knowledgeble at war technics and technology as he would often be instrumental in strategy planning.

Later, when the story nears the war,you would be able to understand why Krishna chose to be Arjun'scharioteer and therefore why the Pandavas rejoiced and why Bhishma lauded the Lord at his choice. It is also significant at that point that Duryodhana and his group including Karna, Shakuni and others,underestimated the role of a charioteer, a point which Krishna realized well and duped Duryodhana into selecting Krishna's whole army instead ofKrishna himself.

As a primer, here is a list of some of the important characters involved in the story. We shall get their details in the next episode :

Dhritarashtra : the blind king and father of Duyrodhana, Vikarna and their 98 brothers and a sister. His wife was Gandhari. His Brother was pandu, the original King who died (see in the story) and Dhritarashtra was made the King in lieu of pandu's son, who, it was decided would be the rightful owners when time came. Bhishma was the Uncle of Dhritarashtra And Bhishma's father: Shantanu who had other sons too, later . Dronacharya (Drona) and Kripacharya(Kripa) were the teachers for ths sons of Dhritarashtra (called the Kauravas) and the sons of Pandu (called the pandavas).

The Pandavas were five brothers : Yudhishthir, Bhim, Arjun, Nakul and Sehdev (in order of age). Draupadi was the wife and Kunti, the mother of Pandavas. Draupadi's brother was Dhrishthadyumna.

The land where this story is set is HASTINAPUR : The place is near to the city of Delhi, the capital city of INDIA. This would serve as a primer to keep the bearings on the characters. However, no mention of Mahabharat could ever be complete without the mention of one of the greatest and tragic characters in the story : Karna. He was brought up by the poor charioteer of Dhritarashtra. This charioteer retired and Sanjaya was appointed in his place. It was known that karna was found by the charioteer as an abandoned child, floating in the river when he had just been a few days old ! MAHABHARAT: Episode 2

The story of Shantanu goes as follows :

Shantanu, the king of Hastinapur had conquered all nearby Kingdoms and not only expanded the borders of his kingdom, but made them safe as well.He was tired and came home to relax. He would often go to the banks of the river Ganga. He would dream of a love life when one day he saw a woman beautiful beyond explanations. He asked her name and she said Ganga. They met often and then one day the woman revealed that she was the personified image and actual human at that time, she was the personification of the sacred Ganga river. She further revealed that Shantanu himself was originally a Devata who, one day, in a parliament, looked at Ganga and continued looking even after Ganga's "aanchal" feel from her shoulder. For this offence, both of them were punished with a life on earth. Since Shantanu's sin was greater ( he should have looked away voluntarily), he was to live a full life and since Ganga's sin was lesser (it was an accident that the aanchal flew off due to a wind, but offence all the same as she could have covered her body back, but continued her gaze toward Shantanu, unconcerned). It must be remembered that a devata or a devi were supposed to be beyond sexual attraction, something which they were to have outgrown in order to progress towards nearing and realizing God. Therefore, sexual attraction meant loss of stature as devata. Ganga was to live on earth for a lesser period of time and there was more to the Curse of Brahma (who was Ganga's father as well), that, however, would be revealed as the story progresses.Shantanu proposes and Ganga agrees to marriage, but there was a precondition. Shantanu agreed without asking, but still Ganga cited. The condition was, Ganga asked " what so ever I do, you would never question my action in any way.... whatever may be the consequence of my action, for the day you ask, I shall go ". Shantanu agreed. He, however, did not place much importance to the issue. They married and soon Shantanu lost all interest in Kingdom, for he was deeply in love.

However, after months of staying away from politics and his monarchial duties, he returned to it with a tremendous balance between his professional and personal life. Soon, a son was born. However, as soon as the child was born, the mother took her to the river. Shantanu followed her and stood aghast as the mother mercilessly drowned the child in the waters of Ganga following which the child died instantaneously. Shantanu was shocked, however, his love for the woman prevented him from asking a question, he knew he had given a word. This way, eight children were born to them and the same fate overtook them all. Shantanu was perplexed and though he was a tremendously intelligent man, and now, after Ganga's revelation, he knew their divine background, he was still overcome with paternal grief. In this situation, the ninth son was born to them. Shantanu followed Ganga to the river bank. As the mother bent down to drown the child, Shantanu's paternal instincts got the better of him and he asked Ganga to stop. He asked her why she did all this. In reply, Ganga told him that she knew that the question would eventually come at this time,but hoped it would not. For, breaking the word, Shantanu had freed Ganga from Brahma's curse and though she loved him, she would have to return to the higher world. However, by breaking the word before the child was put to water, Shantanu had created a situation whereby the child would now have to live a life.Ganga revealed that for those living in the higher world, coming to earth for life meant not only lowering their achievements, but to be exposed to pain again. She said that there were nine "VASUs" who had been cursed by Brahma for life on earth and later, as a pardon, they were told that either their life would be short or they would enjoy tremendous fame on earth. When Ganga decided to marry Shantanu, the curses of Ganga, Shantanu and the nine Vasus were matched and Ganga agreed to bear the vasus as their children. To spare them the pain, she killed them immediately after birth following which, they, freed of the curse, regained their divine places.

However, as Shantanu asked Ganga about it all before the ninth Vasu could be drowned, he had forced this one to live, for Now Ganga was no more in human form as she had regained her diviner form. She gave the child to Shantanu and told him that though he had the option of asking Ganga what she would do (before marriage) , something which could have saved his pain or he could have kept on his trust on her actions which would have given them a life of bliss after the immersion of the ninth child, for Ganga's purpose with the children would have been over. But Shantanu did neither. He agreed to Ganga at first, overcome by his amorous sentiments and later could not keep his trust on her at the most trying moment. This, Ganga said, is the reason why marriages break. Marriages break because mostly people do not realize what a marriage is. It is commitment and being true to the commitment and mutual trust. A sex based marriage with growing mistrust and fulminating distrust always leads to hardship and breakage. Though Shantanu realized his mistake, he could do nothing, for Ganga was gone. However, Ganga granted him the concession of meeting her sometimes in person when Shantanu would come to the banks of the river. She also told Shantanu that she would take the child away for fifteen years and take him to the higher worlds where he would get all his education from the divine seers. Saying this, she and the child disappeared.Shantanu, thunderstruck, was carried home by his charioteer who was also his friend and confidant (obviously). The King took some time to recover and his ministers and all friends nursed him back to his best stature. Soon, Shantanu was the "King".

Fifteen years passed slowly for him, for he would wait for Ganga for hours at the river bank. She would come sometimes and not, sometimes. Then, one day, Ganga brought him a gift. Their son, Devavrata, was brought to earth, having finished his education from the divine teachers. Due to his hereditary greatness, his divinity and his great teachers, Devavrata was the master of everything : from finance, politics, arts, crafts, science to athleticism and war techniques. He was the best warrior even among the divines. He had learnt sciences and vedas from Brihaspati (Brahma's advisor) himself. Finance fro Laxmi, music from Saraswati, philosophy from Brahma, Political science from Indra. However, the most important thing, warfare was taught to him by no other than the greatest teacher in warfare, Parshurama, the great sage who had at nine different times killed every living Kshatriya on the earth because they had grown evil. That Parshuram, who never took a student after Lord Rama, was the teacher of Devavrata ad had commented that never in his life did he get a student better and more talented than Devavrata. Furthermore, Parshurama tested Devavrata by calling him for a fight with himself. The fight went on for months and finally Parshurama lost the grip of his Dhanush (Bow) (this was considered as defeat, in those days, for one who would not be able to control his weapon, what kinder of a warrior was he ?). This was unprecedented. Devavrata had scored a tactical victory over Parshurama too.Ganga told Shantanu that Devavrata was now fully fit to be the heir to Shantanu's throne and there was no one in the earth who could be a better candidate, lest come anywhere near his stature. So, by merit he would be king.

Shantanu was overjoyed on the return of his son, who despite his achievements, was humility incarnate. For, he had learnt lessons of wisdom from the originator, Brahma himself. Also, at his command, were every divine weapon that existed, and like the greatest, he knew that most of those weapons meant complete destruction and annihilation of the human race, thus even the weapons existed, and he had unlimited access to them, they would never be used for ther benefit of mankind.Here is an important lesson. The big point is that even you have access to big power, true wisdom lies in controlling your urge to use the power. By corollary, though you have knowledge and you know that the other is being deceitful, try to control your own anger and urge to take recourse to easy and dangerous means. The right path brings the best results without harm, even if it takes some time.Devavrata took command of his father's personal life and nursed him back to good health. He also took charge of the country. He was crowned the prince and the heir to the throne. He single handedly fought wars against big armies, conquering them all. He always pardoned the annihilated king and returned them their land, but only after humiliating them in war, for Devavrata never attacked, he fought when attacked. Hastinapur never then annexed another kingdom, neither did it let go of an inch of its territory. Soon, a no-war era took over, for no one dared attack the country where Devavrata stayed, for he was the invincible army himself.Shantanu, on the other hand left more and more of his monarchial duties to Devavrata, who was virtually running the country and gaining important experience. The King was usually spending time having fun, and he expressed desire to retire, now that Hastinapur had got the abelest Prince who would be King, but devavrata said that it was unjustified that he annexed the King's chair when the current King was not only alive, but was well and fully capable himself. So, happy time continued for the father and son. The son had kept every interest of his father in mind, and Shantanu lived unconcerned about anything, knowing that Devavrata was there. He, however, took regular reports from the prince and gave the required advice when needed.In the meantime, after handing over Devavrata to Shantanu, Ganga told Shantanu that she would never be able to see him and also told him that some important events would happen in hastinapur. She never met him again. However, Devavrata had access to her mother, whom he met whenever he wanted to, by reaching the bank of the river and thinking of her. The mother always told him to be self dependent when solving a problem and gave advice only if really and urgently needed, something which never really happened, for devavrata was capable enough for everything.Life rolled on. Shantanu took a more interest in his hobby of hunting. One day, he asked for a ferry to take him across the stream of a smell river. The owner of the ferry boat was not on duty however, unaware, as Shantanu called the maajhi (boatm) Shantanu's Story (contd)....

Unaware, Sahnatanu calls the boatman. He becomes shocked to see that instead of an old male as he was expecting, a beautiful young woman emerges from the hood of the boat. She informs him that the boatman, he father, being unwell, could not come, so she, his daughter, Satyavati, was doing the job. She asked the King where he wanted to go.. Shantanu asked for a destination near to Satyavati's home and the journey started. Shabntanu had lost count of everything since he saw Satyavati. She brought him back after the journey and at parting, commented that the King was probably perturbed due to some political problem as he neither spoke nor moved during the entire course of the journey. Though she noticed, she did not so state, that during this whole period, Shantanu's fixed gaze was on her.Satyavati was a poor boatman's daughter. They were poor in front of rich men like the King even though her father was the Chief boatman. However, Love knows no boundaries, and she, Satyavati, could not help being deeply moved y the King's personality and the look of his gaze.

Somehow, since that moment, she constantly thought of Shantanu and nothing else.Shantanu's lived a life of shock, for he would wait endlessly at the bank of the river to catch a glimpse of Satyavati. Sometimes he hired another boat to go to her place and watch her from distance, she never knew. Due to his preoccupation with the woman, Shantanu's stately duties started to suffer. Not only were important files getting delayed, the King's personal presence in the offices became infrequent. Devavrata was the KIng, virtually. However, some files had to be signed by the King, and they waited. It is only for these files that the state's officials got a wind of the KIng's amorous infliction, for the KIngdom was running very smoothly under Devavrata's action. Almost everyone commented that Devavrata was a born King, and an ideal one too.Devavrata was highly concerned by his father's absences and loss of interests in everything, including food. He formed many theories to account for the reason of Shantanu's behavior. However, he thought that the King was tired and needed a break. Still, being an able psychologist, he confronted the King asking him the reason for his detachement. Shantanu, looking for some one to speak of his woes, almost gave in, but eventually controlled himself. He could not bring himself to tell his son about his own new romantic interests. The King felt awkward. He was old already. He thought of what his son might think of him, for Devavrata was of marriageable age and instead of thinking of his son's marriage, the King was thinking of his own. So, he kept quiet.Devavrata learned of his father's increasing absences from the palace and asked the charioteer, who owing to his commitment to the KIng, did not reveal anything. One day, Devavrata followed them, and repeated this many times to be certain of the event. He saw Shantanu observing Satyavati from hiding. He traced Satyavati's home and Lineage. Then one day he confronted the charioteer, who eventually squealed. Devavrata was sure that his father was in love with the woman and he also realized that Shantanu was not able to talk about this due to his emotional tight-rope walking about Devavrata's own marriage, his (Shantanu's age) and by ther fact that Satyavati was a young girl fit to be Shantanu's daughter (by age).Devavrata decided to make his move.....

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