The most famous King Vikramaditya (there were many) was so revered that many stories were written about him. His upholding of the law gave him a reputation of honesty and integrity and his concern for his subjects was so great that he spent nights roaming his kingdom incognito to learn about the distress of his subjects and to remedy them. He was given the title Per-Dukh-Bhanjan or the reliever of the pain of others. It is this theme and its importance which led the poet Narsinh Mehta, more than a millennium later to compose the lyrics of “Vaishnava Jan To Tene Re Kahiye” and put it to music. It became Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite and is loved all over India even though it is written in the regional language Gujarati.
The famous Vikramaditya ruled from the city of Ujjaini and one Indian calendar dates from his reign, just like the Western one Anno Domini is dated from Christ. There is a myth that eons later another king ruling Ujjaini and named Bhoja, excavated Vikramaditya’s palace ruins and unearthed a throne (Sinh+Asan) of his. The throne had thirty-two mini statuettes of divine angels along its upper edges. Bhoja had heard that some poor ignorant shepherd boy often mediated in disputes and delivered fair and balanced and profound judgments (diametrically opposite to Fox News actual propaganda, despite the same claim) on disputes, whenever he sat on a particular earthen mound. The digging of that mound revealed the judgment Seat (throne) of Vikramaditya and Bhoja went to sit on it to acquire the wisdom.
Immediately, the statue of the first angel spoke up that Bhoja could only claim the throne if he was wise enough to answer the first riddle correctly. One such riddle was about a prince and his deputy sworn to protect the prince’s life at the cost of his own. They were lost in a forest and for complicated reasons the prince beheaded himself. When his friend, deputy and protector saw this, he out of shame and responsibility beheaded himself too. Some holy person saw both bodies and heads and used his divine powers to put the heads and bodies together and resurrect them. The problem was he put the wrong head on each body. Now the prince and the deputy had a wife each. The riddle the angel asked Bhoja to solve was who was each wife wedded to in the changed circumstances and my twist on it, when would it be labeled adultery? Like The Return Of Martin Guerre or Ahalya’s defense. The answer is obvious and relatively simple.
On the next day, the second angel statue posed a second riddle of more complexity to Bhoja before granting him the right to sit on the throne. In this way, the book of thirty-two riddles is comprised. A second book is about even more complicated twenty-five ethical problems and constitutes the Vaitala Pachhisi. Both these books used to be popular chidren’s storybooks when I was a child. The Mahabharata has a number of riddles asked of Yuddhisthira by his biological father, the God Dharma, disguised in the form of a crane, and once again at its end, in the form of a dog accompanying him in the ascent of the Himalayas.
Noam Chomsky has a beautiful talk on Just War. If I am not mistaken it maybe in the Chomsky archives and most likely was delivered at West Point, the military academy. So I decided to telescope incidents from the Mahabharata, which has the Just War or Dharmayuddha and one incident from the Bhagvata and apply it to current day American events with our president playing the role of Krishna and Awlaki being Shishupala. The sarcasm may not be apparent completely to those unacquainted with the Hindu myths, but the riddle has serious implications which the ACLU and liberal organizations are fighting and has prompted Jonathan Turley, a respected law professor to write a scathing op-ed in the LA Times about abuse of civil liberties by the current administation.
Nuremberg trials and Preemptive and Preventive War Doctrines followed the principles of Dharmayuddha of the Mahabharata, that the victors lay down the rules and use them to justify their own prior and subsequent crimes and punish the losers for the same crimes, for which the winners doing the same deeds are completely exonerated.
If you can kill Drona by lying, Karna during time out for changing a tire, Duryodhana by hitting below the belt, Bhishma by someone whom he has vowed not to attack or defend against, and call all this a just war, then the US claims the right to assassinate anyone including its own citizens, if our newest God, president Krishna, in his divine judgment labels anyone a terrorist. So now, we are approaching the Laxman Rekha moment of Shishupala Vadha. Can our Krishna use his Sudarshana Chakra (drones) to kill his own relatives like Shishupala (US citizens) in their own homes (US territory) also, or only in foreign countries declared as battlefields or free fire zones (as in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Dresden, FATA, Yemen, Somalia, Libya)? Can he do that too just by his secret personal decision of labeling them as terrorists or does that require public proof of their heinous deeds or are even their mere intentions equally culpable? By the way, we know that US citizens like Bradley Manning and Padilla can be held without trial and Habeas Corpus law disregarded. Abraham Lincoln did it. It is only a matter of time before such an occasion arises. The debate will be whether it will be our Krishna's decision, or will we let our wise Solons of the Supreme Court decide as we let the wise Bhishma and the truly Blind justice of Dhritrashtra did by refusing to hear the case and let the disrobing of Draupadi proceed, or should we decide it by polls, like the historic precedents of our idea of justice by lynching, so frequently used in our recent past?