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Devayani, Yayati, Sharmishtha, Puru
|by Gaurang Bhatt, MD|
Continued from "The Geniuses Behind the Myths"
Vrishparva, like Bush and phony Obama could not afford to antagonize the power behind his kingship. He explained in his Texan drawl that one has to dance with those who brung you to the dance and go home with them and as Agamemnon and Afghans say, daughters’ death, slavery or sale as concubines are collateral damage, like drone bombing of civilians to combat Islamist terrorism; or bankruptcy, unemployment and home foreclosure of the American public in the process of enriching banksters, CEOs and defense contractors by government handouts. They like Shukracharya, are the campaign backers.
Yayati was happy in his marriage, but the story has another lesson at the deeper level.
Another lesson the story teaches is that those who are desperate have no shame and will stoop to any level. So Yayati went to his sons by Devayani and Sharmishtha and requested them to generously donate him their youth, libido and virility, as a token of their filial love and piety. All except Sharmishta born Puru refused and Yayati was restored to his stud status.
As my comments about this Hindu myth emphasize, at the bottom level is an interesting and gripping story, looking deeper it highlights the faults and weaknesses of the human psyche and even deeper how to avoid the pitfalls or exploit them, but still praising, extolling or even sanctifying certain customs like filial piety (also made a cornerstone by Confucius together with respect for the ruler like Hobbes in Leviathan) and different standards for female sexual behavior and the authority and power of Brahmins.
Take the House of Atreus for comparison. Pelops’ father Tantalus killed Pelops, cooked him and offered the meat to the gods to test them. The gods restored Pelops to life and cursed Tantalus to suffer the hell of permanent, intense, unquenched thirst, because the water would rise to his lips but recede before he could drink it. Hence the English verb tantalize. Pelops married Hippodamia by winning a chariot race against her father who was killed in the race due to sabotaging his chariot by Myrtilus, as planned by Pelops. He then killed Myrtilus to whom he had promised the right to be the first to take Hippodamia’s virginity.
Pelops and Hippodamia had two sons, Atreus and Thyestes who killed their stepbrother Chrysippus to get the throne. They and their mother Hippodamia were banished to Mycenae where Hippodamia hanged herself. Atreus had vowed to sacrifice his best lamb to the goddess Artemis, but instead gave it to his wife Aerope. She gave it to her lover Thyestes (parallel to the story of Bhartrihari and Pingala). Atreus then proclaimed that the one who owned the lamb would be king, thinking that it was with his wife Aerope. Thyestes became king by producing the lamb. Atreus charged his brother with treachery and adultery and demanded the throne back. Thyestes said he would return the throne when the sun moved backward in the sky. Atreus prayed to Zeus and with his assistance convinced the sun to rise in the west and set in the east and reclaimed the throne. He banished Thyestes but still craved revenge.
He killed Thyestes’ sons, cooked them and fed Thyestes, the father their meat. Thyestes prayed to the oracle for his revenge and was advised to have a son by his own daughter Pelopia. This son, Aegisthus was abandoned by his mother Pelopia and eventually found his way into the house of Atreus (parallel to the stories of Oedipus and Paris), who raised him like a son. Thyestes informed the grown up Aegisthus that he was both his father and grandfather and commanded him to kill Atreus, which he did. Atreus had two sons Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae and Menelaus, the king of Sparta, whose wife ran away with Paris, the son of Priam, the king of Troy, and caused the Trojan War.
Agamemnon was the leader of the Achean Greek army and was told that to obtain a favorable wind for the Greek ships to reach Troy, he would have to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia. The sacrifice of Iphigenia made her mother and his wife Clytemnestra mad, and she began an affair with Thyestes’ son and grandson Aegisthus, the cousin of Agamemnon and the murderer of his father Atreus. Agamemnon in the siege of Troy, first quarreled with Achilles over his concubine Briseis, a prize of war and after the sacking of Troy by the horse of wily Odysseus (Ulysses, king of Ithaca) took the tragic Cassandra as concubine, back to Mycenae. Clytemnestra murdered Agamemnon in his bath, as a revenge for the sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia and for taking as concubine Cassandra, while unfazed by her taking Aegisthus as lover. (She had not heard the wisdom -When I looked at the evil in my own heart, all evil faded from the world)
Agamemnon’s only son Orestes was young but as he grew up, he was repeatedly urged by his only surviving sister Electra, to take his revenge for his father’s murder by killing their mother Clytemnestra. In the fashion of Hamlet, he was torn by conflicting emotions but eventually murdered his mother and was chased around Greece by the avenging Furies, but with the help of Apollo, the sun god and Athena, the goddess of wisdom granted him reprieve and free lifetime family counselling.
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