The sun in the sky can never be the father of a human being. Then who is Karna’s father?
Shri Sukhmoy Bhattacharya in his Bengali work “Mahabharater Charitabali”, gave a valuable hint in the essay on ‘Basushena (Karna) – “What conduct of an ascetic can anger a girl, has never been explicitly stated. Whether this statement (kopasthAneShvapi mahatsvakupyaM na kadA chana - aashramavaasikaparva 30. 3 ) provides hints relating to Basushena’s birth, is a matter to be pondered !” (My translation)
Well, let’s ponder!
First, the incident leading to Kunti’s and Karna’s tragedy in Kunti’s own words to Pandu in the ADI PARVA SECTION CXXII, - 'In my girlhood, O lord, I was in my father's house engaged in attending upon all guests. I used to wait respectfully upon Brahmanas of rigid vows and great ascetic merit. One day, I gratified with my attentions that Brahmana whom people call Durvasa (durvAsasa.n viduH), of mind under full control and possessing knowledge of all the mysteries of religion. Pleased with my services, that Brahmana gave me a boon in the form of a mantra (formula of invocation) for calling into my presence any one of the celestials I liked. And the Rishi, addressing me, said, 'anyone among the celestials whom thou callest by this shall, O girl, approach thee and be obedient to thy will, whether he liketh it or not. And, O princess, thou shall also have offspring through his grace.'’
From Kunti’s attending upon ‘all guests’‘ and that she ‘ used to wait,‘ it is apparent that Kuntibhoja often ‘used’ Kunti to appease visiting Brahmanas and ascetics. Kunti quite understandably hides here her encounter with Durvasa. The ‘Brahmana whom people call Durvasa (durvAsasa.n viduH)’, might mean that his name was not Durvasa, but people called him so, because of his resemblance with the then legendary Durvasa!
Again in UDYOGA PARVA SECTION CXLIV she thinks to herself –‘while I was living in the inner apartments of the palace of my father, Kuntibhoja, the holy Durvasa gave me a boon in the form of an invocation consisting of mantras. Long reflecting with a trembling heart on the strength or weakness of those mantras and the power also of the Brahmana's words, and in consequence also of my disposition as a woman, and my nature as a girl of unripe years, deliberating repeatedly and while guarded by a confidential nurse and surrounded by my waiting-maids, and thinking also of how not to incur any reproach, how to maintain the honor of my father, andhow I myself might have an accession of good fortune without being guilty of any transgression, I, at last, remembered that Brahmana and bowed to him, and having obtained that mantras from excess of curiosity and from folly, I summoned, during my maidenhood, the god Surya.’
Here Kunti blames herself for that sexual encounter.
In UDYOGA PARVA SECTION CXLV Kunti says to Karna, 'Thou art Kunti's son, and not Radha's. Nor is Adhiratha thy father. Thou, O Karna, art not born in the Suta order. Believe what I say. Thou wert brought forth by me while a maiden. I held thee first in my womb. O son, thou wert born in the palace of Kuntiraja. O Karna, that divine Surya who blazeth forth in light and maketh everything visible, O foremost of all wielders of weapons, begat thee upon me. O irresistible one, thou, O son, wert brought forth by me in my father's abode.’
In all the above-mentioned three cases, we are shown the incident from Kunti’s perspective only.
We find the most composite description of what happened, in VANA PARVASECTION CCCI, in the narrative of Vaishampayana. The final narrator of Mahabharata has adopted Vyasa’s style of exploring an ‘event’ from multiple perspectives! Such perspectives even have sub-perspectives, as in Kunti’s case. On one occasion she ‘thinks’, in other she ‘speaks’. Let us now follow the episode with an analysis of what is revealed thereby.
In this section we do not find the mention of the name Durvasa. Here is a ‘Brahmin’ instead. This strengthens our suspicion that the Brahmana was not Durvasa. One day ‘there appeared before Kuntibhoja a Brahmana of fierce energy and tall stature, bearing a beard and matted locks, and carrying a staff in his hand. And, he was agreeable to the eye and of faultless limbs, and seemed to blaze forth in splendour.And he was possessed of a yellow-blue complexion like that of honey. And his speech was mellifluous.’
Kuntibhoja introduces Kunti as a girl who ‘beareth an excellent character, is observant of vow, chaste, and of subdued senses (shIlavR^ittAnvitA sAdhvI niyatA na cha mAninI)’! A father needing to certify his daughter as ‘chaste’ and having ‘subdued senses’ is not very normal!
What he next instructs Kunti is loaded with meaning – ‘Do thou give him with alacrity whatever this reverend Brahmana possessed of ascetic merit and engaged in the study of the Vedas, may want. Let everything that this Brahmana asketh for be given to him cheerfully’ (yadyadbrUyAn mahAtejAs tattad deyam amatsarAt). What can a dependant girl have in her possession to ‘give’?
For certain reasons, Kuntibhoja has extreme fear for the Brahmana – (if) ‘thou stirest up the anger of this best of the twice-born ones, my entire race will be consumed by him’! Accordingly, Kunti “gratified him highly”. The Brahmana wanted to give her boons. He called her ‘O thou of sweet smiles’. The Brahmana is certainly not blind to feminine charm of an adolescent! When Kunti won’t take boons, he gave her a mantra – “Willing or not, by virtue of this mantra, that deity in gentle guise, and assuming the obedient attitude of slave, will become subject to thy power!'"
What mantra could it be that enslaves even a male god? What mantra could it be that provides such empowerment over male-psyche? I believe what the Brahmana actually taught Kunti, was the art of using “body-signs.” The word ‘power’ suggests empowerment. What greater ‘power’ over male-psyche can a menstruating adolescence have, other than the artful use of her own ‘body-signs’?
We are also told that those mantras are recited in the Atharvan Veda. The Brahmana now told Kuntibhoja ‘gratified by thy daughter. I shall now depart.' And, saying this, ‘he vanished there and then. And beholding that Brahmana vanish there and then, the king was struck with amazement.’
Why should he vanish? He did not come by magic, so why should he go by magic? Isn’t it a matter of common sense to infer that he had some fault to hide?
The Brahmana must have left the palace surreptitiously!
After the Brahmana left, the myth tells us, Kunti thought about the ‘nature’ of those mantras, and decided to that ‘test their power'. ‘And as she was thinking in this way, she suddenly perceived indications of the approach of her season. And her season having arrived, while she was yet unmarried, she blushed in shame.’ So, Kunti has entered puberty and started menstruating by the time she was serving the Brahmana. Did the Brahmana notice that too? Did he make her conscious of the significance? Is that the meaning of ‘mantra’ – the ‘magic entry of womanhood’ in the life of a girl? Kunti wanted to ‘test their power’! Does it mean that Kunti actually wanted to apply the art of ‘use of body-signs’ on the Brahmana himself! After all he was the only man available to him!
The myth goes that one day while she was seated in her chamber on a rich bed; shebeheld the solar orb rising in the east. ‘And both the mind and the eyes of thatmaiden of excellent waist became riveted fast upon the solar orb’.
Why is Kunti praised by her excellent waist at this moment? Mention of Kunti’s waist perhaps suggests that her eyes fell on the ‘solar orb’ or the ‘Solar Plexus’ of the Brahmana. Now, we know, as per Tantra the Solar Plexus Chakra is located midway between the navel and the base of the sternum. In other words, on one morning Kunti saw the naked manly chest and navel of the Brahmana. She felt something going on in her body and mind! Kunti was sexually aroused! ‘And she gazed and gazed on that orb without being satiated with the beauty of the morning Sun’. Notably, It is after her sexual arousal that ‘she became curious as to the (potency of the) mantras’.
Kunti’s sexual arousal is also attested in the Devi Bhagabatam – ‘Seeing the Deva Sun, Kunti became greatly surprised and began to shudder and instantly became endowed with the inherent natural quality of passion.’(Courtesy -http://www.astrojyoti.com/devibhagavatam6.htm)
She invokes the Sun, and he comes. ‘He was of a yellowish hue like honey’. This is the same colour as that of the Brahmana. Besides, the ‘yellow’ colour is traditionally the colour of the Solar Plexus. “The Solar Plexus Centre is one of the main power chakras of the individual. This chakra is sometimes described as yellow in colour, although it would be more accurate to consider it as orange or yellow-orange. In the traditional ‘rainbow chakra’ theory, the Solar Plexus chakra is generally described as yellow in colour…The Solar Plexus Chakra - like the Heart Chakra above it and the Navel Chakra below it - is a purely Emotional Centre.”-(Chakras)
The Sun is also said to have ‘possessed of mighty arms, and his neck was marked with lines like those of a conchshell’. The mighty arms reminds us of the Brahmana who had ‘faultless limbs, and seemed to blaze forth in splendour’. Kunti was also aroused by the Brahmana’s strong arms.
The Sun ‘divided himself in twain.’ This indicates the split-personality of the Brahmana. On one hand, he did not think it proper to respond to Kunti’s seductive powers, on the other, he felt the irresistible seductive charms of Kunti. ‘He addressed Kunti in words that were exceedingly sweet’. We have already been told that the Brahmana’s ‘speech was mellifluous’.
Surya’s subsequent dialogue – “I will surely consume them all, and I shall inflict condign punishment on that foolish father of thine that knoweth not this transgression of thine and on that Brahmana who hath bestowed the mantras on thee without knowing thy disposition and character,” can be interpreted as his split personality at work, with lust dominating on the verge of no-return!
Kunti now realizes how dangerous and ‘all consuming’ a man’s passion is, once aroused! And how more dangerous is a woman’s body-signs for the male psyche, if artfully used on a natural foundation of beauty! Once her body-signs have created chemistry in male-psyche, her subsequent retreat is powerless! Kunti realizes how body-signs empower, but then makes the owner hapless victim of the same! She became frightened and her face was suffused with blushes of shame. She pleads – “It is only to test the power of my mantras that I have, from mere childishness, summoned thee. Considering that this hath been done by a girl of tender years, it behoveth thee, O lord, to forgive her.’
Among many of the lust-bitten Brahman’s counter arguments, one is his fear to be ‘the object of laughter in the world’, if he goes away without satisfying himself. This is a very human concern, not befitting a God of the Sun’s stature!
What makes everything clear is Kunti’s subsequent lamentation – “Although energy and asceticism are capable of destroying sins, yet even honest persons, if they be of unripe age, should not foolishly court them. (bAlenApi satA mohAdbhR^isha.n sApahnavAnyapi . /nAtyAsAdayitavyAni tejA.nsi cha tapA.nsi cha)’ Kunti here confesses that she was at fault courting the ascetic!
Kunti now wants to ‘fulfil thy desire’, in return of an impossible boon – ‘May I remain chaste after having surrendered my person to thee’! Surya replied, 'O thou of sweet smiles, (The Brahmana also addressed her thus!) …..It is because a virgin desireth the company of every one, that she hath received the appellation of Kanya, from the root kama meaning to desire. Therefore, O thou of excellent hips and the fairest complexion, a virgin is, by nature, free in this world. Thou shalt not, O lady, by any means, be guilty of any sin by complying with my request. And how can I, who am desirous of the welfare of all creatures, commit an unrighteous act? That all men and women should be bound by no restraints is the law of nature. The opposite condition is the perversion of the natural state’. Some reasoning indeed! We know the Brahmana was a very good speaker! Vyasa, long before Batsayana was born, shows the role of ‘male oratory’ in sexual arousal of a female!
Kunti decides to surrender, and now her motherly instinct begins to work – ‘let thy purpose be fulfilled! May he (the child to be born) be powerful, strong, energetic, and handsome, even like thee, and may he also be endued with virtue!' Again, a gem of Vyasa’s insight into female sexuality! The desire of mothering a great offspring intensifying and fuelling the desire for sex!
Surya promises to give her son ‘these ear-rings had been given to me by Aditi. O timid lady, I will bestow them, as also this excellent mail, on thy son!' It is a clear hint here that the ear rings and mail were in the possession of the Brahmana. So, there is no question of Karna taking birth with them as a part of his body. Perhaps, Kunti placed them at the side of the baby inside the basket, while floating him in the river. Kunti’s surrender was also prompted by her love of ornaments. Yet another of Vyasa’s powerful insight into female sexuality!
Next Surya, nay, the Brahmana, ‘touched her on the navel. At this, that damsel, on account of Surya's energy, became stupefied. And that reverend lady then fell down on her bed, deprived of her senses’. This shows the Brahmana’s knowledge in Kamashashtra, as well as the level of Kunti’s arousal!
We also find Kunti ‘fallen down stupefied on that excellent bed, like a broken creeper…….. And after Surya had gone away, that girl regained her consciousness.’ It is a clear description of Kunti’s orgasmic ecstasy.
Kunti becomes pregnant. She ‘concealed her conception, so that no one knew her condition. And as the damsel lived entirely in the apartments assigned to the maidens and carefully concealed her condition, no one except her nurse knew the truth. ……no sooner was the beauteous girl delivered of a child, then she consulted with her nurse and placed the infant in a commodious and smooth box made of wicker work and spread over with soft sheets and furnished with a costly pillow. And its surface was laid over with wax, and it was encased in a rich cover. And with tears in her eyes, she carried the infant to the river Aswa, and consigned the basket to its waters’. Thus Karna’s destiny is set to roll!
There is another reason to believe that this Brahmana/ Durvasa fathered Karna. In SECTION XXVIII of ASRAMAVASIKA PARVA, Vyasa tells Dhritarashtra, Gandhari, Kunti etc (who by then were living in the forest) – ‘Know, O son, that I am come here for dispelling thy doubts……. Tell me what is that which thou wishest to see or ask or hear? O sinless one, I shall accomplish it.' Vyasa being an ‘uttama vaidya’ knows that the mind must be purged of illusions and delusions before it is time for final emancipation. His son, grandsons and daughters-in-law must, therefore stand face to face with reality. Vyasa is ready to reveal all truths now, however unpalatable they might be to all. They must know the truth about themselves before leaving this world. This is the significance of the ‘Putradarshana’ episode of the Mahabharata!
In SECTION XXIX we see that ‘The boon giving Rishi Vyasa, capable of both beholding and hearing what happened at a remote distance saw that the royal mother of Arjuna was afflicted with grief’. Unto her Vyasa said,--'Tell me; O blessed one, what is in thy mind. Tell me what thou wishest to say.’
Vyasa is not in an all-telling spree. He knows what hurts whom and where! Seeing Kunti ‘afflicted with grief ‘, he wants to know her mind, whether she too is ready to have all her secrets revealed! But Kunti is not ready for that yet! She is overcome with bashfulness. Kunti narrates the story of Durvasa yet again in details and states (which I have referred to at the beginning of this essay), “I succeeded in gratifying him by the purity of my external behaviour and of my mind, as also by refusing to notice the many wrongs he did. I did not give way to wrath although there was much in his behaviour quite capable of exciting that passion’. Kunti ends her story with the following lines – “O foremost of ascetics, let this king (Pandu) also, O sinless one, obtain the fruition today of that wish of his which he cherishes in his bosom and which has become known to thee.'
Why should Kunti repeat the story which Vyasa already knows? Here is my point! Kunti thus requests Vyasa to let go the story of Karna’s birth as it is, and keep the myth intact! Perhaps, this is her way to pay homage to her great tragic son. Perhaps she wants to say – ‘Please let Karna remain the son of Surya. Please do not strip that myth. Karna deserves that glory – the glory of being the son of a God! She also implores that had Pandu been alive, he would have also cherished the same. She also hints that Vyasa already knows her and Pandu’s wish (to keep the secret)!
Vyasa tells Kunti – ‘As regards the birth of Karna) no fault is ascribable to thee.Thou hast no fault (in what happened. Know this. O Kunti. Let the fever of thy heart be dispelled. For those that are mighty, everything is becoming. 'For those that aremighty, everything is pure. For those that are mighty, everything is meritorious. For those that are mighty, everything is their own.'"
The compassionate man that he is, Vyasa assures Kunti that her secret will be kept well guarded for posterity. Kunti being one of the “ruling classes” deserves to have her myth, the way she chooses! Perhaps, Vyasa was smiling at the ‘mighty’!
That’s my interpretation of this Vyasa-Kunti episode, which is otherwise an unnecessary repetition!
Now that we are certain that the Brahmana/Durvasa fathered Kunti’s child, several questions arise! If the Brahmana/Durvasa is Karna’s biological father, why is his identity hidden? That was not so in Satyabati’s case! Besides, it was not actually necessary for Kunti to desert the child. Sri Satya Chaitanya discusses this at length in his ‘Kunti and the Birth of the Sun God’s Child’ .Why was Karna deserted then?
My thesis is that the matter was hushed up not to protect the repute of Kunti, but to protect the repute of the Brahmana/Durvasa! But, again, why would that be necessary? Parashara is Parashara despite what he did to Satyavati! His sage-image was not tarnished by his act!
To answer that let us now venture to find out the Brahmana/ Durvasa’s actual identity. Taking his name to be Durvasa, let’s see first who Durvasa was.
As per Vishnu Purana, Durvasa’s ancestry is as follows –
Atri + Anushuya
Dattatreya … Durvasa… Soma + Tara
(Brihaspati’s wife! this marriage is attested by Atharva Veda)
Budha + Ila (Manu’s daughter!)
Thus, it is actually Atri blood that runs through the veins of Purus! And that may be one reason why Durvasa’s misdeed was hushed up!
But Atri’s son Durvasa cannot be the Durvasa of Kunti’s contemporary. This is a different Durvasa, if at all he is Durvasa!
Besides, what is our proof that the Durvasa in question is an Atri at all? And why is it necessary for us to take his name as Durvasa? In the Parva-recounting of ADI PARVA the matter is referred to as follows – “Then upon the presentation of water of the manes of the deceased princes having commenced, the story of Kunti's acknowledgment of Karna as her son born in secret.” Here there is no mention of Durvasa. There is no mention of Durvasa in “the outlines of the several divisions (parvas)”too!
So we must keep our mind open and consider all the following possibilities –
- Karna’s father was one known as Durvasa
- He was a Brahmin, whose name Vyasa did not mention.
- Latter poets interpolated the name Durvasa with some purpose
- This Durvasa is an Atri as per Puranic reference
- This Durvasa is not an Atri, and belonged to some other Rishi family
First, let’s see what other information is available to us about the Atris. The Atris were a separate gotra from antiquity. But there were other Atris also. In ‘Chapter 3 -The Chronology of the Rigveda’ in Srikant Talegiri’s ‘THE RIGVEDA - A Historical Analysis’ (http://voiceofdharma.org/books/rig/), we find several valuable information. To list them –
- The word Atri existed before the period of this RSi, as a name or epithet of the Sun, which was the original meaning of this word. The RSi of this name came later.
- It is clear that there is a mythical Atri in the Rigveda distinct from the historical Atri,
- In V.40.6-9, the Sun has been pierced “through and through with darkness” by a demon called SvarbhAnu (literally “sky-sun”), and all creatures stand bewildered and frightened by the sight. Atri, however, by his Brahmanic powers, “discovered SUrya concealed in gloom”, and, with the same powers, “established the eye of SUrya in the heavens”. The hymn smugly concludes: “The Atris found the Sun again... This none besides had power to do.”
That connects beyond doubt Atri and Sun! So, if we take our culprit Durvasa as an Atri, we get an explanation why we are handed over the myth that Sun-god impregnated Kunti, and also why his identity was kept a secret! In ‘Chapter 5 -The Historical Identity of the Vedic Aryans’ of Talegiri’s same work we also get a direct Atri-Puru connection –
1) According to the VAyu PurANa (1.59), the earliest Atri RSi was PrabhAkara, who married the ten daughters of a PUru king BhadrASva or RaudrASva, and had ten sons from whom all the Atri clans are descended.
2) Among the Atris, SyAvASva Atreya is closely associated with the PUrus: according to SAyaNa’s interpretation of V.54.14, SyAvASva was himself a Bharata.
Thus there is possibility that our Durvasa belonged to the SyAvASva Atreya family. So, Durvasa’s crime was kept a secret because he was a Puru. Kunti being married to the same dynasty, the matter became a case of family scandal! Vyasa and latter poets protected the identity of an aberrant Puruvamshi with the Sun-god myth!
But supposing our culprit Durvasa was not an Atri! Talegiri also raises this doubt in our mind because there was a set of mythical Atri! To which gotra did these Brahmins who called them Atris actually belong?
Let’s now look at the Brahmana/Durvasa connection with the Sun-god from another point of view. What if the reference to Sun actually means, that the Brahmana / Durvasa was one of Surya gotra? Talegiri proves to be invaluable in this consideration too!
We find Rishis of Surya-gotra in the Rig-Veda. What is their actual identity? From Srikant Talegiri’s ‘THE RIGVEDA - A Historical Analysis’, Chapter 2 - The Composers of the Rig-Veda’, we find his following conclusions –
- The only gotras with SUrya are BharadvAja and ViSvAmitra gotras.
- The only other hymns to SUrya are by g BharadvAja (I.115) and a KaNva (I. 50).
- The joint hymn by Gharma Saurya is with a BharadvAja and a VasiSTha.
- A word meaning asura-slayer, asurahan/asuraghna, occuring in X.170. 2, is found elsewhere only in hymns by a BharadvAja (VI. 22. 4) and a VasiSTha (VII.13.1).
- The hymns by Saurya RSis have repetitions in common only with hymns by ANgirases and by GRtsamada (a descendant of BharadvAja):
From the above discussion it is clear that Surya gotra is actually a BharadvAja gotra! And BharadvAja gotra is an off-shoot of Angiras!
That brings us to a very significant juncture! If the Brahmana/Durvasa was one of BharadvAja gotra then all our discussions become valid and harmonically merge into one integrated Truth!
- If he is Durvasa-Atri then he is a Puru
- If he is Brahmana-Bharadwaja, then too he has Puru connection, because after Dushmanta’s son King Bharat, it is actually Bharadwaja blood that runs through Puruvamsha. And it might be so that this particular Brahmana was a direct descendant of Puruvamsha. The ‘royal’ attitude of the Brahmana and Kuntibhoja’s humble servitude before him prompts that guess!
- If he is Durvasa-Atri, then Atri connection is a natural Sun connection
- If he is Brahmana-Bharadwaja, then Surya gotra links with Sun
- Durvasa or Brahmana, Atreya or Bharadwaja, either way he is Puru (if SyAvASva Atreya or SUryagotra), and either way he is ‘Sun.’
- In the Brhadaranyaka-Upanisad of Kanva (one offshoot of Angira) recension, in the ‘Atha Vamsha’ part (6, 5.1-4) we find Atreyaputra learning from Gautamaputra (Angiras). That also brings Atreya and Angiras closer!
However, my conclusions are that this Brahmana was indeed a Bharadwaja-Angiras, and he was known as Durvasa. Because of his Surya gotra, latter poets ‘mistook’ this sun-connection with Atri, or ‘intentionally’ identified this connection with Atri to malign Atris, and identified him with Atriputra Durvasa, all his physical and mental aspects being similar to the legendary Atriputra Durvasa!
Now my discussion will focus on the following points –
- Why do I conclude that this Durvasa was a Bharadwaja-Angiras?
- Why Kunti had sex with this man? Or why was she attracted to him? Was she raped?
- Why did Kunti agree to abandon the child?
- Was Kunti’s story really a secret?
- What are its implications in the Mahabharata?
To discuss the first one, we may remember that Durvasa taught Kunti mantras that are recited in the Atharvan Veda. According to tradition, the Atharva Veda was mainly composed by two groups of rishis known as the Bhrigus and the Angirasas. If we assume that at the time of the Durvasa-Kunti episode, Vyasa had not yet divided/edited the Vedas, then where does the Atharva Veda come from? Surely, the Atharva Veda was already in vogue under the patronage of certain Bhrigus and the Angirasas, but was not recognized yet by mainstream Aryans. This Brahmana/Durvasa was one such patrons of the Atharva Veda. That opens up another possibility. This Brahmana/Durvasa might be a Bhrigu then! And that sounds reasonable given the Bhrigu-Yadu connection! But given all our above discussions, I rule out that possibility.
Another reason why I rule out the Bhrigu possibility is one dialogue of Duryodhana in SECTION LXI of UDYOGA PARVA – “The gods attained to their divinity for absence of desire, covetousness, and of enmity, as also for their indifference to all worldly affairs. Formerly, Dwaipayana-Vyasa and Narada of great ascetic austerities, and Rama, the son of Jamadagni, told us this. The gods never like human beings engage in work, O bull of the Bharata race,from desire, or wrath, or covetousness, or envy. Indeed, if Agni, or Vayu, or Dharma, or Indra, or the Aswins had ever engaged themselves in works from worldly desire, then the sons of Pritha could never have fallen into distress. Do not, therefore, by any means, indulge in such anxiety, because the gods, O Bharata, always set their eyes on affairs worthy of themselves.”
This dialogue not only shows Duryodhana’s disbelief in the ‘God-fathers’ of the Pandavas, but also opens up new possibilities. It is very interesting that Duryodhana does not mention “Surya”, but mentions “Agni!” Now, in the Rig Veda, Agni is often synonymous to Angiras, and Angirasas are often addressed as Demi-Gods!
Duryodhana’s mention of Gods - Agni, Vayu, or Dharma, or Indra, or the Aswins – takes the number to ‘six’! Did he know that Kunti had another child born before her marriage, though he certainly did not know who he was? So, we can guess, there were speculations doing the round about Kunti’s pre-marital ‘affair’ and her ‘lost child.’ That Kunti’s secret became an ‘open secret’ is probable given the fact that she lived with the maidens! Women were perhaps, already cursed before Yudhishthira cursed Kunti – ‘‘henceforth no woman shall succeed in keeping a secret.' (SECTION VI, SHANTI PARVA) It was known to Duryodhana then, that Kunti had a son by one Angiras! What a shock would it have been for him to learn that his strongest ally and friend was indeed that ‘lost child!’ Destiny spared him that shock!
Perhaps, Karna too knew about Kunti’s ‘affair’ and her ‘lost child,’ though he could not be certain whether it was himself, until Krishna confirmed his idea! That is why when Krishna tells him that he was indeed Kunti’s son, Karna replied (SECTION CXLI of UDYOGA PARVA) –“ 'Without doubt, O Kesava, thou hast said these words from thy love, affection, and friendship for me, as also in consequence of thy desire of doing me good, O thou of Vrishni's race. I know all that thou hast said unto me. Morally, I am the son of Pandu, as also in consequence of the injunctions of the scriptures, as thou, O Krishna, thinkest. My mother, while a maiden, bore me in her womb, O Janardana, through her connection with Surya. And at the command of Surya himself, she abandoned me as soon as I was born. “
Karna’s version of the story throws a new light to what we knew so far! Karna is confident of his version that Kunti abandoned him at the command of Surya himself! So, had Karna been misbehaving with the Pandavas so long only to force Kunti to come out with the Truth?
Now, to my second focus of discussion - Why Kunti had sex with this man? Or why was she attracted to him? Was she raped?
Apart from what is apparent in the Mahabharata, the Devi Bhagabatam (THE SECOND BOOK Chapter VI) supports the view that Kunti was equally attracted to Durvasa – ‘Thus saying Sûrya Deva enjoyed the bashful Kunti, with her mind attracted towards him.’ (http://www.astrojyoti.com/devibhagavatam6.htm) In the SECTION XC of UDYOGA PARVA, Kunti laments ‘In the matter of my present sorrows, however, I blame neither myself nor Suyodhana, but my father alone. Like a wealthy man giving away a sum of money in gift, my father gave me away to Kuntibhoja. While a child playing with a ball in my hands, thy grandfather, O Kesava, gave me away to his friend, the illustrious Kuntibhoja’.
This shows her great sorrows at not having got the warmth of love from her real father. Her referring to Kuntibhoja as ‘Kuntibhoja’, and not as ‘father’, shows her cold formal relationship with him, as also her disgust for him for having thrown her into such a predicament! A girl with a deeply rooted emotional deficit is bound to search for a ‘father-image.’ Kunti found the ‘lost father’ in Durvasa. It is my guess that at first they had a teacher-student relationship, which later transformed into one of sexual attraction, which is so common! That is why I think that in Kunti’s getting attracted to Durvasa, ‘Electra-complex’ was at work! And on Durvasa‘s part, it was a failure to exercise restraint. We may even call it ‘sexual exploitation’, given Kunti’s tender age. Even if Durvasa had her consent, it was the consent of a minor! It was also the consent taken under ‘promise of restoration of virginity.’ Durvasa clearly procured the consent using his ‘position of influence.’ Sounds like modern legal jargon, I know!
Now to my third focus of discussion - Why did Kunti agree to abandon the child?
It is not very common and natural for a first time mother to abandon her newly born babe! I don’t believe that Kuntibhoja knew nothing of it! We know that Kunti gave birth to the child in the palace. In UDYOGA PARVA SECTION CXLV Kunti says to Karna, O son, thou wert born in the palace of Kuntiraja. O irresistible one, thou, O son, wert brought forth by me in my father's abode.’ How could she possibly hide a nine month long pregnancy? We know that Kunti was such a generous girl that she would mix with all. In VANA PARVA SECTION CCCI, Khuntibhoja praises her in these words – “O daughter, I know that, from childhood upwards, thou hast ever been attentive to Brahmanas, and superiors, and relatives, and servants, and friends, to thy mothers and myself. I know thou bearest thyself well, bestowing proper regard upon everyone. And, O thou of faultless limbs, in the city of the interior of my palace, on account of thy gentle behaviour, there is not one, even among the servants, that is dissatisfied with thee.’ How could she spend the nine months in utter seclusion then? The Devi Bhagabatam version – “The beautiful Kunti became pregnant and began to remain in a house, under great secrecy. Only the dear nurse knew that; her mother or any other person was quite unaware of the fact” – is untenable!
So, Kunti had to abandon the child under duress. Didn’t she protest? Well, perhaps! But, in Kunti, ‘fear’ always pre-dominates her maternal instincts! When ‘fear’ is in, ‘maternal instinct’ is out! We have at least another clue in support of this. In SECTION CXXIII of ADI PARVA, one day after Bhima was born; he was sleeping in Kunti’s lap. He fell from the lap ‘because Kunti, frightened by a tiger, had risen up suddenly, unconscious of the child that lay asleep on her lap. And as she had risen, the infant, of body hard as the thunderbolt, falling down upon the mountain breast, broke into a hundred fragments the rocky mass upon which he fell.’ Our attention is taken away by Bhima’s strength! But isn’t it natural, we may ask( and never can be sure!), that Kunti should have grasped and clasped Bhima deep into her breast instead of causing him fall being ‘unconscious of the child that lay asleep on her’? A motherunconscious of her child!
Regarding the fourth point of my discussion, I have already discussed that Kunti’s secret was not a secret after all! We know, Vyasa knew it, so did Narada, Krishna, Bhisma, Karna and even Duryodhana! All in the list, except Karna and Duryodhana, knew that the ‘lost child’ was Karna. Karna eventually came to know of it, but Duryodhana never knew! If so many could know of it, many others certainly could!
There is one interesting episode in the Harivamsha (Vabishwa Parva – 294 to 298 Chapter) concerning Hamsha-Dimbhak and Durvasa. Hamsha and Dimbhak were the sons of Brahmadatta, the ruler of Shalwanagar. Hamsha and Dimbhak are praised in the Harivamsha as accomplished in the art of weapons, Vedas and Music. They are said to be devoted to elders and Yajna, and were monogamous! One day while hunting deers they came across Rishi Kashyap doing Vishnu Yajna. They were very glad and paid due respect to Kashyap and his associates. On their request Kashyap agreed to act as priest to their father’s Rajsuya. Next the two brothers reached the ashrama of Durvasa. He too was concentrating on Vishnu. But strangely, the two brothers started venting their spleen on Durvasa! They called him ignorant, mad, fraud, hypocrite, idiot, evil, and decided that Durvasa should return to family life! They asked Durvasa, “What are you doing here leaving Grihasthashrama? ….You will go to hell for that…. Your ego will cause your destruction…. You evil-minded ignorant illiterate! ... Do you think that there is no one to punish you? … I am here to punish you …. If you love your life, leave this hermitage immediately and enter family life!” etc. (My translation)
It is clear –
- Hamsha Dimbhak do not have respect for Durvasa, though they highly respect Kashyapa
- Hamsha Dimbhak being religious persons themselves are not misbehaving with Durvasa for no reason!
- Though both Kashyapa and Durvasa were worshipping Vishnu, Hamsha Dimbhak’s discriminatory attitude to them is evident. So, hatred for Durvasa has nothing to do with Vishnu worship!
- Calling Durvasa misfit for a hermit’s life, and ordering him to return to family life, is no doubt an angry satiric attack, prompted by some past incidents of Durvasa!
- There is not a single cause so far in Harivamsha to believe that Hamsha and Dimbhak were out of their head, or that they were incarnations of evil!
Hamsha and Dimbhak did not stop at verbally insulting Durvasa; they tore his ascetic-wear (kashhaya-kaupeena) and destroyed all his ascetic equipments! Tearing away Durvasa’s ascetic-wear is obscene apparently, and even has a sexual undertone. Here is our point! Are Hamsha and Dimbhak’s act prompted by some past ‘sexual act’ of this Durvasa? Obviously, Kunti’s name comes to our mind!
Durvasa now goes to complain to Krishna. At that time Krishna, Satyaki, Baladev, Basudev and Uddhab were in the sabha enjoying some lazy moments with dice. The guards prevented the sages from entering the sabha, and kept them waiting! Here is yet another point. Had this Durvasa really been a sage of great repute, would the guards dare keep them waiting?
Finding an opportunity, Durvasa himself enters the sabha. ‘Krishna and Satyaki have their one eye on the dice and another eye on the sages.’ They do not even fully attend the ‘great Durvasa!’
Finally however, the sage is shown respect. Durvasa roars, ’as long as the two devils (Hamsha and Dimbhak) live, it does not bode well for brahmanas, khsatriyas, vaishyas and sudras!’ Opportunistic ideology! Sounds so familiar to our ears!
Hearing Durvasa’s complaint, Krishna relieves a ‘deep sigh,’ and promises to kill them. Krishna’s ‘deep sigh’ is the most significant clue for us! It is as if Krishna is thinking, ‘O heavens! So I have to act for this scoundrel!’
Here a question may be raised. If Durvasa is Kunti’s rapist (that is no secret to the Yadavas), why is Krishna promising to kill Hamsha and Dimbhak? Actually it is not for Durvasa’s sake! Krishna is a man who never throws a stone just to kill a single bird! He is a man who waits patiently for circumstances to mature, so that ‘Purushkara’ and ‘Daiva’ blends into oneness! Durvasa’s humiliation is just a minor wave, yet like the squirrel’s contribution in the construction of Rama’s bridge, it is necessary for Krishna to create a Tsunami to oust Hamsha and Dimbhak for good, to move closer to his dreams!
Krishna’s attitude to Durvasa becomes clear, when we compare and contrast how he behaves with Hamsha and Dimbhaka’s messanger – one his namesake, Janardan. When Janardan goes to the sabha, the guards do not stop him. Krishna in his usual gentlemanly ways offers him seat, tells him to be seated first and then go to business, though he has no previous acquaintance with the messanger. Then Krishna even asks the well-being of Hamsha-Dimbhak and king Brahmadatta.
The difference in treatment meted out to Durvasa and Janardan is glaring! The present Harivamsha being written much later than Mahabharata got enough time to confidently metamorphose the ‘Brahmana’ into ‘Durvasa’!
As regards my fifth point of focus, i.e. what are the implications of Karna’s being a son of Bharadwaja-Angiras in the Mahabharata; the detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this present article. I have already treated it in a separate article. However, I am discussing the salient features of my said paper here in brief.
- From his father’s side, Karna is ‘always already’ a Puru!
- Karna has Bharadwaja-Angira blood in him just like Bhisma and Drona! That explains, other than why all three fought for the Kuru-side (though Bhisma has an exceptional motive!), Karna’s importance to the Kuru-side, Drona’s ‘breaking of nations’ of Panchala, as well as the causes of marginalization of Bhisma in Hastinapura politics!
- The Kuru-war hides beneath its Khshyatriya garb a war of the Brahmanas, with liberal-cosmopolitan-Samannbyapanthi Vashishtha-Bhrigu-Certain break-away Angira gotras like Kanva, Ghora and Garga Angiras alliance under Vyasa’s leadership on one side, and the orthodox Bharadwaja-Gautama Angiras on the other!
- Bhisma Parva, Drona Parva and Karna Parva were re-written by latter Bharadwaja-Gautama Angirasa poets, to malign Krishna and Arjuna, by the re-creation of mythical propaganda that Bhisma, Drona and Karna were killed in ‘Adharma Yuddha,’ by Krishna’s immoral cunningness!
- Mahabharata Translated into English Prose from the Original Sanskrit Text by Kisari Mohan Ganguli. Scanned at sacred-texts.com, 2004. Proofed by John Bruno Hare, October 2004.
- Devi Bhagabatam. http://www.astrojyoti.com/devibhagavatam6.htm
- Hari Vamsha.(Bengali Version) H.D.Manna & Company. First Edition.
- Mahabharater Charitabali. Shri Sukhomoy Bhattacharya. Ananda Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
- Enigmas in the Mahabharata – by Pradip Bhattacharya.
- Kunti and the Birth of the Sun God’s Child – by Shri Satya Chaitanya.
- THE RIGVEDA - A Historical Analysis by Srikant Talegiri. http://voiceofdharma.org/books/rig/
- Mahabharata, Parvans 1 – 18,Electronic text (C) Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, India, 1999, On the basis of the text entered by Muneo Tokunaga et al., revised by John Smith, Cambridge, et al.
- The Machine-readable Text of the Mahaabhaarata Based on the Poona Critical Edition, Produced by Muneo Tokunaga, Kyoto, Japan