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7. The Brhatii-Sarasvati of RgVeda
In Bharadvaja Angira’s Sukta 6.61, indeed, Sarasvati is Brhatii.
We find an entirely different Sarasvati here, not found anymore in RgVeda. I call her the Lost Sarasvati. She is the Jnani-Yoddha.
Sarasvati is Majestic among the Mighty Ones (mahimna mahinasu); she is created Brhatii for victory (far-reaching, penetrating, pervading) like a Chariot (ratha iva Brhatii vibhvane krto, RV- 6.61.13). Sarasvati’s male-aspect Sarasvan is the world of heaven and the Brhat is the world of heaven (svargo lokah sarasvan svargo loko brhad, Pancavimsha Brahmana-16.5.15).
Sarasvan is no separate God in RgVeda, he is Sarasvati’s male-aspect in her Female-Form. Therefore, Sarasvati is the Original “Ardhanarishvara” – not Shiva. I will come back to this.
We read again – Sarasvati is created Brhatii for victory! Yes, Vyasa creates Brhatii-Draupadi for his Jaya.
Sarasvati is mighty; she “bursts with her strong waves the ridges of the hills” (sanu girinam tavishebhiruurmibhih); she slays the Parvatas - paravataghni (6.61.2). The killer-aspect makes her a Devi of War. Sarasvati casts down scorners of Devas and destroys Maya (RV- 6.61.3). She is compared with Horse - possessing or driving swift mares, rich in horses (vajebhirvajinivati). She is Protector, and she furthers man’s thoughts with might (dhinamavitryavatu; RV- 6.61.4). Like Indra she smites Vrtras (indram na vrtratuurye, RV- 6.61.5). She protects the one who invokes her like Indra while engaged in conflict for the sake of Dhana (yastva devi sarasvatyupabruute dhane hite, 5). As the ?shis’ have seen it, it is the conflict for Dhana that unleashes Matsyanyaya (“Law of Fishes”).
Sarasvati rides a golden chariot on a golden path (hiranyavartanih); she is killer of Vrtra - vrtraghni (RV- 6.61.7). Her roar is tempestuous (amashcarati roruvat; RV- 6.61.8c). “Moreover, Sarasvati is the slayer of the foe within, for she is called on to guard her devotees against slander: Sarasvati nidas patu (6:61: l l c)” [i] She is ever to be invoked in battle and in every deed of Might (vaje-vaje havya bhuut, RV- 6.61.12).
Sarasvati’s role is akin to Indra’s Dandadhara role. This ?k even implies that Sarasvati is an alternative to Indra, or rather, I would suggest, the Ancient and Original Indra. Even as a separate Devi, Sarasvati is at par with Indra –
“Indra or blest Sarasvati alone bestows such wealth, treasure so great, or thou, O Citra, on the worshipper (indro va ghediyan magham Sarasvati va subhaga dadirvasu / tvam va citra dashushe, RV- 8.21.17).
Mahabharata – with its mythical background of Bhuubharaharana, and with Matsyanyaya (“Law of Fishes”) as one of its central imageries is a discourse on Power – Bala. [ii] Sarasvati is Devi of Bala – Sarasvati is not only goddess of Vidya, but also of Bala – Power. ‘Sarasvati comes wherever she is invoked by the powerful (ahuuta balavadbhir hi tatra tatra Sarasvati)’ (9.37.3). If Sarasvati is Bala, then all Kshatriya-might at Kurukshetra and elsewhere is actually her manifestation.
This brings us back to the points I raised earlier. Brhatii connotes “strong and mighty” – and we have seen Vac-Sarasvati is Brhatii in RgVeda; and we have the “strong and mighty” Sarasvati too – an aspect of Sarasvati that makes Indra redundant because all Gunas of Indra are in this Sarasvati who is less known to us.
Yes, I was saying, Sarasvati was the original Indra. Contrary to our popular idea on Sarasvati, she is not only the Devi of Vidya and Buddhi/Prajna, but also the Devi of Yuddha (War) and Spiritual Guide. The Greek Goddess Athena is her echoed Archetype.
The later identification of Sarasvati is Vac is natural because Vak shares same aspects.
8. Vac, Vak-Draupadi and Brhatii-Draupadi
First of all, Vac is Brhatii. Vag is Brhatii - vag vai Brhatii - Brhaspati is so named because he is Pati of Brhatii (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad-1.3.20). Brhatii is specially connected with Brhaspati; rather Brhaspati derives his name from Brhatii.
Draupadi as Brhatii thus suggests her Brhaspati-role to Pandavas; in other words, she is their chief Policy-maker, Niti-deviser and adviser. Again, as Brhatii-Draupadi's Pati, Arjuna is specifically the Brhaspati because Arjuna is arthashastravisharadah (12.161.9).
How Vac has an important place is war needs no special mention. The preparatory days of Kurukshetra War see much Vag-Yuddha through messengers – the purpose is to weaken the opponent through boasting and instilling fear. Uluuka, Sanjaya and Krshna do the same. Then on the battlefield we have motivational Vak – the supreme example of which is the Gita. Then during physical war too we have the prologue of Vag-Yuddha. Arjuna and Karna, Bhima and Duryodhana – all engage in Vag-Yuddha before duel. Vag-Yuddha is occasionally same-sided as in case of Karna and Shalya, or Satyaki and Dhrshtadyumna.
If VagDanda and Vag-Yuddha are Vac-Sarasvati’s Vak (Speech, Words, and Language), then we have real weapons and chariot – and as we have seen, all these are symbolic manifestations of Vac-Sarasvati’s Bala (Power) and might.
Let us now approach the RgVedic Vac, and explore further, how Draupadi is Vac’s archetype.
9. Vyasa, Vac-Sarasvati, Draupadi and Bhuubharaharana
We know, the Mythical background of Mahabharata is Bhuubharaharana – the disburdening of Bhuu. Now, who is Bhuu? Is she only Earth-Prthivi?
I would say, Bhuubharaharana is all about Vac-Sarasvati. The Bhuubharaharana as rattling of Kshatriya-weaponry is only its tiny part. That Mahabharata as a war-narrative dominates our sense is courtesy later editing.
Vyasa has surely been rediscovering himself. According to a Mythical Narrative, Vyasa is Sarasvata’s incarnation Apantaratama’s incarnation.
In a Mythical Narrative in which Vyasa explains the background of his birth, after Brahma creates the World (srshta imah prajah sarva brahmana parameshthina, 12.337.29a), the Earth becomes burdened (vasumati bharakranta tapasvini, 29a) when Daitya-Danava-Rakshasa become proud (darpitaih, 31a), and start oppressing the Devas, ?shis, and ascetics (badhitavyah suragana rshayash ca tapodhanah, 31c). Then Narayana assumes diverse forms to chastise the wicked and uphold the righteous (nigrahena ca papanam sadhuunam pragrahena ca, 32c) for removing the Earth’s Burden (bharavatarana, 31e).
Then Narayana utters Bho and “From this syllable of speech (Sarasvati) arose a ?shi of the name Sarasvat (Sarasvatim uccacara tatra sarasvato bhavat, 37c). The ?shi, thus born of the Speech of Narayana, came to be, also called by the name of Apantaratama (38a).” Vyasa is re-incarnation of Apantaratama.
Vyasa is also regarded as “abode of Sarasvati (avasam ca sarasvatyah, 7.172.43c).”
Vyasa’s birth, Dharma and Karma are thus all about Vac-Sarasvati. And if he composes Mahabharata – Vedan Pancaman, wouldn’t that be all about Vac-Sarasvati of RgVeda?
Let us remember: Mahabharata begins with salutation and invocation of Sarasvati:
“Om! Having bowed down to Narayana and Nara, the most exalted Human, [iii] and also to the goddess Saraswati, must the word Jaya be uttered
narayanam namaskrtya naram caiva narottamam /
devim Sarasvatim caiva tato jayam udirayet // (1.1.0)”
The importance of Sarasvati-Vac needs no explanation. No Vidya is possible without her blessing; Kavya – Mahakavya – cannot be composed unless she amuses being the Muse.
The invocation mentions Sarasvati at par with Narayana and Nara. Now, if we detect this Narayana and Nara pair in Krshna–Arjuna, then who is Sarasvati? Or, let me frame the question thus: if Narayana and Nara are Krshna and Arjuna, then isn’t Sarasvati the other two Krshnas – Vyasa (as Sarasvati’s male-aspect Sarasvan) and Brhatii-Draupadi?
Significantly, Apantaratama is born and endowed with the task of dealing with Vedas, Akhyayana and Shruti – (vedakhyane shrutih karya tvaya matimatam vara 12.337.39), when Narayana conceives Bhuubharaharana (nigrahena ca papanam sadhuunam pragrahena ca – 12.337.32), implying Bhuubharaharana – obviously a Political project of Gods (de-burdening Earth from Asuras and Devas born as corrupt and Power-Monger Kshatriyas and Brahmanas) - is linked with the ‘Academic’ and ‘Cultural’ project of Veda division and ‘editing.’
Vyasa’s dealing with Vedas – his trying to understand and interpret them – and his entry into Kuru Vamsha via the Niyoga-Pratha occurs at the same time [iv] – the Academic and Political-role thus coincides.
In a Mythical Narrative, Narayana told Vyasa in one of his previous births – “When the Kali age will set in, certain princes of Bharata’s line, to be called by the name of Kauravas, will take their birth from thee. They will be celebrated over the Earth as high-souled princes ruling over powerful kingdoms. Born of thee, dissensions will break out among them ending in their destruction at one another’s hands excepting yourself. [v] (KMG-SHanti-Parvan.350)
punas tishye ca samprapte kuravo nama bharatah /
bhavishyanti mahatmano rajanah prathita bhuvi // (42)
tesham tvattah prasuutanam kulabhedo bhavishyati /
parasparavinashartham tvam rte dvijasattama // (12.337.43)
The Kauravas (both Kuru-Pandavas) are therefore, Vac’s ‘bloodline’ [vi] and in their dissension and end, Vac’s role should be undeniable. Duhshasana, Duryodhana and Karna’s ill-Vak to Draupadi is profanation of Vac herself – and that becomes the root cause of Kshatriya-annihilation in Kurukshetra War Yajna.
Thus in Bhuubharaharana, Vac-Sarasvati is of equal importance – if not more – to the importance of the trinity Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshvara and Indra. Or, perhaps, we have to see whether Vac-Sarasvati is different at all from the trinity and Indra.
I have noted that in Shandilya Upanishad, Sarasvati is associated with “M” of AUM – suggesting dissolution/destruction – and therefore, Shiva-Maheshvara is her Archetype. Sarasvati as vrshabhavahini trishuuladharini even confirms that. And I have noted that with male-aspect Sarasvan in her Female form, Sarasvati is the Original “Ardhanarishvara.”
The Present Mahabharata has Shiva’s role in almost every affair. It is likely that Sarasvati has been appropriated by Shiva.
Shiva’s penchant with Dice Game is well known. Even Dice Game is associated with Virat. In Chandogya Upanishad (4.3.8), Virat is identified with Krta (Dice-cast).
Bhuubharaharana – Deburdening of the Earth for which God-forces incarnate on Earth, presupposes that the Asuras had already incarnated to ‘burden’ Earth. What could this ‘burden’ be? Was it only Political? Was it only their Tyrannous Rule?
No doubt, the Bhuubharaharana Project unfolds in Political Dimension as the Narrative shows; however, there is another side to it – Academic and Cultural (- and any person acquainted with the Academic and Cultural world knows too well how Matsyanyaya is operative in this world too; how the spectre of Tyrannous Rule looms here too!)
The Narrative of Vyasa’s Mythical Birth testifies that in his Life-Purpose, the Political and the Academic-Cultural are two sides of the same Coin.
Now, Earth – Prthivi – is identified with Vac; Vac is this World - vag evayam loko (e.g. Brhadaranyaka Upanishad-1.5.4). “The earth is the body of that Vac, and this fire is its luminous organ. And as far as Vac extends, so far extends the earth and so far does this fire (tasyai vacah prthivi shariram | jyotiruupam ayam agnih | tad yavaty eva Vac tavati prthivi tavan ayam agnih || BrhUp_1,5.11). The Vac and Prthivi association is further confirmed through the common Metaphor Cow.
We see, how Cow-Imagery dominates Mahabharata-narratives.
First, let us see, how Vac is all important in the Deva-Asura Conflict of Bhuubharaharana. And how Vyasa in re-creating Itihasa as Mahakavya, actually transforms all Mahabharata-narratives into allegory of Vac!,
Bhishma denounces the category of men who are Ahamkari and who, by decrying the knowledge of others proclaim the superiority of their own knowledge (nindaya paravidyanam svam vidyam khyapayanti ye); who have words for their weapons and words for their arrows and speak as if they have obtained the Milk of result of knowledge (vagastra vakchurimattva dugdhavidyaphala iva). Bhishma calls them ‘Wordy’ people as ‘traders in learning’ and ‘Rakshasa among men’ (tan vidyavanijo viddhi rakshasan iva – 12.140.15) – hinting at Artha-inclined Asurik nature – obviously the double meaning of Artha in play. In short, Asurik people manipulate discourses on Dharma and interpret scriptures to suit their Self-centric needs of Artha, without knowing the true Artha of Artha in Dharma and Purusharthas. By implication, one who is stuck at the Surface Layer of Words of a Text is Rakshasa or Asurik.
In other words, understanding Vac is what makes one Deva. And this understanding requires going Beyond the Surface Layer of Vac. Duryodhana et al. fail to see Draupadi-Vak in her Essence. They are stuck at the Surface Layer of her beauty and appearance, and want to enjoy her as a Dasi. They want to disrobe her forcefully. Needless to say, Vak, the Queen, cannot be enjoyed as a Dasi. And Vak cannot be disrobed forcefully. She reveals herself only to the one she loves. Vac cannot be raped. Thus, Kicaka fails. Vac cannot be abducted. Thus, all attempts of Jayadratha and Jatasura run into disaster.
However, Vac can be profaned; and the profaner must meet consequences. Duhshasana and Karna’s ill-Vak is violation of Vac. Karna’s chariot sinks to the Earth. His chariot is Sarasvati (we have seen, Sarasvati is chariot); for him, Sarasvati would not be his any more; she, as Chariot, returns to her essence – Prthivi.
10. Mahabharata-narratives: Allegory of Chanda
As I said, Vyasa in re-creating Itihasa as Mahakavya, actually transforms all Mahabharata-narratives into allegory of Vac!,
Bhima (the Vayu and Prana) rips apart Duhshasana’s ribs – a fit vengeance to Brhatii-Draupadi's humiliation, because Ribs are Brhatii Chanda (Metre) (Shatapatha Brahmana). Besides, Heart is the place of union of Indra and Virat (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad).
Thus, Duryodhana’s Thighs are smashed – interestingly, in Shatapatha Brahmana, thigh is associated with Anushtup Chanda.
Draupadi is Vac’s archetype; but in Mahabharata-Itihasa, she is human. Thus, she is not perfect. She too has to pay for her vengeance. Her sons are archetypes of Vishvadevas. In Shatapatha Brahmana, Vishvadevas are associated with Thigh and Anushtup Chanda. Ashvatthama’s killing of her sons is “smashing” of her “thigh” and Heart.
Heart for Heart - Thigh for Thigh – Anushtup Chanda for Anushtup Chanda – and Vyasa’s Mahakavya flows like Sarasvati’s streams with that restoration of Balance.
Bhuubharaharana is annihilation of corrupt Kshatriyas – that includes the Pandavas’ side too. Even if we think that Draupadi's sons are “innocent children” – the innocence must spill blood in the Existential Reality of Bhuubharaharana.
In SHatapatha Brahmana again, Pashu (animals) is Chanda – and the harnessing of Pashu is compared with harnessing of Chanda for Yajna. Duryodhana’s attempt to reduce Draupadi to Dasi is his attempt to “harness” her like Pashu. No doubt, Duryodhana’s Yuddha-Yajna fails because the attempted harnessing is malevolent. [As a sidelight, Nahusha’s fall is owing to same reason. He harnesses the seven ?shis – the seven Chandas – like Pashu (animals) – and he kicks Agastya’s head – that can be read as violation of Chanda. And he does all these with Kama-motive for Shaci. One meaning of Shaci is Eloquence - the Vac. Thus, Nahusha’s Yajna too fails].
In Shatapatha Brahmana again, Hair is Chanda. Duhshasana’s grabbing Draupadi by her hair is violation of Chanda. Therefore, his Heart – the residence of Virat - is split open.
The Deva-Asura Conflict is not only battle of weapons, but also Battle of Metres (Chanda) (Pancavimsha Brahmana). The Kauravas lose because of their violation of Chanda.
Thus, Bhuubharaharana might well be Deburdening Vac – and the fact that Vyasa’s Mahabharata is ‘Vedan Pancaman’ (1.57.74) – that is, Vyasa creates another Veda though remaining in Tradition, that is, he creates a new form of Kavya breaking away from the past – preferring Narrative-Literature over Prayers and Coded Messages- the Bhuu in Bhuubharaharana might well mean Vac. And let us not forget, the Gayatri-mantra begins with Bhuu – and Gayatri is one manifestation of Vac.
(To be continued …)
[i] Ludvik, Catherine. Sarasvati: Riverine Goddess of Knowledge, From the Manuscript-carrying Vina-player to the Weapon-wielding Defender of the Dharma, Brill 2007, p-16
[ii] Bandyopadhyay, Indrajit. Mahabharata: Matsyanyaya Game of Power. Lulu 2013
[iii] I am discarding KMG’s translation of “narottamam” as “most exalted male being.’
[iv] sa vedaan vibruvan dhiimaan m?tur vijnaaya cintitam /praadurbabhuuvaaviditah kshanena kurunandana (1.99.22)
[v] This prediction however, does not hold good in Kautilya’s Arthash?stra – where Vyasa is killed by the Yadavas and consequently destroyed. Undoubtedly, Kautilya knew a different Mahabharata.
[vi] On the evidence of Narayana’s prediction, I have argued elsewhere that the Pandavas were indeed Pandu’s biological sons – and that makes them Vyasa’s bloodline.