Guru-Shishya, Vyasa and Jaimini

A Comparison - 2

Continued from Previous Page

The search for the required horse, described in detail, is very elaborate in Jaimini. He has used three chapters and a half and 296 verses to describe the horse, the country, a great exhibition of prowess by Bhima, Vrishaketu, Karna’s son and Meghavarna, the son of Ghatotkacha, in battle to plunder the horse from King Yauvanashva of Bhadravati. But in Vyasa the horse is not described and is just picked up from the stables. 

Jaimini describes what should be done when the horse stops, the Asipatra Vrata, the plaque that should be fixed on the horse’s forehead and the text that has to be written on the plaque. These are not there in Vyasa.

In Jaimini, Arjuna travels to only thirteen places as described in the table above and he has to fight at seven places whereas in Vyasa he goes to more than twenty-five places with battle taking place almost at all places. 

In Vyasa, Arjuna, though very old by now, is still the all-conquering hero and sweeps the field alone swiftly and conclusively as the lone escort of the horse. He does not require any help and, unlike Jaimini’s Arjuna, never calls for Krishna’s assistance. But in Jaimini, Pandavas have been shown in poor light. Here, Arjuna is cumbersome, assisted by a battery of commanders including Krishna and gets systematically thrashed by almost all who dare to stop the horse till Krishna extricates him by using his “influence and power” with the adversaries. Actually, Vyasa’s battle descriptions are brief. He gives an impression of being in a terrible hurry and of not being very interested in the exploits of Arjuna during the tour of conquest.  He appears to think that he has done enough of that in the battle-parvas of the epic whereas Jaimini seems to be having all the time in the world and revels in describing the battles in as much detail as possible.

Interestingly in Jaimini, most of Arjuna’s adversaries are young. These and the young men in the Pandava camp fare much better than Arjuna. Here, we get a glimpse of the next generation none of whom have been mentioned by Vyasa: Meghavarna, son of Ghatotkacha, Vrishaketu, son of Karna, Bhishana, son of Baka Rakshasa, Anushalva, brother of Shalva, etc.

Most of Jaimini’s characters find a place in the vernacular literature, oral traditions and performing arts. They are not known to Vyasa. To quote a few examples, Anushalva, Chandrahasa, Sudhanva, Yauvanashva, Tamradhvaja, Viravarma, etc. in Yakshagana of Karnataka.  Jana (Jwala), Chandrahasa, Nilaketu, Pramila, Tamradhvaja, Mayuradhvaja, etc in the yatra/folk theatre traditions of Bengal. Some characters who play a merely peripheral role in Vyasa become larger than life in the local tradition of South India e.g. Iravan/Aravan, the son of Arjuna-Ulupi. Some characters that are important in Vyasa, e.g. Abhimanyu, are assigned different roles in local traditions: Abhimanyu desires to marry Sundari, daughter of Krishna-Satyabhama according to Malayalam tradition or Sasirekha, daughter of Balarama-Revati, according to Telegu and Kannada tradition, and he is helped by Ghatotkacha and Iravan in achieving his objective. 

These are not seen in Jaimini because Ashvamedhaparva is not the right place for them. Is it not possible that these occur elsewhere in the larger Jaiminibharata

In the Ramayana too we see similar things happening. In the Bengali Krittibasa Ramayana we have Taranisen, Birbahu, Mahiravana (popular in South Indian vernacular too), etc. who are not seen in Valmiki. It is possible that these characters appear in Jaimini somewhere, either in Jaiminibharata of which Ramakatha would have been a part as it is in Vyasa. Mairavanacaritra in any case claims to be a part of the Jaiminibharata. To know these in their proper perspective it is important that the available Jaimini texts in grantha script mentioned at the beginning of this article are brought to the notice of the discerning reader. 

An examination of the table provided above reveals some obvious differences.  Except the Pandava family, Krishna’s family, Vyasa, Narada, Duhshala, Babhruvahana, Chitrangada, Ulupi and a few other minor characters, there is no commonality among the characters of the two Ashvamedha Parvas. Jaimini commits an error of commission when he mentions Yashoda staying with Krishna and travelling with him to Hastinapura. She is never seen in Vyasa as she never stayed with Krishna at either Mathura or Dvaraka. The episodes too are different. Arjuna battles with Pravira, King Niladhvaja and his resident god and son-in-law, Agni, at Mahishmati. Interestingly, we do find a model of Jaimini’s King Niladhvaja in Vyasa’s King Nila of Mahishmati and his son-in-law, Agni with whom, in Sabha Parva, Sahadeva clashes while on his tour of conquest during the Rajasuya Yajna. We find Nila again in Udyoga Parva joining forces with the Kauravas. Queen Jvala who is so impotant in Jaimini having been the direct cause of Arjuna’s death at Babhruvahana’s hands, is not there in Vyasa. Then at Champa, Arjuna and Krishna fight with King Hamsadhvaja, a great devotee of Krishna, and his heroic sons, Sudhanva and Suratha. Thereafter he battles with Queen Pramila in the country of women, goes on to marry her on the advice of the gods and sends her to Hastinapura with a promise to consummate the marriage there, slays the demon king Bhishana in demon country, gets defeated by Prince Tamradhvaja at Ratnanagara (the exploit also has the story of the King Mayuradhvaja’s sacrifice which is similar to the well-known story of Shibi) and fights with Viravarma and his son-in-law, Yama, at Sarasvatapura. These characters and incidents are unknown to Vyasa. While the horse travels we come across the curious story of the horse getting stuck on a rock in the Vindhya mountain and the consequent sub-story of the obstinate Chandi and her husband Uddalaka, of how the horse turns into a mare and then a tigress in the enchanted forest, of the strange country of tree-people and fabulous people with astonishing features. In Vyasa, Sahadeva vanquished the one-footed and the large-eared ones during his tour of conquest and they were present in the pavilion during the Rajasuya Yajna

Greek authors like Megasthenes, Arrian, Ktesias, Deimachos too have described these fabulous people of India and named them variously as Astomis, Ocupedes, Entokoitai, Hyperborians, etc. (John W. McCrindle, Ancient India as described by Megasthenes and Arrian,  2000, pp.74-81). Much before the Greeks, the Persians had found these fabulous people of India through Scylax whom Darius had sent as an envoy or spy. (P.L.Madan, River Ganga: a cartographic mystery, 2005, p.19)

We meet the sage Bakadalbhya and hear his very interesting story of how he gets rid of vanity after his encounter with various Brahmas with ever-multiplying faces. Maharshi Baka-Dalbhya appears in Vana Parva of Vyasa twice but only in an advisory capacity. At Dvaitavana, Maharshi Baka of the Dalbhya family advised Yudhishthira on the relationship to be maintained between Brahmins and Kshatriyas. At another place, Yudhishthira asked sage Markandeya to describe the story of the two immortal sages named Baka and Dalbhya. Markandeya then narrated the conversation between Rajarshi Baka and Indra in which Baka described the advantages and disadvantages of long life. In the Mahabharata, Baka and Dalbhya are two persons. In Jaimini, Bakadalbhya is one person. And finally we hear the story of Chandrahasa, king of Kuntala, perhaps the best tale told by Jaimini in the book. All these episodes, characters and stories are not there in Vyasa. Where were these kings and princes of unbounded valour who could best the combined force of Arjuna, Krishna and their redoubtable commanders with utter disdain, during the Mahabharata War? From where did Jaimini get them? Are they all his own invention? Or did he get them from some sources not yet found? One wonders. Perhaps we would have found them in other undiscovered Parvas of the Jaiminibharata.

In Jaimini, Arjuna, after the Mayuradhvaja episode, travels with two horses, his own and that of Mayuradhvaja. The second horse disappears just when he reaches Hastinapura. Why Jaimini introduced the second horse, is not clear. Vyasa has not gone into all these unnecessary complications. He is happy with one horse.

There are differences in the actual performance of the sacrifice too. Vyasa has described the yajna very briefly, giving only sketchy details of the various activities. He only mentions that six yupas of different kinds of wood and chitis made of gold bricks in the form of Garuda and other birds were made. But Jaimini has described everything in great detail. We almost see the yajna vividly when we read about ishtikachayana, chitis, the ceremony of collecting water, the bathing ceremony, etc. He has specified the names of the sages holding the offices of priests and doorkeepers whereas Vyasa in Mahabharata merely tells Yudhisthita that he, Yajnavalka and Paila would be enough to conduct the rites. In Vyasa, the priests themselves kill the horse, Draupadi is made to sit near the slain body of the horse and then the fat of the horse is poured into fire as oblation. In Jaimini, the horse first intimates through Nakula (Nakula is an expert with horses and understands their speech) that he has no desire to go to heaven as Krishna himself is present at the yajna-site and so he will go straight to Krishna. Dhaumya squeezes the ear of the horse and milk comes out proving its purity. Bhima decapitates the horse, upon which its head, instead of falling, soars into the sun. Krishna pierces the horse’s chest and milk comes out. A ray of light issues from the horse, enters Krishna and the horse’s body turns into a heap of camphor which is offered to the fire as oblation. Draupadi here is not required to sit near the body. Interestingly, in the Ramayana, Kaushalya kills the horse herself in Dasharatha’s Ashvamedha. At the end of the sacrifice, the message that animal sacrifice is not necessary to achieve heaven comes through strongly in Vyasa through the debate and the Agastya story. Other means like charity, truth, etc are also there for achieving heaven. Jaimini has not dwelt on the subject except making a passing comment at the end of chapter 66: “That is why, O king, you should not wonder about the yajnas. Many ascetics sanctified by devotion alone, have gone to heaven without performing any sacrifice. Absence of malice towards all creatures, contentment, truth, sincerity, conquest of all senses, peace and ascesis are the paths to heaven.”

The value-based story of the quarrelling Brahmins and the effects of the Kaliyuga on human values as described by Krishna in Jaimini are not there in Vyasa. 

Lastly, the most significant and unique contribution of Jaimini to the genre of ancient Indian literature perhaps is the Ramakatha – the Kusha-Lava story. Even though this episode is irrelevant to the central theme of the text, this is the single longest story in Jaimini Ashvamedhaparva. This particular story of Jaimini, not narrated by either Valmiki or Vyasa, captured the attention of the people and became an extremely popular ballad sung in the villages. Vyasa ends his Ramakatha with the conquest of Lanka and in Valmiki, if the Uttarakanda is not considered to be an interpolation, Lava-Kusha just appear at the yajna site with Valmiki and sing the story of Rama. Jaimini begins his story from the point where Vyasa ends. Why did Jaimini begin this completely unprovoked story? Was it merely to draw a parallel to another story of father-son conflict, the Arjuna-Babhruvahana encounter? Or, was it because he felt the need to have his own Ramakatha since Vyasa had one, beginning from where Vyasa left off? And then, if the incident does not occur either in the Ramayana or in the Mahabharata where did he get the story? It is not there in Kalidasa’s Raghuvamsham too, another store-house of the story of the Raghavas. The idea of a conflict between Rama and the twins is seen first in Bhavabhuti’s Uttararamacharita (7th century AD) in which Chandraketu, Lakshmana’s son, escorts the horse of Rama’s Ashvamedha. Lava seizes it and there is battle. Rama arrives to end the battle. Kusha too arrives and meets Rama and then, through a play staged by Valmiki, Rama and Sita are happily united. Though this text could not have been the source for Jaimini as it differs substantially from Jaimini’s more elaborate and dramatic content, it does give the impression that by 700 AD the idea of a confrontation between Rama and his sons had taken root. It is also not impossible to think of Bhavabhuti as the originator of the idea. Even though there is a Kushalavopakhyana in Vimalasuri’s Paumacariyam, a Jaina Ramayana in Maharashtrian prakrit (c.473AD) where Ankusha and Lavana, sons of Pauma (Rama) and Siya (Sita) venture on a tour of conquest and fight with Pauma and Lakkana at Saketa (Ayodhya), it is drastically different from Jaimini and Bhavabhuti. Ravisena’s Padmacaritra (a Jaina version in Sanskrit c.700 AD) narrates the same story with peripheral differences. Similar is the case of Somadeva’s Kathasaritsagara tale of Rama’s Naramedha Yajna (1070 AD) in which Lakshmana captures Lava, the elder brother here, and takes him to Ayodhya to be slain in sacrifice. Kusha, having heard of Lava’s capture, fights with Rama and Lakshmana, defeats them, frees Lava and finally gets acquainted with Rama. This too therefore does not pass muster. 

That brings us to the Padmapurana (Patalakhanda) which Koskikallio and Vielle describe as a “contemporaneous text” (Koskikallio and Vielle, op. cit. p. 332).  The story here jells beautifully with that of Jaimini. Here, Shatrughna’s troops encounter numerous adventures and confrontations and take up a substantial part of the book against Jaimini’s three and a half shlokas. He finally reaches Valmiki’s hermitage and Lava captures the horse. In the ensuing terrible battle the twins get the better of Shatrughna and Shatrughna himself is rendered unconscious. They tie up Sugriva and Hanumana and drag them home as battle trophies. Sita releases them and by her grace all the dead soldiers and commanders regain their lives. Shatrughna returns and on hearing the story Rama sends for the sons and Sita. The sons come but Sita refuses. Lakshmana goes again and this time Sita relents and they are united. Meanwhile the twins sing the Ramayana for Rama. In Jaimini’s story, after Shatrughna fell unconscious, Lakshmana, Bharata and Rama himself came, one after the other, to fight the twins and met with failure. Valmiki arrives and revives everyone by sprinkling nectareous water.

The two stories are essentially similar though there are differences. There are many stories narrated in the Padma Purana, e.g. Sita’s curse, Bhrigu-Chyavana-Sukanya, Yagini episode, etc, which are absent in Jaimini. The main difference is the battle sequence which is much longer and varied in Jaimini. In fact this battle sequence is a brilliant product of Jaimini’s creativity which later authors, especially the vernacular, lapped up gleefully. However, the similarities are overwhelming. Not only the Kusha-lava story, but many of the other episodes of the Padma Purana have been narrated in chapters other than the Ramakatha in Jaimini. The abundance of such similarities leaves no doubt that one of these texts must have been the source for the other. If we consider Padma Purana to be the source for Jaimini, the variety and length that Jaimini introduces in the text, especially in the battle sequence, clearly establish him as a poet with a creativity of higher order. On the other hand, if we consider that Jaimini preceded the Padma Purana, then it is Jaimini all the way – the story is entirely his invention with seeds of the idea taken from stories like the Uttararamacharitam and Kathasaritsagara

These and many other small differences not discussed here make the reading of this text uniquely intriguing. Going through the text generates a distinct feeling that it was to emphasise two basic points that Jaimini embarked upon this stupendous project. First, he felt a need to create a next generation of heroes more powerful than the previous ones. We have already seen some of the next generation in action in Ashvamedhaparva, e.g. Vrishaketu, Meghavarna, Aushalva, Suvega, Sudhanva, Suratha, Bhishana, Pravira, Babhruvahana, Tamradhvaja, Lava, Kusha, etc.  In addition, we have Mairavana, Birbahu, Taranisen, all Ravana’s sons, Makaradhvaja, Hanuman’s son, on the evidence of tales told in folk plays and cinema (that is why it is imperative that Mairavanacharitra be translated). Jaimini’s other objective seems to have been the propagation of Vaishnava bhakti. In Jaimini it is not mere bhakti. It is bhakti in enmity – you worship the Lord as an enemy. When your deity appears as an enemy, the battle-field becomes your temple and you worship him by fighting him following your svadharma as a true Kshatriya, sincerely and without giving or asking for quarter. Jaimini needed to show that the next generation too was very heroic and they too had bhakti which was steadfast even when they confronted their deity as an enemy. This strengthens the feeling that Jaimini must have written the controversial Bharata and one can only hope that one day the other chapters of Jaimini Bharata which promise to be equally captivating as the Ashvamedhaparva will be found for our edification. Perhaps the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts and the National Manuscript Mission will eventually succeed in both – trace the elusive Jaiminibharata and get the available grantha manuscripts translated.   

Read Also:  Variations on Vyasa: The First Bengali Mahabharatas 

  1. It is not clear whether  Vaishampayana  narrated his own version or Vyasa’s at Janamejaya’s court. Even though Sauti says that he is narrating whatever he had heard from Vaishampayana, I feel that what Vaishampayana narrated was Vyasa’s text since he spoke under Vyasa’s personal instruction and supervision. He was competent to do it as he and other disciples had learnt it from Vyasa.
  2. An English translation of the Kannada version of the Preface was very kindly sent by Dr. T.S.Bhanumurthy of Chennai in 2005, received courtesy Dr. Sheshachala Shastri.
  3. All these are lying in the Madras Oriental Library of the Govt. of Tamilnadu.
  4. A detailed discussion can be found in W.L.Smith’s article, “The Jaimini Bharata and its Eastern Vernacular Versions”, 1999, p. 391 and Shekhar Sen’s Introduction to Jaiminyashvamedhaparva, 2008, pp.19-24)
  5. The author of the present article has translated the Jaiminiyashvamedhaparva into English. It is the first English version and has been published by Writers Workshop, Kolkata in 2008.
  6. In Vyasa’s Adi Parva the kingdom named Manilura where Arjuna weds Chitrangada is in South India and explains the presence of the Pandya king (Chitrangada’s father) on the side of the Pandavas in the war. Interestingly, Alli, the heroic queen of Tamil folklore also belongs to the Pandya kingdom and we see shades of Alli in Chitrangada and Jaimini’s Pramila.
  7. Curious as he has already done this and Rajasuya is never done twice. So also, Naramedha repeats the holocaust of Kurukshetra. 

1. Critical Edition of the Mahabharata, Adi and Ashvamedhikaparvans, BORI, Pune, 1933 ff.
2. Janakinath Sharma, Introduction, Jaiminiyashvamedhaparva, Gita Press, Gorakhpur, 2nd edition, n. d.
3. Petteri Koskikallio and Christophe Vielle, “Epic and Puranic Texts Attributed to Jaimini,” Indologia Taurinensia, Vol xxvii, Edizioni A.I.T., Torino, 2001.
4. W.L.Smith, “The Jaimini Bharata and its Eastern Vernacular Versions,” Studia Orientalia, ed. The Finnish Oriental Society, Vol. 85, Helsinki, 1999.
5. R.D.Karmarkar, Introduction to the Ashvamedhikaparvan in the Critical Edition of the Mahabharata, BORI, Pune, 1960.
6. John W. McCrindle, Ancient India as described by Megasthenes and Arrian, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, 2000.
7. P.L.Madan, River Ganga: a cartographic mystery, Manohar, New Delhi, 2005.
8. Pradip Bhattacharya, Panchakanya: The Five Virgins of Indian Epics, Writers Workshop, Kolkata, 2005.
9. Kaliprasanna Singha, The Mahabharata, Basumati Sahitya Mandir, Kolkata, 4th Edition, 1349 BS (1942 CE).
10. Shekhar Sen, tr. Jaiminiyashvamedhaparva, Writers Workshop, Kolkata, 2008.


More by :  Maj. Gen. Shekhar Sen

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Views: 3545      Comments: 2

Comment Dear Mr Anand,
I think we can not judge past ages by today's standards.
These yadnyas were probably a way of forging empires, not unlike the international bodies today, where the weaker kings had the protection of the emperor against bullish neighbours.

04-Apr-2015 01:11 AM

Comment Hello Sir,

Its been a pleasure reading your articles. I luckily chanced upon your write ups and I am glad that I did. I am myself a student of Indian mythology both out of interest and a sort of compulsion, reasons for which are hard for me to describe at a public forum.

I have read various versions of the Mahabharat and have also read ''Krishna Charitra'' by Bankim. In the book, Bankim wrote a line which has always struck a chord with me. He gives an example of European conquerors such as Alexander and blames them of causing mass scale genocide of humanity in their lust for power. He also compares them with thieves.

Keeping this point in mind I wish to understand the context of Rajasuya and Ashwamedha yajna. The way they have been described in the Mahabharat, to my eyes are very similar to any conquest by a power hungry king in any culture. In my understanding (even though I hope and wish that it is still incomplete so that I can come on different conclusions), Pandavas Rajsuya and Ashwamedha yajnas, which they conducted on the advice of Krishna is equivalent to Alexander''s ruthless conquest, the history is replete with such examples.

Unfortunately, I fail to understand the ''Dharma'' here. Why would we consider doing a Ashwamedha and a Rajasuya yajnas, which are essentially meant for engaging neighboring states/countries in to an uninvited war, in the garb of a religious ritual. The states which are attacked or are asked to accept the supremacy of Pandavas would essentially try to defend their money from the attack of our heroes the Pandavas. In my understanding, if the practices of Rajsuya/Ashwamedha were still in common use, then the English historians would write about the golden rule of the English, where the sun never set, in the garb of the same fancy nomenclature, giving it a religious overtone. Only the innocents who suffer from such attacks know the anguish of it and as Indians we are very much familiar with the pain.

I will be grateful, if you could explain to me the true meanings of such bloody yajnas (if there is any), even though I have researched alot and asked many a experts but they have failed to explain me a thing, making me loose all hope.

But still I await an answer.


Abhinav Anand
04-Feb-2015 04:33 AM

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