Not a single word of Vyaasa is without purpose, not a single arrangement of words of Vyaasa is without a Coded Message.
How could Vishhnu-Incarnate die such an inglorious death at the hand of a mere Vyaadha (Hunter)? Why does Krishna die at the 16th Parvan?
1. Great Crocodile’s (mahaagraahaam) Cold Corpse
Just before his death, after the destruction of the Vrshhnis and Andhakas in drunken brawl, Krishna instructed his charioteer and trusted friend Daaruka to leave for Hastinapura immediately and bring Arjuna for saving and protecting the remnant Yaadavas.
Arjuna reaches Dvarkaa, and sees the city in the imagery of river (16.6.6-11), in which Krishna and Balaraama lie dead like two mighty alligators - raamaKrishnamahaagraahaam dvaarakaasaritam tadaa, and now that Vaitarani-like river has been bound up by Kaala’s net - kaalapaashagrahaam ghoraam nadiim vaitaraniim iva.
In Mahaabhaarata, Crocodile is often an Alternative Imagery of Fish that includes Jhashhaa, and Timi.
The irony becomes poignant because Krishna once said: jhashhaanaam makarash caasmi (Giitaa: 10.31) – I am the Fish -eater of the fishes 'fish-eater.' (MW gives the meaning of Jhashhaa as 'fish-eater,’ or the Gangetic porpoise - “a small-toothed whale with a low triangular dorsal fin, and a blunt rounded snout.”)
And he is the same Krishna who along with Arjuna once escaped death in a great battle at Kurukshhetra – “Indeed, the two Krishnas, their fatigue dispelled, having pierced through that vast host, looked like two fishes that had passed through a strong net - vimuktau jvalanasparzaan makaraasyaaj jhashhaav iva / vyakshhobhayetaam senaam tau samudram makaraav iva (7.76.9).”
Interestingly, that description is of Drona Parvan on the eve of Jayadratha-slaughter. The parallel is striking. That day also an eclipse occurred, just like it occurs this time in Dvaarakaa.
The only difference is – that time the Jhashhaa escaped the Net, but this time could not. Arjuna survives Krishna, but with humiliation. He would be ‘hunted’ and ‘haunted’ by the Dasyus of Pancanada, just like five Sense Organs ‘hunt and haunt’ the Self. Arjuna’s Ahamkaara – and Vyaasa describes Ahamkaara in imagery of Fish – will be netted soon.
2. Fish and Fisherman-Imagery in Mahaabhaarata
Krishna, the Ultimate Purushha, hailed as Vishhnu’s Avataara, who once took birth as the Great Fish – Matsyaavataara (Fish is Purushha; Mbh., Yaajnavalka:12.306.71-72; Brhadaaranyaka Upanishhad - 4.3.18) - the Fish-eater of the fishes (that in Maatsyanyaaya Imagery suggests the most Powerful – and also the “Fisherman”), who acted as a “Fisherman” to kill Fish-guised Shambara (one meaning of Shambara is Fish) and save his Guru Saandipanii’s son, whom Yudhishhthira saw as a Fisherman during Jaraasamdha-killing mission, whom Vyaasa regards many times as Great Fish during the Kuru-war - now lies dead like a Great Crocodile – the ‘greatness’ (mahaa) of the Crocodile all the more ironical in its cold corpse.
In Mahaabhaarata, Fish represents powerlessness and vulnerability of ordinary man (1.146.20c), ordinary subjects (Brhaspati -12.68.10-11), the vulnerable mass or ordinary people who needs king’s protection (12.140.28), spiritually weak person attached to senses (12.287.15), People whose Yoga is weak (12.289.16), ordinary mortals who cannot escape the acts of past life (12.294.21), the Jiiva-soul that migrates from one body to another just as fish migrates from water to water (12.295.25), and humanity at large (12.169.11c).
Krishna as dead Crocodile/Fish represent all these.
Krishna is the Purushha-Fish reduced to Ordinary-Fish. In Mahaabhaarata, God is ‘a fish roving in the waters,’ as well as ‘a fish entangled in the net - matsyo jalacaro jaalyo 'Kaalah keliKaalah kalih (Dakshha: 12.274.60d @ 028_0300)’ – suggesting that Fish symbolizes ‘all’ - both Powerless and Powerful. Krishna now embodies this Philosophy – the existential role changing of Fisherman, Big-Fish, and Small-Fish.
The Kuru-Paandava narrative – with its mythological background of Bhuubhaaraharana – is in fact a Kshhatriya Maatsyanyaaya – and Kshhatriyas and Fishes (also dog) have similar nature of killing each other - kshhatriyah kshhatriyam hanti matsyo matsyena jiivati (Yudhishhthira: 5.70.48).’ In the Existential Reality of Kshhatriya Maatsyanyaaya the outcome is always uncertain and prowess does not always win (Yudhishhthira: 5.70.51) – implying ambiguous and changing role of "Fisherman,” “Big-Fish,” and “Small-Fish.”
In Homeric epic too, Fish plays its part as ravening predator aligned with dog, and as prey, particularly in similies of death and destruction.
Vyaasa uses Fish-Imagery recurrently in the battle episodes – which suggests, he has the Maatsyanyaaya Imagery in mind while composing battle episodes. He compares Krishna, Arjuna, Bhiima, Dhrshhtadyumna, Karna, Shalya, Krpa, Abhimanyu, Pradumnya, and Duhshaasana – to big and powerful fishes, or to whales and aquatic animals to which other fishes are vulnerable. All warriors are compared to Fish (naramiinaam, 8.55.39) in the ‘ocean’ of Kurukshhetra.
And what is the Ocean?
Let us remember – Kaala has been compared with Ocean, and Vyaasa’s mind too has been compared with Ocean?
Who is the Fisherman then? Who is the Nishhaada? Who is Kaala?
3. Krishna-Fish and Arjuna-Fisherman
And who sees Krishna as a dead Great-Crocodile?
Arjuna – the consistent killer of Crocodiles – the savior of Guru Drona, a Crocodile in Duryodhana’s oceanic army (bhiishhmavegam aparyantam dronagraahaduraasadam, 05,158.039b*0562_01) - from the deadly grasp of a crocodile (1.123), the savior of five Apsaraas cursed to be crocodiles (1.208-209), and the winner of Draupadii in Shishumaara-Paancaala (Mbh. 1.176.15). Shishumaara means both ‘child-killer’ and ‘crocodile.’ Hiltebeitel notes: “…the allusion to the Shishumaara already places the Svayamvaraam of Draupadi under the sign of the Maatsyanyaaya, ‘the law of the fish.’”
And Arjuna himself is a “Fisherman” thus.
Though in the Text, Arjuna hits Matsyayantra, a ‘golden target,’the legend goes that Arjuna shoots a Fish and its Eye through a rotating Wheel at Draupadii's Svayamvara .
The Wheel symbolizes Kaala-Time. The arrow shot – an action – therefore, Prakrti, reaches the Fish – Purushha. In RgVeda, weapons, particularly bow and arrow are feminine (RV- 6.75). In one version, Arjuna hits the Fish eye – that again reminds of the Madurai goddess Miinaakshhii. By this version, the arrow – representing phallus – therefore Purushha or Shiva, trysts with Miinaakshhii-Prakrti.
Arjuna – the “Fisherman” and the piercer of Wheel-Kaala-Time - now sees his friend, philosopher, and guide as a dead Crocodile/ Fish at the hand of “Fisherman” Kaala-Time.
And who narrates it?
4. Krishna-Fish and Vyaasa-Fisherman
It is Vyaasa – the Fisherman and Fish – and also the “Fisherman” in relation to the Itihaasa of Mahaabhaarata and also in relation to the composed Text. Vyaasa – Vishhnu-Naaraayana incarnate – is a ‘Fish’ and “Fisherman”, in that his mother Satyavati was born in the womb of a fish (1.57) ; and was a Fisherman’s foster daughter. Born of Braahmana father and Shuudra mother, Vyaasa is Paarashava (13.48.5) – closely related to Nishhaada (Jha 1970) – the actual ‘literal’ Fisherman.
Jaraa, Mrtyu, Kaala, Nishhaada, Vyaasa – all merge in one – and they merge in Vyaasa’s Oceanic Mind – Ocean – the very seat of Maatsyanyaaya.
5. Crocodile, Metaphor for Kaama
Brhaspati’s discourse (12.68.8-14) clarifies that Maatsyanyaaya and Food are imagery of Power, and ‘eating’ signifies the Powerful’s exercise of Power over Powerless.
Shatapatha Braahmana states: "The eater of food and food indeed are everything here" (SB 184.108.40.206). The Indra-Vrtra myth of Satapatha Braahmana gives a very mystic description of Indra-Vrtra combat in terms of ‘food’. Vrtra, once an ‘eater’, becomes victorious Indra’s ‘food’.
Agni cursed Fish to be killed at pleasure (Yajur Veda 2.6.6), Fish and crocodile are in the list of victims to the offspring of waters (Yajurveda - 5.5.13), and Fish exists for Rudra to be shot (Atharva Veda 11.2.25) - Fish and food, thus linked, are therefore metaphors of Power.
The Power-System is an Existential Reality. The Upanishhadik Rshhis – in establishing the primacy of Food – certainly has the Existential Reality of Power in mind.
Kaama is often compared with Fish. Crocodile (Makara) is Kaama’s Vaahana. Kaama-God is Makaradhvaja (Brahmavaivarta Purana -4.112.11).
Crocodile is also Vaahana of Yamunaa. Vyaasa, born on an island of Yamunaa, is never free from Kaama. Yamunaa is Black, so is Vyaasa’s mother (Kaalii-Satyavati) and Vyaasa – Krishnadvaipaayana-Vyaasa.
Apsaraas, who are sent on Svarga-mission to disrupt Tapasyaa of Rshhis by evoking Kaama in their mind, are often cursed by Rshhis when they fail in their mission, and transformed into Fish (like Satyavati’s mother AAdrikaa) or Crocodile (like the five cursed Apsaraas whom Arjuna salvage).
Krishna's son Pradumnya – incarnation of Kaama - has Makara standard (makaram ketum, 3.18.2). Pradumnya has prominent Fish/Fisherman connection. The Greek God Eros also rides Dolphin.
In Vishhnu and Bhaagavat Purana, when Shambara abducts and throws Pradumnya into the sea with vicious makaras, a large fish swallows him. Later, Fisherman brings him to Shambara and Maayaavatii finds and adopts him. She is actually Kaama’s wife Rati.
Maayaavatii brings up the child (actually her husband Kaama), and later removing his reservations to have an affair with his mother, do have an affair. When Shambara knows this, a Maayaa-yudhha ensues in which Pradumnya triumphs and regains Maayaavatii-Rati. Pradumnya’s triumph over Shambara is akin to a Fisherman, owing to his superior prowess, and also because Shambara connotes Fish.
In Upanishhadik Philosophy, son is the father’s Self. Thus, Krishna too is Kaama.
In Bharata Muni’s Naatyashaastra, the colour Krishna is associated with Biibhatsa-Rasa, and another form of Black – Shyaamo – is associated with Shrngaara.
The four Krishnas – Vyaasa, Vaasudeva-Krishna, Arjuna-Krishna and Draupadii-Krshhnaa share this common Biibhatsa-Shrngaara or Thanatos-Eros principle.
Is Krishna as dead Crocodile, dead Kaama?
And let us remember, Vyaasa often compares Kaama (and Krodha) with Fish/Fisherman. In Giitaa Krishna says – “kaamaat krodho 'bhijaayate (Giitaa- 2.62/ Mbh.-6.24.62)” – Krodha-Fish born of Kaama Fish – and together they – Kaama and Krodha perform Maatsyanyaaya in Man’s Internal Self.
6. The Great Crocodile in the Net of Kaala-Fisherman
Not only does the imagery of Krishna and Balaraama as dead Crocodiles explicitly suggest Maatsyanyaaya of the Yaadavas with Krishna and Balaraama as the two Big-Fishes, the imagery of Kaala as Fisherman completes the imagery.
When Krishna is about to set out for Jaraasamdha-killing mission, Yudhishhthira compares him with Fisherman (2.18.17-20) implying Jaraasamdha’s intention to sacrifice 86 imprisoned kings is Rashhtriya Maatsyanyaaya. To Yudhishhthira, Krishna is one who has conquered Kaama and Krodha i.e. Krishna can be Fisherman to Jaraasamdha, because he is Fisherman to his own Self.
Now, that “Fisherman” lies a dead Crocodile in Kaala-"Fisherman"'s Net!
7. Kaala-Fisherman and Nishhaada
The Vrshhnis and Andhakas had foreboding of the impending doom, and embodied form of time (kaalo grhaani sarveshhaam paricakraama nityazah) appeared regularly in Dvaarakaa in both male (16.3.1-2) and female form (16.4.1).
The male figure is associated the Red-Black Colour.
Aitareya Aranyaka (220.127.116.11-18) suggests a penance if such an inauspicious male figure is “seen” in dream. Red and Black are colours associated with Rajah and Tamah Guna in Saamkhya Darshana, and the two suggest AAsurik Nature.
Kaala – in his Male-form thus appears as an Asura – to destroy the Yaadavas, and Krishna, the foremost of Asura-killers, and the one who took birth to destroy Asuras for Bhuubhaaraharana.
Kaala – in her Female form – appears as Kaalii.
Kaala in Feminine is Transcultural. In Greek Mythology, on Zeus’s dictates, Artemis – herself immune to enchantments of Aphrodite - plays the role like Kaala in causing death to the noble inhabitants of Syria (Odyssey. 15.403, 410).
Who is this Kaalii in Dvaarakaa? Vyaasa’s mother Kaalii-Satyavati? Krshhnaa-Draupadii? Is she Kaalii the goddess – the one whose task is universal dissolution? Is she Gaandhaarii?
And Krishna himself is Krishna – the Dark one.
Dark Kaala has come to destroy Dark-Krishna – Asura-Kaala has come to destroy Krishna? Is he Asura Krishna then?
Isn’t Krishna himself Kaala as Vishhnu’s Self? Doesn’t Krishna ‘devours’ all in his Vishvaruupa – and all beings rush into his gaping mouth like insects?
8. Self-Destructive Krishna
Self-Destruction is implied in Krishna’s life purpose. In a Mythical and Supernatural Narrative, Naaraayana tells Naarada about his Krishna-Avataara (in Bhiishhma’s Discourses to Yudhishhthira):
“Towards the close of the Dwapara and beginning of the Kali ages, I shall again appear in the world taking birth in the city of Mathura for the purpose of slaying Kansa. There, after slaying innumerable Danavas that will be thorns in the side of the deities, I shall take up my residence in Kusasthali at the city of Dwaraka. While residing in that city I shall slay the Asura Naraka, the son of 'the Earth,--him, that is, who will do an injury to Aditi, as also some 'other Danavas of the names of Muru and Pitha. Slaying also another foremost of Danavas, viz., the lord of Pragjyotisha, I shall transplant his delightful city furnished with diverse kinds of wealth into Dwaraka. I shall then subjugate the two Gods worshipped of all the deities, viz., Maheshwara and Mahasena, who will become fond of the Danava Vana and do him diverse good offices and who will exert themselves vigorously for that worshipper of theirs. Vanquishing next the son of the Danava Vali, viz., Vana, who will be endued with a thousand arms, I shall next destroy all the inhabitants of the Danava city called Saubha. I shall next, O foremost of Brahmanas, compass the death of Kaalayavana, a Danava who will be endued with great might in consequence of his being equipt with the energy of Gargya. A proud Asura will appear as a king at Girivraja, of the name of Jarasandha, who will quarrel with all the other kings of the world. His death will be compassed by me through some one else guided by my intelligence. I shall next slay Sisupala in the sacrifice of king Yudhishthira, the son of Dharma, which sacrifice all the kings of the world will bring tribute. In some of these feats, only Arjuna, the son of Vasava, will become my assistant. I shall establish Yudhishthira with all his brothers in his ancestral kingdom. People will call me and Arjuna as Narayana and Nara, when, endued with puissance, we two, exerting our strength, shall consume a large number of Kshatriyas, for doing good to the world. Having lightened the burthen of the Earth according to our pleasure, I shall absorb all the principal Sattwatas as also Dwaraka, my favourite city, into my own self, recollecting my all-embracing Knowledge (sarvasaatvatamukhyaanaam dvaarakaayaaz ca sattama / karishhye pralayam ghoram aatmajnaativinaazanam, 92) (KMG. Shaanti-Parvan -340/ 12.326.82-93.)”
Krishna is Self-Destructive, or Self-Destruction is involved in Krishna’s death on at least nine counts.
First, he remains indifferent to the impending destruction of the Vrshnis (16.2.13) and even aids it (16.4.33-35).
Secondly, Krshna like an ordinary human being, gives way to anger (16.4.21; 16.4.33-35), suggesting his Internal-Matsyanyayam is at work – that is, his Inner-Self destroys him. The word for Anger used here is Manyu. In the Vedas, Manyu was once Indra, and Manyu is also Kaama. More than that, Duryodhana is called Manyu-Tree. Thus, Krishna transforms into Duryodhana, perhaps, and Gaandhaarii’s curse comes true just as her pronouncement came true in Duryodhana’s case. Krishna is Gaandhaarii’s son-like, after all.
Thirdly, since Kaala destroys the Yaadavas and Krishna, it is Krishna’s Vishvaruupa that devours him and the Yaadavas.
Fourthly, going by the Harivamsha narrative that Jaraa is Krishna’s brother (born of Vaasudeva’s Shuudra wife), Krishna is killed by his own blood.
Fifthly, since son is the father born in the mother’s womb, Shaamba being the cause of Yaadava destruction is also Krishna’s Self-destruction. Earlier, Jaambavatii wanted a son like Krishna, Upamanyu too prophesied ‘you will get a son like yourself,” and Shiva-Paarvatii granted that.
Sixthly, going by the Bhaagavat Purana narrative that Pradumnya and Shaamba fought with each other and killed each other, that is another of Krishna’s Self-Destruction. In a Mythical and Supernatural Narrative, Dharma has three sons – two of them are Kaama and Harshha. Pradumnya being Kaama-Incarnate is Kaama, and Shaamba is Harsha, because his over-Harshha earns the Rshhis’ curse. Kautilya’s Arthashaastra too testify that Vrshhnis were destroyed by over-Harshha.
Seventhly, Jaraa kills Krishna with iron-tipped arrow – and the iron was of the Musala – and that Musala was born in Shaamba’s ‘womb.’ According to Bhaagavat Purana (11.30.33), Jaraa has fashioned the arrow with which he pierced Krishna’s foot from the remaining iron fragment of Saamba's club. The Mushhala ‘born’ of Shaamba’s ‘womb’ is in a way Krishna’s own blood – and his death blow thus, in a way, comes from Shaamba – a double-effect, so to say. In Vishhnu Purana (5.37.13-14), Jaraa makes the arrow from the club of an unknown Yaadava. That does not change matter much. The ‘Iron’ is “Yaadavas’ blood” and therefore Krishna’s “Blood” still.
Eighthly, Krishna is killed by his own name! Krishna’s own name carries the significance of Iron in two ways. First, Krishna himself explains the etymology as Iron-related: “I cultivate the earth by being Black Iron (Kaarshhnaayasa); or, as I am Black in colour, I am Krishna (12.330.14).” secondly, Naaraayana becomes Krishna-black in hue in Kali Yuga (Maarkandeya: 3.187.31) and Vishhnu assumes Krishna colour (3.148.33). If Krishna as Naaraayana assumes Black to destroy Black, he is destroyed by a Black Nishhaada with Black Internal Reality with an arrow tipped with Black-Metal.
Ninthly, if Vishhnu-incarnate is killed by a Nishhaada-Vyaadha, then it is yet another Rotation of Wheel. Vishhnu is Nishhaada’s ‘forefather’ (12.59) and he has the most prominent Nishhaada-Aspect. Nishhaada sprang from Vishhnu’s seventh generation Vena’s right thigh, as a short-limbed person resembling a charred brand, with blood-red eyes and black hair (dagdhasthaanupratiikaazo raktaakshhah Krishnamuurdhajah). The Rshhis told him “sit here (nishhiidety)”, and thus he came to be known as Nishhaada. From Nishhaada sprang the tribe of Nishhaadas, who were ‘kruuraah zailavanaazrayaah’ and they started living in the forests of Vindhya mountain with Mlechhas. The Brahmaa Purana too narrates a similar origin of Nishhaadas (4.43-47). Thus, Krishna-Vishhnu is again killed by progeny.
If Krshna assumes the role of Kaala in relation to the Yaadavas, then his death at the hand of Jara (16.5.19-20) works out the Kaala-Fisherman imagery even intensely.
Jara is a Vyaadha – the Nishhaada Fisherman. Jara is lubdha and lipsu (16.5.19), suggesting Internal Matsyanyayam. Jara – the name suggests time and decreptitude – evoking and reminding us of the imagery of Mrtyu as Fisherman. In a narrative on samsaracakra, Bhiishma describes Jara as a woman (12.199.32 @ 15_51-52) – thus, connecting Jara with the Kaalii strii form of Kaala.
In the narrative of Krshna’s death, Jara, Mrtyu, Vyaadha, Nishhaada, Kaala, Kaalii – all merge in one.
In the cosmic scheme, even Vishnu’s power is not absolute.
In another narrative involving Mrtyu, Kaala, a snake and a Brahmanii named Gautamii, Mrtyu says, Vishnu is subject to Kaala; Kaala creates the Gods again and again (13.1.48-49). Significantly, Mrtyu says this to a snake in front of a Vyaadha named Arjuna.
If Krshna suggests Harsha (5.68.9), Vartta (5.68.5), iron (12.330.14), performance (acting and entertaining) – then all these factors are responsible for the destruction of Vrshnis and Krshna. Interestingly, actors and dancers are present at the time of destruction of Vrshnis in Prabhasa (16.4.14).
Shamba’s over-humourous ‘acting’ as a pregnant woman – an ill-conceived performance for entertainment - earns the Rsis’ wrath, indicating how Krshna’s Sattvika performance wanes in the next generation. Shamba produces iron pestle - musalam ghoram ayasam (16.2.8), and Jara’s arrow is in all probability iron tipped.
9. Krishna’s ‘Foot’: Shuudra uprising?
There might be messages that are more significant in the narrative of Krshna's death.
Krshna’s deathblow comes from his foot - jaravidhyat padatale - implying, the Yaadavas were destroyed having oppressed Shuudras. Krshna as their representative has to take that deathblow – personally and symbolically.
Shuudra is born of Purushha’s feet (RV-10.90) – and now foot causes the Purushha’s collapse.
The only time Vyaasa and Krishna explicitly meet in Mahaabhaarata is, when after Duryodhana’s death, Krishna goes to Hastinapura to meet Dhrtaraashhtra. He finds Vyaasa there and touches his feet.
Vyaasa’s Mind is Ocean, and Ocean is often regarded as the abode of Makara - samudram.makara.aalayam (e.g. 3.105.23). Did Vyaasa look at Krishna’s feet – the feet he must have known as vulnerable? The Feet that would make Krishna the dead Crocodile?
10. Why Krishna dies at the 16th Parvan?
I propose, the placement of Yaadava-destruction narrative at the 16th Parvan is not without significance, because 16 as a number is rich in symbolism.
First, in Sanskrit, 'Musala' also means 'alligator'- a unique link why Krishna is the 'dead alligator' at this Parvan.
Secondly, Krishna is associated with the number "8" -
a) He is born on Ashhtami (8th Lunar Day)
b) He is Vasudeva's 8th child
c) He is born at the 8th month of Devaki's conception (Harivamsha)
d) He has 8 main wives (Ref - Bankim Chandra's "Krishnacaritra")
e) He is the 8th Avatara in Puranas
"8" is a transcultural mystic number and associated with Jesus also.
The "8"th day in Lunar Month is a day when the Moon is half-light and half-dark - indicating the White-Black paradox that Krishna represents.
In Mahaabhaarata, the other "8" is Bhishhma, and he teaches Dharma to the Pandavas with Krishna as the listener. It seems then, "8" represents Dharma.
There is mention of one "8 x 8" "fight of metres" between Gods and Asuras in Panchavimsha Brahmana - in which the Gods emerge victorious when Prajapati is invoked by both sides and he finally tilts to the Gods - a role very akin to Vyasa and Krishna. The Gods win over the Asuras by using "8" metres against their "8" metres - that both sides did not have before Prajapati's intervention. If Bhisma fights for Duryodhana, he is not entirely on his side - and rather favours the Pandavas.
In Mahabharata then, the Krishna-Bhisma 'fight' or "8 x 8" 'fight' is actually a "8 + 8" (= 16) Dharma-Yuddha for Bhubharaharana, and Bhisma finally plays the "8" role in teaching Dharma to Yudhishthira and Pandavas (and in Krishna and Vyasa's presence).
The Bhubharaharana is accomplished with destruction of Yadavas - and significantly, the destruction takes place at 'Prabhasa' - and 'Prabhasa' is the name of the 8th Vasu, whose incarnate Bhisma is!
I may conjecture that the two "8"s (8 + 8 = 16) symbolically represent what Mahaabhaarata stands for - Dharma.
Yajnavalka equates Year with Prajapati and Agni, and says it consists of "8" Savitri Kalaa + "8" Vaishakarma Kalaa - again, 8 + 8 (= 16)
He gives another interesting equation -
Year = Brhati Chanda (Metre) = 12 Full Moon + 12 eight days (of the fortnight of waning moon) + 12 New Moon = 36 = 36 syllables of Brhati
Here again, we get "8"
He mentions a 'super' Year that comes after 15 Years - that is, the 16th is the completion of 15 Years = 360 Full Moon + 360 New Moon = (360 Days x 15 Years)
Again, we get the figure 36.
The Pandavas reach 36 years of rule at the 16th Parva - thus 36 merges with 16.
Satpatha Brahmana states that Anushtup metre (16 x 2 = 32 syllables - "16", "8" x 4) ) cannot take one to God - it takes upto some distance - but Brhati metre can.
17 comes after 16 - the Pandavas leave for their final journey at the 17th Parvan - and it cannot be an accident then, that at the end of 17th Parvan Yudhishthira calls Draupadi "Brhati" - in fact, preparing for the 18th Parvan - and 18 is half of 36 syllables of Brhati.
In Yajurveda, the 16 portions of Jiiva are Vrtra’s coils (2.1.4; 5.4.5). Vyasa, in his teachings to Shuka, says that sixteen elements constitute ‘body of time’ - Kaalashariirah (12.309.24-25). Earlier, Vashishtha defines Moksha to Karalajanaka and suggests when the 16 portions of Jiiva are no more united with Prakrti, it is Moksha (12.293.7). The 16th portion of Jiiva is subject to no modification (12.293.1-11). The eternal and immutable 16th portion is called Soma. Markandeya says that in Kali-age, 16th year is the age in which ‘men are overtaken with decrepitude and decay and the period of life itself is soon outrun’ (3.186.52), which is symbolically represented through Abhimanyu’s death at age 16.
Vyasa, in placing the narrative of destruction of Vrshnis in the 16th Parvan, thus suggests constancy in human affairs even when power changes hand or is destroyed; it is as if, the destruction of Vrshnis is no big matter in the scheme of human affairs.
The significance of ‘16’ can be best understood with reference to Brhadaaranyaka Upanishhad and Chaandogya Upanishhad.
Brhadaaranyaka Upanishhad explains the mystery of 16 as follows:
“This Prajapati (Hiranyagarbha) has sixteen digits and is represented by the year. The nights (and days) are his fifteen digits, and the constant one is his sixteenth digit. He (as the moon) is filled as well as wasted by the nights (and days). Through this sixteenth digit he permeates all these living beings on the new-moon night and rises the next morning. Therefore on this night one should not take the life of living beings, not even of a chameleon, in adoration of this deity alone (1.5.14). That Prajapati who has sixteen digits and is represented by the year is indeed this man who knows as above. Body/Wealth constitutes his fifteen digits, and the AAtmaa (Soul) his sixteenth digit. He is filled as well as wasted by Body/wealth. This AAtmaa (Soul) stands for a nave, and Body/wealth is the felloe. Therefore if a man loses everything, but he himself lives, people say that he has only lost his outfit (1.5.15).”
What are suggested here are –
1) Prajaapati’s Samvatsarah (One Year) = 16 Kaala
2) 15 Kalaas (of these) = Raatrii (Night) = Vitta (Body Wealth) = Subject to Kaala-Time
3) The 16th Kaala = Dhruva (Constant) = Aatmaa (Soul) = Beyond Kaala-Time = Beyond the transitory Rotation of Day (Day and Night) and Time
4) The 15 Kalaas represent Duality of Growth and Decay – that is Transitory Existence; the Bodily existence is part of this transcience
5) The 16th Kalaas or Aatmaa is the Nave, and the Body/Wealth is the Felloe in this Wheel of Time
6) “Through this sixteenth digit he permeates all these living beings on the new-moon night and rises the next morning - so 'maavaasyaam raatrim etayaa shhodasyaa kalayaa sarvam idam praanabhrd anupravisya tatah praatar jaayate”: Amaavasyaa (New Moon) is the end of 16 Kalaas.
7) Though here only Raatrii (Night) is mentioned with reference to the Moon, the Rotation of Day and Night is implied – that is, the 16 Kalaas involve Rotation of Day and Night till it completes this phase on the 16th Night or 16th Kalaas of Amaavasyaa (New Moon).
8) Since Amaavasyaa (New Moon) is mentioned, the Waning Moon from Puurnimaa (Full Moon) is implied
9) One who knows and understands all above is Purushha and Prajaapati – that is Ordinary Man can transform into true Purushha and Prajaapati by realizing the relation of Kaala-Time and Enlightenment, or the Wheel of Time – the true signifinace of Cakra
In Chaandogya Upanishhad Uddaalaka tells Shvetaketu:
“VI-vii-1: ‘Dear boy, man consists of sixteen parts. Do not eat for fifteen days; drink as much water as you like. Prana is made up of water, and the Prana of one who drinks water is not cut off.
VI-vii-2: Svetaketu did not eat for fifteen days. Then he approached him saying, ‘What shall I say ?’ The father said, ‘The Riks, the Yajus, and the Samans, dear boy.’ ‘They do not at all arise in me, sir’.
VI-vii-3: The father said to him, ‘Dear boy, just as a single ember of the size of a firefly, left over from a large burning fire, cannot burn any more than that, even so, dear boy, of your sixteen parts only one part is left over, now by means of that you cannot perceive the Vedas. Eat, then you will understand me’.
VI-vii-4: He ate and then approached his father. Whatever he asked him, he answered them all.
VI-vii-5-6: The father said to him, ‘Dear boy, just as when a single ember of the size of a firefly left over from a large burning fire, is made to blaze up by adding straw and it burns much more than before, even so, dear boy, of your sixteen parts, only one part remained, and that being nourished by food, has been made to blaze up; and by that you perceive the Vedas now. Hence, dear boy, the mind is made up of food, the Prana is made up of water, and speech is made up of fire. From his words, (Svetaketu) understood it – yea, he understood it.”
What are suggested here are –
1) Man consists of 16 Kalaas
2) Realization of Vedas is possible on the 16th Kaala
3) 16 suggests Enlightenment that reveals the true meaning of Vedas
4) However, without proper nourishment of the 15 Kalaas with Food, Vedas do not reveal on the 16th; thus, the 15 Kalaas are as important as the 16th - that is, the 16 Kalaas together are an Existential Reality, and the 16th can be reached only through the 15 Kalaas
5) Mind = Water; Praana = Food
6) The 16 Kalaas needs nourishment of both Mind/Water and Praana/Food
The same idea is contained in Shatapatha Braahmana (10:4:1:18):
“These sixteen digits convey the food to that vital air; and when they take to conveying no food to it, then it consumes them and departs (from the body): hence he who is hungry here, feels very restless, consumed as he is by his vital airs; and hence he who suffers from fever becomes very thin, for he is consumed by his vital airs.”
The Waning Moon reaches its culmination on the 16th Kalaas of Amaavasyaa (New Moon), marking the end of –
a) A phase of Rotation of Day and Night – (End of Transitory Achievements of Worldly Life; End of Duality – New Beginning of Spiritual Life; New Beginning of Journey Beyond Kaala-Time)
b) Body/Wealth – (End of Body or Physical Death; End of Material Existence, Artha, Power; End of Dharma-Artha-Kaama, that is beginning of Journey to Mok?a)
c) Power – (Power ends by Danda of some Superior Power; Mausala suggests Danda)
d) Old – (a New Beginning starts from the 17th; End of Old Order of Power; End of Old Rulers; End of Old Self, that is Birth of New Self – both Spiritual and Material)
All these themes are evident in the 16th Parvan or Mausala Parvan, and in Krishna's apparent Self-destructive act.
As the sixteenth parvan, Mausala Parvan represents ‘body of time’ - Kaalashariirah (12.309.24-25). It marks the end of the narrative of bodily achievements of the heroes. Very significantly, soon after, Arjuna suffers a humiliating defeat at the hand of mere Dasyus indicating the inevitability of 'fall of pride and wordly achievement'. Arjuna too seems to be the victim of Internal-Matsyanyayam, the Big-Fish being Ahamkara in his case (16.8.46-49). The Dasyus take advantage of Arjuna’s Ahamkara.
It is natural then, that thereafter, Arjuna receives a Kaala-Time-discourse from Vyasa – a ‘timely’ discourse, so to say - to quit worldly ties for gatim mukhyam (16.9.25-38).
That explains why Mausala Parvan is not only called ghoram (1.2.68) and darunam (1.2.220), but also mausalashrutisamkshepah Shishtadvijanishevitah (1.1.62 @ 1.54) i.e. it is the core of the Vedas.
Matters do not end there.
During Kuru-war, and during Yaadava destruction, New Moon (Amaavaasyaa) happened on Trayodashii (13th day), and eclipse happened on Caturdashii (14th day). The rare ‘13’ and ‘14’ have interesting relation with Kaamadeva – therefore, the Crocodile – and with Kali Yuga.
Trayodashii is ruled by Kaamadeva, and signifies ‘forming friendships, sensual pleasures, and festivities.’ Caturdashii is ruled by Kali and is ‘suitable for administering poison and calling of elementals and spirits.’
Krishnaa as Kaama-Incarnate Pradumnya’s father and as ‘Crocodile’ has special relation with Kaamadeva – as we have seen – as also with Kali Yuga – Krishna's name suggests that.
Since, Amaavaasyaa takes place on Trayodashii, the New Moon becomes the day of both Indra and Kaama, (Indra is lord of New Moon according to Shatapatha Braahmana), and the next day – Caturdashii – becomes the day of Kali. Indeed, the Suurya Siddhaanta states that Kali Yuga started on an Amaavasyaa (New Moon) day.
If the Yaadavas slaughter each other on Trayodashii, Krishna indeed becomes Indra and Kaama – and his son Kaama-Incarnate dies on that day; and if he lies dead that day or the next day – indeed Kali Yuga starts with his death as the Traditional Belief goes. More than that, he is indeed dead Kaama – or dead Crocodile on that 14th day.
In my opinion, Krishna dies on the 14th day, because after the carnage, Krishna goes to Dvaarakaa to meet his father – so, some time must have elapsed between the Yaadava carnage and his death.
Thus, on the 13th day of Kaamadeva, the Yaadavas get busy in sensual pleasures and festivity – and kill each other – killing of Yaadavas is Krishna’s Self-killing too – and on the 14th day Jara-Vyaadha as Kali Yuga administers poison on Krishna
The Trayodashii (13th day of Lunar Month) occurs at the 16th Parvan. If 16 suggests completion of one Mystic Year, the number 13 is also relevant in it, because a Lunar Year has 13 months (e.g. Yajurveda – 5.6.7). The number 13 and +1 is a recurrent Imagery in Mahaabhaarata, because the Paandavas go to exile post Dice Game for 13 years, and Vyaasa and Naarada had already predicted that Kuru-war would take place on the 14th year.
Not only that, both Bhima and Duryodhana were born on Trayodashii - Bhiima at Day-time and Duryodhana at night.
Thus, 13 and 14 and New Moon and Eclipse and Kaama (Crocodile) and Kali Yuga and Krishna and Arjuna (also Krishna) and Vyyasa (also Krishna) – all merge in the 16 – the mystic 16 of mystic New Moon – in the 16th Parvan or Mausala Parvan – and Mausala suggesting Danda or Vajra now manifests in Krishna’s great-grandson Vajra in the kingdom of Indraprashtha – the new Vajra in the land of new Indra – and the arrangement is made by Indra’s son Arjuna.
After the New Moon (Amaavaasyaa) that starts Kali Yuga, the Moon of Soma-Dynasty waxes again – for Arjuna and Paandavas it would be now Spiritual Waxing, and for the next generation Yaadavas led by Krishna’s great-grandson and Kaama-Pradumnya’s grandson, it would be political waxing.
Their waning too is recorded by Vyaasa. Vajra is found nowhere again, and the Paandavas fall one by one in the Himalayas and Parikshit is killed by Takshaka - until the Soma Dynasty waxes again under Janamejaya.
11. Vyaasa as Kaala-Fisherman
Bhiishhma, comparing life to an Ocean – ‘the Ocean of life’ – compares Rajah Guna and the deeds inspired by Rajas as its fishes - rajomiinam (12.290.62), implying, Mind is the water of Internal-Maatsyanyaaya.
Vyaasa’s mind is Ocean (1.53.34) – therefore in his Mind are born all the Fish/Fisherman in their play of Maatsyanyaaya. Vyaasa’s Mind is also Kaala (compared with Ocean; 12.28.43), and the whole world being Kaalaatmaka (‘having time as its self’, 13.1.45), Vyaasa’s creation is also Kaala – rightly so as Itihaasa-Purana.
Fish/Fisherman Vyaasa has to play the role of Fish/Fisherman to Puru-Bharata Dynasty that becomes the pool for Braahmana-Kshhatriya Maatsyanyaaya. Vyaasa agreed in Niyoga on Brahmaa’s command (niyogaad brahmanah puurvam, 15.35.15a). Is not Brahmaa, Vyaasa’s own Self?
Like a Nishhaada-Fisherman he returns again and again to the Maatsyanyaaya Pool. As grandfather to both sides, he is the Fisherman, yet, seeing the Paandavas as Small-Fish, he inclines to them out of Sneha for the weak - snehapuurvam cikiirshhaami hitam vas tan nibodhata (1.144.9-10).’ Vyaasa thus resembles Brahmaa, Indra, Vishhnu, and Shiva in his preference for weak.
If Vyaasa’s mind is Kaala, he is again Kaala-Fisherman in respect to other characters. Like an alarm clock, he reminds Satyavati, Dhrtaraashhtra (15.8.1-5, 10-17)), and Arjuna (Paandavas) when it is time to leave family life and retire in forest for pursuit of Dharma and Mokshha.
When Yudhishthira is reluctant to let Dhritarashtra go, Vyaasa says ‘kuru me vacah’ - it is not just Vyasa’s ‘request’, it is his command - like Kaala-Time’s inviolable command. Vyaasa gives a discourse on Kaala to Arjuna (16.9.25-38) regarding Kaala as the root of all – kaalamuulam, and significantly declares that the role-changing of Powerful and Powerless is an act of Kaala-Time- sa eva balavaan bhuutvaa punar bhavati durbalah. Without Vyaasa, the life-story of the principal characters cannot unfold, and without such unfolding, Mbh. cannot be composed.
Vyaasa himself is doomed to remain Fish because he can never conquer Big-Fish Kaama - ‘bhavishhyasi tapoyukto na ca raagaad vimokshhyase (Naaraayana: 12.337.45c).’ Yet, Fish Vyaasa’s Kaama produces two of the highest “Fisherman” – his son Shuka (product of Vyaasa’s Kaama for Apsaraa Ghrtaacii), and Mahaabhaarata itself – both the Text and content Itihaasa, which is again a product of his Kaama because his engagement in Niyoga custom that resulted in the birth of Vidura, Dhrtaraashhtra, and Paandu, is not entirely without Kaama-motive.
Vyaasa cannot stop Shuka the “Benign-Spiritual Fisherman” who goes Beyond the System; it is as if, Nishhaada-Vyaadha-Vyaasa fails to ‘trap’ the high-flying Shuka-bird who is born free (viitaraagaz – 12.337.46a). He cannot stop Dhrtaraashhtra too – when his next generation “Fish/Fisherman” Kshhatriyas engage in Maatsyanyaaya.
Perhaps, with this experience he never wished to ‘trap’ Mahaabhaarata, and so let it flow in its own course through his five disciples (Shuka, Sumantu, Vaishampaayana, Jaimini, and Paila) and Lomaharshhana.
Has Nishhaada-Fisherman-Vyaasa ever been ‘trapped’ in Kaama-Raaga? Or is it rather, Vyaasa as Naaraayana-Vishhnu’s Avataara traps himself, just as Krishna's own Vishvaruupa devours himself?
12. Nishhaada and Dharma
With so much importance of Fisherman-Imagery in Mahabharata, where Kaala is conceived as a Fisherman that nets perhaps the Biggest-Fish in Mahabharata – Krshna, or rather, reduces the most powerful Fisherman of Mahabharata into a Big-Fish, it is no wonder that a Nishhaada-Vyaadha – a hunter, therefore Fisherman, teaches the highest Dharma of Mahabharata to a Brahmana – Ahimsa (3.198.69) and Anrshamsyam - (3.203.41). His name DharmaVyaadha too has double meaning. He is DharmaVyaadha being spiritual, and he is DharmaVyaadha – the one who hunts Matsyanyayam-Dharma with Ahimsa and Anrshamsyam.
13. Rotation of Kaala:
Arjuna and Krishna as Day and Night, and White and Black
Krishna dies but Kaala rotates – and Vyaasa is immortal as the representative of that eternally rotating Kaala.
Vyasa imagines the Triple-Gunas as chariot wheel (12.240.11) – propelling the eternal rotation of Dharma and Adharma. Vyasa sees Kaala - the ultimate Big-Fish/Fisherman - too as a wheel – Kaalacakram (12.237.32). With Kaala-cakra in hand, like Vishnu, as Avatara of Vishnu, Vyasa sees the rotation of Arjuna-Shukla and Krshna – White and Dark.
Through Krishna–Arjuna’s life, Vyaasa, in his Vedaan Pancamaan explains the two significant Rks of RgVeda –
“One half of day is dark, and bright the other: both atmospheres move on by sage devices. Agni Vaisvanara, when born as Sovran, hath with his lustre overcome the darkness.
ahashca kRSNamahararjunaM ca vi vartete rajasI vedyAbhiH |\
vaishvAnaro jAyamAno na rAjAvAtirajjyotiSAgnistamAMsi ||\ (RV-6.9.1)”
“The holy statutes rest by thee, as 'twere with ladles that o'erflow. Black and white-gleaming colours,-at your glad carouse-all glories thou assurnest. Thou art waxing great.” (Griffith)
“Dharma is established in you as fiery Sarasvatii has poured into you the creative seed; or, like the flaming tongue has impregnated you (that is, you are gifted with Vidyaa-speech), like a sacrificial ladle pours Ghrta into you; and you – White and Black, White-in-Black, and Black-in-White - are inspired with joy, like one enjoying Kaama; and your creative flame in all glory and beauty, now resolves to utter and pronounce Dharma to everyone in all-pervading way.” (tr. Author)
tve dharmANa Asate juhUbhiH si~ncatIriva |\
kRSNArUpANyarjunA vi vo made vishvA adhi shriyo dhiSevivakSase ||\ (RV-10.21.3)”
Arjuna-Krishna rotates as Day and Night – White and Black.
In the two Rks,
Arjuna = Day = White
Krishna = Night = Black
This has something to do with Krishna–Arjuna’s birth, because Arjuna was born “Srimukha Phalguna Full Moon Day during the day in Uttara Star,” and Krishna was born on “Shrimukha Shravana Dark 8th day, just after midnight in Taurus Lagna.”
Thus, by birth time, Krishna is Night and Arjuna is Day. Arjuna is Full Moon, and therefore White (being born on the Climactic day of Waxing Moon), and Krishna is half-White half-Dark, in the Dark-Phase or Waning Moon phase.
Krishna is the 8th child of his parents, and his birth is on Ashhtami (Third Quarter) of the Krishna Pakshha (Waning Moon Phase) –Thus he represents the Balance or the Constant between Waxing Moon and Waning Moon – because on Ashhtami Tithi (phase), the Waxing Moon and Waning Moon look similar (though mirror) being half lighted and half-dark – and also the Balance in Krishna Pakshha (Waning Moon Phase) itself. Raama was born on the same Tithi.
Krishna’s birth is thus when the Moon is half-light and half-dark – representing the White-Black Paradox.
(See my article “Krishna and Arjuna on One Chariot - Rotating Night and Day” for detailed analysis of this)
The very name Indra is suggestive of rotation of Power (RV-10.124.3-4; Mahabharata.12.217.54-55). No Power is absolute – and that is the most optimistic message of RgVeda and Mahabharata.
The Nishhaada characters either trigger an event of great import or complete an event. Raamaayana - the life-story of Vishnu’s Avataara – is occasioned when Valmiki sees the death of a bird at a Nishhaada-Vyaadha’s hand ; and the life-story of Vishnu’s next Avataara, Krshna, composed by Vyasa – the Fish and Nishhaada-Fisherman - ends at the hand of a Nishhaada-Vyaadha.
Kurukshhetra War started on a New Moon (Amaavaasyaa) day, Yaadavas were destroyed on a New Moon day and Kali Yuga started on that day. However, that is only a phase in Human history.
The Moon will Wax again…Wane again…Wax again … Wane again …