Dec 02, 2023
Dec 02, 2023
Duryodhana is traditionally considered a villain; sometimes even Ravanized! He is often portrayed as a vain-boasting person – sort of one with Personality Disorder. Think of the recent Star Plus portrayal. This Duryodhana cannot even pronounce Bhima … he snarls, Bhyaaaaam!
Ravanizing Duryodhana, (a ‘short-cut’ seeking symptom of Human Psyche to make “birds of a feather flocked together”) though empowered by Perception of Popular Power, is problematic considering the very Paradox that Ravana represents.
Doesn’t our Civilization and Culture have an ambiguous attitude to Ravana? If he was an abductor of Sita, “the other man’s wife”, and for that has gained perpetual notoriety, one can never consider him an absolute villain even in that abductor-role. For one, Ravana never exerted physical power over Sita after settling her in Ashoka-Vana. This is indeed one great Ravana-Paradox that thwarts Modern Real-life Villains from iconizing Ravana.
I think none will disagree that Ravana had several redeeming qualities. He was a great devotee of Shiva.
We know, the Shiva-Taandava Stotra - is attributed to him (though in all Realistic and Prosaic probability, it was composed by Shankaracharya); there are temples of Ravana; and Ravana himself is a commoner in Major Temple Sculptures. Think of Ellora, Halebidu, Belur, Pattadakal temples … and the ten headed Ravana holding Kailash is indispensable …
The irony is: to remember Shiva, is to remember Ravana. Even the person, who hates Ravana, has to enlist Ravana as Shiva’s foremost devotee.
What I want to point out is: Our Civilization and Culture subconsciously knows there has been nothing like Absolute Villain; and the corollary is therefore, equally true.
Ravanizing Duryodhana associates him with Shiva – an association that gains further strength by Duryodhana’s association and friendship with Drona’s son Ashvatthaamaa, considered one Avataara of Rudra; further bolstered by a lesser known fact of Mahabharata that Duryodhana was indeed Shiva’s creation.
And here, Duryodhana shares the strangest of affinity with none other than Draupadi – because Mahabharata hails Draupadi too as Shiva’s creation.
And perhaps, the Mother of that irony lies in our contemporary culture that one stream of Gadvaalii Folk Mahabharata has indeed transformed their traditional God Duryodhana into Someshvara, one name of Shiva.
Well, Mahabharata is impossible without Shiva even from Mythical perspective. After all it is Shiva’s Dice Game with Paarvatii that occasions the four ex-Indras’ and Indra-Shakra’s birth as Pandavas! And Einstein was never right that God does not play Dice …
No doubt, the idea about Duryodhana being evil-villain incarnate springs from Mahabharata itself, because his birth onwards he has been marked as such by none other than Dharma-incarnate truthful Vidura. Perhaps the natural extension of this is Duryodhana’s being hailed as Kali-incarnate.
If Kali Yuga-people regard Kali-incarnate Duryodhana an evil isn’t that normal and natural?
Why do we, Kali Yuga-people, need villain? Is it because of our Programmed-Brain (of WE, the Common People) that always thinks in terms of “versus”?
This “versus” mentality perceives Reality in terms of “poles” like Good/Evil, White/Black etc. From this Point-of-View, if Vishnu-incarnate Krishna sides with Pandavas and our Reverence-Bhakti-Admiration go with Vishnu, then Pandavas must be heroes, and therefore, Duryodhana must be the damned villain, the Asura.
Going by our uncommonly common Thought Pattern, this is OK.
However, would Vyasa’s child Mahabharata allow us that complacency?
Every Text has at least Dual Entity – the Text as-it-is, and the Text as-is-perceived. We are more often engrossed with the latter, and forget the former, because the former involves an arduous task of actually swimming in the Ocean with no shore in view. And indeed here we are in Vyasa’s Oceanic Mind.
How many of us would willingly accept a life of Uncertainty and Insecurity?
Therefore, the shortcut is to go by Beliefs – unexamined Beliefs – at the cost of Mahabharata itself.
It is this Power of popular perception that has eternally damned Duryodhana. Well, I am not saying here that I have taken upon myself the noble task of redeeming damned Duryodhana; rather, my humble approach is to try to examine the Text as-it-is and the Text only and then try to come to a conclusion even if it is tentative.
Needless to say, Popular Myth, a domain of Power sans Responsibility, stems from what I call Text Myth (i.e. ideas on a Text, rather than actual Reading of the Text) and as well as from other cultural representations of the Text – representations, that in most cases are interpretative, and, the interpretations themselves being product of Popular Myth and Text Myth in most cases. How many artists or writers have read Mahabharata word by word or delved into etymology?
Popular Myth overwhelmingly votes against Duryodhana that he had his fall because of his Ignorance and Ahamkaara or Darpa (Pride and Egoism), and ironically, the voter here itself is in most cases Ignorant of the Text, and suffers from an incredible Ahamkaara and Darpa to think that it knows about the Text, indeed, all about the Text, without even the basic necessity of actually Reading the Text.
If Ahamkaara and Darpa are qualities that Duryodhanizes Duryodhana; then we should not forget that the four ex-Indras and Indra-Shakra are born as Pandavas as penance to their Darpa. Shiva ordained it so; and Vishnu approved.
Now let me begin with what I am about in this essay.
And I shall begin with questions.
If both Duryodhana and Draupadi are Shiva’s creation; if both Duryodhana and Pandavas share Darpa, why did Krishna oppose him? Why, even Vyasa, at times, seems partial against him? Why was Duryodhana’s downfall and death necessary for establishing Krishna-conceived Dharma-Raajya?
Why couldn’t Krishna’s Dharma-Raajya include Duryodhana? If Krishna is Vishnu-incarnate, doesn’t Vishnu then appear like an Office-Boss with his wretched partiality … granting ‘tour’ to one with ease, and locking another on his desk?
In the same region of Garhwal where Duryodhana (Someshvara) is God; one stream of Folk Myth indeed believes in Dharma-Raajya that could accommodate both Duryodhana and the Pandavas. According to this narrative, there was no War – and after an initial bhai-bhai-thnui-thnai (‘brotherly conflicts’), Duryodhana agreed to share Kingdom with the Pandavas, and they lived ‘happily everafter.’
If a marginalized Folk Culture could imagine a peaceful Dharma-Raajya, why couldn’t Vyasa? Or is it that Vyasa didn’t want to?
1. Duryodhana, the Ambiguous Character
Glory of Ancient Indian Literature that we can find all our excuses and theories at some places or other! This Tradition is so vast that whatever we say “New” is Always-Already there! Modernity, then, appears to be a Game of Power that obscures this part of Tradition or that to think itself Modern.
As we shall see, the Popular Myth on Duryodhana is mostly interpretative. Let us remember that Bhaaratavarsha has equally powerful cultural and interpretative tradition that does not think of Duryodhana in terms of dark shades only, or as mere “instrument of darkness”.
It is perhaps our misfortune that this parallel tradition has now been obscured and marginalized to the extent that very few people are even aware of it.
1.1. The “Other” Duryodhana in Tradition of Ancient Bhaaratavarsha
1.1.1. Kautilya’s Arthashaastra
Thinking of sources outside Mahabharata or the literary genre of later Puranas, first we have Kautilya mentioning Duryodhana in Arthashaastra.
Kautilya mentions Duryodhana’s refusal to give half/part kingdom to Yudhishthira, and even the Dice Game that caused Yudhishthira’s suffering.
Yes, Kautilya unequivocally points out Duryodhana’s weakness that led to his downfall. However, significant to Note is: Kautilya does not glorify Yudhishthira at the cost of Duryodhana. In fact, he does not glorify Yudhishthira at all.
Duryodhana’s Artha-Centricity is his weakness. As ancient as RgVeda, the Rishis viewed Artha-Centricity as the cause of Maatsyanyaaya.
However, if Artha-Centricity is weakness; and weakness is akin to villainy, aren’t we all villains? How can villains call Duryodhana a villain?
Don’t many of our Political figures and Rulers appear to be genius owing to their Artha-Centricity? In fact, it is the show of Artha-Centricity that clinches the deal in Modern Democracy; so much so, that in most cases the Common People are willing to forgive and forget a death or a gory rape compensated with money. It is only an Artha-Centric World that can create a Scale in which Death and Assault/Humiliation is balanced with Artha.
What is the Game here? It is the Artha-Centric Rulers’ Strategy to make Artha-Centricity the driving motive of the Common People. That surely enables glossing over most other weaknesses or flaws. Is it a wonder then that the only Immortal being in our Society is Maatsyanyaaya? Is Ashvatthama believed to be immortal because he symbolizes Maatsyanyaaya?
If Duryodhana is villain for his Artha-Centric motive; what was Star Plus then portraying him as villain? To satisfy pious and complacent souls, let us then believe that Star Plus was airing the show with zero Artha-motive!
Well, our Modern Rulers know too well that they cannot blame Duryodhana for his Artha-Centricity. After all, who would like to blame oneself? Artha-Centricity is the chief motive in every Political alliance in National or International arena. China would never attack India (despite claiming Arunachal Pradesh or showing occasional tilt to Pakistan) so long the Chinese market goes well in India; and some American President would surely grace the occasion of 15th August next after the dramatic 26th January.
I suppose, it is therefore, necessary to divert Duryodhana’s villainy elsewhere; and here Victimization of Woman is the most handy and time-tested one!
Therefore, Duryodhana must disrobe Draupadi – and that status quo has to be maintained at the cost of the Mahabharata-Text. Poor Draupadi! She is the real Victim of Victimization-Oaalaas! They would not allow her to have her robe in place.
Let me go to the extent of saying: Duryodhana is the victim of a Cultural Conspiracy with the perpetual syndrome of hnaadi bale dechki tor pichan kaalo (‘one cooking pot calls the other cooking pot’s butt black’).
1.1.2. Duryodhana in Ancient Grammar
I will not discuss dreadly grammar here. I am a mortal; and I have my fears.
I include this sub-chapter only as a reminder that the great Paatanjalii (2nd century BCE) too remembered Duryodhana and Duhshaasana in the very next Suutra he mentioned Yudhishthira:
bhaashaayaam shaasiyudhidrshidhrshibhyah yuc .
bhaashaayaam shaasiyudhidrshidhrshibhyah yuc vaktavyah .
duhshaasanah duryodhanah durdarshanah durdharshanah .
mrsheh ca iti vaktavyam .(Paatanjalii’s Mahaabhaashya)
1.1.3. Duryodhana in Ancient Indian Literature
We have the great poet Bhaasa who lived anywhere between 2nd century BCE and 2nd century CE, and most probably on the That-Side of Christ’s birth. We get to know about Bhaasa from two other great poets – Kaalidaasa and Raajashekhara.
Kaalidaasa remembers Bhaasa in the introduction to his first play Malavikagnimitram. He asks: “Shall we neglect the works of such illustrious authors as Bhaasa, Saumilla, and Kaviputra? Can the audience feel any respect for the work of a modern poet, a Kaalidaasa?”
And then Raajashekhara mentions Bhaasa in his Kaavya-Miimaamsaa (880–920 AD), and attributes the play Svapnavaasavadattaa to Bhaasa.
Our Cultural Tradition ascribes to Bhaasa seven plays on Mahabharata:
Pancaraatra: The five-nights
Madhyamaa-vyayoga: The middle one
Dyuta-Ghatotkaca: Ghatotkaca as envoy
Dyuta-Vaakya: The envoy's message
Urubhanga: The broken thigh
Karna-bhaara: Karna's burden
Harivamsha or Baala-carita: Hari's dynasty or the tale of Childhood
The very titles of the plays suggest why we need Bhaasa before discussing Duryodhana.
As we can see, Bhaasa writes on Krishna, but also on his opponents Duryodhana and Karna, and opponent-within-alliance Ghatotkaca. (Let us not forget that Krishna danced in joy after Ghatotkaca’s death at Karna’s hand, and even went to the extent of saying that had Karna failed to kill Ghatotkaca, he would have done that later).
What I want to point out here is that, if Bhaasa could find heroic qualities in both Krishna and Duryodhana, then he was certainly a true legatee of Mahaakavi Vyasa. Needless to explain, the Balanced view of Life is what marks the greatness of a Kavi – and in that Balanced view, no human being (even if he is considered an Avataara) is ever absolute good or bad.
Again, given Kautilya’s mention of Duryodhana, and the Buddhist Knowledge of Mahabharata (as evident in Jaataka Narratives – though later, and some contemporary to Bhaasa, they could not have emerged all of a sudden, and therefore, must have a tradition behind), it is equally possible that Bhaasa knew of parallel Mahabharata to the Classical one, that did not have any overwhelming pro-Pandava bias.
This obviously reminds us of the German Indologists, the Holtzmann duo to be particular, and their “Inversion Theory” – that is, the Original Mahabharata was pro-Kuru, and the Present pro-Pandava Narrative is actually interpolated inversion. This also reminds us of Bengal/Indian Renaissance – strange it may sound - and I will come to that.
For the present, even if we deny the existence of a hypothetical Parallel Mahabharata, or the prospect of an Original Mahabharata tampered by an Artificial One; there is of course the most significant possibility that Bhaasa’s Reading of Classical Mahabharata was different; that is, he took the Alternative Narratives into account, and therefore, his Duryodhana emerged in new light than Popular Myth could think of or even dream of.
After Bhaasa, we have Bhaaravi. His Kiraataarjuniiya (6th century C.E or earlier) has Arjuna and Shiva-Kiraata episode as its central theme; however, his portrayal of Duryodhana at times is similar to Bhaasa. Most significantly, Bhaaravi places this portrayal in Draupadi’s voice.
A friend will praise a friend; that is expected; however, when an enemy praises his/her enemy, and the staunchest one, that cannot be a very simple matter.
Let us read what Draupadi says about Duryodhana in Romesh Chunder Dutt’s verse-translation of Kiraataarjuniiya under the chapter-title Draupadi’s Remonstrance:
"Seated on his throne he trembles
At thee, — dwelling in the wood!
The realm he won by trick of dice
He rules by righteous laws and good.
Deep in wiles, he would surpass thee
In his fame for righteousness;
Better far to war with true men
Than to consort with the base!
His passions veiled, by Manu's laws
He seeks the virtuous path to tread;
By night and day his task dividing.
Seeks a righteous fame to spread.
He treats his menials as his friends,
And as his kinsmen friends withal;
Veiling his wrath he seeks to prove
How conquering love rules over all!
With love impartial, equal care,
He cultivates all virtues well;
And by his worth all varied virtues
In harmonious concert dwell!
His kindness never lacks in gifts.
His gifts with courteous manners flow,
And his courtesy and his favours
Only men of virtue know.
Not for wealth and not in anger,
Ever seeking righteous cause.
On his foe or on his children
Visits sins with equal laws.
Placing trusty guards around him,
Ever wears a fearless mien;
And wealth bestowed at sacrifices
Speaks his gratitude to men.
And by careful thought devised,
His plans, with steady toil pursued,
Open out a prosperous future,
And conjointly lead to good!
"Cars and horses of great chieftains
Throng his palace court around;
Tuskers sent by mighty monarchs
With their perfume * moist the ground.
And Kuru's lands are rich in harvests
Ripening without tiller's toil;
Ask no rain, since Kuru's monarch
Showers his blessings on the soil.
His bounteous and his peaceful rule
To plenty and to wealth give birth.
Attracted by his godlike worth
Spontaneous yields her wealth
Strong in his rule, he now hath placed
Duhsasan young in kingly power;
With offerings due, in holy rites,
By Indra told, he worships Fire!
His foes are quelled, his future glorious.
And his realm extends to sea;
But strife with great men ends in sorrow, —
And Duryodhan quakes at thee!
If thy name is spoke in converse,
Quakes at Arjun's might of arm,
Bends in grief his anguished forehead.
Like a snake by Mantra's charm!
Remarkable is Bhaaravi’s constant use of the word “Righteous” regarding Duryodhana. Well, one might argue that Draupadi says that on purpose to evoke some jealousy and pious wrath in Dharma-Putra Yudhishthira. However, despite making some allowances for Draupadi's “Female-Mind-Games”, can we deny the glimpse of Truth that rings in her voice? Does Bhaaravi’s Draupadi nourish secret admiration for Duryodhana because he dared to reduce her to a Daasii?
Well, I am aware that my last question might send shock-ripples in many a noble heart. However, let me clarify (no, not to appease Gender-Oaalaas) that it is indeed a secret of human heart to fall in love or to feel sudden flow of Bhakti for the Ahamkaara-crusher. Mahabharata testifies to that. After his fall, Duryodhana with broken thighs and broken heart does express admiration for Krishna – the only time in the whole of Mahabharata. I will come to that.
Other than these literary references, we have another tradition of Folk Mahabharata in Gadvaal Himaalayas of present Uttarakhanda where Duryodhana is worshipped as God in about 22 villages. Nowadays, the new generation disclaim themselves as Duryodhana worshippers; and say, their God has never been Duryodhana but Someshvara – one name and form of Shiva.
I will not go into detailed discussion on Gadvaalii Folk Mahabharata here, but offer four circumstantial evidences that the God has indeed been Duryodhana:
1) In the neighbouring valleys, Karna, Shalya and Karna’s son Vrshasena are worshipped as God. The Karna-worshipper’s testify that Duryodhana indeed is their neighbouring God. Personally I have had the rare privilege to witness Shalya-worship in a village named Netwar.
2) The older generation of “Duryodhana’s kingdom” testifies that Duryodhana indeed has been their God. Those who would like to trek to Har-ki-Doon or Kedarkantha Peak need to start from a village named Shankri, where one might still meet Kathaka Sundar Singh, the eldest Kathaka of this entire region, and he says unequivocally that their God has been none other than Duryodhana. He also laments how God Duryodhana has been transformed into Someshvara courtesy the new generation’s apologia resulting from interaction with Mainstream Culture of our country where Duryodhana is generally viewed as a villain.
3) Even if the God is called Someshvara, that does not in any way tamper with Duryodhana’s identity, because in Classical Mahabharata itself, Duryodhana is identified with Shiva.
4) The priest who performs the trance-dance of the God, dances with a crutch, clearly reminding of Duryodhana’s broken thigh. [For details, please do read William Sax’s Dancing The Self: Personhood and Performance in the Pandav Lila of Garhwal. Oxford University Press (Sep 15 2001)]
Sax opines, “Religious beliefs cannot accommodate a shifting or contextually based divine identity: either the god is Duryodhana or he is Someshvara. He cannot be both at once: his followers are not postmodernists.”
Well, Sax is right in any part of the world, but not in Gadvaal, where Mahabharata is life and living; and certainly not in India that could create Mahabharata, the Text which pre-postmoderns postmodern.
Indeed Duryodhana can be both Duryodhana and Someshvara in Classical Mahabharata.
1.2. The “Other” Duryodhana in Western Scholarly Tradition
In the West, we have the “Inversion Theory” of the German Indologists Holtzmanns that proposed a pro-Kaurava or pro-Duryodhana Original Narrative.
Vishwa Adluri and Joydeep Bagchee’s recent resourceful endeavour The Nay Science, (Oxford University Press, 2014) has brought within the dual covers a wonderful compact study of German Indology on Mahabharata and Giitaa in particular; and I think it is a must read for any serious Mahabharata lover or researcher.
Prof. Vishwa Adluri and Joydeep Bagchee mostly criticize the German Indologists for their Agenda; however, I think that the learned scholars have missed that Holtzmann’s Inversion Hypothesis has even a stronger validity in the complex Indian society – the Gadvaalii Folk Version of Mahabharata I mentioned above that retains Duryodhana and Karna as the original heroes, and they are Gods in those regions of Gadvaal – a fact, the Holtzmanns would certainly have been jubilant to hear about. (I am not sure whether they had heard)
Obviously, there are enough elements in Mahabharata that bolsters Holtzmann’s “Inversion Theory”.
Well, I am not exactly advocating for the Holtzmannian brand of Mahabharata. What I want to emphasize: it is useless trying to formulate a Grand Narrative of Mahabharata. If there is a narrative, there is always a counter-narrative to deconstruct it; if there is Dominant Narrative, there is always Alternative Narrative in Mahabharata itself.
Thus, the Holtzmann legacy cannot be done away with so easily despite Adluri-Bagchee’s best efforts, and though Adluri and Bagchee single out Fitzgerald and McGrath as the Modern ‘German Indologists’ – the two scholars who come under their heavy criticism – McGrath in particular appears to be correct in many respects if we look at Mahabharata study or ideas on Mahabharata during the Bengal/Indian Renaissance.
1.3. The “Other” Duryodhana in Bengal Air
I would go to the extent of saying that the Other Duryodhana has always been there in the Bengal air.
Long before Lassen and German Indologists and modern scholars like Hiltebeitel, the Father of Bengal/Indian Renaissance Raja Rammohun Roy first proposed Rational Reading and Allegorical Reading of Mahabharata-Text, and he was the first to prefer a literary reading of Ancient Indian Literature.
Admittedly, Raja Rammohun Roy’s focus was not Mahabharata, but Vyasa and his father Paraashara were all-important to him in his discourses; and he believed in tradition that Vyasa did not compose Mahabharata only but all Texts that tradition ascribe to him, and though his arguments were concentrated to establish monotheism, yet the same principles can be applied for Mahabharata-study because Mahabharata too speaks of both plurality and singularity of God.
I am now quoting Rammohun Roy’s very significant criticism of Krishna and Vishnu (it’s a long quote, and the spelling of proper names might appear distracting; however, may I request readers not to skip this quote):
“As I have already noticed the debauchery of Krishna, and his gross sensuality, and that of his fellow-deities, such as Siva and Bruhma, in the 147th, 148th, and 150th page of my reply to the observations of Sunkar Sastri, instead of repeating them here, I refer my readers to that reply, also to the tenth division of the Bhaguvut, to the Hury-Bunsu or last division of the Maha-Bharuth, and to the Nigums, as well as to the several Agums, which give a detailed account of their lewdness and debauchery.
As to falsehood, their favourite deity Krishna is more conspicuous than the rest. Jura-Sundh, a powerful prince of Behar, having heard of the melancholy murder of his son-in-law perpetrated by Krishna, harassed, and at last drove him out of the place of his nativity (Muthoora) by frequent military expeditions. Krishna, in revenge, resolved to deprive that prince of his life by fraud, and in a most unjustifiable manner. To accomplish his object, he and his two cousins, Bheema and Urjoona, declared themselves to be Brahmuns and in that disguise entered his palace; where, finding him weakened by a religious fast, and surrounded only by by his family and priests, they challenged him to fight a duel. He accordingly fought Bheema, the strongest of the three, who conquered and put him to death. Vide Subha Purba or second Book of the Maha-Bharuth. Krishna again persuaded Yoodhisthir, his cousin, to give false evidence in order to accomplish the murder of Dron, their spiritual father. Vide Dron Purba or seventh Book of the Maha-Bharuth. (p-178)
Vishnoo and others combined in a conspiracy against Buli, a mighty emperor; but finding his power irresistible, that deity was determined to ruin him by stratagem, and for that purpose appeared to him in the shape of a dwarf, begging alms. Notwithstanding Buli was warned of the intention of Vishnoo, yet, impressed with a high sense of generosity, he could not refuse a boon to a beggar ; that a grateful deity in return not only deprived him of his whole empire, which he put himself in possession of by virtue of the boon of Buli, but also inflicted on him the disgrace of bondage and confinement in Fatal.
Vide latter part of the Hurry Bunsu, or last book of the Maha-Bharuth. When the battle of Coorookshetru was decided by the fatal destruction of Doorjodhun, the remaining part of the army of his rival, Yoodhisthir, returned to the camp to rest during the night, under the personal care and protection of Mahadeva. That deity having however, been cajoled by the flattery offered him by Uswathama, one of the friends of the unfortunate Doorjodhun, not only allowed him to destroy the whole army that was asleep under the confidence of his protection, but even assisted him with his sword to accomplish his bloody purpose. Vide Sousuptik Purb, or eleventh book of the MahaBharuth. When the Usoors, at the churning of the ocean, gave the pitcher of the water of immortality in charge to Vishnoo, he betrayed his trust by delivering it to their step-brothers and enemies, the celestial gods. Vide first book, or Adi Purb of the Maha-Bharuth.
Instances like these might be muliplied beyond number: and crimes of a much deeper dye might easily be added to the list, were I not unwilling to stain these pages by making them the vehicle of such stories of immorality and vice. May God speedily purify the minds of my countrymen from the corruptness which such tales are too apt to produce, and lead their hearts to that pure morality which is inseparable from [the true worship of Him!” (A Second Defence Of The Monotheistical System Of The Veds; In reply to an apology for the present state of hindoo worship. Calcutta: 1817, p-179-180)
Evidently, Rammohun could not reconcile politics with Religion, and his concept of politics and Viiratva in those nascent days of Bengal/Indian Renaissance was permeated with the idea of “Purity.”
I quote this long passage not to test the patience of readers, but to point out some deep and complex affinity of German Indologists and Thinkers of Bengal.
The Krishna (and Vishnu and Shiva) that Rammohun Roy portrays here is the same that the German Indologists found in them, but with different results – and there lies the relevance of Agenda.
While Rammohun finds in these the necessity to discard this False Krishna and Vishnu so that his countrymen could Return to the Heart and “Pure Morality,” and True Krishna and Vishnu (Rammohun was primarily as Bhakta), the German Indologists found in this Krishna-Vishnu the Agenda of Braahmanik Hypothesis!
Readers must have noted that Rammohun says “Unfortunate Duryodhana” (and interestingly, like Rammohun, Duryodhana was a Monotheist in Mahabharata! “The Renaissance Man Duryodhana”?) – and the German Indologists, specifically the Holtzmanns found the same in their own Agenda that gave birth to “Inversion Theory” and also the excuse of Indo-Germanik/Indo-European Kshatriya Hero with Duryodhana and Karna as the Original Heroes.
Adluri-Bagchee may give a Thought to the Bengal/Indian Renaissance Thinkers, I repeat, and I believe they would then find more resources to contextualize and historicize the very phenomenon of Agenda.
For Information to those not well-acquainted with the Culture and Society of Rural Bengal, Ravana and Duryodhana are common names to be found. It is certainly not necessary to believe that the parents or grandparents who named a child Ravana or Duryodhana were some sort of “Inversion Theorists.” The fact is: there has always been sympathy in the Bengal air for anti-heroes. One reason is surely the strong Vaishnava influence of Shrii-Shrii-Caitanya. To be “anti-God” is to be Bhakta in a roundabout way. Now, to be or not to be “anti-God” - that is the question.
Perhaps, the sympathy for Duryodhana and Karna springs from a sympathy for and identification with the loser. Even if the German Indologists were never born, sympathy and admiration for Karna is Always-Already, because every side, with or without conscious Agenda, will find oneself, at some phase of life, as a loser like Karna – the Chariot-Wheel stuck in mud.
The Karna-Archetype is not of Indo-Germanik/Indo-European Kshatriya Hero (and here I differ with Kevin Mcgrath), but the Everyman, who finds himself in a dead-lock situation, overwhelming adversities, and situations (both Internal-External) Beyond Control.
Is there any person, who has not felt like Karna, at some phase of life? Or like Abhimanyu? How interesting that in the Dead-Lock situation, the Dead-Lock Archetype of Karna and Abhimanyu moulds into one!
Bamkim Candra had a pro-Pandava and pro-Krishna interpretation of Mahabharata, however, in his Krishnacaritra he remarked without explaining: “Karna-caritra ati manohar” (‘Karna’s character is mind-pleasing’). We are unfortunate that Kaala-Time did not grant Bamkim Candra the time to write on that Karna.
Interestingly, if Rammohun was Monotheist (the very inspiration of his Social Reform movements), and he found reasons to be sympathetic with Duryodhana (“unfortunate Duryodhana”), Duryodhana is in fact Monotheist, and is the only character in Mahabharata to have rational suspicion of Krishna’s “magic” – the same suspicion, nay rejection that Rammohun harboured against Supernatural-Belief-Oaalaas or Supernatural-Belief-Mongers!
Did Duryodhana have Renaissance characteristics then? Let’s ponder …
Michael Madhusuudan Dutta’s Meghnaad Badh (1861) found heroism in Indrajit more than Raama or Lakshmana. And in Bengali Folk Culture, of which Kathakataa was an important traditional art, there are several instances of Vyasa, Krishna, and Pandavas being mocked, and the Kurus glorified. For example, Sumanta Banerjee, referring to Radhamadhav Kar, an old theatre personality of Calcutta, gives an illustration of a Kheur (a folk art) in a jaatraa performance (a sub-genre of rural theatre) in the middle of the nineteenth century. It was sung by Ambaalikaa, as a repartee directed against her mother-in-law, Satyavati. When Satyavati, in her desire to preserve the family line, wanted her to beget a child with Vyasa, Ambaalikaa satirizes the leering behaviour of the old Vyasa. 
Well, my parents have not been exactly living in Renaissance times; but they named me “Indrajit.” Once curious, I asked them why. They said, they liked the name, they liked the character for his Viiratva, and both of them agreed while naming me.
Surely, Raamaayana was nowhere in the air; and my father never even thought of Ravana or Ravanizing himself! Such is the might of Michael Madhusuudan Dutta’s pen.
The other two giants of Bengal/Indian Renaissance – Shrii Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda too never pin-fixed Duryodhana as an absolute villain.
Thus we have Shrii Ramakrishna regarding Duryodhana as God’s devotee.
"God's devotees have nothing to fear. They are His own He always stands by them. Once, Duryodhana and his brothers were imprisoned by the gandharvas. It was Yudhisthira who freed them. Yudhisthira said, 'If our relatives are placed in such a plight, then it is our disgrace.' "(Gospel, 594)
In this narrative, Shrii Ramakrishna compares Yudhishthira-Pandavas as God standing by troubled Duryodhana; but at the same time finds God’s devotee in Duryodhana.
On another occasion, Shrii Ramakrishna said: “If you have a saintly person as a predecessor, he will certainly pull you up, even if you have a thousand faults. When the Gandharvas captured the Kauravas, Yudhisthira had them liberated. He set free even Duryodhana, who had shown him so much enmity and was the cause of his exile. (Shrii Ramakrishna Kathaamrta-4.20.3)”
In this anecdote, Shrii Ramakrishna identifies Duryodhana as representative of all common men in need to be pulled up. Duryodhana is no mean villain to him, he is all humanity waiting for salvation – almost Everyman - the one who has not yet felt the need of salvation or his own wretched ways, yet the saintly person like Yudhishthira would pull him up.
I would also quote from Swami Vivekananda: “There was a time in India when Dharma was compatible with Mukti. There were worshippers of Dharma, such as Yudhishthira, Arjuna, Duryodhana, Bhishma, and Karna, side by side with the aspirants of Mukti, such as Vyâsa, Shuka, and Janaka. On the advent of Buddhism, Dharma was entirely neglected, and the path of Moksha alone became predominant.” [ii]
Readers, do Note how Swami Vivekananda mentions Duryodhana in one frame and breath with Yudhishthira and Arjuna as worshippers of Dharma. Swami Vivekananda was not obviously oblivious of Duryodhana’s flaws as evident elsewhere; what he actually means is: to be at different steps or layers of Dharma is to be IN Dharma still!
And that brings us to the most important question I intend to pose in this essay: is Dharma-Yuddha a war between Dharma and Adharma, or between Dharma and Dharma?
[i] Banerjee Sumanta. Bogey of the Bawdy: Changing Concept of 'Obscenity' in 19th Century Bengali Culture.Economic and Political Weekly Vol. 22, No. 29 (Jul. 18, 1987), pp. 1197-1206
[ii] Complete-Works / Volume 5 / Writings: Prose and Poems /THE EAST AND THE West/I. INTRODUCTION
More by : Indrajit Bandyopadhyay
|Wasn't Krishna under compulsion to kill Kansa because of his parents. Krishna himself mentions in Udyog parva to Dhritrashtra how he removed the reason of dispute Kansa and restored Yadava's peace without resorting to war/blood bath. He did same with Jarasandh and adviced him doing same to Duryo.|
|Garhwal region surely has a few tamples dedicated to Duryo but Pandavas are much more revered. We even have a genre of folk dance-drama known as 'Pandav'. Krishna is widely worshipped in Garhwal region(offcourse Radha was unknown in this territory) but in the form of Krishna-Nagraj duo.|
I think this cofusion arises due to the fact that people are unaware of the traditions of Garhwal. Here people worship(and even envoke) their ancestors/deceased kings. Duryo being the king has to be worshipped.