Sep 23, 2023
Sep 23, 2023
Krishna against the Kuru-Paandavs
– The apocryphal Dandi Parva of the Mahabharata
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Urvashi cursed by Durvasa
Once, after spending a thousand years in ascesis, the rishi Durvasa began roaming the world to satisfy his senses but was not satisfied. Then he proceeded to the abode of the immortals and was delighted to see its unique splendor. Seated alongside the devas in their court named Sudharma, he passed much time. To entertain him, Indra summoned the loveliest of apsaras Urvashi and bade her delight the sage with her dance. Urvashi, repelled by the body-odor, matted hair and dirty appearance, doubted his capacity to appreciate her skills. Durvasa immediately made out from her facial expression what she was thinking and roared aloud that sin must never be tolerated. Hence, as she had thought he was beastly, she would fall from Svarga to earth and be born as a mare to expiate her sin. Urvashi and all the devas begged the sage to set a limit to her suffering, whereupon warning her never to be proud again, he said that on earth she would live in the kingdom of Raja Dandi of Avanti and return when the curse was spent. Remaining a mare during the day, she would become a divinely lovely woman at night.
Thus, Urvashi descended as a mare in a lovely wood in the wonderful kingdom of Avanti (in Central India) where everyone was good, festivals were held, and no dangers existed. Raja Dandi was an excellent ruler, touring everywhere to supervise his subjects’ welfare. Once, when in distress because of her state the mare was running hither and thither, scaring the animals, Dandi arrived to hunt. He came upon the splendid mare in the company of some deer and ordered his troops to capture her. Leaving them all behind, Urvashi sped off deep into the forest. Pursuing her, Dandi was exhausted. Out of pity Urvashi spoke to him, enquiring who he was. Dandi was enchanted and declared his identity. Urvashi recalled Durvasa’s prophecy and lamented her state. By this time the sun had set and, losing the form of a mare, Urvashi became a captivating woman, stunning Dandi. She explained the entire matter to him. Dandi begged her to become his and assured to keep her hidden from all eyes. Urvashi agreed on condition that he vowed never to abandon her. Dandi promised immediately. Spending the night with her, Dandi took her back in the form of a mare to his capital and kept her in a secret place away from all eyes. Day and night he spent with her, neglecting all duties. Dandi was obsessed with the mare who became his sole concern, grooming and feeding her with his own hands all day long. Subjects and ministers had no access to him. At night when she became an enchanting woman, Dandi would devote himself to pleasing her as best as he could, regardless of his diminishing fame. His intelligence waned, his spirit dulled. Devi Lakshmi decided to abandon him, and he became incapable of protecting his kingdom. The subjects began to suffer from sickness, untimely death and various sorrows, afflicted by robbers. Teenage widows and beggars began to abound.
The splendor of Svarga waned as well. Indra felt the absence of Urvashi acutely and was apprehensive of her having to face great suffering. Therefore, he summoned the celestial rishi Naarad and requested his intervention. Naarad assured him that the time was near for Urvashi’s curse to be lifted. Eager to have darshan of Shri Hari (Krishna), he proceeded to that very unholy place, earth. Naarad went to Dwarka, that city of unrivalled splendor because of Shri Hari’s presence and waited at the entrance for permission to enter, having due regard to royal protocol. Already aware of his impending arrival, Shri Hari had sent a guard to usher in the sage to where he was seated with Devi Rukmini. Crossing the apartments of 16,000 women, Naarad arrived where Shri Hari was seated. Greeting all the children, the aged and the women, Naarad found that wherever he looked in the inner apartments he saw Shri Hari present. Bewildered, when he willed to see Shri Hari at one spot, he found him seated before him with all his women, welcoming him. Having embraced him, Shri Hari enquired after his welfare, whereupon Naarad begged him to remove the curse from Urvashi and left.
Shri Hari dispatched an envoy to Raja Dandi with this message: “O ruler of Avanti! The magical mare you have obtained and enjoyed in secret for so long, dispatch it forthwith to me in Dwarka city. Do not do otherwise!” Hearing this, the king flared up with rage and shouted, “Get out! I do not know your master. If you tarry even a moment here, mighty Dandi’s deadly rod will split your body into pieces like Indra’s vajra or Shiva’s trident.” The envoy left immediately and reported everything to his master.
Krishna mused for a while that nothing of significance ought to be done in a hurry. So he summoned his intimate companion Uddhav and asked him to proceed to the city of Avanti. Crossing many lands, Uddhav reached Avanti soon and called on Dandi. Uddhav urged him not to dispute with Krishna who was the supreme divinity and to hand over the splendid mare to avert disaster. Dandi felt dizzy, bewildered, unable to decide what to do. Then to deceive Uddhav he said, “Why should I unnecessarily quarrel with Vaasudev to whom I pay tribute? If I had the mare, I would definitely have handed it over. Someone has mistakenly informed you that I have found a mare. I am lucky that hearing that news you have set foot in my kingdom. If you do not believe me, please visit my palace and see for yourself.” Laughing, Uddhav said that he was not deceived by the king’s lies and that Dandi was only inviting misfortune thereby. “Alas, O king! Your intelligence is lost because of a petty thing,” said Uddhav taking leave.
Deeply disturbed, Dandi began to lament. Seeing his distracted condition, his queen urged him to concentrate on saving himself. Dandi argued that keeping his word to the mare was more sacred than obeying Krishna. Further, it was destiny that had made his mind thus obsessed, so there was no way out for him but to flee for saving his life as Krishna was sure to launch an attack after hearing of his refusal from the envoy.
Ardently embracing and kissing the mare, he exited the city in secret on her back, all alone. He roamed one land after another, from town to town, village to village like a madman, without any goal in mind. Gradually he came to his senses and decided he needed to seek for some way out of the predicament. First, he approached the sea and prayed to it, but the sea declined as its glory was all Vaasudev’s doing, and he could not protect Dandi against the Lord.
Then, one after another, Dandi approached Krishna’s foes: Shishupal lord of Chedi and mighty Jaraasandh of Magadh from whom Krishna had fled to Dwarka. Both turned him down, one because of Krishna’s invincible discus and as he was kin, the other as he considered it beneath his dignity to fight such a petty person.
Depressed and disappointed, Dandi decided not to approach any human being as men were incapable of protecting. Therefore, he presented himself before the lord of mountains, Himgiri and sought refuge with him. Acknowledging his right to be granted refuge, the Himalayas expressed its inability to protect him against the omnipotent one and advised him to seek shelter with Shri Krishna immediately.
His intelligence overcast, Dandi rejected the advice as venomous and abusing the lord of mountains proceeded to meet Duryodhan who said that he neither wished nor was able to oppose invincible Krishna. He advised Dandi to hand over the mare to Krishna and be free from danger.
Dandi then considered approaching the supremely righteous Yudhishthir who was celebrated as the support of the helpless. “But being an intimate of Krishna’s, if he asked Dandi to surrender the mare, what then? So long as he was alive, he could not give up the mare. It did not befit a man to break his given word.” He was unable to decide what to do and kept lamenting.
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More by : Dr. Pradip Bhattacharya