The Other Side of the Two Krishnas

Krishna and Arjuna appear as a serious duo in the Mahabharata. The imagery of Krishna-Arjuna in a single chariot evokes awe as well as spiritual inspiration. It is not only their action in the Mahabharata but also the reminiscence of the Indra-Vishnu myth of the Rig-Veda in a single chariot that evokes awe and grandeur. The naughty Krishna of Gokula and mischievous Krishna of Brindavana as found in the Bhagavatand the Puranas is not to be found in the Krishna of the Mahabharata

Or, is it so? Has Vyasa overlooked or suppressed the ‘less serious’ side of Krishna and Arjuna? Or is it ‘we’, who have failed to notice the subtlety of Vyasa’s humor in his portrayal of two most humourous characters - Krishna and Arjuna? 

The image of the warrior-statesman Krishna and the warrior Arjuna dominate our imagination so much that we tend to overlook their other sides. We seldom wonder what the duo used to do in times of peace; how they spent time in times of leisure; whether they had pastimes. The Mahabharata contains enough clues about that, only the flow of the narrative and epical grandeur force our mind remain focused on ‘serious’ matters! Our conflict-mongering souls are busy finding justification in epical wars! 

Surely Vyasa did not intend to write a great epic on a mere eighteen days war!

It was the latter poets whose imagination engaged so much in an eighteen days war, that Mahabharata became an epic celebrating war, with loads of description of war and gory vision! As a result one thing happened for certain. Characterization suffered most.

Another common aspect of mass psychology is also at work in the general perception and interpretation of Mahabharata and its characters. People want happiness and joy in life, yet they look down upon ‘humor’ as levity in comparison to ‘serious matters’ like spirituality, war etc. The latter poets clearly show symptoms of suffering from this ‘humor’, with the ‘choleric’ and ‘melancholic’ overdominating the ‘sanguine’!

What was Vyasa’s idea about humor? The clue definitely lies in his own name, and also in the name of the two greatest characters portrayed by him. Vyasa is Krishna, Vasudeva is Krishna, and so is Arjuna. The name ‘Krishna’ is the clue to understand Vyasa’s mind. The essence of Joy is there in this very name.

In Section LXX of Udyoga Parva, when Dhritarashtra wants to know more and more of Krishna, Sanjaya, explaining the meaning of the name ‘Krishna’ says, ‘Born of the Sattwata race, he is called Krishna because he uniteth in himself what are implied by the two words – ‘Krishi’ which signifieth 'what existeth' and ‘na’ which signifieth 'eternal peace'. 

It is so. The name ‘Krishna’ suggests one who attracts everything by His charm. The Sanskrit root ‘Kr’ indicates Existence and the syllable ‘na’ indicates Bliss. Thus ‘Krishna’ means ‘One who by His very existence gives bliss.’ (http://www.geocities.com/profvk/mantra4.html)

‘Existence’ and ‘eternal peace’ exist together in peaceful and joyous harmony in Krishna’s name. In the Gita, Krishna says, ‘Shantyashya Kutah Sukham’ that is ‘There is no happiness without peace.’ Krishna indeed embodies his own doctrine. It is not for no reason that ‘Krishna-nam’ is ‘Amrita saman.’

The Krishna-Arjuna friendship in its very essence is one of joy. Krishna values Arjuna’s friendship more than anything else in the world. Even his opponents corroborate this. In Section LXV of Udyoga Parva, Dhritarashtra says, ‘As regards Krishna, his wives, kinsmen, relatives, his own soul and the whole earth, put on one scale, weigheth with Dhananjaya on the other.’ We find it also in Karna’s sppech to Bhisma at the end of the Bhisma Parva

What was the glue that kept the two eternally together? Leaving aside the Nara-Narayana myth, my answer to this is that it is their sense of humor and their common artistic taste. Philosophy, spiritual quest, idealism, vision, mission, Kshatra Dharma – all are other important reasons of their immortal friendship, no doubt, but nothing glues like humor!

Praise or blame could not sway Krishna. His shares of the two perhaps far outweigh the collective share of the rest of mankind! Some call him God, while some, the very incarnation of the Devil. One thing is clear, Krishna is never sombre. His face might sometimes take up a sombre or grave mask, but that is never his usual self. No doubt, why of all his names, ‘Krishna’ is the most popular. 

Let us now see some rare moments as depicted in the Mahabharata, moments which we often fail to notice, or even if we notice, we fail to grasp their significance. 

In Section CCXXIV of Adi Parva (Khandava-daha Parva) Arjuna expresses his desire to go to the banks of the Yamuna to sport during the summer days. Krishna promptly agrees, 'O son of Kunti, this is also my wish. Let us, O Partha, sport in the waters as we please, in the company of friends.'

They take Yudhishthira's leave and set out surrounded by friends. They reach a fine spot on the banks of the Yamuna suitable for purposes of pleasure, overgrown with numerous tall trees. Everybody begins to sport, according to his or her pleasure. ‘The women of the party, all of full rotund hips and deep bosoms and handsome eyes, and gait unsteady with wine began to sport there at the command of Krishna and Partha. Some amongst the women sported as they liked in the woods, some in the waters, and some within the mansions, as directed by  Partha and Govinda.’ 

Draupadi and Subhadra are with them. Exhilarated with wine, they begin to ‘give away unto the women so sporting, their costly robes and ornaments. And some amongst those women began to dance in joy, and some began to sing; and some amongst them began to laugh and jest, and some to drink excellent wines. Some began to obstruct one another's progress and some to fight with one another, and to discourse with one another in private. Those mansions and the woods, filled with the charming music of flutes and guitars and kettledrums, became the scene  of Prosperity personified.’

Here we find Krishna-Arjuna in sensuous spree! Krishna-Arjuna enjoying the sight and company of ‘sporting’ woman may not be a very comfortable prospect for hard-core devotees, but if we keep in mind the essential teachings of the Gita and theUpanishad, we understand the import of Krishna-Arjuna’s jovial sensuousness. 

It is one great aspect of the Hindu philosophy that control of senses is recommended, but shunning of the senses is never suggested. Krishna alerts Arjuna in the Gita never to be attached to the senses, but he never says anything against the use of senses. TheUpanishad also says, ‘Tena Tyaktena Bhunjithha.’ Indeed, our life is impossible without senses. From Krishna’s life we learn how to use our senses to their full and then go beyond them. Perhaps the two are interconnected. Partial realization of the potential of our senses only increases our attachment to them. The main cause of our attachment is ‘myth-sense’ and ‘myth-narrative’ about objects. 

In the same scene of the Mahabharata we find Krishna-Arjuna going to a certain charming spot in those woods not far from the place where the others were, leaving all others behind. It is as if the two Krishnas want a secluded space for themselves beyond the din of their companions and consorts. Happily sitting there, Krishna-Arjuna ‘amuse themselves…discoursing upon many past achievements of prowess and other topics’. This is a picture of a typical adda or gossip. The two cousins have shaken of their royal tags and assumed masks of the societal world. The extraordinariness of the picture is in the commonality and familiarity of the two great heroes. Only a unique humourist Vyasa can portray thus! 

Vyasa brings out another aspect of Krishna-Arjuna’s character - their love of solitude and love of nature. It is inherent in their nature, and it is also there in ‘nurture’ - Krishna’s pastoral background and Arjuna’s infantial upbringing in the lap of nature. Pandu was also a great lover of nature. Arjuna inherits not only Pandu’s archery talents but also his love of nature. 

After the Khandava-daha Parva (Section CCXXIV of Adi Parva), we find that the new kingdom of Indraprashtha emphasizes on ‘virtue, pleasure, and profit, in judicious proportion.’ Under Yidhishthira’s rule, ‘It seemed as if the three pursuits - virtue, pleasure, and profit - became personified on earth, and amongst them the king shone as a fourth.’ Vyasa always stresses the interconnectedness of virtue-pleasure-profit. The same is the message of the Gita. Without a cheerful spirit there cannot be virtue. 

Arjuna is the sort of character who is never to be bound in house-hold chores. He is the sort who is ever on the move. He is always after gaining new experiences. Exploration is his nature. There is enough reason to believe that his individualBanabas is much an act of his own will. Another cheerful scene involving Krishna-Arjuna can be found (Section CCXX of Adi Parva), after Arjuna reaches Dwarka towards the end of his individual Banabas. Krishna and Arjuna meet together and embracing each other enquire after each other's welfare. Krishna asks Arjuna about his travels, 'Why, O Pandava art thou wandering over the earth, beholding all the sacred waters and other holy places?' Then Arjuna tells him everything that has happened. Hearing everything, Krishna remarks, 'This is as it should be.' Leaving aside speculations whether Arjuna’s Banabas was Krishna’s mastermind, we get here a Krishna who is ever positive towards all varieties of human experience, and particularly traveling. 

Krishna and Arjuna sport as they like, for some time at Prabhasa, and then go to the Raivataka Mountain to pass some days there. Before they arrive at Raivataka, Krishna commands that mountain resort be well-adorned by many artificers and variety of food be stocked. Arjuna enjoys everything that has been collected there for him. Then the two Krishnas enjoy performances of actors and dancers. 

Both Krishnas prove to be ‘Bhojona-rasika’ and ‘Shilpa-rasika’. Another of Vyasa’s master humor that food for appetite and food for intellect go hand to hand! That Krishna is a great lover of food is also confirmed in Sishupal’s outbursts against him. Sishupal in his defiance of Krishna (Section XL of Sabha Parva) asks Bhisma, ‘O Bhishma, what is there remarkable in this one's having supported for a week the Govardhan mount which is like an anthill? 'While sporting on the top of a mountain this one ate a large quantity of food,' - hearing  these words of thine many have wondered exceedingly.’ 

This is one of the few occasions in the Mahabharata that refers to Krishna’s ‘Balya-lila.’ What is revealed is that the mighty slayer of Kamsha is our next-door adolescent impressing his pals gobbling huge quantity of food, like our younger brothers doing a round of competition with favourite dishes in birthday, marriage or other social parties. We are fortunate that Sishupala, a hardcore Krishna-hater, finds fault in even this too! But for his hatred, the Krishna of our household would not have come to our view.

Arjuna is a great lover of art and music. Otherwise he could not have lived during the Ajnatabasa in king Virata’s Matsya kingdom as a teacher of music and dance hoodwinking Duryodhana’s spies. That no woman ever suspects him proves his excellence in matters of music, songs and dance. It is unfortunate for us that the focus of the Mahabharata shifts so much towards a mere eighteen days war, that this artistic side of his character has never been explored. From the Puranas we know Krishna is a great player of flute. Unfortunately, the present corpus of theMahabharata is deprived of the celestial music of Krishna’s flute. 

Krishna and Arjuna spend the night together in Raivataka. ‘Then the high-souled Pandava, dismissing them all with proper respect, laid himself down on a well-adorned and excellent bed. As the strong-armed one lay on that excellent bed, he described unto Krishna everything about the sacred waters, the lakes and the mountains, the rivers and the forests he had seen.’ Here again we see the duo in typical ‘Adda’ mood. Krishna’s curiosity about Arjuna’s travelogues shows how much he cherishes traveling. And what comes to the fore yet again is Arjuna’s ‘wander-lust’, his desire to ‘drink life to the lees.’

It is music and music everywhere. ‘Arjuna rises in the morning, awakened, by sweet songs and melodious notes of the Vina (guitar) and the panegyrics and benedictions of the bards.’

It is indeed a great loss for us that the Mahabharata focusses so much on Arjuna’s prowess that his other talents like his love for music and arts have been relegated to oblivion. During his ‘Banabas within Banabas’ of five years, Arjuna goes to heaven and learns music and dancing from Chitrasena. He also learns the instrumental music that is ‘current among the celestials and which existeth not in the world of men’. Indra introduces Arjuna to Chitrasena and the two become friends. Arjuna lives happily in peace with Chitrasena. On his instruction Arjuna learns to sing and play instruments and also dancing. We wonder, how Arjuna’s powerful arms that could dart arrows incessantly, could become supple while dancing!

The interesting message of Mahabharata we find here is that friends are the best Gurus. Krishna is Arjuna’s spiritual Guru, and Chitrasena of arts. Vyasa, perhaps, wants to show us that learning through mutual friendship is the best form of learning. And who knows not that humour sustains friendship more than all other factors combined together?

In Section XXIV of Virata Parva Bhima saves Draupadi from the Upa-Kichakas, following Kichaka’s death. While returning to the palace Draupadi beholds Arjuna, in the dancing-hall instructing king Virata's daughters in dancing. When Arjujna as Virhannala asks her, 'How hast thou, O Sairindhri, been delivered? And how have those sinful wretches been slain? I wish to learn all this from thee exactly as it occurred.' Draupadi replies, 'O blessed Vrihannala, always passing thy days happily in the apartments of the girls, what concern hast thou with Sairindhri's fate to say? Thou hast no grief to bear that Sairindhri hath to bear! It is for this, that thou askest me thus, distressed as I am in ridicule.' Envy is there, and so is a tint of bitterness, but the lady Krishna’s humor is unmistakable. 

Again what is revealed despite Draupadi’s sarcastic comments is that Arjuna has the rare ability to be happy in any circumstances and in any role, even if it is the role of a neutar gender. Arjuna like Krishna is never concerned of the past or future. He exists in the ‘now’. His love for experience is so intense, that he is even happy and comfortable experimenting with his own sexual identity in the role of Brihannala. The false ego of ‘manliness’ never stands in his way to savor experiences of all kind. That explains, perhaps, why Krishna chooses him to be the ideal ‘Adhara’ or spiritual receptacle for his Gita discourse. It is a matter to be pondered upon that Yudhishthira, the nobler character, remains eternally deprived of a ‘first-hand’ discourse of the Gita. With so much qualities of heart, what did he lack? The answer is obvious. Sense of Humor!

No sooner the Krishna-Krishnaa pleasantries in Virata’s dancing hall are over, battle cries are heard as Hastinapur and Trigarta jointly attack Viirata (Section XXXVI). The Pandavas come to the rescue of Virata. Arjuna hears Uttar boasting ‘The assembled Kurus shall witness my prowess today. And they shall say unto one another, 'Is it Arjuna himself who is opposing us?' 

Hearing these words of Uttar, Arjuna understands the urgency of the situation. He is cheerful. After a little while he cheerfully speaks in private to Draupadi, telling her to suggest his name to Uttar to take him as his charioteer. Like Krishna, Arjuna is always in cheerful mood. Most important, here Arjuna’s Kshatra-dharma and humor merge into one. He is cheerful to dance, sing and play music among women, and he is cheerful at the prospect of dancing ‘Tandava’ at the battlefield and play the twang music of his Gandiva. The fingers that can harp Vina-strings can also harp bow-strings. Unique is Arjuna, and unique is Vyasa to have delineated such a character.

When arrangement is made that Brihannala would go with prince Uttar as his charioteer, we find Arjuna making fun even in that tense situation. ‘He begins to make many mistakes for the sake of fun. And when he sought to put the coat of mail on his body by raising it upwards, the large-eyed maidens, beholding it, burst out into a loud laughter. And seeing him quite ignorant of putting on armour, Uttara himself equipped Vrihannala with a costly coat of mail.’ This is Arjuna. He is going to war alone with the mighty Kurus, yet he is so relaxed. It is for his joyous nature that he can be so. It is for his humorous nature that he is ‘Abhi’, always fearless.

We find another Krishna-Arjuna intimate scene in Sanjay’s narrative in Section LIX ofUdyoga Parva. ‘Attired in excellent robes and adorned with celestial ornaments, they (Krishna-Arjuna) sat on a golden dais, decked with numerous gems, and covered over with carpets of diverse texture and hue. And I beheld Kesava's feet resting upon Arjuna's lap while those of the high-souled Arjuna rested upon the laps of Krishna and Satyabhama.’ This scene brings out a very strange relational dimension. All are in relaxed mood though a battle is knocking at the door. Krishna and Draupadi’s ‘Sakha-Sakhi’ relationship is a much discussed one. But what we find here is an Arjuna-Satyabhama ‘Sakha-Sakhi’ relationship! It is our misfortune that this side of the story depicting their intimate life has been completely sidelined by epical compulsions! 

Just after the war is over with the fall of Duryodhana (Section LII of 
Aswamedha Parva) Krishna-Arjuna goes to Hastinapur. Daruka is ordered to prepare the chariot. Then those two, viz., Krishna and the son of Pandu, ascended their car and proceeded on the journey, the loving friends engaged the while in delightful conversation.’ In Hastinapur, after formalities of meeting with Dhritarashtra are over, Krishna-Arjuna taking Dhritarashtra’s permission retire to their respective apartments. ‘Krishna of great energy proceeded to the apartments of Dhananjaya. Worshipped duly and furnished with every object of comfort and enjoyment, Krishna of great intelligence passed the night in happy sleep with Dhananjaya as his companion.’

A war has just ended. The Panchalas have been completely destroyed. All sons of Draupadi are dead. Yet the duo could be engaged in delightful conversation! It might be because war is a regular part of their life, but perhaps, it is more because Krishna’s presence and company can make one forget the common sorrows of life. The episode also speaks volumes on their character. Their basic philosophy is that a life is a unique opportunity which is to be lived to its full in joy. This joyous spirit is their Karma-shakti, the stimulant, the Soma-rasa in their nature. Only fools search for stimulants outside. The duo knows its presence in them.

Sometimes Krishna’s humor has a touch of cynicism in it that cuts directly like a knife. When Krishna is on his way to Dwarka after the war is over, he meets Rishi Utanka (Section LIII of Aswamedha Parva).  On learning about the war Utanka says, 'Since, though able, O Krishna, thou didst not rescue those foremost ones of Kuru's race, who were thy relatives and, therefore, dear to thee, I shall, without doubt, curse thee. Since thou didst not forcibly compel them to forbear, therefore, O slayer of Madhu, I shall, filled with wrath, denounce a curse on thee. It seems, O Madhava, that though fully able (to save them), thou wert indifferent to these foremost of Kurus who, overwhelmed by insincerity and hypocrisy have all met with destruction.'

Krishna with due politeness tells him plain about what he thinks of his ‘curse’ - ‘No man is able, by a little ascetic merit, to put me down. O foremost of ascetics, I do not wish to see the destruction of all thy penances…..I know that thou hast observed the rules of Brahmacharyya from the days of thy infancy. I do not, therefore, desire the loss or diminution of thy penances achieved with so much  pain.'"

Krishna’s humor here is very cold. It sounds like egoism but it is not. When a Rishi, who has performed auster penance, and who has come to posess great ascetic merit, thinks he could control another man’s fate and future by his will-power, who else would laugh in humor but Krishna! Krishna could see this as the height of childish egotism. He nullifies the Rishi’s ego by the humorous display of his ego. 

After the Utanka-episode (Section LIX of Aswamedha Parva) as Krishna nears Raivataka with Satyaki, he sees the high mountain, ‘decked with excellent garlands of gold and gay festoons of flowers, with many large trees that looked like the Kalpa trees of Indra's garden, and with many golden poles on which were lighted lamps, shone in beauty through day and night. By the caves and fountains the light was so great that it seemed to be broad day. On all sides beautiful flags  waved on the air with little bells that jingled continuously.’

Krishna enjoys the beauty of the Raivataka hill for sometime. After the Kuru-war ends there is no remnant of images of that war in Krishna’s mind. He is indeed the embodiment of his own wisdom – the Gita. His mind is free from the slavery of memory-retained images. He lives life to the full every moment. These apparently small incidents in the life of Krishna are in fact the repository of eternal lessons! 

Section LXXXVII of Aswamedha Parva presents an episode unsurpassable in its beauty and subtlety. Yudhishthira wonders, ‘For what reason is Partha always dissociated from ease and comfort?’ Yudhishthira feels for Partha’s ‘sufferings’ from his own perspective. He finds no logic in Arjuna’s ‘sufferings.’ Yudhishthira’s question is in fact Vyasa’s humourous presentation of Yudhishthira’s humourless character. Yudhishthira thinks, ‘The lot of that delighter of the Pandus is exceedingly miserable. His body has every auspicious mark. What, however, O Krishna, is that sign in his excellent body in consequence of which he has always to endure misery and discomfort? That son of Kunti has to bear an exceedingly large share of unhappiness. I do not see any censurable indication in his body.’ He wants to hear an explanation from Krishna. On being asked, Krishna ‘having reflected for a long time’, answers, 'I do not see any censurable feature in this prince, except that the cheek bones of this lion among men are a little too high. It is in consequence of this that that foremost of  men has always to be on the road. I really do not see anything else in consequence of which he could be made so unhappy.' 

Yudhishthira is satisfied with the answer as usual, Draupadi’s reaction is different. 

Krishna’s ‘reflecting for a long time’ shows his great sense of dramatic humor. As he reflects he keeps others waiting eagerly for a serious answer. We may imagine the eager faces looking askance at Krishna’s face. Then all of a sudden he cracks a rather trivial and funny reason that Arjuna’s ‘cheek bones’ are responsible for his misery! 

Ganguly’s English translation fails to capture the subtlty and richness of the humor of the situation. Or perhaps, Ganguly is not to be blamed, it is the ‘masculanity’ of English language that is to be blamed.

The Bengali translation of Draupadi’s reaction goes as follows, which I think is more appropriate and close to the original. When Yudhisthira takes Krishna’s answer seriously, Draupadi side-glances Krishna in ‘pretentious anger’. Hrishikesh ‘accepts her amorous glance cheerfully.’ 

This brief narration of an episode often overlooked by the rush of more ‘serious narration’ is unparalleled in the history of world literature in its charming sweetness! With one master stroke Vyasa reveals more than found elsewhere in the wholeMahabharata. At a more mundane level it speaks volumes of the relationship shared by the three Krishnas, as also of their joyous nature. Love comes from joy. Ananda is the basic essence of human nature, because God himself is Sat-Chit-Ananda!

Karma-Yoga as preached and lived by Krishna has much to do with Joy! This is however no novel wisdom. The ancient sages envisaged the ideal-man as one combining in himself wisdom-humor-action. Vyasa might have re-created the Indra-Vishnu myth through Krishna-Arjuna. For example, RV 6.69.5 goes as follows – ‘This, your deed, Indra-Visnu, must be lauded: widely ye strode in the wild joy of Soma.Ye made the firmament of larger compass, and made the regions broad for our existence.’ 

‘Wild joy of Soma-rasa’ is actually the inherent unbound endless stimulating potential in man. The natural and spontaneous joy in man is fuelled and sustained by this stimulating potential, to enable the inner and innate joy express itself in societal activity. The Joy becomes ‘Harshha’ by the power of Soma. And ‘Harshha’ becomes the driving force and energy of ‘Karma’ blended with wisdom-power-joy. The actual meaning of Somarasa has been made clear in R.V 10.85.3 which goes as follows – ‘One thinks, when they have brayed the plant, that he hath drunk the Soma's juice; Of him whom Brahmans truly know as Soma no one ever tastes.’ 

In the Rig Vedic hymn, making ‘the firmament of larger compass’ and making ‘the regions broad for our existence’ is the seed of Karma-Yoga and ‘Lokasamgraham’. Wisdom-work-power is the ideal that the ancient Rishis cherished and the image of Indra represented that ideal. In the Rig Veda Soma-rasa was originally conceived as a stimulating power of joy. The ancient Rishis mentioned ‘Soma-rasa’ as a metaphor, and certainly not as a stimulating and intoxicating drug-plant! The latter Brahmanical ritual-obsessed Rishis, who had lost touch of the true spiritual message of the ancient Rigvedic Rishis, took ‘Soma-rasa’ as literal. They also failed to comprehend the spiritual messages of the allegorical tales of the Rig Veda. The Puranas used the allegories as foundation and created new myths. That is a different discussion, however.

This hymn preshadows the vision of the Gita as well as the duo in harmonious valour and joy. Vyasa appropriates this mythical-allegory because that fits his new-age heroes. Indra-Vishnu ‘strode in the wild joy of Soma’, so do Arjuna-Krishna, particularly Arjuna in his lifelong travels. Krishna also travels far and wide. Arjuna is one with wheeled-feet. He is never found to lament for any lost-happiness. He has a natural inclination for travels and exploration. He sets out for Digvijaya and undertakes expeditions in the most difficult terrains. It is not an accident that he chooses extreme north and trans-Himalayan regions for his military expeditions. His expeditions serve him multi-purposes – expansion of the Indraprashtha kingdom, learning mountaneous warfare, and expansion of the self. And above all, perhaps, it gives him the chance to be in close contact with nature. Like a true hero he can combine his societal works with his own personality development, so to say! He learns the art of music during his stay in Indra’s sabha. Certainly that would not have been possible without his natural talent for art! He is as much an artist with his Gandiva as with musical instruments. Krishna too can blow the war-conch as well as the flute.

Arjuna has a self-imposed Banabas after marriage with Draupadi; he has a Banabas within a Banabas for five years, in the 13 plus 1 year Banabas following the defeat in dice-game. In those years of exile his inherent ‘Soma’ always stimulates him to be always on the move. No other character surpasses him in dynamics! It is thus understandable why Vyasa’s singular focus is on him. Yudhishthira, Bhima and Draupadi are sometimes found to suffer mentally, but never him! He is not however, devoid of emotion. During his stay at Indra’s  sabha, he thinks of his brothers and wives.

Krishna’s superior humor is in his humorous observation of the world. We find him crying twice. Once after Kamsha’s death (according to Harivamsha), and the second time catching hold of Dhritarashtra’s hand after the Kuru-war. We may interpret Krishna’s tears as we choose. They might be his real emotion! They might be just dramatics; they might be his unique capability to become emotional at will for sincere consolation of others’ bereavement and sorrows. 

And we may remember, tear is the common spring of both the clouded sky and bright sunshine!

Vyasa offers a study in contrast and comparison to drive home his ideas of joy and humour and travels. All the heroes of the Mahabharata are travellers. Even Karna is a traveller. We find him mentioning about his travels in Karna Parva, when he narrates to Shalya about his first hand experiences of the culture and civilization of different nations. However Karna is rather parochial in his mindset about the diversities he sees. He fails to expand his vision of Bharata by his travels. Instead of developing the idea of ‘Unity in Diversity’, he is rather selective. This is his failure as a traveller. That is perhaps one reason why despite being gifted with superior qualities, he could not be the hero of the new age of Vyasa’s vision.

The joyous humor of Krishna-Arjuna stands in bright contrast to the rather dark-gloomy-sadistic humor of Duryodhana-Duhshashana-Karna. 

In Section CCXXXV of Vanaparva Karna advises Duryodhana to torment the exiled Pandavas and particularly Draupadi by display of the effulgence of their power, pelf and prosperity, ‘What happiness will not be his who, himself in affluence will cast his eyes on Dhananjaya attired in barks and deer-skins? Let thy wife dressed in costly robes look at the woeful Krishna clad in barks and deer-skins, and enhance the latter's grief! Let the daughter of Drupada reproach herself and her life, divested as she is of wealth, for the sorrow that she will feel upon beholding thy wife decked in ornaments will be far greater than what she had felt in the midst of the assembly.’

Duryodhana is too willing to do so, ‘I shall certainly be highly pleased if I cast my eyes on Bhima and Phalguna passing their days in pain with Krishna in the woods. The joy that I may feel in obtaining the sovereignty of the entire earth is nothing to that which will be mine upon beholding the sons of Pandu attired in barks of trees and deer-skins. What joy can be greater, O Karna that will be mine upon beholding the daughter of Drupada dressed in red rags in the woods? If king Yudhishthira and Bhima, the sons of Pandu, behold me graced with great affluence, then only shall I have attained the great end of my life!’

Their humor is dark and based on self-delusion. The contrast is clear. They cannot be happy or joyous in others’ happiness. Their happiness gets nourishment from others’ sufferings. No doubt they all stand to lose at the end!

In Sanskrit literary theory of Art the spectator is called 'rasika'. He is the witnesser of a dramatic performance for the enjoyment of 'Rasa', the extract or substance of an emotion - something corresponding to fruit-juice. This 'Rasa', a phenomenon of mind - the delight which the spectator experiences when witnessing an emotion enacted on the stage, or represented into a medium, is the core of Indian aesthetic thought.’(http://www.answers.com/topic/rasa-art)

The term 'Rasa', to mean juice, particularly of the creeper Soma, appears in the Rig-veda itself. It is, however, in various Upanishads Taittiriya, Kaushitaki, and Isha, that the term 'Rasa' has been used to denote variedly 'essence', 'flavor', or 'something that moved'. The Taittiriya Upanishad perceived 'Rasa' as essence, something which is beyond senses; the Kaushitaki, as flavor of Brahman - a hymn or 'mantra'; and Isha, as something that appeals and moves the mind.

Obviously, the Vedas have discovered song - poetry, hymn or 'mantra', something capable of emitting 'Rasa', and the Upanishads, their underlying essence, flavor, 'Rasa', or that which move the mind. Thus, 'Rasa', as the juice of the creeper 'Soma', has material status, but as the essence of Brahman - song or hymn, it is an abstract or aesthetic realization of the mind, and hence its delight. 

What Vyasa shows is that multiple dimensions of character like romanticism, strength, idealism, humanism, action, wisdom, art, music, traveling, exploration, adventurous spirit – all are best manifest if fuelled by humor. 

Vyasa as the narrator of Mahabharata and script-writer of the Kuru-war along with Krishna is the witness of the human drama. They are ‘Rasikas’. Krishna being also a witness to the witnesser is the greater Rasika. Krishna is the actor, and he is also the spectator. As Vishnu incarnate he is the stage, as Vasudeva he is on the stage; and as the script-writer of the Kuru-war, he contains the stage and actors in his mind. His ‘Rasa’ is thus superior to any other mortal. Krishna is both the Rasa and Rasika.

A drama, as also poetry, sculpture or a painting, re-creates the mind, and sublimates thereby the entire being, but essentially by using the senses. Both creative and critical faculties thrive on the senses. Krishna being the dramatist, actor and spectator rolled into one stands fully within the world of senses as also fully beyond them. He is the wheel as well as the hub. 

We can never be sure what Vyasa meant by ‘Jay’, the title he gave to his creation. Perhaps, he was ambiguous, perhaps he was not. ‘Jay’ means both victory and Joy. It is a circular title! Joy leads to Jay and the result is Joy! Krishna-nam is both Jayand Joy!

Sri Ramakrishna used to say, ‘Kakhano ek-ghenye hobi Na’ (‘Don’t be monotonous!’) Krishna and Arjuna were indeed ‘multitonous.’ Sri Ramakrishna would also say ‘Sada Rase-Bashe thakbe’  (Always be in good humor).’ Krishna and Arjuna and Vyasa are the embodiment of ‘Rashe-Bashe’ existence.

Krishna and Arjuna and Vyasa!

Krishna ! Krishna ! Krishna !


More by :  Indrajit Bandyopadhyay

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Comment Sadhu!

One of your best articles.

04-May-2014 01:19 AM

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