Silence of Bheeshmas

Our epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana, have the unique quality of being relevant at all times and all scales. There are Rams, Ravans, Krishnas, Arjuns, Duryodhans, Yudhishtirs, Bhishmas etc., in every society and inside every individual. We see striking resemblance of these characters in our society every day and when we are alone we can recollect these characters in our own actions and thoughts. Nature is symmetric and cyclic in all its manifestations and it is no wonder that Valmiki and Vyasa could bring out this feature in our epics as well so beautifully. Such was the calibre of our ancient rishis that they could even define values of eternal relevance and develop an eternal way of life called Sanathana Dharma. This unique contribution of India has stood the test of time and it is bound to emerge stronger in the current Century of Knowledge.

However, conditions are not helpful in the immediate future and the turn of events in contemporary India is fast developing into a re-enactment of Mahabharata. Almost all the state institutions in India have been hijacked by vested interests and their efficacy and efficiency have deteriorated. The situation is far worse in the case of individuals. There are parts of India that are with the nation only on a map and there a growing number of citizens who have only the passport. Descendents of Hitler and Mussolini are capturing power in various parts of the world and regrouping to target Indian nation once again. Unprincipled and unholy alliances to capture power are the rule of the day. Government without authority and parliament without debate are the visible symbols of India today. Yet we are far better than a situation in which one of the 'ruling' princes could attempt to strip an 'opposition' queen right inside the 'parliament' in front of all the elders. It is worthwhile taking a closer look at the days and events that led to that epic war about 5000 years ago.

Opinions can vary, but for me the four important factors that ultimately led to the war at Kurushetra are:

  • Arrogance of Duryodhan
  • Vengeance of Draupadi
  • Blind Love of Dritharashtra
  • Silence of Bheeshma

Duryodhan was a spoiled brat who misunderstood the world and misjudged his strength. His arrogance led him from one mistake to another though history gave him many opportunities to correct himself. We have more number of Duryodhansin contemporary India and every 'sonrise' in every political party is increasing the tally. Meritocracy has given way to Family Democracy in the whole of South Asia and the number of Duryodhans is bound to go up in such a scenario. More the number of blind Dritharashtras, more would be the number of arrogantDuryodhans. And together they would hasten their own destruction in any war of Dharma. Whenever and wherever Duryodhans abound, the plight of Draupadis will be miserable. And for each and every Drapaudi that is stripped, there will be hundreds of warriors willing to pick up the sword to fight for her honor. Such is the inherent strength of womanhood that nations have vanished in front of her tears. 

But the most outstanding reason that led to the epic war was the silence of Bheeshma at all important occasions and I am afraid history is repeating today. While the original Bheeshma was silenced by his bounden oath, the contemporary ones are doing it for peanuts or out of fear. Our current Bheeshmas are keeping quiet when electoral mandates are made meaningless by opponents coming to power on the basis of post-election understanding to loot the nation. They are keeping quiet when marginal parties not in the government dictate government policies by pressure tactics. They are keeping quiet when Indian citizens vote for electing the head of another sovereign nation in the full glare of media attention. They are keeping quiet when guardians of a secular nation declare several days of state mourning on the death of a foreign religious head and ignore the demise of a revered Indian religious head a few days later. They are keeping quiet when the 'unelected' rulers are planning to destroy our 1.7 million year old heritage (Rama's bridge) under the guise of a useless ocean canal project. And they are keeping quiet when our rulers are even planning to finance our arch enemy's military for 'protecting' a fictitious pipeline. I wonder whether we need anymore indications about the shape of things to come in the near future. 

For most Indians, the foremost symbol of confidence and hope is the renowned picture of Arjuna in the Kurushetra battle field led by the all powerful Krishna. Quite in contrast, the worst we can think of is the picture of helpless Bhishma led by a deceitful Shikandi in the same battle field. We can only pray that Indians are not forced to degenerate into accepting the latter as their symbol even if for a brief while.      


More by :  J. Ajithkumar

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