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Myths, Intentions & Words
|by Gaurang Bhatt, MD|
Continued from Devayani, Yayati, Sharmishtha, Puri
Ramayana is about the ideals of a king as well. The king stands for justice, an unfulfilled need of humanity and for its effectiveness requires that not only it be done, but also it must be seen to be done, hence the final rejection of Sita. It is important to realize that parricide or fratricide was not unusual and Promila Thapar in her book mentions that it was frequently prevalent in the times of Bimbisara and Ajatshatru, the forebears of the great Ashoka, who in accepting Buddhism, foreswore violence and publicly vowed to henceforth triumph only by virtue, in which India has failed miserably ever since. See the assassination of the first four Rashidaan Khalifs after Mohammed, succession in the Mughal dynasty and the Ottoman dynasty of Turkey.
The Mahabharata, on the other hand is much more pragmatic and in many ways touts that the end justifies the means and highlights the psyche and behavior of doting parents, exploiting mothers and the scheming of Krishna. Dhritarashtra and Gandhari, as well as Bhishma fail to rein in Duryodhana and his brothers in their dastardly plots, the dice game and the final war. Gandhari curses Krishna for not preventing the war and saving Duryodhana. Kunti is only willing to publicly accept Karna, as the eldest just before the war and tries to bribe him by offering him the kingdom and the right to ravish Draupadi, if he switches sides. Karna, always a man of honor promises her that the end of the war, she would still have five sons as he would spare all the others except Arjuna. He shows his decency by refusing to betray Duryodhana and becoming an ingrate. His generosity remains unmatched, as shown by his gifting his impenetrable armor to Indra, disguised as a mendicant, with the motive to help Arjuna win in their coming battle. Karna’s silent suffering to avoid disturbing his guru Parshurama’s nap, as a bumble bee bores through his thigh, while not justifying his pretense of being a Brahmin, deserve better treatment than a fatal curse.
Krishna’s behavior is so obviously partial that the destruction of the Kauravas is preordained. One sees it in his hiding the sun under a cloud, thus tempting Jayadratha to poke his head up in concealed delight as Arjuna’s failure to kill him before the day’s end would require for Arjuna to ascend a funeral pyre. Krishna at the same time urges Arjuna to shoot the beheading arrow with such force as to carry and drop Jayadratha’s severed head into the lap of his own father who would die immediately because of the boon given to Jayadratha, that if his head falls on the ground, his killer would die instantly, but if his head falls into someone’s lap, that recipient would die, sparing his killer.
Worse still is the story of Barbarika, a son of Ghatotkacha sent by his mother to fight in the war. She, good woman that she was, had expressly ordered him to fight for the losing side, expecting that the Pandavas with a smaller army would be the losing side. Krishna asked Barbarika how long would it take him to win the war. Barbarika said one hour. Krishna asked him to penetrate all the leaves of a nearby peepal tree with one arrow to prove his prowess and be willing to give up his head if he lost, even as he surreptitiously hid one leaf under his foot. Barbarika shot one arrow which pierced all the leaves and then hovered over Krishna’s foot out of respect. Krishna lifted his foot and accused Barbarika of failure and demanded his head as payment for the bet and his gurudakshina (academic fees just like US Ivy League colleges).
He did not want Barbarika to fight for the losing side, knowing it would be the Kauravas. He also knew that the side that had access to Barbarika’s prowess would morph from the losing to the winning side. He could not persuade Barbarika to change his resolve. Barbarika said that he would not disobey his mother for heaven or earth. Krishna demanded his head and Barbarika obliged being convinced by Krishna that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. In return he demanded that he be allowed to witness the battle.
Words matter and are not invariably idly chosen. That is why Gandhari’s sons were named Duryodhana, Dushasana etc. and not Suyodhana or Sushasana. Even in Greek mythology, there is at times a method to choosing names. Oedipus after discovering that he has married his mother, blinds himself and relinquishes his throne. He is rejected by his two sons and two daughters, all products of incest. The sons fight each other for the kingdom and are killed. The regent is named Kreon, probably from the Greek word Kryos meaning cold. He forbids anyone from burying the corpse of Polynices (one of the sons). His sister is named Antigone (or straight), from anti meaning against and gonio meaning angle or bent as in trigon, polygon, pentagon. Antigone, not being a hypocrite like our founding fathers (all men are created equal except black slaves and native Indians), says that the state cannot make laws contradicting laws of humanity and she would break the state law and bury her brother. She does and is incarcerated in a cave where Kreon’s son who loved her dies together with her, while Kreon’s wife and the mother of the dead son hangs herself.
Earlier animals on the evolutionary tree had a sense of smell which was a pre-eminent sense. It helped to locate prey and mates. With the evolution of primates sight became the most important sense. Lions, tigers etc., are bichromate and see mainly two colors. Primates are trichromate and use the colors to recognize the edibility of fruits by ripeness colors and fertility of females by colors of their external sexual organs. The importance of sight is manifested in the etymology of Sanskrit, Greek and Latin, the early Indo-European languages.
So next time you read a myth, novel, article, news story, analysis or hypothesis, exercise control and restraint (from Yama - restraint, also Samyama - fair or equal control, Niyama - regulation or law). Please perform Pareekshaa, practice some Prateekshaa, till the serial is completed, then after Anveekshaa, done with Sameeksha and acquiring vidyaa, uvaacha (speak, comment).
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