The Mahabharata is an epic of life which depicts the truth that life is a journey and its meaning is in the practice of dharma. Vice is put down by the universal justice and virtue triumphs in the end. The things of the world are perishable and human glory is short-lived. The accumulations that one makes do not last long. Every rise has a fall. All union ends in separation. Life ends in death. As logs of wood meet one another and get separated in the vast ocean, so do beings meet one another and get separated here. Desire does not cease by fulfillment; on the other hand, it increases when it is fulfilled, like fire over which ghee has been poured. All the wealth of the world is not enough to satisfy the cravings of even one person; knowing this, one should attain tranquility of mind. We had innumerable mothers and fathers, wives and children in several lives. To whom do we really belong? What is the relation that obtains among us? Every day, people are seen dying and being cremated; and yet the remaining ones imagine that their death is not near. What can be a greater wonder in this world? A wise person does not grieve over the pains or is exhilarated over the joys of life. He is a fool, who gets sunken in them and forgets his destiny.
These are some of the stock sayings in the Mahabharata which emphasize in different ways throughout the Epic, indicating the general trend of its teaching that life in the world is transitory and the realization of God is the goal of life. That virtue has always the support of God at every critical juncture in which it finds itself is the principal motif of the Mahabharata Epic. The philosophical portions in the Mahabharata apart from the Bhagavad-Gita and the Anu-Gita are the Sanatsujatiya and moksha-dharma. The ancient system of political administration under the directing principle of dharma finds elaborate elucidation in the Raja dharma section of the Santi Parva in the Mahabharata. This book, with the code of Manu, may be regarded as the standard scripture on ancient Indian polity. The Vidura-Niti is a renowned book on political ethics. The rest of the contents of these sections are mostly expectations on the Vedanta, Samkhya, Yoga and dharma in general.The Appendix to the Mahabharata is called Harivamsa which deals especially with the early and family life of Krishna, as well as his personal exploits, to some of which I will refer in my study of this Avatar, and also certain legendary material pertaining to events prior to the advent of Krishna, since the creation of the Universe. Though the Harivamsa provides some additional details concerning Krishna’s multifaceted life, all this cannot equal the force and depth with which the glorious Avatar is presented in the Bhagavata Purana, which is the great classic on the subject, next only to the Mahabharata.
The creation theory of the Puranas has been stated under the section on the Upanishads. While describing creation, they also give a scheme of time-calculation applicable in determining the major or longer events that take place in the Universe. Fifteen days and nights constitute one-half (Paksha) of the lunar month, thus, a month consisting of two halves – the bright and the dark – according to the phases of the Moon. Two months make a season (Ritu), and three seasons make one hemispherical motion (Ayana) of the Sun, there being two such motions – the Northern (Uttara) and the Southern (Dakshina). Two such consecutive motions of the Sun make one human year (Varsha). Three-hundred-and-sixty human years make one celestial year. Twelve thousand celestial years make one cycle of the four Ages (Chaturyuga). The four Ages are Krita, Treta, Dvapara and Kali, in the descending order of truth and righteousness, the span of life and general prosperity during their periods. The Krita-Yuga consists of 4,800 celestial years, the Treta 3,600 celestial years, the Dvapara 2,400 celestial years and the Kali 1,200 celestial years. The Kali-Yuga is said to have commenced in 3101 B.C., the year in which Krishna disappeared from the earth. Seventy-one cycles of these four Yugas make one Manvantara or a period for which a Manu rules the world. There are fourteen Manus, of whom the present one is the seventh. The period of these fourteen Manus (which, with the addition of twilight ages between periods of Manu, comes to one thousand four-age cycles) is a single day (Kalpa) of Brahma, the Creator. So much also is the length of the night of Brahma. Three-hundred-and-sixty such days make one year of Brahma. And Brahma’s life is for such one hundred years. He is now said to be in his 51st year. At the end of the life of Brahma, there is dissolution of the cosmos (Prakrita-Pralaya). Brahma, then, with his creation, merges in the Supreme Being. In this condition of dissolution, the individuals (Jivas) remaining unliberated lie in a dormant state and get manifested again in the next creation.
The cosmography of the Puranas includes descriptions of the astronomical Universe, the solar system and the fourteen worlds, of which six are said to range above the Earth-plane and seven below it. The Earth-plane itself is said to consist of seven continents and seven oceans, all concentric in their arrangement, every succeeding continent and ocean being double the preceding one in extent. There is a detailed geographical description of our own earth, with its mountains, rivers and holy shrines. There is also a calculation which states that among the five elements – Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether – every succeeding element is ten times the preceding one in largeness. Apart from the super physical existence of these wonder-striking planes, this description of the cosmos suggests its incredible vastness, all which is supposed to be a very insignificant part of the glorious manifestations of God. The Puranas also narrate the history of the various dynasties and hierarchies that emanated from the Creator. As a continuation of the lines of Priyavrata and Uttanapada (vide, the doctrine of creation under the Upanishads, above), the world saw the coming in of many heroes, both spiritual and temporal. These offspring of the ancient ones included both the divine and demoniacal natures, which waged a perpetual war between themselves, and much of the Purana content is devoted to descriptions of these conflicts between the Devas and Asuras. Other than these earlier descendants of the progenitors of the race of all beings, particular mention must be made of the lines of the solar and lunar races of kings and sages, whose lives provide a highly interesting biographical reading of both human and superhuman natures. The history of these dynasties is brought down almost to our own times, thus connecting our present-day existence with the divine sources from which we have come, as, in the words of the Upanishad, children of the Immortal (Amritasya Putra).
The philosophy of the Epics and Puranas is essentially the pre-scholastic Vedanta in which the higher aspects of the Sankhya and Yoga get amplified. We have already noticed the teachings of the Mahabharata as embodied in the Bhagavad-Gita and Anu-Gita. The metaphysical side of the Mahabharata is a popular exposition of the wisdom of the Upanishads, in which Brahma is identified with Narayana as the Supreme Being, and the Prakriti and Purusha of the Sankhya are accepted as the material and the essence, respectively, of the Universe (Jagat) and the individual (Jiva). In the Vedanta of the Mahabharata, however, Prakriti and Purusha are dependent on God and form his body, so that their existence is inseparable from His being. The Yoga system is accepted entirely in its practical aspects as enunciated by Patanjali, rejecting, of course, its metaphysics of the dualism of Prakriti and Purusha and the transcendental aloofness of Ishvara, which is peculiar to the school. The theory of creation; the nature of God, world and soul; the ethics, psychology and the doctrine of transmigration, as well as of salvation, as expounded in the Mahabharata, are all similar to the presentation of these systems made elsewhere in this study. The Sanatsujatiya is a concise statement of these ideas while the moksha-dharma is very elaborate. The Narayaniya section of the moksha-dharma lays the foundation for the Pancharatra doctrine of Vaishnava theology. The Vishnu-Sahasranama (one thousand names of Vishnu) and Bhishma Stavaraja (prayer offered by Bhishma at the time of his death), and many other references to God in this Epic, adore Narayana as the ultimate Reality and identify him with the absolute. The place of Siva in the Epic, however, is not inferior to that of Vishnu, and the Shiva-Sahasranama (one thousand names of Shiva) also appears in it. Throughout the Epic, Siva is held inasmuch esteem as Vishnu, though Vishnu may be regarded as the central God of the Epic religion. Sectarianism does not seem to have entered the field of philosophical and theological thinking when the Epics were written. It is only in the Puranas that we find the exaltation of a particular deity to the exclusion of and even in opposition to others.
Most of the Puranas abound in lengthy narratives of legends glorifying a particular god or deity, delineating his or her incarnations, descriptions of holy places of pilgrimage (Tirtha), vows or observances (Vrata), acts of charity (Dana), and the like, with some shorter or longer references to the process of creation, the genealogy of the gods, demons and kings, stories of Rishis, as well as occasional statements on the foundations of politics, and the arrangement of the continents of the world as parts of the cosmos. Thus, the Puranas form a general encyclopedia of popular thought on religion and philosophy. But the Bhagavata and the Vishnu Puranas are a great exception to this rule and they constitute a really splendid literature on a very lofty philosophy and mysticism. The Bhagavata states that, in the beginning, God alone was, and nothing else existed – neither the subtle nor the gross things; neither cause nor effect. What appears after creation, also, is God alone; what remains after the dissolution of creation is also God. That there appears to be a world outside God, though there is no such thing really, is due to Maya or the illusory power of God. Just as the five great elements may be said to have entered and also not to have entered into the created objects, since they are not affected by the divisions and other limitations to which the created things are subject, so also God is in all things as well as not in them. The quintessence of knowledge God as the Atman is what exists in all places and at all times, as the cause of effected things, as different from the very principle of causality, as the witness in the states of wakefulness, dream and deep sleep, and as unconnected with anything outside. God, as pure Consciousness, appears as the objects of the world, with the qualities of sound, touch, form, taste and smell, due to the externalizing activity of the senses. As one does not observe a difference among the limbs of one’s own body, the wise sage does not see difference among the things in the world.
According to the Vishnu Purana, there is nothing outside the Paramatman. The whole world is His glory. Due to ignorance people look upon God as this Universe of apparent variety. In fact, the whole world is Consciousness. Through ignorance, one looks upon it as a conglomeration of objects. God, in fact, never becomes an object. The mountains, the oceans, etc., are appearances of Consciousness. The Karmas of Jivas create a multiplicity where it is not. When there is one being present in everyone, questions like, ‘Who are you?’, and answers like, ‘I am so and so’, convey no meaning. That someone is a king, that he has a large following, that there is such a thing as kingship and there are other things outside him are all based on imagination alone. The truth is that there is the Atman. The Universe is an undivided existence of the Supreme Self. According to the Brahma Purana, all difference, whether in the world or among individuals, is unreal like the appearance of silver in the mother-of-pearl, or snake seen in the rope or the double moon seen by eyes affected by cataract. Thoughts, feelings, actions and experiences of every kind are a part of this apparent externalization of Consciousness, which has no reality in the ultimate sense. According to the Vishnu dharma, the Jiva suffers through karma and in samara as long as it imagines its separation from God. When karma ceases, God is beheld as the sole Reality. God Himself appears as men, animals and birds, etc., and He alone appears as the high and the low, the happy and the suffering. The mind is the creator of difference.Virtue and vice and all systems of conduct are dependent on the functions (Vritti) of the mind. As one thinks, so one becomes in the end. The Linga Purana says that God cannot be designated even as one, for that would introduce a sense of difference. As Consciousness alone is, there cannot be a world or samsara. The Suta-Samhita sings the Upanishadic ideas in various ways and identifies the Absolute with Siva, even as the Vishnu and the Bhagavata Puranas identify it with Vishnu, investing the Divine Personality with the attributes of the Absolute. The Srimad-Bhagavata is the most philosophical among the Puranas and its poetry and general literary form are of the highest order of fineness of execution. The eleventh section of this book contains the Uddhava-Gita, embodying the instructions of Krishna to Uddhava, which gives a gist of the philosophies of devotion and worship (Bhakti), meditation (Yoga) and knowledge (Jnana), in a beautiful blend. The aim of life as being devotion and realisation of God is emphasised. The whole of this Purana is a continuous hymnology on a spirited form of ardent love of God, sung in a variety of ways through history, mythology, illustration and philosophy.
Mahabharata contains the sense of the four Vedas. It contains the nature of decay, death, fear, disease, existence and non-existence, description of creeds, and the account of various modes of life. It also contains the rules of the four castes and the essence of all Puranas, an account of ascetics and rules for religious student, the dimension of earth, of the sun and the moon. Naya, charity, the art of war, different kinds of nations and the languages and the manner of the people etc all can be found in this very long poem. Example: Sutah’s were considered lower caste. Brahmins were not given permission to access to Vedas but were given the work of transferring the information from among current generations and to future generations. Similarly, we can talk about Vidura not given the King post. Mahabharata is the genuine portrait of culture and civilization which it doesn’t seem to provide anywhere. The Mahabharata has beautiful ascertainment of the discipline of four varnas. This shows the cultural significance in the Mahabharata. In the Mahabharata may be found nearly every branch of religion knowledge. The Mahabharata has described in nice details of the places of pilgrimages in India. An important trait is the dealing of Dharma and Adharma. Along with the flow of the main plot these two aspects of human life have been dealt with very comprehensively and with all their complexities. Moreover, science of mortality and religion of moral value have been elaborately described and discussed in this text. So, Mahabharata can easily be called a text of moral science.
Yudhistira being the son of Dharma, Yudhisthira was the upholder of Dharma who never used to tell a lie. Once Krishna compelled him to tell a lie before Drona that his son Ashwatthama has died. Yudhistira clearly refused. Then Krishna manipulated him to say that Ashwatthama- a person or an elephant has been killed. The five bhavas reflect the richness and diversity of mundane human relationships. In bhakti yoga, human emotions are gradually elevated and purified by concentration on the Divine which is seen as the embodiment of all that is sacred, pure and beautiful. Bhakti Yoga is generally regarded as an enjoyable spiritual path. The five bhavas provide different ways of relating to the Divine and thus may offer something for everyone which is suitable to different types of character and taste.
The five bhavas (“moods” or “feelings”) are different ways of relating to the Divine. They reflect the whole variety of human relationships, such as those of friends, lovers, and mother-child. The bhavas belong to the path of Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of devotion. The five bhavas are shanta, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya and madhurya bhava.
The Shanta bhava
A bhakta (devotee) in shanta bhava cultivates a peaceful state of mind, seeing and experiencing God as supreme peace (shanti). A shanta bhakta will generally tend to be rather quiet and unobtrusive in expressing his or her devotion.Bhisma, a character of the Mahabharata, is regarded as a good example of a shanta bhakta. Bhisma, a character of the Mahabharata, is regarded as a good example of a shanta bhakta.
Dasya Bhava – Servant Attitude: A devotee in dasya bhava sees himself as a servant of God and visualizes God as the all-powerful, all-knowing and omnipresent master of creation. A dasya bhakta will feel very humble, meek and insignificant in the face of the power and grace of God. Dasya bhava is the attitude which is probably the most common in the major monotheistic religions of the world such as Islam, Judaism and Christianity, where God is called Lord, Almighty and All-Merciful.
Sakhya Bhava – Friendship: A sakhya bhakta addresses God as one’s best and most intimate friend. In this attitude, the devotee is almost on equal terms with the Divine. It is therefore a more intimate relationship than that of a servant, where God may be both loved and feared. Sakhya bhava springs from the realization that God is one’s best and most intimate friend. The Indian spiritual tradition allows the devotee to have such an intimate relationship with God, without any feelings of this being disrespectful or sacrilegious. Arjuna’s relationship towards Krishna as prescribed in the Mahabharata is regarded as an excellent example for this bhava. Arjuna used to sit, eat, walk, talk with and embrace Krishna as an intimate friend. The drawback was that Arjuna tended to forget Krishna’s real glory and power and wasn’t aware of Krishna’s reality as the supreme self until Krishna revealed his universal form to him.
Vatsalya Bhava – Motherly Love: The vatsalya bhakta has a mother-child relationship towards the Divine, cultivating feelings of motherly love and affection towards one’s chosen form of God. Vatsalya bhava may come naturally for women with strong motherly feelings. In this bhava, there is absolutely no fear of God. The sweetness and tender love of God are very pronounced while other aspects of the Divine (such as omnipotence and omniscience) are less dwelt on. Vatsalya is a very intimate relationship and the natural affection most women and men feel for little children makes it a good attitude to develop love for God. This bhava is usually associated with Yasoda, the foster mother of Krishna who loved Krishna as her own child. Despite experiencing numerous instances of Krishna’s divine power, Yasoda couldn’t help but feel that Krishna was hers, her sweet child rather than a divine embodiment to be seen with awe and reverence
Madhurya Bhava – God as Lover :The final bhava is madhurya bhava, in which the bhakta regards God as her sweetheart and lover. It is the most intimate of all the bhavas and is sometimes regarded as the highest form of devotion. It bears many similarities to the attitude of some Christian mystics such as Saint John of the Cross. This bhava is mostly associated with the relationship between Radha and Krishna. Famous madhurya bhaktas include the Indian mystics Mirabai, Chaitanya and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.
The permissiveness of ancient Indian society and their ultra-liberal view on sexual relationships is breathtaking. Nowhere is this better depicted than in the Mahabharata, the greatest epic ever written. The Mahabharata can be referred as “supreme itihaas” and unparalleled “kavya”. It is an encyclopedic edifice to which poets, acharyas and thinkers brought their diverse offerings, making it a rare meeting ground of different traditions, styles and viewpoints. The relationship between the opposite sexes starts right from the beginning when Queen Girika asking King Uparichara to make love. The king leaves without doing so, but is so consumed by passion that he ejaculates on a leaf in the forest, which he then sends to his queen through a falcon. The seed drops mid-flight and impregnates apsara fish Adrika, who gives birth to a son and a daughter. The king keeps the son and a fisherman keeps the daughter, Satyavati. The celibate Parashara is so besotted with Satyavati that he makes love to her in a boat, and of the union is born Veda Vyasa. Parashara blesses Satyavati, saying that that her son would be the “greatest poet the world has ever known”.
Shantanu, the 14th Kuru king, is mesmerised by Ganga, whom he marries, but undertakes never to question. Their physical love is so overpowering that Ganga becomes pregnant seven times in seven years. But she drowns each of her children. Shantanu is distraught but does not question her. When he finally does, she tells him of the curse on her and leaves Shantanu, taking with her their eighth child, Vasu Prabhasa. She promises him that Prabhasa would return after 16 years to rule the Kurus. It’s again Shantanu’s uncontrollable sexual urge that leads him to marry Satyavati. His “old and mighty illness, love” leads him to promise Satyavati that only her children would rule the empire. This is fulfilled by his son, Devvrat, who takes a vow that not only would he not claim the kingdom, but he would also never marry and remain celibate all his life. It’s this sacrifice that makes Devvrat Bhishma.
Abduction of princesses from swayamvaram is frequently practised and accepted as ‘gandharva vivah’. Bheeshma abducts Amba, Ambika and Ambalika for Satyavati’s son. Amba, unable to marry her beloved, seeks union with Bhishma and her rage at being spurned leads to her rebirth as Shikhandi. Then, in the first sex-change of the ancient ages, she is converted into the male Shikhandi by a yaksha. There are graphic depictions of group love-making between Satyavati’s son and his two queens. When he dies issueless, both Satyavati and Bhishma openly apply the apparently established “ancient custom, allowing a brahmana to be called to sire sons” from the two young widows to ensure continuity of the family line. Satyavati en trusts this task to her son, Veda Vyasa. Mahabharata describes in minute detail hours of love making on successive nights between Vyasa and the queens. Since Ambika closes her eyes in fright, blind Dhritarashtra is her offspring and since Am balika is ashen-faced at the sight of Vyasa, pale albino Pandu is born of her. Vyasa also has a sexual encounter with an unnamed maid, which leads to the wise Vidur’s birth.
The concept of Immaculate Conception and giving birth without a nine-month pregnancy is typified by Kunti. A rishi and his wife decide to copulate in an open forest and turn into a stag and a hind for the purpose. Pandu kills them while they are in the act and is cursed that he would die the moment he made love to anyone. So, Pandu lets his wife Kunti practise “immaculate conception” with the gods, giving rise to Yudhishthir (with Dharmaraja), Bheema (Vayu) and Arjuna (Indra). Polygamy is common and Pandu’s second wife, Madri, seeks the same benefits. Vyasa created Gandhari’s hundred sons from the fetal pulp disgorged by her. Pandu died because he could not control his libido on seeing Madri naked. Masturbation, as practiced by Muni Gautam’s celibate son Sharadwan, leads to the birth of the twins Kripa and Kripi. Having been won by Arjuna in an archery contest, all five Pandava brothers share Draupadi, since Kunti had unknowingly said “all of you share the alms you have got”. But Mahabharata describes in detail how all five brothers desired Draupadi and how she desired each of them. Polyandry was thus equally acceptable.
Arjuna’s escapades while away from Draupadi included passionate lovemaking with the snake woman Ulupi, who practiced pre-marital sex, and his active pursuit and eventual elopement with Krishna’s half-sister and his own cousin, Subhadra. After her initial anger, Draupadi welcomes them both and even makes love to Arjuna. Incidentally, this also recognizes marriage between cousins.
The relation between uncles and nephews also play a major role. Though uncle Kansa is not directly related to the Mahabharata war, he and his actions were indeed responsible for creating the attitude of his nephew Lord Krishna. Kansa killed first seven children born to his sister Devaki, imprisoned Devaki and Vasudev who were Krishna’s parents. He tried many times to kill Krishna too but ultimately Krishna proved to be victorious and for that Krishna had to kill uncle Kansa. At the time of Kurukshetra war he convinced Arjuna to attack Kauravas who were his brothers. When Abhimanyu was in the womb of Krishna’s sister Subhadra, Krishna was telling her how to enter the Chakravyuh and Abhimanyu was listening to that and looking at the response of Subhadra, Krishna stopped his talk there it without telling how to get out of it. At the time of Chakravyuha, Krishna and Arjuna were away from Abhimanyu and it was Yudhisthira who requested Abhimanyu to break the Chakravyuh. and Abhimanyu was unable to come out of that.Shakuni felt insulted to see his normal sister Gandhari being married to a blind king Dhritarashtra and thereafter deciding to live till death with her eyes closed. This was her second marriage as an astrologer had told to marry her to a goat for the first time. When the blind king Dhritarashtra came to know of this, he put her parents and siblings in jail and starved them to death- only one-Shakuni would be able to survive that for taking revenge for such type of death. Shakuni wanted to see the destruction of Kuru kingdom. He saw to it that there was a rift between Kauravas and Pandavas that will ultimately lead to war and destruction of both. He was behind Duryodhana when a young Bheema was given poisoned food, when the palace of Pandavas was to be burnt and chief architect of the dice game-where kingdom and Draupadi were lost by Pandavas. In the war all the Kauravas – Duryodhana, Dussasana and their uncle Shakuni were killed.
At the end of Kurukshetra war, Krishna got the curse from Gandhari that 36 years from that day, Krishna’s clan will also fight amongst themselves and meet their end. It feels sad that though these guys happened to form an uncle-nephew relation they worked towards nothing but killing each other. This does not mean that all uncles will behave in such a way with their nephews or nephews will only kill their uncles. The role of teacher and student relationship has various turning points in Mahabharata. He Kauravas and Pandavas learned the art of using weapons first from Kripacharya and then from Dronacharya. When they graduated from the school of Dronacharya, a huge event was organized for all the people of Hastinapur including the masses living in the villages and the royals of the Palace. Dhritarashtra, Gandhari, Bheeshma, Kunti, Vidura, Kripacharya and Dronacharya and others were present for the event to display the skills of the princes. The Kauravas were good but the Pandavas excelled. The large enthusiastic crowd was lost in wonder and admiration at Arjuna’s superhuman skills with his bow and arrows. Duryodhana’s barometer of rage, envy and jealousy was steadily climbing. By the time the sun was ready to set, Duryodhana was fuming with jealousy at all the admiration Arjuna was getting. Just then there came a loud compelling sound like that of thunder made by clashing weapons from the main entrance to the arena. From the cloud of dust there emerged, a young man wearing shining armor and earrings that shone like bright sun. He came face to face with Arjuna with his whole body expressing a challenge to Arjuna. Instinctively, the rest of the Pandavas gathered around Arjuna. Little did they know the irony of fate that they were standing in challenge in front of the eldest son of Kunti and God Sun. It was none other than Karna.
Karna gave a careless bow and salutations towards Kripacharya and Dronacharya and then towards the royalty. With a voice like rumbling thunder, he addressed Arjuna, “Arjuna, I can show greater skills at archery than you have.” With careless ease Karna repeated all the feats of Arjuna. Duryodhana was overjoyed at the appearance of this unexpected good fortune. He embraced Karna with all the love of a long lost brother,“Whoever you are, fortune has sent you to me. Me and my hundred brothers are at your command.”
While love flooded Duryodhana’s heart, blazing wrath filled in Arjuna, as he felt affronted. He stood stately over Karna and exclaimed, “Who ever you are, you shall be slain by me and go to hell for intruding uninvited.” Karna gave a mirthless laugh, “This arena is not open just for you Arjuna. What is the use of showing off skills when they cannot be compared with any one else’s. Talk is the weapon of the weak, send arrows instead of words.”
Arjuna hastily bowed to his teachers and then embraced his brothers, as he prepared himself to the challenge. Karna took leave of the Kauravas and stood in front of Arjuna in combat. Lord Indra, the god of the thunderclouds and Arjuna’s father, and the Sun god came at once in the sky to encourage their progeny.Meanwhile, the moment Karna entered the arena, Kunti recognized him as her first born. As Arjuna and Karna became ready for the combat Kunti fainted. When she regained her consciousness, she was stupefied in anguish and was at a loss. She confided in Vidura the true identity of Karna and sought to stop this confrontation.
Kripacharya, who was well versed in the rules of the single combat, came over as the referee. Before beginning the combat he addressed Karna, “Youth, what is your name and what is your lineage? We cannot go forward without knowing this information. Arjuna is a prince and cannot engage in single combats with unknown adventurers” At the mention of lineage, Karna bowed down his head, downcast, like a lotus in rain, for all his life he was thwarted in his attempts for being a charioteer’s son. He braced himself for the insults to follow. Duryodhana came to his rescue, “We all know this youth matches Arjuna in skills. If the combat cannot take place merely because he is not a prince, that can be remedied easily. I proclaim from henceforth, this youth is King of Anga. I shall perform all the rites and rituals necessary to give him sovereignty over the kingdom of Anga.”
It seemed that a combat between the youthful warriors was inevitable and was about to commence when the Charioteer Adhirath entered the arena. He was the foster father of Karna and was now shaking with fear at the impudence of his son to challenge the royal prince. As soon as Karna saw Adhirath, he bowed his head and gave the salutations to his father. Bheema jeered at Karna, “King of Anga indeed, you are but a son of a charioteer. You don’t need a royal insignia you need a whip to drive the horses or may be a brush to clean the horses. You are fit to rule the stables not the kingdom of Anga.” Karna’s lips trembled in anguish at this outrageous speech. Before Karna could speak anything, Duryodhana spoke indignantly, “Such speech is unworthy of you Vrikodara. Valor makes Kshatriyas, Kshatriyas do not make valor. The exercise of tracing one’s lineage is meaningless. I can give you hundreds of instances of great men of humble births. Why awkward questions may be asked about your own origin. Look at Karna, his armor, his earrings, his build, confidence and the way he carries himself. I am certain there is a certain mystery behind him. Lion is not born to antelopes.Unworthy of ruling Anga did you say, I contest that he is worthy of ruling this whole world.” Duryodhana whisked Karna in his chariot and drove away from the arena.
The sun set and a confrontation between the two sons of Kunti – Karna and Arjun were avoided for a day. Karna wanted nothing more than a show down with Arjuna and win. This desire was fueled even more by Duryodhana. Karna felt a certain loyalty towards Duryodhana after the unexpected and affectionate display of friendship by Duryodhana. He wanted to learn about the all powerful “Brahmastra”, the equivalent of today’s nuclear bomb. He went to Parasurama to learn about it. Parashurama was known for his dislike of the Kings and the warriors. Karna hid his identity as a charioteer’s son because the world always ridiculed his ambition for the best warrior because of his parentage. He learned the art from Parasurama and Parasurama in turn was very pleased with his disciple. Indra in heaven knew Karna had learned the Brahmastra only to use it on Arjuna. One day, Parashurama was sleeping with his head on Karna’s lap. Indra took the form of a wasp and started to drill a hole in Karna’s thigh. Karna tried to shoot away but the wasp was determined. Karna could not move without waking up his guru. As the wasp drilled the whole and warm blood started to trickle, it fell on Parasurama and he woke up. He saw what had happened. Parashurama was furious, “Karna you no Brahmin boy, only Kshatriya can bear the pain you are bearing. You have tricked me and learned the knowledge by deceit. I curse you that when you need it the most, you will nor be able to remember anything you have learned from me.” Karna stood aghast, he pleaded Parasurama, “I am not a Brahmin, but I am not a Kshatriya either. I am a sutaputra (charioteer’s son). I had to lie because all my life I was denied education because of my lineage.” Parashurama’s anger subsided a little bit after knowing that he was not a Kshatriya. He liked Karna too, “Son, I cannot take back my curse, and I have cursed you rather harsh. In return, I will give you my Vijaya bow. Take it and go back home.”
Karna took the bow and started back home. On the way, he decided to test the new bow. He stretched an arrow on it and carelessly without aiming at any particular target, he shot the arrow. The arrow stuck a cow and killed it. The owner of the cow was furious at Karna’s callousness. “You have killed a cow that did not threaten you, you were displaying your skills on someone who had no weapon. You too shall be killed defenseless, when you have put down your weapons.” These fatal curses set the stage for Karna’s death in the Mahabharata war. He always remained a faithful friend to Duryodhana. He is the tragic hero, a gifted, righteous and a brave hero, known especially for his generosity. He fought impossible odds all his life and died with courage, valor and honor. He is also an example of misplaced loyalty that doomed him.
The biases of a father towards his son can also be seen clearly in spite of knowing all the rules and regulations. Duryodhana was jealous of Pandavas, due to the justice-loving nature of Yudhishthira, the strength of Bhima and the dexterity of Arjuna. This jealousy reached its zenith when the common people of Hastinapura, who idolize Pandavas, started avowing that Yudhishthira Should be crowned as king. Thus Duryodhana got engaged in planning devious ploy to kill the Pandavas. Karna and Shakuni became his evil councilors. The Wax Palace is the story of one of those fruitless ways, planned by Duryodhana, to kill the Pandavas.
As Dhritarashtra, father of Duryodhana was blind, so his brother Pandu was crowned as the king. Now Panduâs eldest son, Yudhishthira should succeed his father and be crowned as king. Duryodhana was against this, because he was worried that Hastinapura would go into the hands of Pandavas, and the Kauravas would get nothing. On the other hand, Dhritarashtra was a wise, prudent man, who holds the view that Yudhishthira will never get deviated from the path of virtue, and will treat Kauravas with respect. He also loved his brother Pandu’s sons, but he was dotingly attached to his own children and weak of will, which at times lead him to knowingly choose the wrong path. It was the Sakuni ministers, Kanika who acted as fuel to Duryodhana growing hatred towards Pandavas. Kanika envisaged Duryodhana about the dangers of a closed kin, and suggested Duryodhana to eliminate those who are coming in his way to the crown. As per the plan, ministers of the court of Hastinapura began praising about the beauty of the city Varanavata. They also added that a great festival, with all éclat and grandeur, in accolade of the lord Shiva is going to be conducted there. Dhritarashtra, added the last nail, by asking Pandavas to certainly go and experience the festival. Dhritarashtra, knowingly took the immoral step, because of his love towards Duryodhana. Duryodhana was elated when he heard that Pandavas have decided to visit Varanavata, because he along with Karna and Shakuni, have plotted to kill the Pandavas in the village of Varanavata. Earlier, Duryodhana has given secret duty to a minister named Purochana, to build a beautiful palace, for the reception of Pandavas, with combustible materials like jute, lace, ghee, oil, fat, etc. The plan was to set fire to the Wax Palace at night when the Pandavas were sound asleep inside it, during their visit to Varanavata. As the people of Varanavata admire Pandavas a lot, so there would be no suspicion against the villagers of Varanavata and the whole incident would be taken as a case of miserable accident, i.e. the Kauravas will not be blamed for the whole incident. While leaving for Varanavata, Vidura warned Yudhishthira in enigmatic words intelligible only to Yudhishthira, about the prevalent danger at Varanavata. When the Pandavas reached Varanavata, they got a warm welcome from the people of Varanavata, who admired Pandavas a lot. After the welcome ceremony, Pandavas were asked to take shelter in the Sivam palace. Heeding to the Vidura’s warning, Yudhishthira meticulously examined the palace and came to the conclusion that the palace is built with flammable substance, and it was a plot by Duryodhana to kill them. Yudhishthira talked with his brothers regarding the danger in the palace, and they decided that they would stay there, and escape at the right moment so that Duryodhana don’t suspect that they were aware of the plan.
Meanwhile, Vidura has sent an expert miner to Varanavata, who worked in secret for many days to build an egress leading to a path from the wax palace to the forest behind it. The expert miner met Yudhishthira in Varanavata, and told about the exit. The Pandavas kept watch during the night, and during the day they go out to the forest, to make themselves familiar with the forest paths. They waited for around a year to put the plot into effect, in order to tranquilize all suspicion. The day was decided by the Pandavas, when they will play the whole accident. On that day, Kunti prepared a grand feast for all the attendants so that they are sound asleep during the night. At midnight, Bhima set the palace to fire and all the brothers with Kunti exit safely though the passage, as per Pandavas plan. On seeing the fire, the people of Varanavata surrounded the palace, and started yelling that it must be Duryodhana’s wicked act.
Purochana felt a victim to his own wicked plot. He has his quarters at the gateway of the wax palace, and during the fire, his residence was enveloped in flames before he could escape. News reached Hastinapura that the Sivam Palace was reduced to ashes and no one escapes alive. The mental state of Dhritarashtra, at that time, is beautifully described by Vyasa as: “Just as the water of a deep pool is cool at the bottom and warm on the surface, so the heart of Dhritarashtra was at once warm with joy and chilled with sorrow.” Dhritarashtra and his sons, shed off their royal garments, dressed in single plain attire went to the river and performed the propitiatory funeral rites. Some one noticed that Vidura was not looking so sorrowful, because he was fully aware that Pandavas have escaped safely.When Vidura saw sorrowful Bhisma, he comforted Bhishma by revealing the successful secret escape of Pandavas. During their way through the forest, all the Pandavas got very exhausted. Bhima carried his mother on his shoulders, took Nakula and Sahadeva on his hips, and supported Yudhishthira and Arjuna with his hands, to reach the Ganges. A boat with a boatman, as per the plan, was waiting at the bank of Ganges. They crossed the river in darkness and reached another forest. All the Pandavas, except Bhima were perishing with thirst. After a quick search, Bhima found a pool of water in the forest; he took water in cups of lotus leaves, and relieved his mother and brothers. While all the Pandavas were in deep sleep, Bhima was awake, alone, absorbed in deep thought, thinking just like the plant and creepers in forest lives in peace and help each other. On their way through the forest, they met Vyasa, who consoled Kunti by saying, “No virtuous man is strong enough to live in virtue at all times, nor is any sinner bad enough to exist in one welter of sin. Life is a tangled web and there is no one in the world that has not done both good and evil. Each and everyone have to bear the consequence of his actions. Do not give way to sorrow.” As advised by Vyasa, they all went to Ekachakra and stayed in a Brahman’s house.