Yesterday we discussed the myth of Barbareek aka Khatu Shyam Baba. There are some small aspects of the same which are also quite interesting. Let us go through them.
One small aspect of the myth is that post the battle of Kurukshetra, the Pandavas started arguing amongst them as to who was responsible for the victory. After much argument, Krishna, suggested that they ask the head of Barbareek as he had had a ring-side view of the entire battle. On asking, Barbareek said that it was Lord Krishna who was responsible for the victory as during the entire battle his game-plan and his suggestions were crucial to the outcome of the whole battle. From the height of the hilltop, all he could see was Lord Krishna’s sudarshan-chakra simply killing all the enemies and Draupadi in the form of Ma Kali simply lapping up the blood of all the enemies, not allowing a single drop to fall on the ground. To dig deeper in this aspect, one can see two very strong suggestions. One is the supremacy of Lord Krishna and the other is the prevalence of the cult of Mother Goddess. It is said that the practice of offering a sacrifice before the battle was to appease Ma Kali, who has always been associated with sacrifices and such aspects. Finally, this also has traces of the myth of Raktabija (http://utkarshspeak.blogspot.in/2011/11/raktabija-demon.html ) where Goddess Kali does not allow the drop of the demon to fall on the ground to avoid the multiplication of the demon from the drops of his blood. In oral tradition of mythology, such mixing up of myths is only human, is one guess. The other could be a harmonious co-existence of different cults at a given time.
We have read earlier that when Krishna disguised as a Brahmin tested Barbareek’s power of the arrows, the arrow hovered around his foot, which had hidden a leaf. Another version says that the arrow actually pierced his foot and had made it a vulnerable zone. Another version says that Lord Krishna had got a boon from Sage Durvasa (the sage known more for his curses than boons!) that his entire body would be immune to weapons except his foot. Later we have read about the death of Lord Krishna by being struck by an arrow of a hunter in his foot which he had mistaken to be the face of a deer. This aspect of the myth is similar to the famous Greek myth of Achilles and his vulnerable spot, his heel. Achilles was a brave hero in the Greek mythology who was invincible except for his vulnerable spot, his heel. He meets his end, by being struck by a poisonous arrow in his heel. Quite a few similarities, I guess!
|A Painting depicting the sacrifice of |
Finally the justification of Lord Krishna asking for the sacrifice! According to one version, once Lord Brahma and other gods approached Lord Vishnu to complain to him about the evil on earth and how wickedness was all over and innocent people were not being allowed to live in peace. They urged Lord Vishnu to do something to eradicate this evil. Hearing this, a Yaksha spoke out of turn and said that for these kind of acts, he himself was enough and it did not quite require the help of Lord Vishnu. Lord Brahma was insulted at his impudence and cursed him that whenever he reached a stage of eliminating all evil on earth, Lord Vishnu would end up killing him first. Barbareek was the same Yaksha in the later birth and Krishna was only doing what was pre-destined! This is an interesting aspect of myth-making. On the face of it, it seemed that Lord Krishna had been unfair to a brave hero and got him eliminated. He would have supported the Pandavas and would ensure the victory of the Pandavas. Some skeptics would say that Krishna did so to avoid all credit going to Barbareek if it so happened and thus got him eliminated, even when he was related to the Pandavas and was going to fight from their right side. Some of these thoughts are of modern-day thinking.
Epics are never like a once-written novel, where all instances are sequential. In the oral tradition, many aspects get inserted based on the orator, his preference and his biases as well as that of his audience. It is highly probable that this aspect of the Yaksha has been an afterthought when the hero of the story (Lord Krishna) begins to be misunderstood especially for his seeking the head of Barbareek. This could be an individual’s perception or a common notion. This aspect also highlights the process or the rationale of myth-making.
Next time we will read about a similar myth, prevalent in South India.