In a previous article - Dhritarashtra of Modern Times (dated June 12, 2012), we read about the karmic destiny of Dhritarashtra. How it was destiny that made him blind and made him endure the death of a hundred sons. Mahabharata has numerous such examples which give similar reasons for ones suffering in the present life.
From Dhritarashtra, let’s move on to Gandhari. Why was she destined to live a life of blindness, when she was not naturally blind and why did she have to endure such tragedy?
|Dhritarashtra and Gandhari|
Gandhari was the daughter of Gandhar, the modern day Kandahar, in Afghanistan. She tied a cloth on her eyes when she came to know that her would-be husband was born blind and vowed never to see what he couldn’t. Many say that she made a mistake and if she had not done this, she would have been a great help to her blind husband, and the course of Mahabharata would have been different. Gandhari’s logic however, was that she did not want to seem superior in any way from her husband and make him feel small, and this act of hers had made her his equal. Some even say that she did this as a silent protest to the high-handed behaviour of Bhishma, who despite Dhirtarashtra’s disability had nearly forced the King of Gandhar to agree to the alliance. In the modern world, her act could be questioned, but in Mhabharata, she was hailed as an ideal woman.
Her blindfold is supposed to have given her an inner view to the world around her and though she missed a lot, she never lost ‘sight’ of the fact that the Pandavas were not treated justly. On many occasions she is known to have advised her husband and chastised her son Duryodhan. At the end of the war of Kurukshetra, she is supposed to have asked Lord Krishna, whom she blamed for the war and the death of her hundred sons, especially Duryodhan, as to what had been the reason for such a tragic life.
According to Lord Krishna, long back, while cooking rice, she had poured hot water of the boiled rice on the ground outside her kitchen. This hot water killed all the hundred eggs laid by an insect. This act of hers had earned the wrath of the mother insect who is supposed to have cursed her that she too would have to endure the deaths of her sons, as she had. (In many villages women are advised not to pour hot water from the rice on the ground; they should pour it after it has cooled down or mix cold water before draining it off!). According another local rendition of Mahabharata from the East, she was cursed by the mother turtle whose eggs, Gandhari had once crushed one by one.
The above is a classic case of karmic destiny which has been illustrated time and again through various characters of Mahabharata. Rather, it seems to be an underlying theme of Mahabharata. This might have been done by the authors of the times to ensure that one takes care of one’s actions in the present life. Even if this is done out of a fear for the results in the next life, one will ensure that he or she does little or no harm. How would one react to ones shortcomings in this life? Well, one school of thought would feel that if the karmic theory is to be subscribed to, then people would stop making efforts to change the hardship and simply live with it. Contrary to this, one can say that one would accept it as destiny and not be unnecessarily self-critical. Accept and move on to face the new challenges that have been in store!
I guess this theory of Karmic destiny is a case of glass half full!
There are a number of such characters in Mahabharata, who were what they were, due to the theory of karma. All but one, who was a tragic character for no theory of karma.
We will discuss this character next time! Keep reading….