Have you ever wondered why there are different rules for different people? A recent article in the newspaper said, that the rich and powerful go unpunished or get bails in days (or hours in certain cases), and the poor languish in jails for years without trials. Why are there different rules for different people, one for the poor and one for the rich and powerful?
The answer to it probably lies in an interesting episode in the Odiya Mahabharata which in a way highlights this aspect.
Rishi Sandipani was the guru of Lord Krishna and Balarama. As per the rules of the times, Krishna and Balarama used to stay at the ashram of the sage. Once the sage had gone to bathe in the rivers, and lost his son in a huge wave. They could not even retrieve the body of the child. This loss had brought immense sadness to the sage and his wife, as they had already lost sons earlier, and this was their last child alive. The sage and his wife decided to end their lives as there was no desire to live.
Krishna and Balarama were very intelligent as students. Everything needed to be taught only once. They had finished their education and it was soon time for them to leave. But seeing the guru distraught due to the loss of their son, they decided to stay on for some more time, though there was nothing more for them to learn.
However, it was soon time to leave. Krishna approached the sage and offered guru-dakshina (his fees) before leaving. The sage desired nothing as he craved for no wealth, as there was none to inherit it. When Krishna insisted, since an education that has not been paid for was of no use, the sages wife said, that if he must, then he should bring their son back to life. While this was not quite possible and against the norm, Krishna did not say anything, though he felt that the sage lost an opportunity to seek moksha for himself.
Krishna approached the god of the seas, Varuna who told Krishna that the child was not with him, but at Yamaloka. Popular versions say, that the child was killed by the demon, Shankhasura (conch demon), who had made his home in a conch named the panchajanya. Krishna took the panchajanya, and blew it in the presence of Yama and sought the release of the sage’s son. Yama gives in and Krishna returns with the sage’s son, and since then Krishna is said to have retained his conch, the panchajanya.
The Odiya version however differs here slightly. On learning from Varuna about the child being in Yamaloka, Krishna approached Yama. When Yama sees Krishna, he asks him for the reason of his visit, and that too when he was an avatara. The inmates of the Yamaloka who were undergoing torture and pain, felt a great relief by the presence of Krishna. The dialogue between Krishna and Yama is interesting.
Krishna reprimands Yama for taking the lives of children, when they have committed no crimes, the logic being that they have not even had time or the maturity to commit crimes or sins. Children were not sinners, so ending their lives, was unfair. To this Yama said, that children did not die early because of their sins; they died because of the sins of their parents, especially the sexual transgressions of their parents. That was the law of the mankind. Strangely people never blamed themselves and would blame destiny and Yama for such tragedies. Interestingly, Yama then accuses Krishna, of the same! He then tells Krishna, that it is strange that the rules of the humans was seemingly not followed by the Lord himself, as he was seen indulging in the most irresponsible sexual dalliances with many and that too in what seemed to be in a casual manner. Yama continued, that if avatars (and great lives) like him indulged in such activities, what examples would they be setting on ordinary mortals?
While Yama was correct in his argument, the devotee in the author of this version gives the following explanation. Krishna is supposed to have said, that if that was the logic of early deaths of children, then let from that day all children born out of any union with him not be seen as the children of sexual transgression. While he accepted that he was guilty of improper sexual unions with many, let them not be seen as sexual misdemeanours and the women not be seen as violators. While Yama could continue his justice all over the world, he should leave his offspring untouched. Yama did not argue (and accepted the words), giving birth to a well-known Odiya proverb – “bada lokanku uttara nahi” – there is no answer to the great men; to further paraphrase – the powerful are above the law!!
Krishna however returns with the child of the sage and hands him over to the sage who was very happy, though he realised that his student had done something against the norms of nature and what seemed to be a lurking doubt in his mind, was a surety now. The sage realised that the student was none other than Narayan himself. The sage also realised his mistake of not seeking his moksha, the ultimate goal of all lives. The author of the Odiya version ends very beautifully by saying, that the sage must have realised that when the defining moment comes, it is always the nara who fails the Narayana, never the other way round!
Rishi Sandipani’s ashram is said to be situated in the modern city if Ujjain, MP, India, and is a place of reverence for many believers.
Based on the English translation of the Odiya Mahabharat by Shri B. N. Patnaik.