A Blog on Mythology and occasionally on Reality.

This is a Blog on Mythology, both Indian and World and especially the analysis of the myths.

In effect, the interpretation of the inherent Symbolism.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Daasi-putra of Mahabharat – Yuyutsu

Last time we read about Vidur, who was mainly referred to as daasi-putra in the epic Mahabharat. However, besides Vidur, there was a lesser known character, who too was also a daasi-putra and that was Yuyutsu.

When Gandhaari could not deliver in spite of her pregnancy, Dhritarashtra was worried about his heir. In one of those moments of insecurity, he is supposed to have bedded Gandhari’s chief maid, Sukhada. The child of Dhritarashtra and Sukhada was Yuyutsu, who was born after Duryodhan, but before the other Kauravas. Since he was the child of Sukhada, a maid-servant, he too was a daasi-putra.

Yuyutsu grew up in the royal palace and spent a lot of time with the Kaurava’s, but was morally upright with a strong sense of right and wrong. He is supposed to have objected to the disrobing of Draupadi as immoral, besides Vikarna, the third Kaurava prince.

It is said, during the preparations of the war, he used to pass relevant information of the planning of the Kaurava’s to Yudhishtir. Prior to the war, with the two armies on either side, Yudhishtir announced to both the armies, that if there was anybody on either side, who felt that he belonged to the wrong side, then it was time to change sides then, and no offence would be taken by any side. It was at this stage that Yuyutsu changed sides, much to the anger of Duryodhan, who was stopped from taking any action by Bheeshma.

Later when the Pandavs depart for the Himalayas, Yuyutsu was appointed as the guardian to King Parikshit, the then King of Hastinapur. It was Yuyutsu who finally performed the last rites of Dhritarashtra, as all the hundred sons were killed in the war, proving that a daasi-putra might not have rights to the throne, but could be the only means to ones salvation. While this might seem a very depraved view of the then society or royalty, such opportunism was an accepted norm.

The noted Bengali writer, Mahashweta Devi, in one of her stories, “Sauvali” has discussed this episode. According to this version, Sauvali was a maid of Gandhari, who was sent to him for his physical gratification, during the pregnancy of Gandhaari. She brings out the irony of Yuyutsu not being a prince, but being the ‘liberator of Dhritarahstra’s soul’. She focuses on the illicit relationship of the royals with maids, as it was not possible to have females from outside the palace for sexual escapades and matters remained within the walls of the palace.

A number of parallels can be drawn between Vibhishan of the epic Ramayan and Yuyutsu. Both defected into the enemy camp, however, for the cause of what they perceived as right. While Vibhishan helped Ram with critical information of killing Ravan and directions of Lanka, Yuyutsu is accused of leaking information of Kaurava plans, prior to the defection. After the war, Vibhishan was made the King of Lanka, and Yuyutsu was made the guardian of Parikshit, the only surviving child of the Pandavs.

If anybody is aware of any daasi-putras, do send in details of such characters.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Daasi-putra of Mahabharat – Vidur

Vidur was one of the key characters of the epic Mahabharat (Mb) and many a times referred to as a daasi-putra, or the son of a slave or a servant. After the death of Vichitravirya, his two widows, Ambika and Ambalika were childless. Mother-in-law Satyavati, called her other son, Sage Vyasa to impregnate the widows under the accepted practice of niyoga. When Ambika saw Vyasa, she shut her eyes in disgust and thus the child born to her was blind, Dhritarashtra. When Ambalika saw Vyasa, she paled in fear, and thus was born Pandu who was impotent. When Satyavati came to know about the nature of births, she requested Vyasa to meet Ambika once again. But Ambika who had not recovered from her earlier shock, sent her maid servant, who was neither shocked nor fearful of Vyasa, and gave birth to a healthy child, named Vidur, and thus the reference daasi-putra.

The royal family treated Vidur like an equal, but since he was not born of a princess, he could not be crowned the King of Hastinapur, even though he was the only one eligible for the same. However, he was given the prominent position of the chief minister of the King. Needless, to say that he was an extremely intelligent and well-versed in matters related to administration and politics and remained true and loyal to his position and the Kuru family, who treated him with respect, especially the likes of Bhishma and Satyavati. His policies on stately matter are well known as Vidur-niti or the policies of Vidur. However, there is an interesting story regarding the birth of Vidur and his identity.

According to the Sambhava Parva of Adi Parva in the epic of Mahabharat, once Sage Mandavya was sitting in deep penance, when some robbers hid themselves in his cottage, with some loot. When the King’s soldiers caught them, they arrested the sage too on the grounds of connivance, as they surmised that the sage had given the robbers shelter. During the trial, he too was punished by impaling (death by spearing). When the sage reached the heavens, he questioned Lord of Death, Yama, the cause for such suffering, when he had always followed a righteous path. To this, Yama replied that as a child he would kill little insects with blades of grass and thus the punishment.

The sage was upset with the sense of justice as he felt that crimes committed during ones childhood could not be seen as grave, as they were done out of ignorance and immaturity and that he did not agree with such justice. He faulted Yama on his justice and cursed Yama, for injustice to a Brahmin that he would be born on earth as a lower caste and suffer. He further decreed that any crime committed before the age of fourteen should not be seen as a serious offence and thus not punishable. It is this mandavian dictum which is supposed to be the base of the Juvenile Justice Act, under the Indian Penal Code, which over time has undergone changes from fourteen to eighteen.

According to the curse of Sage Mandavya, Yama was born as Vidur in Mb.

As we know, that Yama is also referred to as Dharma and Kunti’s eldest son was born by the blessings of Lord Dharma or Yama. During many interactions, Vidur was found sympathetic towards the Pandavs and more so towards Yudhishtir as he was very level headed and dharma-oriented, which Yudhishtir demonstrates in many occasions, especially during the Yaksha-parva. Many scholars have also found Vidur favouring Yudhishtir, albeit within the ambit of his legal position.

With this background, the noted author Iravati Karve makes an interesting observation, in her book ‘Yuganta’ or ‘End of the Epoch’. According to the rules of niyoga, which is in full display in the epic, if a man is unable to beget children, then for the safe passage of salvation for ones ancestors, his wife can take the help of any man, with the prior knowledge of the husband and bear the family a child. For niyoga, the person can be the man’s brother too. Could it be possible that Yudhishtir was born out of the practice of niyoga between Vidur and Kunti? Given the similarities between Vidur and Yudhishtir and the fact that the first god was Lord Yama, while Vidur was Yama on earth at that time, these questions are not quite out of place.

Many might say that if this be so, then why would the text hide this angle, when niyoga had been practiced in other cases and not kept a secret in the epic? The answer could be, that since Vidur was a daasi-putra and not of higher born, Yudhishtir’s candidature for the throne of Hastinapur could be in jeopardy, just as Vidur was not considered apt for the throne. In such a scenario, it made sense to refer to the boon of Kunti and credit Lord Dharma, instead of Vidur!

Could this affinity be the cause of Vidur’s opting out of the war of Kurukshetra, while Bhishma, Drona, etc. fight against the Pandavas, even when they were their sympathisers?

As they say, not all questions have answers or ask no question and you’ll be told no lies!!

Next we will discuss another lesser known daasi-putra from Mahabharat. Keep reading…..

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Chhath Puja

On the occasion of Chhath Puja, here's the details of the same from my earlier article on the occasion -
This is Utkarsh Speaking: Chhath Puja 


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Changing faces of Lord Ram

I don’t know how Lord Ram looked when he was born or even before I was born, but let us see how he has evolved in his depiction over the last 6 decades or so. This evolution of Ram is not just due to changing ‘tastes’ and/or perceptions of the new generation, but this could also be seen as the political evolution of Ram for the sake of some select few who have become the owners of this new Ram. However, the metamorphosis is interesting and speaks volumes of his worshipers and the society at large, who have accepted these changes.

The above picture is a painting by Raja Ravi Varma (1848 – 1906) who was the first to put faces to our mythological heroes. In this picture, Ram is seen as a true ‘vanvasi’ and does not look the bedecked hero that we know him as. Though Ram is seen striking an aggressive pose, since he is trying to shoot an arrow to calm the raging sea and Varuna trying to pacify him, he is not the warrior god as yet. If seen in context, this is a picture from the ‘yudh-kanda’, i.e. the war-phase, so this is not entirely out of context.
The one above is the picture from around the 50’s where Ram is shown as a gentle and a quiet god, with his palm raised to bless. Though he is shown carrying the bow and arrow, it does not dominate the picture. The bow and arrow could be seen as a pictorial reference of Rama being a Kshatriya, and probably nothing beyond. The action of the usage of the weapon is missing. His slight smile and a mild demeanour depict his genteel nature that is in the minds of many for long. Nowhere does it betray the image that would be coming up during the next few decades.

The picture above is from early 70’s which is much the same as far as the facial expressions are concerned, but the posture has undergone a change. Ram is now gaining an aggressive posture with the bow and arrow coming in prominence. The background of raging seas and burning sky adds to the spirit of aggression that is being depicted. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that the face is still smiling non-aggressive.

This one above is an image of early 90’s and undeniably a complete transformation from the erstwhile image of Ram. Here Ram is the warrior god and out to avenge all that his followers claim to be. This is the picture that was pasted all over the country by a certain organisation that seemed to champion the cause of the majority. Ram here is an aggressive god and has lost the genteel image that he had for so long. The hand raised in blessing is completely missing and his physique is more muscular and warrior-like. The adornments are all gone and all you see are signs of a warrior out to wage a war.

Finally the latest! The above picture is from a much forgettable animation film made in the year 2010. In this we see Ram as a modern day warrior god all with six-pack abs and in a form never seen before. The weapons though the same, the arrow has undergone a transformation along with the looks of Lakshman and Hanuman. They look more Nordic in their forms and any signs of benevolence, etc. so associated with Ram till a few decades back are completely missing. The well chiseled face, the biceps, the abs and the flowing locks all with a background of destruction (with the eagle thrown in), and the massive arrow is straight out of a Viking inspired war game.

Times change and so do our tastes, just as our needs and wants. In the case of Ram, this seems to be no different. Raja Ravi Varma’s depiction was more for us to have an idea of what gods could be like. They resembled more like us as we were, simple and not necessarily shapely. Then came the calendar art, which ensured that the gods be seen in all the splendour and finery that make then different from our mortal selves. The halo, the ornamentation, the silk finery and the heavenly looks that made them worthy of worship, were added.

Thereafter some gods became subjects of politics and we started making them accordingly. A subtle god like Ram became aggressive and his hands that were always raised to bless now took up weapons to avenge, what his worshipers wanted him to. Suddenly Ram became owned by a few who decided how he would look and what he would imply by the looks. Even before this could be resolved, some people decided to give him a makeover. To make him more acceptable, he was given a new look, yet again. Ram now was a complete modern man, all with the six-pack abs and the biceps and triceps which gives a feeling that the jungle where he spent for his exile must be having a gym with all the modern equipments!

A recent blog has come up with the interpretation of a young artist, which takes Ram (and other deities) in the genre of sci-fi. In this Ram is depicted as a fierce warrior, clad in flowing animal-skin attire, shooting multiple arrows. He is sitting atop a flying, white-furred Hanuman with angry looks. Needless to say, that all the other depictions too are a major flight of fancy, which has caught the fancy of the new generation!

I have only traced the evolution of Ram from Raja Ravi Varma to now. I am not sure where and when will this stop; before man’s flights of fancy makes him do more harm than what has been done already.

I can’t but help remember the words of a song from an old Hindi movie, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, which says – “dekho o diwano, tum yeh kaam na karo, Ram ka naam, badnaam na karo………..

All pics are from the Internet;
4th picture is courtesy "In the Name of God - Ram Ke Naam, a 1992 documentary film)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Diwali Greetings!

Here's wishing all my readers
a very happy Diwali 
a prosperous new year!!


Friday, November 1, 2013

Kheer Bhavani Temple

Do read my article on Kheer Bhavani Temple, published in the Blog of OnlinePrasad.com -

Read about the myths and other legends associated with this unique temple in Kashmir.