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.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine Day Love Story

On this day of love, my quest to understand this emotion only gets stronger (the assumption being, I haven’t quite understood it completely!). Just what is this love that makes mountains move? Well, if this seems a trifle clich├ęd and juvenile (isn’t the god of love a child?), then so be it; let me indulge in
some juvenile romantic quest, if I may!

It is said, that what is in the epic Mahabharata, is everywhere and what isn’t in it, just doesn’t exist. If that be so, my quest to understand love ought to take me just there, where both love and hatred were of epic proportions. But today is a day of love, so we won’t refer to hatred. Let love paint it all in red (literally as we shall soon see)!

While love is capable of many things, I am quite impressed by its ability to transform as well as avenge

Let me give you a beautiful example of love transforming from the epic Mahabharata. According to this, the King of Mandukya’s daughter, Sushobhana, was not willing to get married, as she felt that marriage was like putting a free bird in a cage. She wanted to be free and spend her life philandering away to glory. Sushobhana would mask her identity, and get close to the man of her choice and live with him till she got tired of him, and left under some pretext, which she would have worked to her advantage before getting into the relationship. The men would be under a vow never to speak about it and thus the matter was never known to anybody, except her maid, Subinita and the King himself. Subinita on her part had tried her best to stop the princess from such philandering, but Sushobhana never yielded to her requests and used her beauty and charm as a means to live a life of her choice. 

Once, Sushobhana met the handsome King Parikshit of the Ikshvaku dynasty. Sushobhana was impressed by his looks and lured him into a relationship. Soon Parikshit took the unknown lady to his palace and the two enjoyed themselves. A time came when Parikshit wanted to marry her, but Sushobhana true to her nature saw that as an entrapment. At the beginning of the relationship, she had made Parikshit take a vow that he would never take her near a water-body. Over a period of time, Parikshit had forgotten about it. When Sushobhana came to know about the wedding, in a moment of Parikshit’s weakness, made him take her close to a lake and on reaching the lake, she reminded him of his vow and her imminent departure.

When a shocked Parikshit wanted to know about the cause of the departure, she feigned a curse. At that moment Parikshit decided to hold her in a tight embrace, daring the curse to take effect. It was at that moment, that Sushobhana felt that this man was different, and something inside her changed, but she could not accept that this was love. She managed to escape from there. While she was leaving, Parikshit noticed a spy and from his dressing, realised that he was from the Mandukya kingdom. He took his army to the doors of Mandukya and asked them to hand over Sushobhana who according to him had been ‘kidnapped’ by them. The King met Parikshit and told him the whole story of his wayward daughter.

When Sushobhana came to know about it, she was depressed that her truth was out in the open and the shame would be too much for her or her father. At that moment she decided to commit suicide. Just when she was about to gulp down the cup of poison, her maid Subinita comes to her to inform her that Parikshit was waiting for her in his tent. Sushobhana was surprised to know that the prince wanted to accept him even after he knew everything? Why would any man want a woman whose ways were wanton and who wilfully led a life of the unspeakable? Subinita replied “For love”.

It was for the first time, Sushobhana realised the power of love and inside her grew the desire to belong. For the first time she wanted to fly and be caged in the arms of Parikshit. To the joy of everybody, love had transformed a wayward philandering woman.

The same epic also tells us about how love makes one avenge for the love of one’s life. The Mahabharata has always referred to the love of Draupadi for Arjun. What has been overlooked is the love of Bhima for Draupadi. Though Bhima was married to Hidimba, the demoness before Draupadi, it was Draupadi that he deeply loved and never missed an opportunity to express the same. An obvious example of it is his fetching of the Saugandhika flower after a great fight with a demon. However, a more pertinent example of coming to her aid was that of saving her from Keechak during the year of exile.

The thirteenth year of exile was in a disguise and the Pandavs were at the court of Virata. When Keechak, the brother of the Queen of Virata tried to molest Draupadi who was serving the queen at that moment, Draupadi turned only to Bhima to save him. At the risk of their disguise being recognised, Bhima killed Keechak as he could never bear to see anybody insult her, even though Yudhishtir kept quiet as the Kings assistant. 

Another example was during the disrobing of Draupadi in the court of Dhritarashtra. It was only Bhima who reacted while the others simply expressed their inability to do anything. It was Bhima who had vowed that he would break the thigh of Duryodhan for asking Draupadi to sit on his lap and would drink the blood of Dushashan for touching Draupadi. True to his words, he killed Duryadhan by fatally striking him on his thigh. Prior to that he ripped open the bowels of Dushashan and with the blood he washed Draupadi’s hair before binding it which was left loose since the day of the disrobing.
A scene depicting the above at Hampi

While this might seem gory, nonetheless it is an expression of Bhima’s love and affection for Draupadi, who too knew that Bhima was the only one she could turn to in times of distress. Many would term this to be one sided love, but then who cares about sides, when love has been expressed to avenge the insult for the person one loves?

Many of my readers during the last few years had written to me as how why was it that I always wrote Greek Love stories on Valentine’s Day (http://utkarshspeak.blogspot.in/2012/02/valentine-day-love-story.html

http://utkarshspeak.blogspot.in/2013/02/valentine-day-love-story.html ). Well I had no reason for that, but to break away from tradition, I have written about love stories from India. Hope you like them and use love for all the good things it brings in our life.

Wish you a very happy day of Love!!

Pic Courtesy - Hampi picture is courtesy Hampi.in

Friday, February 7, 2014

Draupadi and Polyandry

Yesterday we read about the cause of Draupadi’s marriage to the Pandavs. The main cause of it seemed to be a casual remark by Kunti. Let us understand this in slight detail.
Pandavas with Draupadi Deogarh, Dasavatar temple

After Arjun won Draupadi in the swayamvar, the Pandavs returned to their hut with Draupadi (the Pandavs and Kunti were in disguise and hiding after the Lakshagraha episode). When they arrived, Kunti was doing something and had her back towards them. On arriving one of them is supposed to have said, “Look mother what we have got” (which should have been, ‘who’ and not ‘what’, but let’s overlook this rather convenient slip-of-tongue). Without turning, Kunti is supposed to have said, “Please share it amongst the five of you” and the rest is history, of epic proportions! 

Was this such an innocent statement made by Kunti? Didn’t she not know that the Pandavs had gone to Panchal to attend the swayamvar of the princess of Panchal, Draupadi? Panchal and Drupad were known to the Pandavs very well from the past events, so statement “Look….” couldn’t have been a shareable object. Also the Pandavs were not children that everything needed to be shared! So was this a deliberate act?

Draupadi was born out of the flames of a yagna, and thus also called ‘Yagnaseni’. She was dark (Krishnee) and beautiful. She was fiery and strong. Some versions say that the jealousy towards Arjun by the other brothers was visible to the mother and this could have been the only way to keep them bound. Kunti was the glue that bound the bothers, but she also knew that beyond a point (and age), she would be ineffective. Besides youth needed something else to bind!

On realizing what she had done, she could have undone the same, but by then Yudhishtir had announced that Kunti’s words were sacrosanct and all five of them would marry Draupadi! When Drupad and Dhrishtidyumna raised objections, Yudhishtir is supposed to have given some examples of polyandry in knowledge then.

Yudhishtir gives the examples of Jatila who was supposed to have married seven sages. Then the example of Marisha marrying the Prachetas was cited. Further, the marriage of the Maruts with Rodasi was cited. But these were all divine and not mortals, said Drupad. It was then that Sage Vyasya was brought in to ‘support’ Yudhishtir’s opinion.
Vyasa telling the the tale to Drupad

The idea of polyandry was pushed through even when it was not a norm and this we see later when Draupadi was referred to as a prostitute by many and in public. So was this decision of marrying Draupadi to the five brothers a ploy by Kunti to ensure that the five brothers remain together in times of trials? Was she aware of the weaknesses of her sons and how much they needed a feminine force to keep them united, the way she was doing till then? 

If the idea of polyandry was out of place, then why was it not objected to by Draupadi’s father and brother? Draupadi was born out of fire which was conducted to beget Drupad a son who could kill his enemy Dronacharya. Along with a son, Drupad got a daughter too, so she was a bonus. These were not natural born children, but children who were ‘created’ for a cause, modern day robots, if I may add! Drupad was more concerned about his son achieving his objective and possibly Draupadi getting married to the heirs of Hastinapur could just be an added advantage or immaterial. Who knows?

In short, except Draupadi, it was a win-win for all. Kunti was happy, the Pandavs were ecstatic and the father and brother couldn’t care much. And Draupadi? Well she was born out of fire and lived a life of hell! She had five husbands but none were hers. All husbands had exclusive wives separately, but she didn’t have a single husband of her own. As Saonli Mitra, the eminent Bengali theater actress calls Draupadi in one of her plays – nathboti anathbot – the one with husbands, but yet unprotected. 

Polyandry has been effectively used in this epic. Nalayani (Draupadi in her previous birth) learns about Shiva granting her a boon of five husbands in her next life, wonders if she would not be seen as a fallen woman. An elaborate conversation takes place where Nalayani explains that as per the norms a man can have many wives, but a woman only one. She can take another husband to beget children after her first husband has consented to it (niyoga). If she takes a third husband, then she has to atone for the same as per the societal norms. A fourth husband would imply that she is a fallen woman and a fifth meant she was a prostitute. Shiva is supposed to have said, that in the days of yore, this was not unheard of and that it was boon from him, and so no sin would be levied on her. Satisfied, Nalayani goes her way to her next birth and endures her status of being nathboti anathbot.  

Polyandry was not in vogue during the times of Mahabharata and thus some sharp reactions from many of the characters of the epic itself. However, it is said that this was a practice in some tribal areas of the Himalayan range, which too had given up the practice around the same time. Yudhishtir is supposed to have referred to the clan of Northern-Kurus who followed the practice of polyandry, where they had grown up as children before they came to Hastinapur.

Well for good or for bad, for right or for wrong, for duty to ones mother or for giving vent to ones lust – call it what you will, polyandry was not widely accepted, and only Draupadi paid a price for it, none else did and the question remains – Just why did Draupadi have to suffer polyandry?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Why did Draupadi have to ‘suffer’ Polyandry?

A common answer to this is – well she asked for it!
Maharani Draupadi - Raja Ravi Varma
A typical response to a complicated question, which was the need of the hour (read ‘plot’ of the epic) as seen by author. But there is an elaborate myth behind it, which by itself, is the cause of Draupadi giving in to five husbands, but has deeper meaning.

But first the myth.

Once upon a time, there lived a sage Maudgalya, who was married to Nalayani. For some strange and unexplained reason, the sage decided to test his wife. He developed a debilitating disease (supposedly leprosy) due to which he remained diseased and unable to do anything and would get angry for no reason. In all this, Nalayani took great care of her husband and would bear all his tantrums. Nalayani would always eat after the sage had partaken his food from the same plate and the leftovers left by him. Once when the sage was having his food, one of his fingers fell in the food. True to her habit, she took the finger out of the food and ate the food as if nothing had happened. The sage was impressed but was still not done.

One day, he expressed his desire to have sex with another woman, who sold sex for gold. Nalayani sold her gold chain and bundled him in a basket and carried him on her head through the market place, much to the amusement and taunts of the onlookers. After, he was done, to avoid the comments which might be hurting her husband, she was hurrying back home. In the hurry, she did not notice a learned sage hanging from the tree for some crime and brushed her husband against him. In anger, the sage cursed her that by dawn next day, she would lose her husband and become a widow.

When Nalayani reached home, she was angry. She let her husband to rest for the night and cried out loud for the gods to hear that if she had been chaste and if she had never failed in her duties towards her husband, and if the sages curse be true, that she would lose her husband at dawn, then let the power of her chastity not let the sun to rise. Then she went about with her work.

The next day at dawn Lord Indra noticed that the Sun was not at the horizon. He went out in search to find the Sun hiding behind a mountain, trying to curtail his rays from spreading. On being asked, the Sun said that he did not have the power to go against the chastity of a woman, and he was restricted by the words of Nalayani. To cut short the story, the gods approached the sage who was hanging and got him to withdraw his curse and thus Nalayani’s husband was saved from death. 

Nalayani’s husband, sage Maudgalya was also impressed and came back to his young self and asked his wife Nalayani to ask for any boon she desired. Nalayani then asked that the sage take five different forms and enjoy her. For many years the two enjoyed sexual pleasures, but Nalayani could just not have enough. A time came when the sage had had enough and decided to go to the forest. But Nalayani was not agreeable to the idea of a life without sex and wanted to know, how she could live without him (or sex). Sage Maudgalya was angry at this insatiable lust and cursed her, that since she has not had enough, in her next life she can continue the same with five husbands. 

Saying so, Maudgalya retired to the forest and Nalayani too went to the forest and did penance to appease Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva appeared to her and asked her to seek a boon. Nalayani asked for a husband, but in her anxiety, she asked for the same boon five times and Shiva accepted it every time she said so. Later when Nalayani realised it, she was worried, that wouldn’t the world see this as odd, since she had never heard about a woman having more than one husband and that too all together? Lord Shiva assured her that it is not unheard of, and anyways, it’s a boon from him so the world would not see this as odd. Later, Nalayani was born to Drupad and as we all know, Draupadi was married to the five brothers, the Pandavs.

While the subject of polyandry is a matter we will delve in, next time, the myth of Nalayani and Maudgalya seem to have a larger relevance. Besides the fact that it goes on to become the ‘cause’ of Draupadi’s marriage to the Pandavs in the form of a justification, it probably also had another larger objective. The uncomplaining and the dutiful service rendered by a wife to her husband, no matter how he was and what his demands be, is the case in point here. Such stories were used to reinforce the sense of service a society expected from a wife. Her ordeals were eulogized as something that elevated her to a status, where she could stop the order of nature. Her chastity could stop the Sun from rising and have gods intervene if need be. If that by itself was not good enough, then she could end up with a life of abundant sex! The former was the said advantage and the latter was the unsaid advantage of remaining true to ones husband and a life of servitude towards him, no matter how he was. 

I guess the patriarchy of its times, had its own ways of controlling their women, this being one of them – what say you?

The above myth is told by Sage Vyasya to Drupad and his son Drishtidyumna when they wanted to know as to why Draupadi had to marry five brothers. This is the background that is used to justify, an otherwise ‘innocent’ remark by Kunti that the brothers should share what they got. 

More about this next time. Keep reading....