pippala leaf

October 8, 2007

Mahabharata – The story of contradictions

Filed under: Indian Epics — MBN @ 12:28 am

Malayalam literature is blessed with so many brilliant writers. The short piece ‘Sita continues to be abandoned’ by Sri N.V.P Unithiri brings to mind two Malayalam masterpieces based on Mahabharata: Randaamoozham by M T Vasudevan Nair and Ini Njan Urangatte by P K Balakrishnan. Former was written from the perspective of Bhima and later of Draupati. The essay ‘Mahabharathathile dharmma sankalpam’ by Yati is an excellent critical analysis on the concept of ‘dharma’ in Mahabharata. These works encourage the reader to look into these epics from a different perspective.

If one strip off the divinity from the characters Vyasa and Valmiki had created, one would invariably see one’s own reflection in them. The characters of Yudhishtira and Rama tell the tragedy of egoistic human nature: his craving for social approval, his blind faith, his fanatic adherence to the social, religious, cultural norms and rules that were set by his ancestors, his distorted interpretations of the scriptures without any understanding of underlying fundamental principles and finally his tragic end. At the end of Mahabharata one witness the very dharma that Yudhishtira has been ardently following, fails him. It brings him nothing but misery and pain. The very thing that meant to bring happiness made him pitifully helpless and miserable. He becomes a prisoner of his own ‘dharma’. At the end of the tragic war everyone loses. The dharma of Yudhishtira and Duriyodhana had failed them both. Apparently the dharma that had been practiced throughout Mahabharata was not the dharma Vyasa had in mind when he proclaimed ‘yato dharma tato jaya’ – victory is where dharma prevails. Yudhishtira and others understood it rather differently.

Rama of Valmiki also suffered similar fate. Happiness evaded him throughout his life. He was busy following the path of dharma. Every one of them missed that essential ‘knowledge’ which is sublime and subtle. They all missed except one. In Mahabharata only one character had lived his life in full – Krishna. We never saw his eyes wet at any stage of his life. Instead Mahabharata says ‘he smiled’. When he faced defeat from his formidable enemies, when he lost his kingdom, when he was forced to retreat and hide in mountains, his countenance never faded. When Gandhari, from her heart wrenching pain cursed him, he smiled. When he witnessed the annihilation of his own family before his very eyes, he smiled. Like Rama he also suffered immensely in his life, but he always stood like a rock. And Rama wailed throughout his life. In their approach to life, one may say, Rama and Yudhishtira were idealists. Krishna, who saw the truth of life, was realistic and pragmatic. Interesting are these characters and their outlook towards life.

Often I wonder – why did Vyasa tell that story, the story of contradictions: the dharma that no one can ever follow, the bunch of people who had tried to follow and failed? Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa has been trying to tell us something that we tend to miss always.



  1. nice post… I completely agree with your opinion about Yudhistira.

    Also, if I may add, his dharma from the current day dharma seemsreally outdate.Yeah it is one yuga old 🙂 but then,like you mentioned, Duryodhana, Shakuni, Karna and Krishna who were his contemporaries had such world-wise ways. I used to dislike Krishna believing him to be a master manipulator. But now I realise how much he actually helped the Pandavas by being a strong influence on Arjuna.

    Comment by Aparna Vemuri — November 9, 2007 @ 7:41 pm

  2. Thank you Aparna.
    As I understand Krishna is the most misunderstood personality in Mahabharata. Those who hastily pass judgement on this character, most of them, might not have get a chance to read the epic in it’s full. In Malayalam, fortunately we have many books and translations of Mahabharata. I was fortunate enough to come across one of them.

    Comment by pippalaleaf — November 19, 2007 @ 6:47 am

    • understand the epic fully before criticism

      Comment by pandu — August 18, 2012 @ 2:47 pm

  3. Yudhister by mortgaging his wife had done a great Adharma for which he had to pay at last. Lord Krishna is the only personality who is called purna avatharam. Even Rama was called purushothaman. But Lord Rama had more compassion than Lord Krishna. An eye for an eye is the theory of Lord Krishna. Even now by chanting Rama’s name one can attain punya. But Lord Krishna had to be pleased too much for getting his blessings. If you disrespect Lord Krishna he will certainly take revenge. But that is not the case with lord Rama. This is out of my own experience after having dharshan of Lord Krsihna once in the day time and at that time I was lying straight 3 foot above the ground.

    Comment by m.l.narayanan — March 23, 2008 @ 3:48 pm

  4. I just finished reading the Mahabharata (Rajaji’s version) and Krishna in it struck me as a depressingly bad avatar. I hate to imagine he is elevated to Godhood – he was probably just a petty and manipulative general who interfered in the affairs of a family and completely destroyed them – the dynasty of Dhritarashtra and Pandu lasted only 15 years after the events of Kurukshetra. If you have read the last portions of Mahabharata replete with Krishna’s chicanery and underhanded behaviour, I wonder why people will like him. This, added to his unholy philandery and twisted morals and sense of justice make him one of my most despised avatarams.

    By contrast, I love Rama. He was the epitome of the ideal man and was as much a good man of his time as a brave, courageous warrior.

    I liked other characters in the Mahabharata than Krishna – I found real divinity in Dharmaputra’s constant pondering of what is just, I found valour in Arjuna and his ability to question whether what he did was right. I found rectitude in Gandhari and found valour in warriors like Drona, Ashwattama, Satyaki and Abhimanyu, whose lives I consider some of the greatest tragedies of Indian mythology. I don’t see why Krishna of all people was made into the holy representative of justice. His so-called divinity does nothing to me. However, I get goosebumps when I think of the nobility of Rama, Parasurama and Balarama. When I think of Parasurama and how he picked up arms to restore order in ancient India, my hairs stand on end. By contrast what Krishna did was usher in an age of decrepit morals, when victors such as the Pandavas danced on their cousins bodies and when Dharmaputra, the epitome of truthfulness in the Mahabharata, is forced to lie about Ashwaththama, to take Drona’s life. Ashwaththama, Abhimanyu and Drona are probably the characters that are most tragic to read about in the Mahabharata, and Krishna is certainly the most despicable.

    Comment by philramble — August 26, 2009 @ 5:29 am

    • Goodness!!! You have got everything absolutely wrong!! What version of the Mahbaharat are you reading? Yes, Krishna comes across as a manipulative person, actually in the context of the story that is exactly how he will look, but you have to know the story in depth to know why he did what he did. The Mahabharat is deceptively simple. Everything that seems to be something is turned on it’s head and eventually ends up meaning something else. I am writing a blog on Mahabharat and would be very happy to answer any questions you may have. I can see that you love Ram so I am sure you are not hating Krishna because He is a Hindu God. Trust me when I say this, after you are done analyzing things you will love Him just as much as we do. Just for a glimpse of what I mean you can see my reply to the gentleman’s comment below. Please do write back, your feedback and questions could help me make my own blog better. 🙂

      I have just started my blog so the meaty stuff is not there yet, but hopefully you will follow it patiently. Thanks.

      Comment by commentarymahabharat — January 15, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

  5. philramble,
    your post is not very objective. bhim danced around dhushashan’s body, not krishna. krishna sided with dharm and ensure overall victory was to the righteous people..

    Comment by madmax — October 14, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

  6. Can some one explain
    1. How the good guys like Bheshma, Drona and Karna joined the adharmic Kauravas ?

    2. How come Krishna the author of Dharma after teaching Geeta to Arjuna sees all 4 main characters on Kauravas side Bhishma,Drona, Karna and Dhuryodana finally dying through deceits only ? How Krishna is different from from terrorists who kill people cowardly ?

    Comment by KT — November 8, 2009 @ 4:09 am

    • HI. Excellent question, but you have to dig deep for the answers. First you must understand that Mahabharat deliberately has these moral ambiguities so that we debate why is it that some seemingly nice people deserved what happened to them. Mahabharat and the Bhagvad Geeta are both based on the concept of Karma. That you have to be mindful of your deeds, any wrong that you do, no matter how small, insignificant or well intentioned it may seem at the time, will eventually confront you. The Mahabharat is full of examples of people who are seemingly correct but have in the past done something that that was unrighteous and eventually through a twisted turn of events they have to live the consequences of what they did. The Mahabharat also has a seemingly devious God who seems to use unfair means to bring these mighty heroes down, but the fact is that these mighty heroes were the ones who had sown the seeds of their own destruction, Krishna is not the conspirator he is simply the instrument of divine justice. Righteousness is not just about knowing right from wrong, it’s also about preventive action, in real life the trouble starts with what is called a slippery slope. Anyone can tell when something is absolutely right or absolutely wrong but it takes wisdom to know the little things that lead to major conflicts, and this is what Mahabharat concerns itself with.

      All the characters you have mentioned above had done something or the other which was adharmic or unrighteous. Bhishma had abducted Amba, Ambika and Ambalika to forcefully marry them to Vichitravirya. Similarly he had brought Gandhari under veiled threats from her kingdom to marry Dhritrashtra, similarly Satyawati was brought into his family for no better reason than to feed the foolish lust of his old father. He brings in Madri to wed Pandu even as Kunti had just entered his household as new bride for Pandu. Although he seemed to have respect for women, but in practice they were nothing more than means of continuation of his family. He seems to give them respect only when they become a part of his family the bearers of his honour, not before that. The wrath of these women and the injustice done to them takes the form of Shikhandi and becomes the end of Bhishma. It may look as if Krishna manipulated the situation to bring Bhishma down but the fact is Karma caught up with Bhishma and he eventually had to pay for what he did. Bhishma was also an innately selfish man. His selfishness was so deeply buried he only confronted it when the result of his horribly selfish decision started to bear bitter fruits. He took the vow of chastity so that his father could marry Satyawati. He does this even when a point came when Satyawati and Shantanu did not want to get married because they knew it would seriously upset the inheritance of the kingdom, but Bhishma goes ahead and takes the vow nonetheless because he doesn’t want to be seen a son who is the cause of grief to his father. In the process of being a good son, he completely ignored the far bigger responsibility of being the heir apparent to the people of Hastinapur. His life was not his own to do what he pleased with it, as the Prince he belonged to the people, Shantanu understood this and that’s why he decided to give up Satyawati rather than cheat his people of a good future king. There is a gujrati folklore that says that when Bhishma had to take the painful decision of dividing Hastinapur into 2 parts, he went door to door to people to consult with them. He was obviously in pain but the people shut their doors on him and told him “You never came to consult us when you took that terrible vow, why do you want to talk to us now?” Fate gave him another chance to correct this wrong, he could have married Vichitrvirya’s widows and given Hastinapur legitimate princes but he stubbornly chose to stick to his vow because to break it would make him look like a weak person. The fact that Ambika and Ambalika could use levirate to produce legitimate princes for Hastinapur paved way for Kunti to later use levirate to produce rightful heirs for Pandu. If Bhishma had done his duty to his kingdom then the whole inheritence dispute between Kauravs and Pandavs never would have arisen. In the most exemplary form of poetic divine justice, the man who started this whole mess because of his vows is the very last one to die because of a blessing given to him becuase of his vows after seeing the annihilation of everything that he was supposed to protect through his vows. Another mistake he made was to take a vow and swear blind loyalty to the throne of Hastinapur rather than it’s people. Later he repeatedly had to turn a blind eye to the misdeeds of Dhritrashtra and Duryodhana because of this oath even though it crushed him, towards the end of is life, Bhishma had become a very broken man. You are right he was in essence a good man, which is why his story is all the more poignant. He is the archetype of all those good men who have good intentions but lack the wisdom and foresight to see the results of their seemingly good decisions. As divine poetic justice would have it he is “blessed” with the boon of choosing his own time of death. As is the theme of Mahabharat where nothing is what it seems, this boon turns into a curse as he is forced to live long enough to see the death and destruction that his oaths have led to. By the time we come to the war Bhishma is so broken by what he sees around him he is literally looking for a reason to die. He tells Yudhishthir how he could be killed hoping they would be strong enough to put it into action. The next day at war when Arjuna confronts Bhishma he loses the will to fight him. Krishna exhorts Arjuna to take up his weapons but when he refuses to do so, Krishna tells him that if Arjuna won’t kill Bhishma then he would and he picks up a chariot wheel and rushes towards to Bhishma. Bhishma on seeing Krishna approach him in anger peacefully lays down his weapons and welcomes Krishna with open arms and a smile, begging for Krishna to kill him, to relieve him of the misery his life had become. The clue to Bhishma’s death is in his own name. When he was born his mother gave him the name Devavrata, “The oath of the Gods”, he came to be known as Bhishma (the Terrible) because of the terrible oath he had taken. The name his mother gave him was an indication of his divine role, a reflection of the kind of sacred oaths that the Gods take for the preservation of the universe. But the vow he takes is in contradiction to his role of the preserver of his people and his dynasty. His entire life was defined by the oaths he had taken and all 3 of his oaths had a disastrous result for his people. After a point his oaths went beyond the boundaries of honour and stepped into realm of obstinacy. Btw, just to illustrate how you can keep an oath Krishna style you have to know about an oath Krishna took too. Krishna had taken a vow to never wield a weapon in the battlefield and because Bhishma is the master of impossible oaths he too takes an oath in the presence of Krishna and jokingly takes a vow to force Krishna to pick up a weapon during the war. Because Bhishma had already taken this oath and he was very dear to Krishna, Krishna had to help him in fulfilling his oath. So on the day when Arjun confronts Bhishma and refuses to fight him, Krishna picks up a chariot wheel to attack Bhishma. Now a chariot wheel is not technically a weapon but it can still inflict damage. Also, the wheel resembles the Sudarshan Chakra of Vishnu/Krishna. Bhishma wanted to see Krishna in all his warrior glory and Krishna does fulfill this desire of Bhishma, while still keeping his own oath :).
      Drona was a teacher. Ancient India valued teachers and gurus more than everybody else. A teacher’s primary duty was to selflessly dedicate his life to the persuit of knowledge, be the conscience keeper of the society and not to extract a price for the education they imparted. In ancient India, students had to live with their teachers and even princes lived the simple lives of their gurus to the point they had to beg to feed themselves. The idea was that the student should dedicate themselves to only the persuit of knowledge and nothing else and to stay away from the petty vanities of the material world, this instilled in them the values of simplicity and kept them away from vanity in their formative years. This is why a guru would not take a fee from his students, he would only get a gurudakshina from the students after their education was over and according to whatever they could afford. Drona on the other hand made a business transaction out of imparting education. He turned from a teacher to a trader. He decided to take up teaching assignment of the Kuru princes so that he could eventually ask them to wage a war against Dhrupad on his behalf. This was the first mistake besides bartering education, Drona also selectively decided who he wanted to teach. Not once but twice he refused education to two students because they were not royals and therefore did not fit in his scheme of things, he stood to gain nothing from resourceless students. These students were Karna and Eklavya. The reason he used was also despicable: Caste. With Eklavya, he is beyond cruel as he asks him to give him his thumb, effectively killing Eklavya’s career as an archer, because he had promised Arjuna that he would make him the best archer in the world. Poor Eklavya who respected the Guru-Shishya relationship had to pay a very huge price for his love for his guru. In a sense Karna’s rebelliousness saved him from Drona’s cruelty, otherwise Drona would have extracted a huge price from Karna too to advance Arjuna further. Just like Bhishma his reasons for doing all this are not very apparent initially, but dig a little deep and you see why he did what he did. Drona was enraged at Dhrupad for giving him a cow so he could feed his son Ashwatthama. Thus far his hatred for Dhrupad is a little justified. But Drona’s love for his son is what drives him to do other things that are unfair. According to Hindu tradition a Guru should treat his students the way he treats his own children. There was a clear lack of this in case of Drona. Even when he taught the children, he kept the most imporatnt of lessons for his son. This is why the Pandavs did not know about either the Chakravyuha or even the divine weapons that Ashwatthama knew about. If Arjun learnt as much as he did it was because he was a very diligent student who never missed an opportunity to learn something and pretty much accosted Drona at all times never leaving him alone with his son at any time. Another reason was that Drona always saw Arjun as someone who he could eventually use in vanquishing Dhrupad, his plans although successful once came to a complete halt when Arjun married Dhrupad’s daughter Draupadi. Making Arjun’s own interests at odds with those of Drona. So when the time comes for Drona to choose sides it’s not very difficult for him to decide. He went along with those who were at the opposite side of Dhrupad. Krishna / Fate eventually delivers justice to him in the form of students who lied to him, taking name of the very same son for whom he had dishonored the scared code of a guru.
      Karna along with Bhishma is one of those characters that you really feel for. For all his weaknesses and mistakes Karna strikes a chord with everyone and is highly revered in India. Karna continues to be a very popular name of boys to this day. Amongst all those on the Kaurava side Krishna has the greatest amount of love and admiration for Karna and Bhishma. Before the war starts Krishna goes to Karna to dissuade him from participating in the war. He also tell s Karna about his true nature hoping that if Karna knew about his mother he would finally come to peace that had eluded him all his life. But Karna by this time is so heavily indebted to Duryodhana that he cannot get out of the war. He is probably the only person who goes into the war knowing that he will not make it out alive siding with the Pandavs would only ensure that he will stay alive but now that he knows that it’s he who is the eldest Pandav not Yuddhishthir, means that after the Pandav won, he would be the default king. In a touching display of loyalty Karna declines all that Krishna offers choosing instead to die for his friend. But was it just friendship that motivated Karna so? Perhaps not, his love for Duryodhana came from the fact that Duryodhana saw him as a kshatriya or a warrior. He detested his position as a charioteer far more than he loved anyone else and certainly more than his love for righteousness. Karna seems to suffer from selective morality choosing to do the right thing only when it served the purposes of his friend. Duryodhana had decided to go to war because he believed that he would never lose with Karna on his side. Karna if he would have decided not to fight in the war would have effectively stopped Duryodhana from waging the war in the first. But Karna desperately wanted to be known as a great warrior, he longed to vanquish Arjun, his pride would never allow him to back down from a confrontation. Karna’s spite sometimes knew no bounds. When Yuddhishthir had lost everything in the game of dice, it was Karna who suggested that he stake Draupadi. It was Karna who broke all laws of civility and called Draupadi a prostitute which eventually led to her attempted disrobing. Karna who broke all rules of just warfare when he attacked the alone and helpless Abhimanyu and danced around his dead body. For a man who had spent most of his life trying to get the world to accept him as a just and perfect warrior, the attack on Abhimanyu was decidedly cowardly and he seemed to conveniently forget all rules of just warfare when he ganged up on Abhimanyu. Like a spoilt brat he wanted all the perks of being a warrior but not the moral responsibility that came with it. These were not the first instances when Karna had broken the laws of Dharma. Like all characters in Mahabharat his list of negative Karma starts off innocently enough and gets increasingly sinister culminating in the horrendous murder of Abhimanyu. He rode into battle with the burden of 3 curses that he had unwittingly accumulated. Once when Karna was young he was doing some target practice when he heard some sound behind the bushes. Without bothering to investigate the cause of the sound he shot an arrow in the direction of the bush and hit a cow. The cow belonged to a poor Brahmin, hearing his cow wail, the Brahmin came running to the spot and reprimanded Karna for his thoughtless deed and how her calf would also now surely die in the absence of its mother. He told Karna that just as his defenseless cow was attacked, so would Karna meet his own end, defenseless. Second curse was placed on him by the Goddess Earth herself. Once Karna squeezed a handful of mud so hard that the Earth Goddess herself felt the excruciating pain and she appeared to him to curse him that the perceived strength that he was so proud of would be the cause of his downfall and she would herself grip him with her own hands and that’s the day he would see her strength. Karna had once even resorted to lying in his quest to be a warrior. He had posed as a Brahmin to his guru Parshuram in order to gain knowledge about divine weapons. When Parshuram knows about his deceit (however innocent it was) he cursed him that the knowledge that he had gained from him would fail him at the time he would need it the most.
      Perhaps all of the above minor and major deeds were only a contributing factor to another major flaw in Karna. His unbridled ambition and his hubris. According to Hinduism ideally no job is a small job and everyone does their bit in Upholding The Universe (Dharma). This is ofcourse, small comfort for Karna who was mocked at every stage in his life because of his low status in life. Something like this is easier said than done. However Karna it seems continued to be afflicted by this status anxiety even after he was crowned the King of Anga. Having risen from humble background should have imbued in him a sense of wisdom and humility what it did instead was to fill him up with hubris. At the dice game he repeatedly insulted Pandavs on their new slave status. During the Mahabharat war he insisted that King Shalya, the maternal uncle of Nakul and Sahdev (Pandavs), who had to join the Kauravs against his wishes, be made his charioteer just to humiliate him and the Pandavs, a position that Karna considered lowly. In contrast, Krishna happily offers to be Arjun’s charioteer. As a matter of fact, Krishna’s own life is full of miracles but he is remembered as the charioteer of Arjuna. He brings dignity to a job that Karna strongly detested. Eventually Karna loses his life not because of the treachery of Krishna but because a long series of his own bad deeds and blind ambition had put him on the wrong side of the law for which he had to bear the punishment. But whatever Krishna did on the battlefield there are many instances that show that he had great admiration for Karna. On several occasions he praised Karna and admonished Arjuna for calling him a charioteer’s son. During the battle, Arjuna had started to get the upper hand on Karna and he managed to push Karna back quite a distance. However every now and then Karna would also push Arjuna back by a few feet. Every time Arjun pushed Karna back, Krishna said nothing but every time Karna was successful in pushing back Arjun Krishna always made it a point to loudly praise Karna, loud enough for Karna to know he was being praised!! This happened quite a number of times and no longer able to bear his Charioteer’s blatant support to his opponent, Arjun shot back at Krishna demanding why was He praising Karna? To this Krishna calmly replied “Arjun, you have Me for a charioteer, you have the powerful Hanuman on your banner, you have been personally blessed by the mighty Goddess of valour Durga herself, you have the divine weapons of the great Shiva, if you are winning there’s not much achievement in it. But Karna fights alone, he fights only with the strength of his arms. It’s not just you he has pushed back, he is pushing Us, The Gods back. He fights not just with you Arjun, he fights Destiny herself. Tell me how can I not praise that?”
      About how Krishna is different from a terrorist? To begin with I’d like to request you to refrain from using a word like terrorist for Krishna. He is the beloved God for a billion Hindus and yes the apparent flaws that you see in his character are deliberate so as to provoke questioning but the use of the word terrorist is very harsh. I would ofcourse be very happy to help you with why some of his actions don’t make sense on the surface, but I hope you will understand that calling Him names is very disrespectful to a culture that is famous for tolerance, although to be honest we ourselves call him many unflattering names but that’s more out of love than disrespect.
      To begin with terrorist in the modern day do what they do because they are religiously inspired and often what they do is an act of aggression not self defense. This war was not about religion, this war was about righteousness. Osama bin Laden was a terrorist and the US marines killed him in a manner that would be consistent with what you call Krishna’s treachery but tell me honestly would you deliberate upon the morality of killing an unarmed man when you know that this man is a criminal and a terrorist himself? Bush spent several billion dollars on the conventional war on Iraq to find out where Bin Laden was and in the process killing several innocent Iraqi civilians and army members on both sides and to no effect what so ever, this kind of war only made matters worse. Obama on the other hand used covert methods and yes he attacked when Bin Laden was not prepared but wasn’t that far better than Bush’s conventional war? It’s a war be practical, if you can save many other lives by deceitfully killing a few who you know are wrong, then its far better to do this than to go all out on the basis of sheer strength alone.
      The Pandavs were outnumbered, the Kauravs had general like Bhishma and Ashwatthama and many others who could not be killed, later even Duryodhana got a blessing from his mother that turned his body into iron and therefore impervious to any kind of weapon. And then others like Karna, Dronacharya and several other warriors who could not be defeated. In addition to this the Pandavs had a very small army. Even Krishna himself had given his own army to Duryodhana and promised him that He Himself would not pick up any weapons. The odds were heavily stacked in the favor of Kauravas. But the Pandavs were on the right side and that’s why Krishna decided to help them. There’s a long history of many kinds of injustices done by Kauravs to the Pandavs if you want you can see the BR Chopra version of Mahabharat on youtube to understand the story better.
      There are a couple of things that you should know about Krishna and the way his childhood is described. His childhood is full of adventures where he easily defeats powerful demons. There was a time when he lifted the Govardhan Parvat, a hill, on his little finger to give refuge to the people of his village. Surely a powerful God like that could have stopped the war? As a matter of fact this is exactly the question Gandhari asks him when all her children are dead and curses him. His answer to her question is amazingly deep for any religion. Krishna answered that everybody and I mean absolutely everybody in Mahabharat in some way or the other made this war happen. No one was above the blame from either sides. The groundwork for this war had begun long back and people themselves did not do anything to stop it, he as the personification of the Law of Natural Justice of Universe or Karma had simply brought people face to face with the results of their actions. On a practical level, this idea mandates on us human beings to be responsible for our own societies and not to expect God to pull miracles for us. This is why the characters in Mahabharat have to fight the war. The war is symbolic of the spiritual war that each individual human being wages on his or her own deepest darkest desires every single day because it’s only through reigning in these tendencies for selfishness can we hope to have a just and equal society. For all practical purposes God will only act the dispenser of natural justice and not as someone who will shower blessings because you pray to Him every day. We can only look to him for guidance not miracles, this is why Krishna did not pick up any weapons in the war he was simply Arjuna’s charioteer or his guide, but this was Arjuna’s war to fight and it is Arjuna eventually who does the fighting.
      When Gandhari curses Krishna, he accepts the curse telling her “Mother, I know you have been hurt and if it makes you feel any better, by all means curse me and I will accept it too. But the fact remains that it’s the people who created the situation for the war, I merely did what I had to bring it to conclusion.”
      Another important instance that shows Krishna’s attitude towards war, was his own city Mathura and later Dwarka. Krishna was the Prince of Mathura. Shishupal and Jarasandha had repeatedly attacked his city Mathura that Krishna defended successfully 17 times. But all through these struggles he never attacked the cities of Shishupal and Jarasandha themselves. He only defended his own city. His advisors told him several times that Shishupal and Jarasandha will not stop attacking them and since they were more powerful them anyway they should Shishupal and Jarasandha and take over their cities. Krishna flatly refused to do this. He abhorred being an aggressor and killing people of his own accord. He instead suggested that they move the citizens of Mathura to a new city out of the reach of Shishupal and Jarasandha. His advisors told him that he would be called a deserter if he refused to fight with the enemy. To this Krishna replied “I would never fight for My ego and if a peaceful solution is possible I would much prefer a peaceful option. I don’t care if people call me a coward, a names is just a name but if by taking this insult to myself if I can save lives, I would much rather that I carry the burden of this name for an eternity than to lose the life of another soldier or civilian on either side.” To this day one of the names of Krishna is Ranchhod (see I told you we have not so flattering names of Krishna ourselves ). The reason why he lets the Mahabharat war happen is because the situation had come to such that the war was unavoidable.
      I am writing a blog about Mahabharat and you can visit it on the following link: http://commentarymahabharat.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/7/
      I would be very happy to help you if you have any questions

      Comment by commentarymahabharat — January 15, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

      • Thank u for your long explanation. That was indeed a lot of work. You say it is all about Karma or cause and effect concept. For every action there is a proportionate reaction. I guess even scientificlly it may be true. I find it very cold and you may be right in your own way. The question I am going to ask is How much Karma is good enough karma to get out of these cycles of birth and death ? Who keeps the score ? How do we get Divine’s grace and forgiveness into this equation ? In BG krishna says even a worst criminal will be accepted as soon as the criminal seeks him!! ( Please not Geeta mentions the word soon or rapidly ) The Karma the way understood like evil gets evil good gets good is fundmentally wrong, it may perhaps deter the evil doers. Karma is a man made concept and we take elaborate efforts explain all this stories. If some one sufffering we say it is because of some bad things a person did in the past, I agree one can develop cancer because of past smoking. But this equation is too simple and cannot explain the past hypothetical life. What made the person in the past life to do bad ? If you believe God is in control of everything ( not even a blade of grass moves says the scriptures) tthen both good and bad actions are done by God through us.
        BG 2 47 knowing this kind of understanding of Karma does not work , it says fruit of actions is not guaranteed. Arjuna was not guranteed victory. There was no proportionate reaction to his his work as a warrior.

        I love Mahabharat stories but we need to go beyond the human concept of ideoplogy of Karma. It has blinded many hindu people, like the ideology of sin and fall has blinded the Christians.

        I am sorry you misunderstood my wording Terrorist in describing Krishna. Terrorist do not like to reveal their face. These are cowards and faceless. Because these people live in fear of their God. Their actions are deceitful. I do see the way the great four were killed because of deceit. I am sure there is a purpose. We can discuss this later.

        Comment by KT — January 15, 2013 @ 7:34 pm

    • You are a ignorant person to call krishna a terrorist. If you cant understand the depth of anyones actions then atleast dont comment on god as if you know more than him. You do not see the deceit that shakuni and kauravas did with pandavas time and again. Using deceit and blackmailing bheesma and karna kauravas got them on their side. You are saying if your enemy has a tank and you have a stick then still you should not use strategy to beat them and go and stand in front of the tank. Otherwise you are a terrorist ! Learn to use your brains. Shakti se buddhi shreshtha !

      Comment by harry — April 30, 2014 @ 5:07 pm

      • wow, Ok, explain me please why did shakuni and kauravas play deceit on Pandavas ? What makes a person to blackmail ? Are they born like that ? or some thing they become hateful as they grow older ? What makes one good and one bad ?

        I used the word terrorist, a terrorist in his/her action does not want to show his face and tries to harm/kill people behind ( in deceit. ) All the brave four enemies of Pandavas were killed in deceitful ways, unless I read a wrong Mahabharata.

        I know it hurts people when some one uses derogatory word describe their leaders. What is your take without any sentimental understanding?

        Comment by KT — May 1, 2014 @ 6:25 pm

  7. You have to see one thing, the Dharma that Bhishma and others followed failed at a most critical point, the humiliation of Draupadi. In a way the people in that Assembly showed themselved to be deadwood. What Krishna did was get rid of the deadwood reprepsented by Bhishma and the others and also the sheer viciousness of the Kauravas and Karna. At the end of the war, Krishna controls any possible bloodlust of the Pandavas by praising their dead enemies. Krishna did what had to be done. It was disagreeable from many points of view, but it was inevitable. He does this without any partiality, and hence attained Godhood.

    Comment by Balaji Krishnamurthy — December 18, 2010 @ 1:06 pm

  8. Had these people ( Bheeshma and others ) not behaved like deadwoods as you describe then that would have been the end of the story of MB. Then forget about the great teaching of Geeta. MB is huge story and it highlights the great things in each character, this is not a fairytale every got married, got children, became docs, engineers, IT professionals , went to America and lived happily for ever…

    Comment by KT — January 15, 2013 @ 7:44 pm

  9. Renowned scholars have argued that the entire disrobing scene of Draupadi is nothing but a later day interpolation to underscore the divinity of Sri Krishna and the villainy of the Kauravas. Yes, Draupadi was dragged into the sabha but there was no attempt to disrobe her. You accuse Bhishma, Karna etc for humiliating a woman but are shockingly silent on the conduct of her own husbands. Yudhishter, not only, staked her but later asked her to appear in the sabha clad scantily so that the people could condemn the Kauravas. To me his crime is greater than the others. If your theory of Karma is correct, why didn’t he suffer? Just by calling yourself Dharamraj, doesn’t make you a dharamraj.

    Comment by neer — November 9, 2015 @ 5:17 am

    • Yudhistir did suffer for what he did at dice hall. Fourteen years of struggle and the stories by sages were neccessary for the pandavas to gain the knowlege of virtue. Yudisthir and the rest of pandavas had the scope for improvement which duryodhana lacked by his stuborness.

      Comment by rakshit rao — December 29, 2015 @ 6:32 pm

  10. Where can i get the essay ‘Mahabharathathile dharmma sankalpam’ by Yati. Is there a english translation of this essay. Kindly share me the details. Also if you know other sources that explains Mahabharat please share them too.
    Thank you

    Comment by rakshit rao — December 30, 2015 @ 10:05 am

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