Mahabharata: Adi Parva Part 5

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One day Shantanu sees Satyavati and falls in love with her. He approaches her father, and her father lays down conditions which Shantanu is not ready to meet. And hence he comes back to his kingdom, Hastinapura. Devavrata comes to know of this. He pursues Satyavati’s father and asks for Satyavati’s hand in marriage for his father. Satyavati’s father lays down his first condition – that Satyavati’s children should become the heirs of the kingdom. Devavrata agrees to this. Satyavati’s father is not done. He says “You might agree. But what if your children next compete for the throne?”. Now Devavratta sees his point. He sees through the cunningness of that person and he says, “That is not a problem. I will not marry. I will be a life long brahmachari”. This is a terrible vow! In the prime of youth, a kshatriya taking such an oath – from then on, he is called ‘Bheeshma’- the terrible, because it is a terrible vow to keep. And so Satyavati is married to Shantanu and they give birth to Vichitraveerya and Chitrangada.

Bheeshma carries away Amba, Ambika and Ambalika

Chitrangada is killed in an encounter by his namesake – a Gandharva named Chitrangada. So Vichitraveerya is the only heir to the throne. Bheeshma goes to find appropriate brides for Vichitraveerya. In the kingdom of Kashi, there is a swayamvara being conducted for three brides: Amba, Ambika and Ambalika. As per Kshatriya Dharma, by force, he takes them away. The kings who challenge him are defeated. Amba has actually given her heart to Salva, and she refuses to marry Vichitraveerya. But now, nothing can be done. So, Amba is sent back. Salva refuses to accept Amba so she comes back and asks Bheeshma to marry her. Bheeshma tells that he cannot marry her as he has taken  a vow of Brahmachanrya. Rejected by Salva and Bheeshma, Amba in a rage takes a terrible vow to kill Bheeshma. She reincarnates later as Shikhandin. Ambika and Ambalika marry Vichitraveerya but Vichitraveerya loses his life before this union can fructify. And hence, now again, the Kuru kingdom is left without any heir, without any progeny. So Vyasa is requested by Satyavati to sire sons on Ambika and Ambalika. Satyavati reveals for the first time to Bheeshma that Vyasa is her son. On requesting, Vyasa appears on the scene. He suggests to Satyavati that Ambika and Ambalika undergo one year of penance before being able to receive his energy. But Satyavati is in a hurry. She  cannot wait for one year. She wants a child right now. And so Vyasa is compelled to agree.

Birth of Pandu, Dhritharashtra and Vidura

Vyasa Maharishi is a powerful being. He is a mahatapasvi. Hence Ambika is frightened. She closes her eyes tight, and she suffers through the episode. Hence, Dhritharashtra is born blind. When Ambalika is sent, she’s pale with fear. When one encounters a powerful being like Vyasa, one is awestruck. She goes frigid, and hence Pandu is born pale, but he is normal in all other respects. Again, Satyavati approaches Vyasa and says, “This time you shouldn’t refuse. This time I will convince Ambalika to behave properly”. But Ambalika is in no mood. She sends her maid instead. The maid actually goes with extreme humility, with complete open-mindedness, and without any prejudice. And so, she gives birth to a wonderful and intelligent son -Vidura. Vidura is born a tremendous genius, accomplished in all respects. But he cannot become king,  as he is born of a maid.

Rishi Mandavya Curses Dharma

Now Vidura is actually Dharma reincarnate -Dharma, having been cursed by Mandavya. Mandavya is a rishi who gets impaled by a king because the king mistakenly believes him to be involved in a theft. But due to his yogic powers, he does not die of that impalement. Because of that impalement, he’s called Animandavya. Now, he asks Dharma,”What wrong did I do that I have to suffer this?” Dharma explains, “When you were a child, you poked the eyes of an insect.” For which Mandavya curses Dharma saying “When I was a child, I was but a child. You should be born on earth and undergo the experiences of humans.” This is very interesting. We look at Dharma as Dharmaraja, as a god-the divine dispenser of justice. But rishis have immense power. Mandavya belonged to the rishi parampara. So he curses Dharma and hence Dharma has to be born on earth. He takes birth as Vidura.  Animandavya states, “Below the age of 12, whatever a child commits, has no significance, because the child does not understand”. From then on, this rule has been in operation, because of rishi Mandavya. Even now,we have juvenile laws.  Juvenile laws are very different from adult laws. For example, the Indian Penal Code awards completely different punishments to juveniles. It’s quite interesting to note that the origin of juvenile laws dates back there.

Birth of Karna

Now, Pandu becomes king and he marries Kunti and Madri. Kunti,in her life before marriage,with her foster father, pleases Durvasa Maharishi through her obedient service and Durvasa gives her a mantra as a boon. ’Durvasa’ means ‘foul-tongued’-because he gets angry and uses foul language. But he is a great Maharishi, because his anger benefits the whole universe. He is an amsha of Mahadeva Shiva Himself.  On using that mantra, playing around with that mantra, she invokes Suryadeva and hence Surya gives her a son – Suryaputra – named Vashusena. Vashusena is famously known as Karna after he rips open his armour – Kavacha and Kundala. Not knowing what to do with that child, she lets him drift on the Ganga and he is taken by Athiratha, the charioteer and his wife Radha. From then on, he is called Radheya-the son of Radha.They bring him up as a charioteer, but he is a kshatriya.

The Pandavas are born

Pandu’s brother, Dhritharashtra marries Gandhari. Gandhari’s brother is Shakuni. Both of them come from Kandahar, Afghanistan. Kunti and Madri are married to Pandu. Pandu becomes very successful, having been very well-trained by Bheeshma. He conquers all the lands. Once, he is on a pleasure trip to the forest. There he happens to kill a stag and a deer mating. Unfortunately, that stag happens to be a rishi – Rishi Kindama. This was completely unexpected. The rishi curses Pandu, “A similar fate will happen to you. You will die when you approach your wife”. Pandu does not have children yet. Kunti later reveals to Pandu that she has these mantras and through these mantras, children are born. They are the Panchapandavas – the wonderful Panchapandavas. Yudhishthira is born of the union of Dharmaraja and Kunti. Bhima is born of Vayu and Kunti. Arjuna is born of Indra and Kunti. Now, Madri cannot remain silent. She cannot take this. She feels, “Am I secondary to Kunti?” So she asks for the mantra and she is given the mantra by Kunti. She goes for twins. She wants two children at the same time. So Madri, through the Ashwini Kumaras, gives birth to Nakula and Sahadeva. Pandu wants more, but Kunti says, “No,this is it.” Because how much can an earthly human body bear? The force of the devas – devashakti – is immense. Even bearing that energy is very difficult. So, the Panchapandavas are born of Kunti and Madri.

The Kauravas are born

After about 15 years, life is good. It is spring time. The god of love strikes Pandu’s heart and when he is alone with Madri, he approaches her and as per Rishi Kindama’s curse, he falls dead. Madri also ascends the Pandu’s funeral pyre and does Sati on his pyre. Simutaneously, in Hastinapura, Dhritharashtra’s wife Gandhari, who is pregnant, is in a hurry to get a child first, because the first child becomes the king. So in her haste, she pushes her pregnancy and she delivers a mass of flesh. At that time, Vyasa arrives there, and he, using earthern pots, with ghee, splits the mass of flesh into a hundred parts. Actually a hundred and one. The last one is Dushala, a girl, and a hundred brothers. And they take birth, Duryodhana being the first. When Duryodhana is born, many ill omens are seen. Wild asses and jackals howl and there is cacophony. Vidura advises Dhritharashtra, “Brother, do away with this boy. This boy will mean the doom of the Kuru clan. So do away with him. Banish him or kill him.” But Dhritharashtra, in his affection for his son, does not do that. So that’s how Duryodhana and his brothers are born.
Now, the rishis of the forest decide that the Pandavas have to be in Hastinapura. They are delivered there. Until then, Duryodhana has been the apple of everybody’s eye. But Bhima snatches that away. He’s extremely strong. The Panchapandavas are resourceful, because they have been born and brought up in a forest, where there is always a constraint on resources. When one grows up with constraints one becomes resourceful. One makes the best use of whatever is available. But if one grows up in luxury, one will not know how to use things efficiently and recycle and reuse things, because one has never had to struggle for them. So the Panchapandavas actually win the hearts of everybody, including the people of the kingdom. Duryodhana’s envy is ignited. He cannot stand this. He has to be the apple of everybody’s eye. In fact, later, it is said of Duryodhana that he would get irritated at the sun’s brightness, because it shone brighter than him. What a man! Can one compete with the sun? But that is Duryodhana. He is envious. Anybody who is there has to live under his protection. Then he is alright. If they live in spite of his protection, that is not alright with him. So that’s his mentality. This creates tremendous fued between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, which leads to the war, eventually.
Duryodhana, along with Shakuni, plan to kill Bhima. Once, they feed him poison and drown him in the river. On reaching the bottom, the nagas bite him and the snakes’ poison counteracts the poison in his blood. And hence, Bhima survives. He is taken to Vasuki, the lord of the nagas. And there, there is an elderly naga, who happens to be the great grandfather of Kunti. He gives him a nectar which gives Bhima the power of ten thousand elephants. Bhima comes out of the river completely refreshed and recharged, to everyone’s amazement, but to Duryodhana’s frustration. However, Duryodhana cannot openly make evil schemes, because the Pandavas are his cousins.

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