Mahabharata: Adi Parva 8
Kurukshetra, Vishwamitra and Vashishtha
Kurukshetra was so named because that kshetra-that field, was actually Kuru’s place of penance, and hence, a very powerful field. He also explains the story of Vasishta and Vishwamitra. Vishwamitra was actually in the line of Kushikas, and hence he was called Kaushika. He was a powerful king, and the son of Gadhi. Once, he happens to encounter Vasishta in his hermitage. Kaushika has a huge army. Vasishta invites him and offers them food. Kaushika refuses. He says “How can you, a brahmana, offer food to such a large army?”. Vasishta just points to Nandini. He asks Nandini to offer them food. Lo and behold! Food comes out! Nandini is the divine cow – the daughter of Surabhi. The entire army is fed a sumptuous meal. Now, Kaushika is a king ,a kshatriya who has a job to protect while Vasishta happens to have his hermitage within his kingdom. Kaushika gets the thought “I need this cow Nandini. Why does a brahmana need Nandini?”. He starts taking her away, without Vasishta’s permission. Nandini cries. Vasishta tells her “Nandini, you take care of them.” From Nandini’s udder comes a huge army – a diverse army that defeats Kaushika’s army. Now, Kaushika cannot take this. He thinks “Being a king, I thought I was the most powerful, but being a kshatriya is of no use. Brahmana shakthi is much more powerful.” So he does immense tapasya, procures celestial weapons and again attacks Vasishta. Vasishta simply ignores him. Just with his danda-his stick-he takes care of Kaushika! Later, he does immense tapas, and finally he is acknowledged as a brahmana rishi. That’s how the story goes. Then, he is called Vishwamitra, because he is found to be a mitra -a friend- of the entire world. Even after this the enmity of Vishwamitra towards Vasishta does not end.
Vasishta has many children. Shaktri is the first. Parashara is Shaktri’s son. Vyasa is Parashara’s son. They come in Vasishta’s lineage. So Shaktri, once on a time, encounters King Kalmashapada – a kshatriya. They both have to cross a certain path. It is narrow and both of them cannot cross it together. One has to step aside. Kalmashapada says “You are a brahmana. Step aside”. Shaktri is a powerful rishi. He does not budge. Then, Kalmashapada does something that should not be done. He uses his whip and lashes at Shaktri. Vishwamitra observes this. Shaktri curses Kalmashapada “Since you have behaved as a raskhasa and not as a kshatriya, you be a rakshasa-a human-eating rakshasa.” It is a powerful curse. Vishwamitra seizes this opportunity. He asks the rakshasa Kinkara, who is motivated by Shaktri’s curse, to enter into Kalmashapada’s body. From then on, for 12 years, Kalmashapada runs around as a human-eating rakshasa.
Kalmashapada, once on a time, eats Shaktri. Vishwamitra goads him to do away with all of Vasishta’s sons. So Kalmashapada, the kshatriya turned rakshasa, eats up all of Vasishta’s sons. Vasishta is such a great being that he does not curse Vishwamitra. With a single flick of his hand, he can erase the entire Kushika race of which Vishwamitra is the foremost. But he does not do that. He suffers it. He, in fact, tries to kill himself. But, as fate would have it, Shaktri’s wife, Adhrishyanti, follows him and says “I am pregnant with Shaktri’s son”. And hence Vasishta gives up the effort of killing himself. He does not want to take revenge. He actually wishes to eliminate himself because he thinks “What is this worth? Is human life worth it? I’ve lost all my sons.” But now, there is hope, because there is the grandson. Shaktri’s son Parashara is born and Vasishta lives for Parashara. Then Kalmashapada is also freed from the curse by Vasishta and he becomes a Raja again. That’s how the story proceeds.
The return of the Pandavas and establishment of Indraprastha
So Dhaumya becomes the Guru of the Pandavas, and the Pandavas, along with Dhaumya proceed towards the swayamvara. And the Panchapandavas marry Draupadi together, as we have seen. The marriage happens and it is wonderful. News reaches Hastinapura to Dhritharashtra -”Your son has won the hand of Draupadi. ” Now Dhritharashtra is very happy. He asks the messenger “Duryodhana won Draupadi?” The messenger replies “No, Arjuna has won her. ” Arjuna is also his son, technically. He is the Pandavas’ periyappa (Periyppa is Tamil for ‘Paternal uncle’ – who is considered equal to one’s own father in the Indian tradition). Dhritharashtra feigns happiness, but in his heart of hearts he thinks “Oh no! So the Pandavas are alive!” But then, he decides that it is time for Vidura to go there and invite the Panchapandavas, along with Kunti and Draupadi, back to Hastinapura, because all said and done, political science-strategy is important for a Raja. Dhritharashtra recognizes this. He clearly sees that the entire kingdom remembers that they were the ones who eliminated the Pandavas. Now, showing affection to the Pandavas would be the best strategic move that can win the hearts of people again. Dhritharashtra, gives half his land-Khandavaprastha to Yudhishthira. Khandavaprastha, given by Dhritharashtra in all his ‘large-heartedness’, is actually a useless piece of land. Dhritharashtra says to Yudhsihthira “Let there be peace between you and Duryodhana. You rule from Khandavaprastha. ” With Bhagavan Krishna’s help, Khandavaprastha is transformed into a beautiful kingdom. He asks Vishwakarman, the architect of the devas, to create a beautiful palace. So Khandavaprastha is now transformed to Indraprastha. It is called Indraprastha after Indra. Vishwakarman is employed by Indra, and so it is because of Indra’s grace, that there is the palace and the kingdom. Many people, many brahmanas follow Yudhishthira, because he is their king. And everybody sees through Duryodhana. Later, Duryodhana realizes this and he takes care. He adopts a strategy to win over everybody.
Narada Muni and the story of Sunda and Upasunda
So now, everybody is settled in Indraprastha and Narada Muni appears there to bless them. He says “Now you have a common wife, but you need to be very careful about it. Until now, the five of you have been together, but because of a single lady, there can be a lot of problems-like the story of Sunda and Upasunda”. Sunda and Upasunda are the sons of Nikhumba – a great asura. They, after immense tapasya, get a boon from Brahma himself. They ask Brahmaji “We should be immortal. ”Brahmaji says “No, that is not possible. Even I have to give up this body. I cannot grant you immortality. ”So they ask “We should be killed only at each other’s hands”. And it is granted. They are so close that it just cannot be done.
Sunda and Upasunda are a torture to everybody. They kill rishis. They kill kshatriyas. They wreak havoc and nobody can stop them, because they have this boon from Brahma himself. When a person has a boon from someone like Brahmaji, others cannot make that statement false and hence, others are bound by that statement. For example, if the CEO of a company says something, others are bound by that statement. They cannot make that statement false. That is not right. If it is done, they would be out of the job.
Sunda and Upasunda are a big menace. So, in order to put an end to their tyranny, Brahmaji asks Twastri to create Tilotama. She is so bewitchingly beautiful, that the devas and everybody else is clear “Yes, this is the end of those two asuras. ” When Tilotama appears in front of Sunda and Upasunda, one brother immediately says “She will be my wife and your sister-in-law. ”The other brother says “She is MY wife and YOUR sister-in-law. ” They get into a fight and beat each other to death! So Narada explains this and says “It is very important for you to not get carried away by your affection for a common wife. The five of you should always be together. ”Hence, there is an agreement reached among the brothers along with Narada’s permission, that there would be a period of time when Draupadi spends time exclusively with one husband. During that period, no other husband can enter their apartments. If he does so, he has to go on a vanavasa for 12 years. This is agreed upon.
Once, what happens is, Draupadi is with Yudhishthira, and Arjuna-because an errand for a brahmana has to be done- has to use his bow and arrows, which are inside Yudhishthira’ apartments. So he has to enter. Arjuna believes that his Kshatriya Dharma of protecting is more important than the agreement. He enters the apartment. He does what the brahmana asked of him, and later presents himself before Yudhishthira, asks for his pardon, and says “Now, I am going on a vanavasa for twelve years. “Yudhishthira feels very bad. He says “No problem, it is alright. ” But Arjuna says “No, a rule is a rule. Let me go. ”So, he goes on a vanavasa. It is a very interesting time. Arjuna gains tremendously in wisdom and strength in many respects.