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Gautami’s Child: Mahabharat Katha

The Mahab­hara­ta is replete with insight­ful con­ver­sa­tions. Here is one such con­ver­sa­tion that appears in the Anusasana Par­va, between Gau­ta­mi and Arju­na­ka the hunter. The con­ver­sa­tion was nar­rat­ed to Yud­hishthi­ra by Bhish­ma when the for­mer was repent­ing that he had been the cause for the death of a large num­ber of peo­ple in the war.

Gau­ta­mi was a calm and intel­li­gent woman. Her child was bit­ten and killed by a ser­pent. Angry with this act of the ser­pent, Arju­na­ka the hunter vowed to kill the ser­pent. Gau­ta­mi, with immense tran­quil­i­ty, told the hunter that her son would not come back if he killed the ser­pent. In fact, the hunter would be com­mit­ting a great sin by killing anoth­er being. The hunter, uncon­vinced with Gau­tami’s response, was deter­mined to kill the ser­pent. Real­is­ing the dan­ger it was in, the ser­pent plead­ed that it was mere­ly car­ry­ing out the instruc­tions of Mri­tyu and it was not the cause of the death. Mri­tyu appeared before them and clar­i­fied that he had sent the ser­pent under the direc­tion of Kala. Mri­tyu elab­o­rat­ed that all beings, ani­mate and inan­i­mate, worked under the influ­ence of Kala and he was mere­ly an instru­ment in the hands of Kala. At that very moment, Kala appeared in the scene of dis­pute and said that what­ev­er hap­pens to a per­son is because of his / her own Kar­ma. Just as man makes any­thing he wish­es from a lump of clay, so does he mould his own life. The child died because of its kar­ma and Mri­tyu and the ser­pent were the means of car­ry­ing out the task. Hence no one is to be blamed. Gau­ta­mi accept­ed this with seren­i­ty.

Bhish­ma paci­fied Yud­hishthi­ra by say­ing that the Kau­rava’s death was their own mak­ing and Yud­hishthi­ra was mere­ly an instru­ment in mak­ing this hap­pen and estab­lish­ing dhar­ma.

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