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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’s Lineage

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.

Arjuna’s vanavasa

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.

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