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Mahabharata: Adi Parva Part 5

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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