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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Kunti, Krishna, Bhishma and Karna - Maha Bharatha Series 33

In Book 5, Section 132 Kunti is talking with Krishna after he reports that Duryodhana has rejected the peace offer and asks her for message to carry to her sons. In reply Kunti sends this message to Yudhishtra: “You are looking at virtues in isolation without paying attention to your duties as a kshatriya and as a king. I do not act want you to act in anger and in vanity, but be valorous. Only a king can create history. You cannot take care of your subjects if you are unsteady with too much compassion. As a kshatriya you need to live by the might of your arms. Go and get the kingdom which you lost”. In essence, Kunti wants Yudhishtra to fight.

In a sub-story called Jaya, Kunti even teases him (in Book 5, Sec 133) with statements such as “It is better to die pulling the fangs of a snake than live miserable like a dog” and “It is better to burn fiercely for a few moments than smoke for ever and ever”. After all those sharp remarks she says: “I said all this to test your understanding and manliness and to encourage you, and not to hurt you”.  The son in that story says: “Thanks mother, when you were talking I did not talk much only so I can hear all your sweet words”. She obviously thinks that her son is too patient and passive and wants him to get angry and show some emotion! It is just beautiful to read these passages.

Names of various forms of battle-field formations and names of units and the numbers of infantry, cavalry, elephants and chariots for each unit are mentioned in Section 156. There is a comment that there can be only ONE commander in the field. It says that one cannot win a battle if there is more than one general since there will be conflicting plans and jealousy.

 In secion 160, Dhrithrashtra laments about his inability to control his son, his weakness for his son and says that destiny has determined that there should be war. Sanjaya comes on strong and says: “Do not just blame Duryodhana. When someone gets into trouble due to his misconduct, he cannot blame the gods or time. We all reap the consequences of our actions. When Yudhishtra lost the game of dice, he bore the consequences without complaining. Now, we have to face the consequences of our actions. Is man the agents of his actions? There are three opinions: some say that everything is ordained by God; some say that our acts are the result of free-will; and others say that our acts are the result of those of our past lives (Karma)”.

During the descriptions of the arrangements of the 11 units (Akshauni) of the Kauravas and 7 units of Pandavas, Bhishma is describing the arrangements of Kaurava forces with leaders of each of the units. It is clear that Bhishma did not have good opinion of Karna. He says that Karna seems to boast too much and also too kind hearted.  Bhishma has doubts about Aswattaman also because he “loves life too much”. Bhishma also says that he will put all his efforts as the Commander-in-Chief of the Kauravas, except he will not do two things: he will not engage the five Pandava brothers in personal battle and he will not fight Shikandin who was born as a female and then became male.

Karna also shows that he does not care for Bhishma and says: “he is getting too old and when people get too old they become like children. And, I will not fight as long as Bhishma is in the command”!

Later comes the story of Shikandin. The story-telling style of Vyasa is again at its best when Bhishma himself tells the events leading up to Shikandin making a vow to kill Bhishma. Indeed, that is what happens during the war. Bhishma refuses to engage in battle with a “woman” and therefore becomes the target. 

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