Episode # 35 – King Janame-Jaya approaches Sage Soma-Shrava for a solution to his curse!!!

In the previous episode, we had witnessed a huge turn of events for King Janame-Jaya who was performing a “Satra Yaga” in a grand manner. All the important sages and many other key people from all over the country had assembled for this grandeur event. As the “Satra Yaga” proceedings were going on as per the rules and regulations, there was a dog by name “Sarama” that came from the “Deva Lokha” and it was very interested in participating in this event. As the dog came along, people mistook it to be an ordinary one and thus, they thrashed it left, right and center! Bruised and hurt by the people, poor Sarama ran to its mother and narrated the entire accord. Hearing this from her daughter, the mother dog became furious! Her daughter has been punished very badly for no fault of hers! She hurried towards the venue where this “Satra Yaaga” was taking place and with all her fury, inflicted a curse on King Janame-Jaya that he’s going to face an unforeseen and an unexpected problem in the future, that would be extremely detrimental to him and to the kingdom as a whole. 

Notwithstanding this curse, King Janame-Jaya was shell-shocked! He did not know what to do for a moment! As time progresses, King Janame-Jaya calms himself down and decides that he should consult a “Purohita” (A well-qualified Pandit) and seek an opinion on how to tackle this issue. It is at this time, a great Sage by name Shruta-Shrava comes along. This sage had a son by name “Soma-Shrava”. This Sage Soma-Shrava was a great Maharishi, just like his father, but the only glitch here is that, he was born to a snake. King Janame-Jaya comes to know the significance of this Sage Soma-Shrava and accordingly approaches Sage Shruta-Shrava thus, “Oh great Sage! I’m entangled into a big problem at the moment. I would like to have the consultation of your son, Sage Soma-Shrava, who is a great sage. I’ve heard a lot about him. So, please can you send him to my place for a few days? I would like to learn from him as to how to tackle this catastrophic situation that I’m in!” 

As King Janame-Jaya requests thus, Sage Shruta-Shrava accepts it and agrees to send Sage Soma-Shrava to Hastinapura. However, Sage Shruta-Shrava explains to King Janame-Jaya that if his son has to come along, there is a condition – “Whatever Sage Soma-Shrava asks for, it should be given without fail. He is a “Brahmana-Rishi” and he would do everything to perfection. But if he asks for anything, if not given, it would backfire very badly on you!” King Janame-Jaya readily agreed to this condition as he too was desperate to come out of this curse. Accordingly, Sage Soma-Shrava came along with King Janame-Jaya. As they reached Hastinapura, King Janame-Jaya entrusted Sage Soma-Shrava to be taken care of by his three brothers. He instructs to his brothers thus, “Oh brothers! This is Sage Soma-Shrava! He has come here as our esteemed guest. So it is your responsibility to take care of him with the highest level of hospitality. You should provide him with whatever he asks for. You should never deny anything that he asks! I’m currently going out of town to capture another kingdom. Till I come back, you should ensure his comfort and safety.” 

Saying thus, King Janame-Jaya sets off after entrusting Sage Soma-Shrava under his three brothers. King Janame-Jaya proceeds towards the “Takshashila” kingdom. We have this “Takshashila” even today. However, the name has undergone a change and has become “Taxila”. This “Takshashila” was there even during those times of “Dvaapara Yuga”. It is to this “Takshashila” kingdom is King Janame-Jaya going with a huge army. However, by the time King Janame-Jaya came back to Hastinapura, there was a huge problem that was waiting for him back home! So for today, let us understand till this point, and let us wait for the next episode to witness what was that problem that was waiting for King Janame-Jaya! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Episode # 34 – King Janame-Jaya gets cursed by a dog from “Deva-Lokha”!!!

In the previous episode, we had witnessed the official commencement of the Mahabharata storyline, wherein King Janame-jaya is performing an enormous “Satra Yaaga”. We had in due course witnessed a brief background recollection with regards to who was King Janame-Jaya. He was none other than King Parikshit’s son, who took over the reins of the kingdom after he was killed by a serpent. King Parikshit is Arjuna’s grandson. The story starts with a note that King Janame-jaya is performing this “Satra-Yaaga”, and as part of this, many great and important sages are participating in it. Sage Vaishampayana is also part of this group and it is he who is narrating the entire “past” to King Janame-Jaya. This narration of the past is what forms the basic Mahabharata text. It is this big storyline that was documented by Sage Vyaasa, which was in turn narrated by Sage Pouranika to a group of sages seated at the Naimishaaranya Kshetra. 

I hope readers are getting the continuity here. The actual story was narrated by Sage Vaishampayana to King Janame-Jaya and subsequently, all narratives that exist are just the documentation of this important conversation. Now as we commence the Mahabharata text, let us continue witnessing the reason behind King Janame-Jaya performing the “Satra-Yaaga” and its background story. King Janame-Jaya is performing this “Satra Yaaga” along with his three brothers. As the offerings are going on in full swing, there was a dog by name “Sarama”, which was from the “Deva Lokha”. This wasn’t an ordinary dog that we find in our “Manushya Lokha”. This dog was very interested to take part in the “Satra Yaaga” and it came along into the venue. However, the people who were performing the Yaaga weren’t impressed. They started chasing Sarama and beating it left, right and center. Normally, it is a protocol that a dog shouldn’t make its way into a place wherein spiritual offerings are made. If the dog enters inside and touches the “Havirbaaga” (The materials that are to be offered to Agni Bhagawan), it is considered to be inauspicious. Thus here too, as the dog enters, the people gathered there thought that it is going to be inauspicious if it touches the “Havirbhaaga”. In fact, the dog did not touch anything there. It was quietly coming alongside and wanted to sit in one corner. However, these people were so arrogant that they beat it with sticks and chased it away. 

Crying thus, Sarama went straight to her mother. Her mother was one of the chief dogs in the “Deva Lokha”. Upon seeing her daughter crying profusely, the mother dog asked the reason for the same. Sarama replies thus, “Oh mother! Inspite of me being obedient and not disturbing the Satra Yaaga in any way, I was beaten and bruised by the people there. Isn’t it “Adharma”? Why should they hurt me if I hadn’t committed any mistake?” Understanding the gravity of the situation, the mother dog took Sarama along with her and hurried to the venue where the “Satra Yaaga” was taking place. She barges into the venue and asks King Janame-Jaya thus, “Oh King! It is under your supervision that this Yaaga is taking place, isn’t it? Even though my daughter did not commit any mistake, why was she thrashed and beaten by your people? I demand an explanation for this heinous crime against my daughter!” 

As the mother dog was demanding an answer in public thus, King Janame-Jaya was caught off guard! He had no answer to the dog’s query! It was indeed his mistake for not stopping the “Adharma” that was taking place right in front of his eyes! Seeing King Janame-Jaya answerless, the mother dog straightaway inflicted a curse on him! She said thus, “Oh King Janame-Jaya! For the “Adharma” that you had performed right in this courtroom, I’m inflicting a curse on you – You would be surrounded and trapped by an “enormous” problem that you wouldn’t even have thought of in your life till date! With that, you would face the torture that my daughter Sarama faced! If you have the guts and bravery, try and protect yourself from that “unknown” problem that you’re going to face!”

Readers should remember here that this dog isn’t an ordinary dog. It is directly from the “Deva Lokha” and is extremely powerful. However, the people who had beaten it did not know that Sarama was from the “Deva Lokha”. They mistook it for an ordinary dog and went ahead! However, this act has very badly backfired on King Janame-Jaya, which makes him shake with fear! After the “Satra Yaaga” gets over, King Janame-Jaya hurries back to his kingdom and is in deep thought about what that problem would be and how he would be able to tackle it successfully! After a lot of thought going inside, King Janame-Jaya chalks out a plan. He decides to call a well-qualified “Purohita” (Pandit) to whom he can ask for a suggestion. Perhaps, with the help of this “Purohita”, King Janame-Jaya can perform some “Good Karma”, to try and neutralize this problem that is going to be inflicted on him! King Janame-Jaya wanted to give it a try! 

So for today, let us understand up to this point, and in the next episode we shall witness who was that “Purohita” whom King Janame-Jaya called. We shall also witness whether this plan of King Janame-Jaya worked successfully or not in the next episode! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Episode # 33 – The Mahabharata begins – King Janame-Jaya performs the “SATRA-YAAGA”!!!

In the previous episode, we had given the finishing touches to the “Contents” of the Mahabharata text, wherein, we’ve seen how Yudishtra was tested even at the last moment during his “Svarga-Aarohini” (Journey towards the Svarga Lokha). Although the entire world knows how Yudishtra was the embodiment of “Dharma” himself, Yama-Dharma-Raja wanted to give his son one last test of his life. As Yudishtra passed the test successfully, Yama-Dharma-Raja appeared in front of him and he himself took Yudishtra to the “Svarga Lokha” – A place which he rightly deserved. From there, Yudishtra attained “Moksha” with the grace of Bhagawan Krishna. With this, we come to the end of the Mahabharata story, and in due course of yesterday’s episode, we had also witnessed Sage Pouranika concluding this discussion by saying that there cannot be any spiritual text in our Sanaatana Dharma literature that wouldn’t take reference to the Mahabharata text. In other words, every other text in our Sanaatana Dharma literature would talk about some instance from the Mahabharata at some point in time, and without this, no text is complete. Such is the significance of this great Mahabharata text. ]More so, Sage Pouranika explains the benefits one would get if he / she recites or reads through this Mahabharata text – Those who do so, wouldn’t need to go to the “Pushkara Theertha” or the holy River Ganga to take a holy dip. The Mahabharata text itself would give all the requisite “Punya” one would get by taking a holy bath in these places. Moreover, if a person commits a sin in the morning and if he reads any one “Adhyaaya” of the Mahabharata text in the afternoon, all his sins would be washed away immediately by the same evening itself. Similarly, if a person commits a sin at night, and if he reads any one “Adhyaaya” of the Mahabharata text the next morning, all his sins would be washed away immediately by the next afternoon itself. It is not necessary that one chants the slokas that are there in the Mahabharata text. One can read even the prose part of it and that would be more than enough. Most importantly, if one reads this “Adhyaaya” that talks about the contents of this great text (The one which we’ve been discussing for the past 3-4 episodes), he / she would ultimately be able to cross over the “Samsaara” and finally attain the highest “Moksha” with Bhagawan Krishna’s divine grace. 

Such is the importance of this particular “Adhyaaya”, and with this, we come to the end of the second “Upa-Parva” of the main “Aadhi Parva”. The first Upa-Parva” that we had seen as part of the “Aadhi Parva” was the “Anukramanika Parva”. Readers should remember this sequence very carefully here. The second one that we’ve been seeing all this while was the “Parva-Sangraha Parva”. Now we’re stepping into the third “Upa-Parva” under the main “Aadhi Parva”, which is called “Poushya Parva”. It is to be remembered that we’re still inside the “Aadhi Parva” only. Readers shouldn’t get confused between “Parvas” and “Upa-Parvas”. I’m saying this because, the “Upa-Parvas” would also end with the phrase called “Parva”, just like the main “Parvas”. Thus, now we’re into the “Aadhi Parva” and stepping into the third “Upa-Parva” called “Poushya Parva”. From now onwards, we’re going into the storyline. We’ve completed an enormous introduction to this text with the culmination of the “Parva-Sangraha Parva” and again – When we stay “storyline”, it is a huge storyline that we’re referring to! If we’re not attentive enough, our heads would start rolling here and there! 🙂 Such is the enormity of this text, as we had discussed earlier. 

Now with the beginning of the “Poushya Parva”, Sage Vyaasa explains how King Janame-Jaya had a curse. He is now going to narrate how King Janame-Jaya is going to get trapped into a huge problem because of this curse. We’re going to witness an extensive discussion in this accord. It all starts with King Janame-Jaya performing a “Satra-Yaaga”. I shall explain what is this “Satra-Yaaga” in a bit. But before that, all of us must know who this King Janame-Jaya is. As we progress further, we should conduct some “quizzes” for ourselves, to check how much we have understood. Now who is this King Janame-Jaya? He is King Parikshit’s son. Who was King Parikshit? He was Arjuna’s grandson who was saved by Bhagawan Krishna in his mother’s womb, when Ashwatthaama went on a rampage to kill the entire Paandava clan. We’ve seen all this earlier, as well as during our previous “Shrimad Bhaagawatha Puraana” project. King Parikshit was killed by Snake Dakshaka on the seventh day after he obtained a curse from Sage Shringi, who was the son of Sage Sameeka. Sage Shringi got extremely angry with King Parikshit because he thought that King Parikshit had insulted his father, Sage Sameeka. Thus, Sage Shringi curses King Parikshit that on the seventh day from that moment, King Parikshit would be bitten by a venomous snake and with that, he would breathe his last. We’ve seen all this in our “Shrimad Bhaagawatha Puraana” project. It is this King Parikshit who had a son by name Janame-Jaya. 

After the demise of King Pariksht, Janame Jaya took over the reins of the Hastinaapura Kingdom. King Janame-Jaya is now performing a “Satra-Yaaga”, and the Mahabharata storyline starts from this point. So what is going to happen in this “Satra Yaaga”? Why is it being performed? Let us wait to find out these details in the next episode! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Episode # 32 – The Mahabharata – Fulcrum of all Sanaatana Dharma literature!!!

In the previous episode, we had witnessed the contents of the Mahabharata in brief till the final Svarga-Aarohini Parva, wherein the Paandavas along with Draupati walk towards the “Svarga Lokha” from the Himalayas. By this time, the Upa-Paandavas have taken over the Hastinapura kingdom, and subsequently, King Parikshit and King Janame-Jaya take over from there on. As this happens, the Paandavas think that they should retire from their “Kshatriya” life, and eventually with Bhagawan Krishna leaving for Vaikunta, the Paandavas feel totally powerless. Thus, they decide to “walk” their way towards “Svarga Lokha”. We’ve witnessed this place called “Satopanth” near to the Bhadrinatha Kshetra amidst the Himalayas. It is this place wherein Yudishtra attained “Moksha”. We’re in the process of witnessing how he gets to this place. 

Eventually as they cross over various small places like “Bhimpur”, etc. on the way, each of the other four Paandava brothers along with Draupathi fall over from the mountain and end their lives. After a certain point, it was only Yudishtra who was walking all along till the end. There was a dog that was following him all the way. This dog was none other than Yama-Dharma-Raja himself, who is the epitome of “Dharma”. He wanted to give one final test to Yudishtra to find out his strict adherence to Dharma. There were so many flies amidst the dog’s fur and Yudishtra was given the task to decide whether to kill or not kill the flies and alleviate the dog’s pain. If Yudishtra kills the flies, it would be a sin straightaway, because nobody has the right to kill any living being without a reason. That would account to one of the greatest sins, and with this, he has to again take a re-birth to wash off this “Karma”.

At the same time, the dog is also suffering from pain, because of the constant biting of these flies. Now how does Yudishtra save the dog, as well as not kill these flies? This is the test of “Dharma” that Yudishtra had, even during his last journey! However, Yudishtra being an epitome of “Dharma” too, found out an amicable solution by transferring all the flies on to his body and alleviating the dog from the pain of bites. In that way, he made sure that the flies aren’t killed, and at the same time,  the dog is also free of pain. As Yudishtra does thus, Yama-Dharma-Raja had enough! He immediately appears in front of Yudishtra and reveals the truth that it was he who was in the form of this dog to give a test. As Yudishtra passes the test with flying colours, he now attains the “Svarga Lokha”, from where, he directly transcends to Vaikunta, amidst the divine lotus feet of Bhagawan Vishnu! 

With this, the Mahabharata story comes to an end. So till now, Sage Pouranika had explained the contents of this great text in terms of the “Parvas” and “Upa-Parvas”that are there as part of the text. Finally after telling all this, Sage Pouranika says to the Maharishis thus, “Oh great Sages! If at all there is a story that talks about Bhagawan Vishnu and His significances, it cannot be without invoking this Mahabharata text in some place or the other!” In other words, Sage Pouranika explains that there cannot be a “Vishnu story” in this world without referencing the Mahabharata text somewhere or the other. Thus, the Mahabharata text is extremely significant and bulky in this way, just like how the “Grihasta-Aashrama” is the most significant of all the four “Varnaashrama Dharmas”. We’ve seen that the Brahmacharyas cannot earn money, and they should be supported and fed by the Grihastas. Similar is the case for those who are in their “Vaanaprastha-Aashrama” and “Sanyaasa-Aashrama” too. It has been a traditional practice that Sanyaasas should only survive on the food and water that the “Grihastas” provide through donation. Thus, just like how the Grihasta-Aashrama is fundamental to the entire “Varnaashrama Dharma”, the Mahabharata is the fundamental for all our Sanaatana Dharma scriptural texts. In every text of our Sanaatana Dharma literature, there would be some aspects that would take us to this Mahabharata story at some point. 

Hence, it becomes significant for all of us too to understand in detail as to what this Mahabharata text is trying to convey. So for today, let us understand this point very clearly and let us wait till the next episode to witness further! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Episode # 31 – The Paandavas’ journey towards “Svarga Lokha” – The “Svarga-Aarohini”!!!

In the previous episode, we had witnessed the birth of an important jewel from the Mahabharata text, which is nothing but the “Shri Vishnu Sahasranama”. We’ve witnessed this as part of the brief explanation about the “Shanti Parva”, wherein Yudishtra is requesting Bhishmacharya to explain all the important aspects of “Dharma”, before he takes over the reins of the Hastinapura Kingdom from King Dhirdiraashtra. As part of this, Bhishmacharya explains all possible aspects of “Dharma” and this forms the crux of the “Shanti Parva”. As witnessed, this is one of the lengthiest “Parvas” in the entire Mahabharata text, and it is at the end of the “Shanti Parva”, both Yudishtra and Bhishmacharya realize that they had missed out on something very important. This is where Bhishmacharya realizes that he had explained the entire “Dharma” textbook, without talking about Bhagawan Krishna and His significance. Thus, the passage of discussion that talks about Bhagawan is nothing but the “Shri Vishnu Sahasranama”. 

At the end of this Vishnu Sahasranama, the lengthy “Dharma” discussion also comes to an end and with this, Bhishmacharya also attains the “Svarga Lokha”. He was waiting for the “Uttharaayana” period to commence, before he breathes his last. Subsequent to this, we move on into the fourteenth “Parva” called as “Aashwamedhika Parva”. We’ve witnessed that the war was extremely destructive on both sides. On the Paandava side, Yudishtra was extremely sad that he and his brothers have lost all their sons in the war. He wanted to see them once more alive. Thus, Yudishtra wanted to perform an “Ashvamedha Yaaga” in this regard. With the divine grace of Bhagawan Krishna and Sage Narada, he was able to achieve it. This “Aashwamedhika Parva” has three “Upa-Parvas” and 93 “Adhyaayas”. The next “Parva” is the “Ashrama-Vaasika Parva”, which is the fifteenth in the list. After around thirty years of ruling the kingdom, the Paandavas decide that they’ve had enough. They’re getting old and it is now time to hand over the reins of the kingdom to the “Upa-Paandavas” and proceed to the “Vaanaprastha Ashrama”. This “Parva” has three “Upa-Parvas” and thirty-nine “Adhyaayas”. This is again a relatively small “Parva” here, as the Paandavas are seeking retirement. 

Subsequent to this are three “Parvas” – One is the “Mousala Parva”. This talks about how Bhagawan Krishna descended back to Vaikunta. We’ve witnessed this in earlier projects of Shrimad Bhaagawatha Puraana and Shri Vishnu Puraana as well – Bhagawan Krishna’s Yaadavas go and abuse Sage Vishwamitra and because of his curse, the entire Yadava clan faced a mass destruction because of a wooden plank. All these happened and at the end of it, Bhagawan Krishna too thinks that He has had enough in this world. He had completed 120 years of His incarnation and it was time for Him to make His way back to Vaikunta. Thus, the Parva that talks about Bhagawan Krishna’s descent towards Vaikunta is called “Mousala Parva”. This “Parva” is also quite small and this has around eight “Adhyaayas”. Once Bhagawan Krishna left for Vaokunta, the Paandavas too realized that they were no more powerful in this world. All their valor, power, etc. were relevant only because of Bhagawan Krishna’s divine presence with all of them. This is where, the Paandavas think that they should also leave this world once and forever. This is discussed in detail in the seventeenth “Parva” called “Maha-Prasthaanika Parva”. Even today, there is a place called “Sathopanth” near Badrinatha Kshetra amidst the Himalayas. It is to this place that the Paandavas are planning to go to, from where they would attain “Moksha”.

As we go towards this Sathopanth, it would be a treacherous path to walk through. The first place to cross there is “Bhimpur”. It is this place wherein Draupati, Sahadeva, Nakula, etc. fell down and finished off their worldly lives. After a point, as each one of them falls down, only Yudishtra was walking along. There was nobody to accompany him. However, there was a dog that was accompanying him from behind. This dog was none other than Yama-Dharma-Raja Himself, to give Yudishtra a “final test” of his life! This is like the final examination that we take to clear off graduation! 🙂 Here, the examination is on “Dharma” – Whether Yudishtra is going to follow Dharma even during the last stage of his life! Now what is this “Dharma examination” that Yama-Dharma-Raja is going to give Yudhisthira? Let us wait till the next episode to find out! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Episode # 30 – Birth of “SHRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMA” – Bhishmacharya’s masterpiece!!!

In the previous episode, we had witnessed the second part of the Mahabharata structure, wherein we’ve witnessed the brief contents of the “Parvas” that explain the Kurukshetra war in detail. We’ve witnessed the “Bhishma Parva”, wherein Bhishmacharya was the “Senapathi” (Leader) of the Kaurava army. For the first ten days of the war, Bhishmacharya led the army from the front and all of these details are covered in this “Parva”. Subsequently as Bhishmacharya falls down, Guru Dhronacharya takes over, which is explained in the “Dhrona Parva”. Finally when Guru Dhronacharya too falls down, Karna takes over. This is described in the “Karna Parva”. Subsequently when Karna falls down, King Shalya takes over. We’ve seen a brief background of who this King Shalya is – He was the uncle of Nakula and Sahadeva, which means that he was Maadri Devi’s brother. He was the ruler of the Madra-Desha, who, instead of fighting on behalf of the Paandavas, slipped away into the Kaurava army, thanks to Duryodhana’s elaborate hospitality. 

It is thus at the end of the Shalya Parva, the Mahabharata war comes to an end. Duryodhana falls to Bheemasena in the final assault of the “Gadha-Yuddha” at the end of this Shalya Parva. At the end of the war thus, the Kauravas were totally destroyed, without anyone surviving! Subsequent to this, the next “Parva” is called “Soupthika Parva”. This “Parva” comprises of two “Upa-Parvas”, and this talks about what happened the night after Duryodhana falls on the ground dead. This is where, Ashwatthaama, who is Guru Dhronaachaarya’s son comes to the Paandava camp secretly at night and launches a brutal assault to kill all the five “Upa-Paandavas” and Drishtadyumna. It is to be remembered that it was this same Drishtadyumna who killed Guru Dhronacharya with his sword, when he had dropped down his weapons, unable to bear the false death news of his son. Thus, Ashwatthama wanted to seek revenge against Drishtradyumna and the rest of the gang, and launched an assault with his “Asthras” during the middle of the night. This assault marked the end of the “Upa-Paandavas”, who were the sons of the Paandava brothers. It is at this point, Parikshit was born, which we would be seeing in detail when the time comes. 

Next to this is the “Sthree Parva”. This is where all the women in the Hastinapura Kingdom mourned the death of their husbands in the brutal war. We’ve seen the intensity of destruction, isn’t it? Thousands and thousands of men lost their lives in the war on both sides, and the wives of all these people cried their hearts out over the loss of their beloved ones. Simultaneously, the “Jala-Tharpana” of the departed souls was also performed by their sons and daughters. In some cases, the wives did it themselves for the husbands, as they did not have children. This is a very tragic event and it is described in detail in this “Sthree Parva”. This “Sthree Parva” comprises of three “Upa-Parvas” and 27 “Adhyayas”. 

Subsequently after all these things are over, Yudishtra goes back to the battlefield where Bhishmacharya is still lying there on the arrow-bed. Readers must be knowing that when Bhishmacharya fell down during the war, he did not die unlike others. He had a boon that he could exert total control over his death. Thus, he was holding his breath amidst the pain of being on the arrow-bed to see the end result of the war. Subsequently as everything comes to an end, Yudishtra goes to Bhishmacharya and there is a long discussion about the various aspects of “Dharma” that a king should exercise towards his subjects. Bhishmacharya explains this in a great deal of detail and this is talked about in the “Shanti Parva”. This is a very big “Parva” and in fact, one of the biggest in the entire Mahabharata. This “Shanti Parva” comprises of three “Upa-Parvas”, however, these “Upa-Parvas” won’t have names ending as “Parva”. The first “Upa-Parva” under the “Shanti Parva” is termed as “Aapad-Dharmam”. Second one is named as “Raaja-Dharmam”. Third one is called “Moksha-Dharmam”. This “Parva” in total comprises of 365 “Adhyaayas”. This is why I mentioned that this is one of the longest “Parvas” in this text. 

Next to this is the “Anushaasana Parva”. Once Bhishmacharya explains the three important aspects of Dharma in detail, Yudishtra is still not satisfied. He still goes ahead and asks thus, 

“Shruthvaa dharmaa na seshena paavanaani cha sarvashaha!

Yudishtirah shaantanavam punareva abhya bhaashatha!!”

Here, Yudishtra replies to Bhishmacharya thus, “Oh Bhishmacharya! You had explained all types of “Dharma”. However, I’m not fully satisfied with your explanations. Of course, whatever you’ve said is all true and very much applicable. I have no disregard for that. However, I feel that you’ve missed something very important in this whole discussion. I feel that you’ve missed out an important aspect of “Dharma”. Please think about it and clarify!” As Yudishtra asks thus, an important aspect of the Mahabharata was born. This is nothing but the “Shri Vishnu Sahasranama”. Thus, the “Vishnu Sahasranama” is nothing but an extended conversation between Bhishmacharya and Yudishtra. Bhishmacharya now explains who Bhagawan Krishna is and how He had incarnated in this world to re-establish the “Dharma” that had faded away. In due course, Bhishmacharya declares to the world that Bhagawan Krishna is an incarnation of Bhagawan Vishnu Himself from Vaikunta, and with this, Bhishmacharya explains the thousand names of Bhagawan Vishnu, which even today we chant as “Shri Vishnu Sahasranama”. 

Thus, the important “Shri Vishnu Sahasranama” forms part of the “Shanti Parva”. We’ve witnessed that the Bhagawad Gita formed part of the “Bhishma Parva” earlier isn’t it? Thus, these two sections of the Mahabharata are like two jewels that we’ve got from this great text! So for today, let us understand up to this point, and we shall continue this discussion further in the next episode! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Episode # 29 – The Mahabharata structure – Part 2 – Sage Pouranika explains!!!

In the previous episode, we had commenced witnessing the structure of the Mahabharata text. Sage Pouranika is explaining the structure in answer to the question raised by the other sages seated around as to what are the details pertaining to each of the eighteen “Parvas” of the Mahabharata text. As mentioned before, this is again an offshoot discussion from the main section of the “Aadhi Parva” in which we are currently in. In this way, we’ve witnessed the contents that make up the “Aadhi Parva”, “Sabhaa Parva”, “Vana Parva”, “Viraata Parva” and “Udyoga Parva”. We’ve witnessed that the “Aadhi Parva” talks about the introductory affairs wherein King Janame Jaya conducts the “Sarpa Yaaga” and Sage Vaishampaayana coming into the picture. Subsequently the birth of Bhishmacharya, King Paandu, Dhirdiraashtra, etc. are discussed along with the birth of the Paandava and Kaurava brothers. Subsequently the “Sabhaa Parva” talks mainly about the gambling game and how Draupati was insulted in the public courtroom. This paves the way for the rest of the Parvas to take place. In the “Vana Parva”, the Paandava brothers are sent on an exile for twelve long years, along with one more year of “Agnyaata-Vaasa”, wherein they should live in a disguised form, not being traceable by anyone. The next “Viraata Parva” talks about how the Paandava brothers spend that one year at Viraata-Nagara and how Duryodhana claims that he had seen them a day before their thirteen-year-period ends. There is enormous confusion in this, and with this, Duryodhana’s arrogance and frustration increases further. In the “Udyoga Parva”, the war clouds start building amidst both the Kaurava and Pandava camps as messengers from either sides try to pacify and doze down the situation. In this “Parva”, Bhagawan Krishna Himself goes as the messenger on behalf of the Paandava brothers to try and convince Duryodhana. As Duryodhana insults Bhagawan Krishna in public, there seems to be nothing else that could stop either sides to go on a full-fledged war. 

Post this, we now directly go into the war that happened in Kurukshetra. Now everyone have assembled at the battlefield and for the first ten days of the war, Bhishmachaarya is the “Senapathi” (Leader) of the Kaurava army. Thus, the next “Parva” is named after him and is called “Bhishma Parva”. At the end of the tenth day, Bhishmachaarya falls down on the ground, courtesy, Arjuna’s fiery firing of arrows on him. The “Bhishma Parva” has four “Upa-Parvas”, which in turn comprise of around 122 “Adhyaayas”. Subsequently after Bhishmachaarya fall down, someone else should lead the Kaurava army, isn’t it? Now it is the turn of Guru Dhronaachaarya to take the lead, and the next “Parva” that explains this in detail is named as “Dhrona Parva”. This “Dhrona Parva” comprises of 8 “Upa-Parvas” and 202 “Adhyaayas”. At the end of the “Dhrona Parva”, Guru Dhronaachaarya falls off, thanks to Drishtadyumna’s timely intervention and Bhagawan Krishna’s “trick” with Bhimasena and Yudishtra. We might be knowing this part of the story – As Bhimasena shouts on top of his voice “Ashwatthaama hathah kunjaraha!”, Guru Dhronaachaarya only hears the first phrase of “Ashwatthaama hatah”! With this, he thinks that his son Ashwatthaama has died in the war! However, the reality is that there was an elephant by name “Ashwatthaama”. Bhimasena had killed this elephant and not Guru Dhronaachaarya’s son. Bhagawan Krishna plays this trick and with this, Guru Dhronaachaarya confirms this news with Yudishtra. As Yudishtra says “yes” for his son’s death, Guru Dhronaachaarya sits on the ground, by putting down all his weapons. It is at this time, Drishtadyumna comes in and chops off Guru Dhronaachaarya’s head, on the spot! This marks the end of Guru Dhronaachaarya and with this, the “Dhrona Parva” comes to an end. 

Next comes the “Karna Parva”, wherein Karna is made the “Senapati” for the Kaurava army. It is this “Parva” I had mentioned earlier that has only one “Upa-Parva”. However, the “Karna Parva” comprises of 96 “Adhyaayas” and at the end of it, Karna too breathes his last, courtesy, Arjuna. Nex comes “Shalya Parva”. This is a very interesting event here – Actually, Shalya was the direct uncle of Nakula and Sahadeva. Ideally speaking, Shalya should have fought on the Paandava’s side. Shalya was the king of “Madra-Desha”, and it is this place which the Paandavas chose for their “Agnyaata-Vaasa” earlier. However with the passage of time, Duryodhana understood that Shalya is extremely powerful and skillful and wanted him to come into the Kaurava fold. Thus, Duryodhana treats Shalya as an esteemed guest and gives him all whatever hospitality he wants. Impressed by this, Shalya asked Duryodhana to express a wish to him. Duryodhana saw this as a chance to express his agenda that Shalya has to come into the Kaurava fold and fight against the Paandavas. Thus, Shalya had to fight on behalf of the Kauravas, although he was directly related to the Paandava brothers. We’re going to witness this in detial later. Thus, this “Parva” wherein Shalya is leading the Kaurava army is named as “Shalya Parva”. This is a short “Parva” again, and has only three “Upa-Parvas” and 66 “Adhyaayas”. 

It is only at the end of the “Shalya Parva” the Mahabharata war comes to an end. The “Gadhaa-Yuddha” between Bhimasena and Duryodhana that forms the marquee fight, takes place in this “Parva” only. Thus, with the “Shalya Parva”, the Kurukshetra war comes to an end. So for today, let us understand up till this point. Let us wait till the next episode to continue further with this discussion! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Episode # 28 – The Mahabharata structure – Sage Pouranika explains!!!

In the previous episode, we witnessed a very important calculation behind the unit of measurement called “Akshauhini”. We would come across this many times as we enter into the main text, and hence, it was very relevant that we had this discussion during yesterday’s episode. As Sage Pouranika describes the extent of the Kurukshetra war, the sages sitting around him were eager to understand how this measurement was calculated. With this, Sage Pouranika had to go a bit off track and explain the entire story behind this measurement. Subsequently as he finished his accord on this, the sages were very quick to finish the remaining calculations and came up with a different question now. They found out that many things add up to the number “18”. We’ve seen that there were 18 “Akshauhinis” of the army. If we add the digits of the number 21,870 (2+1+8+7+0), 1,09,350, 65,610, etc. we would again arrive at the number 18. The Mahabharata war took place for 18 days. The number of “Parvas” in the Mahabharata text is 18. Similarly, the Bhagawad Gita comprises 18 Adhyaayas! So these sages were puzzled as to what is behind this number 18! Why is everything adding up to 18 and not any other number? 

As this question prompts, Sage Pouranika has to now take another deviation off the main track! Let us not go into that discussion for now. We shall take it up at a later stage when the apt context comes. However, now Sage Pouranika goes into what is the classification behind the “Parvas”, “Upa-Parvas” and “Adhyaayas”. Now let us see the structure of the Mahabharata text in detail. Readers should recollect that we started the entire discussion with this context only, and in the middle we deviated and went off into various contexts! We shall come back to those contexts again at a later time, but now let us come back to the crux of this discussion. The first “Parva” that we’re currently seeing, as we know by now is the “Aadhi Parva”. This “Aadhi Parva” describes all the events that happened as part of the introduction. It talks about the reasons why King Janame Jaya performed the “Sarpa Yaaga”, why did Sage Vaishampayana come there and what did he say, etc. This “Aadhi Parva” has eighteen “Upa-Parvas” and 233 “Adhyaayas”. 

Similarly, the next “Parva” is nothing but the “Sabhaa Parva”. This “Parva” forms the heart of the entire Mahabharata text, which narrates in detail what happened in the “Sabhaa” (Courtroom) of King Dhirdiraashtra. It talks about the gambling game that took place and how Draupati was insulted amidst the public courtroom and how King Dhirdiraashtra, Guru Dhronachaarya, Bhishmacharya kept mum on what was happening! All these are described in detail in this second “Parva”. This “Sabhaa Parva” comprises of 10 “Upa-Parvas” and 81 Adhyaayas. The third one is the “Vana Parva”. This “Parva” describes in detail as to how the Paandava brothers were exiled out of the kingdom because of their loss in the gambling game. They had to be in the forest for twelve long years and after that, they had to do the “Agnyaatha-Vaasa” for one year. This “Parva” comprises of 22 “Upa-Parvas” and 315 Adhyaayas. 

Next in the list is the “Viraata Parva”. We’ve seen that the Paandavas had to do the “Agnyaatha-Vaasa” for one year after their twelve-year exile period, isn’t it? This one year was spent at “Viraata-Nagara” which is part of the “Madra-Desha”. This “Parva” comprises of a detailed description of the “Agnyaatha-Vaasa”, and it comprises of just four “Upa-Parvas” and 72 Adhyaayas. Next comes the “Udyoga Parva”. This is where there was a confusion whether the Paandavas really completed thirteen years of exile. As per the rule, during the “Agnyaatha-Vaasa”, if any one of the Paandava brothers are seen by Duryodhana or any of the Kaurava brothers, they would have to go on another twelve years of exile and one more year of “Agnyaatha-Vaasa”. In this “Parva”, Duryodhana claims that he had seen Arjuna a day before the thirteen-year period comes to an end, which the Paandavas denied. With this, there was a huge confusion and here is where the “Messengers” take messages from either camps, to doze off the tension between them. Thus, in this “Parva”, the preparations for the Kurukshetra war commenced on both ends. This is a very important “Parva” as it lays the foundation for the war that is about to happen at “Kurukshetra” war. So this “Udyoga Parva” comprises of 10 “Upa-Parvas” and 196 “Adhyaayas”. 

So for today, let us understand the contents of the Mahabharata text upto this point. We shall witness the remaining content structure in the next episode! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Episode # 27 – Statistics behind “AKSHAUHINI” – A unit measuring the strength of an army!!!

In the previous episode, we had witnessed a short accord on the significance of Kurukshetra, where the Mahabharata war took place. It is this very place wherein “Dharma” took a re-birth after decades and centuries of being pushed towards a corner. It is this place which saw the birth of the revered Bhagawad Gita from Bhagawan Krishna Himself, which contains all aspects of “Dharma” packed into it. We’re going to witness this in a bit more detail when the time comes. However for now, as we witness the significance of Kurukshetra, we’ve seen yesterday as to how Bhagawan Parasurama had a role to play in this. It was He who ensured that this place becomes a “Punya-Kshetra” along with many others in our Bhaarata Desha. 

As we had witnessed this part of the event, we’ve also seen that these words came from Sage Pouranika, as he was addressing a group of great sages who had assembled at Naimishaaranya. The sages were requesting Sage Pouranika to explain something about this place called “Samantha-Panchakam” because, Sage Pouranika had initially mentioned to them that he had been to this place recently. In fact, this is how the entire Mahabharata text is built. One event would lead into another event. Or, there might be some context that might just find one mention in one “Parva”. Many “Parvas” later, someone would recollect this context and ask for some more details of it. Thus, it would start from where this context had found mention in some previous “Parvas” and move on from there. This is why in the “Mahabharata” text, we would find events being narrated in “bits and pieces” here and there. This is in stark contrast with the Ramayana, wherein we had one full story of Bhagawan Rama that runs entirely in a uni-directional angle right from the “Bala Kanda” till the “Yuddha Kanda”. This is why I’m repeatedly urging readers to take down notes then and there as we’re discussing things. 

Continuing thus with the description, Sage Pouranika says that it is at this time when the Dwaapara Yuga and the Kali Yuga meet, there was a huge war between two great clans! Along with the people who make up for these clans, there were eighteen “Akshauhinis” of the army that would fight each other. As Sage Pouranika was describing thus, there was an immediate question here – “What is “Akshauhini”? You had mentioned that the Kauravas had eleven “Akshauhinis” of the army and the Paandavas had seven of them. Now tell us how do we measure “Akshauhini”? What is the statistical background behind it?” As this question comes up all of a sudden, Sage Pouranika leaves the previous story in the middle, and starts answering this question. 

Sage Pouranika is now going to describe the arithmetic behind “Akshauhini”. Before we go into the details of “Akshauhini”, we should understand an important sub-unit of it, called “Patthi”. This is like having “Meter” as one bigger measurement and “Centimeter” as a smaller measurement for “Meter”. Thus, one “Patthi” comprises the following: One chariot, one elephant, five foot soldiers and three horses. Three such “Patthis” combine to form one “Sena-Mukham”. Three “Sena-Mukhams” combine to form one “Gulmam”. Three such “Gulmams” combine together to form one “Vaahini”. Three such “Vaahinis” combine to form one “Pruthana”. Three “Pruthanas” come together to form one “Aneekini”. Ten such “Aneekinis” combine together to form one “Akshauhini”. I hope readers are able to comprehend this. Like I had mentioned before, it is like having “millimeters”, “centimeters”, “meters”, “kilometers”, etc. The “Kilometer” is like the “Akshauhini”, which is the biggest unit of measurement. 

Thus from this, we can figure out how huge one “Akshauhini” army was. As Sage Pouranika explains this, he quickly calculates the final numbers within himself and explains it. He says that one “Akshauhini” of the army comprises of 21,870 chariots, 21,870 elephants, 1,09,350 foot soldiers and 65,510 horses. With this, we can calculate the number of chariots, elephants, horses and foot soldiers for 18 “Akshauhinis”. I’m not going to do it right now! It is for readers to calculate. If we start calculations here, I would be ending up in taking a class on statistics! 🙂 But the point here is that, it is for all of us to see the enormity of the war that took place at Kurukshetra, and the enormity of the destruction that also came along with it. We’ve to remember one thing here – Out of so many people, elephants, etc. Only 10-12 of them survived at the end. We can see here that the entire army of crores of people were completely destroyed in just 18 days! 

As Sage Pouranika explains thus, the sages started doing the calculations. Everything turned out to revolve around this number called “eighteen”. In other words, there were 18 “Akshauhinis” of the army. The war took place for 18 days. The number of “Parvas” in the Mahabharata text is 18. Similarly, the Bhagawad Gita comprises 18 Adhyaayas! So these sages were puzzled as to what is behind this number 18! Why is everything adding up to 18 and not any other number? This is an interesting observation, isn’t it? Again, Sage Pouranika has to deviate from the main narrative to answer this question! We shall wait till the next episode to find out Sage Pouranika’s answer on this! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Episode # 26 – Significance of “KURUKSHETRA” – Sage Pouranika explains!!!

In the previous episode, we had witnessed the concluding remarks that Sage Vyaasa is giving, with regards to the “Preface” section of the huge Mahabharata text. All of this comes as part of the “Aadhi Parva” and under the first “Upa-Parva” called “Anukramanika Parva”. Sage Vyaasa clearly explained in brief, how King Dhirdiraashtra fell down because of his “Putra-Vatsalya” towards his son, Duryodhana and how King Dhirdiraashtra lamented that even though he knew that Duryodhana was adamant and arrogant, he was still unable to have any sort of control over him. This ultimately led to not only his downfall, but the end result was the mass destruction of the entire “Kaurava” clan, without even a single person remaining. This is a great lesson for all of us too – If we have excessive attachment towards anybody or anything, this would precisely be the same result that we might encounter too, sooner or later. Of course, this is not to scare anyone of us, but there are certain harsh realities of life in this world, which are tough and bitter pills to chew. However, we do not have an option but to. This is why at the end of the “Preface”, Sage Vyaasa himself explains why he had composed the “Ithihasa” text called “Mahabharata”. This is just a summary and a sort-of “commentary” for the Vedas. This is done, keeping in mind people like us, who cannot chew the “bitter pills” that the Vedas and Upanishads give us in terms of various aspects of “Dharma”. 

Thus with this, Sage Vyaasa concludes the “Preface” section and from now onwards, we shall enter into the main text. I shall try and describe whatever best I can, and we shall primarily focus on the important messages and the aspects of “Dharma” that are behind each instance in the Mahabharata text. Of course, just like in the Ramayana project, many of us might be knowing the outline story here too, but what is more important is the “Dharma” and the important life and management principles behind each section of the story. Moreover, unlike the Ramayana text, the storyline of the Mahabharata text is itself quite complex. Hence, for easy understanding and continuity, I request readers to take down notes periodically and store it. It would be very useful at critical times during this project itself, because at this instance, we might not find the continuity, but after several episodes, we might have to go back to what we’re discussing today. At that point, we might tend to forget things, and it is for this purpose, I urge all our readers to take down notes as we read through. 

Having said thus, we now make a move into the next “Upa-Parva”. Readers should recollect that we’re still inside the main “Aadhi Parva” only. The first “Upa-Parva” that we had witnessed till now was the “Anukramanika Parva”. This is where the entire “Preface” for the text lies. Now we’re moving into the next “Upa-Parva” which is called “Parva-Sangraha Parva”. Here, Sage Vyaasa is going to give the “Contents” for the entire text. In other words, Sage Vyaasa is going to explain the details of what would be the key contents that would be talked about in detail in each of the main “Parvas” and the corresponding “Upa-Parvas”. For this, we shall now go back to the conversation between Sage Pouranika and the various Sages who had assembled at Naimishaaranya. There is an important question that these sages are asking Sage Pouranika here. Initially, we had witnessed that Sage Pouranika had gone to a place called “Samantha-Panchakam”. The sages who had gathered there are very eager to understand the significance of this “Samantha-Panchakam”. As the sages ask thus, Sage Pouranika is starting to describe the significance of this place, and with this, he’s going to kick-start the entire story. Let us see how the narration goes by.

Thus, Sage Pouranika starts with the interesting description of this place. The word “Samantham” means a place wherein a huge population of people gathered and finally all of them were killed there itself. This is the very place wherein around twenty-one generations of people were killed within just 18 days of war. This very place that we’re talking about here and which Sage Pouranika is also intending to describe about here is none other than “Kurukshetra”. It is this place where the Mahabharata war happened, and at the end of the war, only huge puddles of blood and flesh remained! Upon seeing this from the “Aakaasha” (Sky), Bhagawan Parasurama was satisfied! We’ve witnessed who Bhagawan Parasurama was, in our earlier projects too. He is the one who killed twenty-one generations of “Kshatriya” kings and princes and drank the blood of all of them! Such was the greatness of Bhagawan Parasurama, who was an epitome of anger. Upon seeing this Kurukshetra battlefield full of blood everywhere, Sage Parasurama was extremely satisfied and prays to all those who had died here, that with this, all the “Adharma” in this world should be washed away completely, leaving no scars behind. From that point onwards, whatever happens should only be “Dharma”. 

Impressed with BhagawanParasurama’s prayers, the “Pithrus” (Ancestors who had died in this war) request him to ask for a boon. Upon this, Bhagawan Parasurama asks thus, “Oh Pithrus! Here you see five huge puddles of blood that are stagnant on the ground! Let these five big puddles get converted into five “Punya-Theerthas”! Let the entire world benefit from this “Punya-Kshetra” called “Kurukshetra”!” As Bhagawan Parasurama prays thus, the “Pithrus” grant the boon and till today, we worship this place called Kurukshetra with great reverence and respect. Such is the importance of this very place where the entire Mahabharata war took place. 

We might wonder here as to what is the connection with this story to the main Mahabharata text, isn’t it? We might be asking within ourselves thus, “Oh! Suddenly from where did Sage Pouranika come from? Where did Bhagawan Parasurama come from, without any context? Till now, we’ve been witnessing how Sage Vyaasa composed this text and its allied details as part of the “Preface”, isn’t it? Then how come we get into a story that is entirely different from what we’re discussing currently?” This is how the Mahabharata text gets built up. This is the reason why I insist that readers should take down notes. We would get this connection after several hundreds of episodes, and by the time we go into it, we might have well forgotten what we discussed today! So for today, let us keep guessing the connection between the contexts! We shall add more to this confusion in the next episode as well! 🙂 Stay tuned! 🙂