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Mythology Revisited

September 17, 2010

From the moment i was born i was surrounded by stories of Ram and the Pandavas. I still remember watching B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharata on TV every sunday while mom would be oiling my hair. I got to hear great praises about them for they were the Ideal Men – strong, brave, kind and adhering to Dharma. Rarely did i ever get to hear any criticism about them, except from my nani who questioned . She would constantly say that it’s all about running away with one, molesting another one or plotting against others. (Well basically Mahabharata not Ramayana)

Growing up (as in around class 11 onwards) i started to hate both Mahabharata and Ramayana. For me they were nothing but a social construct. Something that portrayed a good man to be more like an obedient dog. And women to be nothing but a piece of meat or slave.

A few months ago had anyone quoted from these two books or even mentioned them, i surely would have barfed. But all this changed from the moment i read The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee (must must read). The moment i started reading the book i just fell in love.

The book was all about perspectives. The book is written entirely from Panchaali’s (aka Draupadi, but i prefer Panchaali) perspective. The moment i finished it i was thirsty for more and more Mahabharata. The moment you read the book you feel like socking your class 7 hindi teachers for misguiding by teaching you that trashy version of mahabharata.

Soon i was addicted to this wonderful epic (still am, and V is surely sick of my obsession) and read 3 versions of it. And it was then that it dawned on me that Mahabharata wasn’t about right or wrong.

It teaches us to be careful for every action has a butterfly effect! That is exactly how the war was caused. NO single person was the cause, instead everyone from Kunti to Karna, Duryodhan to Drona, from Yudhistra to the insect that bit Karna!!

Moreover it teaches us that there is no man completely right nor wrong. For eg. Bhisma a great man failed to save Draupadi on that sad day. Duryodhan on the other hand was mean to his cousins but was a good king and warrior. Similarly, Yudishtra who walked the path of dharma decided that it was more important to remain incognito than save his wife’s reputation (again).

Moreover unlike popular belief i don’t think that one can easily decide that the Pandavas were right and the Kauravas wrong.

Who should be king? Kauravas or Pandavas? The sons of a blind elder brother, or the sons of an impotent younger brother? Men who go back on their word, or men who gamble away their kingdom? Men for whom kingship is about inheritance, or men for whom kingship is about order

-‘The Pregnant King’ by Devdutt Pattanaik

It is a wonderful question in itself. Who truly deserved the kingdom? Think about it. A blind man or a man who couldn’t produce a natural heir. Remember the British were able to annex numerous kingdoms under the Doctrine of Lapse, thus where property is concerned a natural heir is of great importance.

What is more interesting is that this poem isn’t only about the fight over a kingdom. It talks about man. It wonderfully describes each character making it clear that no one is perfect. Sadly we overlook this basic fact and end up only criticizing people around us. For eg. if Karna was a wonderful warrior, a kind and a benevolent king then he also had a dark side. For he supported Duryodhan’s every evil scheme & decided to cheer on when Draupadi was being disrobed.                                                                                                                         Same stands for each and every other character too. May it be Kunti, the Pandavas, Draupad, Kauravas or even the Gods!! (for they were too would conspire against each other etc.)

There is a lot to learn from this great epic. Though we might not be living in an age of kingdoms and sages, a hundred and one children or Gods visiting earth etc. yet numerous parallels can be drawn between the lives of the characters and our lives. One just has to rise above the fixed belief of he was right and he was wrong. Open your mind and perils of wisdom will come flooding in.

But what is important while reading this epic is that one shouldn’t judge any character or action in vacuum. One has to remember and understand all the actions that lead to a certain circumstance and only then will we be able to enjoy the action packed Mahabharata!

11 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2010 5:00 PM

    liking it a lot.

    • September 19, 2010 1:06 PM

      you could click on the like button u lazy bum 😉

  2. September 18, 2010 2:21 PM

    very very well written.. Just love it..
    your obsession is working in your favour! 😉

    • September 19, 2010 1:06 PM

      thanks AK and yes the obsession !!!

  3. September 20, 2010 2:11 PM

    where IS the godforsaken Like button!!!!

    • Akanksha N. permalink*
      September 21, 2010 8:58 AM

      don’t tell me you still can’t find the freaking like button V

      • October 12, 2010 5:02 PM

        that button is only for bloggers! 😛

  4. September 30, 2010 8:45 PM

    A wonderful read, and you make me to pick up the epic yet again. It seems to teach new things each time one goes through it. You may also like shashi tharoor’s book “the great indian novel”. He has amalgamated Mahabharata with Indian history. A good read

    • October 1, 2010 3:32 AM

      Wow i’m glad that my post could inspire you to pick up mahabharata again. I think everytime we read a book, free from previous perceptions, we learn a lot. Same was the case with me when i read Little Women again and again after many years.

  5. Sumegha permalink
    October 1, 2010 7:28 PM

    feel like socking your class 7 hindi teachers for misguiding – Dutt? LOL. 😀

    but…beautifully written. i’mma read this book. 🙂

    • October 19, 2010 6:48 AM

      Not Dutt but Sikka, remember?
      Well by socking I don’t literally mean socking but just pissed off at the fact that our teachers and CBSE and NCERT decide to hide so much from us and twist every fact. Why do they think that children cannot understand things and decide for themselves what is wrong and what is right.

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