Of all characters of Mahabharat, Draupadi’s character is probably the most complex and interesting, barring the Shri Krishna’s character. If I dare say, one can paint her as a positive character or a negative one, if one wants to. One can find enough of both, positive and negative indicators about her personality, such is her character.
She is said to be the prime reason for war of Mahabharat, by referring Duryodhana as a blind’s son. If possible, people will also attribute her beauty as a bad thing. What is important here to understand that Draupadi was not influencing Dhritrashtra or Duryodhana to become greedy and thus not allowing pandavas to have what was rightfully theirs, which is the main reason behind Mahabharat war in my opinion. Also, how one can explain the numerous wrongdoings, which duryodhana has inflicted on pandavas with the sole purpose of acquiring a kingdom, which was not theirs. Duryodhana has gone to the extent of killing pandavas, but strangely, somehow people choose to blame Draupadi and ignore these factors. Certainly, these things cannot be attributed to Draupadi and citing only one incident as the reason for Mahabharat war is probably going a bit too far.
On the other hand, lets examine the circumstances which Draupadi faced, and try to gauge reactions to these events. For example, how would a lady feel if she has to become a wife of five persons simultaneously, or how one would feel if someone is used as a material object and was lost to Duryodhana by her own husband, Yudhishthira. Being a queen, she was subjected to ultimate dishonour by Dushashana, that too before all the great people who were present there, like Bhishma, Drona, Vidura etc.
Draupadi vowed to not to tie her hair until they are dipped in Dushashana’s blood. I consider this fair, as she was subjected to lot more wrongdoings, and the pain of humiliation is much more to handle than anything else. And above all, I would have agreed this as a wrongful thing, if Dushashana would have been a nice human being, which I think is far fetched thing. Duryodhana even went further to suggest her as a fallen lady because she was a wife of five persons. What we forget that she was just obeying the wishes of her mother in law, Kunti. But history is full of such incidences, where a person is treated wrongfully even the person has acted fairly. Draupadi’s is one of these.
We find many examples highlighting teacher and pupil’s relationship or depicting the devotion of the disciple towards its teacher. Ekalavya, Karna, Ram, Krishna all great gods of Indian mythology were great pupils as well. One such disciple is Aruni.
Aruni was in gurukul – The teacher’s abode
Aruni was a disciple of the ancient sage Dhoumya. In olden days a student had to stay with the teacher and help in the teacher’s daily chores in order to attain the knowledge he sought.
It was winter. Aruni was carrying the firewood he had collected for the sage’s household. As he was passing by the field, which belonged to the sage, he noticed a breach in the embankment that was holding water in his teacher’s field. He realized that the water would drain away and the field’s crops would die with no water.
Aruni decides to tend to the field
He was in a dilemma If he stops to build the embankment, there will be a delay as there is no firewood at the teacher’s place to keep it warm. He thought its better to rush to the hermitage with the firewood and then come back to take care of the breach.
Meanwhile the sage and his disciples had assembled for the day’s lesson. Aruni was missing.
Soon Aruni rushed in, dropped the firewood in the courtyard, and informed the teacher about the breach of the embankment. Then he quickly rushed out.
His teacher Dhoumya felt proud of his disciple, “It is hard to get such a responsible pupil.”
Aruni ran all the way back to the troubled spot and tried to stop the leakage of water by putting some logs and mud. However, this did not stop the leak. The heavy pressure of water washed away the dam Aruni made. He felt helpless. It seemed impossible for him to stop the leakage without help. He thought for a while and then made a plan.
When it turned dark, the teacher became worried. He called his disciples and set out looking for Aruni. As he called out for Aruni, he heard a faint voice, “Here I am!”
Aruni was found freezing
The teacher and his disciples rushed to the spot and saw Aruni lying on the breach, trying to cover the gap. The disciples quickly pulled Aruni out from the freezing water. He was repeatedly muttering, “The water is flowing out, the crops will die.”
“Don’t worry Aruni! We will take care of the breach,” said the disciples.
“Never mind my son! You are more precious than the crop,” said the teacher.
Aruni was covered in a blanket and brought home. Sage Dhoumya himself tended to Aruni. The sage then blessed his disciple with pride, “You shall, forever, be renowned for your unmatched devotion and obedience to your guru.
Thus Aruni presented a notable example of his devotion towards his teacher. This indian story is taken from Mahabharat, a Hindu mythology epic.
Seven people apart from five Pandavs survived the Mahabharat war (Kurukshetra). These are Krishna, Kripacharya, Yuyutsu, Kritivarma, Vrishakethu, Satyaki, and Ashwatthama.Ashwatthama , the son of Drona, guru of Pandavas and Kauravas was the great warrior who also commanded the Kauravas army post Drona demise. He is supposed to not die and this was not as a result of any boon, but rather surprisingly, result of a curse, which was given to him by Sri Krishna, because of his misdeeds during the last days of Mahabharat war. After Drona was killed by Pandavas because of a half-lie, spoken by Yudhisthir, who was the eldest of the Pandavas, Ashwatthama, vowed to kill all Pandavas.
One night he saw an owl attacking crows, and in the morning, the situation was reversed, when crows attacked the owl. Inspired by this incident, he attacked the Pandavas during night and beheaded all Pandavas, but they were Upapandavas, or five sons of Draupadi.
Ashwatthama also used Brahmastra to destroy all pandavas and Arjuna and Krishna intervened. He did not know how to retrieve this, directed this towards the womb of Uttara (wife of Abhimanyu) who was carrying Abhimanyu’s son (Parikshit). This was an attempt to end the lineage of the Pandavas. Krishna used his sudarshan chakra to stop the Brahmastra and save Uttara’s unborn child who later was known as Pariskshit.
Due to above misdeeds, Krishna cursed him to suffer and carry the burden of all people’s sins on his shoulders and will roam alone like a ghost without getting any love and courtesy till the end of Kaliyuga. A gem or mani which was on his forehead was also taken from him. This is believed that Ashwatthama will be freed by Kalki-Avatar, the tenth incarnation of Sri Krishna.
In Hindu mythology or Indian mythology and especially in the epic Mahabharat, we can find many instances of misdeeds, and also see that the power is bestowed to the people who can misuse it. For example, the Brahmastra was in wrong hands. How relevant this is today as we see that nuclear weapons do not necessarily kept by good people only. Similarly we find similar instances in World mythology as well.
Only history will tell who is wrong and who is right as in the case of Ashwatthama, who thought he was avenging the wrong doing of Pandavas, but if we look at the bigger picture, we find that this is not the case. But Lord Krishna knew this, didn’t he?
Indian mythology and Greek mythology – Similarities between gods and characters
The achilles heel is a phrase borrowed from greek mythology which denotes an area of weakness. Achilles was a great fighter who was washed with water of river styx to become invincible. His mother, Thetis held him by his heel and dipped him into the river. His heel was not washed by the water of magical river and that area remained vulnerable and ultimately was cause of his death when a poisonous arrow lodged in his heel.
In indian mythology, the great epic mahabharat has a similar story. Duryodhana, the elder son of kauravas, was summoned by his mother Gandhari as she wanted him to become invincible. He was supposed to appear naked before his mother, so that wherever Gandhari gaze fell, his body became invincible. But Shri Krishna has different plans, and he convinced Durodhana to wear a loin cloth as it would not look good for a son to appear naked in front of his mother. Later in Mahabharat war, this weakness around his thighs enabled Bheem/Bhima to kill Duryodhana.
We see that in Mahabharata, that many great warriors have weaknesses exploited which led to their downfall. Drona’s weakness for his son Ashwaththama, Karna weakness from his teacher Parshuram to forget his skills when he needed them most. But in Duryodhana’s case, it was Shri Krishna’s masterstroke which made Duryodhana vulnerable.
We see that how fascinating and similar above stories are, and to take it further, Shri Krishna tenure at earth ended in the same way achilles died, by a poisonous arrow in lodged in his heel, this was due to a curse by Gandhari. Gandhari cursed him after the war of mahabharat that after thirty six years of the war he and his clan will be finished.
Are we seeing copy here, but the bigger question is, who copied whom?
The story of Ganga coming to earth is long but interesting, I will try to keep this as short as possible without losing the plot.
In World mythology, there are many stories related to rivers, but the story around Ganga or The Ganges is very fascinating.
As per the Indian mythology, the person who is accredited for taking Ganga to earth from heaven is Bhagirath and Ganga is also known as Bhagirathi. Bhagirath wanted Ganga to come to earth to liberate his ancestors and he appeased Lord Brahma through severe penance. He was warned that Ganga flows with tremendous force and power and he will have to think of a way to avoid the impact on earth when she comes down to earth.
Bhagirath then began another severe penance, this time directed towards Lord Shiva, who appeared soon before him and agreed to soften Ganga’s fall in his matted hair locks. Having tied up all loose ends, and acquiring the grace of both Brahma and Shiva, Bhagiratha now felt secure about accomplishing his objective.
But there were still hiccups on his path, before all issues could be successfully resolved.
Ganga is visualized in Indian thought as a virtuous, but mischievous and restless maiden, just as many young lasses are. She followed Brahma’s diktat to descend to earth, but couldn’t playfully resist the unwarranted and undeserved feeling that she could sweep away even the mighty Shiva in her forceful current. Shiva, gauging her thoughts, decided to teach her a lesson. Spreading open his serpentine coils of hair, he covered the entire sky, and collected all the waves of Ganga in his outspread locks.
Then with a mighty swoop, he collected his hair, tied into a neat and tight bun, and captured Ganga in the infinite swirls and whirls of his hair. Ganga still flowed with tremendous force, but could not escape, and remained imprisoned and confined inside Shiva’s hair.
Bhagirath, perplexed at the happenings, appealed to Shiva to release Ganga, so that she could wash away the sins of his ancestors, symbolized in their mortal remains. Shiva relented, and in any case Ganga had learnt her lesson. Thus Ganga again followed Bhagirath, who showed her the way. But there were still more adventures to come.
Just near their ultimate destination lay the hermitage of another accomplished sage, known as Jahnu. Ganga, ever the playful maiden, hurried over to what she perceived was a new and curious place. And lo, barely had she entered upon the precincts of the ashram (hermitage), that it became flooded, and all sacrificial fires were extinguished. The ritual utensils and tools were washed away, and the inhabitants of the sanctuary became frightened and anxious. The leader of the ashram, sage Jahnu, became livid at Ganga’s intrusion. He then chanted a mantra, and took a sip of the water flowing all around his hermitage. With the power of his mantra, he swallowed away Ganga with all her waters. All traces of Ganga were gone. Bhagiratha was in a fix. No sooner had he overcome one hurdle, than another was created, mostly due to the impulsiveness and restlessness of Ganga. He hurried over to Jahnu, and explained to him the magnitude and significance of the task he was out to accomplish. Jahnu gave him a sympathetic hearing and appreciated his hard work in bringing Ganga to the earthly realm. Consoling Bhagiratha, he said: ” For you, I will release Ganga immediately,” and saying this, he made a cut in his left thigh, and the waters of Ganga flew out like a fountain. Hence did Ganga came to be known as Jahnvi, the daughter of sage Jahnu.
Mahabharata is full of incidents of curses, yet when curses are mentioned with reference to Mahabharata in Indian mythology, we would normally associate Karna, but Arjuna also had some curses. But this can be argued that though these have been curses, Arjuna was able to use them to his and Pandava’s advantage.
Curse of Vasus
Chitrangada, in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, is one of Arjuna’s wives. Arjuna travelled through India during his term of exile of twelve years. His visited Manipur in the eastern Himalayas, an almost mystic kingdom renowned for its natural beauty. There, he met Chitrangada, the daughter of the king of Manipur, and was moved to seek her hand in marriage.
Her father demurred on the plea that, according to the matrilineal customs of his people, the children born of Chitrangada were heir to Manipur; he could not allow his heirs to be taken away from Manipur by their father. Arjuna agreed to the stipulation that he would take away neither his wife Chitrangada nor any children borne by her from Manipur and wedded the princess on this premise. A son, whom they named Babruvahana, was soon born to the couple.
Babruvahana would succeed his grandfather as king of Manipur. Long after the battle of Kurukshetra, Yudhishthira decided to conduct the Aswamedha Yaga. The yaga horse enters the dominion of Manipur, where Arjuna challenges their King Babruvahana for a fight. Babruvahana kills his father in the ensuing battle. However Arjuna’s snake-wife Uloopi resuscitates him to life by using the magical mritasanjivani gem owned bythe Nagas.
Arjuna’s death in the battle is also attributed to the curse of the Ashta-Vasus. The Vasus, enraged by Arjuna’s deceptive tactic of using Shikandi as a shield to kill Bhishma (an incarnation of one of the eight Vasus), cursed Arjuna that he would be slain by his own son. This curse comes to pass during the battle between Arjuna and Babruvahana.
Curse of Urvashi
Arjuna was received with all love and affection by his father Indra. Arjuna spent some very pleasant time going around and seeing the world of Indra. Capital of Indra was called Amaravati. In the court of Indra all the Gandharva’s sang divine songs and all the beautiful apsaras gave dancing recitals. All the apsaras, Rambha Urvashi, Menaka, Tilottama were there Arjuna watched all there performance and was very much fascinated. He kept looking at Urvashi. She also noticed Arjuna’s interest in her and the fire of love was kindled in her. Urvashi fell in love with Arjuna. Urvashi could not sleep in the night. She was constantly thinking about
Arjuna. She became too overpowered by her desire for Arjuna. She stole in to Arjuna’s chamber. Arjuna welcomed her with love, courtesy and honour. Urvashi expressed her desire for Arjuna. A surprised Arjuna told her that he had heard about the great romance between her and his ancestor Pururva. That was the reason he was kept watching her in Indra’s court as a child looks at her mother whom he had never seen. He only regarded her as the beloved of his ancestor. She was like a mother to him. Any other relationship was impossible even to contemplate.
Urvashi was very much mistaken,she thought Arjuna was interested in her as an admirer. Urvashi became furious with rage. She took it as a great insult to be turned down by a mere mortal. She said it was not proper to refuse a woman, her desire. Arjuna, by doing so has insulted her. Therefore, she declared, Arjuna, shall never be able to enjoy a woman’s company. He will become a eunuch. Arjuna was dumb with the injustice done to him by Urvashi. In the morning he told these things to a Gandharva, Chitrasena who he had befriended. Indra, being informed about Arjuna’s curse, came to him to console him. Indra said that he would request Urvashi to reduce her curse for a period of one year. The Urvashi curse will be of great help to Arjuna during the period of one year when they were to live in disguise. Arjuna stayed in Amravati for sometime. Indra gave him all the divine astras. Then he came back to earth but before that he learnt the art of dancing and singing from his friend Chitrasena and he became quite an expert in these fine arts.
Thus we see, such is the beauty of mythology stories from Mahabharata, where every incident serves a purpose and fits impeccably in the bigger scheme of things. Everytime I hear these stories, I wonder about the master story teller. A priceless contribution to world mythology.
Yudhishthira has never lied in life save for one incident. Due to this, his chariot always floated a few inches above the ground. At the Mahabharat War, he told a half lie that “aswathama hatha kunjara” which led to Drona’s demise.
As a result of this, his feet and chariot, both descended to the ground immediately in the war of Mahabharat. Here one should note, that Yudhisthira could not tell a lie. Because, he is a man who has never ever lied in his life. But on the instructions of Lord Krishna ( Krishna tells Yudhishthira: “Under such circumstances, falsehood is preferable to truth. By telling a lie to save a life, one is not touched by sin” ) he utters a half truth, and no sooner he utters “aswathama hatha kunjara” both Yudhisthira’s feet and chariot descend to the ground immediately. But did Yudhisthira utter a false-hood? Technically no but his convincing Drona was tantamount to telling a lie. That is why the chariot of Yudhishthra which used to always float in the air and never touch the ground falls to the ground after this lie.
Birth of Drona
The son of Rishi Bharadwaja, it is widely believed that Drona was not conceived in the womb of any woman, but in the Droon, a vessel made of clay. In fact the modern day Dehradoon, is closely associated with Drona because it is said that the place where Drona was born, came to be known as Dehradoon. And the land which King Dhritarashtra, donated to Drona, is known as Guru(ka) Gaon- the modern day Gurgaon. As Drona was not conceived in a womb, there is no mother to him.
Brihannala – The eunuch
During their Vanvasa, the pandavas were required to spent one year in disguise. Arjuna spent this period as an eunuch and he was indeed an eunuch during this period. This was due to a curse from and apsara, who became very angry with Arjuna when he was learning Divyastras as he rejected citing her as his mother. After the intervention of Devas, he was allowed to practice this whenever he wanted to practice eunuchness. This helped him in agyatvaas where he spent his time as a eunuch preceding to Mahabharata war.
Karna never turned away anyone in his life. He gave his Kavach and Kundal to Indra which ultimately led to his demise despite knowing that the beggar was Lord Indra. He was even tested of this virtue on his death bed when he was asked for alms. His teeth were of gold and he readily given them to the bhagwan who came to him as a beggar. Karna was the most tested character in Mahabharata but he never failed. This is the reason he commands respect.
Five sons of Kunti – Karna’s greatness
This tale tells about Karna’s greatness once again. He promised Kunti before the mahabharata war that she will have five sons. He had the chance to kill all the four pandavas save Arjun. but he let them go because of his promise to Kunti. Eventually he died of when and Arjuna killed him when he was trying to extricate the wheels of his chariot. Thus, the most deserving warrior of Mahabharata met his death.
Bhishma made Krishna break his promise
Shri Krishna vowed that he would not use any weapon and not fight in the battle of Mahabharata. Bheeshma fought with such ferociousness that Krishna got hold of a chariot’s wheel and charged after Bheeshma. Seeing this, Bheeshma put his bow and arrow down and Krishna also realized his mistake.
Karna as ardharathi
Bhishma never liked Karna and used to rebuke him saying that he is an Ardharathi. Karna hence decided not to fight the war under his leadership. Only after when Bhishma was incapacitated, Karna fought the Mahabharata war as Duryodhana’s commander.
There is one character in Mahabharata, who could have made the ideal king. But as fate would have it, he was born to a maid. This wise person was none other than Vidura, whose foresight have saved Pandavas from dying prematurely.
Vidura was half-brother to the kings Dhritarashtra and Pandu. He was a son of a maid-servant who served the queens of Hastinapura, Ambika and Ambalika. In some accounts, he was an incarnation of Yama or Dharma Raja, who was cursed by the sage, Mandavya, for imposing punishment on him that exceed the sin.
Birth of Vidura
Both queens were married to King Vichitravirya of Hastinapur, who died childless. Vichitravirya’s mother Satyavati was anxious to ensure that the royal line was carried on. She called upon her other son Vyasa to invoke his mystical powers to grant motherhood to the two queens. Vyasa was a sage and ascetic hermit, and came to the palace, unkempt as he was. He went to Ambika who closed her eyes when she saw him, and to Ambalika who became pale. Hence the children they bore were blind and an albino.
When Satyavati asked Vyasa to go to Ambika’s bed again, to ensure that there would be children, she placed her maid-servant instead in her bed. The dutiful maid-servant was not frightened. Hence her son was not born flawed like his half-brothers. Thus, Vidura was born who was raised as brother of Dhritarashtra and Pandu.
With his half-brothers he was raised and educated by Bhishma, whom they called father. As neither of his parents were of royal blood (sage Vyasa was of divine but not royal lineage), Vidura was never considered for, or had any chance of obtaining the throne of the kingdom. He served his brothers as a chancellor.
A well wisher of Pandavas
After Krishna, he was the most trusted advisor to the Pandavas and had warned them repeatedly about Duryodhana’s plots. In particular, he warned the Pandavas from Duryodhana’s plan to burn them alive in a house of wax he had made for them. He was known for speaking the truth and for his intelligence.
Devotee of Shri Krishna
Vidura is famous also for being a true devotee of Lord Krishna. When the latter visited Hastinapura as a peace emissary of the Pandavas, he shunned Duryodhana’s offer to stay in his stately guesthouse, instead choosing the humble dwellings of Vidura. Vidura served as counselor to his half-brother King Dhritarashtra. In the Sanatsujatiya section of the Mahabharata, shortly before the Kurukshetra War began, Vidura invoked the sage Sanatsujata to answer Dhritarashtra’s questions about death.
In protest against the Kurukshetra War, Vidura resigned from the post of minister. After the great battle, he helped Yudhishtira when he became ruler. Later, he accompanied Dhritarashtra, and his sisters-in-law Gandhari, and Kunti, when they left on their last journey to the forest. He died before his companions, on the banks of the Ganga. Vidura is considered as the Mahachohan in the Theosophical world. Mahachohan is said to be the chief of a Social Hierarchy of the trans-Himalayan mystics. “Vidur Neeti” or Vidur’s opinion on the science of politics, narrated in the form of a conversation between Vidur and King Dritrashtra, is often tipped as the pre-cursor of the Chanakya Neeti and has standing as that of Vibhishana Neeti and Bhisma Neeti.
Indian culture gives tremendous importance to Guru or the teacher. In Indian culture, Guru or a teacher is greater than father. Here is an Indian story of Ekalavya who epitomises the role of a shishya, or pupil.
In Mahabharata, Ekalavya is introduced as a young boy who wanted to study archery in the gurukul of Dronacharya. This was during the time when the Pandavas and Kauraves were young and being taught by Guru Dronacharya in his ashram.
Guru Drona was the teacher for both Panadavas and Kauravas. Dronacharya only taught princes and therefore refused to become teacher Ekalavya as he was a member of a low caste.
After being rejected by Dronacharya, Ekalavya decided to do self-study with a clay image of Dronacharya which he built himself. He considered Drona as his teacher. Ekalavya respected and worshiped the image of Dronacharya and overtime he became an exceptional archer, matching Dronacharya’s student Arjun.
One day while Ekalavya is practicing, he hears a dog barking. Before the dog can shut up or get out of the way, Ekalavya fires seven arrows in rapid succession to fill the dog’s mouth without injuring it. Dronacharya, Pandav and Kaurav princes come to the “stuffed” dog, and wonder who could have pulled off such a feat of archery. Searching the forest, they find Ekalavya, who introduces himself to them as a pupil of Dronacharya.
Dronacharya tells Eklavaya, “Now that you have gained all this knowledge from me, wont you give me Guru Dakshina in return?” Ekalavya replied, “Of course, I will give you anything you want, just ask.” Dronacharya cruelly asks for Ekalavya’s right thumb, knowing that without a thumb Ekalavya can longer do archery.
Ekalavya, without hesitation cuts his thumb and hands it to Dronacharya. It’s said that one of the main reasons that Dronacharya asked for Ekalavya’s thumb was that he wanted to protect Arjun’s status as the greatest archer and he saw Ekalavya as a massive threat, as well as punishment to Ekalavya for stealing knowledge which wasn’t given to him.
While this stands in good stead for Ekalavya, who respected his teacher, but at the same time, this act puts a question mark on the teacher Dronacharya.
There is an interesting side story in Mahabharata about Babhruvahana who was even more skilled to his father, Arjuna. He succesfully stopped the Pandavas quest of performing Ashwamedha. This story may be treated as similar to Luv Kush stopping Rama from performing Ashwamedha yagya.
Here is the detailed story of Babruvahana.
Birth of Babruvahana
During exile, Arjuna travelled the length and breadth of India. His wanderings took him to ancient Manipura, an almost mystic kingdom renowned for its natural beauty. There, he met Chitrāngadā, the daughter of the king of Manipura, and was moved to seek her hand in marriage. Her father demurred on the plea that, according to the matrilineal customs of his people, the children born of Chitrāngadā were heir to Manipura; he could not allow his heirs to be taken away from Manipur by their father. Arjuna promised that he would take away neither his wife Chitrāngadā nor any children borne by her from Manipura and wed the princess. Babruvahana, was soon born to the couple and later succeeded his grandfather as king of Manipura.
Ashwamedha yagya by Yudhishthira
Long after the battle of Kurukshetra, Yudhishtira decides to conduct the Aswamedha Yaga. The yaga horse enters the dominion of Manipur, with the horse intended for the Aswamedha, there was a battle between Arjuna and King Babhruvahana, and the latter killed his father with an arrow. Repenting of his deed, he determined to kill himself, but he obtained from his stepmother, the Naga princess Uloopi, a gem which restored Arjuna to life. He returned with his father to Hastinapura.
Arjuna’s death in the battle is also attributed to the curse of the Ashta-Vasus. The Vasus, enraged by Arjuna’s deceptive tactic of using Shikandi as a shield to kill Bhishma (an incarnation of one of the eight Vasus), curse Arjuna that he would be slain by his own son. This curse comes to pass during the battle between Arjuna and Babruvahana.
Babruvahana also killed Karna’s son Vrishaketu in the battle. Vrishaketu had accompanied Arjuna in the Ashwamedha Yagna and was consequently killed. Later krishna revived Vrishaketu.