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सर्वे जनाः सुखिनो भवन्तु

सत्यं वद । धर्मं चर


Webinar on MAHABHARATAM-Day 2 delivered by Dr. Nagaraja Rao 17 Nov 2022 and transcripted by PIN 261 Sita Mahalakshmi Durvasula 01 Dec 2022

Why Mahabharata:

            There are a lot of dictums in the Vedas, which not everyone can understand. For that reason, narratives are built up. They are added into many Puranas and Itihasas in between the crux of a story, in order to spread the message of Dharma, Morals, Ethics, and Raja Dharma.

            Morals and Ethics are not the same. Morals change from time to time, place to place and person to person. Ethics are those that are rational and stand to the test of a reasoning. They go along with Dharma.

            Mahabharata is a very large compendium of many stories. To contain the message, and explain the subject matter, KNagaraja Rao (The speaker) narrates 3 stories and compare it with other stories.

            Samudra Manthanam:

                        Devas wanted to get the amrutha from the ocean, but it is very hard to get it by churning.So, they went to Sri MahaVishnu, who suggested working together with Asuras. Indra went to the Asuras and persuaded them for their help.

            With Vasuki as the rope, Sri Maha Vishnu as Sri Kurma (supporting the churning), and as they shed the ocean, a lot of things came from the ocean (First halahala poison, then Chandra, then Kamadhenu, then Kalpavruksha, Sri Mahalakshmi, etc.,). Then finally, Dhanvantri came out holding Amrit.

            The Asuras snatched the Amrit and went to a secluded place, and further began fighting amongst themselves.

            Maha Vishnu presented himself in Mohini Avataram and approached the Asuras. They gazed at her, came closer and started talking, one thing led to another, and they decided that she was the only one that can distribute the Amrit fairly.

            And then, she asked Devas to stay on one side, and Asuras on the other. And started distributing Amrit to the Devas. This is the crux of the story.

            From the results, it looks as if the gods have deceived the asuras. Does that mean Devas are evil people exploiting Asuras? Certainly some contemporary scholars push such narrative.

            But going deeper, it is not portrayed as Devas being a set of people and Asuras being a set of people. Instead, they represent certain qualities.

            Devas are those who are purified by the scriptures, and Asuras are those who always dwell in the pleasures of Indriyas.

            Initially, when Vasuki was being used as the rope, Devas wanted to hold the head. But Asuras argued to take hold of the head claiming that they were greater than the Devas.

            When Dhanvantri appeared, instead of staying calm, Asuras snatched the Amrit, and further started fighting among themselves.

            Finally, when Mohini appeared, instead of believing people of their own family, they placed their trust in some new person they just met.

            From the start of the story, the Asuras behaved differently from the Devas.

            In general, coming to the human mentality, even when you know something is wrong, one part of your brain will want to do that wrong thing in exchange for a temporary pleasure. Even though this temporary thing is ephemeral in nature, we want to do it. This tendency is Asura Guna.

            If this kind of behavior is encouraged, what will happen to the society as a whole? How will they disrupt the fabric of the society? This is one thing that had to be considered after the Samudra Manthan.

Story of Ekalavya:

            Ekalavya was brought up by a hunter family. But actually, he was a relative of Krishna and the Pandavas. Just like in the case of Duryodhana, when Ekalavya was born, there were a lot of bad omens. Unlike Duryodhana, Ekalavya was abandoned by their parents in the forest (story from Harivamsha).

            Ekalavya approached Drona to learn from him. But at that time, Drona was determined to take revenge against his childhood friend Drupada who insulted him when asked for help. So instead, Drona chose to teach the Kuru family.

            Upon testing all of the new Shishyas, Drona decided Arjuna to be the best, and claimed to make him the best of his students.

            Then sometime later, Arjuna and others witnessed Ekalavya shooting 7 arrows into the mouth of a dog that barked at him. And witnessing this spectacular feat, they approached him and Ekalavya called himself a disciple of Drona.Arjuna found Ekalavya to be better than him, so he asked Drona about the promise he made earlier.

            To investigate the issue further, Drona went to Ekalavya and could see his idol(Murthy).

            Witnessing this, Drona asked Ekalavya, “If you really consider yourself my Shishya, you should give me Gurudakshina.”

            And then Ekalavya was asked his thumb finger after he called Drona his guru…

            This story could be seen as Drona asking his thumb just so that Arjuna will remain his best Shishya, and that he is cruel to take away his thumb although he never taught him directly. Or that he took away his thumb because Ekalavya was a nishada (considered a low caste, offspring of a Brahman and a Sudra)

            But there are some other things that need to be considered.

            Drona never taught Ekalavya anything, and for that reason, Ekalavya should not claim himself to be Drona’s student. If later in his life, if Ekalavya does something bad and claims to be Drona’s student, then Drona will be the one that will be blamed. For this exact reason, Drona clearly asked “if you consider yourself my Shishya”.

            And another issue ,Drona saw was the tendency of Ekalavya. When a dog barks at someone, they would do something smaller to send it away, but here Ekalavya shot 7 arrows into its mouth. If someone of this tendency goes into a war, then one can only imagine how much unnecessary devastation he would cause. This tendency was later proved when he invaded Madura for 17 times and ended up, killed by Krishna.

            And, in those days, a hunter need not have an extensive knowledge of Dhanur Vidya. So, Drona denied him right at the beginning. And this was not done because of a caste/varna reason, because there were other instances where Drona taught someone who is neither a Brahmin nor a Kshatriya (for example to andhakas and yadavas who are considered BCs these days).

Drona Denying BrahmastraTo Karna:

            Karna once approached Drona asking him for Brahmastra as he has given it to Arjuna and because all his disciples should be treated the same.

            But there is a certain Adhikara needed to give someone an Astra. In fact, Drona did not give Brahmastra even to Aswathama, his own son.

            In fact, Karna’s Adhikara was proved later when he used Bhargavastra he received from Parashurama to kill lacs of ordinary soldiers while such strong Astras are meant to be used against stronger enemies.

            The Conclusion:

These stories teach us, in a subtle way, that any event when witnessed, we should not arrive to a conclusion looking at the outer level meaning, but need to understand the inner meaning and the Dharmic angle for a larger good. The speaker gave us many points which will help us defend our Sanatana Dharma, in the right mannerwhen someone criticizes our Puranas and Ithihasas.