The miles to go before I sleep...

  • Start teaching science at school and incorporate demo
  • Research, design, implement comprehensive teaching module on science, civic sense
  • Interview social change agents working @ ground level
  • Pilot peer-to-peer teaching programme

Monday, April 18, 2005

Mahabharat...all but Dharma.

Mahabharat! What a way to start of a Sunday entertainment in the TV. Just like when I went around with a cricket bat and ball when it is world cup, just like when I marked out a mini-tennis court on my terrace when it was Wimbledon, I remember making bows and arrows of different varieties and sizes when it was war-time in the serial. Half of us would not have known of what was the story of Ramayan and Mahabharat if it did not cross the mind of Ramanand Sagar and B.R chopra. Or simply if it was not telecast on a sunday!

We derive a lot of our moral values from such epics. But after a discussion I had with a friend of mine, the more I think about Mahabharat, the more I tend to feel that, Lord Krishna had been unfair towards his believers. What I say may sound sacrilegious, but lets think about it. Yudishtra was casually (may be not so casually) invited for a game of gambling by Kauravas and kept on playing till he lost everything including his kingdom and Draupathi. (I don't understand, how a guy as virtuous and honest as him can think about pledging his wife) and the pandavas go of to exile. When the come back, they Kauravas deny their rightful kingdom and they declare war. Fair enough. Now, in the so called Dharma Yudh, the Pandavas, masterminded by Lord Krishna use all unfair means to annihilate the Kauravas one by one.

- Bheeshma was killed in the presence of Shikandi by Arjuna, exploiting the fact that Bheeshma vowed not to fight a woman (rather a non-male)
- Dhrona was killed by a lie (if we go by the spirit of truth rather than the strict definition of lie)
- Karna was killed when he was unarmed. A cardinal sin, if we consider the rules of engagement.
- Dhuryodhan was killed by Bheem when he used his weapon under the former's hips. Again a breach of rules of engagement.

Had the Pandavas fought a fair war, it would have been a one-sided affair with the Pandavas losing the battle which, in my opinion, they deserve. Considering all that, I don't really see how Lord Krishna is any different from the old fox Shakuni. The name Dharm Yudh is such an irony with all but Dharma.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree that pandavas would have lost the war W/O KRISHNA....

see, first of all, dhuryodhana made a no of trials since childhood to destroy pandavas.. krishna was never in those days to help pandavas.. but the act of not giving the kingdom to pandavas by the entire sabhai was totally against dharma..
do u remember what dharma asked for.. he first asked their share.
when refused, he asked 5 cities..
then he asked for 5 lands.
then he asked for 5 houses..
all were refused and dhuryodhana's answer was " oosi munai edam kooda kedaiyaadhu"...
This answer (though said by dhuryodhana was not opposed/ warned by anyone in the crowd) was totally against dharma..that led to mahabharatha...
See.. PANDAVAS were never people who carry over things on mind.t they were not people who think abt the past dhrokam ..so,it was not repeatedly discussed in mahabharatha.but krishna was one who can think of tricks..thats why we tend to remember all krishna's support to make them do tricky wins....

trickery wise , as u say , sakuni and krishna were the only competant guys.. infact sakuni and krishna used to think abt each others plans...
so, I think krishna was for dharma..and he said u can PLAY any tricks to save dharma ..

Anonymous said...

I appreciate U for having reminded us that b. r chopra did a major help in knowing mahabharatha...

Badhri said...

I agree all that you say. But here is the catch. In Mahabharat, God decides what Dharma is. If we are going to adopt it in real life, we as mortals, will decide what Dharma is and act accordingly. This will have disastrous consequences, as exemplified by whats happenning in Iraq, Palastine, Kashmir, Sri Lanka. , Afghanistan etc. They all carry out attrocities in the name of gaurding what they believe as Dharma(in their own faith).

I never meant to justify what Kauravas did to be correct. I only said, the war doesnt deserve its famous name since it was won by guile, not by fairness. And Pandavas deserved to lose since they were weaker and as unfair as Kauravas, if not more.

Anonymous said...

yeh that is true..
but i believe that also is already destined..probably indication of end of kaliyuga..
priya

Effervescence_13_ said...

If I may interrupt...

I absolutely, totally, completely disagree with the irony factor as regards Dharma being the cornerstone of the Mahabharata. Look carefully, read between the lines, you will notice the victory of the good everywhere.

The battle proper is only symbolic...i'm sure u know that.

Beides, it was Duryodhana who chose Krishna's massive army over Krishna himself, which teaches one a thing or two about faith- D did not have faith enough in what he could not see, hence he had to suffer.

Thirdly, forget about the background for a while...consider this...the whole war was waged, consciously, subconsciously and unconsciously, to prove the triumph of..u got it right, Dharma. That was the reason why an upright man like Bheeshma Pitamah deliberately sided with the Kauravas. BP was considered invincible. But he wanted to prove that even the most invincible force in the world will be defeated by Dharma...and therefore sided with the Kauravas, knowing all the time that ultimately they would be vanquished, because the Dharma factor was what they were battling.

Btw the Iraq war etc are the PRETEXT of Dharma, not Dharma itself..even Bushboy knows that full well. Don't let the abuse of a great thing mitigate it's greatness for you.

Forgive the butting in, i just came across your blog and felt like this was a very interesting discussion.

Badhri said...

Hi effervescence:
Good to know that my blog is actually read by people other than my selected friends to whom I advertise it. Good to know that you enjoy my discussions OverTea.

Interesting point you made. Duryodhana preferred Krishna's massive army over Krishna himself. I forgot about that point. Now that I think about it, I sure would be interested to know what he would have done if D had chosen Krishna. Would he have sided up with the Kauravas to vanquish Pandavas? Even then it would have been an unfair war. The Pandavas would have lost inspite of being the model of the good.

PRETEXT of Dharma? You are looking at the wrong end (Bush) of my point. One thing in common with the Pandavas, islamic terrorists, LTTE and Al-Qaida is that they all fight to claim what they think as their rightful land(or cause). In all the cases, except the Pandavas, there is no valid authority to determine what is right and what is wrong, and hence both the sides think they are correct (when none is).

Effervescence_13_ said...

Lol that is the whole bloody point! Faith is an integral part of Dharma, D lacked it, so the question of him choosing K over his army never arose. Even before the quetion was put to him, the answer was a foregone conclusion.

You think all the organisations you listed really and truly fight for what they feel is 'right'? Maybe they fight for what is best for THEM...for THEIR survival, THEIR power,THEIR ideology. Nobody crashes airplanes into skyscrapers or proves points thru human bombs to fight for the good...the greater good.

Badhri said...

Faith may be an integral part of Dharma. But only Faith is not Dharma. To say that having Faith in Krishna is all that is required and He will let D and Kauravas get away with all the bad deeds is wrong. I am sure the epic doesn't want to say "Do all the bad deeds you want. Have faith in Krishna. And He will let you get away with the consequences".

Look, I would have been ok with the whole "Dharma Yudh" had Krishna not advocated (or had the Pandavas not blindly followed) unfair means to win over their enemies (who may be good or evil).

A suicide bomber dies for faith. He very well knows that after he is dead he cannot have power or survival. To be clearer, Bin-laden fights for power. Mohammad Atta fought for (what he thought as) idealogy (or his Dharma).

Badhri said...

.... and even th Pandavas fought for themselves, not for the greater good.

Effervescence_13_ said...

Like i said b4, the battle is symbolic. Ergo, the Pandavas are just an instrument to prove the dharma point, ergo, also symbolic. Pray how then can they have fought for themselves if by 'fighting for themselves' u mean fighting for anything but Dharma?

And am not saying for one moment that a prolific sinner gets away if he has 'faith in Karishna'. Point is, if one has Faith enough in Krishna, one has Faith enough in the Greater Good, doubt enough in sin, and hence will not even consider sinning as far as he can help it.Dharma isn't about being a Saint. It is about being the best person you can possibly be.

As for fighting for ideology, most often we are fighting for it coz we feel it is threatened, that's all.

There are parallels to the Gita/Mahabharata in every religion, and such battles are fought, really or figuratively, in them all. The message is thus what is important, not so much the storyline.

I am having fun! :)

Badhri said...

"....the battle is symbolic"

Point taken.

"...Dharma isn't about being a Saint. It is about being the best person you can possibly be."

Point taken

"...The message is thus what is important, not so much the storyline."

Thats exactly where I am getting. One of the messages it clearly says is "If you are fighting for Dharma (as mortals, we can fight for only what we perceive as Dharma), one can use unfair means to uphold Dharma". I think this point is very much intended, as every major breakthrough for Pandavas (model of fairness) has an element of unfairness and all of it was devised my Krishna Himself. And it is clearly adharma. Upholding dharma using the means of adharma, like the war for peace carried out by you-know-who, is an irony.

Note: I am not an atheist. I have learned a fair bit from these epics and others. But, I want to see milk as milk and water as water. I am having fun too!

Effervescence_13_ said...

We often see unfair means to a fair end. That is no validation though, and i totally agree.

Let's say u-know-who was right in front of u, at a time when half the world was getting devastated on his command. Hypothetically. Now it so happens that u have a way of ridding the world of everybody's favourite president, but it involves a slightly unfair method.

What wud u do...throw up ur hands in righteousness saying the world go to hell, I wont blooden my hands? Or indirectly save half the living world from more harm? Think about it.

A real-life equivalent is the whole dhananjay chatterjee capital punishment debate. Kill one man and protect 10 potential victims or let status quo prevail and continue endangering them?

Badhri said...

In today's world, if there is going to be such a war which involves a guy who gets kills 1/2 the world, I sure would use the unfair means. But here is the point. I won't show that as the ultimate example of fairness. Or name is as "The war by and for Dharma". I would just say, I saw a weakness in my opponent, I took advantage of it and took him out. If they tell me that I am as bad as him. I will say, I probably am, but I am fighting at least for saving the world not destroying it.

Then again, we are not talking about insignificant people like you and I. We are talking about the stalwarts (mythologically, of course) of righteousness.

Again, if the Pandavas either used fair means, or if the war was not called "Dharma Yudh", I buy the epic wholly and I wouldn't have seen this irony.

Capital punishment is another subject which will take 15-20 blog, so lets not get into that!

Anonymous said...

The war wasn't fought for selfish purposes..before the war begins, Arjuna refuses to fight for selfish purposes - he has to kill his dear relatives(BP, Drona) and friends to win the war..but Krishna urges him to fight for a larger purpose: Arjuna being a kshatriya has to indulge in war to uphold dharma, vanquish the 'bad' kauravas and save the society from kauravas' tyranny. If the Kauravas weren't fair even towards their brothers, how could they be fair towards the lay citizens? About 'unfair' methods being used by Krishna, Krishna is entitled to do anything..he being the creator of the world itself..the 'unfair' means used by Krishna are 'fair' because the 'dharma-upholding' end-result can be achieved in no other way..so it IS a 'dharma-yudh'..

"You are looking at the wrong end (Bush) of my point. One thing in common with the Pandavas, islamic terrorists, LTTE and Al-Qaida is that they all fight to claim what they think as their rightful land(or cause). In all the cases, except the Pandavas, there is no valid authority to determine what is right and what is wrong, and hence both the sides think they are correct (when none is)."

'There is no valid authority except Pandavas for what is right..'
They are entitled to their fair share of land and Krishna urges them to fight for the larger good of the society..so of course the Pandavas and Krishna are 'right'

Most of the terrorists (and for that matter, any army) can't be right because they attack innocent civilians who are in no way involved in any injustice towards the terrorists..if you notice, Krishna only used unfair means against members of the actual Kaurava army..
The Indian freedom struggle was 'right' because of detestable suppression of India and its people ,swindling of resources..so any violent method (Netaji's) directed against the British army and non-violent method(once again, against only the British army and administration, but not civilians) is 'right'..
hope all this makes some sense..

Anonymous #13

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Ahhh..Drona wasn't a relative..:)
-Anonymous #13

Badhri said...

"About 'unfair' methods being used by Krishna, Krishna is entitled to do anything..he being the creator of the world itself..the 'unfair' means used by Krishna are 'fair' because the 'dharma-upholding' end-result can be achieved in no other way..so it IS a 'dharma-yudh'.."

I am afraid that is a very dangerous conclusion and I beg to differ. The point that Krishna being the creator gives him the liberty to be unfair, by itself is unfair. If we are going to consider that such notions from the Mahabharat can be applied these days, guess what?, They ARE being applied.

Let me give you an analogy.

Mahabharat's summary is this.
Krishna plotted that demise of the Kauravas because the Pandavas deserve their rightful land and they have to fight for it (which is their Dharma). The death of Kauravas, by fair or unfair means, is fair and consequential.

Lets take the case of terrorists in say, northern India or Mid east. The terrorists fight for their lands and consider their lands are being occupied illegally and the occupiers are a threat to their religion and existance. They feel that they deserve their lands and existance. Their book (The Word of God) states that to fight against the threat to their existance is their duty(Dharma)! So, they push the limits of cruelty, kill who they see as "the unfaithfuls" or "the tyrants"( and I agree most are innocent people). They see that using unfair means (like bombing a market place, or gunning down random people) as insignificant considering that they are working towards their Dharma.

IMHO, it fits the profile of the Mahabharat exactly. Neverthless, in my opinion, what is happening in such places is cruelty.

In the case of Mahabharat, we cannot say that Krishna is wrong because he is God! and God's perception is the truth. But since in the real cases the Dharma is decided by men, there is always room to say. They are mortals, and what they is not the Truth but a Perception.

If we go by Mahabharat and its essence only, the Mahabharat vindicates practically each and every terrorist orgainization. After all, they are formed because they have gone through persecution at one stage or the other. So, the use of unfair means by Krishna leaves a gaping whole in the morality that the Mahabharat teaches.

Regarding the Indian freedom struggle, people like Sardar Bhagat Singh and Vanchinathan (you would know him if you are from Tamil Nadu) are terrorists who killed not only regular army or police, but also politicians (who are civilians not regular army). Are they right? We say they are, since they were fighting for our motherland. But so are the terrorists up north in the mideast! I hope you see the difference, perception makes.

PS: Your post was repeated, so I deleted one of them.

Anonymous said...

"So, they push the limits of cruelty, kill who they see as "the unfaithfuls" or "the tyrants"( and I agree most are innocent people). They see that using unfair means (like bombing a market place, or gunning down random people) as insignificant considering that they are working towards their Dharma."
Killing people who are in no way involved in any activity detrimental to the terrorits cannot be justified by any 'true' dharma. Such killings can only be termed "mindless" or as you termed it - 'cruel' killings..

"Regarding the Indian freedom struggle, people like Sardar Bhagat Singh and Vanchinathan (you would know him if you are from Tamil Nadu) are terrorists who killed not only regular army or police, but also politicians (who are civilians not regular army). Are they right?"
Yes, Sardar was right(i don't know abt Vanchinathan)..i guess u missed this:
'so any violent method (Netaji's) directed against the British army and non-violent method(once again, against only the British army and "administration" '..the administration was directly involved in suppression of the Indian people..they obviously formed part of the target of Bhagat Singh et al.

Talking about Krishna's actions, if you consider Krishna to be an avatar of God or God himself (Krishna was definitely not a lay man), his actions CANNOT be wrong..how can it?..there is no place where Krishna accepts killing of innocent people to achieve any purpose..

"If we go by Mahabharat and its essence only, the Mahabharat vindicates practically each and every terrorist orgainization"
It cannot be true..this sentence is a result of coloured perception..what abt the Bhagavad Gita..does it vindicate all terrorist organizations and preach hatred towards innocent people?..and Bhagavad Gita is the essence of Mahabharat. Were all the Indian(and many foreign) philosophers wrong in accepting Mahabharat as an epic? Would they have praised if they thought it preached unjust ideas..i'm sure you'll find better explanations than mine for Krishna's actions and any event in Mahabharat if you read any established Indian or foreign philosopher's commentary on the Mahabharat..
hope my explanation above makes some sense..

Anonymous #13

Badhri said...

Please dont misinterpret my point. I am not saying that the Gita is wrong. I am no authority, especially since I have not read or completely understood it verse-by-verse. I am saying that people can quote Krishna's methods to kill the Kauravas and unfairly achieve what they percieve as Dharma, which will obviously instigate the receiving end. This is the gaping hole in the morality I talked about. By using unfair means to kill Kauravas, the Pandavas did not live up to their reputation. There is no denying that.

"if you consider Krishna to be an avatar of God or God himself (Krishna was definitely not a lay man), his actions CANNOT be wrong..how can it?"

This is simply the core problems with us faithfuls. We simply accept the actions of Krishna simply because Krishna did it. My question is when he really wanted to establish Dharma, why not guide the Pandavas to win against the Kauravas using fair means ONLY. Wouldn't that be a better way to go? After all just like war is a kshathriya's Dharma, fairness is everybody's Dharma! Wouldn't you agree? Its not that he would not have capable of that. We are talking about the Lord Himself.

Regarding the killing the innocents, again I will draw a parallel. Dhronacharya was killed using the death of Ashvattama, the elephant. The death of the elephant by itself was insignificant. But Dhronacharya , being killed was a heavy blow for the Kaurava army. Innocent people in the market place are but the Ashvattama elephant for a terrorist. Their death in itself is insignificant, but the attention it draws is very consequential.

To us Sardar is a tyagi, to the British, Sardar is a terrorist. To a neutral person, he is a revolutionary (no risks there for him). Again, its only a matter of which side you want to take!

Anonymous said...

ok..i'm back after 'finals' week..

"My question is when he really wanted to establish Dharma, why not guide the Pandavas to win against the Kauravas using fair means ONLY. Wouldn't that be a better way to go? After all just like war is a kshathriya's Dharma, fairness is everybody's Dharma! Wouldn't you agree? Its not that he would not have capable of that. We are talking about the Lord Himself."
The problem was..it would have been impossible to win the 'dharma' yudh (you have to agree that 'dharma' was on the Pandavas' side..) by using so-called 'fair means'(for Krishna and for me too..the methods can ultimately be termed 'fair'..and since we are talking about the 'Lord himself', we have to agree that his actions cannot be wrong..i'm sorry..i'm just repeating an argument which seems very logical to me). First of all, Krishna did not fight (he had taken an oath not to fight)..if he had decided to fight, the war would have been over in 20 minutes...it would really have been very 'unjust':)..'God' against mere humans. Actually, seeing it from another perspective, it really was 'God' fighting against unjust Kauravas..he just used 'Pandavas' as a tool. The opponents were almost invincible-BP had a 'boon' which gave him the power to die whenever he wanted to..Drona was the 'guru' of the Pandavas..there was no way the Pandavas could have killed him except by use of 'unfair' means..but what terrorist organizations do is to kill innocent people (note:Elephant Ashwathama was involved in the war..just like Pandavas and Kauravas..a 2-year old kid killed in an Isreali or Palestine shelling is not in any way involved in any 'war'..) just to supposedly further their 'cause'. Whenever a terrorist organization starts killing innocent people, it looses its purpose of fighting for 'justice'..because it is itself heavily involved in inflicting injustice..

'To us Sardar is a tyagi, to the British, Sardar is a terrorist. To a neutral person, he is a revolutionary (no risks there for him). Again, its only a matter of which side you want to take!'
This argument is like the Kauravas calling Krishna a 'terrorist'..if dharma is completely on your side..any war you fight cannot be called 'terrorism'..
Your argument can also be put forth this way (when applied to Gandhi):
"To us, Gandhi was a freedom-fighter, to the British, Gandhi was a criminal and a pain in the ass and to a lay man, he was a man with minimal clothes, but enormous Indian support"..:)..how ridiculous would this argument sound now, to anybody in this world..even the British? No offense meant..just trying to get my point across..

signing off..
Anonymous #13

kavitha said...

Hi Badhri,

I just read your post! Uncanny but yes, we did hit upon exactly the same point, using various references. I completely agree with you there. Krishna was the biggest manipulator in the entire story and didnt take enough care of this believers.

I am tending to believe Krishna was more of a good human being than a God. Or at least trying to be good.

regds
Kavitha

Badhri said...

Revisiting my own blog after over a year is so interesting and kind of brings out the differential in maturity in about a year.

As effervesence mentioned, The war was symbolic, concocted to drive home a point. Only, as the other visitor pointed out, it is expected that any thing done by the Lord has to be unconditionally correct. Apply that today and the consequences will be disastrous

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Badhri,

I liked your views and appreciate what you are trying to say.The one fundamental flaw of the mahabharta is this:
It is said to demonstrate the laws of karma.Going by the laws of karma, whatever the Pandavas suffered at the hands of the Kauravas must have been due to their actions in a previous life.So why did they not willingly, gracefully accept their fate and pay off their karmic debt?

Anand said...

Hey mate, just read this post. Interesting discussion.

"A suicide bomber dies for faith."

I don't think this is the actual reason. Faith is a tool used to fool the un-educated, unemployed and impoverished youth. Money and fake promise of Martyrdom in my opinion are the sole reason behind it.