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A Critic on Mahabharata

Indian Mythology has been a subject of interest for scores of scholars


inhabiting diverse backgrounds who have a culminating zeal to unravel the
myhts that follow the legendry description of the satyuga dynasty and the
incidents that occured during those days. The Mahabharata is one among
the most sought after heralds of Indian Mythology that has been
controversed by great scholars to have witnessed the fury of the 'Good' and
the 'Evil', of 'Wisdom' and 'Cruelty' which had been staged by brothers on
opposite ends with a cunning desire to take away lives of one another. The
Mahabharta is the longest epic to have been written in any languages still
prevalent in contemporary life. Tradition speaks that it was composed by the
sage Vyasa, who dictated it to Lord Ganesha, who was the writer of this
epic. It is believed that Ganpati could be the only person who could write it
down at the same pace as it was being composed by sage Vyasa.
Mahabharata has been structured into eighteen books of varying lengths
that individually carry a number of sections in itself. The first verse of
Mahabharata read as



It has been translated by one of the great scholars as
'Om! having bowed down to Narayana and Nara, the most exalted male being!
And also to the goddess Saraswati, must the word Jaya(Victory) be uttered!!'




I am here to pendown ma critics on any three of the stories of Mahabharata.
The stories I have chosen as the Objects of my discussion are

Story of Eklavya
Story of Savitri and Satyavan
Story of Kacha and Devyani

Story of Eklavya
The story of EKlavya is the most prominous citation of Untouchability being
prevailant in those periods.The character Eklavya to me is the unsung
legend who had been the victim of upper casts people. Here is the following
story of Eklavya thts portraits a very simple and dedicated child who had the
undying desire to be nurtured by the then greatest gurus Dronacharya who
used to teach only to the Kshtriyas, the then most priviledged and honoured
people of the period.

Drona was the most sacred of all the gurus at that period. He used to teach
the sons of Kings to make them valiant warriors besides being the owners of
great disciplined and spiritual life. The young princes were brought up in the
sheds of the Gurus' houses were they were nourished with preachings of
wisdom, sacrifice and acts of bravery. They were trained with utmost
dedication to become the whos and whomes of mighty fights. They were
then later returned to the dynasty to lead further as the future kings of their
parent's dynasty as they inherited the throne to rule people.
Caste System is one the oldest practices that is still being practices in most
of the parts of world. People are categorised depending on their caste,
colour, creed, sex, etc. into various castes and they are treated accordingly.
The period that witnessed Mahabharata also had such system. People were
differentiated into four major castes, they are as followed


Kshatriyas
Brahmins
Vaishyas
Shudras
Shudras were the untouchables,to be optimically thought upon as the cursed
people who had to live their lives in sole isolation who had no rights to even
dream of any legacy, luxury in their lives. The moment they were born, they
were inhabited with sufferings of poverty, disgrace and pathetic lifestyle.
They were born to serve others. Even a gossip with them by other cast's
people was considered to be a henious sin ever committed.
On the contrary Brahmins were the most respected people in the society
who enjoyed a respectful place and were honoured persons who used to
summon kings, princes and were responsible for dispersing great thoughts
and preachings among the young kshtriyas and their disciples.
Kshtriyas were the noble sons who had the solemn authority to rule
peasants. They were the most honoured people who ruled several hectre's of
lands and masses lead the most bountiful life in sheer legacy.
The story:
Near the ashrama of Drona, where Arjuna and his brothers used to take
lessons in various arts, there lived a small bright boy, shudra by caste (lower
caste). His name was Eklavya. He had great desire to learn the art of
archery from Dronacharya. But his mother had told him that as a shudra,
Acharya Drona would not accept Eklavya as his disciple. It was futile to
dream of such a privilege.But the boy was not be put off, his determination
knew no bounds. Near his house, under a tree Eklavya installed a clay idol of
Dronacharya that he worshiped as his Guru! Daily, morning and evening,
this devotee put flower and naturalperfumes in front of this image and took
Self-Lessons in the art of bow and arrow.
The talented young Eklavya soon acquired high knowledge in archery. He
attributed his success to his Guru Dronacharya.One day, as it happened,
Acharya Drona and Arjuna were passing near the hut of Eklavya. It was
pleasant and peaceful afternoon and people were taking rest. But the
tranquility and silence was broken by constantbarking of a dog. Eklavya did
not like this, and therefore, he shut the mouth of the dog with an arrow!
Dronacharya and Arjuna were surprised to see the dogwith his mouth sealed
with an arrow!
Naturally the curious Arjuna asked his Gurudev as to who could have done
this delicate job. Even Dronacharya was amazed and knew the archer must
be exceptionally skilled artist. They decided to trace this skillful fellow and
reached the spot where Eklavya was practicing wonders with his bow and
arrow in front of the clay image of Drona. It took no time for Dronacharya to
understand the situation. He realized that Eklavya was superior to Arjuna in
some respects. Dronacharya loved Arjuna verymuch and had declared him
to be the best archer on the earth. Hence the Guru thought for awhile and
came to a decision to remove Eklavya as a competitor to Arjuna.
Dronacharya went to Eklavya and said, "O young man, who has taught you
such wonderful skills in archery! Who is your Guru?" Seeing the Guru in front
of him, the boy Eklavya was more that overjoyed and said, "Why, O
Gurudev, this all is your grace! I worship you as my Guru. Look you are
there in that image!"Dronacharya was pleased with the dedication of
Eklavya, and said, "I bless you my son. But as is customary, won't you give
me my fees - Guru-Dakshina!".It is customary in India to give to the Guru
whatever he demands as his fees - Guru-Dakshina for the knowledge the
Guru has given to the disciple.
Eklavya was overwhelmed to see Dronacharya had accepted him as his
disciple! Out he said, "O Honorable Teacher, whatever you ask, this humble
disciple of yours will try his utmost to offer you as Guru-Dakshina! I am
blessed." And now comes a very touching and pathetic incidence in
Mahabharata. Guru Drona said, "O Eklavya, I am pleased with your respect
for Guru. I want the thumb of your right hand as my fees Guru-Dakshina."
The trees and atmosphere around stood still for a minute! Even Arjuna was
stunned on listening to the unusual and almost cruel demand of his Guru.
To ask for the thumb of an archer was equivalent to almost kill him! How
could Dronacharya demand such a heavy prize from one disciple to protect
the honour of the other!But Eklavya had no such remorse. Unruffled and
with due humility, cheerfully and without protest, he cut his right thumb and
placed at the feet of Dronacharya. Gods in the heaven silently praised the
greatness of Eklavya's sacrifice.
Although this particular incident has not been one the most promising
mythical stories of Mahabharata but can u imagine what would have been
the scenario if Eklavya would on contrary be blessed to become one of the
disciples of Drona. He would have outshined Arjuna and rather would have
been the sought after hero of the period. But the vanishing sinful act of
Drona and the curse of him being a shudra shadowed his bravery and skill to
just grovel in dust of a pityful life and misery. It is not that Eklavya wouldn't
have imagined that if he procures the sacrificial tradition he would be left
with none other than being a just ordinary person and lead rest of his life
with nothing but his sorrows and simplictiy. Though you can see the picture
of respect and serenity in Eklavya who characterises the great values of
respect for teachers and an honest student who had left no grievances
behind in isolation of the act he did by sacrificing his right thumb unto the
honour of Dronacharya, his only guru, the guru he had never been one to
one in face with.
But how come still such a sacrifice lay buried in most of the mythical spic's
stories? How many scholars still find a reason to debate that this can't be a
part o the Mahabharata? Eklavya in not just an incident that had been there
to be forgotten as time advances to the modern period but is to be taken
into serious consideration that there's no meaning in disgracing any person's
right to live at an equable par life with rest of hate humans. What's the
wrong if he's the infant of an untouchable's womb? Is that they follow a
different mechanism to live life? Or is that they are brought to this terrifying
world by gods and goddesses of their own and not the ones that we worship
today. ? Still there exists a following that prevents such peasants from
worshipping in temple. People feel alike to part away from them no sooner
that they arrive closeby. Is this an act of shame? Or is this an act of
prevention, prevention of one's purity to lead a respectful life in today's
society?

Story of Savitri and Satyavan

The myth occurs as a multiply embedded narrative in the Mahabharata told,
most immediately, by Markandeya. When Yudhisthira asks Markandeya
whether there has ever been a woman whose devotion matched Draupadis,
Markandeya replies by relating this myth. The childless king of Madras,
Asvapati, lives ascetically for many years and offers oblations with the savitri
manthra.
Finally the Goddess Savitri appears to him and grants him a boon,
cautioning him not to complain: he will have a daughter. She is born and
named Savitri in honor of the Goddess. Savitri is born out of devotion and
asceticism, traits she will herself practice. We learn that the king is joyful at
the prospect of a child, but the story hides his internal thoughts from the
audience, allowing them to provide their own interpretation.
'tato vridhaan dwijaan sarvonritwijaah supurohitaan!
smahuye dine punya prayayo sah kanyayaa!!'

When Savitri reaches the age of marriage, no man asks for her hand, so her
father sets out with his daughter on a pilgrimage for this purpose and finds
Satyavan, the son of a blind king named Dyumatsena, living in exile as a
forest-dweller. Savitri returns to find her father speaking with Narada who
announces that Savitri has made a bad choice: although perfect in every
way, Satyavan is irretrievably destined to die one year from that day. In
response to her fathers plea to choose a more suitable husband, Savitri
insists that she will choose her husband but once. After Narada announces
his agreement with Savitri, Asvapati acquiesces. This is Savitris first conflict
with a powerful male figure: her father the king. Savitris argument rests on
the authority of her mind. She says, Having made the decision with my
mind, I am stating it with my speech, and shall accomplish it with my
actions later. My mind is my authority. Savitri overcomes worldly power by
appealing to the spiritual authority of her familys guru and her own interior
self.
Savitri and Satyavan are married, and she goes to live in the forest. Having
given away his daughter with suitable robes, Ashvapati with a merry heart
left for his own abode. Immediately after the marriage, Savitri takes on the
clothing of a hermit and lives in perfect obedience and respect to her new
parents-in-law and husband. She goes beyond all expectations of proper
behavior. Satyavana having obtained a wife graced with valuable and noble
qualities and Savitri too having a resonsoble and humble husband, rejoiced
exceedingly.
After lapse of a long life, finally arrived the time of Satyavan's death. Three
days before the foreseen death of Satyavan, Savitri takes a vow of fasting
and vigil. Her father-in-law tells her she has taken on too harsh of a regime,
but Savitri replies that she has taken an oath to perform these austerities, at
which Dyumatsena offers his support. This is her second conflict with a
powerful man, and she again appeals to a higher, spiritual commitment that
he must recognize. The morning of Satyavans predicted death, Savitri asks
for her father-in-laws permission to accompany her husband into the forest.
Since she has never asked for anything during the entire year she has spent
at the hermitage, Dyumatsena grants her wish. The story juxtaposes the
devotion of Savitri to her father, parents-in-law, and husband with several
critical moments where she defies their wishes.
She justifies her defiance, which takes the form of devotion and asceticism,
through an appeal to a higher authority. She is being even more self-
sacrificing and more devoted than the people around her expect, but she
simultaneously demonstrates her strength and independence. While
Satyavan is splitting wood, he suddenly becomes weak and lays his head in
Savitris lap. Yama himself comes to claim the soul of Satyavan. Savitri
follows Yama as he carries the soul away. When he tries to convince her to
turn back, she offers successive formulas of wisdom. First she praises
obedience to the Law, then friendship with the strict, then Yama himself for
his just rule, then Yama as King of the Law, and finally noble conduct with
no expectation of return. Impressed at each speech, Yama praises both the
content and style of her words and offers any boon except the life of
Satyavan. She first asks for eyesight and a return to the throne for her
father-in-law, then sons for her father, and then sons for herself and
Satyavan. Finally Yama offers any boon without exception, and Savitri
chooses Satyavans life.
This is Savitris final and most dramatic conflict with a powerful male figure:
Yama, the god of death. Yama clearly occupies the position of strength, but
Savitri manages to overcome even death. Her argument lies in appealing to
the Law, above even Yama.
Savitri returns to Satyavans body who awakens as though he has been in a
deep sleep. In order to console his parents who they fear must be worried,
they set out to return that evening, Satyavan assisted by his wife.
Meanwhile at their home, Dyumatsena regains his eyesight and searches
with his wife for Satyavan and Savitri. As the ascetics comfort and counsel
the distraught parents, Savitri and Satyavan return. Since Satyavan still
does not know what happened, Savitri relays the story to her parents-in-law,
husband, and the gathered ascetics. As they praise her, Dyumatsenas
ministers arrive with news of the death of his usurper. Joyfully, the king and
his entourage return to his kingdom. Likewise, all the other boons happen.
Markandeya assures Yudhisthira and the other exiles that Draupadi will also
save them.
The story enlightens the true sacrifice of a woman and her patronage for her
husband. The love that encirlces them unto the foreseen death of
Satyavan's death between Satyavan and his beloved wife Savitri is an
explanatory of true devotion to the ones you love and sacrifice for their
wellbeing. Rare are these things still to be foresoghted in modern times
where peple barely hav time for their own. The honest and judged decision
of hers to marry Satyavan brought peace, happiness and glory to everyone
including her inlaws. The woman is a typical example of trust, faith and
honesty. Honesty in one's words, trust among on another, and faith on the
ones you bring so close to your heart, these are the truest recitings of a
joyous life that even defies materialistic desires or lusts. It is written in the
epic that Yama himself came to take away the honored soul of Satyavan.
When being asked that generally Yama's emissaries come to take away men,
Yama humbly replied to Savitri's quest by quoting
'Ayam cha dharmsanyuktoh rupvaan gunsagarah!
Narho matpurushairnetumatoshami swaymagatah!!'

And he said, I have come here personally considering that my emissaries are
not fit to bring such devotional and handsome person, endued with profound
qualities, as vast as a sea. The vastness of the humble soul of Savitri can be
imagined from the ocassion when Yama delighted by her crouching accent
asked her wishes except for the life of her husband. In reply, she aksed the
weel being of her inlaws and to return the lost honour of her father in law
and his eyesight proving her to be most gracious daughter in law that have
ever brrn produced in centuries.
She had been just few words away from wordly fantasies and luxury but she
elpoed all her desires in return of the happiness of her in laws. She brought
up herself as a true example of dedication, hospitality and sacrifice and
sheer devotion. Woman has for decades been known and recogonized as the
symbols of sacrifice and devotion. But it is their wise qualities and subtle
example of dedication in varied walks of their lives that make them outshine
their peer males and earn a respectful position in society.

Story of Kacha and Devyani
The story revolves around a simple idealism of the relationship that bonds
between a Guru and a Disciple. The story also equally narrates the
mysterical love that follows within, that is inevitable.
A long time ago, when the Gods and Demons were still fighting for
supremacy over the three worlds - Heaven (Aakash), Earth (Prithvi) and the
Netherworld (Pataal) - they appointed their priests (Gurus) who would pray
for them and advice them in matters concerning the war. The gods
appointed Angiras Vrihaspati as their priest and the demons (Asuras), not to
be left behind, appointed Bhargav Shukracharya to be their guru. Now both
these brahmin priests were stalwarts in their fields and enjoyed a healthy
rivalry too. They respected each other immensely but also indulged in a
game of one-up man ship.
The war between the gods and asuras had started in earnest and both the
priests were busy with their Yajnas and prayers to make their sides more
powerful. Shukracharya, the priest of the demons, would breathe life into
the demons who died in the battle and make them healthy again. He could
do so because he was an expert in the knowledge of Sanjeevani (the art of
breathing life in a dead being). This Sanjeevani Vidya (knowledge) was
making the asuras stronger and they were the obvious leaders in the fight,
as they were not facing any casualties.
The gods on the other hand were suffering great losses, as Vrihaspati, their
guru, did not possess the Sanjeevani Vidya. The gods and their guru
deliberated on this drawback and decided that someone would have to go
and learn this art of breathing life into a dead body from the guru of the
demons. It was decided that Kacha, the son of guru Vrihaspati, would go to
the land of the demons to learn the Sanjeevani Vidya. Kacha went to
Vrishparva, where Shukracharya had his Ashram (hermitage).
He introduced himself to the great priest, "Sire, I am the grandson of
Maharishi Angira and the son of Vrihaspati, the priest of gods. I implore you
to accept me as your pupil. I promise to live the celibate life of a
Brahmachari (student) and serve you for one thousand years."
Shukracharya was pleased with the humility of Kacha and accepted him as
his pupil. He said, "I will treat you as if I am treating my friend Vrihaspati
and I will be honoured to accept you as my pupil."
Kacha started his studies and would keep the guru happy with his behaviour.
He would also take good care of the daughter of his guru, Devyani. Time
passed and Kacha became Shukracharya's favourite pupil. After 500 years
had passed, the demons learnt of the real purpose of Kacha's visit. They
were incensed and feared that with the Sanjeevani Vidya, the gods would
become more powerful. So they plotted to kill Kacha. One day, when Kacha
was grazing the cattle in the jungle, the demons killed him, cut him into
small pieces and fed him to the wolves. In the evening the animals returned
without Kacha. Devyani, who was by now deeply in love with Kacha, was
worried and went to her father. She told him that Kacha was missing and
that he must do something to get him back. She said, "I fear that someone
has killed him or he is dead somewhere in the forest. Please use your
knowledge to bring back my Kacha. I cannot live without him and shall die if
he is not brought back from the dead."
Shukracharya, who himself was fond of Kacha, used his powers and
breathed life into Kacha. All the pieces of Kacha tore open the stomachs of
the wolves and joined together and Kacha came alive. He returned to the
hermitage and thanked his guru.
After a few days, the asuras again killed Kacha and on Devyani's request,
Shukracharya again breathed life into him. The third time, the asuras killed
Kacha, and burnt his body. They then took his ashes and mixed it with wine
and requested Shukracharya to drink the wine. Shukracharya, who was
unaware of the vile machinations of the asuras, drank the wine. When Kacha
didn't return to the hermitage, Devyani again went to her father and
requested him to bring Kacha back to life. Shukracharya started chanting
the mantras which would bring Kacha to life. Kacha, who was inside the
stomach of Shukracharya, revealed his dilemma from inside in a quiet voice.
He said that he would not come out of the stomach of his guru, as that
would mean killing his guru.
Shukracharya said, "Son, you are a great ascetic and very dear to me and
my daughter. If you are not Indra, and if you are a Brahmin, then I shall
teach you the Sanjeevani Vidya. And I know that you are not Indra, because
only a brahmin could stay alive in my stomach for so long. Now, I shall teach
you the secret knowledge of Sanjeevani so that you can come out of my
stomach and then breathe life into me." Kacha said, "I have lived in your
stomach, so I am your son. You have breathed life into me and have taught
me the art of Sanjeevani which is like the flow of Amrit (the divine ambrosia
which gives eternal life) in my veins. I shall behave as a good son should do
because those who do not respect their guru, who is like a god for a pupil,
deserves to rot in hell."

Shukracharya, who was displeased with himself for drinking wine, which
caused him to be irrational so that he could not see through the
machinations of the asuras promised never to touch a drop of any
intoxicants. He also laid out a rule for all the brahmins, that if they drink
alcohol, they would be breaking divine rules and would deserve to rot in hell.
They would not only spoil the good deeds of this life, they would also ruin
their next birth, if they touched even a drop of wine.
After this, he asked Kacha to tear open his stomach and come out. Kacha
did as he was told and when he came out the guru died. Kacha used his
knowledge of Sanjeevani and breathed life into his guru, like a dutiful son
should do. He then stayed with Shukracharya till the completion of his one
thousand years and soon it was time for him to leave. Devyani then
approached him and told him of her love for him. She requested him to
marry her according to the norms and take her with him. Kacha was now in
a dilemma as he considered the daughter of his guru as his sister, as was
the correct conduct for a rishikumar (son of a guru). He said, "Sister, as I
have lived in the same stomach from which you were born too, I am your
brother. Therefore, due to this reason, I am your brother, besides, you are
the daughter of my guru, who is like a father to me. So I cannot marry you
as you are my sister."
Devyani was hurt and angry at Kacha's refusal and she cursed him. She said
that all the knowledge that he had acquired from her father would be of no
use to him. Kacha replied that he accepted her curses as inadvertently he
had hurt her, but he would teach others what he had learnt and then they
would use it to the benefit of others. He also said that she had not
considered that he was bound by the rules of conduct and had cursed him,
therefore no Brahmin would marry her. He then took leave from his guru
and went to the gods and his father where he used his knowledge for the
benefit of others.
To conclude there may be many debatic views about the story. But the
simplest thing to learn is that the bondage of a student and a teacher is
sacred and they share an uncommon relationship, a relationship of faith and
respect for one another. It is the human nature that never gets ones
memories staled and one way or the other we always try to comprehend the
help done to us by helping the concerned person in his/her needs. The
Nature has created this beautiful word love that fuitifies its fragrance all
around and no one can avert it. Its complimenting to the desires that a
person follows for the other. Its a miraculous feeling that Devyani had in for
Kacha. But to the contrary kacha had no such thoughts prevelant in him as
he thought himself as the son of Shukracharya, thereby devyani being his
sister. The anger that outbursted in devyani was expected but the way she
selfishly thought of her broken dreams and cursed Kacha is not judged to
the context. Love was vividly seen being turning into a fury, hatred and
hence followed the curse. It did not take even a fraction of second that made
her hostile for her own love whom she had mad alive a number of times.
Love comes in through thousand ways. Its only the way you feel it to
welcome with your delight. Was the acts of protecting Kacha just Devyanis
feeling of love for him or was there a wisdom of humanity that aroused her
instincts to help him live again and again. Would Savitri behave in the same
manner as Devyani if you replace the latter with the former? I would say
that we are no one to say as we never know what human desires have in for
oneself. They vary from one to other but what still prevails common in
everyone is the principles we have been living upon.