“What is here is found elsewhere – What is not here is nowhere”

This is a famous line taken from the epic Mahabharata. I was intrigued by this line and was keen to test it practically. Mahabharata has stories within stories and one can find all kinds of characters in them – the good, the bad and the ugly. How does one test the veracity of this claim in the quotation? I considered some of the present day horror stories  hitting the headlines. Yes, as you would have guessed,  one of the ugly stories is the Delhi gang rape and the other one is the beheading of an Indian soldier by Pakistanis. I tried to see if  Mahabharata has anything parallel to these stories. Sure enough, there are at least a couple of them to report and surprisingly I did not have to dig deep into the epic to find them. No, I am not talking about the infamous attempt to disrobe Draupadi, although that is one immediate example that would come to anyone’s mind. I am talking about another controversial and (according to me) infamous episode involving Bhishma. For all the great virtues he is supposed to be endowed with, there is an ugly side to his personality. Here is the story in brief:

Bhishma abducts the 3 princesses of King of Kasi – Amba, Ambika & Ambalika – merely to please his step mother Satyavati. The motive behind this despicable act was to get them married to Satyavati’s son Vichitraveerya. One of the 3 sisters Amba, however, had already been engaged to the King of Salva and therefore Vichitraveerya had the decency to let her go. Unfortunately the King of Salva rejected her. She then asked Bhishma to marry her since he was responsible for ruining her life. Bhishma refused citing his vow of celibacy as the reason. The episode speaks volumes about the status of women during the ancient times.  For Bhishma, his vow was more important than saving the life of a woman he ruined by abduction. And what was the big purpose of his vow? It was to please his father Shantanu. The latter was intoxicated with love for a fisher-woman, who insisted unjustly that only her son should succeed the throne after Shantanu . Instead of advising his father to desist from a marriage which stipulated unfair conditions, he took this grave vow of celibacy!  The story of Amba smacks of male chauvinism at its worst showing absolutely no consideration for a woman’s perspective.

In yet another damning incident related to gambling, Bhishma tells Draupadi that a woman is the property of a man even if  he is not free. And it is such an attitude towards woman which led to  the infamous attempt to disrobe Draupadi.

As for the second story on beheading an Indian soldier by Pakistanis, the well-known parallel story from the epic is that of Aswathama and his gruesome killings. He attacked Pandava camp in the night,  killed Draupadi’s sons (Upapandavas) by beheading and presented the heads to Duryodhana.

Mahabharata is after all a story reflecting all that is sublime as well as ugly & dirty in the society. And these stories amply justify the proud boast contained in the quote.

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Published in: on January 19, 2013 at 10:56 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. Bhishma as u know is one of the ashta vasus who was cursed bya rishi to be born as a human being. Since he repented the rishi told him that he will live as the best among men and since he is one of the ashta vasu he cannot leave his generation behind and hence itsthe leelaof the almighty that he was made to takea vow of celebacy. Since he is a powerful person( although he has taken the path ofdharma) with a boon to face death to his own time and liking all born on earth has to face death one day as per the law of nature the lord created amba made her take a vow, created dhirshtydman and with their help he and Arjuna (Nara & Narayanan) brought an end to his curse. The cause of the incidents happening in our epic stories goes beyond incidents that happened during that time. Like to hear u r interpretations more as i am interested in learining more on these subjects.


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