Mahabharata Podcast ●
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Episode 33These are the last three stories of the long series of tales in the Book of the Forest. The Pandavas are finishing up their pilgrimage across India and are moving northward for their rendezvous with Arjun. The first story, Yavakrita, is particularly interesting in that the protagonist is not a Twice-born. In this case, he's a rude and uppity Vaishya, but he's the main character nonetheless. I find the little detail about the Shudra gaurd particularly interesting. He works for Yavakri's father, and he inexplicably blocks the boy from getting to safety, which results in Yavakri's death. I can only guess that it was thought fitting that a Vaishya rapist be killed at the hands of an even lower-caste menial.Jantu seems to fit in among these stories in that it is another case of a Brahmin helping a king with his fertility problems. In contrast to many of the other stories, the king's wives are distinctly un-heroic.The last story, the Hawk & the Dove, stands out as the most unusual of all the stories so far, especially because it involves a king, two gods, but NO BRAHMINS! Where are the Brahmins? The Book of the Forest is a very strong piece of propaganda about the importance of having well-bred Brahmins for all occasions, but then this strange tale caps them all off.This story has the strongest feel of Buddhism that I've seen so far in the Mahabharata. The king's self-sacrifice is strongly reminiscent of other Buddhist stories in which the Boddhisatva sacrifices his own life for another's benefit.Next time, we'll finally get back to the deeds of our heroes, as they make their way to the hermitage of Nar-Narayan way up on the slopes of Mt. Kailash.
Episode 99 - This is the final piece that brings us around, back to the beginning. We covered some of this territory before, back in Episode 2, but at the time, it was hard to explain that Parikshit was Arjun's grandson and that Takshaka had an ancient feud with the dynasty going back to the fire at the Khandava Forest. Also, back then we were anxious to get going with the story itself, and all the digressions with angry brahmins and talking snakes only made things confusing at the time.So now we have re-visited the beginning at our leisure, and now you know the circumstances in which the Mahabharata was first publicly recited. The burnt snake guts must have still been warm when Vyasa's disciple Vaishampayana began the tale.So that's all for a while. I am working on a commentary for episode 100-- reviewing the story and considering what was included and what was left out. Please visit this blog (http://mahabharatapodcast.com) and leave comments, or questions, or any requests for what I should include in my final summing up of the epic!Thanks, Lawrence
Episode 98 - This is the first of two episodes that take us from the death of the Pandavas down to the Snake Sacrifice, held by Arjun's great-grandson. We skimmed over this back at the beginning of the podcast, because back then we were unfamiliar with who all these people were. But now it makes sense to bring it around to the beginning again.Not much is recorded about the life of Parikshit. We only know about how he died, and the many snakes and Rishis who were involved in the process.So, I'm not quite through yet!
Episode 97 - So this is it-- the final installment from the Mahabharata. Book 18, the Svargarohanika Parva, is done, and the 18 parvas of the Mahabharata are now complete.Please be sure to visit my blog and let me know you made it! And then treat yourself to something nice, because you have really accomplished something.We've reached the end of the story, but this isn't quite the end of the podcast. You can expect a few more episodes-- an epilogue where the story is carried forward up to the time of the Snake Sacrifice. Following that, if you have any questions or points of discussion, I'd like to make the 100th episode a summing up of the entire podcast. If there's anything you'd like me to address, let me know soon!Lawrence
Episode 96 - Arjun returns home with some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that they have lost their powers and have lost their friends. The good news is that they finally get to retire. Yudhistira doesn't hesitate. He strips off his fine garments and leads his brothers into retirement. Krpa is put in charge of defense, Yuyutsu is made regent, and Parikshit is king. Parikshit's grandmother Subhadra (Krishna's sister) is made Dowager Empress.The Pandavas then take a final tour of India, visiting even the former site of the magical city of Dwarka. Finally, they head north, for Heaven, with their little dog Dharma.
Episode 95 - Krishna is dead. Balaram is dead. The city of Dwarka sinks beneath the waves, and the refugees of that once-great city are making their way to Indraprastha with only Arjun as their protector. But the influence of the Kali Yuga pervades the earth, and Arjun is not the man he once was. When the vulnerable procession is attacked by bandits, his magic quivers run out of arrows and his magical weapons no longer obey his command. Only a fragment is saved, along with Krishna's grandson Vajra, who is made King of Indraprastha.
Episode 94 - The Dark Age is now unquestionably upon us. The elder Kurus, living austere lives in the forest, found themselves consumed by a forest fire of their own creation. Let this be a lesson to all you Hindu campers out there to douse your sacred campfires!!18 years later, things go from bad to worse when news arrives of the death of Krishna and all his relatives. This story alone is deserving of an extended treatment, but we only get a sketchy account of how things went down. With the death of the Vrshnis, Krishna's work on earth is done. He accepts his fate and embraces death when it comes to him.The Kali Yuga is here to stay, so I'll warn you now, don't expect things to get better!
Episode 93 - The white horse returns home, only to be tied to a post, killed, & cut up into little pieces. The priests do their best to follow the old rules, but there's no way Draupadi is going to pretend to copulate with a dead horse!Jump ahead 15 years and Dhrtarastra finally decides to take leave of worldly cares, and he, Gandhari, & Kunti leave for a forest ashram. One year after that, the Pandavas and many citizens pay a visit to the old folks, where Vyasa allows them all to re-unite with their fallen relatives and friends.While some of the early books went on endlessly, the last few books of the epic are quite short, and we are going through about one book an episode at this point-- the story is nearly over!
Episode 92 - This is another eventful episode. Krishna & Arjun take a break and go on a leisure trip to Indraprastha, where it appears Arjun is king. Both heroes have forgotten the Gita, so Krishna recalls another dialog along the same lines, which is called the Anugita.Krishna goes home, while the Pandavas go prospecting for gold in the hills. While they are away, Parkshit is born, or rather still-born. Krishna arrives in time to make good his promise and revives the kid.When the Pandavas return with their treasure, the white horse is set loose and the Ashwamedha is begun. Arjun follows the beast across the length and breadth of India, defeating all comers and sending them as his guests to the sacrifice. Arjun meets one of his sons, the Prince of Manipur, and gets killed & revived along the way.
Episode 91 - We get treated to a last handful of the Final Teachings, and then Bhisma dies. The poor guy set quite an objective for himself. It must have been mid autumn when he was shot through with arrows, yet he clung to life until the Winter Solstice before finally giving up the ghost. He says he lived on the bed of arrows for a total of 58 days.Following his death, Yuddistira has another one of his fits of sorrow & regret, but he's snapped out of it by hearing a story about how the ancient king Marutta left a pile of gold in the mountains as part of his Ashwamedha sacrifice. Yuddistira needs this gold, since his treasury was depleted by the war, and now everyone is telling him he needs to perform a super-expensive sacrifice!
Episode 90 - A few more stories from Bhisma's final teachings. We learn that Vyasa had a son, named Suka, who really did not seem to be pleased to be born. And Bhisma himself tells us what he really thinks of Buddhist philosophy!
Episode 88 - This episode begins the voluminous Last Teachings of Bhisma. As Bhisma lies on his bed of arrows, the Pandavas, Krishna & Satyaki gather around to listen. Yuddistira poses the questions, which mostly revolve around Dharma and kingship, and Bhisma answers.These teachings are exceptionally difficult to convey in the form of a podcast, mostly because they are so boring. There are very few stories, and most of the stories revolve around conversations in which one character instructs the other on good behavior. I have tried to extract the more interesting details from the book, and I included the most interesting of the stories. Hopefully this is enough to convey the nature of this part of the epic, which makes up nearly a third of the entire text!
Episode 86 - It seems like Yuddistira always had a secret desire to give up the world and live like a sadhu. But now he has a pretty good justification-- after all, he even killed his elder brother. Crimes like this demand extreme penance, and Yuddistira would like nothing better than to embrace that lifestyle.No one else agrees with the new king however, and his brothers, Krishna, and the Rishis all take turns trying to convince him that the best use of his life would be to take up the crown and rule, according to his dharma.They never quite seem to convince him, but Krishna and Narada at least manage to distract him with a story of a boy who crapped gold nuggets (Suvarnashthivin). Also, Yuddistira has learned to always obey Krishna, and Krishna is adamant that he take up the throne and rule.
Episode 85 - We begin the Book of Peace, the Shanti Parva. After boasting to his uncle about his special clairvoyant powers, Yuddistira is blindsided by the news that he & Karna shared the same mother. Now the Dharma Raja has learned that he killed his own brother-- aside from killing one's parents, perhaps one of the worst things a person could do.The brothers spend a month outside in the city walls as a sort of penance, and are joined by the great sages of the ancient world. Narada comforts the brothers by telling stories of Karna's past. The sage argues that Karna's life & circumstances were custom-designed to spark this war and ensure its completion. We finally learn of Karna's tutelage under Rama Jamadagnya (Parasurama), and we get the story of how he was cursed for killing a Brahmin's cow.
Episode 84 - Vidur & Vyasa tell a few parables to help Dhrtarastra pull himself together. When the king is finally pacified, he leads all the bereaved women of Hastinapur in a great procession to deal with their fallen men. They march along the banks of the Ganga to Kurukshetra, where they encounter Ashwatthaman, Krpa & Krtavarman, who are still on the run after killing the Pandava's sons & allies.Ashwatthaman heads of to Vyasa's ashram, Krpa goes home to Hastinapur, and Krtavarman also heads for home.The procession later meets up with the Pandavas, fresh from Ashwatthaman's downfall, and together they proceed to the battlefield. Following the great cremation, a memorial is conducted on the banks of the Ganga. Kunti joins in and tells her sons to honor their fallen brother-- this is the first time the Pandavas were told they had a brother!
Episode 83 - The brothers learn of the massacre of their sons & allies, and summon Draupadi to break the news. As usual, all she wants is revenge. Thus the Pandavas go off on one final mission to avenge the death of their sons. They track down Ashwatthaman and find him hanging out with Vyasa and Narada. As soon as they set eyes on each other, the boy Brahmin sets off his Brahmashira weapon, which is 100s of times more powerful than the Brahmastra, and sounds a lot like a hydrogen bomb-- "All living things are destroyed and no rains fall for 12 years."The Rishis step in and order Arjun to put his guns away, but Ashwatthaman cannot retract this weapon once it is unleashed, so instead, he turns it loose on the wombs of the Pandava women, making them sterile and killing their one remaining heir-- Uttara's unborn son Parikshit.Fortunately, Krishna revives the kid, but there shall be no more Pandava offspring after this.To help explain how Ashwatthaman was able to pull off this massacre single-handedly, Krishna tells a few stories about Shiva, and just how temperamental and dangerous he can be. In fact, Shiva really comes off as more of a force of nature than a Saddhu living in the hills.My guess is, that if we understood the physics of Time, we might realize that Shiva stands in for one of the main functions of time, which is change. The other aspects of time are novelty (Brahma), and the moment of Now, which I believe is represented by Vishnu.
Episode 82 - Well, it seems there is no end to the tit for tat revenge cycle that Duryodhana forced into motion so long ago. Now that he has been defeated, his survivors seek revenge for his fall. Ashwatthaman is unable to let it go, and since he is vastly outnumbered, he prays to Shiva for the power to kill his enemies. Shiva allows him to exterminate the remains of the Pandava army while they sleep. So now there will be another vendetta. How much further can this go? Find out next time!
Episode 81 - So this is it; the moment everyone has been waiting for. Ever since Episode 7 when Duryodhana was born, he has finally received his well-deserved defeat. But even as he falls, the finger pointing, hand-wringing and grief at the price that has been paid for this victory has already begun.Balaram shows up just in time to referee the final death match between Bhima & Duryodhana, only to get really annoyed when Bhima is forced to bend the rules a bit in order to win.
Episode 80 - This episode covers the final day of the great war. If you were expecting things to go out with a bang, you'll be disappointed. Once the Kaurava general Shalya is killed, things just sort of disintegrate. Duryodhana's remaining brothers are all killed. Shakuni is killed. Karna's sons are exterminated. The Pandavas make one final sweep over the field, killing literally everyone who was left standing. They spend the rest of the day sifting through the corpses in search of Duryodhana.By this point, the only survivors are Krpa, Aswatthaman, Kritavarman, Sanjay, & Duryodhana. Everyone else is dead. The Pandavas still have their tight group of heroes and Draupadi's sons, but most of their troops are dead.Duryodhana finds himself standing alone, abandoned & on foot in the midst of the battlefield. Everyone is dead or has fled the scene. Stunned, he wanders off the field and makes his way aimlessly towards Hastinapur. Sanjay finds his prince, filthy in blood & gore, in a state of shock, standing by a lake shore. When the Kaurava finally comes to his senses, he submerges himself into the lake, where he intends to rest, indefinitely.Aside from Duryodhana, blind king Dhrtarastra still has one son yet living. It is his illegitimate son Yuyutsu, who had joined with the Pandavas at the beginning of the war. He is given leave to comfort his brothers' retainers & womenfolk and returns with them to Hastinapur. There are no recriminations for his having gone over to the enemy. Now they are just glad that some one son of Dhrtarastra has survived to carry on the line.
Episode 79 - This is a big day in the war. Bhisma fulfills one of his oaths by killing Dushasan and drinking his blood. Now he will be gunning for Duryodhana.Arjun & Karna finally get busy with their final showdown. The whole universe apparently took sides in this conflict, with everyone choosing a champion to cheer for. The pair begin fighting with conventional weapons, but soon escalate to magical weapons. At one point, Arjun gets the upper hand, and strikes Karna until he's lost his wits and drops his weapons. Arjun then allows his opponent to recover somewhat before they resume fighting. Krishna scolds Arjun (not for the first time!), for failing to strike the enemy when he's down. Arjun has quit arguing with Krishna over these things, so he resolves to kill Karna at the next possible opportunity.At this point, Fate and Mother Earth have had enough and they intervene directly. Mother Earth seizes Karna's chariot wheel, bringing her enemy to a halt. Karna jumps down to pull free the wheel, but it won't budge. He asks Arjun to think of the Warrior Code, or his Dharma, and not to fire until he could fix his chariot and get moving again.This annoys Krishna, who scolds Karna for even bringing up the subject of Dharma. Where was his Dharma when Draupadi was molested? This speech both shames Karna and enrages Arjun, who finally obeys Krishna's orders and kills his enemy.There's that wheel again! What does it mean that in the course of this war, we've had a Wheel Formation (that killed Abhimanyu), and Arjun's son dies using a Chariot wheel as his only weapon, and then Karna dies, clinging to a wheel which was stuck in the earth. Is there some deeper meaning to the image of a wheel in this war?
Episode 78 - Karna begins the 17th day of the war by fighting each Pandava except Arjun. He is actually defeated by both Yuddistira and Bhima, but then he defeats Nakul and Sahadev. Both of the elder brothers spare his life, out of consideration for Arjun's oaths. Yuddistira then goes for a second round with Karna, but this time it doesn't work out so well.Karna defeats Yuddistira and nearly captures him, but he reconsiders and lets the Pandava go. Yuddistira then flees to his camp to have his wounds tended to, and there he slips into a strange funk. What follows seems completely bogus to me. Arjun retreats to the camp to check on his brother's health, and Yuddistira perversely assumes that he must have already killed Karna.Yuddistira admits that he's been terrified of Karna and hasn't slept for 13 years out of fear for him. When he finds out that Karna isn't killed, he gets really mad at Arjun and suggests that Arjun hand his bow to Krishna and that they change places. Arjun takes great exception to this, and pulls an oath out of his ass that he says he swore when he was younger. This oath was to kill anyone who suggested that he give up his Gandiva bow. So now he must kill Yuddistira.Pretty lame, eh? Krishna is there, and he does his usual thing, by coming up with a "workaround", in which Arjun need only insult his brother, then brag about himself.
Episode 77 - Drona is dead and a new commander is needed. Ashwatthaman proposes that Karna be given the position and everyone else agrees. Karna leads the army through a rather desultory day of fighting and then complains that what he is missing is a good driver. Shalya is drafted to be his charioteer. Shalya had promised to cause trouble should things come to this pass, and he lives up to it by constantly bickering with Karna. For some reason, Karna chooses this moment to confess how he deceived Rama Jamadagnya in order to obtain the Brahma weapon. When Rama finds out Karna is just a Suta disguised as a Brahmin, he curses Karna.
Episode 76 - I present my wild theories and hypotheses about the Mahabharata. Among other things, we discuss its relationship to the Precession of the Equinoxes and the Yuga cycle as defined by Markandeya and Sri Yukteshvar. We look into the role of magic in the story and our prospects for regaining this lost knowledge in the future. We delve into the mystery of the metaphysical origins of the Pandavas and consider whether the five brothers might have originally been based on just a single hero-- the proto-Arjun.
Episode 75 - Earlier in day 15, Drona is killed by Dhrstadyumna. The Kaurava army literally comes unraveled until Ashwatthaman hears the news. The boy is outraged at the way his father was treated and swears revenge on both Dhrstadyumna (for killing him), and Yuddistira (for betraying his trust).Drona's son then pulls the army together and rushes to battle waving his WMD. First he tries to use the Narayana weapon, but Krishna is too tricky for that-- he knows its weakness, which is that it is ineffective against unarmed men. The Pandavas all drop their weapons and the bomb is a dud. One other problem with the Narayana weapon: it's only good for one shot. So much for that.Next, he pulls out his Agneya weapon, which is pretty much like a thermonuclear device. Without a second thought, he gets into range with Arjun and sets the thing off. It wipes out perhaps half of the Pandavas' remaining army, but Arjun & Krishna simply brush off the ashes and resume fighting. Not even nukes can take out the incarnated Rishis Nar & Narayan!Ashwatthaman asks heaven why his nuke failed to have the desired effect, and Vyasa shows up to explain that while his power derives from Shiva, Krishna's power derives from Narayana, so there's no comparison.Finally, we find a funny reference to Sanjay rushing back to Hastinapur to report on the war. What happened to his divine vision? My guess is that originally the author had him running back & forth from the battle to the palace to report to the king what had happened. This proved to be too limiting for the author's desires, so he switched the premise to include divine sight. But then he forgot to expunge the earlier device from the books he'd already written!
Episode 74 - Two significant deaths this episode-- first Gatotkacha basically gets sacrificed by Krishna so that Arjun need not face Karna's special unstoppable Indra Dart. It's a mean trick, but Krishna explained that one of the purposes of this war is to eradicate the race of Rakshasas, so if they didn't have Karna kill him, then they would have had to do it themselves. Besides, it was a small price to pay in order to save Arjun for the final showdown.The second big shot to go down is their old guru Drona. I must confess that I never really took a shine to this fighting brahmin. He always seemed over-proud and a bit prickly. Also, I never liked the way he manipulated the Pandava kids into fighting his own grudge match with King Drupad. After he took half of Drupad's kingdom, he said that they could be friends again. Some friend-- he then kills Drupad earlier in the day without a second thought.And what the hell is a brahmin doing fighting anyway? They are supposed to merit their honor of being the priestly caste by dedicating their lives to ritual and spirituality. But here's this guy who demands the highest honor for being from the priestly caste, and yet he fights dirty-- in ways that a kshatriya would be ashamed to fight, such as using magic weapons against footsoldiers. His ounce of loyalty goes to the guys who feed him & pay him, and all the rest of his love is for his own skin, and that of his dear son, Ashvatthaman. More on that punk later.Man, I really don't like Drona!Anyway, next time we'll find out what Ashwatthaman does when he hears the news.
Episode 73 - We continue with the events of the 14th day of war. You can relax because we find out that both Satyaki and Bhim made it to Arjun's side, and everyone is OK after all. Arjun finally spots Jayadratha, but he is very well protected, and the sun is about to set. It is time for one of Krishna's tricks!Following Jayadratha's "exploding head syndrome", the Kauravas are so bent out of shape that they ignore the sunset and just keep fighting. Next episode will cover the night battle of the 14th day.Thanks for all your nice comments. I love to hear from you! If you haven't already, please visit my blog at mahabharatapodcast.com and leave a message.
Episode 71 - Vyasa finishes his comforting storytelling, and then vanishes, leaving it up to Yuddistira to deal with breaking the news to Arjun that his son is dead. Arjun comes home expecting a party, only to find the camp in mourning over the loss of his son. He responds by swearing to kill Jayadratha by sunset tomorrow.The Kauravas find out about his oath and hastily make plans to keep the prince safe long enough for Arjun's vow to fail. That is all it will take to get the Pandava out of the war!Now Arjun is a bit worried, but still he's got Krishna to help out. Even though the oath was sworn without Krishna's advice, he arranges a meeting with Shiva. Shiva provides a magic missile that should take care of everything. Arjun still has a long row to hoe-- we'll see how it works out tomorrow!
Episode 70 - Drona has been in charge now for two days, and so far he has failed in his mission to capture Yuddistira. This despite the fact that they have sacrificed a whole nation of warriors just to keep Arjun away long enough for them to grab his brother. The Trigartas are nearly all dead so they need to come up with a new idea. This time, Drona implements a fancy new formation, based on a wheel, which few know how to break.It turns out that Abhimanyu is one of those who know its secrets. But with Arjun busy, he is the only one. Helpless to protect himself and his followers any other way, Yuddistira sends the boy wonder into the jaws of death. Even then, they could have protected the boy, except they were stopped by old Jayadratha of Sindh. Remember this guy? He's actually related in marriage to Duryodhana-- he married Duryodhana's sister. But one wife wasn't good enough for him, and he stupidly tried to run off with Draupadi, without first defeating the Pandavas. He paid the price of humiliation for his impudence: he was beaten severely and had his head shaved by an arrow head by Bhimasena. Too humiliated to return home, Jayadratha remained in the woods, praying to Shiva. When he finally coaxed Shiva to grant him a wish, he asked for the ability to kill all five Pandavas!This was a bit too much even for Shiva. The best he could do was grant him the ability to stop the Pandavas briefly, but not Arjun. Obviously, now was a perfect moment to use this boon, so Jayadratha rode out to forstall the Pandavas, while Drona, Krpa, Karna & Ashvatthaman ganged up on young Abhimanyu and killed him in an ambush. It was Dushasan's son, Daushasani, who dealt the death blow.What is Arjun going to say when he finds out they let his son get killed?!?
Episode 69 - Bhisma is out of commission, and his book is nearly over. In one last scene, Karna comes to meet his fallen nemesis. Bhisma is quite affectionate toward his prodigal nephew, and he tells him that he was only pretending to be antagonistic. He really didn't mean it, he just wanted to discourage Karna from enabling Duryodhana's evil ways. Bhisma begs Karna to forget his grievances and to join with his brothers and end the war this moment. But Karna is too far gone. He owes Duryodhana too much, and he has nursed his grievances for far too long to ever reconcile with the Pandavas. It is better that he exit this world in the most honorable manner possible-- on the field of battle, at the loving hands of his famous brother, Arjuna.This scene ends the Bhisma Parva, and we pick up the story the next morning, in the Drona Parva. Drona is made commander of the Kaurava army, and their strategy is to kidnap Yuddistira. If they get him, then they could force him to gamble and send the Pandavas back to the forest. But Arjun presents a major problem with this plan.After one fruitless day of battle, the Kauravas decide to distract Arjun with a suicide squad. The entire army of the Trigartas volunteer to go to their deaths in order to keep Arjun away from protecting his brother. On day 12, they almost pull it off, sacrificing the lives of one half their numbers, but Arjuna is too much for them, and he breaks away just when it seemed Yuddistira would be taken.Now, at the end of day 12, there is still another half of the suicidal Trigartas, so a final attempt will be made on grabbing Yuddistira on day 13. 13 is an unlucky number, and someone will have to pay for Yuddistira's freedom!
Episode 68 - I know it feels like this war is really dragging on; but I think that is precisely how Vyasa wanted us to feel by this point in the battle. We are all getting tired of the unending violence. Even the main cause of all the violence, Bhisma, is getting tired of this, and he has begun looking for a way out.On day 9, the old Kuru apparently relieved himself of the last of his commitments, which was to wipe out the army of the Saumakas. Now the only thing left for him to do was to find the most noble way to meet his death. On the evening of the ninth day, the Pandavas visit their grand-uncle in his tent and walk away with the old man's permission and even blessing to kill him on the tenth day.So this is it-- Arjun is finally committed to this action, and Sikhandin is put at the head of the attack. By the time they are done, Bhisma is literally a human pincushion. He is impaled by so many arrows that his body does not touch the ground when he finally falls.Arjun kindly provides a pillow of arrows and a nice little drinking fountain, so Bhisma may wait until the seasons change and the sun finally resumes its northward course in the heavens. Until then, he's content to hang out on his prickly bed and watch the action from the sidelines.
Episode 66 - The seventh and eighth days of the War. Bhisma kills a few more Dhartarastras, king Virata loses another son, and we meet Arjun's son Iravat, a Naga prince from Arjun's tour of the holy places, long long ago.We meet Iravat only to see him killed by the demon Alambusha. Alambusha is also the son of a famous father-- none other than the peculiar half-deer Rshyashrnga! In the story we get from the epic, Rshyashrnga's son is the child of a Kshatriya princess, and becomes Raja of the kingdom. We are not told where or on whom he begot this demon!Arjun and Bhisma seem ready to get down and fight, but it never seems to happen. Maybe on day 9? Duryodhana is quickly losing faith in his general, and Karna is making trouble on the sidelines, so he'd better do something big on day 9...
Episode 65 - The fifth and sixth days of the great war. Arjun wipes out an army of 25,000, and we find out Satyaki has 10 fully grown sons. Soon after we learn about these sons, they get decapitated by King Bhurishravas. In return, Satyaki kills off the king's entire army, but the pair are too well-matched and both must be dragged off of the battlefield after sunset.Bhima can't resist an opportunity to kill more cousins, but risks getting himself killed or captured behind enemy lines. Dhrstadyumna rescues him, only to require rescuing by Abhimanyu.
Episode 64 - The third and fourth days of the great war. It seems like the tide may be turning somewhat, since both days of fighting were dominated by Arjun and Bhimasena. Despite having the honor of receiving Krishna's teaching firsthand, Arjun still seems to be holding back somewhat. His lassitude gets so bad that Krishna finally gets annoyed with him, and takes matters in his own hands.Contrary to the way I've always heard the story told, Krishna does not take any consideration for his oath not to fight, and does not use a chariot wheel as his weapon. Instead, he just pulls out his Sudarshana Chakra, and sets out to destroy the Kauravas in one blow.Arjun does not explain why this cannot happen. He just dives for his friend and tries to tackle him before any damage could be done. Meanwhile, Bhisma is waiting with open arms to receive his lord.Having made his point, Krishna puts out his frisbee and takes up the reins again. Arjun promises to do better next time. But it still seems like he's holding back!Aside from that drama, many heroic feats are performed, especially by Abhimanyu & friends. Also, Bhima gets to make a big showing, fighting off the combined Kaurava forces almost single-handedly, and to top it off, he gets his hands on 14 of his odious cousins and sends them straight to Yama for safekeeping!
Episode 63 - The second day of battle comes and goes. If the first day went to the Kauravas, the 2nd day certainly belonged to the Pandavas. The day ends with Bhimasena and Arjun dominating the field, and the Kaurava soldiers crapping their pants. The cream of Kalinga manhood has been exterminated on the field, and even their enemies are forced to admire the way the two brothers cleared the field of all comers.Lots more people died, but so far, not much has been accomplished. Maybe day 3 will go better? I doubt it!
Episode 62 - Let's admit it, we were all impatient for this war to get started. Like the characters in the story, we concluded many episodes back that there was never going to be a peaceful solution, and it would take nothing less than a massive bloodletting to make sure the bad guys were punished and the good guys got their rightful honors.But now that the war has started, those frustrating days of exile in the forest are looking more attractive. Sure, we all feel that Duryodhana deserves a good kick in the ass, but wars are never that satisfying. Entire nations of warriors will be extinct before Duryodhana gets his first bruise. And then there are the other 98 Kaurava brothers. Sure, they might have collectively done some sneaky things, but how exactly did they earn the fate of preceding their elder brother into the underworld, like some primitive escort?We might have learned thousands of years ago that war can never have a satisfactory outcome, and by now we should have found better ways of resolving our differences. But here we are today, a bunch of "civilized" readers, looking forward to the battle books and anticipating the final denouement of the evil Kaurava brothers.There is no such satisfaction on this, the first day of war. Instead, Virata was deprived of both of his sons, and we found out too late that his second son Shveta was a fine Kshatriya and would have made a great ally. But now he's dead; another life wasted.Brace yourself, however, because there is much more of this yet to come...
Episode 61 - It is the morning of the first day of battle. Already Krishna has revealed his great song to Arjuna, and now there are some final formalities, as Yuddistira runs to his elders on the enemy side for their blessings. Krishan tags along and tries to tempt Karna over to the Pandava side, just until Bhisma is dead. It must have been tempting, since it would have given him the chance to even kill the old bugger. But Karna is too loyal to go for such an under-handed thing. He turns Krishna down without a second thought.Finally, just as Yuddistira returns to his lines, he invites anyone who'd like to change sides. Yuyutsu, Dhrtarastra's 101st son, the illegitimate son of a serving girl, volunteers to change sides. Now at least the old king can reasonably hope to have a son who survives this war and can make offerings to his ghost.With this betrayal, Duryodhana starts the fight with a raid directly on his cousins. What follows is a litany of the numerous duels, none of which ended in a fatality, and the violent slaughter of the un-named masses. There is a bloody stalemate until the sun reached mid-day, and Bhisma launched a frontal attack on his enemies. More on that next time!
Episode 60 - This concludes Krishna's dialog with Arjun about Dharma, Bhakti, Yoga, and the Gunas. During the course of this, Arjun is granted divine sight, and is able to catch a glimpse of Krishna's true appearance; it nearly blows his mind.Getting back to Arjun's original question-- Does Arjun's Dharma really require him to kill his relatives and gurus? and how can this can be a good thing? It seems like a lot of Krishna's teaching is addressed to posterity, because advice to meditate more often isn't exactly going to propel Arjun into the battlefield. I think the convincing part of it for Arjun was the divine vision in which he saw his enemies rushing inexorably to their deaths. Whether he followed his Dharma, or ran away, these guys were dead men walking. So the decision to fight was a personal one. Whether he fired the arrow that killed his grandfather or not, the sin of murder would not be on his conscience.This ends the Gita. We have only one small formality to take care of, and then finally the battle will begin-- next episode!
Episode 59 - We begin the famous holy book, the Bhagavad Gita. The scene for this revelation is the midst of the fateful battlefield of Kurukshetra. Arjun surveys the field, seeing his relatives, friends, cousins, uncles, elders and gurus, all ready to draw each other's blood and die for the sake of his dynastic dispute. For the good guys to win, Arjun will personally be responsible for the death of the people he respects the most in the whole world.He simple cannot go on with it. Arjun drops his bow and sits down. Better to die than to go forward with the slaughter. Fortunately, Krishna is right there to remind him, and us, what life is really about. It is not about sitting around, worrying about the outcomes of our actions. We are here to get on with the story, keep moving, and most of all, follow our Dharma.We get a lesson in cosmology, philosophy and even advice on how to meditate. It's good stuff, and there's more to come. We're about half-way through the Gita. We'll get to the remainder next time!
Episode 58 - The Battle Books, but not the battle, begin here. Since we are at the second most important beginning of the epic, aside from the very beginning, there is a lot of unnecessary material stuffed into the narrative. I tried my best to make sense of it, and to leave out the voluminous details that had nothing to do with the story at hand. I also tried to iron out the repeated descriptions of the armies' dispositions, and the scene of the two sides lined up prior to battle. This is one of the most difficult episodes I've had to produce, so I hope I was able to make some sense out of it.We also belatedly get an explanation for Sanjay's magic vision. It turns out Vyasa popped in and granted him that ability. Maybe this scene really occurred when Krishna was still in town for negotiations, because it was Krishna's conversation with Karna that Sanjay was first able to report on without actually being there. Otherwise, there is no explanation for those earlier feats of clairvoyance.This confusing little prelude leads right up to the Bhagavad Gita, which is the very next chapter in the Bhisma Parva. We'll begin on that in the next episode.It is also worth repeating the observation J.A.B. van Buitenen made about the composition of the two armies facing off at Kurukshetra. It turns out that the armies that allied with the Pandavas all came from kingdoms to the south and east of Hastinapur, while the Kauravas' allies were all from the north and west.The timeless pattern of Indian migrations and invasions has always been a flow of people coming out of the northwest and conquering or settling in the richer lands of the south and east. If there is some macro-economic or demographic movement happening behind the human drama, perhaps we are looking at a folk recollection of some past invasion, which was stopped by the Indian heroes and their advisor Krishna. Maybe Alexander was in there somewhere, on the Kauravas' side?!?
Episode 57 - Bhisma finishes bringing us up-to-date on who Sikhandin is, who he used to be, and why Bhisma won't fight him.This also finishes the Udyoga Parva; the Book of the Effort. Next time, we start in on the Bhisma Parva, the first of the eight Battle Books. Don't assume that the war is about to start, just because we end off on the dawn of the first day of the war. We still have a lengthy introduction in the Bhisma Parva, and then there is the Bhagavad Gita, which will take a few episodes-- we don't want to rush things!
Episode 56 - Bhisma begins telling the story of Amba/Sikhandin-- the only person, barring the Pandavas, whom he will not fight in the coming battle. The reason for this is that Sikhandin had once been a female. She was not just any female at that-- she was Draupadi's sister, and in her past life, she'd had a bad run-in with Bhisma, making her his sworn enemy from beyond the grave.We begin the story with Amba's abduction, along with her sisters Ambika and Ambalika, by Bhisma to provide wives for his brother. When she announces her pre-arranged betrothal with Shalva, she is freed to go to him. A comedy of errors ensues when he questions her virtue, and then she breaks from her escort, ruining her reputation. But this is a deadly serious matter. The girl is now unmarriageable, and her father would be unlikely to take her back. She has died to her caste and is possibly the most vulnerable person in all of India.Amba seeks shelter with the Brahmins & ascetics, and finally enlists Rama Jamadagni as her champion. Bhisma is too stubborn to even allow his own guru to make him take a woman of questionable virtue into his house, so Rama kills him. Bhisma has a near-death experience and is reminded of his past existence as one of the divine Vasus, and discovers that his holy brothers are still looking out for him.Bhisma cannot die now, because his appointment with Destiny has already been set with the incarnation of the Primeval God, Nara Prajapati-- Arjuna Kaunteya.
Episode 55 - As if intending to seal his fate, Duryodhana warms up the Pandavas by sending over an odious gambler Uluka as a messenger to goad them into fighting. Then Bhisma kindly gives us an inventory of the fighters who will take place in the coming battle.There are a bunch of guys who I've never heard of, and do not seem to have any important role to play in the story, so I've left them out, trying to keep the cast of characters under control. As for the rest, they are all rated between Rathas and Atirathas. Finally, Bhisma assures the Kauravas that he could personally beat anyone on the opposing side, except for Arjun, but not to worry about Arjun, because he would never kill his elders or gurus. The others he would not kill: the Pandavas, any women, and anyone who used to be a woman. It turns out, there is one of these trannies on the Pandava side-- it's Drupad's 2nd son, Sikhandin. Next episode, Bhisma will tell us why it is he cannot kill this particular warrior.
Episode 54 - Krishna returns from his mission to Hastinpur with war on his mind. Yuddistira, having spent the last 12-14 years undergoing massive hardship to prevent this war, is reluctant to accept this truth. He begs for more information, trying to find any way out of this situation. So Krishna obliges by giving us the details of a few more speeches made in the Kuru court, but none of it helps. War is truly inevitable.So both sides round up their armies and march on Kurukshetra. When they arrive, each side appoints a Commander in Chief. It is Bhisma on the Kaurava side, and King Drupad on the Pandavas' side.From this point until the end of the war, the main narrative frame of the story will be told in terms of a conversation between Sanjay and Dhrtarastra. The Epic has so far not explained how it is that Sanjay knows what is going on at the far-off battlefield, but somehow he knows everything, and is able to relate it all to his king. Occasionally, Dhrtarastra will interrupt with questions or react to the events, so it will be through his blind eyes that we shall perceive the coming war.But don't be deceived that just because we are on the eve of war, that we will be soon getting to it. The Epic always takes its time, and there will still be quite a few more episodes before the action really starts. After al, we still need to get through the Bhagavad Gita!!!
Episode 53 - This episode is devoted to the classic scene of the Mahabharata in which Krishna reveals to Karna his true descent. He never was the Son of a Suta, which everyone called him with scorn. No, he was in fact the eldest of the Pandavas-- the original Partha. Now that the truth was out, all Karna needed to do was embrace his Dharma, join his brothers, and assume the title of King of India.Poor Karna, always the victim of bad timing. It was way too late for such an offer. Perhaps if Kunti had stood up and claimed him as her son during the Pandavas' first military exhibition, he might have come around then, but now there was too much water under the bridge. Karna had been tossed out as a baby like the day's garbage, and had been scorned as a Suta when he tried to display his Kshatriya nature. His modest Suta parents and the evil Kauravas had been the only ones to come to his aid, and he would never give them up.Krishna failed in turning Karna, but somehow he allowed Sanjay to know of the entire conversation, so the story of Karna's descent and temptation was made known to all the Kauravas. Kunti caught wind of the encounter, and she made a go at turning him. She also failed, but she at least got the promise that he would spare her other sons, and should Arjun die, Karna would take his place as her fifth son.
Episode 52 - The peace talks break down completely. It starts well, when no one can come up with a rebuttal to Krishna's speech. Narada and Kanva tell a couple of parables to help with the decision making, but Duryodhana was not interested. It seems he believed that the terms of the Dice Game were that the Pandavas were to go to the forest forever, not just 13 years. Maybe it's true? What if the Pandavas had indeed been banished for life, but they decided to change the rules when Krishna & Drupad offered to help them overthrow their cousins? How would we know, since we only get the version of the story as told by the survivors of this war!?!In any case, Duryodhana stuck to his story, and was adamant about refusing to bow to threats. They began talking of restraining the boy and sending him in fetters to the Pandavas, and Duryodhana in turn planned on capturing Krishna. When news of this arrived at the palace, Dhrtarastra blew his top and yelled at the boy. Then Krishna revealed his true nature, in front of the Kuru court.The peace talks have failed. There is nothing more to do but get ready for war. But Krishna will stick around a little longer to meet with Kunti and then stir up some trouble by telling Karna about his true descent...
Episode 51 - Sanjay's mission clearly did not accomplish much, so this time Krishna offers to go to Hastinapur as the Pandavas' chief negotiator. When the Kauravas hear he is coming, Dhrtarastra plans on bribing him, while Duryodhana hopes to imprison him. Krishna senses all the bad vibes and decides to only stay & eat with Vidur. He also visits with the Pandavas' poor widowed mother Kunti, whom he tries to console. Surprisingly, Kunti blames her father for all her suffering. Kunti's father, Sura, was also Krishna's grandfather, and for some reason he gave her up for adoption to the chieftain Kuntibhoja. It was there, while living under Kuntibhoja's roof, that she was assigned to serve the creepy saddhu Durvasas. The result was that poor Kunti was saddled with an illegitimate baby-- young Karna.Krishna assures his aunt that the Pandavas will soon make their comeback and all will be well. Then he pays a visit to Duryodhana. Duryodhana attempts to bribe him, but Krishna refuses to even eat with them. The following day, Krishna is summoned before the court of Hastinapur, where he makes his case for a settlement with the Pandavas.The king and his councilors really don't have much to say by way of a rebuttal, so Parashurama breaks the silence by offering to tell a couple of parables. Next time, we'll hear these parables and then see how the negotiations turn out.
Episode 49 - Now that both sides are armed to the teeth and infested with vast armies, they are ready to talk peace terms. The Pandavas start the first round by sending Drupad's unnamed priest as their ambassador. This priest travels to Hastinapur and asks only for the terms of the Dice Game to be fulfilled. Dhrtarastra responds well enough, sending his Charioteer Sanjay as the returning ambassador. Sanjay's message is also for peace, but the terms are rather unacceptable. The Kauravas suggested that the Pandavas simply disarm, and go away. No land, no titles, no nothing.Yuddistira sends Sanjay back with his counter-arguments and counter-proposal. When the charioteer returns home, it is late, so he drops in on Dhrtarastra just to let him know he's back and will be delivering the Pandavas' rejoinders in the morning. Now the old blind king is left to stew all night. Dhrtarastra cannot sleep, so he summons his younger brother Vidur to entertain him. Vidur treats us to some lengthy speeches on virtue and Dharma, and by the end of the night, he is apparently channeling spirits! We hear from the immortal sage Sanatsujata, but this guy is apparently senile, because none of his teachings make any sense!Next time, we'll find out what the Pandavas have to say in reply to Dhrtarastra's niggardly terms.
Episode 48 - The Pandavas have come out of hiding and are demanding their lands back from the Kauravas. Duryodhana has already indicated that he has no interest in giving these back, so it would be best to negotiate from a position of strength. An arms race ensues, with both sides scrambling to get commitments from their allies across India and beyond.Duryodhana wins the first couple of rounds at this game. He rushes to Dwaraka, and gets Krishna to commit his armies to the Kaurava side. The Pandavas get Krishna; as an unarmed advisor. Duryodhana also plays on the generosity of the Pandavas' ally King Shalya, by providing hospitality to Shalya's army while it was on the march. When Shalya offers a boon to his host, Duryodhana presents himself, and asks for Shalya's support in the war. The king has no choice but to grant the request.The king journeys on to meet with the Pandavas and tells them what had happened. Since Duryodhana fooled them fair & square, Yuddistira accepts the fait accompli. He only asks that Shalya do whatever he can to throw Karna off his game when the big chariot duel between Arjun & Karna takes place.Shalya also takes the sting off a bit by telling the story of Indra's Victory. This is a strange story in which the brahmins completely dominate the course of events. A brahmin picks a fight with Indra, and although Indra acts in self-defense, he is nevertheless guilty of brahmin-murder, and he suffers accordingly. The force of the punishment makes Indra sort of resign his post and go into hiding.The Man-God Nahusha is then nominated king of heaven (by brahmins & gods), and the brahmins give him his very own superpower. When Nahusha turns out to be a power-hungry lecher, the brahmin priest Brhaspati advises the gods on how to get their old Indra back. Indra is powerless at this point, so he suggests to his wife that the best way to take down Nahusha would be to get him into a fight with the brahmins. Nahusha walks right into the trap, makes himself a brahmin-drawn chariot, and ends up offending the entire race of priests. It's all over when he specifically annoys Agastya, and gets cursed to life as a snake for 10,000 years. It seems that in this story the "kshatriya" gods are just pawns in a brahmin game!Finally, the Pandavas and Kauravas have gathered their allies-- 7 grand armies for the good guys, and 11 armies for the bad guys. Now the negotiations can commence!
Episode 47 - The brothers formally come out of hiding, and thick-headed Virata finally realizes he has been sheltering the famous Pandavas. To avoid any question of scandal, Virata's daughter is quickly married to Arjun's son, Abhimanyu. The allies are summoned for the wedding, and the brothers set up a temporary headquarters at Virata's second city, Upaplavya.This ends the book of Virata. Next time, we'll start the Udyoga Parva-- the Book of the Effort.
Episode 46 - News of Kicaka's death reaches the neighboring kingdoms, and precipitates an attack from the Trigartas and the Kauravas. Virata sends his entire force against the Trigartas and leaves the rest of the country open for the Kuru's sneak attack.Kanka, Balava and the twins are all recuited into the army, but Brhannala is left at home. Thus, it is up to the young crown prince and the eunuch to rescue the kingdom from invasion. As they are riding out to meet the Kurus, the 13th year of exile comes to an end. Arjun is free to reveal himself, so he retrieves his magic weapons and takes charge of the defenses.Arjun and Karna finally get their chance to fight, but Karna's boasts don't amount to much, after all. Arjun literally blows him off the battlefield one time, and then later, when Karna gives it another go, he shots an arrow right into Karna's chest, knocking him unconscious and off the battlefield once again.Thanks for all your comments. Please keep visiting my blog at www.mahabharatapodcast.com and let me know what you think!