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At the Feet of The Mother

Reflections on the Mahabharata 6: The Champions of Dharma

Pandavas, all five of them, represent a new humanity which is born amidst the old. They are portrayed as the champions in the cause of dharma. They belong to the noble Kshatriya type who will stand steadfast on the path of righteousness and fight for what is true and beautiful. Their mother is Kunti, the long suffering yet strong and patient woman that the ancient Aryans cherished as one of the ideal types. She has faced many a challenge from being socially ostracised, to the untimely death of her husband the newly anointed king of the Kuru clan, injustice at the hands of her own people who usurp the kingdom wrongly and through deceit and yet she refuses to give up. She is the epitome of a strong Aryan woman, who like Sita and Draupadi and Savitri grow stronger with the blows of fate. They do not become cynics nor complain about what destiny gives them. Instead they take the challenge of destiny head on and with courage and confidence and win against all odds. The only little stain on Kunti’s noble nature is the abandoning of Karna born before her marriage, an act for which she suffers life-long remorse and pain.

Each of her five sons are born through intervention of the gods. They represent power and aspects of the Divine, vibhutis as they are called in India. Yudhisthira, the eldest represents justice and dharma, Bhima the strong represents Life energy in its tremendous power submitting itself to nothing and none except dharma which his own elder brother embodies. Arjuna represents Indra, the leader of the gods who is fierce in battle and is armed with a subtle intelligence. The other two, from Madri, the second wife of Pandu the king, Nakul and Sahadeva represent the Aswins, the gods of youth, vitality and health. Among them Nakul is the prototype of someone who is balanced in his living whereas Sahadeva is a more meditative type who has a clear vision of truth.

Last comes Karna, who is also born to Kunti. He is not a Pandava so to say, since he was born before Kunti was married. His life is an interesting story of a man who is in search of his true identity. He is a Kshatriya by temperament and equal to Arjuna in his prowess and skill in the battle. But what differentiates him from Arjuna is that he is overtaken by ambition and jealousy. The spirit of vain competition drives him, the will to prove himself better than Arjuna, to the extent that he makes it almost his life’s goal to challenge and defeat him, even deal to him a mortal blow to prove his superiority. His ambitious nature takes the better of him, enslaving him to the evil-doer Duryodhana just because he offers him a kingdom to rule. Though a born deva-type he represents someone who has lost his way and falls from his high possibility and thereby finds himself in the camp of the evil-doers and thereby, on the wrong side of history. His is the worst fate since it is one thing when our basic nature is still unevolved like a Duryodhana’s, but quite another when you abandon a divine possibility with which you are born and stand in support of evil. The tragedy of his life is not that his identity remains unknown, for what after all is an identity by birth, he does discover his Kshatriya nature and destiny gives him opportunity to learn all that he needed to learn under the tutelage of the most able master of that time. His real tragedy is his fall from his high divine possibility, His guru, Lord Parashuram, an Avatar himself, cautions him when he knows the seed of ambition and tendency of deceit in his nature that he should not use his skills to defend “ adharma” and if so he will lose it all. He does not listen to his wise advice even as he does not listen to the entreaties of Sri Krishna to step aside from the battle and therefore meets his nemesis. Modern commentators wrongly think that Sri Krishna was being diplomatic in asking him to join the Pandavas. Whatever divine diplomacy there may be, but Sri Krishna knowing his true Kshatriya nature and his godlike birth wanted to give him a fair chance to come out of grip of evil of the gang of Duryodhana and Shakuni and join the forces of dharma. He refused and hence the gods take away their protection from him, the famous armour presented to him by his godly father Surya.

The armour given by the gods is not meant to be used for evil purposes. If we do it then we stand to lose the protection and fall on the battlefields of life. All who have tried this, to put the powers given to them for wrong use, have failed and Karna is no exception.

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