July 08, 2010


“Of all the women in Aryavat, in all of the times, you had to walk into mine when I had resigned to the fact I would never find one like you.”

During my days of obsession with Casablanca I had written this about the daughter of Drupad. But that was another time, innocence was not yet lost and heroes and villains were still in black and white. These days the mind was uneasy, the heart overcast with the shadow of lawlessness, the life was Godless.

The Mahabharata and I have had a love hate relationship since my childhood. It was too vast for me to comprehend and my loyalties kept shifting between the warring brothers and the master flutist. But whenever my mind asked questions The Mahabharata had an answer for them. But then even my liberal household had no answer for one most important question of Mahabharata – the one that Gandhari asks Krishna – “You could have stopped this bloodshed, yet you did not.”

They mumbled, saying the will of the Gods were difficult to comprehend, that the answer lay in the words of The Bhagvad Gita, “Yada Yada hi Dharmasya” but I was never satisfied.

The childlike questioning slowly gave way to an adult resignation. Sometimes you do not find answers for the will of the Gods and the minds of Mean cannot cross the deep chasms between them. Yet I forgot one thing. The answers come when you ask the right questions and when the time is right.

The answers draw them to you. But you never realize. Slowly, time covers up the memories that haunted your previous births where the same questions had manifested itself, where while dying under the Agnibaan of Arjun, you had sworn revenge, you, a small insignificant foot soldier under the banner of the mighty Duryodhan.

Suddenly Andha Yug was being performed at Prithvi and it blew away the dust of ages from the question – “Why did you not stop the bloodshed O Krishna?”

The play asked the right questions and yet gave the standard answers – the end of the Third Age of Man (with which had begun the final cycle of earth towards the Ultimate Destruction and the Promised Reawakening) had to begin with the 18 long days of battle. Dharma, Maryada, Veerta, all would be sacrificed and in the end would remain the cursed Ashwathama, carrying the sores of his ill doings, a constant reminder to those who remembered the decadence which had set in the Third Age of Man.

I loved the play, G did not. But then, the lady from Anga Desh told me to read a new book, “Palace of Illusions.” – Mahabharata through Drapadi’s eyes. I was not sure. In all my pompousness I thought how could someone tell me more about her. Wasn’t she the topic of hot debates between my sister and grandmother? Wasn’t she the one for whom bards had composed the powerful play “Nathbati Anathbat” (which I wasn’t allowed to see as I was too young)?

Somewhere someone smiled as if to mock me, to remind me that all my life I had never failed to find answers if only I had read, read and read some more.

Krishnaa – the beloved friend of the Cowherd, the greatest cook in the whole of history, the strongest woman from Indian Philosophy, the cause of the Great War and yet unlike Helen of Troy just not a cause but an active participant. In this land obsessed with fair skins, she was the first to show that the colour of Skin mattered little. Krishna the God, Krishnaa the cause.

Yet Indians never built a temple for her, neither revered her. The heroes of Mahabharata barring the Flutist would never be prayed to as they embodied all the failings of the Human Mind. In fact, in the sense of true Indian Justice, even He would not be revered for his role as a charioteer but as the simple cowherd who had spread the word of love.

But they were Men and Women as they should be. Plotting, conniving and yet resplendent in their glory of their deeds. We won’t pray to Karna ever and yet when we remember generosity we respect the deserted child who tore away the only shield from his cursed existence. We would hate Duryodhana and yet we know in our heart, he died like a true Warrior. We would honour Yudhistir for his truthfulness and yet shudder at what it led him to – a lone human amongst Gods.

The book was beautiful, perhaps a tad agitating for my Grandmother who still loved Karna and would not believe in what she called “the fictional account of his love for Panchaali”. Yes, it did not add to my knowledge of the scriptures but somehow it brought back to memory the more important stories.

And as I read the last few pages, pieces of the Jigsaw fell into place. “In this great battle, it is I who have died, again and again.” He needed the Great War to put an end to the wars. He needed on throne a just king who would rule the start of the Last Age of Man. He needed to give his flock one last chance of redemption.

The age of Parikshit is long gone. The world of men as we know it is on the verge of extinction and yet no body understands the answer of Yudhistir to the Yaksha, “Every day so many die and yet the rest go on as if they were immortal.”

But the promise remains, “If you ever need me, I will be there.”

And that was what Panchaali needed to know.


WSW said...

I love the "Palace of Illusions" even with its filmi ending..It gives really puts things in a perspective so missing from my earlier reference point BR Chopra's rendition!

Kavity said...

Beautiful post!
However, I thought 'Palace of Illusions' was a tad too feministic and harped too much on the Karna-Draupadi love angle!

Madhurjya (Banjo) said...

@WSW - Read the Original

@Kavity - My grandma would hear this and say, "only sensible woman amongst your friends."

Shreya said...

Shimmery post. Feels good to know that fascination is alive.

Krishna said...

Nice! Really liked your observation "He needed the Great War to put an end to the wars...."

Some of these questions are things I've had to grapple with during my own writing.

Would love to hear your take on some of my perspectives: http://govindashauri.blogspot.com


Anonymous said...

I would like to point out that Draupadi is still being worshipped as Amman and there are many temples built for her. She is the family Goddess of many south Indian families like my own.