Playing Duryodhana’s Advocate

Duryodhana

“The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmaṇa, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater.” (Bhagavad Gita 5.18)[1]

When I discuss the Mahabharata with my Hindu friends and relatives I am often struck by their insistence on Duryodhana’s unambiguous wickedness. This is a common sentiment online as well as in published commentaries, but I find it odd. It is uncontroversial to point out that the character depth of the entire cast of the Mahabharata comes largely from their moral ambiguity. Why is Duryodhana the lone exception to this?

Here I offer an alternative view of Duryodhana and his role, which I believe to be more properly supported by the Mahabharata’s text, and historical context.

I posit that Duryodhana while certainly the antagonist of the Mahabharata was written as a morally nuanced, or even sympathetic character. His role is to embody a philosophy of ritualism and Kshatriya Dharma (warrior morality), which inevitably and irreconcilably conflicts with the Bhakti (devotional) Dharma represented by Krishna. However, as I will show, Duryodhana conforms too well to the image of a “good Kshatriya”, and is treated far too well by divine figures to be a pure villain.

His admirable traits such as loyalty, efficient governance, honorable and skilled warfare, power, and boldness represent Kshatriya Dharma at its best, uncontextualized by devotional religion. His negative traits such as wrathfulness and treachery, as well as his defeat at the battle of Kurukshetra serve to illustrate the perils of pursuing one’s earthly duties without devotion to Krishna and the self-control, which it brings.

Duryodhana’s Crimes: Since are commonly repeated and well known, I will make this section short.

  • Deception and dishonesty: He cheated the Pandavas out of their kingdom in a rigged game of dice, and then sent them into exile for 13 years. Afterwards he still refused to return their kingdom as per their agreement.
  • Malice: He tires to murder the Pandavas by offering them a palace made out of ghee, oil, and lac, and then igniting it while they are sleeping. He also tried to poison and drown Bhima multiple times.
  • Cruelty and disregard for honor: Duryodhana brings Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas into his court and attempts to have her garment torn off her body. In the context of the epic, this is seen both as public humiliation and sexual violence. Of the crimes listed so far, this is usually considered the most serious. He also disregards battlefield honor when following Abhimanyu’s slaying of his son Lakshamana, he commands all of his soldiers to attack Abhimanyu at once.

However there is an additional “crime”, which subsumes all of the above:

  • Rejection of Krishna’s divinity: On multiple occasions Duryodhana shows that he either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that Krishna is divine. He chooses Krishna’s army over Krishna himself to aid him in battle. Later on he attempts to have Krishna arrested. Defiant till the end, on his deathbed he condemns Krishna for violating the rules of combat. Throughout his life he treats Krishna, as an equal bound by the same Kshatriya Dharma as himself, rather than as a God who is “above the law”.

Duryodhana’s crimes and virtues must me examined in the context of the established duties of a Kshatriya. To determine these, I’ll use Manavadharmashastra/Manu Smriti as a guideline. I think this is justified, as Manu Smriti is cited by other Indian texts far more frequently than any other dharma shastra, and between one third and one half of it is either borrowed from, or copied by the Mahabharata’s authors.[2]

Manu Smriti warns kings against inflicting wrath and treachery on their opponents. Duryodhana rarely exhibits self-control in respect to these vices, and in that sense fails to completely uphold his Kshatriya Dharma. However, Manu Smriti also repeatedly praises power and conquest on their own terms.[3] Warriors and kings are encouraged to gain and maintain political power, rule justly and efficiently, and conduct honorable and successful conquest with far more repetition and emphasis than they are instructed to refrain from vices. It might be hard for modern Hindus to accept, but at the time of the Mahabharata’s writing, Kshatriya Dharma essentially consisted of a “master morality” stressing nobility and power over love and sentiment.

Certainly Duryodhana’s crimes are violations of his Kshatriya Dharma, but in light of his Kshatriya virtues they alone do not suffice to completely villainize him.

Duryodhana’s Virtues:

Friendship, and Respect for Merit: When Karna was prohibited from competing against Arjuna in an archery contest due to his low birth, Duryodhana granted him a kingdom thereby removing his low caste stigma and enabling him to compete. In doing so, Duryodhana demonstrates the Kshatriya practice of fostering alliances with those who are initially politically weak, but who have future potential to be mighty allies.[4] However, this was not a purely strategic alliance, as the two of them develop a deeply loving and trusting friendship over the course of the epic. Indeed their bond is one of the strongest in the entire Mahabharata, and Duryodhana is emotionally crushed when Karna dies.

Benevolent Rule: This virtue is more controversial given that the welfare of the kingdom’s citizens is the primary moral justification for the Pandavas decision to reclaiming their kingdom by force. Nevertheless, the quality of Duryodhana’s reign is made clear in the text twice following his death.

  • When the citizens of Hastinapura are informed that Duryodhana has died, they react as follows:

“…all the people…filled with great anxiety, wept loudly… The whole city, O tiger among men, including the very children, hearing of Duryodhana’s death, sent forth lamentation from every side. We then beheld all the men and women running about, deeply afflicted with grief, their senses gone, and resembling people that are demented.” –Shalya Parva, Section 1[5]

This is hardly the reaction we would expect if Duryodhana were a ruthless tyrant.

  • In Asramavasika Parva after Duryodhana’s death the people of Kurujangala elect a Brahmana to communicate a message to Dhritarashtra. He says “King Duryodhana never did us any wrong”, that under him they were “well protected”, “enjoyed great happiness” and were governed just as well as under any of the previous Pandu kings.[6]

It makes sense that Duryodhana would rule well. Rather than being committed to religious ideals like the Pandavas, he was committed to earthly striving under the code of conduct delineated by his Kshatriya Dharma, which includes being a good king.

Honorable Battlefield Conduct: Despite his deceit outside the field of war, when on the battlefield he adheres to the established rules of engagement with remarkable consistency compared to his adversaries. ♠ Balarama refers to Duryodhana as a “fair warrior” who “shall obtain eternal blessedness” by his actions on the battlefield.[7] Duryodhana’s later presence in heaven proves Balarama correct.[8] Being a good Kshatriya entails following the rules of engagement, so it makes sense that he tries concertedly to follow the laws of war.

Contrast this with Krishna who considers himself “above the law”—that is to say above the constraints of Kshatriya Dharma. This is an affront to Duryodhana’s ethical code. On his deathbed Duryodhana (accurately) accuses Krishna of causing the deaths of Drona, Bhisma, and Karna, by dishonorable means.[9] Such chiding however is unlikely to sway Krishna or the Pandavas. The Pandavas feel free to violate the rules of combat at Krishna’s behest, because in their ethical framework devotion to Krishna comes before adherence to their Kshatriya Dharma.[10] They believe that actions committed with devotion to God transcend any earthly rules of conduct. On the battlefield, the Pandavas are willing to violate the secular letter of the law to preserve its spirit as conceived by Krishna. Duryodhana, lacking a belief in Krishna cannot appeal to such religious notions to contravene his explicitly delineated duty. This whole conflict is an obvious allusion to the ongoing conflict between Vedic warrior morality and devotionalist Vedanta.

Power and Prosperity: The ultimate goal of a Kshatriya second only to protecting his subjects, is conquest and the expansion of his power and wealth.[11] During his life Duryodhana maintains rulership over a huge swathe of territory and enjoys fantastic riches. That modern Hindus tend to dwell on Duryodhana’s attraction to power and wealth as a point of criticism shows how thoroughly this ancient Kshatriya Dharma has been expunged from Hinduism. If we are to judge him on his own terms, his power seeking nature must be considered a virtue. Duryodhana is certainly unrepentantly proud of it at his moment of death:

“I have performed sacrifices, supported a large number of servants properly, governed the whole earth with her seas! I stayed on the heads of my living foes! I gave wealth to my kinsmen to the extent of my abilities, and I did what was agreeable to friends. I withstood all my foes. Who is there that is more fortunate than myself? I have made progresses through hostile kingdoms and commanded kings as slaves. I have acted handsomely towards all I loved and liked. Who is there more fortunate than myself? I honoured all my kinsmen and attended to the welfare of all my dependants. I have attended to the three ends of human existence, Religion (Virtue), Profit, and Pleasure! Who is there more fortunate than myself? I laid my commands on great kings, and honour, unattainable by others, was mine, I always made my journeys on the very best of steeds. Who is there more fortunate than myself? I studied the Vedas and made gifts according to the ordinance. My life has passed in happiness. By observance of the duties of my own order, I have earned many regions of blessedness hereafter. Who is there more fortunate than myself? …. That which is desired by good Kshatriyas observant of the duties of their order, that death, is obtained by me! Who is there so fortunate as myself?” (Alternative translation of “Dharma” added) –Shalya Parva, Section 64 [12]

In glorifying himself and defying Krishna’s effort to overturn the old order up until the very end, Duryodhana simultaneously embodies the highest virtue according to Kshatriya Dharma, and the lowest sin according to Vedanta.

Divine Endorsement: If the authors of the Mahabharata considered Duryodhana’s course to be an unmitigated evil, then we would expect divine figures to laud his death and praise the Pandavas for destroying him. Instead, immediately following Duryodhana’s final statement the following occurs:

‘Upon the conclusion of these words of the intelligent king of the Kurus, a thick shower of fragrant flowers fell from the sky. The Gandharvas played upon many charming musical instruments. The Apsaras in a chorus sang the glory of king Duryodhana. The Siddhas uttered loud sound to the effect, “Praise be to king Duryodhana!” Fragrant and delicious breezes mildly blew on every side. All the quarters became clear and the firmament looked blue as the lapis lazuli. Beholding these exceedingly wonderful things and this worship offered to Duryodhana, the Pandavas headed by Vasudeva became ashamed. Hearing (invisible beings cry out) that Bhishma and Drona and Karna and Bhurishrava were slain unrighteously, they became afflicted with grief and wept in sorrow.     –Shalya Parva, Section 61[13]

As further evidence of the authors’ sympathy, Duryodhana ends up achieving through his actions. When Yudhishtra (also in heaven) sees this and becomes enraged, Sage Narada explains that because Duryodhana caused “his body to be poured as a libation on the fire of battle” and “through his observance of Kshatriya practices” he attained heaven. ☀[14] These incidents of divine approval and specific references to Kshatriya virtues seem to indicate that although the authors remain firmly on the side of Krishna and the Pandavas, they are unwilling to condemn Duryodhana for following his Kshatriya Dharma.

Analysis and Conclusion: Dhuryodhana’s character represents the consequences of following an earthly, self oriented path as ordained by the more conservative, ritual centric Vedic texts.[15] Through adherence to warrior morality he achieves power, wealth, and a noble death. The Pandavas take their Kshatriya Dharma as a general guideline, but are willing to violate it at the behest of Lord Krishna. Their devotion to Krishna leads to their ultimate victory over Duryodhana, illustrating the superiority of the new Vedantic system to the older warrior code.

The narrative is unmistakably pro-Pandava, but it also portrays Duryodhana as a relatively consistent practitioner of Kshatriya orthopraxy for which he is lauded. What could be the explanation for this apparent inconsistency?

The obvious answer to me lies in the fact that over the period of the Mahabharata’s composition, Indian religion was in a period of intense flux. There was a “reformation” of sorts underway comparable to the moral shift, which Nietzsche describes taking place in Europe after Christianity supplanted Paganism, albeit slower and more intermittent.[16] Devotional texts like the Bhagavad Gita positing a newer “softer” morality were written concurrently with conservative, texts like Manu Smriti positing ritualism and conquest as moral goods.[17] As evidenced by the Mahabharata, devotionalism was clearly the stronger trend and ultimately supplanted the old warrior morality with near totality.**

The precise details of and when and by whom the Mahabharata was composed will probably never be known. Did it occur over a long stretch of time with authors sympathetic to both conservative and devotional trends contributing (Edward Hopkins’ and Arthur McDonnell’s theory)? ✝[18] Was it composed rapidly by a small group or single author whose perspective was shaped by both trends (Dahlmann’s theory)? ℧[19] By whatever mechanism, the conservative trend embodied by Duryodhana shines through is certainly treated with sympathy and respect.

—————————–

♠ The notable exception being the previously mentioned killing of Abhimanyu.

☀ Some argue that Duryodhana’s presence in heaven was part of Narada’s illusion meant to test Yudhishtra. I think this is a misreading of the text. The purpose of the illusion is to test whether or not Yudhishtra would give up heaven to be with his family. Therefore, Narada’s illusion was not that Duryodhana HAD achieved heaven, but rather that Karna, Dhrishtaketu, Abhimanyu, etc. had FAILED to achieve heaven. Duryodhana’s achievement of heaven is indirectly confirmed after the illusion is lifted in Svargarohanika Parva section 3:  “Indeed, he reached that place where those foremost of men, those heroes, viz., the Pandavas and the Dhartarashtras, freed from (human) wrath, were enjoying each his respective status.” and in section 5: “Those that had fought on the side of Duryodhana are said to have been Rakshasas. Gradually, O king, they have all attained to excellent regions of felicity.” (emphasis added)

** Though the ritualistic trends survived in the Mimamsa School. Kshatriya Dharma never really went away, but was rather recontextualized within a “softer” Vedanta framework. I feel uncomfortable characterizing period in binary “ritualists vs devotionalists” terms, but examining it through a wide historical lend necessitates that. There were plenty of other parties such as Shramanas, Nastiks, and Vaisheshikas at play, and the shift from ritual centric “master morality” religion to devotional religion was quite erratic.

✝ Examine this interesting theory: “Macdonnel traces the growth of the Mahabharata: ‘There can be little doubt that the original kernel of the epic has as a historical background an ancient conflict between the neighboring tribes of the Kurus and Panchalas, who finally coalesced into a single people… Hence the historical germ of the great epic can be traced to a very early period which cannot be well later than the tenth century B.C. Old songs about the ancient feud and those who played a part in it must have been handed down by word of mouth and recited at popular assemblies or at great public sacrifices. These disconnected battle-songs, we must assume, worked up by some poetic genius into a comparatively short epic, describing the tragic fate of the Kuru race, who, with justice and virtue on their side, perished through the treachery of the victorious sons of Pandu with Krishna at their head. To the period of this original epic doubtless belongs the traces the Mahabharata has preserved unchanged of the heroic spirit and the customs of the ancient times, so different from the later state of things which the Mahabharata as a whole represents” (emphasis added)

℧ Although I only directly cite David Gitomer’s piece once in this whole essay, it deserves the most credit. My whole argument is inspired by and largely similar to his thesis. His footnotes were also extremely useful for finding further reading.

Hit “Continue Reading” for citations

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[1] Initial Bhagavad Gita quote: http://vedabase.net/bg/5/18/en

[2] Manu, Wendy Doniger, and Brian K. Smith. The Laws of Manu. London, England: Penguin, 1991. Page xvii

[3]Chapter 7 of Manu Smriti on the duties of kings and warriors: http://www.hinduwebsite.com/sacredscripts/hinduism/dharma/manusmriti_2.asp

[4]Manu, 7.208

[5] Mahabharata, Shalya Parva, Section 1: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m09/m09001.htm

[6] Mahabharata, Asramavasika Parva, Section 10: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m15/m15010.htm

[7] Mahabharata, Shalya Parva, Section 60: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m09/m09060.htm

[8] Mahabharata, Svargarohanika Parva, Section 1: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m18/m18001.htm

[9] Ibid. 7

[10] Mahabharata, Shalya Parva, Section 58: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m09/m09058.htm

[11] Manu, 7.99, 7.103

[12] Mahabharata, Shalya Parva, Section 64: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m09/m09064.htm

[13]Mahabharata, Shalya Parva, Section 61: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m09/m09061.htm

[14] Ibid. 8

[15] Manu, 7.213

[16] Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals, First Essay, Good and Evil, Good and Bad: http://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/Nietzsche/genealogy1.htm

[17] Manu, Wendy Doniger, and Brian K. Smith. Page xxxiii

[18] Krishnamachariar, M., and M. Srinivasachariar. History of Classical Sanskrit Literature. Pages 48-53

[19] Gitomer, David.  King Duryodhana: The Mahabharata Discourse of sinning and virtue. Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol.112, No. 2, p 223

Image credit: http://www.goelweb.com/diversions/mahabharat/page10.html

58 comments on “Playing Duryodhana’s Advocate

  1. Vishu Menon says:

    I admire your blog on Duryodhana. However, you make a concession to Pandava-worshippers with “His negative traits such as wrathfulness and treachery”. Where, indeed, did Duryodhan display traits of treachery? In ordering the construction of a house of wax? How could he and his builders have managed to do that with none (not even Krishna) knowing it?” When a terminal patient dies, the doctor gets blamed. What were the building materials in use in 1000 BC (assuming that the period is what you mention in the blog)? There certainly was no concrete nor could non-flambable materials been known to the builders of that time. So when a building burns down, you would say, “Oh, that was made of wax” much like “that doctor was bad and he killed my son”.

    I do not recall in the great epic any other event that could even remotely be called treachery. The case of Ekalavya was treachery, certainly not attributable to Duryodhan. It was done to maintain Arjun’s superiority in archery. Humiliating Karna in the competition in the name of his birth was done by the Pandavas, and gallantly redeemed by Duryodhan.
    Oh, yes, the game of dice. Doesn’t every loser say that he was cheated? The game was played in the presence of the greatest minds of the time. Would they not have noticed if there was cheating going on all through the game? Duryodhana did not play it, Shakuni, his doting uncle did. Couldn’t any of the brothers ‘dicovered’ the treachery and stopped the game while it went on from stake to higher and higher stakes?
    Imagine , Yudhishtira finally staked the woman of whom he was only a part husband. Could it get any meaner, any more obnoxious? And they blame Duryodhana for it!

    What right did Pandavas have to even a part of the Kuru empire? Kauravas were at least the grandchildren of an adopted son. Even more importantly, they had the support of Bhishma, the only legitimate heir. They say that the five were ‘acknolwedged’ by Pandu. Where does Mahabharat say that?. None in Kurukshtra. Illegitimate sons of a philandering (phlandering right from her pre-teens and mean enough to throw away the baby) woman, and of another woman who was cajoled by the former. In any case, Pnadvas lost all they had in the game of dice. By the rules of the game. If Duryodhan still agreed to release them from the bondage that Youdhishtir knowingly put them into, who was the wicked one, and who the good?

    Finally, look at the villainy in naming the characters. Which doting father like Dhritrashtra and faithful mother like Gandhari would name their children Dur-yodhan (bad warrior) and the second darling as Du-Shasan (bad ruler)? They were Suyodhan and Sushasan. Suyodhan died like the good warrior he was, obeying the laws of the battle, while Arjun killed him with treachery. Who was the hero, who the villain?

    Keep writing. I am amazed at your research work. Mind you, in this Country, you might get sued for saying the right thing.

    Best, Vishu Menon

    • Vishu Menon

      Wow! Thanks for your extensive comment. I love to engage people in discussions on these subjects, and I think that many of your criticisms are spot on.

      For example, you point out a number of treacherous and nefarious acts of the Pandavas, and questionable or inconsistent sections of the Mahabharata. Ekalavya, as you say, was crippled because Drona wanted to maintain the supremacy of his students. Karna’s humiliation was also done on the Pandavas behalf. You accurately point out that the Pandavas were negligent and foolish while playing dice, and Yudhishtra was cruel to gamble away Draupadi, his kingdom, and his brothers lives! All completely accurate. Why are these acts whitewashed? Why are Duryodhana’s virtues never brought to light, and his faults magnified?

      I still feel that Duryodhana exhibited some treachery as well though. He was not perfect, and I believe that making the proper concessions to the pro-Pandava argument strengthens the defense of Duryodhana. For instance, you imply that the burning of the house of lac may have been accidental or incidental. However, in Jatugriha Parva, section 146, Duryodhana says:

      Addressing the architect Purochana prior to the house of lac’s construction: “Therefore, O sire, keep my counsel and exterminate my foes by a clever device.”

      “.And use thou (in erecting that house) hemp and resin and all other inflammable materials that are procurable. And mixing a little earth with clarified butter and oil and fat and a large quantity of lac, make thou a plaster for lining the walls, and scatter thou all around that house hemp and oil and clarified butter and lac and wood in such a way that the Pandavas, or any others, may not, even with scrutiny behold them there or conclude the house to be an inflammable one.”

      “Thou must also so manage it all that none of Varanavata may know anything till the end we have in view is accomplished. And assuring thyself that the Pandavas are sleeping within in confidence and without fear, thou must then set fire to that mansion beginning at the outer door. The Pandavas thereupon must be burnt to death, but the people will say that they have been burnt in (an accidental) conflagration of their house.”

      http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/m01147.htm

      This would indicate that the house of lac incident was premeditated and intentional. You point out however, that Krishna should have foreseen this. True. Either he didn’t foresee it, which casts doubt on his divinity. Or, he did foresee it but said nothing, because he also foresaw that Vidura would warn them, and wanted to let the incident to play out to expose Duryodhana’s treachery.

      However, even in this incident the Pandavas still display negative traits. Before leaving the house, BHIMA, not Duryodhana sets it ablaze killing Purochana. Additionally, Kunti brought in a hungry Nishada woman and her five sons the night before and allowed them to become drunk and burn to death ensuring that 6 other bodies would be found in the rubble. The Pandavas have no problem killing Porochana in cold blooded revenge, nor sacrificing innocents to cover their tracks. Really, while the house of lac incident speaks poorly of Duryodhana, it speaks equally poorly or perhaps even worse of the Pandavas.

      http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/m01151.htm
      http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/m01153.htm

      I won’t go into the other points as deeply, but I think the Mahabharata does make it explicit that Duryodhana gets Shakuni to play dice for him on the basis that he knows how to throw the dice to always get his desired result every time (or perhaps Shakuni offers it? I don’t recall.) Is this cheating though? It could just be considered skill. But it could also be considered “unfair” considering that dice is supposed to be about chance. Even assuming its cheating though, you rightly point out that Duryodhana is merciful enough to release them from the slavery which Yudhishtra gambles them into! However, he does refuse to return the kingdom even after 13 years of undiscovered exile as per the agreement, which I think was wrong.

      As to what claim the Pandavas have to the throne– Yudhishtra was the eldest son of Kunti, wife of Pandu, a rightful king. I don’t think Pandu ever acknowledged them (or contributed his seed to them for that matter), but doesn’t being the eldest son of his wife qualify for anything? Even if not, Dhritarashtra who defaults to legitimacy after Pandu’s death made Yudhishtra crown prince. Also, You say that Bhishma sided with Duryodhana and that legitimizes him, but although Bhishma was the most respected figure on the battlefield, he had given up his right to rule many many years ago. Though perhaps not his right to select a ruler? The legitimacy of either side’s rulership is very shaky, and I don’t consider it the most important aspect of the moral dispute of the Mahabharata anyway.

      Again, I agree with your general argument, but I personally am careful to concede as many faults to Duryodhana as possible, and concede every virtue possible to the Pandavas. Because even with those concessions, Duryodhana still comes out as a partially viruous character, especially in light of his Kshatria code of morality. I don’t think that either side is really “good”. They are both morally grey. But there is a good case to be made that Duryodhana is the less wicked of the two, especially given the Bhakti-ite code of morality espoused by Krishna. Do whatever Krishna says! Forget the consequences! Killing is inconsequential anyway!

      Thanks for the great comment, I love discussions like these. You clearly have thought a lot about these issues as I have. Your contribution is appreciated and your future contributions are welcome.

      • Vishu Menon says:

        Thanks. I need to study a lot more on the great epic. With so many contemporary issues hurting one’s sentiments, where’s the opportunity. hemp and oil and clarified Butter (ghee) as construction material (for bonding lac bricks?) that takes the cake.

        I notice that you do not cloud the argument with bias. Yet the one about the righful heir does not gel well. Pandu was not the king, he was the regent for his blind elder brother. Moreover, when the question of inheritance came up, Dhritarashtra was on the throne. Dhritarashtra did not make Youdhishtira the ruler of Kuru kingodm, but, to buy peace , gave the Pandavas a separate state to rule which was what Yudhishtira gambled away along with his brothers and wife.

        No, I don’t buy that Shakuni argument. Being so clever, the Pandavas should have known him to be a cheat, if he indeed was one. If Krishna had half the affection that Shakuni had for his nephews, Pandavas would not have found themselves in such shameful soup. (But, then, there would never be the greatest fiction of all times). Pandavas should at least have realized the treachery while the game was going on – possibly for quite some time – and having lost everything, bartering away the wife (not of the gambler’s alone) was the meanest, wickedest thing ever donein human history. Duryodhana agreed to release them – what could be more magnanimous? – from the bondage that Youdhishtir put himself, his brothers and their common wife into on condition that they would spend so many years of forest-dwelling and a year of incognitio life. At the end of it they were supposed to be free, but were not necessarily entitled to rule any kingdom.

        I learnt Sanskrit for six years; yet could not get past half of Panini Sutr(am). Ishould try and pour through the original Mahabharat(am) with an unbiased translation by my side. I am dead scared of those swamis, Babas and Anandas who find fantastic meanings in ordinary verses.

        Regards, Vishu Menon

        • You are correct that Pandu was actually regent, not king. I retract that claim. Also, thanks for your correction that Dhritarashtra actually gave the Pandavas a portion of the kingdom. In that case Duryodhana was wrong for not giving them back Indraprasht and the attached portion of the kingdom, but the Pandavas have no legitimate claim on Hastinapur and the attached territory.

          However, I just checked the text and heres what it says about the dice game’s final conditions: “Sakuni then said,–‘The old king hath given ye back all your wealth. That is well. But, O bull of the Bharata race, listen to me, there is a stake of great value. Either defeated by ye at dice, dressed in deer skins we shall enter the great forest and live there for twelve years passing the whole of the thirteenth year in some inhabited region, unrecognised, and if recognised return to an exile of another twelve years; or vanquished by us, dressed in deer skins ye shall, with Krishna, live for twelve years in the woods passing the whole of the thirteenth year unrecognised, in some inhabited region. If recognised, an exile of another twelve years is to be the consequence. On the expiry of the thirteenth year, each is to have his kingdom surrendered by the other. O Yudhishthira, with this resolution, play with us, O Bharata, casting the dice.’

          So it does seem, at least from this translation, that Duryodhana should have surrendered the Pandava portion of the kingdom after the 13 years.

          I am very jealous of your sanskrit education! I have none, formally. Perhaps you can, as you say, check up on some of these questionable translations sometime or other. I have to rely on the translations of others. It would be great if I could find a line by line translation so that I could read it in english and then check the Sanskrit (very slowly) if I thought it was suspicious. It is common for those with religious interests to twist the meaning of a plainly stated verse to suit their own interests.

          Thanks for commenting

      • Vishu Menon says:

        Frankly, reading the epic in Sanskrit side- by-side with an authoritative and uncoloured translation is a task that would call for a lifetime of dedication. If you know Devnagri script you can access the original @ http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/mbs/mbsi01.htm. The hard copy I have with me has 7 huge volumes. My admiration for the poet is immense with nothing to spare for the “heroes” of the legend. An error or two in my understanding does not change that. I only do my ‘thumb-through’ research on the epic when someone like Minister Kageri comes up with such fantastic claims as he did a few months ago. On Bhagavad Gita, which is shorter and less complex, I claim to be on firmer ground. Do look up my blogs @ vishumenon.com

        • Thanks for that resources. I can read devnagari, so that’ll be of some use.

          I’ve read a lot of your blog posts and will continue to do so. Your perspective is rare and honest. Great exchanging ideas with you Vishu.

    • Tihor says:

      “Duryodhana” means “He who cannot be withstood in Battle”. “Dushasana” means “Strict/ Disciplined ruler”.

      Both are ‘good’ Aryan names in Sanskrit. I don’t know where you got your etymology from…

    • vishumenon says:

      While answering your question “why 12 years?” I must first point out two unforgivable errors in my earlier reply.

      One, I was wrong in suggesting that Kunti getting impregnated by random godmen was ‘not acknowledged’ by Pandu. That was wrong. On a second reading, I find that Pandu actually cajolled Kunti into it, poining out that in the earlier days women used to have sex with whomever they pleased. Vyasa, of course, had a better knowledge of human history than many of the ‘babas’ who go around interpreting the epics in the way they liked. Karna was begotten with no such persuasion, and as the sons of Ham in the Bible, he paid the price for it.

      Two, Suyodhana was killed by Bhima, not Arjuna. That was a howler for which there is no excuse.

      One more point : Kauravas mean the Kuru-born. Pandavas mean Pandu-born. The war was for the Kuru kingdom. So where is the justification for Pandavas going to war, any more than Germans wanting to capture Poland?

      Now to your question – why twelve years in the forest? Any random number that comes to your mind has a relationship to something recent. They played with two dice cubes with six sides – maximum number for a high victory being 12. Every gambler, I suppose, played praying for number 12 – so that is the number that would normally occur to a gambler. If Pandavas paid penance for 12 years, that marked another victory for the Kauravas.

      It also could be that Yudhishtil lost in twelve games – I suppose first betting his money in his hand, then for his wealth, then a village, the kingdom that was gifted to him by Dhritarashtra to keep Pandavas away from trouble, then his brothers, and finally, the most heinous of all, the woman he was only one-fifth husband of. I suppose i am not counting them all, but I guess he bet and lost twelve times.

      Why a plus one? For releasing the one and only property that was released to them – Draupati.

      Every time I read even a stanza of the great epic, I am amazed at the logic and consistency of the greatest book ever written – and at the rank stupidity of those who interpret it. There is no black and white in Mahabharata.

  2. So what were Vedic Hindu values or morality as a whole, since you mention a morality that was expunged from Hinduism?

    • Hey Defenderofmyself,

      The earliest Vedic morality was very concerned with adhering to, and upholding Rta (the natural order of the universe, closely linked with Dharma) through sacrifice. Also by doing what is ordained, abstaining from what is prohibited, and fulfilling your role in life. Its very “law and order” centric. Within that framework, the role of the Kshatriyas (warriors) this entailed a strong emphasis on conquering enemies and accumulating as much land and power as possible. Of course, gradually constraints were worked into the moral ethos to restrain the extremes of this tendency. But concurrently, The Shramana tradition was fostering entirely opposing values. Concepts like Karma, Samsara, Ahimsa, and Moksha were introduced– concepts categorically opposed to the “natural order of the universe.” Vegetarianism for instance (as all renunciatory acts) is a blatant opposition to Rta. (Emphasis on Kama [pleasure] as a moral goal may have been introduced by Lokayatas.) These values trickled into Hinduism in the early Upanishads, gradually overpowering the emphasis on sacrifice and conquest and imposing more limits on the actions of rulers. I see the Mahabharata as the “last stand” of the old Vedic morality. In the face of Bhakti (Devotional love,) all the vedic rules are irrelevant and can be violated. Kill your own clan (!,) admonish the enemy king for conquering, violate all the rules of combat (violate Rta, or at this point in history we would say Dharma,) so long as it is in devotion to The Lord. Vedantism, probably the influential strain of modern Hinduism has emphasized Bhakti and the Upanishadic values introduced by the Shramans, and essentially expunged the emphasis on law, order, and conquest which permeated very early Vedic religion.

      I hope that made some things clear.

      Remember, I don’t mean this as a critique of early Vedic religion per se. There are good arguments in favor of the warrior virtues as anyone who has read Nietzsche will tell you. I’m actually sad that they got expunged so effectively (though perhaps not as effectively amongst the Rajputs and other groups which had to deal with invaders more frequently.) Conversely, I also don’t mean this as a full on critique of the post-Vedic Hindu tradition either. Though I think it suffers from neutering the Kshatriyas, it does have the ability to morph depending on social conditions and the influx of new ideas (though I worry that in modern times it is internalizing the harmful notions of hostility towards other religions via Christianity and Islam). Maybe through that reformist conduit Kshatriya values will reemerge. I remain hopeful.

      -Videshi

      • Oh, it’s a law and order type thing. I’m a little disappointed as I thought it was less repressive.

        • I don’t think it is that simple. “Repressive” for who and in what way? The Brahmins certainly had to live by strict ritual standards, but they no doubt received social and monetary benefits. Commoners also had to participate in the ritual life, but would they feel repressed if they thought that doing so placed them in harmony with the universe? And most importantly, the Kshatriya were liberated to rule and conquer as much as they desired. And also, the “Vedic philosophy” (Ie early directly forthcoming from the Vedas) wasn’t the only school of thought around in Vedic era India. Like I said, check out the Shramanas, who were basically reformers who introduced most of the concepts of modern Hinduism like rebirth, nonviolence, etc. But again, what is repressive? The asceticism of the Shramanas can also be seen as repressive. Repressive of what? The self? One’s desires? One’s ego? The notion of “repression” entails a lot of assumptions about what “freedom” is.

      • Haresh Gala says:

        Human Psychology – To prove by Hook or crook – we , Us are Right and other group is Wrong / Lower and has to accept our thinking.
        In This – Human World – Nothing is Right – All perceptions – Most Difficult to Find Actual ‘Truthness’-Rightness in material and Human Emotions. Its a Circular thinking with Everything ‘Right and Everything Wrong !

        Let s Enjoy the World , as it Evolves – Enjoy the Journey – Since there are No Destinations !

        See ..
        Lord Krishna: Was he real?
        http://ssonawani.blogspot.in/2014/05/lord-krishna-was-he-real.html

      • I see a very similar argument in Iravati Karve’s Yuganta – where she goes ahead and even claims that the Mahabharata was sanitized (Bhaktified) by later Indians.

    • vishumenon says:

      This passage appears in chapter 5, Verse 18. It goes thus :

      Vidya Vinaya sampathe Brahmane Gavi Hastini
      Shuni Chaiva shwapaake cha Panidta Samadarshinah

      No look at the order in which the categories are placed in this verse : A humble Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog eater.

      Now, a caste known as dog eater does not appear in any epic except in this passage of Gita. Dog is known in the epics as a companion to Yudhishtir on his way to heaven, as guardians of heaven and hell, and are worshipped in some temples. We do not know what the author of Gita meant by a dog-eater – may be, as most interpreters of Gita decoded the word as a low caste, or a Pariah.

      So in Gita, the low-caste, the Chandal or Pariah, ranks even below a dog. In chapter 5 titled True Renunciation, this passage says that to the Branhmana who has truly renounced everything, even the lowest of low things, the low caste who ranks far below the learned Brahmana and the cow and the elephant and the dog, would seem equal.

      In he early chapters of Bhagavad Gita (chapter 1 and 4), Arjuna and Krishna agree on one point : destruction of caste system will break down righteousness and corrupt women (1.41-43); those who upset the family laws by disrupting caste system will surely go to hell (4.13).

      Does that indicate that Gita advises against casteism? Do Hindu apologists adopt the ways of syllogism that Zakir Naik practices by twisting a sentence here and another there to prove that the Big Bang was known to Allah, so was the water cycle, the atomic structure and so on?

      Casteism is rampant in Bhagavad Gita; in Chapter 9, Verse 32, Krishna condemns “Women, Vaishyas, also Shudras,Even those born of evil wombs” who can but attain the Supreme goal. Once again, see the order of ranking. Compare this with a politician saying “I will help even a bastard if he votes fo me”. (In this particular passage, women rank higher than low castes. But not in all Hindu – or any religious – epics. Mausmriti which, Krishna quotes in Gita, has no qualms about saying that low castes (Shudras) must not be looked at; must not be educated, mut not be taught or advised, and mut be given a contemptible name when they are born. Remember the fate of Vidur, th smartest and the wisest among the Kurus (but not recognized as such because of his low-caste mother), Karna, Ek Laviya etc. in Mahbharat.

      Let us accept this : Casteism has been a part and parcel of Hindu epics, scriptures, and practice. So it has been in our treatment of women. The most praised God, Rama, Mahatma Gandhi’s idol, is the one who once made his wife walk through fire to prove her innocence, and then threw her in a fierce forest when she was pregnant.

      Great sinners would be born in the womb of a low-caste woman, warn the scriptures. Nothing could be worse. How true, even today. If you don’t believe me, ask a Dalit in Mayawati’s U.P.

      • Hello Vishu,

        Very true. Casteism is all over Hindu texts, although it is represented in inconsistent ways. Sometimes its represented as you say, as rigid, hereditary, and from a modern perspective cruel. Other times its more alterable and vaguely described. The specific duties of each caste also have shifted over time. What I’m trying to say is that Hinduism by its very nature (it contains many competing viewpoints and has no problem integrating new ones) is highly susceptible to reform. Reformists trying to expunge caste have existed since mediaeval times, but in 19th-21st centuries these movements have exploded. The caste system is backwards, and is symptomatic of backwards societies. I’m optimistic that in the future anti-caste reform movements will spread throughout India as long as the benefits of economic liberalization start to reach the villages in earnest.

        Thanks for commenting.

      • vinod kumar says:

        Is the reason why Rishi valmiki is so revered in Hinduism he was also from low cast, Cast is natural in any society in India or outside it, it is prevalent everywhere with different names. Krishna clearly says in chapter 4 verse 13

        “catur-varnyam maya srstam

        guna-karma-vibhagasah

        tasya kartaram api mam

        viddhy akartaram avyayam”

        Can you please explain why Shri Krishna says so ?

        • vishumenon says:

          I am asked to explain the meaning of the stanza 13, Cahpter IV of Bhagavat Gita. The implication is that God intended caste division on the basis of one’s profession, and not birth. Nothing is further from the truth.

          Manu, the original law giver, plainly states that caste is by birth (Name a Brahmin baby by a name that is divine and superior…….a Shudra baby by something despicable”. Evidently, the new-born has no profession.

          Now the author of Gita in this stanza bases caste on two variables – Guna,meaning character and Karma, past deeds. Karma relates to past deeds of the previous birth, not this. (The biggest punishment to a person of bad karma is to be born in the womb of a low-caste woman). Character is more contemporary. What the epics tell us that a Brahmin who co-habits with a woman of low caste, or has children by low caoste, reads Vedas to or in the presence of a Shudra, and does similar heinous things, loses his caste. Good Guna does not elevate, but bad Guna downgrades one’s caste, . This is evident from the abject status of Vidur – the cleverest and most knowledgeable of the three step brothers – in the durbar, and the story of Ekalvya.

  3. I meant less repressive than Shramana movements, which aim to sublimate the ego and of desires. Also less like Christianity.

  4. I never got how people could praise the Pandavas, and Krishna. The killing of Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Duryodhana, and even Shakuni, was done by treachery. The first three were done by Krishna’s treachery (the last one only done by Nakul if memory serves. Shakuni was shot by Nakul while he was fighting Sahadeva.)
    One could argue that the killing of Abhimanyu was wrong, but so was killing your guru while he’s meditating, or hiding behind a feminine man and shooting your elder to death. Sure the killing of Abhimanyu was wrong, but at least he had a chance to fight, while Bhishma was forced by oath to lay down his weapons, Drona was meditating and unaware, Karna had his back turned, Shakuni was engaged with another warrior. Duryodhana’s death was just inexcusable as well.
    You can call cheating whatever you want. It’s still cheating.

    • Absolutely. The Pandavas were no angels. Their counterargument would be that it was done for a “higher morality.” That its ok to break the letter of the law in order to preserve its spirit. I think that is a very slippery road, as one person’s “higher morality” is another person’s sin. Fundamentally though, I don’t see the Pandavas as evil either. They just had a moral system which was incompatible with Duryodhanas, hence the inevitable conflict. Thats life. Thats why the Mahabharata is so interesting to me.

  5. Bhairavi says:

    Namaste and pranams.

    We have just been discussing your wonderful article on our forum:

    http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/showthread.php?t=11743&page=2

    My name is ‘Necromancer’ on that forum.

    The comments I have provided on that thread, can also apply here in response.

    Duryodhana was no ‘angel’ but he was certainly a great king and loyal friend. He has been grossly misrepresented and underestimated by those who are biased towards the Pandava side of the tale (they have also committed some evil atrocities).

    Your article has helped to dispel some myths and misconceptions surrounding such an intriguing personage.

    I realise I am probably placing my neck on the Vaishnava ‘chopping block’ here, however, as a Shaivite, I’m constantly doing that anyway.

    I look forward to reading more of your inspirational thoughts in the near future.

    Regards.

    • Hahah, I welcome your neck alongside mine on the “Vaishnava chopping block.” To be fair, there are members of all sects which are tolerant of dissent, but yes, by defending Duryodhana we are certainly asking for suspicious glances at the very least.

      Glad that my post could inspire discussion on that forum. I’ve just made another more recent post about Duryodhana which might be of interest to you.

  6. […] will be a relatively diffuse postscript to a prior post I made: Playing Duryodhana’s Advocate. Duryodhana is one of the more despised characters in Hindu mythology. This is a […]

  7. Nitin says:

    Just completed reading Parva by SL Bhairappa. The novel de-mythifies the mahabharata and actually makes one contemptuous of every single actor in it including Krishna.
    By the way, I never could understand Duryodhana’s death in the novel. If any of you have read it, mind shedding some light on it?

  8. Passerby Observer says:

    “jatha raja tatha praja.”
    The subjects will act like the king acts.
    Suppose the King acts in a corrupt manner, the subjects too will do the same.
    Just because all the people of the kingdom embrace corruption does not mean corruption is the correct way of life as it perpetrates many injustices. Therefore, as a “king”, Duryodhan was not correctly entitled to the position.

    • Thanks for your comment Passerby.

      I don’t think it is textually evident that Duryodhana’s rule was substantially more “corrupt” behavior than the Pandavas. I’m willing to be disproven of course.

      Thanks.

    • vishumenon says:

      The epic also says Duryodhana was a great administrator. He got the best people in many kingdoms – including the common teacher and the only true inheritor – Bhima to side with him.

  9. Hey would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with?

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    a hard time selecting between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs and I’m looking
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    • No worries about the off topic comment.

      I’m using regular ol’ WordPress and my theme is Quintus. I don’t know why exactly mine looks different from other blogs. I think I just kept the color pallet as sparse as possible, and kept the layout as simple and direct as possible.

      Best of luck!

  10. Siva says:

    The fact that krishna did unjust moves to kill Duryodhana made me hate the sons of Pandu and krishna. Ever since I started reading and gathering more information about The Mahabharatha and Kurukshetra war, I started loving Duryodhana. And I feel that he was an unsung hero. Whenever someone blindly says that Duryodhana is evil, I get angry. Pandavas won the war because they had krishna whom I hate more now! And finally, happy to see that there are some people who values Duryodhana!

    • Glad that you enjoyed, Siva. I think that this perspective is actually not as uncommon as it seems, but for some reason people don’t want to be vocal about it.

      • vishumenon says:

        The fact is that the ancient story tellers described their characters as grey humans – as we all are.. That’s something later readers couldn’t accept. There had to be a good faultless hero and a bad villain in all stories. So the winners were made gods whose actions were right regardless, and the losers bad villains – as our movies still do. Americans killed more humans with napalm bombs in Vietnam; we only read about Hitler’s holocaust – a practice first invented by the British against Boers in South Africa. Even in other religions it works the same way. The God of all three Judaic religions is a heinous brute who insisted that all people whom his devotees (Jews, Christians or Muslims – take your pick) captured should be – “Men, women, children and cattle should be kiled by the edge of the sword”. Those who failed to do it completely were punished and their generations cursed. The great patriarch of all three religions, Abraham was a cringing coward who lent his wife to kings and commons so that he would not be harmed. God punished those who hired the wife; not the hirer.

        Read the stories in original to find the truth. You will find that too many lies were inserted later by cultural police.

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    • Thanks very much for your comment! The book looks really unique, I’ve added it to my wish list.

    • I’m seeing your books pop up more frequently on bookshelves! I’m glad that you are a successful writer. Certainly love your take on things. Thanks for honoring my website with your comment. Currently traveling, but when I settle down I hope to read a few of your words and write a post on them.

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  13. Harry says:

    very well written article on the character of Duryodhan. There is no doubt that Dharma still had 2 legs out 4, as Mahabharata happened to be in dwapra yug.
    He was good man coz he attained of VEDAS and SHASHTRAS.
    but he failed on acting on to his DHARMA to keep the promise as to give back Pandava’s kingdom after 13 years of exile..
    he failed on his dharma trying to kill Pandava’s by trying to burn them.
    he failed to FOLLOW the RIGHT DHARMA.. his mind was taken over by his powers and lust for ruling the kingdom

    thats why LORD KRISHNA said “whenever there is rule of ADHARMA, i’ll reincarnate”

    sources : a simple analysis of the the article presented here.

  14. I cannot agree with several of the views expressed here. I have created a blog on the various dilemmas in Mahabharat. Instead of posting the same all over here, may I present the link? http://riddlesinmahabharat.blogspot.in/2014/09/dilemmas-in-mahabharat-sage-vyas-author.html

  15. Shanker says:

    I’m happy to have found this article during Search. Well written article. Very good counter from Vishnu Menon. Very good reading. Thanks!

  16. Vishnu Vardhan says:

    Hi,

    I would like to know, why only 12 years of aranyavasa + 1 year of agyathavasa?? Is there any logic behind those numbers? Even in Ramayana the aranyavasa is of 14 years..

    • 12 years is called a “tapa” in indian time calculations. The students also stayed at Gurukuls for the duration of a “tapa”. Even in today’s India (as well as in several places abroad) 10+2 is a distinct stage in education. The additiona one year is obviously to ensure that the Pandavs would not be able to fulfill that term and have to repeat their duration of exile.

  17. bhanu13 says:

    As Duryodhan is my favourite character in the epic, I am glad to have found such a well-argued post. I have my doubts about accusing Duryodhan for the cheerharan as that has been proved by scholars to have been an interpolation. As far as returning half of the kingdom to the Pandavs, wasn’t there some confusion about which calender to follow: the solar or the lunar one? According to one, the agyaatvaas was not over; according to the other, it was. The Kauravas insisted on the former, the Pandavas on the latter.

    • If one takes a look at the epic, there are many riddles incorporated to generated debate among the characters as well as the readers. The completion of the term of exile is one such. Obviously the author(s) of Mahabharat wanted to emphasize that the question of right and wrong are not clear cut. I have written about these riddles on my blog.
      http://riddlesinmahabharat.blogspot.in/

      • vishumenon says:

        Isn’t it wonderful that a pure work of fiction, probably based on a slew of legends, and a number of small stories in the main one, so exquisitely told, is still being examined and debated after more than a couple of millennia? That no character in the work is black or white, just as in real life, though the religious fanatics want to give the darker-than-grey characters a white coat of paint?

        A serial actor (of the DoorDarshan days) once challenged me to find a new film story – Hindi or English – that does not have an element already told threadbare in Mahabharat. I couldn’t think of one.

        When the original Mahabharat is stripped of its eulogies and implied insinuations, one would certainly agree that Duryodhana, the son of the most devoted wife in known fiction or real life, comes out blazing against the sons of a woman who not only had a child in her puberty (which she knew was wrong, otherwise why would she float the child away to the unknown and never owed him up?) and continued to have another three from different men (no doubt at the persuasion of a diseased husband whom she married knowing his condition).

        Yes, Sir, my vote is for Duryodhan and hence for you.

      • bhanu says:

        Joglekar Sir, I visited your blog but I find to my dismay that you are not keen to publish the views of those who disagree with you since my comments haven’t been approved by you till date though almost ten days have passed since I first left them. The MB teaches us to debate but ppl have kind of turned it into a devotional text, no questions asked.

        • Bhanu ji, I believe in debate and free thinking, however, I did not see your response earlier. I have published your comments on my blog. Thanks for letting me know.

        • vishumenon says:

          Nor could the author of the great work.In the first place, Charvaka summarily recounts the sins and misdeeds of Yudhishtir until the latter is ready to give up the throne.

          “Charvaka said, ‘All these Brahmanas, making me their spokesman, are saying, ‘Fie on thee! Thou art a wicked king. Thou art a slayer of kinsmen. What shalt thou gain, O son of Kunti, by having thus exterminated thy race? Having slain also thy superiors and preceptor, it is proper for thee to cast away thy life.’ Hearing these words of that wicked Rakshasa the Brahmanas there became deeply agitated. Stung by that speech, they made a loud uproar. And all of them, with king Yudhishthira. O monarch became speechless from anxiety and shame.’

          “Yudhishthira said, ‘I bow down to you and beseech you humbly, be gratified with me. It doth not behove you to cry fie on me. I shall soon lay down my life.’

          The Brahmanas greedily waiting for the gifts of gold ad cows, kill the fellow-Brahmin, alleging that he was a demon in Brahmin garb.

          . In the end, you are told that Yudhishtir, who had laboured on foot a long way up to the netherworld, he finds all his four brothers and the common wife suffering in hell while the 100 cousins live happily int the heaven. These events are explained away as ‘illusions” in the next Parva, but the poet has had his say.

          Don’t also forget the miserable demise of the great manipulator, Krishna and the end of his dynasty for the sins committed.

          On the other hand, there had been so many interpolations in the original text, who knows which were by the original author and which were introduced in the 11th or 12th century to pander to a new cultural ethos that had evolved through foreign influences?

  18. bhanu says:

    I can never read the account of all those killed by unfair means – whether it be Bhishma, Drona, Bhoorshiva, Karna, or Duryodhana – by the so-called dharmik Pandavs, without tearing up.

    • Bhanu ji, for your information, the Bhandarkar critical edition has not eliminated the Draupadi Chir Haran episode. There are many scholars of the opinion that it is an interpolation, but Bhandarkar has retained it since it appears in all the existing texts.

      • bhanu13nu says:

        Joglekar sahab, I am not a scholar of MB, the way you are, so kindly forgive me for raising certain doubts. Here is what has been written about the BORI Edition. It states that the disrobing hasn’t been mentioned.

        Title : Pune Edition or BORI Edition
        Author : Board of Scholars
        Language : Sanskrit
        Publisher : Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute

        A pioneering effort produced by various board of scholars which is now an ultimate and most authoritative source of reference related to the epic. Inclusive of Harivamsha (in later years), this is now a final destination for various scholars, authors and researchers related to scripture. As an endeavor of Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI), saying this a Mother Edition will not be an overstatement. This particular edition includes everything that has been found in the manuscripts and vintage writings but hearsays don’t finds any space (for e.g. Draupadi being disrobed after the game of dice and Krishna playing savior finds no mention). Hence, critical edition is deprived of few interpolations which got added over the centuries as its feature. But, it is indeed attributed as a master edition from where many modern retelling and transcreation draws it umbilical cord with.

        Here’s the link to where I found this information:

        http://www.amitwrites.com/best-mahabharata-books/

  19. bhanu says:

    Vishu sahab, I think the best way to eliminate a dissenting voice is to call him a Rakshasa as was done to Charvaka. And who cares what happens to a Rakshas. A Ghattokach, after all, is only good for dying in order to save an Arjun so a Charvaka has to be destroyed lest ppl start raising doubts too. There is a trend in our country not to encourage the raising of our voices, esp against certain ‘Holy Cows’.

    Duryodhan, was at least, rebelling against the system by raising his voice against discrimination inflicted on one due to one’s birth. Despite all the protests, he made Karn Angraaj and believed in his friend till the end. Did Yudi do anything remotely similar? In the 30 odd years that he ruled after the war. did he do anything notable? All I can recall is that the Pandavs involved an already bleeding land in another war by conducting the Ashwamedh. Apparently their bloodlust hadn’t been fulfilled by the carnage at Kurukshetra.

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