Societal Norms during Mahabharata!

Lately, I have been reading about Mahabharat and Bhagwad Gita. Many scholars and experts have written essays and treatises on the subject. I am reading these more out of curiosity to understand what the thought processes were, during those times. I will not go into disputed area whether Mahabharat happened at all. One thing I have realized after some reading, is that to understand events and incidents of those times, we should understand  the thought processes and the societal norms of those times. If we try to judge them against today’s thinking, then we may not be able to appreciate and absorb many things and in fact we will not understand many things. But again, in some areas, the thought processes have not changed much, even today.

In those times, if a ruler did not have a male child then he would marry many times till the male child was produced. If all the methods failed then the rulers would ask their brothers or someone from outside their families to “help” the wives to produce a male child. There is a reference of outsider Ved Vyas helping the queens Ambika and Ambalika. How did it fit in the norms of patriarchal society is not understood by me when the confirmed bachelor and celibate Bhishma, from the family, was available for this noble work.  Why services of outsider were taken? But he had taken a vow not to marry and to remain a celibate! So, what was important in those days? His vow or was it his ego or their clan’s lineage, using outside help, though help at home was available? If it were ego, then not much has changed even today!

Images show Kunti invoking Gods for Karna and Arjuna! We see more such examples. Pandu was sterile so he asked Kunti to invoke the boon she had received before her marriage. She invoked three different gods for the births of Dharma, Bhim and Arjun. Whereas Madri also used the same boon (looks like the boon was not patented!) and invoked Ashwini Kumars to produce Nakul and Sahadev!

My question is why different men for each child? In those days the only method available was to use a good old system for producing babies! (It is a different story that 101 Kauravas were born by a method similar to IVF! Really?) Should these episodes be discussed under scientific churning? In all cases apparently, the pregnancy took place after one intercourse which is statistically impossible. With this thought, I shudder to think about “family life” during the period when any of these children were born (using boon method)! Another thing was the birth of Karna! It appears that at a later stage, Kunti did not find it embarrassing to discuss the birth of a child before she was married. Were these the social norms or Kunti was an exception? I am assuming that Kunti was an exception so there is not much change in old and new thought processes about a child being born before marriage!  But about producing heir, old and current thought processes are vastly different.

On the lighter vein let me analyze one more thing. When Ved Vyasa  the father of  Dhritarashtra, to impregnate, Ambika his mother, was so scared when she saw Ved Vyasa, that she supposedly closed her eyes tightly shut! Dhritarashtra was born blind! Masters and Johnson the famous sex experts, should be able to comment on how many blind children should have been born to parents if shutting eyes theory was true! 😊😀🤣

Another observation is that among the clans, only Brahmans & Kshatriyas are mentioned everywhere. Other than this, “Suta” a clan of charioteers, is mentioned in case of Karna. There is another reference where Dhritarashtra fathered a child with a Vaishya woman!

A Suta is a child fathered with a Brahmana woman by a Kshatriya man. Since Brahmanas are higher up in the Varna system than Kshatriyas, this mixed marriage was considered to be against the scriptures, and the children born of such a union possess a low status. If a Brahmana man, fathers a child with a Kshatriya woman, the child acquires the caste of the father and becomes a Brahmana, and no stigma is attached to it. 

Hence Karna is referred to as Suta-Putra, a derogatory term. In case of Karna, this is unfortunate because his mother was Kunti, a Kshatriya and the father was Bhagwan Surya! He was brought up by Atiratha, who was Suta! Another prominent personality was Sanjay, counsellor to Dhritarashtra; he was also Suta! One interesting thing was the case of Vidura. His father was Vyasa and mother were a dasi. So, Vidura’s children had no rights to the throne nor did Vidura! But he was still royalty! How come there is hardly mention of other so-called “lower status” (not my words) people? We don’t read about farmers, artisans, dhobis (we read in Ramayana) and such people. Were they so unimportant that they are not even mentioned? Not much has changed even today, in human behaviour about varnas and castes!

How big were the nation states in those days? It seems that those were a town surrounded by a few villages, with some farmland and land to rare cattle herds. This was surrounded by deep jungles all around till one reached the next nation-state. I have not understood how they created wealth in those days. Apparently, in Mahabharata times, Akhand (unified) Bharat spread from Afghanistan to Bihar, the southern-most reference was Dwarka in Gujarat. Even Bengal does not come under discussion. Madri’s clan was supposedly from Afghanistan.

Some norms during those days were a little different, looting and raping started with Mughal invaders!  In a war, if a state lost the war, the king was restored or in case he died in the war, his son would be coronated. The reason for this was to bring clarity about who was the “Samrat” or the strongest King! There was no looting and taking away of womenfolk. There is even  mention that the women folk were honourably (sic) taken back in the clan even if they had suffered indignities!

There is a mention that in certain states, four/five generations from families lived together. To me, this is an exaggeration. Lifespan of humans has gone up in the last 100 years in India. In the year 1900, average life expectancy was 24 years. So, having people from 3 to 4 generations was an exception to the rule or it was an impossibility. As a story, it feels nice to read about so many generations living under one roof, so it must be read with a pinch of salt.

There are many facets to this discussion. I have simply written about the questions that came to my mind from the point of view of logic! When the logic goes haywire in a story or discussion, I try to accept these things as metaphors of how the society was in those days! Things may not actually happened, the way they are depicted. It is also possible that some events and stories may have been interpolated by writers/poets later; these merged quite smoothly over a period, and  we think that such events did occur! One thing is sure what I have written is not to hurt anybody’s sentiments or faith! More things some other time! But one thing is sure,  I am all the time intrigued by Mahabharata and Gita!

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Mahabharata, real-life guide!

DassaraMy friend Sudhakar and I appear to have some telepathy connection! I just started writing this blog about Mahabharata and at the same time he shared the above painting on our friends’  WA group! I am assuming that this painting is a gift to me; hence I have borrowed the painting as a perfect fit for the blog!

I had read Mahabharata while in school, then maybe I saw a few episodes on the famous serial in 90’s on TV. Later on, when I started reading about it at random, I realized that all the stories, all narrations are our real-life stories! I am not going to write about Mahabharata as scholarly treaties as I am a common man and trying to understand its meaning. While I was reading Mahabharata, I felt that it is written as a Metaphor and the idea is to explain to common people, tough and a dry subject in the manner to make it interesting.

I will be jumping from some references from Gita and some from Mahabharat. I feel that Vyasa told the stories as a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, the war was described by Sanjaya to Dhritarashtra; Sanjaya could telepathically witness the war, as if by “live streaming”. These are typical good versus bad stories; these are Metaphors teaching us about of life. What I have observed is that we accept some of the stories as Gospel and modify others suitably. Some of the concepts we simply dump. It appears that Vyasa was a storyteller par excellence! Had these concepts been told only as poetry or prose, maybe it would not have become so famous, it would not have reached the general public. Upanishads are not read by the general public but by scholars and experts because of this reason.

In Hinduism, we say “Ahimsa Paramo Dharma!” With this background how could Krishna tell Arjuna to bear his arms and kill his own family and gurus! But the actual verse is a two-line verse.

Ahimsa paramo dharma

Dharma himsa tathaiva cha

Means

Nonviolence is the ultimate Dharma

So, too, is violence in service of the Dharma

This means that to preserve dharma (righteousness), to eradicate adharma, a person can resort to violence if non-violent methods fail. Krishna tried his best to avoid a war. But Duryodhana wanted a war so that he could kill all of the Pandavas, thus the war became unavoidable. Arjuna is a Kshatriya (Warrior) and it would be impossible for him to run away from his karmic debt and become and an ascetic. If he ran away from this war, he would have been forced to run away to the Himalayas and fight a war for food and shelter and even for his women.

Arjuna, the main character in Mahabharata is the best fighter in the world. The world in those days started and ended with Bharat Khand. Obviously, people in those times did not have knowledge about the existence of the world beyond, not that there much happening beyond. Arjuna should replace the modern world word, Casanova. Whenever he travelled alone for a duration, he would marry some Rajkanya or the other. It is very interesting that after the marriage and pregnancy (it was always predicted to be a boy!) he would tell his latest bride that he has a mission to complete; now she live with their  Putra and his memories. Surprisingly those were the accepted norms, in those days! There were some interesting episodes too! Once he had broken a vow of not disturbing, any brother who was in privacy with Draupadi. He took one-year vanavas as a punishment. Dharmaraja was with Draupadi at that time. He tried to convince Arjuna that he had broken the vow because of some urgent work. But Arjuna stuck to his words. Arjuna met beautiful Chitrangada near the Ganga river and both fell in love with each other. Chitrangada asked him to marry her. But Arjuna convinced her that since he was in penance and celibacy, he could not marry her. Chitrangada was smarter and more convincing. She argued that his penance and celibacy was about Draupadi so he could always marry her! Wow, she would have the top leading lawyer at the Supreme Court today! So another son for Arjuna and left behind wife later….

I feel that the Mahabharata war was not a war of relatives or relatives killing of relatives. Instead, it is a symbolic war between good and bad, right or wrong which happens within us all the time. The actors are symbols of various things in life. Arjuna symbolizes individual or the immortal soul within the body, Lord Krishna symbolizes the God, Kurukshetra is the field of action or our day to day life, five white horses of Arjuna’s chariot symbolize the five senses, Pandavas are positive spirits and Kauravas are negative destructive thoughts.

To me, Bhagwad Gita and Mahabharata merge into each other at the same time they remain separate entities. As we know that Bhagwad Gita was the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna, when Arjuna gets depressed when he sees his grandfather, his guru, his relatives with whom he has to fight. This war shows the conflicting view of how the deceptions and tricks were used during the war. But for most of the times, it was fought in a just manner.

On the 18th day of the war Drushtadyumna, Shikhandi and many other warriors were killed by Ashwathama while they were sleeping at night. This was generally not done during the war in those days. Was Ashwathama’s attack vengeance or trickery? There is a story that all Upapandavas (Pandvasa five sons from Draupadi) were also killed on that night. What is the significance of that story? Why the rules were suddenly broken on that day? As I have said earlier, the war and the whole Mahabharata, depict our day to day lives where we are generally honest but suitably cheat! This is human nature.

I will share one interesting episode from this saga. Krishna was the strategist and advisor par excellence. Before the war he had given his Yadav army to Kauravas and stayed as the advisor or maybe the right word is a schemer, to Pandavas. He is shown as a cunning personality. In Arjuna’s battle with Jayadrath, he helps Arjuna to achieve his goal by cunning. Arjuna had vowed to kill Jayadrath on a day to avenge the death of Abhimanyu; failing which he would commit suicide! Dronacharya and Kauravas tried  their best to hide Jayadrath. Suddenly the sky darkens and it is almost sunset. It was supposedly done by Krishna by hiding the Sun behind his Sudarshan Chakra. In one version, the Sun appears to be set because of the eclipse and came out when the eclipse was over! When Jayadrath comes out to see Arjuna’s imminent death, suddenly the Sun becomes bright. Krishna tells Arjuna to kill him. He also tells Arjuna to ensure that Jayadrath’s head falls in his father’s lap. Jayadrath’s father being a sage had given him a boon that whoever was responsible to make Jayadrath’s head fall on the ground will die instantaneously, with his head broken. The father gets up when the head falls in his lap and the head falls down on the ground, the father dies instantly. Thus, Krishna avoids sure death of Arjuna due to the boon. Narration shows that Krishna was the schemer and had terrific knowledge. Till he had shown Arjuna that he was an avatar of the god, even Arjuna thought Krishna was a human and a good friend. To me it becomes tricky to understand if Krishna’s knowledge was because he was God or he had acquired the same as a human being?

You may have a question why Pramod is delving in this subject of Mahabharata and Bhagwad Gita? My maturity is helping me to understand the real meaning of life, real life, warts and all! I found the stories fascinating. The stories and sequences are absolutely real life. We can relate to them as if something we have heard, observed, maybe went through in real life. Some of the points become complex, some disputable and some outright mended to create interesting stuff. I am sure that all storytellers and especially those in Bollywood treat these as Gospel (Gita is Hindu Gospel anyway!) They give further twists and turns and create a highly marketable products! Maybe you will get some more from me on the subject in future too!

Faith or Facts?

Discussions are always going on about how advanced science and technology was in our old civilization; there have been references like use of Pushpak Viman by Lord Ram. Honestly, one does not really know how to handle such discussions. Discussions about old civilizations are mainly based on religious dialogues and sentiments. Religion is a matter of faith not knowledge. When you try to marry the two there is confusion. This issue is perhaps there, in every faith. However, the problem is accentuated, when to this mismatch of knowledge and religion, politics is added. 

Tripura Chief Minister  Biplab Kumar Deo made a statement that there was internet during Mahabharata. Mr. Deb is not the first politician to claim that modern day technology existed in mythology. In January, Satyapal Singh, a junior education minister in PM Modi’s cabinet, criticized the theory of evolution, claiming “nobody saw apes turn into human“. In February, he said mantras‘ had codified Newton’s Laws of Motion. 

Now this is a topic that is always going to generate heat, and heat it is generating. What is correct and what is wrong is individual choice; this sometimes is blinded by faith, every body has his own justification and thought process. Probably it starts with people who are totally religious and those who are atheist! Two ends of the spectrum. Most will be in between. But the thought process about mythology depends on whether you are scientific minded or not. Those with scientific mind will heat everything in the crucible of thought and analysis. It is possible  that for some people who are trained in science still may not want to analyze it scientifically. It is the faith element in those persons which is stronger that the analytical part. 

But do we make fun of people who have stronger belief in faith than in thinking logically? Do we say something which we normally don’t say to each other? No way! Let us be fair to each other. You may try and have a dialogue with such people, try to explain to them your point of view if it is different. It is normal way of life, we have difference of opinion on a subject. Why should there be excitement in saying or writing on such issues?  

But then another thought comes to my mind. I tend more towards atheism and I am also trained in science side of life and have been working all my life in the same area. So my mind veers towards analyzing everything, including religious things. There have been many inventions that were claimed to exist during times of our old civilization. But I feel that this thought process is made by people who believe in it and is presented to suit and strengthen their arguments. These and many more abstracted truisms are just based on optical and physical observations and concentrated analytical thinking, in olden times. The disadvantage these people had was that they had to study without the help of instruments, now available to the scientists! So, we can claim that we knew about a lot about things terrestrial but I do not think we knew real details! Another thought that always comes to mind is that written records of history are a recent phenomena, compared to the time frame of our civilization. I am really not sure about the authenticity of the records, as there have been no written records. All the knowledge, information was passed on verbally to next generation. Similar was the case of other sciences like medical treatments. The quality of passing of this knowledge depended on the person who passed on the knowledge and the person who received the knowledge. In Marathi, there is saying ध चा मा! A king gave an order to his juniors to arrest someone; one change in the alphabet in that order, indicated by ध चा मा, ended up killing that person instead of being arrested. These small errors could have multiplied as the knowledge was passed on from generation to generation, in absence of written records. This is profoundly reflected in Ayurveda. Ayurveda had an advantage of being around for a long time, compared to other medical pathys. But in absence of such record keeping, many good treaties and treatments may have been lost or got diluted. This of course, is another subject for discussion because Ayurveda fell behind later due to lack of research. 

I must write about how people go overboard about things supposedly present during mythological times. Lord Rama started to go to Ayodhya from Sri Lanka, after killing Ravana, on Dussara day. When he reached Ayodhya, people were ready to celebrate the event by putting lights or Diya’s everywhere! Of course, I am talking of Diwali. They said that this is the reason Diwali is celebrated 21 days after Dussera, time taken by Ram to reach Ayodhya from Srilanka. There was a google map in circulation,  showing the path followed by Lord Ram to reach in 21 days. It was straight as an arrow passing through jungles and mountains and crossing large rivers. We find it difficult even today, to traverse certain paths with modern roads and vehicles but… Secondly, how were people in Ayodhya ready for the arrival? Internet, cell phone, of course we had them during those days.

Ex Police Commissioner of Mumbai and now a Junior minister, Satyapal Singh says that Darwin’s theory is meaning less because he has never seen apes getting converted into humans. Now when people like an ex commissioner of police of Mumbai and chief minister of the state say such things for political purpose, it is more of an embarrassment and not correct. Of course we can then say that Dhritrashtra was getting all the information from the war zone, sitting in his palace, by live streaming! I am ok with someone who says that my life is better if everyday I go to a mandir! Perfect, nothing wrong in that. It is the faith of that person. If someone claims that his life better as he chants mantras every day, I am ok. He says these things after the event! Someone’s belief in faith is acceptable. But the above mentioned statements by Ministers, are rather difficult to digest, freedom of speech and all count but there has to be some logic behind what one claims. 

I met a person recently who was doing some archeological study in interior of our country. After digging deep they found some artifacts which were probably 2000 years old. I asked him what was his conclusion. He said, that they concluded the old civilization definitely had WiFi during those days because they did not find anything like cables etc!  

 

 

 

 

  

My Favorite Blog!

I started blogging very casually in the 2011, honestly I do not know why! It was more of a start and stop journey in which there were more stops! Post my health issues in late 2013 and early 2014 my frequency of writing improved. I publish my blogs on Word Press and wordpress helps one understand how to increase the reach of the blogs. Slowly I started incorporating those suggestions and I find that reasonable number of people read my blogs, some of them comment also. I have good friends who are my Critiques; we discuss why I write something and why I write in a certain way. They also point out important points that I miss out! This tête-à-tête with friends encourages my grey cells to become more active, helps me understand and accept different point of view.

 Out of 100 plus blogs I have written the most viewed blog, to my surprise is, “Paranormal behavior or “Angat Yene” or “Devi Ana” was published on 17th July 2017. This is a blog about my first experience of a known person suddenly going in trance, during a religious program at home. That lady was like you and me but the change in her behavior and persona happened in front of our eyes. She went into trance and was behaving in the way that can be described as paranormal. She came out of it when the religious chanting got over; she was sweating profusely and looked visibly tired! Question that comes to my mind, why this blog is most viewed? Is it because of the subject? Is it because the way I have written it? I don’t think so, I have not done anything special in this blog! Is it the curiosity? Is it that as human population we secretly want to understand what paranormal behavior is? Is it that people were hoping that I will explain the mystery? Honestly I have not understood this phenomena at all. I thought it will be good idea to retrospect and analyze my other blogs!

In the very early stages of my blog writing, I had written one piece called “These are the few of my favorite things”! Similarly I am trying to find out “Few of my favorite blogs”! I am going to select a few which I like the best and why I like them. I request you to give your opinion too! I have written the name of the blog and the date on which it was published. When you go to my blog page panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com you will see on the right side the list of recent posts and & archives. The details I have shared, will make it easy for you to locate old blogs should you want to read them!

“Dance of Civilization” was written on 19th January 2016, is my most favorite blog. It is tricky and is like trying to find out which is your favorite child? I am like Dhritarashtra, father of Kaurava’s who had 100 children, now I have 100 plus blogs! Why this is my favorite blog? I felt that I was able to make a proper mix of life’s small events with philosophy! Along with this, I was able to mix up view point of a small child; in fact they have no view point, they do what comes to their mind! This is the advantage of not having any “experience” in life! The child’s slate is a blank one and they will express what comes to their mind. This can be understood where I discussed the different ways of entering the Mandir! Rhea my grand daughter sometimes just did not want to enter the Mandir, she was more interested in drainage cover, she was interested in tearing up tree leaves that had fallen on the ground. She was more interested in jumping in the water puddle! She was keen to see how the crow was drinking water from the puddle! With our life’s “experiences” we become too rigid, too ritualistic and too stiff! In the blog I was able to compare the child’s view of life and the adult’s view!

“God! Where are you?” 10th March 2016 is a blog about how people believe more in rituals rather than achieving their goal! It’s about a group of people singing their hymns in a Mandir! Obviously they are trying to achieve peace of mind or maybe they were trying achieve Niravna! Two things in this world are really pure, the nature and the children! While trying to achieve their goal, the group was  disturbed by joyous shouting of kids! I feel that if I get to watch small kids enjoying their evening games, everyday, I will achieve Nirvana! Recently we achieved Nirvana by enjoying the nature at its best for about two weeks! What more do you need? I felt that this group of people had lost their path hence the title “God! Where are you?”

“Life’s Speed breakers” 15th October 2015. I always feel that people should share all their experiences with others. This blog is about the sudden detection of cancer in December 2013. My discussing all the events as if it was a third party event, I have tried to keep things impersonal. Even if a few of those who read this blog are benefited by this blog, in handling life’s difficult events, I will feel that I have achieved my goal. In tough situations, it is the positivity of the family and friends, quick actions, trying to get the best possible solution is the key. In case of issue like Cancer, Dr. Maiyya, my radiation Oncologist told me that Doctors, Equipment, Medicines do a play a major part but he felt that it may not be more than 60/65%. Balance is positive attitude of patient, family and friends. Luck of course also plays a major role! I have used a story format, telling date wise events to make it brisk and more readable by keeping the reader interested!

Parijatak उर्फ Nyctanthes arbor-tristis 5th November 2014. We look at many things in life but we never give thought to things in understanding that each living thing has its own usefulness and in case of flowers, its color and fragrance. I was able to get perfect simile where I could compare human traits with those of flowers. I have compared exotic flowers with highly skilled humans like pilots, engineers and doctors. Flowers like Parijatak are common folks like artisans, carpenters and nurses. But life is complete only when these two traits come together! I felt that sometimes we forget one of groups, depending on which group you are in. But I thought that I was able to explain how’s and whys of working together of Heliconia’s and Parijatak’s of this world!

From being grounded to going Sky high 8th June 2014. This blog is written more than three years back. During this phase I feel that I was becoming a better writer. The subject of this blog is an event from life where I changed home; I moved from a town house on the ground floor to a condominium on the 7th floor! This small change, made a great difference in my thought process and opened my mind to a much wider horizon which the seventh floor physically gave me. This maybe one of my smaller blogs but I was able put in a lot of thoughts in the blog. I was able to express a deep meaning in this blog. Probably my thoughts were also becoming more mature after recovery from health issue. In short, I have tried to say that every change in life is an opportunity!

Friends you must be wondering if I have written this blog because I have a writer’s block. No that is not the reason. Ever since I published the blog about Paranormal behavior, it is viewed everyday by sizable number of people; what is this phenomena? why this is so? Please read these other blogs also and give your comments! I would also love to know, if you read more than one blog, “Which you like the best”!