MAHABHARAT - A Literature or A Real Struggle to Re-Establish Dharma


The Kurukshetra war is popularly known as Mahabharatha war. At the outset it looks like a struggle for succession between groups of paternal cousins. The war took place in Kurukshetra which is currently housed in Haryana. The narrative forms the major part of  the epic. It describes individual battles and  death of various heroes on  either side, the military formation, war diplomacy, meetings or discussions among the allies. Even to this day the historicity of war is a topic of discussion among the scholars.

Brief History of War

A brief history of the war At the outset the war looks like a fight between the potential cousins for the throne. However the escalation was much a result of establishment of peace and re-establishment of righteousness as Lord Krishna himself describes it in the apocalypse of his session to Arjuna in Bhagavadgita. The  place  where  it  was  fought  is known  as  „Dharmakshetra‟.  As  the  very  name  suggests  any unrighteous act on either side would be forgiven as the location was this land of righteousness. The early fragments of the war was seen in the Sabha Parva itself, where the young and the beautiful queen of the Pandavas, Draupadi was dragged into the open court hall and molested in an assembly full of varied kinds of people. It was she who kept alive the fury of her husband‟s to fight and get back their kingdom. The war was her escalated answer to the unrighteous attitude of  Duryodhana  and his  brothers. It  was she  who had  tread the  path of  hardship, as  a royal princess who said that a war was inevitable to settle scores   with  Duryodhana  who  driven  by jealousy refused to share even a blade of grass from his kingdom with the Pandavas who had completed their  long drawn period of exile.

Whether a bitter war of  this  magnitude happened between the Kauravas and  Pandavas  is debatable  as the historicity of  the Kurukshetra war  is subject  to  scholarly  discussion  and dispute.  It  is  possible  that  the  war  was  a small  internal conflict,  transformed  into an  epic of  this magnitude  in  which  it  exists today.  It  would have undergone layers of development. However, whatever may be the inconclusiveness of the data, attempts have been made to assign a historical data to the Kurukshetra war. Popular tradition says that it marks the transition to the Kaliyuga and its dates to 3102 BCE. Kurukshetra  war  assumes  a  place  of  paramount  importance  not  only  from  the  literary perspective but also as an epoch making incident as most of the later generations looked upon it as "Marking the end of an epoch‟.



The Beginning

The Beginning Sanjaya the war chronicle  to Dhritarastra  has given  a description  of all  the continents  on earth, the planets, Indian sub-continents, the kingdoms, tribes, provinces, towns, villages, rivers, mountains, forests of the Bharatha varsha. A panoramic view of geography of undivided India is described by the poet through Sanjaya. The military formation of each day, the  nature of the battle fought, the fall or death of a hero on each day, the details of the war racing are all given by him. This could have been methodically adopted by Veda Vyasa to narrate the minutest details of the battle to the readers of the later times. For Vyasa, human beings were the greatest of all the beings. He was a visionary poet who looked ahead of his times and was very sure that in future too there would be battles which would be fought for varied reasons. He also knew that such battles though underlined that dharma prevailed and good were victors and evil vanquished at the end  of  it,  it always  resulted  in  death,  violence,  bloodshed and  large  scale  destruction.  The fundamental question here is did not Duryodhana realize that triggering a war was suicidal for him? At the end of the battle, there was not even a single Kaurava to represent their clan. Vyasa himself says that, at the end of the war, the Kauravas remained only in their names.

mahabharat war

The Peace Mission

The Peace Mission A  feud,  fight,  misunderstanding,  communication  gap  are  all  resolved  generally  by  the intervention of an elderly  person  who assumes  the role  of an  advisor or  an emissary. In this context Krishna made an attempt to strike a peace treaty. In the real sense it was a „public space‟ created by Krishna for Duryodhana to prevent the battle which would leave a permanent scar to all  connected  directly or  indirectly. The  epic speaks  of the  lack  of public  space due  to bad governance. In a political  discourse the  rights of  the political  minorities should  be righteous, protected as all the citizens are part of political minority at some time or other and it should always be remembered that the minority is a persuading factor. In Udyoga Parva when Krishna comes as an emissary to strike peace treaty we find Duryodhana sending encoded message to Krishna to establish his superiority. It is a matter of argument as to how he could suffer from superiority  complex?  This  incident  shows how  the welfare  of a  state is  dependent  upon the direction  a  leader provides.  When arrogance of  power reaches  its  peak, it  humbles down  or results  in  the  destruction  because  of  bad  leadership.  Krishna  advises  Duryodhana  on  the importance of good leadership. Duryodhana whose mind was averse to peace and dwelt upon the thought of a war rejected the public space created by Krishna. However the powerful discourse of  Krishna  showed  no  dichotomy  between  the  particular  and  the  individual.  Language  of experience combined with the language of  transcendence. Krishna was capable of convincing and communicating  powerfully in front  of everyone. He  was able to  stand out  in front  of a barbaric  and  tyrannical  ruler.  His  peace  treaty  was  controlled  by  prohibition,  opposition  of reason  and  madness  and  opposition  between  the  truth  and  falsehood.  The  thoughts  and viewpoints were  communicated perfectly.  The ritual  of Krishna‟s  discourse, the  gestures made by him,  the circumstances in which he came as  an embassy, the imposed significances of his words,  their  effect  on  those  addressed  clearly  indicates  that  political  discourses  are  barely dissociable from the functioning of the ritual. This doctrine was directed at social appropriation. The message was so powerful that though the effort for peace was a failure, the message left a marked impact on all the listeners. The analysis of this discourse does not reveal the universality of  meaning  but  brings  in  light  the  action  of  imposed  rarity,  with  a  fundamental  power  of affirmation. The despotism and inequality may chiefly prevail in human beings due to quality of mind. Some men enjoy varied privileges due to being richer, more honored and more powerful. The dialogs of these kind would assume that every individual would be directed to the path of righteousness, dharma would prevail and the so called marginalized would get back their spaces. It would  not  be fair  and just  to call  these as  mere  dialogs to  showcase oratory  or satisfy  one‟s mind, but they are powerful discourses which concentrate on protection of subjects rights in the truest sense of the word. War is not the only answer to escalated issues. Creation of public space of  these  kinds  would  directly  have  a  direct  bearing  on  the  progress  of  a  society.  Cultural interactions of the kind of dialogs of Krishna create effective space for better understanding of life at large. Attempts for peace create conditions in which a person can fulfil his or her human worth.



The Proper Battle

The  epic  battle was  raged for eighteen  days at  Kurukshetra.  Great warriors  of valor  and repute fell day by day. The war culminated into fights of various kinds, in all formats, between various warriors. The venerable Bhisma lay on a bed off arrows and bestowed on Yudhisthira on the codes of conduct for life, living and ruling.   The combined number of warriors totaled to 3.94 million. Sophisticated weapons were used. At times special formations were ordered by the superior commanders.  These were  rules  of engagement  which were  termed as  “rules of  ethical conduct”. This war was considered as one of the bloodiest wars ever fought in human history. There were heart breaks, curses procured and the signs let out. The curse of Ghandari had a bearing on Yadhava clan where a murderous rebellion ensued amongst the clan and the Yadhavas ended up killing each other and wiping out their entire race. In totality war hampers the development for a long time and the places where the battle are fought.



Conclusion

It still baffles one as to how and why a war of this magnitude of Kurukshetra happened and what was  the message it conveyed. The question of  history and meaning is explored at many levels. These discussions dwell upon "desha‟, "kaala‟ and "paatra‟. The dialogs mainly focus on the context in which the person leaves and has his being. Undoubtedly every event is located within history. In every act of relating it man is given an opportunity to transcend history not only as an ethical necessity but also as a spiritual necessity. The enquiry related to Kurukshetra war  moves on  to different  planes and  throughout Mahabharatha.  We find  the Mahabharatha establishes a relationship between history and its  transcendence, eternal  and transient and the substance of life and relationship. The participants in the battle are neither idolatry of history nor the empty obstruction of transcendence. The history of the battle is marked by gradual accretion as well as by quantum leap, paradigm shifts, revolution that compromise epochs in the material and spiritual evolution of mankind. There is much reason to believe that Kurukshetra war is not a mere  literature  or  dialog,  but  an  epoch  which  transmitted  diffusion  memories  for  proper knowledge.

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