ARJUNA'S EXILE AND RETURN TO KHANDAVAPRASTHA
The Pandavas who were skilled in archery subordinated other kings and ruled the region around Kurukshetra from Khandavaprastha, ensuring that there were no crimes there. But once some thieves took away the cows of a Brahman forcibly and he rushed to the capital seeking help. Those thieves too were natives (jana) of that country (desa). Probably the mean and senseless persons wanted to sell the cattle abroad and get wealth. It was a loss to the country. The Brahman brought this to the notice of the Pandavas. He told them that the king who collected one-sixth of the produce as tax but failed to protect the people and their property was considered in all the social worlds as (the foremost) sinner. [The rule of paying one-sixth of the agricultural produce as tax was introduced by Manu Vaivasvata and adopted by Prthu, godfather of Kunti.]
Theft of a Brahmans property meant not only a loss to him but also an obstruction to the social work (dharma) that he was doing, the Brahman said. [Vaishampayana was suggesting subtly to Janamejaya that his contempt for Brahmans was affecting adversely the wealth of the state and social work.] Dhanamjaya, son of Kunti, asked him not to be afraid and went to the armoury to pick up his weapons. Yudhishtira was then there with Draupadi and it was an encroachment on their privacy.
After weighing the pros and cons Arjuna entered the armoury to pick up the arms and retrieve the cattle and protect the interests of the Brahman and dharma. After accomplishing that task he asked Yudhishtira to exile him to the forest in accordance with their agreement. Though the king argued that it was not wrong for a younger brother to encroach on the privacy of an elder brother and only an elder brother should not encroach on that of a younger brother, as a warrior he took his oath on his weapon. He reminded Yudhishtira that he had heard the latter say that while interpreting and acting in accordance with the social laws, dharma, one should not resort to deceit. He was then permitted to go on exile for one year.
Sramanas and Brahmanas
When the Kuru warrior, Arjuna went on exile, some Vedic scholars (brahmanas) and singers of ballads and legends (sutas) and students of Vedas and their branches (brahmacaris) and sramanas who resided in forests and brahmanas who narrated historical episodes (itihasa) accompanied him. Sramanas were not discriminated against Brahmanas though the former did not believe in the existence of soul and were hence later dubbed as atheists (nastikas) unlike the Brahmans who believed in its existence and were treated as astikas. The forest society including its plutocrats (yakshas), technocrats (nagas) and proletariat (sarpas) had come under the influence of Sramanas. These scholars stood for the rights of the working class while the Brahmanas upheld the rights of the intellectuals. It may be noted here that Kautilya treated the two on par. The Kuru state too did so. We would refrain from identifying the Sramanas with the followers of Jainism.
The Naga orientation
Once as he went to the Ganga at its source for bathing, the Kuru warrior, Arjuna was enchanted by a Naga woman who took her to her subterranean home to meet her father. Mariners, miners, architects and artisans were included in the category of Nagas. Vaishampayana was narrating this episode to a ruler, Janamejaya who had launched a campaign to exterminate the nagas and sarpas. These mobile groups of the forest had built the new industrial and urban civilisation. They were not serpents or serpent-worshippers. Arjuna laughed at her audacity (sahasa) and asked her who she was.
She told the prominent Kaurava leader, Arjuna that she was Ulupi, a naga girl and daughter of Kaurvya, king of Airavatas, a naga clan. Ulupi told Arjuna that she was unmarried and was in love with him and she asked him to gift himself (atmadana) to her. She was afflicted by Manmatha (god of love, also known as Ananga, the bodiless), she said. Arjuna pleaded his inability to meet her expectations as he was directed by Dharmaraja to be under a vow of celibacy for one year. He claimed that he had never uttered lies and would not violate dharma; yet he desired to meet her desire. He asked her to find a solution to his dilemma.
A note on the different types of marriages then in vogue is useful here. Svayamvara, the bride selecting her spouse from among the eligible candidates was a special feature of Kshatriya marriages. She must have attained the age of consent. In Brahma marriage followed mainly by the Brahmans, the father gave the virgin in marriage before she attained the age of consent (three years after puberty) to a groom selected by him.
Most of the commoners (Vaisyas and Shudras) followed the Prajapatya marriage where the eldest member of the clan who had the status of Prajapati (chief of the people) determined who should marry whom. Arsha and Daiva marriages were mainly of social welfare types where the sage (rshi) or the noble (deva) gave away the girl under his supervision in marriage to a suitable groom. While in Arsha marriage she was a virgin and had not yet attained the age of consent and hence kanyadana was valid, in the Prajapatya and Daiva types she would have been an adult and might not have been a virgin.
The four classes, devas, asuras, gandharvas and manushyas
Before the scheme of four varnas came into force, the core society had four major classes, liberal nobles (devas), feudal lords (asuras), free middle class of intellectuals, warriors and administrators (gandharvas) and commoners (manushyas). The commoners were organised as clans and communities where individuals had little freedom and had to obey the dictates of the council of elders and the chiefs of the people. The commoners had to follow the Prajapatya type of arranged marriages meant for procreation of offspring.
The asura culture coerced the girl to marry the man who bought her and obey and serve him. Asura marriage was sale and purchase of girl on payment of kanyasulka to the girls parents. The girl had no right to express her dissent or consent. Rakshasa marriage, which many warriors (Kshatriyas) resorted to, involved kidnapping of girls with intent to marry them. The consent of the girl or of her parents was not taken. It was an anti-social type of marriage and was banned. Paisaca marriage involved seduction of the girl by the deviant intellectual. It too was banned.
Gandharva marriage, conscious voluntary union of adults, was permitted for all classes when the varna scheme came into force, though many clans preferred Prajapatya and Brahma type of arranged marriages. In the free middle class of the Vedic times, gandharva marriage, voluntary union, was prevalent since the times when the institutions of home, house, property and family had not yet come into existence. This type continued to hold sway when the class of Kshatriyas came into existence.
While in gandharva marriage, the man proposed marriage and the girl with whom he was intimate agreed and her brother gave her away to the groom of her choice, in apsara marriage, the girl proposed to the man who impressed her and united with him. In neither type, the marriage was expected to be a lasting one. Voluntary unions permitted the men and the women to have as many spouses as they desired without the union being sundered. They permitted both polygamy and polyandry. Such unions might flounder on issues, economic or emotional or even social, artha or kama or dharma.
Naga marriage vis--vis gandharva and apsara alliances
Unlike the gandharvas and apsarases who constituted the free middle class of the core society though they could move amidst all the three social worlds (lokas), (nobles, commoners and forest society) and were a social universe (jagat) the nagas and sarpas belonged to the frontier society and had little contact with the core society. Ulupi, as a nagakanya, (a girl belonging to the class of skilled artisans) used coercive tactics to get her passion for sex with Arjuna fulfilled and to entice him used the concept of voluntary surrender to a woman in need of sex.
Her methods and concept did not accord with the principle of voluntary union lying behind gandharva and apsara marriages. It had the note of rakshasa marriage as well as paisaca marriage, coercion as well as seduction but differed from them only in the matter of who took the initiative, the woman doing so rather than the man. The other society (itara jana) to which nagas and sarpas belonged had its own perspective with regard to social laws, dharma. The nagas and sarpas, technocrats and members of the industrial proletariat were bracketed with the paisacas who belonged to the counter intelligentsia and misguided the scholars too. It bordered on heresy and open disregard for the conventions that the core society upheld.
Ulupi claimed that she knew why Arjuna had to be on exile. She argued that he was debarred from having sex with Draupadi for one year and hence the exile. He was not required to observe celibacy during that period. By yielding to her he would not be violating the code, dharma, she claimed. She asked him to adopt a broad outlook and consider saving those in distress as his duty. He would be saving her from death on account of disappointment in love by yielding to her and that would be an act of dharma. She told the son of Kunti that the pious (sadhus) followed the principle, Love those who love you.
As she surrendered to him threatening that she would not live if he rejected her, Arjuna, son of Kunti, gifted himself (atmadana) to that naga girl. He stayed in the house of the naga king only for one night. She became pregnant by him and later delivered a son (Ira). Ulupi, the daughter of a riverine miner gave him an amulet that would give him immunity against all water-borne missiles.
Arjuna did not keep the Brahman counsellors who accompanied him in dark about his exploit during that night. He then visited the abodes of several sages on the Himalayan slopes and then went to holy places (tirthakshetras), centres of training in administration, located on the banks of rivers in the eastern parts of the country. He bestowed liberal gifts on them on behalf of Yudhishtira. But the Brahmans refrained from entering Kalinga (Orissa) entry to which was debarred for them. Sramanas were free to enter it.
Arjuna could not meet Parasurama
Kashyapa, the head of the council of seven sages of Manu Vaivasvata, had exiled Parasurama, a champion of the interests of Brahmans, from Aryavarta. He made Kalinga, which was outside Aryavarta, his seat. Brahmans from Aryavarta were advised to keep away from him and from Kalinga. After visiting the sages who had their abodes in the Mahendra hills, Arjuna moved southwards along the eastern seacoast after crossing River Godavari. Arjuna might not have met the great sage, Parasurama, who had his seat in those hills.
He reached Manalur (Manipura?) located probably on the shore, which was under the rule of a Gandharva, Chitravahana (one with an ornamental vehicle, even as Chitraratha had). Arjuna came across his daughter, Chitrangada who moved freely at her will. Attracted by her, he asked the king to give her in marriage to him, a Kshatriya. Chitravahana after asking him about his parents and lineage and his name told him that Samkara, consort of Uma, had stipulated that in Chitravahanas lineage every one would have only one child. His ancestors too had one son each. But he had only a daughter whom he had brought up as his son. His lineage could continue only through her.
According to putrika dharma, one who had a grandson by his daughter would have the same rights as one who had a grandson by his son. Arjuna might marry Chitrangada provided he gave his son by her to Chitravahana as kanyasulka (fees for handing over a virgin daughter in marriage). Arjuna agreed to this condition and married her after his exile of one year was over. He did not want to break his vow though he had done so in the case of Ulupi for considerations other than procreation.
This type of marriage shows that Samkara and Gandharvas did not deem it proper to discriminate against daughters and their offspring. They were also not for large families. Chitravahana had not sold his daughter when he asked for kanyasulka, bride-money, a feature of asura marriage, which was in every way antithetical to the spirit of gandharva marriage. Putrikadharma had been approved by dharmasastras.
Arjuna and five centres of learning
Arjuna then went along the southern seacoast and visited five centres of learning named after Agastya, Saubhadra, Pauloma, Karandhama and Bharadvaja. He found them in a dilapidated condition with their native population (jana) having left and the sages who were devoted to dharma, abandoning them. When he enquired about the reason for their leaving he was told that they were afraid of the five crocodiles in the tanks there. He got into the Saubhadra tank and brought a crocodile out. It was in fact a girl who belonged to the aristocracy of the social periphery and had the status of a devata.
She and her four friends were apsarases who moved freely at will, and played in the gardens of the nobles (devas). While going to the house of the plutocrat, Kubera, who was in charge of the southern region as digpala, they saw a Brahman engaged in tapas. They disturbed his concentration on his quest and were converted into crocodiles, she told Arjuna. That sage was an Aditya under whose administrative jurisdiction that region was.
Apsarases belonged to the free intelligentsia. [It is not sound to interpret that the gandharvas and apsarases were but musicians and danseuses who entertained the gods (devas).] The girls, who distracted the scholar-cum-administrator of the Saubhadra centre engaged in search for rational means of governance, did not take the punishment lying down. They accepted that out of pride in their beauty and youth and out of lust they had committed a mistake and requested him to bear with them. It was an offence committed unintentionally and was the result of the flaw in the nature of the apsarases to seek to enchant one whose mind could not be disturbed. Such attempt was equal to assassination of the character of a judge (brahmahati).
Aditya, a Kshatriya (general and administrator), was as a Brahman (scholar and jurist) engaged in unravelling the subtle aspects of jurisprudence and his attempt was being deliberately interfered with by those girls. They had not been asked by any one to do so. What they did was not intended either. It was impulsive born of their nature. They told that Aditya that those scholars who followed the provisions of social laws, dharma, (that recognised the orientations of all the different sectors as entitled for protection and free play), held that women were not to be harassed. This was their birthright (the right which a class or sector had since its emergence). If that head of the administration wanted to know his duty (dharma) better he should not harass them, they said.
That Aditya knew his duties (dharma). Only one who was friendly with all beings (pranis), especially those who were at the bare subsistence level and were not members of social groups that could protect them, was a scholar and jurist (Brahman), they told him. They requested that good man to ensure that he followed this law based on truth.
If the laws of nature (Rta) of the earlier times accepted that might was right and recognised the theorem of struggle for survival and survival of the fittest, the laws based on truth (satya) of the middle Vedic times asserted that right was might and gave constitutional protection to the weaker sections of the larger society. The apsarases were pointing out the provisions of the codes based on rta and satya that were in force before the code based on dharma which this Aditya was trying to understand came into force.
The apsarases were drawing his attention to this provision by which women being the weaker sex were not to be harassed. Those who extended their protective administration to those who surrendered to them, alone were fit to be rulers, as members of the free intelligentsia they pointed out. They surrendered to him and asked him to forgive their mistake.
The apsaras (who took a seemingly attractive but deviant line) told Arjuna that then the scholar-cum-jurist (Brahmana) who followed the provisions of the integrated social laws, dharma, and who as an administrator did good deeds, and exercised the power and influence of Aditya (the Kshatriya administrator and general of the core society, Surya) and also that of Soma (the sober intellectual of the frontier society, Chandra) adopted a liberal approach.
According to the legend pertaining to those five spots on the coast, the apsarases were asked to stay in the waters there capturing men until a prominent leader (purushasreshta) retrieved them from the waters. After their retrieval those spots would be known as Naritirthas, the centres of free women. Naras and naris, free men and free women, belonged to the lower ranks of gandharvas and apsarases, who had access to the nobility and the sages as well as to the commonalty. While the higher strata of this class of free intellectuals were closer to the aristocrats (devas) of the core society, the lower ranks were closer to the commoners (manushyas).
But unlike the manushyas the naras and naris were not bound by the codes of clans and communities (kuladharmas and jatidharmas). The administrator expected that in the centres of naris (free women), even those who had knowledge (jnanavan) would get their knowledge purified. These centres were meant for the class, which was known as punyajana and which included several cadres of the free intelligentsia (gandharvas, apsarases, vidyadharas, siddhas, tapasvis, chakshus, charanas etc). They were punyakshetras (holy places as interpreted later), centres of training in noble pursuits. It was at the instance of Narada who knew the movements of Arjuna these apsarases had reached the spot on the southern seacoast.
They requested Arjuna to free them from the status of enchantresses, who enticed men through their tears (crocodiles). In other words, they were to be treated as members of the free intelligentsia who removed the flaws in the knowledge that scholars had gained in centres of formal education. The apsarases lived beside waters rather than in waters. They are not to be equated with the divers and mariners who were nagas or with the class of fisherwomen (nishadas).
After retrieving the apsarases, Arjuna went back to Manalur (a town on the beach) to meet Chitrangada. He handed over his son by her to her father as bride-money (kanyasulka). He would receive the boy (Babhruvahana, one who rode a mongoose) after he and the other Pandavas had settled in their new capital, Indraprastha. Arjuna invited Chitravahana and his daughter to the Rajasuya sacrifice that Yudhishtra proposed to perform to establish his authority as an independent king. Babhruvahana would continue the lineage of Chitravahana as a dayada while he would be a favourite son of Arjuna. Arjuna then travelled along the seacoast to Gokarna (a seat of Pasupati, another name of Samkara) on the southwest coast.
From there he moved northwards along the west coast, visiting several centres of learning, and reached Prabhasa (near Dwaraka), the seat of Subhadra, sister of Krshna. He had heard about her from a Yadava and wanted to obtain her. He went in the guise of an ascetic (sanyasi) to avoid detection by the antakas and vrshnis who ruled that region. Krshna who had kept tab on his movements learnt his intent met him at Prabhasa. The chronicler compares the two to the two great sages and social leaders, Nara and Narayana. Arjuna narrated to him his experiences at the centres he had visited.
After arranging for his stay at a mountain resort, Raivataka, near Prabhasa, Krshna went to Dwaraka where its people and the Bhojas and Vrshnis and Kumaras gave him a rousing welcome. Bhojas were native agriculturists and Vrshnis were mainly pastoral people looking after cattle. Kumaras were followers of the general (senapati), Skanda who was also known as Sanatkumara and Kartikeya. Sanatkumara was an outstanding socio-political thinker and counsellor of Prthu whose protg was Prtha, mother of Arjuna and aunt of Krshna. Sanada, Sanaka, Sanatana and Sanatkumara were the four famous Upanishadic scholars and were known as Kumaras.
Raivataka and Subhadra
Raivataka was the rich capital of Balarama whose wife was Revati. At the festival arranged there by the plutocrats noted for conspicuous consumption and licentiousness, gandharvas and kings, ministers and generals were present. The womenfolk of Krshnas household too attended it. Krshna and Arjuna (who was in the guise of an ascetic) were engaged in a tte--tte about Subhadra, daughter of Vasudeva and sister of Krshna and Balarama. Krshna noticed that Arjuna wanted to marry Subhadra and offered to tell his father about it. But Arjuna would prefer to marry her by resort to Kshatriya marriage. He asked Krshna what method he should follow. Krshna pointed out that svayamvara where the girl selected her spouse was the prescribed Kshatriya marriage. But it had a weakness. Women by nature (svabhava) were not able to arrive at a decision, he commented. They also did not reveal their mind.
He noted that those who knew dharmasastra, the code of social laws, treated carrying away the girls by force and marrying them as justified in the case of Kshatriya warriors. It was in fact a type of marriage resorted to by the Rakshasas who had been discharged from the troops for rebellious and disorderly conduct. Krshna inspired Arjuna to carry away his sister by force at the suitable opportunity. Before going to Dwaraka he sent messengers to Yudhishtira (Dharmaraja, who followed the dharma code) and Kunti who gave him the necessary permission.
Arjuna stayed in a grove near Dwaraka disguised as an ascetic. The Yadavas after finishing their festival at Raivataka hills went to Dwaraka. They welcomed the ascetic and took him to Balarama who was pleased to learn about his visit to several mountains and water-spots and centres of training. Believing that the guest was a true ascetic who followed satya and dharma codes, he arranged for the stay of Arjuna for four months of fast in the enclave of Subhadra. Krshna defended this arrangement as a traditional practice among the Yadavas to accommodate the yatis (ascetics) who had controlled their senses, in the enclaves of their womenfolk.
Subhadra agreed to play host to the ascetic without knowing that it was Arjuna. Of course she had heard praises about him. Arjuna found her to be more beautiful than Krshna, daughter of Drupada. Subhadra appeared like Indrasena, daughter of Indra, and Varunas daughter. The chronicler notes subtly that while Indra had jurisdiction over the eastern provinces, Varuna had jurisdiction over the western regions including Dwaraka. The north was under Soma and the south under Kubera. Subhadra asked the ascetic about his experiences in the different countries that he had visited and Arjuna too was delighted to narrate them. She also asked him whether he knew Kunti and her sons and whether he had met Arjuna.
He told her in a light vein that Arjuna with the permission of his mother was staying away as an ascetic in Dwaraka and asked her why she did not try to discover him. Then he told her his identity and told her that he would like to get married to her, selected by her as her spouse in svayamvara. As she was restless, Krshnas consort, Rukmini asked her to be brave and not to be worried. Rukmini also took into confidence Krshnas mother, Devaki about the love between Arjuna and Subhadra.
Devaki acquainted her consort, Vasudeva and asked him to communicate the message to Krshna and his ministers, Akrura, Ahuka and Satyaki. Balarama and his confidante, Uddhava, were kept in dark about the arrangements being made for the marriage between Subhadra and Arjuna. But none of these persons knew that Arjuna was in the guise of an ascetic. The Yadavas and the followers of Ugrasena went to an island near Dwaraka for enjoyment, and Krshna was returning from there. Arjuna thought it the opportune time to marry Subhadra.
Prabhasa centre promoted the Rudra school of thought. Especially, thoughts of Siva, Samkara and Mahadeva were popular here. This school had that of the Kumaras as its major affiliate. Vasudeva, father of Subhadra, had gone with his sons, grandsons and kinsmen, to the festival of Siva being conducted on an island nearby. Arjuna told Subhadra that her father hence might not be in a position to give her away askanyadana. According to the code (sastra) prepared by sages, for the guidance of the seniors (sreshtas) of all classes (varnas), different types of dharmavivaha had been prescribed, he said. [Only Brahma, Arsha, Daiva and Prajapatya marriages were described as dharmavivaha.]
They empowered the father, brother, mother, maternal uncle, fathers father and fathers brother to give away a girl by kanyadana, he pointed out. None of them was then available to give her away. He proposed that hence they should resort to the fifth type, namely gandharva marriage, which did not provide for kanyadana but accorded with the code applicable to them (to Kshatriyas and Yadavas). In this dialogue between Arjuna and Subhadra, Vaishampayana explains the implications of different aspects of the institution of marriage as in force during the final stage of the Vedic era. Arjuna did not favour Asura, Rakshasa and Paisaca types of marriages.
Four categories of wives: Patni, Bharya, Prajavati, Jaya
Vaishampayana explains that four types of rituals were prescribed for union between a virgin (kanya) and her groom (vara). The father of the virgin invited the groom who sought the hands of the virgin (kanya) and gave her to him performing the rites prescribed in the code (sastra). She was referred to as patni. She would be obedient to her husband and remain chaste. The chronicler would not refer to other married women as patni.
A girl accepted by kanyadana for managing the domestic servants and for looking after the husband was referred to as bharya. The girl who had been accepted by the father of the groom and brought to his house and given by him in kanyadana after performing all rites prescribed in the code (dharmasastra) to the groom after she had attained the age of puberty was called dara.
All these three types were described as dharma marriage, meant for fulfilment of social and domestic duties. In these marriages there was no economic (artha) transaction or element of motivation by desire for sex (kama). Where one entered into gandharva marriage as he and the girl liked each other and desired to procreate a son, the wife was called prajavati. Such marriages came under the class of prajapatya marriage, with the marriage between the consenting adults arranged by the chief of the people, prajapati. Where a girl selected her spouse on her own (svayamvara), after marriage she was referred to as jaya. [On Prajapatya marriage there have been diverse interpretations.]
In the case of patni, bharya, dara and jaya the marriage was solemnised in the presence of Agni (the Vedic official who functioned as the civil judge and witness to the compact) and the rites prescribed in the dharma code were gone through and the mantras chanted. Exhorting Subhadra to resort to gandharva marriage with him, Arjuna pointed out that in gandharva marriage that took place in secret no such recital of mantras took place. It meant that the two consented to live together. Arjuna said as it was an auspicious day they might unite in gandharva marriage that night itself in a secluded place. Even Narayana who was said to be omniscient would not know it, he assured her.
The chronicler, Vaishampayana, notes that the sage, Narayana, had classified all those varied cadres who were not organised clans or communities or settled groups as social universe (jagat, mobile population). Gandharvas, apsarases, vidyadharas, charanas, siddhas, tapasas and chakshus were such cadres belonging to the free intelligentsia who moved across all social worlds.
Arjuna claimed that he was in a dilemma on how to act within the framework of dharma and yet get their desire fulfilled for the Yadava girl did not respond to his request. Arjuna thereupon prayed his father who held the position of Indra for guidance. Indra and his consort and other women of the social world of nobility (devaloka) along with Narada and other sages and gandharvas, charanas and yakshas and also Arundati and Vasishta reached Kusasthali to find out a solution for his dilemma.
Leaving behind Balarama, Krshna, along with Akrura, Satyaka, Vasudeva, Devaki, Ahuka and others reached Dwaraka. Krshna welcomed Narada and other sages. Indra then asked him for his help in the marriage of Arjuna with Subhadra and this gladdened Vasudeva and Krshnas ministers. With the permission of Indra the marriage was performed in accordance with the prescribed rites in the presence of the sages and of Arundati, Indrani, Rukmini and Devaki. Kashyapa was said to have officiated at this wedding. Arjuna had the status of the son of a noble, deva and was entitled to go through panigrahana, taking the hand of the bride. This gave Subhadra the status of consort of a noble (deva). After staying at Rukminis residence for a few days as an ascetic, yati, Arjuna left for Khandavaprastha with Subhadra in Krshnas chariot. (Consummation of the marriage was due.)
Arjuna asked Subhadra to secure a chariot from the palace with bows and arrows and maces under the pretext that they were needed for worship. Arjuna discarded his dress of an ascetic and put on armour and drove the chariot through the crowd. While most of the people approved their gandharva marriage some tried to stop them. Arjuna kept them at bay with his volley of arrows and drove towards the caves in the Raivataka hills. Krshna had appointed one Viprthusravas, a powerful wrestler to be in charge of those hills during his absence. As that warrior who was equal to Balarama in fighting faced Arjuna with his troops, Subhadra offered to drive the chariot while Arjuna fought with them. Arjuna without killing any one put the enemies out of action with his missiles. Viprthu directed his troops to stop fighting and told Arjuna that he had heard from Krshna about his presence in Dwaraka and that Krshna had asked him to give those troops to him for his use.
Some reported to their authorities about the abduction of Subadhra and the latter prepared to go to war with Arjuna. Balarama stopped them for not taking Krshnas consent to such a move. He chided Krshna for permitting Arjuna to do an act that showed the Yadavas in a poor light. He did not appreciate the manner in which Arjuna married Subhadra and took her away. As he threatened to wipe out the Kauravas by himself, the Yadavas and Vrshnis extolled him. Vasudeva Krshna explained to the Yadavas who protested against Arjunas action that they had earlier ignored his advice and that what had happened could not be undone.
He argued that Arjuna had not insulted their clan (kula) and in fact done a deed that was an honour to them. He never thought of the Yadavas as persons greedy for wealth. He might have considered svayamvara as honourable. One would not agree to the practice of giving away a virgin (kanyadana), a practice similar to gifting a cow (to a Brahman or to a needy person). No one among the commonalty (bhumi) would agree to sell or buy a girl (kanya). That is, asura marriage was not favoured. Arjuna must have taken into account these flaws in the other types of marriage. Taking away the girl by valour was a great thing for Kshatriyas, Krshna pointed out. Hence Pandava Arjunas action in taking away their unmarried girl (kanya) by force was within the framework of dharma, he opined.
Krshna told the Yadava chieftains to realise that it was natural for any girl to get as her husband Arjuna who was a descendant of the famous rulers, Bharata and Santanu and of Kuntibhoja. He warned that except for Siva who gouged the eyes of Bhaga, there was none in the cadres of nobles including Indra and Rudras who could stand against Arjuna. Both Siva and Bhaga belonged to the cadre of Rudras. While Indra headed the house of nobles (devaloka), Rudras were aristocrats (devatas) who directed the frontier society (antariksham). Devatas did not have the same status as devas had. Krshna also told the Yadavas that he had given Arjuna the chariot by which he carried away Subhadra. He asked them not to include his aunts son in the list of their enemies. He advised them to enter into peace with him. The Yadavas thereupon hastened to overtake Arjuna and apologise to him and bring him back to Dwaraka.
Retrieved land Anarta
But Viprthu (the officer in charge of the outlying areas) told them that Arjuna had gone too far away to be overtaken by them. Arjuna however wanted to turn back and fight but Subhadra prevailed on him not to do so and the two went towards Khandavaprastha. She did not want to be the cause of the death of the Yadavas. They crossed Anarta (a land retrieved from economic ruin), Salva and Nishada and reached a grove known as Deva aranya (forest of the nobles) where its sages received them. They went ahead with Subhadra driving the chariot and Arjuna fully armed and reached the Kaurava land and the resuscitated city, Virujina (Indraprastha), entering which was like entering a cave of lions.
Arjuna before entering the town stopped at his cattle-farm and made Subhadra dress like a simple Yadava girl and behave in a modest way, without standing on her dignity and pride. This ensured her easy acceptance by Draupadi who he knew would not change her first opinion. Subhadra was received cordially by her aunt, Kunti and by Yudhishtira and his brothers and by the elders while Arjuna narrated to them his experiences during his exile. Krshna after consulting Ugrasena, Akrura, Ahuka, Viprthu, Vidurata and Balarama went to Indraprastha with Balarama and his Yadava troops.
His counsellor, Uddhava, who had the status of Brhaspati, minister for political economy, Akrura who was treasurer, Satyaka and Satyaki who enforced the laws based on truth, satya, Pradyumna (Balaramas son), Krtavarma (a Yadava chieftain) and others accompanied him. Krshna, Balarama and others received a rousing reception from the people and rulers of Indraprastha. The formal alliance between Balarama, brother of Subhadra and Yudhishtira, brother of Arjuna was arrived at thereafter. After a few days the Yadavas returned to Dwaraka while Krshna stayed back to guide Arjuna.
Yudhishtira as Dharmaraja
The Pandavas were not then independent rulers of Indraprastha. They had to function under the suzerainty of Dhrtarashtra and Bhishma. Under Dharmaraja the native people (jana) behaved like persons (atma) who were members of social bodies (sarira) with good characteristics and engaged in performing merit-worthy (punya) deeds (karya). Dharmaraja who followed social codes based on dharma and political codes based on niti (rajaniti, science of political policy) gave equal importance to all the three values of life (dharma, artha, kama) that a social leader had to follow (purusharthas).
Like a person who is a member of a social body (sarira), that is, as one who had to perform his social duties (and not as a person, atma, liberated from them) he distributed three fourths of his income as a king for the three purposes of the society, socio-cultural (dharma), politico-economic (artha) and emotional (kama), retaining one-fourth for his personal use. The people had gained in Dharmaraja a king who studied the Vedas (that enshrined the social and cultural history of the people) and followed the precepts set in them in his great sacrifices and who protected his cadres who had the status of the meritorious (punyalokas). The cadres of legislators (maharshis), researchers (tapasvis) and jurists (satyaloka) and free intellectuals-cum-administrators who had completed their tasks (saddhyas) were considered to be cadres who had achieved merit (punyalokas). Yudhishtira enjoyed the support of these all-important social cadres of the larger intelligentsia.
Under Yudhishtira the economy of the state (rajyalakshmi) became stable. He was assisted by his four brothers and guided by Dhoumya who had a status equal to Brhaspati (the Vedic official in charge of the civil polity and the treasury) and other jurists who knew the socio-political constitution (Brahma). Vaishampayana notes that in the traditional Vedic polity, the nobles (devas) surrounded and protected Brahma the chief exponent of the constitution. Like that, Dharmaraja who interpreted the socio-cultural laws (dharma) was surrounded and protected by Dhoumya who had the status of Brhaspati and other senior exponents of the Atharvan (Brahma) socio-political constitution. He functioned within the ambit of the earlier constitution (Brahma) while interpreting and implementing the code, dharma.
At the same time, the subjects, prajas looked at and thought of Dharmaraja with affection. The new state had as subjects not only those who were its natives (jana) but also individuals and groups who had consented to become its citizens (prajas). The latter considered it as an invisible (adrshta) advantage that they were treated on par with the local-born people. The king carried out all activities and projects that were to the tastes of the native people (jana). [The new subjects, prajas, too indirectly benefited from these deeds.] Dharmaraja who was an intellectual and who spoke attractively never uttered a word that was inappropriate or untrue or harsh or did not capture their hearts. Dharmaputra (Yudhishtira who was a son of an official who had held the position of dharma who ensured that all followed the social laws, dharma) was not a weak king. He had the power and influence to carry out activities that were beneficial to all subjects and to him.
Burning of Khandava forest
Krshna and Arjuna went with their wives to the beautiful grove and playfield, Khandavavana, for enjoyment. It was not settled (inhabited) by any clan or community of the commonalty (manushyas). Besides birds and wild animals militant rebels (rakshasas) and powerful groups of forest workers (mahasarpas) had sway there. Krshna who knew the traits of all the social worlds (lokas) and their sectors planned to destroy that forest along with its denizens and the plutocrats (yakshas) who owned them. Guessing his plan, the civil judge, Agni, met him and Arjuna in the guise of a Brahman (interpreter of the constitution).
The warriors, Arjuna and Krshna thought that he was a hungry Brahman seeking food. But the latter introduced himself as Agni and made them realise that as the spokesman of the commonalty (manushyas) he wanted that grove to be made available to them. He pointed out that the forest was under the protection of Indra, head of the nobles, who had permitted his friend, Takshaka, the chief of the community of carpenters and woodcutters to reside and function from there. [Vaishampayana was narrating this episode to Janamejaya who had tried to destroy Takshaka and his community but had failed.]
Because several other groups that were at the level of bare existence (pranis) were in contact with Takshaka the commoners could not settle down there and pursue their agro-pastoral activities. Indra (the head of the assembly of nobles, devas) protected them, Agni (the chief of the council of scholars who represented the commonalty, manushyas) complained.
Though Agni, the representative of the commoners, wanted to burn down that forest and settle them there, Indra prevented it by his influence and power. The earlier attempts to burn it were frustrated by the Vedic official, Varuna, who held them to be unauthorised interference in the lives of the workers of the forest. Agni, the chief of the intelligentsia, sought the help of the two warriors Arjuna and Krshna, to get his objective fulfilled by fighting constitutional bars raised by Varuna and resistance by the poor and weak beings (pranis) of the forest. Janamejaya wanted to know why that official, Agni, wanted to burn down the Khandava forest. There must have been a major cause behind the attempts at setting the forest on fire, he thought. Then Vaishampayana described to him the episode as recorded in the legends and as narrated by sages.
Suvedaki, a powerful and generous king with several exploits to his credit and an intellectual, once conducted a prolonged academic session (sattra) attended by legislators (maharshis) and jurists (brahmanas) during which he distributed huge wealth to nobles (devas), elders (pitrs), sages (rshis), discrete individuals of the social periphery (bhutas) and commoners (manushyas). The priests (rtviks) conducting the proceedings found the session to be an unending one and advised the king to consult Rudra (Samkara) under whose jurisdiction it was being conducted on how to proceed with it further.
Suvedaki requested the great head of the academy (bhagavan), Samkara, to take direct charge of the session and bring it to a successful conclusion. Samkara agreed to take charge of the seminar, if the king observed celibacy (that is, was engaged in study, brahmacharya) for twelve years and satisfied Agni, the head of the intelligentsia. [After every twelve years all institutions were re-formed with old members retiring and new ones taking over.] Suvedaki after undergoing re-orientation in studies approached Samkara (Rudra, Mahadeva) again who directed the sage, Durvasa, to continue the session (yajna) and end it with success. Agni, the chief of the intelligentsia and the commonalty, who was honoured at this session, felt that it had sapped his influence and went to the academy of jurists and intellectuals (brahmaloka) to regain his influence.
The head of that academy, Brahma, who also outlined and interpreted and enforced the socio-political constitution told him that the Khandava forest which had been taken over from the commonalty by others while the intellectuals were engaged in pursuing knowledge and not looking after the interests of the commoners be burnt and converted into communes for them.
He agreed that earlier as directed by the nobles, the commoners had burned down the entire forest but it had later become the dangerous abode of the enemies of the nobles. Both human and non-human beings resided there, the jurist pointed out to Agni, the representative of the commoners and of the intelligentsia. The destruction of the forest might not be a welcome move at first but soon it would help the commonalty and the intelligentsia to attain their natural position and ways (svabhava) Brahma, the interpreter of the constitution of the integrated society said.
When Agni, that is, the intelligentsia representing the commonalty tried to burn the forests, the hastis (elephants, in common parlance) who were nagas, architects using wood for construction of urban homes and different groups of forest workers (sarpas) and other people at the elementary level resisted the move. Seven such moves to burn it down failed.
Brahma, the head of the academy of the jurists, asked Agni, the head of the commonalty and its intelligentsia, to wait for the appropriate time to secure the forest area for the commonalty. When Arjuna and Krshna arrived at the Khandava forest, he told Agni that he should approach the two for assistance. Brahma said that the personages whom the social world of commoners honoured as Arjuna and Vasudeva were in fact the devarshis, Nara and Narayana, who had gone there to fulfil certain causes of the nobles (devas). Despite the nobles protecting the forest and its denizens and peoples, the commoners would be able to burn it down with the help of those sages, he told the official Agni.
The aristocracy had sought the support of the technocrats and proletariat of the forests for building an urban civilisation and kept out the commoners from having access to the forests earmarked for the above purpose. This worked to the disadvantage of the commonalty which needed more lands to be brought under cultivation (especially of cotton, according to Kashyapa as noted by Kautilya).
Arjuna told that official (without the approval of Krshna) that he would be able to do the needful provided he had a suitable and powerful bow and a special chariot with highborn steeds. He told Agni that he needed a missile that could kill nagas and paisacas, skilled technocrats and invisible snipers, for Krshnas missiles were not available for use. If he could get these Arjuna would be able to battle against Indra and keep him away while Agni, as the representative of the commonality (manushyas), would be able to accomplish his purpose.
Agni, the head of the intelligentsia, then requested Varuna, one of the Adityas (the Vedic council of administrators, functioning under the guidance of Aditi, the mother-figure, who ranked next only to Viraj and Prajapati, the head of the federal social polity and the chief of the people), to donate to Arjuna his armed chariot with four steeds and with Hanuman as the emblem on its flag. King (Raja) Soma who governed the frontier society (antariksham) had given this chariot to Varuna who was guardian of the western regions and the ombudsman who ensured that all the procedural rules prescribed by the Vedic constitution, Brahma, were followed by every official and individual. Varuna now took back the authority that Soma had to control the frontier society of the forests and vested it in Agni who had jurisdiction over the core society of the plains.
Agni asked him to give him also the bow (the Gandiva) that Soma had given him. In other words, the officials in charge of protection of the industrial frontier society of the forests and mountains had authorised Varuna, the ombudsman of the larger Vedic society to guard their interests while the former consented to remain disarmed. Agni, the guardian of the interests of the expanding commonalty of the plains sought the approval of Varuna to his mission of expanding the territories of the former by burning down that forest.
Varuna complied with this request to enable Arjuna to fulfil his mission. Agni gave Krshna a wheel (chakra). In other words, he placed at Krshnas disposal the enormous power that the social periphery had, to keep at bay all the three organised social worlds, liberal nobles, agro-pastoral commonalty and industrial frontier society. He empowered Arjuna to use the Agni missile, the power of the civil judge, while Varuna gave a powerful mace to Krshna, the authority to crush all resistance. [It is necessary that we cease to accept the commonplace interpretation that Indra, Aditya, Soma, Varuna, Agni, Vayu, Kubera, Yama, Agni etc. were gods of the polytheistic Vedic society and that the ancients worshipped lightning and thunder, sun, moon, rain, fire, wind, wealth, death, fire etc.] With the protection given by Krshna and Arjuna, the commonalty began to burn down the Khandava forest. The chronicler, Vaishampayana told Janamejaya that this conflagration frightened all the beings of the forest.
Wild animals and also innocent birds and animals were caught in the fire and perished. Besides the undesirable elements among the yakshas and rakshas, (plutocrats and their guards), nagas and sarpas (technocrats and members of the proletariat), rshis (sages) too were trapped in the fire. The nobles (devas) and sages (rshis) brought to the notice of Indra, the head of the nobility how common men too were being burnt, by the setting of the forest on fire. They feared that it might lead to a catastrophe for all the social worlds (lokas). But he could not quell the fire from his position.
Protected by Arjuna, the commoners led by Agni, set fire to the forest, trapping the nagas and sarpas who constituted the backbone of the industrial economy of the integrated social polity and enjoyed the support of the aristocracy (devas). Their leader, Takshaka, escaped being killed, as he was then away at Kurukshetra. And one of his deputies (sons), Asvasena, was saved by his mother who however was killed. The conflict brought together the aristocrats (devas), the plutocrats (yakshas), their guards (rakshasas), the technocrats (nagas) and also the free intelligentsia-cum-warriors (gandharvas) against the commonalty (manushyas) of the agro-pastoral plains (bhumi) whose interests Agni, the civil judge, and Arjuna and Krshna were promoting.
All the three sectors of the ruling elite, aristocrats (devas), feudal lords (daityas) and plutocrats (danavas) had come together against the new commonalty that sought scope for expansion. While many officials of the Vedic polity like Yama, Kubera, Mrtyu, Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman, Bhaga, Tvashta, Amsa, Pushan, Savita and Dhata who represented its diverse social and economic sectors took up arms in support of Indra,the chief of the nobility and the groups that had sought his support, only Subrahmanya (Kumara) stood armed but unmoved. According to the allegories he was the son of an official who held the rank of Agni.
Skanda (Subrahmanya, Sanatkumara) a general (Senapati) as well as a socio-political thinker did not find anything wrong in the incursions of the agrarian commonalty into forests to retrieve the lands that were earlier under the plough. The commonalty, especially, its lower ranks, had till then enjoyed no protection against the higher classes whose interests these officials promoted and guarded. The right of the new commonalty to expand territorially was advocated by Agni and supported by Arjuna and Krshna who faced resistance from every other section of the traditional Vedic polity whose interests these officials represented.
Besides these Adityas, the other traditional groups of nobles, Rudras, Vasus and Maruts and the new cadres of nobles, Visvedevas and Saddhyas rallied against Arjuna and Krshna. To the surprise of the sages, these groups too could not subdue Arjuna and Krshna. During the course of the battle, Khandavavana got destroyed and its denizens killed. This episode is not to be passed by as a fictitious battle between Indra and his son, Arjuna. It was a struggle between the elite who had secured the services of the captains of industry and technocrats to promote their own interests and the expanding commonalty that sought more space. Agriculturists and pastoral people were engaged in pushing back the encroaching forest and industrial economy.
In this battle, the feudal lords (asuras) and their militant guards (rakshasas) who had been expelled from the terrains earlier occupied by the core society suffered severely and so too the artisans (nagas) who operated from the forests. With the wild and even gentle animals and birds, they fled from the Khandava forest. Also the counter-intelligentsia (pisacas) who had got rooted in the forests near the villages and misdirected the core society fled. Krshna used his influence over the social periphery marked by his cakra ayuda (the wheel) to force the feudal lords (asuras) and the counter-intelligentsia (pisacas), the technocrats (nagas) and the communities (jatis) marked by low (alpa) culture to vacate that forest, which was claimed by the commonalty or get burnt by flames that engulfed the forest.
The nobles went back having failed to protect the technocrats and artisans. Indra was told that his friend, Takshaka had survived as he was away at Kurukshetra. Takshaka was asked to realise that Arjuna and Krshna were invincible and that they deserved to be worshipped by all sectors of the larger society, nobles (devas), feudal lords (asuras), plutocrats (yakshas), militant guards (rakshasas), technocrats (nagas), free middle class of intellectuals, warrior-administrators (gandharvas), commoners (manushyas) and free men (kinnaras) of the forest.
Vaishampayana told Janamejaya that the massacre that followed the withdrawal of the protection that the encroachers had secured from the nobles headed by Indra, agitated the cadres of elders, many of whom were former feudal lords (pitrs) and nobles (devas) and those who were weak and at the subsistence level (pranis), those who lived beside rivers and seas (matsyas) and the wandering groups of scholars (vidyadharas). But the deeds of Arjuna and Krshna pleased Agni, who spoke for the commoners and the intellectuals of the core society.
Krshna noticed that Maya who was a sculptor serving the feudal lords (asuras) was escaping from the house of Takshaka (the head of the community of carpenters). Most houses, especially of the towns were built of wood. When Krshna threatened to kill him Maya approached Arjuna for asylum. The later annotator takes care not to give the impression that Krshna was cruel and merciless. He argues that Krshna and Agni did not propose to kill Maya though the latter was associated with the creation of the undesirable aspects of urban civilisation that echoed conspicuous consumption, pursuit of luxury and deception.
These were certainly not aspects of civilisation to the liking of the great intellectual, Krshna or to the representative of the rural intelligentsia, Agni. Maya was a brother of Namuci, a powerful asura chieftain (who fell at the hands of Rama), an associate of Sambara, the chief enemy of Sakra Indra. Vaishampayana told Janamejaya that only Asvasena (son of Takshaka), Maya and four Saranga birds escaped death in the massacre of the denizens of Khandavana.
Mandapala and the four babes
Janamejaya was not enthusiastic about Asvasena and Maya having been saved. He was curious to know why the four chickens were saved. Vaishampayana told him that the famous sage, Mandapala, who knew the social code (sastra) and led a rigorous disciplined life, was following the path that the sages who were on the (intellectual, social and cultural) ascent did. These sages were interested in creating better generations of scholars and men by adopting selective intercourse. When Mandapala had completed his course of severe exercise and concentration (tapas), he retired and went to join the cadre of elders (pitrloka) who had retired from worldly life.
But he was not accepted there as one who had performed tapas, as a scholar who had discovered new methods or new knowledge. In other words, the efforts of the guardian of the mentally retarded to retrieve them were not acceptable to the elders who had retired to their forest abodes. Some of them were former feudal lords who believed that only those persons who had resilience could survive.
Mandapala approached the nobles (devas) who were close to Yama, the Vedic official who ensured that no commoner violated the prohibitory laws (yamas). Violation of these yamas might invite even death penalty. Only nobles were exempt from death penalty. They might keep company with him without any fear. Mandapala asked those nobles why he was denied entry to the higher social worlds though he had acquired through his tapas the right to enter them. Mandapala wanted to know what prescribed act of duty (karma) he had failed to do as a result of which these higher social cadres were closed to him. If he was told the lapse he would return to his previous cadres and positions (lokas) and complete those duties, he said.
The nobles (devas) told him the duties that commoners were born with. What one claims to be his birthright is in fact what he is required to do in his life from the time he is born. These duties are not those that devolve on him later by virtue of his social status. The latter are determined by the institutions they are under while the duties inherited are by virtue of their having been born as common men (manushyas) rather than as nobles etc. One who is born as a commoner (manushya) has to perform from his birth till his death his duties (karma) as specified in the code (sastra).
These required performance of yajnas. He has to observe brahmacharya, that is, remain a celibate during the course of his formal education (at the residence of the teacher, gurukula). This rule was applicable to all commoners. [The commoners had not yet been brought under the four-varnas scheme, which made this stage obligatory only for the three higher classes.] A third societal duty inherited by all commoners was that of procreating offspring.
Mandapala was told that while he had performed all yajnas, that is, all the prescribed sacrificial duties, and had gone through the course of education, as a brahmachari, he had not married and procreated children. The Vedic society had made the stages of brahmacarya and grhastha obligatory. The third and fourth stages, vanaprastha and sanyasa were not obligatory. The nobles advised him to become a father before becoming eligible to enter the higher cadres of the society. His offspring would take over the debts he owed to his ancestors and then he would be free to pursue the careers that the higher cadres offered.
Mandapala who had taken the vow to remain a celibate till the end wondered what course of life would enable him to have sons without his breaking his vow. It is irrational to presume that Mandapala took the form of a bird and united with a female bird, which laid eggs that were hatched and that chicks came out to help him to get the needed offspring. Mandapala must have adopted as his offspring four tawny kids and arranged to bring them up in close contact with nature without maternal and paternal care and that when they grew up those kids took over his duties to his ancestors. When Agni, the chief of the intelligentsia of the commonalty threatened to burn down the forest with all its denizens, Mandapala who knew Brahma, the provisions of the constitution, prayed to that official to spare his kids.
The chronicler through Mandapalas exhortation to Agni explains the status and role of this official of the Vedic society. Agni was the face, spokesman of all the social worlds (lokas) and not of the commonalty only or of its intelligentsia only. He accepted what was offered in the homa (domestic sacrifice) performed. Agni was a purifier. Mandapala would identify him as the soul that is hidden in all beings (pranis) that breathed, human and non-human, commoners whose means of livelihood were secure as well as those of the subaltern who were at the bare subsistence level. The individual who occupied the status of Agni was regarded as one of the great knowers, as an intellectual. He was however not equal to Brahmarshis, sages who knew the socio-political constitution, Brahma.
As explained by later annotators, the term, Agni, covered the lightning that illuminates the sky (akasa, the people of the open space), fire on earth (bhumi, commonalty) and the life force (jatharagni, gastric fire, in common parlance) among the beings at the base level that were not mobile and which struggled to live and had the resilience needed to survive. In the expanded commonalty, the thinly spread population of the open space (akasa) too came under the jurisdiction of the civil judge, Agni. Besides the organised agro-pastoral commonalty (bhumi, manushyas) who had their minimum needs fulfilled, the hungry poor of the deep subaltern too came under his jurisdiction.
This commonalty that led a simple and contented life did no longer find the aristocracy as its patron. The latter had become enamoured of the grandeur of the urban civilisation to which the technocrats and the industrial proletariat contributed with the plutocrats and the aristocrats coming together. The latter alliance was at the cost of the commonalty whose lands had been allowed to be converted into forests and the tillers in those areas evicted. Arjuna and Krshna with the consent of Varuna, the ombudsman, vested all the powers that different officials exercised in the middle Vedic polity when urbanisation had not crippled the predominantly rural commonalty in Agni when the new social polity was formed on the ashes of Khandavavana.
Mandapala would not approve this move to make Agni all powerful. He would accept Agni only as the official who organised the social world of commoners. Agni had earlier the authority to create new social groups and wipe out existing ones. This official had also the status and role of Brahma, who interpreted the constitution and of Brhaspati, who administered the civil polity until these new posts came into existence under the influence of the Atharvan Brahmavadis.
Mandapala would agree to permit Agni, the enlightened guardian of the interests of the agro-pastoral commonalty and chief of the civil judiciary, to control the civil polity and economy and interpret the constitution also, as he did during the middle Vedic period when the posts of Brhaspati and Brahma had not been envisaged. But he would not allow Agni to usurp the powers that the other Vedic officials had exercised and apply to the forests and the periphery the social and economic laws that were in force in the agro-pastoral commonalty.
Under the Indra-Agni setup, the roles of Asvinidevas who looked after agriculture and medicinal herbs, Surya who was in charge of political administration and Soma who had jurisdiction over the forest society including its sober intelligentsia, too were vested in Agni who was in charge of the commonalty. Indra was in charge of the nobles. Mandapalas exhortation pleased the official, Agni, who agreed to spare his kids while burning the Khandavavana.
Jarita, the diseased nurse of the four kids adopted by Mandapala, did not know about the conversation between Agni and the sage and tried to save the kids in a rat-hole but they were afraid of rats and preferred to die in the fire. If Agni burnt them, they might get a place in Brahmaloka, they said. Vaishampayana implied that they would be purified and declared as eligible to join the academy of scholars and reside there permanently. Jarita told the kids that they might hide in the rat-hole safely, for she had seen a vulture carry away the rat. But the kids would not swallow the lie.
They had thought that Jarita was their mother and asked her to save herself so that their lineage could be continued through new children. It was not proper and wise to try to save them through false hopes and not save herself. Her sacrifice would not be a wise one. Besides they had not helped her to deserve such sacrifice on her part. They were not related to each other and as she was yet young she might marry and have issues. Thus Sarangi, the mother of the kids was exhorted to escape while the kids stayed back in the burning forest.
The young boys whom Mandapala had adopted were desperate with their mothers escaping before the fire destroyed her as they did not know who their father was. Of them, the youngest, named after Drona, had a better appreciation of the role of Agni and his importance. Agni was impressed with his knowledge and outlook and agreed to do, as that child prodigy desired of him. He would spare them and would burn only those beings like cats, which harmed others even after having been tamed and treated as pets.
Mandapala expressed to a chatterer (lapita) his anxiety about his sons but she told him not to be worried, as Agni would surely keep his word. She teased him saying that he was worried not about his sons but about Jarita, her rival. Lapita claimed that she was his wife. Mandapala must have been keeping away from this virago. Mandapala held that for a woman the presence of a rival wife was harmful to the proper pursuit of the values of life, purusharthas (dharma, artha, kama and moksha). He was advocating monogamy in the interests of women. He noticed that Arundati treated her husband, the great sage, Vasishta, with contempt as he had another wife too. Mandapala charged that women after giving birth to sons (who would protect her) neglected their husbands. When his sons heard this remark they pitied him and looked after him who had been let down by both the wives, the chronicler said.
Mandapala told his aggrieved sons that Agni knew that they were (had the potential to become) sages and that they knew what was the highest constitution, Brahma. He left with his wife and children to another area while Agni, Arjuna and Krshna burnt down the Khandava forest for the benefit of the social world (loka) of commonalty. Indra promised to give Arjuna all weapons, when Siva was pleased with him (and permitted him to use them). He would receive the weapons under the charge of Agni, Vayu and Indra. Agni gave Arjuna the powerful Gandiva bow and the chariot he had asked for. Krshna and Arjuna then discussed with Maya, the architect, about the new town.
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