PASSAGE TO HINDU STATE
BOOK NINE, TEN, ELEVEN, TWELVE
SOCIAL WELFARE STATE
A SOCIO-POLITICAL STUDY OF
V. Nagarajan D.Litt
ISBN 81-901175- 6-4
C/o Sharada Nagarajan
501, Dipesh Enclave
Phone 022-21717590/ 8080138133
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Laxmi Nagar (West)
TRANSITION TO POST-VEDIC SOCIAL POLITY
DHARMARAJYA- SOCIAL WELFARE STATE
1.Jaya Bharatam: The Epic in a Capsule
2.Dhrtarashtra on his defeat
5.Kshatriyas Return to Power
6.Dushyanta, Sakuntala, Bharata
7.Santanu and Bhishma
10. Kanikas Political Policy
11.Vidura and the Great Escape
12.The Town with a Single Concil: Ekachakrapura
13.Adoption of Drupada and Drshtadyumna
14.Draupadi, Pandavas and Polyandry
15.Vidura and the Pandavas
16.From Hastinapura to Indraprastha
17. Bhishma on the Theory of Incarnations and Krshnas exploits
18 Bhishma and Krshnas Role in Rajasuya sacrifice
19 The Gamble for Power and the Sequel
20. Loss of Freedom and Yudhishtiras Exile
21. Pandavas and Life in Exile
22. Yudhishtira asserts his approach on patience
23. Pandavas and Preparation for War
24. Nala and Gambling
25. The Pilgrims Progress and Reorientation Centres
26. On Dharmarajya
27. YayatiAn Enigma
28. Yayati on Temporary Admission to Aristocracy
29. Chitraratha, the Gandharva Scholar
30. Arjunas Exile and Return to Khandavaprastha
31 Naradas Counsel to Yudhishtira on Dharmaraja Polity
32. Assemblies of the different Vedic officials
33. Yudhishtiras Rajasuya sacrifice and Jarasamdha
34 Yudhishtira and Emergence of the Emperor, Dharmavijaya
35. Hanumans Interpretation of Social Polity
36. Pandavas in Kuberas Custody
37. Arjunas Experiences amd Training under Indra
38. Encounter with Nahusha
39. Karnas Fall and Yudhishtiras Discenchantment
40. Arjuna opposes Yudhishtiras Retirement
41 .Nakula and Sahadeva oppose Retirement
42. Draupadis Stand on Dandaniti
Isvara School of Thought on Political Control
43. Arjunas stand on Dandaniti
44. Devasthana opposes Renouncing Rulership
45. Vyasa on the Duties of a King
46. Careers of some great kings who died intestate
Markandeya's Counsel to the Pandavas
47. Discontent, Deviance and Decline
48. Sanatkumara and Prthu Constitution
49. Sarasvati on the Duties of the Intellectual
50. On Manu Vaivasvata
51. Social Unrest and Massive Social Change
52. The Pre-varna Vedic Social Order
53. Valid Gifts and Invalid Gifts
54. Utanka and Takshaka
55. The Pulomas and the New Social OrderTechnocrats
56. Privileges of the Technocrats
57. Massacre of the Innocent Proletariat: Janamejaya and Sarpayajna
TRANSITION TO POST-VEDIC SOCIAL POLITY
JAYA BHARATAM: THE EPIC IN A CAPSULE
According to Ch.60 Adiparva of the epic, Mahabharata, Dvaipayana and his disciples went to meet Janamejaya, Parikshits successor, who was getting ready to perform the famous sarpayajna. The Bhagavata legends were narrated to Parikshit and the Mahabharata epic was narrated to Janamejaya. There are marked discrepancies between the two accounts and not all of these may be attributed to later interpolations, amendments and differences in editions.
Badarayana and Krshna Dvaipayana might not have been the same personage. They belonged to the school of Parasara. Sukhadeva and Vaishampayana were disciples of Dvaipayana (who is also known as Vyasa). Dvaipayana had sired Pandu, Dhrtarashtra and Vidura (note the sequence) only with the intent to ensure the continuance of the lineage of Santanu. For, Santanus son, Vichitravirya, was impotent while Bhishma, his other son had vowed to remain a celibate.
Dvaipayana had followed the practice of niyoga. Dvaipayana and Vichitravirya were the sons of the same mother, Satyavati, but by different fathers, while Bhishma and Vichitravirya were the sons of the same father, Santanu, but by different mothers.
In a rigorously patrilinear system, Dvaipayanas sons could not be construed as Santanus grandsons and they were hence not eligible to continue Santanus lineage. But what prevailed during those times was not a patrilinear system of succession. Continuance of the ruling dynasty overweighed all other considerations. If one did not have a natural son (aurasa), he could acquire one by any of the then approved methods. Satyavati had directed her daughters-in-law, Ambika and Ambalika, to beget sons for their impotent husband, Vichitravirya by her son, Dvaipayana.
Neither the society as a whole nor the Kuru clan has to be held responsible and blamed for this direction, which was a base maltreatment of women. Cows are mated to studs to procreate calves and increase the cattle-stock of the owners. Dvaipayana had to consent to be a stud. But he did not withdraw from the scene after obeying his mother. Ambika and Ambalika were not helpless young widows at the mercy of their mother-in-law, Queen Mother Satyavati. They were princesses of the powerful kingdom of Kasi and were held in respect.
This episode of procreation by niyoga is not to be treated as an example of injustice to women in general though Bhrgu and other sages who drafted the code, Manusmrti found it repugnant. [Some condemn this code for being equivocal on matters pertaining to social mores and some oppose it for its being too puritanical. In fact, the sages tried to arrive at a consensus and had to accommodate diverse stands and could not adopt a dogmatic approach.]
Dvaipayana (Vyasa) is said to have classified the then extant Vedic hymns into four anthologies. He enjoyed the status of Brhaspati in the Hastinapura polity, i.e. he represented the commonalty and was in charge of its political economy. He directed his disciple, Vaishampayana, to narrate to Janamejaya the authorised version of how the Kauravas and the Pandavas became rivals and enemies. In Vaishampayanas view, Pandus preceding Dhrtarashtra was justified though all the three brothers (Pandu, Dhrtarashtra and Vidura) had the right to rule as successors of Santanu.
The law of primogeniture had then not yet been accepted nor has it been in most places and communities since then. The eldest brother got an additional share as the guardian of the legacy and not the entire estate. [The 19th century editors of the Dharmasastras prevailed upon by the British administrators who engaged them to help in the drafting of the Hindu Law felt it expedient to defend the law of primogeniture upheld by the British royalty.]
Santanu had pushed out his brother, Devapi, and ignored his younger brother, Bahlika. Vidura was recognised as Vichitraviryas son though born to a maidservant (dasi) for she had to yield to the princes advances and not to others. She too was directed to yield to Dvaipayana who was substituting for Vichitravirya. She was almost a wife, but not a queen. Pandu suffered neither physical handicap nor social handicap and was hence given precedence over Dhrtarashtra and Vidura when Santanu died. Before tracing what Vaishampayana told Janamejaya, it would help to have a correct appraisal of the features of the institution of marriage and family prevailing then.
While monogamy was not mandatory, bigamy was permitted and even preferred at all social levels. Even wives had not perceived it to be wrong or as harmful to the institution of marriage and disadvantageous to children. But bigamy has always tended to upset the stability of the family when the issue of control over its property, especially indivisible one, crops up. One was however not allowed to marry again, if he had a son by either of the wives.
[The rnamukti orientation, by which ones debts to ones forefathers, pitrs, could be discharged only by begetting sons and continuing the male lineage led to the preference for sons.] But her son could not be denied a share in his fathers wealth, if his family had not discarded her. Dhrtarashtra, Pandu and Vidura were kshetrajas, as they were born in the fields (kshetras) or wombs, owned by Vicitravirya though the seeds sown were not his. The rules governing niyoga did not permit Dvaipayana, their progenitor, any claim over these offspring or over Vicitraviryas property.
Dhrtarashtras Handicap: Lacked Institution of Spies
There could be no partition of the kingdom, as it was not personal property. The rajanyas who were members of the electoral college could elect one from among themselves as their head. The head of the state had a fixed tenure and there would be rotation of headship. Though it was by seniority in age, merit and ability (samarthyam) could not be ignored.
Vaishampayana hinted that Santanu himself had bypassed his elder brother, Devapi, and ignored his younger brother, Bahlika, and that it was a precedent to Dhrtarashtra being bypassed by Pandu and to Vidura being ignored. [Precedents were cited when Kaikeyi demanded that Rama be bypassed and her son, Bharata, be installed as crown prince of Kosala.]
Kautilya's perception about the two events needs closer scrutiny. He was a keen observer and his observations are profoundly significant for a proper appreciation of the then polity. [Kautilya was a contemporary of Bhishma and Dvaipayana.] The institution of spies, chakshus, the intelligence bureau, was a structural requisite for every state, even as ministry, legislature, judiciary, army, treasury and head of the state were. It might be directly under the head of the state or be under one of the ministers. Its reports were to be considered before any political action was taken. It was almost autonomous though not too diffused in structure and function. It had several wings.
If the ruler of a state lacked the institution of spies, a constitutional and political requisite, he was likened to a blind man (like Dhrtarashtra, it was implied). He was unable to receive personal knowledge of what was happening around him or be informed of it by his spies. He was an asastra-chakshu. Whatever information he got was through persons who were not authorised by the statutes of the state. These were mostly his flatterers and they were not qualified to be dispassionate observers and processors of data. On the other hand the Kosalan state had a separate institution of spies and the minister in charge of it was designated as Drshti (sight). But Rama failed to use it and tried to collect data personally and got misled.
Kautilya and the unidentified teacher (acarya) debated on the issue of this shortcoming. The teacher felt that the king who deviated from the provisions of the code (chalita-sastra) could be easily prevailed on to follow the rules while the absence of the institution of spies, a structural deficiency, was more harmful as it led to the kings being forced to depend on cabals and bureaucracy. But Kautilya disagreed. Nominating suitable assistants could compensate the absence of this institution, by creating a support mechanism, which he called sahaya sampada. The deviating king was more harmful and harmed himself too, Kautilya pointed out. This disputation is of considerable importance to political sociology. Kautilya wanted the institution of spies to be directly under the king, the head of the state, instead of being under an independent minister.
Charanas and chakshus, scouts and observers were political institutions, which helped the king in ensuring the security of the state and his person. The acarya might have been Krpa who was attached to the Kuru state academy and who later became a member of the council of seven sages under Manu Surya Savarni during the tenure of Parikshit.
Kautilya was a dialectician who delighted in bringing out both sides of every issue and weighing them and arriving at a valuable middle path. This teacher helped him as a deuteragonist and was not an antagonist of Kautilya. The debates between the two have to be studied in the context of the new integrated and expanded janapadas that came into existence by the last decades of the long Vedic era.
Deficiencies of Kuru State of Hastinapura
Pandu was eligible to rule but he rarely stayed in the capital. After his premature death, Dhrtarashtra took over the reins of the state. During Dhrtarashtras regime, Vidura held the important post of Indra and guided the nobles while Dvaipayana held that of Brhaspati and represented the commonalty, notwithstanding the stifled complaints that their mothers did not belong to respectable Kshatriya families. Both were great thinkers and statesmen and were respected by Bhishma, an outstanding general and spokesman of the Kshatriya aristocracy. Like Krpa, Dvaipayana too survived the battle of Kurukshetra. His associate, Badarayana, joined Manu Savarnis council of seven sages. Badarayana who directed Sukhadeva to narrate the Bhagavata legends to Parikshit and Dvaipayana who directed Vaishampayana to narrate the chief episodes of the great epic Mahabharata to Janamejaya might not have been the same person.
The Kuru state unlike Kosala did not have an eight-member cabinet of the type recommended by Manava Dharmasastra. It was also different from the traditional sabha-samiti pattern approved by the Rgveda. It followed one similar to the pattern that Manu Uttama recommended which divested Indra of the power to lead the army but allowed him to control the house of nobles and the treasury. The neo-nation-state instituted by Mahadeva deprived Indra of the control over the treasury also and vested it in Brhaspati. As all the states tended to adopt this pattern, and as he was teased for having been born to a dasi, Vidura became virtually powerless.
Dhrtarashtra's dilemma was partly on account of the inadequacies in the structure and organisation of the Kuru polity. He could not overrule the commander-in-chief, Bhishma, or the finance minister, Vidura, or antagonise Dvaipayana, his progenitor. He was only presiding over a rigid (dhrta) nation (rashtra) rather than over a powerful state. Of course, none of these dignitaries could act against his decisions. He enjoyed rational legitimacy as he functioned under the Rajarshi constitution.
The Mahadeva constitution of neo-nation states had placed restrictions on all authorities including the king and made the chief of the people, prajapati (elected by the senior citizens and heads of families) the most influential authority. There was a delicate balance of powers.
The King was however the final adjudicator akin to Varuna of the Atharvan polity, a position which Yudhishtira aspired for, when he planned to perform Rajasuya sacrifice. He was yet but a viceroy aT Indraprastha. [Astika who protected Takshaka and his colleagues from Janamejaya had preferred a three-member judiciary comprising the King, the ombudsman (Varuna) and the controller of crimes (Yama).]
It would appear that like the goddess of justice, Dhrtarashtra was blind. But the blindness prevented him from observing the facts and made him act on hearsay and pronounce unjust verdicts. Dhrtarashtra was an arbitrator but there was no authority in Hastinapura that could overrule unjust verdicts. It was a structural deficiency. To trace correctly the causes of the battle of Kurukshetra, an appreciation of these shortcomings of the Kuru state is needed.
As Dhrtarashtra stepped down after the battle of Kurukshetra, Yudhishtira claimed the throne of Hastinapura. But soon Vidura retired and Krshna too left for home and passed away in distant Saurashtra, hit by a hunters arrow. The victorious Pandava chief, Yudhishtira, stepped down (perhaps at the instance of Dvaipayana), paving the way for Parikshit, the only surviving member of the Kuru clan to take over. The Rajarshi constitution did not recognise victory in battle as granting legitimacy to the rule by the victor. The Mahadeva constitution provided for autonomous small nation-states and did not envisage conquest of one people by another.
A Dharmavijayi was expected to install the vanquished or his brother or son as the ruler, sign an agreement of peace with him and withdraw. Rama was such a Dharmavijayi and installed as kings Sugriva and Vibhishana after killing their brothers, Vali and Ravana. Yudhishtira had to do so. He could get back what was due to him and his brothers but could not hold on to what had been liberated from the Kauravas. The latter areas had to be handed over to the Kurus.
Parikshit was a Kuru. As Parikshit became the king, Janamejaya was nominated as his deputy and heir-apparent and the chief of the commanders and was required to be trained in administration by Indra, the head of the house of nobles. Many states followed the pattern of dyarchy, dvairajyam, sharing of powers by two authorities, as suggested by Bharadvaja and Kautilya and accepted by the acharya (Krpa) with reservations. It might be officials designated as Indra and Agni (as in Rgveda) or Indra and Brhaspati (as in the Atharvan pattern) or Rajan and Indra or Indra and Upendra or King (Raja) and Crown Prince (Yuvaraja).
The crown prince (yuvaraja) was not necessarily the kings son. It was not the king but the crown prince who was selected from among the many aspirants and trained and then promoted to the post of the head of the state, as the king retired. This feature of the Rajarshi constitution promoted by Samkara appealed to Kautilya and perhaps to Kashyapa also.
Dvaipayana met Janamejaya in his capacity as Brhaspati while the latter was yet to be installed as the king in place of Parikshit who had died bitten by snake. The rajanyas, who were members of the electoral college, had assembled to witness the sarpayajna. They were expected to draw the correct lessons from the battle of Kurukshetra, which was still fresh in their memory. They knew that there was a bitter struggle for power between the two rival factions, Kauravas and Pandavas, and the two resorted to dice to settle their dispute and that the Pandavas (who lost) were exiled to the forest. It was followed by a war, which caused destruction of the people on the earth (bhumi); that is, the commoners were the main sufferers.
Dvaipayana, as the guardian of the interests of the commoners in his capacity as Brhaspati, blamed both the factions. Kautilya knew only the above core and the report that the Pandavas who returned from exile did not get the share due to them. He faulted Yudhishtira for his addiction to gambling and Duryodhana for his greed. Kautilya was a junior contemporary of Dvaipayana and Bhishma. The battle of Kurukshetra was a historical event but had not yet been recognised as a historic event. Under Dvaipayana's instructions, Vaishampayana proceeded to outline the authentic version of the causes, course and fall-outs of that destructive battle. The rest of the Mahabharata cannot be treated as authentic, if its contents contradict this Janamejaya version known as Jayabharatam.
After their fathers death the Pandavas returned home from their forest-school and soon got trained in the Vedas and in archery. All princes had to master these two fields, cultural history and military science. It was a stage when the two codes, dharmasastra and arthasastra, were yet to be outlined in an authoritative form and the Vedas were hence being referred to directly for tracing the rules that were being codified by these two sastras, the Rgveda in particular for determining what was dharma, the socio-cultural constitution and the Atharvaveda for what was danda, the socio-political constitution. Arthasastra presented the politico-economic constitution, covering the two fields, economy (varta) and polity (dandaniti). Kautilya recommended that the methods advocated by the samkhya system of dialectics be resorted to cull out from the three Vedas, Rg, Yajur and Sama what was dharma and what was not.
Pandu was interested in hunting and paid little attention to governance and administration and yet he exercised charismatic appeal. When Pandu died his sons were too young to shoulder the responsibility of rulership. There was hence no alternative to installing blind Dhrtarashtra as king and allowing Bhishma and Vidura to rule in his name. Dvaipayana does not pass strictures against any of the three brothers, Dhrtarashtra, Pandu and Vidura. Both Pandu and Dhrtarashtra were his nominees. He had introduced them as successors to the impotent prince, Vichitravirya. They were his sons by niyoga.
Ch.61 Adiparva takes an objective stand on the causes of the feud between the sons of Pandu and those of Dhrtarashtra. After their training, the Pandavas were entrusted with administrative tasks and they acquitted themselves well and became popular with the citizens of Hastinapura. [In the new states the cities were autonomous and mattered more than the rural areas.] This made the Kauravas jealous. It may be inferred that the Pandavas, though younger and though they had been away from the capital during their childhood years, were better trained in administration than the Kauravas who were inured to the ways of the court but had failed to endear themselves to the citizens.
The Pandavas had the benefit of charismatic legitimacy even as Pandu had, but their claims to hereditary or traditional legitimacy were weaker than those of the Kauravas. Rational legitimacy, approval by appropriate constitutional authorities, was more difficult to gain. The sons of Dhrtarashtra had been accepted as claimants to the throne of Kuru, as Kauravas, but the sons of Pandu were not. Charismatic legitimacy could not and does not bypass either traditional legitimacy or rational legitimacy. When a charismatic leader tries to bypass either of the latter two legitimacies, his action is dubbed as revolt and he is punished. Populism may have its immediate rewards but cannot promise the ultimate good to its pursuer.
According to Jayabharatam, Duryodhana, Karna and Sakuni plotted to harass the Pandavas and chase them away from the city. Duryodhana was vexed with Bhima and tried to kill him first by poison and then by drowning him in the river. But Bhima survived these attempts on his life. Duryodhana and Sakuni were the villains in these attempts. The chronicler absolves Karna. Vidura who was deeply interested in the welfare of his subjects (prajas) as a member of the elite supported the Pandavas. [He seems to have treated the Pandavas as his own sons.]
As Sakuni's suggestions failed, Duryodhana accepted Karna's counsel, which was endorsed by Duhsasana and other friends, and persuaded his father, Dhrtarashtra, to build a palace outside Hastinapura and send the Pandavas there so that his sons might enjoy rulership (without adverse comparisons). Even when Pandu was alive Bhishma controlled the capital and not Pandu. Dvaipayana, Bhishma, Drona and Krpa did not suspect anything diabolic when they agreed to this proposal. But Vidura could smell the rat.
The Pandavas were to be isolated from the citizens (who mattered more than he villagers and the forest-dwellers). [Kautilyan reforms were aimed at unsettling this demographic tilt. The paura-janapada, pura-rashtra urban-rural dichotomy, which the Atharvan polity had consented to, was replaced by an enlarged janapada and diversion of the market-centres and the workshops to the suburbs and of the forts to higher and inner terrains, leaving the city as an administrative centre.] Dvaipayana version needs careful scrutiny. This chronicler was one of the kingmakers, and played a crucial role in the decisions taken by the rulers.
Janamejaya is told that Kunti (Pandus widow) went with her sons to reside in Varanavata. She might have had some supporters there. It was situated inside an elephant-forest. While Kuntis marriage with Pandu seems to have met with disapproval, Madris marriage with him was not. Only Yudhishtira, Bhima and Arjuna who were born to Kunti were enemies of Karna (her son by pre-marital sex) and not Madris sons, Nakula and Sahadeva. Before the Pandavas left the capital for Varanavata,
Vidura briefed them about the plot hatched by Duryodhana and alerted them. The latter had engaged Purocana (one of his pilots) to kill them by burning down their house while they were asleep. (It was made of inflammable wood, lac.) The Pandavas dug a tunnel, burnt the house down with Purocana in it and fled to the forest. Dhrtarashtra is accused of abetting this plot.
Bhima's marriage with Hidimba
A forest guard (raksha), Hidimba, noticed the fleeing Pandavas, near a mountain stream. They killed him lest he should inform Duryodhana about their escape. While in the forest, Bhima married Hidimba's daughter (or sister?) and had by her a son Ghatotkacha. (This lad later got killed in the battle of Kurukshetra.) Bhima had resorted to rakshasa marriage, which was originally treated as kshatriya marriage, as marriage by conquest. Though there was an element of coercion in it, rakshasa marriage was not motivated by lust or by greed. Unlike asura marriage it did not treat womans service and labour as purchasable. It smacked of male chauvinism.
Rakshasas too were Kshatriyas by occupation. Asuras and rakshasas were not ethnically different from the rest of the society. Asuras were feudal lords. The stereotype that presents the rakshasas as giants or as cannibals, is unacceptable. They were in fact guards who had become unruly and rebellious. Whether Bhimas wife was the sister or daughter or widow of Hidimba, a raksha, it was a kshatriya marriage, which offered protection to the unguarded. Brahmans had to marry the Brahman virgins gifted to them. It was Brahma marriage. Kshatriyas had to marry the girls conquered by them or who sought their protection. Later, marriage by abduction was treated as rakshasa marriage.
Pandavas and Draupadi: Polyandry and Apsara marriage
But closer scrutiny would show that Bhimas marriage with Hidimba was an Apsara marriage where the wife was willing to entertain her spouse at her residence and bring up her child by him. She could bring it up as she desired. In Kshatriya and Brahma marriages, the wife had to stay with her husband at the latters residence and bring up that child, as he desired. Daiva, Arsha, Prajapatya, Asura, Rakshasa and Paisaca types of marriages too prescribed this procedure.
Only Gandharva marriage as regularised by Pururavas led to the establishment of an independent home where the two spouses, husband and wife, had equal voice and equal responsibilities with respect to their children. [As Kautilya noticed this was the practice among the agriculturists, especially the ardha-sitikas where both husbands and wives worked and earned.] Apsara marriage might have resembled the condition of professional prostitutes but the latter were paid for providing sexual pleasure and the fathers did not openly acknowledge the offspring as theirs but it did not involve such demeaning gratification for sex. Plutocrats (yakshas) and technocrats (nagas) too resorted to Apsara marriage.
Leaving behind Hidimba and her son, the Pandavas went to Ekachakrapura, a town governed by a single council. All its members had equal responsibilities and they selected its chief by rotation. The Pandavas stayed there disguised as Brahman students. (Brahmans were free to live in any town or village and earn their living by seeking alms. They could not be prosecuted for any offence but could only be asked to leave the place.) But Bhima was already married and could not claim to be a Brahmachari. During their stay there, he killed a notorious cannibal who was terrorising the residents. The chronicler adds that the Pandavas learnt about Draupadis svayamvara (the bride selecting her groom personally) and proceeded to Panchala and won her. They overcame their opponents and stayed in Panchala for one year before they returned to Hastinapura. (They might have been only in their teens then.)
There is no attempt here at romanticising or exaggerating or at making Arjuna a hero. Dvaipayana does not state that it was Arjuna who won Draupadi. Nor does he refer to the rivalry between Arjuna and Karna. He does not dwell on this polyandrous marriage as an unusual form of marriage or as an undesirable one. It is taken in the stride. His own mother had sexual relations with more than one man. Marriage in the same varna (socio-economic class) and monogamy had not yet become the norm. Women were free to select their spouses. Only among the Brahmans, girls were got married before they attained the age of consent.
Even asura marriages where the groom had to pay bride-price, sulka, could not have taken place without the explicit consent of the brides, though it was taken under duress and the girls could not but consent as their parents were helpless and were not able to guard them. At times the parents themselves harassed and exploited their daughters. Manava Dharmasastra proscribed asura marriage and marriage by seduction (paisaca marriage). [It had not yet come into force.]
Khandavaprastha and Indraprastha
Dhrtarashtra and Bhishma directed the Pandava brothers who returned from Pancala to stay at Khandavaprasta, to avoid developing further animosity against their brothers. Khandavaprastha was a cluster of villages with broad well-laid roads meant for the chariots of the princes. But it lacked several facilities. It was a garrison located in the forest and had no rural hinterland. The garrison had to be rebuilt. An earlier chieftain might have abandoned it.
The Pandavas overpowered the local chieftain and stayed there for many years. They had the status of Adityas, Suryas, that is, of generals and were answerable to the supreme commander, Bhishma who was stationed in the capital. [Their stepbrother, Karna, who became an ally of the Kauravas, was an aspirant to the post of commander-in-chief, which was bestowed on Bhishma for life by his father, Santanu. Karna himself was born to Kunti by her pre-marital sex with a general, Surya. He would not consent to be on par with the Pandavas.)
Yudhishtira was the head of the garrison and he aspired to become, a samrat, an independent emperor. A samrat had the power to arbitrate among his subordinate rulers and to derecognise the insubordinate rulers. Only after performing the rajasuya sacrifice where his authority to direct other rulers was established and recognised by all the assembled rajans, who were in fact administrative heads of the different districts in his empire, he could become a samrat.
But Krshna dissuaded him from declaring himself as such, for at that stage, Jarasamdha who was almost invincible controlled the solar (Surya) dynasties of the Ganga basin and also the lunar (Soma) lineages of areas north of Indraprastha (Delhi) and the Bhojas of Madhyadesa (between Yamuna and Sindhu). Only Sindhu delta (to which area Jayadratha belonged) and Gujarat and areas south of Narmada were far from his reach. Until Bhima killed Jarasamdha in a duel, Yudhishtira could not have his way. Yudhishtira was not unambitious.
Vaishampayana told the ruler, Janamejaya, that Yudhishtira who was powerful and adhered to the laws based on truth (satya) once exiled his valiant and favourite brother, Arjuna, to the forest for thirteen months. This was a punishment for a minor lapse that offended Yudhishtiras image and authority as the head of that suburban garrison state, Indraprastha. [Kings and officials were liable to be exiled for thirteen years for major violations of the constitution. Death sentence was awarded only for killing Brahmans (especially judges) and cattle and in some places for matricide and infanticide.]
Arjuna spent the period of exile visiting important centres (tirthas). These were not necessarily centres of pilgrimage. They were centres of learning too, especially, in fields of administration and specialities. During his travels he established useful political contacts. He married a naga girl and a Pandya princess and stayed with them. He also went to meet Krshna who was then at Dwaraka and there married his sister, Subhadra. These were all political alliances. It is not known whether he entered into those alliances on his own or at Yudhishtiras instance.
It was reported that Krshna and Arjuna burnt down the Khandava forest to satisfy Agni. (Some would interpret that they put down a raging forest-fire.) It must have been a move to protect men and cattle from wild animals and bring the woods under agriculture and pasture. Agni was the designation of the official who was in charge of the commoners (manushyas) of the agro-pastoral plains of the Vedic social polity. In the later Vedic period, these plains were placed under Brhaspati, an expert in economy. The commoners of the remote villages continued to be guided by Agni. The other Pandavas were not involved in this project. Troops were not used.
The rulers of Hastinapura must not have empowered the Pandavas to tamper with the ecology or alter the topography or to convert the suburban garrison state into a full-fledged state, a paura-janapada or urban-rural complex. [Janamejaya had invited Dvaipayana to bless the sarpayajna, the campaign to exterminate the rebellious workers of the forest.] Agni, the chief of the commonalty of the areas, which were till then known as Khandava forest, was pleased and presented a bow (known as Gandiva) and a chariot to Arjuna. He was given a flag with Hanuman as his symbol. [The Kauravas had the serpent (sarpa) on their flag indicating that they enjoyed the support of the sarpas, the forest workers.]
Arjunas burning that forest was a controversial project whose results spilled over to the reigns of Parikshit and Janamejaya. Khandavaprastha yielded place to Indraprastha (a city of the rich nobles) after settling its rural population in the areas reclaimed after burning down the woods and pushing their original inhabitants deeper into the forests. In the traditional Vedic social polity, Indra represented the nobles (devas) and Agni the commoners (manushyas). Soma represented the frontier society of the forests and mountains, antariksham. This polity continued to exist in many regions during the Mahabharata times.
While burning down the forest, Arjuna rescued Maya, an asura architect. Maya later helped him to build his magnificent hall at Indraprastha. The nobles (devas) had been known for their straight-forwardness, generosity and spirit of sacrifice while the feudal lords (asuras) were selfish, authoritarian and cruel. Though the nobles constituted the rich ruling elite, they were simple and did not arouse jealous in the minds of the commoners. True, as a ruling class they demanded hard work from the latter, which the commoners did resent. The latter were being exploited physically, even as the commoner exploited the labour of the animals.
Sakra Indra had defeated the feudal lords, asuras, convincingly. But the nobles became victims of the mirage created by the asura orientation. Asuramaya, treating the worldly things as eternal, pursuing the transient and false as the eternal truth, began to grip the minds of the nobles. Krshna warned them against this weakness. [Maya is said to have built Ravanas capital. Ravanas wife, Mandodari, was Mayas daughter.]
Maya was a designation used to denote an architect-cum-engineer. These engineers belonged to the frontier society and were in close contact with the plutocrats, yakshas, who controlled its rich industrial economy. The services of these architects were available to the nobles (devas) and their opponents, the feudal lords (asuras). Arjuna must have been egged on by his brothers to claim the post of Indra. (He was born to Kunti by Vasava, an official who held the post of Indra.) Had he done so, he would have been guilty of rebellion, for the Pandavas who governed Indraprastha were still subordinate to the rulers of Hastinapura.
Vaishampayana told Janamejaya that Duryodhana who was foolish and wicked coveted that hall. With Sakunis help he deceived Dharmaraja (Yudhishtira) at dice and sent him to the forest for a period of twelve years. Yudhishtira had declared himself as an independent ruler, entitled to pronounce judgements according to the code, dharma, but he had not disowned Dhrtarashtras suzerainty over Indraprastha or ignored Bhishmas authority as commander-in-chief. A reappraisal of the features of the ancient Indian states is necessary if we are to draw a proper outline of the course of Hindu social dynamics. The concept of dharmarajya has to be presented correctly. It was not a theocratic state or a state that imposed varnashrama dharma.
The Pandavas and their wife, Draupadi had to live incognito for one year after exile for twelve years. In the fourteenth year they returned and asked for their wealth but could not get it back. Kautilya knew only this bare episode (as Vaishampayana told Janamejaya in what is known as Jayabharatam) that led to the battle where Duryodhana fell. Bhishma, Dhrtarashtra, Drona, Vidura etc. are kept out of this account. Dvaipayana holds that the Pandavas were unjustly denied their share, that is, the province that they had governed from Indraprastha. They destroyed the Kshatriyas, killed Duryodhana and retrieved their kingdom after most of persons involved had been killed.
Dvaipayana did not approve the violence engaged in by the Pandavas that led to the collapse of the entire Kshatriya cadre of Hastinapura. The troops collected by the Pandavas might have been from the ranks of non-kshatriya cadres while those of Hastinapura led by Bhishma were Kshatriyas, the recognised ones. The Pandava army was composed mainly of volunteers who were not attached to any family or clan and had placed their services at the disposal of their state. As naras, they did not belong to any social class (varna). The Pandavas performed Asvamedha and other sacrifices to mark their victory and establish the legitimacy of their rule.
The Pandava regime at Indraprastha was an oligarchy headed by Yudhishtira. As Dharmaraja he had the right to interpret and implement the provisions of the socio-cultural constitution, Dharmasastra and the duty to do so. Only a king who had performed the Rajasuya sacrifice was eligible to hold that post. Among his ancestors, Ajamidha alone might have occupied that position. This newly revived post was on the lines of Varuna in the Atharvan polity.
The earlier Rajarshis were entitled to interpret the constitution, Dharma. They were not executives and could not be faulted for lapses and misuse of power by their subordinates. The designation, Dharmaraja, made Yudhishtira, the chief judge and also the chief executive. But as he lost the game at dice he had to go on exile. He was not a sovereign ruler nor was he the crown prince when he was exiled. He was but a viceroy and had no control over the army or the treasury. His authority as Dharmaraja ended when he had to go on exile. The terms, Ramarajya and Dharmarajya have become synonymous with good and just governance. But they had their distinct constitutional features.
Yudhishtira might have returned to power at the age of forty-five. The chronicler, Dvaipayana, does not mention for how many years he ruled. The Atharvan constitution entitled him to rule for ten years. But Dhrtarashtra was still alive and was the head of the state though all his sons had fallen in the battle. The Pandavas were entitled to rule independently only if Dhrtarashtra retired or was removed or if he died. They might have ruled only for a year or two after Dhrtarashtra retired. Vidura too gave up his body. He seems to have gone on prolonged abstinence from food and water and ended his life. After providing for Krshnas widows, the Pandavas left for their last journey, mahaprastanam, never to return. This was the brief account that Vaishampayana narrated to Janamejaya. This alone was what Dvaipayana had authorised him to narrate.
The appendages to Jayabharatam are numerous and are not all authentic. The battle of Kurukshetra was essentially a conflict between two rival Kuru factions. This version mentions only a few namesPandu, Dhrtarashtra and Vidura, Duryodhana, Duhsasana and Duhsala, Yudhishtira, Bhima and Arjuna, Bhishma and Krshna, Karna and Sakuni, Kunti, Draupadi and Subhadra, Purocana, Hidimba, his daughter and Gatotkacha. Several prominent personages including Drona and Krpa, Asvattama, Drupada, Abhimanyu, Gandhari, Madri, Nakula and Sahadeva are not mentioned. This is significant. There is no mention of where the battle (of Kurukshetra) was fought and for how many days and who all took part in that battle. Who succeeded the Pandavas?
The Pandavas knew what Dharma was and yet they killed some who ought not to have been killed. Why did the commoners (manushyas) still praise them? It would appear Janamejaya could not endorse Dvaipayanas stand that Pandavas too were guilty of violation of codes of war and peace, for the popular perception even in those days was different. The Pandavas were wronged and were not in the wrong, many held. Why did they tolerate the troubles given by the wicked though they were not guilty and could resist the enemies? Janamejaya referred to the Pandavas as purushasreshtas, as prominent social leaders (purushas). What made Bhima control his anger? There is a hint that Bhima headed a huge army, which had ten thousand elephants. Why did not Drupadas daughter, Draupadi (Krshna) burn down Dhrtarashtras sons (that is, haul them up before the civil judge, Agni) though she could do so?
Why did the sons of Kunti and Madri consent to the gambling that Yudhishtira indulged in? Why did Yudhishtira who was the protector of Dharma and who was the son of Dharma suffer the hardships? How did Arjuna destroy the huge army by himself? (The other Pandavas are given no credit.) Dvaipayanas rudimentary account and the answers to these nagging questions provide the quintessence of the Jayabharatam. The rest of the epic answers other questions raised in later times. The above questions pertain to the last decades of the long Vedic era. Dvaipayana told Janamejaya how the Pandavas retrieved what they had lost.
DHRTARASHTRA ON HIS DEFEAT
The origins of Hindu social polity proper may be traced to the last decades of the long Vedic era, that is, to the decades that witnessed the events connected with the war described in the great epic, Mahabharata. Krshna Dvaipayana, known as Vyasa, is claimed to have composed this epic and dictated it to Vinayaka at the instance of Brahma. Dvaipayana, son of Satyavati and Parasara was the stepbrother of Vicitravirya, son of Satyavati by Santanu a ruler mentioned in the Rgveda. Vyasa is said to have edited and compiled the four Vedas and also the ancillaries and annexure to them. Dvaipayana sired Dhrtarashtra and Pandu on the wives of Vicitravirya, son of Santanu by Satyavati, under the provisions of the then social laws that permitted niyoga, impregnation of ones wife by his nominee.
This epic narrates the feud between the sons of Dhrtarashtra and those of Pandu that ended in the famous battle of Kurukshetra, which witnessed the death of all the major participants except Asvattama, Krpa, Krtavarma, Krshna, Satyaki and the five Pandavas. Asvattama was the son of Drona who headed the royal academy of Hastinapura, which specialised in martial arts. Drona had married Krpi, sister of Krpa who too was on the faculty of this academy. Drona and Krpa along with Bhishma, son of Santanu by Ganga, were the main counsellors of Dhrtarashtra to whom they were loyal till the end despite their dislike for and disapproval of the ways resorted to by his sons. Krpa and Krpi were foundlings brought up by Santanu.
Krtavarma was probably a member of Krshnas cabinet and at the instance of Krshnas brother, Balarama, had extended his support to the Kauravas, the sons of Dhrtarashtra. Satyaki, a Vrshni, was a charioteer of Krshna who too was a Vrshni and functioned as the charioteer of the Pandava prince, Arjuna, in the famous battle at Kurukshetra. Arjuna had married Subhadra, Krshnas sister. Asvattama, Krpa and Krtavarma alongwith Badarayana joined the council of seven sages convened by ManuSavarni. Parasurama, teacher of Balarama and Karna, half-brother of the Pandavas, too was an expert in martial arts. He too joined this council along with Rshyasrnga who had married Shanta, a sister of Rama.
All the events connected with the so-called incarnations (avatars) of Vishnu as Matsya (fish), Kurma (tortoise), Varaha (pig), Narasimha (man-lion), Vamana (dwarf), Parasurama, Rama, Krshna and Balarama took place during the last century of the long Vedic era and were not separated from one another by millennia or even by centuries, I have urged. The chief of Savarnis council of seven sages was Galava, a former disciple of the Vedic sage and Ramas instructor, Visvamitra. This council was in office when Dvaipayana acquainted Parikshit who took over the reins of Hastinapura at the end of the above battle with the history of the several lineages that had held sway in different parts of Aryavarta till then and especially those of the Soma (lunar) and Surya (solar) lineages.
Parikshit and his times
Parikshit was the eldest among the Kurus who had survived that battle. He had not taken part in it, being far away from that scene. He was a patron of Manu Savarni who was stationed in the Western Ghats when Rama was in exile and went southward in search of his wife, Sita, who had been kidnapped by Ravana, the ruler of Lanka. Savarni appears to have gathered around him some eminent sages who had not found favour with Kashyapa and other members of the council of seven sages nominated by Manu Sraddhadeva (Vaivasvata). Another prominent person who took refuge under Manu Savarni was Bali who had been eased out by Vamana, a disciple of Kashyapa, from his state in Janasthana in the Vindhyas.
Kashyapa, son of Marici, was the chief of the council of seven sages during the tenure of the seventh Manu, Vaivasvata. The famous sages, Atri, Vasishta, Gautama, Visvamitra, Bharadvaja and Jamadagni were its other members. Parasurama who was exiled from Aryavarta by Kashyapa was the son of Jamadagni who was killed by the Haihayas. Bharadvaja was the political guide of Chakravarti Bharata whose mother, Sakuntala, was a daughter of Visvamitra.
While Dvaipayana (often identified as Badarayana) acquainted Parikshit with the history of the times that preceded the feuds between the two Kuru factions, Kauravas and Pandavas, Vaishampayana, one of his main disciples, narrated to Janamejaya, the successor of Parikshit, the events connected with these feuds and the famous battle of Kurukshetra. The extant texts of Mahabharata which have received from time to time numerous accretions are to be handled with caution if we are to draw a credible outline of the features of the social polity of the post-Vedic times.
Laying down at the outset the principles of sequence to be followed, the editors of Mahabharata suggest that one may not delve further into the times that preceded the arrival of the Pandavas at Hastinapura. Pandu spent most of his time in the forests controlling and civilizing their denizens while Dhrtarashtra, his blind elder brother, ruled from that city. It is not known whether the two brothers had friendly relations or had reservations about each other. Vidura who was born to Dvaipayana by a maid who attended on Vicitravirya had a soft corner for Pandu and his wives and children.
Birth of the Pandavas
Pandu had been advised not to have sex with any woman. Durvasa, a sage, had counselled him to take advantage of the provisions of law on niyoga and permit his wives to bear children by other men. Yudhishtira, Bhima and Arjuna were born to Kunti, Pandus first wife. They were sired by his officials designated as Dharma (Yama), Vayu and Indra. These personages were nobles, not gods. Nakula and Sahadeva were born to Madri, Pandus second wife. They were sired by the Asvins, Dasra and Nasatya. Asvins (who represented the lower ranks of the commonalty) too were officials in Pandus polity, which retained some of the features of the later Vedic polity.
The society of the Vedic times did not look down on wives resorting to niyoga when the husband was required not to have sex with any woman. Dhrtarashtra and Pandu themselves were born of niyoga. Their father, Vicitravirya, had been advised to permit his wives to procreate children for him by his stepbrother, Dvaipayana. Neither of them was a Kuru. Pandu was reported to have overlooked the warning given by sages and died while trying to have sex with Madri.
The Pandavas grew up in the forest and after a few years some sages of the forest escorted them and Kunti to Hastinapura where they shone in comparison to the sons of Dhrtarashtra by his wife who was a princess of the northwest province, Gandhara (now part of Afghanistan). The people of Hastinapura and also Dhrtarashtra and his sons welcomed them though some refused to believe that they were sons of Pandu who had died many years back. This initial welcome soon gave place to jealousy and feud between the Pandavas and the Dhartarashtras.
Before dwelling on the sorrows that the blind ruler, Dhrtarashtra, gave vent to his reporter (Suta), Sanjaya, after the battle where the kings sons had fallen, it may be noted that at that stage only the natives (jana) of the city of Hastinapura had been organized into four classes (varnas). Varnasrama scheme as known now had not come into force in many areas of the subcontinent.
Gandharva and Apsara cultures
Gandharas, Kekayas, Kurus and Madras amongst others followed the Gandharva system where neither the nobles (devas) nor the free middle class (gandharvas and naras) nor the lower class of commonalty (manushyas) followed the scheme of four classes and four varnas and the code of monogamy that it recommended. Both polygamy and polyandry were common features. The Gandharvas were adventurers and many of them did not seek to settle in any place and had not developed the institutions of marriage and family and even households and they were known to be polygamists while their counterparts, Apsarases were noted for practice of polyandry.
Panchala in the Ganga-Yamuna basin was the centre of this Apsara culture. The marriage between Pandava Arjuna of the Kurus who were noted for their Gandharva practices and Draupadi of the Panchalas who permitted polyandry has to be viewed in this light. It may be noted here that neither of these two practices has to be condemned as unethical and permissive, holding rigorous monogamy as the ideal mode of marital relations and polygamy and polyandry as surrender to lust.
The arrival of the young Pandavas as students (Brahmacharis) in Hastinapura and their being accepted by its people despite reservations by some of the citizens is followed by Arjuna winning Krshna (Draupadi) in the svayamvara contest arranged in the Panchala court for the princes who aspired for her hands. This event raised his fame among the archers and none dared to face him in battles. He defeated all the kings and their huge armies and conducted the Rajasuya sacrifice for his brother, Yudhishtira. This could be accomplished only with Krshna's counsel and the prowess of Bhimasena and Arjuna who killed the proud rulers, Jarasamdha and Sisupala.
Till this stage the sons of Dhrtarashtra had not parted company with the Pandavas. But the huge gifts and tributes that Yudhishtira received on this occasion made Duryodhana, son of Dhrtarashtra jealous and angry. Maya, an Asura architect had built a hall like that of the nobles (devas) for them. This too increased his misery. When he stumbled like a rustic while moving in that hall and Bhima laughed at his discomfiture in the presence of Krshna he became pale and then red with rage.
Only after his well-wishers had conveyed the report on this incident and the misery of Duryodhana to Dhrtarashtra did the king permit the game of dice. This enraged Krshna who preferred settlement of disputes through debate. Dhrtarashtra ignored the views of Vidura, Bhishma, Drona and Krpa and permitted this gamble. Krshna refrained from stopping this game and the subsequent injustices and the consequent terrible war only to allow the Kshatriyas to destroy one another, the chronicler says. It is a weak attempt to defend Krshnas failure to step in, in time to prevent the undesirable game of dice taking place.
Dhrtarashtra felt it necessary to explain to his confidante and reporter why he permitted the game of dice to take place. He had ascertained the views of Duryodhana, Karna (Arjunas brother) and Sakuni (Duryodhanas maternal uncle) before arranging the contest. He was not for war and he knew that in war the Pandavas would win. He was not for the destruction of their clan. He claimed that he was impartial between his sons and those of Pandu. Though his sons hated him he tolerated their words, as he was blind, old and weak.
How Pandavas scored over Kauravas
Dhrtarashtra sought the indulgence of Sanjaya while putting forth his views on how the war between the two factions began and how it resulted in the victory of the Pandavas over his sons. As he was unable to bear the sight of the wealth that the Pandavas had received and was unable to defeat them in battle and win rajyalakshmi (the state-treasury, which was enriched by huge tributes) though he was a Kshatriya, Duryodhana plotted with Sakuni to defeat them in battle.
It was a stage when the system of tax (kara) had not yet come into force in many regions and the powerful ruler received tributes (bali) from his vassals and subjects. Dhrtarashtra claims that he and his sons were recognized as duly belonging to the Kshatriya class. He seems to have had reservations about Pandu and the Pandavas on this score. Of course he like others did not recognize Krshna, a Yadava, and Karna, the son of a Suta (chariot-driver), as Kshatriyas. The Gandharas and Panchalas too were then not recognized as Kshatriyas.
The chronicler had submitted at the outset that the epic dealt with only dharma (social order and ethics) and artha (polity and economy) and not with the other two values of life and pursuits (purusharthas) of a trained leader (purusha), kama (sex and sensuousness) and moksha (salvation). Speculation and gambling were not the means to be adopted by Kshatriyas for amassing wealth. They were permitted to resort to only valour (though not to coercion) for gaining wealth.
His sons had to resort to means other than valour to win as from the very beginning there was, according to Dhrtarashtra, little chance for them to score over the Pandavas in valour. Arjunas exploit in archery, which won for him Draupadi, was the first proof in this respect. So too was his abduction of Subhadra, sister of Krshna and marriage with her an indication of his superior valour. It won for him and the Pandavas the support of Krshna and his brother, Balarama who visited their capital at Indraprastha.
Dhrtarashtra's Interpretation of the Cause and Course of the Conflict
These were important political alignments between one of the two factions, that is, the Pandavas and the Panchalas on one hand and between them and the Yadavas on the other. Dhrtarashtra like Bhishma did not treat the Panchalas and the Yadavas as eligible for the status of Kshatriyas though they were valorous. Dhrtarashtra did not acknowledge that he was aware of and had permitted the secret burning down of the Pandavas and their mother, in their forest palace built of lac. He however learnt that they had escaped death and that Vidura had assisted them in their escape. Their escape was publicised only after they had reached Panchala and got married to its princess, Draupadi.
Dhrtarashtra realised that his sons were outwitted and had lost the support of influential officials like Vidura. His hopes were dashed when he learnt that Bhima had slain with his bare arms Jarasamdha, the great Magadha chieftain who shone amongst the Kshatriyas though he was not himself a Kshatriya. He lost hope when he heard that the Pandavas had defeated many kings in battle and performed a Rajasuya sacrifice. These defeated rulers had to accept the Pandavas as their superiors and could not aid any one against them. This sacrifice, celebration of a significant political event, isolated the Dhartarashtras and diminished the chances of their scoring over the Pandavas in political manipulations.
When Dhrtarashtra heard about Duhsasanas attempt to drag Draupadi to the assembly and strip her he lost all hopes about the chances of his sons winning. This attempt and Yudhishtiras losing all wealth after Sakuni had defeated him in dice did not cause a split among the Pandavas who had all married Draupadi. The valiant brothers all stood by Yudhishtira. This too convinced the blind ruler that his sons would not be able to score over the Pandavas even though they had lost in dice all their wealth earned through war.
The Pandavas had no longer the advantage of wealth (artha) but they were all individuals (atma) who were honoured for abiding by rules of dharma. They had to go to the forest (which was exempt from the rules of polity and economy applicable to the towns and villages). When Dhrtarashtra heard about the several works they did there despite difficulties, bound by the ties of affection to their brother, Yudhishtira, he lost hope about his sons scoring over them. The people of the forest had turned in favour of the Pandavas while the people of the capital and the villages had turned against the sons of the ruler and could not be depended on.
When Dhrtarashtra heard that noble graduates (snatakas) and thousands of Brahman students who lived only on alms had accompanied Yudhishtira (son of Dharma) to the forest, he was convinced that the intelligentsia was no longer with him and the Kauravas and that this prevented their scoring over the Pandavas. The forests were under the jurisdiction of the hunters. The Pandavas had to face opposition from them as they entered their territory. But Arjuna defeated them and their leader by his prowess in archery and the latter was pleased and gifted him the invincible missile known as Pasupata.
This leader of the hunters was Mahadeva who was worshipped as a charismatic chieftain (isvara) who extended boons to his protgs. Mahadeva was treated by the nobles (devas) as superior to all of them. When Dhrtarashtra heard about this event he realised that Arjuna had secured the support not only of the warriors of the forest who were hunters but also of the entire class of nobles who were not subordinate to any janapada administration. This restricted the area and population from whom the king could expect support.
The exile of the Pandavas to the forest did not result in their being weakened politically and economically. Elder sages, maharshis, (who were also legislators) along with their disciples joined them and became their close friends. This too lessened the chances of his sons scoring over the Pandavas in popular support, Dhrtarashtra realised. Arjuna who as (Dhananjaya) had won wealth by honest (satya) means, that is, by defeating the rich and powerful opponents in war went to the social world (loka) of the nobles (svarga) and there learnt from its head, Indra, the methods of using the missile (divyastra) that was owned exclusively by the nobles (devas).
When Dhrtarashtra heard that Arjuna was being praised for his mastery over that missile, he knew that it was not easy for him and his sons to score over the Pandavas. Yudhishtira who during his exile visited several centres (tirthas) of education in specialities met the astronomer (cum-astrologer), Romaca, and also the Gandharva scholar, Brhatasva, who specialised in the science of dice (dyuta) and learnt from them several secrets. When Dhrtarashtra learnt about this, he understood that the Pandavas were preparing themselves for another battle in dice and could not be defeated easily.
He also heard that Arjuna had defeated the Kalakeyas who were feudal chieftains and sons of Puloma and had been assured by Brahma (the chief judge) immunity from being defeated and subordinated by the nobles. Arjuna was only a commoner and the Kalakeyas could not expect him to honour this assurance. Dhrtarashtra realised that no law or clause of exemption prevented Arjuna from destroying the feudal lords and that he and his sons who had lost the support of the people of the forest, the intelligentsia and the sages and the liberal nobles could not expect to depend on the feudal lords (asuras) either for military support.
Arjuna had gone on behalf of the nobles (devas) to defeat their enemies, the feudal lords (asuras) and returned to the socio-political world of Indra after accomplishing his mission successfully. Dhrtarashtra became diffident when he learnt about this. Exile had not weakened the Pandavas. He had no hope of getting support from Kubera either. Kubera, the chief of the rich plutocrats (yakshas) of forests and mountains was stationed in a remote mountain range and was not accessible to the commoners (manushyas) of the agrarian plains.
Bhima and other Pandavas had however been able to go to his place and establish rapport with him. When Dhrtarashtra learnt about this his hopes lessened further. His sons depended on the intellect of Karna when they went to a fair to select cattle and had been captured by the Gandharvas. Arjuna who had good rapport with the Gandharvas got them released. This report too made Dhrtarashtra realise the extent of his isolation and weakness of his sons. [Karna was the son of a chariot-driver (suta). Sanjaya was a chronicler (suta).]
Yudhishtira tested on Dharma
Yudhishtira was born to Kunti and the official who was in charge of enforcing social laws (dharma). As a ruler (raja) he was expected to uphold dharma. During his exile this official appeared before him disguised as a rich plutocrat (yaksha) and put him certain questions to ascertain whether he continued to stand by dharma. When Dhrtarashtra learnt about the replies given by Yudhishtira and that Yudhishtira was continued to be looked upon as an upholder of dharma despite his losing his wealth and power (artha) his hopes of success further dwindled.
The rich bourgeoisie and the sober judiciary were both favourable to the Pandavas. This weakened further the Kauravas on whom the blind king depended. This blind king did not have an efficient institution of spies (chakshus, drshti, eyes). This was exhibited in their failure to find out how the Pandavas spent their year of life incognito in Virata.
During this period the Pandavas who held powers equivalent to those of the civil judge (agni) challenged the Dhartarashtras who dared to enter the territory of Virata in the pretext of searching for missing cattle. Dhrtarashtra realised that his state was helpless against intrusions by neighbours like the Viratas especially by the people of the pastoral democracy, which did not recognise state borders as sacrosanct. Virata had undefined borders and the cattle and their owners, the pastoral people, could not be expected not to cross into territories claimed by others. They treated intruders into their territories as rustlers and would not hesitate to subject them to local discipline without reference to the king and other higher authorities.
In the agro-pastoral Vedic polity, the official designated as Agni headed the Samiti, the council of scholars, and represented the commonalty, manushyas, and functioned as the civil judge. Such polities were confined to definite areas. But in Virata, which had no borders, any learned person could function as the spokesman of the people who were mainly pastoral people in this particular area. When the Pandavas spoke for the local populace and upheld its rights and interests, Dhartarashtras failed to recognize them and had to beat retreat. This annoyed Dhrtarashtra.
Kicaka, which too was located in the Ganga-Yamuna basin, was ruled by an oligarchy of one hundred chieftains (as Hastinapura under Dhrtarashtra was), who behaved like lawless feudal lords. (Asuras, feudal lords, claimed to be senior, jyeshta, to devas, nobles.) The chief of this oligarchy misbehaved with Draupadi and was torn to pieces by Bhima. The report of this event unnerved Dhrtarashtra. His sons too had misbehaved with her and would not be let alone if they did so again, it showed. Dhananjaya (Arjuna) who lived in Virata as a prominent and respected individual, not attached to any social group, mahatma, had as a lone charioteer defeated the trained charioteers in the armies of the rich (sreshta) enemies of the people of Virata. This report too unnerved the Kuru ruler.
Matsya, another state in the lower Ganga-Yamuna basin had a Virata constitution and was noted for its Apsara culture and fishing as its chief economy. Arjuna (who was employed there as a teacher of dance) was offered by its ruler his adopted daughter, Uttara. Arjuna accepted her on behalf of his son, Abhimanyu. This political alliance (through marriage) too weakened the rulers of Hastinapura who controlled the northern (uttara) areas of this basin.
Nearly eighteen huge armies each two thousand (million?) strong were reported to have fought and perished in the battle of Kurukshetra (that took place for eighteen days). Though the Pandavas had lost to the Kauravas all they had in the dice game, they had by the end of their term of exile gathered seven such armies (akshauhini). This news increased the despondency of Dhrtarashtra further. He also heard that Krshna who succeeded Urukrama who measured the entire Prthvi by one of his (three) steps, was engaged in guiding the Pandavas in every act of theirs. (Prthvi, earth in common parlance, was also known as the agro-pastoral plains inhabited by the commonalty, central India, madhyadesa, over which Prthu exercised suzerainty. It had for a short time come under the control of Bali whom Urukrama overcame and exiles from Janasthana.)
Krshna had as Sripati taken over the control of the rich treasury of Bali when the latter was eased out. This news too unnerved the ruler of Hastinapura. The Pandavas had gathered a huge army and a rich treasury was at their disposal. Narada, a diplomat, had told Dhrtarashtra that in the academy of the scholars and jurists (Brahmaloka) Krshna and Arjuna received the same respect as the revered and highly influential sages Narayana and Nara did. Krshna himself was a diplomat and had approached the Kauravas on behalf of the Pandavas as an envoy. He had to return with his mission of peace and friendship unfulfilled. This report too unnerved Dhrtarashtra.
Karna and Duryodhana had planned to take Krshna in bonds and had to refrain from doing so when Krshna took Visvarupa, that is, when Krshna proved his credentials that he represented all sections of the larger society and enjoyed support among all of them though he came unarmed as an envoy. This news about the foolishness of the two leaders made the ruler diffident. When Krshna was about to return, the mother of the Pandavas, Kunti, stood alone before his chariot. He consoled the sad mother and told her words of encouragement. This news upset the king.
Dhrtarashtra was upset by the fact that Krshna functioned as the counsellor of the Pandavas and that they had the moral support and best wishes of Bhishma (son of Santanu) and Drona (son of Bharadvaja). Karna, an archer equal to Arjuna in calibre, had refused to fight as long as Bhishma was the commander of the kings army. Karnas withdrawal made Dhrtarashtra lose hope of success in war. Krshna, Arjuna and Gandiva bow were the three powers, which his sons could not withstand, the King knew. He was explaining to Sanjaya why he lost the war. When during the course of the war, Arjuna lost hope and sat down in fatigue, Krshna inspired him by showing him all the worlds (lokas) on his body i.e. by making the former realise that the latter represented the entire larger society.
Dhrtarashtra wondered why among the tens of thousands of charioteers who were killed by Bhishma there was not even one prominent supporter of the Pandavas. Was Bhishma sincere in his charge to defeat the Pandava army? When Bhishma, a devotee of dharma, told the Pandavas how they could kill him and the Pandavas readily adopted those steps and brought him down, Dhrtarashtra lost all hope of victory. Arjuna had kept in front Sikhandi (a eunuch) as his shield and hit the valiant and invincible general, Bhishma.
When Dhrtarashtra heard that the aged and brave Bhishma lay on the bed of arrows hit by arrows after he had destroyed most of the Somakas he had no hope of victory. (This may be a reference to the extermination of most of the forest troops that were drafted by the Pandavas. These troops respected Soma while the troops of the nobles followed Indra and those of the commoners, Surya.) Arjuna exhibited his skill when with his arrow he raised a fountain near Bhishmas bed of arrows to quench his thirst. This exploit too made Dhrtarashtra diffident.
Who and what favoured the Pandavas
The breeze blew over the Pandava camp favourably and the stars, Sukra and Surya, were in positions favourable to them. That is, political policy advocated by Usanas or Sukra, and the political power as exercised by Surya, the head of the Kshatriya governing elite, were in favour of the Pandavas taking over power. The cruel enemies bleated looking at the kings men. These too added to their diffidence. When Drona who was an expert in extraordinary methods of fighting and using different types of missiles failed to kill the Pandavas, who wore rich dresses like the plutocrats of the forest, Sreshtas, Dhrtarashtra lost hope. His sons had engaged a group of seven great charioteers to kill Arjuna. But when the king learnt that Arjuna had killed them he lost hope of victory.
Drona who was well armed guarded an arrangement of troops that could not be penetrated or sneaked through by the itaras (others, in common parlance), the warriors of the other society of the forests drawn from the ranks of forest workers (sarpas, serpents as often translated). But Abhimanyu, son of Subhadhra, fighting alone managed to penetrate it. Dhrtarashtra realised that his army had its weaknesses. When the great charioteers were unable to defeat Arjuna, they surrounded young Abhimanyu and exulted in killing him.
Arjuna took the vow to kill Jayadratha, ruler of Sindhu, who was guilty of causing the boys death. The ruler of Sindhu and Sauvira was in a position to tilt the balance of power in wars. This distant ruler was expected not to take part in the conflict between the two political blocs but was not to be ignored. When Dhrtarashtra heard about this incident he became nervous. Arjuna fulfilled his vow of revenge, killing Jayadratha in the midst of the enemies. Dhrtarashtra lost the only political ally who could aid him in an emergency and offer asylum.
Krshna was considerate to the animals. He did not neglect to make the horses of Arjunas chariot drink water when they were tired and kept the battle pending in the meanwhile. Arjuna too sat inside the chariot and kept the enemies at bay while the horses recovered from fatigue. When Dhrtarashtra heard how Satyaki returned successfully to Krshna and Arjuna after confusing the invincible army of elephants led by Drona he lost all hope of success. Karna too did not kill the great warrior, Bhima, whom he had trapped. Instead he let Bhima go after teasing him.
Dhrtarashtra obviously doubted the sincerity of the commanders whom he and his sons had selected. As the brave warriors, Drona, Krtavarma, Krpa, Karna and Asvattama, son of Drona, and Salya, ruler of Madra, did not try to stop the killing of Jayadratha for whom Dhrtarashtra had special affection, the latter knew that there was no chance of victory for him and his sons. These generals and counsellors of Hastinapura must have resented the interference of that political ally in the internal affairs of their country.
Karnas weapon, Sakti, which was meant to kill the left-handed Arjuna, had been rendered futile by targeting Ghatotkacha, a Rakshasa (and son of Bhima). This too discouraged the king. He had high hopes about Asvattama, son of Drona. But this warrior too was taken round and round by his opposing charioteer, Nakula. Nakula was in the midst of unarmed commoners (manushyas) who according to the rules of war should not be harmed. The leaders of the state army were being outwitted and outmanoeuvred. After Drona fell, his son, Asvattama cast the special missile given to him by Narayana but it could not kill the Pandavas.
None of the other sons of Dhrtarashtra dared to stop Bhima from drinking the blood of Duhsasana. Bhima took this revenge for the latter had molested Draupadi. This event discouraged the king. When he heard about how in the battle between the two brothers, Arjuna mortally wounded Karna, he lost all hope. Even the nobles (devas) could not understand why the two fought against each other. Salya, the king of Madra, had always been a force balancing Krshna in war strategy. But he fell at the hands of Yudhishtira. Sakuni, the gambler who was known for his deceit, and was the root for this war, fell at the hands of Sahadeva. These events upset the King.
Duryodhana who had lost much blood and energy and was exhausted hid himself in a pond and lay down motionless. But the Pandavas followed him to the pond and teased him and incited him to take up the mace and fight. In the several new ways of moving round and round and fighting with maces engaged in by him and Bhima, Krshna hinted to the latter to hit him on a prohibited spot to cause death. When Dhrtarashtra heard about this fight and the fall of Duryodhana, he could have no further hope of victory.
This account of how the feud between the Dhartarashtras (Kauravas) and the Pandavas began and how the former and their supporters were all killed in the battle may be said to convey the core of the great epic. Of course, in this narration to his confidante, Sanjaya, the king attempts to absolve himself of the responsibility for allowing it to take place and seeks to indulge in self-pity. It may be noted that this account does not mention that the Kauravas were one hundred in number. It refers to only two sons, Duryodhana and Duhsasana, of Dhrtarashtra. It is also significant that in this account Dhrtarashtra does not claim to be a Kuru or refer to his sons as Kauravas.
Survivors who joined Manu Savarni
The account pertaining to the role of Asvattama is an after-thought and a post-script. Dvaipayana could not have had harsh words for this son of Drona. Badarayana, Krpa, Krtavarma, Parasurama and Asvattama had joined the council of seven sages convened by Manu Savarni during the tenure of Parikshit. Parikshit was the eldest among the members of the Kuru clan who survived this fratricidal war. The Pandavas were not eligible to rule Hastinapura though they had won the war.
Though Draupadi had married all the five Pandava brothers, it is likely that she did not have any sons by them. Asvattamas detractors might have laid the charge later that he killed all the five sons of the Pandavas while they were asleep and that this made him infamous. Still worse, he was accused of having attempted to destroy the foetus in the womb of Uttara who had been married to Abhimanyu. According to this episode, his missile, aishika, failed to hit the target. That Krshna had played a role in reviving the foetus has major contradictions.
Dhrtarashtra heard that Dvaipayana (Vyasa) and Krshna had cursed Asvattama for this sin of foeticide. It is most likely that Uttara was not bearing the scion of the Pandavas and that this post-script is a poor and irrational attempt to claim that Parikshit who took over the reins of Hastinapura at the end of the war was the grandson of Arjuna.
Dhrtarashtra loses the right to be king
Sanjaya noticed that his king had become despondent because he had lost all his sons in the war, which was the result of the game of dice between them and the Pandavas that he had permitted. Dhrtarashtra had lost the eligibility to head the state. One who had no sons was not eligible to be head of the family or to control its wealth, as there would be none to inherit his wealth and continue to carry out his duties after his death. This orientation had been used to justify the principle and practice of traditional vocations that certain families claimed as their privilege and the principle of hereditary monarchy and hereditary posts. It also led to the permission given to resort to niyoga.
Sanjaya tried to console his sobbing master by citing to him the instances, where eminent rulers had departed without leaving behind sons. They were born in royal families and had all the qualifications needed to be kings and were masters of superior missiles and had the prowess of Indra and adopted just methods to conquer the earth (bhumi, prthvi). They had become famous in the social world (loka) of (commoners) by performing liberal sacrifices. They enjoyed the benefit of traditional legitimacy though their lines ended with them. There were some who enjoyed charismatic legitimacy. They were noted for their great enthusiasm and prowess. These brought them huge following though they were not born in royal families.
Dhrtarashtra had heard their exploits from the chroniclers, Vedavyasa and Narada, Sanjaya reminded him. He reminded the king of Saibya, the great charioteer, Srnjaya, an expert in (methods of) conquests, Suhotra, Rantideva, Kakshivan (a Vedic poet), Bahlika, Damana, Chaidya (Sisupala, prince of Chedi), Saryati, Ajita, Nala, Visvamitra, Ambarisha, Marutta, Manu, Ikshvaku, Gaya, Bharata, Rama (son of Dasaratha), Sasabindu, Bagiratha, Krtavirya (the highly fortunate) and Janamejaya. (This Janamejaya was different from the ruler to whom Jayabharatam was narrated.)
Sanjaya also recalled how Yayati whom nobles (devas) themselves honoured in their sacrifices conquered the entire earth comprising forests and countries and marked the boundaries with pillars and who did several good deeds. All these rulers died without leaving male progeny. Narada, who had the status of a Devarshi, had recounted their careers to Suvaidya who was grieving over the death of his son. This claim is very significant. The twenty-four rulers had passed away before Dhrtarashtra stepped down.
I have drawn the attention of the readers to the significance of the issue of two Yayatis, to that of ten sons of Manu and to that of the two sons of Rama and to the end of Bharatas lineage with him in my volumes on Hindu Social Dynamics. (Several myths have been exploded and many legends interpreted rationally in those volumes.) Manu Vaivasvata had no sons and had only one daughter, Ila. Ikshvaku was one of his protgs. Rama must have passed away according to the chroniclers only recently then without leaving behind a lineage.
The nobles must have accepted Yayati as superior to them and they must have borne the expenses on the maintenance of this aged ruler who had carved out his new integrated empire of agricultural lands and forests into five states with definite boundaries and retired. Purus, Anus, Yadus, Drhyus and Turvasus were the five peoples of these states. There were many other powerful and great kings prior to the above twenty rulers who had similarly passed away without leaving behind children to continue their lineages. They were far superior to the sons of Dhrtarashtra in valour and intellect.
Even those whom great poets lauded for their valour, generosity, nobility, faith in god, devotion to truth, purity, compassion and honesty and frankness and had all wealth and good traits had to come to an end. The sons of Dhrtarashtra were on the contrary, bad in character and were guilty of jealousy and rage and greed and it was not advisable for the king who had listened to the social codes (sastras) and was educated and intelligent and accepted by the learned, to grieve over their death.
The chronicler told the ruler who was a descendant of Bharata that intellectuals who followed the social (and political and economic) codes never got perplexed. He knew that it was the duty of the king to punish (the guilty) and protect (the innocent). One who seeks to protect his sons should not allow them to go fully in their way, Sanjaya said. But the king had to do so and this resulted in their death and his defeat, he implied. He would not have been required to thus rue later if he had reined them. Sanjaya added that none could conquer fate. Hence none goes beyond the path laid by Brahma. This may not be a later addendum. Sanjaya implied that the path that the constitution, Brahma, which was superior to the codes, Sastras, had laid was not to be transgressed. He held that Dhrtarashtra was guilty of transgression of the constitution.
Time is responsible for birth and death and pleasure and pain. It is Time, which creates the different beings and destroys them. Even Kala (god of death) who destroys the people is destroyed by Time. All things in the world, good or bad, are altered by Time. (Matter is indestructible but its form can be changed.) Time both destroys men (prajas) and recreates them. While all sleep Time alone does not go to sleep. None can cross the limits of Time and none can stop its moving in the same way in the midst of all objects.
All those events that have taken place and all those that are taking place now (that is all the objects that are being constantly formed in the cosmos) have taken place because of or have been, according to this stand, created by Time (kala). Sanjaya was not invoking the picture of God as Time even as he did not advocate the concept of predestination or Brahma as the God who has determined ones fate.
Dhrtarashtra should realise these and not lose his power of reasoning, he counselled. But the ruler knew that it was the assembly of nobles, devas, of his country, which had prevented him from annexing for enjoyment by his sons what the Pandavas had won by their valour. His approval of the game of dice and resort to deceit and rejection of the offer of peace and appointment of able generals had all gone waste. These generals refused to go all the way to kill the Pandavas and had limited personal goals.
The nobility was a force to reckon with. Dhrtarashtra had ignored it. He put on a brave face that he had lost the war not on the battlefield but because of the constitutional limitations within which he had to function. The constitution and the nobles required him to step down as he had lost his sons and was no longer eligible to incur any liabilities that he was not in a position to discharge.
We would here draw attention to the role of the integrated aristocracy of Hastinapura with respect to the game of dice indulged in by Yudhishtira. The integrated aristocracy of Hastinapura was led not by the contented and generous nobility, devas, or by the sober intellectuals but by the rich plutocrats, yakshas, who however did not countenance deceit as a valid means of acquiring wealth though they conceded that dice which meant submission to inexplicable fate was a valuable alternative to war as a means of settling disputes. One of the yakshas occupied the position of the judge and enforcer of social and moral laws, dharma, and had called on Yudhishtira to ascertain how far he adhered to the new social code approved by this integrated aristocracy led by the plutocrats.
But the plutocrats and the technocrats did not have the same status as the cultural aristocrats, devas did. They had the status of devatas, which was marginally lower to the status of nobles, devas. The officials in charge of enforcement of the provisions of the socio-economic code, dharma, ranked next to the head of the judiciary, who as Brahma, protected the provisions of the socio-political constitution, which vested in that judiciary an authority and penal powers that were superior to those the head of the state, rajan, was allowed.