KSHATRIYAS RETURN TO POWER
Janamejaya wanted to know why the Pandavas who were equal to nobles (devas) and were great warriors (maharathis who fought from chariots) were born among the commoners (bhumi). The chronicler told him that he had heard that the purpose behind such birth was known and was to be known only to the nobles (devas) and yet he would with the permissionof Brahma, the guardian of the socio-political constitution acquaint the king with that purpose. He traced the purpose to the times of Parasurama (son of Jamadagni), who rid the commonalty (bhumi) twenty-one times from Kshatriyas and then left for the Mahendra mountains to perform tapas.
The chronicler does not refer to the battles between Parasurama and the Haihayas and Talajanghas and his surrender of the regions conquered by him to Kashyapa and his exile from north India (Aryavarta). When the cadres of Kshatriyas, soldiers, were all removed from the social world (loka) of the plains (bhumi), their wives and widows who desired to have sons yielded themselves to the Brahmans. The chronicler takes pains to remove the impression that the Brahmans (whose cause Parasurama championed) exploited the unhappy and unguarded Kshatriya women.
Kshatriya women and Brahman men
The chronicler gives the impression that the Brahmans resorted to the rigorous provisions of the laws permitting niyoga and anuloma alliances and had sex with the Kshatriya women for meeting the requirements of dharma and not for sex (kama). The offspring born to these women proved to be more valiant than the Kshatriyas. This was a one-time permission and experiment intended to aid the Kshatriya cadres regain numbers. These new Kshatriyas born to Brahman fathers and Kshatriya women lived long and followed the principles of dharma.
The annotator notes that at that stage the Brahmans were treated as the best of the four social classes (varnas). Sexual intercourse was meant for procreation and reproduction of the species and not for sexual pleasure. As this principle of dharma has been followed by the offspring of the Kshatriya widows scrupulously they have a full life of a hundred years, the chronicler claims. The commoners (manushyas) are told that they can live without pain and disease if they have sex only to fulfil their societal duty and not for pleasure.
The scheme of four classes (varnas) was first applied to the commonalty (manushyas). At that stage those who were recognised as Kshatriyas were of a highly aggressive type and the new generation of Kshatriyas were sober and less aggressive because of the intervention of the Brahmans. It is inadvisable and irrational to presume that there were either political or ethnic or genetic differences between Kshatriyas and Brahmans. It is inadvisable to give credit to the story that the Kshatriya widows were indeed required to submit to Brahmans for sex and procreation.
Dharmasastra and sober Kshatriyas
The members of the judiciary who upheld the socio-political constitution of the Atharvaveda (Brahma) did not approve of the step that Parasurama took to dissolve the Kshatriya armies of twenty-one states. New sober cadres had to be raised. They would not be temporary recruits required to be ready to die on the battlefield but would be permanent standing armies entrusted with the duty to protect dharma, the socio-cultural code. The new Kshatriyas were entitled to rule not only the agrarian plains (bhumi) but also the other areas like mountains, forests and cities of the expanded state.
As the Kshatriyas came back to power all the classes (varnas) including Brahmans became happy. The kings were required to discard the flaws of partiality and anger while rendering justice and punishing the guilty and administering the state. The new state headed by the king placed Indra in charge of (rains and) agriculture and the entire economy. He was head of the eight-member ministry that had jurisdiction over the entire integrated empire, Janamejaya, a Bharata plutocrat (sreshta) was told. The chronicler indirectly points out that the post-Parasurama state covered the entire country, which was surrounded by seas. Did Bharata and Prthu rule the entire Indian subcontinent?
It was a period when the Brahmans studied the Vedas and their branches and the Upanishads. They did not sell this knowledge, that is, they did not seek to earn their living by teaching Vedas to others. They refrained from uttering Vedic hymns in the presence of Shudras. The tillers were than assigned to the class of Vaisyas. Only service of others was the duty assigned to Shudras. The commoners (manushyas) were assigned the duty of looking after the cattle. They did not cheat the calves of their milk. They had not been assigned to either class, Vaisyas or Shudras. The traders did not cheat by using wrong measures.
They must have been assigned to the class of Vaisyas. It needs to be noted that the Vedic practice of treating only the traders as Vaisyas was reintroduced during the later medieval times. In the meantime all agriculturists and pastoral peoples too were treated as Vaisyas and only the servants were treated as Shudras and denied the rights and opportunities that the three higher classes had.
It was a period when the commoners (manushyas) held dharma to be the support for their lives and took care of dharma, the socio-cultural code and did only what was defined to be valid deeds according to the principles of this dharma code. In other words, the commoners who looked after pastoral economy were subordinate to the socio-cultural code, dharmasastra, rather than to the politico-economic codes, arthasastra and dandaniti.
As the Kshatriyas were reinstated on their becoming less aggressive the society preferred to govern its activities on the basis of the provisions of dharmasastra rather than be coerced by the state or pursue acquisition of wealth. All followed rigorously their respective activities and duties as prescribed for their respective class (varna). This code followed the principle of freedom to adhere to the law of natural aptitude (rta) as it was during the early Vedic times when the mighty could not have their way as the weak asserted their ability to survive against all odds. The powerful rulers could not break their resilience.
Rajanyas and sober feudal lords (asuras)
The annotator calls that period as the period of creative activities, krtayuga. It was marked by growth in numbers of all living beings and by affluence among the commonalty (bhumi). While the social world (loka) of commoners (manushyas) was well developed, a new generation of rulers was born to princesses of the rajanya cadre. They were later categorised as feudal lords, asuras. In the prolonged war between the liberal aristocrats (devas) and the feudal lords (asuras) the latter were defeated several times by the former and were deprived of their wealth (aisvarya, sura) and expelled from the social world of the nobles (svarga) who were entitled to have personal property and personal contingent of troops.
The new generation of feudal lords were treated as but persons born amongst the commoners (bhumi). It may be noted that the chronicler addressed Janamejaya as purushasreshta to indicate that he was an eminent social leader (purusha) and then as Bharatasreshta to indicate that he was an eminent successor to Bharata, and then as the king of manushyas to indicate that he had jurisdiction only over the commoners. He addresses Janamejaya then as rajasreshta and prabhu. Janamejaya was expected to function as a rich generous ruler of the plutocratic type as Dushyanta and Bharata were and not as a feudal lord (asura) who used coercive methods to gain riches.
In order to become kings (rajas) in the plains (bhumi) the new generation of feudal lords (asuras) gained control over not only the commoners (manushyas) but also the different groups of animals like cows and horses, mules, elephants and camels. That is they controlled the pastoral economy and also the armies, which needed these animals. The asuras also became controllers of animals on whose meat many lived. In short the polity and economy, agrarian, pastoral and forest fell into their hands. Agriculture of the plains (bhumi) is the basis of this economy. As the asuras, feudal lords, got control over it, it became impossible for the commonalty (bhumi) to have socio-economic stability.
Some of the proud kings of the commonalty (bhumi) were daityas and danavas who had been expelled from the ranks of the nobility (svargaloka) and who joined the feudal lords (asuras). [Aditi, Diti and Danu were according to the chronicles, three daughters of Daksha who married Kashyapa. The nobles with good conduct who became administrators were known as Adityas (sons of Aditi). Their counterparts were Daityas (sons of Diti). The Danavas (sons of Danu) were after wealth.] These powerful and arrogant rulers of different types spread over the entire continent that is surrounded by the sea. Through might they harassed all the four classes (varnas) and also all living beings (pranis, of the subaltern).
While hunting the herds of animals, these feudal lords harassed the sages who were in their forest resorts. They also moved about throughout the agrarian plains (bhumi) as enemies of Brahmans (jurists who upheld the social laws, dharma). The chronicler notes that the powerful and arrogant feudal lords (asuras) who had imbibed the traits of the plutocrats (sreshtas) harassed the commonalty forcing its patient motherly and noble representative (bhumidevi) to approach the chief judge and upholder of the socio-political constitution (Brahma) for a solution and end to their sufferings. [We would not present Brahma as the god of creation.]
Troops led by technocrats (hastis) fail to protect the commonalty
The powerful generals of the different directions (dig-gajas) who controlled the troops of those areas that were drawn from the five ranks of free individuals (panchabhutas) (who had not yet been brought under the scheme of four classes but who were equivalent to the nobility and the four classes in their social and economic roles and belonged to the social periphery) did not have the necessary strength to support the commonalty that was losing its economic status and social power. [The social periphery had discrete individuals who had been expelled from their classes and also members of the ruling elite who were in exile.] The eight leaders of the nagas, technocracy and the industrial proletariat (like Adisesha) could not even when acting together render the basic support needed for the agrarian commonalty. The clans (kula) of the mountains too could not extend the necessary support for the commonalty that was being harassed by the feudal chieftains (asuras).
Intervention by Brahma,
The chief of the constitution bench
Bhumidevi (the representative of the commonalty) presented their case to Brahma, the chief of the constitution bench, who had created all the beings (pranis) which were at the bare subsistence level and also all the organised social worlds (lokas) and was being held in esteem by the nobles (devas) and the sages (maharshis, who were legislators) and the jurists (Brahmans) and by the pleasure-seeking (vanti) gandharvas and apsarases. The spokeswoman (who had the status of a devi, lady) of the commonalty (bhumi) presented to Brahma in the presence of the eight officials who were guardians (palakas) of the regions in the eight directions her appeal for protection for the commonalty of the plains (bhumi) against the feudal lords (asuras). The later annotator states that Brahma knew already the purpose for which Bhumidevi had come.
It was not a surprise to Brahma as he was the creator of the social universe (jagat) of unorganised social sectors and must have known the minds of devas, asuras and other living beings (pranis). The new constitution, over implementation and interpretation of which this judge presided, had included in the core society, the social universe (jagat) of gandharvas and apsarases, nobility (devas), feudal lords (asuras) and other living beings (pranis) at the level of subsistence in addition to the commonalty organised on the basis of the four classes.
This judge, Brahma, knew the minds, aspirations and orientations of all these sectors. The later annotator would treat this high judicial authority, Brahma, as the head of the commonalty (bhumi) and as the one who is the first cause of this arrangement and as the director of all activities and as the giver of happiness. The head of the constitution bench (Brahma) told (Bhumidevi) the spokeswoman of the commonalty that he would send all the nobles (devas) for carrying out her request.
New protective elite and the new commonalty
He asked them to be born in this world as commoners, hiding their form of nobles, in order to reduce the burden that the commonalty had to bear. In other words, a new cadre of nobles was created who would share the responsibility to protect the commoners against the cruel and arrogant feudal lords who were then controlling the affairs and economy of the plains and the periphery. Similarly the cadres of gandharvas and apsarases were dissolved in the commonalty to enable the latter to have a free intelligentsia that would resist the orientations spread by the feudal lords.
Indra and other nobles consented to give up their erstwhile isolation and agreed to function as the new protective elite of the commonalty of the integrated society. The later annotator says that these nobles prevailed on Narayana to be born in the world (bhumi) to free it from the blemishes (the wrong orientations that had been given to the commonalty by the feudal lords, asuras). (Ch.65 Adiparva)
If the nobles were to merge in the new integrated society, it might result in Indra losing his status and power. But he had to assure the sage, Narayana, that he would, like the sages, take part in creating the new commonalty. They would destroy the feudal lords (asuras) and the rebel militants (rakshasas) as directed by the new constitution (Brahma) but would not accept the gandharvas and the nagas, the free intelligentsia and the technocrats, as desirable elements. The nobles would destroy them and the other beings who lived (sponged) on the commoners (manushyas).
Vaishampayana pointed out that the new elite had from its birth the power necessary to withstand the combined might of the asuras and rakshasas and gandharvas and nagas. The perception of this class of aristocrats differed from that of the new constitution, Brahma. The commoners must have noticed this departure from that constitution by the new elite, devas. The traits of new elite were reflected in the conduct of the Brahmarshis and the Rajarshis. Some of the intellectuals among the nobles opted to join the judiciary while some others who were aristocratic in temper and not so introvert as the former accepted to function as the directors of the new state.
Origin of the diverse pre-varna Vedic cadres
This account made Janamejaya eager to know Vaishampayanas version of the origin of the cadres, known as nobles (devas), feudal lords (asuras), gandharvas, apsarases, commoners (manushyas), plutocrats (yakshas) and their militant guards (rakshasas). We have to interpret this version in a rational manner and not discard it as myth and fantasy. The chronicler notices that Brahmadeva (the head of the constitution bench who had the status of a noble, deva) accepted as his manasputras (godsons or protgs) the six great sages (maharshis), Marici, Atri, Angirasa, Pulastya, Pulaha and Kratu. These were important legislators and were members of the first council of seven sages convened by Manu Svayambhuva. Bhrgu, the chief editor of Manava Dharmasastra, was its seventh member. Pracetas, Vasishta, Narada and these seven sages were on the board of editors of Manava Dharmasastra.
Svayambhuva was the chief of the people (prajapati) of Brahmavarta (the Sarasvati-Drshadvati basin in present Rajasthan) with the designation, Brahma, before his elevation to the post of Manu. These ten personages represented different sections of the population and Manu Svayambhuva recognised them as Prajapatis.
According to legends, Kashyapa, son of Marici, married thirteen daughters of Daksha and procreated on them the different sectors of the macro-society. In other words, he accepted all these thirteen sectors as eligible for all rights as living beings. The twelve charismatic and generous guardians (isvaras) were known as Adityas. According to Vaishampayana, Vishnu was the best among them. In other words, Vishnu was not then honoured as the highest God. Dhata, Mitra, Varuna, Aryama, Sakra, Amsa, Bhaga, Vivasvan, Pushan, Savita and Tvashta are counted as the other eleven Adityas (sons of Aditi). This account does not grant Vasus, Maruts and Rudras a status equal to these twelve administrators.
It recognises Hiranyakasipu, father of Prahlada, as a Daitya (son of Diti and Kashyapa). Prahlada had five younger brothers. Prahlada had three famous sons, Virocana, Kumba and Nikumba. The mighty Bali was the son of Virocana. Bana known also as Mahakala was the son of Bali. Janamejaya must have known about all of them. They belonged to the last decades of the long Vedic era. Vaishampayana did not use the terms, Daityas and Asuras, indiscriminately. There were forty persons who were included in the category of Daityas.
Vipracitti, a heterodox scholar (and thinker) was the eldest and most famous ruler among them. Sambara, Namuci and Puloma belonged to this category. Other chronicles have treated them as Asuras. They have described the plutocrats (yakshas) as Danavas. While tracing the different groups that are said to be descendants of Kashyapa by his thirteen wives, the chronicler refers to Sukra, a Bhargava, as a counsellor (purohita) of the asuras. There were three other groups of cruel asuras.
The chronicler mentions six persons including Aruna and Garuda as the offspring of Kashyapa by Vinata. The six nagas, Sesha, Ananta, Vasuki, Takshaka, Kurma and Kulika are enumerated as his offspring by Kradu. He mentions the names of some devagandharvas (who were closer to the nobles and were free intellectuals) born to Muni. This list includes, Narada. Another group of devagandharvas who married the daughters of Prata is mentioned. The famous gandharva, Visvavasu, was one of them.
Another wife of Kashyapa is said to have been the mother of some of the famous apsarases, like Rambha, Alambusha and Tilottama. They had four brothers including the two gandharvas, Haha and Huhu. The different social classes (varnas) including Brahmans, and animals like cows and horses are all traced to the different wives of Kashyapa. This sage refused to treat any section of the population as totally undesirable. Vaishampayana had referred to twelve officials as Adityas. Eleven Rudras are mentioned. These include Pinaki (a Vira), Sarpa, Kapali, Isvara, Bhaga and Sthanu. They may be treated as persons who exercised charismatic influence over the population of the forests.
Brhaspati continued Angirasa tradition
Brhaspati, Utatya and Samvarta are said to have continued the tradition, that is, the ideology outlined by Angirasa. Even as it is irrational to treat Kashyapa as the son of Marici and Marici as the son of Brahma, it is unsound to treat these as the sons of Angirasa. There were many sages who were claimed to be followers of Atri. Addressing Janamejaya as the best among the commoners (manushyasreshta), the chronicler told him that Pulastya was a spokesman of the plutocrats (yakshas), their guards (rakshasas), free men of the forests (vanaras), and the retinue and messengers of the plutocrats (kinnaras).
The remark that sarapas (fish and other aquatic animals), kimpurushas (monkeys), lions, tigers, bears and wolves were the descendants of Pulaha only implied that this sage was a spokesman of the people who had been outcast and were dependent on these beings. The Valakhilyas, who were associated with surya, that is, were on the move throughout the day and were adherents of satya (truth) and were tapasvis (meditators) were followers of Kratu, as Vaishampayana told the king. The editors and annotators of the later medieval times did not have a correct appraisal of the features of the Vedic and even early post-Vedic social polity.
The kimpurushas who formed one of the vast mobile populations, social universes, had leadership traits and their followers, kinnaras, were free men. It is unsound to present the former as horses with human faces and the latter as men with faces of horses. Like gandharvas and apsarases they were treated as social universes, jagats. They had right to move across all lands, forests, moors and mountains. They were all human beings. The more assertive and talented among the residents of the forests (vanaras) were referred to as kimpurushas. The kinnaras were groups of musicians and entertainers. Later eunuchs were called kinnaras.
Dharma and Brahma
We would pass by the interpolations that the editors and annotators of the later medieval times have effected while enumerating the fifty daughters of Prajapati Daksha. The ten editors of the Manava Dharmasastra have been described as having been daughters of Daksha. This powerful chief must have granted approval to the project launched by Manu Svayambhuva who had earlier been his colleague and was in charge of determining what provisions of law should be brought under social laws, dharma, and what under civil laws, niyamas and yamas, dos and donts. The official in charge of social laws, Dharma, as a devata, had a status lower than that of the chief judge who interpreted the socio-political constitution, Brahma or Atharvaveda. The latter had the status of a noble, deva, and could not be proceeded against by the civil courts or dharmasthas.
The twenty-seven stars in the Hindu almanac were said to be consorts of Chandra (Soma, the sober chief of the intellectuals). They were all daughters of Daksha, according to the chronicler. They represented the twenty-seven rules pertaining to worldly activities and social progress (lokayatra). These rules of social economy were not to be adjudged by rules of dharma. The officials in charge of social economy did not have coercive power and they and traders in general were known as non-kshatras, nakshatras. They were pragmatic while the latter were moralistic. The remaining thirteen daughters married Kashyapa, according to this legend.
The agreement between Marici, the chairman of the ten-member board of editors of the social code, Manava Dharmasastra and Prajapati Daksha, the chief of the court of magistrates who ensured adherence by all to the thirteen rules (yamas and niyamas) was interpreted as the marriage between Kashyapa, son of Marici, and thirteen daughters of Daksha. The annotator explains that Brahma was superior to Dharma and also to Daksha. In other words, the socio-political constitution incorporated in the Vedas, particularly in Atharvaveda, was superior to Manava Dharmasastra and that the latter drew sustenance from the former. Prajapati Daksha inspired the constitution of an integrated macro-society bound by social laws (dharma) as well as rules of economy (varta).
The chronicler told Janamejaya that Dharma recognised the eight Vasus, the officials in charge of the open and common lands in the eight different directions and their wealth. They were treated as the sons of dharma, a devata. These eight officials were dhara, dhruva, soma, ahas, anila, anala, pratyusha and prabhasa and they had distinct roles, looking after the commoners of the agrarian plains, the rich of the central capital, the sages and other denizens of the forests under Soma, the alert administration under Surya, the people of the open space (akasa, vayu), the civil judge and representative of the intelligentsia (agni), the scorcher (the magistrate in charge of penalising the violators of the prohibitions, yamas) and the guide and enlightener. These were similar to the roles performed by the eight members of the ministry. The chronicler traces also the names of the officials functioning under these Vasus. There are other versions that refer to the eight officials as Adityas.
The chronicler refers to officials who were subordinate to these eight Vasus as their sons. One of them, Kumara (Karthikeya, brought up by six Krithika sisters) is described as the son of Agni (anala). The sage, Devala, is claimed to be the son of Pratyusha. He must have been a severe puritan. But his sons were known for their patience. Visvakarma, the sculptor and architect of the universe, was working for the nobles. He is said to be the son of Prabhasa and nephew of Brhaspati. The commoners too revere him.
Post-Vedic house of Thirty-three nobles, including Prajapati and Vasat
According to Vaishampayana, the personages who had the status of nobles (devas) were thirty-three in number, eight Vasus, eleven Rudras and twelve Adityas, Prajapati and Vasat. During the post-Vedic decades, Maruts were not included in the list of nobles (devas). They were treated as Daityas, as undesirable persons who were born to Diti. Marici and Kashyapa were Maruts. Many later chroniclers objected to Kashyapas view that asuras and devas, feudal lords and generous nobles should be treated on par.
Vaishampayana held that Sakra (Indra) was the chief of the twelve Adityas. Vishnu was the youngest of them, that is, was the last to be admitted to this group. He did not treat Vishnu as the highest God or as Virat or Purusha as some other chroniclers have done. He clubbed together the Rudras, Saddhyas and Maruts and Visvedevas with Vasus. He pointed out that Brhaspati and Aruna and Garuda were treated as belonging to the Aditya group, that is, approved group of nobles. This should have been a later development.
Usanas (Sukra) was included in the list of Vasus. In other words, socio-political realignments led to the administration of the commonalty coming under the principles of dandaniti outlined by Usanas. Brhaspati who in the Atharvan polity spoke for the commonalty (prthvi, manushyas) while Indra was the chief of the house of nobles, was elevated and given a place in the administrative body set up by the nobles as a guide (purohita) of the nobles (devas). Brhaspati upheld varta and also dandaniti, economic activities and political policy.
The new nobility kept both powers, economic and political in its hands. As Brhaspati joined hands with Sakra Indra, Usanas (Sukra) who had been aligned with asuras and rakshasas, feudal lords and militants, felt free to extend aid to the Vasus to enforce strict penal laws over the commonalty. Vaishampayana asked the king to recognise the asvinidevas and the medicinal herbs whose use they knew and the (owners of) cattle as belonging to the ranks of yakshas. They were not to be treated as belonging to the working classes. They were to be treated as contributing to the wealth of the land.
The chronicler claims that Bhrgu was born from Brahmas heart. In other words, Bhrgu, the chief editor of Manava Dharmasastra, was a protg of Manu Svayambhuva who had held the position of Brahma, the chief of the people of Brahmavarta, before his elevation to the newly created position of Manu, the Thinker. Sukra is treated as one of the nine grahas (planets). He is often referred to as Kavi (a great scholar and legislator) and also as the son of Kavi (that is, son of Bhrgu, the great legislator). As Kavi, Sukra (Usanas) authored the civil and political code, Dandaniti. As Kavi, Bhrgu compiled and edited the socio-cultural code, Manava Dharmasastra.
According to Vaishampayana, Sukra had been the teacher of nobles (devas) as well as feudal lords (asuras). With Brhaspati recognised as a noble (deva) and a teacher of the nobles (devas), Sukras influence was restricted to the asuras and rakshasas. As the later lost power and were exiled or eliminated in battles, the civil and political laws promulgated by Sukra were incorporated in the Manava Dharmasastra. They were made applicable to the new commonalty composed of the four classes. These laws were intended to benefit the social world (loka) of commoners and ensure their welfare. This development took place during the pre-Janamejaya decades.
Vaishampayana traced that the famous sage Chyavana was the son of Bhrgu by Pulomi and the highly influential sage, Aurva, was the son of Chyavana. Jamadagni was the son of Rchika who was a son of Aurva. Parasurama was the youngest of the four sons of Jamadagni but in talents was the best of them. He was an expert in martial arts and was noted for having destroyed the Kshatriyas. Jamadagni was one of the hundred disciples of Aurva. These disciples and their many followers were the most numerous among the commonalty (bhumi).
Besides Bhrgu, Brahma had two other godsons, who were known in the world as dhata and vidhata. In other words, the socio-political constitution, Brahma, was in favour of those persons who were benevolent and protective. These two characteristics, benefiting a particular individual and spreading the benefits among all, were what Manu Svayambhuva had developed. They were expected of the nobles (devas) who governed the commonalty (manushyas).
Janamejaya was eager to learn a dependable account of the traits of the various sectors of the larger society. The chronicler told him that Lakshmi was viewed to be the daughter of Brahma. It was a period when the concept of Brahma as the creator, Vishnu as the protector and Siva as the destroyer had not yet been postulated. Brahma was viewed as knowledge incarnate and Lakshmi as wealth incarnate. The horses of the sun, Surya, were described as the offspring of Lakshmi. Later chronicles have added that she had an elder sister, Jyeshtadevi. The feudal lords, asuras, claimed that they were elder (jyeshta) to the liberal nobles.
Desire for wealth (Sura) leads to Adharma
This lady was an adherent of the asura culture that had been promoted by Sukra (Usanas). She was presented as the daughter of Sukra and wife of Varuna. Varuna, a Vedic official who took into bondage those who had failed to perform their duties especially to the elders was presented as an asura. In other words, the Vedic official, Varuna and Sukra (Usanas) who upheld the validity of asura culture treated pursuit of might as the orientation of the asuras and pursuit of pleasure emanating from possession of wealth (sura) as the orientation that the nobles (devas) had developed.
As the native people (jana) felt hungry and ate one another, adharma was born to Sura. In other words, the people of Janasthana, which was ruled by the mighty feudal warlord (asura), Bali, who was guided by Sukra, had neither power nor wealth. Poverty led them to eat one another (in accordance with matsyanyaya, the larger fish eating the smaller and growing further) resulting in the collapse of law and order and spread of adharma, illegal and unjust acts.
The annotator finds fault with the vesting of the control over the treasury (sura) in the nobles (devas) for the commoners indulging in a mad struggle for survival and every one of them resorting to unjust and illegal ways (adharma) to meet his needs. The emergence of the rebel militants (rakshasas) is attributed to the spread of adharma. Fear (bhaya), horror (mahabhaya) and insentience (mrtyu, death in common parlance) are the result of adharma, the king is briefed. There is nothing beyond mrtyu. A society in the clutches of injustice meets finally with its doom and cannot return to law and order.
We would bypass the account of the origin of the different species of birds and animals as it is irrelevant and cannot stand the test of reason and logic. Janamejaya was eager to know in detail about the nobles (devas), feudal lords (asuras), free intellectuals (gandharvas), technocrats (nagas), militant rebels (rakshasas) and great personages (mahatmas) among the commoners (manushyas) of the earlier times. Vaishampayana said that he would first recount the careers of the nobles and feudal lords who were born amongst the commoners.
Re-emeregence of defeated feudal lords
Viprachitti, a prominent feudal lord and member of the counter-intelligentsia, who misled the people on the social periphery, after having been deprived of his lands and exiled, resurfaced amongst the commonersas King (Raja) Jarasamdha. [Krshna accused him of setting up Vasudevaka and Bhishmaka as rivals to him and Bhishma and propagated distorted versions of their teachings on social polity.] Hiranyakasipu (who is said to have been killed by Narasimha), an atheist opposed the Narayana cult propagated by Narada. According to Vaishampayana this feudal lord, Hiranyakasipu (a daitya, son of Diti, and father of Prahlada) after having been deposed resurfaced as Sisupala.
It is not sound to hold that Vaishampayana was only comparing Jarasamdha and Sisupala who were enemies of Krshna with Vipracitti and Hiranyakasipu. The chronicler implied that the orientations that the two warlords represented had not ceased to be influential with the easing out of the two. Those orientations and authoritarianism were followed by many other powerful rulers among whom Jarasamdha and Sisupala were prominent persons who had to be thrown out.
Prahlada was a popular ruler and was honoured for his impeccable character and conduct. But his brothers were not all so. Two of them, Samhlada and Anuhlada after severe chastisement emerged as Salya of Vahika and Drshtaketu, rulers against whom there were no complaints. [The sage, Agastya killed another brother, Hlada, an elephanteer,] Vaishampayana pointed out to Janamejaya that the rulers of many states of the earlier decades had the traits of feudal lords, asuras, and that they had undergone a change in their outlook and traits and become gentle and acceptable to the people. Some of the highly revered rulers (rajasreshtas) of Kekaya had earlier been feudal lords (asuras).
Ugrasena too was earlier an aggressive and ferocious feudal warlord. The invincible ruler, Asoka was earlier Asva, a rich feudal lord (asurasreshta). Asvas brother, Asvapati (commander of a cavalry unit) emerged as Hartika, a rich social leader (purushasreshta). [Asoka and Asvapati must have been associated with the Kekayas who were known for their Gandharva orientations. Asoka referred to here was a warlord who had later opted to follow social welfare methods to alleviate the sufferings of the poor and the sick. This might be also a reference to one of the eight ministers of Dasaratha who is seen to have had a soft corner for Kaikeyi and her son, Bharata.] Vrshaparva, a wealthy asura ruler (and a student of Sukra) later became a king who was deeply aware of peoples wishes and needs and met them and was known as Dirgaprajna. His brother too after giving up authoritarian ways became a constitutional king, raja.
Vaishampayana noted that the famous ruler, Brhadratha, was earlier a feudal warlord (asura). Ekachakra, a famous rich asura chieftain of the forests and the social periphery (asurasreshta) became popular among the commoners (bhumi) as Prativindhya. He might have been a counter to Bali, the asura warlord of the Vindhyas. Not all asura warlords acted against the rules of war. Hara who captured many enemies treated them well and was praised as uttama asura, a noble warlord. He was satisfied with collecting ransom and became Subahu, a generous and wealthy king.
Discard stereotypes about asuras
The ruler of Bahlika was keen on reinstating the enemies and getting rid of their enmity for him and was known as ahara. Janamejaya and other members of the audience were asked to discard the stereotypes that they had been fed on about the asuras. Another uttama asura (good warlord) had a calm and pleasant face (like the moon) and was known as nicandra. He later became a famous and wealthy ruler and was called Munjakesa, one who was almost bald. Nikumba who was never defeated in battles and who was an intellectual gave up his asura orientation and was known among the commoners (bhumi) as a plutocratic king (rajasreshta) who ranked superior to the nobles (devas) and governed the nobility also. But most of the kings who held sway over the commoners belonged to the cadre of feudal chieftains (asuras).
The great asura, Saraba, later became Rajarshi Paurava. Parvateya and Rishika who too were Rajarshis had earlier been feudal chieftains (asuras). Rishika was a Rajasreshta, a highly respected king who functioned also as a Rajarshi. It is likely that this overlord was not duly anointed as a Rajarshi which post required that the ruler should have surrendered all his personal wealth to the state treasury. Though Rishika conducted himself like a sage, Rshi, he fell short of the expectations and was but a Rishika. Vaishampayana was constantly aware that his host, Janamejaya, did not function under the Rajarshi constitution, which envisaged a sober intellectual as a ruler, guide and philosopher. Janamejaya was a king who had risen from the ranks of plutocrats, a rajasreshta.
The chronicler notes that such transformation of despised and dreaded feudal warlords (asuras) into rulers (rajans) (heads of states functioning under the provisions of dandaniti advocated by Usanas and other scholars) had taken place in all areas of the subcontinent. Even a Vrtra, a powerful warlord, asura, who was declared fit to be exterminated, was said to have survived and become Rajarshi Maniman. His brother became a king (raja) who governed the commoners (bhumi) on the basis of the provisions of Dandaniti. (Vrtra was indeed a Gandharva chieftain who functioned like a warlord, asura, engaged in a campaign against hedonism.] This account requires us to adopt a rational approach to the issue of an eternal conflict between cruel feudal warlords (asuras) and liberal cultural aristocrats (devas) and accept the possibility of the former turning into good rulers.
Some other asuras too agreed to function as rulers (rajas) upholding the rules and laws prescribed in Dandaniti. The Kaleyas were dreaded warlords who let loose death and destruction. But eight of them underwent reformation and emerged as kings (Rajas) functioning under prescribed codes and even as Rajarshis. One of them, Samudrasena, who ruled an island surrounded by the ocean, later followed the codes of dharma and artha, rigorously. Another Kaleya became the ruler of nishadas, a section of the commoners (bhumi). The chronicler recounts the names of many kings who had earlier been notorious for their rage and cruelty.
Kamsa (Krshnas uncle and son of Ugrasena) was earlier known as Kalanemi. He was a highly powerful and famous and wealthy warlord (asura). But some of the feudal chieftains were liberal like the nobles and had the status only of devaka, a rank lower to devas. These devakas were like gandharva chieftains who had access to the commonalty (bhumi). Vaishampayana seems to treat Ugrasena as a devaka closer to the intellectuals that gandharvas were. Ugrasenas son, Kamsa, had asura orientation but his daughter, Devaki, (mother of Krshna) had the orientation of a free intellectual, a gandharva.
The chronicler then dwells on the traits and roles of some gandharva chieftains who ranked superior to commoners (manushyas) but were not equal to the nobles (devas). The aristocrats (devas) tended to remain away from the commonalty (manushyas) but the devakas mingled among the latter. Drona was born to Bharadvaja who was successor to Angirasa Brhaspati who as devarshi had the status of a sage (rshi) and was entitled to mingle with and counsel the nobles (devas). Vaishampayana would treat Bharadvaja as one following the gandharva ways of procreating sons on gandharva or apsara women and leaving them to grow up on their own.
Drona became a famous and mighty archer. He had studied the Vedas and was an expert in martial arts. Dronas lineage did not end with him. His son, Asvattama, was noted for his valour and might and was a terror to his opponents. The chronicler says that Asvattama was the product of Siva and Yama, of lust and rage. [Some later annotators who were devotees of Vishnu left no opportunity to fault Siva.] But Asvattama lived as an excellent commoner. [Like Parasurama, Krpa and Badarayana, he was a member of the council of seven sages during the tenure of Manu Savarni. Vaishampayana does not claim that they lived forever.]
Vasus born of unsanctified sex
The chronicler then deals with the lineage of Santanu. He must have borne in mind that Santanu (one with a healing touch) had brought up Krpa and his twin-sister, Krpi, who had been abandoned by their father an archer and gandharva. Asvattama was born to Drona and Krpi. They were duly married and Drona brought him up in his own vocation. The chronicler says that Bhishma was born to Ganga (an apsaras and daughter of Bhagiratha) after her first seven children, vasus, had been thrown into the river as the sage, Vasishta, had cursed them. These eight vasus who might have been born of unsanctified sex with rich persons were however functioning under the directions of Indra, the head of the house of nobles.
According to the legends these eight children were born to Santanu and Ganga. The youngest of these Vasus, Bhishma, gave asylum to the Kauravas. He was a great scholar and intellectual and destroyer of enemies. Bhishma was born to Santanu while the others were not, the chronicler implies. This great warrior and expert in martial arts had fought against the great personage, Parasurama (who too was an expert in them). Bhishma was a Vasu but Vasishta, who patronised the Vasu group of nobles refused to recognise the sons of Ganga. Krpa, a Brahmarshi (a sage who was entitled to interpret and implement the provisions of the socio-political constitution, Brahma) belonged to the Rudra group of nobles, that is, was patronised by the Rudras who unlike the Vasus had withdrawn to the forests. Krpa however stayed in the plains (bhumi) and looked after the interests of the commoners.
It would appear that Sakuni who was a great commander in the world of commoners had no significant previous career. He was born about sixty years before Parikshit died (that is when the dvapara yuga began). [It is said that Kaliyuga began with the death of Parikshit.] Satyaki, a pious man who stood by the laws based on truth (satya) and was a prominent leader of the clan of Vrshnis (to which Krshna belonged) was earlier one of the seven Maruts. Vasus, Rudras, Maruts and Adityas were four groups of traditional nobles (devas). Vrshnis were a branch of Vasus.
Drupada who was the best among the commoners (manushyas) wielding weapons and who had the status of a Rajarshi earlier belonged to the aristocratic cadre of Maruts. Like Satyaki and Drupada, Krtavarma (a great Kshatriya warrior who had the status of a king, raja) also had belonged to the cadre of Maruts. It may be noted that the Vasus merged in the class of landlords while the Maruts in the class of Kshatriyas. The king (raja) of Virata too was earlier one of the seven Maruts. Dhrtarashtra, son of Krshna Dvaipayana, before his elevation as the king (raja) of the Kauravas, had the status of a Gandharva king (raja) and was known as Hamsa, son of Arishta. Was he introduced so to the princess of Gandhara before his marriage with her? This intelligent and powerful ruler was born blind because of the fault of his mother (in resorting to niyoga). But his handsome brother, Pandu, a great warrior, was earlier a Marut.
Vaishampayana told the king, Janamejaya, that Vidura, the best among the wise and who was rich and also had noble sons was the son of Vyasa who had been born to the Vedic official in charge of Dharma. Did Satyavati have sex with a noble who was in charge of Dharma even as Kunti did (with Surya) before giving birth to Yudhishtira? Was her son, Vyasa refused the status of a noble (deva) and required to function as a commoner?
The chronicler describes Duryodhana as an incarnation of the evil personage, kalipurusha who brought disrepute to the Kauravas and destruction to the commoners (bhumi) and as one who deserves being condemned by all social worlds (lokas). He instigated the feud that destroyed also all living beings (pranis) (at the bare subsistence level). The chronicler describes Duhsasana, Durmukha and others who supported Duryodhana as rakshasas, undisciplined militants. Yuyutsu was born to Dhrtarashtra by a Vaisya woman. He ranked next to Duryodhana but was not a member of the oligarchy of one hundred Kauravas who were all educated and well-trained in warfare.
Duryodhana had a sister, Duhsala whom Dhrtarashtra gave in marriage as a virgin to Jayadratha, ruler of Sindhu, as desired by Gandhari. Among those who had married in accordance with the gandharva system (as Dhrtarashtra and Gandhari did) the mother had an important voice in selecting the groom for her daughter if the latter had not yet attained the age of consent.
Vaishampayana told the king that Yudhishtira was born to Dharma (who had the status of a devata), Bhimasena to Vayu and Arjuna to Indra. Dharma, Vayu and Indra were officials of the state in the Vedic polity looking after justice and ethics, the population of the open areas and the treasury and also army. They were members of the cadre of nobles. The handsome and compassionate brothers, Nakula and Sahadeva were born to Asvinidevas who were closer to the commonalty (bhumi) and looked after agriculture and medicinal herbs.
Abhimanyu and Somas directive
Arjunas famous son, Abhimanyu, received training under Soma, the sober intellectual and head of the frontier society of forests and mountains in the Vedic social polity. Abhimanyu was in the forest during his formative years as the Pandavas were under exile then. What Soma had forecast about him when he was born should not be rejected as fiction. It was a considered comment of the later annotator.
Soma directed the nobles not to engage Abhimanyu in the mission to kill the feudal lords of the earth (bhumi), that is, those chieftains whose conduct resembled that of the feudal lords and who had mingled among the commonalty. It was the task of the nobles (devas) to crush their rivals, the feudal lords (asuras). The kshatriyas of the commonalty (bhumi) however were required to fight against the rebel militants, rakshasas. Abhimanyu who was recognised as having the qualifications and eligibility (varchas) to battle against the feudal lords would not survive long in this world, bhumi, his teacher and grandfather, Soma, feared. Did Subhadras father have the status of Soma, head of the intellectuals stationed in the forest?
The annotator while dealing with Somas prophecy and warning compared Arjuna and Krshna to the two great sages, Nara and his associate, Narayana. In Somas view, the Pandavas and some of their allies had the traits of nobles. They would in battle kill the warriors who belonged to the cadre of viras. The warriors who were not approved as kshatriyas and were not members of the standing army were placed in the category, viras. They were drawn mostly from the populace of the forest.
Abhimanyu was not assigned this task. Abhimanyu who became a great warrior lived only for sixteen years and had within half a day destroyed one-fourth of the army of the asuras when Arjuna and Krshna were not on the battlefield. Abhimanyus death is presented as a reunion between him and Soma. Did the chronicler only mean that Abhimanyu who had descended from Soma would reunite with him as a pitr, the soul of the departed ancestor? Or did Abhimanyu not fall in the battle? Did he return to his school in the forest after completing his mission in the commonalty? A rigorous rational approach leads to several myths being exploded. This is not wanton iconoclasm. Abhimanyu was a great warrior but his mission was limited.
Soma who had consented to depute him to take part in the battle of Kurukshetra on behalf of the third social world of forests and mountains, which he represented, acknowledged that ridding the commonalty (bhumi) of the feudal lords (asuras) was not the task of only the nobles. All the three social worlds (nobility, commonalty and forest society, divam, bhumi and antariksham) were committed to this mission. Soma had however offered the services of Abhimanyu only for a limited purpose and for a short duration.
Soma (moon) was claimed to be the ancestor of the Kauravas and the Pandavas and other chieftains who took part in that battle. The rulers belonging to the solar (Surya, Vivasvan) lineage did not take part in this battle. The prophecy also declares that Abhimanyu would procreate a son who would continue his lunar lineage and re-establish the destroyed Bharata lineage. There is no suggestion here that Parikshit was Abhimanyus posthumous son by Uttara.
The chronicler takes care to point out to Janamejaya that he had recounted only the birth, that is, the purpose behind the birth of his fathers father, Abhimanyu. Parikshit, governor of Uttarakuru, was the only surviving son of Kuru. He was selected as the king when the claim of the Pandavas to the throne of Hastinapura after the battle was not upheld. Parikshit had not participated in that battle. Janamejaya, a stepbrother of Bharata, took over the rule on Parikshits death. For purposes of public consumption, Parikshit was declared to be the son of Abhimanyu and Janamejaya the son of Parikshit. Neither was a descendant of the Pandavas.
Dhrshtadyumna (son of Drupada and brother of Draupadi) was patronised by an official, Agni, who looked after the interests of the commonalty and functioned as the civil judge in the Atharvan polity. He might have claimed to be playing a similar role (when he acted as a spy). His brother, Sikhandi turned a militant (rakshasa) when he was in his boyhood teased that he was but a girl. [Bhishma might have been convinced that he was indeed a girl.] Dhrshtadyumna, Sikhandi and their sister, Draupadi were products of the apsara culture that the Panchalas followed.
Some Visvedevas who were indeed members of the upper crust of the commonalty but were later treated as equal to nobles, devas, and formed the electoral college for selection of nobles, must have sired the five sons of Draupadi. This would have been in tune with the apsara culture of Panchala. Annotators tried to find a rationale for this act of Draupadi and a similar one of Kunti.
Prtha was the sister of a Vasudeva whose father was a rich and brave Yadava chieftain. [Prtha was called so as she was a protg of Prthu who ruled the agro-pastoral plains, Prthvi, and was an agrarian ruler.] Her father gave her in marriage to Kuntibhoja, a son of his cousin. Her sons would inherit the wealth and lands of that Bhoja (a native landlord). When she was yet at her fathers house, that is, before she got married to Pandu, she learnt from Durvasa, a Brahman sage, how to bear sons by nobles (devas) of her choice.
The girl, curious to test the efficacy of the mantra, invoked Surya and became pregnant by that official. Thus Karna was born to Prtha (Kunti) by pre-marital sex. Fearing the wrath of her brothers, she left the babe floating in a river and a charioteer (a suta and husband of Radha) brought him up as his son. He was named after Vasushena, a famous leader. [Vishnu is known as Vasushena.] He became a master of martial arts. He learnt Vedangas, the ancillaries to the Vedas, though he was not entitled to learn the Vedas proper as he was not eligible for membership of the first three classes, varnas. This is an attempt to establish that Karna was not denied access to formal schools.
The chronicler says that when Karna was engaged in mastering the formulae (performing japa) he had nothing that should not be given to Brahman teachers. Indra approached him in the guise of a Brahman and asked him for his earrings, which served him as shield, and Karna parted with them. (Vasushena was called Karna after this incident.) In return Indra gave him a powerful weapon that could kill any one who was a noble (deva) or a feudal lord (asura) or a commoner (manushya) or a free intellectual (gandharva) or a technocrat (naga) or a militant (rakshasa). Addressing Janamejaya as Rajasreshta, a rich king (a plutocratic king), the chronicler extolled Karna too as a rajasreshta (a rich king who could give away all the wealth he had). The great warrior who was the son of a general (Surya) and was brought up in the house of a charioteer (suta) became a counsellor and friend of Duryodhana.
Krshna, son of Vasudeva, had the traits of Narayana, who was a noble (deva) superior to all nobles (devas) and who is eternal and that his brother, Balarama, who was highly valorous among the commoners (manushyas) those of Adisesha, a naga (a technocrat). Janamejaya is asked to recognise in Pradyumna, a brilliant intellectual, the orientations that Sanatkumara had propagated. The chronicler then describes the prominent ladies of those times, like Rukmini (wife of Krshna), Gandhari, Kunti and Madri as having followed the orientations of the apsarases.