KANIKA'S POLITICAL POLICY
Dhrtarashtra was worried, as the sons of Pandu were valorous and mighty. He summoned Kanika, a senior minister, who was an expert in political counselling and in political policy, to learn how the methods of peace and hostility (samdhi-vigraha) could be used against the Pandavas. These two were methods used in interstate relations. But the king planned to use them against the sons of his brothers who were subordinate to him. Duryodhana, Sakuni, Karna and Duhsasana too joined the deliberations with Kanika (a student of Bharadvaja) on how to tackle the Pandavas.
Dhrtarashtra wanted to know what they should do to protect themselves against the Pandavas who were always cautious and of whom they were all afraid. Kanika, who was diminutive in size, needs to be given credit for his shrewdness. (Kautilya, a contemporary of Bharadvaja, Visalaksha, Pisuna, Bhishma, Dvaipayana and Krpa, was aware of his activities and approach.) Kanika requested the king to listen to his exposition without getting angry with him. A king (raja) should always exert himself in his duty to use coercive power (danda). (The term, danda is not to be used to indicate only punishing the offender.) Without keeping open any way by which others are allowed to intrude into his jurisdiction exhibiting their prowess, he should find out the way by which he can enter their areas.
Kanika was for the king being always on the offensive. The jana who constituted the largely agrarian native population of the rural areas always feared a king who always tried to use political power (danda). (Kanika would advise the king to avoid the other three methods, peaceful talks, gifts and rifts among the opponents, sama, dana and bheda and resort to threat of use of coercive power.) Kanika was for a tough administration and decried the concept of a soft state. The king should get instituted all his purposes, that is, get fulfilled all his objectives through use of coercive power (danda). He should keep hidden from others his shortcomings, Kanika advised. One should attack others when they falter.
Even as a tortoise keeps its limbs hidden under its shell, a king should keep secret the traits of the organs (angas) of his state. He should ensure that he is never short of his requirements. Kanika advised the king who sought his welfare to always respect the Brahmans (intellectuals, jurists and counsellors). The king should realise that the post of king had been created to protect the Brahmans and to punish the scoundrels. In other words political authority with coercive powers had been created to protect the judiciary and the intelligentsia who were unarmed and could not defend themselves against mischievous elements.
Kanika who was a Vaisya and an expert in economic affairs, pointed out to Dhrtarashtra that the king could not afford to ignore the interests of the Brahmans. He pointed out that the spread of dharma was possible only if the vicious were put down and the virtuous were protected. If dharma is spread the king (and his subjects) can win both social worlds (lokas), the one (commonalty) of which he is presently a member and the higher one (that of nobles) that he seeks to join. Hence it is imperative that one does what falls within the framework of dharma.
Kanika warned that a king who pardoned a commoner who was guilty would be disrespected in this social world (loka) of commoners and would be consigned to the ghetto after being thrown out of the present position. Naraloka referred to the cadres of free men who had parted company with their social groups like clans and communities and did not enjoy social protection. Some of them were confined to the ghettoes (naraka) as they tended to indulge in acts smacking moral turpitude. They were fallen men.
One who obtains wealth from the king but harms his benefactor should be killed and his wealth distributed among the poor, Kanika urged. He was not urging only confiscation by the king of the wealth given by him. Kanika would insist on the poor being treated as the deserving beneficiary of state favours. If the administrators appointed to manage the execution of state projects went beyond the control of the king, the king should dismiss them and should appoint in their place experts in dharmasastra and arthasastra who would not utter lies.
But the activities of even these experts should not go unwatched. The king should depute his personal servants in disguise to find out if those activities afflicted the country (desa, rural areas) or the city or the village. The pura-desa pattern, similar to the paura-janapada pattern of administration was in force. In the city-country (pura-rashtra) pattern, the head of the state directly controlled the administration of both the units. But in the paura-janapada pattern, the urban council and the basic units (pada) of the natives (jana) were autonomous in their administration.
After testing the undesirable employee and proving his guilt, he should be deprived of his wealth and discharged. The king is told that a work once commenced should never be allowed to remain incomplete or executed in a shabby manner. Kanika was for an efficient administration.
Kanika pointed out that a thorn removed in a wrong manner would leave a sore for a long time. Hence it is best to kill the enemies who harm one. When faced with a danger, the enemy known for his prowess and fighting talents should be trounced and chased away without hesitation. Kanika advised the king not to ignore the enemy even if the latter was weak for even a small spark if it gets a hold is capable of burning down the entire forest.
The king should turn a blind eye or keep a deaf ear when that is necessary. He may leave the bow lie idle like a reed but he should be always alert like the deer. Kanika would not recommend consideration for the enemy who has been subdued by means like peace (sama), gift (dana), rift (bheda) and force (danda). The enemy has to be killed. No compassion is to be shown even to the enemy who has surrendered. Only then the victor can remain without fear, for one need not fear the dead. Kanika is seen to be unethical and merciless unlike most other political grammarians. One must kill ones enemy and the one who has harmed him by gifting (dana) him any object that would be a dangerous liability to that person.
Kanika advocated that all those who provide the three sources of strength of the enemy should be destroyed. The three forms of strength are prabhusakti (popular support), mantrasakti (political counsel) and utsahasakti (enthusiasm of the people and the different organs of the state). Some annotators treat the term, three as referring to the king, the minister and the ally. It is more likely that Kanika referred to the three basic units of the state, the king (including the ministry and his secretaries of the state, amatyas and sachivas), the rich autonomous capital (pura) and the commonalty of the rural areas (rashtra).
The king should kill the heads and officers of the five organs (angas) (amatya, janapada, fort, treasury and army) of the state (rajyam) of the enemy. If the state of the enemy has seven units (prakrtis), raja, amatya, janapada, durga, kosha, danda and mitra (king, ministry, rural administration, fortified capital, treasury, army and political ally) all the seven should be destroyed.
Kanika was for total destruction of the enemys sources of strength and state organs whatever structural pattern they had adopted. Always the king who is the root of the inimical state has to be cut off first. Then his assistants and then all their allies are to be killed. Kanika seems to endorse dependence on the sahaya-sampada rather than on mantris, amatyas and sachivas. This was a government through a cabal rather than a duly constituted ministry or a rational bureaucracy.
If the root of the kingdom, that is, the king, is destroyed all those who hang on to him like creepers will wither away. The branches of a tree cannot survive if the root is cut off. The king is advised to be always enthusiastic in concealing his secrets and in learning the secrets of the enemy. He has to be ever cautious about those who were always inimical. There can be no complacency. [Those who criticise Kautilya as crooked and cruel may note that he did not share the traits of Kanika Bharadvaja and functioned within the framework of dharma, morality and humanity.]
Kanika used piety as a camouflage to make the enemy complacent and then to pounce on him like a hyena. Agnihotra sacrifices, yajnas and clothes and tresses indicating renunciation were meant to deceive and trap the enemy. These practices were tools meant to achieve the intended political objectives. The intelligent (buddhiman) leaders (purushas) in the world should adopt the following method to attain their desired goals, he said. Till the fortune turns in ones favour, one should carry the enemy on ones shoulders. And when the time comes he should drop him and break him like a pot thrown on a stone.
Kanika counsels that even if the enemy says words evoking pity he should never be let off. There can be no compassion for him. One who harms should be killed. All the four methods, sama, dana, bheda and danda, should be used to destroy the enemy. Dhrtarashtra asked Kanika to explain how those methods were to be used. Kanika narrated the tale of how a clever jackal used a mouse to bite the leg of the deer and a tiger to kill it and then deceived them both and a wolf and a mongoose and warded them off to be able to eat the venison all by itself. It fooled others to give the impression that it was stronger than them.
Kanika told Dhrtarashtra that a king who adopted such a method of playing one against another of his rivals would always be able to flourish. He said that the timid should be kept off through terror and the valorous through respect and submission. The greedy opponent and one equal in strength should be kept off through gift of wealth and one weak through prowess.
Kanika held that one who was inimical was to be killed by one who seeks his good, even if that enemy was his son or an ally or a brother or his father or teacher. He should promise to protect that enemy and kill him by offering wealth to the killer or by poison or by deceit. The enemy should never be spared, Kanika urged. If the two, the king and his enemy are equal in strength and neither is sure of winning, the one who is more cautious will win, according to Kanika. Kanika Bharadvaja who like Pisuna was acquainted with Kautilya had unlike them no place for scruples in political policy.
It is just to punish one who does not distinguish between a good purpose and a bad one and goes by the wrong path, even if he is ones teacher. The king even if he is angry should converse with a smile in his lips without letting his anger be noticed. None should know that he is indeed angry. An angry person should never speak with his enemy disparagingly. Kanika was giving tips to be kept in mind while confronting an enemy. While sending off the enemy or beating him, the king should use only soft words. Even after beating the enemy he should speak softly as though he regretted his act. One should make even the enemy believe that the former is a disciplined adherent of the principles of peace (sama), and codes of dharma and artha. When the enemy loses his path, at the appropriate time he should be assaulted.
Kanika Bharadvaja had no scruples in counselling that one might safely commit the most heinous crimes if he always ostensibly adheres to the codes of dharma. His reputation as an adherent of dharma would hide his crimes, he told Dhrtarashtra. The house of one who deserves to be killed may be burnt down. The poor and the atheists and robbers may be employed to poison the enemy.
Kanika did not believe that the poor would prefer to be pious and innocent rather than be greedy and sinful. The king may kill his opponent who trusts him even while receiving him with courtesy. One should always doubt others whether they doubt his intents or not. One should not trust one who does not trust him. One should not trust too much even one who trusts him. The fear caused by trust will cut off the root (of the state, that is, the kings life).
The king should appoint in his own country and abroad well-tested spies and scouts. He is advised to appoint heretics and sages (rshis) as envoys to other countries. (Kautilya did not draft the services of the sages for such purposes.) Kanika did not have any regard or preference for pious persons. He cared only for whether the envoy served the interests and purposes of the king who had deputed him. He did not care whether the envoy succeeded through noble methods or through immoral ones.
The Mahabharata is laced with numerous interpolations. The advice to the king to employ his informers in Buddhist temples (bouddhalayas) and in (Hindu) temples (devalayas), in addition to other meeting places like parks, schools, streets, squares and holy places, founts, mounts and forests and rivers and peoples assemblies is obviously the hand of later annotators. Neither Buddha vihars nor Hindu temples had come up during the decades preceding the battle of Kurukshetra though there were centres of education (tirthas) where ethics were taught in addition to other fields of study. The eighteen departments (tirthas) of the administration might not have been meant here for they were not referred to as holy centres (punyakshetras).
The later annotator enumerates these departments as: minister (mantri), political counsellor (purohita), crown prince (yuvaraja), general (senapati), guard of the palace gate (dvarapalaka), chamberlain of the harem (antapura), jailor, revenue officer (samaharta), finance minister (sannidhata), officer in execution of royal commands, city commissioner, officer assigning duties, dharmastha, chief of the legislative assembly (sabha), magistrate and chief of the police (dandapala), chief of the fort, chief of the border areas (antapala). This enumeration is not identical with that given by Kautilyan Arthasastra but is similar to it and may have been in force in some areas when Kautilya outlined his scheme.
Sharp and gentle collection of data about the goings-on in different countries and within the country was important. Even while resolving to do a cruel act the king (and the administrator) should speak to his victim favourably and with a smile on his lips. One who seeks riches should greet his victim, extend promises, speak kind words, bow to him, offer him gifts and lure him. The king is asked to be attractive like a tree in blossoms but without fruits. In other words he should not be useful to others though they admire him. Even if there are fruits on the tree, none should be able to climb it. The wealth of the king should not be accessible to his admirers and opponents even if he flaunts them. The benefits that he promises them should never ripen though they appear to be ripe. Even if they eat those fruits, advantages, promised and given they should be such that the victim could not digest them.
Kanika was well versed in the then categorisation of the values of life (purusharthas) but he approached them not as ideals worth striving for but as political expedients. He pointed out that in pursuit of the three fields, dharma, artha and kama, the difficulties that confront one and the fruits that they promise are of three types.
One should recognise the favourable fruits and keep out the difficulties, he advised. For one who is engaged in doing in excess what is in accordance with justice, dharma, the benefits due from the fields of wealth (artha) and of sex (kama) are affected adversely causing him grief. Similarly intense pursuit of wealth (artha) to the exclusion of morality and justice (dharma) and sex (kama) causes another type of grief. So too being ever given to lust (kama) deprives one of the advantages of a morally satisfying (dharma) and economically (artha) sound life, Kanika knew.
Kanika was crooked and would not hesitate to inflict the worst type of cruelty on his opponent. Yet he did not depart from the wholesome counsel that one should adopt a balanced approach in his pursuits. Of course like other politico-economic thinkers, he did not pay attention to the fourth pursuit, salvation through renunciation of worldly goals. He told the king to eschew egotism (ahamkara) and to be careful in every act and speech. He should be soft-spoken and avoid rage. He should look to the utility of every step that he undertakes and should with a pure intellect deliberate with the scholars (brahmans, jurists) on counsel.
He should raise himself whenever he is weak by gentle or even harsh acts. When he has regained strength (sakti) he may devote himself to performance of duties of a pious and generous nature (dharma). One could be a king devoted to dharma, a dharmaraja, only from a position of strength, Kanika told Dhrtarashtra. Kanika was not totally demoniac in his outlook. (It may be remarked here that of all the ancient Indian political thinkers of India, Kautilya was the most pragmatic and yet never swerved from the path of ethics and morality except while dealing with downright crooks.)
Kanika was more earnest in amassing wealth. For that one had to remain alive and hence one should have no doubt about whether he would survive in the struggle for existence and for power. One whose intellect is wearied has to be consoled narrating to him the careers of the earlier rulers like Rama and encouraged. The chronicler was referring to Rama of Kosala who preceded Krshna and Balarama. The sceptic should be encouraged and made optimistic. One who is a realist and knows all should be given immediate aid and comforted.
Kanika warned that one who was complacent in his friendship with his enemy was like one who slept on the tip of the branch of a tree. He might fall any time and would wake up only after falling down. Kanika was urging the king not to trust the enemy. Without getting angry the king should always hide the counsel that he had sought through deliberations, he said. One should not disclose his views in the presence of the scout.
The king should never deliberate with others during night. He should not deliberate when watched by others. The meetings with the counsellors should be held on tops of hills or in uninhabited but guarded open space. In those spots there should be no lovebirds or parrots or children or idiots or mad persons. All the inmates of the house should be sent out and then deliberations with scholars (Brahmans) who followed dharma and knew political science (rajaniti) and logic (tarkasastra) and were experts in history (itihasa) should be conducted. At the end of the deliberations, protecting their secrecy the king should take the decisions on his own. The counsel given would be recommendatory and not mandatory.
Kanika insisted that the king should follow the advice given earlier by the brave and then assess by himself its merit with reference to morality and economic gains (dharmartha) or in consultation with a jurist (Brahman) who was a perfect intellectual and who was known to him. A clever person (buddhiman) should not consult any third person. Kanika implied that the king might consult the Rajapurohita but not any one else. A counsel that reaches six ears, that is, three persons, is shattered, it is said in policy sciences (nitisastra). A counsel revealed will destroy the wealth already acquired, Kanika, the economist, cautioned the king. One who knows (jnanavan) should reconsider his and others views several times and accept the word that has merit (guna). He should never remain satisfied, Kanika urged his king.
Without exposing the secrets of others and without doing cruel deeds and without cruel baits as used by an angler, one can never gain huge wealth, Kanika opined. The army of an enemy, which has been weakened and diseased and parched and starved and has lost its virility because of complacency, should be harassed. One who has no wealth (artha) does not approach one who has wealth. A friend who has already got his work accomplished will no longer be friendly. Hence no help should ever be completed without leaving something yet to be done.
One who seeks wealth should give up anger and try to acquire friends and continue to show enmity to enemies. Persistence will increase ones zeal, Kanika pointed out. Ones proposed acts should not be known either to friends or to enemies. Others should know only those works that are started and have been completed perfectly. Before the threat comes one should act like a person afraid and seek methods to ward it off. After the threat comes one should behave like a fearless person. One who helps an enemy who has been ruined by the nobles (daiva) like a pregnant mule invites death (mrtyu), that is, the enmity of the commonalty. What has not taken place so far and what will soon happen have to be foreseen, Kanika advised. No benefit should be missed through ignorance.
One who desires wealth (aisvarya) should know the time and place and the power (sakti) of the nobles (daiva) and analyse and weigh the dharma, artha and kama (social, economic and emotional) factors and exert oneself and increase ones zeal, that is, the zeal of ones followers. It needs to be realised that when and where a particular project is undertaken are important for accomplishment of the intent (karyasiddhi).
Kanika warned Dhrtarashtra that an enemy who was sprouting if neglected would get rooted like a palm tree. Hence in the very beginning he should be lured with sweet words of promise of huge wealth and the king should prolong his expectation and cite reasons for delay in extending aid and justify the delay. Even as a sharp razor kept hidden in its sheathe is drawn at the appropriate time to kill the enemy, one should take advantage of time and hiding ones views grasp those of others. The enemy should be ruined and killed, Kanika told Dhrtarashtra. He advised the Kuru ruler not to get sunk while rendering justice to the Pandavas and others. Only one who has all types of wealth is a wealthy person, the king should know. Hence Dhrtarashtra should guard himself against the sons of Pandu. They were the sons of his brother and were very powerful. He should adopt such means that would not allow him to regret later, Kanika advised the king. (Ch.153 Adiparva)
VIDURA AND THE GREAT ESCAPE OF THE PANDAVAS
After hearing Kanikas counsel with the permission of the king, Duryodhana, Karna, Sakuni and Duhsasana decided to get Kunti and her sons burnt down. Vidura, who guessed their plan and learnt its details, prepared a strong barge by which Kunti and her sons could cross the Ganga and escape being killed by their enemies. After disembarking from the barge as suggested by Vidura with the riches given by the Kauravas, they went to a forest that was safe for them. Vaishampayana told Janamejaya that a huntress who was staying in the house built of lac was inexplicably burnt along with her five sons in that house. Purocana, a pilot and an alien, too got burnt down. There is an attempt to absolve the Pandavas of the charge that they had got innocent persons killed to save themselves.
The sons of Dhrtarashtra and their allies were tricked. As advised by Vidura, Kunti and her sons disappeared safely without being noticed by the natives (jana) of Varanavata. The people only wept that the palace had been burnt down. Viduras men sent message to the king that his object had been fulfilled and that he and his sons could enjoy the kingdom, as they desired. The king along with Duryodhana arranged for the performance of the last rites of the Pandavas and their mother. Vidura and Bhishma too took part in that programme, Vaishampayana told Janamejaya. The latter wanted to hear the true account of the burning of the house of lac and the escape of the Pandavas.
According to Vaishampayana, Dhrtarashtra held Yudhishtira in high esteem even as he had regard for Pandu who always adhered to dharma and was just to all. Pandu kept Dhrtarashtra informed about all state affairs and the latter had no complaints against him. So too, Yudhishtira enjoyed the support of all the descendants of Puru. And it was not possible to forcibly evict him from the state, which he had inherited. Besides he had many assistants and was being aided by Pandu's ministers. Pandu's army too was ever nurtured by Yudhishtira; and the sons and grandsons of the soldiers supported him. Dhrtarashtra warned Duryodhana that if they took any action against Yudhishtira and his brothers the natives of that city might kill them. But Duryodhana argued that he had won over the ministers with riches and rewards and that the Pandavas must be persuaded to go to Varanavata.
Dhrtarashtra too had this plan in mind but hesitated as Bhishma, Drona, Krpa and Vidura would never agree to this proposal as for them the Pandavas too belonged to the Kuru lineage and were on par with the Dhartarashtras and those who respected dharma would not discriminate between the two. Duryodhana claimed that Bhishma would remain neutral while Dronas son was his supporter. He hence expected Drona and Krpa too to support him while Vidura was dependent on his brother for his economic needs. These arguments persuaded Dhrtarashtra to send the Pandavas away to Varanavata. (Ch.154 Adiparva)
Dhrtarashtra through his confidantes made them believe that they were being sent there to attend a grand festival in honour of Siva. He complimented them for having mastered all sciences and martial arts and offered to look after the protection of the state and after economic affairs and social welfare activities while they went there with the troops and kinsmen and enjoyed like nobles. He gave the impression that they were being sent there as autonomous governors and that they could return to the capital after some time. The Pandavas took leave of Bhishma and others and went there assured that they would regain their state. Yudhishtira told Vidura that it was at Dhrtarashtras instance they were going to Varanavata. (Ch.155 Adiparva)
Vaishampayana told Janamejaya that Duryodhana plotted with Karna and Sakuni and employed Purocana to construct the house of lac where the Pandavas were to be made to stay while at Varanavata and get burnt down with that building while the people were engaged in the festival. [During the last decades of the long Vedic era, Siva was the most charismatic of the leaders of the social periphery including the forests and mountains. He had not yet been raised to the level of God.] Purocana had to ensure that the people of that forest town entertained no doubts about how the Pandavas were got killed. Purocana was given liberal gifts for this task. (Ch. 156)
The Pandavas left for Varanavata after paying their regards to Bhishma and others and were given due send-off by the people of the capital. They asked the few citizens who accompanied them to return to their homes. Vaishampayana held that Dhrtarashtra was unable to reconcile with the Pandavas inheriting the kingdom ruled by their father and had hence taken part in the plot to kill them. Why did Bhishma approve this exiling of the Pandavas from the capital without any cause? The son of Santanu (and brother of Vicitravirya) was like a father to them.
The people held that after the death of Pandu, Dhrtarashtra had become jealous of his children. But Yudhishtira advised them to return home and be ready to help them when required. After the people who were supporters of Pandu and the Pandavas left Vidura told Yudhishtira how to protect himself against his enemies who had plotted to kill him.
Vidura's Policy (niti)
One who follows the science (sastra) of political policy (rajaniti) and learns the mind of the enemy should after knowing the threat adopt the means to overcome it. One who knows the sharp weapon, which is not made of metal but yet can sever the body, should learn the method to defeat it. Enemies cannot kill such a person, Vidura pointed out. One who guards oneself like the rat, which hides itself in its hole, while the forest around is burning, will survive, he said. Vidura hinted that if there was an attempt to burn down his house he should hide himself in a tunnel.
Vidura advised him to keep his eyes open for a blind man does not know the path by which or the direction in which he goes. A coward cannot gain wealth, he warned. Vidura said that a commoner (unarmed manushya) received from the enemy a weapon that was not made of metal and used it to hit him back. Vidura hinted that the Pandavas would be facing not weapons like daggers but other threats like fire and poison and they should escape these and use the same methods to kill the enemy.
The porcupine hides itself in its hole and escapes from the fire, he pointed out. A pedestrian learns the direction in which he goes by looking at the stars above. Vidura counselled that one who restrained his five senses would never be afflicted by any harm. Yudhishtira replied that he had understood the advice. Yudhishtira then told Kunti what advice Vidura had given him. The Pandava explained to her that Vidura had hinted in his terse remarks what threats they had to face and how to guard their selves.
Yudhishtiras status in Varanavata
Yudhishtira and the other Pandavas were received enthusiastically when they reached Varanavata. The chronicler told Janamejaya that when the people of that town surrounded him, Yudhishtira appeared like Indra surrounded by the nobles (devas). Vaishampayana implied that with respect to Varanavata, a small town located in the forest, Yudhishtira had the status and power of Indra, the head of the nobility. The Pandavas entered their house in that town. Vaishampayana said that the rich and respected leaders (purushasreshtas), the Pandavas, who came on their chariots visited the houses of the Brahmans (jurists) who were engaged in their duties and of the officers of that town and also those of the rich and the poor (Vaisyas and Shudras). The autonomous forest town did not have any troops of its own. The four-varnas system had not yet come into force there. [It is unsound to hold that the Brahmans referred to here were priests or teachers.]
But ten days later Purocana shifted them to the new house that he had built for them. Yudhishtira could smell that it was built of inflammable lac. He told his brother, Bhimasena, that Vidura had already alerted him about Purocanas plan to kill them at the instance of Duryodhana. Bhima replied that if so they should quit that place early.
Bhima had reservations about the approach that Yudhishtira adopted. He was against the move to leave Hastinapura and set up the new capital at Varanavata in the forest. He had argued for staying back in Hastinapura with the Kauravas and facing all days, bad and good. He did not want to permit Duryodhana to get a strong foothold there as king, during their absence. There was a danger of Duryodhana becoming king and the people joining his side. He wanted the Pandavas to live there but giving the Kauravas blows. He wanted that the Pandavas should snatch the kingdom at the favourable time and benefit from their fathers legacy uninterrupted.
Bhima was against following Dhrtarashtras instructions. It was a sign of weakness to agree to go away from the Kauravas. He expected besides Vidura, Drona too to be favourable to them. He expected Bhishma and Bahlika and other elders to remain neutral. He reminded Yudhishtira of the attempts that Duryodhana had made to kill him. Bhima had lost faith in god (isvara). [This remark must have been a later interpolation.] He would observe patience but not for all times. When unable to bear the harassment they should seek their own welfare, Bhima argued. He was not advocating going to war immediately. They should use friendly talks (sama), gifts (dana) and rift (bheda) before going to war with the Kauravas, he agreed. Hence they should stay with the Kauravas in Hastinapura, he had argued. Bhima was against being timid.
Yudhishtira however advised that they should find out a safe way to stay in that house of lac carefully. They should not let Purocana realise that they had found out his plan. He might resort to violence any time and he was one who did not care for public criticism or for sin. Yudhishtira did not expect Bhishma to speak in their favour after they were killed in fire. Bhishma would not antagonise the Kauravas. He and other Kaurava elders might be angry that the codes of dharma had been violated but it would be of no use if they were dead. Hence the Pandavas should live to fight.
The tunnel and the escape
Open fight was not advisable, as Duryodhana was in control of the state and they, Pandavas, were not. He had supporters while they had no wealth. Hence to deceive the sinner, Duryodhana, they should be constantly shifting their residence. They should be wandering on the earth as hunters and learn all the routes of escape. Yudhishtira proposed that a tunnel be dug and they escape under cover of smoke unknown to the people of that town. Vidura had deputed a miner (kanaka) with instructions to save the Pandavas from the burning house of lac. He knew about Duryodhanas instructions to Purocana. Yudhishtira was delighted to learn that the miner was a confidante of Vidura. The miner told him about the tunnel that he proposed to dig secretly from that house to a safe place in the forest. The Pandavas took care to ensure that Purocana did not discover their plan to escape.
They arranged a programme for feeding the poor. A huntress who was in the pay books of Purocana stayed back in the house of lac with her five sons, while the Pandavas and their mother, Kunti, escaped through the tunnel. Purocana, the huntress and her five sons were burnt down when the Pandavas set that house of lac on fire and escaped. The people of Varanavata suspected that Duryodhana had plotted to kill the Pandavas and their mother and condemned him. Bhima who took the initiative in getting the house burnt along with the huntress and her sons and Purocana carried his mother and brothers to safety swiftly through the thick forest. The chronicler was eager to protect Yudhishtira while the Pandavas were charged with having caused the death of innocent and unwary persons to save their own lives. The blame was cast on Bhima who would have preferred open war to secret means.
Vidura, a scholar and legislator (kavi) of Hastinapura, deputed one of his confidantes to that forest to transport them by a ship across the Ganga. Vidura used fables and anagrams, metaphors and allegories to convey his messages to the Pandavas and his followers. As the mariner and fisherman mentioned one such metaphor with a code, Yudhishtira was convinced that he was Viduras man and went with him to a forest across the Ganga.
Varanavata, autonomous forest town
The people of the autonomous forest town, Varanavata, sent messengers to Hastinapura to inform the king how Kunti and her sons and Purocana had perished in the forest fire that enveloped their house. They accused Duryodhana of having caused their death and alleged that Dhrtarashtra was an accomplice in that crime. Dhrtarashtra pretended innocence and shed (crocodile) tears for the death of the Pandavas. He was happy that Pandus regime and lineage had ended. He directed that men be sent to Varanavata to honour Kunti and her sons.
Along with his sons and Bhishma and Vidura, he went to Varanavata to perform the last rites of his brothers sons and wife on the banks of Ganga. Vidura too behaved like one who believed that the Pandavas and Kunti had died. He knew how vicious Dhrtarashtra was. The statement that Vidura thought that Brahmadeva had created Dhrtarashtra as a vicious person must have been a later interpolation. The concept of the trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Siva as gods of creation, protection and destruction came into vogue only later during the medieval times.
Bhishma's assessment of Yudhishtira
Vidura wondered how far away the Pandavas could have gone. Bhishma said that he could not believe that Kunti and the Pandavas had died. He had a high opinion about Yudhishtira who had been installed as crown prince in his fathers state and who never violated the laws based on truth (satya) and morality and justice (dharma). Yudhishtira liked the Brahmans (jurists) and was an expert in analysing every issue, according to Bhishma. The Pandavas were born to Kunti by nobles (devas). Bhishma was disappointed that this birth in nobility (daivam) had gone waste. Kunti had not died with her husband, as she loved her sons deeply. She had died without her dreams about them fulfilled.
Bhishma could not believe that Bhima a powerful warrior had died. Similarly he could not believe that Arjuna, the great charioteer and archer who had defeated the kings in all areas, east, west and south, and had brought under his control all the three social worlds (lokas) who was equal to Indra had passed away. Similarly he could not believe that the twins too had died. He lamented the death of his daughter-in-law, Kunti, the daughter of a Yadu king and his grandsons who were still in their boyhood while performing the last rites for them. Vidura then consoled him and told him that the Pandavas and their mother had not died and that he had arranged for their escape and safety. Vidura told him in confidence about how he foiled the plan hatched by Duryodhana with the consent of Dhrtarashtra and how he had sent them by ship to the other side of Ganga.
He assured Bhishma that they would resurface and the commoners (manushyas) of the plains (bhumi) would be able to see Yudhishtira at the appropriate time. One who had Bhima and Arjuna and the sons of Madri, as his brothers could not be destroyed, Vidura said. Bhishma was happy that Vidura had saved them. But Dhrtarashtra was complacent that the Pandavas and their mother had died. Drona and others had no idea of the escape of the Pandavas. The people could not believe that the Pandavas had died in the forest fire. According to Vaishampayana, though he was sore that Yudhishtira had not permitted him to fight against their enemies and destroy them, Bhima submitted to his orders and carried his mother and brothers across the forest to the side of a lake close to a town. (Ch.162, 163 Adiparva)
Bhima and Hidimba, the forest guard
While they slept out of fatigue and Bhima stood guard, Hidimba, a ferocious forest guard (rakshasa) chanced to see them. Later annotators have presented these unruly guards as cannibals. Hidimba knew that his sister, Hidimba, was not afraid of the commoners (manushyas) who often intruded into the forest areas. He asked her to bring them to him. Hidimba got enamoured of the mighty youth, Bhima and decided not to allow him to be killed by her brother. She told him why she had been sent to fetch them and also about her liking for him. She promised to save him and his mother from the cannibal and asked him to marry her. She claimed to be one who could move freely in the open space (akasa) over the mountains.
Bhima however refused to abandon his brothers as victims to be killed by the guard (rakshasa). He claimed that the cruel forest guards (rakshasas), commoners of the plains (manushyas), free intellectuals and independent warriors (gandharvas) and plutocrats (yakshas) of the frontier society would not be able to withstand his prowess. He did not claim to be stronger than the nobles (devas). During the last decades of the Vedic era, the feudal lords (asuras) had been pushed out of the core society of the plains and it was not easy for the later annotators to distinguish between them and the rakshasas who were confined to the forests and the social periphery.
Hidimba became impatient when his sister did not return and got down from his post of observation on the tree and went towards where the Pandavas were sleeping. Hidimba urged Bhima to escape with her. But Bhima refused saying that he was as powerful as Indra and that she could see his strength when he fought with her brother. She agreed that he looked like a devata (a powerful noble of the forest area, marginally lower than an aristocrat, deva, of the core society of the plains in status) and that she had seen the might of a forest guard (rakshasa) in some commoners (manushyas). She knew that Bhima was not a deva or devata but was only a commoner and submitted that she did not try to underestimate Bhimas might.
When Hidimba, the rakshasa, who was against the commoners (manushyas) heard this conversation and found that his sister was dressed like a commoner and was a manushya in fact and at heart he became angry with her. He accused her of having insulted the earlier rakshasa rulers by her love for a commoner and threatened to kill all the Pandavas and her too. Vaishampayana was interpreting to Janamejaya the conflict in outlook between the rulers of the forest and their guards and the commoners of the plains. Bhimasena told Hidimba that it did not behove him to kill women, especially his sister. Hidimba was enamoured of his body and it was not love born of intellect.
She was acting urged by a formless amour moving within her body and it was not an expression of the feelings in her heart. She was the victim of Eros and should not be disparaged, Bhima told her brother. He challenged Hidimba to a duel and said that he would rid the forest of cannibals like him and make it safe for the commoners (manushyas) who were residing in the forest. But Hidimba had only contempt for them. The duel with bare hands and trees and rocks, between the two looked like the battles between Indra and Vrtra, between Indra and Bali, that took place in the prolonged war between the nobles (devas) and the feudal warlords (asuras). The din of the duel woke up the Pandavas and their mother who saw Hidimba standing in front of them. (Ch.165 Adiparva)
Who was Hidimba?
The Pandavas who were leading personages (purushasreshtas) in the core society and their mother, Kunti, were struck by the extraordinary beauty of Hidimba, a beauty that was rarely seen amongst commoners (manushyas). Kunti wondered whether she was a girl who belonged to the aristocracy (daivam) of the core society or to the aristocracy (devata) of the forest or was an apsaras, member of the free intelligentsia devoted to fine arts and beauty. Hidimba said that she was the sister of the chief (raja) of the guards, rakshasas and that she had been sent to entice them to his lair.
She asked Kunti to witness the duel between her son, Bhima who was a free man (nara) and Hidimba who was a rakshasa, a guard. Naras were engaged by the rulers of the rural areas as volunteers to keep out the forest brigands and to maintain law and order. Bhima (a nara) was battling Hidimba, the unruly forest guard (a rakshasa). Arjuna asked Bhima to take rest while his brothers fought against the guard but Bhima was bent on killing the latter.
He was the son of Vayu, a mighty storm trooper. After Bhima killed Hidimba, Yudhishtira suggested that they should go to the neighbouring town. Hidimba accompanied them. She told Kunti and Yudhishtira that she was in love with Bhima and that it was not different from the love that in the social world (loka) of commonalty women feel for men. Hidimba told her that she had given up her supporters and her dharma as the sister of a rakshasa and adopted Kuntis son as her husband. She would not survive if he and Kunti rejected her.
Kunti was required to show compassion for her as an ignorant woman or as one who loved the former or as one who followed her ways. If Kunti got Hidimba united with her son, she would go away in her path as a devata with Bhimas son. The aristocrats (devas) neither of the core society nor of the frontier society were known to have procreated sons and daughters on women of their own class. They were required to have union with the apsarases or commoners (manushyas) for producing children. The women of the aristocracy united with gandharvas and commoners for bearing children.
Isvaras and Isvaris
Hidimba said that she would have surrendered to Bhima earlier but the arrival of her brother had prevented it. She claimed that she was not a rakshasi and was not one who roamed at night. She said that she was an isvari, known as salaka tankati. Isvaras and isvaris were charismatic figures who were held in great regard by the population of the social periphery. Hidimba must have let her tresses down unable to bear separation from the person she had loved. She was not born as Hidimbas sister and the latter had no hold over her. She was prepared to marry Bhima and serve the Pandavas and their mother. She was acquainted with the principles of dharma and the four purusharthas, dharma, artha, kama and moksha. She appealed to Bhima to save her who was afflicted by lust. Hidimba claimed that she had the ability to recall the past events and foretell the future.
She predicted that they would come across Vyasa the next day near the pond and that he would remove their grief. She claimed that Vyasa knew all that had happened since Duryodhana exiled them and that Vyasa would arrange for their stay at the abode of the Saligrama sage. It is obvious that the chronicler was introducing Vyasa in the scene and used her extraordinary skill to foretell the future to create suspense.
After hearing her words, Kunti told Yudhishtira who knew all dharmas to listen to her views. Kunti held that Hidimba, though a rakshasi, had expounded all dharmas correctly and that she should be permitted to unite with Bhima for procreating a son. Yudhishtira permitted her to be with Bhima during daytime but she should bring him back at night. For, while the commoners and sages could move about anywhere during the daytime, only nobles (devas), gandharvas and apsarases, yakshas and rakshas were free to move about during night. She should be ever alert about his safety, he stipulated.
Hidimba escorted the Pandavas and Kunti to the pond near the transit point, Saligrama and arranged for their stay under a tree. They talked about the events since they reached the house of lac. Kunti advised Bhima to treat Yudhishtira as equal to his father and hoped that she and the Pandavas would soon come across good days. She directed Bhima to give Hidimba a son as it was within the framework of dharma. She expected that son to help them. Bhima asked her to behave with him like a girl belonging to a noble community. She sported with him in beautiful spots during the day and returned him to his brothers at night. It was then that Krshna Dvaipayana met them and advised them to stay there for a few months and then reach the abode of the Saligrama sage. He told Kunti that her sons would certainly regain their kingdom through dharma. He predicted that Hidimba would bear a son by Bhima and that that son would save them in times of need.
Hidimba (Kamalapalika, one who wore lotuses in her ears) wore ornaments that were rare among men (manushyas) and could appear in different forms. She stayed with Bhima for seven months until she became pregnant. The son born to them was huge and hideous to look at. He was powerful and mastered all martial arts including archery. Gatotkaca was taught to greet Kunti and the Pandavas in the due order. He assured them that he would return to them like a person equal to Ravana and his son, Indrajit, in might. He was destined to fight against Karna. Bhima then asked Hidimba to withdraw from the scene as her object was fulfilled and that she might meet him after he returned to power.
The Saligrama sage welcomed the Pandavas and helped them to dress themselves like sages of the forest and appear like Brahmans and study Vedas and their branches. He helped them to gain the knowledge (jnana) of the science (sastra) of political policy (rajaniti) and logic (tarka-sastra). He told them how to go from one forest to another. Saligrama was located at the intersection of four states, Matsya, Trikartta, Pancala and Kicaka (in the Ganga-Yamuna doab) and was a point where travellers exchanged horses. It was also a centre where the tired got treatment. The Saligrama sage was a veterinarian and also ran a maternity home beside the pond where Hidimba delivered her son. The Pandavas met Vyasa on the way. He escorted them to the nearby town, Ekacakrapura and lodged them in the house of a Brahman and then went away.
THE TOWN WITH A SINGLE COUNCIL
Janamejaya was eager to know the events that took place after the Pandavas reached Ekacakrapura. While Yudhishtira and Kunti stayed all the time in the house of the Brahman, the other Pandavas went out daily dressed as Brahman students to seek alms. Some of their neighbours felt that they deserved to be princes and some doubted whether they were really Brahmans. They thought that the lads who were moving about observing silence must be spies in disguise. Half of the food collected was given to Bhima while Kunti and her other sons shared the rest.
The Brahman host and his wife
Once while others went for begging alms, Bhimasena was staying at the Brahmans house with Kunti when he heard loud wailing. Kunti told him that she wanted to help the Brahman in return for the help the latter had given. Bhima asked her to find out why the Brahman and the other members of his family were in distress. Kunti listened to the conversation between the Brahman and his wife. He considered his domestic life as one uninteresting and fruitless, as cause of pain and submission to others and as one to be despised. He found only grief in surviving. He found surviving caused only increase in desire. The life of one who barely lives cannot escape the dualities like pain and pleasure. He knew that only the soul (atma) experienced the benefits of the three values, dharma, artha and kama. Separation from these experiences causes endless and great sorrow. Some praised the pursuit of salvation, moksha.
But that Brahman did not believe that one could ever attain salvation and escape from the cycle of births and deaths. By gaining wealth (artha) one invites only sins that lead him to hell (naraka). Earning wealth is a painful process. Wealth gained causes more pain. One who has developed love for wealth experiences great grief when it leaves him. For one who gains the riches that he sought, sorrow is like a nail thrust deep in his heart, he moaned. That Brahman regretted that he had not been able to develop vairagya, dispassion required to overcome his difficulties.
For, domestic life with his wife would last only for a short period and it was full of fears. He did not know how he could become free from this fear. He wanted to run away with his wife and children to a place where he would not be troubled. He told his Brahman wife that she knew how he had tried once earlier to do so, but she did not want to leave the place where she was born and where her parents lived. Even after the death of her parents and her kinsmen she refused to move out. He held that one should go to that country even if it was far off where he would not lack food and where his wifes kinsmen would not interfere in his life. As she wanted to be with her kinsmen, they were facing the danger of losing their son, he said. It meant his death. For, it would be cruel if he allowed any of his kinsmen, to die while he lived.
That Brahman held his marital life having been an ideal one that followed the rules prescribed in the dharma code. The wife had to always perform all rites along with her husband, control her five senses, and be like a mother and friend to her husband. She should provide him the support stipulated by the nobles (devas) and should have been nominated as wife by the husbands parents and have a share in the domestic life. He was referring to the provisions of the daiva pattern of marriage, which he had entered into with her after having been directed by his patron noble and his parents.
The daiva pattern did not permit him to take any step without her consent. The wife should have been born in a good clan and be of good conduct and should have a male issue and be chaste. She should never harm others and should ever agree with her husband and should have been married duly with marital mantras (formulae). That Brahman said that he was not able to give up his life, as his wife was such an ideal one. He could not leave in lurch his daughter who had not yet attained puberty.
Daughter and parents as her gaurdians
Vaishampayana pointed out to his audience that it was wrong to hold that the Vedic society was partial to men and sons and neglected the women and the daughters. The Brahman held that according to the social constitution, Brahma, the young daughter whose sex organs were not yet fully developed was to be protected like a treasure by the parents and was meant for the use of her husband.
Father and son
The parents were her guardians. This did not give them the right to extract labour from her while she was at their home or to give her away in marriage without her consent before she attained the age of consent. In other words, Brahma marriage was a later development. A father could gain salvation after death not only through his son and the sons son but also through the daughter and her son. Not only the father but his ancestors too were eligible to become free from their debts by both lineages. The concept that only the sons lineage came to the rescue of a father is a later development.
A father loved his son and his daughter equally, the Brahman (a jurist) insisted. The father cannot abandon the girl who is flawless and who is capable of bearing a grandson for him to enable him to enjoy the life of a blessed person. The question of abandoning the son did not arise. For, it was on the birth of that son his grandfather and other ancestors ascended to the community of aristocrats (svargaloka). By the birth of the son, the father was discharged of his debts.
This beloved son, especially the eldest son was the saviour of the clan (kula). Hence the Brahman found it difficult to digest the prospect of his having to lose that son. One member of the family, the husband or the wife, the son or the daughter had to be sacrificed then. The Brahman was in a dilemma and did not know whether to sacrifice his life or that of one of the other members of his family. His sacrifice would lead to their death by removing their protector. He felt that it was better to die along with all of them.
Kunti heard the Brahmans wife criticising him for expressing like an ordinary commoner (manushya) his pity for his wife and children. For a scholar (vidvan) like him, it was not the time to show pity. All manushyas of this social world have to die. There is no need to feel grief for this inevitable happening. Man thinks that wife, son and daughter and all things are meant for him. She did not appreciate mans possessiveness that lay hidden in the claim that he was required to protect the rest of his family or die instead of them. She offered to go there (the den of the raksha). It was an ancient dharma of women of this social world (loka) to give their lives for the good of their husbands, she said. Such sacrifice was a duty to be performed to attain the other higher world (of nobility). It makes the present career of the husband comfortable and gives permanent benefit in his future career (paraloka). It gives him renown in the present life, she claimed.
She told him that what she proposed to tell him too was within the framework of dharma. She finds in that proposal benefit for him both in economic terms (artha) and in cultural terms (dharma). Man desires to have a wife to have offspring and her husband had secured them in the form of a son and a daughter. He had thus freed her from her debts. A father is able to bring up and protect his daughter and son, but the mother is not capable of doing so to the same extent. It is the husband (as isvara, charismatic benefactor) who grants her, her breath, life (prana) and wealth (dana).
A woman cannot produce offspring without union with a man. She cannot protect them without his aid. It would be difficult for a young widow without a guardian to bring up the two children even while going along the path of the honest and the pious, she said. A woman without a husband is desired and pounced on by all people like birds pouncing on meat thrown on the earth. She would not be able to stand in the path of the pious widows after losing her steadfastness, desired by evil men. The author was bringing out succinctly the plight of young widows who had to bring up their children without aid.
Free women and orientations of the commoners
The jurists (Brahmans) wife felt that a woman born in the social world of commonalty (manushyas), which is full of evil men, is deemed to be low. [She would not say the same of the status that women had amidst the nobles (devas) and the free intelligentsia (gandharvas and apsarases), the two other major sectors of the core society.] When a virgin she was under the influence of her parents and after marriage under that of her husband and when they were absent under that of her son. This was the norm only in the social world of commoners who were bound by the laws of their clans and communities. This was not the norm amongst the aristocrats and the free intelligentsia where women were as independent as men were.
In the social world of commonalty (manushyas) a woman who remained independent (svatantra) determining the course of her life by herself was spoken ill of. [This has been so till recent times.] For the woman who has no guardian, it is like opening the door to evil men to drag her to pieces even as dogs tear a cloth soaked in ghee. This is a note on how men take liberties with unguarded women.
The safety of women in a community where men dictate terms requires their being provided domestic protection at all stages in their lives. She was diffident of her ability to bring up and educate all alone his only son in the traditions of his ancestors. She feared that evil persons would desire her young daughter in preference to her. [The note that it would be as violating of the norm as Shudras seeking to study Vedas is obviously a later undesirable interpolation.] They would take her away forcibly polluting her life.
She warned her husband who offered to die to save the other members of his family that if her daughter was violated by scoundrels leading to her being insulted by arrogant men (manushyas) of the commonalty she would swoon and die. The children given up by their parents would die like fish in a dry pond, she feared. If he abandoned them it would lead to the ruin and death of all the other three, wife, son and daughter. Hence it was advisable that she should be given up (to the cruel guard, rakshasa), the wife said.
Vaishampayana then explains the orientation of a married woman desiring to predecease her husband. The Brahmans wife who too was acquainted with the contents of dharmasastra pointed out to her learned husband that experts in that socio-cultural code considered it a great fortune for a woman who had a son, to go to the other world before her husband did. In their view it was not comfortable for mothers to lead an unsettled life in this world depending on their sons. The ancients by the term, paraloka referred to the cadre of aristocracy (devas) including intellectual aristocracy.
The scholars, both men and women of the commonalty expected to become part of that aristocracy on completion of their domestic duties. They did not want to remain dependent on their sons. A woman who dies in front of her husband with all insignia of a married woman (sumangali) is said to reach the company of Parvati, the consort of Siva and daughter of the king of the mountains. Vaishampayana says that such a wife became a companion of Parvati and led a happy life. [This is a Saivaite orientation and is of later origin.]
According to Vaishampayana, a woman receives gifts from her father and mother and also from her son. But these are meagre compared to the unlimited gifts that she receives from her husband and hence cannot but worship him. On the issue of performance of duties pertaining to the different asramas, stages of life, he says that a woman was not entitled to perform those rites without her honoured husband. It is implied that a concubine or a widow or a separated woman is not eligible to perform them. Such women might only remain patient and pure and observe fasts. The Brahmans wife told her husband that she was giving up her son and daughter and kinsmen and was retaining her life in expectation of being sent to her fate.
Women's duties and immunities
For women, not to give up the wishes and good of the husband is better than performing social duties like yajna, tapas, rules of prescription (niyamas) and charity (dana), she argued. Hence she wanted to predecease her husband, an act that the social code, dharma, had agreed to, according to her. It was not mere death wish or act of suicide. What she proposed was in his favour and that of his clan (kula) and the children that they loved. She argued that in the opinion of the pious (sadhu), sons and riches and friends and wife are desired but may be given up under the rules of emergency (apaddharma).
According to the rules of emergency, accumulation of riches is meant for tiding over an emergency and through such wealth the woman has to be protected (after the death of the husband). For protecting oneself, one may always draw on his accumulated wealth and that with his wife, Vaishampayana explained through the arguments advanced by the wife of the Brahman of Ekacakrapura.
The scholars (vidvan) had decided that wife, son, wealth and house were to be acquired as both visible and invisible assets, fruits of labour. The benefit of the entire clan is one of the two plates of the scale and the benefit of the one who makes that clan continue to flourish is the other. According to these scholars, an individual is more important than his clan. The wife hence exhorted her Brahman husband to protect himself. When he is not present in his settled community (loka) there is nothing for him.
In other words, a free man, nara, was not entitled to have any possession. He was not eligible to set up a family. Even if he were to merge in the vast undefined social universe (jagat), it would not be equal to him with an identity in this social world (loka). [It appears that she was warding off the suggestion that he was not going to his death but was going out to merge in the vast universe and hence his departure was not to be prevented.] She asked him to get his purpose fulfilled through her. She asked him to save himself from drowning. She requested him to permit her to go and he should protect her children.
Those who know the principles of social laws (dharma) have said in the social codes (dharmasastras) that women should not be killed. They say that the rakshasas too knew them (dharma). The rakshasa whom she would meet on behalf of her family might not kill her. There was no doubt that he would kill men. But it was doubtful whether he would kill women. She told her husband who knew dharma that it was fit that she was sent to meet that rakshasa. As she had enjoyed all joys and obtained whatever she desired and had followed the code of dharma and obtained fame by attending on him and had secured offspring by him, death would not pain her, she claimed.
Remarriage for men
After he had let her go, he could marry another woman and that would enable him to be back in the path of dharma. A widower was not permitted to perform many rituals and could not be head of the family. He had to marry again. She also claimed that it was not against social laws, dharma, for a man to have many wives. Only for women, it was a sin to supersede the first husband and marry another. [The practice of divorce had not yet come into force but the practice of superseding of husband was in vogue even as that of wife.]
Giving up ones life clears off all these sins. Hence he should save himself, his children and his clan (kula), she urged. But the husband embraced her and said that he realised that one should not abandon a wife who knows (jnana) (who is learned) and his children. A husband who is an intellectual in this social world (of commonalty) should always protect his wife first. (She too was an intellectual.) If a husband should live abandoning his wife and children who should never be abandoned it means that he has not understood the principles of any of the four pursuits of life, dharma, artha, kama and moksha, the scholar said.
When the Brahman and his wife were discussing the issue of who of them should go to meet the rakshasa, their daughter told them that the social laws, dharma, required that they should give her up. By abandoning her who deserved to be given up they should save all of them, she urged. One desires an offspring to save him (from hell) and they should use her to cross the danger, even as one uses a float to cross the river. She told the Brahman scholar that her sacrifice would help them to cross the danger either in their present career (this loka) or in the other (future) one (paraloka).
Only a son who makes his parents cross the danger is called a putra, she said. The ancestors, who are described as pitrs and dayadas, always desire only grandsons (sons of sons) to survive and not the grandsons by daughters whom the latter would take away with them, she noticed. [There is an undercurrent of sadness that a daughter is neglected while a son is preferred.] Hence she would save her fathers life, by giving up hers, if necessary.
Her brother was yet a child. Hence if the father went away to the other world (that is, if he died), that childs life would be cut short, If the father was dead and the son too died, the desires of the ancestors for salvation would remain unfulfilled and that would make them despair, for there would be no one in the family to continue the tradition of offering pindas to the ancestors (pitrs). She who was not accustomed to grieving too would die soon without her parents and brother.
Orientations of Younger generation of Women
If her father got free from the disease that afflicted his mind then her mother and her brother and his offspring would ensure the continuity of their lineage and satisfy their ancestors, she said. The Brahmans daughter was voicing the views of the younger generation of the women who were being discriminated against by the society when she cited the saying, One is ones son; wife is ones companion; daughter is sorrow.
Hence he should get free from his sorrow and make her act according to the intents of the social laws, dharma, she urged. If she survived and her father was away she would be constrained to stay somewhere as an orphan always in grief. But if she aided him to make her clan (kula) attain salvation, she would get the reward for doing a rare feat. Instead if he went away leaving her behind, she would be afflicted adversely. Hence she appealed to that pious man (sadhu) to save himself for the sake of the members of his family, of dharma and of his lineage. He should not lose this chance to carry out this essential purpose.
If he went away to the other world of autonomous individuals (svargaloka, heaven in common parlance), the other members of his family would be constrained to beg for food and would be chased away like dogs, she wept. If he got free with his family and kinsmen unharmed, she would be living in the other world comfortably like a person who was not dead. The young girl (like a heretic) interpreted that in the world the cadres of nobles and elders, devas and pitrs, are present only to induce the commoners to perform their duty of giving (dana). If she died and her last rites were performed she would be benefited.
She asked her father to weigh all the arguments and do what was the best for him, her mother and his son. The parents may get other sons in place of the dead sons but the sons can never get parents. As she wept, her parents too wept and their innocent son asked them not to weep. Kunti thought that it was the appropriate time to intervene and know what caused their anxiety and give them hope of survival.
Kunti told the Brahman that she wanted to know the exact cause of their grief so that she might try to find a remedy and if she could, remove that grief. The Brahman thought that she was an ascetic engaged in tapas and told her that what she said might be apt for pious persons (sadhus) but it was not possible for commoners (manushyas) to remove the cause of their grief. Yet he would tell her how their sorrow began and she might hear it, whether it was possible for her to remedy it or not.
Ekachakrapura and the contract with Baka, the forest guard
Ekacakrapura was located near the source of Yamuna. A forest guard (rakshasa), Baka, lived in a cave near that town. He was a sadist and cruel person and was believed to be a cannibal. The powerful chieftain, Baka, was the head of that town (pura) and the country (desa) around it. It was believed that he grew up on human flesh and was huge in size and capable of taking any form. It was thirteen years since he began controlling that town. Because of him that town was like an orphan without a protector. From his cave he was harassing all the natives (jana) of the rural areas, including women, children, the aged and the young. He was extolled and worshipped by the senior Brahmans (jurists and intellectuals) of that town.
To stop him from harassing and killing the people indiscriminately, these Brahmans entered into an agreement with him. They undertook that the residents would offer him all the food that he (and his men) needed and every house would send to him daily one man and two bulls as protection share (rakshasa bhaga). This militant, a sadist, was appointed to protect the people of that town who did not have a government or an army of their own. Baka agreed to it and followed it strictly and protected that town from the troops of others and from wild animals. He had to be paid one man (manushya) per week as wages. This payment, a difficult one for the people (jana) to meet, was going on for several years, the Brahman said.
Ekacakrapura, which was administered by intellectuals and jurists (Brahmans), did not have an army of its own and did not have a king. The rebel militant who was not allowed entry into the town and was required to stay on the periphery was in a position to prevent the townsmen from having access to the rural areas. He could starve the people of the town. They agreed to his terms in return for the protection he offered. His food needs had to be met and his work force was strengthened by the addition of one earning member per week surrendered by the townsmen. It was short-sighted to have agreed to his terms. It also exhibited lack of community-spirit among the intellectuals who recommended governance along non-coercive lines. This led to the strange dependence on inhuman militants (rakshasas) for protection and strengthening their economy at the expense of that of the commoners (manushyas). If any commoner tried to free the town of this abominable agreement, he would destroy his entire family.
The Brahman told Kunti that the people of the autonomous town, Ekacakrapura, where every family took charge of administration by rotation for a week, once approached the ruler who lived in Vetrakiyagrha (a house made of reeds) for help. That dull king could not find out a way for their becoming free from the inhuman agreements, which the Brahmans of Ekachakrapura had entered into with the militant chief, Baka. [No cause is served by accusing Baka of having been a cannibal and by giving the impression that all insurgents, rakshasas, were cannibals.] The Brahman charged that the king failed to adopt a method by which there would be long-term benefit for the people (jana) of that autonomous town, Ekacakrapura.
The Brahman lamented that the people, especially, Brahmans of the autonomous town, Ekacakrapura, who resided in the country of a weak king permanently and who were dependent on a low type of king (like Baka) deserved living such a miserable life. Brahmans were not to obey any one and were not expected to follow the desires of any one. By nature they moved about freely as they willed, like birds. The Brahman told Kunti that a free intellectual should first acquire the protection of a king and then marry and earn wealth. If in the social world of commonalty there is no king one should not aspire to have a wife or wealth, as they will remain unprotected. Only with the protection given by the king and the assistance given by the wife and with the wealth earned one will be able to protect his kinsmen and children.
This Brahman did not endorse the decision taken by the jurists (Brahmans) and people of Ekacakrapura that the town should be administered by a body of intellectuals and need not have a separate kshatriya cadre to function as administrators-cum-protectors. He was against the anarchist constitution that the intellectuals and commoners of Ekacakrapura had adopted in the name of autonomy leading to surrender to the highly coercive militant chieftain (rakshasa). What the Brahman (like others of the town) had earned was the opposite of what he should have earned. He had agreed to stay under an immoral and exploitative chieftain, Baka, and then married and set up a home and begun to earn what he and his family required. He and his family were facing the threat of destruction during that week.
He had to provide the militant with food and one man (as a slave). And he did not have the wealth to purchase a man (slave) to be surrendered to Baka. He could not part with any member of his family. He did not find any way by which he could save himself from that militant (rakshasa). Hence he was immersed in grief. He planned to go to Baka with his entire family, the Brahman told Kunti.
Kunti told the Brahman that she had five sons and that one of them would go to meet the militant chief, rakshasa, with the promised meat. But the Brahman rejected that offer, as it would be availing the life and services of one of his Brahman guests for his personal use. He noticed that women, who were not born in higher clans and did not follow the (new) socio-cultural orientations, dharma, were not found to sacrifice oneself or ones son for the sake of a Brahman. He implied that Kunti must have been born in a high family and was not an ordinary Brahman guest.
He preferred a Brahman committing suicide to causing the death of another Brahman. Brahmahati meant killing a Brahman, to be precise, destroying the reputation of a judge. It was a major sin and there was no penance for it. Even if it is committed in ignorance, it is a sin. He was not committing the offence of trying to voluntarily commit suicide; another person would kill him and that was not a sin affecting him, the Brahman (a judge) argued. Allowing her son to die would amount to intending to cause the death of a Brahman and it had no penance. It was cruel and mean. It is cruel to kill a guest, one who has sought asylum and a beggar and it has been despised by the learned.
The great persons (mahatmas, legislators) of the past who knew the laws of emergency (apaddharma) had not permitted doing despised acts under any circumstances, the Brahman judge pointed out. Hence he felt that for him to die with his wife was the best solution. He would never consent to the killing of a Brahman. Kunti told him that her son had learnt a method to overcome the rakshasas and that she was confident that she would defeat this rakshasa also even as he had killed many rakshasas earlier. He would not say, without the permission of his teacher how he would defeat the enemy for many persons would like to know that method and that would weaken him. Then Kunti and the Brahman (a jurist) asked Bhima to act (as required).
Yudhishtira found Bhimasena happy and asked Kunti what his brother, Bhimasena, proposed to do and whether he was acting on his own or with her permission. Kunti replied that under her direction he was going to do a great feat that would help the Brahman and liberate that town. Bhima would eat whatever food was meant for Baka that day. But Yudhishtira did not appreciate her move to give up her son for the sake of anothers son. He said that she was doing a deed that was against the practice in the world and against the social code, sastra.
It was on Bhima that she and the Pandavas were depending to retrieve their kingdom from the Kauravas and it was unwise to lose him, he said. He wondered whether she had lost her intellect. Kunti explained that her decision to depute him to meet Baka and confront him was a confident and deliberate move and not that of weak thinking or of mental fatigue. She explained that they were staying in the house of the Brahman unknown to the Kauravas and they had to help the Brahman and his family in return, she has found. That was the sign of a human being. One has to return many times more than the aid he has received. Socio-cultural law (dharma) holds that ones indebtedness to a Brahman is immense.
She was aware that Bhima had the ability to confront Baka for he was mighty like a tusker, and none was his equal in physical strength. He had the ability to defeat Indra too even if the latter used his weapon, vajra. After careful deliberation she had offered the Brahman the services of Bhima. She was fulfilling two objectives, helping the Brahman in return for his help to them and protecting the Brahman.
In her view a Kshatriya who helped a Brahman in his work (like being a priest or a counsellor or a judge) was bound to rise to higher social cadres (lokas). A kshatriya who saves another kshatriya from death will get wide fame in this world of commoners and in the other world (loka) of nobility. A kshatriya who helps a vaisya (landlord or trader) in this social world of commonalty will certainly get the love of his subjects (prajas) in all social communities. A king who frees a Shudra who seeks asylum with him will be (treated as one) born in a respectable clan.
Kunti told Yudhishtira that she had learnt these from Vyasa. She was dwelling on the duties that rulers had by the four social classes. It was an age when the dasas were liberated by the state. Shudras were free workers. Yudhishtira did not want the people of that town to know that Bhima was being sent to kill Baka. They thought that he was being sent as a victim to be eaten by that rakshasa. They contributed liberally necessary food for being handed over to Baka. When they saw Bhima eating plenty of food they thought that Bhima was indeed a rakshasa like Baka and was not a Brahman student. The duel between the two ended in the death of that powerful militant chieftain, Baka.
After Baka fell, the people came out with their servants to see what had happened. Bakas brother and other militants, rakshasas, surrendered to Bhima. [According to the then practice, the victor entered into a treaty of peace with the brother of the chieftain after the latter was killed or gave up.] Baka was the leader of the unruly militants stationed outside the town. The Brahman administrators had entered into an agreement with him. He and his armed men would not harass the villagers or the people of the town provided the administrators of Ekacakrapura met their economic needs including provision for labourers as slaves. Bhima pacified them and made them agree not to harm the commoners again and warned that those who troubled the commoners would meet the same fate as Baka did. They agreed to this condition.