THE THEORY OF INCARNATIONS AND ON KRSHNA'S EXPLOITS
As Sisupala disagreed with Bhishmas stand that in the assembly of kings and scholars convened by Dharmaraja Yudhishtira there was none more worthy of being honoured as the chief guest than Krshna, the veteran offered to describe in detail Krshnas exploits. Yudhishtira had asked Bhishma to narrate on what occasions Krshna who had the status of a devata (a rank marginally lower than that of a noble, deva) appeared in the midst of the masses, prakrti (often translated as nature) and how they placed their faith in him.
Bhishma told the king, Yudhishtira, that none knew the ways in which Isvara (God, in common parlance), the charismatic leader and benefactor of his followers, especially, of the social periphery, carried out his functions. Isvara who granted the boons desired and who was not visible to any one and was the head of the academy (bhagavan) and was the lord (prabhu) of the larger commonalty had come in person to attend the conference, he told the assembly.
Adulating the sage and activist, Narayana (who has since the early medieval times been deified and later been identified with Vishnu), Bhishma said that this great personage had by himself made his position stable and nominated the chief judge from amongst the nobility (devas) to be the author and interpreter of the socio-political constitution (Brahma) of the larger society. [The allegory of Brahma arising from the navel of Vishnu needs to be unravelled in a rational manner.] Bhishma then evokes the allegory of the omnipresent, omniscient Purusha, a giant with a thousand heads mouths, eyes, legs, hands and names, a form enveloping the entire larger society (visva) as Visvarupa.
Bhishma held Narayana, the head of the academy (bhagavan), as having been present before the social order was created (by Brahma) and as reflecting the society posterior to the undifferentiated mass society (prakrti). This undifferentiated society was called the grass-roots society (mulaprakrti) from which a society with differentiations and social distinctions was created (by Brahma). It was Narayana who presented the concept and features of the fluid commonalty (apa) without social or economic distinctions. His nominee, Brahma, organised on his own the other social worlds (loka) as indicated in the four Vedas (which were visualised later as the four faces of Brahma, the god of creation).
In ancient times, the process of creation of a social order was preceded by a total destruction of the then existing system. All the then existing social worlds became decadent and the nobles including the creator and interpreter of the social constitution merged in the mass society (prakrti) along with the five major units of the society that had only discrete individuals (mahabhutas). At that time only Narayana who was an individual but not a member of any social group and was the charismatic benefactor (isvara) of all (sarva) stayed apart from the mass society (prakrti).
The chronicler visualises the different organs of this only person, Narayana, as representing the different social cadres, the higher ranks of the ruling elite constituting the aristocracy, divam as head, the thin mobile population of the open space, akasa as navel, the commonalty of the agro-pastoral plains, bhumi as legs, the provinces in the distant directions, dik, who are only heard about and who are represented by the asvinidevas as ears, the two officials representing the intelligentsia (soma) and administrators (surya) as eyes and the heads of the assembly of nobles and the council of scholars (Indra and Agni, both nobles) as the face of that great personage (mahatma). It may be remarked here that the allegory in Purushasukta that compared the Brahmans with the face of Purusha, the Kshatriyas with his arms, the Vaisyas with his legs and the Shudras with his feet is a poor version of the above early post-Vedic allegory.
Narayana takes over the functions of Brahma, head of the academy: Narayana's new socio-political constitution
According to Bhishma, after the old order was destroyed, the great executive (mahayogi) and intellectual who knew all and was the highest stoical judge (parabrahma), Narayana, himself personally proclaimed a new socio-political constitution, taking over the role of the head of the academy of jurists, Brahma. This proponent of the new constitution was a charismatic leader and benefactor of all the beings (pranis) especially those at the bare subsistence level and was flawless in his approach.
As Brahma, the head of the academy of jurists and intellectuals, he gave importance to the schools of thought led by Rudra and Sanatkumara (Mahadeva and Skanda) and the seven sages (nominated by Manu). He also introduced the concept of seven social worlds (lokas) (extending the concept of three social worlds, nobility, commoners and the rest). The new seven social worlds were commonalty of the plains (bhu), frontier society (bhuva), nobility (sva), cadre of legislators (maha), council of peoples representatives (jana), council of researchers (tapa) and judiciary (satya). He also defined the concept of who constituted the jana, the autonomous native population.
Diversified Economy: Natural Resources and Created Goods
Bhishma told Yudhishtira that the new social order took into account the need for a diversified economy utilising the resources made available by nature in the different seasons. It also developed an economy of created goods. The old social order had not provided for such a diversified economy and tapping of natural resources for manufacture. In the new order, Brahma was superior to the heads of all the different socio-economic groupings. According to Bhishma, Narayana was superior to Brahma but was not an activist like Brahma. Bhishma noted that the course of revolutions (pralaya) in social order and tenures of Manus (manvantaras), of nobles (devayugas) and commoners (manushyas) were by rotation.
Narayana, the head of the academy (bhagavan) and charismatic benefactor (mangalamurti) followed by all (sarvesvara) who belonged to the nobility (devas) appeared among the commoners who were free men and activists (nara-narayanas) as Krshna, Bhishma said. This intellectual (bhagavan) functioned unobtrusively as head of the judiciary (Brahma), head of the aristocracy (Indra), head of the administration and army (Surya) depending on the requirements of the situation. Bhishma offered to recall the exploits of Krshna as a noble when the latter was with the social cadre of nobles (devaloka). The position of the head and guardian of the social world (lokanatha) of nobles who was superior to the other nobles came into existence after a long time. This Adideva was vested with the authority of Bhagavan, head of the academy of jurists with the powers of Agni, as civil judge and head of the intelligentsia.
Narayana, the head of the academy of jurists recognised the roles of Brahma (the head of the judiciary entitled to frame, interpret and implement the socio-political constitution, based on the Vedas), Kashyapa (the socio-political ideologue and activist, Brahmavadi who outlined the concept of an all-inclusive society, Viraj) and Kapila (the proponent of the samkhya system of dialectics). He recognised the roles also of Mahadeva (who was a Parameshti, a highly popular chief who brought the entire country under an universally accepted scheme of small nation-states where there was no concentration of power) and of Samkara (a great socio-political thinker who was highly revered by the peoples on the social periphery and the sections of the population constantly on the move) and of Sanatkumara (the Upanishadic sage who was known also as Kumara and Skanda and was affiliated to the schools of the above two thinkers-cum-activists).
New constitution and elevation of eligible persons to status of nobles and sages, legislators
Bhishma treated the neo-Vedic constitution, Brahma, as having guided Manu (Vaivasvata) in determining who would be treated as the subjects (prajas) of the state. The neo-Vedic constitution, Brahma, determined who could be elevated to the position of nobles (devas) and as members of the council of seven sages (saptarshis). The great revolution (pralaya) led to the destruction of both animate and inanimate objects, both good and bad persons. It destroyed the aristocrats (devas) of the towns and the feudal lords (asuras) of the rural areas and the technocrats (nagas) of the forests, rivers and seas and of mines and mountains and the rebel guards (rakshasas) who controlled the social periphery. This led to the formation of a larger and secure commonalty (manushyas) by the merger of those cadres in the commonalty.
Bhishma noted that Narayana (who had his seat in an island in the sea) killed the two powerful warlords, Madhu and Kaitasa. He was referring to an exploit of Krshna who had his capital n the island city, Dwaraka. This episode indicates that Krshna refused to tolerate even the softer sections of the cruel warlords (asuras), whose orientations and activities were antithetical to those of the nobles (devas) and harmful to the commoners (manushyas). The warlords who had earlier been expelled from the towns and rural areas took control of the vast open space (akasa) including seas and had to be dislodged from there in the interests of their occupants who were thinly spread there eking their meagre living.
This episode reveals the inadequacy of the value of the earlier decision to expel the feudal elements from the organised paurajanapada (nation-state based on city-country, pura-rashtra) political economy and the need to prevent them from taking over the open spaces, whether land or sea. In the new constitution that Narayana proposed, all areas on the earth (bhumi) whether plains or moors or rivers or seas or woods would be marked for the unified (solid) commonalty (medhini). This required derecognising the hold of the asuras and rakshasas. (Ch.44 Sabhaparva)
A rational interpretation of the different events pertaining to the so-called incarnations (avatars) of Vishnu calls for a rigorous sociological approach to those events. Brahma is said to have had his seat in Pushkara (a pond in Rajasthan). This interpreter of the socio-political constitution of the Vedic period elevated some suitable individuals from the commonalty to the newly created cadres of nobles (devas) and sages (rshis). It was a period when the liberal social law, dharma, which was based on a broad consensus as well as the puritanical laws based on truth, satya, were both in vogue.
Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakasipu Episodes
Vishnu, known for his prowess, as an invisible diver, Varaha (boar), retrieved the lands full of trees and mountains submerged by waters during the flood (pralaya). The areas under the jurisdiction of the frontier society of forests and mountains, antariksham, the third social world, had been neglected by the core society of the plains comprising nobles and commoners. This event might have preceded the migration of the Yadavas led by Balarama and Krshna from Mathura on the banks of Yamuna to the western coastal island, Dwaraka.
It must have pertained to the reclamation of Kutch in the estuary of Sarasvati that had lost its track in the desert sands of Rajasthan only recently then. The famous chronicler, Markandeya has recorded this reclamation by divers led by Vishnu, according to Vaishampayana. He does not refer to the killing of the asura general, Hiranyaksha, by Varaha. But he mentions that all the plutocrats (danavas) who had taken possession of that area because of its rich ores and reefs were killed while reclaiming those lands. (Ch.45 Sabhaparva)
Addressing him as Dharmaraja, Bhishma told Yudhishtira that the powerful and proud feudal lord, Hiranyakasipu, who was an enemy of the nobles and a terror to all the three social worlds (nobles, commoners and frontier society of forests and mountains) and was a leader of the people at the grassroots (mulapurusha) had begun to make arduous efforts (tapas) to tap the resources of the seas. These required his observing celibacy (brahmacharya) and studying the sciences. His knowledge won him the appreciation of the head of the academy of intellectuals (Brahma who had the status of a noble, deva). This scholar (brahmajnani) who knew the constitution and had risen to this status by his merit had the support of the different groups of nobles (devas), Adityas, Vasus, Saddhyas, Maruts, Rudras and Visvedevas, and also of the plutocrats (yakshas), their guards (rakshas) and the free men of the other society (kinnaras who then enjoyed the immunities that nobles, devas, had).
He was respected by different cadres of intellectuals, siddhas, devarshis, saptarshis and rajarshis, gandharvas and apsarases and by the peoples in the different directions many of whom were non-combatant citizens (nakshatras). Hiranyakasipu requested Brahma who agreed to help him and ensure that he did not face death at the hands of his enemies. He enumerated amongst them, nobles (devas), gandharvas who were free intellectuals-cum-warriors and moved in all areas, plutocrats (yakshas), technocrats (nagas) and the militant guards of the forests (rakshasas), commoners (manushyas) and the snipers and counter-intelligentsia (paisacas) of the social periphery. Hiranyakasipu prayed that he should not be harmed by the verdicts passed by the sages or by any article used as a weapon. He should not be harmed anywhere or at any time or by any living being. Brahma, the head of the constitution bench, agreed to meet his request and grant him the immunity.
This disconcerted the nobles (devas), the free intelligentsia (gandharvas) and the technocrats (nagas) who asked Brahma to suggest a way to kill that powerful feudal lord (asura). He said that Hiranyakasipu like any other person was eligible to the fruits of his endeavour (tapas) and might be slain by Vishnu after that. The feudal lord harassed all those peoples (jana) against whom he had acquired immunity. By his prowess he subdued seven islands (valleys) that came under cakravala mountain range. It did not have all the traits of an organised social world (loka) and was hence referred to as loka-aloka. It provided him all the comforts and affluence that a member of the nobility could have in his social world (devaloka).
From his abode in those valleys, he conquered all social groups (lokas) and established himself as a ruler exercising the powers of all the Vedic officials, Indra, Soma, Agni, Vayu, Aditya, Apa, Akasa, Nakshatras, guardians of the ten directions, Varuna, Vasus and Aryaman and declared himself as the king over plutocrats (yakshas) and the free men (kinnaras) of the frontier society. Plutocrats (yakshas) of the frontier society who claimed a rank equal to that of the nobles (devas) of the core society, as devatas of the frontier society (who had the status of sreshtas) and the chiefs of the free men (kinnaras) of the frontier society opted to honour him rather than antagonise him. He declared that all the residents of the urban areas were eligible to reside in areas that were till then the exclusive enclaves of the aristocrats (devapuras). Feudalism recognised plutocrats (capitalists) as democrats who did not unlike the aristocrats keep out free men and civilised citizens from the benefits of affluence. The affluence that they were promised was however illusory.
Hiranyakasipu then raided the abodes of the sages (rshis) who were highly experienced researchers (tapasvis) and did not deviate from the Vedic laws based on truth (satya) and the new social laws, dharma, and who had conquered their senses and as munis practised reticence. He made the nobles (devas) offer sacrifices (yajnas) to the feudal lords (asuras). Earlier the rich and not-so-rich commoners (manushyas) offered voluntary sacrifices to nobles (devas), sages (rshis) and the retired asuras who were known as fathers (pitrs). But later this agreement that ensured that the commoners would not be harassed by any of the three cadres was allowed to lapse especially in the case of the claims of the retired feudal lords while the nobles continued to be maintained by commoners. Hiranyakasipu took revenge by forcing the nobles to share their income with the feudal lords (asuras). He followed them wherever they went to escape the parasitical approach of the feudal lords and their dependents.
The new constitution recognizes expelled asuras as rajanyas
Brahma, the socio-political constitution had unwittingly permitted the re-emergence of the feudal order and all the hardships associated with it. The nobles led by Siva and Indra appealed to Brahmadeva, the head of the academy of scholars and jurists, to save them from the feudal lords. The constitution had recognised the feudal order, as the earliest of the ruling classes to be created, and it could not be discriminated against or dismantled, the jurists had concluded. Hence the defeated feudal order had been allowed to re-emerge as an alternative to the weak liberal aristocracy as the ruling elite. Brahma, the head of the judiciary acknowledged that he could not foresee the emergence of the concept of a feudal order aided by plutocracy as a challenge to the concept of a liberal aristocracy guided by a sober intelligentsia. He felt that only the two sages, Nara and Narayana, particularly the latter, could find a way out.
The chronicler describes Narayana as Purusha, a social leader who was far superior to a free man, Nara, and was on the threshold of the aristocracy, almost equal to a noble, deva. He also describes him as one who represented the all-inclusive larger society, as Visvarupa. In tune with the views of the scholars of the medieval times, the later annotator describes him as one who had not manifested his potentials (avyakta) but was superior to the undifferentiated mass society at the grassroots (mulaprakrti).
The socio-political constitution, Brahma, which was inspired by Narayana, had defined the traits, roles, powers and privileges of the native peoples (janas) of the different regions, of the members of the different social worlds (lokas), of nobles (devas) and of the feudal lords (asuras), the head of the academy of jurists told those who appealed to him for safety. He said that Narayana would certainly kill that feudal lord, Hiranyakasipu.
All the nobles, Adityas, Vasus, Saddhyas, Visvedevas, Rudras, Maruts and Asvinidevas, along with the great sages (maharshis) who were legislators approached Vishnu (who was an Aditya, a general) and prayed for protection from Hiranyakasipu whom Brahma could not restrain. He promised that he would soon destroy that feudal lord and asked them to return to their homes. Vishnu who was a charismatic benefactor (Isvara) and head of an academy (bhagavan) went to meet Hiranyakasipu in the guise of Narasimha, a free man (nara) wearing the mask of a lions face (simha).
Hari (Vishnu who belonged to the dark social periphery) put off the weapons that the feudal chieftains hurled at him and killed many of them. He tore to pieces their leader, Hiranyakasipu. He killed all the feudal lords (asuras) and helped the nobles (devas) and commoners (manushyas) of the core society and established the social laws, dharma, in the agro-pastoral plains (bhumi). This version does not mention the names and roles of Narada and Prahlada. (Ch.46 Sabhaparva)
Vamana and Bali
The chronicler then described the events pertaining to Vamana and the appearance of Vishnu as a dwarf to crush Bali, son of Virocana. Bhishma who drew the attention of Dharmaraja Yudhishtira to the implications of the confrontation between Vamana and Bali considered it to be an event of then bygone days (of Treta Yuga, the second mega-epoch). Bali went with groups of feudal chieftains (asuras) to conquer the social world (loka) of aristocrats headed by Indra. Threatened by Bali, Indra and other nobles led by Brahma, the head of the judiciary approached the charismatic benefactor (Isvara), Narayana.
Hari (the representative of the dark social periphery) appeared before the nobles (devas). It is advisable to deem Narayana as the head of an academy to which the Haris were attached. Vishnu was one of them and was granted the status of an administrator-cum-general during the tenure of Manu Tamasa. Vishnu was an associate of Prajapati Vivasvan whose protg, Manu Vaivasvata was. According to this version, Hari was born to Aditi and was known as Vishnu, the youngest of Adityas, the eight administrators of the Vedic polity who functioned under the guidance of the mother figure, Aditi. Indra was the head of this administrative body of nobles, the predecessor of the council of eight ministers as provided for in the political codes.
When Bali before embarking on his conquests, was performing the famous asvamedha sacrifice, Vishnu appeared before him in the guise of a short and young Brahman student. He asked the host, Bali, for three steps of land as fees (dakshina) for attending that sacrifice. As Bali gave away three steps of land, Vishnu grew in size to great heights though he was a child, according to the legend. He conquered Bali and by his steps took over the commonalty of the plains (bhumi), the higher social world of nobles (devas) and the ranks between the two. As Bali lost his power, Vishnu struck terror in the minds of the feudal chieftains (asuras). Vipracitti (an intellectual) and other asuras and their armies attacked Vishnu who was measuring the areas he had acquired. The scholars had described the imagery of a dwarf growing in size and covering all areas in the limitless cosmos.
In the battles that ensued, all the feudal chieftains (asuras) except Namuci, Sambara and Prahlada were killed. These three with their families were settled in the ghettoes, the lowest ranks of the society (patalaloka), the subaltern. [The chronicler seems to have wrongly identified Bali with Prahlada. Prahlada was father of Virocana and son of Hiranyakasipu and was known for his noble thoughts.] Proud Bali was taken into custody. Hari represented the all-inclusive society. He might have exhibited this picture tattooed on his body to tell the janas, peoples of Janasthana which Bali ruled what he stood for. He had the status of Upendra, Indras deputy. Seeing this picture the aristocrats (devas), the plutocrats (danavas) and the commoners (manavas) were all awe-struck.
The new social order had the aristocrats (devas) led by Indra at its head. Upendra who was an intellectual assisted him. The plutocrats (danavas, yakshas) were recognised as an approved section of the enlarged aristocracy and granted a place almost equal to that of the nobles. The commonalty, which came under the new social code (dharmasastra), had the status of manavas who were free to move about in any territory and pursue any occupation in tune with the aptitude of the individual. This code classified them later as Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras and granted all of them the right to live in any country of their choice. They were citizens of the world.
The chronicler notes the emergence of a new social order that outlawed raw might that the feudal chieftains (asuras) used to control the commonalty and others. It visualised an alliance of liberal aristocracy (devas, Adityas) and rich plutocracy (yakshas, Danavas) at the helm of affairs with total freedom for the commonalty (manavas) who would now be no longer subjects of any state and would not be bound by the codes of clans and communities as commoners (manushyas) were in the past. The riches held by the feudal chieftains (asuras) and the control over the three social worlds were vested in Indra, the head of the aristocracy. As in the case of Varaha and Narasimha, in the case of Vamana too the protagonist, Vishnu, functioned as a noble (deva), the chronicler, Vaishampayana noted.
Dattatreya, Kartavirya, Parasurama
The chronicler had great regard for the sage, Dattatreya, who belonged to the school of Atri and treated him as an incarnation (avatar) of Vishnu. He also had high regard for Kartavirya Arjuna, the Haihaya ruler who fell at the hands of Parasurama. Kartavirya was a follower of Dattatreya who arrived on the scene when the first attempt to institute the four social classes (varnas) had failed. People had lost respect for Vedas and the social codes (dharmasastras) and failed to observe good conduct and perform sacrifices. The laws based on truth (satya) had failed and men were given to lying. The concept of an expanded state with all residents being treated as subjects (prajas) eligible for protection ceased to be honoured and there was widespread emigration of persons other than those born in the local area.
Dattatreya (who had voluntarily accepted Atri as his teacher and father) appeared on the scene with the concept of a unified social polity that brought together the aristocrats and the plutocrats who controlled the core society and the frontier society respectively and the new commonalty (manavas) of four social classes (varnas) who were free to move to any region to pursue their vocations. The concept of a non-restrictive society rid of feudal warlords, which Vamana had proposed had failed. Dattatreya trained Kartavirya to re-establish that integrated social polity. The Haihaya ruler wanted to become the ruler of this larger social polity with the status and privileges of an aristocrat (deva) who would have immunity against death sentence. But Dattatreya refused to recognise him as such a privileged noble.
Kartavirya was prepared to function under the laws based on truth (satya) and have a contingent of a thousand soldiers to enforce his orders. He would also follow the laws of dharma, which were based on consensus and were applicable to all beings. He wanted to become a rich and powerful ruler. These expectations were valid, Dattatreya held. His aim to win the support of the retired asuras (pitrs), the nobles (devas), the sages (rshis) and the judiciary (Brahmans) through sacrifices (yajnas) and to subordinate the enemies through force could not be taken exception to.
Kartavirya prayed that only a leader (purusha) who had no equal to him in the past or then or would be there in the future might kill him. [Parasurama who fitted this description killed him.] This outstanding warrior conquered several countries and emerged as an emperor. He utilised his state power judiciously to establish good administration. Guided by Dattatreya, Kartavirya used one fourth of the treasury to meet the needs of the army and one fourth to meet those of his administration (conducted from his palace), one fourth on the welfare of the native peoples (janas) and one fourth on destroying the evil elements (rakshasas etc.) that harassed the villagers and those living in the forests. He personally ensured the protection of women and the cattle. Bhishma had great regard for this emperor and his guide. (Ch.48)
Bhishma then explained to Yudhishtira the importance of the exploits of Parasurama, son of Jamadagni of Bhrgu lineage. As Kartavirya Arjuna had committed a major offence Rama, son of Jamadagni killed him. Bhishma did not treat it as an act of revenge or explain what the offence committed by that great warrior and charismatic ruler (isvara) of the commonalty (bhumi) was. Jamba and Satadundubi were other rulers killed by him. The chronicler treated Parasuramas killing of Kartavirya as an act approved by Krshna, the head of the academy (bhagavan) of scholars. It is not sound to interpret that Vishnu was identical with Parasurama as well as Krshna.
Parasurama wiped out a huge army of Kshatriyas who had gathered on the banks of Sarasvati because they hated Brahmans. He killed the kshatriyas of different countries twenty-one times and filled the lakes with their blood. After removing all the Kshatriyas from the eighteen sections of the administration all over the country he handed over the demilitarised subcontinent to Kashyapa (the head of the council of seven sages during the tenure of Manu Vaivasvata). In his view these kshatriyas were decadent elements of the power structure not different from rakshasas and asuras.
Those people who knew what happened earlier described his exploits succinctly in a couplet as A golden sacrificial offering (figure) that was taller than a man (purusha) and was eighteen feet broad was received by Kashyapa. A country that is larger than what an outstanding social leader (purusha) could rule effectively and which had eighteen departments looking after its administration was handed over to Kashyapa. Parasurama did not give up his battles against Kshatriyas. But as he was told that Krshna would personally kill Salva of Sauba, Parasurama gave up his arms and chariot and retired, according to Vaishampayana. Jamadagnya Parasurama retired not because he was weak but because Krshna would complete the mission begun him, Bhishma said. He did not dwell on Parasuramas raid of Kartaviryas capital, Mahismati and his mercilessness. (Ch.49 Sabhaparva)
Markandeya on Rama's career
Bhishma told Yudhishtira that according to Markandeya, Rama, son of Dasaratha, was an incarnation of Vishnu, a great soul (mahatma). By addressing him as the son of Kunti, Bhishma indicated that Rama too was born as a kshetraja son rather than as aurasa son of Dasaratha even as Yudhishtira was a kshetraja son of Pandu. Rama had the status of a great general, surya. In the social world of commoners he was known as Rama, one born to Dasaratha to be the protector of dharma and their benefactor. That emperor too was a benefactor (isvara) of all social worlds (lokas). Rama killed Subahu, an unruly forest guard (rakshasa) who disturbed the sacrifice performed by (his teacher) Visvamitra. He also beat Marica. Visvamitra, a great scholar, in order to destroy all the enemies gave him weapons that even nobles (devas) could not stop.
At the great sacrifice performed by Janaka, a great personage (mahatma) Rama who was yet playing broke the powerful bow of Mahesvara without serious effort and married Sita, daughter of Janaka. He returned to Ayodhya with Sita and after staying there for some time, in order to fulfil the desire of Kaikeyi, he went to the forest as directed by his father. Rama who knew all the dharmas and was enthusiastic in helping all beings resided in the forest along with his wife, Sita and his brother, Lakshmana, for fourteen years. Sita lived and suffered like a commoner (manushya) though she belonged to the royalty. Sita (as Mahalakshmi) belonged to an affluent family though the people (jana) considered her to be the child of a tiller (born in a furrow).
When Rama lived in Janasthana (the province ruled earlier by Bali) in order to help the natives (jana) of that province and to carry out the tasks (karya) entrusted to him by the nobles (devas) he killed Marica, Dushana, Kara and Trisiras and also thousands of rakshasas. [After Vamana dislodged Bali, the asura chieftain, from that province in the Vindhyas, it was taken over by Kara, Ravanas general.] He also killed Virata and Kabanda, two gandharvas (intellectuals-cum-warriors) who had turned into rebels (rakshasas).
Rama also caused the nose of Surpanaka, Ravanas sister, to be cut. As a result he was separated from his wife and had to wander in the forest searching for her. From Janasthana he moved (southwards) to the lake, Pampa. He then reached Risyamuka hill and struck alliance with Sugriva and Anjaneya and went to Kishkinta and killed Vali, the powerful king of the free men of the forests (vanaras) and crowned Sugriva as their king. Anjaneya traced Sita in Lanka, and informed the great warrior, Rama, about it. Rama who was suffering from the pains of separation from his wife, got a bridge constructed across the sea and entered Lanka. There he killed the king of rakshasas, Ravana, along with his ministers and kinsmen.
Ravana who could not be killed or conquered by liberal aristocrats (devas), technocrats (nagas), plutocrats (yakshas) and by forest guards (rakshas) and by birds and who had the company of rakshasas andwhom the nobles dare not look at and who was proud because of the immunities he had gained and his huge army were overcome by Rama, the charismatic benefactor (isvara) of the social periphery. His brother, Vibhishana, was then installed as the king of the rakshasas of Lanka. Rama returned with Sita to his capital, Ayodhya, and administered his state in accordance with the social laws, dharma.
The chronicler noted that Lavana, an asura chieftain who was killed by Satrugna under the orders of his brother, Rama, was the son of Madhu (who was killed by Vishnu). Lavana must have monopolised the crucial salt mines near Dwaraka and held the commoners and others to ransom. Krshna appeared on the scene close on the heels of Rama. The two were not separated from each other by centuries or even by a few decades. Sahadeva sent Gatotkacha to win Vibhishanas support to his brother, Yudhishtiras rajasuya sacrifice.
Rama who administered the country on the basis of dharma did many such acts for the good of the commoners and other social cadres and ran the administration of the state in accordance with the science of political policy (niti). As a result, there was no grieving and no premature death. There was no fear of theft. When Rama was the ruler all the peoples (janas) of the integrated commonalty (bhumi) carried out their duties to sages, nobles and commoners without fail.
The chronicler implied that the members of the council of the integrated janapada looked after the interests of the three classes, sages (rshis) who contributed to and propagated the Vedas, nobles (devas) who performed sacrifices and commoners (manushyas) who entertained the guests. The fourth sector of the Vedic core society, the asuras (feudal chieftains) had been exiled. In Ramarajya, no man harmed any living being (pranis), especially those at the bare subsistence level. There was a balanced administration with income (prana) and outgoings (apana) being equal (sama).
It would appear that Rama ruled only for eleven years and passed away when he was yet young. He was a highly charismatic figure among his subjects (prajas) and the entire commonalty emulated him. When he ruled the Brahmans (scholars) did not fail to study the three Vedas, Rg, Yajur and Sama. During his exile to the dandaka forest he was devoted to the cause of the nobles (devas). He killed the great warrior, Ravana, who had harmed him and who was the enemy of the nobles (devas), free intelligentsia (gandharvas) and technocrats (nagas). It may be noted that this account does not indicate that Rama established varnasrama dharma. He belonged to a stage when the Manava Dharmasastra had not yet come into force. A close scrutiny of this account would indicate that Bhishma did not know many episodes of the Ramayana.
Bhishma told Yudhishtira that Krshna born as the son of Vasudeva too had taken steps to crush the evil sections like the feudal lords (asuras) (e.g. Madhu, Sakata and some Maruts) and members of the counter-intelligentsia (like Bhutana) and even commoners (like Kamsa). Whatever Krshna did was intended to benefit all the social worlds (lokas), especially the commoners (manushyas). Bhishma also prophesied that by the end of Kaliyuga when atheists would flourish, Vishnu would appear as Vishnuyasas or Kalki in order to encourage dharma and help the intellectuals-cum-jurists (Brahmans). Kurma, Matsya and Balarama incarnations are not referred to in Bhishmas account.
Narayana was essentially a sage who inspired the gandharvas like Narada who belonged to the cadre of free men (naras) who were not bound by the codes (dharmas) of clans (kulas) and communities (jatis) unlike the commoners (manushyas) most of whom were workers without personal property. The naras manned the administration of the areas (desas) where these clans and communities plied their vocations. They could follow the vocations not reserved for or by the communities or clans. While the two sages, Nara and Narayana were associated with these free men, naras, and free intellectuals-cum-warriors, gandharvas, Vishnu was a general and member of a cadre of aristocrats known as Adityas. Krshna was associated with another group of nobles, Vasus, who were essentially leaders of the pastoral people. He had the status of a devaka which like that of a devata was marginally lower to that of a deva, an aristocrat.
Vishnu.an Aditya, Krshna as a Vasu, Narayana, a gandharva sage
Yudhishtira wanted to know from Bhishma, the best guide among the commoners (manushyas) and an impressive speaker how Vishnu who was a noble (deva, belonging to the cadre of Adityas, who were kshatras, warriors-cum-administrators) appeared amongst the commoners of the plains (bhu), especially amongst the Yadavas who were pastoral peoples. The Yadavas were not known as combatants (kshatras). Bhishma told him that when the epoch of creativity (krtayuga) was yet in progress, a huge battle (later described as war of the stars, nakshatras) took place. The participants on either side had not been authorised to resort to weapons, being essentially leaders of peaceful peoples though they and their followers had each his or their orientations.
Virocana, Maya, Vipracitti, Kalanemi, Prahlada, Namuci, Vrtra, Arishta, a king of the rakshasas, and other sons of Diti and Danu and several groups of feudal lords (asuras) rallied with their different weapons against the nobles (devas). [Virocana and Prahlada have been exonerated later of all charges against them.] The Kashyapa imagery visualised the three sectors of the ruling elite, liberal nobles (devas), feudal lords (asuras) and plutocrats (yakshas) (adityas, daityas and danavas) as the offspring of Kashyapa by his three wives, Aditi, Diti and Danu. The nobles comprised the cadres of Adityas, Vasus, Rudras, Saddhyas, Visvedevas, Maruts and the officials designated as Indra, Yama, Varuna, Soma, Surya, Kubera, and the two powerful Asvinidevas. Getting armed, they marched against the feudal lords and the plutocrats (daityas and danavas).
There has been much confusion on the issue who danavas were. While the nobles (devas) have been treated as belonging to the approved sections of the society and the feudal lords (asuras) as their antagonists and hence dreaded, the plutocrats and their dependents (danavas) had prevaricated on the issue of whether to join the integrated society under the leadership of the nobles (devas) or not. When they joined hands with the feudal lords against the nobles of the city and the commoners of the agro-pastoral plains, Kubera, their representative on the eight member administrative body had to lose his position. But most plutocrats (yakshas), technocrats (nagas), free intelligentsia (gandharvas) and entrepreneurs or scouts (charanas) opted to function under the leadership of the nobles (devas). Unable to face the combined might of daityas and danavas they sought the protection of Narayana, a highly influential and calm and efficient leader (samartha) and charismatic benefactor (isvara) of the social periphery.
As Narayana arrived at the battle scene fully armed, the nobles fought with zeal against their enemies and the defeated asuras fled. But Kalanemi stood his ground and caused terror among the ranks of the nobles and their allies. It may be noted that the unarmed commoners were not involved in this struggle for power though they would have to be subjects of whoever won. As the nobles could not withstand his prowess, the daityas and danavas who had fled returned to the battlefield. The major effort to protect the interests of every section of the new integrated and technologically and economically progressing society that functioned under the leadership of the liberal aristocrats got a setback when the feudal elements and the immoral and greedy rich (daityas and danavas) joined hands against them. [Krshna was against both groups, aggressive asuras and exploitative danavas and their methods and orientations.]
Kalanemi defeated the nobles and the allies and officials like Indra and took over their powers while Narayana though armed as Vishnu stood and watched without entering the struggle for power. When Kalanemi and his supporters attacked Vishnu and injured his vehicle, Garuda, Vishnu used his wheel (chakra) to kill Kalanemi with his hundred captains (heads). This wheel represented the power of the combined troops of the dark social periphery, which could isolate the feudal lords of the plains from the plutocrats and their guards whose activities were confined to the forests.
Narayana as Parabrahma could amend the constitution, Brahma
When Vishnu wielded the wheel he did so as Hari, the dark personage, who was confined with his followers (jana) to the periphery. Vishnu restored for the nobles (devas) and the sages (rshis) their respective statuses and powers as they had during the Vedic times before this battle took place. Hari did so in accordance with the socio-political constitution (Brahma) then in force and in consultation with Brahma, the chief judge and interpreter of that constitution. Along with Brahma, Hari went to Brahmaloka, the academy of scholars and jurists and then to the abode of sage Narayana who had the status of Parabrahma, higher than that of Brahma. In that capacity, Narayana could effect amendments to meet the situations and dilemmas arising out of successful resistance by some sections to the implementation of that constitution.
Hari along with the legislators (maharshis) deliberated actively but calmly (in yoganidra) on what had happened. It would appear that it took them thirtysix (thousand) years to deliberate over the needs of the commoners (manushyas). Meanwhile the epochs of creation (krta) and consolidation (treta) were over and the period of social dichotomy and struggle for power (dvapara) was reaching its climax. Vishnu along with Brahma and other nobles (devas) went to attend the assembly of nobles (devasabha) where the new approach was to be got approved.
The assembly of nobles heard the plaint of the commoners voiced by bhumidevi, the lady in charge of the commoners of the agro-pastoral plains. She complained that the commoners were unable to bear the pressure exerted on them by the armies of the powerful kings and that the entire rural economy was collapsing fast unable to meet the demands made on it by the kings and their huge armies who were stationed in towns. Throughout the country (desa) that is, rural areas excluding towns, there were hundreds of villages each with several (that is, a thousand) households. The armies and administrators of these villages, towns and districts were pressurising (and forcing collecting exorbitant revenue from) the agro-pastoral plains (bhumi).
Bhumidevi, the guardian of these lands complained that she was unable to protect the interests of the (native) people of the janapada. Besides, the feudal lords were perpetually harassing the people of other areas admitted to the state as prajas. The state (paura-janapada, pura-desa) had failed to protect the natives of the rural areas as well as the newly inducted subjects. The nobles and the sages and the jurists after considering this complaint of the agro-pastoral plains sought Narayanas help to meet their request. Rshi Narayana suggested that the nobles (devas) should all move to the plains (bhumi) and protect the commoners from harassment and exploitation. He too would reside amidst them (in bhumi) and actively help them, he resolved. The distance between the aristocracy and the commonalty had to be narrowed. (Ch.51)