Tag Archives: Mahabharata

Narada Muni

There are many devatas and rishis who are wrongly depicted in movies and modern books. The roles of nArada, Yama, Indra, Chitragupta are the usually portrayed by comedians.
Laughing at any jokes, nay, even the mere act of watching these silently means you have accumulated sin.
In reality, we must forever be indebted to these devatas.

The etymology of the name nArada is — “nAram j~nAnam dadAti iti nAradaH” — bestower of wisdom and thus nArada. Most of the important literature that Hinduism rests on today has
a contribution from nArada. The first shloka of Ramayana starts with — tapaswAdhyAya niratam, tapsi vAkvidAm varam*, nAradam paripappracha vAlmikirmuni pungavam.

Observe that the first proper noun that occurs in Ramayana is that of nArada’s. Observe also the adjectives that are used for nArada- “ever engrossed in study of vedas and meditation”, “excellent among knowers of veda”, “eminent among sages”. Hindu literature gives a lot of importance to the mangalacharana shloka — no wonder then, that by taking the name of nArada in its first shloka
Ramayana has outlived all history books in the world and will be there for as long as the Sun and Moon. In the conversation that takes place, Valmiki asks nArada questions
and nArada preaches Valmiki the story of entire Ramayana. The first 100 shlokas of Ramayana which describe this condensed conversation are popularly called as Baala ramayana.
In one of the versions of how the robber Ratnakara got transformed into sage Valmiki, it is nArada who teaches “mara mara” to Valmiki.

It is nArada again who requests VedaVyAsa to compose BhAgawata purana. In the same BhAgawata, nArada describes his own story of a previous birth.

ucchiṣṭa-lepān anumodito dvijaiḥ
sakṛt sma bhuñje tad-apāsta-kilbiṣaḥ
evaṁ pravṛttasya viśuddha-cetasas
tad-dharma evātma-ruciḥ prajāyate

Highlighting the importance of good company and serving the wise rishis. nArada was a servant boy and served the rishis with a pure heart. The rishis blessed the boy with spiritual knowledge.

nArada was the guru of both prahlAda and dhruva. prahlAda is taught by nArada even while he in his mother’s womb. The child grows up to be a great bhagavadbhakta when he is born.

In the case of Dhurva, nArada first tests dhruva’s resolve and then gives the mantropadesha of Om Namo Bhagavate VAsudevAya.

on the instruction of Lord viSHnu, nArada also leads the ignorant and tAmasic souls to further ignorance . e.g nArada puts a doubt in Kamsa’s mind that any of the children born
to Devaki could be the cause of Kamsa’s death This makes kamsa develop further hatred for the lord and commit child killings. Many mistake this as a cruel act of nArada.
In reality, nArada has only brought out the true colors of kamsa.

The popular satyanArAyana kathA found in skanda purANa starts with nArada approaching viSHnu and asking for a simple solution for people on earth especially of kaliyuga.

In summary, devarishi nArada’s role in origins of Itihasas and Puranas, spread of namasankirtana, mentoring of other bhaktas is truly an act of benevolence upon
those who are on the path of spiritual progress.

The next time you or your well-wishers watch a movie and see any of our spiritual gurus being depicted in wrong light, just change the channel or lodge a protest if possible.
May nArada bless us all with sadbuddhi and take us on the right path. Jai Sriman Narayana.


-Arun Harnoor





Bhima defeating Karna

Sympathy with the underdog is natural. But it is a modern fashion to overblow this sympathy into a romanticised image of the underdog, to the point of adulation, aping and even following. Such is the case with Kara and occasionally Rāvaa (especially in the Eastern and Southern parts of India). This post attempts to restore balance to sympathetic minds by recounting the many flaws in Kara’s character, while acknowledging his occasional nobility Kara had learned the skills of a kshatriya, but could not maintain with consistency the nobility and balanced vision that were supposed to guide kshatriyas through their lives.



 The very entry of Kara into Mahabhārata reveals this flaw. Drona was holding a closed demonstration of the skills of his pupils. Kara entered uninvited. This was unseemly. If his object was to gain admiration for his skills, he could have done so by showing them off. He need not have challenged Arjuna to a duel. This showed impropreity.

 Kara must have been older to Arjuna by 4-6 years at least, since he was born before Kunti’s marriage and Arjuna was the third son of Kunti after marriage. If Dharmaraja was 16 at the time of the exhibition, Arjuna could not have been more than 14, and Kara would have been 18-20 years in age. Thus, his very advent shows a full grown man – Kara, challenging a young boy (Arjuna). This was improper and not noble. But Kara in the heat of anger would often do what was improper.

 Impetuosity is a character flaw that is lethal to kshatriyas in battle. For this reason, Bhīshma rated Kara as only half a rathin when the battle with Pandavas was in the offing.



 The small mindedness of Kara comes to the fore in another episode. When Duhsashana dragged Draupadi to the court, Vikara argued that a gentlewoman should not be treated in this manner and could not be enslaved. Kara not only opposed him, but he induced Kauravas to degrade Draupadi by saying:

 “The wife of five husbands is no better than a strumpet. There’s nothing wrong in dragging her to the men’s assembly. She and her husbands are all nothing but slaves now. They do not own even the clothes they are standing in. Strip them of their finery”

 Until he spoke, none of the Kauravas had thought of this. There was no reason for Kara to intervene in a quarrel between cousins, other than personal jealousy. For this petty emotion, he staked the honour of a woman. This also showed his impetuosity. Under stressful situation, he could forget all humane considerations.



 Much is thought about Kara’s friendship with and loyalty to Duryodhana. While he himself flaunted this friendship, it did not prevent him from running away from the Gandharvas and hiding in a village while Duryodhana was imprisoned by them. At length, it was the Pandavas who rescued and set Duryodhana free. No wonder when Kara asked Bhīshma about the king, he answered bitterly:

 “Those loyal to the king don’t live to ask whether the king be alive. How could you think of your own hide with the king in danger? Your much vaunted love of the king is nothing but pretence.”

 The overweening pride of Kara also often came in the way of his loyalty and duty towards Duryodhana. For one, he withdrew from battle as long as Bhīshma was leading it (although in some versions, this was due to a condition stipulated by Bhīshma). After becoming the general, he forced King Shalya to serve as his charioteer. This was from misplaced pride. Worse, when King Shalya tried to provoke his warlike spirits by taunting him saying, “Don’t boast now, for I know that you shall lose heart on seeing Arjuna” – he responded by insulting the women and people of his kingdom. This injudicious to say the least, since Shalya was driving his chariot.

 Again, it was overweening pride that made him change his horses to white, to imitate Arjuna before the crucial battle. And he went through his own army insulting Arjuna while Arjuna was engaging the kauravas in battle. The net result was that by the time he reached Arjuna, the latter had the time to kill Kara’s son before his eyes. This must have been demoralising.

 It was his pride that made him ignore Shalya’s warning that his nāgastra was aimed too high. As it was, the astra hit Arjuna’s crown. Although it is said that Sri Krishna brought Arjuna’s chariot down by two feet, this seems implausible, since in that case the arrow would have flown over Arjuna’s head. It is more likely that as Shalya had warned, Kara was aiming too high. Shalya himself might have warned Kara because he must have known that Kara, unlike Arjuna and Bhīshma, was not well versed with the finer points of charioteering (in spite of being fostered in a suta family).

 It was overweening pride that made Kara give away the natural armour that he was born with to Indra. Kara used armour in all his battles, and knew that he would need this armour in battle. He fought his battles for Duryodhana, and so loyalty and friendship would demand that he hold on to the natural armour. He did not do so. At best this was misplaced generosity, which came in the way of his duty.

 Droa also knew this flaw in Kara’s character, when he supported Bhīshma’s evaluation by saying:

“Karna is headstrong, shows misplaced kindness, runs away from battle and makes mistakes in judgment. And so I would not give him full marks as a warrior.”



 Overweening pride and jealousy drove Kara into extreme selfishness which often led him to forget his duties to his friend Duryodhana. For instance, when Kunti invited him to rejoin his natural family, he turned down the invitation with an offer to kill none but Arjuna. This offer showed that no higher feelings dominated his mind at the time.

 By agreeing not to kill the other brothers, he was hurting Duryodhana’s cause, which required him to fight all the Pandavas. In fact, all the kauravas were killed by Bhīma and not by Arjuna, most frequently by arrows (Bhīma was quite the archer, although not possessed of divine weapons or astras). Thus, the offer showed that he placed his individual dislikes above friendship with Duryodhana.

 The offer was not prompted by love for his natural mother Kunti or her sons either. He had no pity for Kunti who was his unwed mother, as his bitter words showed. His offer to fight Arjuna alone was prompted by his pride, since he thought Arjuna alone was fit to fight him. This showed a misplaced contempt for the other brothers, especially for the formidable Bhīma who singlehandedly brought down all the children of Gāndhāri.



 His bad judgement came to the fore at the fatal moment when his chariot wheel sank into the blood soaked soil of Kurukshetra. Chariots were breaking down, horses were getting killed every day. We often read of warriors transferring to a different chariot. Kara  being the general of Kaurava army could easily have done so. For some strange reason, he chose to get down and lift the wheel out of the rut. Possibly he was confused by having seen his son killed before his eyes, and missing Arjuna with his divine astra. He compounded his difficulties by speaking of ‘dharma’ of battle to Arjuna. This gave the cue to Shri Krishna who reminded Arjuna that Kara had no right to claim the protection of dharma after having killed Abhimanyu on foot and inciting the disrobing of Draupadi. Arjuna who might have hesitated otherwise, was precipitated into ending Kara’s life.



 For all his flaws, Kara was not without his moments of nobility and greatness. The fortitude with which he bore the pain of an insect boring through his thigh to avoid waking his guru is one such instance. His best moment came when Shri Krishna revealed the secret of his birth to him, and asked him to rejoin his brothers. As Irawati Karwe so well puts it:

 “By accepting Krishna’s offer, he would have become at once a Kshatriya of the highest rank, and a king.    The Pandavas, his hated rivals, would have waited on him as their eldest. All this he gave up, and easily, without saying one harsh word to Krishna. 

 He said, “What you ask is impossible. My whole life has been spent among the sutas.   Myself and my sons have married among them. I cannot now break away from them. Any kingdom that I win I would present to Duryodhana.   Do not try to persuade me.” “So be it,” said Krishna and turned away.  

 This shows Karna to be a noble person, a true friend, a man tied to his foster family by love and duty, an incorruptible vassal.  By spurning for the sake of his friend what he had coveted always, he reached moral grandeur.”



 Unfortunately, he did not continue to dwell in the heights that this moment of self-revelation and clarity scaled. Very soon he reverted to the pettiness with Shalya, and forgot his love for Duryodhana in his jealousy for Arjuna as the episode with Kunti reveals.

 All in all, Kara can only be described as a tragic and truncated hero. His life is a story of what might have been.

 By Dr.Rahul Shastri, 

Based on and inspired by Yugānta: The End of an Epoch, Irawati Karwe, 1968, Poona

Ramayana and Mahabharata – History and not myths

The new chairman of ICHR argues that faith and reason can go hand in hand in the writing of history.



The media describes him as an RSS man and the author of the Mahabharata Project, but very little is known about the mild-mannered historian from Telangana in academic circles.Yellapragada Sudershan Rao, the new chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), describes himself as a colonial historian and argues that faith and reason can go hand in hand in the writing of history.

You have lashed out against Marxist historians and their interpretation of history. Why is the writing of history a Right vs Left debate?

I think it is time to think about India’s history from an Indian perspective. For the last 60 years, our writing and understanding of history has been influenced by the West. Indian research has been far too dependent on the West to write its own history. We are dependent on their translations and interpretation. And, these are my personal views, history writing in India is Euro-centric and imperialistic. The ICHR, I understand, is in the process of acquiring digital records from centres of history in the US and Europe. This will not only give us access to our own records but will also aid us in writing history from our perspective.

You have been appointed by the BJP government. Don’t you think institutions such as the ICHR should be free of politics?

The MoU (memorandum of understanding) prepared by the founding fathers of ICHR gave the powers to the government to appoint heads of social and historical institutes. I have no qualms in admitting that these appointments are political. Have previous heads of social institutes been questioned about their appointments? Why are these questions asked only about me? The government has been formed by a democratic process. It has been elected by the people. To question that is to question democracy itself. Unlike other social institutes, the ICHR attracts a lot of attention because history is an important subject. But history belongs to the people. We have not shown or written a comprehensive history of India to the people of India. History is by the people, for the people and of the people.

You are the author of the Mahabharata project? What is the project about?

There is a certain view that the Mahabharata or the Ramayana are myths. I don’t see them as myths because they were written at a certain point of time in history. They are important sources of information in the way we write history. What we write today may become an important source of information for the fut­ure in the future. When analysed, of course, they could be declared to be true or false. History is not static. It belongs to the people, it’s made by the people. Similarly, the Ram­ayana is true for people…it’s in the collective memory of generations of Indians. We can’t say the Ramayana or the Mahabharata are myths. Myths are from a western perspective.

What does that mean?

For us, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are true accounts of the periods in which they were written.

But shouldn’t the writing of history be rooted in historical evidence and research?

Western schools of thought look at material evidence of history. We can’t produce material evidence for everything. India is a continuing civilisation. To look for evidence would mean digging right though the hearts of villages and displacing people. We only have to look at the people to figure out the similarities in their lives and the depiction in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. For instance, the Ramayana mentions that Rama had travelled to Bhad­ra­chalam (in Andhra Pradesh). A look at the people and the fact that his having lived there for a while is in the collective memory of the people cannot be discounted in the search for material evidence. In continuing civilisations such as ours, the writing of history cannot depend only on archaeological evidence. We have to depend on folklore too.

Are you for correcting the writing of history?

I won’t put it that way. But real history has to come through. I am a follower of truth. The ICHR should encourage research about India and Greater India—from Southeast Asia all the way to Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. There is enough archaeological evidence to show the connect of our civilisation there.

What is your view on Ayodhya?

Is it not a fact that mosques as structures came to be in India in 1000 AD? Is it not a fact that the mosque was built by a lieutenant of Babur? A historian can only enlighten people on the facts of history. Historians can at best say evidence of earlier remains of a Hindu structure are there. Conflicting views are created by political leaders. If Ayodhya is not the place of Ram, where did he live? Looking at the present structures in Ayodhya, we can see people still living the way that finds a mention in the Ramayana. Historians can only give their opinion to enlighten people.

Doesn’t correcting history pose a problem? Why only cast it in the context of two communities? How about Dalits and untouchability?

The question of untouchability is relatively recent, as recent as 3,000 years. And it has its basis in the economy. It was not based on social status. Did we hear of untouchability before this period of 3,000 years? Let me give you an example. Sage Vishwamitra went to a Dalit hut and asked for dog’s meat as he was hungry. The Ramayana and Mahabharata are replete with instances of different castes, did we find a mention of untouchability there?

As a historian, are you trying to give a religious interpretation to history?

I am a Hindu and a Brahmin. To be a Hindu isn’t a religion. In my personal practices, I can adopt religious practices of the community to which I belong—as a Shaivite or a Vaishnavite. But that is not what being a Hindu is about. Reli­gi­ons are recent manifestations. I feel the­re’s only Sanatana Dharma. There was no conflict between communities or on religious lines as there was only one sanatana dharma. Now there are several reasons for conflict to take place. Besides, Muslims are the only ones who have retained their distinct culture. Can Christians or Muslims say all religions are one? A Hindu can say that. There was no conflict when there was sanatana dharma, Conflict or contests came about when temples were destroyed and mosques built on the sites in medieval times.

Didn’t Hindus destroy Buddhist monuments?

I agree. But Buddhism was on the wane then, in decline. But were thousands of people killed as they were in the raids to the Somnath temple? I won’t use the word corrections here. But the real history has to come up