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Showing posts from August, 2009

A Wailing Womb, A Weeping Heart

It was another beautiful morning in the village. The sun had come up in the eastern sky and the village was now bright with a gentle glow. The cold hadn’t cleared fully, though Holi was over and people had stopped taking bath in warmed water. The bakul trees swayed gently in the soft breeze, as though in some light trance born of an intoxication of which only they knew the secret. Or maybe they were in some sweet dream of a near future when the sacred feet of a dark child would take steps under them, sending unspeakable ecstasies into their grateful hearts. Small herds of cows stood idly here and there, soaking the warmth of the early morning sun. Goats nibbled at tufts of grass growing here and there. Something told you that deep within, far beneath the serenity and beauty of it all, the morning hid some deep sorrow. Maybe, it was the distant hills that told you of it with their stoic silence: they seemed to be so still.

There were already a group of men under the banyan tree, some s…

Understanding Mahabharata: The Riddle of Pandu 4

In the Mahabharata, and in fewer details in the Ramayana, we have the story of Kalmashapada. Kalmashapada was an ancestor of Rama who had received a curse from his guru Vasishtha which transformed him into a Rakshasa. While living his accursed life as a Rakshasa, Kalmashapada meets a Brahman youth and his young wife in a forest. The couple were in the jungle making love and they had not yet completed their act when they saw the Rakshasa and ran away. Kalmashapada caught the brahmana, and the brahmani begged him not to eat him up. She told him of how she was in her ritu, how desperate they were for a child, how they hadn’t finished their mating act and therefore he should spare her husband. Kalmashapada did not heed her and went ahead and ate up the Brahmin youth. Angirasi, the brahmani, wept bitter tears – and so deep was her pain that as each drop of her tears fell on the ground, it became a blazing fire and burnt up the place.

The brahmani then cursed Kalmashapada. He had interrupte…

Understanding Mahabharata: The Riddle of Pandu 3

A possible answer is: for the same reasons as turned him impotent.

There is every reason to believe that Pandu’s impotence was psychological. Pandu was physically fit. He was a mighty warrior who was a terror to his enemies. Except for the paleness of his skin, there is no mention of any physical deficiency in him. And his death comes while engaged in an act of sex with his wife. All these point at his impotence having been psychological and not physical.

Are there then psychological reasons that could have caused impotence in Pandu?
Literature on the psychopathology of impotence tells us that while impotence may have physical causes in males over forty, it is almost always of psychological origin in males under forty; that psychopathological impotence may be associated with a very restrictive upbringing concerning sex, negative attitudes toward sex, negative or traumatic sexual experiences and other deep-seated causal factors such as unconscious feelings of hostility, fear, inadequacy…

Understanding Mahabharata: The Riddle of Pandu 2

The second marriage should have been after some time and there should have been an important reason behind it. It was not a love marriage but an arranged one, a political alliance does not seem to have been a necessity, which leaves us one other strong possibility. The marriage had failed to produce what the Kuru-Bharata family needed more urgently than anything else: an heir to Pandu, in case anything happened to the young king. The Kunti-Pandu marriage had failed to produce offspring, which would be the case if Pandu had been impotent from the beginning. Bheeshma, who had no idea that Kunti was already a mother before her marriage, must have assumed this could be because of some fault with her – the woman is the first suspect in such cases and getting a second wife is the easiest solution for the man, particularly for a king. He might not even have considered the possibility that Pandu was impotent. And Pandu might not have revealed it himself, nor Kunti. So Bheeshma goes ahead and …

Understanding Mahabharata: The Riddle of Pandu

I once saw a male and a female deer united in coitus. I can still vividly recall the scene from decades ago because the details are indelibly etched in my mind – so radiant was the sight. There was the deer park, with a tall fence of wire mesh around it, surrounded by large trees in verdant green. In the distance was a hillock and nearby, a large lake with branches of ancient trees bending into it under which I often sat with a book in my hand as the sun serenely journeyed towards the ocean in the western sky. The mating deer couple stood there, the front legs of the male over the doe, their bodies united. The female was absolutely still, not a muscle moved in her body, her eyes did not blink; and in those eyes, in her entire body you could see total surrender, surrender to the act that was going on, surrender to life, surrender to existence. She was no more she then, she had lost her individuality, her identity as an individual animal, and had become one with her Mother, with Mother …

Five Angry Women: 5

Five Angry Women is an attempt to look at certain events in the Mahabharata from the standpoint of some of its central female characters, all brides of the Bharatas – Gandhari, Satyavati, Ambika, Kunti and Draupadi. These women are all angry – angry with their men, angry at what they have been subjected to by them, and their anger bursts out in torrents in these monologues.

Draupadi

I am least known by my own name. People call me Yajnaseni, Draupadi, Panchali, Parshati…but I am Krishnaa, the dark princess born to my father through the blessings of the sacrificial fire, along with my twin, Dhrishtadyumna. Born-of-fire, they called me and I had lived with fire inside me till the day I chose a youth for my man.

Fate forced me to garland and accept for a husband the man whose hands had dealt the greatest blow of disgrace to my father: Prince Arjuna.

But of course, I did not know who he was then. I had lost my heart to that adorable brahmin youth whose archery seemed pure magic as he shot down…

Five Angry Women: 4

Five Angry Women is an attempt to look at certain events in the Mahabharata from the standpoint of some of its central female characters, all brides of the Bharatas – Gandhari, Satyavati, Ambika, Kunti and Draupadi. These women are all angry – angry with their men, angry at what they have been subjected to by them, and their anger bursts out in torrents in these monologues.

Kunti

The woman who fought against Fate, the courageous widow who stood alone and faced the might of an empire which wanted to crush her and her children, a woman who commanded the gods themselves to do her bidding…so they speak of me. But am I all these? Am I any of these? How much of this is true, and how much false?

I, Pritha, the daughter of Devameedha Shoorasena of the Vrishnis, the woman known by the name of Kunti because she was adopted by King Kuntibhoja, have a unique position among the women of the Bharatas.

For all the might of the Bharatas, generations had passed since a princess had chosen a Bharata princ…

Five Angry Women: 3

Five Angry Women is an attempt to look at certain events in the Mahabharata from the standpoint of some of its central female characters, all brides of the Bharatas – Gandhari, Satyavati, Ambika, Kunti and Draupadi. These women are all angry – angry with their men, angry at what they have been subjected to by them, and their anger bursts out in torrents in these monologues.

Ambika

Our family has given many princesses to the Bharatas. King Bharata, that illustrious son of Shakuntala and Dushyanta the story of whose love has become one of the greatest romances of this land, the one that gave this dynasty its present name and who in ancient days conquered all of Aryavarta and gave it the name Bharata, himself had married a Kashi princess, the beautiful Sunanda.

But history does not record how the princesses who came to the antahpura of the Bharatas were treated. Their stories are lost among the glorious acts of the kings who fought in many lands and won all the wars. Amidst all that victor…

Five Angry Women: 2

Five Angry Women is an attempt to look at certain events in the Mahabharata from the standpoint of some of its central female characters, all brides of the Bharatas – Gandhari, Satyavati, Ambika, Kunti and Draupadi. These women are all angry – angry with their men, angry at what they have been subjected to by them, and their anger bursts out in torrents in these monologues.

Satyavati

A lotus is beautiful, you consider it divine, you call it the miracle of nature, you see the glory of the Creator in it—such beauty and it has bloomed in mire, in dirt! But no woman wears the lotus on her head—that honor goes to the flowers that bloom in the well-tended gardens. A lotus is wonderful, but just wonderful enough to offer at the feet of kings, of the gods, of great men, but not wonderful enough to wear on one’s head. Fit for the feet, not for the head.

The footwear on your feet are soft, are beautiful, are convenient. They protect your feet from heat, from the pebbles on the path, from the thor…

Five Angry Women: 1

Five Angry Women is an attempt to look at certain events in the Mahabharata from the standpoint of some of its central female characters, all brides of the Bharatas – Gandhari, Satyavati, Ambika, Kunti and Draupadi. These women are all angry – angry with their men, angry at what they have been subjected to by them, and their anger bursts out in torrents in these monologues.

Gandhari

I was but a field for the Bharatas. To Prince Dhritarashtra, to be precise. And that is how they referred to me often: Dhartarashtra-kshetra, the field of Dhritarashtra. Kshetra means a field, a spot of ground, a bit of soil, a patch of land, where you sow seeds and let time run its course for you to reap the crop.

I was never given any more right than a field has in the matter of its produce. How I had to stand and watch as a helpless bystander as my pretty children all grew up to be evil, masters in the wicked ways of the world, encouraged by a father whose greed for power was the very essence of his being!