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Pro to Saivite-Vaishnav struggles
There was a long period when Krishna competed with Arjuna, Bhima, Yudhishthara and Draupadi for place in the hearts of folk. There was a period when the Hinduism was a true Polytheistic religion where many gods were worshipped and both epics gave us those gods.
Take the Geeta, Krishna is the supreme God. Add to it to Adiparva, Krishna is a supreme god. Add Sabha parva, Krishna is supreme god, Add Bheeshma Parva, Krishna is supreme God, Add Udyoga Parva, Krishna is the supreme God but hang on Vidura neeti and Sanata Sujata tell a tale, Add Drona Parva and boom Arjuna and Bhima emerge and shine, Add other war parvas, Arjuna and Bhima burnish hot white flames. We start having multiple Gods. Good.
Add Vana Parva, and boom who is this guy Yudhishthara!! Add Shanti and Anushasana and who was Krishna!!
More you go into details, Jaya is about Jaya only. Jaya the name Draupadi calls Yudhishthara, the name Agni Purana gives to the King who wins the Dharma Yuddha! The name Vyas also gave his Epic. More you add details, more Krishna gets lost. That is why Vyasa wrote Harivamsa at end as an appendix, he does not want Krishna to be lost. Vyasa was even more concerned, he went ahead and wrote a nineteenth Purana on Krishna, The Srimada Bhagwada Purana. That confident was Vyas that his heroes of Epic will outshine Krishna so he created two extra Puranas.
And when we are describing the Mahabharata and the Heroes it produces. On top there is the Virata Parva.
The rural folks do not like reading Sabha parva sections of Dyuta much, the lower segments of society and audiences full of women from lower castes and poorer families, they all are well aware of what happens when one of them gets trapped behind those palatial walls, they have all lost friends and relations to the lusts of the Havelis and palaces.
They do not want to be reminded of the pain they or their loved ones have gone through; they know of it personally. The Kauravas sit in courts and rule the roost of their lives in this Kali yuga.
The rural folk, they do want to listen to the Warrior Princess reclaiming her anger in the pristine nature of Vana Parva exhorting the Dharmaraja, they want to confide with the Queen hiding as the hair dresser, as one of them, and they want to hear the death throes of Keechaka as the Sudra cook kills the Soota commander.
If Aranya Parva brings the power and glory of divine born sons of Pandu to the forefront, the Virata sees them become one of us! The gods who would love and live like one of the crowd, the people, the ordinary and enjoy in that life. The sheer attraction of the sons of Pandu and their warrior wife is their ability to be one with us. That was the powerful construct of Vyasa. He knew the power of his Virata Parva.
Aranya Parva is glorious, losing all their privileges and pleasures of the palace life, Pandavas reclaim their spirits under the bounty of mother nature. (bare necessities… ‘ok ok I will not sing again’).
Nature is the life giver, represented by Akshaye Patra given to Draupadi by Sun God. Arjuna gets divine weapons in the forest, Bhima tests his prowess and develops his skills fighting the evil forces in forests and helping the tribal’s while Dharmaraja attains absolute mental fitness through intense introspection.
The Aranya Parva is full of stories on these aspects. Like gold shines going through fire, the cool loving lap of mother nature shines the inner aspects of the six heroes. But even in forests, they were Pandavas, half gods.
But in Virata Parva they are anonymous, they are the wheel-maker sitting under the tree, they are the lady playing tanapura, they are the cowherds and the village priest, they are everyman and every woman and that’s why the kathavachaks always start the Epic recitation in the villages with Virata Parva. Be it in 20th century Karnataka, Chattisgarh, Dakshina Kosala, Bundelkhand or 8th century Java, they always start with Virata Parva.
In ancient India, the very act of losing one’s heritage or lineage was akin to death sentence and is a vital aspect which drives the wars and civilizations.
We celebrate the Indian four asharama stage, Bala, Grihsatha, Vanprstha and Sanyasa. What is more autumnal than giving up your entire identity (even if for a year) and accepting and enjoying life in a brand new cloak.
Like a person changes clothes, soul moves from one mortal coil to another cloak. Unlike, the formative years of Balaavastha, where one does not even remember the old birth but here the Pandavas and their Queen have the baggage of their old life and plans for returning to it.
In the Dasa and Sharana traditions, the aspect of losing one’s identity and giving up attachments, caste, name, comforts, and luxury and living a simple, pure and stoic life are celebrated. (The simple bare necessities…)
The popularity of Dasa and Sharana traditions in rural India magnifies the love people have for Virata parva Pandavas, they recharge their energies but also attain inner strengths and mental stability. Draupadi calmly goes to Bhima and incites him to handle Keechaka. Bhima, who resembles a veritable Bull in China shop, breaks the upa-keechakas like crockery using guile and finesse.
The firestorm awaits them at Kurukshetra, the pools which Parasurama filled with blood will soon be running red and the sun and fire await the countless swahas and ahutis of yagna pashu in form of men at the Dharma yagna called Mahabharata. That horror will come to cleanse the wickedness, the destroyer in its sublime dance of death across the battlefield is testing his anklets and fixing his mundamala, the Pandavas attain the oasis of peace and focus in the all embracing lap of the greatest mother of all, public, the aam Aadmi, the Aavaam, Ayi and Amma in one.
In Virata Parva, as ordinary people, Pandavas learn to take joys in little things and pleasures from every day, the refreshing sleep after hard day’s labor, that is what Vyasa tried to capture for Krishna. The Warrior Krishna in Harivamsa for the Vana Parva Pandavas and the attempt at Everyman Krishna in Bhagawada.
Why the heck do you think Krishna is famous?
Not the politician and warrior destroying asuras, it is the butter stealing, mischievous son of Nanda and Yashoda. The one who plays the flute for gopis and breaks their pots. The God of India is Nandlala, Radhaswami, Gopala, the son of Nanda, the lover of Radha, the Cowherd! That’s where Krishna enters the heart. He is always there in the mind. Virata parva effect for the Pandava Six is the equivalent of Bhagwada Purana, the Bhakti Purana.
Once he was done with his Epic, his Vedanta sutras, his Prasthanatrayi, literally, three sources, the three canonical texts of Hindu philosophy:
- Upadesha prasthana (injunctive texts), and the Śruti prasthāna (the starting point of revelation) his aphorisms on philosophy and metaphysics
- Brahma Sutras, known as Nyaya prasthana or Yukti prasthana (logical text)
- Bhagavad Gita, known as Sadhana prasthana (practical text), and the Smriti prasthāna (the starting point of remembered tradition)
- And The Mahabharata.
Vyasa was still a discontented man.
One day, the wandering sage Narada happened to meet forlorn looking Vyasa as if under great duress and pain. Narada was himself pained and enquired ‘‘Why are you looking so lost, even after your great achievements the Mahabharata and Prasthanatrayi?’’
Vyasa replied “A great achievement — that is precisely what I am looking for. I am not satisfied yet. I have not given due importance to Krishna. I have not yet provided the final source of worship’’.
Narada advised him to sing the stories of Krishna, and Vyasa began writing the Bhagavata Purana, the nineteenth Purana.
In the Vishnu Purana, the Harivamsa Purana, and above all, the Mahabharata, the stories of Krishna had been sung by Vyasa in some detail. Why, then, was Vyasa dissatisfied?
The answer is The Power of Virata Parva. It is not the Warrior or Darshanik Guide Vasudeva who appeals to the everyman and everywoman.
It is the essential Kanha, the Krishna, the Muralidhara is the one who dwells eternally in Vraja, the land of the cowherds around Mathura. Krishna as the embodiment of bliss manifests essentially in the leelas, plays and pastimes of Vraja. That is why Vyas had to write Bhagvada Purana.
Panini in 6th cen BCE complains about Arjunites and Krishnites. They fight each other while their Gods fought together on One Chariot against all comers. He laughs at them. Later commentators including yours truly would laugh at Vaishnavites and Shaivites fighting while all texts say their Gods are one and part of each other.
It was the Panchratras which bridged the gap between the intelligentsia and the mundane and made Krishna the household name in the land.
Evolution of Religion
The religion in the day of Vyasa was Yajna based.
The mode of worship was the performance of Yajna, sacrifices which involved sacrifice and sublimation of the havana sámagri in the fire, accompanied by the singing of Samans and chanting of Yajus, the sacrificial mantras. The sublime meaning of the word yajna is derived from the Sanskrit verb yaj, which has a three-fold meaning of worship of deities (devapujana), unity (sangatikaraña) and charity (dána).
The essential element was the sacrificial fire – the divine Agni – into which oblations were poured, as everything offered into the fire was believed to reach God. Central concepts in the Vedas are Satya and Rta.
Satya is derived from Sat, the present participle of the verbal root as, “to be, to exist, to live“.
Sat means “that which really exists, the really existent truth; the Good“, and Sat-ya means “is-ness“.
Rta, “that which is properly joined; order, rule; truth“, is the principle of natural order which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it.
“Satya (truth as being) and rita (truth as law) are the primary principles of Reality and its manifestation is the background of the canons of dharma, or a life of righteousness.”
“Satya is the principle of integration rooted in the Absolute, rita is its application and function as the rule and order operating in the universe.”
Conformity with Ṛta would enable progress whereas its violation would lead to punishment.
The decay and dormancy of the chalta-hai and everyday existence culture affected the religion as well as polity. Mahabharata was not just the cleaning of the Political class but the powerful message of Yudhishthara for Caste-less society, caste on basis of Action than birth was the power mantra which saw the formation of New Brahmins or Janamejaya Brahmins (Ones who conquer birth.)
The struggle started with Parasara and continued across many generations. The culmination, the zenith, the climax of the struggle was the final debate between Devamitra Sakalya and Brahmavaha Yajnavalkya, the eighth generation to be involved in this struggle.
Brahmavaha Yajnavalkya first defeated Vacankavi Gargi and then answered the thousand questions of Devamitra Sakalya. The defeat of Sakalya saw Janaka cut his head off for his arrogance.
This defeat of Sakalya was end of old Brahamanical older and establishment of new Brahamanical order by Yajnavalkya. This fight to destroy the dead or degenerate decaying old brahamanical order started with Parasara and Vishwaksena and was carried forward by Vyasa, Dharmaraja, then Janamejaya and Tura Kavasheya, Uttanka and eventually the Yajnavalkya and his disciples eventually culminating in destruction of Sakalya as the representative of the old order, on the point of dispute pertaining to “Upanasidic Purusa”.
Since Vedic times, “people from many strata of society throughout the subcontinent tended to adapt their religious and social life to Brahmanic norms”, a process sometimes called Sanskritization. It is reflected in the tendency to identify local deities with the gods of the Sanskrit text. The new order basically the Upanisidic or Vedantic period saw the explosion of the philosophy and renaissance of the thought in the culture. The older Upanishads launched attacks of increasing intensity on the ritual. Anyone who worships a divinity other than the Self is called a domestic animal of the gods in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
The Mundaka launches the most scathing attack on the ritual by comparing those who value sacrifice with an unsafe boat that is endlessly overtaken by old age and death.
This new order established by Yajnavalkya lasted 400 plus years when it also became a part of another decaying order which launched the next cycle of Kshatriya interventions culminating in Ajivaka, Gautama Buddha and Mahavira.
Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak had said “The Revolutionaries of today will be Moderates of Tomorrow just as Moderates of Today were the revolutionaries of Yesterday.”
That is the nature of life. Ever changing, ever challenging.
This was the rise of Sramana movements, Sramana were a series of mixed Vedic and non-Vedic Indian religious movement parallel to but separate from the historical Vedic religion. The Śramaṇa tradition gave rise to Yoga, Jainism, Buddhism, modern Hinduism and some nāstika schools of Hinduism such as Cārvāka and Ājīvika, and also popular concepts in all major Indian religions such as saṃsāra (the cycle of birth and death) and moksha (liberation from that cycle).
The rise of these movements and their popularity with the Intelligentsia the urban crowd saw them achieve political power. The emphasis was on the renunciate ascetic traditions. The Sramana movement grew into prominence during the times of Mahavira and Buddha when Vedic ritualism had become the dominant tradition in certain parts of India.
Śramaṇas adopted a path alternate to the Vedic rituals to achieve liberation, while renouncing household life. They typically engage in three types of activities: austerities, meditation, and associated theories. The new Prasthanatrayi.
They dominated the public discourse and public purse and from fifth to eight century the political discourse as well They had political control and the control of the public purse. This is where the mainstream Vaishnava and Saivite movements adapted amazingly.
In the urban locales, Vasudeva and Mahesha wrestled with the Sramana concepts. But it was in the rural milieu where the battle for India’s soul was fought and won.
The Hindu smriti texts of the period proclaim the authority of the Vedas, and acceptance of the Vedas becomes a central criterion for defining Hinduism over and against the heterodoxies, which rejected the Vedas. Of the six main Hindu darsanas, the Mimamsa and the Vedanta “are rooted primarily in the Vedic sruti tradition and are sometimes called smarta schools in the sense that they develop smarta orthodox current of thoughts that are based, like smriti, directly on sruti.
But it was not smriti or sruti that won the battle. Nor the great Philosphers like Sankara, Madhavacharya or Appana Dikshita won the day.
It was the old woman who gets up in the morning before the sun and sings the morning song, the young girl, the mother, the grandmother, the lady of the house. It was the lady who got up before everyone in Mahabharata and ran the household. It was the lady who dressed hair and stood up to the tyrant. It was the Indian woman. It was Bhakti and devotional singing. It was the one who let go and said “Govinda, Govinda!”. It was the Alavars and Nayanaras.
The consolidation of Hinduism as Alf Hiltebeitel always quotes took place under the auspices of Bhakti and devotional singing. The Gods are no longer ONLY ACCESSIBLE through the yagna or with deep meditation or austerity or pilgrimages, they are available in each House, in each Kitchen, in each Alcove, in each Pillar, in each Heart.
Bhakti was Virataparvization of the religion. Bhagwada and Shiva Purana were its Bibles like Ramcharita Manas, Durga stuti, Ganpati Stavam, Hanuman Chalisa, et all
It is the Bhagavad Gita that seals this achievement. It views Shiva and Vishnu as “complementary in their functions but ontologically identical”. This devotional aspect which was developed found common ground with Vaishanava saints as well and asserted a positive union between Shiva and Vaishnava bhaktas. Vyasa had created his Prasthanatrayi, literally, three sources, the three canonical texts of Hindu philosophy. But, Bhakti was his hidden fourth source, the fount of our spiritualism, the wellspring of our devotion, it is found inside us, in our hearts, he just gave us the key to unlock it.
Devotion or Bhakti especially singing was not part of the solemn festivities of the votaries of Middle path and Yatidharma. Each Indian movie has songs, movies without songs seldom appears and seldom are a success. (“It was a Wednesday” a great counter example). It was the art of Narada, Bhimasena (as per Vayu) and Brihannala that won Hinduism the continuous place in the sun. It is the Jagaran and singing that promoted Durga, Ganesha and Murugan. It is the devotional hymns that are the daily part of our ritual not just the mantras which has continued the cycle of our ancestors where all else have laid to dust.
यूनान-व-मिस्र-व-रूमा सब मिट गए जहाँ से
अब तक मगर है बाक़ी नाम-व-निशाँ हमारा
कुछ बात है कि हस्ती मिटती नहीं हमारी
सदियों रहा है दुश्मन दौर-ए-ज़माँ हमारा
Imagine if Vyas had used the devotional songs from very beginning. I am taking an example if Savarni Somadatti, one of the original Purana writers had written a devotional song on say his uncle/brother Bhurishrvas. (adapted from bhajan version of an item song!).
Jaikara Yupaketu Da
Bol Saache Darbar Ki Jai chorus (Jai Ho)
Hum Bhaiyya Ke Superfan
Blue Hain Kesha Laal Tere Nain
From Am To Pm
Seva Karangey Any Tame
Seva Karangey Any Tame
Tainu Main Love Karda
Tera Bhajan Japda
O Mere Syamayami chorus(Jai Ho)
Tujhse Request Ye Kare
Sannu Tu Bless Karde
Dukh Sadde Less Kar De
O Mere Somadatti
Tujhse Request Ye Kare chorus (Jai Ho)
Subah Hone Na De (14th night)
Chain Khone Na De
Tere Charno Mein
Yuhi Baithe Rahe…
O Mere Bhraata O..O..O….
Bhurisrvas O…O..Mere..Bhayya..chorus (Jai Ho)
Haath Ko daan Kara De
Bahalika ka Maan Barra De
O Mere Bhurishrva chorus (Jai Ho)
Tujhse Request Ye Kare Jai Ho
Subah Hone Na De
Saath Khone Na De
Tere Charno Main
Yuhi Baithe Rahe
O Mere Chacha O..O..O….
O Mere Chacha O..O..O….
Pranshu B. Saxena