Arjuna, the iconic hero of the Mahabharata

The Mahabharata refers to Arjuna using 14 different names. One of which is Savyasachi.

Do you know what the name means?

Watch the YouTube video for the answer and to know what makes Arjuna the iconic hero of the epic.

Vyasa’s Ramayana(?) – Rama’s story as found in the Mahabharata

The story of Rama had such universal appeal that it is even found in the Mahabharata.

But what is interesting is that Ramopakhyana, as it is called, is very different from the Valmiki version familiar to us.

How?

Listen in to find out!

Mahabharata and the Ukraine War

All wars are the same. They are seeded by the egos, jealousies and insecurities of individuals. Neither the ancient Kurukshetra war nor the ongoing Ukraine war is an exception.

Listen in to the story of how vendetta between two individuals, who were once friends, set off an uncontrollable chain of events that proved to be catastrophic to all of humanity.

Drona’s cruelty to Ekalavya

Why did Drona refuse to teach Ekalavya?

Was it because Ekalavya was not a Kshatriya? Because Ekalavya was supposedly a low-born compared to his other students?

Why did he extract a bloody sacrifice from Ekalavya?

Check the video on one of the most debated issues from the Mahabharata!

Intriguing Patterns in the Mahabharata

Pandu, the father of the Pandavas dies as a result of a curse on his head. On closer observation, one finds that Pandu’s life, bears some similarities with Bhishma’s life.

Both of them are forced to give up the throne or their claim to sovereignty when young.  While Bhishma is forced to abdicate his kingship to fulfil his father Shantanu’s desire to marry Satyavati, Pandu is forced to relinquish his throne because the deer’s curse would never allow him to become a father and bear a successor for the throne.

Again, both Pandu and Bhishma are forced to give up their sex life. Bhishma after he swears to a strict vow of celibacy as part of his promise to Satyavati’s father, and Pandu, because of the dying deer’s curse. Both men are thus forced to lose their social status as well as their manhood and the right to have their basic human needs satisfied.

This is just one of the many recurring patterns in the epic. Explore what they are, and why events tend to repeat in the greatest story ever told.

Mahabharata in Stone

Mahabharata the epic has captured and held the imagination of Indians for over two millennia.

The epic has inspired scores of literary works over the years. So, it’s hardly surprising that the epic also inspired several sculptors to tell its story in stone.

Proud to present some stories from the epic that found expression in the temples of Belur and Halebidu.

The Cult of Goddess Draupadi Amman

Vyasa’s Draupadi, despite being bold and beautiful, is often a victim of her circumstances.

But for a few people living deep down the south of India, Draupadi is the supreme goddess, untouched by any ugly episodes in her life.

For them, she is both a war goddess who blesses her devotees with victory in war and a guardian deity who bestows on them a peaceful domestic life.

Watch the video for a complete story on the worship of Goddess Draupadi Amman!

Duryodhana’s cruel destiny | Gandhari’s Children

Did you know that Duryodhana almost became the rightful heir to the Kuru throne but missed the chance by a cruel twist of fate?

Duryodhana was conceived first, before Yudhishtra. Yet he was born after his cousin.

What went wrong?

Click to find the story of the birth of the Kauravas from where the story of discord between the two cousins begins!

The Mystery of the Missing God from the Mahabharata

(A 5-minute read)

The Shanmatha traditions

Hindu religion, as we know it today, is mostly an aggregation of what used to be six independent sects called the Shanmatha, which included the worship of the Sun (Saura), Vishnu (Vaishnava), Shiva (Shaiva), Kumara or Skanda-Karthikeya (Kaumara), Devi (Shakta) and of course, Ganapati (Ganapatya).

The Missing Deity of the epic

The third and the fourth parvans of the Mahabharata namely the Vana parvan and the Virata parvan refer to the worship of many of these deities. But there is one deity, whose worship references are conspicuously absent in the epic. Which deity is that?

Let’s first start with the deities that the epic knew.

Vishnu: As everyone knows, Krishna, considered an avatar of Vishnu, plays an overarching role in the epic. The Bhagawad Gita clearly presents Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu, as the supreme god.

That is not to say the other equally large Shaivite tradition does not find representation in the text.

Shiva: References to Shiva can be found in the Vana parvan where Arjuna performs a penance to please Shiva and obtains divine weapons such as the Pashupathastra from him. Of course, who else, but the destroyer God, to grant Arjuna weapons of mass destruction!

Shakti: While Shakti, as Parvati, does make a cameo appearance in the Pashupatastra episode of the Vana parvan, she finds greater representation in the Virata parvan. Just before the Pandavas enter the kingdom of Virata to complete the last year of their exile incognito, they pray to Durga, the goddess of war. The Pandavas, led by Yudhishtra, sings praises of goddess Durga seeking success in their mission. She appears before them and blesses them with successful completion of the incognito year without being recognised by the Kauravas and eventual victory over them in the war.

Surya: While in exile in the forest, Yudhishtra is faced with the responsibility of not just feeding his brothers and their wife, Draupadi, but with also ensuring that all the Rishis and Brahmins who have followed him into the forest are fed. So, he performs several austerities to the Sun god, Surya, who blesses him with the Akshaya patra, the vessel that ensured unending supply of food for the Pandavas and their retinue through their stint in the forest. Yudhishtra knew very well, which God to please, when it came to asking for bountiful food!

Karthikeya: The story of the birth of Skanda, the son of Shiva, his childhood exploits and his slaying of Tarakasura are narrated by sage Markandeya in detail in the Vana parvan. Stories about the exploits of Karthikeya, the war God, may have inspired the Pandavas to prepare themselves for the impending war.

Thus, we find that the epic, through its period of evolution, accommodated several existing and emerging religious sects in the form of stories about their chief deities. All deities of the Shanmatha, except one!

So, which deity is absent from the epic’s narrative?

It is Ganesha!

Why are there no stories about his worship in the epic?

Mystery solved

One reason may be that for a long time, Ganapati worship was concentrated in the Western parts of India where he was considered a farmer’s god. Ganapati worship became more mainstream and widespread only around the 5-6th century CE by when it started to emerge as a large and independent sect. Interestingly, by this time, the Mahabharata, as a text, had more or less completed its period of evolution and had reached its final written form. That can explain why stories of Ganesha did not find themselves into the epic.

However, as the worship of Ganesha became popular over time, his devotees could not be disappointed. So, the story about how Vyasa requested Ganesha to be his scribe while composing his magnum opus, was inserted as a frame story in a later-period manuscript, written in Devanagari and belonging to India’s North-Central region.

Who knows? The clever interpolator who inserted the story, may have been a Ganpati devotee himself. But as an elephant-headed God of wisdom, he could not have found a better scribe to pen down Vyasa’s magnum opus!

Om Ganeshaya Namaha!

For more on the Vyasa and Ganesha story, watch this 2-minute video!

Krishna: Five lesser-known facts from the Mahabharata

The story of Krishna is narrated in several texts including the Hari Vamsa and the Bhagawata Purana. In these texts, he is God – omnipresent and omnipotent.

But in the Mahabharata, he comes across as a complex character in varying shades of white, black, grey and blue. Here, he is not always god, but often a thinker-philosopher and war strategist.

Presenting five lesser-known aspects of Krishna from the Mahabharata.