Who is the Hero of Mahabharata? Bhīma? Arjun? Krishna or Duryodhana?
A reader who is self-proclaimed follower of Hindu Aikya Vedi called me and asked: “Udayji, who is the real hero of Mahabharata? Recently, India’s biggest movie was announced – The Mahabharata – an adaptation of MT Vasudevan Nair’s Randamoozham (Second Turn) in which Bhīma is the hero…”
“It’s not the adaptation of Ved Vyasa’s Mahabharata and they should not give that title.”
I read MT Vasudevan Nair’s Randamoozham (Second Turn) while it was being published as serial in a news weekly during early 1980s when I was a college student. Based on the Indian epic Mahabharata, the novel tells the story from Bhīma’s perspective, the second of the Pandavas. I had the opportunity to interview MT, who was my favorite writer then, about this novel. Later he had got Jnanpeeth Award for the novel.
Now, Randamoozham is becoming India’s biggest ever motion picture, with an investment of INR 1000 crore (USD 150 million). A UAE-based Indian businessman BR Shetty will invest to produce the film. Veteran actor Mohan Lal is acting as Bhima, the protagonist.
“The great Sanskrit epic has been a topic of creative adaptation in various formats in all art forms for many decades. Many have written novels based on Mahabharata. So, what’s wrong in this novel? It is an exciting novel…” I asked him.
“We are not against the movie or novel. But it should not be titled as Mahabharata. Bhīma was not the hero of Mahabharata right?” he asked.
“I have read Mahabharata many times. I always found it difficult to understand who is the real hero of the epic – because every character in the epic is unique and important. If you try to remove one character, the entire epic will collapse – it is unparalleled mastery craft that never ever can be imitated. That’s why it is said, “Vyasochishtam jagat sarvam,” or whatever you find in the universe, Vyas has said it before. Such well-crafted epic”
“But it is a known fact that Arjun is the hero and Duryodhana is the villain of Mahabharata…”
“Yes, if you read Mahabharata with a Semitic mind-set of Good Guys Vs. Bad Guys. But Veda Vyas tried to prove a totally different dimension. There is no hero-villain concept in this great epic.”
“Whatever said and done, Bhīma is not the hero, right?”
“Hmmm…You tell me then, who are the villains? Conventional hero needs conventional villains.”
“The Kauravas (100 sons of the King of Hastinapur, Dhritarashtra, and his wife Gandhari) are the villains”
“OK, the hero should be one who kills all the 100s right?”
“It was Bhīma who killed all the 100 Kauravas – no one else had any role in it. He single-handedly finished all Kauravas. In ancient days it was the responsibility of the King to kill enemy King. Bhima killed Duryodhana. So isn’t it Bhīma the hero? As MT said, he should have been the King, right?”
“Ah, no – according to Hindu Undivided Family, the first son of the King should be the next King…”
“In that case, Dhritarashtra’s first son Duryodhana should be the King…”
“No, but Dhritarashtra’s younger brother Pandu ruled the Kingdom as the former was blind, right? So, the eldest son Yudhishtira should be the King. Duryodhana is the villain, right?” he asked.
“Using the same logic, if second brother (Pandu) can be the King, why can’t second brother of Yudhishtira, Bhīma be the King?”
“You are confusing. But Pandavas are heroes and Kauravas are villains, right?”
“How can you say that? Tomorrow, somebody from your village comes and claims your house, what would you do?” I asked him.
“I don’t understand…”
“The Kuru King Shantanu’s eldest son and crown prince was Bhishma. He didn’t become King. Later Shantanu married to Satyavati. He had two sons with second wife – Chitrangada and Vichitravirya. Though the second son Vichitravirya was named as next King, both of them died childless. So, factually, Kuru clan (blood lineage) is finished there. So the Kingdom adopts two son of Vyasa – Dhritarashtra and Pandu. Both do not have any blood or ancestry of Kuru. Dhritarashtra was crowned the King. Since he was blind, his second brother Pandu took care of the Kingdom.”
“Exactly, so Pandu’s sons have rights, right?”
“Pandu was childless! None of the Pandavas are his sons. Pandu went to forest with his wives Kunti and Madri. Both of them together delivered five sons – they didn’t have Pandu’s blood in them. After Pandu’s death, one fine morning, all these five sons came to Hastinpur and claimed half of the Kingdom from Dhritarashtra. Isn’t it like your neighbor claiming half of your house? So, who are villains here?”
“Udayji, I didn’t think in this angle….”
“Dhritarashtra was magnanimous and treated them with equal importance. Thus a part of the Kingdom was given to Pandavas.”
“So, Yudhistira (Dharmaputra), eldest of Pandava, became the King. So he is the hero…”
“You are still in the realm of hero and villain concept. Dharmaputra went in for the evil vices. By playing dice game he brought insult to his wife. He lost his kingdom to Duryodhana. Even then, Dhritarashtra pardoned him and gave the Kingdom back. But he went in for dice game again – a man can make mistake once, but here is the wisest of all men succumbing to vice twice! So how can you say he is the hero?”
“So who is the hero of Mahabharata? Krishna?”
“If somebody tells you Krishna was biased to Pandavas as they were his cousins? Didn’t he know that Pandavas were not rightful heir of Hastinpur? Why did he support them?” (http://www.udaypai.in/krishna-reloaded-bhagavad-gita-ver-2…/ )
“Udayji – I am totally confused now. I know you are a great proponent of Krishna and Mahabharata. What are you coming to?”
“Mahabharata is epic of Human behavior in its totality. It negates discrimination of any sorts – caste, creed and sex. It tells you that a position is NOT birth based, but based on Karma. ”
“Some people say Yudhistira did villainy by gambling?”
“Yudhistra was the wisest of men, an embodiment of Dharma, BUT like all men he too had a weakness, a weakness for gambling. Gambling is a vice that can drive the sanest of men to insanity. There could not have been a better example than Yudhistira.”
“What about Duryodhana, if he is rightful heir, why did Krishna oppose him?”
“Duryodhana was King by birth only. He didn’t follow his Dharma as a King. A person becomes Kshatriya King by his deeds and virtues, not by birth. Krishna was born as a Yadav, today’s OBC. He was neither Kshatriya nor Brahmin… Krishna was an embodiment of Dharma. A King should respect all his citizens equally. When Pandavas were ill-treated, Krishna supported them. He was supporting Dharma. It was not because they were his cousins. If relation was the priority he could have saved his own sons and grandsons from death…Krishna always followed Dharma, that’s why we elevated him to the position of an Avatar. All the heroes and villains of Kuru clan were sons or grandsons of Vyasa, who was son of a fisherwoman…”
“So, Vysa is the real hero of Mahabharat…”
“In that case, he should have introduced himself as the most handsome, six-packed hero. Instead he is describing himself as ugliest looking man. 100 Kauravas are born on his blessings. He is the mental father to them. Still he chooses to make Kauravas fail, why?”
“Oh, so to understand Mahabharata one has to research a lot…”
“Even MT told me that one life time is not enough to understand Mahabharata. It’s an ocean. Every one takes a drop from it and says we learnt Mahabharata…”
Mahabharata is not a Hollywood Good guys Vs bad guys story. It does not teach you Kindergarten morals.
Because, the hero of Mahabharata is Dharma. It’s all about Dharma. It tells you that Dharma is above than any relation and why should one always follow it. The top priority is sustaining Dharma in the world. And even Gods will get punished if they don’t follow the Dharma.
If you are teaching your children Mahabharata the way you tell God vs. Satan stories, you are making a big mistake. You won’t be able to answer the questions posed by them. So, try to read original Mahabharata, rather than picture stories and adapted forms. (http://www.udaypai.in/is-mahabharata-logical/ )
“Do you know why does the entire world respect Chinese traditions and historical culture? How did the modern world come to know about Chinese culture?”
“The period movies from China became hits all around the world. Chinese martial art forms are a house hold name and youths are getting attracted to it. It proves that cinema is still the strongest medium to send messages across the world. Hu Shih, former Ambassador of China to USA once said “India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border.” How many people know that Karate is originated from South India?”
“Yes, I have seen a Tamil movie about Bodhi dharma…”
“Yes, you came to know through a movie. So let many well-researched movies on Mahabharata come up. You have seen how the movie Bahubali fare did. Such exciting movies should come and become hit all around the world. At least the brain-washed Indian would come to know about their ancestors and rich culture….” I said.
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