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Hindu Mythology

Mahabharata is the largest epic of the ancient India.

Mahabharata tells of a struggle for the throne between the five sons of Pandu (the Pandavas) and their impious cousins, the Kauravas (sometimes called the Kurus). Pandu was the second of three princes, and took the throne in preference to his blind elder brother, Dhritarashtra. As the result of a curse, Pandu died tragically while his sons were minors. Pandu's younger brother, Vidura, though pious and learned, was born of a maidservant and could not ascend the throne. It thus remained vacant and by the law of succession should have passed to Pandu's sons, headed by the pious Yudhisthira. As the boys grew up, alongside their cousins, Dhritarashtra acted as regent. However, his one hundred sons, headed by Duryodhana, were increasingly resentful that fate had deprived them and their father of the vast empire.

Arjuna, the third son of Pandu, to whom Krishna spoke the Bhagavad-gita. Here disguised as abrahmana, he wins the hand of Draupadi.
The Kauravas therefore plotted to kill the teenage Pandavas and their widowed mother, Kunti, by burning them alive. The princes were tipped off and escaped the burning palace via a tunnel. Now aware of their cousins' treachery, they opted to remain in the forest. During this time, the third brother, Arjuna, won Draupadi as a bride in an archery contest. Due to a benediction gained in a previous life, Draupadi became the wife of all five brothers.
The blind king, feeling repentant, arranged to return to his nephews half the kingdom - but by far the worst half. However, with the help of their friend Krishna, the Pandava kingdom flourished and became opulent in all respects.
Hearing of Yudhisthira's fame and popularity, Duryodhana seethed with envy. He threatened and cajoled his blind father to arrange for a gambling match between the two groups of cousins. The weak and affectionate Dhritarashtra reluctantly consented. Duryodhana ensured that the dice were rigged, and Yudhisthira lost everything.

A pivotal point in the Mahabharata. In this painting Krishna protects Draupadi, as one of the Kurus tried to disrobe her. According to Hindu theology, the abuse of a woman incurs heavy "bad karma." None of the nobles intervened and in this way they precipitated their destruction on the field of Kurukshetra.
One of the Kurus even tried to strip Draupadi naked, but Krishna protected her by supplying an endless length of sari. None of the warriors intervened, sowing the seeds of their future destruction.The five brothers took terrible and irrevocable oaths to destroy the offenders. Nonetheless, according to the terms of the contest, they and Draupadi were exiled to the forest for thirteen years. During the final year they were to remain incognito and if discovered were to remain in exile for a further twelve years.

Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield
The five princes and their wife again entered the forest. After many adventures, they adopted disguises for the final year, trying to avoid the spies sent by their cousins. They remained undetected and finally returned to reclaim their kingdom. The Kauravas refused, and the two parties prepared for war on the plains of Kurukshetra. The carnage lasted eighteen days and the Pandavas came out victorious, but with very few soldiers left. Yudhisthira was crowned emperor.

The ethical gaps were not resolved to anyone's satisfaction on the surface of the narrative and the aftermath of the war was dominated by a sense of horror and malaise. Yudhishthira alone was terribly troubled, but his sense of the war's wrongfulness persisted to the end of the text, in spite of the fact that everyone else, from his wife to Krishna Vasudeva, told him the war was right and good; in spite of the fact that the dying patriarch Bhishma lectured him at length on all aspects of the Good Law (the Duties and Responsibilities of Kings, which have rightful violence at their center; the ambiguities of Righteousness in abnormal circumstances; and the absolute perspective of a beatitude that ultimately transcends the oppositions of good versus bad, right versus wrong, pleasant versus unpleasant, etc.); in spite of the fact that he performed a grand Horse Sacrifice as expiation for the putative wrong of the war. These debates and instructions and the account of this Horse Sacrifice are told at some length after the massive and narrative of the battle; they form a deliberate tale of pacification that aims to neutralize the inevitable reactions of the war.
In the years that follow the war Dhritarashtra and his queen Gandhari , and Kunti , the mother of the Pandavas, lived a life of asceticism in a forest retreat and died with yogic calm in a forest fire. Krishna Vasudeva departed from this earth thirty-six years after the war. When they learned of this, the Pandavas believed it time for them to leave this world too and they embarked upon the 'Great Journey,' which involved walking north toward the polar mountain, that is toward the heavenly worlds, until one's body dropped dead. One by one Draupadi and the younger Pandavas died along the way until Yudhishthira was left alone with a dog that had followed him all the way. Yudhishthira made it to the gate of heaven and there refused the order to drive the dog back, at which point the dog was revealed to be an incarnate form of the God Dharma (the God who was Yudhishthira's actual, physical father), who was there to test Yudhishthira's virtue. Once in heaven Yudhishthira faced one final test of his virtue: He saw only the Dhartarashtra Clan in heaven, and he was told that his brothers were in hell. He insisted on joining his brothers in hell, if that were the case! It was then revealed that they were really in heaven, that this illusion had been one final test for him.





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