Stories have enthralled me ever since I can remember. And for me, the Mahabharata has always been the best treasure house of collected short stories woven into one of the most fascinating stories ever. I have never passed up an opportunity to read yet another version. I seem to never tire of the Mahabharata, besides, there is always some new angle, new story or the other. No wonder, Ved Vyaas worked in that clause in response to Ganesh’s condition… What? You don’t have any idea what I am talking about?
Tsk tsk, I simply must narrate it to you at the cost of digressing from the topic at hand.
Legend has it that sage Ved Vyaas wanted a writer to pen down the epic as it flowed out from his lips. He appealed to the gods for help, who directed him to the elephant headed god Sri Ganesh, who agreed but on one condition. Ved Vyaas couldn’t stop his dictation.
Ved Vyaas agreed but on a counter condition – that Ganesh wouldn’t write down anything until he had understood it completely. Ganesh agreed and the task of writing down the Mahabharata began. When Ved Vyaas wished to take a break, he would pause at a point that offered numerous interpretations and connotations. Ganesh would be left pondering on the implications while Ved Vyaas ate, bathed or even slept. If that isn’t cool what is!
Oh and while I am at it – do you know why Sri Ganesh has a broken tusk? Once while Ved Vyaas was dictating, Ganesh’s quill broke, since he couldn’t break his own condition of non-stop dictation, he simply broke off a part of his tusk and continued writing!
Of course there are other versions as well.
But coming back to the topic, over the years, although my fascination with the Mahabharata hasn’t dimmed, but my focus has shifted from the story and the circumstances to the characters themselves. Each is a finely crafted, layered and compelling case in point.
Let’s take Gandhari for instance. She has often been portrayed as the ultimate self-sacrificing wife, who voluntarily shunned eyesight just because her husband Dhritadashtra was blind. If my better half cannot see, as a compassionate and devoted companion, I too should not see was apparently her mantra. At least that is how I have always viewed her.
But of late, I cannot help but wonder if she wore her blindfold as a mark of protest against her forced marriage to a blind king. Did she hold a covert (nonetheless bitter) grudge at not being the Queen of Hastinapur despite being the wife of the eldest son of the Kuru clan? When Kunti’s son was born before hers, she was upset enough to pound her abdomen in frustration at having lost the chance to be Queen mother as well.
Was her blindfold real or metaphorical? Could her blindfold symbolize her turning a blind eye to her brother Shakuni’s evil machinations? Didn’t she, by her passivity, enable Shakuni, her brother, to fulfill his vow to destroy the Kuru clan?
Gandhari had no choice but to marry Dhritadashtra. But she never let the world (or herself) forget the injustice done to her. By wearing the blindfold she succeeded in constantly reminding the world of her silent protest (at great cost to herself), her pathetic condition, her great sacrifice. But in reality, was she the real villain of Mahabharata – acting behind a façade of goodness and forbearance whilst allowing the Kuru clan to hurtle towards its inevitable destruction.
Quite the classic case of cutting of one’s nose to spite one’s face.
But was it worth it? Did she gain more than she lost? Did she ever visualize the consequences of her desire for retribution at all cost – death and destruction of her one hundred sons? Given another chance, would she have done it again? Yet how else could she have registered her protest?
What if she had not deliberately closed her eyes? Would the story of Mahabharata been different?
Questions, questions…Answers anyone?
Thought for the day
“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
― Carrie Fisher