Wednesday, April 22, 2009

PDE Mahabharata: Pandavas and Kauravas

Reading Guide. The widowed Kunti alone raises the five sons of Pandu, living in the remote Himalayas under the protection of the sages who live on the mountain peaks. She then brings the five boys to Pandu's royal city, Hastinapura, where Pandu's brother, the blind king Dhritarashtra, gives them a home and raises the five sons of Pandu (the Pandavas) together with his own sons (called the Kauravas).

Image: The photograph below is a sculpture of the Pandava brothers from the Dashavatara Temple (The Temple of the Ten Avatars of Vishnu) in Deogarh, India.

Source. The first part is from Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913), and the second part is from The Five Brothers by Elizabeth Seeger [600 words] Seeger begins her retelling of the Mahabharata with exactly this scene, when the Pandavas come with Kunti to the court of Hastinapura.

Gandhari | 12. Pandavas and Kauravas | Nagas

The widowed Kunti returned to Hastinapura with her three sons and the two sons of Madri also. When she told unto Dhritarashtra that Pandu his brother had died, he wept and mourned greatly; then he bathed in holy waters and poured forth the funeral oblation. The blind king gave his protection to the five princes who were Pandu's heirs.

So the Pandavas and Kauravas were reared together in the royal palace at Hastinapura. Nor was favor shown to one cousin more than another. The young princes were trained to throw the stone and to cast the noose, and they engaged lustily in wrestling bouts and practiced boxing. As they grew up, they shared work with the king's men; they marked the young calves, and every three years they counted and branded the cattle.

Yet, despite all that could be done, the two families lived at enmity. Of all the young men Bhima, of the Pandavas, was the most powerful, and Duryodhana, the leader of the Kauravas, was jealous of him. Bhima was ever the victor in sports and contests. The Kauravas could ill endure his triumphs, and at length they plotted among themselves to accomplish his death.

Here is an account of the arrival of the Pandavas at the city:

The chariot of the thousand-rayed sun was rising from the eastern hills when the five sons of Pandu, with their mother, Kunti, came to the principal gate of Hastinapura, the City of the Elephant. They had been brought there by the holy sages who dwelt on the Mountain of a Hundred Peaks, where the sons of Pandu had been born and where they had spent their childhood. As they drew near to the city, the boys, who had known no home but the deep forest, beheld with wonder the high white walls, the arched gateways as dark as storm clouds, and the countless palaces surrounded by flowering trees, all touched by the first light of the sun, the maker of the day. This was their father's city, the noble capital of the kings of the Bharata folk.

The eldest of the sages, knocking at the gate, summoned the porter, who looked with amazement at the company that stood before him. He saw the stately lady Kunti and the five boys, as beautiful as gods, who stood beside her with the bearing of young lions. At her right was the eldest, about twelve years old, and beside him his brother, a year younger, broad of shoulder and long of arm, as strong as a yearling bull. At her left was a slender, dark-skinned boy with curling hair, and close to him were the younger brothers, twins of astonishing beauty.

Around Kunti and her sons stood those mighty sages who had cared for them and brought them to the city. They were very holy men who rarely came down from their sky-piercing peaks into the world of men. Their bodies were thin from fasting and clad only in deerskins bound round their loins; their unkempt hair fell on their bare shoulders, but an inner light shone through their thin bodies, and their flashing eyes were terrible to behold. The porter had heard tales of sages such as these: how they had freed their hearts of anger and fear and all desire and gained such power of soul that they could live as long as they wished to live; that they could travel a thousand miles in the wink of an eye and could behold the whole universe as if it were a plum in the palms of their hands. He bowed down before them till his head touched the ground and awaited their orders.

"Go at once to the king," said the eldest of the holy ones. "Tell him that we await him here."

Gandhari | Pandavas and Kauravas Nagas

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