Wednesday, May 6, 2009

PDE Mahabharata: Pandu and His Wives


Reading Guide. Remember how a hunting accident led to a curse that shaped the course of King Dasharatha's whole life? Something similar is going to happen to King Pandu as you will read in this episode.

Image: The illustration below combines multiple scenes in a single frame. So, for example, in the background you can see the deer who are mating; then, foregrounded, you can see the deer transformed as he talks with the king.

Source. The first part is from Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913), and the second part is from the Mahabharata translated by K. M. Ganguli (1883). [700 words] To give you a sense of the style of the Mahabharata itself, I have provided a brief excerpt from a literal translation of the Mahabharata into English, and even that excerpt is abridged: I have left out the back-and-forth argument between Pandu and the brahmin, and I have also modernized the use of "thou" to "you." The full text is online at Sacred Texts.



Kunti | 9. Pandu and His Wives | Sons of Pandu


Kunti, who was comely to behold, chose King Pandu at her swayamvara. Trembling with love, she placed the flower garland upon his shoulders.

Madri came from the country of Madra, and was black-eyed and dusky-complexioned. She had been purchased by Bhishma for the king with much gold, many jewels, and elephants and horses, as was the marriage custom among her people.

The glories of King Bharata's reign were revived by Pandu, who achieved great conquests and extended his territory. He loved well to go a-hunting, and at length he retired to the Himalaya mountains with his two wives to pursue and slay deer. There, as fate had decreed, he met with dire misfortune. One day he shot arrows at two deer which he beheld sporting together, but they were, as he discovered to his sorrow, a holy brahmin and his wife in animal guise. The sage was wounded mortally, and before he died he assumed his wonted form and foretold that Pandu, whom he cursed, would die in the arms of one of his wives.

The king was stricken with fear; he immediately took vows of celibacy and gave all his possessions to brahmins; then he went away to live in a solitary place with his two wives.

Here in more detail is the story of the Pandu and the brahmin:

One day Pandu, while roaming about in the woods that teemed with deer and wild animals of fierce disposition, saw a large deer that seemed to be the leader of a herd serving his mate. Beholding the animals, the monarch pierced them both with five of his sharp and swift arrows winged with golden feathers. That was no deer that Pandu struck at, but a rishi's son of great ascetic merit who was enjoying his mate in the form of a deer. Pierced by Pandu while engaged in the act of intercourse, he fell down to the ground, uttering cries that were of a man, and began to weep bitterly.

The deer then addressed Pandu and said, "O king, even men that are slaves to lust and wrath, and void of reason, and ever sinful, never commit such a cruel act as this. I do not blame you for your having killed a deer, or for the injury you have done to me. But, instead of acting so cruelly, you should have waited till the completion of my act of intercourse. What man of wisdom and virtue is there that can kill a deer while engaged in such an act? The time of sexual intercourse is agreeable to every creature and productive of good to all. O king, with this my mate I was engaged in the gratification of my sexual desire. But that effort of mine has been rendered futile by you. What have you done, O best of men, in killing me who have given you no offence? I am, O king, a muni who lives on fruits and roots, though disguised as a deer. I was living in the woods in peace with all. Yet you have killed me, O king, for which I will curse you certainly. As you have been cruel unto a couple of opposite sexes, death shall certainly overtake you as soon as you feel the influence of sexual desire. You have slain me without knowing that I am a brahmin; the sin of having slain a brahmin shall not, therefore, be yours. But, senseless man, as you have killed me, disguised as a deer, at such a time, your fate shall certainly be even like mine. When, approaching your wife lustfully, you will unite with her even as I had done with mine, in that very state shall you have to go to the world of the spirits. And that wife of yours with whom you may be united in intercourse at the time of your death shall also follow you with affection and reverence to the domains of the king of the dead. You have brought me grief when I was happy. So shall grief come to you when you are in happiness."

Saying this, that deer, afflicted with grief, gave up the ghost, and Pandu also was plunged in woe at the sight.


Kunti | Pandu and His Wives | Sons of Pandu




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