When it comes to literature the world has a lot to offer. From novels to poems history has given us plenty to read and learn from. Some literary works are more than just for reading purposes such as the great epic of Mahabharata. In Hinduism Mahabharata is one of two major factors that led to the creation of the religion, the other being Ramayana. Around 3000 BC Mahabharata was told in the form of stories or gossip between gods, kings, and common people. “It presents sweeping visions of the cosmos and humanity and intriguing and frightening glimpses of divinity in an ancient narrative that is accessible, interesting, and compelling for anyone willing to learn the basic themes of India’s culture” (Fitzgerald 5). This shows why Mahabharata is more than just apiece of literature, it teaches us the connection between destiny and dharma and how one can get lost in the mist of finding out which is the right path.Order now
The 90,000-verse epic consists of a hero and a villain both being from the same bloodline. The hero is Yudhishthira, the leader of the Pandavas and son of Dharma. Pandavas consist of him and 4 of his younger brothers: Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva. All of the Pandavas were born through a boon that was given to Pandu’s first wife Kunti. Pandu was cursed after he accidently killed a sage and his wife that he would die is he had intercourse, so he couldn’t have children. Kunti had a boon to have kids from different gods, which she gave the boon of two kids to Pandu’s second wife Madri. Kunti gave birth to Yudhishthira (son of Dharma god of righteousness), Bhima (son of wind god Vayu), and Arjuna (son of sky god Indra); while Madri gave birth to the twins Nakula, and Sahadeva (sons of Ashwini gods). The villain of Mahabharata is Duryodhana, the leader of the Kauravas. He is the oldest of 100 siblings; however, he is still younger than Yudhishthira. The Kauravas and Pandavas are first cousins, making Yudhishthira the rightful heir to the throne of Hastinapur. This is where all the problems start to come in because Duryodhana thinks he should be the heir to the throne since his blind father Dhritarashtra is the current king due to the passing of Pandu. There is tension between the Kauravas and Pandavas ever since their childhood that keeps building up more and more until the war of Kurukshetra takes place between the two clans.
Throughout the epic of Mahabharata the association of dharma and destiny comes into play over and over again with different sceneries and situations. Dharma is doing what’s right under a certain situation. “Dharma is based on wisdom, insight and human values” (Kini 1). Destiny is seen as fate or unchangeable, if it’s meant to be then it will happen no matter what. This often creates an unbalance between destiny and dharma. One might be so caught up in his destiny that they might forget their responsibilities due to dharma. For example when Dhritarashtra plans to give the Pandavas half of the kingdom in order to keep peace and harmony within the family, Duryodhana is furious. He writes a long speech to convince his father not to give the Pandavas anything. Saying that if the Pandavas are destined to have the throne then they will get it even if the whole world is against them, and if they’re not destined then no matter what they do they will be unsuccessful. This shows how much Duryodhana believed in destiny, and how badly he didn’t want to give up any of his kingdom without a fight. Throughout the epic Duryodhana tends to blame everything on fate and destiny opposed to blaming himself for his own actions and mistakes. He forgets the role of dharma and acts out of place without thinking of any consequences he might face due to his ego and stubbornness. He felt as if a war is destined to happen then let it happen, no matter what measures are taken to prevent it. This is a key reason why it’s said that Duryodhana and Dhritarashtra are to blame for the destruction of the Kauravas. The blame goes on Dhritarashtra for not stopping his son from starting war even though he had multiple chances to create peace. And Duryodhana for wanting to have the war against the Pandavas even though the war wasn’t necessary. The Pandavas were great-full for everything even when they were given only half the kingdom, or when they served 13 years in exile due to their lost in the dice game against Duryodhana.
The dice game is one of the biggest events that take place in Mahabharata. The dice game comes about when Duryodhana goes to visit the Pandavas half of the kingdom. He becomes embarrassed because he falls in a swimming pool, so he invites Yudhishthira to play a game of dice in hopes of revenge. Yudhishthira accepts knowing the laws of dharma, and destiny. He knows that a roll in the dice is all on destiny yet he still wants to play saying that he is bows down to his fate. Eventually Yudhishthira losses everything: his kingdom, his wife, his brothers, and even himself. At this point Duryodhana wages one last roll where the winner gets the kingdom and the losers go on exile for 13 years. Duryodhana says that the loser can ask for the kingdom back when they are done with their exile. Yudhishthira replies by saying, “Success or misfortune will come to me whether I play or not” (William 100). This shows how Yudhishthira is not afraid of the outcome regardless if he wins or loses. He believes in fate and regardless of what he does, his fate is sealed. Even when he loses everything he keeps playing thinking maybe he can control his fate, but he comes out empty handed at the end.
Dharma also comes up throughout Mahabharata, and is mainly present in the warrior cast. To warriors dharma is the obligation due to their job as a warrior opposed to thinking of what’s best for the people. Such as Duryodhana, he doesn’t care of the consequences and problems that may arise after the war. He never thinks about what would be left if he won the war, would he still have all 100 of his brothers? Is there even going to be a kingdom left to rule after the war? Little did he know that dharma and destiny are always on the good side, the side of truth and justice. Another example of dharma is when the war at Kurukshetra begins and the two armies go head to head. The warriors on both sides are following their dharma by fighting against their own relatives. Ones dharma as a warrior is to fight and defend until it’s all said and done, even if that means to fight their own blood. Before the war started Lord Krishna explains the laws of dharma and destiny to Arjuna, who doesn’t want to fight his own relatives. Krishna tells Arjuna that for him as a warrior his dharma is to fight no matter who it is; neglecting to do so would be disrespectful to all the great warriors that died on the battle field. Lord Krishna showed Arjuna his divine form and told him that he is the truth, he is god, and therefore victory is on their side. This scene tell all about the aspects of right and wrong, one duty to their caste, and how fate is something that is uncontrollable even by god.
Throughout history Mahabharata has grown into a classic, not only in Hinduism but also as a great piece of work. “The Mahabharata definitely is one of those creations of human language and spirit that has traveled far beyond the place of its original creation and will eventually take its rightful place on the highest shelf of world literature beside Homer’s epics, the Greek tragedies, the Bible, Shakespeare, and similarly transcendent works.” says James L. Fitzgerald, a professor of Sanskrit at Brown University (Fitzgerald 4). This really shows how important this masterpiece has become in the literary world. It shows us how ancient authors wrote and also how they came about with all the different stories within Mahabharata. Like the bible, Mahabharata teaches us how to obey or dharma while letting fate do the rest. As long as we follow our dharma and follow the truth there will always be light to show us the way to righteousness, because what isn’t dharma is forbidden by dharma.
Today dharma is seen through a different perspective. “The average person continues to link morality with religion and this make the Mahabharata’s rational deliberations on dharma seem modern and even revolutionary”, says Gurucharan Das. The debate between what’s moral and immoral when it comes to religion is todays example of dharma. Dharma is morality of what’s right and what’s wrong, and for Mahabharata to be dealing with the same issues that are here today shows us how mankind will forever have the same characteristics and same flaws as they’ve had all throughout history. However we can learn from the situations that were faced by the Pandavas and Kauravas in Mahabharata by reading and learning its teachings. Learn how to be grateful for everything that life has to offer, that’s why the Pandavas were always happy just to have one another no matter of the situation that destiny has put them in. Destiny will always be sealed no matter what we do to empower it, all we can hope for is to follow our dharma and let fate do the rest.
Fitzgerald, James L. “A Brief Description of the Mahabharata.” A Brief Description of the Mahabharata. N.p., 09 May 2009. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.
Kini, MD. “Sense, Non-Sense and Common Sense.” Mahabharata: A Story of Dharma. N.p., 03 Mar. 2011. Web. 02 Dec. 2013.
“Bhartiya History.” Mahabharat. The Vedic Foundation, Jan. 2006. Web. 02 Dec. 2013.
Buck, William. Mahabharata. 1’st ed. CA: University of California, 2000. Print.
Pattanaik, Devdutt. Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata. N.p.: Penguin India, 2011. Print