Monday, March 26, 2012

Mahabharata : A superficial study -- Part 1

I was born on 6th of October 1984, and consider myself fortunate as many other people who have witnessed a series of inventions, technological developments and scientific accomplishments. I consider my generation more fortunate because it has seen the transition in Television as a medium of entertainment. As a child I was fascinated with the two Epics that were telecast during my childhood, the Ramayana by Ramanand Sagar and Mahabharata by B.R. Chopra. To be honest as a child I liked Ramayana more due to the fact it had a simple storyline, well written characters and above all superb graphic fight sequences. Mahabharata always appeared to be confusing to me, on one hand I could identify the good guys and bad guys of the lot but I was never able to keep track of so many things happening so fast.

But as I aged, Mahabharata once again became center of curiosity for me. The study of this epic in itself an epic task and hats off to historians and experts who have devoted their life for this cause. Not only the prime story, but the underlying psyche and motivation of the whole episode are worth studying. As I am not qualified enough to take this as a subject of discussion, I will restrict myself to a very superficial study of the subject. The intent of this post is to make readers aware of basic premise of Mahabharata; the greatest epic world has ever studied.

Now for the many people who know and a few who do not know, the events of Mahabharata take place between the descendants of Kuru clan. Thus anyone battling for the throne of Hastinapur, the then capital of kingdom Bharat should be of Kuru’s lineage in order to have the legal right to the throne. On this very basic premise let us start the analysis of Mahabharata.


The story basically starts with King Shantanu who was the descendant of Kuru Clan and king of Hastinapur. He fell in love with Ganga (yups the River) and had a son ‘Devvrata (Bheeshm)’ from her. The father son duo never met until he became a young boy as Ganga took her away with herself. Shantanu later married Satyavati daughter of a fisherman, who took promise from the king that the son of Shantanu and Satyavati will rule the kingdom. In order to fulfill his father’s wish Devvrata aka Bheeshm vowed for lifelong celibacy.

Twist in the tale: Satyavati had bore another child before her marriage to sage Parashar. The name of Child was ‘Vyasa’


Satyavati had two sons from Shantanu, Vichitravirya and Chitrangada. Chitrangada died early and Vichitravirya were later sworn in as King. Bheeshma abducted three sisters from a Swayamvara to be married to his brother as the kingdom was not invited for the ceremony. Two sisters Ambika and Ambalika married Vichitravirya.

Now the real problem occurred, Vichitravirya died before a new generation of Kuru Clan could be born. Bheeshma has sworn to lifelong celibacy, so Satyavati asked Vyasa to father the next generation of Kuru Clan. As a result Pandu and Dhritrashtra were born to ambika and Ambalika.

This is the first breakage in the Kuru family tree as Vyasa is not of Kuru lineage.


Pandu married Kunti and Madri, while Dhritrashtra married Gandhari.

Pandu due to an earlier sin cannot father a child. So Kunti who had power to invoke Gods, called Indra, Vayu and Yama(Dharma) to father their child. She shared the same spell with Madri and she had twins Nakul and Sahdev from Ashwini Kumar twins.

Dhritrashtra on the other hand had 100 children including Suyodhan and Susashan. (I bet no one knows name of other 98) and a girl named Dussala.

The above 3 points present the basic Mahabharata family structure, and by the end of it you would have realized that neither the Pandavas nor the Kauravas belonged to original Kuru Clan, but more to Vyasa’s lineage. The Pandavas infact were demigods as they were born of human and god.

The whole battle was fought to establish Pandavas as worthy ruler of Hastinapur with Krishna taking the side of righteous Pandavas.

The battle resulted in a mass destruction and bloodshed finally establishing the Pandava’s as rulers and the most interesting fact the whole episode was drafted by Vyasa.

1 comment:

  1. Yes right. Pandavas nor Kauravas belonged to Kuru vansh.
    Just to add to it, before Ambika and Ambalika went to Vyasa, a maid was sent to him. That maid later gave birth to Vidur. After maid, Ambika went to Vyasa but she was shy and she closed her eyes, so her son was blind while Ambalika was pale with fear when she went to Vyasa, her son was anemic and was unfit.

    Dhritrashtra had one more son besides 100 sons and a daughter. Yuyutsu. He was born to a Vaisya and not Gandhari.