MAHABHARATA, THE FIFTH VEDA

The Mahabharata known as the Fifth Veda is the literary canon of India

Uniqueness of the Mahabharata

The Mahabharata is unique in the annals of literature. It is of course the largest in sheer size, with a hundred thousand verses, eight times the size of the Iliad and Odyssey combined. But it is not this alone which makes it unique in world annals but its quality as virtually the canon of Indian literature and culture. The series of articles on Krishna are sourced from this mighty work.

Thinkers and educators in Europe and America have long labored to compile a body of literature produced by writers of the Western civilization that constitutes their most important works and have called it the Western Canon. Such canonization may be described as: Continue reading “MAHABHARATA, THE FIFTH VEDA”

KRISHNA THE PURUSHOTTAMA

KRISHNA IN HIS VEDANTIC MILIEU

The life of Krishna shows that he lived according to the ideals and principles of his teachings. This made him a Purushottama

Navaratna Rajaram

Why study the Historical Krishna?

The preceding articles looked at the life and accomplishments of Sri Krishna that have continued to inspire people for over 5000 years. Some see it as a sign of his divinity, but many others see him as Purushottama or the best of men. This means we cannot separate his life from his teachings. This is the reason the Bhagavadgita is an integral part of the Mahabharata, even though it is a summary of the Upanishads and describes itself as an Upanishad.

“Krishna, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Godhead.
Painted in 1983

The personality of Krishna is so rich that it leads to different perceptions in different minds. Although I am convinced that the elevation of Krishna to divinity is not the handiwork the original poet (Veda Vyasa or Krishna-Dvaipayana), it really does not matter. The complexity of the Krishna phenomenon — and the fact that his life and personality defy all attempts to reduce him to simple terms — has existed for centuries and millennia. It is a living reality today. None of us can change it or take away the mystery that surrounds him. What we need to understand therefore is the process by which this elevation to divinity came about, and how to deal with this reality today, when we are faced with a vast Hindu population that believes in his divinity and also thousands of ‘educated’ Hindus like me that consider themselves ‘rationalist’ who may question belief. Continue reading “KRISHNA THE PURUSHOTTAMA”

KRISHNA AND THE MB WAR II: END OF AN ERA

KRISHNA AND THE MB WAR II: END OF AN ERA

The Great Kurukshetra War

The stage was now set for war. The forces were assembled at the ancient site known as Samantapancaka, the site of many a battle going back to untold antiquity. It was adjacent to a lake that went also by the same name. It was part of the historic land known as Kurukshetra, lying between the Vedic rivers Sarasvati and Drishadvati — both now dry except as minor flows during the rainy season. The land, however, still goes by the same name, lying in the present Indian state of Haryana north of Delhi. Samantapancaka is believed to be the field where Parashurama, the son of Jamadagni had finally destroyed the Haihaya ruler Kartavirya and his horde after their depredations all over the land. More likely it was Sagara, emperor of Ayodhya (and Rama’s ancestor) who had vanquished them and brought peace to the land. This is said to have brought the Krita Yuga, the first of four ages, to a close.

The same ancient site was now to be the field of action for the warriors of the rival Kuru clan. It was now known as Kurukshetra — the Land of Kurus — but the old name was still in use as the following famous verse from the Mahabharata shows:

 

antare caiva samprapte kali-dwaparayorabhut

            samantapancake yuddham kurupandavasainyayoh

            At the junction of Dwapara and Kali Ages, there took place

at Samantapancaka, a war between the armies of the Kurus and the Pandavas.

This tells us that the Kurukshetra war was seen as the end of Dwapara Age, heralding the beginning of the Kali Age in which we now live. According to Hindu cosmology, there are cycles of four ages — Krita, Treta, Dwapara and Kali. And Kali, the age in which the world is now said to be passing through, is the most evil, which is to be ended by a great calamity.1 The cycle is then said to repeat with a new Krita Yuga, an age in which truth and virtue will always prevail. This will usher in a new Golden Age of Truth. Continue reading “KRISHNA AND THE MB WAR II: END OF AN ERA”

KRISHNA AND THE WAR I: KRISHNA’S EMBASSY

 

Krishna’s mission to the Kaurava court

Krishna’s fruitless embassy to the Kaurava court exemplifies his philosophy of action; he knew very well that Duryodhana was not one to see reason. He still regarded Yudhisthira and the Pandavas as upstarts, resting on his superior support among the ruling houses in India. He felt that the Pandavas were in no position to challenge him militarily. He therefore saw no reason to compromise as long as he held the upper hand. Krishna realized this, but felt himself duty bound to make every effort to avoid war.

On the Pandava side, Yudhisthira wanted to avoid war. To everyone’s great surprise, not only Arjuna but even Bhima favored a peaceful solution. Among the Pandavas, only Sahadeva was for war. And of course Draupadi.

Draupadi had not forgotten her humiliation when Dusshasana had dragged her before the assembly where the Kaurava princes had hurled insults at her. Duryodhana had invited her to leave her helpless husbands and come and sit on his lap, pointing to his own thigh. Bhima seethed like a caged lion and vowed to kill Duryodhana some day by smashing his thighs. And now, when she saw even the fierce Bhima favoring peace — the same Bhima who had sworn to avenge her humiliation by dismembering Dusshasana and smashing Duryodhana’s thighs to smitherens — Draupadi could no longer control herself. She stopped Krishna as he was about to leave on his journey and appealed to him: Continue reading “KRISHNA AND THE WAR I: KRISHNA’S EMBASSY”

KRISHNA’S ALLIES TRIUMPH: AND DISASTER

TRIUMPH AND DISASTER

Krishna becomes adviser to and guide of his cousins the Pandava princes being particularly close to the third brother Arjuna who marries Krishna’s sister Subhadra,

Navaratna Rajaram

 

Even though Krishna is known in several works, the ancient historical epic the Mahabharata is the most important and regarded as the primary source. Any details relating to his life and career, not found in the Mahabharata must be seen as questionable. Krishna appears in the Mahabharata in the episode of Arjuna’s winning the hand of the Panchala princess Draupadi. Draupadi’ name was Krishnaa, meaning dark. Like Krishna she seems to have been dark complexioned. At that time and wellinto 1000 CE (AD), dark complexion was seen as a sign of beauty. Draupadi (daughter of Panchala king Drupada) and naa also Panchali (for princess of Panchala). She was said to be Agnisenaa (or fire born) probably because of her feiry personality. Continue reading “KRISHNA’S ALLIES TRIUMPH: AND DISASTER”

JNANA-AND-VIJNANA

JNANA-VIJNANA VEDA

The Hindu tradition does not draw a clear line separating natural sciences from the humanities. Everything is seen as part of knowledge (Veda).

Navaratna Rajaram

As noted in an earlier article, the Hindu philosophic tradition does not separate the natural sciences from the humanities and even philosopy.. The same was true of the West until the nineteenth century. Such great thinkers as Rene Descartes. They called the natural sciences like physics, natural philosophy. Newton for example called his great work Pricipia Mathematica Philosophia Naturalis, meaning “mathematical principles of natural philosophy.” In it he considered sciences like mechanics, astronomy, gravitation theory and also optics (in a separate work.) He went on to create the necessary mathematics, which led to what we now call the Calculus but Newton called Theory of Fluxions. But Newton used mainly geometric methods, and it was left to Laplace a century later to describe Newtonian Gravitation and related theories using Calculus and create what he called Mecanique Celeste (celestial mechanics), which is how it is taught and  studied today. Continue reading “JNANA-AND-VIJNANA”

World according to Krishna

WORLD ACCORDING TO KRISHNA

A brief discourse on the background to the contributions of Purushottama

Navaratna Rajaram

 

About the creator
Dr. Navaratna Rajaram is an internationally known scholar who has attained distinction for his contributions in several disciplines, in science and technology as well as history and philosophy. In keeping with this varied background, Rajaram believes that the separation of science and humanities is superficial and both are part of Veda (knowledge) What we call physics is only philosophy of nature or natural philosophy as termed by Isaac Newton among others.

We can do no better than see how the peerless thinker and activist Sri Krishna lived and acted five thousand years ago. Though worshipped as an avatar of God Vishnu, he acted and lived his life as a human and claimed no divine powers. He is known therefore as purushottama, the best of men. Though a great teacher, he was an activist. So his teaching was no book knowledge which he possessed in abundance, but acquired as the result of his vast experience as a warrior, statesman and diplomat. Continue reading “World according to Krishna”