MYSTICISM OF SYMBOLISM IN MAHABHARATA – Ramakant Tiwari ramakant-tiwari

Mahabharata  begins with following Sloka –


Narayanam Namaskritya Naram Caiva Narottamam  I
Devim Sarasvatim Vyasam Tato Jayamudirayet  II

Nara  ! Begin with the Mahakavya Jaya  after having bowed to Narayana, greatest among men and Devi Sarasvati.


Vyasa  herein refers to the Vyasapitha  headed by son of Rsi Parasara  and 28th Vyasa Bhagavana Veda Vyasa. The Vyasapitha  was founded by Apantartama Vyasa  in Satya Yuga. Three manifests of Mahabharata  exist today for perusal, Jay  by Bhagvana Veda Vyasa  with 8800 Sloka-s, Bharata  by Rsi Vaisampayana  with 24000 Sloka-s and by Rsi Sauti  with 100,000 Sloka-s.

Not only the epic is a historical reality, it has tremendous value in it’s mysticism, more so the mysticism hidden in its symbolism. We shall examine them one by one –


Just visualise Draupadi  as a human body, then five Pandava-s immediately become five senses of perception intrinsic to the body, one hundred siblings known as Kaurava-s are transformed into unrestricted tendencies of a wayward mind.


Eldest Pandava Yudhisthira  gambles along with his brothers and loses everything finally. While indulging with Visaya-s, every sense organ powered by mind believes in its victory next time, indulges more, loses more. Then even our honourable existence too, is lost, body is demeaned as happened to Draupadi  and all are exiled into forest of severity and deprivation. Then the loser implores for divine intervention for support and guidance.


Even good tendencies amidst bad ones have to be destroyed just as a few good Pandava-s too, were slain on directions of Vasudeva Sri Krsna. Few good tendencies associated with vices are ones that assure and encourage for more indulgence with Visaya-s feigning delusional confidence of victory next, its renunciation immediately thereafter !! All these tendencies do not have real existence just as Kaurava-s were already dead. Only the formality of slaying was accomplished by Arjuna, inspired by Sri Krsna. Only when all tendencies are dissolved, path of ultimate liberation is paved with success. 


Kuruksetra  is the world wherein body dwells and the battle among senses, mind, intellect and indulgences, continue. If one wins, the battle is over for him / her, rendered liberated from shackles of the world, but the battle continues for others !! In totality, this is a cosmic battle that is eternal in the cosmic cauldron and Atma-s keep being ejected out of it incessantly into absolute freedom.


Dhrtarastra  aptly symbolises mind, that too a deluded and blind one. He was blind to all infirmities of mind that could delude and attach him to Visaya-s. His wife Gandhari  was not blind, yet decided to remain blind intentionally just as even a mind enlightened to some extent, ignores warnings from Buddhi  and allows itself to be subjugated to Visaya-s on one pretext or the other.


None of Pandava-s were born to Maharaja PanduSurya Deva  representing ego, was father of KarnaDharma  fathered YudhisthiraIndra  fathered ArjunaVayu  symbolising strength, fathered Bhima  and Aswini Kumar-s fathered Nakula  and Sahadeva. Original name of Kunti  is Pritha  i.e. Prthvi  meaning earth, then adopted by Maharaja Kuntibhoja. Thus, Pandava-s were born through conjoining of Mother Earth and various aspects of divinity.


Karna, an armoured warrior blessed with Kavaca-Kundala, symbolised our Ahamkara. That too, is an armoured one. Only a Siddha Guru‘s intervention can smash this armoured cover to realise our hidden and intrinsic divinity.


Sri Krshna  too symbolised too many aspects of eternity and divinity. His deep blue complexion symbolised eternity, also colour of ocean and the sky. He always wore yellow clothes as yellow is the colour of Mother Earth. Thus, Sri Krsna  symbolised eternal divinity clothed in Mother Earth i.e. entire universality.


These are representative in extent and require one to contemplate over it deeply. On the other hand, the legend of Mahabharata  does extend quite a few lessons of mortal life too, adherence of which raises an insurmountable boundary wall around us against a plethora of miseries, agonies and vicissitudes that frequent our lives. First and foremost lesson is excessive indulgence with progenies is highly regressive. Profligacy of sons of Dhrtarastra  is entirely attributed to his excessive indulgence with them and his wife Gandhari’s completely blind-folding herself towards them, ultimately ruined them all. Venalities and infirmities driven to the extreme led to disrobing of Draupadi  in the assembly before all which prodded Vasudeva Sri Krsna  to declare, ‘Society that disrobes their women in public, must be completely destroyed.’ They forgot the cardinal principle of sacrosanct inviolability of dignity of women. Two instances of friendship, Arjuna  and Vasudeva Sri Krsna  on one hand and on the other, of Duryodhana  and Karna  conveyed intense lessons to all. One friendship was guided and based on Dharma  while the other, on Adharma. Friendship or any relationship for that matter, must be strictly guided by sacred principles of Dharma  alone. Every relationship, every vow whatsoever, is secondary to cardinal principles of Dharma. It is conveyed most eloquently and vehemently by Vasudeva Sri Krsna  to Arjuna  in the battlefield when Arjuna  is mandated by Him to pursue his Dharma  of the moment most dispassionately. Similarly, Yudhisthira  followed his Dharma  when he beseeched Yaksa  to revive Sahdeva, son of his step-mother in the spirit of being fair and just to her. The grand epic also teaches us that half-baked knowledge is hazardous as in the case of Abhimanyu  who paid with his life for being too adventurous. All these lessons are eternally relevant and inevitable. 


Deadly weapons used in Mahabharata  too carried enormous mysticism within them. Sacred Mantra-s had to be intoned to invoke weapons like AgneyastraVarunastraBrahmastraNagapasa  etc. 63-Folio manuscript in palm leaves, believed to be re-written some 120 years ago, elucidates how to applicate those weapons mentioned in Mahabharata  in about 48 Mantra-s. Expertise to invite and use those weapons used to be imparted in Gurukula-s along with correct invocation of Mantra-s by Guru-s. Weapons being activated only on intonation of Mantra-s amply affirmed, those weapons were meant solely for asserting righteousness and protecting Dharma  as performed by Pandava-s. Use of those Mantra  activated weapons asserting Adharma  by Kaurava-s ultimately destroyed them completely.    


Mahabharata  revolves around attrition Ahamkara  vs. canons of Dharma  directed towards Universal Absolute. It was lucidly summarised by Sanjaya  to Dhrtarastra  as under –


Dharmeca Artheca Kameca Mokseca Bharatarsabha  I

Yadihasti Tadanyatra Yannehasti Na Tat Kvacit  II

With issues of Purusartha-s i.e. DharmaArthaKama  and Moksa, all that is expounded here is all that exists and what does not exist here, does not exist at all.


It is not merely an epic but a historical reality too. Had it been merely mythical, it would have been impossible for the epic to impact so far and wide, for so many thousands of years till date.

By Ramakant Tiwari

Filed in: Articles, धर्म


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