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Manasa Devi with husband, Jaratkaru, and son, Astika, flanked by Nagas

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Jaratkaru Finds His Wife

Note: Note: In the previous post, we read about how Jaratkaru cried out to the beings of the forest for a wife and how the chief of the serpents, Vasuki, offered his sister’s hand in marriage to the rishi.

In this post, we will read about the marriage of Jaratkaru and Vasuki’s sister.

Convinced by Vasuki’s promise to maintain (financially) his sister, Jaratkaru, the excellent brahmana of rigid vows, well-versed in mantras, married Vasuki’s sister according to shastric rites. 

Vasuki had prepared a special room for his sister and the rishi. It was a delightful room that had a bed covered with expensive sheets. Vasuki’s sister, adored by the rishi, entered the room where they took up residence.

Soon after marriage, Jaratkaru made an agreement with his wife. He said, “You must not say or do anything that displeased me. If such a thing happens, I will leave you and this house, immediately.”

The rishi’s words made his wife sad and anxious. However, she agreed, saying, “So be it,” because she wanted to help her serpent relatives. That maiden of pure reputation attended to the rishi day and night. Her care for the rishi is compared to the wakefulness of a dog, the timidity of a deer, and the knowledge of interpreting signs like a crow.

One day, after her menstrual period, she purified herself by bathing according to custom, and approached the rishi. She conceived that day, and the embryo was resplendent like fire and, filled with immense energy, it grew like the waxing moon.

Note: Note: In the next post, we will read about the rishi, Jaratkaru, leaving his wife

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Jaratkaru Leaves His Wife


Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Takshaka Goes to Hastinapur

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Takshaka killed King Parikshit, by deception, just as the sun was setting on the seventh day after the curse.

In this post, we’ll read about the coronation and marriage of Parikshit’s son, Janamejaya.

King Parikshit’s last rites were performed by his ministers and the royal priest. The citizens mourned the king’s death and made the eldest son of Parikshit, the next king, and gave that noble child, the name Janamejaya.

Even though Janamejaya was still a minor, he was very wise and, with the help of his counsellors and priest, he ruled the kingdom with dharma like his heroic great-grandfather, Yudhishthira.

Once the ministers were convinced that Janamejaya was capable of keeping the enemies under check, they approached the king of Kasi, Suvarnavarman, to seek a marital alliance for their young king, Janamejaya, with the princess of Kasi. Suvarnavarman made due inquiries about Janamejaya and, once he was satisfied, agreed to the alliance.

The princess of Kasi, Vapushthama, married Janamejaya, the hero of the Kuru race, with the ordained rites of marriage. Janamejaya was very glad to have married Vapushthama, and Vapushthama too, having obtained a desirable husband, showered him with lots of affection. 

After the wedding they wandered amidst flowery fields, woods, and expanses of water gratifying their hearts with pleasure. Janamejaya, passed his time in pleasure just like his ancestor Pururavas had in the past, after marrying the celestial maiden Urvasi.

Note: At this point, I want to step back and remind you that we’re midway in the Astika (sub) Parva of the Adi Parva. The Astika Parva began when the ascetics of Naimisha Forest wanted to know more about Astika, the child-sage who would save the snakes in Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice. However, before getting to the snake sacrifice, it was necessary to understand all the events that led to the sacrifice and to Astika’s birth.

To explain all these events, the narrative took a detour into the past when Rishi Jaratkaru met his Pitris (souls of deceased ancestors). They were in a miserable state because he did want want to marry and give birth to children. This event is important because Jaratkaru’s Pitris convince him to marry. Eventually, he will marry Vasuki’s sister, also called Jaratkaru, and their son, Astika, would save the serpents in Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice.

How, we still didn’t know why the snake sacrifice would take place. That was explaining in Garuda’s story where Sage Kasyapa’s wife, Kadru, cursed her snake sons for not obeying her command to make the celestial horse, Uchchaihsravas’ tail, black. 

The third link in the chain is the question: why did Janamejaya perform the snake sacrifice? The answer to that question is still emerging. All we know till now is that the king of snakes, Takshaka, had used deceit to kill Janamejaya’s father.

In the next post, we will once again come to the scene where Rishi Jaratkaru meets his Pitris.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Rishi Jaratkaru Meets His Pitris

After Draupadi’s swayamvar, she (cheerfully) went with Arjuna and Bhima to the potter’s house where the Pandavas were staying in disguise.

The next day, King Drupada (Draupadi’s father), sent his priest to the potter’s house to invite them for a feast at his palace.

Till this point, the king did not know their identity. He had a strong feeling, based on his son, Dhrishtadyumna’s, secret observations, that the youth who had fulfilled the difficult challenge, was none other than Arjuna, but he still wasn’t certain. After Kunti, Draupadi, and the Pandavas arrived at his palace, Drupada asked Yudhishthira about their identity. Yudhishthira, knew that King Drupada cherished the desire to marry his daughter Draupadi to Arjuna. He finally revealed their true identity to King Drupada in his palace.

King Drupada was not only relieved that his daughter was about to be married into a noble and virtuous family, but he was also overjoyed and exuberant that his desire for obtaining Arjuna as his son-in-law was fulfilled. He suggested that Arjuna and Draupadi perform the marriage rites immediately since it was an auspicious day. Till this point, King Drupada was unaware of what had transpired at the potter’s house between Kunti, Draupadi, and the five Pandavas, and about the proposal that she marry all five brothers.

It was only when he suggested the marriage rites, that Yudhishthira said, he too would have to marry Draupadi. This took the king by surprise. He (possibly) did not register the implication of what Yudhishthira had just said, so he suggested that instead of Arjuna marrying Draupadi, Yudhishthira, being the eldest brother, may marry her. However, Yudhishthira clarified that all five brothers would have to marry Draupadi.

This proposal made King Drupada very uneasy. He was put into a dilemma, because he was unsure of the morality of one woman marrying five men and, he did not want his daughter to enter into a morally questionable alliance.

It was during this critical and delicate situation that Ved Vyasa came to the palace. Everyone immediately stopped the discussion to welcome and worship the great rishi. After honouring the sage, the king approached him with his doubts regarding the proposed marriage.

Quoting from the unabridged Mahabaharata, below.

Ved Vyasa replied that the practice of one woman having many husbands had become obsolete because it was opposed to the Vedas and present-day customs, but, that didn’t mean it was sinful. However, before giving further explanations, he asked everyone assembled there to share their opinion.

What follows are the opinions of King Drupada, his son, Drishtadyumna, Yudhishthira, and Kunti. Finally, after hearing them, Ved Vyasa presents his own views about the marriage.

King Drupada’s Opinion

Drupada went by social precedence as well as the Vedas. He wasn’t aware of any precedence where one woman had taken many husbands, and because this practice was opposed to the Vedas, he was not in favour of the proposal. Quoting the exact passage below.

Drishtadyumna’s Opinion

Drishtadyumna believed that an elder brother of good conscience would never approach his younger brother’s wife. He agreed that the ways of morality were subtle and he also confessed that the subtlety was beyond his understanding, and therefore, he could not agree to this proposal with a clear conscience. Quoting the exact passage below.

Yudhishthira’s Opinion

Yudhishthira took a different approach to the dilemma. He was aware of two precedences where a (virtuous) woman had many husbands. But along with precedence, he also gave importance to his inner feeling. He believed that his purity and truthfulness made his disposition such that he would not incline toward a sinful act. If an act was sinful, his heart would instinctively reject it, and because his heart approved of this marriage, it was not immoral.

He went on to cite the two precedences. The first example was from the Puranas, where a virtuous maiden called Jatila (of the Gotama race) had married seven rishis. In the second example, he cited the case of an ascetic’s daughter who had married ten brothers who were also exalted ascetics themselves.

Finally, he went on to say that because his mother (whom he considered the foremost among superiors) had said so, the marriage couldn’t be immoral.

Quoting the exact passage below.

Kunti’s Opinion

Kunti regarded her eldest son Yudhishthira (who was born of her union with Dharmaraja himself) as an authority on dharma. Therefore, since he approved of the marriage, she did not believe it to be incorrect. However, she did put forth her concern about her speech becoming untrue and having to face the consequences of that.

Ved Vyasa’s Answer to Everyone

Ved Vyasa first addressed Kunti to ease her conscience. He remarked that even the (genuine) concern she had of saving herself from the consequences of untruth showed how pure she was, and this itself was eternal virtue.

He went on to agree with Yudhishthira’s reasoning, however, he did not want King Drupada to simply take his word on the matter and agree to the marriage. He wanted to reveal to King Drupada, the subtle and celestial forces that acted behind the material world. Therefore, he took King Drupada to a room, where they would be alone, and revealed the celestial form of Draupadi and the Pandavas. Click here to read the story that describes how Drupadi was the Goddess Adi Para Shakti herself and the five Pandavas were five Indras.

I am quoting Ved Vyasa’s words below.

After saying this, Ved Vyasa took the King to a separate room and explained to him that Draupadi was actually the Goddess Adi Para Shakti herself, and the five Pandavas were five Indra. He went on to describe how their marriage was ordained by Lord Shiva himself. Not only did Ved Vyasa explain all this, but he also granted the king, divine sight, through which he could see his daughter and the five Pandavas in their celestial form.

King Drupada’s dilemma was resolved after seeing Drupadi and the five Pandavas in their celestial form and understanding that Lord Shiva himself had ordained this marriage. If Lord Shiva had ordained it then it was beyond simple moral law and he had no objection.

You can read the detailed story of the celestial form of Draupadi and the five Pandavas by clicking here.

Some Additional Thoughts

I like this particular interaction between Ved Vyasa and the others because in dealing with the issue of Draupadi’s marriage, it also points to the larger issue of social norms, the Vedas, and morality. Vyasa muni shows us how Divine forces act behind the scenes to influence human life, and because we are not aware of these forces, we cannot judge morality based solely on logic, precedence, and even the Vedas. However, that doesn’t mean we can totally disregard morality. I’ll leave you with three quotes by the Auroville Mother (Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual partner) on this topic.

The (Auroville) Mother

You can break the moral rules only when you observe the Divine Law.

The Mother, May 1966

You have no right to dispense with morality unless you submit yourself to a law that is higher and much more rigorous than any moral law.

The Mother, 28th May 1947

Moral laws have only a very relative value from the point of view of Truth. Besides, they vary considerably according to country, climate and period. Discussions are generally sterile and without productive value. If each one makes a personal effort of perfect sincerity, uprightness and good-will, the best conditions for the work will be realised.

The Mother, August 1966

After Draupadi’s swayamvar, when she went with Arjuna to the potter’s house where the Pandavas were staying (in disguise), it was soon proposed that Draupadi marry all the five Pandava brothers. Polyandry was not socially common or acceptable at that time. Therefore, it concerned her father, King Drupada. He did not want her to perform an act that might be sinful.

It is at this critical time of the epic, that Ved Vyasa assuaged King Drupada’s concern by telling him the story of a boon Lord Shiva had given to Draupadi in one of her previous lives.

This narration can be found in the Adi Parva (Vaivahika Parva subsection) of the Unabridged Mahabharata.

In one of Draupadi’s previous lives, she was the daughter of an illustrious Rishi. Even though Draupadi was very beautiful and virtuous, in that life, she was unable to find a good husband. So she prayed to Lord Shiva by performing various ascetic practices.

Image of Draupadi (far right) with the five Pandavas — Dasavatar Temple, Deogarh

Lord Shiva was soon pleased with her penance and appeared before her to grant a boon.

“Ask thou the boon thou desirest.”

— Lord Shiva to the maiden (who was Draupadi in a previous life)

This virtuous maiden overwhelmed and delighted by the great lord’s presence repeated her desire multiple times:

“I desire to obtain a husband possessed of every accomplishment.”

— The maiden asking a boon from Lord Shiva

Lord Shiva smiled and said:

“Thou shall have, amiable maiden, five husbands.”

— Lord Shiva to the maiden

The maiden was confused. She had asked for only one husband. Why did the Lord bless her with five? She folded her hands and said:

“O Sankara, I desire to obtain from thee only one husband possessed of every virtue.”

— The maiden to Lord Shiva

Lord Shiva continued smiling. He was pleased with her, so he explained that she had repeated her request five times and hence she was blessed with five virtuous husbands. However, he added, the blessing would come to fruition in a future life.

Through this story, Ved Vyasa explained to King Drupada that it wasn’t sinful for Draupadi to marry the five Pandavas since this destiny was pre-ordained by Lord Shiva himself.

Credits

Image Credit: By User:Arjuna Filips – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0