Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: The Pitris Explain the Allegorical Meaning of the Rat and the Single Cord of Root

Note: In the previous post, Jaratkaru’s ancestors explained the allegorical meaning of the single cord of Virana root, the rat, and their unfortunate state in which they were hanging upside down.

In this post, we will read how Jaratkaru agreed to get married and the condition he placed for the same.

Hearing his ancestors’ words caused tears to come into Jaratkaru’s eyes. He said, “O my ancestors, I am that sinful Jaratkaru who has caused you grief. Either punish me for my sinful deeds or tell me what I can do to reduce your woes.”

The pitris replied, “O child, it is good fortune that you have come to this place. Tell us, why have you not married?”

Jaratkaru said, “O pitris, for a long time, I have had the desire to enter the higher realms of existence with this body. However, that is only possible if I control and raise my sexual energy. This is the reason I decided to practise brahmacharya. But I have changed my mind after seeing your suffering, O grandsires. I will certainly marry and have a child for your welfare. The child will be the cause of your freedom and you will live without fear in a state of ananda, forever.”

After agreeing to marry for the sake of his ancestors, Jaratkaru placed some conditions for his marriage. He said, “I will marry if I meet a maiden whose name is also Jaratkaru and if she marries me of her own free will with the understanding that I will not be able to take care of her needs. I will marry only if I meet such a maiden, otherwise, I will not marry.”

Note: I found it very interesting that Jaratkaru placed a condition for getting married. 

Even though he felt great sorrow for his Pitri’s plight and wanted to help them, he understood that getting married and entering wordly life would take him away from his desired path of entering the higher realms without giving up his body. I want to stress on the word ‘desire’ because it gives us an understanding that desires come in many forms, and the desire (or aspiration) that comes from one’s own soul is one’s swadharma, and that is not to be abandoned for anyone’s sake. By putting the condition for marriage, Jaratkaru ensured and aspired for a solution that would end his Pitri’s suffering without abandoning his swadharma. Also, the condition that he would only marry a lady who willingly married him knowing that he would not be able to care for her needs, ensured that the lady he married would not be in the dark about what to expect. I believe he was hoping that a lady who was also marrying primarily for progeny (for reasons of her own) would marry him. Finally, his condition that the maiden he marries should also have the same name, Jaratkaru, seems to be divinely inspired since he was fated to marry Vasuki’s sister, Jaratkaru, because their son, Astika, would save the noble serpents, from his mother’s side of the family, in Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice.

In the next post, we will find out how Jaratkaru finds his wife

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Jaratkaru Finds His Wife

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: The Pitris Explain Their Background and Suffering to Jaratkaru

Note: In the previous post, the Pitris explained the reason for their suffering.

In this post, we will learn that the scenario of the Pitris hanging upside down was symbolic in nature. Here, we are explained the allegorical meaning of the entire scene.

The Pitris concluded the explanation of their suffering by saying, “That is the reason we hang in this hole as if unconscious and having no one to care for us. If you meet Jaratkaru, tell him about our suffering and explain to that brahmin, who has immense ascetic wealth, that he is the only surviving  descendant of our race. He is the only one who can further the ancestral line. Tell him to get married and have children.”

Note: After this, the Pitris explain the allegorical meaning of hanging upside down on a single cord. This is one of the very few times in the Mahabharata that an incident is clearly mentioned as allegorical and its meaning explained in detail.

The Pitris explained that the Virana roots represented their race. The rat represented ‘Time’. The cords that had been eaten away by the rat represented the spirits of the Pitris that had deceased having succumbed to Time. The single cord of Virana root, half-eaten by the rat, represented Jaratkaru who had dedicated his life to ascetic penance and was gradually being weakened by Time. Them (the Pitris) hanging upside down represented the fact that they were sinking like wretches because Jaratkaru, their last hope, didn’t understand that his penances could not save them. If he continued disregarding his duty to his ancestor, their entire race including Jaratkaru would sink into hell.

Note: The Mahabharata doesn’t always explain allegories so explicitly. The fact that it’s so explicit could have many meanings. However, without that deep a knowledge of “passages as symbols”, I can only guess. It might mean that Jaratkaru has an inner vision of his Pitris hanging upside down. Inner visions and dreams often have their own language of symbols, which was then explained to us. It might also be Vyasa Muni’s way of telling the readers that the Mahabharata, even though it is Itihasa, contains several allegories to explain dharmic concepts. The reader is therefore urged to read the epic introspectively rather than like a novel. Alternatively, it may have a completely different meaning that we haven’t understood yet. 

Whatever be the meaning of explicitly mentioning an allegory, one thing is fairly clear – if we read the Mahabharata in an introspective manner with a genuine aspiration to understand the dharma, then dharma will most certainly reveal its subtleties to us.

In the next post, we will read about Jaratkaru’s response to his Pitris where he places a condition for getting married

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Jaratkaru Places a Condition for Marriage

The higher lokas according to Sanatana Dharma

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Jaratkaru Meets His Pitris

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Jaratkaru saw his Pitris hanging upside down in a hole. That sight filled Jaratkaru with empathy and he asked the spirits who they were and what he could do to alleviate their suffering.

In this post we will find out the background of the spirits of the Pitris and why they were suffering.

The pitris continued, “O brahmana, let us tell you who we are. We are rishis of rigid vows from the Yayavara sect. The fruits of our severe penances are still with us, but we have fallen from the sacred region because of the loss of children. We have only one thread left now. The only descendant we have, Jaratkaru, has studied the sacred Vedas and it’s branches, but unfortunately, he practices his asceticism alone. He is one with his soul, his desires are high, and his passions are completely under control. He is even free from the desire for the fruits of his ascetic practices. But he doesn’t have a wife or son or any relatives and that is the cause of our deplorable state.”

The Vyavahara rishis did not know they said these words to Jaratkaru himself, their descendant. After explaining the reason for their suffering, they said to Jaratkaru, “O noble one, if you meet him, please tell him that his pitris are hanging in a hole on a single cord with their face down. O, tell him to marry and have children. He is a great ascetic but his heart is still underdeveloped (and, therefore, by implication, he should get married so that the relationship would help him develop his heart). His sense of prudence is also underdeveloped. O child, when you meet that wretch Jaratkaru, tell him everything you have seen here, and tell him that having a child is even more virtuous than ascetic practices (in the current situation). Convince him to marry and have children.”

Note: In the next post, the Pitris explain the allegorical meaning of “hanging upside down on a single cord of root.”

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: The Pitris Explain the Allegorical Meaning of Hanging Upside Down in a Hole

Wandering sage

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Parikshit’s Son Janamejaya is Crowned the Next King

Note: In the previous post, we read about the coronation and marriage of Janamejaya.

In this post, we return to Rishi Jaratkaru’s story. The Astika Parva began with the incident of Rishi Jaratkaru meeting his Pitris. We circle back to the same incident (but with a little additional information) in this post. This is Vyas Muni’s way of telling us that the diversion has ended and we are back on the main story line.

Meanwhile, the great ascetic Jaratkaru roamed wide and far. He walked during the day, and when the sun was about to set, he stopped and stayed in that place for the night. Blessed with great ascetic power, he practised different vows that were difficult to practice for normal people not sufficiently matured on the spiritual path. His only sustenance was air and sunlight and he bathed in various holy waters. Jaratkaru had already gained freedom from the desire of worldy pleasures. Not having any food emaciated his body which became very lean.

One day, while wandering, Jaratkaru saw the spirits of his ancestors hanging upside down in a hole by a single cord of Virana root. That single thread which supported his ancestors was also being eaten away by a large rat who stayed in that hole. Jaratkaru noticed that his pitris (ancestors) did not have any food because of which they had become emaciated. They were in a sad condition and eager for release from the earthly plane.

Jaratkaru approached them humbly and asked, “Who are you all and why are you hanging on this single cord of Virana root? Much of this cord has been eaten by a rat and the little thread that remains will soon buckle causing you will fall into the hole with your faces downwards.” 

Great compassion arose within Jaratkaru when he saw his pitris in this pitiable and dangerous state. Once again he addressed his ancestors saying, “What can I do for you? Tell me please if this calamity that awaits you can be removed by my asceticism. I will give up one-fourth of the virtue I have gained through my asceticism to save you. Why one-fourth, I will give up one-third, or half, or even all the fruits of my asceticism to relieve you from this calamity. Take my entire asceticism and do whatever needs to be done to come out of this dangerous situation.”

The pitris replied, “O great ascetic, you want to help us but our troubles cannot be relieved by asceticism. We also have the fruits of our prior asceticism, but Brahma Deva himself had once said that a son (child?) is of great merit, far more than asceticism. That’s the reason we are falling into this hole. It’s because we are unable to see our line of descendants grow. O noble one, we do not know who you are, but we know that you are a venerable ascetic who feels sad seeing us in this condition.”

Note: In the next post, the Pitris will inform Jaratkaru about their background.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: The Pitris Explain Their Background and Suffering to Jaratkaru