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

Image of Surya Deva by Ravi Verma Press

Table of Contents (Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Why Surya Deva Wanted to Destroy the World

Note: In the previous post, we read why Surya Deva felt let down by the other gods, and, consequently, decided to destroy the world. In this post, we’ll read about how the world was saved from his wrath.

After the sun set in the western direction, he began to radiate immense heat for the destruction of the world. 

When the rishis perceived the heat, they approached the gods and said, “the heat radiated by Surya in the middle of the night is terrifying. It will destroy all three worlds.”

Concerned about the impact of Surya Deva’s wrath, the rishis and devas met Brahma Dev and said, “Surya has not yet risen, but still a great heat is emanating from him. It is creating much panic in the world. This being the situation when he has not yet risen, it is certain that the world will be destroyed when he rises.”

Brahma Dev replied, “Indeed, I am aware that Surya will burn and destroy everything in the world when he rises tomorrow, but I have thought of a remedy. Aruna, the intelligent son of Kasyapa, has a huge body and great splendor. He will stay in front of Surya and be his charioter. Aruna will also shield the earth from Surya’s excess heat. This will ensure the safety of the worlds, rishis, and the denizens of heaven.”

Aruna agreed to Brahma Deva’s command and Garuda appointed him as Surya Deva’s charioter. The next day, when Surya rose, the world was protected by Aruna who stayed in front of Surya.

Note: There is a possibility this story of Surya increasing his heat is symbolic of an astronomical event.

In the next post, we will return to the story of Vinata’s slavery to her sister, Kadru.

Table of Contents (Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Vinata and Garuda Serve Kadru and her Snake Sons

Upon seeing Uttanka anxious about running out of time, the man standing next to the horse, said, “Ride this horse, Utanka. He will take you within a moment to your master’s house.’ 

Uttanka mounted the horse and immediately reached his teacher’s house.

At his teacher’s house, Veda’s wife, after having bathed, was dressing her hair. She was thinking to herself what curse she should give Uttanka if he did not return on time. However, Uttanka did return on time and respectfully presented the earrings to her.

Rishi Veda’s wife addressed Uttanka, saying, “Uttanka, welcome my child. You have arrived at the proper time and at the proper place. You are innocent. Therefore, I will not curse you. Good fortune lies before you. May you be successful in obtaining your wishes.”

After giving the earrings, Uttanka went to his teacher – Rishi Veda. The rishi said to Uttanka, “You are welcome. What happened that caused you to get delayed?”

Uttanka told his teacher about Takshaka stealing the earrings and that he had to go to the region of the Nagas to get them back. Uttanka also described what he saw in the region of the Nagas: the two ladies who were weaving cloth with black and white threads, the wheel with twelve spokes that was kept in motion by six boys, the man, and the extraordinary horse. Uttannka also told his teacher about the man sitting on the large bull, who he met on the way to Paushya’s palace, and how that man had lovingly asked him to eat the bull’s dung.

Uttanka requested his teacher to enlighten him about everything he saw and all the people he met.

Rishi Veda replied, “The two ladies, in the region of the Nagas, were Dhata and Vidhata. The black and white threads represent night and day. The wheel containing twelve spokes being turned by six boys represents the year comprising of six seasons. The man in the region of the Nagas was Parjanya, the God of rain, and the large horse was Agni, the God of fire. The large bull was Airavata, the king of elephants, and the man seated on the bull was Indra. The bull’s dung that you ate was amrit.

Note: Amrit is the Sanskrit word for nectar.

You were able to remain alive in the region of the Nagas because you consumed the amrit. Indra is my friend. He helped you because he took mercy on you. It is because of his help that you have returned safely with the earrings.

O Uttanka, now I give you permission to leave. You will have good fortune.”

Thus Rishi Veda, allowed Uttanka to leave after having received the guru-dakshina that Uttanka had insisted on offering.

Note: The story of Uttanka’s experiences in the regions of the Nagas is deeply symbolic. Let’s try to understand why. 

Dhata and Vidhata were the sons of Sage Bhrigu from his wife, Khyati. Khyati had one more child – Goddess Lakshmi. So they were Goddess Lakshmi’s brothers. Dhata was married to Ayati and Vidhata was married toNiyati. 

Ayati and Niyati were daughters of Meru.

Following are the Sanksrit meanings of these names:

Dhata means creator and Ayati means royal.

Vidhata means controller and Niyati means destiny.

The story of Uttanka in the region of the Nagas mentions the creator, controller, royalty, destiny, Indra, time, seasons, day, and night. So the story is allegorical to the creation and certain aspects of creation.

Table of Contents

Previous: Takshaka Returns the Earrings to Uttanka

Next: Uttanka Goes to Hastinapura to Meet Janamejaya

Uttanka and the celestial horse

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Uttanka pursued Takshaka into Nagalog (the domain of the serpents) and glorified the serpents and Takshaka to obtain the earrings. In this post, we will see how he is able to get the earrings from Takshaka.

Uttanka was hoping that Takshaka would return the earrings after he glorified the serpents and Takshaka. But Takshaka also coveted those earrings a lot. He didn’t respond to Uttanka’s praises. When Uttanka realized that Takshaka wasn’t going to return the earrings, he looked around and thought about an alternate plan to retrieve his earrings.

As he looked around, he noticed two women at a loom weaving a piece of cloth with black and white threads. The warp was of white thread and the weft, which was of black thread, was being woven using a very fine tool.

Near the loom was a wheel with twelve spokes. It was being turned by six boys. He also noticed a man with a healthy and well-groomed horse. Uttanka addressed them with the following mantras.

“This wheel whose circumference is marked by twenty-four divisions representing lunar fortnights is furnished with three hundred spokes! It is kept in continuous motion by six boys representing the six seasons! 

These two women representing universal nature are continuously weaving a cloth of black and white threads, ushering into existence the manifold worlds and the beings that live in those worlds. 

O wielder of the thunder, the protector of the universe, the slayer of Vritra and Namuchi. O illustrious one, wearing the black cloth, you show truth and untruth in the universe. You own the horse which was received from the depths of the ocean. This horse is another form of Agni (the God of fire). I bow to you, O supreme Lord of the three worlds. O Purandara!”

Note: Purandara is another name for Indra.

Hearing these words, the man with the horse said to Uttanka, “I am gratified by your adoration and I want to do something good for you. What can I do?”

Uttanka replied, “Help me bring the serpents under my control.”

“Blow into this horse,” the man said.

Uttanka did as he was told and the moment he blew into the horse, fire and smoke came out from the horse’s ears, nose, and every opening. The fire along with the smoke began to spread over the entire region of the serpents. 

Takshaka was surprised by what was happening. He rushed out of hiding and returned the earrings to Uttanka.

However, when Uttanka took the earrings, he also realized that today was the sacred day when his teacher’s wife wanted to wear the earrings. He had to give them to her immediately, however, he was very far from his teacher’s house. Uttanka was once again in a fix because there was no way he could give these earrings to his teacher’s wife on time.

Note: In the next post, we will find out if Uttanka is able to give the earrings as guru-dakshina to his teacher’s wife on time.

Table of Contents

Previous: Uttanka Pursues the Serpent King Takshaka

Next: Uttanka Gifts the Earrings to his Teacher’s Wife in the Nick of Time