By Pt. Sameer Khanwalker
The Mahabharata provides concrete evidence that India was scientifically, supremely ahead of any other civilisation and remained so until the West began to catch up barely over two centuries ago.
The inventions and discoveries of the West are just a validation of what Indians knew and created thousands of years ago.
This blog is not meant to castigate the West, but to emphasize, as Devadutta Patnaik put it beautifully, Indians are trained to look for Bhavarth (emotional meaning), whereas the modern, Western-style thinkers are trained to look for Shabdarth (literal meaning).
Back to the Mahabharata, though, the deadly 18-day war destroyed the world physically, environmentally and sociologically. First, let us begin by just looking at the destruction of the armed forces itself. And for that, let us look at the brilliantly conceived size and pattern of the army.
According to the Adi Parva in the Mahabharata (2.15-23), the armies were divided into Akshouhinis.
Each Akshouhini consisted of:
Ratio: 1 chariot : 1 elephant : 3 cavalry : 5 infantry soldiers
Amazing fact: If you add the add the digits of each division of the army, it adds upto 18 (example 65,610 Cavalry = 6+5+6+1 equals 18)
The number 18 is very significant in Hinduism. The Mahabharata itself is divided into 18 Parvas.
But again, more on that in another blog to follow.
The Pandavas had a seven Akshouhini army and the Kauravas, an eleven-Akshouhini army. All the Akshouhinis were destroyed (again, 18 in number, totally).
Before the war, Dhritarashtra had been warned by Sage Vyasa about the deadly after-effects of the war, but Dhritarashtra could not convince Duryodhana. Instead, he (Duyrodhana) foolishly attempted to capture Krishna, who came as an emissary of peace and Krishna revealed his Vishwaroopam as Vishnu.
Weapons of mass destructions (WMDs) were used the great war. These included the Agneyastra and Varaunastra. Arjuna unleashes the Agneyastra which creates instant fire and thousands and thousands of soldiers on the Kaurava’s side start burning. To counter it, Karna launches the Varunastra, which brings sudden rains. The instant effect is to cool the fires and the soldiers feel relief for a few seconds.
But what happens in a few moments after that is unimaginable horror. The combination of fire and water begins to rip the flesh away from the bodies of the soldiers. The stench it creates and the fierce agony it generates is horrifying to just read. The description is so vivid.
Because of the use of the WMDs, the earth was surrounded by dark clouds of dust, smoke and chemicals for more than 36 years. Forests had been destroyed, soil eroded, there were floods everywhere and entire cities demolished. If Krishna had not stopped Ashwathama’s Brahmastra, the earth would been completely
The sociological effects of the war were also unbelievable. Yuyutsu, the 100th Kaurava prince, had defected to the side of the Pandavas when Yudhishithira made the call for all those who supported Dharma, to join the Pandavas. Later, he ruled the country.
After the war, as Yuyutsu was holding court one day, a soldier entered the court and said a villager wanted to meet him urgently. Yuyutsu allowed and the villager entered, trembling. Yuyutsu asked him what it was that he wanted to speak about. The villager requested Yuyutsu to please visit his village as something terrible was happening there. Yuyutsu asked him what it was, but the villager could not say it, he just insisted that Yuyutsu should please come with him.
Yuyutsu goes with the villager and after camping outside the village in the night, goes to the village the next morning. He is surprised to see that many young women had been bunched together in the middle of a circle formed by the elders of the village. Yuyutsu raises his eyebrows and questions the elders as to what was happening.
One of the elders says, ”Sire, these women have committed a huge crime. They have all given birth to half humans, half animals and some, even full animals”. Yuyutsu is shocked to the core. It was bestiality of course! Angrily, he lashes out at the women for their immoral behaviour.
One of the women then boldly steps forwards and mocks Yuyutsu. “O Great King, you accuse us of a crime that we are not responsible for. Tell us, why are we, like thousands and thousands of other young women in this so-called great land, widows today. Tell us, why the greed of a 100 princes, the thirst for revenge of five princes and the lust for revenge of one woman, destroyed the whole world. Your wife still sees a man every day, what about us?”
Yuyutsu later breaks down in front of Draupadi, who herself feels ashamed. The after-effects of the war, described in such graphic detail in the Mausala Parva, match so vividly, the aftermath of the nuclear bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that the West finally began to wake up to the fact that the Mahabharata indeed happened.
Was it conceivable for a man then, however fertile his imagination, to write in such detail, so many events which are constantly being proved today as accurate and real?
The main reason behind this blog was not to prove India’s greatness, rather, pay heed to what happens when such a devastating war takes place. Indeed, global warming is another theme that has been described in our epics.