8:39 am - Monday April 22, 2024

Historical Personality

Sages, Rushis and Saints of India

Veda Vyasa

The 'Mahabharata' remains a marvel in the literature of hte worlod. Veda Vyasa was the sage who gave the world this storehouse of realism, wisdom and compassion.

Veda Vyasa

On the banks of the Yamuna the tall wild trees rose above the water. Nearby stood a little hut. A boat with its oars, had been pulled near the bank. A fishing rod and a couple of tackles lay on the sand. When the wind blew, it brought the strong smell of dead fish.

The Lovers

The hut belonged to the surrounding settlement of the fishermen. The leader of the settlement was Dasha. That evening he had just come back home and was eating his evening meal. He had brought up a girl Satyavati, as his daughter. She was attending to him. It was a lonely I and only they two lived there. The other stood beyond the grove. The fisherman had a sharp ear and he must he heard some noise outside. He called daughter: "Satyavati, go and see what I matter is."

The daughter flapped aside the and peeped out.

"Father, somebody is there."

"Who is it?"

"I cannot say. No one I have seen."

"What does he look like

"He has tied his hair into a tuft on the head. He has a string of beads around I neck. A wand and a holy water-pot are his hand. He is wearing wooden sand, and clothes made of bark."

"young or old?"

"May be he is young.... With all that beard and moustache of his, how can I tell his age?" Satyavati said, with a laugh.

"Daughter dear, he must be some sage, a 'rishi'. May be, he wants to cross the river, But I am still eating. Please go Yourself. Take him on the boat to the other side. If you delay, he may grow angry and curse us. Please hurry up, child."

"Call And I Will Come"

The daughter came out of the hut hastily. The man pointed his finger at the boat. Timidly she walked and united the tether. He took a single leap and sat in the boat. The girl got into the boat, too. She sat in a corner and took out the oars.

She rowed on slowly. The boat drifted slowly towards the opposite bank.

He gazed at her. She was beautiful like the moonlight. But a foul smell emanated from her body. He covered nose because he just could not bear smell. It occurred to him that she would a fine companion to him if she did r smell so. He rid her of the foul smell with the power of his tapas. He covered her with the sweet fragrance of Kasturi (the musk). She understood it. She beamed a s and so did he. Just then the boat can to a mound in the river. It was rich with plants and trees. Colourful birds we hopping about from tree to tree. The two got off the boat and stayed there for some time. By then they had become true companions.

He was the 'rishi' Parashara. Vyasa was the son of these two.

"Come With Me, Mother"

'Vyasa' does not signify the name of any one person. It is a title. Every DwaparaYuga witnesses the birth of a Vyasa. He bears the title till the next Dwapara Yuga comes. This Vyasa was actually Krishna Dwaipayana - 'Krishna' because he was dark - coloured, 'Dwaipayana' because he was born on an island in the Yamuna. He was called 'Veda Vyasa' for it was he who classified the Vedas into four branches. His hermitage was in Badari and he was therefore 'Badarayana'. Thus, men called him by many names. Let us call him Vyasa.

There are many stories about him. All those stories tell us of his extraordinary greatness.

Vyasa grew into manhood shortly after his birth. He was already well versed in the Vedas, the Shastras, the Purans, Poetry, History and other branches learning. He was ripe with wisdom. After all, wasn't, he the son of a 'rishi'?

Vyasa bowed to his mother, touching her feet with his head. Satyavati touch his head lovingly. Vyasa stood up with folded hands and said: "Mother, if ever you wish to see me, please call me to y( mind and I shall come, no matter where I am."

I shall do so, my child," she said. He took leave of her and left for Badari for his 'tapas'. Many years passed.

King Shantanu was ruling in his capital Hastinavati. One day he met Satyavati. He married her. They had two Sons, Chitrangada and Vichitraveer. Chitrangada died very young. Vichitraveerya died shortly after his marriage. He had two wives, Ambika and Ambalika. Satyavati was unhappy because the dynasty itself would come to an end. She did not know what to do. She remembered her son, the great Vyasa. He came to Hastinavati in no time and greeted his mother. "Mother, what is the matter? I hope all is well with you. Why did you call me? How can I serve you?"

Satyavati explained to him the cause of her anxiety. Vyasa blessed her two daughters- in-law with two sons. Ambika I so gave birth to Dhritarashtra. Ambalika's n was called Pandu. A waiting woman of the palace too got a son. He was named Vidura. He was a very pious man.

The Kauravas were the children of Dhritarashtra. The children of Pandu were called the Pandavas. Without Vyasa, there would be no Kauravas, no Pandavas and no Mahabharata War - of course, Mahabharata story, either.

"This Is Not Right"

After many years king Pandu died. Once again Satyavati thought of the great Vyasa. He came and console every one. He told them not to lose courage. By that time, Satyavati had grow very old and weak. She had suffered many misfortunes. Vyasa sympathised with her and said: "Mother, it is better for you to come with me to the forest. It is better you spend the rest of your life in a peaceful meditation and prayer. shall find a good place for you. You will love it."

Satyavati agreed. Her daughters-in-law too were eager to follow her. But the children and the elders at home opposed the idea. They tearfully entreated them not to go. Vyasa was there to console and advise them. A crowd followed them up to the gates of the city. Vyasa sent the people back with difficulty.

Vyasa and the old women kept walking for many days. They entered a thick forest. They stopped at the foot of a hill. There were huge trees around, nearby flowed a gurgling stream, thickly dotted with flowers. It was a well-shaded place. There was ample drinking water. Vyasa collected leaves and branches of trees and erected a neat cottage for his mother. He taught her how to make a cup out of the lotus leaves. He showed her how to fetch water when she was thirsty. She learnt from him, also, how to collect wild roots and berries for food. He stayed there for four days, looking after the comforts of hi mother.

The time for parting was drawing, closer. That day came. He bowed down at her feet and begged her to IE him go. He knew he would not be able to see her again. He was a 'rishi', no doubt, and he was calm. But even he could not contain his sorrow. Satyavati lifted up his head lovingly and embraced him there were tears in her eyes, too. "Good bye, I wish that you live for a thousand years, happy and renowned" she blessed him.

After his departure, the three women Satyavati, Ambika and Ambalika lived just like the hermits of the forest. They lived on the wild fruits and roots. They spent heir last days in prayer.

"Patience for a While"

King Dhritarashtra was no doubt a good man. But his sons were wicked and wilful. Right from the beginning they were jealous of the Pandavas. They hated to see them prosper. They wanted to cheat them somehow of their empire. They went on secretly plotting. Their uncle Shakuni was their adviser. He got up a dice-throwing match. It was nothing but a form of wicked gambling. Dhritarashtra knew that it was all evil. So did Vidura. But the Kauravas never listened to their good counsel. Besides, Dhritarashtra was not frank and firm like Vidura. After all, the Kauravas were his own sons and he loved them too much.

Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandavas, lost all his kingdom in the gambling match. That was exactly what the Kauravas wanted. They took away everything from the Pandavas. They allowed the Pandavas nothing but the clothes they wore.

Vyasa came to know of all the happenings. He hurried to Hastinavati. Dhritarashtra received him in his palace He touched his feet and sated him on, elevated chair. Dhritarashtra was a little nervous because he felt guilty. He fear that Vyasa would speak about the fate the Pandavas. In fact that was just the purpose of Vyasa's visit. Vyasa said to the king: "Dritarashtra, you are the head the family. Do you think you have treated the Pandavas fairly? They have been ousted from their home and hearth. Could you not have stopped it? Why did you n, advise your sons against such an action'

Dhritarashtra was speechless. He stood with his head bent in shame.

Just then Vidura came there. He bowed to Vyasa. "Why, Vidura, did you not advise the foolish Kauravas? How could you? suffer these things to happen?" Vyasa asked.

Vidura felt ashamed. There were tears in his eyes. He was very fond of the Pandavas. He sadly confessed: "yes.'

Dhritarashtra tried to dissuade his sons. So did 1. But the wicked Kauravas did not listen to us."

Vyasa looked angrily at Dhritarashtra and spoke tauntingly: "0 King, you have always known the nature of your children.

Of all your children, Duryodhana is the wickedest. He does not hesitate to do the worst. You know it. But blinded by your foolish love, you were helpless. That was why you let these things happen, was it not?"

Dhritarashtra was utterly humbled was speechless. He knew that Vyasa spoken truthfully.

Vyasa thundered: "Your sons destined to bring ruin on themselves. That is why they are so evil. Those that ruined thePandavas will come to no good. What a pity! You all forget that Lord Krishna himself is on their side. Advise Your children, and particularly Duryodhana to restore the kingdom to the Pandavas. The Kauravas will be destroyed if they earn the enmity of the Pandavas. Your sons I pay heavily for their sins. Remember r words." So saying, Vyasa left the place great wrath. Dhritarashtra heard the terrible words and trembled. He knew that the words of a 'rishi' would never prove false.

"Treat Them As Your Children"

Vyasa went into the forest looking the Pandavas. After a few days he came to the place where they were living. I Pandavas were delighted to see the 'rishi' who came unexpectedly. The Pandavs bowed down to the 'rishi'.They had prepared some gruel for their meal. They offered it to the 'rishi' and then partook o of what was left. Vyasa was overjoyed their warmth and hospitality. When they began to talk of their life in the forest Draupadi could not hold back her tea Vyasa was deeply touched. He said "Daughter, don't grieve. These hardship won't last long. By and by, Dharma (righteousness) will triumph and Adharma (evil) will fall. For the present, you ha to put up with these sorrows. The Pandav are pious and heroic. The very purpose of their birth is to uproot the Kauravas. Do not weep."

The Pandavas felt comforted. Vyasa spent a couple of days with them. Then the Pandavas continued their journey.

The enmity between the Pandavas and the Kauravas did not end. A conflict became inevitable. A terrible war broke out and it went on for eighteen days.

Vysas frequently visited the Pandavas on the battlefield. He looked after their welfare. One day, Yudhishthira met Duryodhana on the battlefield. Yudhishthira was very angry and wanted to kill him. He fixed an arrow and was about to bend his bow. All of a sudden came Vyasa and stopped Yudhishthira. He said: "That is not your work. It is your brother Bheema who has vowed to kill Duryodhana. Leave it to him." Yudhishthira obeyed and turned h chariot in another direction.

Later, a duel was fought between Bheema and Duryodhana. At the end, with is club Bheema struck Duryodhana on the

Thigh and felled him to the ground, Dhritarashtra heard that his son was dying, He came to the battlefield with Vidura. His grief was beyond words. He fell down and wept bitterly.

"Don't Be A Coward"

Just then, Vyasa came. He spoke comforting words: "O King, console yourself. You are the eldest, and you ought not to lose heart thus." Dhritarashtra cried desperately: I do not desire to live a longer. All my children are gone. What is the good of my life now?"

"Why do you talk a mad man, Dhritarashtra? These things were destined to happen and your children were bound to come to this fate. Remember the words of Yudhishthira. Did he not offer to give up all enmity even offered to give up his claim to the empire. He was ready to yield if Duryodhana gave him just five villages. But Duryodhana refused. The Kauravas were impious and the Pandavas were pious. You reap only what you sow. Who can help it? Isn't it strange that you should know all this and yet cry like this? Go home and take back the Pandavas into fold. Treat them like your own children." Your Thus Vyasa consoled the old man and sent him home from the battlefield.

Although Yudhisthira was a warrior, he was very tender-hearted. The Kauravas had wronged them cruelly and the Pandavas had to kill them; there was no other way. But Yudhishthira burned with grief. When he met Gandhari, he was deeplydisturbed. He felt as though he had himself wronged her. He and his brothers stood tearful before her. They fell at her feel Dhritarashtra was born blind. And his wife Gandhari had tied her eyes blindfold, it sympathy with her blind husband. In her children died she was broken hearted She was a very pure woman, devoted to her husband. In her sorrow and anger, she was about to curse the Pandavas. When Yudhishthira and his brothers touched her feet her face grew red with anger. Her lips trembled. She was on the point of uttering a curse.

Vyasa was there at hand. He could foresee that delay would prove fatal. He put his hand gently on her head and said:

"Look here, child! I am Vyasa. I am here. Gandhari feared him and held back the curse.

"Daughter, check your anger. How are the Pandavas to blame? They have keep to the path of Dharma. Let bygones. Comfort yourself. Think that the Pandavas are your own children," said Vyasa. Gandhari listened to these words of Vyasa, the supreme head of the family. She hung her head in shame and sorrow. She touched the feet of the mighty sage. She contained her grief, called the Pandavas to her side and embraced them with affection.

The Vision Of the Dead

Although Yudhishthira had come to his own and was well established on the throne, he was eating his heart out. He was deeply touched by the suffering and the blood-bath the war had caused. He grew world-weary. He thought of giving up his kingship. He wanted to become a sanyasi' and live in the forest.

Somehow, Vyasa came to know of it. One day, he called at Yudhishthira's palace. Yudhishthira bowed to him and offered him a seat by his side. Vyasa said: "You seem to be lost in deep thought, O King."

Yudhishthira did not answer.

'Why do you hesitate to tell me, my child? Come, what is the matter?'

"Something is worrying me, but...." he tried to evade the question.

"Yes, I know, you are very much disturbed. Why do you hide your feelings from me? Do you mean to cast away? everything and go to the woods? Tell me."

Yudhishthira spoke in a low voice and confessed that he was so inclined Vyasa laughed aloud and said with affection:

"You art a fool; you want to go to the forest, do you? You are a brave man! You have, all of you, fought like heroes on

The battlefield. You got back all that was due to you. Now you ought to look after your kingdom, and not think of going to the forest for doing 'tapas'. You areKshatriyas. You ought to know your duty. Don't be a coward. Haven't you heard the story of Shankha and Likhita?"

"No, I would love to listen to it," said Yudhishthira.

Vyasa began: "Listen. Once upon a time, there were two brothers called Shankha and Likhita. They were 'rishis'.

They were learned in the scriptures and knew the secrets of Dharma. They were held in great regard. They lived in a cottage in the forest. One day Shanka was away from the 'ashrama'. In his absence Likhita plucked a few fruits from the trees in the ashrama and ate them. When Shankha returned Likhita told him what he had done. Shankha was very angry. He told Likhita that he had been guilty of theft and deserved punishment. But only the king could punish him. Therefore he asked Likhita to go to the king and receive whatever punishment was given. Likhita went to the king and admitted his guilt. The King had his hands cut off. Likhita came back to the 'ashrama'. He showed his maimed arms to his brother and said,

'Brother, I have been punished.' Shankha said, 'Well, that was only right. Now go and bathe in the river and come back.' One c in the river and he got back his hands. Ai the rishi was not angry with the king."

Vyasa explained that the king punished the 'rishi' for his guilt; there was I personal hatred in it. It was not a sin a Kshatriya punished the guilty. On the other hand the king only did his duty. Similarly, the Kauravas were guilty and they deserved to be punished.

Vyasa said, "Why do you want to give up your duty and go to the forest now, meditate on God? When you have done

Your duty as a king, it will be time to leave Yudhishthira was silent.

Vyasa told him another story. Once upon a time there was a huge war between the Devatas and the Rakshasas. The were kith and kin like the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Those who were good were called the Devatas and those who were evil were called the Rakshasas. It was the Rakshasas who started the war. They were proud and jealous. Even some of the Devatas went over to the side of the Rakshasas. Those Devatas were learned men, well versed in the Vedas. But they were not spared. All of them were killed. The Devatas who killed them were said to have done the right thing. There was no sin in what they did. If an individual were to bring discredit to a family or a community, if would not be a sinful act to kill him. If a family or a community were to bring shame to a nation, it would be righteous to uproot such a family or community.

Thus Vyasa tried to console the sorrow-stricken Yudhishthira. He said to Yudhishthira: "You have done nothing wrong. At least now, will you give up a thought of going to the forest?"

"Yes.... but..." Yudhishthira stammered"

"Come out with it. Why are you hesitating to speak?'

"Arjuna's son, Abimanyu, was just little boy of sixteen. They killed him on the battlefield before our very eyes. His death is weighing down on my heart," said Yudhishthira tearfully.

Vyasa was silent for a moment. Then he said: "Yes, Abhimanyu was a lion hearted lad, a great hero. The entire Kaurava army encircled him and killed him. He was killed in an unfair fight. Do I not know all that? That is the very nature of war, my son; why do you speak like an ignorant man? Can you think of uncle and nephew on the battlefield? The Kauravas wanted to destroy Arjuna's will to fight; so they wanted to kill Abhimanyu. But their plans were upset Abhimanyu was young but a mighty warrior. He was verily a lion's cub. He died, but not before he had brought death and destruction into the ranks of the enemy forces. He is now in the land of the dead. Glory such as his is not within the reach of all. Why do you grieve? Remember there were great heroes in the past. They are dead and gone. But they have left behind their deathless names." He told Yudhishthira the stories of sixteen brave warriors.

Just then, Arjuna, his wife Subhadra, and Abhimanyu's wife Uttara came there. They touched the feet of the great Vyasa.

He greeted them affectionately. Then he said, I will repeat to you what I was telling Yudhishthira. Abhimanyu did not die coward's death; he fought like a hero and is in heaven with the great heroes. He dead, it is true. But his name lives. His very name lends glory to your dynasty. So c not weep for him."

Then the sage turned to Uttara. He said, "My child, you will give birth to or who will become a great emperor. Through him the dynasty of the Pandavas survive. So why do you grieve? Take courage, daughter."

He then addressed Yudhishthira. "Are you now consoled Yudhishthira? Have you given up thoughts of meditation in the Forest?"

"Yes, great sage," answered Yudhislthira, touching Vyasa's feet.

So Vyasa guided one and all with words of wisdom. He showed every one the path of duty. He then returned to his hermitage.

Ganesha Assists Vyasa

Dhritarashtra, Gandhari and Kunti grew' very old. They were tired of the noise and bustle of the palace. They longed for the calm and peace of the forest. Yudhishthira and others were unwilling to let them go, but finally agreed. Vyasa heard the news. He came part of the way to meet them.

He took to his forest dwelling. They lived peacefully for a month.

Then Gandhari began to wish to see her dead children; Kunti longed to see Kama; Dhritarashtra expressed a similar desire to see the dead. Vyasa wanted the Pandavas to be present on the occasion. He sent word to them. One day they assembled on the banks of the Ganga. They eagerly waited for the nightfall'

Late at night Vyasa stood in the river and called out the names of the dead, on, by one. One after another they appeared: on the river bank. On one side stood Duryodhana and all his brothers. On the other were Karna, Abhimanyu and others Friends and relatives who were deal, appeared, parents, children and brothers -they all felt joy beyond description. The night seemed just a minute. When the Morning came those who had come from other worlds disappeared.

Thirty-six years passed.

One day, Lord Krishna gave up his mortal body. Arjuna. was miserable and he could not bear the pain of separation. He went to Vyasa and expressed his deep grief. Vyasa spoke to him words of great wisdom. "You are lamenting in vain, Arjuna' Krishna came to this world on some mission. He fulfilled the mission, and left this world. That was his will. Let us cherish his memory. You have also ruled for a number of years. You have earned a good name. The Dwapara Yuga is almost over. It is better for you all, too, to go to heaven. Give this message to Yudhishthira." Arjuna carried Vyasa's message to Yudhishthira.

The Story Travels

Thus Vyasa was an eye-witness to the happenings in the Dwapara Yuga. He was the eldest of the family. He led them on the path of virtue and Dharma. He rebuked and corrected any one who did wrong. The good honoured and respected him. The wicked feared him. He saw the rise of quite a number of powerful kings and dynasties. Rishis could live for hundreds of years by the power of 'tapas' and 'yoga'. They could conquer old age and death if they so willed. Vyasa was one such rishi. It is believed that he is still living in Badari.

It was Vyasa himself who gave the story of Mahabharata to mankind. That is another interesting story.

Many years after the Mahabharata War, one day Lord Brahma came to Badari- kashrama. Vyasa received him with due regard. They chatted for some time. Then Vyasa said, "What brings you all the way to my hermitage?"

"There is something only you can do, sage."

"What is that?"

"You have witnessed the Mahabharata War, you knew intimately all the heroes who lived in those days. You knew of everything that happened. It will be an excellent thing if you write the story of the Mahabharata."

"That is true... But I need somebody who can take down the story. I wonder if there is any one who can do it. Can you think of some one?" Vyasa asked.

"How about the clever boy, our Lord Ganesha? I think I can persuade him to accept the job."

Vyasa agreed and Lord Brahma left in great joy. A few days later Lord Ganesha, or Vinayaka, came to Vyasa's ashrama. He was riding on the back of his rat. Vyasa's eyes were closed in meditation.

"Salutations, great sage!" Ganesha cried aloud. Vyasa opened his eyes.

"Oh, is it Ganesha? Come in, come in," said the sage and took him into the 'ashrama'.

"You know why I have come here asked the child-god.

"Oh, yes, I know. Lord Brahma has sent you, hasn't he?" smiled Vyasa.

"Yes, please begin the narration and I will take it down."

"All right," said the sage, 'We shall begin."

"But just a word, great sage."

'What is it?

"My Lord, you should not stop the narration at any point, The story must flow without pause. I shall write it down as Smoothly as one gulps down a cup of water. If you stop at any point, I will give up my job and go away" - Lord Ganesha spoke quietly.

Vyasa nodded his head in admiration. He was glad that he had found the right person for the job. Vyasa himself was no ordinary man. He was all-knowing. He set his own conditions.

"Yes, I accept your conditions. But you should understand every word before you set it down." Lord Vinayaka cheerfully accepted the challenge.

Thus began the composition of the story of Mahabharata. Vyasa went on dictating ; Lord Ganesha took down faithfully. Even before Vyasa completed a stanza, Ganesha would finish writing it. He would hustle Vyasa to go on with it.

The story of Mahabharata is very lengthy and complex. Its world is peopled by thousands of heroic characters. It I Studded with many interesting episodes. It is no easy task to narrate the story without pausing. Hundreds of interesting thing have to be presented; it is not easy to keep up the narration without a moment', pause. The narrator has to consider home to make something clear or how to make something else interesting. But Vyasa was very clever.He hit upon a device. When ever Ganesha hustled him, he hurled a difficult stanza at him. By the time the child-god understood it and wrote it down, Vyasa would be ready with the next stanza. The stanzas over which Ganesha had to pause have come to be called Vyasa Rahasya.



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