"Panchali Draupadi" and her polyandrous union with the Pandava's
- A damsel in distress or a diplomatic arrangement?
What is Polyandry:
Marriage of a woman to two or more men at the same time; the term derives from the Greek polys, “many,” and anēr, andros, “man.” When the husbands in a polyandrous marriage are brothers or are said to be brothers, the institution is called fraternal polyandry. The story of Draupadi and the 5 Pandava brothers is hence a fraternal polyandry.
Practice of Polyandry:
There are 2 anthropologists who have done wide research and wrote papers on this practice - Katherine Starkweather, and Raymond Hames. Their findings show around 53 societies who practiced polyandry , however the "classical polyandry was found in some societies in Asia.
The practice of polyandry was mainly common in a hunterer-gatherer type of societies, where men would be gone hunting, and would arrange for other man/men to be the caregiver for the family while they were away. However in the "classical polyandry" situations found in Asia it was allowed in families in areas of scarce farmable land to hold agricultural estates together. The practice also may have existed in some places with weaker gender ratio, lesser woman than man. The marriage of all brothers in a family to the same wife allows plots of family-owned land to remain intact and undivided."
- You can read more here: https://www.unl.edu/rhames/Starkweather-Hames-Polyandry-published.pdf
So now knowing this, we lay down our basis that polyandry was very rare but did exist as a part of some societies. There is a very recent finding of a famliy in Himachal Pradesh, India which has a polyandrous union (it is illegal by the Indian Law).
Lets dive into the story of Panchali Draupadi:
There was a general sense of war between Panadava's and Kaurava's already brewing. Hastinapur was a powerful military kingdom with many powerful allies.
The documented strategy and diplomacy, war tactics and power play in this grand Epic is of a high order. The polyandry was probably a power house creation. The pandavas needed the powerful king Drupada as ally. If Draupadi is to marry any one of the brothers, and if they do not remain alive, or is succeeded by other wives, or any dynamics changes, then Draupadi would not become the main queen - the patrani. To secure the strategic role of becoming the Queen of Hastinapur, irrespective of the dynamics and ensuring her son becomes the heir to the kingdom , this was a well thought off play from king Drupad. This alliance also keeps the brothers united amd their small estate undivided, and all the children equal rights from all fathers (which is normal in case of polyandry)
Ponder and Wonder - The popular story plot about Kunti unknowingly asking the Pandava's to divide the winnings is not well justified, the Pandava's being so obedient, the attendance at the swayamwar would have been a knowledge the mother would have had!
The Govardhan Mountain and the Floods 5000 years ago!
A popular story in the Krishna Series is the Govardhan Leela.
Govardhan Leela, the Story: Krishna's supernatural physical ability
One day Krishna woke up and saw the all the people in Vrindavan getting ready for offerings to Lord Indra - the king of gods, and the one who controlled rains and storms. Krishna was curios and asks his father Nanda about it. He did not consent with the villagers and convinced them not to believe in such supernatural rituals, as rains are storms are natural phenomenon. That year the villagers did not do their special prayers and offerings to Lord Indra. It's believed that Lord Indra was offended and raged with the villagers and he flooded the village. Krishna asked the people not to worry and instead took them all the Govardhan Mountain, where its believed that Krishna lifted Mt Govardhan on his little finger and held it up as an umbrella protection to the people and cattle from the rain and storms. Indra realized that Krishna is a Vishnu incarnation and accepted defeat and stopped rains and floods.
The popular illustrations for this story shows how Krishna lifted Mountain Govardhan with his little finger, and all the people of the village take protection under the Mountain. All people were really stressed about the floods, and to calm them, Lord Krishna played the flute with the other hand while lifting the Mountain with one hand.
Ponder: Krishna with his magical and divine powers lifted a mountain with his little finger, instead with those divine powers could he have stopped the storms and floods in the first place?
Govardhan Leela, the Story Retold: Krishna's supernatural mental ability, the visionary
Krishna was a shepherd and he used to take the cattle to graze on the mountains all the time. He was very familiar with the mountains. When Vrindavan received heavy rains and storms and started flooding, Krishna comforted the people and told them that Govardhan Mountain will protect them. The lifting of the finger represented the people to start moving up the mountain, climbing altitudes to save themselves and the cattle from the floods. Krishna climbed up the mountain for 7 days making a pathway for the people to follow him. When he reached on the top of the mountain, he raised his finger up to the sky to announce the accomplishment sort of like a flag hoisted on the top of the mountain by the mountain trekkers.
Now remember this story is 5000 years old, around the onset of the Indus Valley civilization. At the time the people were progressing from caveman to civilization and understanding the laws of the land and had just started building settlements around the rivers. The vision of Krishna that people would be safe on an altitude and that townships can be formed on hills where natural calamities are possibilities, is an advance thinking. The visionary Krishna and his contributions in advancing the civilization is beautifully represented in this story of Govardhan Leela. The pictorial representation of the mountains protecting the people from the storms and floods are fictionalized, but the message is well conveyed and much ahead for engineering of that times!
Flash Forward: Many major cities in the world are built on hills, like San Fransisco, Seattle, Athens, Rome and many more!
Relevance of a boy-child in India - a story once upon a Time!
Around the onset of the Indus Valley Civilization, the Mahabharata war had culminated. The after effects of a war of this scale was a big human loss , most of the men in the kingdom including the descendants of the Pandava’s and the Kaurava’s. The Y chromosome had almost vanished. It became an important aspect to bring the equilibrium in the society which was survived by the women. There were celebrations and a hoorah every time a boy was born in a family as the balance started to restore.
So once a dire need for a boy child to balance the ecosystem transcended as a tradition and the purpose of the times lost as the generations passed on the tradition.
My 2 am Eureka Moment
As I revealed in my posts at the end of last week, I am working with an enthusiastic History buff and we are working to bring Ancient History - Caveman, Stoneage and the fascinating topics in a fun way to the kids. So, we are diving deep into this topics, and as the concepts are coming to life , everything is floating in my brain cloud, including some crazy dates.
Its 2 am, and my brain is spinning, and ... I call it my Eureka Moment
- Indus Valley Civilization (the 2nd civilization) is about 5000 years old, and so is the story of Mahabharata. What a co-incidence , or not?
Where civilization brought in the settlements, leaderships, tribes in history, its exactly the same things laid out in Mahabharata with a vision into the future. This Epic Book crosses path with History as the Indus Valley Civilization unfolds!
In the same thought train, I started thinking about the other epic - Ramayana, and if there is a history junction?
History books document proven human and societal advancement. Ramayana is believed to be set a few hundred thousand/million years back. The popular protagonist in the story is our favorite Hanuman and his monkey-man friends - the Vanar Sena. Now lets go into the History books, where we learn about Neanderthal man.. and a similar portrait of Hanuman and the Vanar Sena you will find in Ramayana. Then, my unfortunate suffering of Googleiesitis kicks in, and I find more theories and also evidences that the early Neandethral man had tails.
The History of Civilization and the cross over with Mahabharata, and Hanuman in Ramayana, and Neandethral man in our history books - coincidence or gold!
This deep dive into history and my love for Indian epics are at a junction which is going to keep me really excited for some time !!!
I think its going to be a fun dive, and I am going to take many more 2 am plunges as I suffer chronic Googleiesitis.
... stay tuned if you like what you read... and want to know what this train of thought will lead me to!
Exciting Epics, Fascinating History!
Me and My Grandfather - and our rendezvous...
15 years back, my grandfather told me about his interesting discussion with a gentleman he met on the train from Cuttack to Mumbai (India). In our dinner conversations last night he retold the incident .. he has no recollection that he has already told me the story , but I haven't forgotten a word ever since....This time I decided to pen this memorable conversation, one that I believe is my big turning point and gave me the exposure and pride to the rich heritage I belong to.
In a random discussion, this Gentleman asked my Grandpa what does he think about the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata (which at the time were running popularly on TV ) - did these stories really happen? is there any real basis to these stories...
I will post the reply my Grandpa gave to this gentleman.... but before I do that.. Let me ask you - What is your answer?
His reply -
I don't really know if this story has a real basis or not. But these books definitely have a future vision, thousands of years ahead of its time. The first vision of an aircraft is the Pushpak Viman mentioned and described in the epic story Ramayana. A vehicle which "rose up into the higher atmosphere". The creator was Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. Fast forward 5000 years, the first successful aircraft was invented in the 20th Century.
The books presented imaginary arrows which could travel far into the enemy camps and burst fire bombs -Fast forward 5000 years, the nuclear missiles do exactly that!
The more obviously known analogy of Sanjaya and his divine vision which matches the live video/radio telecast.
Todays visionaries have a large media platform to communicate their visions, but a few thousand years back they communicated their visions by weaving it through these books, so whether there is a real basis or not, these books have a vision far beyond our lives even today!
Ponder and Wonder, this conversation changed me, intrigued me and has fascinated me for a long time and I have a deep inner quest to learn more about the modern day visions and the stories in these Epic books.
Story 2: Silicon Masks and the Maze
**Ahiravan and Patal lok"
I present to you another high fantasy story from the hidden treasures of Ramayana.
Ahiravan is the brother of Ravana who lived in Patal lok. Now those who have read a lit bit about the layers of the Hindu world, may know of Patal lok as the realm of the evil Asuras, located below (tala) the feet (pa). In simple words Patal lok could be defined as the land of dead or a no man's land. The beauty of this chapter lies in the unlocking and finding the way through the Patal lok maze. The riddles, the intelligence, strategy and ideation in the construction of the Ahiravans palace and all this 5000 years back got me intrigued more about this story.
When Ravan was losing the battle against Rama, he asked Ahiravan's help in kidnapping Rama and Lakshmana. Vibhishan found out about these plans and alerted Rama and Lakshmana, and asked Hanuman to keep a guard over them.
Ahivaran was the master of disguise, he tried to enter the palace where Rama was sleeping in various disguises, but failed Hanuman's check points. Finally he assumes the disguise of Vibhishan himself, and having fooled Hanuman, he enters the place and manages to carry away Rama and Lakshmana to Patal Lok.
Hanuman goes down into the Patal Lok, where he finds Ahiravan's massive palace. (Now this is better than a 21st century video game plot...) The palace is guarded on all sides.Hanuman is first challenged by Makardhwaja, who is half monkey and, half fish who claims to be his son. (that's a fun cross breed story in itself). After defeating his son, Hanuman learns that the way to kill Mahiravan is to extinguish 5 different lamps in different directions (NWSE and one on top). This is when Hanuman assumes his Panchamukha Anjaneya and his four faces are in East, South, West and North respectively, while the 5th face faces upwards. In this form, Hanuman manages to extinguish the 5 different lamps all at one time, and goes on to kill Ahiravan with one swift stroke of the knife. Hanuman saves Ram and Lakshmana, and brings them back from Patal Lok.
Point to Ponder -
Have you heard about silicon masks - almost like real flesh masks for disguise. This is a modern mask technique. When you look into these epic books , you will find these techniques were well known in the yester year magic sciences like in this story where Ahiravan is able to disguise himself. A popular plot in many Bollywood and Hollywood movies today. The creation of the maze, the lamps in different directions, the construct of Ahiravans palace is so advanced and found in an ancient book written 5000 years ago.
Story: The Sleep Fairy
**Lord of the Rings ** Harry Porter **
I am a super fan of these high fantasy novels . The connecting story lines across episodes, the mystery , the characters build up as the story moves along, and everything - just epic ! Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, is one of the most popular works in twentieth-century literature and was written during World War 2.
Now, lets go back in time , Not a few centuries, but a few thousand years, and enjoy the Indian heritage of high fantasy story telling.
Imaginative, Educative and Creative and a vision of the modern day world in these old story books. I present the first story from the hidden treasures of the Indian Epic - Ramayana, and my kids love this story as well.
*** The Sleep Fairy ***
When Rama was leaving for exile, he tries to convince his wife that she should stay back at the palace. However, he does not discuss with his devoted brother Lakshmana to stay back, because Rama knows that Lakshmana is going to follow him to the exile anyway. Lakshmana's wife Urmilla wanted to accompany them to the forest, but Lakshmana forced her to stay home.
When in forest, Lakshmana approached the Sleep Fairy ( Nindra, the Goddess of Sleep) to grant him a "No Sleep" boon for 14 years so that he can always be awake and protect his beloved brother and sister in law. The sleep Fairy is impressed by Lakshmana's devotion and grants him a boon on a condition that someone else will have to bear his sleep. On Lakshman's request the goddess visited his wife Urmilla. Urmilla agreed to share her husband's loss of sleep, and thus slept for entire 14 years.
As the story unfolds in the climax episode, Meghnadh who is Ravana's son was granted a boon that he could only be killed by Gudakesh: the one who defeated sleep for 14 or more years. So Lakshmana who had not slept for 14 years kills Meghnandh marking a turning point in the war with Ravana.
Point to Ponder -
Ponder on this Sleep Fairy story, look at the presidents or the executives in the world - do they really have time to sleep or are they busy making the famous 3am calls!!! ? Do they approach a Sleep Fairy or Sleep Goddess to defeat sleep or is there a magic potion , and maybe that's the hidden treasure somewhere in the forest which helped Lakshmana defeat sleep for 14 years???
Ponder and Wonder: King Dhrithrashtra had 101 children - Magic or Advanced Science?
I love introducing new books and stories to my kids, and together we share the love of festivities around the world. As a part of this , Indian epics make a great story telling - initially for the love of characters and festivals and later as an indulgence into the insights. The Ancient Indian epics which were discovered around 400 BC (2500 years ago), when you really read through them, have modern science visions weaved into the storyline. Today's insight is on the epic Mahabharata.
When you ponder on some of these reproduction stories from Mahabharata -
Dhritarashtra and Gandhari had 101 children. Is this really possible through Natural birth?
Kunti ‘s boon to have children from any deity she wished!
The 7th child of Devki – Balaram was transferred from Devki’s womb to Rohini’s womb?
So the story of the 101 children of Dhritarashtra and Gandhari goes like this - Gandhari conceived before Kunti so that her first born could be the King of Hastinapur. But her pregnancy continued for 2 years and in the meanwhile Kunti had already given birth to Yudhistira who thus is the righteous claim to the crown of Hastinapur. After 2 years of pregnancy, frustrated Gandhari hit her womb hard but instead of delivering a baby she delivered a big ball of flesh. When Maharishi Vyasa examined this mass of flesh he saw 101 live cells each of which he separated and put in ghee jars to fertilize which then made 100 sons and 1 daughter for Gandhari.
One of the theories suggest the method of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) which is now common phenomenon, Maharishi Vyas knew of this advanced technology 5000 years ago through which he artificially put the fetuses in the jars and provided the right conditions for them to grow into infants.
Kunti had received a boon from sage Durvaasa, to be able have a child from any deity and the child would inherit the properties of the father. Commonly known in today’s day world as sperm donors. That's how the 5 pandavs came into being.
The story of embryo transfer and surrogacy was regarding the seventh pregnancy of Devki. The embryo was transferred from Devki to Rohini to prevent killing of the baby by Kansa. This is the story of Balaram , Krishna's brother.
There are many more interesting stories like the above in Mahabharata like the birth of Dhrona (the teacher), birth of Draupadi and her brother Dhristadyumna . There are other war strategies, nuclear weapons embedded in the war stories of the Mahabharata and more Modern Day Science and Technology in these ancient Indian epics. Introduce these old wonders to the kids early on and as they grow highlight relevant stories in these books. Who knows the next invention is hidden somewhere inside these epics?