A partial list of wrongdoings of Mahabharat's heroes glorified by Vyasa
Mahabharat, the epic is considered to be one of the most important books of Hinduism. Its main event is a war of 18 days, in which 18 axauhini (about 1,800,000) people were killed. It was the culmination of many bad and wrong actions and practices of those preceding it. Our ancestors (and current religious leaders too) failed to learn the lessons. They glorified and continue to glorify these mistakes. The current and future generations would be better served if they can avoid similar errors. Here is a partial list of the misdeeds of the characters of Mahabharat.
Ancient Hindu society was supposed to have been based on Varnashram vyavastha, i.e. a system of Varna (caste) and Ashrama (life stages) of people. The latter required people to be students for the first 25 years of their lives, married active family men from 25 to 50 years, retired individuals from 50 to 75 years and hermits from 75 years to death. The characters of Mahabharat, including Krishna, stuck to the Varna part of the system but grossly violated the Ashrama part. For example, almost all of them were old enough to be hermits when they fought in the war and had no right to participate in it.
1. King Shantanu wanted to marry Matsyagandha when he had a young son of marriageable age. At that age he should have retired. The sages and his advisors at that time should have forbidden him from marrying at that late age. It was very improper for him to marry at that age.
2. Shantanu should not have agreed to the conditions imposed by Matsyagandha’s father.
3. Shantanu should not have accepted his son Devavrata’s offer to be a celibate all his life to facilitate the wedding. It was improper for the son to make the offer and extremely selfish for the father to accept it. Devavrata was improperly renamed as "Bhishma" for taking the celibacy vow. This writer will continue to call him Devavrata.
4. Devavrata hid his impotence by vowing to be celibate all his life. (The subsequent events proved that Devavrata was only hiding his own impotence behind his vow of celibacy, but Shantanu could not have known it. I therefore refuse to call him Bhishma)
5. Matsyagandha (improperly renamed Satyavati upon her marriage to Shantanu) asked Devavrata to abduct the princesses of another king to make them marry her weakling sons who did not deserve to marry as per Manusmruti.
6. Devavrata kidnapped three girls for his two stepbrothers, could not even count right.
7. He then refused to marry the third princess although ordered by his stepmother as well as his guru Parshuram. He knew he was impotent and therefore could not comply.
8. He refused to perform niyoga with the widows of his stepbrothers although ordered by his stepmother. He knew he was impotent and therefore could not comply.
9. Matsyagandha asked her illegitimate son Vyasa to perform niyoga with her daughters in law. The sons born to them were also sick, one blind (Dhrutarashtra) and another a leukemia patient (Pandu).
10. Devavrata, now called Bhishma, attacked Gandhar as a part of his crusade to make his Vichitravirya stepbrother a monarch. He imprisoned a hundred persons there for refusing to accept Vichitravirya as an emperor. They were given only one grain of cooked rice every day. Among them was Shakuni the prince of Gandhar who was only a boy at that time. The other prisoners gave up their grains of rice to keep Shakuni alive. Shkuni's father, the king, accepted defeat to save the lives of all these prisoners. This brutality of Devavrata made Shakuni a lifetime enemy of Devavrata and Hastinapur.
11. Even though Manusmruti prohibits sick people from marrying, Matsyagandha had these grandsons married, Dhrutarashtra to Gandhari and Pandu to Kunti and Madri. Devavrata bullied the king of Gandhar to wed his daughter Gandhari to the blind prince Dhrutarashtra. This added to Shakuni's hatred for Devavrata and Hastinapur.
12. Rather than serve her husband, Gandhari blindfolded herself for life. As a result, her sons who would have become semi-orphans due to their father's blindness became fully orphans raised by their non-parents. No wonder they turned out to be miscreants.
13. Kunti, while unmarried, gave birth to a son out of wedlock and abandoned him. Vyasa tries to cover up her sin by calling it a result of mantra and naming sungod (Sooryadeva) as the father. This is a white lie. If that was the case, she had no need to abandon the child. Neither the so-called ‘Sooryadeva’ the father of this child, nor Kunti the mother, had the moral courage ever to own up to their responsibility. This son was found and raised by a coachman and his wife who named him Karna. People therefore treated him like a coachman. Even a ‘soota-putra’ should not have been treated so unjustly as was Karna.
14. Parshuram, the so-called incarnation of Vishnu should have known that Karna was not a ‘soot-putra’ but ‘sooryaputra’ but did fail to know it. In stead of treating him as ‘sooryaputra’ he insulted Karna as a ‘soot-putra’. This injustice compelled Karna to join the Kauravas.
15. Krishna, another incarnation of Vishnu, also failed to know that Karna was ‘sooryaputra’.
16. Krishna deprived Karna of his right to participate in the competition of martial skills.
17. Draupadi insulted Karna and refused to marry Karna even if he would have succeeded in the test set up by her father.
18. Krishna supported Draupadi and refused Karna permission to try to pass the toy fish test.
19. Kunti gave the foolish advice to her sons to share the prize won by Arjuna. Every one stupidly treated that advice as irrevocable.
20. It is said that Shiva had granted Draupadi’s wish in her previous life when out of eager longing for a husband, she repeated the word ‘pati’ five times. Shiva, although called ‘antaryami’, took this literally and gave her five husbands. How stupid!
21. Yudhishtir prevented Kunti from correcting her error most probably because he did like the idea of sharing Draupadi with his brother.
22. Draupadi was made to marry five husbands.
23. Draupadi insulted her cousins in law by calling them blind at the Rajasu Yagna.
24. Yudhishthira decided to play dice with his cousins. It is said that the custom prevailing that time required him not to refuse the invitation. This is hogwash and cannot be accepted.
25. Yudhishthira bet his brothers. This was one of the worst aspects of Manusmruti according to which the younger brothers were considered the property of the eldest brother as was a wife considered the property of her husband.
26. Having lost his brothers, Yudhishthira bet Draupadi.
27. Having won Draupadi in the bet, Duryodhana and his brother decided to molest her in the open court. The custom prevailing that time must have permitted such molestation of the women of the servants (dasa) because none of the elders present at the meeting had the moral courage to speak out against this outrage.
28. The onlookers of Draupadi’s molestation, Devavrata, Dhrutarashtra, Vidura, Drona, Kripacharya etc. were so old at that time that they should have taken sanyasa rather than be at the royal court of Duryodhana.
29. These same people also fought in the war at even older age. This was a clear violation of the ashram vyavastha.
In spite of all these wrongdoings, we call those people great. That war was not fought for any principle. It was fought for Pandavas’ selfish goal of getting back the kingdom their eldest brother lost through utter stupidity. And yet we call that war a dharmayuddha. What a shame!
The whole story of Mahabharat was written at one sitting. Therefore, there are many editing mistakes in it. For example, when it was decided that Draupadi would marry the five brothers, Krishna explained it as Shiva’s varadan in her previous life. This means that pandavas knew about ‘poorvajanma’ and ‘punrjanma’. But then Arjuna asked Krishna,
“Aparam bhavato janma, param janma vivasvatah
Kathametad vijaniyam tvamadau proktavaniti”
Your birth (lifetime) is different from that of the (sun god) Vivasvan. How do I know that you told him (this yoga)?”
Some people say that we should not judge the actions of the people in past by our current values. Why then do our religious leaders keep judging the current generation by the outdated standards? Don't we have better values than them?
We must therefore use caution before accepting everything written in those books.