The Realism in Mahabharata

The Battle of Kurukshetra was not fought between good and evil. There is no black and white!  Granted, it was fought to reestablish justice on earth. But many great men, such as Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, Salya, Karna, Ekalavya etc., sided with the Kaurava merely because of their loyalty and gratitude towards the Kingdom of Hastinapur. And the Pandavas, without the advice of Lord Krishna, were not perfect. 

Bhishma is a perfect example of how principles of one man can also have dire consequences on an entire kingdom and dynasty. Had he not vowed to never be King, he would have made a very just King. Instead, Hastinapur came into the hands of Dhritarashtra, who was blind not only without but also within. Had Kunti revealed to the rest that Karna was also her son, he would not have gone with the wrong company. Thus, believing him to be ‘the mere son of a charioteer’, many mocked him throughout the story. To oppose this, Duryodhana accepted him and made him the king Virata. Karna’s loyalty and gratitude towards Duryodhana never died. And neither did Karna’s generosity. Yet he was destined to go astray. Salya, the uncle of Nakula and Sahadeva, was tricked into siding with the Kauravas during the war. Drona was obliged to support the kingdom, not his favorite students – the Pandavas. And Ekalavya, the dedicated student of Drona, fought alongside his teacher during the final battle.

The Pandavas were just, but not perfect. Yudhisthira should not have agreed to gamble away all that he had, that too in the absence of Lord Krishna. And gambling away one’s kingdom and wife is never just. He should have known better. Arjuna and Bhima had their own ego issues with the Kauravas, right from a very young age. It was perhaps Arjuna’s jealousy that pushed Ekalavya and Karna into the dark.

This battle was not fought between the Pandavas and Kauravas. It was between Dharma and Adharma – justice and injustice. It was between King Dhritarashtra, Shakuni and Lord Krishna. Dhritarashtra was self-righteous and blindly ignored his conscience. He favored his son Duryodhana’s own interest as against the welfare of his Kingdom and subjects. Shakuni had sworn to avenge the marriage of his sister Gandhari to this blind King. Thus, through several conspiracies, he poisoned the mind of Duryodhana and the rest of the Kauravas, hence leading them towards their own ends. Lord Krishna simply wanted to protect the just, the innocent and his devotees. Thus, through many a miracle, he helped the Pandavas and ultimately, wiped out all who were destined to die.

After so many years of struggle and 18 days of the intense battle, the Pandavas brought justice back to their land. But almost everyone who they held dear was wiped out from the face of the earth. This is the best part of Mahabharata, in my humble opinion. Like most Indian stories, justice and truth always triumphs. However, unlike most fairytales, the epic does not necessarily end happily or peacefully. It’s thus more realistic.

There is nothing that exists in Bharata (and hence the world) that does not exist in Mahabharata, and there is nothing that that exists in Mahabharata which does not exist in Bharata. This immortal epic shall be sung for many more Yugas or ages to come, even if all evidence is wiped out by the prophesied deluge – the Pralaya.