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Mahabharata Cultures In Indian Lifestyle And Mental Health Research Paper

Choose one of the followings and write an essay on the topic1. Discuss the connection of Mahabharata and the actual history of India by providing the connection to important figures, place, and event in the Indian history and geographical fact.Impermanent has been happening throughout the story of Mahabharata. Please discuss and provide examples (at least two) from the story as well as discuss how the character(s) cooped with those changes in their lives.Discuss Indian cultures from Mahabharata that are still in practice today

Chapter VI
Evaluating Select Characters of The Mahabharata
Introduction
Section 1: Mythical and Epic Characters as Inspirations
Section 2: Failure of the Man, Failure of the Leader
Summary of Chapter VI
Works Cited
207
Introduction to Chapter VI
Evaluating Select Characters of The Mahabharata
This Chapter has two sections, presenting three aspects of the topic of the thesis.
(i) Influence of mythical and legendary characters on some Western celebrities.
(ii) How some elders lack in-depth knowledge in alluding to epic characters, and
(iii) Evaluating select characters in the epic – The Mahabharata
The Mahabharata has more number of characters than most other epics of the
world. Almost every type of the human spectrum gets represented therein.
There are bands of characters in bonds of love and respect to one another and
there are also gangs to conspire out of jealousy hate and covetousness.
It would be rewarding to study each character as the poet presents him/her. Still
the literary nuances or the circumstances of the plot are not analyses here..
Since ‘Leadership’ is the object of study, ten characters are approached here as to
how they fared as leaders, key characteristics that made them as what they were.
They are: Lord Krishna, Kunti, Arjuna, Yudhishtra, Dhritarashtra, Duryodhana,
Sanjaya, Kama, Bhishma and king Santanu.
These characters are evaluated by leadership norms set by the primary sources,
Tirukkural and The Mahabharaia.
Chapter VI
Section 1: Mythical and Epic Characters as Inspirations
Myths, epics, legends and even folklore have been sources of inspiration to people
for ages. Celebrity leaders and authors like Adolph Hitler, Agatha Christie, Albert
Einstein, Ayn Rand, Bill Gates, Charles Darwin, Dostoevsky, Ernest Hemingway,
Karl Marx, Mao Tse-tung, Maria Montessori, Mark Twain, Napoleon and Thomas
Edison on whom many books have been written were votaries of books themselves.
Says Ken Blanchard,
“Our folks get to hear the words of wisdom from great prophets and spiritual
leaders like Buddha, Mohamed, Moses, Mahatma Gandhi, Yogananda, and the
Dalai Lama, as well as inspirational leaders like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther
King, and Dag Hammarskjold. This variety does not weaken the messages – it
strengthens them, because all of these leaders share one profound conviction true
happiness comes only when the centre of the universe is not yourself.” 1
Who inspired who
Gandhi was influenced in his boyhood by a play on Harishchandra, a hero
speaking truth. On the inspiration factor Robin Sharma cites the Indian seer Patanjali,
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project,
all of your thoughts break their bonds. Your mind transcends limitations, your
consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great
and wonderful world. Dorment force, faculties and talents become alive, and you
discover yourself… greater . . .than you ever dreamed yourself to be. 2
French hero Napoleon had Sun Tsu’s Art of War translated in French, to draw
inspiration. Albert Einstein had read Kant and Darwin before he entered his teens.
Mark Twain, at 15, read Kipling’s Kim every year. Adolph Hitler carried
Schopenhauer to battle; based on his Master Race thesis on Nietzche’s Superman.
“Balzac concocted a theory he called “mythomania” to describe his hero
worship of Napoleon and Attila the Hun. Karl Marx had the lifelong idolatry of
the Greek God Prometheus who stole fire from the gods and purportedly brought
209
science to mankind. Chairman Mao spent much of his youth studying the great
warriors through books that came to idealise Napoleon,’
notes Gene Landrum who lists 25 leaders and their favourite myths/books. (Those
leaders and the books are listed in Appendix No: Books alone have not made these
people celebrities, though they did exercised considerable influence on them over the
components of leadership, prompting leader aspirants to go in for such books.
An elderly and erudite journalist perceives a rural urban divide in the level of
consciousness with regard to drawing references to epic characters. Rural folk, who
know epics and legends by oral tradition, are more knowledgeable on characters as
analogies. The urban sensitivity to epic characters appears to be a mismatch to their
IQ. Some Indian epic characters are invoked in innuendoes; invariably the vicious
characters figure, not the virtuous ones, which means notoriety stays longer in public
memory. Of course in the world of business, a few are equated to Kama for giving, as
he personifies charity.
N. S. Jagannathan, eminent journalist, says the knowledge of politicians on epics,
myths and legends is shallow. Some get their analogies wrong for their objects of
attack. The references turn more odious than intended; the censure returns irksomely
to its origin. Sometimes the slings boomerang on the sender. Just a few months ago,
Yashwant Sinha, former civil servant and former minister, called Prime minister
Manmohan Singh a Shikhandi. If one knows the Shikhandi episode in the
Mahabharata he will have clues as to who stands so protected, who is pitted against
the protector and the protectee in contemporary political situation.
Writing in The New Indian Express on Sept. 19, 2004, under an engaging title Manmohan, A Shikhandi? Yashwant Sinha Needs to Take Some Lessons in Hindu
Mythology, columnist N.S. Jagannathan wonders whether Sinha got all his facts right
as he shot off his mouth. Of the lack of knowledge of epics even among the highly
placed persons, Jagaimathan observes,
“Knowledge of ancient Indian classics is progressively becoming more and
more rudimentary among most Indians, especially in the urban areas. So when the
BJP leader Yashwant Sinha recently hit the headlines with his comparison of
Prime Minister to Shikhandi in The Mahabharata, many readers especially of the
210
younger generation were baffled. Beyond a vague impression that Sinha was rude
to Manmohan Singh, they might not have cottoned on to the precise nature of the
intended insult… What is the point that Sinha is making when he makes a
Shikhandi out of Manmohan Singh… for describing a situation in which a person
provides a kind of shield for someone else who operates from behind….
Presumably he wanted to say that Manmohan Singh was merely a “front” and the
real actor was Sonia Gandhi… What he had done is to make himself one of the
Kauravas pitted against the righteous Pandavas … Pursuing this line of interesting
speculation, one could then wonder about which particular Kaurava the different
BJP stalwarts represent. The choice is wide open: Vajpayee as the hapless
Dhritarashtra seems apt enough. Advani could be Duryodhana and Sinha himself
– perish the thought – Dussasshana?”
The politician’s rebuttable rebuke of an allusion is from The Mahabharata, which
ironically, is a political epic. Jagannathan also points out that the shallow knowledge
of political leaders on epics:
“The BJP that by the implication of its public postures claims an exclusive right
to the legacy of the Hindu tradition, clearly needs better literacy among its leaders
about ancient classics… Uma Bharti, for example, compared Manmohan Singh to
Vidura, an altogether a shrewd (and original) characterization. It is not only fair and
courteous to Manmohan Singh but also probably accurate.”
While elders feel the youngsters lack knowledge of native epics and classics,
Jagannathan illustrates that even elders have to refresh their knowledge. Adds he:
“Clearly, the RSS sakhas have their work cut out. They have to hold classes in
Indian mythology for the Johnnies-come-lately into the party such as Yashwant
Sinha to stop them from shooting off their mouths in self-incriminating ways.” 6
Wrongly conceived allusions to epic characters would give wrong signals. The
Ma ha bharata being a political epic, political leaders are expected to know the
implications better. Name-dropping alone would not do. A thorough knowledge of
the epics is to relate the characters with qualities attributed to them, not just noting
the functions. The following section evaluates ten characters from The Mahabharata
as leaders, what made them fail or succeed as individuals and the leaders.
211
Chapter VI
Section 2: Failure of the Man, Failure of the Leader
The Mahabharata is a great panorama with various types of characters.
“A very useful commentary on the major characters of this epic can be read in
Irawati Karwe’s Yuganta (1969)”
points out Sampat K. Singh who commends native texts as a sources for studying
leadership. Here is a rating of ten characters as leaders: Lord Krishna, Kunti, Arjuna,
Yudhishtra, Dhritarashtra, Duryodhana, Sanjaya, Kama, Bhishma and Santanu.
Lord Krishna
Krishna could defy any definition of a man or God. He is both. For him no task
was too big or too small. He did not hesitate to be an emissary of the Pandavas,
though he was the Lord of the Universe. Though a great warrior himself he offered to
be Arjuna’s charioteer. A strategist, sober statesman and very often a shrewd manipulator, he calls shots in the epic. His philosophy of life spans both war and peace. If
a man wants peace, he needs the strength and the ability to fight a war and win it. He
delivers the Gita, giving the epic its metaphysical strength. That role of a universal
master apart, he is a catalyst. He knows, being divine, what is in store for all players
in the epic; but he is not uncanny in his timing. He believes that the means should
also be fair. But he uses deception and tactics. To those who face the problem to
choose between the greatest evil and the lesser evil, he commends the latter.
Kunti
Kunti is the mother of the first three Pandavas, Yudhishtra, Bhima and Arjuna.
She proves to be a good mother in inculcating Dharma to her wards who include her
co-wife’s sons Nakula and Sahadeva. Pradip Bhattachaiya finds Kunti epitomising
leadership and the use of feminine power:
“Kunti is the epic’s finest example of inner power by a mother to act
unconventionally and wholly autonomously. It is only she who agrees to shoulder
the awesome burden of bringing up five teenagers in a hostile court, without any
212
resources but only the tacit support of Vidura … Kunti has that rare capacity to
surprise which characterises the great leaders who know how to use power. When
everything she worked for has been achieved – her beloved Sons are rulers of
Hastinapura and her daughter-in-law has been avenged – she astonished them all
by resolving to retire to the forest with, of all persons, Dhritarashtra and
Gandhari … the old couple responsible for her sufferings. Her maturity is reflected
in her ability to observe life closely and use learning from experiences for arriving
at swift decisions to benefit simultaneously both society and her children.” 8
Kunti follows the Gita ‘s advice; she achieved her ends; her sons won back the
rule that was theirs. He daughter-in-law was avenged. She could as well have stayed
in the palace as mother royal. To Bhima who dissuaded her, she said she had no
desire to enjoy a kingdom won by her sons. Her sense of detachment, forbearance and
sacrifice are adorable qualities of leadership.
Arj una
Raising the question ‘Who is the hero of The Mahabharata?’ Daniel H.H. Ingalls,
Wales Professor of Sanskrit, Emeritus, Harvard University, who guided Ruth Cecily
Katz, doing her doctorate at the Harvard on Arjuna (The word Arjuna means pure) as
an epic character, says in his Foreword to her book Ariuna in The Mahabharata:
“Of the Pandava brothers, the reaction to events that we find in Yudhishtra is
primarily that of piety and religion. Of Bhima, it is the brute strength. Arjuna is
the youngest of the three full brothers – there are also two half-brothers, to make
the five Pandavas in full. Arjuna contains traits of his older brothers, but with
them is still very much himself. He kills more enemies than Bhima but he has
feelings of compassion and remorse which Bhima lacks. He does not preach
morality, as does Yudhishtra; and yet when God speaks to man …. it is to Aijuan
that He speaks, not to his pious older brother.”
The second part of the observation of the learned professor is not acceptable.
Arjuna having been chosen by Krishna for the revelation of the Gita was upon a
contextual contingency, as Krishna happened to be Arjuna’s charioteer. However
213
Ingalls is right in identifying Arjuna as the hero. Ruth Katz hails Arjuna as a peerless
hero for his positive and effective action. That is there. And what facilitated him was
his capacity to focus. Arjuna remained focused right from his student days. To be
focused is a key characteristic of leadership.
Says Ruth Katz:
“Arjuna’s predominant skill is in archery and is based on his absolute
power of concentration upon his target, to the exclusion of all surroundings, as
demonstrated during the final examination administered by Drona to his pupils at
the conclusion of their studies.” 10
Dronachaiya made a parrot of clay; placed it on the branch of a tree. The test
was to hit the bird’s eye. He called the princes one by one. Before the individual
could shot, he questioned: “What do you see on the tree?” “The parrot, the leaves
and branches” was the reply. When Arjuna’s turn came, he said, “Gurudev, I can
only see the eye of the parrot.” He released the arrow and pierced the bird’s eye.
That was his acumen of focus, concentration and precision.
Yudhishtra
Yudhishtra could be faulted for dicing away his possessions, siblings, his country
and even his wife, who was not solely his, her having married the other four brothers
as well; but his regard for elders was unquestionable. He was charitable even to his
enemies. A remarkable leadership trait was his impartiality. Yudhishtra was sad to
find all his four brothers having met a watery grave once. Granted a boon to save one
of them, without a moment’s hesitation, he opted for Nakula his half-brother, born to
his step-mother, saying both Kunti and Madri were his mothers and it was fair that
each had one son alive. His impartiality is commendable; impartiality is one of the
major traits of a leader in the attitude behind discharging one’s duties.
Next to impartiality was his integrity and his consciousness about it. Referring to
this, critic Krishna Chaitanya says,
“If Yudhishtra definitely has integrity, he is not totally free from the desire
to be recognised as a man of integrity.”
214
Seeking image recognition is not a negative factor, as the literary critic appears to
censure. Yudhishtra cannot be faulted for his image-seeking bids, if any. If one seeks
image recognition, it is incumbent on him to live up to that image. What is wrong is
to create a hollow image. Yudhishtra had a large heart to forgive even the offenders.
During their exile in the forests, when the Pandavas went on hunting, Jayadratha,
abducted Draupadi. When Pandavas chased, he let her dismount from the chariot.
Bhima was out to catch and kill him. But Yudhishtra bade his brothers to let him off.
Yudhishtra is fair in his self-assessment and gauging the failure of leadership at the
other end. He observes of what he considered the no-win post-war situation:
“We have not gained our object, nor have they gained theirs. They could not
enjoy this earth, nor could they enjoy women and music. They did not listen to
counsels of ministers and friends and learned men … Burning with the hate they
bore us, they could not obtain happiness and peace.” (Ganguli VIII P. 10)
Once crowned Yudhishtra proved his leadership by choosing right men for the
key slots. Commentator Bharathiramajuachar characterises Yudhishtra thus:
“He sytematised and restructured the administration. Bhima was appointed
Yuvaraja. Vidura became his advisor. Sanjaya was asked to manage the finances of
the state. Nakula was given the responsibility of the army and personal (sic)
administration. Protecting the land from the wicked forces fell on the shoulders of
Arjuna. Spiritual aspect of administration was entrusted to Daumya. Sahadeva was
appointed his personal secretary. Thus he gave responsibilities to able men and the
Icing won the praise of the nobles and every subject of his land.” 12
Dhritarashtra
The blind Dhritarashtra held only the title, king but lacked everything else. To use
the words of Jack Hawley,
“He knew that his son Duryodhana’s decision to go to war was wrong. …The old
man had felt pangs of conscience but had said nothing when his son had cheated
Arjuna’s family out of their rightful kingdom and then denied their request even for a
trifling parcel of land that was rightfully theirs. The old man had maintained his
215
curious silence when his son mortified Arjuna’s wife and the whole family in public
by having a henchman attempt to strip her of her clothes… Indeed, the old man was
so caught up in his mindless support of his son that neither ethical nor spiritual
feelings could find their way into his heart. All good judgement had been lost.” 13
Not having a strong mind, which is a requisite leadership trait, he was forced into
physical inaction, a trait tabooed by Vyasa. He was weak and vacillating.
Sanjaya
Sanjaya was an emissary and interpreter to king Dhritarashtra. He discharged his
duties well on both the assigments and he does not fail to point out his faults or that of
his son. As the Kurukshetra war begins, Sanjaya told Dhritarashtra that Duiyodhana
was nervous and hence he insulted his master Dronacharya, which ill-behoved any
disciple. As a courtier, minister and an emissary he acquits himself exceedingly well.
A purely technical view or a superficial observation might present him exceeding
his brief. An occasion is his withholding information on the peace mission he was on.
As any emissary is expected to do, he should have disclosed what transpired. On the
other hand, he has the temerity to tell the king that he will break at the court the next
morning. This breach of protocol was born out of the fear that if Dhritarashtra came
to know what was in store, he might adopt devious methods overnight in consultation
with his son. His intent was not to hold over information to make the king sleepless.
He thought a premature revealing of the information that night might immediately be
passed on Duryodhana who would hatch a vile conspiracy again that might scuttle
waging a just unvoidable war, which the Pandavas could win.
Duryodhana
‘A past master in subtle underhand political intelligence,’ 14 Duryodhana was
not less of a warrior, as Amalesh Bhattacharya calls him. He was a good and helpful
friend to Kama. But the traits that would have made him a leader were lost in two bad
qualities: jealousy and covetousness. Bhishma in his Raja Niti speaks at length on the
corroding impact of covetousness; it leads to 40 other linked vices. Valluvar clamps a
ban on jealousy. Thus, Duiyodhana was a leader, by position, not by disposition.
216
When one hatches conspiracies, veiled and vile, he ceases to be a leader. What
Yudhishtra tells Arjuna of Duiyodhana is the right assessment:
“Duryodhana’s heart was always set upon guile. Always cherishing
malice, he was addicted to deception. Although we never offended him, yet he
always behaved falsely towards us.” (Ganguli VIII P.10)
Karna
Kama is commendable for his valour, steadfastness, commitment charity and
fidelity. Any reference to these traits calls for mention of his name. But he fails when
rated by leadership’s norms. An instance cited to reveal his heroic patience was his
bearing the boring of his thigh by a bloodthirsty insect when his master Parasurama
was sleeping on his lap. The occasion was Karna’s stint to learn weaponry under sly.
Though a Kshatriya by birth he had told Parasurama that he was a Brahmin. ‘Don’t
tell lies except to save a life’- is the norm prescribed by Vyasa and Valluvar. Kama
told Parasurama a lie, which was impersonation rather. He told it not to save any, but
to kil…

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