The Mahabharata is a complex narrative that explores themes of righteousness (dharma) and unrighteousness (adharma) through the actions and decisions of its characters. The Kauravas, especially Duryodhana and his allies, commit several acts considered adharmic, which contribute to the moral justification for the war and highlight the epic’s teachings on ethics and morality. While it’s challenging to encapsulate all such actions comprehensively due to the epic’s vastness and depth, here is a list of the major adharmic actions attributed to the Kauravas in the Mahabharata:

  1. The Poisoning of Bhima: Duryodhana, envious of Bhima’s strength, attempts to kill him by poisoning and drowning him in the river.
  2. The Lac House Conspiracy: Purochana, acting on Duryodhana’s orders, builds a palace made of lacquer, a highly flammable material, intending to burn the Pandavas alive.
  3. Dishonouring Draupadi: During the infamous dice game, Draupadi is called into the court and an attempt is made to disrobe her, a grave insult to her dignity.
  4. Cheating in the Dice Game: The dice game itself, rigged by Shakuni, Duryodhana’s uncle, to ensure the Pandavas’ loss, represents a breach of fair play and justice.
  5. Exile and Humiliation of the Pandavas: The terms of the dice game, designed to humiliate the Pandavas and remove them from the political scene for thirteen years, including one year of anonymity.
  6. Denial of Pandavas’ Rights: Upon the Pandavas’ return from exile, Duryodhana refuses to return their kingdom or any land whatsoever, breaking the earlier agreement.
  7. Abuse of Power: Duryodhana’s misuse of his authority to oppress the Pandavas and deny them their rightful place in the kingdom.
  8. Attempt to Arrest Krishna: Duryodhana’s attempt to arrest Krishna when he came as a peace envoy demonstrates disrespect for diplomatic norms and divine emissaries.
  9. Breaking Rules of Warfare: Various instances during the war, including attacking those who have laid down their weapons or attacking from behind.
  10. Killing of Abhimanyu: The collective attack on Abhimanyu by several Kaurava warriors, breaking the rules of fair combat.
  11. Jayadratha’s Role in Abhimanyu’s Death: Having received a special boon from Lord Siva, Jayadratha blocked the entrance of the Chakravyuha to ensure Abhimanyu remains trapped and no Pandava warrior could enter to support Abhimanyu.
  12. The Night Raid: Ashwatthama’s night raid on the Pandava camp, leading to the slaughter of the Pandava children and other sleeping warriors.
  13. Use of the Narayanastra: Ashwatthama, in a moment of desperation, uses the Narayanastra, which could have caused massive uncontrolled destruction.
  14. Ashwatthama’s Attack on Unborn Parikshit: After the war, Ashwatthama attempts to end the Pandava lineage by attacking the unborn Parikshit in Uttara’s womb with the Brahmastra.
  15. Exploitation of Bhishma and Drona’s Loyalties: Manipulating these warriors’ sense of duty to fight for a cause they may not fully endorse.
  16. Disrespect towards Elders and Gurus: Ignoring the wise counsel of Vidura, Bhishma, and even Drona at times, showing a disregard for wisdom and experience.
  17. Forcing the War: Despite multiple opportunities for peace, choosing the path of conflict and war, driven by pride and envy.
  18. Disregard for Bhishma’s Counsel: Bhishma repeatedly advised Duryodhana to make peace with the Pandavas, but the Kauravas ignored his wise counsel.
  19. Unjust criticizing and insulting of Vidura: Duryodhana insulted Vidura on many occasions, he opposed the adharmic actions of the Kauravas particularly Duryodhana and the King Dhritarashtra. After the game of dice where the Pandavas lose their kingdom, wealth, and themselves, Vidura speaks out against the injustice and advises Dhritarashtra to rectify the situation. However, Dhritarashtra, under the influence of his son Duryodhana and his courtiers, disregards Vidura’s counsel. Feeling disillusioned and unable to prevent the impending disaster, Vidura decides to leave Hastinapura.
  20. Misuse of Divine Weapons: The Kauravas, including Karna, Ashwatthama and Drona, misused divine weapons in the war, causing immense destruction.
  21. Jealousy and Envy: The Kauravas were driven by jealousy and envy, especially towards the Pandavas, which fuelled their adharmic actions.
  22. Manipulating Allies Against Pandavas: Duryodhana manipulated allies such as Jarasandha, Jayadratha, and Karna to fight against the Pandavas, disregarding their familial ties and alliances.
  23. Influencing Dhritarashtra by emotional manipulation against his better judgment and towards favouring Duryodhana’s schemes.
  24. Abusing the hospitality concept to trick Shalya into fighting for the Kauravas.
  25. Casting aspersions on the parentage of the Pandavas.
  26. Refusal to Accept Defeat Graciously: Even in the face of defeat, Duryodhana chose to engage in guerilla warfare, hiding in a lake, instead of surrendering honourably.

These actions and decisions, driven by ambition, jealousy, and a disregard for moral and ethical principles, set the stage for the tragic conflict of the Kurukshetra War. They are not just personal failings but also serve as lessons on the consequences of adharma, both individually and collectively. The epic teaches that such actions lead to ruin and destruction, emphasizing the importance of righteousness, justice, and ethical conduct in life.

Unethical and immoral actions by leaders can have significant consequences for various aspects of an organization, its stakeholders, and society as a whole. Here are some potential consequences:

Loss of Trust and Credibility: One of the most immediate consequences of unethical behaviour by leaders is a loss of trust and credibility. Stakeholders, including employees, customers, investors, and the public, may no longer believe in the integrity of the organization or its leadership. Rebuilding trust can be challenging and may take a considerable amount of time and effort.

Damage to Reputation: Unethical actions can tarnish the organization’s reputation, leading to negative publicity and public backlash. This can have lasting effects on the organization’s brand image, making it difficult to attract customers, investors, and talented employees in the future.

Legal and Regulatory Consequences: Depending on the nature of the unethical actions, leaders may face legal and regulatory consequences. This could include lawsuits, fines, sanctions, or even criminal charges. Legal battles can be costly and time-consuming, further damaging the organization’s finances and reputation.

Employee Disengagement and Turnover: Unethical behaviour by leaders can demoralize employees, leading to decreased job satisfaction, engagement, and productivity. Employees may feel disillusioned or betrayed, leading to higher turnover rates as they seek employment elsewhere. This turnover can disrupt operations and increase recruitment and training costs for the organization.

Erosion of Organizational Culture: Ethical leadership is crucial for fostering a positive organizational culture built on trust, respect, and integrity. When leaders engage in unethical behaviour, it sends a message that such behaviour is acceptable, leading to a culture of corruption, mistrust, and dysfunction within the organization.

Financial Losses: Unethical actions can result in financial losses for the organization, including decreased revenue, loss of customers, and damage to assets. Stock prices may decline, investors may withdraw their support, and the organization may struggle to secure financing or partnerships due to concerns about its ethical standards.

Impact on Society and the Environment: Unethical actions by leaders can have broader societal and environmental consequences. For example, unethical business practices may exploit workers, harm local communities, or damage the environment. This can lead to public outrage, activism, and calls for regulatory intervention.

Long-term Viability and Sustainability: Ultimately, unethical behaviour by leaders can jeopardize the long-term viability and sustainability of the organization. It undermines trust with stakeholders, increases operational risks, and hinders the organization’s ability to adapt and innovate in a rapidly changing business environment.

In summary, unethical and immoral actions by leaders can have profound and far-reaching consequences that extend beyond the organization itself. It is essential for leaders to prioritize ethical conduct, integrity, and transparency to maintain the trust and support of their stakeholders and contribute to positive social and environmental outcomes.

In the Mahabharata war, the loyalty (or lack thereof) of the Kauravas’ generals played a significant role in shaping the outcome of the conflict. While some generals remained loyal to Duryodhana and the Kauravas until the end, others wavered in their allegiance due to various factors such as personal grievances, or moral dilemmas. Here’s an elaboration on the loyalty (or lack of it) of some key Kaurava generals:

Bhishma:

Bhishma’s internal conflict, stemming from his unwavering loyalty to the throne of Hastinapur and his deep love for the Pandavas, has a profound impact on the narrative and outcome of the Mahabharata War. While he fought valiantly for the Kauravas, his internal conflict was evident in his reluctance kill any one of the Pandavas and to use full force against them. This internal conflict impacts the effectiveness of the Kaurava campaign and demonstrates the profound emotional and ethical turmoil experienced by warriors bound by loyalty and duty. The Pandavas, aware of Bhishma’s invincibility and his reluctance to kill them, are forced to adopt strategies that avoid direct confrontations with him.

Bhishma’s presence on the battlefield is a psychological and moral blow to the Pandavas, who are torn between their respect for him and the necessity to fight against him. His eventual fall becomes a pivotal moment in the war, as it is only after Krishna suggests putting Bhishma in a position where he would choose not to fight back, that the Pandavas find a way to neutralize him without disrespecting him. The use of Shikhandi, whom Bhishma refuses to fight due to Shikhandi’s past life as a woman, demonstrates the complexities of honour and duty.

Bhishma’s internal conflict and his role in the war symbolize the broader themes of the Mahabharata: the clash between duty and morality, the sacrifices demanded by loyalty, and the tragic consequences of inflexible vows. In summary, Bhishma’s conflict due to his loyalty to the throne and his love for the Pandavas significantly shapes the course and outcome of the Mahabharata War.

Dronacharya:

Dronacharya, the revered royal preceptor of both the Pandavas and the Kauravas, is a central figure in the Mahabharata, whose internal conflicts and loyalties significantly influence the narrative and outcome of the Kurukshetra War. His deep bond with his students, especially Arjuna, whom he considered his favourite, contrasts sharply with his duty and loyalty to the throne of Hastinapur, which he serves as a commander in the Kaurava army. This dichotomy in Drona’s loyalties and affections plays out in several key ways throughout the war.

Dronacharya’s unmatched expertise in military tactics and warfare benefits the Kaurava side, making him a formidable force on the battlefield. However, his affection for the Pandavas, particularly Arjuna, influences his approach to the war. He often holds back from unleashing his full might against them, subtly affecting the Kauravas’ chances of victory.

Drona faces moral dilemmas, particularly when asked to capture Yudhishthira alive, a task aimed more at humiliating the Pandavas than achieving a strategic victory. His participation in the plot to kill Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s son, through collective attack by multiple warriors, is a moment of ethical compromise, driven by loyalty to the Kaurava cause but against the principles of fair combat he taught his students.

Dronacharya’s story is a poignant narrative on the cost of loyalty and duty when they are in conflict with personal morals and affections. His unwavering commitment to the throne, despite its wrong direction under Duryodhana’s rule, and his inability to fully align with the Pandavas, whom he loves, highlights the tragic consequences of such conflicts.

Karna:

Karna faces a profound moral dilemma, caught between his loyalty to Duryodhana and his rightful place among the Pandavas. This dilemma is epitomized in his meeting with Kunti before the war, where he refuses her request to join the Pandavas, pledging instead that he would not kill any of them except Arjuna. This promise stems from his desire to repay Duryodhana’s kindness without completely betraying his newfound kinship with the Pandavas.

Shakuni:

Shakuni, a key antagonist in the Mahabharata, is often seen through the prism of his actions that directly lead to the Kurukshetra War. He is the prince of Gandhara, brother to Gandhari, who is married to Dhritarashtra, the blind king of Hastinapur. Shakuni is portrayed as a mastermind of deception and manipulation, whose actions and schemes play a crucial role in deepening the animosity between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. Understanding Shakuni’s motivations and loyalties requires a look into his background and the context within which he operates in the epic.

Loyalty to His Family: astrologers predicted a short lifespan of Gandhari’s husband at her birth. To avert this fate, Subala and his sons ceremoniously married Gandhari to a goat before her marriage with Dhritarashtra, subsequently sacrificing the goat to nullify the foreseen misfortune. Bhishma, upon discovering this ritual, condemns Subala for allowing a supposed “widow” to enter his family and decides to punish Subala and his kin, leading to their imprisonment and severe rationing. The captives, recognizing Shakuni’s intellect and vengeful potential, allocate their meagre sustenance to him. Ultimately, Subala and his other sons succumb, while Shakuni survives and attains release. Being the King of Gandhara, Shakuni spends most of his time in Hastinapura with a primary purpose of avenging the death of his family by eliminating Bhishma and Kuru dynasty.

Manipulation and the Dice Game: Shakuni’s most infamous act is his manipulation of the dice game, leading to the Pandavas’ exile and the humiliation of Draupadi. This act, while seemingly in support of the Kauravas’ interests, can also be seen as a calculated move to create irreparable rifts within the Kuru dynasty, fulfilling his desire for revenge.

In conclusion, Shakuni’s loyalty lies primarily with his family—his sister Gandhari and her sons, the Kauravas. However, his actions are also deeply influenced by a desire for revenge against Bhishma and the perceived injustices against his family. This blend of personal loyalty and vendetta drives him to commit acts that have far-reaching consequences for the Kuru dynasty, showcasing the complex interplay of personal motivations and loyalty in the epic narrative of the Mahabharata.

Shalya

Shalya, the king of Madra, and the maternal uncle of Nakula and Sahadeva (the youngest Pandava brothers), presents a compelling study of conflicting loyalties in the Mahabharata. His story is a remarkable narrative of deception, duty, and divided loyalties, which adds depth to the epic’s exploration of dharma (righteous duty) and personal relationships.

As the Pandavas and the Kauravas prepared for the inevitable war, both sides sought to strengthen their armies by forming alliances with powerful kings. Shalya, renowned for his prowess in warfare and his close familial ties to the Pandavas, was naturally expected to fight alongside his nephews, the Pandavas. However, as Shalya and his army approached Kurukshetra, they were met with grand hospitality by Duryodhana, who cunningly arranged for this without revealing his identity. Believing this generosity was from Yudhishthira, Shalya promised to support the host’s side in the war. When he discovered the deception, he was bound by his word to support Duryodhana, despite his personal inclinations and familial loyalties. Bound by his promise, Shalya fought for the Kauravas, but his heart was with the Pandavas, creating an internal conflict that influenced his actions during the war. His conflicting loyalty is most prominently displayed when he serves as Karna’s charioteer in the latter’s duel with Arjuna. Despite his role in the Kaurava camp, Shalya tries to dissuade Karna from fighting Arjuna, highlighting the inevitable doom awaiting Karna and subtly trying to undermine Karna’s confidence. However, when Karna disregards his advice, Shalya performs his duty as a charioteer to the best of his abilities, albeit reluctantly.

In summary, Shalya’s conflicting loyalties add a layer of complexity to the Mahabharata’s narrative, illustrating how the bonds of family and duty can become entangled with the machinations of war. His character represents the tragic consequences of deception and the heavy burden of promises and honour in the face of deep personal conflicts.

Yuyutsu

Yuyutsu is one of the sons of Dhritarashtra, making him a half-brother to the Kauravas. Unlike his full siblings, Yuyutsu was not born to Queen Gandhari but to a Vaishya (a woman from the merchant caste) servant of Dhritarashtra. His unique position in the royal family places him in a narrative space where he can observe and critique the actions of his more prominent brothers, particularly Duryodhana.

As the preparations for the war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas reach their culmination, Yuyutsu defects from the Kaurava side to the Pandavas. This defection is driven not by personal ambition but by a moral and ethical stance against the adharma (unrighteousness) he sees in Duryodhana’s actions and decisions, especially the mistreatment of the Pandavas and the dishonouring of Draupadi. Yuyutsu’s shift in allegiance is significant for several reasons:

Yuyutsu’s story, while not as prominent as those of the main characters, provides a poignant commentary on loyalty, ethics, and the choices individuals must make in the face of moral dilemmas. His defection to the Pandavas before the war underscores the epic’s complex examination of dharma and the responsibilities of individuals to uphold justice, even when it requires standing against their own family.

In summary, while some Kaurava generals displayed unquestionable loyalty to Duryodhana and the Kaurava cause, others had moral conflicts, personal dilemmas, or switched allegiances during the Mahabharata war. The varying degrees of loyalty among the Kaurava generals played a crucial role in shaping the course of the epic conflict. the tragedy and complexity of the Kurukshetra War, where familial ties, friendships, and guru-disciple relationships are strained and often broken by the demands of duty and loyalty to one’s faction. The epic portrays these dilemmas not as black-and-white decisions but as deeply personal and painful choices that define the character’s paths and the narrative’s moral landscape.

The conflict between loyalty and duty on one hand, and morality and ethics on the other, is a complex dynamic within organizations. Loyalty and duty often stem from personal or organizational allegiances, while morality and ethics are grounded in principles of right and wrong behaviour. When loyalty and duty clash with morality and ethics, individuals may find themselves torn between their obligations to their organization or superiors and their conscience or ethical standards. For instance, an employee may feel pressured to remain loyal to their employer even when asked to engage in unethical practices such as cutting corners on safety measures or deceiving customers on quality or support or such other corrupt practices.

The impact of these conflicts can be significant. In the short term, they may erode trust within the organization, damage reputation, and lead to legal or financial repercussions if unethical behaviour is exposed. Moreover, a culture that prioritizes loyalty over ethics may stifle innovation and hinder diversity of thought, ultimately impeding organizational growth and adaptability. In the long term, such conflicts can result in employee disengagement, turnover, and a toxic organizational culture where unethical behaviour is tolerated or even encouraged. Moreover, the erosion of personal integrity can have profound effects on individuals’ mental and emotional well-being.

In summary, the conflict between loyalty and duty versus morality and ethics in organizations can create tension at both individual and organizational levels, resulting in adverse consequences for both parties involved. Organizations that fail to address these conflicts risk facing serious consequences. Therefore, it’s essential for companies to foster cultures that prioritize ethical decision-making, encourage open communication about moral concerns, and provide support for employees facing ethical dilemmas. This may involve establishing clear ethical guidelines, offering ethics training and resources, and promoting a culture of transparency and accountability. By doing so, organizations can minimize the likelihood of loyalty and duty conflicting with morality and ethics, thereby creating healthier and more sustainable work environments.

Duryodhana, often seen as the chief antagonist of Mahabharata, is a complex character whose actions and decisions are central to the narrative and the eventual outbreak of the Kurukshetra War. Born to King Dhritarashtra and Queen Gandhari, Duryodhana is the eldest of the Kauravas, the hundred sons of the blind king. His rivalry with the Pandavas, particularly with Bhima, starts from a very young age and grows into an intense hatred, which shapes the course of the epic. A character analysis of Duryodhana reveals not just a villain in a traditional sense but a person driven by ambition, loyalty, and a strong sense of entitlement, albeit marred by flaws such as jealousy, pride, and a refusal to heed good counsel.

Ambition and Leadership

Duryodhana demonstrates strong leadership qualities and a charismatic ability to lead. He is ambitious, striving to be the undisputed ruler of the vast Kuru kingdom. His ambition, while a strength, also blinds him to the moral and ethical considerations of his actions, leading him down a path of adharma (unrighteousness).

Loyalty and Friendship

One of Duryodhana’s positive traits is his loyalty to his friends and allies. His friendship with Karna is particularly noteworthy. Karna, born to a charioteer but actually the son of Kunti (making him the eldest of the Pandavas, unknown to all), is snubbed by the society of the time. Duryodhana, however, recognizes Karna’s prowess as a warrior and crowns him the king of Anga, forging a deep and lasting friendship. This act of loyalty and recognition of merit, irrespective of societal norms, shows a more admirable side of Duryodhana’s character.

Pride and Arrogance

Duryodhana’s pride and arrogance are his most significant flaws. He cannot tolerate the idea of sharing power with the Pandavas, whom he considers inferior to himself and his brothers. This inability to share or even consider compromise leads to several key moments in the Mahabharata, including the infamous game of dice, where he maliciously conspires to strip the Pandavas of their kingdom and honour. Duryodhana’s arrogance had a profound impact on the events of the Mahabharata War and his eventual defeat. This character flaw not only shaped the course of the conflict but also led to the downfall of the Kaurava dynasty

Jealousy and Hatred

The root of many of Duryodhana’s actions is his intense jealousy of the Pandavas, particularly their close relationship with Lord Krishna and their popularity among the people and the court. This jealousy blinds him to the consequences of his actions, leading him to make decisions that are not only harmful to others but ultimately to himself and his own family.

The Game of Dice

The rigged game of dice, a pivotal event in the Mahabharata, was orchestrated by Duryodhana to humiliate the Pandavas and usurp their kingdom. His arrogance blinded him to the immorality of his actions, including the public disrobing of Draupadi, which further deepened the enmity between the cousins and rallied support for the Pandavas from various quarters.

Humiliation of Draupadi:

Duryodhana’s arrogance reaches a peak when he orders Draupadi’s disrobing in the royal court. This act is a blatant violation of dharma, showcasing his disregard for righteousness and moral principles.

Insulting the Pandavas during Exile:

Duryodhana, along with his brothers, ridicules the Pandavas during their exile by visiting them in forest with pomp and power. His arrogance leads him to underestimate the strength and resilience of the Pandavas.

Refusal of Good Counsel

Duryodhana’s downfall is precipitated by his consistent refusal to listen to wise counsel. Despite advice from elders like Bhishma, Vidura, and even warnings from Lord Krishna, Duryodhana chooses the path of conflict. Instead, he surrounded himself with sycophants who fuelled his ego and reinforced his misguided beliefs. This arrogance prevented him from making sound decisions and ultimately led to his downfall. His refusal to compromise or seek peace is driven by his desire to defeat the Pandavas at any cost, illustrating his inability to rise above personal vendettas for the greater good.

Igniting the Conflict

Duryodhana’s refusal to share even a small portion of the kingdom with the Pandavas, which could have prevented the war, stemmed from his arrogance. His belief in his unassailable right to rule the entire Kuru kingdom without opposition set the stage for the conflict. His actions, driven by jealousy and the desire to see the Pandavas humiliated and powerless, directly led to the animosity that culminated in the Kurukshetra War.

Rejection of Peace Negotiations

Duryodhana’s arrogance was evident in his rejection of multiple attempts at peace negotiations, most notably by Lord Krishna, who personally came as an emissary of peace to avoid the war. Duryodhana’s refusal to concede even five villages to the Pandavas showcased his overconfidence and belief in his inevitable victory, disregarding the catastrophic consequences of war. Duryodhana’s arrogance directly contributes to the outbreak of the Kurukshetra war, leading to immense destruction and loss of life.

Underestimating the Pandavas and Their Allies

Duryodhana consistently underestimated the capabilities of the Pandavas and their allies, attributing their successes to luck rather than skill or valour. His arrogance prevented him from recognizing the strategic acumen of Krishna and the martial prowess of Arjuna and Bhima, which were instrumental in the Pandavas’ victories on the battlefield.

Tactical Errors in War

Duryodhana’s arrogance influenced his decision-making during the war, leading to tactical errors. He often ignored the counsel of experienced generals like Bhishma and Drona, insisting on strategies that played into the Pandavas’ hands. His insistence on placing Shalya, who bore no love for him, as the charioteer for Karna is one such example where personal pride overruled strategic wisdom.

Lack of Self-Reflection:

Duryodhana’s arrogance prevents him from acknowledging his own faults and mistakes. Instead of self-reflection, he consistently blames others for the consequences of his actions.

Personal Downfall and the Kaurava Defeat

Ultimately, Duryodhana’s arrogance sealed his fate and that of the Kauravas. His inability to heed good advice, reconcile with the Pandavas led to his isolation and defeat. In the end, his arrogance left him alone, wounded, and awaiting death on the battlefield, symbolizing the destructive power of unchecked ego and pride.

Conclusion

In summary, Duryodhana’s arrogance was a catalyst for the Mahabharata War and played a significant role in his defeat. It blinded him to the moral, strategic, and personal consequences of his actions, leading to the near annihilation of the Kuru dynasty and serving as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked ambition, pride, jealousy and hubris.

In essence, Duryodhana’s downfall was not just the result of his martial defeat but a consequence of his moral and ethical failings, rooted deeply in his arrogance. This trait led him to actions that estranged allies, provoked enmities, and blinded him to the realities of his situation, illustrating the destructive consequences of arrogance unchecked by wisdom or humility.

All the Vedic texts from Ancient India are basically classified into Sruti and Smriti. Sruti is the text that can be heard, Smriti is the text which has to be remembered. The Sruti is the most authoritative text that is believed to have the eternal knowledge transmitted by sages. The Sruti is the foundation of Hinduism. The Sruti includes Four Vedas, which are embedded texts in Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads. Where the Smriti includes Vedangas, Hindu Epics, Sutras, Shastras, Puranas and various Bhasyas.

Vedas, composed in Sanskrit is extremely difficult for the common man to learn and understand. Hence came the Upanishads. Though scholars could understand it, not common man. Therefore, Saint Vyasa composed Puranas, that explains the fundamental principles of life in the form of stories for common man to understand. Still not being happy he finally composed the Itihasa called Mahabharata, which is considered as the greatest epic not only in India but in world literature.  It is a story of love, courage, truth, lies, deceit, selfishness, foolishness, and every other human emotion. It is considered as the Fifth Veda, but for the common man.

Scholars consider that there are three versions of the great Epic. Jaya (Victory) with 8,800 verses attributed to Vyasa is the first version and taught to his students including Vaisampayana. Vaisampayana narrates the story to King Janamejaya with few additions and becomes the Bharata with 24,000 verses. And finally, the Mahabharata as recited by Sauti Ugrashrava to the congregation of Rishis in Naimisharanya becomes what we see today the Mahabharata with over 100,000 verses.

The Mahabharata is one of the greatest works of Sanskrit literature and the longest poem in world literature. It contains countless stories that teach moral lessons or illustrate distinguishing characteristics of the ancients of India. It contains the history of ancient India and all the details of its political, social and religious life. The stories, songs, nursery tales, anecdotes, parables, the discourses and sayings contained in this epic are marvellous and highly instructive. It contains the brilliant records of mighty heroes, warriors of great prowess, deep thinkers, profound philosophers, sages and ascetics and devoted wives of chastity.

At the heart of the story is the conflict over the throne of Hastinapur, a kingdom in ancient India. The blind king Dhritarashtra, who is the eldest of the Kuru dynasty, has a hundred sons known as the Kauravas, led by Duryodhana. The Pandavas are the five sons of Pandu, the younger brother of Dhritarashtra, and they are known for their righteousness and bravery. The eldest Pandavas, Yudhishthira, is the rightful heir to the throne, but due to political manoeuvring and jealousy, the kingdom is denied to them, leading to a bitter rivalry.

The epic culminates in the great war of Kurukshetra, where the Pandavas and the Kauravas face each other in battle. The battle is not just a physical confrontation but also a moral and ethical struggle, with characters facing dilemmas of duty, righteousness, and loyalty. The Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Hindu text, is embedded within the Mahabharata and is a conversation between the prince Arjuna and the god Krishna, who serves as his charioteer, on the battlefield, addressing questions of duty and morality.

Ultimately, the Pandavas emerge victorious in the war, but at a great cost. Many of their loved ones, as well as many great warriors, are killed in the battle. The epic concludes with the Pandavas ruling the kingdom and attempting to establish righteousness and justice in the aftermath of the war. The Mahabharata is not just a tale of war and conflict but also explores profound philosophical and moral themes, making it one of the most important texts in Hindu mythology and Indian literature.

The Mahabharata dwells on the aspect of the important goals of a human being in his mortal life. The epic aims at making people realize the relation between the individual and the society and how they both are inter dependent on each other. Everything that is bad and everything that is good reminds us of something in Mahabharata. It showcases human emotions so totally that you need not study anything other than Mahabharata to understand human nature.

Dharma is supreme in this world. Dharma brings material prosperity (artha), fulfilment of wishes (kama) and final liberation (moksha). It is surprising that people do not pay attention to the need for practice of dharma, when everything can be achieved through it. The story culminates in moksha, believed by Hindus to be the ultimate goal of human beings.

Mahabharata starts with the sloka

“nārāyaṇaṁ namaskṛtya naraṁ caiva narottamam

devīṁ sarasvatīṁ vyāsaṁ tato jayam udīrayet”

Narayana and Nara, the divine and the human, their personal encounters and discussions of dharma, artha, kama and moksa, are to be found here. It is a veritable encyclopedia and it carries this verse about its own scope. It is said that what is found here may be found elsewhere but what is not found here cannot be found elsewhere.

Onam is a major annual event for Malayalees and celebrated as a cultural festival across all communities in and outside Kerala. Cultural programs including dance, drama and invited talks by eminent personalities of Kerala across the world. Many start their talks by narrating the story of Mahabali, Vamana and how Onam came to be celebrated as a festival by Malayalees. And some highly learnt people question the very essence of celebrating Onam by Malayalees as Kerala was created by Parasurama who is the sixth avatar of Vishnu while Vamana who sent Mahabali to Patal is the fifth avatar. Which means Mahabali could not have ruled Kerala as the song goes Maveli Nadu vanidunna kalam….. because Kerala did not exist while he was the king.

This leads us to the wider question of Dasavatara and the timeline of each Avatar.

Dasavatara

Dasavatara is the ten primary incarnations (avatars) of Vishnu to restore cosmic order. The list of avatars varies in puranas and also from place to place. Common list includes Matsya, Kurma; Varaha; Narasimha; Vamana; Parasurama; Sri Rama; Balarama; Sri Krishna and Kalki. In some cases, Buddha is added either in place of Krishna or Kalki.

1Matsya (fish)Satya Yuga
2Kurma (tortoise)
3Varaha (boar)
4Narasimha (man-lion)
5Vamana (dwarf)Treta Yuga
6Parasurama
7Sree Rama
8BalaramaDwapara Yuga
9Sree Krishna
10KalkiKali Yuga

Let us understand the time lines of Hindu mythology

Yuga, Manvantara and Kalpa – There are four Yugas, namely Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwapara Yuga and Kali Yuga. Each Yuga Cycle lasts for 4,320,000 years (12,000 divine years) with its four yugas and their parts occurring in the following order. Krita (Satya) Yuga: 1,728,000 (4,800 divine) years, Treta Yuga: 1,296,000 (3,600 divine) years, Dwapara Yuga: 864,000 (2,400 divine) years and Kali Yuga: 432,000 (1,200 divine) years. According to scholars, the current Kali Yuga started around 3102 BC.

There are 71 Yuga Cycles (306,720,000 years) in a manvantara, a period ruled by Manu, who is the progenitor of mankind. There are 1,000 Yuga Cycles (4,320,000,000 years) in a kalpa, a period that is a day (12-hour day proper) of Brahma, who is the creator of the planets and first living entity. There are 14 manvantara (4,294,080,000 years) in a kalpa with a remainder of 25,920,000 years assigned to 15 manvantara-Sandhya’s (junctures), each the length of a Satya Yuga (1,728,000 years). A kalpa is followed by a pralaya (night or partial dissolution) of equal length forming a full day (24-hour day). A maha-kalpa (life of Brahma) lasts for 100 Brahma years, which lasts for 72,000,000 Yuga Cycles (311.04 trillion years) and is followed by a maha-pralaya (full dissolution) of equal length. We are currently halfway through Brahma’s life (maha-kalpa), i.e., Kali yuga of the 28th Caturyuga of the 7th Manvantara on the first day of the 51st year of Brahma. If you are enterprising enough, try calculating the number of Caturyuga that have elapsed from the very beginning of time and how many times the Dasavatara would have occurred!

The big question is, did the avatar occur in each Caturyuga? Which means each of the avatar have occurred 18,000,000 times till date. Or is it whenever required only? An interesting story about Rama and Hanuman explains this enigma

When Ram Rajya was established and everything was going right, then all devas felt that it is time for Vishnu to return back to Vaikunta, his abode. They approached Yam raja. Yama raja tried many times but was not able to reach Ram and take away his life because Hanuman guarded Ram’s life. Rama understood the problem Yama raja was facing and decided to trick Hanuman. Ram dropped his ring. The ring fell into a crack in the floor. Ram then asked Hanuman to go and fetch the ring. Hanuman could change his large body into as small as a fly. So he jumped into crack. He followed the crack until he reached patal-loka. When he reached patal-loka he was greeted by Vasuki, the king of snakes. The king of snakes knew the secret of life and death. He asked Hanuman what was he looking for? Hanuman replied, I am hanuman and I am looking for Ram’s ring. He said, come with me I will give you ring. He took Hanuman to a room full of Ram’s rings. And asked him to take anyone. Hanuman was surprised and asked him how can there be so many rings? Vasuki replied that each ring represents one kal chakra. In every chakra, there is a treta-yuga in which there is a Ram and a Hanuman. Every time Ram will drop his ring and a monkey will come to Patal loka searching for his ring. By the time monkey returns back to earth Ram is gone. Hanuman then understands the kal-chakra and he let go his dear God.

But Matsya avatar happens during the time of Vaivasvata Manu, which is the current and the seventh Manu and happens only once during his time. Which means 6 manvantara has already elapsed means a minimum of 6000 Caturyuga have elapsed. That also means Matsya avatar happens only once in 14 manvantara, i.e., once in 14000 Caturyuga.

Now let us look at other avatars. Easiest ones are the third and fourth avatars, Varaha and Narasimha. Both happens in Satya Yuga and to eliminate the Demon kings Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakasipu, both brothers born to Rishi Kasyapa and Dithi.

Once, Hiranyaksha assaulted the defenseless Mother Earth and pulled her deep into the cosmic ocean. Gods appealed to Vishnu to save the earth goddess and all life. Vishnu took the Varaha avatar (wild boar) and went to rescue the goddess. Vishnu rescued mother earth after defeating and killing Hiranyaksha.

After Hiranyaksha ‘s death at the hands of the Varaha avatar of Vishnu, Hiranyakasipu, his younger brother comes to hate Vishnu. He decides to kill Vishnu by gaining mystical powers, which he believes Brahma, the chief among the devas, will award, if he undergoes many years of great austerity and penance, just as Brahma awarded powers to other Rakshasas. After many years of extreme severe austerities and tapasya, Brahma appears before Hiranyakasipu and offers him a boon of his choice. But when Hiranyakasipu asks for immortality, Brahma refuses. Hiranyakasipu then makes the following request:

Grant me that I not die within or outside of any residence, during daytime or at night, not on the ground or in the sky. Grant me that my death not be brought by any being other than those created by you, nor by any weapon, nor by any human being or animal. Grant me, further, that I not be killed by any demigod or demon or by any great snake from the lower planets. And Brahma granted the boon. In consequence of these boons, Hiranyakasipu become so mighty that he defeated Indra, the King of Gods and ruled the whole universe for a very long time. He ensured that all his subjects in all the worlds will only pray in his name and not in any other GODs. All offerings should also be only in his name. While the world obeyed, his son Prahlad always prayed to Lord Vishnu. In spite of continuous persuasion and threats Prahlad did not change. Hiranyakasipu became so angry that he asked his son Prahlad where is his God Vishnu, for which he replied that Vishnu is everywhere. Is he in this pillar? Asked the king. Prahlad said yes and the king took his Mace and smashes the pillar with all his might. Vishnu in the form of Narasimha appears from the broken pillar and moves to attack Hiranyakasipu to defend his disciple Prahlad. Vishnu has chosen here to appear in the form of Narasimha in order to be able to kill Hiranyakasipu without violating the boon given by Brahma. Hiranyakasipu cannot be killed by human, deva or animal, but Narasimha is none of these, as he is a form of Vishnu (a deva) incarnate as part human, part animal. He comes upon Hiranyakasipu at Sandhya (twilight – when it is neither day nor night) on the threshold of a courtyard (neither indoors nor out), and puts the demon on his thighs (neither earth nor space). Using his nails (neither animate nor inanimate) as weapons, he disembowels and kills the demon.

Now let us discuss the two avatars of Vishnu, the Kurma avatar and Vamana avatars.

Long ago when Sage Durvasa visited the realm of Gods he presented Indra, the king of Gods, with a garland made of flowers of exquisite fragrance. Indra tied it on to the tusk of Airavata (the elephant of Indra). When the beetles which gathered on the garland for honey became a nuisance, Airavata destroyed that garland. Durvasa who got angry at this and cursed the gods as a whole that they would get wrinkles and grey hair. The gods were advised by Mahavishnu that if they got Ambrosia (Amrita) from the sea of Milk by churning it they could escape from this. Accordingly, Indra visited the Asura King Mahabali and requested for help with an agreement that once they get the Ambrosia, it will be shared between Gods and Asuras. They made use of Manthara mountain as churn and the huge snake Vasuki as churning rope, and the churning commenced. The gods took hold of the tail of the snake and as the churning was proceeding when the churn-drill, the mountain of Manthara, having no fixation at the bottom sank down. Then Mahavishnu took the form of a Kurma (turtle), and got under the Manthara mountain and lifted it up on his back and the churning continued.

It was to expel the Emperor Mahabali, that Mahavishnu incarnated as a dwarf to Sage Kasyapa, the son of Marici and the grandson of Brahma, and Aditi his wife.  Mahabali is the grandson of Prahlad and the great grandson of Kasyapa and Diti. Bali got the name Mahabali because of his prowess and was the emperor of the Asuras. A fierce battle began over the Ambrosia, received after churning the sea of Milk, between the Asuras and the gods. In the battle Indra cut Mahabali down with his Vajrayudha. The Asuras took the body of Mahabali to Patala (the nether world) where their teacher Sukra brought him to life again. Then Mahabali worshipped the Bhargava and became more powerful than before and went to heaven again and renewed the battle. This time he defeated the Gods altogether and subjugated the realm of the Gods who were scattered to all sides. The devas or gods are the sons of Kasyapa born by his wife, Aditi. She felt very sorry at the defeat of the gods. Seeing that she was silent and sad Kasyapa asked her the reason. She replied that she was thinking of ways to enable the gods to recover their lost power and position. Kasyapa advised her to please Mahavishnu by observing Dwadashi vrata (fast of the twelfth lunar night).  Aditi did so and Vishnu appeared before her and asked her what she desired. Her request was that Vishnu should take birth in her womb and recover Indra to his lost power and position. Thus Vishnu took birth as the younger brother of Indra in the shape of Vamana (dwarf).

At this time Emperor Mahabali was celebrating a sacrifice on the bank of the River Narmada after having subjugated the whole of the world. A large number of hermits gathered there. Vamana also was among them. He requested Mahabali to grant him three feet of ground as alms. The teacher Sukra warned Mahabali against granting the request. But the emperor granted the request and asked Vamana to measure the ground. Vamana immediately enlarged his body and measured the heaven, the earth and the Patala (the upper realm the earth and the lower realm) in two steps and asked for place for the third step. The honest Mahabali showed his head and requested to complete the three steps. Vamana put his step on the head of Mahabali and pushed him down to Patala. Thus the gods regained their lost places.

From the two stories above we can conclude that both Kurma avatar and Vamana avatar happened during the time Mahabali was the asura king. Which means Varaha and Narasimha happened much before during the period of his great grandfather Hiranyakasipu in Satya Yuga.

So my confusion continues about people explaining that Dasavatara explains the evolution of life much before Darwin’s principle. From fish, living only in water to tortoise, an amphibian to Boar a land animal to half man half animal, dwarf, violent man (Parasu Rama), principled man (Sri Rama) and joyful person (Sri Krishna). If the reader has an explanation, please do write.

Vijayadashami is celebrated differently in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. In some parts it is celebrated as Druga’s victory over the buffalo demon Mahishasura and for some others it remembers God Rama’s victory over Ravan. It is a significant example of victory of good (Dharma) over evil (Adharma). 25th October is Vijayadashami this year and we hope the world will find a way to stop the most devastating pandemic that is ravaging across Nations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging countries to join a global pact aimed at ensuring less wealthy countries to have access to COVID-19 vaccines. Wealthier Nations are focusing on securing vaccines for their own citizens, striking deals for the first doses even as data is yet to prove the vaccines to be effective. The WHO has expressed concern that wealthier countries hoarding vaccines for their own citizens could impede efforts to end the pandemic. In Hindu mythology there is an example of how the Gods came together to save the world when it was being attacked by an unrighteous person who was unstoppable by even the most powerful Gods of Vishnu or Shiva.

Mahishasura is the son of Sage Sindhudvipa and Mahishmati the daughter of Viprachitti the asura. He grew up to become very intelligent and powerful asura on the earth and received many boons from Brahma after years of tapasya.  Eventually he became a threat to the existence of devas and humans. To counter the threat of Mahisha, Gods decided to create Devi to destroy him. From the fire mountain formed out of the flames of anger from the eyes of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shankar emerged the Devi, resplendent as a thousand suns and having three eyes, with hair black as night and eighteen arms. Every god present there gave her a weapon for each hand. Shankar gave her trident, Vishnu a disc, Varuna gave her a conch, Agni gave her a dart, Yama gave her an iron rod, Vayu gave a bow, , Indra a thunder bolt, Kubera a mace, Brahma a rosary and water pot, Kala gave a sword and shield, Vishvakarma handed her battle axe and finally Himavan gave her a lion. Minor gods gave her different ornaments. Thus Devi-rupa or form was completed, and she went on to destroy Mahishasura.

The COVAX global vaccines facility is a program designed to pool funds from wealthier countries and non-profits to develop a COVID-19 vaccine and distribute it equitably around the world. Its aim is to deliver 2 billion doses of effective, approved COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021. For the betterment of the world we hope all Nations, wealthier included will actively participate in this noble cause and save the world.

“The measure of a man is what he does with power,”

“Theyyam” is a popular ritual art form of worship of North Malabar in Kerala, India.  The Theyyam dance is performed in front of the village shrine and in the houses as ancestor worship. The Theyyam period is typically from the month November and comes to a close by the end of May/June. Theyyam’s origins are said to be from the ancient art form of Kaliyattam. It is said that Parasurama, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and the founder of the State, sanctioned festivals like Kaliyattam, Puravela and Daivattam or Theyyattam to the northern citizens of the State. An ancient ritualistic Kerala dance form that elevates members of the lower castes to the stature of God. The responsibility and culture of Theyyam was given to the indigenous tribal communities and from here the great stories, heroes and worship of celestial beings began.

Man assumes the form of God and dances propitiating and appeasing them and in return, the Gods assure prosperity and peace to society and is the belief behind the Theyyam performance. Breaking from traditional roles, Theyyam performers are from the lower castes of Hindu society. The performers of Theyyam belong to communities like Vannan, Malayan, Mavilan, Velan, Munnoottan, Anjunnoottan, Pulayar, Kopalar and others. They might be from the lower caste, but the moment the performer transforms into the deity, he becomes divine. It is believed that at this point, the performers are no longer men, but have transformed into Gods and the crowds are eager to seek their blessings. In those days when untouchability was prevalent, when they performed Theyyam, they could be touched. People would fall at their feet and seek their blessings. Even high caste Namboodiri brahmins and Nairs fall at their feet, seek solutions for their personal and family problems and blessing. And the moment he takes the costume off, he becomes an untouchable again. The transformation from an untouchable to God and then back to an untouchable in few hours is amazing and to be seen to be believed.

Belonging to North Malabar and have seen Theyyam performance throughout my life, I never realized the greatest life lessons one can learn from the above ritual. Theyyam artists are willing to go through extreme hardships to learn and perform this art form, at times at great risks to their life as they have to run through burning embers, just to transform themselves to the position of GOD where all and sundry seek their blessings, even if it is for a short duration. From an everyday life of poverty, hunger and neglect when others treat them as untouchables, for few hours they become GOD and others prostrate before them. That power and authority, even though momentary, is worth pursuing and enjoying.

Power and authority are separate but related concepts. A citizen’s interaction with a police officer is a good example of how people react to authority in everyday life. For instance, a person who sees the flashing red and blue lights of a police car in his rear-view mirror usually pulls to the side of the road without hesitation. If you have ever approached senior police officers, bureaucrats and other government officials, you would know how they treat you in their offices. A manager in an organization has authority if he or she has the right to direct the activities of others and expect them to respond with appropriate actions to attain organizational purposes. Authority most often comes from the duties and responsibilities delegated to a position holder in a bureaucratic structure. A company president can order a product design change, for instance, or a police officer has the authority to arrest an offender of the law. Imagine the life of power, authority and perks being enjoyed by Ministers when in office and what happens to them when they demit their office. So is the case with senior Executives of large corporations. When in office, they are like God for those who are depended on him for their survival and growth. You will approach him for solutions, help when in need, or seek his blessings just to please him. But what happens to them when they demit office? Do you respect/fear a retired police officer or a senior executive?

Leaving a top position can be tough. Your diary clears, your retinue of staff vaporises. Suddenly, no one is listening to you anymore. Ego, hubris, whatever you call it, as we rise to positions of power, we too often come to “believe our own hype”. You make a lot of money and you have a lot of influence over many things. The inevitable fall can be bruising. While at work, you feel valued and competent; at home, you are in your wife’s world, discussing what to cook for lunch and when to pay the utilities bills. You may feel that you are wasting time and not doing anything constructive and your life is worthless.

There are many different types of power and authority. Positional power or legitimate power, coercive power, reward power, charismatic power and knowledge power are some of them. All other power dissipates once you demit office, except those with the power of Knowledge. So as to retain your respect and authority, even after demitting office, do not misuse positional power when in office and acquire knowledge power to influence others.