Venu Payyanur

Bhishma – Bhishma was a great archer and a warrior of peerless valor and courage. He had the stature and personality befitting that of a King and was a true Kshatriya and disciplined ascetic – a rare combination. In the great battle at Kurukshetra, Bhishma, bound by his oath to serve the ruler of Hastinapura, fought very reluctantly on the side of the Kauravas; nevertheless, gave his best effort. He tried his best to bring reconciliation between Pandavas and Kauravas to prevent the war, before, during and even at his deathbed, without success.  In this war, Bhishma vowed not to kill any of the Pandavas, as he loved them, being their grandsire. Duryodhana often confronted Bhishma alleging that he was not actually fighting for the Kaurava camp as he wouldn’t kill any Pandava but would let them kill Kauravas. But in fact, Bhishma was the strongest barrier that had protected the Kaurava camp from impending defeat. The war was thus locked in a stalemate. As the Pandavas mulled over this situation, Krishna advised them to visit Bhishma himself and request him to suggest a way out of this stalemate. Bhishma knew in his heart that the Pandavas were righteous and chaste, and that he stood as the greatest obstacle in their path to victory, so when they visited Bhishma, he told them that if faced by a woman in battle he would cease to fight and not lift weapons against her. Arjuna with the help of Shikhandi, kills the Grandsire the next day and paves the way for eventual win for the Pandavas.

The story of Bhishma is full of enigma. His mind and body was never in one place, more so during and the time preceding the Great War. Physically with Kauravas, he always supported the Pandavas and blessed them with victory. Even accepting the post of Commander in Chief was conditional and eliminated another great warrior Karna from participating in the war. He was one person who could have averted the war and the subsequent tragedy, if even once he has exercised his moral authority over Dhritarashtra. Having known that Karna was the eldest Pandava long before the war from Narada, disclosure of the same to others would have resulted in Karna becoming the king uncontested by either side, and the war averted, but kept this knowledge within. Do you like your Head of Sales, to be a confused person with questionable loyalty? How would you judge him when he dismisses the best sales person without any reason from the company?

Drona – Drona was born a Brahmin, son of Bharadwaja, in modern day Dehradun (a modification of dehra-dron, a clay pot); he was a master of advanced military arts, including the divine weapons and was the teacher for both the Kaurava and Pandava princes. Like Bhishma, none can defeat Drona as long as he is with his weapons and ready to fight, including his most favourite disciple Arjuna. Like Bhishma again, he was emotionally attached to the Pandavas than Kauravas but have to side with the Kauravas due to loyalty to the throne. He was delighted when Duryodhana requested him to capture Yudhishthira rather than to kill him. But as a Brahmin and a teacher, Drona displayed many weaknesses. He always favoured his best student Arjuna and son Ashvatthama against the basic principles of teacher student relationships.  Drona’s biggest criticism springs from his behavior towards Ekalavya (having understood that Ekalavya has better skill than Arjuna, Drona ask for his thumb finger as guru dakshina even though he was never his student directly) and Karna as he rejected him as student for not being a Kshatriya. As Brahmin he was supposed to be a teacher, Vedic scholar and a priest and not to take part in a war killing other people. During the war, while he was the commander in chief, Drona ordered his commanders to attack and kill Abhimanyu which was against the principles of war. In fact on his fifth day as Commander in chief, just before he laid down his arms, many Rishis appeared in the sky and requested him stop the heinous crime of man slaughter as it was not befitting his stature as a Brahmin and teacher.

We see many Drona like characters in every organization. Favoritism and nepotism is very common which leads to groupism and demoralization of capable performers.  There are many senior managers who forget their primary responsibility and interfere in other departmental activities leading to intra departmental rivalries and loss of performance.

Duryodhana – The meaning of Duryodhana is the one who is very difficult to conquer; it also means the one who misuses wealth. He was the eldest of the Kauravas and perpetually fighting with the Pandavas for power and position, particularly Bhima. As his name suggests, his body is steel like due to special blessing from his mother and none can defeat him in the war, except for the devious plan hatched by Krishna to hit below the waist which is not permitted in war. During the time he was the king, he made all the subjects love him by showering them with wealth and positions. With the help of Karna he also captured kingdoms far and wide and became an Emperor of the Universe and amassed wealth and army of unimaginable proportions. Although loved by all his family, Duryodhana and most of his brothers are seen as inferior to the Pandavas in their adherence to virtue and duty, and respect of elders. Duryodhana was a strong and powerful king, willing to do anything to ensure his continued supremacy and position. During the war he constantly reprimanded Bhishma and later Drona for not doing enough to destroy the Pandavas and win the war, and annoyed Kripa and Ashvatthama to incur their wrath.  There were also occasions where Duryodhana has shown greatness and magnanimity. Starting from anointing Karna as the King of Anga when all assembled at the great display of talent by the young Kaurava and Pandava princes after their training by Guru Drona, he chose not to accept the offer made by Yudhishthira to fight with any one of the Pandavas and take the kingdom if wins.

Duryodhana was a successful CEO, had the power, knowledge, drive and dynamism to get whatever he wants and eliminated the enemies (competitors) with disdain. But his disrespect for the seniors in the team, disregard for ethical behavior and practices, poor interpersonal relationship with his subordinates all cost him a lot. 

Karna – Karna was the son of Surya and Kunti before her marriage with Pandu and the King of Anga. Karna is the very embodiment of sacrifice and stories of his generosity are legendary. In the entire world you cannot find another person equal in the spirit of sacrifice to Karna. Karna was one of the greatest warriors, considered equal or better than Arjuna. Yudhishthira could not sleep worrying about the prowess of Karna and how the Pandavas will win the war against such powerful enemies like Karna and was also highly respected by Bhishma and Krishna. Karna fought against misfortune throughout his life and kept his word under all circumstances. Karna was the closest friend of Duryodhana and fought on his behalf against the Pandavas (his brothers) in the famous Kurukshetra war. His wrongful attachment to Duryodhana made himself remote from God and goodness, the cause of his final downfall. Just before the start of the war Krishna revealed to Karna that he was the eldest son of Kunti, and therefore, technically, the eldest Pandava, and asked him to change sides. Krishna assured him that Yudhishthira would give the crown of Indraprastha to him. Karna refused this huge offer because he had sworn loyalty to Duryodhana, and as such, was compelled to stay by his side despite his blood ties to the Pandavas. He said that Yudhishthira was a righteous man, and knowing that Karna was older than he was, he would immediately give up the crown. However, to repay his debt to Duryodhana, Karna would have to confer the crown of Indraprastha immediately onto Duryodhana, which Karna thought was against Dharma. Krishna was saddened, but appreciating Karna’s sense of loyalty, accepted his decision, promising Karna that his lineage would remain a secret. During the war Karna had many opportunities to capture or kill the Pandavas, except Arjuna, but he left them free, in spite of his loyalty towards Duryodhana due to the promise made to his mother.

Karna serves as an excellent example of a gifted, generous, righteous and brave individual who was doomed because of his misplaced sense of loyalty. He could have been the CEO of the most successful organization with excellent team, but chose not to accept it for friendship and loyalty. He is idealized as an inspiration for struggling humanity not to lose heart. He is also considered an example of how misjudgment can render all the finer qualities of an individual futile.

Abhimanyu is the son of Arjuna, nephew of Lord Krishna and grandson of Lord Indra, god of mystical weapons and wars, was a courageous and dashing warrior. Considered an equal to his father owing his prodigious feats, Abhimanyu was able to hold at bay great heroes like Drona, Karna, Duryodhana and Dushasana and none from the Kaurava side (except Bhisma) can kill him in a one on one combat (dwandva yudha). He was praised for his audacious bravery and absolute loyalty to his father, his uncles and to their cause. As an unborn child in his mother’s womb, Abhimanyu learned the knowledge of entering the deadly and virtually impenetrable Chakravyuha from Arjuna, his father but never learned how to get out of it.

Abhimanyu is often quoted as an example of how partial knowledge can endanger ones career and life. His name also suggests that “false prestige” (abhiman) leads to claiming unknown capabilities followed by disaster. When ordered by Yudhishthira to enter the Chakravyuha, he readily accepts that and instructs his driver to take the chariot into the battle formation made by Drona. When the charioteer cautioned about the danger of entering the battle formation and the prowess of Drona, Abhimanyu replies. ‘O charioteer, who is this Drona? Indra himself on his Airavata and aided by all the celestials, I would encounter in battle. This hostile army of Kauravas does not come up to even a sixteen part of myself. O son of a Suta, getting my maternal uncle Vishnu himself, the conqueror of the universe or my father, Arjuna, as an antagonist in battle, fear would not enter my heart.’ Is this bravery or foolish utterances of an immature sixteen year old arrogant brat? If you have ever worked in a family owned corporation, you would have seen such behaviour from the school going children of the owners.

4 replies
  1. 7
    7 says:

    Your preachings help me my feet grounded. Thank you.

    Have a query.
    Whatever I do there is still 1% of self obsession or Aham Bhavam (Is it the word?). Is self obsession good? Else how to get rid of that?….

    • Venu Payyanur
      Venu Payyanur says:

      Please do not call me a preacher, long way to go! I am only trying to share certain existing knowledge in a different perspective!
      The word ‘Aham Bhava” is normally confused with “Aham Kara”. Aham Bhava is of the highest order, Aham Brahma asmi, I am GOD concept. Aham Kara related to ego and egocentric actions of the individual. Removal of Ahamkara is must for growth and realization.
      Venu Payyanur

  2. Nina Godbole
    Nina Godbole says:

    Could you provide analysis of some more characters in Mahabharata 1] Dharma 2] Shakuni Mama 3] Dushasan 4] Pandu 5] Dhrutarashtra 6] Gandhari etc.


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