The relevance of Indian epics

As a child growing up in India, I had the luxury of reading and listening to stories from Indian epics such as Mahabharatha and Ramayana. My mother and other relatives would narrate stories which had me alternating between righteous indignation and deep compassion over the plight of assorted characters in both the epics. As a teen I would often wonder why it was important to read such epics which did not seem to have any relevance in today’s world. Recently I stumbled upon this interpretation of the Mahabharatha on why it is an important read for all of us now.

Source: Anonymous from the Internet

‘Sanjay was finally there at Kurukshetra, the ground where the great war of Mahabharata took place. It was said in the texts that eighty percent of the fighting male population of the civilization was wiped out in the eighteen days of the war. He looked around and wondered if the war really happened if the ground beneath him had soaked all that blood, if the great Pandavas and Krishna stood where he stood.

“You will never know the truth about that !” said an aging soft voice.

Sanjay turned around to find an old man in saffron robes appearing out of a column of dust.

“I know you are here to find out about the Kurukshetra war, but you cannot know about that war till you know what the real war is about.” the old man said enigmatically.

“What do you mean ?”

Sanjay instantly knew that he was in the presence of someone who knew more about the war than any living person he had ever met.
“The Mahabharata is an Epic, a ballad, perhaps a reality but definitely a philosophy.” The old man smiled luring Sanjay into more questions.

“Can you tell me what the philosophy is then ?”Sanjay requested.
Sure. “Here goes,” began the Old man.

“The Pandavas are nothing but your five senses, sight, smell, taste, touch and sound and do you know what the Kauravas are ?”he asked narrowing his eyes.

Sanjay shook his head.

“The Kauravas are the hundred vices that attack your senses every day but you can fight them and do you know how?”

Sanjay shook his head again.
“When Krishna rides your chariot!”
The old man smiled brighter and Sanjay gasped at that gem of insight.

“Krishna is your inner voice, your soul, your guiding light and if you let your life in his hands you have nothing to worry.”

Sanjay was stupefied but came around quickly with another question. “Then why are Dronacharya and Bhishma fighting for the Kauravas, if they are vices?”

The old man nodded, saddened at the question.

“It just means that as you grow up your perception of your elders changes. The elders who you thought were perfect in your growing up years may turn out to be not all that perfect. They have faults. And one day you will have to decide if they are for your good or your bad. Then you may also realize that you may have to fight them for the good. It is the hardest part of growing up and that is why the Geeta is important.”

Sanjay slumped down on the ground, not because he was tired but because he could understand and was struck by the enormity of it all.

“What about Karna?” he whispered.

“Ah!” said the old man. “You have saved the best for last. Karna is the brother to your senses, he is desire, he is a part of you but stands with the vices. He feels wronged and makes excuses for being with the vices as your desire does all the time.

Does your desire not give you excuses to embrace vices?”

Sanjay nodded silently. He looked at the ground, consumed with a million thoughts, trying to put everything together and then when he looked up the old man was gone.

He seemed to have disappeared in the column of dust leaving behind the great philosophy of life.’


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