Sunday, June 8, 2014

Reading Guide C-D: Buck. Mahabharata.

READING C (go to Reading D)

This portion of Buck's Mahabharata covers pp. 93-138 (page numbers may vary by edition).

p. 95. The gambling match. 

Yudhishthira has accepted Duryodhna's invitation to a gambling match. When the Pandavas arrive at Hastinapura, Duryodhana explains that Shakuni will throw for him. At first, Shakuni and Yudhishthira stakes gold, pearls, elephants and other material wealth. Yudhishthira then gambles away his brothers, and then himself, losing everything to Shakuni. Finally, Yudhishthira stakes Draupadi and loses. Duryodhana orders that Draupadi be summoned and set to work in the kitchen. Duryodhana sends Duhshasana to summon Draupadi to the assembly hall, and he pulls her there by her hair. As Duhshasana is about to strip off her clothes, Krishna miraculously comes to Draupadi's aid, so that each time Duhshasana strips off a sari, another appears in its place. Draupadi then hits Duhshasana, which enrages Duryodhana. Dhritarashtra intervenes and crushes the dice in his hand. At Draupadi's request, Dhritarashtra first frees Bhima and then the other Pandava brothers, and he then frees Draupadi and restores all their wealth to them. Duryodhana proposes one final throw of the dice, with the loser having to go into exile in the forest. Yudhishthira loses, and the Pandavas, together with Draupadi, go into exile.

p. 105. Arjuna's adventures. 

After Krishna visits them in the forest, Arjuna heads into the mountains. He meets an old man beneath a pine tree who is drinking from a clay cup; it is his father Indra. Arjuna shoots an arrow at a wild boar which has been shot by another hunter, a mysterious figure dressed in a tigerskin who turns out to be the god Shiva. Then Matali arrives in Indra's chariot arrives to take Arjuna away to Indra's heaven, Amaravati. Up in Indra's heaven, gandharvas and apsaras live in the Nandana Grove ("Pleasure Grove") where Arjuna sees Indra and his queen, Indrani. Indra tells Chitraratha, chief of the gandharvas, to go summon apsara Urvashi and bring her to Arjuna (Urvashi is madly in love with Arjuna). Meanwhile, Vyasa comes to see Yudhishthira in the forest and tells him the story of King Nala, who was even more unfortunate than Yudhishthira.

p. 119. Nala and Damayanti: The Swayamvara. 

Nala was the king of the Nishada people, and he was in love with Damayanti, the daughter of the king of Vidarbha. A swan told Damayanti how wonderful Nala was, and she fell in love with him. On his way to Damayanti's swayamvara, Nala met the gods Indra, Agni, Varuna and Yama, who all wanted Damayanti for themselves. Indra sent Nala to explain to Damayanti that she was to choose a god for her husband. Even though the gods disguised themselves as Nala at the swayamvara, Damayanti was able to identify Nala and chose him as her husband. The evil spirit Kali (not to be confused with the goddess Kāli) had also wanted to marry Damayanti, so he vowed to ruin their happiness by taking possession of Nala.

p.124. Nala and Damayanti: The Dice Game. 

Kali told Nala's brother Pushkara to challenge Nala to a game of dice. Kali then possessed Nala and caused him to lose everything to Pushkara. Nala had to leave his palace and go away with Damayanti, each dressed in a single robe, and Nala later lost his own robe while trying to catch some birds. Nala decided to abandon Damayanti while she was asleep, hoping she would go back to her father's house. Nala divided their one robe into two and took half with him, leaving half with Damayanti.

When Damayanti awoke, she did not go home to her father's house but kept looking for Nala everywhere. The ascetics in the forest advised Damayanti to go to her father's palace and wait for Nala there, but instead she followed a caravan to the kingdom of Chedi. When Damayanti was attacked by the people of Chedi, the brahmin Sudeva rescued her. Sudeva persuaded Damayanti to go to her father the king and get his help in looking for Nala. Damayanti's father promised that he would search for Nala everywhere.

p. 130. Nala and Damayanti: The Charioteer. 

Meanwhile, Indra had arranged for the naga Karkotaka to help Nala. In a forest fire, Nala rescued Karkotaka, but Karkotaka then bit him. Karkotaka's poison turned Nala into a twisted and ugly person, completely unrecognizable as Nala. Karkotaka told Nala to call himself Vahuka [Bahuka] and to go offer his services to King Rituparna. As Vahuka, Nala became King Rituparna's charioteer. King Rituparna was glad to have a charioteer who could make his horses go very fast. The brahmin Parnada met Vahuka in King Rituparna's court and realized he was Nala. Parnada then went to Damayanti and announced that he had found Nala at King Rituparna's court. Damayanti sent Sudeva as a messenger to Rituparna, inviting him to a swayamvara. Rituparna begged Vahuka to get him to Damayanti's swayamvara as quickly as possible. On the way, Vahuka asked Rituparna to share with him the secrets of successful gambling. The knowledge of gambling finally drove Kali from Nala's body (Karkotaka's poison had been burning Kali inside Nala's body).

p. 135. Nala and Damayanti: Reunited. 

Damayanti sent her maidservant Keshini so speak with the charioteer Vahuka. Keshini recognized Nala and told him to go to Damayanti, and so the two were reunited. Nala returned to his home, and Pushkara challenged his brother to another game of dice with Damayanti as the stake. Nala won back his kingdom and wealth in the final dice game with Pushkara. After telling Yudhishthira the story of Nala, Vyasa then teaches him the science of gambling with dice.

READING D (go to Reading C)

This portion of Buck's Mahabharata covers pp. 139-189 (page numbers may vary by edition).

p. 141 Arjuna and Urvashi. 

Arjuna refuses Urvashi's advances, so Urvashi curses him to live for a year as a eunuch. Indra orders Chitraratha, lord of the gandharvas, to teach Arjuna music and dancing, and he explains that Urvashi's curse offers Arjuna a way to disguise himself in the thirteenth year of exile. Indra also teaches Arjuna the use of divine weapons.

p. 142. The story of Mankanaka. 

The deer of the forest appear to Yudhishthira in a dream and ask the Pandavas to leave because they are destroying the deer. To illustrate the dangers of eating grass instead of deer, Bhima tells the story of Mankanaka. Mankanaka lived in the forest, eating plants and weeds. When Mankanaka cut himself, grass juice came out instead of blood. Mankanaka was so happy about the grass juice flowing in his veins that he danced and danced. Mankanaka's dance made the whole world start to dance with him. The gods were worried that Mankanaka's dance was going to destroy the earth. The gods sent Shiva to put a stop to Mankanaka's dancing. When Mankanaka realized that the god had come to visit him, he stopped his dancing.

p. 144. Rishyashringa.

Next, Yudhishthira tells the story of Rishyashringa whose birth was provoked by Urvashi. The hermit Vibhandaka saw Urvashi while she was bathing, and he ejaculated. When Vibhandaka's sperm fell into the lake, it was swallowed by a deer. Rishyashringa was the son of Vibhandaka and that deer, and he had antlers growing from his head.

Rishyashringa had never seen another human being except for his father. Meanwhile, the country of Anga was suffering from a terrible drought. The king's advisors told him that a man with a pure heart, such as Rishyashringa, could bring the rains. The king's daughter Shanta offered to help bring Rishyashringa to the city. When Shanta visited Rishyashringa, he welcomed her to his home. Shanta kissed and hugged Rishyashringa, and she taught him how to play catch and tag. Vibhandaka told his son that the pleasant creature that had visited him was a rakshasa (demon). When Rishyashringa came with Shanta to the city, it caused the rains to come at last. Rishyashringa married Shanta and lived with her in the king's palace, but his father went back into the forest.

p. 154. Mount Kailasa. 

The Pandavas leave the forest and go on a journey to Mount Kailasa. Near Rishava's mountain, Yudhishthira disturbs the silence, and the mountain attacks them. Later, a white lotus blows down the mountain, and Draupadi asks Bhima to go get her some more of the flowers. Hanuman blocks Bhima's path, and Bhima is unable to move Hanuman's tail. Finally, Hanuman tells Bhima where to find the lotus lake. Manibhadra, the lord of the yakshas, tells the Treasure Lord Vaishravana that a human being stands outside his palace. With his breath, Bhima blows away the armor worn by Vaishravana, and Vaishravana allows Bhima to take away the lotus flowers from the lake. Matali, Indra'a charioteer, returns Arjuna to earth, where he rejoins his brothers. Arjuna brings heavenly weapons, along with ornaments and jewels for Draupadi.

p. 168. Gandharvas attack. 

In the twelfth year of their exile, the Pandavas come down from mountain to Dhritarashtra's kingdom. Duryodhana wants to build a pleasure house near where the Pandavas are living in exile, but gandharvas prevent Duryodhana from building his pleasure house, and Chitraratha traps Duryodhana in an iron net suspended from the sky. Yudhishthira tells Bhima and Arjuna to rescue Duryodhana from the gandharvas. At Arjuna's request, Chitraratha agrees to let Duryodhana go. Ashamed because of  this defeat, Duryodhana resolves to die, but he gives up this plan when the goddess Kali appears to him and offers encouragement.

p. 175. Jayadratha.

Jayadratha, the husband of Duhsala (the only daughter of Dhritarashtra and Gandhari) and brother-in-law of Duryodhana, sees Draupadi in the forest. Jayadratha grabs Draupadi and carries her off with him in his chariot. The Pandavas chase after Jayadratha and catch him. Yudhishthira asks Draupadi for permission to spare Jayadratha's life, and Draupadi agrees. They release Jayadratha unharmed.

p. 179. The tale of Savitri. 

Krishna and Vyasa both go to visit the Pandavas in the woods. Draupadi asks Vyasa to tell them a love story, so he tells them the story of Savitri. Savitri was not impressed by the suitors who wanted to marry her, so she took a golden war chariot to go looking for the man she would marry. In the forest, she found Satyavan, the son of a blind king living in exile. Savitri decided to marry Satyavan, even after she learned that he had only one year to live. Savitri lived with her husband in the forest, and after one year he died. When the god Yama came to collect Satyavan's soul, Savitri asked for permission to follow Yama. Impressed by her courage, Yama offered to give Savitri a gift. Savitri asked Yama to cure the blindness of her father-in-law. When Yama offered another gift, she asked him to restore her father-in-law's kingdom. She then asked for her own father to have one hundred sons and finally she asked to have one hundred sons with her husband. Yama told Savitri she would have to surrender half her days on earth to get her husband back. She agreed, so Yama took half of the days of Savitri's life and gave them to her husband, and thus he was able to come back to life again.

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