Saturday, June 19, 2010

Episode 21 - The First Dice Game

Episode 21 - This is a big one; this episode covers the tangled details of the incident that sets off the rest of the story.  At the heart of it, it is about Duryodhana and Shakuni cheating at dice to win from the Pandavas all their possessions and even their freedom.  That much is clear, and the match culminates in the deliberate humiliation of Draupadi before the court.  Bhima swears oaths to kill both Duryodhana and his younger brother Dushasan, and the future conflict all arises from the fears and hatred born from this moment.

In detail however, many facts are quite confounding.  For instance, Shakuni says Yuddistira is addicted to dicing but is not good at it.  Where did this come from?  There is no detail either before or after this story that would lead anyone to believe this about Yuddistira.   Then there is the question of Yuddistira's determination to lose everything in the match.  While he may be excused for going forward with the dice game ("for that is the eternal oath I have sworn"), but who really made him gamble away his kingdom, his brothers and his own freedom?   These stakes were his decision and no one else's.

Finally, everyone loves Bhisma and considers him a good man, but on this day he is strangely impotent and brain-addled.  What explains the odd reticence among the Kuru elders?  How is it that the entire court stood by and allowed the maltreatment of one of their own women? 

There is something oddly somnambulistic about this whole scene, where it seems the events had to work themselves out in a certain way, and therefore a spell was cast over the players to ensure things had their proper outcome...

One thing is certain, and that is relations between the Pandavas and the Kauravas will never be the same from here on, and are trending for the worst!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Episode 20 - King of the World

Episode 20 - The Pandavas range the Four Directions and conquer the world, bringing home mountains of treasure.  Soon after, the Rajasuya Sacrifice commences.  Krishna is given the top honor among the guests and this causes a tumult of disgruntled kings and nobles.  They point out the problem that has become apparent in the story, which is that Krishna is a nobody in terms of societal ranking.  He's a former cowherder from a caste of shudras who claims his father is a prince (alas, there were no witnesses to his alleged birth by Devaki).  But even if he were not lying about his descent, he was still a noble of the 3rd tier, and from an insignificant backwater kingdom, where they had been forced to move by Jarasandh's armies.

The general of that army, Sishupal of Chedi, was particularly outraged by this elevation of a milkman over the heads of all the kings of India.  Sishupal had other grievances against Krishna, since his fiance Rukmini had been abducted by Krishna, his boss had been killed by Krishna's plan, and his friend and ally Rukmi had been killed by Krishna's brother.

So Sishupal points out what should be obvious to us all-- that Krishna was a low-class cowherd, who boasted about killing a vulture and a cow, a woman, and an ox cart!  Who said that these animals and the woman and the cart were demons?  Furthermore, Krishna killed his own king-- a treasonous act of regicide that should be obhorred by anyone who desires law & order in society.

Finally, Sishupal suggests that maybe Rukmini had already been used & put aside by himself before Krishna took her as his wife.  That does it for Krishna.  His killer frisbee comes flying and Sishupal is Beheaded.  Check out that link, it's to the picture I mentioned in the podcast.  It's pretty cool.

This episode ends with a little vignette of Duryodhana wandering the Pandavas' palace and getting fooled by the illusions of the place.  He falls into a pond and gets laughed at by his cousins.  I've got more to say about how this scene gets changed over time, but we'll get into that in a later episode.