Monday, March 28, 2011

Episode 50 - The Kauravas React

Episode 50 - Sanjay returns to Hastinapur with messages and intelligence from the Pandava camp.  The king's charioteer delivers this information before the royal assembly, while Dhrarastra, Duryodhana, Bhisma and Karna argue over the significance of these threats.

Having gone a good long while since Karna last washed his feet, the mess must have started getting to him, because he finally blows his top at Bhisma and swears he will not fight until Bhisma is dead.

In the course of this debate, we get hints at some other tales that we are yet to hear about.  One of these involves Bhisma and Sikhandin.  We only get a few tantalizing hints at their back story, but we are told that this warrior is destined to kill Bhisma.  Rest assured that Bhisma will tell the full story a little later in the current book.

The other unfinished tale involves Karna's enrollment as Parashurama's student.  Again, we only get a brief summary, but we hear that Karna had lied to the old Brahmin about his birth, saying he was a fellow Brahmin in order to learn the secrets of the Brahma-head missile.  When Parashurama discovered Karna's deception, he cursed him, saying that the weapon would fail him when he needed it the most.  I'm not sure when we will get the full version of this tale, because it does not show up in the Book of the Effort, and I do not have an index for the books to follow.  It's a good story, so I hope we get to it soon!

Karna is kind of a pitiable figure.  While Arjun is getting magical weapons by the cartload heaped on him lovingly by the best of the Gods, poor Karna is forced to sacrifice his natural-born armor for a single measly arrow from Indra, and must compromise his reputation and sacrifice his spiritual tapas in order to get the Brahma-head missile.  Despite the sacrifices, both weapons are fatally flawed, since Indra's weapon cannot be used against the Pandavas, and the Brahma-head has been cursed to fail in its objective.  Poor Karna-- he never seems to be able to catch a break!

Finally, in a more private setting, Sanjay reveals that he has converted to a new religion!  Krishna and Arjun are beginning shed their human aspects and increasingly appear as divine beings.  The charioteer was quick to notice the transformation, and he appears to be an early adopter of the new cult of Krishna-worship.  With Vyasa present to endorse his newfound religious zeal, Sanjay presents the king with the first tenet of Bhakti worship.  Duryodhana remains obstinate, but the king & queen both become converts.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

News Update: I've found a solution to my Book 6 translation problem!

Good news:  There will not be an interruption in the publications due to the end of the Van Buitenen translation.

I've mentioned before that the translation of the Critical Edition into English was begun, but not completed, by J.A.B van Buitenen.  I've been relying on the print edition of his translation for the bulk of this podcast.  The only complete translation is by Ganguli, and I only have that version in my iPhone! 

I can't really write my episodes while referring to a 3" iphone screen, so as we get near the end of Book 5, I was getting desperate for a solution.  Amazon carries the full Ganguli translation-- all 18 books-- for the low low price of $350 US!

I sort of threw this conundrum out there to my audience to see if anyone had any suggestions on how I might find a cheaper copy.  I guess you all are too used to "free" stuff on the internet, because I got a rather tepid response.

One listener kindly offerred to look into buying a copy in India, where it should be cheaper, but it was all rather hypothetical and time is running out.  I guess I would have drawn more attention if I'd waited until the end of Book 5, and the podcast came to a stop...

But all that is water under the bridge now.  It turns out that Amazon is selling the Kindle edition of Ganguli for $6!  All 18 books!  Kindles are running for about $189, so for the price of a Kindle, I get Ganguli nearly for free.  As long as I use the kindle for something other than Ganguli, I can at least say that I didn't blow another $200 on a podcast that nets me $0 in return.  So that's good news...

Now the Kindle is in the mail, so as long as the mail gods keep the deliveries on schedule, our podcast should continue to run on its normal schedule!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Episode 49 - Peace talks begin

Episode 49 - Now that both sides are armed to the teeth and infested with vast armies, they are ready to talk peace terms.  The Pandavas start the first round by sending Drupad's unnamed priest as their ambassador.  This priest travels to Hastinapur and asks only for the terms of the Dice Game to be fulfilled.  Dhrtarastra responds well enough, sending his Charioteer Sanjay as the returning ambassador.  Sanjay's message is also for peace, but the terms are rather unacceptable.  The Kauravas suggested that the Pandavas simply disarm, and go away.  No land, no titles, no nothing.

Yuddistira sends Sanjay back with his counter-arguments and counter-proposal.  When the charioteer returns home, it is late, so he drops in on Dhrtarastra just to let him know he's back and will be delivering the Pandavas' rejoinders in the morning.  Now the old blind king is left to stew all night.

Dhrtarastra cannot sleep, so he summons his younger brother Vidur to entertain him.  Vidur treats us to some lengthy speeches on virtue and Dharma, and by the end of the night, he is apparently channeling spirits!  We hear from the immortal sage Sanatsujata, but this guy is apparently senile, because none of his teachings make any sense!

Next time, we'll find out what the Pandavas have to say in reply to Dhrtarastra's niggardly terms.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Episode 48 - War by other means

Episode 48 - The Pandavas have come out of hiding and are demanding their lands back from the Kauravas.  Duryodhana has already indicated that he has no interest in giving these back, so it would be best to negotiate from a position of strength.  An arms race ensues, with both sides scrambling to get commitments from their allies across India and beyond.

Duryodhana wins the first couple of rounds at this game.  He rushes to Dwaraka, and gets Krishna to commit his armies to the Kaurava side.  The Pandavas get Krishna; as an unarmed advisor.  Duryodhana also plays on the generosity of the Pandavas' ally King Shalya, by providing hospitality to Shalya's army while it was on the march.  When Shalya offers a boon to his host, Duryodhana presents himself, and asks for Shalya's support in the war.  The king has no choice but to grant the request.

The king journeys on to meet with the Pandavas and tells them what had happened.  Since Duryodhana fooled them fair & square, Yuddistira accepts the fait accompli.  He only asks that Shalya do whatever he can to throw Karna off his game when the big chariot duel between Arjun & Karna takes place.

Shalya also takes the sting off a bit by telling the story of Indra's Victory.  This is a strange story in which the brahmins completely dominate the course of events.  A brahmin picks a fight with Indra, and although Indra acts in self-defense, he is nevertheless guilty of brahmin-murder, and he suffers accordingly.  The force of the punishment makes Indra sort of resign his post and go into hiding.

The Man-God Nahusha is then nominated king of heaven (by brahmins & gods), and the brahmins give him his very own superpower.  When Nahusha turns out to be a power-hungry lecher, the brahmin priest Brhaspati advises the gods on how to get their old Indra back.  Indra is powerless at this point, so he suggests to his wife that the best way to take down Nahusha would be to get him into a fight with the brahmins.  Nahusha walks right into the trap, makes himself a brahmin-drawn chariot, and ends up offending the entire race of priests.  It's all over when he specifically annoys Agastya, and gets cursed to life as a snake for 10,000 years.  It seems that in this story the "kshatriya" gods are just pawns in a brahmin game!

Finally, the Pandavas and Kauravas have gathered their allies-- 7 grand armies for the good guys, and 11 armies for the bad guys.  Now the negotiations can commence!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Episode 47 - The Wedding

Episode 47 - The brothers formally come out of hiding, and thick-headed Virata finally realizes he has been sheltering the famous Pandavas.  To avoid any question of scandal, Virata's daughter is quickly married to Arjun's son, Abhimanyu.  The allies are summoned for the wedding, and the brothers set up a temporary headquarters at Virata's second city, Upaplavya.

This ends the book of Virata.  Next time, we'll start the Udyoga Parva-- the Book of the Effort.