[Advaita-l] Ramopakhyana of Mahabharata vs. the Uttara Kanda of Ramayana

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Thu May 5 09:09:07 CDT 2016

On Thu, 5 May 2016, Jaldhar H. Vyas via Advaita-l wrote:

> The Ramopakhyana in 
> the Vanaparva of the Mahabharata.  The context is the that the Pandavas have 
> been exiled to the forest.  Draupadi at one point is kidnapped by Jayadratha. 
> With effort the brothers rescue her but Yudhisthira is depressed by the low 
> condition they have found themselves in.  It is in order to cheer him up that 
> Rshi Markandeya tells the story of another great king who was exiled in the 
> forest where he lost his wife but regained her and on hearing it, 
> Yuddhisthira is consoled.  It would have defeated the purpose to add a downer 
> to the happy ending.

To bolster the case for my interpretation here are the introductory 
shlokas of the Ramopakhyana (in Debaroys translation.)

Vaishampayana said,

Having freed Krishna and vanquished Jayadratha, Dharmaraja Yudhishthira 
sat down with the masses of sages. In the midst of those maharshis, who 
listened and lamented, the descendant of the Pandu lineage spoke these 
words to Markandeya. “O illustrious one! I think that time, and destiny 
created by the gods, is inevitable for all beings and cannot be 
transgressed. Our wife is learned about dharma and conducts herself 
according to dharma. How can she have been touched in this way, like a 
false allegation of theft against a pure one? She has never committed an 
evil deed. She has never committed an act that can be censured. Droupadi 
has always practised the greatest form of dharma among brahmanas. The 
foolish King Jayadratha abducted her by force. Because of that abduction 
of her, he had the hair on his head shaved off. He was defeated in battle, 
with all his companions. It is true that we have got her back after 
killing the Saindhava forces. But the act of abduction, while we were 
distracted, has sullied us. This life in the forest is full of misery. We 
sustain ourselves through hunting. This means that those who live in the 
forest cause violence to those of the deer family. This exile has been 
brought about by relatives who resorted to falsehood. Is there any other 
man who is more unfortunate than I? Have you seen, or heard of, any such 
one earlier?”

Markandeya said,

O bull among the Bharata lineage! Rama confronted incomparable misery. His 
wife, Janaki, 47 was forcibly abducted by a rakshasa. Having swiftly 
killed the vulture Jatayu by resorting to maya, Ravana, Indra of the 
rakshasas, abducted her from the hermitage, travelling through the sky. 
Resorting to the strength of Sugriva, Rama bound a bridge over the ocean, 
burnt Lanka with his sharp arrows, and obtained her back.

Yudhishthira asked,

In what lineage was Rama born? What was his valour? How gallant 
was he? Whose son was Ravana and what was his enmity with him? O 
illustrious one! Please tell me all this in detail. I wish to hear Rama’s 
account, the one whose deeds were unsullied.

... and the concluding ones.

Markandeya said,

Thus did the mighty-armed Rama, whose energy was infinite, confront 
misfortune and live in the forest in earlier times. O tiger among men! Do 
not grieve. O scorcher of enemies! You are a kshatriya. On the basis of 
the valour of your arms, you are traversing a road that is blazing in its 
resolution. Not even the slightest bit of sin is to be found in you. Even 
Indra, and the gods and the asuras, may become despondent along this path. 
Together with the Maruts, the wielder of the vajra killed Vritra, the 
invincible Namuchi and the rakshasi Dirghajihva. Everything in this world 
stays with those who have aides. Who cannot be overcome in battle by 
someone who has Dhananjaya as his brother? Bhima is terrible in his valour 
and is foremost among strong ones. Madri’s two twin sons are young and 
great archers. O scorcher of enemies! With such aides, why do you grieve? 
With such aides, you can vanquish the soldiers of the wielder of the 
vajra, together with the Maruts. O bull among the Bharata lineage! With 
such great archers as aides, who are the equals of the gods, you will 
vanquish all your enemies in battle. Look at Droupadi Krishna. She was 
abducted forcibly by the evil-souled Saindhava, who was intoxicated with 
his valour. But these great-souled ones accomplished the difficult task of 
obtaining her back, after vanquishing and subjugating King Jayadratha. 
Rama got Vaidehi back without any such allies. Through his terrible 
valour, he killed the rakshasa Dashagriva in battle. O king! Use your own 
intelligence to think about this. Monkeys and black-faced bears were his 
allies, creatures from a different species. O best of the Kurus! O bull 
among the Bharata lineage! Therefore, do not sorrow. O scorcher of 
enemies! Great-souled ones like you do not sorrow.

Vaishampayana said,

Thus consoled by the intelligent Markandeya, the king discarded his 
weakness of spirit and spoke again. [Now follows a discussion between 
Markandeya and Yudhisthira about the greatness of pativratas where inter 
alia the story of Satyavan and Savitri is told.  This is to reassure 
Yudhisthira that Draupadi was not in any way to blame for what happened 
to her.]

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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