Surfing on riddles into the new year

THE “MAHABHARATA” : A classic Indian guide on how to live live.

A misfortune may sometimes turn out to be fortuitous. Incidents which are initially painful are sometimes the genesis of new pathways of thinking, even life.

I had an accident recently. That, of course, was bad. However, it afforded me the opportunity to reflect on life and its vicissitudes.

I also used the time available to get reacquainted with the Mahabharata, the world’s longest epic poem. I had read short English versions of it, twice, decades ago, but I had always wanted to read a longer version.

So, with time on my hands, I decided to read the Mahabharata translated by Kamala Subramaniam. The original is in Sanskrit. I hope, soon, to read the unabridged version of the story that was first told more than 2,500 years ago.

It is said that what is found in the Mahabharata can be found elsewhere, but what is not found in it cannot be found anywhere else.

Simply put, it is a narrative about two sets of royal cousins — the Pandavas and Kauravas — who go to war over land, and pride.

It has adventure, suspense, drama, humour, romance, battles, heroism, subterfuge, and everything else you can think of; and it is peopled by gods, demons, humans, animals and all sorts of beings.

There are discourses on a range of subjects, including the art of government, spirituality, morality, war, friendship, karma and duty.

The Mahabharata, like the Ramayana, continues to influence — at least to some extent — not just the Indian psyche, but that of many Asians.

I found the story, yet again, enthralling and educational and I would like to share a tiny part of it with you, for I am certain that we could all benefit immensely from it as we surf into 2013.

It is something worth pondering upon, and to use as a guide

I offer below a glimpse of the section known as the Yaksha Prasna — a question-and-answer session between the eldest Pandava brother Yudhisthira and a Yaksha or nature spirit (who later turns out to be Yama, the god of death and justice).

This is the context of the Yaksha Prasna: trudging through the forest during their exile, the five Pandava princes become thirsty. Yudhisthira sends one of his brothers, Nakula, to look for water. Nakula finds a lake, but as he is about to quench his thirst, a voice warns him not to drink the water without answering some riddles. The thirsty Nakula ignores the warning and begins to drink the water, and dies. The other three brothers arrive at the spot, one at a time, in search of their missing brother(s), and each drinks the water without heeding the warning.

by A. Kathirasen.

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