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Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute


Author(s): Subhash Anand
Source: Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Vol. 86 (2005), pp. 27-53
Published by: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute
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In chapter 17 of the Sauptika - parvan , the tenth book of the

Mahbhrata , we have an account of the origin of creation. Brahm asks

Siva to create the world. iva knew quite well that creatures would have
their limitations and defects ( bhta - dosa - darivat , Ila). Hence, standing

in water for a long time, iva performs penance so that creation may be

good. Brahm becomes impatient. By a mere wish, he creates another

creator of all beings ( Sarva - bhta - srdstr, 12b), and orders him to create

the world. The creatures are very hungry from the moment they come
into existence (" srstamtrh ksdhith," 16&). Hence, they run to devour
their own creator. Brahma then assings the plants as food for the animals, and

also the weak animals as food for the strong. Emerging from the water,

iva is annoyed that Brahma asked someone else to create the universe.
He severs his Unga - the symbol of creative energy - as a gesture of protest.

The Unga gets rootd in the earth, and iva returns to Majumat to
continue his tapas.1

Wisdom from Hindsight

In this introduction to Sauptika-parvan, Hari D. Velankar draws

our attention to the fact that the episode just narrated is not included in

"the summary of events of this parvan as given in the Parvasamgrahaparvan in the critical edition (1. 2. 178-90)." 2 What surpises me is that
this episode is "fully supported by all the MSS of both the recensions
[Northern and Southern]. "3 Thus we are faced with a problem. On the
one hand the text tradition of the Sauptika-parvan considers the
creations story as an integral part the tenth book of the Epic. On the other
1 In the colophons of some MSS of the Sauptika-parvan, chapter 17 is designated as svaramhtmyam,or iva-mhtmya-kathanam,or Liga-utpattih. See the Sauptikaparvan (The

Mahbhrata, cr. ed.), Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1948, p. 102.
2 Hari D. VELANKAR, "Introduction", The Sauptikaparvan, p. xxix.
3 Idem.

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28 Annals BORI, LXXXVI ( 2005 )

hand, the reader may get the impression that the final redactor of the

whole Epic - if ever there was one - did not quite understand the
significance of this story. He includes it in his edition because he is faced
with a strong text- tradition, but without realizing its importance. This
explains why when he summarizes the books of the Mahbhrata in the
parva- sagr aha (1.2.72-232), he does not think it necessary to mention the
story of iva severing his liga in the summary of Sauptika-parvan. There
could be another reason for its non-inclusion: chapters 17 and 18 are not part
of the main narrative of the Mahbhrata. The Sauptika-parvan would be
complete even if those two chapters were to be omitted.

To understand the message of the story of iva severing his liga,

it is important not only to relate it to its immediate context, but also to the

main story of the Sauptika-parvan, and thereby see its significance not
only to this parvan, but also to the whole Epic. "The eighth Adhyya is the

longest, and contains in about 150 lokas the details of the nightly attack
on the Pndava camp by Asvatthman, which has given its name to the

parvan [sauptika-parva, 1.2. 181a; sauptiki, 188b]."4 This horrible

episode explains why the Sauptika-parvan is described as disgusting
(bbhatsa, 1. 2. 60b) and as ruthless or frightful ( druna , 1. 2. 178a).
The Epic itself seems to be suggesting that the Sauptika-parvan has a very
special significance for the text as a whole. The Mahbhrata is composed

of eighteen books ( astdasa-parvan , 1. 2. 71a). The war describd in this

epic lasted eighteen days ( astdasa-ahan , 234c), and it was a war that
involved eighteen armies (astdasa-aksauhini, 234b). Hence, there are
good reasons to say that for the Mahbhrata the number eighteen is
symbolic. The Sauptika-parvan too has eighteen chapters ( astdasa adhyya, 189a), and is divided into two parts, each made of nine chapters.
As far as my knowledge goes, the Bhagavad-git is the only other section of
the Mahbhrata that is made up of eighteen chapters (6. 23-40)'.

The summary of the books (parva-sagraha ) has a hundred and

sixtyone lokas (1.2. 72 - 232), and the Sauptika-parvan is summarized in
thirteen lokas (178-190), even though, in comparison to the others, it is a
small book. The challenge the modern reader faces is to find out the reasons

why the story of iva severing his liga, though not enumerated in the
summary of events in the first book, is still important for the Sauptikaparvan. We can do this by trying to explain its meaning and consequently
4 Idem.

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SuBHASH Anand : Liga-utpatti : Towards Holistic Creativity 29

its relation to the whole of the Sauptika-parvan , and thereby to

the Mahbhrata itself. I say this because I an inclined to believe that
the Sauptika-parvan has a symbolic function vis-a-vis the whole Epic:
it provides us a key to understand the tragedy of the great war. This
understanding leads us to see the wisdom it offers to modern humans.

Questions from Wounded Hearts

The Saupitka-parvan reports the lament of their loved ones who
have been killed as a result of the war between the Kauravas and Pndavas.

These two scenes mark the beginning and -nearly - the end of the Sauptika-

parvan (chs. 1 and 17). They are so to say the brackets within which
the narrative unfoldes, while the two stories in which iva appears as the
central character, at first sight, seem to be an appendix. There are certain
similarities in these two accounts, a) Both the elders use almost the same
expressions to describe their pain - Dhrtarstra: ' putro nihato mama ,' (1 .8a);

4 putro mama niptitah (7b, 9b); Yudhisthira: ' nihath ' (17.2b); ' tmajh ...

ptith , (3b). b). Both weep in a special way for a particular warrior Dhrtarstra for Duryodhana (1. 16b). and Yudhisthira for Dhrstadyumna
(17. 4b). c). These two heroes were considered invincible. Dhrtarstra
thought that Duryodhana had the life of ten thousand snakes or elephants
(nga-ayuta-prna, 1. 7b), that no creature could kill him ( sarva-bhta-a -

vadhya , 8b), and so he finds it difficult to believe ( araddheya , 1. 7a)

that Duryodhana was killed by Bhima. Yudhisthira considered

Dhrstadyumna the best among charioteers ( restha-rathin , 17. 4b), and he

believed that even Drona, the great archer and teacher of both the Kauravas
and Pndavas, could not face Dharstadyumna in war (17. 4b). d). Dhrtarstra

is convinced that his son was the victim of foul play ( adharma , 1.16a).
Yudhisthira believes that his sons were killed by a sinful act (papat 17. 2a).5
Yudhisthira wants to know from Krsna what meritorious act had

Asvatthman done that enabled him single-handed ( eka ) to slaughter the

whole ( sarva ) camp of the Pndavas (17.5). In answer Krsna tells

Yudhisthira that Asvatthman had placeted iva, the God of gods and the
lord of lords ( deva-deva , ivara-ivarat 17. 6b), and it was this that
enabled him to destroy single-handed (eka, 6b) a great number of warriors.

Krsna could have stopped with this. But he did not. why? He narrates
two stories that illustrate iva's unequalled greatness. Hence a first
5 The word ppa is also used as an adjective. For Yudhisthira Avatthaman is a sinful
person, precisely because he killed the Pndava warriors while they were asleep.

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30 Annals BORI, LXXXVI ( 2005 )

reading may give impression that Krsna was trying to convince

Yudhisthira that, iva being the greatest of all gods, winning his favour

would ensure protection from all harm and guarantee full success.
Avatthman succeeded in gratifying him and obtaining his blessing. This
was the secret of his success. Towards the end of the Parvan Krsna once

again tells Yudhisthira that Avatthman had placeted iva, and that
explained his prowess (18. 24).
We noted that eighteen armies ( astdasa-aksauhiiii ) were involved
in the war. Each aksauhin consisted of 21870 chariots, 21870 elephants,
65610 horses and 109350 foot-soldiers.6 After the war is over those who
survived were very few : only three from the Kaurava side - Avatthman,

Krpa and Krtavarmamn, and only seven on the other side-the five
Pndavas, Krsna and Styaki (9.47b). He,nce I am inclined to believe that
there was a deeper but not articulated question in the agonizing heart
of Yudhisthira : "The whole story of Kauravas and Pndavas seems

totally meaningless : in their eagerness to be victorious they have

destroyed each other ( Kuru-Pndava-Ksaya , 1. 29b). Death frustrates all
their dreams, and crushes all their ambitions. Why did this happen? What
went wrong?" It is my suggestion that it is this question that the stories

of iva are meant to answer. They are placed outside the two brackets
precisely because they answer the questions not only of Yudhisthira, but
also of Dhrtarstra.

In this article I shall confine myself to the first story alone.7 There is,

however, one element common to both the stories, and this can only mean a
self-destructive act. As Avatthman reflects on what he is about to do,

he compares his behaviour to that of a moth that tries to enter into a

flame, and in doing so it kills itself ( tma-vinsa , 46.).

Protection of iva
As Avatthman approaches the camp of the Pficlas, a big-bodied

mystrious being ( mah-kya , 6. 3a) blocks his way. There are

certain similarities between this mysterious gatekeeper and iva. He has
6 Vaman S. APTE, The Student's Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Dehli: Motilal Banarsidass,

rep. 1969, p. 3b.

7 The second story is about a sacrifice which the Devas wanted to offer, but without assigning

any share to iva. He comes and destroys their sacrifice. This story looks to be a version

of the story about the sacrifice of Daksa, which we find elsewhere in the Mahbhrata
(12.274. 18ff). I hope to take up this story in a future study.

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SuBHASH Anand : Liga-utpatti : Towards Holistic Creativity 31

the splendour like that of the sun and the moon ( candra-arka-sadrsa-dyuti ,

3a). iva too has a big body ( mah-kya , 13. 17. 34a. 82b),8 a face like the
moon ( candra-vaktra , 103b). His movement is like that of the sun and moon
(candra-srya-gati, 37a). He is the very sun (ravi, 102a).
The gatekeeper was dressed in the skin of a tiger ( vaiyghra-carma , 4a).

His dress was dripping with blood ( mah-rudhira-visrava , 4a). He has a

black skin of some animal as his upper garment (krsna-ajina-uttarasanga , 4b) and a snake as his sacred thread ( nga-yaja-upavitina , 4b).
iva is the tiger among the gods ( sura-vyghra , 145a), dressed in the
skin of some animal (carmin, 31a).9 In ancient times there was a practice
of pouring blood on the icon of iva,10 and that may be one reason why
he is called the red ( rudra)}{ iva too has a black skin of some animal
as his upper garment (krsna-ajina-uttariya). 12

The gatekeeper has long arms ( su-yata-bhu , 5a), carrying

many weapons ( nn-praharana-udyata , 5a). A great snake wrapped
around his hand served as his hand-band ( baddha-angada-mah-sarpa , 5b),

while his face was encircled by a wreath of flames ( jvl-ml-kula anana, 5b). iva has long arms (mah-hasta, 82b), and not just two but
many ( bahula-bhu , 126b). He too carries not just great arms ( mah yudha, 98b) but all the weapons (sarva-yudha, 125a). He is dressed in
the skin of a snake ( sarpa-cira-nivsana , 63), and is also known as a
snake (ahi, 100a).13 He too is surrounded with great flames (mah-jvlin, 56a;

agni-jvla, 79b).
8 The references for the gatekeeper are taken from chapter six of the Sauptika-parvan, and

those for iva from iva-sahasra-nama (Mahbhrata, 13.17.39-150), unless indicated


9 A Tamil text, koyil Purnam , records for us a charming story. Once some heretical sages

were performing penance in a forest. iva, wanting to test them, approached their
habitation. They were annoyed by his intrusion and sent a tiger to attack him. iva killed

the tiger and used his skin to cover himself. See Subhash Anand, Hindu Inspiration for
Christian Reflection : Towards a Hindu-Christian Theology , Anand (Gujarat) : Gujarat

Sahitya Prakash, 2004, p. 157.

10 Subhash ANAND, Major Hindu Festivals : A Christin Appreciation, Bombay : St. Pauls,
1991, rep. 1993, p. 25.
1 1 Subhash ANAND , Siva's Thousand Names : An Interpretative Study ofSivasahasranma ,

New Delhi : Intercultural Pubs., 1998, pp. 19, 33.

12 The Mahabhrata ( vulgate edition), 6 vols., New Delhi : Oriental Book Reprint
Corporation, 1979, vol. 5, p. 557a, 12.284.15b.
13 The sages mentioned in note 9 above, also sent a snake to attack iva. He caught it and
wore it as a garland.

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32 Annals BORI, LXXXVI ( 2005 )

The gatekeeper's mouth looked frightening because he had horrible

teeth ( damstr-karla-vadana, 6b ). His thousand eyes ( aksi-sahasra , 8a)
are adorned with thousands of ornaments ( sahasra-vicitra-abhibhsita ,

6b). iva too has great teeth ( mah-danta , 83b, 85), teeth like those of
a lion ( simha-damstra , 108). He has many eyes ( bahu-locana , 123b), nay,
a thousand eyes ( sahasra-aksa , 36b), seeing all ( sarva-locana , 126b).
The gatekeeper has hundreds and thousands of troopers who have a
control over their senses ( hrslka-isa , 9b). He appears like the fire within the

ocean ( vadav-mukha-pvaka , lib). iva is the lord of armies ( gana-pati ,

41a; gana-adhipa, 1 16a). He forms communities (gana-kartr, 41a; gana-kra,
92a). He is always accompanied by his troopers (sa- gana, 92a). He too is the
fire in the ocean ( vadav-mukha , 54a). His body and his dress cannot be
described (" na akyarh pravaktum..." , 7a).

Asvatthman hurls all the weapons he has to destroy the gatekeeper,

but they fail to hurt him in the least (10-16). Their fight evoked the end of
the world ( yuga-anta , 13b). Asvatthman has no more weapons ( sarva -

yudha-abhva, 17a). He admits that he does not know who this mysterious
being is (" na ca etad abhijnmi...," 29b). In the third book of the Mahbhrata

(ranyaka-parvan), we have the episode of iva appearing as a tribal

and fighting with Arjuna.14 Arjuna also uses all the arrows he has, but the
tribal is unhurt. Then Arjuna attacks him with his bow. The tribal snatches

that bow from him. At last they have a hand to hand fight (40. 20-50).
Arjuna does not recognize iva and wonders who this man could be ( ko'yam ...,

30a; ayam ca purush ko' pl..., 37b). Thus without naming him, the
narrator makes iva appear as the gatekeeper, as will be clear from the

vision Asvatthman has of him. iva does this for two reasons. He obstructs

the path of Asvatthman, to test him (" jijsamnas tattejas," 10.7.48a;

" jijnsat may," 62a), and thereby choose him for a special task :

symbolically putting an end to an evil age. iva also wanted to protect the

Pficlas and their companions ("pfcl gupth," 62b; " pfcln

raksat may," 63a). This may sound paradoxical. Even the narrator is
aware of this, and so he will make iva explain why the Pficlas would
still be killed : they have been overtaken by a bad time (" abhibhtstu
klena...," 63b).

14 For a detailed analysis of this episode see Subhash ANAND, "Kirta-arjunya: weapons
for world peace", Journal of Religious Studies, 21 (1992), pp. 74-97.

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SuBHASH Anand : Liga-utpatti : Towards Holistic Creativity 33

Power from Siva

Asvatthman gets the idea of . killing the Pclas and their

companions by observing an owl killing crows. There are certain elements
that are common between the two episodes, a). Asvatthman and the owl act

in the darkness of night (nisi, 1.43a; 3.26b). b. The crows are sleeping
blissfully ( sukham , 1.35), feeling secure ( visrabdha , 36a). The Pndava
heroes are asleep, confident ( vivasta , 1.2.181a; 10.3.25a) that no harm
will come to them. c. The owl kills the crows not because he need

something to eat, but just bcause he is their enemy,15 their destroyer ( vyasa -

antaka, 1.39b).16
Asvatthman kills the Pficlas and their companions not because
he is trying to get something and they are obstructing his path, but just
because they are his enemies ( atru , 44a, 46a), who are responsible for his
father's death, and hence by slaughtering them he will become free from
the debt ( an-rna , 3.31b) he owns his father.
We also notice certain resemblances between the owl and iva. Both
are frightening to look at ( ghora-darana , 36b; / ghora, 50a; mah-ghora,
79a).17 Both make a great noise ( mah-svana , 79b; / sumah-svana , 134b;
mah-nda, 48a). Both have a big body ( mah-kya , 37a; . mah-kya, 34a,

82b). Both have reddish-brown eyes ( hari-aksa , 37a; / hari-aksa, 128b;

harina-aksa, 31b). Both are reddish-brown (pngala, babhru, 37a; / babhru,

147b). iva is also described both as dark brown (krsna-pigala, 130a)

and light brown (veta-pigala, 135a). Both have a big nose (su-drghaghona [beak?], 37b; . mah-nsa, 84a). Both have long claws'nails (sudirgha-nakhara, 37b;/ mah-nakha, 84a). Both mave with a great speed
(vegin, 37b; / mah-vega, mano-vega = as fast as the mind; vasu-vega = as
fast as light, 66a). Both are able to destroy their enemies (atru- sdana,
42b; / satru-vinsana, 60b; atru-han, 135a). The owl is a bird (suparna, 37b;

paksin, 44b; viham-gama, 39a), while iva is a bird or bird-like (paksin ,

67b; trksya, 95b, 136a; paksi-rpin, 67b). While the owl is the destroyer
only of the crows (vyasa-antaka, 39b) iva, being the destroyer (hara,
15 Among the synonyms for owl we have Vyasa-arti and vyasa -ari, both meaning an
enemy of the crow. See APTE, The Student's Sanskrit-English Dictionary , p. 502b.
16 The expressions kka-ulki , - ulka , and - ulkiya indicate "the natural enmity of the owl

and the crow." Ibid., p. 141b.

17 The description of the owl is taken from 10.1 , while that of iva is taken from the iva-

sahasra-nma (13.17). The references for iva are placed after a forword slash (/).

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34 Annals BORI, LXXXVI ( 2005 )

41b, 66b, 112a, 117b), destroys all beings ( sarva-bhta-hara , 31b).

Asvatthman thinks that the owl has given him an instruction ( upadea , 44a),

while iva is the instructor ( upadesa-kara , 66b). It is my contention

that the owl is evocative of iva: iva wants Asvatthman to be an
instrument in his hands, to accomplish his task. In Sanskrit, the owl is also

known as nis-cara ,18 and it was at night when the crows were sound
asleep that the owl killed them (10.1.35). iva too is the night-waker
(, nis-cara , 13.17.48b, 66a; nis-crin, 72a, naktam-cara, 46b), nay, he is
night itself (nakta, 91b).
There are, however, some reasons to believe that Asvatthman was
more than an instrument. In some way he is iva himself. Let me explain.
In his proposed attack on the Pficlas, Asvatthman compares himself to

the bow-bearing Rudra- iva himself (3.29b). As he sets out towords

the Pndava camp, Asvatthman is obstructed by a mysterious being.
He thinks that only iva can now help him, and so he begins to praise
iva. Asvatthman has a vision of iva, surrounded by his attendants.
He offers himself as a sacrifice to iva. The latter gives him a very
special sword and then enters his body. Asvatthman feels he is possessed
( avista , 7.65a), and he shines with divine effulgence. As he marches forth
he is flanked on both sides by the attendants of iva (66). He slaughtered
the Pficlas and their companions the way Paupati- iva- slays the animals

(pau, 8.122a).
Defection from Dharma

Many peoples, who have not read the Mahbhrata, have the
impression that the Pndavas were treated unfairly by the Kauravas these being the villains. This is not quite correct, what surprises me is that

even those who have read the Epic tend to paint the Pndavas in a

positive manner, while being negative about the Kauravas. C.

Rajagopalachari speaks of "the vain but chivalrous Karna, Duryodhana
whose perverse pride is redeemed by great courage in adversity, the

high-souled Pandavas with god-like strength as well as power of

suffering..."19 Subash Mazumdar tells us how the Kauravas wanted to
burn the Pndavas to death, and how they were alerted by Vidura and thus
18 APTE, The Student's Sanskrit-English Dictionary , p. 297a.
19 C. RAJAGOPALACHARI, Mahahharata , 4th ed., Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan,
1953, p. X.

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SuBHASH Anand : Liga-utpatti : Towards Holistic Creativity 35

escaped, but he remains silent about the totally unacceptable means they

The incomplete picture modern writers give about the moral

rectitude of the Kauravas and Pndavas is, in some way, based on what
the Mahbhrata itself says about the Pndavas : they give the highest
importance to righteousness ( dharma-pradhna , 1.55.27a). They are more
virtuous ( gunavat-tara , 10.2.26b) than the Kauravas. They are very noble

persons ( mah-tman , 16.19a). Yudhisthira is full of righteousness

( dharma-maya , 1.1.66a), having righteousness as his deepest self
( dharma-tman , 17b). He is the reflection of righteousness ( dharma-pratima ,

10.27a), the righteous king {dharma- rja , 1.55.31a; 10.11.16b), the

best among those who uphold righteousness, one who knows what is
righteousness, the son of righteousness ( restha-dharma-bhrt , dharma-vid,

dharma-suta, 1.56.9a), a very portion of righteousness ( dharma-amsa ,

1.61.84a). What is even more surprising is that at one point, the Epic is
blatanlty inconsistent. Trying to mollify Asvatthman, Vysa tells him :

"The royal sage Pndava - Yudhisthira - will not try to get victory by
resorting to foul play (" na hi adharmena rjarsih pndavo jetum icchati,"
15.26b). As we shall see, Yudhisthira will indulge in double-talk to ensure
the death of Drona.

Asvatthman slays persons who are sleeping, confident ( vivasta ,

1.2.18a; 10.3.25a) that no harm will come to them, because all fighting
had to stop with sunset. Further it would be against the rules of war to
attack a person who is unarmed and asleep. He admits that were he to
engage the Pndavas in a just manner ('nyyatah' , 10.1.46a) he would
surely die, and hence the only alternative is to resort do deceit ( chadma ,
46b). He reminds Krpa and Krtavarman that at every step pade pade')
the Pndavas had perpetrated all (sarva) the possible censurable acts (49).
When Krpa tried to dissuade him from this crime by telling him that it was

unethical to strike people who are asleep ( supta , 5.9a), and that persons
who are guilty of such a crime would find themselves in the bottomless

hell ( agdha-naraka , 12b). Asvatthman tells him that Pndavas

have transgressed the boundaries not once or twice but a hundred times
(satadh, 5.16b).
20 Subhash MAZUMDAR, Who Is Who in the Mahdbharata , Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya
Bhavan, 1990, p. 195.

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36 Annals BORI, LXXXVI ( 2005 )

Asvatthman illustrates his claim by mentioning a few such episodes.

His own father Drona and Bhisma were killed when they had laid down
their arms. Kama was attacked and slain when his chariot got stuck in the
mud. Bhrisravas was killed while he was observing prya.21 Duryodhana
too was the victim of play (5.17.22). Hence he concludes that the Pndava

warriors are immoral and sinners ( adhrmika , ppa, 24a), having

transgressed all boundaries ( bhinna-setu , 24a) and all boundaries of morality

(bhinna-maryda, 24b). They have no right to expect fair play from the

Asvatthman is particularly hurt by the way his father was killed.

Drona was creating a havoc in the Pndava army. Nobody could

withstand him. The Pndavas were convinced that only through some
trick they could overpower him. In their eagerness to win the war, the
Pndavas succeded in getting Yudhisthira too to act with deceit. They
were convinced that Yudhisthira had the reputation of being truthful
(, satyavat , 104b) in the whole world. His word would carry weight even
with Drona. The Pndavas well knew that the only way to disarm and kill
him was to tell him that his son Asvatthman had been killed. Even though
some did not approve of this trick, Yudhisthira accepted it but not without
some difficulty ( krcchra , 7.164.70a).

The Pndavas killed an elephant named Asvatthman, and spread

the news that Asvatthman had been killed. Drona was not convinced, since
he believed that his son was too great a warrior to be killed by any human.
Drona was the common teacher of the Kauravas and Pndavas. Hence he
had the opportunity to know them from their early years. So he questioned

Yudhisthira about the truth of the news, because he expected the truth
from him even from his- Yudhisthira 's - childhood ( blya , 90b). Yudhisthira

proclaimed openly that Avatthman had been killed and then added in a
hushed {avyakta, 106b) tone that it was an elephant named Asvatthman
that had been killed . In the vulgate edition this chapter is marked as yudhisthira-

asatya-kathana ,22

The news that his son had been killed benumbed Drona. He put away

his arms and sat down in the middle of the battel-field. Taking this
21 This is a vow by which a person sits down in prayer and seeks death by abstaining from

all food. See APTE. The Student's Sanskrit-English Dictionary, p. 377c.

22 The Mahbhrata (vul. ed.), vol. 4, Dronaparvan, p. 309.

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SuBHASH Anand : Liga-utpatti : Towards Holistic Creativity 37

chance, Dhrtadyumna beheaded him, ignoring the pleas of some of

the Pndavas. Avatthman tells Krpa tht since his father was killed in an

unfair manner, he too will kill the sinful (papa ) son of the king of
Piiclas - Dhrtadyumna - in a sinful way (ppa-karma, 10.5.33).
When the Pficlas and their companions realize that they cannot
stop Avatthman from slaughtering them, they implicitly acknowledge

that what was happening was the result of their being unfaithful to
dharma. They said that, had the son of Kunti been with them, this would

not have happened, because he was protected by Krsna and therefore,

beyond the reach of every hostile power. This statement would have
been enough, but they go on to describe Arjuna : he is truthful,
disciplined, compassionate to every living creature. He does not kill a
person who is asleep, intoxicated, unarmed, or a person who pleads for
mercy with folded hands, is running away from the battle-field or whose
hair is dishevelled (8.1 17.8). What is being suggested is that it is not merely
that Arjuna is protected by Krsna, but also that he is protected by dharma :
dharmo raksito raksat

Even before the war actually began both the Pndavas and the
Kauravas resorted to unethical behaviour. Yudhisthira invites the Kauravas

for the rjasya rite he intends to perform (2.12.2). akuni knows

that Yudhisthira is fond of the game of the dice. Hence he advises
Duryodhana to get him to play and Yudhisthira agrees. In this game
Sakuni, who is the villain here, uses unfair means and helps Duryodhana
to win. Yudhisthira stakes even his male and female servents (54.12, 16).
Having lost everything, even himself, Yudhisthira becomes desperate
and stakes his wife Draupad and loses (58,32-37). This was the chance
Duryodhana was waiting for. He wants to humiliate her in public, she was
ordered to come to the hall, even though she was in her period, and there

they wanted to strip her naked, but failed to do so as she was being
protected by Krsna (61, 40-41). Later on the Kauravas arrange for a palace
to be constructed using highly inflammable material and then urge the
Pndavas to reside there. Their intention was to set the palace on fire and
thus burn the Pndavas to death (1.132-136).

The Pndavas want to expand Indraprastha. They need land.

They mercilessly kill the inhabitants of a forest (1,214-25), setting it on
fire, and in this venture "no rules of conduct seem to have been observed.23
23 I. KARVE, Yuganta: The End of an Era, New Delhi, Orient Longman, 1974, p. 104.

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38 Annals BORI, LXXXVI ( 2005 )

They were forced to come to Indraprastha because Dhrtarstra and his

sons had deceitfully deprived them of Hastinpura, after having failed to
burn them to death. On the other hand, the Pndavas too had to resort to

unfair means to escape death from being burnt in the palace specially
prepared for them. They invited a tribal woman and her five sons for a feast,

gave them liquor in good measure, making them drunk. In that state they set

the house on fire and themselves got away (131-32; 136. 1-10; 199.24).
This enabled them to create the impression that Kunti and the five Pndavas

were dead. Thus to think that only the Kauravas practised adharmci would
not only be incorrect but also unfair. The story of the Kauravas and the

Pndavas is a story of deceit, the story of unfair means used to secure

selfish gains. It involves foul play on both sides. When we destroy Dharma
then we ourselves will be destroyed.
Death from Adharma

The Sauptika-parvan sounds a note of death from the start : after

the terrible slaughter in the Mahbhrata war, the remaining Kauravas
journey towards the south ( daksina-mukha , 1.1a). The south is the realm
of Yama. After he has drawn out the soul of Satyavn, Yama makes his
way to his kingdom, turning to the south (3 .28 1.1 8). 24 The central action

of this parvan is narrated in chapter eight. After having slaughtered the

Pficlas and their companions, Asvatthman and his two companions

want to give this good news to Duryodhana, but they are not sure he is still

alive (" yadi jhati..., 10.8. 151b). This is the last line of chapter eight. Even
in their victory they cannot get away from the tragedy of death.

Before starting the slaughter, Asvatthman tells Krpa and

Krtavarman that he will enter the Pndava camp like Death itself ( Klavat ,

8.9a), and no human would escape. The narrator says that as Asvatthman
walked about in the Pndava camp, he had a horrible look, just like death
( ghora-rpa-klavat , 44a). When he gets drenched in the blood of his victims

he appears like death created by time ( kla-srsta-antaka , 39b, 71b).

Avatthman is determined to exterminate the Pndava camp totally.
He has placed Krpa and Krtavarman at the entrance to the camp, and they

make sure that nobody can escape (100, 141). They also set the camp on
fire from three sides (103b). At the end of that carnage, Avatthman
24 For a detailed analysis of this episode, see "Svitri and Satyavn : Death-Conquering
Widsom", in Subhash ANAND, Story as Theology : An Intrepretative Study of Five
Episodes from the Mahbhrata, New Delhi : Intercultural Pubs., 1996, pp. 1 17-50.

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SuBHASH Anand : Liga-utpatti : Towards Holistic Creativity 39

claims that he has killed all the sons of Draupadi together with their
allies : the Pacalas, the Somakas and the Matsyas (150). Asvatthman
entered the camp when the Pacalas and their companions were in very
deep sleep ( samsusupta-jana , 139a) thereby suggesting the quiet of death,25
and when he has completed the slaughter, he leaves quietly (' niabde ' 139b)

-again the quiet of death. The Sauptika-parvan is also the Mrtyu-parvan.

At the end of his violent deed, Asvatthman appears as the fire (pvaka )
that will bring an end to this age (yuga-cinta , 137b). Thus there are good
reasons to suggest that the story of Kauravas and the Pndavas is a story of

Kali-yuga is characterized by the breakdown of dharma. If there was

one person in the Mahbhrata , who could symbolize the commitment

to dharma , then it is Yudhisthira. Dhrtarstra tells Duryodhana that he was
not worthy to inherit the kingdom, and it lawfully ( nyya-gata , 5.147.31.)

belonged to Yudhisthira because :

Yudhisthira is true to his word, always attentive. He is faithful
to the Scriptures and kind to his kith and kin. He is loved by his people

and he himself is gracious to all who are good-hearted. He has full

control of his senses. All who want to follow the right path get support

from him. Forgiveness, patience, self-contjrol, sincerity, truthfulness,

great learning, attentiveness, gentleness towards others combined with

- all these virtues fitting a king are found in Yudhisthira(32-33).

But even Yudhisthira was guilty of untruth. There could not have been a
greater betrayal of dharma. iva, acting through the person of Asvatthman,

brings this immoral age to an end. It is iva who destroys a creation

that has reached the depth of corruption. But iva is not merely a
destroyer. The Kali-yuga is destroyed so that the Satya-yuga may dawn
This suggestion that the stroy of Asvatthman slaying the Pacalas

and their companions is evocative of the end of Kali-yuga is also borne

25 The prefix sam ''intensifies the meaning of the simple root," while the prefix su can mean
"perfectly , thoroughly ... very much , exceedingly ..." APTE , The Student's Sanskrit -English

Dictionary , pp. 585a, 605a. Thus the word sam su-supta indicates not merely deep but
very deep sleep.

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40 Annals BORI, LXXXVI ( 2005 )

out by the fact that the Pficlas and their companions, while they are
being attacked by Avatthman, see the black Night of Death, the night of

destruction at the end of world,26 who is about to make an exit from

the battle-field dragging along with her men, horses and elephants, whom

she had bound together with strong ropes (10.8.64-65). They had seen
her earlier in their dreams ( svapna , 66a). Now their nightmares have
become a reality (" darsanam paurvaklikam idam iti amanyanta," 69b).
As Avatthman continues the slaughter, there is a lot of confusion in the

Pndava camp, and a lot of dust fills the atmosphere, and so the night
becomes doubly dark ( dviguna-tamas , 90b). Due to the dust she becomes
frightening ( ghor ) and terrible in appearace ( druna-darsana , 112b). Even

the earth becomes dreadful ( bhima-darana , 113b). As the bloodshed

continues the night becomes so fierce ( raudri ) as to appear like the Goddess

of Death ( ksayakari , 126b).27 Indeed we have come to the end of an era.

Now only the fire that will burn the rot of Kali-yuga and usher in the
Satya-yuga can purify us. Avathman is like that fire that will reduce
all things to ashes at the end of Kali-yuga (" yugnte sarvabhtni bhasma
krtv iva pvakah," 137b).

The suggestion that the story of Avathman slaying the

Pficlas and their companions is evocative of the end of Kali-yuga is also
borne out by the fact that there are many similarities between this episode

and that of Arjuna and Krsna burning the Khndava forest (1.214-25),
where we not only find the word pralaya used frequently, but it also
has pralaya-im&geTy .28 Jacques Scheuer draws our attention to the
following similarities between the two episodes :

Khndavadha-parvan Sauptika-parvan
a. Agni reveals himself to Krsna iva reveals himself to
and Arjuna Avatthman
b. Krsna and Arjuna receive their Avatthman receives from iva a
arms from Agni. spotless sword.

26 APTE, The Student's Sanskrit-English Dictionary , p. 147a.

27 The word raudri can even be read as "the wife of Rudra", the goddess m her fierce

28 For a detailed analysis of this episode, see "Khndavadha: A Lesson in Ecology , m

AN AND, Story as Theology , pp. 71-1 16, here pp. 83-5.

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SuBHASH Anand : Liga-utpatti : Towards Holistic Creativity 41

c. Indra opposes Krsna and Arjuna: A big-bodied mysterious being

(iva) obstructs the path of
Asvatthman :

- to test Arjuna. - to test him.

-to protect Taksaka and the -to protect the Pficlas and
forest. their companions.
d. Indra withdraws from the scene. The mysterious being withdraws.

e. Fire devours the forest. Krpa ans Krtavarman set fire to the
forest, while Asvatthman himself

is compared to fire.

f. Krsna and Arjuna stand at the Krpa and Krtavarman stand at the
entrance of the forest and do gate of the camp and do not allow
not allow any living creature any person to escape.
to escape.

g. There are seven survivors: There are seven survivors: Krsna,

Taksaka and his son, four birds the five Pndavas and

and the demon Maya. Styaki.29

Asvatthman tells his companions that he will destroy the Pficlas

and their companions, as a blazing fire devours a heap of grass (" kaksam

dipta iva analah," 3.28a). As Asvatthman, Krpa and Krtavarman race

towards the camp of the Pficlas, they appear like brightly blazing fires

{samiddha-havya-vahana, 5.37b). The narrator describes the slaughter of

the Pficlas and their companions as the cutting down of a great

forest (" chidyamnasya mahato vanasyeva," 10.5a). Draupad, who
has survived her sons, will be scorched be fire (" pradayhamn iva
hutaanena," 25b).
There are passages in the description of the nocturnal attack which
fill us with disgust. Let me cite just one example:
There they saw demons and fiends of different shapes eating the
flesh and drinking the blood of those who were killed. They were terrible,
reddish brown, frightening, with granite teeth, covered with blood. They
had matted hair. Their thighs long, their stomachs big. They were fivefooted, and their fingers were bent backwards... Having drunk the blood

they were very happy and danced with joy. (10.8.127-131).

29 J. SCHEUER, iva dans le Mahbhrata, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1982,

p. 318.
30 ANAND, Story as theology, pp. 92-3.

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42 Annals BORI , LXXXVI ( 2005 )

The story of the burning of the forest too tries to fill the reader
with disgust that points the rottenness of Kali-yuga.30 When dharma is

ignored then we are heading for decay. We are engaged is a suicidal


The Sauptika-parvan does not merely hint at the possibility of a war

that could wipe away humanity from the face of the earth. It also reports
that this almost happened. When Draupad hears that her father, her sons

and their companions have been killed by Asvatthman, she wants the

Pndavas to go in search of him and kill him and bring the gem
adorning his head as a proof of his defeat (11.20). Krsna cautions
Yudhisthira: Asvatthman has the weapon known as Brahmairas which
can even set the whole earth on fire (" dahed yat prthivim api," 12.4b).
When the Pndavas succeed in finding Asvatthman, he gets so frightened
that he unleashes the Brahmairas (13.19). There appeared a fire that could
burn the three worlds, like Yama, the final destroyer ("pvakah... lokns tritt
kla-antakayama-upamah, "20). Arjuna has no option but to use the weapon
which could destroy all weapons ( astra-nivrana , 14.3b). As soon as this
weapon is let loose, there appears a mighty fire, like the fire which puts an end

to this sinful age (yuga-anta-anala-samnibha, 7b).

Now we are in the thick of a nuclear war! There are many earthquakes
and thousands of meteors fall. All being are filled with fear. The earth, with

all its hills, forests and trees, begin to shake (9-1 1). There is a cosmic crisis.

In this crisis situation Nrada and Vysa appear on the scene. They are
conversant with all their obligation (" sarvadharmajau sarvabhtahitaisinau," 13a). They stand between the two weapons, neutralizing the
weapons as they are eager to do good to humanity ( hitakmy , 15b).

Dharma from Tapas

Now we can get back to the story of iva severing his liga. He is the
supreme being, and he is also merciful, and that is the reason why he is known

as iva. He knows the needs of his creatures. He is concerned about them.

He wants not merely to create but also sustain life. In this process of
sustaining life he wants the cooperation of his creatures. He gives us a
way to sustain life, and to be creative in our turn. Authentic creativity

presupposes discipline. This explains why when Brahm asked iva to

create he performs tapas. The narrator wants to emphasize the ascetical
character of iva's creative energy and activity. Hence he describes iva
as mah-tapas both at the beginning and at the end of his story (17.11b

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SuBHASH Anand : Liga-utpatti : Towards Holistic Creativity 43

and 26b). The Kauravas and Pndavas want to create for themselves a

flourishing kingdom, without willing to pay the cost. To get what they want

they are prepared to ignore the demands of dharma. When Brahma gets
impatient and creates another creator ( srastr , 10.17.12) and commissions
him to bring forth the universe, and when the latter produces the universe

without having performed tapas, then he is engaged in a suicidal act: his

own creatures rush to devour him!

Brahma tells iva to create the world as soon as possible ( maciram ,

10.17.10b). Knowing the limitations of all creatures, iva immerses

himself in water to do penance. It is important to note that the narrator
makes special efforts to draw our attention to this combination of iva
and water: he mentions them together four times (1 lb, 13, 14b and 23a). Water

is symbolic of the cosmic womb, while the ascetical heat (tapas) is the
creative power. By immersing himself within the water iva, so to say,
fecundates that water and thus makes a new creation possible. In mythic
language iva is always with Prvat. Every river is Prvat, because it flows

down from the hills (parvata). The Shaiva theological tradition insists on
the presence of the male and the female within the ultimate Reality. Just as
in Sanskrit and Tamil the word iva without the vowel sign i would only be
ava, so too without Prvat iva would be acorpse (5a va). The ultimate Reality
is Ardhanrivara: half male and half female.31

The idea of heat'fire and water being the two necessary elements
for life to emerge are already found in Rg-veda 10.129.3-5. Here we are
told that in the beginning there was darkness (tamas) - the darkness of death.

But darkness, like many other ambivalent symbols, is also evocative of

our mother's womb, the dark chamber in which we all have spent nine
months. Hence darkness is symbolic of birth. There was also water (salila)
and creative heat (tapas), the primordial seed (retas-dh).

iva surpasses all the Devas in penance and power (10.6.34). This
explains why Avatthaman praises him: if he is blessed by the supreme
God, then nobody can obstruct him. iva not only does penance, he is
penance. We have the following names listed in the long litany (13.17.30-

150): Tapas = penance (1 13d), Tapasvin = the ascetic (33a), Tapo-nidhi =

the abode of panance (121a), Ghora-tapas = frightening penance (38a),
3 1 In Shaiva iconography we come across some compositions in which the right half represents

iva, while the left Prvat. This can be seen both by the anatomical and ornamental

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44 Annals BORI, LXXXVI ( 2005 )

Tksna-tapas = severe penance (53b), Mah-tapas = the great penance

(38a, 39a, 50a, 121b).

When Siva sees that Brahm has already made an alternative

arrangment for the creation of the universe, he gets angry and severs his
liga apparently in frustration. It disappears in the earth. If we may put it this

way, before creation iva's liga was a small part of his body. Now it
parvades the whole of creation. In the Siva-purna, Rudra-samhit, Prvati-

khanda, chapter 17 to 19, we have the story of Kma-deva trying to

distract iva's penance and thus getting him to take note of Prvati and
marry her. iva gets annoyed with this instrusion, and burns Kama to
ashes. His wife pati pleads with iva to restore her husband back to her,
iva does so, but henceforth Kama would be without a body ( an-aga ).

Being in body is being limited by time and space. So when Kama

has no body then he is freed from these limitations. Now he is present in

the whole of creation. That is why creation, with all its beauty, can
seduce us away from iva, the merciful God. In some way this explains
why there is so much violence, why the story of the Mahbhrata keeps
on repeating itself, why we do not seem to learn from the painful lessons

of history. When we all want to possess creation then there are bound
to be clashes, because creation is limited.

iva too pervades the whole of creation. Being the maker of the
universe ( viva-karman , 13.17.94a), he is also the form of the universe

(viva-rupa, 40b), it being his body ( viva-deha , 148a). The creative

activity of creatures is not only a faint reflection of iva's creative
activity, but is also possible only in virtue of iva's creative energy
permeating the universe. iva ensures this by continuing his penance.
After severing his liga, the Great Ascetic ( mah-tapas ) goes to the
Majuvat Mountain to perform penance (10. 17. 26). 32 iva's creative act

is not an event of the past. It is an ongoing activity, accompanying his

creation every moment of its existence. Were this not true, the world
would cease to exist.

Long ago a seer of the Rg-veda chanted this mantra: " rtam ca

satyam ca abhiddht tapaso' dhyajyata: harmony and well-being

32 The narrator wants to emphasize the penance of iva. The text reads tapas taptum
mahtaph = the Great Ascetic goes to make penance hot!

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SuBHASH Anand : Liga-utpatti : Towards Holistic Creativity 45

emerge from penance fully kindled" (10.190.1a). Another sage in the

Atharva-veda tells us that the earth is sustained by law ( dharma-dhrt ,
12.1.17a). Every creature has its own law. The law that sustains the earth

is not something extrinsic to it, but is an expression of its nature.33

Creativity is possible if every being lives and behaves according to the law
that is specific to it. When this happens then there is a wonderful harmony

between all beings - living and non- living {ra). When dharma and ra
are realized then we have not only existence {sat)f but also well-being {satya).

To follow the Dharma that is specific to me I need to discipline myself.

This is what the seer meant when he said that ra and saiya emerge from
iapas. But not any kind of iapas. The three dimensions of well-being - dharma ,

ra , and saiya - demand a great discipline (- abhiddha-iapas ).34

The Upanisads too give a great importance to the creative dimension

of iapas. Anticipating the story of iva severing his liga, the Brhadranyakaupanisad informs us that the Father performed iapas and produced seven types

of food ( sapta-anna , 1.5.1). According to the Taittiriya-upanisad , the

primordial Being wanted to become many. He performed tapas and then
created all this {i(idam sarvam" 2.6.). Further on the text brings together
tapas and ap (water) as birth-giving (4 .6) . Thus we have a complete anticipation

of the story of iva doing penance, standing in water, before venturing to

create the universe.

However, gradually tapas acquired other functions. The

Chndogya-upanisad maintains that there are three basic divisions of
dharma, tapas being the second (2.23.2). The Taittriya-upanisad reports
the conversation Varuna has with his son Bhrgu, who wants to
understand Brahman. Four times Varuna tells his son: "Through iapas
cultivate a desire to know Brahman, for Brahman is tapas" (3,2-5).
Five times we have the refrain: "He (Bhrgu) did tapas , and having done
tapas ..." (3.1-5).35 The svetsvatara-upanisad uses the image of drawing
out oil hidden in the seed, butter in milk, water in the river-bed and fire in

wood to explain how through tapas we can experience the Atman within us,
33 The word dharma is derived from the root dhr = to support, to sustain, etc.

34 The prefix abhi signifies intensity. (APTE, The Student's Sanskrit-Engish Dictionary ,
p. 39ab). Hence when it is added to the past participle iddha - kindled, then abhiddha
indicates very intense fire, thereby suggesting very severe penance.
35 The text wants to emphasize the importance of tapas , and hence we have " sa tapo ' tapyata

sa tapastaptv = he heated heat and having heated heat..."

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46 Annals BORI , LXXXVI ( 2005 )

because the knowledge of the Atman is rooted in self-knowledge and

penance ( tma-vidy-mla , 1.16b). The Maitri-upanisad maintains that
truth ( sativa ) is obtained through tapas (4.3).

Elsewhere in the Mahbhrata we are given to understand the

importance of tapas . It is the source of great energy (baia A .165.42). Through

it one can obtain all because all is grounded in tapas (9.47.13b). The great
happiness - moksa - is rooted in penance ( tapo-mla , 14b). While Bhisma is

lying on a bed of arrows (sara- taipa- gata, 12.53.24a), Yudhisthira and the
surviving Pndava warriors come to ask his advice. In the course of a long
conversation, Yudhisthira wants Bhisma to explain to him the duty of a
Brhmana who is intent on righteousness (dharma-kma) and who is trying
to attain that which is better ( sreyas , 154.1b).36 Bhisma, the best among those
commited to righteousness ( vara-dharma-bhrt , 38), presents Yudhisthira with

a long list of good qualities to be acquired and faults to be avoided and winds

up by saying that all what has been taught is rooted in tapas (155.1a). This
is the reason why through tapas everthings (sarvam) can be obtained (184.2b).

Awaking from Sleep

The Mahbhrata war is not merely a past event. The story of

Mahbhrata is also the story of our own life today. It is also paradigmatic of
what repeatedly happens in history. Brothers go to war with brothers, ending

up by killing each other and, in the process, doing tremendous violence to the

earth too. We can see this happening today, living as we do, in a highly
technologized world, in a highly competitive society . Ours is a society in which

many are asleep (supta). Ours is the Sauptika-yuga. When we are not alert,
when we do not critique the culture which surrounds us then we are asleep,
thereby giving the powers of darkness the upper hand. The purpose of the
Sauptika-parvan, for that matter of the whole of the Mahbhrata is to wake
us up from the slumber of complacency. If we do not wake up we will die in
our sleep. We are on the verge of a nuclear holocaust.

Ours is a highly technologized world. Technology brings about

acceleration: fast and abundent production, fast food, fast communication, fast

transport. With abundant pornographic materials, psychedelic drugs, greater

36 Yama tells Naciketas that in our life we have to choose between that which is pleasant
( preyas ) and that which is better (sreyas). The foolish person (manda) chooses prey as,
and thereby misses his goal. The wise one (dhlra) goes through a process of discernment

and chooses the sreyas. Katha-upanisad, 2.1-2.

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SuBHASH Anand : Liga-utpatti : Towards Holistic Creativity 47

number of male and female prostitutes, pop music and dance, luxury hotels,
CD-ROMs, etc., the possibility of instant gratification has increased. While
a great part of Asia is not adequately industrialized, it feels the impact of the
highly technologized consumer society , thanks to the trans-continental network

of communications with channels exposing the TV viewers to the latest in the

consumer market. This kind exposure brings about not only a cultural
neocolonialism, but also an alienation from traditional ethical values and

religious perspectives: intimate human encounters are being replaced by

superficial social gatherings with a thick icing of consumeristic glamour, and
our youth is being sucked into a cesspool of fast iove' and fast 'dump'.

People who have been disillusioned by this pseudo-culture in the west

are turning to Asia for enlightenment. Unfortunately many have not really
abandoned the defective paradigm: they want instant liberation! This came as

a windfall for some Indian so-called gurus and bhagwans with their posh
ashrams, who further dehumanized them by exploiting the gullibility of the

frustrated westerners.37 But Asia does have a solid tradition that still shapes
the lives of many and can be a source of real enlightenment for contemporary

humans. In fact, the major religions of the world today -Hinduism, Buddhism

in its many forms, Judaism, Christianity and Islam- are of Asian origins. It
is in this context that the story of Siva being entrusted with the task of creating

the universe becomes very meanigful.

Brahm too is in a great hurry. He tells Siva to get going with creation

without any delay ( mciram , 10.17.10b). But iva is in no hurry. He knows

the limitations of created beings ( bhta-dosadarsin , 1 la), their needs, and he
is concerned about their welfare, He knows that it is not enough to bring them

into existence (sat). Their full wellbeing ( satya ) must be ensured, their basic

needs being taken care of. He alone can give immortality ( amarat , 7a), and
this is the most important element of human wellbeing. Hence he performs
tapas for a long time ( dirgh-kla , 1 1 b; su-mah-kala , 1 2a; cira-kla , 23a). The
narrator wants to make sure that reader des not miss this, and so he says that

the great heater heated heat ("tapas tape... mahtaph " lib). iva stands still
(sthnu, 14b), the stillness needed for deep reflection.
To understand the importance the Hindu tradition gives to the practice
of tapas for our, wellbeing, we can use the image of atomic power. When this

power is let loose without any control, then we have an atom bomb: a weapon
37 We find a satirical presentation of this phenomenon in Gita MEHTA, Karma Cola, London

: Minerva (Mandarin Paperbacks), rep. 1990.

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48 Annals BORI, LXXXVI ( 2005 )

of mass destruction. We can also carefully control this energy , and that is what

the nuclear reactor does. This energy can be utilized for different peaceful
purposes. The ascetic through his tapas tries to awaken and gather the energy

present in him and focus it on a higher goal in life. In our competitive world
many people do go through a very rigorous schedule to be on the top of their
class in school or college , to excel in some profession , to be first on the athletic
field, etc. But the tapas of iva is altruistic - it is totally for our welfare. That
is what the svetsvatara-upanisad means it speaks of authentic austerity ( satya -

tapas, 1 .15b). This spirit of tapas makes authentic creativity not only possible
but also sustains it because it continues even after the creative act is over.

Without it creativity can be co-opted by oppressive agents. iva continues to

practise tapas.
When Asvathman discloses his plans to Krpa and Krtavarman, they
tell him that he should wait for the night to pass away. But he is filled with
anger and impatience ( krodha-amarsa-gata , 10.1 .6a). He wants to hit back at
the Pndavas as early as possible. He is in a hurry ( tvar ), and feels himself
being pushed to action ( tvaramna ) by his desire for vengeance, and so he will

not get sleep till he has fulfilled his desire (5.26). Like Asvatthman we are
impatient. We do not give enough time to think out the implications of what
we are doing . What is more tragic , many of us just do not think at all . We allow

ourselves to be carried away by the tide.

As in the Mahbhrata, so too today there is a lot of foul play, but in
a very subtle manner. The consumer market flourishes because an effective
advertisement technology succeeds in convincing many that to be powerful
in the consumer market is the source of real happiness: the more you can buy
the more will be your joy . We allow ourselves to be manipulated. Manipulation

is a greater of violence than outright violence for two reasons. First, in

manipulation we are controlling the thinking of others. Second, others become

the victims without becoming aware of the violence being done to them. To
succeed in the consumer market means we must have plenty of buying power,

plenty of money. This is the reason why there is so much corruption in our

world today. The consumer market has become our temple, our place of
worship! God has been displaced by Mammon.
Authentic creativity is situated within a community with its tradition.
History tells us that great artists, mystics, sages and scientists were rooted in
their tradition and, even when they in some way deviated from their tradition,

it was because they knew what was good and not so good in their patrimony.

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SuBHASH Anand : Liga-utpatti : Towards Holistic Creativity 49

They enriched their tradition for their posterity . Brahm tells the second creator
(srastr, 1 7 .2 1 a) to go ahead with the task assigned to him without any hesitation

( virabdha , 14b). Ignoring Siva, he tells him that there is no other before him

(< agraja , 14b). He fails to understand why Siva is standing without moving.

Dhfstadyumna's charioteer informs Yudhisthira that the sons of

Draupad and her father and their companions have been slain by Asvatthman
while they were asleep, confident that no harm would come to them ( vivasta ,

10.2b). They were, so to say, intoxicated (pr amatta, 2b) with their victory.
Yudhisthira too, who moans his dead, is convinced that the success of

Asvatthman and his companions was the result of their not being heedless
(( a-pramatta , 10.14b). On the other hand the Pndava warriors were killed
because of their heedlessness ( pramda , 16b, 18b, and 21b). He thinks that
parmda is the greatest destroyer ( parama-vadha , 19a) of human life. When
a person is pr amatta then prosperity abandons him ( 1 9b) . One who is pramatta

cannot obtain wisdom, he cannot perform penance, and as a result he will not

have glory and prosperity (" na hi pramattena narena labhy vidy tapah

rirvipulam yao v." 22a). On the other hand, one who is free from
heedlessness ( a-pramda ) can destroy all (sarva) his enemies (22b). Because
the Pndava warriors, who survived the war, were not free from heedlessness
(a-pramda), they were killed by few non-significant persons (a-visesa, 23a).
We notice how the narrator wants to emphasize the fact that the Pficlas and
their companions were slaughtered at night ('nisi,1 2a, 3b). The night is symbolic
of the darkness that can cloud our minds when we become intoxicated with

our success. Only persons who are a-pramatta can succeed in life.
Contemporary humans too are very confident of their expertise. They

think no other generations have been as knowledgeable as they are. They are
rash and restless. But they are deceived. The recent devastating Tsunami tells
us how vulnerable we are . We are even becoming victims of our own invention .
We not only have machines that work very fast, but we also want to make them
work as fast as possible. Acceleration tends to generate a lot of stress, and that

brings about lack of sleep. This in turn leads to other problems. Like
Asvatthman, contemporary humans are heading for self-destruction (tma-

vinsa, 1.46a). Global warming may lead to more devastating Tsunamis and
powerful earthquakes. A world war with nuclear weapon will lead to the end
of our modern age (yuga-anta , 8.137b). As somebody has said, any war after
that will be fought with sticks and stones. The survivors will find themselves
once again in the primitive times.

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50 Annals BORI, LXXXVI ( 2005 )

Real creative action needs much reflection, a reflection that will give
birth to a vision, a vision which will guide us towards authentic creativity and

development. As Krpa moans the death of his companions he puts the blame

for it on Duryodhana (2.25-26):

This project was undertaken without being sufficiently

reflected ( acintita ) upon by Duryodhana. He was greedy ( lubdha ),

foolish ( mdha ), and lacking in foresight ( a-dirgha-darin ). He

ignored persons of good counsel ( hita-buddhi ) and allowed

wicked people ( a-sdhu ) to guide him. Even when others tried to
dissuade him he made enmity with the Pndavas who are definitely
superior to him in good qualities ( gunavat-tara ).

Creativity jnust take into account all the aspects of life. So too,
authentic development must benefit not merely the upper classes of the

society, not merely people who have surplus money, but all humans.
Development must ensure the basic needs of all humans, that too not just
of those who are living today, but also of the generations to come. When
we look around we have ample reasons to believe that much of the development

taking place today will make the rich more rich, the poor more poor. This
will be all the more true within a globalizing economy that lacks a human

face, an economy that is primarily geared to generate more capital and

enlarge the consumer market. This sort of development is suicidal in the long

run. Humans who do not have adequate jobs, or no job at all, and as a
result not enough of the basics of life tend to become violent. Even if they
do not, we will destroy our true humanity by making gods out of the work of
our hands.

In a consumer approach to creativity and development, deeper

human feelings get pushed out. Dhrtarstra thinks his heart is made of
hard stone (adri-sra-maya, 1.10a) as it does not break down with the
news of the death of his sons. He wonders how he who was in command

over the whole earth and held sway over all people (1.13a), would now
submit to the Pndavas. Thus he is only worried about himself and his
comfort. Modern humans, in their search for wealth and power, harden
their hearts. They are not moved by the thought that others, even their
children, born and yet to be born, will suffer as a result of their foolish

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SuBHASH Anand : Liga-utpatti : Towards Holistic Creativity 51

When the Pficlas and their companions are being slaughtered by
Asvatthman, then more than the narrator tells us that due to the confusion
caused by the darkness of the night, a darkness made more dark by the dust
raised due the running here and there of the victims, they were attacking each

other (paraspara . 8.84a, 93a), killing each other (sva, 124b). Fathers do not
recognize their sons, and the young men do not recognize their brothers (91b).

In a world where things are primary, human relations get the back seat, and

even when they are celebrated, the celebration becomes one occasion for
consumer glamour.
In order to healthy creation, iva stands in water and performs penance.

Water is a feminine symbol, evocative of our mother's womb. The

Mahbhrata considers iva as father and mother (pitr and mtr, 13.17.1 39b) .

aiva theological tradition sees iva as ardha-nri-isvara, a bipolar my

stery. This is expressed in the Natarja icon: one half being masculine
and the other feminine.38 This mystery is reflected in creation too, particularly

in the fact that the continuity of life needs the cooperation of the male

and female principles. Authentic creativity and development is possible

only through the cooperation of woman and man, acting together as
equal partners. What we see happening today is just the opposite. Not only is

woman not given her due, but she is also used to promote the consumer
market. Beauty contests are increasing, because they promote the sale of
cosmetics. This in a way, is understandable. What is more tragic is that
women are cooperating in being exploited. They are prepared to act in
pornographic movies, to parade as scantly dressed models for the launching

of new consumer items, to serve as topless waitresses in posh hotels, etc.

In the Mahbhrata too we see violence towards women. The Kauravas

want to strip Draupad naked and humiliate her. The Pndavas have no
qualms of conscience in burning a woman and her children to death to serve
their purpose.
Brahm , who is eager to create the universe ( sisrksu ,17.1 Oa) , is symbolic

of contemporary humans who want to create a new world. Brahm is evocative

of our times where doing (karma) is so important. The creator who acts on his

behalf produces the Prajpatis, starting from Daksa (daksa-di, 15a). Daksa
is symbolic of dksinya, the competence we need to do things effectively. We

38 See "Natarja: The Lord of Dance", in ANAND, Hindu Inspiration for Christian
Reflection , pp. here pp. 150-51.

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52 Annals BORI LXXXVI ( 2005 )

also need Nrada, who taught us the greatness of devotion ( bhakti |,39 and

Vysa, who symbolizes the collective widsom of humanity (jana).40 For

karma to be really helpful we need jna - the widsom to know what needs
to be done, dksinya - the competence that will enable us to do what we need

to do effectively, and bhakti - the devotion we need to act with the right
intentions, to act with the welfare of others as our goal. All this is possible if
we are sober {apr amatta). For this we need to become still ( sthnu ) and reflect

on what we are doing. We need vigilance. Otherwise what we consider to be

our victory will be our defeat (10.9-13).

By his action (karma, 17.9a) Siva creates the universe, sustains it and
leads it to its consummation. He invites us to be co-creators with him, to
preserve the world - with all its wealth and health - for our posterity in its
pristine condition, to lead it to Satya-yuga. But we are free, and only in fredom

can we cooperate with Siva. History tells us that we always used our freedom

with a concern for the happiness of all creation. We have deformed God's
creation. Then Siva intervenes in our lives not to destroy us, but to change us,
so that we become co-creators with him, working with him to make a new earth

and a new heaven, and thus usher in Satya-yuga, where dharma will reign
supreme, and all will be well.

n the otherwise tragic narrative of the Sauptika-parvan we have

a beautiful description of a forest in full bloom. As the Kauravas retreat
from the battle-field, they enter a thick forest (ghora-vana, 1 .17b). It abounded

with different kinds of trees and creepers. It was the abode of animals and

birds of different species. There were many lakes, wherein grew lovely
lotuses. The sky was clear, adorned with planets, stars and constellations,
and it looked like a beautiful mantle (preksaniya-amuka , 25a). The sun
disappears to make way for night* the mother of all (sarva-jagat-dhtri, 24a).

All this evokes in us a sense of life. Even though so many have been
killed in the fierce fight, life continues, and it will continue. In the forest
there was a mighty banyan tree, having thousand branches ( skh-sahasra ,

21b), hence a tree that has survived years and years. It was the best among

all the trees (srestha, 22a). It has the stamina to survive... Humans may
try to destroy the earth with their destorted approach to development.
39 Nrada's teaching is presented in his Bhakti-stra.
40 Vysa is believed to have arranged the Vedas, compossed the Mahbhrata, and the
Vedan ta-stra.

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SuBHASH Anand : Liga-utpatti : Towards Holistic Creativity 53

The Kauravas failed in their attempt to disrobe Draupadi because she was
"warrant of the earth's wealth."41
However foolish we may be, we will not succeed in destroying the earth

totally. Siva's creative and life-sustaining energy, symbolized by the severed

liga, that disappears in the earth and thereby pervades it, is more powerful
than our foolishness. Siva is the beginning, continuance and consumation of

creation ( di-madhya-anta , 17.9a). He is responsible for srsti, stithi and

pralaya. The Mahbhrata wants to impress on us relation between Siva

and tapas. In the Siva-sahasra-nma we come across the following names
of Siva: Ghoratapas (38a), Tapas(113b), Tapasvin (33a), Taponidhi (121a),
Tiksnatapas (53b), Paramatapas (38b), Mahtapas (38a, 39a, 50a, 121b).
Precisely because Siva is tapas - disciplined creative energy -he is Siva, the
merciful one. Were he only energy without full control he would merely be
Rudra - the frighteningly horrible one. His tapas is the warmth of love, mercy,

and god's merciful love is more powerful than all our selfishness.

41 K. W. BOLLE. The Persistence of Religion, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1963, p. 35.

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