Krishna’s Message on Dharma vs Power

In the ‘bhagavadyAna’ upa-parva of the ‘udyOga’ parva of mahAbharata, there is a very interesting incident which gives us a great lesson on the duty of a person when dharma is in danger.

The pAndavas decide that peace must yet be given one last opportunity. Krishna decides he must play the role of the peace messenger. After hearing the opinion of all the pAndavas, he proceeds towards hastinApura. He reaches ‘kushashthala’ and takes rest there before entering the capital city of the kauravas.

On the way to hastinApura, duryodhana arranges attractive halls with many comforts in them. However, krishna acts as if he didn’t even see any of it and reaches the city. After receiving the official respects from the kingdom, he refuses to partake the food prepared by duryodhana and goes to vidura’s house and has food there. Krishna then has a long conversation with kunti on the various developments.

The next day, when krishna arrives at the residence of duryodhana, the eldest kaurava confronts him and asks him repeatedly why he refused to have food at his place and instead choose to eat at vidura’s residence. Krishna says one must eat at a place either due to the love one has over the person or due to ‘apat-kaala’ — when there is a grave crisis. He says since duryodhana hates pandavas, he can never have affection for him. He calls pandavas as dearest to himself.

द्विषदन्नं न भोक्तव्यं द्विषन्तं नैव भोजयेत् |

पाण्डवान् द्विषसे राजन् मम प्राणा हि पाण्डवाः ||

One must not eat at the house of one who hates us; Neither must one offer food to one who hates; O King! You hate the pandavas; However, the pandavas are dear as life to me!

Krishna gets up after saying this and walks out of duryodhana’s house. He proceeds towards vidura’s house again. The whole galaxy of great kurus — including bhishma, drona, kripa, baahlika and others follow krishna and request him to visit their homes.

तेsभिगम्याबृवन्स्तत्र कुरवो मधुसूदनम् |

निवेदयामो वार्ष्णेय सरत्नान्स्ते गृहान् वयम् ||

The kauravas approached madhusudana and said ‘O vArshnEya! we hereby invite you to visit our jewel bedecked houses’

Krishna summarily rejects all of their invites and sends them back. He tells them that he considers their respects as being already received. He summarily refuses to bless them by visiting their places.

तानुवाच महातेजाः कौरवान् मधुसूदन |

सर्वे भवन्तो गच्छन्तु सर्वा मेsपचितिः कृता ||

The resplendent madhusudana told the kauravas thus — “All of you go away. I consider your offerings as received”

The main text of the mahAbhArata stops here and does not elaborate further on the exact reasons behind krishna’s refusal to enter their houses. This behavior of paramatma is indeed perplexing. After all, bhIshma was one of the greatest devotees of krishna and yet he refused to accede his request. Similarly, drOna was one of the great brahmanas of the times and yet krishna dismissed his request.

Sri madhwacharya, in his mahAbhArata tAtparya nirnaya, has elaborated the real reasons behind this treatment. He says

स भीष्ममुख्यैरभियाचितोsपि

जगाम नैषां गृहमादिदेवः |

उपेक्षिता द्रौपदीत्यप्रमेयो

जगाम गेहं विदुरस्य शीघ्रम् ||

The primordial being, in spite of being requested by bhishma and others, did not go their homes since they had neglected draupadi. He went to vidura’s place.

It was essentially a punishment by krishna for them having not come to the rescue of draupadi during the vastrapaharana episode!!

In the entire sabha, when draupadi was being disrobed, it was only vidura who raised his voice against the adharma, in spite of not being in a powerful position. Vidura raises his hands and declares that he will never agree to what is happening in the hall. Krishna is supremely pleased with this adherence to dharma and blesses him with a visit and partakes his offerings.

On the other hand, bhishma, drona and others, in spite of being in very powerful positions, refuse to even condemn the incident. In fact, their silence is due to their allegiance to power. They value their loyalty to the seat of power more than the stripping away of dharma right in front of their eyes. Krishna dismisses all of them in the middle of the road and walks away from them!

Sri madhwa has declared at the very beginning of his commentary that bhImasena is the embodiment of jNana, knowledge, while draupadi is the embodiment of vidyA — education. The disrobing of draupadi was an insult to vidyA — an attack on education.

It is true that bhishma, drona and others did not have the capability to prevent the incident from happening. Kali, in the form of duryodhana, was much more powerful than them. It is also true that the destruction of kali and his 99 brothers had to be done as per the sankalpa — wishes — of paramatma by bhImasena and arjuna.

However, it was the solemn duty of all present there to protest what was happening. It was the duty of bhishma and drona to call out adharma as and when it happened. They turned a blind eye to the molestation. They told draupadi that she was on her own, in spite of her repeated pleas to the elders of the great kuru clan.

This abdication of dharma, albeit that of merely pointing out the wrong that was happening was completely unacceptable to krishna.

Therein lies a great lesson for all of us. We may not have the power to prevent adharma from happening. We may not have the power to remedy the evil or destroy those doing adharma. However, it is our mukhya-dharma — solemn duty — to voice our protest against adharma. Our allegiance to those in power should not come in the way of raising our voice against wrong.

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