12 Lessons From The Life of Krishna

12 Lessons From The Life of Krishna

Krishna is the eight incarnation of Vishnu in Hindu mythology. I bring you some examples of how Krishna’s life leave a mark on ours with inspiration and valuable lessons.

  1. Birth is nothing but an accident. Krishna was born in jail to parents imprisoned for no fault of theirs. His life began with jail break and he was raised by foster parents. Though royalty, he lived his early childhood as a mere cowherd. He was deprived of his parent’s love and enjoyed no privileges as a prince.
  1. The scars of your childhood troubling you? Krishna survived attempts on his life, tamed venomous snakes and challenged norms that were considered sacrosanct. Moreover, he had no formal education till he reached his teens. Indra, the king of gods challenged Krishna’s ways, lost and apologised. Krishna granted him a boon – promising to protect his son Arjun.
  1. First love lost? That happened with Krishna too. Krishna’s first love with Radha, only became a legend and never resulted in wedlock. After he left the home of his foster parents, he got engrossed with the world in a way he never looked back. Krishna’s marriage to Rukmini was more of a rescue than a formal royal wedding.
  1. Get your own house in order first. To set his own parents free, to ensure his people are prosperous and his country enjoys peace, Krishna had to kill his only uncle Kansa. As the one to kill Kansa, Krishna had the right to the throne of Mathura. Instead he reinstated his grandfather as the King. Before venturing into helping others, Krishna ensured everything back home was good.
  1. With absolute power comes great responsibility. Krishna had the most powerful weapon of the time at his disposal. He could have ended battles in minutes and reigned the era himself. But, that’s not what he did for he was to be the kingmaker and not the king. He used his divine discus very sparingly and stated that not every enemy is worthy of a death caused by divine weapons. Krishna preached the same to Arjun.
  1. Right decisions are unpopular, unwelcome and make you infamous. Krishna made the bold proposal of leaving Mathura and shifting the kingdom to a safer Dwarka. His clan objected, his brother hated the proposal and his parents were shocked. But he did the convincing needed for he was confident about the choice he made. The Yadav’s eventually moved and were happier than ever before. Krishna was hailed as the catalyst of prosperity but also ended up being tagged as a coward.  
  1. A promise is a promise. Krishna promised Indra he would stand by Arjun. Most of what we know of Krishna after he set his own house in order revolves around Arjun. He was the friend, philosopher and guide Arjun needed. Krishna felt indebted to Draupadi for she tore her robe to bandage his wound. Krishna put his mystic powers to use when needed most and ensured Draupadi’s honour was saved. Krishna kept his word. Always.
  1. Be prepared for the worst. Krishna did not encourage war and always encouraged the Pandav’s to solve issues with their cousins amicably. However, knowing the worst could happen, he guided Arjun into a quest for divine weapons. Krishna instilled the thought of “being safe than sorry” in Arjun and insisted the quiver full of divine arrows be treated as a deterrent.
  1. Peace should always be the first choice. When all attempts failed, Krishna himself assumed the role of a peacemaker. He spent months negotiating the peace process. Arguing, debating and trying to convince all stakeholders that peace was not a luxury but a necessity for a prosperous society. It was only after everything failed and peace was no longer an option, Krishna wore the strategist’s hat in the war. 
  1. First come, need not be first served. When Duryodhan reached Krishna for help first, he was quick-witted in turning him down. Krishna stated that he saw Arjun first even if Arjun reached later than Duryodhan. On being given the first choice, Arjun chose Krishna instead of a powerful army. Krishna happily agreed to be the charioteer to Arjun in the biggest battle of his life.  
  1. Ends justify means. In the battle, Krishna used tricks and half-truths. He bent and even openly flouted rules. Had it not been for Krishna’s ways of getting things done, the Pandavs would have never overcome the likes of Bhishma, Drona, Jayadrath, Karn and Duryodhan on merit alone. Convinced he was on the right side, Krishna did not shy away from using the wrong methods.
  1. Be prepared to be cursed. Krishna sought peace for one and all. When left with no choice he went into battle as a charioteer and not a warrior. He got his side to victory and saved the lineage of the Hastinapur clan. But in the end, he was cursed by Duryondhan’s mother. The curse came to life years after the war, when Krishna saw his own clan perish killing one another.

–X–

To know more, read the full story: The Many Shades of Krishna

The Many Shades of Krishna

The Many Shades of Krishna

Krishna’s life is full of inspiration. This Janmashtami, I bring you the story of Krishna. #HappyJanmashtami

Being born in jail to being Prince

Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu was born on the eighth day of the waning moon of Bhadrapad month of the Hindu calendar as the eighth son of Devaki and Vasudev. The first six children were brutally killed at birth. The seventh son, Krishna’s elder brother Balaram, was saved thanks to mystic powers. Krishna was born in jail. Krishna’s parents hailed from powerful royal families of the Yadav clan, but were sent behind bars after a prophecy told Krishna’s maternal uncle Kansa was told that Devaki’s eighth son would kill him. As soon as Krishna’s birth at midnight, divine powers put the guards of the jail to deep sleep, unlocked the shackles Devaki and Vasudev were bound to and flung open the jail gates. Vasudev, in a bid to save Krishna from the wrath of Kansa took him to a village called Gokul and handed the new-born to his friend Nand. Krishna thus grew up in the loving care of Nand and his wife Yashoda who loved and looked after him as their own son. Krishna grew up in Gokul and Vrindavan. Nand was a cowherd by profession and Krishna too developed liking for cows. Krishna learnt to play the flute so well that the cows would gather around him when he played. Cows were not the only ones mesmerized by Krishnas flute. The milkmaids of Gokul fell for the tunes and charms of Krishna. Radha was the one Krishna was fond of and turned out to his first love, which never resulted in wedlock. Krishna was very fond of butter and would steal the same from the homes of Gokul. Out of love and affection, all the mischiefs were laughed off by people. Not everything in Krishna’s childhood was about flutes, butter and cows. As he grew up, he became a challenger of sorts. In one instance when the village was preparing for a grand festive worship of Indra, the king of the gods, Krishna advised people against doing the same. Krishna wanted the cows to be worshipped instead. Irked by the remarks, Indra unleashed thunderstorms on Gokul having people run for cover. Krishna lifted a hillock called Govardhan to protect against the torrential rains. Days passed and Indra finally gave up. He appeared and apologized for his act. Krishna was gracious and accepted the apology granting Indra a boon. Indra asked Krishna to befriend and protect his son Arjun which Krishna smilingly granted. On another instance, the cows of Gokul started dying after drinking from the river. It was understood as the effect of a venomous snake called Kalia which had polluted the water. Out of his love for cows, Krishna dived into the river without a second thought and tamed the snake once and for all.  Krishna danced on the hoods of the mighty snake who agreed to move on to a different place. Meanwhile, Kansa had not forgotten the fact that Devaki’s eight son was still alive. Stories of Krishna’s heroics with Indra and Kalia reached far and wide. Kansa, on hearing them was now sure that the flute playing cowherd of Gokul was none other than Devaki’s eight son. He made numerous attempts on Krishna’s life. None were successful given the mystic powers of Krishna. Kansa, frustrated with the failed attempts of his choicest assassins, now decided to take on Krishna himself. He called for Balaram and Krishna, now in their teens, to his capital Mathura. Before Krishna could meet Kansa in person, he was subject to numerous challenges such as facing a rampaging elephant to bouts with Kansa’s best wrestlers. The challenges proved to be too little given Krishna’s powers and confidence. Eventually, the prophecy proved to be true as Krishna killed Kansa. After Kansa’s death, his father and Krishna’s grandfather King Ugrasen, together with Krishna’s parents were freed from the dungeons of Mathura. Krishna reinstated Ugrasen as King and Ugrasen appointed the young princes Balaram and Krishna as his ministers in court. Thus, after years of anarchy, there was peace in Mathura. With his house in order and Mathura set to prosper under the leadership of Ugrasen, Krishna then moved to Gurukul under the tutelage of Guru Sandipani. That’s where he learnt law, administration, scriptures, and martial arts – everything a future King ought to know. Krishna became friends with a poor Brahmin Sudama, setting an example of putting relations above social status. As a fee for his education, Krishna promised Guru Sandipani to find him his long lost son, which he fulfilled. Happy with Krishna, Sandipani gave him a divine conch Panchajanya, which later became Krishna’s signature war cry. Parshuram, the wielder of the axe, visited Krishna on his last day in Gurukul. He reminded Krishna of his duties as the torchbearer of truth and handed over a powerful discus – the Sudarshan Chakra. Krishna was the only one during his time to have that divine discus at his disposal. Back in Mathura, things weren’t as Krishna had left. Kansa’s allies, particularly the devilish and powerful Jarasand had opened a barrage of attacks on Mathura to avenge Kansa’s death. Mathura was bleeding. Balaram insisted Krishna unleash his discus and end the story once and for all to which Krishna asserted that not every neck in the world is worthy of using a divine weapon on and that of Jarasand was certainly not. After much deliberation, Krishna came forward and made a proposal. He proposed to move the kingdom from Mathura to a far off city called Dwarka, surrounded by water and safe. The Yadav clan did not welcome the idea and there was uproar in the court. The clan felt that the world would see the move as fleeing from battle and name them cowards. Krishna convinced the Yadav’s after much debate yet ended up getting the title “Ranchor” or the one who runs away from battle. Krishna got the city of Dwarka constructed by the celestial architect Vishwakarma. Thus began a new era for the Yadav’s of Dwarka. Krishna the prince had now earned the reputation that of a fine general and minister of Dwarka. One day, he received a letter from Rukmini, the princess of Vidarbh. Rukmini’s family was keen on getting her married to Shishupal, the crown prince of the kingdom of Cheddi. Rukmini was against the idea and sought help from Krishna. Rukmini was sure her plea won’t go unanswered and she was elated to see Krishna reach Vidarbh to fetch her. Rukmini happily accepted Krishna as her better half and got on his chariot, knowing there was no looking back. On their way Krishna defeated Rukmini’s brother and his army when they blocked path. The cowherd from Gokul was now a King in Dwarka and Rukmini was the first of his many queens. The infant born in a jail now had a prospering and peaceful kingdom, a powerful army and a divine weapon to use.

Being the source of strength to the Pandavs

The Pandav’s were Krishna’s distant cousins. By the time Krishna met them, they were in deep crisis having survived an attempt on their lives. A long standing dispute with their first cousins Kauravs had lead Pandav’s leave their kingdom of Hastinapur in live a life that of vagabonds. Arjun had just won Draupadi’s hand in marriage when Krishna recognized his cousins. Krishna followed the Pandav’s to their hut and advised them to visit Hastinapur and rightfully claim what belongs to them – half of the kingdom. The Pandav’s did as advised and what seemed to be an unfair settlement got Khandavprasth – the barren and deep forested region of Hastinapur as their share. Krishna instilled the thought of making the most of what they have in the Pandavs. With Krishna as the guiding light, Arjun asked Agni, the god of fire to turn the forests into ashes thus making way for a city that would be their capital. The forests were home to Nagas, the snakes and demons. The burning of Khandavprasth didn’t go well with Indra, an ally of the Nagas. Indra sent thunderstorms and winds to douse the fire. The Nagas too resisted the fire and thus began a battle. Krishna defeated the Nagas and Arjun did the same to Indra. Agni eventually burnt the forest down and the demons too conceded defeat. Satiated, Agni gifted Arjun a divine chariot and a powerful bow. Maya, a demon who’s life Arjun spared, built a magnificent palace for the Pandavs. The palace was grand and considered second to none, not even the one owned by Indra. Thus, with Krishna by their side, the Pandav’s turned barren Khandavprasth into a great city and named it Indraprasth. Yudhisthir, the eldest of the Pandav’s, then shared with Krishna his ambition of becoming an emperor. Krishna supported the idea and explained the political situation to Yudhisthir. Sharing his acute assessment of each and every kingdom in question. Krishna, like an expert on the topic, put forth in front of Yudhisthir a plan of action needed to be an emperor. Krishna convinced Yudhisthir that Jarasand was by far the biggest obstacle and had to be gotten rid of. Krishna got Bheem, the second of the Pandav siblings challenge Jarasand into a duel and shared the secret of killing Jarasand. Useful and timely tips from Krishna were enough for the powerful Bheem to squash Jarasand to death. The Pandav’s defeated other smaller kingdoms who resisted and thus an auspicious date was chosen for Yudhisthir’s coronation as emperor. Indraprasth was decorated like never before as it hosted the holiest of the sages and the most powerful allies and relatives of the Pandav’s. The Kuru cousins too graced the occasion. Krishna was being honoured by the Pandav’s before the ceremony when Shishupal entered the scene. A distant cousin of both Krishna and the Pandav’s, Shishupal has his own reasons to hate Krishna for he was deprived of marrying Rukmini. As per a prophecy made at Shishupal’s birth, he was destined to be killed by Krishna. Shishupal’s mother plead to Krishna for mercy and Krishna promised her that he would forgive Shishupal hundred times before taking the difficult decision of killing him. In front of the gathering in Yudhisthir’s court, Shishupal hurled the choicest of abuses on Krishna, insulting and mocking him. Krishna merely smiled as he was busy counting. He had to keep his word made to Shishupal’s mother. When Shishupal got close to the triple digit mark, Krishna warned him of dire consequences if he doesn’t stop. Shishupal ignored and continued with his barrage of insults. On hearing the hundredth insult, Krishna fired his discus at Shishupal, which slit his throat to death. The scene shook the gathering as all witnessed the power of Krishna’s weapon. In the process of unleashing the discus, Krishna’s finger bled. Draupadi couldn’t stand Krishna’s wound and without a second thought, tore a piece from her robe to bandage the bleeding finger. Krishna was deeply touched by the gesture and felt indebted to Draupadi. He promised her of duly returning the favour at the right time. Yudhisthir became the emperor and Krishna came to be recognized as the kingmaker. The string of successes earned by the Pandav’s didn’t go down well, as expected, by the Kaurav cousins. Duryodhan, the eldest of the Kaurav cousins was green with envy. Draupadi’s mocking added salt to the wounds and thus lay the stage for a plot. Shakuni, Duryodhan’s uncle and an expert in gambling, invited the Pandav’s to Hastinapur for a game. Shakuni’s trickery worked as Yudhisthir lost round after round losing his wealth, assets, kingdom, brothers and himself. The last round had Draupadi at stake and that too was lost. Duryodhan rejoiced as he had all the Pandav’s as slaves. It wasn’t all for Duryodhan. He summoned Draupadi and asked her to be stripped in the court. The courts men stood appalled as the politics in Hastinapur had reached its nadir. The seniors tried to intervene but failed. It was Duryodhan’s day after all. Draupadi was dragged into the court full of damp eyes and tied tongues. When all her attempts to save her honour failed and she was about to get stripped, all she did was thought of Krishna and prayed to him for help. Though not present, Krishna’s mystic powers ensured the robe being pulled off Draupadi’s body kept extending and never really came of her body. The gathering, already stunned with the turn of events, witnessed a miracle. Krishna had kept his word, yet again. The mess that ensued led the Pandav’s into thirteen years of exile. With their kingdom lost and their self-esteem shattered, they left for the forests. Krishna took the sons of Pandav’s with him to Dwarka and assumed the role of their guardian. It was during this period that Krishna advised Arjun penance for divine weapons instead of brooding over the incidents. Krishna wanted Arjun to prepare for a war which would be inevitable if all attempts to reconcile fail. With Arjun set out for the task, Krishna advised the other Pandav’s and Draupadi to patiently wait for exile to end. By the time the exile imposed on the Pandav’s ended, Arjun’s quiver was full of divine weapons, making him the most powerful archer on earth. The Pandav’s on the advice of Krishna sent emissaries of peace to the Kaurav’s. Round of discussions between both camps failed and war was inevitable. Both camps called on their allies to join forces and started forging alliances with the neutral powers. Krishna had already declared that in case of a war, he would not participate as a warrior however the powerful army of Dwarka was available. Both Arjun and Duryodhan arrived at Dwarka to seek help from Krishna. Whilst Krishna slept, Duryodhan sat by Krishna’s head and Arjun stood by Krishna’s feet. When Krishna’s woke up, he saw Arjun and even after being told that it was Duryodhan who came first, Krishna asked Arjun to choose between him and his army. Krishna’s based this on who he saw first and not who came first. Arjun was quick to choose Krishna and asked him to be his charioteer in the biggest war of his life. Krishna readily agreed. Duryodhan feigned feeling sorry to have lost Krishna’s support in the war but happily left Dwarka with Krishna’s mighty army. Duryodhan thought he got the better deal as an armless Krishna seemed to be of no use to him. Arjun saw Krishna as the supreme self and returned assured of victory.

From being peacemaker to being charioteer 

Emissaries were sent, meetings were held and alliances were sealed. Both Kauravs and Pandavs had now amassed huge armies with thousands of chariots, horses, elephants and millions of men lining up infantry battalions. Conches, drums and bugles were prepared. Bows were primed and arrows were dipped in poison. Swords and spears were sharpened. The barren land of Kurukshetra was chosen as the battleground. The war was slated to be nothing less than an apocalypse. This made Krishna make a last attempt at restoring peace. He chose to go to Hastinapur himself as the messenger of the Pandavs. Krishna reached Hastinapur amidst fanfare and was greeted with protocols deemed fit for a royal guest. In the court of Hastinapur, Krishna explained the dire consequences of war and urged Duryodhan to be fair to Pandavs. The negotiation eventually came down to Pandavs settling for mere five villages instead of Indraprasth which too was denied by Duryodhan. On further persuasion, Duryodhan was so furious that he ordered the guards to capture and imprison Krishna. This is when Krishna exhibited his original form as the master of the universe. The court was left awestruck and the guards attempting to capture Krishna ran amok. Before leaving Hastinapur, Krishna spent time with Karn. He revealed Karn’s true identity as the eldest of the Pandav cousins. The reality stunned Karn as he was one of the most trusted ally by Duryodhan’s side and was to eventually fight his own brothers.  Krishna offered Karn to switch sides. Krishna stated that with Karn doing so, the war which seemed inevitable would end before it starts. Too staunch to Duryodhan and having come far too ahead in his rivalry with Arjun, Karn humbly denies the offer. All roads now lead to Kurukshetra. Both armies lined up for battle. The fine generals on both sides inspected enemy formations. The fluttering of the flags was the only thing heard in the battle ground as the armies stood alert waiting to hear the sound of the conch followed by the command to attack. The butchery was about to begin when Krishna found Arjun in a pensive mood. On asking where his thoughts were, Arjun expressed his inhibitions in fighting his relatives. What followed was a discourse from Krishna on karma which enlightened Arjun. Krishna also showed Arjun his divine form. Realizing his duty, Arjun got ready for battle and a twang from his bow sent shivers across the enemy forces. The battle began. The Pandav forces were being inflicted major damage from Bhishma, the commander in chief of the Kauravs. Not only was he one of the most fierce and powerful of warriors, he was also blessed with a boon. He and only he could choose the time of his death, making him almost immortal. With no solution in mind, the Pandav’s approached Krishna who came with a novel idea. Krishna knew Bhishma would lower his weapons if a Pandav general Shikhandi were to fight him. Krishna knew their history. Shikhandi accompanied Arjun on his chariot the next day. With a human shield of sorts in front of an armless opponent, Arjun fired multiple arrows permanently incapacitating Bhishma. The hurdle was crossed only to meet another. Drona took over as the commander in chief of the Kaurav army. More clinical in his approach than Bhishma, Drona was proving to be a bigger threat. He made numerous attempts to take Yudhisthir prisoner with the objective of ending the war with a Kaurav victory. Arjun managed to thwart the move every time in the nick of time. In one such attempt, the Kaurav’s had almost succeeded by engaging Arjun in a different combat whilst creating a formation no one else among the Pandav generals could tackle. The day was saved by Abhimanyu, Krishna’s nephew and Arjun’s son who never returned to the camp. Jayadrath, a general in the Kaurav army had proven to be the reason of Abhimanyu’s death and Arjun promised to immolate himself if Jayadrath were alive till sunset the next day. When Arjun wasn’t able to locate Jayadrath, Krishna used his divine powers to create an eclipse. Thinking the sun has set, Jayadrath came out in the open mocking Arjun. Soon, the sun reappeared on the horizon to everyone’s shock. Krishna reassured Arjun and twang went Arjun’s bow. Jayadrath was history and Arjun had kept his word. With no respite from the menacing Drona, Krishna was the one looked up with hope. Whilst contemplating a solution, Krishna spotted an elephant with the same name as Drona’s son Ashwatthama and got a brainwave. Krishna got the elephant killed and asked the Pandav generals to inform Drona that Ashwatthama was slain in battle. The Pandav’s did as directed leaving Drona shattered. The thought of losing his son made Drona lower his weapons. One of the Pandav generals beheaded an armless Drona, must to the fury of Arjun. As the battle progressed, the Kaurav army kept suffering losses and losing their generals. With Drona out of the way, Karn took over the reins of the Kaurav army. Karn and Arjun were arch rivals since the day they met and Karn was the last hope for the Kauravs. Krishna was more than watchful than ever as Arjun’s charioteer knowing Karn held a divine weapon that could be lethal for Arjun. The duels between Karn and Arjun were the fiercest with each proving to be better than the other every now and then. Krishna put to use both his divine powers and his skills as a charioteer to support Arjun in the battles with Karn. Karn eventually used his one divine weapon elsewhere which relieved Krishna. The one threat looming over Arjun was gone. In what turned out to be Karn’s last day in the battle, Krishna made Arjun fire a divine arrow on Karn killing him when he was armless and not ready for battle. Karn’s killing was against the rules of battle and called an act of cowardice on Arjun’s part. Krishna justified the act stating that breaching rules was a precedent set by the Kauravs and Arjun had only followed suit. Victory was just one step away. Duryodhan had to be killed for the war to be called over and Bheem was the one to take on Duryodhan in a one to one duel. Like Karn and Arjun, these two mace wielding warriors too shared mutual despise for the longest time. The duel saw both of them pouncing at one another like wild elephants. Bheem had more power but Duryodhan was more agile. More than that, Duryodhan’s mother had used her powers to turn his body into iron. It was Krishna who tricked Duryodhan to ensure his thigh was left vulnerable. If rules of a mace duel had to be followed, Bheem could not have emerged victorious. But Krishna has already thought of a plan. Knowing very well that it was against the rules, Krishna prompted Bheem to hit Duryondhan’s thigh. Bheem did as directed and in a couple of strikes, broke Duryondhan’s thigh bone into pieces leaving him bleed to death. It was dusk when the Pandav’s left the battlefield once and for all. The Pandav’s had won the war and Krishna, without using any weapon himself, played the most instrumental role in the victory. Ashwatthama was an immortal and one of the three Kaurav generals left alive. He wanted to avenge the killing of his father Drona. Whilst Duryodhan bled awaiting death, Ashwatthama went on a wild killing spree by the night. He killed all of Draupadi’s sons thinking they were the Pandav’s. Duryodhan was dead by the time Ashwatthama came to tell the tale. By morning, it was clear that the Pandav’s were alive and were on the hunt for Ashwatthama, furious at the killing of their sons. In an attempt to end the Pandav lineage, Ashwatthama fired a divine arrow killing Abhimanyu’s son in his mother’s womb. Infuriated, Krishna cursed Ashwatthama and used his divine power yet again, this time to give life to a stillborn who grew up to be King Parikshit.

Being cursed

Though Krishna secured the lineage of the Hastinapur kingdom, he ended up with a curse. Duryondhan’s mother blamed Krishna for the war, telling him that he could have tried harder to avert the mayhem at Kurukshetra if he really wished to. Overwhelmed by the sorrow of losing all her sons, she cursed Krishna that he too would witness the end of his clan just as she did. Krishna gracefully accepted the curse. Yudhisthir was reinstated as emperor. With the well-being of the Pandavs restored, Krishna went back to Dwarka. After years, a drunken brawl in Dwarka turned into a civil war in which the Yadav folks killed each other. Distraught, Krishna headed towards the forests for meditation. A hunter mistook Krishna’s foot for a deer and shot an arrow that fatally wounded him. With that, the age of the eighth incarnation of Vishnu came to an end.

Friendship – the gift from you to you!

Friendship – the gift from you to you!

Our scriptures, the Ramayan and the Mahabharat have some examples of great friendships. Social status, caste or race couldn’t deter friendships even then. These stories go on to substantiate the strength of the relationship we choose for ourselves.

Ram – Sugreev

Ram was the seventh incarnation of Vishnu. He was in pursuit of his wife Sita, abducted by the demon king Ravana. Sugreev, the king of apes too had a similar story. His brother Bali had banished from the kingdom. Sugreev lived in the mountains of Rishimukh, where Bali would never come due to a curse. Sugreev needed someone powerful enough to overthrow Bali. Ram needed someone with the resources to locate Sita and free her from Ravana’s captivity. The situation sowed the seeds of friendship between individuals of two different species. As per the pact, first Ram killed Bali and made Sugreev the king. Sugreev then mobilized a huge army of apes to locate Sita and help Ram kill Ravana in battle. A friendship forged in mutual distress, lasted lifelong. Adversities create strong friendships!

Ram – Vibhishan

Ravana’s brother Vibhishan was a firm devotee of Vishnu. This was peculiar given he belonged to the demon race and it was obviously not appreciated by the demon king. Vibhishan was quick to recognize Ram has the supreme self and insisted Ravana return Sita and apologise for the act. Ravana, too egoistic to realize his mistakes and blinded by his powers, banished Vibhishan from the kingdom. Left with no choice, Vibhishan befriended Ram who promised to make him the king after killing Ravana. In a friendship between individuals of two different races, Vibhishan helped Ram in various stages of the war and ended up divulging the secret of Ravana’s immortality. A victorious Ram, as promised, declared Vibhishan the king of Lanka. A foe’s foe, always a useful friend!

Krishna – Sudama

Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu belonged to the royal family of Mathura. Sudama had his roots in a poor Brahmin household. Being classmates, they became closest friends. Once, when assigned the task of gathering firewood, they got stuck in a thunderstorm and spent the night on two adjacent trees. Sudama carried all the food and ended up eating Krishna’s portion as well. Krishna joked about making Sudama ‘pay-up’ for the same, someday. As grown-ups, they moved on with life. Krishna became the king of Dwarka whilst Sudama remained poor. With time, Sudama’s poverty got worse and he decided to seek help from Krishna. He reached the palace of Dwarka with a fistful of beaten rice as a humble gift for his long lost friend. Krishna wept at Sudama’s state and greeted him with open arms. Such a bond friendship that went beyond social status shocked everyone. Sudama was treated as a royal guest whilst Krishna savoured every bite of the beaten rice. Sudama returned home to realize his poverty was a thing of the past. Mystic powers of Krishna had given him all that he needed but could not say. A true friend listens to words unspoken!

Krishna – Arjun  

Krishna and the Pandav princes were cousins and Krishna was particularly fond of Arjun. It was friendship that that bound them more than the family relations. A friendship that stood the test of time, Krishna was by Arjun’s side through thick and thin. Among many things, it was Krishna who helped Arjun build the city of Indraprasth. To strengthen their ties, Krishna got his sister Subhadra married to Arjun, against the wish of his elder brother Balram. It was on Krishna’s advice that Arjun set on his pursuit of divine weapons and attained them. Arjun considered Krishna’s guidance and advice so valuable that he chose an unarmed Krishna over Krishna’s million strong army. In spite of being a king himself, Krishna agreed to be Arjun’s charioteer is the war of Mahabharat. When Arjun’s mind wavered at the thought of fighting his own kith and kin, it was Krishna who guided him back to the path of Karma through the Bhagwat Geeta discourse. During the war, it was the combination of Krishna’s strategic thinking and Arjun’s execution that led to victory. Right friendships do put you on the winning track!

Duryodhan – Karn

The citizens of Hastinapur had just witnessed the martial skills of their royal princes who trained under the tutelage of Guru Drona. The young Pandav prince Arjun, an archer, had the audience mesmerized with some sharp shooting and use of divine arrows. Guru Drona claimed Arjun to be most skilled archer of the time. A young man entered the scene, challenging the claim. Karn, who claimed to be a skilled archer himself wanted to fight Arjun to show his mettle. On being asked to introduce himself, Karn claimed to be the son of a charioteer. He came from a lowly class versus the royalty of Arjun. Karn was denied an opportunity to exhibit his skills and was insulted. Duryodhan, the eldest Kuru prince was impressed by Karn’s courage and declared him the king of Anga, which bestowed Karn a status equal to that of Arjun. Thus began a friendship that went beyond caste. Karn, till the end of his life, remained a staunch friend. He remained a loyal friend when Duryodhan needed him most, fighting the Pandavs. Even after discovering that he too belonged to the Pandav clan. Friends in need, friends indeed!

Hey Ram! It’s tough being Ram!

Hey Ram! It’s tough being Ram!

Ram is the protagonist in the Indian epic Ramayan. The seventh incarnation of Vishnu walked the earth not just with the objective of saving the world but also setting an example of righteousness. This Ram Navmi (the festival celebrating the birth of Ram), here are but eight of the many things that Ram’s story leaves us as lessons for life:

1. High expectations from day one:

Ram was born to King Dashrath of the Raghu clan, the rulers of Ayodhya. The clan had a glorious history owing to virtuous kings, their victories and prosperity of the kingdom under able leadership. The Raghus were also known far and wide for honouring their promises at all costs. Being the eldest of four siblings, Ram had to carry forward the heritage and strengthen the reputation of his clan. Not just that, he also at all times had to set an example for this younger brothers.

2. Father’s word is a command:

Ram spent his childhood under the tutelage of Sage Vashisitha who trained him on everything a prince should know. A young Ram returned home with the knowledge of martial arts, administration and the scriptures and was seen by the citizens of Ayodhya as their future king. One day, Sage Vishwamitra asked Dashrath to allow Ram accompany him to his hermitage in the forest to slay demons. Dashrath, though not very comfortable with the idea, let a young Ram go with the sage, instructing him to do whatever the sage asks for. Ram served the sage with utmost dedication, accomplishing all tasks set out for him. While serving the sage, Ram learnt the use of divine weapons from the sage.

3. Soft spoken words conquer all anger:

Sage Vishwamitra led Ram to the Mithila, the land ruled by King Janak. Sita, Janak’s daughter was to marry the man capable of lifting and stringing Lord Shiva’s bow Pinaka. Janak decided so, knowing no ordinary man would be able to move the might bow. He obviously wanted a man of extraordinary power to be Sita’s husband. When all the gathered princes and kings tried and failed, on insistence of Vishwamitra, Ram lifted the bow effortlessly, leaving Janak’s court spellbound. While Ram tried the string the bow, it broke into pieces, creating a loud noise. Hearing the sound, Sage Parshuram, the wielder of the axe and known for his anger, reached the scene. Enraged, he swore to kill the one who broke the bow. As he threatened the court, Ram came forward, paid his respects and submitted himself to Parshuram. Ram told Parshuram that he is ready for any punishment the sage deems fit for him. Soft words had a great affect. Parshuram’s anger subsided. He gifted Ram with his powerful bow and left the court. Ram married Sita, sought blessings of the court and left for Ayodhya.

4. A word is a word, even if it’s not your own:

Ram was about to be crowned as the king of Ayodhya when Kaikai, Ram’s step mother redeemed her boons granted by Dashrath. Kaikai wanted her son Bharat to be the king as her first wish and a fourteen year exile for Ram as her second wish. Devastated seeing the cruelty dealt towards Ram, Dashrath fulfilled both of Kaikai’s wishes with a heavy heart. He himself couldn’t go back on his words. After all, the reputation of the clan was at stake. Dashrath asked Ram to forego the throne and leave Ayodhya for fourteen years. Ram happily fulfilled his father’s wishes, knowing his father was bound by a promise. Ram also did not carry any grudge against Kaikai for orchestrating the events and did not forget to seek her blessings before he left for the forest.

5. Life has its ups and downs, even if you’re a prince:

Ram knew life in the forest wouldn’t be easy and insisted Sita to stay back in Ayodhya and serve his parents while he was away. Sita couldn’t leave Ram alone and joined him. Lakshman, Ram’s devout brother too joined him and the trio set out for the forests. With all luxuries left behind, Ram happily adapted to the life of the forest sleeping on dry grass, eating berries and walking barefoot. Ram spent his years meditating and seeking blessings of sages as he wandered forests. The most difficult time in exile was when Ravan, the kingpin demon abducts Sita, leaving Ram and Lakshman searching for her in the forest.

6. Friendships go beyond status:

Ram’s had the best of friends in a boatman, an ape and a demon – Kevat, Sugreev and Vibhishan respectively. Kevat helped Ram cross the Ganges when heading to the forest. Sugreev and his army of apes help Ram find Sita, cross the might ocean and defeat Ravan. Vibhishan extends all help to Ram in the siege of Lanka – Ravan’s kingdom. Being a prince himself, Ram never let his overpowering status stand between him and his less celebrated friends.

7. Ethics in war, humility in victory:

The war between Ram & Ravan was fierce as expected. In their first duel itself, Ravan insulted Ram, calling him a hermit and a pauper. Ram chose to reply with his arrows and humbled Ravan. Ram could have killed an unarmed Ravan but did not do so. Instead, he asked Ravan to go back to his palace, rest and be back on the battlefield with new weapons. Ravan had not tasted defeat before and Ram’s humility worked as salt on his wounds. Later when Ravan gets killed and Ram emerges victorious*, he does not celebrate or take over Ravan’s kingdom or men. He appoints Vibhishan the king of Lanka and moves on to Ayodhya with his wife and brother.

8. Responsibilities as a leader are above everything else, including self:

On his return to Ayodhya, having stood the test of time, Ram finally took over as the king. Ayodhya celebrated his return by lighting lamps**. The kingdom prospered under Ram’s leadership and the citizens were happy. Ram’s rule was notable for justice, righteousness and virtue. But Ram’s happiness was short lived as the people of Ayodhya questioned Sita’s chastity while she lived in Ravan’s Lanka for months before Ram rescued her. To ensure there is peace and harmony among his citizens, Ram sent Sita into exile, living the rest of his life in solitude. For Ram, his responsibilities as king were far important than his responsibilities as a husband. And peace and prosperity of his subjects was far more important than his own marital happiness.

The story of Ram tells us it’s difficult being Ram in our times! If not all, there are of course a few things we can take from Ram, as lessons for life!

-X-

* Ram’s victory over Ravan is celebrated as Vijay Dhashmi or Dusshera; **Ram’s return to Ayodhya is celebrated as Diwali – the festival of lights.

If you aren’t in it, you can’t win it!

A man died leaving behind 17 camels for his three sons. His will entitled the eldest son half of the lot, one-third was earmarked to the younger son and one-ninth to the youngest of the three siblings. He entrusted his friend with the responsibility of executing his will. As soon as the will was read out, all hell broke loose. There was no way 17 camels could be divided in the stated proportions. Math failed to offer a workable solution. Best of the brains around tried and failed. Negotiations too failed as the siblings didn’t see compromise as an option. With no solution in sight as days turned into weeks and weeks into months, tensions intensified. The dead man’s will became the talk of the town. As the rumor mill spread far and wide, it caught the ears of a traveler passing the city. Intrigued by the situation, the traveler offered help. He had a brief closed door meeting with the three siblings and everyone came out smiling. The eldest son got nine camels, the younger got six and the youngest happily went home with his two. As the traveler mounted his own camel to carry on with his journey, a young boy stopped him. He had two questions for the traveler – why did all efforts fail till now and how did the traveler solve the riddle in minutes.  On hearing the boy’s questions, the traveler got off his camel.

The traveler asked the boy to narrate the story, right from the death of this friend to date. The boy did. The traveler smiled on hearing the tale and said that no one could have solved it as no one really tried. He said that people only focused on the complexities of the situation and either became a part of it or added to it. The traveler went on to highlight some instances. He pointed how the mother of the siblings, instead of taking control of the situation only prayed all day expecting god to intervene. The brothers, instead of sharing, being compassionate and working on a solution, focused on getting their share and became suspicious. They almost ended up hating each other. The town in general go something new to talk about. Some laughed, some speculated and some wondered. The intellectuals worked and reworked the math whilst the ignorant folk watched. But no one really had anything to do with solving the problem. The traveler continued saying that the executor of the will too had his resolve wavering throughout. First, the executor spent time reminding people of his authority in the situation and then, time was spent cursing his dead friend for the wrong math in the will.

The traveler then shared his recipe. He revealed that when he sat with the siblings with the objective of brokering peace, he counted 18 camels. He added his own camel to the lot. He then reworked the math giving the eldest half i.e. nine, the younger took his one-third i.e. six and the youngest got his one-ninth i.e. two. The last camel left was taken back by the traveler. Thus the 17 camels were amicably divided, as per the dead man’s wish, between his three sons. The boy stood still in amazement as the traveler disappeared over the horizon. The boy went home with a lesson – to be in it to win it!

–X–

Not so colourful, yet enlightening – Holi!

Holi is popular in India for its bonfires and colourful festivities. Whilst the story behind it is rather dark, it still brings some valuable lessons with it. Here’s what happened:

A demon called Hiranyakashyap, in his bid to establish himself as the supreme self, sought immortality. He knew a penance for Brahma, the creator of the universe, would lead to a boon. The effort paid off as Brahma appeared. Though impressed, Brahma denied immortality stating that no boon could stand against the cycle of life and death. Hiranyakashyap, shrewd that he was, requested an alternative boon. He set five conditions for his death: 1. that death doesn’t strike him during the day or the night, 2. that no weapon should be able kill him, 3. that no god, human or animal be able to kill him, 4. that he dies neither inside the house nor outside and 5. that he dies neither on the ground nor in the sky. Hiranyakashyap smiled as the boon was granted. Convinced that he’s almost immortal, Hiranyakashyap went berserk expecting people to worship him as almighty! Those who didn’t, met fatal punishments. Hiranyakashyap’s sister Holika too attained a boon from Brahma making her immune to fire. The brother-sister duo thought they had got it all!

While the world shivered, Hiranyakashyap’s nemesis was nowhere but in his own house. His son Prahalad was a devotee of Vishnu, the preserver of the universe and didn’t accept his father as almighty. When all attempts to get Vishnu out of Prahalad’s mind failed, Hiranyakashyap decided to get Prahalad killed. Divine intervention from Vishnu invariably saved Prahalad’s life. Hiranyakashyap was left miffed when Holika reminded him about her boon. She asked him to arrange for a pyre, on which she would step in along with Prahalad. This time, things didn’t work as planned. Holika got charred to death. Like always, Vishnu’s magic saved Prahalad. In a debate that ensued, a frustrated Hiranyakashyap quizzed Prahalad on Vishnu’s whereabouts. Highlighting Vishnu’s omnipresence, Prahalad pointed to a pillar in the room, stating that Vishnu dwells in that pillar too. Hiranyakashyap knocks the pillar down with his mace. The room illuminates as a unique creature appears from the pillar. A human body with a lion’s head. The creature drags Hiranyakashyap to the main door of the house, puts him on his thighs and tears open his stomach with its claws. It was twilight. The creature was Narsimha, the fourth incarnation of Vishnu.

And here are some key lessons from the story:

1. Absolute power does corrupt absolutely: Hiranyakashyap’s five conditions worked well to start with and made him almost immortal. With no imminent danger in sight, he ruthlessly went about enforcing himself the supreme godhead of the world.

2. You’re smart only till someone outsmarts you: Vishnu circumvented each of the clauses smartly put by Hiranyakashyap and killed him without nullifying Brahma’s boon. Boons, if not handled well, become banes.

3. Miss the fine print and feel the heat: Holika, in her attempt to eliminate Prahalad, forgot the one condition that came with the boon. She was immune to fire if she and she alone encountered it. Here, she had Prahalad with her. Boons do backfire!

While you have a colourful Holi year on year, ensure you don’t wash off the lessons it offers.

–X–

Let’s Churn the Ocean – Part 2

Let’s Churn the Ocean – Part 2

A Managerial Lesson from Mythology…contd.

In the first part (Let’s Churn the Ocean – Part 1), you read how the Devtas set their objective, identified a target zone, got their SWOT right, consulted an expert, formed a team and mobilized resources to begin with ‘Samudra Manthan’. Here’s what happened next:   

The ‘ground’ zero was ready to witness action, with everything now in place. The team of Devtas & Asuras got to work. The Devtas pulled the tail end of the rope, the Asuras pulled the head end and the rod got rolling. Thus began the quest for immortality. The ocean released various objects – mystic creatures, herbs and precious stones amongst other things whilst the sides kept pulling away, waiting for ‘Amrit’.

Get your hands dirty & keep pulling: After questions like what, where, who and how got answered, the team didn’t waste time and got to the ‘do’. The resources were put to use and the efforts were made. The churning bore fruit and the successes were shared and celebrated. The coveted ‘Amrit’ wasn’t one of the firsts to come out. The team exhibited high levels of patience and persistence as they kept pulling.

Before ‘Amrit’ came ‘Halahal’ – the most venomous of poisons. Such were the fumes emitted from the poison that both sides could not bear and started collapsing. The menace of deadly fumes were proving to be fatal for the whole universe. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Devtas and Asuras asked Lord Shiva for help. Shiva drank the poison which turned his throat blue. Thus Shiva came to be known as ‘Neelkanth’ – the one with the blue throat.

Expect the unexpected: Mess makes its own way and this was not different a case. The churning released something the team did not want. They were in a spot and couldn’t move ahead till this was fixed. Having realized they couldn’t do anything about it on their own, the team was quick to reach out to someone who could (and would) manage it for them. Resilience and pragmatism are qualities the team demonstrated.

The churning finally resulted in Dhanwantari – the celestial Physician appearing from the ocean holding a pot containing ‘Amrit’. This is where the churning stopped and both sides fought for their right to claim the pot. The Asuras were swifter and ran away with the pot. A brawl amongst the Asuras kept them away from sipping ‘Amrit’. The Devtas in the meanwhile sought help from Vishnu. Vishnu, in order to distract the Asuras, took the form of ‘Mohini’ – a beautiful woman. The Asuras, mesmerized, let Mohini distribute the ‘Amrit’. Vishnu’s plan worked and he started distributing the nectar among Devtas. The Devtas smiled as each one of them sipped immortality.

Get your way: As soon as the objective was achieved, the relationship of convenience ended. By all means, each wanted the other side to be deprived of the final reward which was a result of a joint effort. The Asuras could have controlled the universe had good sense prevailed. And when push came to shove the Devtas, with the help of Vishnu, didn’t shy away from deploying deceit. Immortality was too good to share.

Sensing something fishy, an Asura called Rahu disguised himself as a Devta, queued up and ended up gulping a sip of the nectar. Two Devtas, Surya, the Sun & Chandra, the Moon identified Rahu and informed Mohini. That’s when Vishnu reverts to his original form and chops off Rahu’s head using his powerful discus. Rahu, now immortal, stayed alive and cursed the Devtas for playing foul. To pacify him, Vishnu granted him a place in the solar system. Rahu vowed to ensure Surya & Chandra lose their luminous nature from time to time. An eclipse is what we know this occurrence as.

Bear collateral damage: The Devtas did not come out of the churn scot-free. Though all of them sipped the nectar, became immortal and achieved the overarching objective of controlling the universe, they did end up having an Asura join their league. That’s not all. Though only occasionally, the two Devtas who blew the whistle then, are paying the price for the same till date.

–X–

I am sure you agree that ‘Samudra Manthan’ not just gave Devtas immortality but also left us some lessons to learn from in-terms of navigating towards our own objectives. I hope this piece inspires you to churn your ocean!