Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Mahabharata: The Birth of the Five Pandavas

The following is from a work-in-progress called The Mahabharata: a Book Report, in which I'm slowly reading through the Hindu epic poem The Mahabharata, and writing a book report on what I read.  

In my previous post, I described the strange birth of the 100 Kauravas, the main villains of the Mahabharata.  Now I'll tell you of the birth of their five cousins, the Pandavas (sons of Pandu), the main heroes of the Mahabharata.

One day, King Pandu was hunting in a forest when he killed a pair of deer as they were mating.  Unbeknownst to him, these deer were a great ascetic and his wife in animal form.  Before dying, the  ascetic cursed Pandu that, when he made love to his wife, they both would die.  Griefstricken, Pandu left his kingdom and decided to live in the forest as an ascetic.  To counteract Pandu's curse, his wife Kunti was given a boon (the opposite of a curse) that she would conceive sons by different gods.

And so Kunti first invoked the god Dharma to give her a child.  In due time, her firstborn Yudhisthira was born.  Then she invoked the god Vayu, and her son Bhima was born.  Bhima was super large and strong.  Then Kunti invoke the god Indra, and her noble son Arjuna (the mighty bowman) was born. Then Pandu's other wife Madri invoked two gods known as Asvins, and she gave birth to twin sons named Nakula and Sahadeva, who were very beautiful.  Thus were born the five Pandavas (sons of Pandu), each a partial incarnation of a god.

Here is a bas relief sculpture of the five Pandavas.  The woman in the right is Draupadi, one of their wives.

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