Everything happens for a reason – Part 1

Most of my mythological posts invariably have a comment where one of the readers tries to ‘rationalize’ parts of the story or the whole story based on their interpretation of the events from a contemporary perspective. For example, any post or story involving the infamous ‘Game of Dice’ episode and Draupadi instigates a discussion about whether Yudhishtira was right and correct in placing Draupadi as wager on the game and whether it was right for him to do so after he had lost his own freedom in the game. Another oft repeated question is whether Rama was right in making Sita go through the ‘ordeal by fire’, the agni-pariksha at all.

While there are no easy and unambiguous answers to questions such as the ones above, which deal with moral dilemmas, I have a simple thumb rule when I respond to such queries. One, do not judge characters, their choices, their decisions keeping our ‘contemporary world view’ as the yardstick. The world in which these characters lived, the age in which their stories took place, the circumstances they found themselves in when these incidents occurred, were all completely different and none of us should even pretend to understand the justifications behind their actions.

Two, and this probably is the most sagely advice that I have ever received when I used to pose such questions was “everything happens for a reason.” When I was younger, I used to think that this particular answer was escapist at best and the person who gave that answer didn’t really have the answer himself and he hid behind this statement as a reason. However, as I read more and more of these great texts and stories, I have begun to realize that all of them are one giant jigsaw puzzle as Dr Devdutt Pattanaik quotes. Each of these stories, characters, events are all part of one giant mosaic which forms the fabric of Indic thought (the word ‘Indic’ is purposely used to broaden the ambit beyond specific religions, once again a contribution from the Doctor).

Let me narrate a story to prove the statement I made earlier – everything happens for a reason.


Arjuna’s grandson and Abhimanyu’s son Parikshit was out hunting when he experienced great thirst. He reached the hermitage of a holy man who was in deep penance. When he asked the holy man for water to quench his thirst, his requests were not heeded to as the holy man remained in his meditative state. Annoyed at being ignored, Parikshit picked up a dead snake which was nearby and placed it on the sage’s neck. One of the sage’s disciples who saw this from afar was so enraged with the king’s action and cursed him that he would die of snakebite within the next seven days.


Realizing that he had committed a grave mistake, Parikshit begged for the sage’s forgiveness and requested that he be excused from the curse. However, as things stood, the curse could not be withdrawn and he was destined to die within seven days from this event.

He immediately ran back to his capital city and locked himself up in a high tower. He ordered his guards to keep a watch out for any snakes and serpents within the kingdom and kill them immediately. He refused to allow anybody to visit him in the tower and only allowed servants to serve him food and drink. He however, did not share details of the rationale behind these actions of his with anybody.

Thus, he managed to stay alive for six days and nights. However, on the seventh day, when he bit into a fruit, hidden within it was a worm. And the worm on being freed from the fruit, transformed into a serpent, Takshaka, the Naga.

Before Parikshit could even get over his shock of seeing Takshaka and react, the serpent sank his deadly fangs into him and spread his venom killing the king.

<< PART 2 >>

13 thoughts on “Everything happens for a reason – Part 1

  1. Interesting. The one caveat I will put to ‘Everything happens for a reason’ is the phrase: ‘in hindsight.’ Though all evidence suggests that the universe is not deterministic, hindsight makes us believe that everything happened for a reason, because we know the consequences and how they shaped our characters, our lives etc.

    So while nothing ever happens for a reason in the forward passage of time, everything happens for a reason in our memories.

    • @Sharath, quite interesting that you put it that way 🙂 The key here is ‘faith’ isn’t it, the faith that we believe that everything happens for a reason and we tend to rationalize past events with what is currently happening in our lives.

  2. I agree. Everything does happen for a reason. It’s always better to be patient when things are “happening”!
    And this story is a new one for me! I can’t believe I haven’t heard it before!! But, then that’s the Mahabharatha for you.. 🙂

    Looking forward to Part 2

    • @pixie, Part 2, the concluding part will be put up tomorrow and will provide justification for “everything happens for a reason” 🙂 And believe me when I say this, there are just way too many of these small stories from the Mahabharata which a lot of people have not heard about.

  3. Everything does happen for a reason but as Sharath pointed out we usually realize that only in hindsight. I’ll add further on here that ideally we should learn from that experience and whenever something happens/is to happen we should adapt early on and accept that whatever is happening is for a reason 🙂

    • @Seeta, am sure after reading Part 2 which will be published tomorrow, you will agree that at least as far as mythological stories go, everything does happen for a reason 🙂

  4. Faith, hope, trust, belief — what word do we use. There are times when I wonder if a higher power truly exists. If God existed would wars take place, would innocent children die malnourished, would women be raped, violated, strangled and hung from trees? Would people kill themselves and others in the name of God and religion? I don’t know? I am not an atheist, brought up in an intensely orthodox tradition, I mechanically perform rituals and ceremonies, but do I find an inner connect then? No! I see the Lord in the smile of the baby on the train in the comfort of its parents. The puppy that wags its tail when it sees me on the street, the old lady who sells flowers outside the temple.

    I don’t know why I have to bear the burden of the sins of my forefathers!

    Perhaps the most logical thing would be to stop searching for logic and reasoning in the things that happen and ‘just let it be’.

    Sorry, for a long meandering pointless comment! 🙂

    • @mramani, you remind me of a younger me 🙂 So, no, this was not a long meandering pointless comment at all, if anything, it was more of me looking into a mirror and finding a younger me talking, that’s all 🙂

      Trust me when I say this, one pivotal event or a few pivotal events are waiting to happen in your life which will surely force you to develop faith in a higher power (God, fate, destiny, call it what you want). And it is only after this event or events that you will realize that ‘everything happens for a reason’ and it is only in hindsight you will realize that.

      Until then, keep walking, just like the man in the Johnnie Walker ads 😀

  5. I have started seeing faintly that everything happens for a reason ( admittedly , I am getting old) . Not only this ,I would like to go beyond this and say that everyone has a purpose (many purposes)in life which they are most often not aware of but , their mere presence serves a huge purpose at some point of time in other’s life/lives.
    Its not for the individual to know many a times , and even for others who are either too preoccupied with their lives or careworn in their lives would know that somebody else served a great purpose by being there.
    As Krishna told Karna in reply to his query ,as to why was he to be swept away from his natural parent and siblings , that everything happens for a reason and God knows the reason , only with time occasionally that reason reveals itself and in your case , you were supposed to be giving away your life to save Arjuna’s life . Since Karna is believed to have promised Kunti that no matter what her five sons would be alive and one of them would either be Arjuna or Karna.

    • @Kirti, haven’t heard this story of Karna’s before, but yes, it makes sense in the overall context that this post was trying to set.

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