Karunya Rasa – Chitrasena and Duryodhana

Image courtesy : Wikipedia
Image courtesy : Wikipedia

Read this post about an introduction to the Rasas.

Read this post for the shringara rasa referred to in the Mahabharata – Ganga and her love

Read this post for the hasya rasa referred to in the Mahabharata – Draupadi and her laughter

Read this post for the raudra rasa referred to in the Mahabharata – Amba and her anger


When the Pandavas were in exile, Yudhisthira was performing the Rajarsi sacrifice with the help of some learned Brahmins on the shore of a lake in Dwaitavana. Duryodhana who happened to be passing by suddenly noticed the Pandavas on the lake shore and egged on by Karna decided to put on a show of his opulence and wealth to make the Pandavas jealous. He instructed his men to construct pleasure houses on the opposite shore of the lake. However, his men were prevented from doing so by a Gandharva king, Chitrasena who claimed the lake and its surrounding areas to be his.

Enraged by this interruption of his plans, Duryodhana attacked the Gandharva army with his own and suffered a humiliating defeat despite fighting valiantly and valorously. Duryodhana, his brothers and Karna were then taken prisoner by Chitrasena. Some of the soldiers who had escaped the Gandharva army fled to the other side of the lake and narrated what had happened to Yudhisthira and his brothers.

Upon hearing this, Arjuna and Bhima started laughing at the plight of their Kaurava cousins. Both of them were happy that their duties had become that much easier with Duryodhana and his brothers out of the way. In their opinion, Duryodhana got what he deserved as he surely had camped on the opposite side of the lake with evil intentions only.

To this, Yudhisthira intervened and told them that this was not the time for cruelty. He stated that it was the duty of family members to protect and uphold the honor and dignity of the family name. Despite the fact that the Kaurava cousins had treated him and his brothers shabbily, the fact remained that it was a family dispute and should not be used as a reason not to help them when they were in need of assistance. After all, all of them were Kuru princes and they were duty bound to defend the honor of their family name.

Saying so, Yudhisthira instructed Arjuna to battle the Gandharvas and free the Kauravas. Since he himself was bound by the sacred vows that he had taken before starting the Rajarsi sacrifice, he could not go into battle himself, but he was compassionate enough towards the Kauravas to send his brother to do the job.

Arjuna accompanied by Bhima and the twins, then attacked the Gandharva army and after a fierce battle managed to defeat the Gandharvas and free the Kauravas.

Thus, Duryodhana who had come to Dwaitavana to humiliate the Pandavas with his show of opulence and wealth had to go back to Hastinapura after being humiliated himself.

This incident is a clear case of Yudhisthira displaying compassion and kindness towards his sworn enemies, the Kauravas and is an example of the karunya rasa referred to in the Mahabharata. Despite the fact that he was duty bound to defend his family name, Yudhisthira could have easily avoided the same on some pretext or the other, but the fact that he chose not to displays his commitment to his duty and his compassionate nature.

Raudra rasa – Amba and her anger


Read this post about an introduction to the Rasas.

Read this post for the shringara rasa referred to in the Mahabharata – Ganga and her love

Read this post for the hasya rasa referred to in the Mahabharata – Draupadi and her laughter


The King of Kashi had three daughters, Amba, Ambika and Ambalika. He organized a swayamvara (a ceremony where the bride could choose her own groom from a group of assembled suitors) for his daughters.

On hearing about the swayamvara, Bhishma decided to go there and participate so that he could win the princesses for his half brother Vichitravirya. On reaching the venue, he publicly announced that he had chosen the princesses for his brother and that anybody who had an issue with that would have to face him in battle. Among other kings, Salva, who loved Amba challenged him in battle. However, Bhishma proved to be too strong for all challengers, defeated all of them and rode away with all three princesses.

After reaching Hastinapur, Amba approached him and told him that she and Salva were in love with each other and that she would be unable to marry Vichitravirya. She also told him as to how Salva was present at the swayamvara so that she could choose him as per the traditional custom and get married to him. Understanding her predicament and agreeing with her logic, Bhishma allowed Amba to go to Salva so that she could marry him. The other two sisters, Ambika and Ambalika however were married to Vichitravirya.

However when Amba reached Salva’s palace, he refused to marry her. His kshatriya ego was hurt as she was rightfully won in battle by Bhishma and now belonged to him. He refused to accept a woman who was another’s property. In fact, he went far enough to accuse Amba of happily leaving with her captor without feeling any remorse for his love. When Amba rebuked him and tried to convince him of her true love for him, he accused her of infidelity and rejected her outright.

Amba then had no choice but to go back to Hastinapur. Here, she was rejected by Vichitravirya who stated that he would not marry a woman whose heart belonged to somebody else. When Amba asked Bhishma to marry her, he reminded her of his vow to remain celibate forever. And thus, she was left alone and unwed without finding any suitable grooms.

Amba squarely placed the blame for her plight on Bhishma and swore to destroy him. She approached Parasurama and narrated her tale. She then requested him to defeat Bhishma and kill him in battle. Despite his valiant efforts, Parasurama failed in this endeavor of his.

As a last resort, Amba performed severe austerities and prayed to Lord Shiva, and when the Lord appeared before her, she asked for a boon – “Make me the cause of his death”. The Lord granted her wish, but on the condition that it would be so only in her next life.

To hasten her wish to come true, Amba then jumped into a funeral pyre to end this life of hers and soon be reborn in her next life to fulfill her destiny. She was then reborn as Shikhandi to King Drupada of Panchala who would ultimately be the cause of Bhishma’s death.

Thus, Amba’s raudram (anger, fury) towards Bhishma would end up being the principal cause of his death, despite the fact that he was granted a boon where his death would be of a time of his own choosing.

Image Courtesy: Devdutt Pattanaik’s illustration of Shikhandi and Arjuna in the battle

Hasya Rasa – Draupadi and her laughter


Read this post about an introduction to the Rasas.

Read this post for the shringara rasa referred to in the Mahabharata – Ganga and her love


While it is a well known and accepted fact that Duryodhana was envious and jealous of his Pandava cousins, their exploits, their popularity and their general good fortune in life, there were a couple of reasons that he harbored a special deep rooted hatred and anger towards Draupadi, the wife of the Pandava brothers.

Once when Yudhishtira performed the Rajasooya yagna to proclaim himself the lord of all kings, he invited his Kaurava cousins to witness the yagna. Although Duryodhana had no real interest in the yagna itself, he wanted to see Indraprastha, the swanking new capital city of the Pandavas which had been built by the legendary architect of the Asuras, Maya himself. He had heard so much about the wonderous city and its various attractions that he wanted to experience it for himself.

Once he was there he was completely spell bound by the various illusions that Maya had created in the city. In fact Maya had built in so many illusions in the palace that he ended up being completely befuddled by them. When he was walking in the palace, he came across a room with an extremely shiny floor. Mistaking it for a pool of water, he drew up his clothes to ensure that they didn’t get wet, but it turned out to be solid marble and he felt extremely foolish at his actions.

Another time, he mistook an actual pool of water for solid marble, based on his earlier experience and ended up falling into the pool with all his clothes on. These incidents drew peals of laughter from his arch-nemesis Bheema and his wife Draupadi, who laughed the loudest.

As if this were not enough, Duryodhana walked into a wall which looked like a real door and hurt his head. More than his head, his ego was well and truly hurt when Draupadi supposedly commented “Trust the son of a blind man to be blind himself!

Draupadi’s laughter, her hasya, angered Duryodhana so much that he resolved to destroy the Pandavas and take away everything they ever owned. And thus the seeds of conflict were sown in his mind.


Image courtesy ; kidsgen.com

Shringara Rasa – Ganga and her love


Read this post about an introduction to the Rasas.


While most of us associate the beginning of the Mahabharata with Santanu falling in love with Ganga (I blame BR Chopra and his wonderful TV Serial of the 1980s for that), the story actually begins a lot earlier than Santanu himself.

This post shall talk about Pratipa, Santanu’s father and how the rasa of shringaram (love, attractiveness) played a part in his story.

The king Pratipa was a wise and benevolent ruled and was loved by one and all. He spent many years in asetic penance on the banks of the river Ganga. One fine day, Ganga, assuming the form of a beautiful woman rose from the waters and sat on Pratipa’s right thigh.

Upon being disturbed from his penance, Pratipa asked her what she desired to which Ganga replied that she had fallen in love with the handsome countenance of Pratipa and wanted to marry him. Pratipa responded to Ganga’s proposal by gently refusing her offer and stating that while he appreciated her beauty, it was beyond him to agree to her offer.

When Ganga asked to know the reason why, he replied stating that he had taken a vow of abstinence and that he would be committing a sin by breaking the same. He further went on to state that she had chosen his right thigh and that the right thigh was reserved as a seat only for daughters and daughters-in-law. It was only the left thigh that was reserved for wives.

Hearing this, Ganga replied stating that it would be her honor to be the wife of Pratipa’s son as being a wife of somebody from the Bharata race was an honor in itself. She also stated that after becoming his daughter-in-law, her actions could not be judged for propriety by her son and that he would attain heaven as a consequence of the sons that she would bear him, and due to his actions and conduct.

Thus, the attraction that  Ganga had for Pratipa was one of the reasons that she would go on to marry Santanu in the future which most popular versions of the Mahabharata begin with.

Image courtesy : Devdutt Pattanaik’s illustration of Ganga

Navarasas in the Mahabharata


The following is how Wikipedia [Link to article] defines a Rasa.

“A rasa (Sanskrit: ‘juice’ or ‘essence’) denotes an essential mental state and is the dominant emotional theme of a work of art or the primary feeling that is evoked in the person that views, reads or hears such a work. Although the concept of rasa is fundamental to many forms of Indian art including dance, music, musical theatre, cinema and literature, the treatment, interpretation, usage and actual performance of a particular rasa differs greatly between different styles and schools of abhinaya, and the huge regional differences even within one style.”

Regular readers of my blog would know my fascination with Indian mythology and more specifically the Ramayana and the Mahabharata (not necessarily in that order). The next series of posts will be an attempt by me to identify some incidents and characters in the Mahabharata where the various ‘rasas’ can be correlated to. This series will be approximately 9 posts long given that there are ‘navarasas’ most popularly alluded in most Indian dance forms.

The following shall be the various rasas for which I will try to find correlations within the Mahabharata in the next few posts. Read, enjoy and comment on the posts.

Another interesting feature will be that I will be trying to use Devdutt Pattanaik’s illustrations as the images for the posts so that readers can have the added bonus of enjoying the lovely illustrations along with the posts themselves.

  1. Shringaram – love, attractiveness,
  2. Hasyam – laughter, mirth, comedy
  3. Raudram – fury
  4. Karunyam – compassion, tragedy
  5. Bibhatsam – disgust, aversion
  6. Bhayanakam – horror, terror
  7. Veeram – heroism
  8. Adbutham – wonder, amazement
  9. Shantam – peace, tranquility
  10. Vatsalya – parental love
  11. Bhakti – spiritual devotion

Image courtesy : http://us.123rf.com/