Every one has read The Mahabharat or at least have heard the stories from the great epic or thanks to B.R. Chopra seen it in DD. The story deals with the very virtuous Pandavas being oppressed by their wicked and villainous cousins the Kauravas and how the good overcomes evil at the end.
But are the Kauravas really the villainous people they have been depicted as, or the pandavas as pious or virtuous?
Duriyodhana, the eldest Kaurava, was considered the most wicked of the lot. The same Duriyodhana, who befriended, the then low class, Karna and made him king of Anga. It could be argued that he was friendly with Karna only for defeating Arjun. Maybe that was how it started, but there is a sequence in the story where Karna and Duriyodhana’s wife Banumathi are playing chess and Duriyodhana enters the room and Banumati stands up in haste at his sight, Karna whose is back towards him catches her and the ornamental belt around her waist breaks. Any ordinary husband would have been immediately suspicious, but all Duriyodhana asks them is, if he should just collect all the pearls or string them for her also.
And we all know the kind of loyalty given to him by Karna. Can a villainous creature like Duriyodhana really inspire this depth of feeling from an indubitably virtuous person like Karna, or find in himself such trust towards his wife and friend.
One could wonder of course if the Kauravas were such nice people, why would they try to kill their cousins. I don’t doubt for a minute that anyone in the Kauravas place would have done the same thing.
From the time of their birth, they are brought up with the belief that they would be the next rulers. Then in their teens, they are told that their cousins who had been in exile, would be joining them and they would probably be the next rulers, and to add insult to injury, the new cousins are hailed as the next best thing since sliced bread. Where the kauravas were once the favorites of their teachers, they are now ignored for the new cousins and constantly compared with them.
When parents have a second child, the first kid becomes naturally jealous and feels threatened and the parents are counselled to make the first child understand that the presence of a second child will not be a threat to the affection it gets from them. When this is true of children of the same parents, I cannot even gauge the amount of bafflement, resentment and inferiority complex that would have been felt by the kauravas.
Also, as we read about their childhood, we find that every time Bhim or one of the pandavas play a prank on the kauravas, it was laughed away as a childish prank and if the kauravas retaliated, they were punished and called wicked.
And to boot, they had a father who could never show them the right path and was blinded by not only by birth but also by his greed and an uncle who was always ready to steer them on the wrong path.
Seriously, can we blame the Kauravas for being what they were? They were just normal people, whose childish resentment and inferiority complex was left to fester to their adulthood and had no means to let it out but to fight their “so-called” perfect cousins.
Talking of the Kuruksethra war, it can be noticed, not even one of the kaurava warrior was killed in fair war. Karna was killed when he was repairing his chariot. Duriyodhna was killed by being hit in his thighs, when it was considered bad sport to hit below the belt, Drona was beheaded when he was meditating, after hearing the death of his son, which was a lie perpetuated by the oh so pious and virtuous Dharma and Bhishma was shot dead by a eunuch, coz he refused to fight against one, and put down his arms.
The Mahabarat is not really a story of good overcoming evil. It is a lovely epic and it talks about people, just normal people, with complexes and greed and emotions just like anyone. No one is either fully good or evil. It is a story that talks about life in its entirety. Life is grey, there is no black or white in it.