Shastra Poojan

 

Tomorrow is Vijayadashami, [also called Dasara/ Dussehra]. Of the many legends associated wih this festival, the one about the Pandavas hiding their weapons in a hollow in the Shami tree, is one of my favourites.

In the Mahabharata, after Yudhisthira lost to Duryodhana in the game of Dice, the Pandavas had to spend twelve years in the forest [vanavas].  After that, they had to spend one year in agyatvas- disguised so that no one could recognise them.

They decided to spend this last year in the Matsya kingdom ruled by Virat. Before going there, the Pandavas hid their weapons in a hollow in a Shami tree.

As their year of  agyatvas drew to an end, the Kauravas attacked King Virat’s kingdom. They retrieved their weapoms from the Shami tree. Yudhisthira took his spear, Bhima his mace, and Arjuna his Gandiva bow. Nakula and Sahadeva brought out their swords. They then ceremoniously worshipped the weapons.

The Pandavas revealed their true identities, and defeated the attacking Kauravas.

It was on the auspicious day of Vijayadashami, or Dasara, that the Pandavas took out their weapons from the hollow in the Shami tree.

And this is how the tradition started, of Shastra-Poojan [शस्त्र-पूजन]- worshipping weapons-  on the occasion of Vijayadashami. 

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Thousands of years have gone by since the time the events of the Mahabharata took place. But have things really changed that much?

The Kings and kingdoms of the past have given way to Democracy and the rule of the people.  The education system has changed. Technologies have changed.

However, the struggle for supremacy between good and evil, that is still going on.

Instead of the cruel Kauravas, we have Corruption and Crime. We have politicians who often misuse the power that they have. We have Bureaucrats who, instead of facilitating socially beneficial projects, hinder them.

We frequently face discrimination. We fear for the safety of our children. We fear unemployment, insecurity, and senseless violence. Crimes against women are on the rise. The politically connected tend to feel that they are above the law.

A sense of hopelessness is increasing. The rising number of suicides is an indication of this.

And therefore the need for weapons is still there. But since the threats have evolved, so must our weapons. Swords and bows and arrows are not the weapons we need today.

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Information is one of the most effective weapons at our disposal today.

Just a few decades ago we were dependent on newspapers for information. The government could effectively control what information reached the general public. Then television came and news channels brought more information into the homes of people. Visuals of events as they happened became available, though tv channels were prone to be biased in favour of certain political groups.

With the arrival of the internet, a startling transformation has taken place in the way we are able to obtain and share information. Social media has made it possible for us to find out the truth about events, as they happen, quite easily.

Those in power are very aware of this, and have tried from time to time to place curbs on Face-book, Twitter, and other forms of social media. The necessity to stop the spread of rumours is usually the reason officially given for this. However, it is evident that the authorities also want to stop the expression of views against those in power.

The Right to Information Act is also a powerful weapon.  The RTI legislation makes it possible to obtain access to certain governmental documents which would otherwise would not have been accessible to ordinary citizens.

RTI activists frequently face threats from big businesses.

In January, 2010, RTI activist Sunil Shetty was murdered for exposing a number of land-scans in the Talegaon, Lonavala, Maharashtra. And there have been many other attacks on RTI activists, with some activists sacrificing their lives.

Recently, RTI activist Ramesh Agrawal, made the startling disclosure that     Naveen Jindal had hired contract killers to murder him  ‘as he was proving to be too much of an impediment for the Jindal Steel and Power Ltd’s ambitious plans in Raigarh’.

A few days ago, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh voiced his concern that vexatious appeals should not invade privacy and hamper the working of a government. This has been seen by some activists as a suggestion that the RTI provisions may be diluted.

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Armed with such tools, it may be possible to effect change in the discouraging situation around us today. This may happen in the near future. But it is more likely that change will take place slowly, over many years.

So in the meantime, how can we prepare today’s children to meet the challenges they will surely have to face in this Kaliyug?

The only way is by instilling in them those values  that are needed to sustain human society.  Courage in adverse situations, a sense of justice, truthfulness, mercy, faith, empathy – these are values which will help today’s children to hold their own in any adverse situations.

We need to make children realize that they need to take responsibility for their actions. Armed with these values, today’s children will be able to defend themselves against modern Kauravas.
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After the great Mahabharata war was ended,  Kaliyug commenced. Krishna left this world. The Pandavas decided to start their last journey to the Himalayas. As the climbed, one by one, Arjuna, Bhima, Nakula, Sahadev and Draupadi  fell by the way and died. Yudhisthira was the only one granted the privilege of  entering Heaven in his mortal form, without dying.

The others could not, because they had all committed some sins. None of them was perfect. Bhima was a glutton. Draupadi was vain. The rest also had some vices.

But they had fought the war on the side of Dharma, on the side of righteousness, and for the right reasons.

Whether they had made any mistakes or not- that was not important in their fight against evil. 

Whether they went to heaven in their mortal forms-  that was also not important.

What was important was that they fought  on the side of Dharma. They fought for the good of the people.

Similarly today we must also decide on which side we will fight.

We need not use physical weapons. Swords and bows and arrows are not for us. Our methods are different, our weapons are different. But it is still a struggle to ensure the triumph of good over evil.

We are none of us perfect. We all have flaws. We have all made mistakes at some time or the other. But that does not matter.

What matters is that we choose to fight to make our society a better place. For ourselves, and for our children.

The Pandavas made the right decision thousands of years ago. Now it is the time for us to do so.

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24 thoughts on “Shastra Poojan

  1. Without starting a controversy we can’t say the pandavas fought righteously.. there are a lot of examples and stories which if we read logically suggest the whole war was not fought righteously.. anyway I would not like to day any more since this is a religious matter and one should stay away from it..

    Happy dussehra mam to you and everyone around you.. I can’t wait for diwali .. I love fireworks and am looking forward to them..

    Before I leave I am sorry if I said anything wrong..

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    1. Of course you have not said anything wrong, Bikram! You may comment quite freely here. 🙂

      When you say that the Pandavas did not fight righteously do you mean that they used trickery sometimes, usually advised to do so by ShriKrishna? If you do mean that, it is usually explained by saying that the end justifies the means.

      If you are referring to something else, do mention it here. I have only moderate knowledge about the Mahabharata, but I will try to respond to your comment if I can.

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        1. Yes, I see your point. We are taught that Saadhanshuchita [purity of means] is important. Yet we condone the Pandavas using somewhat impure means.

          I can only suggest that this was an exceptional situation. Evil was present to such a degree in the form of Shakuni, Jayadrath, Shishupal and the Kauravas, that it was necessary to employ exceptional means to vanquish them. If that meant that the truth had to be bent a bit, then many may consider it to be justifiable.

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    1. Thank you!

      Warriors traditionally worship their weapons, but many artisans worship the tools of their trade. I have read that musicians worship their musical instruments. Yes, books are also worshipped.

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  2. That is a profound post come my way by Dussehra. Just as you say, the eternal conflict between the evil and the chaste continues. Only names have changed. We seem to have new weapons indeed. The Nuclear Bombs, the economic bombs, terrorism, and on a different scale, the RTI, prone to misuse jut as the weapons were in the mythical eras. And the so-called higher classes are the new pariahs who must be subdued at all costs. Of course we are the on right side, Manju. Or that is what we tend to believe.

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    1. Yes, that is a frightening reality- that the weapons we seek to use for good, are prone to misuse, too.

      As to being on the right side- I hope that most of us are. It is not an easy decision, though. There is much to be gained- at least it appears so- by being on the wrong side! 😦

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  3. As usual, an excellent post/..and what you have suggested for children is very true..I hope people do it..today we need to bring back ethics and morals in our life, thats the only way to change the scenario,,,

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  4. I am reading this story of Shastra poojan for the first time! Interesting!

    Bringing up children with morals and ethics should start from a very young age. Parents or elders should spend time with lot of patience with the children and interact them. The second step is good teachers and then good friends… Then the result will be visible in the adults. If nobody is there to heed and interact with children, the nature of the children will change and it will reflect in their life later. Have I done that, as a parent? I don’t know! Maybe to some extent at least!

    For the general scenario, we need a good, strong leader first…I don’t see any! How far Kejriwal will help this country to come out of the current deteriorating stage? Even Anna has gone to the backstage!

    Enjoyed reading your views, Manju!

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    1. There are so many stories about Dussehra! And it is celebrated in different ways in different parts of India

      Yes, we do need a strong leader. But at least people are more aware about corruption now. It will be interesting to see whether corruption becomes a big issue in the 2014 general elections.

      And thank you, Sandhya!

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  5. Very pertinent post, Manju.

    But the line between right & wrong/good & evil is very thin, that it is sometimes hardly discernible.That confuses us and we, ordinary citizens, keep on wavering. Today we hear someone is corrupt and in the long run we learn it was actually the other way around. (Something similar is happening in our place).
    The social media is too fast and enthusiastic that by the time the truth is revealed the damage would have already been inflicted.

    Still that should not prevent us from exploiting the infinite possibilities of this modern blessings.

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    1. Oh yes, social media is often too fast and enthusiastic. Information spreads widely, before it is verified.

      It can also be easy for people with an ‘agenda’ to ruin an innocent person’s reputation, online.

      We can but hope that we will learn to use this medium responsibly, and limit its misuse.

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  6. We worship tools along with musical instruments and books on Saraswati Pooja (Navami). This blog has so much info on our culture and myths that it is a veritable encyclopaedia of knowledge. Information indeed is the weapon of our times and like many weapons it is a double edged one. Look at the mess that so much information is creating and confusing the issues so well, so that people have even begun shutting it out. Unless we know how to control this weapon, it will only create more chaos.

    The one thing that we can do is like you have pointed out, teach our children the right values and the ability to sift the truth from a mass of lies. And how it is important to be true to one’s conscience as opposed to ‘arriving’ in the world. Loved the post, Manju!

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  7. Manju- I just saw your post by chance ( or was it really chance -I wonder) and it was really GOOD CHANCE!You have written an excellent blog post that is full of wisdom and truth.
    I also read some of the comments on the “means” used by the Pandavas which seem to some readers to be a bit questionable BUT we have to remember that when our fight is against ADHARMIS we have to use “appropriate weapons” for our protection and CAUSE OF DHARMA!
    When VEER CHATRAPATI SHIVAJI went to meet AFZAL KHAN he armed himself with SHERPANJA with which he killed the traitor.Had he gone “weapon less” SHIVAJI MAHARAJ would have been gored to death by that low traitor who “was actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing”!
    There is a saying in SAMSKRITAM-SHATHAATH PRATI SHAATHYAM- act according to the qualities of your adversary!The PANDAVS were correct in what they did!
    Your analogies of the past with the present state of affairs is superb!
    MAY WE SEE THE TRUTH AND MAY BHARAT ONCE AGAIN REGAIN HER HIDDEN AND LOST WISDOM!
    A VERY SHUBHA DEEPAVALI to all the readers!

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    1. Welcome to the blog, Vijaya! I’m so glad you liked this post. 🙂

      SHATHAATH PRATI SHAATHYAM‘ Yes, that is something that we should remember. If our adversary uses crooked means, then we can consider it justifiable to use crooked means ourselves.

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    1. Yes, I agree that it was very wrong of Yudhisthira to put his wife and brothers on bet- he had no right to do that. I have often wondered why he is considered to have done no wrong.

      But that is how the story goes…..

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