The Underdogs of Epics


The two epics of India and Hinduism especially, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, have been point of my study recently. They are considered to be holy books by many and lot of stories have been a part of the religious beliefs. There are a lot of important learning from both the Epics and the understanding increases when both of them are read in parallel. However today I am not going to talk about the Heroes or any stories in the Epics. I am going to take a upside down view, pick few of the underdogs and discuss about them.

The Epics are very long and each one has a part in the story, a previous life and an after life. Lot of stories are inter-tangled and lot of connections between the events. But there are a few who get mentioned here and there. That is all that we get to know about them. There isn’t detailed explanation about their life, events or characteristics. May be I didn’t dwell deeper into either of them yet, however naturally my understanding is that every other kid in India knows on a higher level about the Epics and they can explain almost clearly the events that happen and the Heroes involved.

So given that I have never heard much of the following characters in the Epics and hence I call them UnderDogs. I don’t mean to de-signify their importance or intend to say that they didn’t do anything, probably you can add to my knowledge by commenting on your information about them. I just feel like talking about them and see what is the reason behind it. Here are those in no special order –

Bharat – The brother of Ram, the Hero of Epic Ramayana, named after him. Bharat is the key to the entire episode, where his mother feels insecure about the position of her son in the kingdom, after being influenced by Manthara. So she asks King Dashrath to send Ram to exile and make Bharat the king. Bharat rules the kingdom in the absence of his brother, however he is devoted to Ram as much as Laxman. He uses footwear of Ram on his throne, as symbol of Ram’s presence. Bharat comes to give Ram the control of kingdom. But I don’t know of any other mention of Bharat in the entire epic, about the wars he fought or any other events that is spoken of him. During 13 years of Ram’s exile and what does he do. I understand it is Ramayana the story of Ram, but hey what does Bharat do ?

Shatrughna – A lot of people even fail to recover his name properly and mix him to be a Pandav or from Mahabharat. Sad ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Anyway so I know he is the less spoken brother of Ram. I don’t remember what his skill set is and what is his character. Does he do anything in the entire course of Ram’s exile or after the return. What is he doing in the entire life ? Please feel free to share your views and knowledge.

Nakul & Sahadev – Well since they are often spoken of together, I will keep them together as well. They are 2 of the 5 Pandavas, sons of King Pandav and his wife Madri. There might be mention about their skills once in a while. But what they do during childhood, during the adolescent, during the schooling, during the game of dice, during the exile, epic Mahabharata war, after the war anything ? Am I being very abrupt here ! I don’t know. I believe as much as the information flows about Arjun, Bhima and even Yudhistira, I don’t see enough events or information associated with Nakul & Sahadev. Again feel free to share your views and inputs in comment.

Were they of less significant in the entire story or was it really so uneventful I am not sure. I believe the scholars who composed the Epic, didn’t want to make it big, but hey it is already so big. What does it mean of having them less spoken of ? Were they not at par with the other brothers ? As always I will be revisiting these episodes and the people mentioned above over and over again in various phase of my life and try to see what sense does it make to me. What do you feel !

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21 thoughts on “The Underdogs of Epics

  1. Bharat and Shatrughna though were mentioned rarely in Ramayana, doesn’t mean they didn’t do anything. This story revolves around Ram and how he killed Ravana. So story of Bharat and shatrughna doesn’t coincide with this circle. They may have their own circles. Nakul and Sahadev were never less focused. They were always there in the story. Just because Arjun, Bheem and Yudhistir are mentioned more, Nakul and Sahadev plays their roles. They were Ashwini putras and they can heal. They healed their Elder brother Karna. Even they use weapons in the war and Sahadev was an astrologer too, Nakul too at some extent predict future. Just because they had a life threat if they revealed the future, they didn’t reveal it to others. Sahadev even killed Shakuni.

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  2. Being a avid reader of Ramcharitrya Manas (Indie version of Ramanyana by TulsiDas) since I was 8. ( I have been reading it daily-6pgs) And started on Mahabharata since last month I find myself enough eligible to answer this. Bharata is supreme cause of exile, thus making him centre of all causes though he remains in the background. The whole point is, be it the greatest of epics or a Dan Brown novel not EVERY character be made heroes and villeans. MOST of them are bound to remain in background and assist the leading characters better acknowledge their position.

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    • OK, I read the entire conversation. I wanted to reply to each comment separately, but someone of the comments donโ€™t show the reply option. So I will take up everything in this comment itself.
      โ€“ Point 1 : Male dominant society and shit. I refuse to accept. The thing is you are just being hyper. One, because you are a girl, as you said yourself. Two, one of you had a bad experience. Whatever that was during that age, is not proved. It is just a story, someone wrote in a PoV and it was necessary at that point so the next generation learns something from it. It was not for us, but it was for the time that followed it. The objective of the entire Ramayana was projected in a way, where everything Ram does is a learning for the reader. He had to go through turmoil and disturbance all is life and Sita being together with him had to face the same. Ram was shown calm and very placid. It is the learning from that you need to take. The story doesnโ€™t say take your wife to jungle nor does it say leave your wife for 14 years without giving her an option. It just narrates what happen. Now it is on us how we make out from the events narrated.
      We can twist and swirl the Point of Observation and PoV, we can see from the Sitaโ€™s View or Ramโ€™s View or Laxmanโ€™s view. We get to learn different things. You both have been really good to suggest your views and the objective of my blog is successful for you both showing interest and different PoV. This is what we, the Gen Present, need to do. We need to learn from the past, use our wit of the present and have a vision for the future, our actions and our thoughts, will define what kind of world we build. If you take everything to be polar, we donโ€™t land in a good place. Check the 3 short stories https://goo.gl/ifOiRY
      I donโ€™t understand why donโ€™t any woman teach her son to treat his wife and her family good ?
      After all the one who shapes the world is the Woman โ€“ A mother. She is the first teacher.
      There are lot of us who are cool. Who agree to the things the way they are and we want to change things. Thatโ€™s good. But our actions will define what happens in the immediate future and after that.
      We should stop being POLAR ๐Ÿ˜› We here is โ€œWe as the entire youthโ€
      Well even my thoughts got twisted while commenting. Thoughts running very fast than what I can type ๐Ÿ˜‰
      I hope it makes sense to you guys.
      All your comments I can understand and agree to what you say ๐Ÿ™‚
      Thanks for taking time and sharing your views. Cheers.

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  3. Hey. In my elective, I had this analysis of Ramayana from Sita’s PoV which we completed a couple of weeks ago. There was this mention of how Laxman wasn’t really that great a man, nor a great husband, because he left his wife behind without a fight when he went with Ram for the exile. Now, I get it. He might have thought that that was for the best, leaving her to live in comfort and shit. But honestly. Leaving your wife behind for 14 freaking years? Just like that? And when you don’t even give her an option to come with, or stay?I don’t see how that’s being the great guy that he was. He was an awesome brother,no doubt. But not that great of a husband. But still he holds that special place because he was so close to the “protagonist” of the story.
    What I am trying to say here is, I had never even thought of this angle. And I never would have,had I not read that analysis of that particular script. But since it talks about Sita, and hence people who might have related to her situation, that is,the females, we see their problems which we might have never realised otherwise.
    Leave Laxman. You know what? The role Ram plays in that particular script is no more than that of Bharat’s. He’s the husband, and nothing more. Just like Bharat is the brother. Yeah, he fought a war. Yeah, he was the Prince. And yeah, he was THE husband. But that’s all he is in Sita’s Ramayana. So,yeah. It all depends on the presence of the character, their importance and the PoV of the narrators, I think.
    I don’t know if what I am trying to say is what I have written here. But anyway.

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    • Laxman left his wife so because he cared for her patents more. And in no way I would consider that wrong as that exactly defines the miserable state women were during that era. Somebody had to be made imperfect so that hero stands perfect. Laxman was also very arrogant but mind, his arrogance is rightly justified by modern day ‘male dominated’ people. Ah! Having written this comment I realise I myself am not able to decipher what have I written! Hope you can. Apologies and regards.:)

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      • Yeah? Well he should have cared for her more. I mean, that’s the whole point. No choice,no decision making power, no option,nothing.:/
        And I would fault him just the same. I never had before I read that particular analysis,as I mentioned. But now that the cat’s out of the bag, I can’t undo it. I just can’t.
        And that’s what I was trying to speak about when Bhanu raised the question in the piece. Somebody or the other is imperfect, depending on who the story is focused on. Like, in Sita’s Ramayana, Ram is shown with faults all through:How he never spoke up, how he let others decide how to treat his own wife(Laxman can be held guilty of the same), how he betrays her trust, how he lets her go, and what not. So, how one’s character is portrayed depends on the relationship he has with the main character and how they affected the protagonist in the span of the story, I think.
        Also, male domination=jerks all around. I don’t see how this particular way of behaving can be justified even today,or how it was justified back then. :/
        And I guess, that’s how it goes. I started with the question raised and it’s, in a way, taken a turn towards equality and shit. So, there’s that.:P
        Thank you so much for responding.:)

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      • Here’s the thing. Laxman’s wife vouched to stay back which shows her pati-vrata. Trust me, living with a father for 17 yrs who doesn’t care anything about my mother’s (or anyone else’s) feeling , I know male dominance sucks. Laxman preferred Brotherhood over wifehood(I hope there is a word like this). I don’t know why, but he did. He thought if all went to Van, there would be no one for his parents. That’s why he thought its better to leave his 15yr old wife in the palace. I totally agree with you calling Male dominance jerk. By justification I meant ‘that’s how things are’. I am not the one responsible for how it is but i surely would love to be responsible for a change from typical male dominance to equality. That’s it. Regards.

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      • I am really sorry to hear that.
        And yeah, I kinda get it. It has become a way of life, men establishing their domination and women listening to them. But it’s wrong,all the same.:/
        And I am glad to see a guy ready to take responsibility for something like equality and parity. It’s required. It’s needed. โœŒ

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      • Actually, you know me beforehand ( I hope you remember!). I blog at iammukund.WordPress.com. I don’t know why some other blog is linked with my profile.

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      • I do remember. But whenever I have tried going to your blog, it doesn’t work. I tried now,too. But nothing.-.-
        Also, my WP’s messed up as it is. So, I assumed it had something to do with the issue with my site only. But I guess it’s not, for once.:|
        You write some pretty awesome stuff. I guess, I reblogged a couple of your articles,too. What I am trying to say is,I remember. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • Lol! Its good someone does. Mine wp is also messed up. I will correct mine after exams. You can try the website: iam….com. Anyway, I love your blog too.

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  4. I am not well versed with Ramayana as much as the Mahabharata… But Nakul and Sahadev have been glorified in the epics. One of them was a renowned Astrologer who did predict the outcome of events to his brother and the other one was a skilled swordsmen.. They do have their places but maybe it wasn’t much of a significance compared to the original storylines!

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  5. Well written. Yes, the role of Bharat and Shatrughan combined was mainly to administer Ayodha like Vice presidents and a few wars here and there. I don’t know how good administrators they were but they certainly failed to uplift the narrow mindedness of the ayodhyans, as a result of which Sita had to leave her family and live in forests. They were good fighters but the moral of the epic was that we should not just fight our enemies but also our people if they are wrong. None of the four brothers took on the ayodhyans. People remember events. People write about events. No one would write about Shatrughan that he was a good horse rider unless he used that skill in a crucial event. Ramayana mentions him in a few wars. Ramayana mentiones about Bharat when he went to meet Ram coz that was an event worth mentioning. On the contrary, Ram had a very eventful life. He didn’t do arrange marriage like many others. Instead he won a competition to marry Sita. He fought numerous wars and won many fans all around.

    Nakul and Sahdev are talked a lot of times. Vyas mentions about their birth, their powers, that Nakul had looks and Sahdev had grace, that they were good doctors and swordsmen. The epic mentions their role in the war as well as during the exile. The point however is that they did not capitalise on the opportunities they had to become heroes. They were just too obedient and well mannered to speak when mattered. Why wouldn’t the author write less about them?

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  6. Nice questions. I also don’t have that detailed knowledge on the Epics ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I would like to make comparisons between Ramayana, the book and a random movie. It is obvious that a book or movie or story has a protagonist. Ram was the same. He was the Hero. And then in any movie, we have characters like hero’s elder brother, hero’s best friend, hero’s cousin. We don’t learn about the life of people related to the central character. I think, similarly with Bharat/Nakul/Sahadev. We know as much we need to know and as much that was important to be told. It doesn’t mean that they didn’t do anything specific during their lifetime. It’s just that their story was NOT THAT IMPORTANT to the bigger picture. But their characters were important and hence they were there and we know something about them. Bhanu, nice thoughts ๐Ÿ˜‰

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