Friends are irreplaceable in everyone’s life. Good friends are loyal, dependable and are sure to leave their footprints in our hearts! The living distance between the true friends might grow, yet they never grow apart. Though life takes us places and separates us from our close ones, the memories made last a lifetime offering contentment.
There are morals in every chapter of our great epics and life lessons to learn from every character in them.
Mahabharat is one such revered epic, where the narration doesn’t follow the linear pattern like Ramayan. There are thousands of characters and thousands of interlinked stories of each characters, making the epic interesting. We get to learn something new everytime we read it or end up with a different perspective about a character and life, in general.
Three such short stories from Mahabharat, which has friendship as its core, give an interesting prospect on their bonds, how the status changes the dimensions of friendship in the course of time, how some friendships stand the test of times. Many of us would already be aware of these stories, for they ain’t anything new or unknown. But, I wanted to relate these stories on a common thread: friendship and offer my perception as well.
1. Sri Krishna and Sudhaama:
Sri Krishna and Sudhaama were friends from their ‘Gurukul’ days.
Gurukul is like a boarding school, where kids from all backgrounds stay together with their Gurus/ teachers and learn Vedas and Upanishads, archery and other fighting techniques, along with the life lessons. The Gurus are inturn offered ‘Guru Dhakshina’ (gift of gratitude) at the end of the Gurukul stay.
Sri Krishna didn’t have an early education, as he was the most pampered child in Gokul and his foster parents, Nandagopal and Yashoda were scared for his safety too. So, only when Krishna started staying in Mathura after killing the evil Kamsa, that he could take up his education. He and Balram, met Sudhaama in Guru Sandipaani’s ashram.
Though Krishna was the prince of Mathura and Sudhaama being a poor Brahmin kid, the status difference never came in their way of friendship. They were very close and shared things. But, once when their Gurukul time came to an end, they drifted apart without much communication. Krishna became busy managing the kingdom and doing his other adventures, Sudhaama went about following his ‘Dharma’ (duties).
Sudhaama was poor, yet he chose to live the path of righteousness. He took ‘Bhiksha’ (alms) from people by singing the praises of the Lord. Many days, his family would be without a proper meal, yet he shared a part of his Bhiksha with animals and the people in need. When his wife insisted him to take help from his childhood friend Krishna, Sudhaama didn’t want to take advantage of his friendship with Krishna and hence hesitated. However, when he had no other way, he decided to make a visit to Dwaraka (Krishna’s palace), carrying a small quantity of borrowed plain flattened rice in his dhothi (apparel). Flattened rice was Krishna’s favourite and the only thing that Sudhaama could afford.
With least expectations, when he reached Dwaraka, he was stopped by the palace guards, who were averse to his sorry state, never believed him to be their king’s friend. When Sudhaama insisted on making Krishna know his arrival, the guards let Krishna know about a man claiming to be his friend. As soon as he heard Sudhaama’s name and his arrival, Krishna out of overtly affection, ran to the palace gate to greet his friend. Krishna’s wives ran after him, soon the courtiers and guards ran after the king, overwhelmed by his enthusiasm and eagerness.
Krishna hugged Sudhaama and received him with kindness. His sorry state and torn clothes didn’t bother Krishna. He, along with his wives, Rukhmini, Sathyabaama and Jaambavathi hosted Sudhaama. Krishna even cleansed Sudhaama’s feet with water as a mark of respect (paadha pooja). When Sudhaama hesitantly offered the flattened rice, Krishna was visibly overwhelmed by his thoughtfulness and kindness, took the prasad happily.
Sudhaama completely forgot the reason for his arrival on seeing his long lost friend. Only when he neared his home, he remembered his wife’s wish, but it didn’t bother him as he was satisfied with the mere fact that he got to meet his friend. When he reached his place, he was shocked beyond words to see a palace instead of his run down hut. His wife and kids were unrecognizable wearing the precious apparels and jewellery.
Even though Sudhaama forgot to ask anything, Krishna offered more than what Sudhaama would have wished for! There is a lesson for us from this short story, other than the greatness of friendship. God knows what we deserve and he never hesitates to bless us with that, either we wish for it or not. So, offer prayers with no wish or expectations. Remember, our hands are smaller compared to his. So, what he decides to give us will always be more than what we could possibly ask for us.
Prayers should be our way of showing gratitude towards the Lord for what we have. It is indeed funny to see people make a deal with God stating that if he grants them something, then they would offer him something in return. That is pure ignorance.
2. Dhrona and Dhrupat:
Dhrona and Dhrupat’s story follow a similar pattern like Krishna and Sudhaama till halfway. Dhrona, who later became the teacher for Paandavaas and Kowravaas was a poor Brahmin boy and Dhrupat was the crown prince of the Paanchaala kingdom. They were inseparable during their Gurukul days. Once out, Dhrupat went on to become the king of Paanchaal and intended on expanding his regime. Dhrona married and had his son, Ashwathaama. Dhrona couldn’t afford nutritious food for his young son due to his poverty.
He remembered his good friend Dhrupat and decided to request the king for a cow so that he could feed milk to his son. When Dhrona reached the palace, he was stoped by the guards and Dhrona, confident about his friendship with Dhrupat, was sure that his friend would be pleased to meet him. When he reached the court, Dhrupat barely acknowledged him.
Even when Dhrona tried to remind him of their Gurukul days, Dhrupat failed to acknowledge, angering Dhrona. The king further shamed Dhrona stating that he would never be friends with a beggar and he could very well provide alms to Dhrona as a charity case and not as a friend.
Unable to digest the shame, Dhrona challenged Dhrupat that one of his disciples would surely defeat Dhrupat and then Dhrona would take what rightfully belonged to him. Dhrona trained Paandavaas and Kowravaas, as Guru Dhakshina, wanted Dhrupat’s defeat and crown. Paandavaas with Arjun leading them went on to defeat Dhrupat in the fight, regained the lost respect of their Guru, as Dhakshina.
Dhrona took half of Paanchal, crowned his son Ashwathaama as the king. He chose to forgive Dhrupat and gave back his other half of the kingdom. But, the story never ended here. In the Kurukshetra war, Dhrona and Dhrupat fought for the opposite sides – Dhrona for Kowravaas and Dhrupat for Paandavaas. In the ensuing war, Dhrona killed Dhrupat; Dhrupat’s son Dhrishtadyumna avenged his father’s shame and death by slyly killing Dhrona; Dhrona’s son Ashwathaama in turn killed Dhrishtadyumna in his sleep.
This story talks about a friendship gone sour and how friendship determined on the basis of status loses its value. Atlast, bitterness was the only remains of this once great friendship.
3. DHURYOTHANA AND KARNA:
The great warriors, Dhuryothana and Karna are as similar as chalk and cheese in their qualities. While Dhuryothana was arrogant and stubborn, Karna was accommodative and self-reliant. When Karna was shamed by everyone for his birth during the exhibition of knowledge and powers by the Paandavaas and Kowravaas after their Gurukul days, Dhuryothana didn’t hesitate to choose Karna over everyone else. He never had second thoughts before announcing Karna as the ruler of the Angadesh kingdom.
Karna, overwhelmed by Dhuryothana’s generosity decided to stick by his friendship with Dhuryothana for life. His loyalty never wavered even in the end when he got to know about his true identity of being the eldest of the Paandavaas.
Dhuryothana and Karna are examples of that kind of friendship which just offers and never expects anything in return; the kind of friendship that is bothered neither by someone’s stature nor by their weaknesses.
There is a sub story of Dhuryothana and Karna that explains how fiercely loyal they are to each other and how great their friendship is!
Once Karna was playing dice with Dhuryothana’s wife Bhanumathy, when Dhuryothana was out for his princely duties. Bhanumathy was about to lose her game and both were bickering about the game like siblings, somehow ended up sitting close to each other. When Dhuryothana entered the place, Bhanumathy stood up on seeing him as the mark of respect. Karna, thinking Bhanumathy to be a sore loser and was quitting the game, pulled her by her duppatta in the heat of the moment.
The pearl adorned clothing was torn with pearls scattering everywhere. Bhanumathy and Karna, who had then noticed his friend’s arrival stood shocked as they were scared of Dhuryothana’s reaction. Dhuryothana slowly strolled towards his wife and asked if he should just pick up the pearls or help her string it as well! Looking at his calm demeanor, both Banumathy and Karna were ashamed for doubting him and were equally relieved. Dhuryothana proved that he valued his friendship more than his life and would never doubt his friend!
Karna proved his loyalty by fighting for Dhuryothana till his death, even when he was sure about the outcome of the war. He never left his friend’s side for power and fame.
These are the three stories with three different dimensions of friendship in Mahabharat. The stories teach us how selfless, true friends are and how precious a bond, friendship is! Friendship, unlike blood relations, is one of the few bonds which we could decide for ourselves in this life.
Choose your friend wisely and forge a beautiful bond for life, as it speaks volumes about who you are, as a person!