The case of Shishupala… and what I learnt from it

It has been quite some time since I dwelt on a question of mythology and I have two topics I wanted to write on. One is another example of comparative mythology – a particular case which I have found in Germanic tradition as well as in the Hindu mythology but details are hazy in my mind.

I must also add that ever since I read that episode of the Germanic king and the dwarf in my youth, I have searching for it but have never been able to locate it…. And as expected, it figures in my mind at the most inopportune times. One of these, I suddenly remembered the case from Hindu mythology and thought they have some points in common and I would share both with you… Very soon I assure you.

But for now I will deal with the other thing, I had in mind…. the case of Shishupala.

Shishupala or Sisupala (depending on which form of pronounciation your prefer…I will go in for the former) was son of Damaghosha, king of Chedi, by Srutadeva, sister of Vasudeva, thus making him a cousin of Krishna, one of the best-known deities of the Indian pantheon, but at the same time, an implacable foe after his humiliation by the deity. As can be expected, it was all due to a woman.

Krishna rides away with Shishupala‘s beautiful bride to be, Rukmini, as she was supposed to marry Shishupala who happens to be a great friend of her brother Rukmi…. but we are getting ahead of our story.

According to the Mahabharata, a prophecy at the time of Shishupala‘s birth warned that he would insult his cousin grieviously and in turn, be killed by him. The distraught mother approached Krishna, her nephew, and took a vow that he would pardon his cousin a hundred times before he decides to kill him. But then, there is no escaping fate…..

Now the account is I tell you is from the film “Mahabharata” I was particularly addicted too when I was young….. I still believe it had the best Krishna ever seen on screen as enacted by Abhi Bhattacharya and not to mention some more ideal casting of the main characters of the epic…. but we will not digress from the topic.

Let me give you some background from the Mahabharata, before I return to my thrust…. When the Pandavas came of age, their uncle, King Dhritarashtra sought to avoid a conflict with his sons, the 100 Kauravas, by giving the eldest of them, Yudhisthira half the Kuru kingdom (upon the elder statesman Bhisma‘s advice), albeit the lands which were arid, unprosperous and scantily populated, known as Khandavaprastha…. or what is now south Delhi.

With the help of Krishna (the Pandavas’ cousin too), a new city, Indraprastha, was constructed by the divine architect Viswakarma. The Asura architect Mayasura constructed the Mayasabha, which was the largest regal assembly hall in the world. Yudhisthira was crowned king and began his reign.

Yudhisthira then performed the Rajasuya sacrifice (described in detail in the epic) – a ritual performed by Indian kings who considered themselves powerful enough to be an emperor – to become the paramount sovereign of all the known world.

His brothers, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva led armies across the four corners of the world to obtain tributes from all kingdoms for Yudhisthira‘s sacrifice. At his sacrifice, Yudhisthira honored Krishna as the most famous and greatest personality. This incensed Sisupala… who burst into the chamber and let fly a violent tirade of abuse against Krishna, terming a cowherd and other derogatory epithets.

Now we return to this scene in the film…. but in the next post because I have run out of time today.

To be continued…..

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