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January (8)


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BHAGAVAD GITA - THE COMPLETE YOGA SASTRA -Ch.1.Sl.39 to 41 - What if close Kinsmen are Big Sinners? - What is Varna Sankara?





Katham na jneyamasmaabhih paapaadsmaannivartitum |

Kulakshayakritam Dosham prapasyaadbhir-Janaardana  ||

Arjuna continues further, expressing his anguish to Lord Krishna :

Meaning :

"O Janaardana, As we see this evil in the destruction of the whole clan (Kulam), why should we not turn away from such a sinful act."
As earlier explained, Janaardana means - One who inflicts suffering on evil men; one who bestows boons on people ; and whom people pray, for such boons.

Arjuna was almost certain that this war would lead to total destruction of the whole Vamsam; or, the Clan itself. All descendants of Kuru dynasty were assembled in the battle-field and there was no way for any side to be victorious until all warriors on at least one side were totally destroyed. In the process, most warriors on the victorious side also would be destroyed.
Arjuna was not  wrong in this presumption. The ensuing destruction was palpable in the battle field. Arjuna's focus now was - on whether and why they could not prevent this huge destruction of the whole clan. He was asking Krishna why they could not get away from this sin before it got committed.

At the same time, Arjuna acknowledged that these sons of Dhritaraashtra were brash sinners, desparadoes, who would commit any sin themselves.
Many of their infamous sins, they had committed against the Pandavas themselves. They had set fire to a House (Called Laakshaa Grih) in which Pandavas were asleep, after luring them to sleep in it. The tried to poison the Pandavas, especially Bheema. They tricked Yidhishitira into a false game of dice; and by deceit, they defeated him in the game. They humiliated their duly wedded wife, Draupadi, in front of all elders and public in the full, open court, in front of themselves,and when, even Dhritaraashtra was present. If they could do it to the mighty Pandavas, what could they not do to the helpless citizens of Hastinapur? Therefore, they could commit any heinous sin on earth.

Arjuna knew them to be such Great Sinners. Yet, he said, only sin could accrue to Arjuna himself if he went out to kill them!
In this sloka, Arjuna looked thoroughly confused in what was sin and why punishing sinners itself was sin - especially for a kshatriya!


Kulakshaye pranasyanthi Kuladharmaah Sanaathanah  |

Dharme Nashte Kulam krithsnam Adharmobhibhavatyuta   ||  

Meaning :
"O Maadhava, we must not therefore feel justified in slaying the sons of Dhritaraashtra, our relatives, and our Kinsmen; How can we feel happy, killing our own Kinsmen?"

"Maa+Dhava"  meant - the Husband (or Lord) of Mother Lakshmi, or the Goddess of all Fortunes and Treasures.
Arjuna said here that they should not offer any justification for slaying the sons of Dhritaraashtra, eventhough they were great sinners. There could be no happiness in killing them, since they were their own kinsmen.

The point to keenly understand, from Arjuna's view-point, was that - the Sons of Dhritaraashtra were sinners alright; but yet, they were also kinsmen. How could kinsmen be killed for whatever be the reason? How could anyone be happy or feel justified in killing kinsmen?

If they were not kinsmen, Arjuna would not mind killing any or all of them since they were sinners. But, here, the sinners were kinsmen;so the killing did not look the right thing to do.

Arjuna's Vishaada was for the kinsmen-sinners; not for any or all other sinners.


Adharmaabhibhavaat Krishna Pradushyanthi Kulastriyah     |

streeshu Dushtaasu Vaarshneya Jaayathe Varnasankarah     ||

Meaning :


"When unrighteous conduct grows in the clan, women become corrupt or un-chaste in their character. When women become unchaste, the clan itself becomes corrupted and undesirable mixture of clans would happen."

The phrase Varna Sankara - is subject to varied interpretations. Was there no mixing of castes at all in marriages in those days? Surely there was. The entire lineage of the Bharata clan arose only through Vrana sankara, or periodical, marital mix of various clans and castes.

Bharata himself was born of Viswamitra, a kshatriya king and Menaka, a heavenly danseuse. 
Vyasa, the authior of Mahabhrat was the son of Paraasara, a Brahmana sage and Satyavathi, a fisher woman. Vyasa, the Brahmana Sage, was the cause of birth of Dhritaraashtra, Panduraja and Vidura through their respective mothers.

Of them, Dhritaraashtra and Panduraja were considered Kashatriyas. But, Vidura was considered as of Sudra caste, being born of Sudra woman, even though Vyasa was considered as a Brahmana sage. These were just examples in the Mahabharat which had many instances of Varna sankara.

Not only in Dvaapar Yug, but in earlier yugas also, there were many instances of acceptable and unacceptable Varna Sankara. In general, Varna Sankara became unacceptable when the woman was impregnated by a man of lower character and lower lineage and acceptable when a woman was impregnated by a man of Higher character and higher lineage. 

There were certain broad guidelines, though not rigid rules ; A Brahmana man (but not a Brahmana woman) could marry in all castes and clans. A Kshatriya man (but not a kshatriya woman)  could marry in all three castes - except the Brahmana clans. But, this was violated in respect of King Yayati who married Devyani, the daughter of Sukracharya, who permitted the marriage and made it acceptable. A Vaishya man (but not a Vaishya woman) could marry in castes other than Brahmana and Kshatriya; A Sudra man could however marry only within Sudra clans.

The reverse also used to be there but, this was not favoured, and was called Varna Sankara, which resulted in inferior clans (of inferior strength, righteousness and other qualities) . Each progeny born of such inferior Varna Sankara was also called by specific names (clan Names). Readers can see more details on this at :

In scientific terms, it would amount to that - a Higher quality sperm could impregnate same quality or lower quality egg but the reverse amounted to unacceptable Varna Sankara. Here again what was meant by quality? Quality was based on Guna. 

Satva Guna (sperm) was considered  as higher than the Rajoguna (sperm) and could absorb and neutralize all lower qualities of the lower Guna. Likewise, Rajoguna was higher than Tamoguna and could neutralise tamoguna. 

But, how did these Gunas arise? They largely arose out of what we ate and what karma we performed  - and not just by birth. Lord Krishna, in one chapter deals extensively with these three Gunas and we will see the same in that chapter.

Also, King Yudhishtir, in his answers to the Nahusha, a HUGE, CURSED PYTHON, in Mahabharat, clarifies that, "Brahmana" is one known so, only by qualities and not by birth. Likewise are the others. Gita also clarifies Caste or Varna in the same Genre in one chapter, which we shall see subsequently.

Lord Krishna himself had married into all castes and clans - and was a much married man of those days. One of his wives was Jambavati, the daughter of a Bear-king, Jambavanta (or Jambavan). Bheema had married a Rakshasa woman called Hidimbi and begot a son called Ghatotkacha through her. Arjuna had married a girl of Naga clan called Uloopi and another tribal princess called Chitrangada.

Thus, women becoming unchaste and unacceptable Varna-sankara happening, as Arjuna said here, was to be understood - keeping in view the customs of those days for permitted and acceptable Varna Sankara, and the definition given by Lord Krishna and Yudhishtira for the term, Varna.

But, there can be no last word on this subject of Varna,  which is gradually fading away in current days - and Varna or caste om its current form, may become a thing of the past, very soon.

That said, in this sloka, Arjuna, obviously was going off at a tangent, from their context and was speaking of unchaste women arising in clans with unrighteous conduct, and its consequences.

The reality was that - Arjuna himself was saved later from death, by Uloopi, his wife from Naga clan and her son. 

Surely, sorrow clouds all logic.

.....Will Continue.