I was named Pritha.
Pritha. Meaning the well-endowed one.
Pritha. Birth Daughter of Surasena. Foster daughter to KuntiBhoja. Sister of Vasudeva. Paternal aunt to Lord Krishna. Mother of the Pandavas.
Individualistic. Willful. Righteous. Intractable.
Born into a clan of kingmakers. Wedded into a clan of kings and rulers.
This was how people spoke of me. This was how they described me.
I was given up in early childhood, to my father’s cousin, Kunti Bhoja who was childless. He took care of me as his own daughter, lavishing upon me all affection and care. Brought up in all ways befitting the princess of an illustrious kingdom and trained in all matters of administration of a kingdom as well as in warfare, I was allowed the indulgence of being independent right from a young age. However, the fact that I was only an adopted daughter of the family still irked me from time to time. In my heart and soul, I was still a Vrishni.
When I was young, my foster-father entrusted to me the duty of looking after the irascible sage, Durvasa. I duly did so, and pleased with my services he offered me a boon. Naïve girl that I was, I asked him to bless me with a boon that would be useful to me in my future life. The all-knowing one blessed me with a mantra that would enable me to beget progeny from celestials. I did not know of the course my life would take then. Soon after, I chose King Pandu at my swayamvar. While this was an easy decision to make, I realized soon that my life was fraught with difficulties. I was forced to share my husband with another princess, unparalleled in beauty, soon after my marriage. Scared of the fact that his family line would not flourish after having been cursed by Rishi Kindama, he begged me to undergo niyoga with other men and beget children in order to carry forward the Kuru lineage. The scriptures did allow this and so I let him know of the boon I had received. He was thrilled and upon his requests, I soon became mother to three strapping young boys – Yudhishthira (son of Dharma), Bhima (son of Vayu) and Arjuna (son of Indra). I was also asked to share the boon with Madri who then proceeded to invoke the Ashwini Kumaras and was blessed with Nakula and Sahadeva. It was a happy time in the forests for a short while until I was witness to Pandu’s death, owing to his lack of self-control and Madri’s by Sati. It was in my Dharma to go the same way as her, but the onus of looking after our five sons fell upon me.
[Pic Couresty: http://molee.deviantart.com/]
I had to provide for their well-being, and so I went back to the kingdom that my husband had renounced. The same kingdom that then questioned the parenthood of my sons. The same kingdom that was now ruled by a king birthed from a Suta. And whose lineage descended from a fisherwoman. They had the audacity to question me on the parenthood and the caste of my sons. I did not deem it fit to answer their questions. My only answer to them in the face of all their questions was that my sons had an equal right to the throne, Yudhishthira being the eldest of all the crown princes. It was an arduous task to put up with the politics, scheming and the jealousy that we encountered in the palace. Over the years, adversaries made innumerable attempts on our lives. I could not pretend to be unaware of what was happening; neither could I afford to be tolerant of the same. I had to be vigilant and ensure that I always stayed one-step ahead of the scheming parties. I managed this largely, due to the support and help received from Vidura, friend and confidant as well as the unquestioning nature of my sons.
For my sons, I was both their father and mother. And I never made them feel otherwise. They abided by my suggestions, took my opinion on everything and never ever strayed away from what I told them to. To them, my word was the be-all and end-all of all things said and done. I was their guiding force and their partner-in-crime over the years of struggles and obstacles. To say that we have been through a lot would be an understatement.
You know me as the mother of the Pandavas. You talk of me as the woman who made her sons share their wife, between the five of them. You speak of me as the woman who without any second thoughts cast away her newborn son into the river. You identify me as the spineless person, who offered the same son, the kingdom and the illustrious daughter in law as his wife, knowing that he had loved her once, provided he came over to the side of Dharma. You declare that I was the sole reason that a son cursed the entire women clan that we would not be able to keep any secrets. You proclaim me as the villain who brought forth fratricide between children of the same family.
I agree; I am guilty of all this and much more.
I AM the mother of Pandavas. I brought up my sons fairly and justly, instilling in them a sense of Dharma as well as my own individualistic spirit and tenacity. I motivated them to be masters of their own being, while being persistent in their unity in face of adversity. I taught them of the rights and wrongs, ensuring that their skills and morality would hold them in good stead.
Yes, I am the woman who made her sons share their wife, between the five of them. The strength of my sons lay in their unity. United they were an unbreakable force, a power to be reckoned with. Divided, none would even see light of the day. The lust in each of their eyes upon sighting the renowned princess of Panchala, made me realize how much they all craved her. Hence, I ensured that they all got married to the same woman. That she was the driving force behind the course of my sons’ lives. That she would be the one they would now be answerable to, and the one who would propel them towards their destiny. I could now leave them in safe hands and step back.
I am also the person who without any second thoughts cast away her firstborn son into the river, fearing scorn of the society and ruin of the family honor. I cannot truly justify this act in any way, but I can only say this in my defense. Curiosity got the better of me and I invoked the mantra that I was blessed with. I called down Arka in all his blazing grandeur and was blessed with a boy. He was born in resplendent glory, with his shining kundals and indestructible kavach. However, the thought of tarnishing the family honor scared me out of my wits and with a heavy heart, I gave up the baby and entrusted him to the care of the river goddess. The guilt overwhelmed me, but I was powerless and helpless. For a young virgin princess, upholding the honor of the clan took more weightage at that point than the life she held in her hands. The guilt of letting go of my firstborn always weighs me down, because I could never shower upon him any motherly affections not could I offer him a mothers’ love.
And yes, I am that spineless woman, who then offered the same son, the kingdom and the illustrious daughter in law as his wife, knowing that he had loved her once, provided he came over to the side of Dharma. You will speak of it as my selfishness for without him, Duryodhana’s strongest ally and closest friend, the Kauravas would be weakened. What you may not know was that inwardly, it was also a mother’s last hope to save her first-born and be united with him again. Besides, righting the wrong that I had done to him, it would also save him from certain death in the War of Dharma. What I did not reckon for was the intractable loyalty that my son took after me. He refused to give up on his friendship and stood staunchly by his friends’ side, even in his death.
I was also the reason that a son cursed the entire women clan that we would not be able to keep any secrets. When my sons heard that they had killed one of their own, they could not bear it. They derided me for keeping this a secret from them for so long. For the first ever time, I saw my sons look at me with something other than love and respect. For the first ever time, I saw them look at me with derision in their eyes. They could not believe that their mother, the one they thought was above all reproach could do something like this. I had my reasons, but my reasons were not good enough for them. The only one who understood me was my nephew, the one who knows all. However, there was not much that he could do for me either.
Fate has a strange way of playing out. I was born into a cursed clan and funnily enough married, into the clan that had originally cursed my ancestors to be kingmakers and not kings. Though married into the kingdom of Hastinapura, I have never ruled happily as its queen. I, who was wedded into the lineage of the Kurus, have never enjoyed sovereignty. My entire existence has been a testament to the follow the one truth that was ingrained into me ever since I was aware.
That the way of the Dharma was the way of life. That the honor of the lineage was my own honor.
It did not matter whether it was the clan that I was born in, or the one that I wedded into. What mattered was that it was my destiny and duty to protect and uphold the integrity of the lineage I belonged to and the one that I was a part of.
My biggest failing lies in the fact that for eons to come, none will ever speak of me as the righteous woman who upheld Dharma even in the toughest times. They will talk of me as the woman who made her sons share their wife. They will speak of me as the woman who without any second thoughts cast away her newborn son into the river. They will identify me as the spineless person, who offered the same son, the kingdom and the illustrious daughter in law as his wife, provided he came over to the side of Dharma. And they will declare that I was the reason that a son cursed the entire women clan that we would not be able to keep any secrets. They will herald me as the villain who brought forth fratricide between children of the same family.
However, my biggest victory lies in the fact that the lineage of Yayati will been united finally. The blood of the Yadus flows through me onto my grandson Abhimanyu, through Arjuna and Subhadra, his parents.
For in the end it all comes down to this, this truth.
“Dharma when cultivated preserves, Dharma when violated destroys.”