Monday 24 December 2012

Madhwacharya's Mahabharata

India is a land of a billion people. Of this number, only a handful can lay claim to have met or seen God and only a miniscule of these numbers can say that they were asked by God to educate people and write a book.
Madhwacharya is among such rare persons. He not only met the venerable Veda Vyasa (Narayana) twice in Badari but he was also asked to write the Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya to correct the imbalances that had crept up in the epic.
The epic had been written thousands of years earlier and it had undergone several interpolations, additions and even subtractions. It was left to Madhwa to reinterpret both the Ramayana and Mahabharata correctly and in context of the events that had occurred.
As Madhwa was Hanuman in his first avatar when the Ramayana  occurred and Bheem in the second during the time of the Mahabharata, he was eminently qualified to write a commentary on the Bharata or Mahabharata.
This can be termed as  one of the rarest of rare books as it deals with both the epics-Ramayana and Mahabharata simultaneously. It gives us a beautiful and evocative exposition of the epics and also several concepts of religion and philosophy.
The Nirnaya comprises of 32 chapters and each chapter deals with a different issue. It runs into more than 5,000 verses. The work can be categorised into three parts. The first part covers the first three chapters and gives us a beautiful summary of Mahabharata and entire scriptures. It is these chapters that lays the foundation for the other two sections to follow.
The second section comprises chapters 4 to 9 deals and with the story of Ramayana. The last section details the story of Mahabharata from chapters 11 to 32. The final chapter deals with the Pandavas’ ascent to heaven. The tenth chapter is all about Vyasa (Narayana).
In the Nirnaya, Madhwa explains some of the finer aspects of the Bharata (Mahabharata) by drawing upon other religious texts such as Vishnu Purana, Vedas, Hari Vamsha and Bhagavath Geetha.
Since Madhwa was the earlier avatar of Hanuman and Bheema, here Bheema is the hero of  almost all the episodes or rather incidents.
What makes this work invaluable is that Madhwa himself writes about the reason for penning the work. This is contained in the second chapter called Vakyoddharah. He says here that he wants to give us the correct interpretation of the verses written by Veda Vyasa.
Madhwa was asked by Veda Vyasa himself to write the Nirnaya. He had visited Badari the second time and after coming back to Udupi, he wrote the Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya.
The Nirnaya is not mere a book on the epics. It gives us a new and more correct interpretation of the events and incidents of the Ramayana and Mahabharata in relation to the Puranas and Shastras.  We have to take this as the most authentic and correct interpretation as it is Hanuma through whose eyes we see the Ramayana being told and Bheema through whom the Bharata is being narrated.
This can be called the first research work on the epics. It also gives us a correct version of many events of both the epics and proves beyond doubt that over centuries some incidents, passages and slokas have either been added or interposed with the original, twisting the real meaning.
 Here Madhwa establishes several concepts of the Dwaitha Siddantha (philosophy) such as the greatness and supremacy of Hari or Vishnu, the high position of Vayu, the concept of Bheda  which is integral to Dwaitha philosophy and the Taratamya or hierarchy of Gods.
“Taratamyam tato gyeyam sarvocchatvam harestatha
tatadvina nakasyapi vimuktih syath kathanchana”, says our Acharya about the hierarchy of Gods.
Here, Vishnu is the giver of all knowledge and he then imparted it to Brahma and other Gods. 
He also illustrates the difference between the Atma and the Paramathma. Thus, this work built the foundation for the Tatwavada of our Acharya.
But please remember this is a critical work and it does not offer a line-by-line commentary of the Bharata. For that you have to go to Vadiraja Theertha’s  Mahabharata-Prasthana which gives us an explanation of one hundred thousand difficult words in the Bharata.
Apart from Raghavendra Swamy, a commentary on Nirnaya was also written in Kannada by Vadiraja Theertha. This book is also called Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya.
Kambalur Ramachandra Theerta of Vyasaraja Matha, whose brindavana, is in Vellore, has also written a tippani on the Nirnaya.   
For a easier understanding of the Nirnaya, it is better to read the Bhava Sangraha written by Raghavendra Swamy.  This is a work of 32 slokas and each sloka summarises one of the 32 chapters of the Nirnaya.
Satyaabhinava Theertha, one of the pontiffs of Uttradhi Matha has written a Vyakhana on Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya.
The Nirnaya cannot be read in isolation as it has several layers of meaning. It can be read alongside one of the commentaries for a better and truer understating of the epics.

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