Aurobindo Ghose pierced the veil of Vedic mysticism during the second decade of this century. His line was followed up by masters like Nolinikanta Gupta, Kapali Shastri and others. Simultaneously, Swami Pratyagatmananda revealed the Vedic vision of Sound in Japasutram and the deep scientific basis of Veda in Ved-O-Vijnan; and Ramendrasundar Trivedi laid bare the symbolism of Vedic ritual in Yajna-katha. Kshitimohan Sen discovered the link be¬tween the Vedas and Baul—the most progressive dharma of the world. Anirvan’s Veda-mimansa in the sixties estab¬lished the esoteric interpreta¬tion of the Vedas on the firm oasis of the spiritual-religious-philosophical experiences of Bharatavarsha through cen¬turies and millenia up to the present day. The reviewer’s view, presented in The Linguis-tic Atom, Ved-O-Shri Auro¬bindo and Veder Kobita, also fall in the same line. Rabindranath’s poetry too as shown by the reviewer—is floodlit with Vedic experience.
All these findings, though in¬dependent of one another, yet pointing to the same conclu¬sions, represent a. common approach to Vedic interpreta¬tion—the inner integral approach, Which is very diffe¬rent from the external method generally followed by the academic world. Pradip Bhattacharya’s The Secret of the Mahabharata—a brilliant analysis of Vyasa’s myths in terms of Vedic truths—comes as a fresh corroboration of the validity of the integral approach.
Not only individual slokas scattered here and there, but the whole Mahabharata is a Vyasakuta, a unique puzzle—a guide to the secret treasure of the Vedas, written in a unique ambiguous code—left for the future generations to solve. Vyasa has left numerous clues for the solution of his puzzle in the form of Vedic words, phrases, mantras, imagery, woven into the fabric of the epic, which a casual reader is likely to dismiss as chance ocurrences and miss the message thereby. He will also skip over the definite positive statement of Vsyasa that he has placed in the epic the mystery of the Veda—veda rahasyam; and his stand-ing guideline to future researchers in Indology: ‘Elucidate the Veda with the help of itihasas and puranas.’ The commentator, Nilakantha, however, has not failed to note here (I. 1. 267-68) by way of illustration that the mayamruga of the Ramayana is nothing but an elaboration of the Vedic concept Of Vrtra, the deceitful Coverer, who is described as a mayi mrga in the Rg Veda (1. 80.7).
It is delightful so see that the author of The Secret of the Mahabharata reads correctly the message of Vyasa and following Sukthankar’s pene¬trating remark that ‘there is an inner significance behind the events so realistically narrated in the Great Epic of India’ and that all great works of Indian art and litera¬ture are infused with the idea of achieving one gigantic all-embracing synthesis takes up the key from his observation that ‘many of the scenes of this drama, which at first sight appear to us unintelligible or at least uncouth and grotesque, acquire deep significance when they are treated symbolically’, and proceeds to decipher the Vyasan hieroglyphic.
The first chapter being devoted—and rightly so—to ex¬plaining the approach, the subsequent seven chapters are minute analyses of six episodes from the Adi-parva, namely: Utanka, Aruni-Uddalaka, Upamanyu and the Asvins, the Churning of the Ocean, Garuda and Amrita and finally Kacha and the Sanjivani mantra—in which with a marvellous sweep from Veda to Savitri, the author is able to prove that ‘Vyasa is writ¬ing directly in the mystic tradition of the Rigvedic rsis, couching spiritual messages in an elaborate symbolic structure.’
The intricate scheme of the Utanka story is beautifully unfolded in one of the most well-written chapters of this book and the parallelism worked out to the minutest detail, in which the grotesque and the uncouth perfectly fit in, Utanka qualifies himself for the acquisition of the Kundala by passing the test of temptation in his guru’s household. The Kundala itself signifies inner listening or sruti so dearly craved for by Ahalya the barren human field or adhara (this can very well become a symbol for barren scholarship craving for the mystic gift of the Word). Thus. Utanka’s story is shown to be nothing but Vyasa’s re-cast of the Vedic Angirasa myth, namely recovery of the lost sun, that is, the Veda.
The clue to the mystic interpretation of the Aruni episode lies, as the author shows, in the incongruity that the disciple is praised for finally splitting apart the dyke, while he was sent to plug the breach. Here, Aruni is playing successively the roles of 1) Ahi-Vrtra the serpentine coil covering the divine waters of Bliss and Illumination by covering the waters with his physical body, and 2) Indra, who breaks open the barrier and releases the waters, by splitting apart the dyke. On this small canvas of a story, Vyasa has condensed the whole Vedic theme of the aspiration, suffering and victory of the soul (compare Rabindranath’s Muktadhara), like painting Kanchanjanga in her golden splendour on a postcard.
In the same vein, the ‘Churning of the Ocean’ is shown to be a word-to-word, phrase-to-phrase, symbol-to-symbol equation of the Soma-ritual which represents the churning of the sap of Delight and other divine treasures out of the turbulent depths of the inconscent; while the Garuda-Amrta episode represents the soul soaring high to the super-conscent ‘on the mighty wings of Word’ as observed by the reviewer in her Linguistic Atom.
The Kacha episode depicting the quest for the mantra of immortality provides the finale to this series of symbolic stories, pinpointing the creative Logos—which is the secret of Immortality—as the ultimate dynamic goal of the eternal quest.
Pradip Bhattacharya’s scholarship has an eye and ear for the mystic, which is the essential prerequisite for a researcher in Indology. His book, though full of printing and a few other mistakes, far outshines them, leaving ground, however, for alternative explanations here and there. For example, the name ‘Kacha’, meaning ‘hair’, has been explained, with a note of hesitation though, to hint at the ‘tonsured initiate’. But the meaning which exactly fits in with the esoteric explanation of the story is the ‘hair-like fibre of the Soma’ called amsu in the Rg Veda. In sacrifice, the fibrous Soma represents the sacrificer and its crushing and filtering into a purified flow of delightful juice represents the crushing of the man and transforming him into a stream of pure bliss, the joy of immortality or Higher Life which is called amrta in the Veda. The author has actually noticed the ‘equation of Kacha with Soma’ on p. 141.
Similarly, a roundabout explanation is given to the name Dhanvantari. A more direct and Vedic explanation is: One who has crossed (tari) the desert (dhanvan). Desert in the Veda—and in later poetry too—signifies the barren dry soul deprived .of the shower of grace. The descent of divine grace is described as flooding the desert in Rg Veda VI. 12.5. So, the name ‘Dhanvantari’ signifies that’ through the arduous tasks of ‘churning the ocean of his lower depths, man at last emerges victorious with the secret of immortality!
In the story of the Churning of the Ocean, Vyasa has inserted many more parallelisms to attract the seeing eye, which, if added, would have given the author a stronger support. . Of these, the most striking, perhaps, is. the description of mandara, the churning rod, as savana (I. 18.8). The apparent meaning here is savana that is, ‘with forest’: The mountain was lifted up with its forest and inhabitants (savanam sa-vanankasam), the passage means. But under the cover of a pun, there is a second meaning. Savana also means: savana-sadhana the implement of Soma-crushing. Thus, the Churning of the Ocean becomes with a single stroke equivalent to the crushing of the Soma and all the accompanying symbolism—which the author has established with the help of many other proofs.
To point out a few slips, the name Utanka has always been mis-spelt as Vattanka. Veda—one of the three disciples of Dhaumya—is said (p. 56) to be the only one who is not put to tasks. On the contrary, Veda is the disciple, who was put to the severest of tasks, amounting to rigorous impri¬sonment. The suffering Veda underwent at the house of his guru taught him to treat his own disciples kindly, com¬ments the Mahabharata. Rules of transliteration have not been followed properly, by Bhattacharya, which makes the reading of the mantras extremely difficult.
But all this is secondary. After going through the 155 pages of his book, one is convinced that the Mahabharata is a unique time-capsule invented by Vyasa, the Genius, in which the mystic- knowledge of the Veda—the Grand Syn¬thesis is preserved for poster¬ity, not buried underground but left circulating through a chain of sutas waiting for the initiate to see-listen through the strory-coating. We hope the author will carry on his research and explore the con¬tinent of Vyasa for the ‘souler’ cows to gaze and graze upon.
This century seems to be set for the reacting of the Angirasamyth. Indologists with a different turn of mind will do well to stop and listen, at this hour of crisis, to the message of the Vedas and Vyasa, and retrace their steps, instead of being lost irrevocably in the maze of erudite hypotheses leading to nowhere, lured by the imposing mayamrga of ‘modern’ researchology.