‘Mahabharata’ is one of the two greatest epics of India, the other one being ‘Ramayana.’ It is a story of political power games and war. It is a long story with a number of characters and many twists and turns in the storyline. The storyline, the characterization and the narration are so interesting that this epic remains popular with successive generations. This epic also contains in its fold a large number of short stories and anecdotes, each of which is highly interesting. These stories have their own values and convey subtle messages of wisdom and morals. In this article, I will present the synopsis of one such story, which conveys the message of the power of perseverance.
In ancient India, the education system required an aspiring student to approach a teacher, respectfully referred to as Guru (meaning one who delivers people from darkness). If accepted by the Guru, the student will stay with him and learn. The students called disciples are expected to obey teacher without any question. They were also expected to serve the teacher in all possible ways. The teacher will not only endow the students with knowledge in their chosen field but will also train them on worldly aspects, by assigning them myriad tasks.
One disciple by name Upamanyu was asked by his teacher to take his cows for pasturing. Every morning, Upamanyu would lead the cows to a nearby prairie and would bring them back home by the evening. He had no opportunity to eat till he came home in the evening. But the Guru found that Upamanyu looked strong and well nourished. When queried about this, Upamanyu said that he would milk the cows after the calves fed on them and drink the milk. The Guru proscribed him from doing it saying that it would leave little milk for the calves when they fed on the cows the next time.
Upamanyu was obliged to follow his Guru’s writ but continued to look well fed. The surprised Guru learnt from him that he was eating the foam that would spill from the calves’ mouths after they fed on the cows. The Guru stopped this also saying that the calves might release a lot of milk because of their affection for him and it would not be good for the health of the calves. Upamanyu accepted his Guru’s advice but continued to look strong. The guru learned that he was plucking out fruits from the trees and eating them. The Guru ordained that Upamanu would not eat anything other than withered leaves that fell from the trees. Now Upamanyu was running out of options. He starved for a while but once in a fit of hunger ate a dry leaf that had fallen from a tree. Since the leaf was poisonous, he fell unconscious. The story then goes on to say how Aswini Devas, the Twin Gods of Health came to his help. Upamanyu refused to ingest the potion given by them, since even taking a medicine would be violating the Guru’s orders. Then the Guru himself came on the scene, permitted him to take the medicine and also complimented him for his meticulous following of the Guru’s words.
While quite a few lessons can be drawn from this story, the most striking one is Upamanyu’s sense of perseverance. We can see that his very perseverance opens up new possibilities for him every time.