Introduction: This is the second of a new series compiling and retelling stories from the Puranas, simply and without distortion or substantive embellishment. This episode comes from the beginning of the Markandeya Purana. The quotes cited are from Bibek Debroy’s excellent translation of the Markandeya Purana.
Jaimini Rishi Has Doubts About The Mahabharata
The Markandeya Purana begins with a paean of praise to the Mahabharata. Often, we are told that the Puranas are sectarian and doctrinaire, but actually, the great fun of the Puranas is all the intersectionality (OG use of the term) across texts, including the Upanishads and the Itihaasa. The focus is on samanvaya (harmonization) of all the texts into a coherent, continuous tradition of metaphysics and thought. If you do a close read of one Purana and follow the citations, you end up reading a comprehensive cross-selection of the shastras.
Just see the majestic poetry with which Jaimini Rishi praises the Mahabharata:
‘The torrent of Vyasa’s words has destroyed the trees of perverse reasoning. They descended from the mountain of the Vedas and removed all dust from the heart. The melodious sounds are like large swans, the great accounts are like supreme lotuses, the stories are like large expanses of water and what Krishna [Vedavyasa] composed is like a large lake based on the Vedas.’
— p. 4
Yet, Jaimini Rishi has come to Markandeya Rishi not to praise the Mahabharata but to resolve his doubts about the text.
There are four questions Jaimini Rishi wants to resolve about the Mahabharata, for which he has approached Markandeya Rishi to understand the truth:
- Why did Sri Krishna assume a human form?
- Why did Draupadi marry all five sons of Pandu?
- Why did Balarama travel to the tirthas?
- Why were the sons of the Pandavas, who had the great sons of Pandu as their protectors, slain so mercilessly?
Markandeya Rishi Deflects the Questions
Markandeya Rishi replies that the time has arrived to perform their rites, and it is not appropriate to speak a lot during the…