Being a parent is definitely not the easiest thing in the world. But it is one aspect of life which makes you go through all the Nava-rasas of –

  • Śṛṅgāraḥ (शृङ्गारः): Romance, Love, attractiveness.
  • Hāsyam (हास्यं): Laughter, mirth, comedy.
  • Raudram (रौद्रं): Fury.
  • Kāruṇyam (कारुण्यं): Compassion, mercy.
  • Bībhatsam (बीभत्सं): Disgust, aversion.
  • Bhayānakam (भयानकं): Horror, terror.
  • Veeram (वीरं): Heroism.
  • Adbhutam (अद्भुतं): Wonder, amazement.
  • Śāntatam: Peace or tranquility.

A lot of people think that raising a child starts from the time the child is born. But do note that without the first Rasa “Shringar”, conceiving a child itself is then just a mechanical activity, without any flavour of life. A happy child is one who is conceived with love. If the child is conceived with violence, sorrow or some ulterior motive for having a child, one attracts such souls which are in consonance with such thoughts. Our elders knew this and hence throughout the pregnancy, the families of the expectant mother try to keep her happy and have positive thoughts. If one goes through the Mahabharata, one comes across many stories where the conception and the pregnancy had an effect on the child which is born. Dhritarashtra’s Mother closed her eyes in fear when Sage Vyasa was sent to her for conceiving the child. He was born blind. Similarly Pandu’s Mother went pale with fear and hence he was born with vitiligo and suffered ill health throughout his life. Vidura’s Mother accepted Sage Vyasa’s energies with awareness and hence her son was born wise. Similarly, Duryodhana and his brothers were conceived with a feeling of angst, insecurity and feeling of victimhood by both his parents. Hence throughout his life, Duryodhana exhibited the same nature. He was never content with what he had.

Nav Rasas would make one understand how difficult it is to raise a child, and that too to raise one’s child to become an ideal person with a strong moral character. It must have always been tough to raise a child with a strong, moral character, but I feel sometimes that it is even more difficult in today’s time when there are much more temptations around and friends and peer groups become more important in the life of a child and a young adult, much more than one’s family and relatives.

This is where the Mahabharata helps us in understanding how to raise a child. The Mahabharata revolves mainly around two sets of children – the Kauravas and the Pandavas and how they were raised, the life choices they make and how Dharma triumphs in the end. The tale is relevant just as much in today’s day and time to understand how to mould children into strong personalities who can go through life with the strength of Dharma on their side.

USE OF TAPO-SHAKTI TO ATTRACT RIGHT SOULS

The Kauravas were born to Gandhari and Dhritarashtra and the Pandavas were born to Kunti, Madri and Pandu. As mentioned earlier, Gandhari and Dhritarashtra always had anger and a feeling of victimhood in them. Gandhari and her family were not treated well by Dhritarashtra and Dhritarashtra himself was perpetually upset that he was never the first choice to be the regent even though he was the eldest. So he had this fond hope that his son would be born with healthy limbs and would be the eldest grandchild in the family, so that he would become the next King of the Kuru race. Gandhari was a Tapasvini but did not use her ‘tapo-shakti’ for conception. She never felt empowered and always felt helpless.

On the other hand, Pandu could not have any physical relations with either Kunti or Madri. But instead of feeling helpless, Kunti used the boon given by Sage Durvasa to her to attract Devatas to conceive children for herself and for Madri. When Pandu and Kunti had their first child, Pandu requested Kunti to call Dharmaraya or Yama, the Devata of Dharma and death, to bless them with a child from Him. Pandu knew the importance of Dharma and felt that if a child became Dharmic, he would automatically rule his land well and keep his subjects, the Rishis and the Devatas happy. Kunti concurred and Yudhishthir was born. Even though they could have now left their forest abode and gone to Hastinapur and reclaimed the throne, neither Kunti, nor Pandu did that. They knew the importance of having other children to support their first one. This is a lesson to parents who think that having one child is enough in today’s world. Without anyone to support one’s child morally, emotionally and physically after one is gone, one is leaving the child alone in the world, almost akin to an orphan. Kunti did not keep her boon to herself, she shared it with Madri too. This generosity trickled down to all the Pandava children. In fact, Kunti’s son born out of the wedlock, Karna too was a very generous soul.

TEACHING CHILDREN ABOUT DHARMA

The Pandavas spent their childhood away from the palace. It was only after the death of Pandu and Madri that they came to Hastinapur. So even though they knew they were wealthy and Princes, they had their feet on the ground. They knew that true wealth was Dharma which could never be lost. Kunti made sure that the children followed this throughout their life and she taught them well about leading a Dharmic life. This helped them during their many instances of Vanvaas (living in the forest) and Agyaatvaas (living incognito).

On the other hand, Dharma was least on the mind of the Kauravas. The Kauravas always lived in the palace and had servants at their beck and call. Even with elders like Bhishma and Vidura present at all times, the Kauravas were swayed most by Shakuni, the brother of Gandhari. The Kauravas wanted everything without working for it. Though Gandhari was a Tapasvini, she fell short when it came to teaching her children about Dharma.

TEACHING CHILDREN TO RESPECT ELDERS & RISHIS

There is no doubt that Kunti did teach her children to respect and obey elders in the family and the venerated Rishis. When Bheema’s life was almost lost due to poisoning by Duryodhana, Kunti did not allow any of the Pandavas to speak rudely to their Uncle Dhritarashtra or question any of the elders in the palace. Similarly after the Varnavart disaster also, she did not speak rudely, nor did she allow her children to speak out of place in the palace. She accepted the good and the bad with equanimity and this rubbed off on her children. They got a balanced view of life learning from their Mother.

Gandhari was never successful in ensuring that Duryodhana or any of her children respected the words of any of the elders in the palace. It is a well-known fact that Duryodhana excelled in the art of “ku-tark” or arguments twisted to suit one’s wishes. When one disrespects and disobeys elders in the family, downfall is imminent. Ku-tark is something that has become part of children’s life in most Hindu families these days.

KUNTI NEVER LOST HER TEMPER OR CURSED ANYONE

The first rule of parenting is that one should never lose one’s temper and balance. This is something that is forgotten by most parents. Many a times even if one doesn’t lose balance in front of others, one definitely vents out one’s anger in front of the children at home. Kunti faced situations which were a challenge to anyone’s patience and belief in God. But she took the path of acceptance instead of complaining. After the Dyutkrida (play of Dice) she neither cursed the Kauravas, nor did she berate her own sons even if they had made the biggest mistake of their lives. But with a calm voice she warned Dhritarashtra that her sons would wipe out his entire family. This calm but stern warning was enough to motivate her children to fight for Dharma. It also showed her support to and gave moral strength to Draupadi. Even after the Mahabharata war, she soaked in the sorrow of seeing the death of her loved ones and accepted it. She said to Sri Krishna, “Krishna, let me always have sorrows because that way I will never forget You for even a minute.”

Gandhari was not able to bear the death of all her loved sons with fortitude. She cursed Sri Krishna that His entire kul (family) will also be wiped out and that He too would face a lonely death. Her anger was misplaced. She never used her anger against her sons’ misbehaviour especially towards her kulvadhu (daughter in law) Draupadi. Misplaced anger spells disaster always. We see this today in many families when fathers shout at the mothers for the child’s misbehaviour or when mothers blame the teachers in the school for the low marks that the child gets in the exams.

BLESSING CHILDREN APPROPRIATELY

When the Mahabharata war was to begin, Kunti said, “The reason why Kshatriya Mothers give birth to sons, has dawned. Fight for the victory of Dharma.” She was not seeking revenge against her family or the Kauravas; she was not interested in the fame of her sons if they were not protecting Dharma.

Gandhari knew that her sons were on the side of Adharma. But she still had putr-moha (attachment to her sons). That is why when all her sons except for Duryodhana were killed, she used her tapo-shakti to bless Duryodhana with a body as strong as a diamond, so that he wouldn’t be killed by Bheema. This was a misuse of her powers. By doing so, she was actually becoming a part of Adharma. So many times we see parents using their position, power and money to bail out their wayward children. By doing so, they are actually harming the child and society, both.

KNOWING WHEN TO LEAVE THE CHILDREN TO THEMSELVES

When Yudhisthir became the ruler of Indraprastha and the Pandavas went there to build their kingdom with Draupadi, Kunti did not go with them. When the Pandavas had to undergo Vanvaas after the dhyutkrida, Kunti did not go with them. The Pandavas were now married to Draupadi and Kunti saw no reason to interfere in their married life. She stayed back, not in the palace with all its comforts, but with Vidura and his wife and led a simple life. Even after the Pandavas won the war and Yudhisthir was crowned the King, she stayed, not as a Rajamata in comfort, but as a younger sister doing Seva to Gandhari and Dhritarashtra. Elders in all households must learn from Kunti’s life on how to give up command and control over the lives of the children after they grow up. A lot of problems in today’s households would reduce if only senior family members learnt how to give up attachment to control over the child’s life.

To sum up …

  • Bring forth progeny only when you are ready and have the right frame of mind and intent of becoming a parent.
  • Teaching children about Dharma and ensuring that they follow it, should be every parent’s main teaching to their children.
  • Accepting situations, even the worst of them with fortitude and not blaming everyone for it should be the hallmark of every parent’s behaviour.
  • Anger is a tool to be used sparingly and only when it can bring positive results. Else, shun anger.
  • Teach children to respect elders and holy people. Teach them about the value of getting their blessings.
  • Bless children appropriately and teach them to value the blessings, not misuse them.
  • Give up controlling the lives of the children after they have grown up and started their own family.

DHARMO RAKSHATI DHARMAHA.  SARVE JANAHA SUKHINO BHAVANTU.

PS: This was my speech at the VEDIC WAVES Conference – 2020-2021 … You can view the video here … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLpHiNDL5xE

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