I remember seeing a play based on Mahabharata long back. I do not remember the year, but I remember the situation. This was in Delhi in the early 70s. During Durga Puja there used to plays staged at the pandals and on one such occasion, because of rains the play was washed out. This was in Kirti Nagar, New Delhi. The play was later staged in a community hall and I had attended it with my father.
Now that I think back, the year was probably 1972. That was the year my brother was born. And maybe that was the reason why Ma was not there in the hall.
I clearly remember actors in yellow marigold garlands playing various characters. There was one character there who made a fleeting appearance and vanished. This character was Uloopi. At that time I did not think much about that.
Enter the English ChandaMama . This was again in the seventies, probably 74 or 75.
Let me skip to Chandamama for now, and I will get back here.
It was at a newspaper stand in Kirti Nagar that I had seen this magazine. I clearly remember what intrigued me was the drawing of Ekalavya cutting off his thumb. I had bought that and I had read it cover to cover. The magazine had a series going on then, on Mahabharat.
Before this my introduction to Mahabharat had been UpendraKishore Roy Chowdhury’s ‘Chheleder Mahabharat’ (Mahabharat for Boys), a work in Bengali, written by Satyajit Ray’s GrandFather.
The ChandaMama had pictures, well illustrated and it narrated the basic story of the epic.
Back to my story.
The specific issue of the magazine had Arjuna being dragged by Uloopi into a river and then marrying her.
Then, some years later, I came across an Amar Chaitra Katha titled Uloopi.
This was the first time I got to understand this minor character of Mahabharat.
This is an experiment. To write about Uloopi. About Mahabharata. Not knowing much but collecting material from folklore and Mahabharat, I am also trying to add to it, my own thoughts and imagination. This is Mahabharat but from the view of Uloopi (or Ulupi).
This is not a translation. I had done (at least started) an English translation of the Kritivasa Ramayana, which I later saw being posted on blogs without any consideration of even a Thank You. This is my own writing.
I am deeply religious. I believe in my Gods and Goddesses. I also believe in Good and Evil. Mahabharata has demons who are good, Gods who are scheming. This is something that can be enjoyed by all.
Mahabharata has characters who think like present day people, act like them, behave like them.
The Mahabharata and in many places the Ramayana talks about the Nagas. Who were they? In 1909 H. PArker wrote ‘Ancient Ceylon’. In this he talks about the Nairs of Kerala as being the Nagas.
The Nagas ruled Patala. Vishnu Purana describes Patala as ‘as more beautiful than Svarga (heaven). Patala is described as filled with splendid jewels, beautiful groves and lakes and lovely demon maidens. Sweet fragrance is in the air and is fused with sweet music. The soil here is white, black, purple, sandy, yellow, stony and also of gold’.
The nagas were probably snake worshippers as snakes ate rats and mice which ate the wheat and rice these people grew and stored.
There are seals and seal impressions found that show that the Indus Valley people also used to worship this serpent deity.
Krishna, the king of Dwarka, was supposed to be an incarnation of Vishnu. On this earth he was the son of Vasudeva. Vasudeva and his sister Kunti were grand children of the Naga Aryaka. Baldeva or Balabhadra or Balarama , the elder brother of Krishna is said to be reincarnation of Sesha Naga,
While reading about Ulupi, it talks about a princess in Patala, who went to Haridwar , abducted Arjuna and then left him in Manipura. Is this the same Manipura or Manipur that we know of today?
Some reading leads me to believe that Manipur here means land of gems and this was some part in North India where were mines of precious stones and gems.
It is said that Takshaka ,the Naga, lived in Takshashila, That, if we take present day’s geography, is present day Taxila. The river Ravi which flows from India into Pakistan today, has been mentioned in the Vedas as the river Airavati or Iravati. This river joins the river Jhelum and flows into the Arabian sea.
Taxila is situated in the land between the Indus and the Jhelum rivers. This is supposed to be the same spot where the great snake sacrifice was to take place by Janmajaya or Janmajeya. In this sacrifice, Vaishampayana, a disciple of the Sage Vyasa, had then recited the Mahabharat.
Taken that, most of the happenings of Mahabharata seems to be taking place in the present day Indian subcontinent.
Panchala, the land in which Draupadi or Panchali was from, seems to be in present day Uttar Pradesh or Uttarakhand.
Dwarka is in Gujarat, where Krishna lived so are Mathura and Vrindavan.
One interesting term that is mentioned in Mahabharata is Rakshasha. Who was a Rakshasha?
Historians believe that when the (present day) north India clans tried to take over more land, they had to face the local tribes staying there. These tribes were primarily forest dwellers and they used to protect (Raksha) the forests. The clash between the two tribes created constant tensions.
With the focus of the attention of Mahabharata and other Indian epics being that of the great Kings, the Rakshashas came into light as some people who were against the heroes.
The Raskhasas were not Asuras. The Asuras were a clan in the Puranas who lived and fought with the Gods or Devas. The Rakshasas lived on this earth. Some Rakshasas like Hidimba and Ghatotkacha are mentioned in Mahabharat in good light.
In the book “A Socio-political Study of the Valmiki Ramayana” by Ramashraya Sharma. says “The Rakshasas belonging to the other group (viz. of Rakshasas by birth) are essentially human beings, in spite of the cloak of monstrosity and barbaric splendour imposed on them by an Aryan poet describing the culture and achievements of a hostile people. The origin of these people is to be traced to Salakatankata who is in all probability a personification of night. One important respect in which these Rakshasas are to be distinguished from the Aryans (and all other people of the Ramayana) is the ‘matrilinear character’ of their family life.”
Prabodh Chandra Sengupta in (1951) “The Dānavas in the Mahābhārata” says the Danavas, and other defeated beings (Rakshasas, Gandharvas, Nagas, et cetera) were non-Aryan tribes.
Why Ulupi’s version.
Arjuna had four prominent wives in the Mahabharata. Draupadi is famous. Subhadra, is famous as Krishna’s sister and as mother of Abhimanyu. Chitrangada was immortalized by Rabindranath Tagore in his play Chitrangada. This leaves the Naga princess Ulupi.
Interestingly there is not much material on Ulupi to research on. She is a Naga princess who abducts Arjuna and then appears in the end of Mahabharat.
What would Ulupi do? What was she thinking? That was my idea in this retelling of the great Epic while I read and tell the story.
This is just my begining.
Is this Vyasa’s Mahabharat? 99 percent of this is the Mahabharat. Some bits are from other Puranas which talk of similar stories. For example the Devi Bhagwatam talks about Bhishma and the Vasus stealing Vashishta’s cow, something that is not there is Mahabharata. Then there is the Srimad Bhagwat Puran which a version from Kirshna’s viewpoint.
This is not a simple task to do and this is a slow task.
Also this needs courage. This is the largest epic and so many characters and happenings.
With the name of Durga and saying Sri Ganesh, I start this writing on Uloopi’s version of the Mahabharata.