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Changing War tactics

Articles, Indian Mythology 13 Comments

Published in Devlok, Sunday Midday, August27,2012

 

Vishnu is the preserver of cosmic order in Hindu mythology. This role often involves battling Asuras, conventionally understood as ‘demons’. Every battle involves a different demon and so Vishnu takes different forms for each battle.

When Hiranayaksha dragged the earth under the sea, Vishnu took the form of a boar, Varaha, plunged into the waters, gored the Asura to death, placed the earth on his snout and raised her back to the surface. This confrontation was highly physical.

Hiranakashipu was a different kind of Asura. He obtained a boon that made him near invincible: he could not be killed either by a man or an animal, either in the day or in the night, neither inside a dwelling nor outside, neither on the ground or off the ground, neither with a weapon nor a tool. To kill this Asura, Vishnu transformed himself into Narasimha, a creature that was half lion and half human, neither man nor animal completely. He dragged the Asura at twilight, which is neither day nor night, to the threshold, which is neither inside a house nor outside, and placing him on his thigh, which is neither on the ground nor off, and disembowelled him with his sharp claws, which are neither weapons nor tools. This complex confrontation was highly intellectual; a battle of wits.

Then came Bali, an Asura, who was so noble and so generous that his realm expanded beyond the subterranean realms to include the earth and sky. To put him back in his place, where he belonged, Vishnu took the form of a dwarf, Vaman, and asked him for three paces of land. When Bali granted this wish, the dwarf turned into a giant and with two steps claimed the earth and sky, shoving Bali back to the nether regions with the third step. This battle involved not so much defeating the opponent as it did transforming oneself.

A study of these avatars of Vishnu indicates a clear shift in war tactic. From Varaha to Narasimha to Vamana there is a shift from brute force, to brain rather than brawn and finally an exercise in outgrowing rather than outwitting. The demons are becoming increasingly complex – Hiranayaksha is violent, Hiranakashipu is clever and there is no real fault in Bali; his goodness disturbs cosmic balance.  Each one forces Vishnu to change, adapt, and evolve. There is no standard approach; each approach is customized. What is significant is the shift from animal to human, from strength to cunning, from external drive to internal drive.

  • Reminds you of the fact that you constantly need to evolve to meet the ever changing situations.

  • Veerendra

    If Bali was noble, why destroy him ?

    • Raghav Venkataraman

      Bali, was not destroyed. He was sent to pathal. And he is to be the next Indra after the present one.

      • Raghav Venkataraman

        Reminds me of a story I read somewhere.

        Yudhishtra is now the very proud King of Bharatha varsha. He meets Krishna at his palace one time. He tells Krishna how well he rules.

        Krishna takes Yudhishtra for the tour de pathal and meets the citizens of pathal, now ruled by Bali. Krishna takes Yudhistra to Bali’s palace.

        Yudishtra proudly says thousands of people are offered food in his country. Bali feels sorry and says you rule is so bad that thousands are jobless and have none to feed them.

        Bali was presumably the noblest of Asura’s. Vibheeshna maybe is another one.

  • Naresh

    tempts me to add this too … Bhasmasura invokes the god Shiva by performing severe penances. Shiva, pleased with Bhasmasura, grants him the power to turn anyone into ashes by touching their head. The demon decides to try the power on Shiva himself. Shiva runs terrified. Vishnu, witnessing the unfortunate turn of events, transforms into Mohini and charms Bhasmasura. Bhasmasura is so taken by Mohini that he asks her to marry him. Mohini agrees, but only on the condition that Bhasmasura follows her move for move in a dance. In the course of the dance, she places her hand on her head. Bhasmasura mimics the action, and in turn, reduces himself to ashes.

  • devduttp

    You have two choices: believe that the storytellers were wise or that they were idiots. If you assume they are wise, then there is wisdom in this story. If you think they are idiots, then you have the opportunity to feel superior. Take your pick.

    • mohanrr

      Mr. Patnaik,
      Veerendra wants to know the wisdom behind the killing of Bali and I would
      also like to know the same. Will you please oblige ? Will highly appreciate
      your reply.

  • Kumar Rahul

    This is really nice analogy and inference… Good lessons to learn from…

  • gaurav jhalani

    the discussion in reply’s section reminds me of the time when i was hearing the same section of bhagwat of vaman and bali. shukracharya was also present at that time when vaman approached. knowing vaman intelligence during his conversation and his charrismatic face when he asked for three steps land shukracharya said: when the donor is going to give donation and has no question about it why should anyone interrupt the sage and the king”.
    when bali was sent in pathal vishnu said that you are great and this act of yours has exemplified you not me the vishnu”.
    it was all that tells you to think how inclusive is your every act.

    talking for the tactics 28th ved vyassa in mahabharata justified everything that your action and your tactics depends on the context and the time-mindset plane.

    these must not be repeated.
    if a product is suceesful in plane a this doesnot gurantee its suceess in space

    you have to think andd plan in accordance with alll the features whether subjective like culture or objective like need

  • Ramesh Subrahmaniam

    I have always wondered, why Devas,particularly, Indra, who seduced Ahalya, Hide the Ashwa of the Ashwamedha Yagna in Bhageeratha’s case, etc., was always supported and favoured by Vishnu, ( read Bhagavatham), whereas asuras (demons) were always punished? Any explanation?

    • Gaurav

      Indra, like pandavas is a good figure..He is not as enlightened or knowledgeable or free as VIshnu…Thatiswhy Ego and Insecurity comes in him..But still he or other demigods are much better than demons who only want everything for themselves and go to any extent of killing others or even those who surround them.. No body is perfect but demigods or devas are closer to Dharma than Demons. Hence supported by Vishnu.

  • Raghav Venkataraman

    @9467c11199d48c51aa72e0e63c12dda4:disqus @mohanrr:disqus:
    it is said what god gives cannot be crystalised as simply good or bad. Killing of Kansa and Sishupala finished their three births revolting against their god and brought them back to vaikunta.

    When everything is his, he made himself a small man and begged for three footsteps from an Asura to be given back to Indra.

    as far as i have read Vamana avatar is an avatar where a lot of teachings, implications and clarifications are made.
    For eg:

    1. Sukracharya, Guru of Bali, obstructs a good deed of Bali, esp. when the lord asks for it. He loses his one eye for this act of his.
    2. Bali still proceeds, in spite of his guru’s instructions not to, with the promise he gave and maybe he is punished for not listening to his guru :)

    And putting Bali to rule the underworlds maybe a boon(?!?)… who knows

    Bali is the next Indra to be, this boon is said to be given to him during the Vamana avatar. Now is this a boon rather than reaching the vaikunta ?

  • Raghav Venkataraman

    @9467c11199d48c51aa72e0e63c12dda4:disqus @mohanrr:disqus

    it is said what god gives cannot be crystalised as simply good or bad. Killing of Kansa and Sishupala finished their three births revolting against their god and brought them back to vaikunta.

    When everything is his, he made himself a small man and begged for three footsteps from an Asura to be given back to Indra.

    as far as i have read Vamana avatar is an avatar where a lot of teachings, implications and clarifications are made.
    For eg:

    1. Sukracharya, Guru of Bali, obstructs a good deed of Bali, esp. when the lord asks for it. He loses his one eye for this act of his.
    2. Bali still proceeds, in spite of his guru’s instructions not to, with the promise he gave and maybe he is punished for not listening to his guru :)

    And putting Bali to rule the underworlds maybe a boon(?!?)… who knows

    Bali is the next Indra to be, this boon is said to be given to him during the Vamana avatar. Now is this a boon rather than reaching the vaikunta ?