One life across many epics

Indian Mythology 15 Comments

Published in Devlok, Sunday Midday, December 19, 2010

In the Ramayana is the story of a bear called Jambavan who served Ram with devotion, helping him along with the army of monkeys, to attack Lanka and defeat the demon-king Ravana. It is said that he is a form of Brahma who wanted to walk the earth along with Vishnu when the latter took the form of Ram. But during that time, he had a thought, “How I wish to fight with Ram! But I cannot as I am his great devotee and admirer.” Ram divined Jambavan’s thoughts and said, “In my next life, when I descend as Krishna, you will get the opportunity to fight me.” And so it came to pass that when Krishna was searching for the missing Syamantaka gem, he found it with a bear cub who turned out to be Jambavan’s son. When Krishna tried to claim it, Jambavan challenged him to a fight. And so they wrestled and as they wrestled, Jambavan realized he was fighting the man who was once Ram. God had fulfilled his promise.

Another celestial deity who accompanied Vishnu on earth was Adi Sesha, the serpent on whose coils Vishnu sleeps. When Vishnu was Ram, Adi Sesha was Laxman and when Vishnu was Krishna, Adi Sesha was Balarama. Once Laxman complained to Ram, “I am tired of agreeing with you because you are my elder brother.” So Ram said, “In our next life, you will be the elder brother and I will be the younger brother. You will still agree with me because you will realize you agree with me not because I am elder or older but because I always uphold dharma.”

Stories linking the epics of India, the Ramayana, the Bhagavat and the Mahabharata, are very common in mythology. Another story states that when Ravan kidnapped Sita, Ram was inconsolable in his grief. All the trees and the animals and the men and women of the forest tried to hug him. But he rejected their embrace. “Only Sita can touch me with such affection,” he said. Then he saw the disappointed faces of everyone around who was reaching out to comfort him and said, “In my next life, when I am Krishna, all of you shall be gopis and we shall dance together in Madhuvan.”

Perhaps the most interesting link is the story connecting Vishnu’s relationship with the sun-god Surya and the rain-god Indra. In the Ramayana, Vishnu is Ram and he supports Sugriva, the son of Surya, in his fight against Vali, the son of Indra. To balance the relationship, in the Mahabharata, Vishnu as Krishna supports Indra’s son, Arjuna, in his fight against Surya’s son, Karna. So what appears as unfairness in one life becomes fair when one considers the previous life.

Thus the events of the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata cannot be explained without understanding events in the Ramayana. One is the consequence while the other is the cause. Why was this weaving of epics done, one wonders. This weaving turns every epic and every episode in the epic into pieces of a vast jigsaw puzzle. To understand the entire puzzle you have to interlock all the stories and the characters and events. Nothing stands in isolation. Everything is dependent on something else. Thus to know something about Indian mythology, you are forced to study all. And so it is about life. To understand today’s India you have to undestand yesterday’s India. We are the products of the past. Today’s Krishna was yesterday’s Ram and today’s Kansa was yesterday’s Ravan.

  • R.Nataraja

    Hello Sir,
    Many similarities are there in Ramayana n Mahabharatha.Each and Every character is linked to one or other.
    Great piece of Information, Sir..

    All izz Well!!!

  • Anil

    Classic conclusion, so much true in real life. Its actually very difficult, from where to start in our analysis of any situation. For example, there is so much resistance to reservation, without knowing how ruthlessly all these had been dealt with by our earlier generations. It does not mean that I am supporter of reservation, the way it is being practiced now. The present practice, which is equally flawed, will lead to another set of laws, but we cant say when.

    • Priya

      Well said !

  • Nitin Vyas

    Dear Sir,

    I am very thankful to you that you are providing us with such information. I think today’s generation and every one should know about our own mythological culture, traditions.
    I am also Brahmin and I feel proud of it. I looking for more information about categories like Brahmin, vaishya…..
    Because strongly believe that categorising is strongly influence to our society.
    Thanks & regards


    Well from your last 3 sentences, i can understand that you are trying to say that for a business to do good in india….they have to understand Pre-2000 india and then the post-2000 india and then only can we know what to do in Post-2011 India to excel in our business….

    So if it is a repetition of past lives with the winners changed then, exactly we are in the century again when the people of India will win against corruption similar to what Gandhiji did against Britishers…

    I hope this comes true… We need our True India back !!!!

  • Giriraj Bhatia

    Dear Sir,

    Your article as usual is very thoughtful.

    As you are quite aware of the 4 yuga’s viz., Satyug, Tretayug, Dwaparyug & the current kalyug.

    Life goes on in cycle through these four yuga’s.

    Your deeds in Satyug could be balanced in remaining 3 yugs. However, your deeds of Kalyug will get balanced in Kalyug itself.

    So, whatever our deeds the same will be balanced very quickly.

  • Mahesh

    Hello Dev,
    great article and as usual info that we did not know despite reading the two epics and watching it on TV. Keep this going.

  • Sushma

    Well said!

  • Sumedha

    Yes, what we percieve as current life in our linear thinking, is actually ‘living’ many past lives all at the same time in a quantum state with it’s positives & negatives. The Soul being the same, over many many lives….Our individual souls are our own storehouse of knowledge & experience, which ‘we’ have accumalated. ‘We’ can, if we so choose…..,tap into our past lives to bring forward this wisdom of the ages into our current life…..& live that wisdom!

  • sachin

    in ramyana and mahabhrat there was one more character who was present. it was PARSHURAM, PLEASE put somelight on him also

  • Kalpesh


    I love to read your articles. It gives me very good insight of mythology with logical reasoning.
    After reading this article, I want to ask you one question, that if the Ramayan and Mahabharat are related then what is the relation between Vyasa (who Mahabahrat) and Valmiki (who wrote Ramayn)? Is there any connection between Lord Vishnu and Vyasa-Valmiki?
    Kindly reply

  • shirish

    it seems, you do not believe in reincarnation in a sense of life after death, but it seems you believe reincarnation in the form of our own offsprings. i.e One can live again through there DNA extensions. There offsprings. I read all your articles and this is the common thing that I observed in all.. Isn’t it Devduttji?

  • Blitz2

    Doesn’t Karma say so too? That your actions decide your life? So if we assume for a moment that Karma can transcend birth and death and view these incidents, each of those incidents don’t expound divine intervention but simply reinforce the power of Karma, making all the participants merely characters as a part of the huge play (as Shakespeare liked to say =) )

    So when Rama killed Bali without facing him in combat, the consequences came back to him when the hunter Jara shot him while in Krishna avatar. 

  • Harsha Muddu

    Extremely well-written article…..Too good