As sound of the chant Mahabharatam filled the hall, Sadhguru walked among the participants, leading them out into the pavilion. For the last dinner they would have as part of the event, the premises of the Adiyogi Alayam were decorated lavishly with lamps.
The participants were gripped with sentiment – it was the end of an experience that occurs only once in a lifetime. But few could resist the lively beats by Sounds of Isha, which brought many to their feet. Volunteers and participants encircled Sadhguru as the music played, enjoying a joyful dance which would bring this momentous program to a close.
19 Feb – 1.01am
The last session of the Mahabharat had Sadhguru bringing in the various teams that have worked relentlessly to make the event happen, from construction to decor, dining, music, media and hospitality to maintenance, registrations and program coordination. The teams came up bashfully to thunderous applause – the participants were grateful and very appreciative of the massive work that has gone in.
The final showcase of Mahabharat was a phenomenonal dance by over 130 Isha residents. Depicting the ebb and tide of war, with wide aggressive stances, tight group formations and guttural sounds and grunts, the Kali dance was a spectacular affair. There were strong influences of Kalari and the Balinese ritual dance Kecak.
The colours they wore were, again, red and black, to depict the battle of Kurukshetra. However, each dancer wore a mask with both the colours, indicating that we all contain elements of everything – and that the real battle we wage is internal, within ourselves.
18 Feb – 4.07pm
On the eighth and final day of the Mahabharat event, we bring you a short video of Sadhguru speaking about the epic and the importance of living the experience.
18 Feb – 3.13pm
The Mahabharat is almost coming to an end and there are so many aspects of the preparations to dwell on. But there is one comparison that is rather stunning – the conditions at the Aadi Yogi Aalyam before the program started and now.
Anyone visiting even two days before would have been dazed to see how much remained to be done. But it was, with the utmost efficiency. We bring you a few images.
18 Feb – 1.15pm
Sadhguru makes the distinction between Jaya and Vijaya – internal and external conquests. Unless you win over yourself, where is your victory, what is your success?
This is the significance behind the Sounds of Isha song, Jaya Vijaya:
Dharma yuddha hai
Karma yuddha hai
Atal rahaa vinaash
Yuddha gosha se ek ho gaye
Dharti aur aakaash
Kar na paoge jo khud ke
raaga lobha par jai
Raja kya karoge, aur kis par
Jo ho na khud par Jai
This is the war of Dharma
This is the war of Karma
Destruction is inevitable
The clamor of war has made
the earth and sky meet
If you cannot conquer
your own rage and anger
how can you be victorious over others?
18 Feb – 11.40am
While narrating the Pandavas’ journey to Indra’s court, Sadhguru tells of his own experience in Devalok.
Sometime is 1985-86, Sadhguru was in the Himalayas. After a tiring journey he arrived at Badrinath. It was cold – about -4 degrees — and raining as well, so he sought refuge in an ashram. After some probing questions, the swamis permitted stay and said to someone: “Usko Devlok mein daal do!” (“Put him in Devalok!”) Sadhguru admits he thought of Apsaras.
He was led through alleyways to a room laid out with several beds and there was nobody else there. As Sadhguru put down his pack and crashed on the mattress… squelch! the bed was sodden. He moved to another one. Wet. Every one of them. “However,” Sadhguru went on, to chuckles from the audience, “in spite of so much water, it did not drown the bugs.” After moving from bed to bed “so that I could feed all the bugs equally” he finally gave up at 3.30 and went out.
Then he really saw Devalok. Over the dark valley, a mountain peak, white and golden, lit by the sun from elsewhere. Sadhguru says he burst into tears at the sight.
17 Feb – 4.09pm
The volunteers and residents have been great facilitators for this event. Preparing flowers and refreshing the various arrangements, moving cushions for the theatrical performances, changing the clothes and decorations of the sculptures… all this is done throughout the day or into the night before the session starts the following morning. As hectic as one would imagine it to be for such a major event, what is most apparent is the joy with which they go about their activity.
17 Feb – 2.12pm
Earlier in the program Sadhguru had described how the yugas are created by the Solar System’s orbit around a Super Sun. Today Sadhguru mentioned that the name of the Super Star was Rudra. Ra is Egyptian for sun, and Ru means nebulous or roaring – therefore Rudra meaning Roaring Sun. The Indus Valley has thrown up 12,000 year old iconographic evidence of their reverence of Rudra.
In fact that is the reason sun is referred to as Ravi in Indian culture, which is to say, the son of Rudra.
17 Feb – 12.08pm
Responding to a question about avatars, Sadhguru said that an avatar is a manifestation of the creator. Of course, every creature – an ant, coconut tree, man – is a manifestion of the creator. But it is a question of being aware of it, conscious to the point where you can access the possibilities of the creator. The “coming down”, in this case, is by choice. The avatar operates in a semi active state – sometimes as creator, sometimes as ordinary man. The term is a perfect fit for Krishna.
17 Feb – 11.46am
Turns into a mean game
The quiet warrior a deadly force
Strong of body and mind
Weak of vanity and whim
Enjoined with god because
Destiny’s tool but nobody’s fool
A Man, A Man, Oh Man
16 Feb – 11.21pm
Daksha Seth’s troupe presented yet another scintillating performance this evening. Kicking off with a contemporary reading of the disrobing of Draupadi, it moved with war drums to actual battle. Using twirling staffs, and some truly stupendous, furiously fast sworldplay on stage, the dancers told the story of war. Elements of martial arts, Kalari from Kerala and Thang-ta from Manipur, were employed and the use of props – smoke, lighting, falling red paper that hinted at blood – was superb. It gave the audience a better idea of the scenes at Kurukshetra.
16 Feb – 4.03pm
Day 6 of the Mahabharat has a color theme: Red for the Pandavas and Black for the Kauravas. The participants, who were told in advance to bring clothes in these colors, have worn them with great excitement. The Adiyogi Alayam has drapes and flags in contrasting patterns, many containing insignias of various personages on either side of the battle. Karna’s sculpture now has a broken wheel beside it, while Arjuna’s Gandeeva has made an appearance. The backdrop for Sadhguru’s seat is a grand arrangment too!
16 Feb – 3.02pm
Last night was a long one for the residents, volunteers and workers involved with the decorations at the Adiyogi Aalayam. With the story moving out of the exile phase and entering the war chapters, the look needed to be changed drastically. All the greenery and rusticity came down and the decor became more militant. We bring you a few images from the work done overnight.
16 Feb – 1.42pm
As a memento, the particpants were presented with metal dice, which were blessed by Sadhguru. The cylindrical die has four flattened sides – three numbers and the Mahabharat logo on the fourth. The surface is covered with beaten sheets of copper and the pieces came wrapped in red cloth ornamented with gold. Used in pairs, these were the type of dice used on that fateful day in the Mahabharat.
16 Feb – 11.55am
Describing the battle, Sadhguru says some people in this story have very specific destinies. Drishtadyumna, for instance, is destined to kill Drona, just as Shikhandi or Amba is certain to kill Bhishma. No one wants to deny them their destiny.
Sadhguru then talks of what destiny is and how they must fulfil it here and now or somewhere else, it is just a question of time. “Destiny is only a string that makes a garland. Whether you make a garland of flowers, beads or bones, is determined now by your karma… Or sometimes, if you have the necessary power or discrimination about your own life, you can discriminate between your mind, your karma, the life within you, then you can place your destiny into somebody else’s hands out of utter devotion. This is what the Pandavas did.”
16 Feb – 10.31am
It’s no surprise that the meals at the Mahabharat are excellent – after all Isha has a great reputation for presenting superb culinary fare. Sweetmeat experts from Andhra Pradesh as well as cooks from North India have been invited to prepare the tables for this event.
But there is a pattern and a method to the foods being presented here. The initial days saw mostly North Indian fare with tandoori rotis and sabzis. Now slowly, to trace the movements of the Pandavas over the subcontinent, the specialties are increasingly from South India. There were also Udipi specialtes, Neer dosa and Ragi dosa. The Udipi connection is particularly relevant because of the history. Sadhguru tells that the King of Udipi was approached by both the warring parties for his support. But instead of joining one side, he preferred to stay neutral and supply the food to both armies at Kurukshetra. Sadhguru jokes that the ubiquitous Udipi restaurants are feeding the country to this day.
15 Feb – 10.45pm
The evening session of the Mahabharat brought a spell-binding dance performance by dancer Daksha Seth and her troupe. Containing various influences including acrobatics and classical forms, it was a high-voltage routine. Isha Sharvani, playing Krishna, was beautiful with speaking, fluid lines, and utterly fearless as she soared a few feet above the ground with what seemed like very meagre hold on her prop.
The high energy performace was much admired by Sadhguru as well as the participants.
15 Feb – 4.44pm
The decorations and artwork in Aadi Yogi Aalayam have been taking everyone’s breath away. The fabrics and installations change subtly every day. Today, for instance, seeing how the Pandavas are in exile, the theme centred around the forest – the backdrops were made of reeds and fibre, grassy and leafy patches hung about everywhere.
But the piece de resistance – the ensemble that catches everyone’s eye as they enter and leave the hall – is a set of sculptures specially commissioned for the event. Duryodhana and Karna are set to one side and the five Pandavas and Draupadi on the other. The modernist sculptures were designed by Sadhguru, implemented by Isha’s design team and executed by temple sculptors from Perur. Made of metal and stone, the pieces are coated and textured to look like burnished copper. Taken together the collection weighs over 1½ tonnes.
15 Feb – 2.20pm
In the afternoon session, a lively skit by children from the Isha Home School and residents told the story of the Pandavas’ encounter with a Yaksha.
As the Pandavas seek some water in the forest, Nakula, Sahadeva, Arjuna and Bhima fall prey to a Yaksha’s lure and fall dead. When he arrives at the spot, the Yaksha asks Yudhisthra a series of questions to which he has all the answers. Pleased, the Yaksha asks him to name one brother who could be revived. Yudhisthtra names Nakula. On being questioned on his choice, Yudhisthra responds that of their mothers Kunti and Madri, Kunti has one son alive in him and that it is only fair that Madri have one son living too. Happy with his nobility, the Yaksha revives them all.
Sadhguru reminds us that during the game of dice, Yudhishtra had staked his half-brothers Nakula and Sahadeva first. After these years spent in the forest, Yudhishtra had become a better man – shown by his concern for Madri. The point of the story of the Yaksha is that the comfort of the palace may not teach what the hardship of the forest can.
The audience thoroughly enjoyed the play and we bring you some pictures from the green room.
15 Feb – 12.21pm
Sadhguru says going to the forest is an enduring theme in our epics – it is always considered an opportunity for learning. For instance, Arjuna and Bhima both have encounters (with Shiva and Hanuman respectively) that teach them the value of humility.
In an interesting digression, Sadhguru tells of his own experience in the Western Ghats where he once walked 22 days living off the land. People assume that elephants and tigers are the most exciting part of the wild, but to him the most intruiging feature were the insects that would start to thrum at precisely the same time every evening. Sadhguru also shares a nugget: If all the insects were to disappear off the earth, life on this planet would not last more than 16 years. If worms disappeared, life would last a mere eight years. If humans disappeared… you guessed it! it would make no difference at all and, in all probability, the earth would thrive.
15 Feb – 10.49am
The Pandavas are exiled to the forests and are settling down gradually, even beginning to enjoy the calm of nature. Draupadi however had a problem – there wasn’t enough food to feed all the Brahmins that visited them. She had to turn away the guests, which distressed her.
Draupadi prayed to the Sun God and asked for the ability to feed any guest that walked into her humble home. Surya bestowed on her an Akshaya Paatra, a bowl that would give unlimited quantities of anything she wished but so long as she ate last. Explaining her perturbation, Sadhguru says that feeding people is a kind of joy. Even today, in many holy towns of South India, there is no need to go to restaurant for meals. Simple but good meals are provided to anyone who walks in. Food is seen as something very fundamental.
15 Feb – 9.33am
The first half of the Mahabharat week saw the Aadi Yogi Aalayam converted into an opulent palace that expected its visitors to live up to its grandeur. Now the events are moving towards war – the participants are being greeted today by war drums and dark drapes hang from the ceiling… is it to forebode what’s coming?
14 Feb – 5.33pm
Sadhguru why did Krishna dictate to Sahadev, not to reveal his wisdom and impose the rule that he should answer a question with another question?
So why is he preventing wisdom from spreading? The wisdom of Sahadeva is not spiritual wisdom, it is worldly wisdom. If people feel strife, they will seek the ultimate. So he understands that if strife is created, everybody will make the right choice. But with worldly wisdom if you create comfort, a sense of comfort which will not last very long, people will make wrong choices.
So he said, “You will not spread this wisdom. Your wisdom is useful only if spiritual enlightenment has happened, then you learn how to handle the material, it will be useful to create comfort in the world.” This is what Krishna is saying, this kind of wisdom will put people to sleep, it is a great tranquilizer. Krishna wants strife because when strife is there, people will seek truth. So he does not want Sahadeva’s wisdom.
14 Feb – 3.44pm
Sadhguru continues the story of Karna, a righteous and straightforward person who ends up becoming acrimonious and spiteful because of people’s taunts about his supposedly low birth. His gratitude to Duryodhana for giving him a kingdom and a title leads to him exhibiting increasingly malicious behavior against the Pandavas to prove his loyalty. This devotion to his friends became an enduring quality, leading him to renounce his place among the Pandavas in favor of the one person who had stood by and nurtured him. Following is Sadhguru’s poem about this complex character:
Karmic burden of
Make him mean
By things unseen.
A good man
Who is no good.
A great being
Only when he stops being.
A fate’s child
14 Feb – 2.37pm
In order to cheat his cousin brothers out of their immense wealth and good fortune, Duryodhana arranges a game of dice with the help of his uncle Shakuni. Taunting them to stake their riches, the Pandavas are no match for Shakuni’s enchanted dice and are made to hand over all their jewels and ornaments. Sadhguru puts the situation in context, “These jewels are not prized for their monetary value, they are valued for their prestige. So taking away their personal jewels is like dismantling them. The Pandavas stood there in utter shame, just fifteen minutes ago they were kings, now they were the slaves of the Kauravas.”
14 Feb – 1.18pm
Sadhguru, ever the poet, has composed lines about each of the characters in the Mahabharat. Here is a compilation of the poems he has shared with the participants so far:
So full of fire she had to be of fire.
Of passion pride shame and rage.
Too fiery to rise too fiery to fall.
Her beauty and passion consumed all.
What a lovely snare.
A good man
a good man
And a good man.
As tedious as
Only good can get.
But when life gets mean
You will want good man.
A scoundrel is knowledgeable
A fool will know.
A sage is an empty page.
14 Feb – 11.33am
To the haunting sound of violin in the background, Sadhguru explains the birth of the city of Indraprastha, the miraculous development of the metropolis dedicated to Indra. Initially, the Kauravas voice their plot to kill the Pandavas in front of the royal court, to which Drona replies, “You can’t kill the Pandavas so easily, even by foul play. I know Arjuna, he’s as good as me – he can shoot you dead in his sleep.”
In order to avoid a civil war, it was decided by the elders that the Pandava brothers should move to the former capital of the kingdom. After reaching there and realizing that it was an ancient ruined city, Krishna rectifies the situation by invoking the rain god to build a magnificient city for the Pandava clan.
14 Feb – 10.31am
Sadhguru opens today’s session with the story of the Pandava’s marriage to Draupadi. Though her father had wanted Draupadi to marry Krishna, the whole situation is cunningly avoided by Krishna, who convinces Draupadi’s father to arrange a swayamvara, saying that a fiery woman like Draupadi should make her own choice.
A contest with an occult bow is arranged, which most of the warriors could not even string. Only those who know the esoteric process can wield it and the challenge is finally won by Arjuna, who takes Draupadi as his bride.
13 Feb – 5.32pm
The storytelling took a dramatic turn today with the enactment of an episode from the exploits of Bheema – the slaying of the demon Bakasura. A fierce cannibal who demanded daily offerings and sacrifice, he terrorized a local village until Bheema put an end to his cruel ways.
Children of the Isha Home School as well as Isha residents participated in the drama with much gusto. The actors moved among the particpants who craned their necks, sat up and even moved closer to catch all the action. Rather than be depicted through a single actor, a long line of ‘Chota Bheems’ portrayed the warrior who finally slew the rakshasa.
13 Feb – 2.42pm
Sadhguru shares a poem entitled “Megha” about the dark-bodied one known as Krishna:
The dark mystic of the ages
arrives not with a bundle of messages
But with mischief that enamors kings and sages
Determined to have his way with a smile
he did commit ravish deceit and slaughter even
Life does not absolve him of taint
but could not bind him even a moment
He’s no saint or sage
but glowed with wisdom for all ages
13 Feb – 1.35pm
The decorative elements in Aadi Yogi Aalayam have been a major talking point these past couple of days. Accentuating the pivotal role that Krishna played in the happenings of the epic, to one side of the hall is suspended Krishna’s flute – a 20ft fabrication made of various materials. It is a lovely piece, decorated with ornate silks and an installation of Krishna’s trademark peacock feather.
13 Feb – 12.28pm
In an amazing story involving venom, river snakes and an elixir, Bhima survives an attempt on his life by his cousin Duryodhana. The grieving brothers give him up for dead and are actually preparing the obsequies.
As Duryodhana feigns sorrow and oversees the feast, Bhima walks back to Hastinapura. Shocked at his return, the cooks stop the preparations midway. Bhima is, needless to say, hungry… in fact, he’s hungrier than usual. He barges into the kitchen and flings all the vegetables he can find into one steaming pot. It was quite contrary to the Aryan culinary rules of the time, for they were particular about which vegetables went together and which didn’t. But it turned out alright, and the dish Bhima concocted is what we relish today as Aviyal.
13 Feb – 11.32am
The story moves on. The Pandavas and Kauravas are growing as does the enimity between them.
Parallely, Sadhguru tells Karna’s story. Laden with a daunting set of curses, Karna, that child of destiny, walks in desolation to the ocean shore at a latitude where the sun’s rays could be best received. The spot where he performed his intense sadhana is marked today with the famous Sun Temple at Konark.
13 Feb – 9.53am
Every session in the Mahabharat program is opened with a special composition by Sadhguru. As the participants settle down in their bright attires, freshly enthused for the new day, the Aalayam reverberates with the Mahabharat chant:
Dharma Adharma Sangarshanam
Pakshi, Prani, Manava Cha Deva
Dharma Adharma Panchalika
Gnana Prabhasita Divya Jeevam
Sarve Sarva Maha Amritam
Story of Bharat, the Great Story of Bharat
A struggle betwixt Dharma and Adharma
Bird, animal, human and Gods
All puppets of Dharma-Adharma
The Glorious being who glows in enlightenment
In him everything an ambrosia of life.
13 Feb – 1.09am
Mahabharat – Saga Nonpareil (February 11 – 18)
12 Feb – 10.17pm
Talking of how the yugas influence the consciousness of all creatures on our planet, Sadhguru explained the natural dip in perception that occurs during the Kali Yuga. However, he added: “You can be above this: free to transcend the yuga, or be trampled by the yuga, or ride the yuga – all three possiblities are there.”
At the end of the day, the participants took part in the fire meditation, with the Brahmacharies performing a Bhuta Aradhana – an offering to the five elements through an Aarti and powerful chants.
12 Feb – 7.38pm
In a fascinating discussion on dharma and adharma, Sadhguru says it is not about right or wrong. Dharma is a many-tiered thing. There are many common dharmas and personal dharmas – to live in the family, to walk in the street, to be an ascetic, to me as a human being… the question is always, what is my dharma?
Sadhguru takes questions from the participants, who are probing the issue further, asking how, if everyone has personal dharma, there will not be collisions. In response, Sadhguru is describing the tension between karma and dharma.
12 Feb – 6.38pm
Fresh flowers are always an important component of the Isha look. Our decoration team uses garlands made of lilies to set off bric-a-brac and participants aren’t spared when it comes to their zeal – the women are offered flowers to wear in their hair and yes, the volunteers will arrange it to best effect too!
12 Feb – 4.59pm
The narration has now meandered towards our main figures. The Kuru family is once again beset by the problem of having no heir. Due to what must be Curse No. 28 since Sadhguru began the tale, Pandu must seek alternative sources for his progeny and Kunti turns to some lofty personages – Yama, Vayu and Indra – for assistance.
On the other side of the picture, Dritarashtra and Gandhari aren’t having an easy time of bearing children either – Sage Vyasa is currently hatching 101 Kauravas in earthen pots!
12 Feb – 4.03pm
Behind the action is… more action! To make sure everything is running as it should, volunteers are organised into efficient teams. In between sessions, the hall team swoops in to clean up and reorganise; on cue, the dining team brings the food and the cheer, while the invisible teams – kitchen, cleaning, decoration and others – are also determined to make the event a smooth affair.
12 Feb – 2.42pm
In an aside, Sadhguru explains the idea behind the caste system in India: As fathers taught sons, this was a way of preserving knowledge and skills, which is one reason why the caste system was rigidly followed. Each community had its own rules – what to eat, how to eat, how to live – so that they could best nurture their skills and trades, leading to the evolution of a highly complex society. It was not intended to be discriminatory as it later became.
Even today, although it is fast fading, many South Indian communities retain their unique lifestyles, even down to how they season food.
12 Feb – 1.50pm
Sadhguru narrates the story of Bhishma taking the three princesses of Kashi for Satyavati’s son and the consequences that bore for Amba, the oldest of the sisters. The tale then shifts to the other line of Chandravamsha, which took root in Mathura. After describing the nature of Krishna’s birth, Sadhguru breaks for a meditative process with music dedicated to the blue-bodied one.
12 Feb – 12.54am
Keeping with the story-within-a story format that is so typical of the epic, Sadhguru tells of King Nahusha, his lineage, finally coming to King Shantanu who wanted to marry Satyavati, the fishergirl.
As we break for a while, the story is poised at a thrilling cliffhanger, where Satyavati’s father has demanded that her sons must be king. But Devavrata, Shantanu’s able son from Ganga, is in the way. So Devavrata vows never to marry, never to have children and castrates himself – thereby earning the sobriquet, ‘Bhishma’.
12 Feb – 12.16am
This first session is a delightful exercise in pure storytelling, interspered with mellow song. Sadhguru picks up the thread from Sage Brihaspati, traces the lineage of the Chandravamsis, a line of artistic, emotional people… the same ‘vamsha’ or family that yields us the Kurus who form the centre of our story.
12 Feb – 11.11am
With the event getting off to a grand start yesterday, the participants are eager to see what today has in store for them. As they make their way through the entrance pathway, passing through beautifully decorated toranams, they’re greeted by drummers rolling out a rousing welcome. The whole entrance area wears a traditional look: the side walls are plastered with earth and the ground is lined and ornamented with long series of white kolams.
11 Feb – 10.32pm
Sadhguru places the Mahabharat in context. Referring to the wealth of characters in the epic, each with a complete history of birth to death, marriage, asceticism, motivations and sorrows, he talks of how it is possible to live and experience everything without a scratch on your body: “The beauty of a story is this — if you involve yourself with a story without going through the pains of life, you can go through life.”
Talking of five types of agni that can burn within a human being, Sadhguru elaborates for the time being on three: Jataragni, Chitagni and Bhutagni. The first is the fire involving food and the senses, the second involves the intellect and the third is elemental fire which gives a human being the power to play with and master the elements. In the Mahabharat, we encounter characters with all these types of fires burning at intense levels.
What happened next was a meditation that was stunning to witness. The participants were each given an earthen pot containing a ghee-soaked cloth, which was then lit – this is to be their ‘dhuni’, their personal fire for the rest of the event. With the fires lighting their faces and the accompanying music, the meditation was a moving experience.
Sadhguru stresses the need to live the story – to experience totally it without judgment.
11 Feb – 9.18pm
Sadhguru talks of “the relentless wheel of time”. Time, he says, is a significant aspect of creation, not something conceived by human beings as is commonly assumed. Human beings are capable of either being entrapped by time or of using it as a mode of liberation. Then Sadhguru delves into the technicalities of yugas, how they’re measured and how the movement of our solar system causes a rise and fall of human consciousness.
11 Feb – 8.16pm
The excitement is palpable. The participants of the Mahabharat – 450 of them – have been asked to dress exuberantly in keeping with the grandeur of the saga they are to witness and they have risen to the occasion. Dressed in their finest, wearing their brightest smiles, the participants make their way into the Aadi Yogi Aalayam, which was decked for the opening night.
11 Feb – 6.30pm
Day 1 – The Saga Begins
The hour is almost upon us! An army of volunteers have been working very hard to prepare for this mega event. The construction crew has been working day and night for months, the residents have pulled out all the stops and volunteers have been streaming in to Isha Yoga Centre to contribute their bit to this wonderful happening. Here’s a teaser at what’s taking place behind the scenes.