Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mahabharata Quiz

I hosted a Mahabharata Quiz on Twitter Quiz handle @kweezzz  and am cross-posting the questions here. Even some of the text questions were in pictures so that to prevent Googling and I am posting them as it is. I have also tried to explain the answers in more detail than it was possible in 140 characters in the Twitter format.  Do try the quiz and leave the feedback in comments.


2.  X was killed by A. At least twice, X's kin B & C attempted revenge for the death of X. B took the help of D but A was saved by a clever manoeuver of E. Later C attempted revenge on A's grandson. Identify A, B, C, D, E. 

I gave 2 hints to the question. Please go through the hints only if you find the question open ended and arbitrary to begin with. 

1st hint- A & E are Arjuna and Krishna respectively. 2nd hint- D is Karna. Now tell me who are B & C. 

3. Just tell me the names of the longest and the shortest Parva of Mahabharata.

4. Pick the odd one out and tell me why. --  Raam, Lakshman,Bharat, Hanuman, Sugreev. 

5. Just tell me the names Pandavas and Draupadi took during the Agyaatvaas. 

What two names will come instead of XXXXXX in that list? 

Connect with Mahabharata. 



Again this might be too arbitrary. So just for the way of a hint, this has something to do with martial strength.  



12. If Kurukhestra is Kurukshetra, Ang Pradesh is Bhagalpur and Gandhaar is Peshawar  then what are  Indraprastha, Hastinapur and Madr Desh?

13. I didn't ask this question in the online quiz but can you connect J.Robert Oppeheimer to Mahabharata?


1. The answer is Ugrasravas. Jaya was as written by Ved Vyaas also known as Krishna Dwaipayana. Bharata was as narrated by Vaisampayana to King Janamjeya. It took the name Mahabharata when it was narrated by Ugrasravas to a group of Rishis. The narration of Vaisampayana is contained in the story narrated by Ugrasravas. So Mahabharata is technically a story within a story.

2. A is Arjuna. B is Aswasena. C is Takshak. D is Karna. E is Krishna. This is a very fascinating story told in Mahabharata. Pandavas had to burn a dense forest called Khandavprastha to establish their capital Indraprastha. Arjuna was entrusted with this task in which his friend Krishna helped him. They together burned down the entire forest along with the inhabitants as an offering to Agni Dev. Among those who died was the wife of Naag-King Takshaka. She sacrificed herself to save his son Aswasena. Takshaka was away and hence survived. The father-son duo swore revenge on Arjuna. Later during Mahabharata, Aswasena collaborated with Karna and manifested himself into the deadly and accurate Naag-astra that Karna used on Arjuna. Krishna recognized Aswasena and saved Arjuna by pressing the knees of the horses into the ground so that the Naag-Astra could only hit the crown on head of Arjuna. Later Takshaka poisoned the food of Parikshit, grandson of Arjuna, thus killing him and completing his revenge.

3. The longest Parva is Shantiparva with 14,732 verses and shortest is Swargarohana Parva with only 209 verses.

4. The odd one out is Ram. Though some other answers can be also given through vague or not so vague connections but the quiz was Mahabharata specific and quiz master's discretion so I accepted only Ram as the correct answer. Now for the connect I had in mind.

All the other names were present either as themselves or as namesakes in both Mahabharata and Ramayana. Hanuman was himself there on the chariot flag of Arjuna. Laskhman was also the name of son of Duryodhana. Bharat, also the son of Shankuntala was one of the ancestor of Kauravas and Pandavas and Sugreev was the name of one of the horses of Arjuna's chariot.

5. Kanka, Vallabha, Brihannala, Granthika, Tantipala and Malini. Sairandhri was the name of the post Draupadi took up.

6. The two missing names are Rukmini and Satyabhama. These two along with other six made up the eight Patraanis of Krishna.

7. Jaya-Vijaya, the cursed dwarpalas of Vishnu appear as Shishupala and Dantavakra in Mahabharata. The two pictures are of Amitabh playing the characters called Jaya and Vijaya in Sholay and Deewar respectively.

Jaya- Vijaya appear throughout the Indian mythology due to the curse of Four Kumaras. They appear in every Yuga. They were reborn as Hiranyakashyapu and Hiranyaksha in Satyuga, as Raavan and Kumbhkarna in Treta Yuga and as mentioned, as Shishupala and Dantavakra in Dwapar Yuga.

8. The name of this character is Barbareeka, grandson of Bhima and he is now widely worshiped as Khatu Shyaam Jee.

Barbareeka was a very unique character with very unique powers. He had three arrows given by Lord Shiva which were supposed to be conquerors of the three worlds. So for all practical purposes, Barbareeka was pretty invincible. Krishna himself tested the infallibility of his three arrows. Barbareeka was pledged to fight for the weaker side in the war which at the beginning was of Pandavas. But it was brought to his notice that he will have to keep switching sides as and when the opposite side becomes weaker and thus in the end only he will be left alive. To resolve him of his dilemma, Krishna took his head in charity. Krishna placed his head on a mountain from which he watched the entire war. He was one among the very few who witnessed the Viraat form of Krishna.

9. This table represents the Army units. A stands for Patti which was the smallest unit. L stands for Aneekini and M stands for Akshauhini. The full table is as follows.

a)1 Patti(पत्ति)= 3 horse, 1 elephant, 5 foot-soldiers and 3 horses.

b)3 Patti(
पत्ति) = 1 Senamukha(सेनामुख)

c)3 Senamukha(
सेनामुख) = 1 Gulma(गुल्म)

d)3 Gulma(
गुल्म) = 1 Gana(गण) 

e)3 Gana(
गण) = 1 Vaahini(वाहिनी)

f)3 Vaahini(
वाहिनी) = 1 Pritana(पृतना)

g)3 Pritana(पृतना) = 1 Chamoo(चमू)

h)3 Chamoo(
चमू) = 1 Aneekani(अनीकिनी)

i)10 Aneekani(
अनीकिनी) = 1 Akshouhini(अक्षौहिणी)

so 1 Akshouhini(
अक्षौहिणी) Army segment is formed with :-
a)21,870 Chariots
b)21,870 Elephants
c)65,610 Horses
d)1,09,350 Foot-soldiers.

Altogether 2,18,700 humans and 87,480 animals would together form an Akshouhini Army.

In Mahabharata 18 Akshouhini Armies were destroyed,
Therefore, 39,36,600 humans and 15,74,640 animals were killed.

10. These all were women who had children with men who were not their wedded husbands. Children who in "modern" parlance will be called illegitimate. Ambika was the mother of Dhritrashtra, Kunti was of Pandavas, Parishrami of Vidura and Satyavati of Vyaas himself who later authored Mahabharata.

11. Hanuman, Sun and a hooded cobra. These were the things on the chariot flags of the respected warriors. 

12. Indraprastha is modern day Delhi. There are remains of an ancient village called Indapatth beneath the Purana Qila built by Huymayun in Delhi. Hastinapur was believed to be located near modern day Meerut. And Madra Desh was at a place now called Okara which is in Sialkot, Pakistan. Also, as an aside, moderen day Kandhaar is not at the same place as Mahabharata period Gandhaar. Gandhaar pradesh was located around modern day Peshawar. 

13. Julius Robert Oppenheimer, also known as father of Atom Bomb used to read Gita regularly in Sanskrit itself and was heavily influenced by it in his personal and professional life. When he saw the first atom bomb test, he famously quoted that that he was reminded of the Gita verse which translates to, "Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds". 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rat in the Hole

The rat came out of the hole. He watched intently as it went into another hole. This was fun. More fun than the party his father had dragged him into.

The party was plain boring. There was no one of his age around. His father was the most reputed surgeon in the town. Funnily, this reputation actually came from him being a rather good businessman than a very good doctor. He had a chain of hospitals in this part of country and this party was for some anniversary for some such hospital of his. Though he had not performed a single surgery in the last five years, his reputation preceded him. He wondered if his father even remembered the difference between a pancreas and a spleen anymore. But of course it didn't matter. He looked around and saw his father surrounded by two beautiful interns. The world, as they say is ruled by powerful men and pretty ladies.

Meanwhile the rat was again out of that hole.

He knew what it was doing. Courtesy a bit of National Geographic Channel and a bit of his zoology course books, he knew that the rat can have affairs. That is they have multiple sexual partners. It only appeared amusing to him and not immoral. It’s only humans who attach the tag of morality to something as natural as sex and then validate it by attaching the institution of marriage to it. Or, so he thought.

It had been sometime since the rat went into the second hole. Possibly it will take time. He got up, put on his shoes and walked back towards the party. Only one intern was hovering around his father now. His father  had probably made his choice. Or in the rat-race for his father, this intern had won. Rat-Race. The world suddenly felt normal.

Walking out of the party, from his father’s overcoat he took his car keys. He knew that tonight his father won’t need them. Besides he needed time to think of a satisfying excuse for his father’s impending absence to give to his mother. As much time as roaming around the city in this BMW could get him. Poor soul his mother. As if she didn't know. Somebody has rightly said that doctors should only have doctors as spouses.

By the way, in all this he had forgotten how much he had begun to look forward to his tomorrow’s zoology class. They were to be taught dissection in it. Dissection of a rat.