Thursday, June 14, 2007

Brothers in Arms

Salacious-musings-about-the-Mahabharat department

The thing that's always puzzled me about the Mahabharat is why Nakul and Sahadev are in there. I mean, it's not like they actually do anything. My knowledge of the epic is admittedly sketchy, but as far as I can remember they never kill anyone important or say anything profound. They're as useless as a client team on a consulting project. Even relative losers like this Ashwathama dude are more critical to the overall story. Nakul and Sahadev are the R2D2 of the Mahabharat, only less funny.

My conclusion thus far has always been that they're straight men, included in the story to make their older, more successful brothers look good by contrast. It wouldn't do, after all, to have all the Pandav brothers be supernaturally gifted - it would strain the veracity of the story (ok, so we're talking about an epic where children learn to execute complex military maneuvers while in their mother's womb, but never mind). So you add in Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and everyone can think about their idiot younger brothers and relate.

Thinking about it though, it occurs to me that maybe the whole point about these two is that they're not straight men. Think about it. You've got these three hulking Kunti-putras, all strong, virile young men, and not one of them has the slightest chance of ever ending up in a relationship - Bheem is a neanderthal, Yuddhishtir can't tell a lie (which means the first time she asks him how she looks it's all over) and Mr. Oh-master-I-can-only-see-the-eye-of-the-bird Arjun is precisely the kind of sleazy jerk who keeps his eyes firmly fixed at a point south of your neck. Plus which they all still live with their mother. What self-respecting woman would date guys like this?

What, then, is a sexually frustrated mythical character to do? Enter Pretty Boy 1 and Pretty Boy 2. After all, every superhero needs his sidekick. Look at Achilles. Look at Batman. It's obvious when you think about it - Nakul and Sahadev are comfort brothers - sexual paramours generously provided by Kunti to keep her sons in good fighting trim. It explains so much doesn't it? The whole house of lac thing for instance. I mean, why would you go into a house made of a substance that melted and dripped when heated unless you were looking for some serious S&M? And the whole Draupadi thing. Think of it as one woman among five men and you have to wonder how come they didn't kill each other. Think of it as three couples with a lot of partner swapping and it's happy families all over.

At this point you're probably thinking, but wait, wouldn't that be incest? For starters, notice we're talking about a bunch of people who spend pretty much their entire lives trying to kill their first cousins (an ancient Vedic tradition now sadly lost to us), so you could argue that having sex with your brother is relatively tame by comparison. More to the point, though, notice that technically Nakul and Sahadev aren't related to the other three at all. Different mother, different father(s). So no problem there.

In Vyasa's original text, as I imagine it, this role of the two 'brothers' no doubt received a lot more attention. There were probably long descriptions of the duo's special...errr...talents and steamy scenes depicting their interaction with the Kunti-putras. Later versions of the text have, obviously, censored these out (along with anything else that smacks of homosexuality [1]), leaving us with these anemic, mild mannered younger brothers who just don't seem to fit in. Such a shame.

[1] I'm unconvinced, for example, that the Bhagavad Gita is really about Arjun's reluctance to fight the Kauravas. Consider the history of Arjun and Krishna together, their closeness, the way they go around setting whole forests on fire, the alacrity with which Krishna agrees to be Arjun's 'driver'. Look at the stock picture of the scene, with Arjun kneeling awed but also hesitant in front of a Krishna who stands upright, facing him. Read all that stuff about wanting action without fruit of action. Ask yourself whether anything in Arjun's character has suggested any reluctance whatsoever to go into battle, and then think about what else Krishna might be asking him to do that he might have qualms about, especially out on an open battlefield with all his family and gurus watching. Do I really have to spell this out for you?

50 comments:

??! said...

oh boy, that's one interesting take. the 'moralists' in India would just luurvvve you to bits.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Have you noticed (though somehow I doubt it) how modern day pop bands use the same technique? There are always the 2-3 'lead' singers (or lip synchers) and then the others are just stage props. No one ever hears them really sing, no one asks them questions in interviews, they and their platinum blonde extensions are just there.

Tabula Rasa said...

and i shall be watching this commentspace with considerable interest. here's hoping you get featured on dp :-D

Alok said...

Didn't one of them kill Uncle Shakuni? I think it was Sahadev.

And the Kunti putras were very successful with women, specially arjuna and bheema. arjuna even had to refuse some apsara in indralok once!

Veena said...

As usual, just the footnote is enough. I am not really convinced that you didn't write the post just to get that in.

And TR is right. Maybe I have the time to run and get some popcorn!

km said...

Outstanding post, just for the Star Wars reference (and before anyone thinks that's totally outrageous, remember, Lucas was "inspired" by Campbell, Kurosawa and Ramayan...)

Maybe there is a sequel to the epic, and in that one N & S have a, uh, meatier role?

ggop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ggop said...

Oh boy I'm waiting for one of those saveindianvalues.com type websites to do a pingback to this post :-D

"Nakul and Sahadev are the R2D2 of the Mahabharat, only less funny."

- This cracked me up a lot.

And ancient Vedic tradition of killing cousins? No one can outdo the Greeks in killing relatives.
gg

Jabberwock said...

Sahadeva killed Shakuni. Nakula killed Shakuni's son Uluka. Nakula was Very Handsome and good with horses (now don't ask how). Sahadeva was Wise Beyond His Years and an excellent cowherd. How dare you suggest the two of them weren't useful, you blaspheming cretin!

P.S. Sahadeva also had the crucial task of washing Krishna's feet during Yudhisthira's Rajasuya yagna. Also, on the 12th day of the war, there is a reference to either Nakula or Sahadeva killing a minor king. With a spear.

P.P.S. Ashwatthama was NOT a "relative loser", he was the third- or fourth-coolest character in the epic.

Soundbyte_King said...

Outstanding interpretation of Nishkama Karma. Loved the footnote.

DoZ said...

"Think of it as three couples with a lot of partner swapping and it's happy families all over" - So true. And Arjuna could cross-dress for special occasions. Multiplies the permutations possible. And I look forward to the ranting that has to start soon...

Falstaff said...

??!: Thanks. As for the moralists - the feeling is mutual, I'm sure.

shoefiend: Err..no, I haven't actually. But I'll take your word for it.

tr: ya, me too

alok: Now, now, we mustn't let facts stand in the way of a good theory. Also, fair enough, maybe it wasn't about supply of women but about preference.

veena: No, no, I actually thought of the post first. The footnote only occurred to me later. Though, of course, once I'd thought of it I had to include it

km: Thanks. You know I never considered the possibility that Lucas fans might take issue with my including R2D2 in this. I would have said Tahei and Matakishi, but I wasn't sure how many people would get that.

ggop: Thanks. And yes, the ancient Greeks really had it made, didn't they?

jabberwock: Oh, come on, killing Shakuni's son hardly counts. And how hard could it have been to kill Shakuni in battle. What would you have to do - dodge the flying dice.

I think the washing of Krishna's feet is very interesting though. Every day you learn more about the man's fetishes.

My apologies about Ashwatthama. Find-replace whatever character from the Mahabharat you consider a loser.

soundbyte_king: thanks.

doz: YOu know, I'd totally forgotten about the Arjun cross-dressing bits. Dammit!

km said...

And isn't there that bit about Arjuna ingesting a lot of drugs and going on a road-trip?

No, that's HST.

Ash said...

Falstaff & TR: Your wish is granted.

*Rubbing hand in glee*

Gammafunction said...

ROTFL.Waiting for a similar take on prophet muhammed and his brothers or maybe the last disciples?

Falstaff said...

ash: Gracias. I love the fine print, btw. Though I'm still not sure how any of this is blasphemous. If Krishna did actually make up the Bhagavad Gita on the spur of the moment as a really complicated double entendre my respect for him just quadrupled.

gammafunction: Christ and the disciples I could do, only it'd be too easy. The Prophet I'm afraid I really don't know enough about. What I need to do is get my hands on a copy of the Koran.

Patrix said...

Loved it! Especially the part about how the three elder brothers couldn't have been men for the ladies esp. Yudhishtir. If only we could have a modern sitcom featuring them instead of those saas bahu thingies...

kamal r said...

How can there be "PAANCH" Paandav without Nakul and Sahdeva.

The Black Mamba said...

very nice. but hey, even the beatles had Ringo.

reg. footnote [1] - makes a lot of sense, even the censorship is woven into the plot. After all the Gita is Sanjaya[1] doing a CNN like reporting on the battlefield action to the 'blind' king.

Now only if you could time travel and work with Rushdie from the Satanic days.

[1] imagine him with a ponyhawk like his namesake. :)

Blue said...

When I first started reading the Mahabharata I realized that it was exactly like every RPG I had ever played (esp. Final Fantasy series).

It had the wise character who was good at magic and decisions but sucked at fighting, the strong character who was good at fighting but sucked at everything else, the rebel/rogue/thief who had good all-around strength, and the girl.

And then it had these two extra characters who came along for the ride but whom you would never want to put in your party (think Cyan, Cait Sith, Palom/Porom, whatever your fancy). And yet you wouldn't have an RPG without those characters.

dazedandconfused said...

Fal, I remember the first post that I read on your blog almost a year back was one where you said Bheeshma was gay...:)

You repeat yourself...tch tch...:)

rs said...

thanks, really for opening up these possibilties :-) mahabharata, i have always felt, has a lot of unexplored potential.
sadly, the moral police is not here yet

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

I feel like the lady in the restaurant in 'When Harry Met Sally' - I want what YOU are smoking!

J.A.P.

Anoop Saha said...

Thanks for this new interpretation. Years ago I read a book called Sexual aspects from mahabharata. Even they didn't mention anything about the homosexual connotations. I always wondered why Nakul and Sahadev are always mentioned together?

Sahadev could also see future. (the only one in mahabharata to be able to do so) Is that something to do with the sexual orientation?

Ambar said...

What's with the casual dissing of R2-D2? >_<

CuriousCat said...

You have an evil mind and ought to be burned at a stake! :)

Anonymous said...

My 5th visit to ur blog . just checking.blogger is not banned yet. good.

Please patent mahabharata version 2.0.
Awesome material for a movie/novel.
ever thght of making a script on these lines?

Maya

km said...

@Black Mamba:

Ringo played drums. N & S couldn't beat an empty can in time.

That comparison just doesn't stand.

Anonymous said...

Why do the self congratulatory sheep posting comments here assume that a Kader Khan, Shakthi Kapoor type of humour ridiculing gays would bring about a conservative attack?

Sunil said...

actually, the only reason to have these two goes back to Pandu, Kunti and Madri, and simple wife rivalry. I'm pretty sure when Kunti told Madri the "secret mantra" to "invoke" a god of choice to spawn a son, she gave only half the mantra, and so Madri, instead of ending up with Surya or Indra or Vayu (or any other seriously powerful deva) ended up with the Ashwini twins.

I mean....Ashwini twins? The gods of wtf?

Clearly, Kunti was just jealous that Pandu thought Madri was hotter than Kunti (remember, that's how Pandu died....because his head burst while he was making his moves on Madri).

Falstaff said...

patrix: Thanks

kamal r: Well, they could have just been called something else, no?

BM: See KM's comment below. Ringo may not have been the brightest of the Fab Four, but he did his job and how.

More to the point, you can't compare the Pandavs to the Beatles. I mean really. We're talking about divine beings here. Not some phoneys out of Amar Chitra Katha.

Good point about the whole Sanjay deal. What do you know, the Mahabharat as post-modernism.

blue: I'm afraid I've never played any RPG's so I'll have to take your word for it.

d&c: Okay, so I'm repeating myself. So what? History repeats herself all the time, and people seem to find her endlessly fascinating. I figure that's a good gig.

rs: Yes, I know, it's a pity, isn't it?

JAP: Not smoking anything. Just reading the Marquis de Sade if you must know.

anoop: You're welcome. And he could? I doubt that has anything to do with sexual orientation. Actually, I can see how being able to see into the future would be really bad for your sex life. "Look, could you keep down the noise a bit - you're not really going to come for at least five and a half minutes yet. I know. And no, it won't be good for me."

ambar: True, true, my apologies.

curiouscat: Do Hindu witch killing rituals involve burning at stake though? I always thought that we should bury our witches alive, just to kind of even things out.

Maya: Thanks.

KM: right on. Though as Jai points out one of them did kill this Uluka guy. So presumably beating an empty can is just about where their fighting skills got them.

anon: errrmm...no one is ridiculing gay people. On the contrary, the idea that the Pandavs might actually have been gay is about the only thing that makes them worth thinking about.

The Black Mamba said...

km, fal: Touche, shouldn't have taken Ringo's name in vain.

But hey, being Very Handsome and good with horses must have held some currency. Being a cowherd par excellence and Wise Beyond one's Years,...where have I sensed this before.ah, is that Gyllenhaal and Ledger from the Brokeback?! :)

Maybe ACK folks just could not handle the smouldering hotness of these two fellas and left them out. Wait till we get our hands on the deleted scenes from those 'sharply' edited volumes.

Sloc said...

The rajaji version (completely cleansed and presumably bajrang dal approved version) has not much to mention about the twain.. Did wonder abt the need for the two - i guess the Tri Pandavs dont sound as cool a brand name as Paanch Pandav.. This seriously takes it to wackier levels.. I think, the Mahabharata was probably like the penthouse letters of those days..Imagine, think of the characters and their antics. The Ramayana was completely tame in comparison.

Seeji said...

half-baked.... in bad taste

Red said...

The Mahabharata always struck me as the steamiest story that I have ever read. The twins were after all born as a result of a menage-a-trois between Madri and the Ashwins.

Incidentally, whoever did Nakul and Sahadev marry. I know they begat a son each on Draupadi but I am assuming they had more than 1/5th of a wife.

Falstaff said...

BM: There, there we forgive you. Specially since you completely redeem yourself with that Brokeback connection. *grins idiotically and thinks of Heath Ledger*

sloc: Possibly. My own theory is that this Vyas guy was just the only person in his village with cable and he used to watch the afternoon soaps, take notes on what happened and distribute them.

seeji: Thanks. I like being in bad taste. Being in good taste is so boring.

red: Okay, if the Mahabharat is seriously the steamiest story you've ever read, I strongly recommend reading some Harold Robbins. Just for the experience.

As to who Nakul and Sahadev married, there I'm afraid you'll have to ask Jabberwock - who's our Mahabharat expert.

Kits said...

Awesome post. Was worried that ppl mite not appreciate it but I'm glad that the comments section proved me otherwise! :D

Oreen said...

LMFAO ...

You rock, man ... who ARE you?

the mad momma said...

I've come back to check this a dozen times and still no war broken out! how do you do it? i write something as simple as my baby has a cold and the trolls come in. in case i havent said it lately, i love your blog!

Anonymous said...

are those really your views on the characters of the Mahabharat, or is this some comedy blog, and i'm completetly missing the humour?

Anonymous said...

you're a fuck*n bellend, seriously.
I'm not a big fan of the epic but to demean it so flippantly is going to offend a lot of people. I could say a few things about your mum (like how she's in my bed right now while i'm typing...she's good too) but what i will say is that you obviously have far too much time on your hands. start spending more time with your family (when they're not whoring around) and maybe you can use some of that incest stuff you write about to keep yourself from spouting turd.
peace x

Anonymous said...

having read your comments, it is fairly clear that you have at least a working knowledge of the mahabharat, which is probably more than most, especially a few of those cronies egging you on! which leads me to ask the question, "why is someone who knows about the mahabharat, and therefore has some intelligence, forced to slate one of the greatest epics in history?" surely, if you wanted to get a cheap laugh, you could have taken the michael out of something else? why insult and show up your own ignorance at the same time. surely you appeciate that you have a responsibility when you write something on an open forum such as this???? i mean when you write this, you are bound to get some complete 10-a-day, hand-solo expert who compares the pandavas to a 'boy band'. it is a real shame that someone of your obvious intelligence needs to resort to such shameful, irresponsible and weak piss-taking! some young kid researching the mahabharat is now gonna ask his parents, "were Nakul and Sahadev bufties?" well done buddy, your blog has served its purpose...NOT! if you don't respect it, at least don't ruin it for others!

mate the truth is i hope you realise the error of your way! it is only us Hindus who would accept this blatant derogatory commentary...if someone had written this about an Islamic 'idol', man you would have known about it!

anyway, i'll stop there! i suppose if whilst writing what you wrote if you didn't realise what a load of bull you were typing, then no-end of my 'moralist' views are gonna change your mind. i'll go back to sit under a tree...and you...well...it's upto you!

Anonymous said...

falstaff, you are hilarious and so is your description of the whole thing. nice blog!

Gokul said...

A brilliant exposition, sir!

Young Indian said...

i must say, rolled myself off to bits reading the blog and more so reading the comments.

who would have thought nakul-sahadev, r2d2, the beatles and brokeback mountain could find mention in the same god damn forum!!!

in response to the last few anonymous comments (took a long time coming really), i must ask, isnt democracy the best state of states??? a religion which allows itself to be dissected, analysed, criticised or even willingly made fun of is far superior than some tight ass 'draw-my-cartoon-and-ill-fuck-ur-progeny' belief??? (just citing an example, no offense meant to any faith). tolerance in hinduism has always been its greatest strenght. whats so great about being scared to raise a question?? does any1 in this forum really making a subjective judgement on the religion? no, its just a really refreshing, albeit to-be-taken-with-a-fistful-of-salt take on an old subject matter. i feel proud so many people still know their mahabharat well enough to comment here. people taking offense at this have their constitutional right to just fuck off elsewhere (again no offense made) or better still retort with sound secular logic...

long live young india and its secular, democratic netizens.

Ulhas Bhat said...

For what was Sahadeva and Nakula's contribution and role in Mahabharatha, just type those names in wikipedia and get those facts right. It is better we restrict our pervert thoughts to ourselves instead of making fun of such a glorious religion and such a glorious book.
The links are here, by the way:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nakula
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sahadeva
However I won't go into any personal attacks as every person has the right to his/her own opinion and won't belittle other religions to get across my point. Just one point though, why don't people make fun of the Bible and Koran in the same way. Is it because we Hindus are docile????

Ulhas Bhat said...

......watching too much brokeback mountain is injurious to health. Honest!!!! Your post is humorous though and I think even people opposing it in this blog should not have gone to the extent of making personal comments.

Anonymous said...

BTW....

ther R in facts sequels to the MBH....i mean the Indonesian Mahbharata...

n there Nakul and Sehdev gets lots of things to do....
some of the local varinats too give them a lot of stuff to do....

Rohini Kamath said...

Hilarious! Have you read the great Indian novel by any chance?

Anonymous said...

So not funny! Very immature and seems to be a projection of your own fantasies. If you had bothered to do some research you'd have learned more about them.
Maybe when you do grow up read the MB again, you may eventually learn something from it- or not!