Of all the negative human emotions, revenge is one of the most destructive one. Humans get blinded by the burning desire to take revenge – in the process both parties (one who wants to take revenge as well as the receiver of the vengeance) get harmed. Most of us do not consciously realise that revenge is a lose – lose game. A lesser known story from Mahabharat illustrates this nicely.
Draupadi and Krishna
After the end of the disastrous war called Mahabharat, the Pandavas were the winners. But the cost of this victory was colossal. It meant death of millions of soldiers from both sides. It also meant a near annihilation of the Kauravas. A pall of gloom enveloped magnificent and imposing palaces where, mostly ladies, mourned the death of their husbands, sons, brothers. In such a sad atmosphere, Lord Krishna visited Draupadi, the newly installed queen of Hastinapur. As soon as she saw Krishna (her best friend), Draupadi lost all control on her emotions and cried bitterly. But instead of showing sympathy (as is expected of a real friend), Krishna asked Draupadi in a calm voice, “O Empress Draupadi, I hope you are now happy as your husbands have won the war and your vow has been fulfilled”.
Krishna was indirectly reminding Draupadi of that fateful day when Yudhistir had put his kingdom, as well as his wife Draupadi on stake, in the game of dice against his warring cousins Kauravas. Unfortunately, Yudhistir lost the game. The eldest Kaurav prince Duryodhan then asked his brother Dushashan to bring Draupadi to the Court of Kauravas and humiliate her in front of her husbands as well as all the courtiers. Dushashan caught hold of Draupadi by her hair and dragged her to the court. Unable to bear this humiliation, Draupadi untied her hair, roared loudly, and took a public vow that she will tie her hair only after washing them with Dushashan’s blood taken from his heart. She wanted her untied hair to always remind her husbands, especially Yudhistir (who was mild mannered and was never in favour of any revenge), of her vow of revenge. She did not want this fire of revenge to become dim. Finally, during the war of Mahabharat between Kauravas and Pandavas, Bhim killed Dushashan, tore into his chest publicly, took a handful of blood from his heart and washed Draupadi’s hair with it in front of everyone. This was a ghastly sight which even Draupadi was unable to bear.
Krishna was now hinting to Draupadi that her vow of revenge was an important event leading to the war of Mahabharat, resulting in all round destruction. Even Draupadi lost all her five sons, besides many other near and dear ones in this war.
Listening to Krishna, Draupadi wailed, “O Krishna, do you think only I was responsible for this war. Have you forgotten my humiliation and all our sufferings? After all, I have also lost my sons and many relatives in this war”.
Krishna calmly replied, “Dear Draupadi, I have not forgotten anything. But, on that fateful day, if you had not taken such a public vow of this horrible revenge, we could have tried some other less painful ways of solving this conflict between Pandavas and Kauravas. But your vow of revenge sealed all our options and made this war inevitable.”
In the end
Looking around, we find that the burning desire of revenge is the main factor behind unending gang wars, family discord, serial killings and many more gruesome crimes. How can a war end where each side retaliates to claim vengeance for the atrocities committed on them? And when the fire causes collateral damage, it only adds fuel with more people seeking revenge for the loss of near and dear ones. It is an endless spiral from which there can emerge no real winner.
Even in personal life, vengeance can cause permanent fractures in relationships, complete obsession, leading to destruction of everything else in life. Vengeance, when finally achieved is like being marooned on a small island, with nothing to drink or eat.
Finally, we need to remember the famous saying of Gandhiji, “An eye for an eye will ultimately make the whole world blind”