The Banished King-to-be

September 24, 2015, Chennai

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In our last post, we saw the words of Kaikeyi, while admonishing Manthara.  Take a closer look at the last two lines of the quartet:

mayil muṟaik kulattu urimaiyai, maṉu mutal marapai;
ceyir uṟa, pulaic cintaiyāl, eṉ coṉāy? - tīyōy!

Sri VVS Aiyar’s translation of this portion read as follows:

The crested peacocks, ‘tis the eldest son
That’s marked as heir in Manu’s royal house

That is to say, that the eldest son inherits the throne (while of course, portions of it are subdivided among other princes) is an established order of the Royal House of Manu.

  There can be no second opinion about that.  However, to assume that the law-makers made such rules applicable in all circumstances, irrespective of the personal and individual qualities, abilities, habits, practices, manners and their ways of treating the common man on the street, is to presume that they were short-sighted and that they did not take the possible situations that might come up against this ‘passing of kingship to the eldest son’ into account. The visualised such situations too and there is plenty of evidence in the Texts when the ‘eldest son’ was deprived of his right to rule, and in fact, was driven out of the land in exile.  That was the prevalent custom.  Now, let’s take a few such cases and study them against our present case in Mahabharata, viz., who was the real ruler, to whom was vested Kingship and how was that Yudhishthira could be considered an heir to the throne, though he was the son of Pandu, the second son of Vichitravirya.  

Ikshvaku, the ancestor of Sri Rama, who was born to Vaivaswata Manu, had a hundred sons, of whom three where considered ‘eldest’.  Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana says thus:

ikṣuvatas tu manor jajñe ikṣvākur ghrāṇataḥ sutaḥ
tasya putra-śata-jyeṣṭhā vikukṣi-nimi-daṇḍakāḥ

(Book Nine, Chapter 6, Sloka 4)

The Gita Press translation of this Sloka reads thus: “From the nostrils of Vaivaswata Manu, even while he was sneezing sprang up a son (called) Ikshvaku. Of his hundred sons, Vikuksi, Nimi and Dandaka were the eldest.”  tasya putra-śata-jyeṣṭhā without doubt states ‘of his hundred sons, the eldest (were)…’ and the translator has rendered it as ‘eldest three’ as well.  This was a bit confusing, since ‘eldest’ can be only one.  The word jyeṣṭhā has however been translated as ‘prominent’ in the Bhaktivedanta Base (  Either way, Vikuksi, Nimi and Dandaka were considered as equals among the princes that had a right to heirship.  

Of these three Vikuksi was the one who fouled the offering to the manes (oblations to the forefathers, or śrāddha).  Ikshvaku was angered by this fact and ordered his son to leave the country that very moment.  But things take a turn; Ikshvaku renounces the kingdom and his worldly existence.  On his death, Vikuksi returns and assumes power with the consent of Vasistha.  He is later known by the name Sasada (the one who ate hare’s meat).  It is from the second son of Ikshvaku, Nimi, that the line of Janaka Kings starts. (The father of Sita, Siradhwaja Janaka was the 27th in the line.)   

In the case of Vikuksi, he was driven out to forest for an error that did not in any way affect the public interest; but nevertheless was a violation of a sacred trust (which is limited to his family) entrusted to him, and was pardoned later by the Guru, accepted as King again.

It was not so with Dandaka, the third of the jyeṣṭhā among the hundred sons of Ikshvaku.  Dandaka (also known as Danda) developed friendship of demons in his early years and his activities were going beyond acceptable limits.  Most importantly, the public hated him.  When the word reached the Emperor, without a second thought he disowned his son.  Dandaka was exiled.  However, due to his friendship with the asuras, Danda, enterprising as he was, built and established his own kingdom, Madhumanta as it was known, in the Vindhya mountain range.  He had the good fortune of getting none other than Sukracharya as his Guru.  

Old habits die hard.  Soon, Danda molested the daughter of his Guru when she was alone at the Ashrama. The Guru cursed Danda and his country.  The country was ruined in a rain of clay and the people fled away for their own safety. Danda perished in his own land.  Much later, the owing to the richness of the soil, a forest grew up and the aranya that rose in the place where Dandaka ruled became Dandaka-aranya, or Dandakaranya. And the place, to which the people of Madhumanta ran for security and settled down—on the banks of Godavari—came to be known as Jana-sthana, or Resort of Men.    

Therefore, rule number one.  Eldest or not, if a prince is of despicable qualities, he is cast away, driven out, thrown out of the country, not permitted to set his foot back on his land ever again.  The case of Vikuksi is an exception since the harm done is limited to the family and did not affect the people.  It was not so in the case of Danda.  He died without leaving a progeny.  

Right.  If an offender dies away in exile, then the question of heirship does not arise.  Just in case. In case an offender is cast away and dies, leaving a son or sons, who can bequeath their grand-father’s land, what happens?  Do they get it or don’t they?  The answer is, it depends.  Now let’s take the case of Asamanja, the eldest son of Emperor Sagara, coming in the line of Ikshvaku.

(To be contd.)
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Hari Krishnan