You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : October 1998

purAna & the sibling ideal -part 5

From: sudarshan (
Date: Fri Oct 02 1998 - 02:52:29 PDT

Dear bhAgavatOttamA-s,

Watching "ambA", Goddess Parvati's plight as an earthly destitute, Her
brother Lord Narayana was moved beyond tears to great and unbearable
sadness. His heart simply broke seeing His sister "driven out" by the
"irascible brother-in-law from Kailasa". It pained Vishnu no end to see his
beloved sibling reduced to the earthly misery of a wandering, bovine

If you pause at this point in the story --- Act 2 Scene 1 --- and if you
have absorbed its dramatic content, you might be tempted ( as I for one
certainly am ! ) to let your own imagination take brief charge of the 
"purAni-c" narrative and re-direct its flow a bit to allow for some
contemporaneous digressions of your own ! 

You might wonder for instance:

(1) Why, filled as He ought to certainly have been with righteous
indignation at the injustice done to His sister, why Vishnu did not storm
across to Kailasa to confront Lord Siva and engage him in the sort of epic
duel that we know constitutes the familiar and dramatic stuff of many a
"purAni-c" saga. 

(Indeed such a response would have been the contemporary equivalent of
dragging one's estranged brother-in-law to the Courts, would'nt it?!) 

(2) Why did Narayana also never attempt other means to embarass Siva. Why
for example didn't He assume high moral ground to be able to "righteously
arm-twist" Siva! He could easily have convened a General Assembly of august
"devA-s" (celestial good-citizens) and the whole unsavoury matter between
the estranged couple, Siva and Amba, could have been tabled for everyone to
examine and debate
publicly. Inevitably a lot of family "linen" would've got washed out in the
but in the process, Siva would certainly have been "morally brow-beaten", a
little humiliated even into accepting his fault. 

(After all in the modern world we do know how awesome the "moral pressure"
of family, of the community, of friends and of formidable society at large
be; and how it can be harnessed and brought to prevail on the conscience
and good sense of an "errant and irresponsible brother-in-law"!)

Lord Narayana however did no such thing. Why ?

(3) Again, why didn't Narayana just tell His sister,"Amba, know this, if
Kailasa won't house thee, SriVaikuntam certainly will! Thou needest never
live out the accursed existence of a cow that your husband wills thee. Thou
art a Goddess, my dear, the Mistress of the vast Universe, a veritable
"jagan-mAtA"!! Step out this moment off the shadow of thy Lord! Turn thy
back on the Lord of Kailasa! Fie upon the ash-smeared One who dances amidst
Death and Destruction! Kailasa's woeful loss would be SriVaikuntam's
greater glory if thou but deign to cast Grace upon it by making it thine

(Now why did'nt Vishnu express some such typically filial sentiment... we
ask ourselves.. why didn't He say something like that in the idiom of our
current and unhappy times? After all it would have been the contemporary
equivalent of a brother telling a sibling in similarly distraught
circumstances today,"Get this failed marriage behind you, my dear sister!
Trust me.Forget the good-for-nothing-fellow that husband of yours truly is!
Start a fresh lease of life. Heed my word and file for separation and
alimony! Take up a job.... and in the meantime look around for another
suitable suitor..."!)

In the "purAn-ic" tale Lord Narayana adopts none of the above "a-dhArmi-c"
means to mend a broken marriage.

So what then does Vishnu really do to rehabilitate His unhappy sister?

We shall find out in the next post.