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purana and the sibling ideal

From: sudarshan (
Date: Tue Sep 15 1998 - 09:18:44 PDT

Dear bhAgavatOttamA-s,

I just remembered that several weeks ago I had promised to post a little
anecdote from the "purAnA-s" which exemplifies ("glorifies" would be the
better term) the ideal relationship between brother and sister.

The story was narrated by a great "mahAn" deceased in recent times. The
source for his story lies in a string of utterly engrossing
"sthala-purANA-s" all skillfully woven together with hoary local history
and legends of more than half-a-dozen towns and villages in present day

It all makes fascinating reading indeed.It gives me great pleasure to share
it with you all. I hope following the story with me closely gives you, dear
brothers and sisters, the same degree of pleasure and "aatmi-c" upliftment
I experienced from reading it myself the first time around and now derive
again as I proceed to re-tell it for your benefit.
One of the most unfortunate, painful of personal tragedies afflicting the
lives of frail and common families the world over these days is the one
involving miscarriage of matrimony, isn't it?

If we pause to recollect all of us may indeed readily come up with more
than just a few distressing instances or events in families known to us ...
near and dear, high and low ... where happily wedded couples suddenly
separated on account of some discord, some quarrel or, tragically, on
account of mutual loss of trust, affection and love.

"Separation", "divorce", "marital estrangement", "conjugal incompatibility"
........ these were terms simply unknown in the land and times of our
forefathers until about just a couple of decades ago. Today these unsavoury
expressions have easily entered the vocabulary and understanding of school
and college-going children even in India. They have even learnt to accept
these things matter-of-factly just as their counterparts in the Western
world do. Also popular literature, cinema, TV and mass-media have done much
damage to spread unwholesome and unncesarry awareness of highly exaggerated
problems of marital life in modern times.
Failed marriages are no longer the moral or social imponderable they were
to our forbears.These days it is just "one of those unfortunate things that
probably might happen to one in life... an acceptable risk ... like many
others in the journey of life ....disease, change of residence, a
job-switch or losing your savings on the stock market...that's all" ! 

So worldly-wise, so cynical, so inured to the harsh vagaries of modern
living have the young become that the prospect of a "broken home" or
"estranged parents" no longer frightens them.

The ancient "purAnA-s" too dealt unflinchingly with the problem of marital
friction with almost child-like candour. Modern problems faced by men and
women in getting along with each other in a marriage seem to have been well
anticipated by the "puranA-s" in lore after lore. The Vedic seers and
authors did not shy away from engaging in full-scale inquiry into "marriage
and morals". In fact they dealt with "marital turbulence" with the kind of
clinical empathy and wise objectivity which would easily be the envy of
present-day "professional marriage-counsellers".

The story from the "purAnA-s" I am about to narrate deals primarily with
the relationship between brother and sister. But as a wonderful aside it
also deals with the problem of "marital friction" in an amazingly
contemporary way.... in a way we, who live in a tumultuous world that often
makes absolutely no sense to us, can quite easily relate.

We will continue in the next post.