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The Enigmatic Smile of Belalsen: Lessons from the Mahabharata Era

“Neela Chakre He
Dekha Uduchhi Bana.
Patitapabana Banati,Jaara Naa.”

(See, how the banner flies on the Neela Chakra. The name of the banner is Patitapabana.)

Neela Chakra, Patitapabana Bana, etc. are not merely names but symbols that have been deep-rooted in the minds of the people through the ages. Neela Chakra is not an ordinary Chakra or wheel. It symbolizes the very universe. The earth, the moon, the sun, the planets, and stars are all round shaped. So also the revolutionary orbits of the planets and stars are almost round. Hence, the Neela Chakra on top of the temple of Lord Jagannath, who is considered to be the Lord of the Universe, is extraordinary. It creates, maintains, and even destroys.

It was the time of the Mahabharata. The war was about to begin. Belalsen, the grandson of Mahabali Bhim, was coming to help the Pandavas in the war. On his way, he realized that his arrow needed a bit of sharpening. So he sat on a stone in the river and started sharpening it. Srikrishna could recognize him. He came nearer and asked, “What are you doing, son?” “I am sharpening my arrow so that I could destroy the Kauravas in one day,” he replied. Srikrishna got frightened at this. His plan of conducting the Mahabharata war for eighteen days would be wound up in one day. “You are new to the place. You don’t know anybody. How could you recognize the Kauravas?” Srikrishna asked. Belalsen said, “You see for yourself.” Then he hurled an arrow which left a red mark on the forehead of each Kaurava brother. Srikrishna was really surprised. There is another version of the story relating to Belalsen. At the time of leaving home, he had promised his mother that he would support the weaker side in the war. This way, he would join a side and the moment the other side started losing, he would immediately join it. With such a plan, the war would never have ended. There is yet another episode which relates that Srikrishna had asked him to create pores in all the leaves of a tree with his arrow which he did perfectly. After putting him to successful tests, Srikrishna asked him, “Could you please give me one thing?” Belalsen nodded his head and said that he was ready to give anything since Srikrishna had all along helped the Pandavas. Srikrishna asked him for his head. Belalsen was unhappy and sad as he was very much interested to participate in the Mahabharata war. What to speak of participation now, he would not even be able to watch it. Srikrishna assured Belalsen, “Do not worry. I would place your severed head on a pillar outside the battle field so that you could watch the war from start to finish for long eighteen days. Your body would get back the head and be alive after the war.” Saying this, Srikrishna beheaded Belalsen.

The great Mahabharata war ended as per schedule. Now the question arose as to which Pandava brother had killed the highest number of enemies on the battle field. False ego had blinded all of them. As no solution to the problem could be sought, Srikrishna took all of them to Belalsen’s severed head, which was still alive and had seen the war for long eighteen days. Belalsen smiled at Srikrishna and saluted the Pandavas. Then Mahabali Bhim asked, “Tell my son, who has killed the highest number of enemies on the battle field?” He expected that since he was his grandson, the answer would go in his favor. Belalsen looked at Pandavas and replied, “I have seen the whole war for long eighteen days. I could not see any of you killing any enemy. I saw only one Chakra or wheel moving around the battle field and killing enemies.” At this, the anger of Bhim knew no bounds. He gave a fatal blow to the head of Belalsen which fell on the ground and breathed its last. Had the head not touched the ground, Srikrishna could have given life to Belalsen as promised.

We have to learn a lot from this story of the Mahabharata. Belalsen smiling at Srikrishna and calling the Chakra or wheel the actual hero of the war drives home the point that the position of man in the universe is nominal. Everything is being conducted or managed by the wheel behind the scene. The size of the earth would amount to a mustard seed in the universe. The position of man could very well be imagined over a mustard seed. Still then there is no end to his ego. Whether it is a telephonic or face-to-face talk, there seems to be no end. “I know everything. You are nothing before me.” This false ego of man has been capturing society gradually. The position of man and society at present make it hard to believe that the Kali Yuga has just completed five thousand years and is destined to continue for another twenty-four lakh years or so. The anger of Bhim denotes the false ego of present-day man. The way disorder, corruption, fanaticism, violence, regionalism, and other evils have captured present-day society like an octopus; man who calls himself the greatest animal on earth is responsible for this sorry state of affairs. As long as there is no real opening of his eyes and he has not stayed away from his false ego, there can be no improvement in the situation. What to speak of twenty-four lakh years, the Kali Yuga cannot even survive for another twenty-four hundred years!

Belalsen, who is also known as Belarsen or Barbarik, was an invincible warrior in the Mahabharata era. It is believed that he had three powerful arrows at his disposal. With one, he could mark his friends; with the second, he could mark his enemies, and with the third, he could destroy his enemies. With such powers and his promise to side with the weaker side, neither the Mahabharata war would have ended nor would the Kauravas ever have been defeated. His story has also been a story of sacrifice, and for this, he gets worshipped even today with Srikrishna as Khatu Shyam. The main temple of Khatu Shyam is in the district of Sikar in Rajasthan. In Gujarat, he is worshipped as Baliyadev. His sacrifice and enigmatic smile denoting the actual position and helplessness of man in the scheme of things come as a lesson from the epic of the Mahabharata as to what should be the right conduct and behavior of present-day man.

(The views expressed are the writer’s own)

Mr. Prafulla Kumar Majhi,

Retired Asst. Director, A. I. R, is an eminent Scholar and freelance writer in English & Odia. His areas of interests are sociocultural, economic, literary, historical and analytical studies and writings.

Email: [email protected]


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