Shades of Grey 


Lot of people question the way in which Pandavas won the Mahabharat war.  On more than one occasion, they bent the rules and even cheated to kill their opponent .  So, who was bad - Pandavas or Kauravas ? 

I feel, on balance, Pandavas were better than Kauravas on the basis that -

1) Pandavas worked for family unity.  Time and again they tried to bury the internal divisions between the cousins and work towards harmony.  Though they knew about the plot to poison them, burn them, give them an inferior portion of the ancestral lands, humiliate them in open court, send all sorts of obstacles on their way during the exile, still, the Pandavas tried to work for peace.

2) when Duryodhan needed their help, they rescued him from the gandharvas without putting any pre or post conditions of good behaviour on his release.  This is despite the fact that Dhuryodhan had come with the express wish to harass them in the woods and kill them if he could.  

3) despite all the insults to them and their wife, which continued throughout their lives, Pandavas did not retaliate in the same vein as the Kauravas.

4) though Pandavas were more than capable of fighting their way back from their exile, they stayed true to their word, expecting the Kauravas to do the same.  It was a fool's hope, but, they believed in innate goodness of their cousins and thought they will act with the same level of integrity as them.  Though capable, they stayed their hands till the last minute.

5) even after the war, when all Kauravas were killed, Pandavas did not throw out their uncle, who was the root cause of their misery.  They kept the wives and dependents of their cousins who had caused them no end of troubles for as long as they lived.

6) Pandavas respected their Kuru elders (on Kaurava side) despite the fact that their elders did not always work in their best interest.  They all said the right things, advised on the right things, but when it came to actual actions, more often than not, they acted against Pandavas.  Eg - During Varanavat incidence, Dhrutrastra did nothing to stop his son's murderous plot.  Bhishma did not investigate the incidence to find out who was responsible.  When the Pandavas came back, they did not divide the kingdom equitably.  The Kuru elders did not stop the gambling nor did they protect their own daughter-in-law from shameless insults heaped on her.  Kuru elders assisted in the war at Virat which was designed to expose the Pandavas.  And sadly, the same Kuru elders fought for the Kaurav side in the Mahabharat war against the Pandavas. 

What use are all the "blessings" and "good wishes" and "let truth be your guide" and "you are our favorite" if your actions don't match your words ?  Fine words and platitudes do not fill your stomach and nor do they sooth the deep injuries made by cruel actions.  Unlike Duryodhan, who was at least open in his hostilities, the Kuru elders were like the hidden enemies of the Pandavas who wished them well, but actively assisted on every scheme to undermine the Pandavas. 

Despite knowing ALL this, the Pandavas always paid due reverence to the elders who sided with the Kauravas and always sought their blessings.  Arjun stayed his hand from hurting his elders time and again.  Even during the war outside Virat, Arjun took the clothes off Karna, Duryodhan etc but he did not take the clothes from Bhishma, Drona, Krupcharya and Ashvashthama out of deep respect for them.  These assistants of the Kauravas were just as deadly enemies as the Kaurava brothers for the Pandavas.  Yet, the brothers did not desecrate their memories in words or deeds.

When your own elders are against you, what hope have you ?
The reasons Kauravas and Kuru elders failed are many.  But, the over arching reason was, their thoughts, words and actions were not in synch.  When you yourself are confused, how can you show clarity or leadership ?

7) Ashwashthama and kulguru Krupacharya were responsible for the heinous crime of attacking the Pandava army while it slept on the night of the 18thh day of the battle.  There is no excuse for killing sleeping soldiers.  If you are not men enough to face them in battle, its best to admit that you are a coward rather than make excuses for your cowardice.

Ashwashtham’s hate had reached to such a low level, he was willing to destroyed the embryo growing in princess Uttara’s womb.  No warrior, let alone a brahmin, would attack an unborn child !  This singular act, if no other, showed the total lack of decency, morality, ethics and humanity on Kaurava side.  

Despite all this, Pandavas were forgiving enough to let Ashwashthama live – something he was unwilling to do for their unborn grandson.  Pandavas were further magnanimous in letting Krupacharya continue on his previous post as the kulguru and even place their only grandson under his tutelage. 

8) Pandavas were actively seeking peace, where as Kauravas were actively seeking war.  Pandavas were willing to settle for five villages if peace could be guaranteed.  Duryodhan was unwilling to part with anything – even if it meant death and misery to millions.

9) Like the Palestinians who can't abide the very existence of Israel or North Koreans who hate South Koreans with unending vehemence, or Pakistanis deep rooted distrust for all things Indian, Kauravas could not reconcile with the fact that the Pandavas were ever born !  Even when they thought they were dead, they kept hating their cousins.  Kauravas hate was so deep seated, they could not even enjoy the wealth or prestige they had snatched from their cousins.  Like the other three examples I have stated above, they too were blood relatives !

How sad that sometimes "blood" boils for the spilling of the same "blood" !! 

10) Pandavas main fault was that they gambled away their empire twice !!  They should have learned their lessons and not played on either occasion, but definitely not on the second occasion.  But gambling was an addiction for Yudhisthir and Kauravas exploited it to the full. 

11) Pandavas “broke rules” during the war only after Kauravas had started to break the rules of WAR.  How can we blame the victim for retaliating ? 
Finally, after years of suffering in silence, Pandavas patience broke and they realised that they had to fight dirty to win.


There may never be strict distinction of "black and white" in life.  There maybe lots of shades of grey in-between. 
But always there is definitely one side that is overall better than the other. 
Life is never that balanced that you can't make out the good from evil.


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