In the Vana Parva of the Mahabharata, there is an incident involving Bhima, Yudishthira and a python, which gives us invaluable lessons for life.
A python caught Bhima in its coils; despite his strength, he is unable to free himself. When Bhima does not return for a long time, Yudishthira goes out looking for him. He finds him in the coils of the python. He asks him why he has not thrown off the hold of the serpent. Bhima says he is not able to, despite trying hard.
The python tells Yudishthira that it is so strong that once it has got its coils around a person, he will never be able to escape and will end up being its food. However, the python says there is a way out for Bhima. If Yudishthira answers the python’s questions, it will release him. Yudishthira agrees. The snake asks Yudhsithira questions, which he answers. He then puts to the python some questions of his own. He asks the python when a man will be able to attain a high status in life. The python answers that he who is generous in giving to others and also speaks the truth will attain a high status. In addition, the person should practise ahimsa and utter pleasing words.
Yudishthira then asks the snake which is more important — truth, ahimsa, generosity or pleasing words. The python says all the four are equally important, and there is no question of one being more important than the other.
Once upon a time, the python was a king called Nahusa, who was punished for his pride and cursed by Sage Agastya. It was because of the curse that he had become a python. Agastya had told Nahusa that when a man answered the questions which Nahusa put to him, Nahusa would regain his original form. In fact, Nahusa had been born in the same family as Yudishthira and was therefore one of his ancestors. Yudishthira, by answering Nahusa’s questions, rids him of the curse.
Furthermore, Yudishthira asks Nahusa many questions and elicits answers. The python’s answers to Yudishthira also emphasise the qualities which Vidura had spoken about at length to Dhritharashtra. Thus, we see that throughout the Mahabharata, there are many moral lessons for us.
Keywords: Religious discourse