Drona in Mahabharata

Artur Karp hart at POLBOX.COM
Sat Jun 26 13:19:19 UTC 1999

Dear Dr. Reusch,

The episode of Drona and Drupada is very interesting. To understand it
better one should remember that Drupada swore by truth (satyena) that after
his father will crown him, he would let Drona enjoy his kingdom:
abhiSekSyati mAM rAjye sa pAJcAlyo yadA tadA// tvadbhojyaM bhavitA rAjyaM
sakhe satyena te zape/ [I:122.29-30.]

The >apparent incoherence in the Mahabharata's account of Drona's feud with
Drupada> seems to rest mainly on the understanding of two expressions
apearing in the key phrase of the episode.

When Drona approaches Drupada to remind him of their former friendship,
Drupada says: na hi rAjJAmudIrNAnAmevaMbhUtairnaraiH kvacit/ sakhyaM
bhavati... zriyA hInairdhanacyutaiH// [I:122,3]

Van Buitenen translates: "For no exalted king strikes up friendships
anywhere... with men like you, destitute of wealth and deprived of fortune".
Note that VB reverses the sequence of those key expressions: in the text
'fortune' (zrI) comes before 'wealth' (dhana). Kalyanov's  Russian translation
preserves the original sequence, but it also says: "...with  similar men,
deprived of fortune and wealth."

In this particular context - shouldn't one consider introducing here
another, less common meaning of zrI?  If Drona is excluded from zrI,
understood not as "luck" or "fortune", but as "Royal Dignity" or
"Sovereignty", then, as if by definition, he cannot possess any true wealth
(dhana.) Which excludes him from partnership with Drupada, but
does not make him poor or destitute.

When the layer of popular images based on the conflict between luckless
poverty and riches is removed, the story of Drona and Drupada may - possibly
- reveal its deeper meaning. Much indicates that it would show one more
version of the core conflict of the Mbh.: that between the law and the truth
(dharma vs. satya.) As if to make the listeners' choice more difficult, the
episode links the law to the present, the truth to the past. By letting a
brahmin-warrior co-govern his country Drupada-king would break the law, by
breaking his promise to a friend Drupada-man violates the truth.

Alf Hiltebeitel's "The Ritual of Battle" (NY Un.Press, 1990) contains one
large chapter devoted to Sri (Sri and the Source of Sovereignty, pp.
143-191), and a number of useful notes.

With regards,

Artur Karp
University of Warsaw

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