Chapter 4

📖 Chapter 4: The Gods Ask Vishnu to Descend - Unveiling the Cosmic Drama Dive into the enthralling narrative as Sutagoswami takes us through the mesmerizing events following the snake sacrifice in the Mahabharata. The sages, eager to hear the epic tale, request Sutagoswami to narrate the saga as told by Vaisampayana to King Janamejaya. The story unfolds on the shores of the milk ocean, where a gathering of Devas, summoned by Lord Brahma, takes place. Mother Earth, distressed by the reborn demons wreaking havoc, implores the Devas for assistance. What follows is a divine plan, with Devas descending to Earth and sending their "amshas" into different royal dynasties. Witness the excitement among the Devas as they approach Lord Vishnu in Swetadvipa, seeking his involvement in their celestial mission. The ensuing discussions unveil intricate plans and the roles of various Devas in the impending cosmic drama. Delve into the unique role of Karna, an amsha of Surya, possessing not only formidable skills but also the soul of a demon named Sahasrakavacha. Madhvacarya draws intriguing parallels with characters from other epics, adding layers of complexity to the Mahabharata narrative. The narrative takes a captivating turn as Suta unfolds the divine identities of various characters, revealing the intricate connections between celestial beings and earthly incarnations. Explore the noble principles of the Kshatriya code through the story of Sahasrakavacha seeking sanctuary with Lord Surya. The epic tale continues with the rebirth of Sahasrakavacha's soul as Karna, whose complex character evokes diverse sentiments among observers. The intriguing story sheds light on the challenges posed by the Kshatriya code and the subsequent demise of the demon-hero Karna. As the narrative weaves through the lineage of powerful beings, including Shalya and others, it unveils the profound connections shaping the destiny of the entire universe. Gain a deeper understanding of the cosmic conflicts between Devas and Asuras, transcending earthly boundaries and offering profound lessons in devotion. Embark on a journey beyond the superficial, guided by the wisdom of a knowledgeable acharya—a direct disciple of Vyasa, the Mahabharata's author. Unravel profound insights and discover the spiritual essence embedded in this timeless epic. 🌌📜 #Mahabharata #EpicTales #SpiritualWisdom #CosmicDrama

12/9/20234 min read

Chapter 4: The Gods Ask Vishnu to Descend

After hearing about the events following the snake sacrifice, the sages requested Sutagoswami to narrate the Mahabharata as it was told by Vaisampayana to King Janamejaya. The story begins with a gathering of all the Devas, summoned by Lord Brahma, on the shore of the milk ocean. Mother Earth addressed the Devas, expressing her distress over the demons who had been reborn on Earth, engaging in sinful activities. She implored the Devas to help her in dealing with this situation.

Realizing their failure to protect the Earth, the Devas became alarmed. Lord Brahma then instructed them to descend to Earth and send their "amshas," which means portions or energies, to be born in different royal dynasties and species. According to Madhvacarya, the Pandavas are considered amshas of these deities. Yudhishthira is an amsha of Yama/Dharma, Bhima of Vayu, Arjuna of Indra, and Nakula and Sahadeva of the Ashvins.

Upon hearing this, the Devas became excited. Indra and the other Devas went from the shore of the milk ocean to Swetadvipa, where Lord Vishnu was resting. The Devas began praying, and Vishnu opened his eyes and inquired about their desire. The Devas expressed their intention to descend to Earth and fight the demons, requesting Vishnu to join them in this adventure. Vishnu agreed and asked the chief deities, like Indra, to remain behind. They discussed various plans and the roles of different Devas in the upcoming events.

Karna, who was an amsha of Surya, plays a unique role in the Mahabharata. Madhvacarya makes an interesting observation in his commentary, comparing Karna to Vali in the Ramayana. Vali was an enemy of Lord Rama and an amsha of Indra, while Sugriva was a close friend and devotee of Rama, being an amsha of Surya. In the Mahabharata, the roles are reversed, where Karna, an amsha of Surya, becomes the adversary, and Arjuna, an amsha of Indra, becomes the friend of Lord Krishna. Additionally, Karna possessed not only a portion of Surya but also had the soul of a demon.

Suta continued to speak about the divine identities of various characters. The Pandavas' identities were already discussed. Duryodhana represented sin personified, Kali. His brothers were incarnations of demons. Drupada and Virata were incarnations of the Marutas, storm gods. Abhimanyu was an incarnation of a son of Chandra (the Moon). Dronacharya was an amsha of Brihaspati, the teacher of the Devas.


Karna, a formidable warrior, was not merely an Amsha of Surya, but harbored the very soul of a demon known as Sahasrakavacha. In ancient times, demons would embark on tapasya, rigorous penance, to acquire boons and conquer the mighty Indra. While Brahma and Shiva surpassed Indra in power, other celestial beings paled in comparison. This particular demon undertook a formidable tapasya, beseeching the gods for an armor of unparalleled strength. Thus, he obtained a magnificent armor comprising a thousand impenetrable layers, earning him the name Sahasrakavacha, the one adorned with a thousand armors. Each layer possessed such formidable protection that breaking even a single layer meant certain death. Moreover, shattering a layer necessitated a year of intense tapa.

Confident in his invincibility, Sahasrakavacha became an indomitable force. However, it was Nara-Narayana Rishi who dared to challenge him. The sagacious rishis discovered a mystical place in Badrikashram where a day of tapasya was equivalent to a year's penance. Exploiting this boon, they engaged Sahasrakavacha in battle. Cunningly, one of the rishis would feign death, while the other would resurrect him through a day of tapasya. This process continued in rotation, gradually chipping away at the layers of Sahasrakavacha's armor. Over time, all but one layer remained intact. Realizing his impending doom, the demon sought sanctuary with Lord Surya, for the Sun god epitomized the valorous Kshatriya code.

The Kshatriya ethic demanded unwavering protection and shelter to anyone seeking it, regardless of their status as friend or foe. This noble principle extended even to the granting of material possessions. Great sages like Vishvamitra, who possessed Kshatriya origins before attaining sagehood, were deeply ingrained with this ethos. Vishvamitra would grant the most arduous of boons to those who approached him, undeterred by the challenges they presented. Such was his benevolence that he bestowed a fraction of his earned merit to a man who desired entry into Swarga, propelling the man directly to heaven. But when the gods rejected the man's presence in Swarga, Vishvamitra, displaying his power, raised his hand to form the constellation known as the Little Dipper, providing a celestial abode for the man.

When Sahasrakavacha, the demon, beseeched Surya for protection, Nara-Narayana Rishi found themselves unable to harm him, bound by the Kshatriya code. Consequently, the demon's soul was reborn as Karna, infused with the essence of the Sun god. Karna, possessing the heart of a demon, evokes diverse sentiments, with some considering him a hero while others revere him. Translations of his tale often omit the more nefarious deeds he committed. Nonetheless, being a demon, Karna ultimately met his demise.

Shalya, the uncle of Nakula and Sahadeva, born to Madri, possessed incredible might and was an embodiment of power bestowed by Vayu, the wind god. Among the strongest men on Earth, the distinguished group included Krishna, Balarama, Duryodhana, Bhima, Karna, Kichaka, and Jarasandha.

These backgrounds shed light on the individuals involved, revealing that what may seem like trivial conflicts among petty kings encompasses far more significant elements. The battles between Devas (celestial beings) and Asuras (demons) transcend earthly boundaries, dictating the destiny of the entire universe. Furthermore, the interactions between the Lord and His devotees within the epic showcase profound examples of bhakti (devotion). Overlooking these fundamental aspects reduces the narrative to a mere story, offering only mundane moral lessons at best. Serious contemplation, guided by a knowledgeable acharya—a direct disciple of Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata—can unravel profound insights and attract individuals to the path of spirituality.