RLST 104-Review Sheet-Exam 2-Fall 2012
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DESCRIPTIONA handy review sheet for religious studies 104 Exam 2.
RLST 104/ASST 104
Exam 2 Review Sheet
Prepared and Compiled by Dheepa Sundaram
Please do not copy, distribute, or otherwise use any part or whole of this
document without authors written consent. This is an incomplete review. You are responsible for all material presented in lectures and
discussions even if it is not included on the review sheet.
***please note that I have used the spellings for names, places, and terms from the
study guide without diacritics for the most part***
I. Main Characters and Relationships
Make sure you are clear on the relationships between the major characters. Santanu and Ganga are the parents of Bhisma. Bhisma who represents the image
of sacrifice and duty to social and individual orders, takes a vow of celibacy and
helps his father get a second wife, a fishermaid, named Satyavati (represents
Maya). By her, Santanu has two more sons, the half-brothers of Bhisma,
Vicitravirya and Citrangada. Satyavati also has another son by a Brahmin named
Parasara outside of her marriage to Santanu. This sons name is Vyasa.
Bhisma acts as regent for the young king Vicitravirya after the death of Santanu since he has vowed that only the progeny of Satyavati will rule the kingdom. To
help his young half-brother produce heirs for the throne, Bhisma goes and steals
Amba, Ambika, and Ambalika by defeating all of the warriors at their svayamvara
and brings them to marry his brother. Unfortunately, Amba does not agree being
in love with another king, Salva. Though Bhisma sends her to Salva, he refuses
her, humiliated by his defeat to Bhisma. So, she returns to Vicitravirya who also
rejects her, saying he will not marry a woman whose heart belongs to another
man. Angered by all of this and full of hatred for Bhisma, Amba does tapas first
to Visnu for a garland which could be used to find a warrior to defeat Bhisma.
When she attempts to use this on King Drupada and it fails, she pleads with
Parasurama a Brahmin who has given up his brahmanical ways in order to
exterminate all the Ksatriyas from the earth. When he also fails in defeating
Bhisma, Amba does tapas to Shiva and is told that she will be reborn as a man and
she subsequently builds a fire and kills herself. She is then reborn as Sikhandin
(she becomes Dhristadyumna and Draupadis brother) to King Drupada and eventually with Arjuna slays Bhisma during the great war (see bed of arrows myth).
Now, despite the marriage to Ambika and Ambalika, no heirs were produced by King Vicitravirya so, his half-brother, Vyasa exercised his right as the brother and
impregnated his two wives. Ambika gave birth to Dhritarastra while Ambalika
gave birth to Pandu. From these two, spawned the two sides of the war, the
Pandavas (sons of Pandu) and the Kauravas (sons of Dhritarashtra).
Dhritarashtra, the king of Hastinapura, is the son of Ambika, while Pandu, the
king of Indraprastha is the son of Ambalika.
Kunti and Madri become the wives of Pandu that is cursed never to be able to have intercourse with his wives setting the stage for the divine births of the
Pandavas. Kunti has a magic incantation that can summon any to her. Before
marriage, Kunti gives birth to Karna, by the sun god, Surya, who she
subsequently abandons by floating him down the river in a basket. He is later
rescued by the Kaurava charioteer, Adhiratha, who raises him as his son, never
disclosing his royal birth. After marriage, Kunti uses her magic incantation to call
on Yama or Dharma from which came Yudhisthira, Indra from which came
Arjuna, and Vayu or the wind god from which came Bhima. She then gave the
incantation to her co-wife Madri, who summoned the twin Asvin gods, horsemen
and medicinal gods, and gave birth to Nakula and Sahadeva who were also twins.
Dhritarashtra and his wife Gandhari have a hundred sons of whom Duryodhana and Duhsasana are important. Duryodhanas attachment to power is a major factor that leads to the great war. Duhsasanas act of disrobing Draupadi in the court, which leads to Bhimas vow of revenge, is another important motivating factor for the war. Other important Kauravas include, Sakuni, the uncle who
instigates and encourages Duryodhana to take power and exterminate his cousins.
He also advises Duryodhana in tricking Yuddhisthira into the games of dice
where he loses his brothers, himself, and Draupadi. In the first one, Draupadi is
able to win back their freedom as she argues that someone who is not his own
master cannot bet someone elses freedom. Dhritarastra agrees and grants her a boon and she secures their freedom. However, after the second game of dice
where Draupadi is disrobed but ultimately protected by Krishna who makes her
sari neverending, the Pandavas are forced into exile for 13 years and must live in
disguise for a 14th
year without being found out.
Drona, though the teacher of arms to both the Pandava and Kaurava princes, fights for the Kauravas in the great war in order to settle his feud with Drupada
who fights for the Pandavas since her daughter, Draupadi, the wife of the five
Pandava princes, was insulted by Duryodhana and Duhsasana during the dice
game episodes. It is also important to note that Dronas son, Asvatthama eventually leads to his demise, as he is told falsely, by the Pandavas, that his son
is dead in order to stop the devastation that Drona was causing to the Pandava
armies (they actually killed an elephant with the same name and told Drona it was
his son who was dead). His intense love for his son forces him to stop fighting
and allows him to be slain by Dhristadyumna.
The Pandavas also have important helpers throughout including Vidura, the uncle who warns them about the impending fire at the House of Lac, and Virata, who is
the king of the city in which the Pandavas hide themselves during the last year of
their exile. The sons of Drupada, Sikhandin (Amba reborn) and Dhristadyumna
are major forces in the great battle, Dhristadyumna slaying Drona while
Sikhandin participates in slaying his/her old enemy Bhisma as Arjunas charioteer.
Of course, as mentioned earlier, the wife of the five Pandavas, won by Arjuna at her svayamvara when he shoots five arrows through a small ring, is Draupadi.
Make sure you know the story of Draupadis svayamvara and her public and cold rejection of Karna (I will not marry the son of a charioteer). Though Arjuna wins her, he shares her with his brothers since his mother instructs him to share
what he has brought home with everyone not realizing he had brought a woman.
Despite this, she loves Arjuna the most. It is the insult of her in both dice game
episodes but particularly at the moment when she must call on Krishna to prevent
herself from being disrobed in the court that provides a major impetus for the war.
Much like they are on Karna, final diplomatic efforts before the war are lost on
her as she longs for revenge. She fulfills her vow to wash her hair in Duhsasanas blood. If you remember Karna informs his mother Kunti that no matter what, at
the end of the war, she would still have 5 sons implying that either he or Arjuna
would still be there.
Finally, Krishna, is purportly a neutral figure though he appears on the side of the Pandavas during the great war as an advisor. His brother Balarama refuses to
fight on either side of the war, disagreeing with it altogether, and Krishna grants a
choice to Duryodhana and Arjuna, saying one could have him, unarmed while the
other could have all of his kingdoms armies. Duryodhana chose the armies while Arjuna chose Krishna. Krishna advises Arjuna during the portion of the great war
known as the Bhagavad Gita and explains to him that he continue to fight since it
was his duty as a ksatriya and it was his path to moksa or liberation.
II. Important Myths, Themes, and Stories in Mahabharata
Be familiar with the Procession of the Dead story-where Vyasa brings the dead out of the river one last time at the request of Gandhari (Dhritarastras wife) and others. Everyone is happy and the tension of the material world is gone after
death. For example Karna and Arjuna are no longer enemies. The point behind
this myth is to demonstrate how the conflict also dies with the body and that there
is no conflict after death since everyone comes from the same source (this point is
also made in Krishnas discussion with Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita).
Know the Pilgrimage of Death story the end of the Mahabharata where each of the Pandavas falls off the mountain until only Yudhisthira is left. Make sure you
know what happens to Yudhisthira and his brothers and Draupadi in this myth.
This myth shows the continued importance and role of karma and dharma and
how the concepts of heaven and hell work in this mythology. Note that neither
heaven (svarga) nor hell (naraka) is a permanent abode. And heaven is not
considered the goal of life but rather a temporary reward. Hell similarly is a
temporary punishment. Why is this story important for the mythology?
Also, make sure you know why Drupada, Arjuna, and Amba perform Tapas in the Mahabharata. Be able to explain the stories connected with each one. Tapas is
literally heat and refers the process in which human beings perform austerities and meditation exercises to focus their power and eventually cause an imbalance
in rta forcing Shiva to come down to prevent premature destruction of the
universe. Be sure you understand how power is now centered within human
beings in that they are able to directly affect the gods without sacrifice but rather
through focused concentration. You will be asked to talk about the change in
power from Early Vedic Mythology (sacrifice to appease the gods, rta and nature
gods have the power) to Later Vedic (rta and brahman all powerful but human
beings can control nature gods through sacrifice) to Mahabharata (locus of power
now rests in human beings who can affect the divine and cause imbalances in rta
through intense focus or concentration-tapas). Be able to answer the following
questions. Where is the locus of power located in each of these periods? How
does the locus move? What does this demonstrate?
Make sure you are familiar with the instances of class warfare beginning with Satyavati. There are several characters which rebel against their positions in the
social order (Satyavati, Ekalavya, Drona, Karna). Be able to describe how they
rebel, whether or not they are successful, and what this shows about the rigidity of
the social class system at the time of the Mahabharata as compared with the
Ramayana-ie. Personal gain and desires often trump dharma. Also there is no
longer mobility according to ability between the social classes.
Make sure are able to remember what important figures symbolize, for instance, Bhisma symbolizes sacrifice and duty to his family and society. He is very
unselfish. While, Yudhisthira is known for truthfulness and fairness. Karna is
seen as the loyal/ideal friend. Arjuna is best warrior. Bhima is known for his great
strength. Focus on the major characters and characterizations we have discussed
in lecture or discussion.
Make sure you know and understand the stories behind the important individual conflicts in the story, such as Arjuna and Karna; Drona and Drupada;
Amba/Sikhandin and Bhisma. Remember, the Mahabharata represents conflict at
individual (ex. Karna vs. Arjuna), social (exs. Drona vs. Drupada, Ekalavya vs
Drona), and cosmic (fire vs water). It is important to be able to make connections
between the conflicts at the various level and see how they work to together in the
narrative of the story (see the competition between Indra (rain god) and Surya
(sun god) and how it plays out through Arjuna and Karna). Please note that there
are more examples for the individual and social conflicts in the text than the ones
I have listed here.
Make sure you know the names of magical weapons that are received by both Karna (Vasava-arrow from Indra) and Arjuna (Gandiva-bow from Siva) and
where they came from and how the characters received them. Know the myths or
stories associated with each one.
Why are the rules of war or engagement important in the Mahabharata? How are they broken and why is it significant?
Make sure you understand the significance of the Bhagavad Gita both inside and outside of the Mahabharata. The two identities of every person are atman (soul-
permanent) and deha (body-impermanent). Krishna explains that the atman is
more important which is why it is ok for him to kill his family members in the
war (their permanent identities are not harmed). Also Arjuna must choose Karma
yoga as his path since he is of the warrior class and has been trained as a warrior-
that is his path. Krishna tells Arjuna that as long as he performs his duty
(dharma) without attachment to the fruits of his actions (karma) then he is doing
the right thing. In this case, that means fighting the war. Be able to answer the
following questions in regards to the Bhagavad Gita section of the Mahabharata.
What kinds of paths are outlined in the Gita for the ultimate goal of life? What is
that goal and how is it different from svarga or heaven? When are people sent to
naraka (hell)? What are Atman and Brahman and how do they relate to moksa?
What are heaven and hell in the Hindu mythology?
I. Major Themes
(i) little over the big- Krishna is a champion of the common people and their struggle against the aristocracy. There is a focus on the traditions and
practices of the common people.
(ii) Krishna represents the human dimension of the divine as he lives the life of a cowherd and participates in the daily activities and games of the
gopis. He is a trickster and known for his childlike characteristics and behavior.
(iii) Krishna represents the notion of unconventionality of the divine (compare with Rama). He steals butter, plays tricks, marries 16000 women at the
same time, calls the gopis into the forest with his flute and dances with them
attempting to free them material attachment.
(iv) Krishna myths represent a god that may have originally lay outside of
elite or mainstream Hinduism and was later incorporated as the eighth descent of Vishnu.
(v) Krishna myths emphasize the path of bhakti yoga, the path of
devotion, exemplified by union of the gopis (tman) with Krishna (Brahman) for instance through Rs Ll (dance of love). Through complete devotion to the Supreme Soul one can attain moksha from samsra. Also, Krishna represents the beautiful and is the very embodiment of love as the eternal union between the atman and Brahman indicating the divine nature of marriage as representative of
(vi) The notion of good and evil in Krishna myths is explained by the notion of balance. Whe...