These are the last three stories of the long series of tales in the Book of the Forest. The Pandavas are finishing up their pilgrimage across India and are moving northward for their rendezvous with Arjun. The first story, Yavakrita
, is particularly interesting in that the protagonist is not a Twice-born. In this case, he's a rude and uppity Vaishya, but he's the main character nonetheless. I find the little detail about the Shudra gaurd particularly interesting. He works for Yavakri's father, and he inexplicably blocks the boy from getting to safety, which results in Yavakri's death. I can only guess that it was thought fitting that a Vaishya rapist be killed at the hands of an even lower-caste menial.Jantu
seems to fit in among these stories in that it is another case of a Brahmin helping a king with his fertility problems. In contrast to many of the other stories, the king's wives are distinctly un-heroic.
The last story, the Hawk & the Dove
, stands out as the most unusual of all the stories so far, especially because it involves a king, two gods, but NO BRAHMINS
! Where are the Brahmins? The Book of the Forest is a very strong piece of propaganda about the importance of having well-bred Brahmins for all occasions, but then this strange tale caps them all off.
This story has the strongest feel of Buddhism that I've seen so far in the Mahabharata. The king's self-sacrifice is strongly reminiscent of other Buddhist stories in which the Boddhisatva sacrifices his own life for another's benefit.
Next time, we'll finally get back to the deeds of our heroes, as they make their way to the hermitage of Nar-Narayan way up on the slopes of Mt. Kailash.