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Posted at 15:37:32 IST on Mar 19, 2010

With the Bhagavatha Saptaaham continues infusing freshness and devotion in the minds of thousands, such an event in Prasanthi Nilayam invokes greater interest, as it is in Prasanthi Nilayam one gets an opportunity to listen to the sacred stories in His immediate Divine Presence, an opportunity that even the 'hero' in Bhagavatham, Raja Parikshit himself was not privileged.

One could see a good assemblage of devotees, including devotees from overseas, thronging to Sai Kulwant Hall to sit through the complete session. The learned speaker exhorted: “Bhagavatha rasa ka pana karo…drink deep the nectar of the Bhagavatha” before narrating the story of Parikshit. As the session continues, devotees are drinking the nectar of the epic, often stealing glances of the Divine Himself.

In the first session as a prelude to the commentary, with invocatory prayers, storyline began with the dialogue between Lord Sri Krishna and His devotee Uddhava. When Uddhava asked as to how he could offer worship to the Divine form of Krishna after He departs from physical form, Krishna answers, "By worshipping and studying the Bhagavatham." Elucidating on the great good fortune of all assembled to hear His story in His presence Maharaj in his inimitable style went on narrating the birth of Sage Suka and the story as to how he was endowed with wisdom before his birth. Sage Narada is approached by a woman who is Bhakti (devotion) in reality. Her sons Jnana (wisdom) and Vairagya(renouncement) are aged far beyond the mother and she says that Bhakti is of no use without the sons! And so the remedy that sage Narada offers is the sacred stories of the Bhagavatham.

Next to come was an incident that happened in the banks of Tungabhadra involving Atmadeva, narrating the birth of Dunduli and Gokarna. Dunduli’s evil deeds and atrocities on Atmadeva form a important message as to what is permanent and what is not!  Upon informing Gokarna about his travails, Atmadev finds great wisdom by listening to the advice of his son about the unfortunate family bonding. Explaining in detail of the futility of material life and requesting his father to renounce the world and go to forest, Gokarna tells him to read the Tenth Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam every day.

The evening's theme centred around the saving grace of Lord Krishna which rescued the Pandavas time and again. The dying Kaurava prince, Duryodhana, requests Ashwatthama to bring him the heads of the Pandavas. As Ashwatthama plans to make a cruel attack at night, Lord Krishna advises the Pandavas and their sons, the Upa-Pandavas to sleep elsewhere. "Like the modern youth, the sons do not listen to the Lord and so they were all killed!", said Sri Rituraj. And then, as Ashwattama decided to direct the Brahmaasthra to the womb of Uttara to destroy the last hope of the Pandava lineage, Lord Krishna intervened and saved the child. The child was Parikshith, who was so named because ever since his birth he was on a search to find his Saviour! "All of us too must search keenly for our saviour for aren't we also Parikhshith? Are we also not mysteriously protected and nourished when in the womb?" asked the Balsant.

Read on the complete story that was narrated on the second session...

The first chapter of Bhagavatham begins with the conversation between Sage Vyasa and Saga Narada. Saga Vyasa looks pensive and upon asked about the reason for his grief and restlessness, the sage confesses that though he has written the Mahabharata and other commentaries on the Vedas, he still feels a sense of void and lack of peace of mind. He also sees that all the scriptures that he had written so far have not resulted in the transformation of mankind. Then, Narada assuages Vyasa’s grief encouraging him to extol the glories of the Lord, for that alone would confer ever-lasting peace and bliss on everyone. Thus Vyasa sets out to compose the Srimad Bhagavatham and gets it transcribed with the help of Lord Ganesha.

After having composed the Bhagavatham in a spontaneous and continuous flow of verses, Vyasa was now faced with another dilemma as to who would narrate it to the world? It was then decided that Sage Shuka would be the ideal choice. So, he sends his disciples to narrate the Bhagavatha to Sage Shuka, and Shuka later narrates the same to King Parikshit.

The next episode takes place in the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Duryodhana has been defeated by Bheema and during his last moments, he is visited by Aswatthama. Duryodhana then requests the guest to kill the Pandavas, beheading them. So, Aswatthama sets out to the Pandava camp in the middle of the night with this evil objective.

Bhagawan Sri Krishna, the omnipresent one and the protector of His devotees, senses the danger to the lives of Pandavas and saves their lives with His Divine Intervention. However, UpaPandavas, the five children of the Pandavas are brutally murdered in their sleep by the wicked Ashwathama. When Ashwathama takes the heads of UpaPandavas and presents them to Duryodhana, Duryodhana does not approve this action. He laments that their lineage has come to an end, as his sons and that of the Pandavas are now no more. Thus lamenting, Duryodhana ends with a sad death.

In the meanwhile, in the Pandava camp, everyone is plunged into grief at the death of the UpaPandavas. Enraged at this dastardly gruesome act, Arjuna sets out to seek revenge on Aswatthama. What ensues is a fiery battle between the two, at the end of which, Arjuna overcomes Aswatthama to take him as a hostage, to present him to other Pandavas and Draupadhi. When Arjuna is ready to kill Aswatthama, Darupadi steps in to save his life. Though still reeling under inconsolable grief at the loss of her children, she entreats Arjuna to spare Aswatthama’s life as she does not want Aswatthama’s mother, the Gurumatha of the Pandavas, to go through the agony of losing her son. Then, as per Bhagawan Krishna’s advice, they remove the ‘gem’ from his head, thus depriving him of the honour of being a Brahmin, before setting him free.

Even as Pandavas are bereaved of their children they are struck by another tragedy. The Brahmastra that was earlier released by Aswatthama is now directed at the unborn child of Uttara, Parikshit, who is the lone hope being the scion of their dynasty. However, Bhagawan Sri Krishna assumes a minute form, enters the womb of Uttara and protects the unborn child. After its birth, the child tries to remember its saviour’s face and thus earnestly examines everyone’s face, and entitles himself for the name, Parikshit.

Bhishma’s final moments comes as narration, as he lay on the bed of arrows on the battlefield. In response to Bhishma’s prayers, Bhagawan Sri Krishna goes to his presence along with the Pandavas in order to grant him His Divine Darshan. A great devotee that Bhishma was, he offers himself in absolute devotion to Bhagawan Krishna and prays to Him to grant him the boon of witnessing His Divine Sports in all the Avatars to come. Thus praying, he breathes his last and his effulgent soul merges into Bhagawan Sri Krishna.

After the Kurukshetra war, Bhagawan Sri Krishna leaves for Dwaraka accompanied by Arjuna. The very first task that Bhagawan Krishna performs at Dwaraka was to enquire about his subjects, especially the poor people as to whether they needed anything. Devout people that they were, they replied that they wanted to have His Darshan and now their desires were fulfilled. However, everyone’s joy was short-lived as the time had come for Bhagawan Krishna to depart from the earthly plane. After Bhagawan Krishna casts away his physical frame, grief-stricken Arjuna returns home. Upon hearing the ‘sad news’, Mother Kunti immediately ‘drops down’ to death.  A great devotee that Kunti was, she always prayed to Bhagawan Krishna to grant her troubles, for she believed that the Lord would be with her during such times. She did not want to live even a second without her Lord!

After having lost their Beloved Lord and their mother, the Pandavas arrange to coronate Parikshit as the King before they embarking on the “Mahaprasthan’ – the final journey from which there is no return. Young King Parikshit rules the kingdom righteously and in keeping with the traditions and moral standards set by his predecessors of the illustrious dynasty.