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C ontents List of illustrations xi 1 Introduction: gleaners were and are for real 1 2 Peace and nonviolence in the Mahābhārata 19 3 Śiva’s summa on gleaners 35 4 Gleaners and beggars, Buddhist, Jain, and Brahmanical 50 5 Daṇḍaka forest 55 6 Approaching Balarāma’s Tīrthayātrā and Kurukṣetra with three hypotheses 61 7 More homespun tales of Kurukṣetra: further towards a Mahābhārata ethnography 74 8 Naimiṣeya Kuñja: the Mahābhārata’s chief holdout for gleaners 80 9 The gleaning seam along Balarāma’s route 85 10 King Kuru and the Kurus 95 11 King Kuru at Kurukṣetra 107 12 Gleaners of the text 119.
I llustrations Tables 3.1 Types of Ṛṣis, in the order mentioned by Śiva in N and S 37 3.2 Types of Ṛṣis mentioned in both groups listed alphabetically 37 9.1 Tīrthas visited by Balarāma on his up-river pilgrimage along the Sarasvatī, indicating the site’s first mention and some important stories 87 Maps 1 The totality of Balarāma’s pilgrimage along the Sarasvatī river to and past Kurukṣetra, to Plakṣaprasravaṇa, where he buttonhooks back to Kurukṣetra to see the final duel of the Mahābhārata war. 68 2 The area of Kurukṣetra, also called Samantapañcaka, and five sites along the Sarasvatī River that Balarāma visits. Kurukṣetra’s 9 forests are also shown. 87.
1 Introduction Gleaners were and are for real This book is basically about gleaners in the Mahābhārata, India’s great Sanskrit epic. After beginning with a chapter-by-chapter introduction and a very brief pre- view of the most pertinent scholarly literature, this introduction will open on what may be known, but which was mostly unknown to me until this research was well under way, from Western familiarities with gleaning. It begins with a review of Jewish accounts of gleaning in the Bible and the Mishnah and discusses a pos- sible Christian allusion to gleaning, leading into an extended contrast with Indian gleaning that carries over into a discussion of a French film about gleaning in France, Agnès Varda’s Les glaneurs et la “glaneur.” The film and a poem by John Keats then invite reflection on the metaphor of gleaning as a Mahābhārata reading practice and in the text’s portrayal of certain characters, topics taken up later in chapter 12 . Chapter 1 also discusses some of the personal background of the book. Chapter 2 , after opening with a summary of the Mahābhārata that is meant to be serviceable for the first three chapters of this book, will seek to situate gleaning in the Mahābhārata in the context of the epic’s wider discourses on peace (ś ānti ) and nonviolence (a hiṃsā ). The relation between gleaning, peace, and nonvio- lence will underlie topics explored throughout the book and will be returned to as the subject of its final chapter, 13 . Chapter 3 then goes into the U mā-Maheśvara Saṃvāda or “The Dialogue between Umā and Maheśvara (Śiva).” This is the Mahābhārata’s textual unit I call Śiva’s summa on Ṛ ṣidharma, in which Śiva lauds the ways of Ṛṣi-gleaners. I call this my nuts and bolts chapter since it introduces the terminologies by which the U mā-Maheśvara Saṃvāda defines gleaners in a way consonant with the ear- lier d harmasūtra s and the L aws of Manu , but only in the Mahābhārata’s Northern recension (N), whereas the Southern recension (S) speaks of an overlapping enu- meration of gleaner-types as forest-dwellers or v ānaprastha s. From this chapter on, the book emphasizes that, in both recensions, (unlike in Israel or in the France of L es glaneurs ) gleaning had more to do with the house-less forest life than with residential village or urban life or with gathering residual post-harvest grains from cultivated fields, and that Hindu gleaning was an ecological and spiritual stance nurtured as much by hospitality codes as by eating practices. C hapters 4 and 5 turn to roughly contemporary traditions and texts outside the Mahābhārata and the Hindu legal tradition. Chapter 4 looks at what appear to be .
2 Peace and nonviolence in the Mahābhārata T o study the epic’s gleaners calls for multiple perspectives, but one that has not been developed is that they make many singular appearances in the epic as prac- titioners of nonviolence (a hiṃsā) , projecting what seems to be an unwarlike or peaceful mode of life. Of course, peace and a hiṃsā, or nonviolence, have greater familiarity in both India and the West than u ñchavṛtti, or gleaning. With glean- ing we are speaking of something more evanescent, at least today, more on the fringes of modern consciousness. This chapter introduces the text’s rather distinc- tive interest in a hiṃsā , which will also be a prominent topic of the book’s closing chapter. It also takes note of some wider interests in a hiṃsā and peace (ś ānti ), both in the Mahābhārata and other texts and in other classical Indian religious traditions. Although we shall see that it will be more demanding to locate a hiṃsā as a Mahābhārata theme, the topic of peace offers us the opportunity to summa- rize a Mahābhārata that will be serviceable for readers unfamiliar with it, or who might appreciate a preview of scenes the book will emphasize. Such a digest need not at this point go into all the ramifications of the text that we shall be exploring, particularly in the later chapters, where we must be able to recognize the epic’s different dialogue levels or frame narratives and follow the careers of characters I will not yet introduce. It will be helpful, though, to summarize the epic princi- pally in terms of most of the names and events already mentioned and those to be mentioned in the rest of this chapter and in c hapter 3. Those names are Kuru (a royal ancestor), Vyāsa (the epic’s author), Śuka (Vyāsa’s firstborn son), Bhīṣma (a patriarch and authority on d harma ), Dhṛtarāṣṭra (Vyāsa’s next-born son, blind since birth, and father of the Kauravas), Yudhiṣṭhira, Bhīma, and Arjuna (the three eldest of the five Pāṇḍavas), Draupadī (the five Pāṇḍavas’ wife), Duryodhana (oldest of the hundred Kauravas), Kṛṣṇa (God), and his semidivine older brother Balarāma. The summary will also highlight three textual units (the B hagavad Gītā , Balarāma’s T īrthayātrā, and the U mā-Maheśvara Saṃvāda) , and mention a few of the Mahābhārata’s eighteen books to help to contextualize the characters and textual units adduced. T he vast Mahābhārata is said to have been composed in 100,000 verses by the sage or Ṛṣi Vyāsa, who frequently enters the main story as the biological grandfather of the chief heroes, yet his firstborn son Śuka had already attained mokṣa or salvation before Vyāsa sired Dhṛtarāṣṭra and the father of the Pāṇḍavas. .
3 Śiva’s summa on gleaners To get a signal of what will interest us over this and the next two chapters, we will be aided by looking at three sets of passages: first, at Śiva’s description of gleaners in the Northern recension baseline text of a unit in the Mahābhārata’s thirteenth Book, the U mā-Maheśvara Saṃvāda or “Dialogue between Umā and Maheśvara [Śiva]”; second, at likely references to brahmanical gleaners in Buddhist sources; and third, at a passage early in the third book of the Vālmīki-Rāmāyaṇa. These three sources, and especially the first, will then be the basis on which, for most of the rest of the book, we shall be following Balarāma, Kṛṣṇa’s older brother and the incarnation of the world-circling serpent Ṥeṣa, to the battlefield of Kurukṣetra as the Mahābhārata war is ending. Since this is our nuts and bolts chapter upon which all later discussion is built, I will help readers to get off to the best start possible by providing a gloss or translation in it for every first usage of a Sanskrit term or name except for the “English” words karma, yoga, and guru. And let me add that for moments when the discussion has become too thick with terms, or when memory fails, there is also an annotated listing of all the gleaner and forest- dweller types mentioned by Śiva in our key passages in both the Northern and Southern recension versions of the U mā-Maheśvara Saṃvāda. This listing, found in T able 3.2 of this chapter, can serve as a guide to this chapter and as a supple- mentary glossary to the glossary at the end of the book. The Mahābhārata has what I call this summa on gleaners in its thirteenth Book, the A nuśāsana Parvan. What is called the U mā-Maheśvara Saṃvāda dif- fers markedly in the epic’s Northern (N) and Southern (S) recensions, and if one examines the whole S aṃvāda in both of them, one finds that S does a complete makeover and only approximates N at certain junctures – the main passage on gleaners among them.1 In this chapter, I will treat N and S only contrastively, and in connection with just this one unit. I will turn to their reconstruction in the Poona Critical Edition of the Mahābhārata, to the likely history of their composi- tion, and to S’s handling of some other portions of the Mahābhārata in chapter 6 . Suffice it to say that according to what I will say there, N is from circa 200 to 50 BCE, and S would be from about three hundred years later, but in any case from before 300 CE. In both recensions’ versions of the U mā-Maheśvara Saṃvāda , Śiva talks about a series of unusual ascetic Ṛṣis. In N he accounts for nine types, from P henapa s .
4 Gleaners and beggars, Buddhist, Jain, and Brahmanical As noted above, Ā pastamba Dharmasūtra provides the rule behind Śiva’s modi- fied adage about the guest waiting on the smoke, pestle, embers, and plates. Āpastamba’s full passage is rich on the theology of the guest. “Whether you hold them dear or not ( priyā apriyāś ca) , it is stated, ‘guests lead you to heaven’ ” ( ĀDhS 2.7.5). In one context, the guest embodies the fire god Agni (2.7.2); in another, he is addressed as “Vrātya” (13–14), a term for certain wanderers we will meet in c hapter 6; and when the host “follows the guest as he leaves, it constitutes the Viṣṇu steps” (9) – presumably those by which Viṣṇu, from the ṚgVeda on, surmounts the universe. One could ask for no clearer distinction between what Umā and Śiva call Ṛ ṣidharma and what Brahmanical texts call y atidharma , the dharma of mendicants. In “going among the houses” (to use the Buddhist phrase), Brahmanical and Buddhist beggars may or may not be choosers. But they cannot be gleaners. Indeed, one must look further at how early Buddhist texts debunk “Vedic” gleaners, and explore how N, with its diversified exaltations of glean- ers hosting obviously Brahmanical and not Buddhist or other heterodox beggars, promoted this complementarity between Brahmanical gleaners and mendicants as a distinctively “Hindu” ideal. A s the legal tradition shows, real gleaners subsisted on different sides of ideo- logically constructed fences. So did the more metaphoric celestial gleaners whom Śiva mentions, from p henapa s, vālakhilyas , and cakracaras on down. Foam-, moonbeam-, and fire-gleaners could be strictly forest-dwellers, but most grain- gleaners, unless they strictly limited themselves to n īvāra or wild rice, would have to live near agricultural fields even if they dressed in leaves and tree bark. Buddhists also constructed versions of these fences as ones crossed by both “Samaṇas and Brahmins.” In the A mbaṭṭha Sutta , once the Buddha has spoken about those “in pursuit of this unexcelled attainment of knowledge and conduct” that he teaches, he tells the arrogant young Brahmin Ambaṭṭha that neither he nor his master, the landlord Brahmin Pokkharasāti, measures up to ascetics (s amaṇa s) and Brahmins who at least tried out “four paths of failure.”1 The first “takes his carrying pole and plunges into the depths of the forest thinking: ‘I shall live on windfalls’ ”; when that fails, the second “takes a spade and basket, thinking: ‘I will live on tubers and roots’ ”; when that fails, the third “makes a fire-hearth at the edge of a village or small town and sits tending the flame”; and when that fails, .