Tuesday, June 1, 2021

The Submergence of Dwaraka

The Mausala Parva, Book 16 of the Mahabharata, describes the events which transpire thirty-six years after the Kurukshetra war: the demise of Krishna, the demise of his brother Balarama and their father Vasudeva, the civil war in which every member of the Yadava clan is killed, and the destruction of the kingdom of Dwaraka. Arjuna arrived in Dwaraka to find out what had happened to Krishna and his clan and he saw the submergence of the kingdom in the sea. 

Here’s an excerpt from Arjuna’s description of Dwaraka’s final moments: 

“The sea, which had been beating against the shores, suddenly broke the boundary that was imposed on it by nature. The sea rushed into the city. It coursed through the streets of the beautiful city. The sea covered up everything in the city. I saw the beautiful buildings becoming submerged one by one. In a matter of a few moments it was all over. The sea had now become as placid as a lake. There was no trace of the city. Dwaraka was just a name; just a memory.”

The end of Krishna’s clan leads the five Pandava brothers to renounce their own kingdom and begin their march towards heaven.


Ajit R. Jadhav said...

Dear Anoop,

Thanks. Just noting a thought as it occurred... (I have no time to research this topic.)

If the above passage is a complete excerpt (in the sense: no phrase or sentence appearing in the middle has been snipped out during translation), and if no other descriptions of the events exist elsewhere in the book, then it obviously is a very, very, very poetic rendering of the event, recorded from the distance of the n-th hand.

For example:

"*suddenly* broke the boundary that was imposed on it *by nature*" (which means: no man-made wall to protect the city; a wall might have crumpled in a relatively very short while, like the bursting of a dam)


"in a matter of *a few moments* it was *all* over. The sea had *now* become *as placid as a lake*."

What is the meaning of "moments"? A second? What then is "a few moments"? 10 seconds? 100 seconds? Let's be generous and say a 1000 seconds (which still is less than 20 minutes). Or, 10,000 seconds (less than 3 hours).

But remember, Indians had elaborate arithmetics and also time measurement units. If more than a few hours, they would have said different words, may be something like "ghatikaa" (part of an hour), "prahar" (part of a day), "dina" (day), etc. Not "moments".

Any natural event would take at least several *orders* of magnitude longer time than "a few moments". That is, even if you assign a very, very generous number to a "moment". 10 days already equals 864,000 seconds.

At its fastest, the rise in the sea-level might have occurred over tens of months if not tens of years. See the scientifically estimated graphs of the sea level vs. time for various locations in the world, and carefully note the scales used for *both* the axes, and thereby, estimate the time-rate of change in absolute terms for the most sharp rise of the level too. (Also recall normal tides and their rates.)

Given Dwarka's prominence in the world back then (as it must have been known to the verse-author, whoever he was: Vyaas or a later interpolator), it would have been the *greatest* catastrophe known to the author. It would be comparable to a submergence of, say, New York or Tokyo in our times. (San Francisco and Los Angeles don't qualify.)

But if the above is the manner in which the event is being "reported", then an extraordinary large^{large} dose of a most liberal poetic license has obviously been taken.

Even if Arjun might have witnessed some of the later *phases* of the event himself (in person), obviously, no part of the event itself was seen in person by the author of the verse himself, using whatever means (the physical eye or the third or whatever). The verse-author must have heard about it from someone else---not even at the second hand but at the n-th hand.

And, very likely, he was too stupid to figure out even just the time-scales involved. That is, if he was not a mystically oriented evil. (An evil always is a *willful* evil.)

Looks like Mahaabhaarat (including the Gita) sometimes outcompetes the PuraaNa's.


Anoop Verma said...

@Ajit: Yes, it is an excerpt from the translation of one of the verses (verse 1986) in the Mausala Parva. There are different translations. I think the best translation is the one by Bibek Debroy, but I have not used it in my post, since that is very long and hard to type. I think it could have been a tsunami like event.

But there is a moral in the destruction of Dwaraka and the Yadava dynasty. Krishna is a God, an incarnation of God Vishnu.

The idea is that when a God leaves the world, he does not leave behind a dynasty, kingdom, or a cult. If he leaves behind a dynasty, kingdom or cult, then his teachings will get corrupted. He leaves behind only his ideas or his philosophy of leading a good life. That is why when Krishna dies, every part of his family and kingdom is destroyed.

There is another explanation in the Mahabharata for the fall of Dwaraka. Krishna was cursed by the mother of the Kauravas because she held him responsible for the death of her sons and millions of their supporters in the great Kurukschetra war. She said that in 36 years, Krishna's dynasty will be finished.