Mahabharata - Yudhishthira and Krishna - Indra & Vishnu on One Chariot

Yudhishthira and Krishna: The Indra-Vishnu Pair  of Rig Veda

In the  Rig Veda, Indra and Vishnu are sometimes lauded together.
For example, in RV-4.55.4 the  Rishi says, ‘Lauded in manly mode may Indra-Visnu grant us their powerful defense  and shelter.’  ‘Defense and shelter’ is a  poor translation of the word ‘sharma’ which connotes- "shelter,  protection, refuge, safety; a house; Joy, bliss, comfort, delight, happiness;  name of formulas; identified with zarva and with vAc; happy..."(Monier  Williams). In the context of earth, what is implied is prosperity – both material  and spiritual.

In RV-6.20.2 the Rishi credits  Indra and Vishnu together for killing Vrtra – ‘Even as the power of Dyaus, to  thee, O Indra, all Asura sway was by the Gods entrusted, When thou, Impetuous!  leagued with Visnu, slewest Vrtra the Dragon who enclosed the waters.’
  Now, Vrtra does not merely mean  an evil Asura; Vrtra is the symbol of stasis, in other words any hindrance to  the prosperity of a Rashtra. Indra and Vishnu are the dynamic force who can  destroy that stasis and enable the flow of Sarasvati i.e. wisdom.  Interestingly, in Rig Veda, Sarasvati is also credited for destroying Vrtra.

In RV-6.69.5, the Rishi lauds the Dharma-Karma aspect of  Indra and Vishnu – ‘This your deed, Indra-Visnu, must be lauded: widely ye  strode in the wild joy of Soma-sómasya made urú cakramaathe - Ye made the  firmament of larger compass, and made the regions broad for our existence-  ákRNutam antárikSaM váriiyó .aprathataM jiiváse no rájaaMsi.’
  What is suggested here is Indra-Vishnu’s role in  ‘Loka-hita’.

Indra in Rig Veda is the symbol of Ideal Ruler.

When Narada described the  celestial Sabhas of the Gods, Yudhishthira asked him, ‘thou hast mentioned one  and only one king, viz., the royal Rishi Harishchandra as living in the Sabha  of the illustrious chief of the gods. What act was performed by that celebrated  king, or what ascetic penances with steady vows, in consequence of which he  hath been equal to Indra himself? (KMG-Sabha.12).’

Narada enumerated Harishchandra’s  qualities – the qualities that are necessary to be Indra on earth, so that one  attains Indra’s glory in Svarga, ‘(Harishchandra) was a powerful king, in fact,  an emperor over all the kings of the earth. Indeed, all the kings of the earth  obeyed his sway. O monarch, mounted alone upon a victorious car adorned with  gold, that king by the prowess of his weapons brought the whole earth with her  seven islands under his sway. And, O monarch, having subjugated the whole earth  with her mountains, forests, and woods, he made preparations for the great sacrifice  called the Rajasuya. And all the kings of the earth brought at his command  wealth unto that sacrifice. All of them consented to become distributors of  food and gifts unto the Brahmanas that were fed on the occasion. At that  sacrifice king Harishchandra gave away unto all who asked wealth that was five  times what each had solicited. At the conclusion of the sacrifice, the king  gratified the Brahmanas that came from various countries with large presents of  various kinds of wealth. The Brahmanas gratified with various kinds of food and  enjoyable articles, given away unto them to the extent of their desires, and  with the heaps of jewels distributed amongst them, began to say,--King  Harischandra is superior to all kings in energy and renown.--And know, O monarch,  O bull of the Bharata race, it was for this reason that Harischandra shone more  brightly than thousands of other kings. The powerful Harischandra having  concluded his great sacrifice became installed, O king, in the sovereignty of  the earth and looked resplendent on his throne. O bull of the Bharata race, all  those monarchs that perform the sacrifice of Rajasuya, (attaining to the region  of Indra) pass their time in felicity in Indra's company.’

Yudhishthira accomplished all  these – Digvijaya, Raajasuuya, and benevolence, and became Samraat. Needless to  say, establishing a Dharmarajya he indeed was Indra.  

If we  think war is central to the epic, as many scholars do think, then  Krishna-Arjuna is the Vishnu-Indra pair of Rig Veda, Arjuna, undoubtedly, being  the Indra or even greater than Indra in battlefield. But, Vyasa surely did not  write a mere war epic, his Itihasa-Mahakavya Mahabharata is the Fifth Veda – a  new interpretation of Veda in narrative form.

Yudhishthira  suits as Indra not only being a former Indra’s incarnate, not only being  defeated like Indra again and again and depending  on others for deliverance, particularly on Vishnu-Krishna, but most importantly  because he is the Samraat – the Nave of a New Rashtra Wheel of a New Age as  envisaged by Vyasa-Narada-Krishna.

And indeed, as we have already  seen, he does not lack that quality, for perceiving the lack of which one may  hesitate to call him Indra, i.e. prowess in real war. And for him, the war had  been on two fronts – the external war on Kurukshetra and the internal war on  the spiritual front in his Self.

Interestingly,  Yudhishthira once pointed out -  "the two Krsnas yoked together to a single task are invincible in  battle" (ekakaryasamudyuktau krsnau yuddhe parajitau, 2.18.24), implying Krishna  and Arjuna are the two Krishnas – the black  one and the white one, not Indra-Vishnu.

Thus,  in the broader space of dharma and also karma (including war), Yudhsihthira and  Krishna are the true Indra-Vishnu pair of Rig  Veda.

The author is Senior Lecturer in English Kalyani Mahavidyalaya, Kalyani, West Bengal.  
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