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A lesson of restraint from the Mahabharat with Nitish Bharadwaj

“There are four categories of people,” according to Nitish Bharadwaj, who played the adoring role of Lord Krishna in B. R. Chopra's 1988 'Mahabharat' based on the ancient Indian epic. “The educated, the intelligent, the wise and the enlightened. Every educated man need not be intelligent, every intelligent man need not be wise, and every wise man need not be enlightened.”

As part of a series of virtual events throughout lockdown, Nehru Centre London hosted a talk by actor, director, screenwriter, producer and former Member of Parliament in Lok Sabha Nitish Bharadwaj on 'Why do conflicts arise: A leaf from the Mahabharat'.

“Because of these different levels of cerebral and mental activity, there are different perceptions of everything. Various perceptions can cause conflicts - physical, mental, emotional, legal - so how do we navigate when a situation of dilemma arises ”

A metaphor for dilemma

Nitish compared modern day conflicts to the Mahabharat's 'kurukshetra', the battle ground on which the war was fought. “To me, kurukshetra is a metaphorical thing, representative of dilemma and confusion.”

He explained that when one is faced with a dilemma, they must make a decision thoughtfully and rationally, not based on emotional impulse.

“When these decisions come from the heart, they can be wrong.”

The most important lesson

Nitish played the most pivotal character in 'Mahabharat', the role of Krishna. An incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Krishna's purpose in the story is highlighted in chapter 4, verse 7 of the Bhagvad Gita: “In the passage of time, whenever faith is weakened or is under attack and whenever irreligion spreads without control, it is then that I reincarnate myself with all my powers to restore faith once again.”

One of the most profound lessons he imparts on Arjun on the battleground is of restraint. “Krishna always says hold your horse back, be restrained. The most important thing in life is restraint. A decision has to be thought driven, a cerebral activity. This is so we can avoid conflict and find a resolution.”

He reflected on his time on set, watching the other actors on the battleground, and how he would often wonder what the action of the arrow being pulled back represented. “The action means thinking, introspection, drawing on all the education you have sought. Drawing the arrow back means drawing inspiration from your knowledge pool before focusing your attention and leaving it. For the arrow to reach bullseye, it needs restraint. Hold your guns.”

Three characters which are relevant today

The ancient Sanskrit epic is said to represent everything that exists in life. From personal to professional, the Mahabharat dissects various social scenarios, moral standpoints and resolutions.

“Everywhere in life, you see a Bhisma, a Dhritarashtra and a Shakuni. I believe conflicts in the Mahabharat have risen out of perceptions or wrong perceptions of these characters.”

The conflicts surrounding these three characters arose due to women, power and land, and Nitish argues that most of our problems in the world today revolve around the same three issues.

* Bhisma and women: “When I studied Bhisma, I realised he was responsible for a lot of injustice to women in his life. He was a well-meaning soul, and a great, intelligent, wise man who was very evolved, yet, unknowingly, he became a reason for injustice to women which led to the Mahabharat war.” * Dhritarashtra and power: “He who usurped his own throne because of his wrong perception of an external threat.” * Duryodan and land: “Like his father, Duryodan usurped Hastinapur and Indraprast due to his blinded perception. He stood for a heightened sense of entitlement and this eventually backfired.”

Live with enjoyment

Nitish praised British Indians and his UK audience for being ambassadors and champions of Indian values and learning to live life with enjoyment despite hardships, like Krishna depicts in the Mahabharat.

Through sheer hard work and restraint, the diaspora have created a positive perception of India, which has in turn created more opportunities for Indians globally.

“Life on planet earth is not easy as a human being, but learning the art of living life with enjoyment, as Krishna teaches, is the greatest tool for navigating through conflict.”

by Vidhu Sharma

* More info: With over 11,000 views, Amish Tripathi, director of Nehru Centre London, shared that 'Why do conflicts arise: A leaf from Mahabharat' was the most widely attended of all of their online events during lockdown.

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