Tag Archives: Hindu myth

Duryodhana: The Antithesis of Morality, A Character Study

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"What is in the Mahabharata can be found elsewhere,

but what is not in the Mahabharata cannot be found anywhere."

- Anonymous

The Mahabharata is said to be one of the primary myths governing India, maintaining popularity since its initial writing. The exchanges between the West, especially the British Empire, and India have brought The Mahabharata to a new audience. William Buck translated the epic into a condensed version that simplified the characters, plot, and concepts for this new audience, while also maintaining many of the mythic qualities inherent to the story. One such quality is found within each primary character representing a different aspect of the psyche. Because of the depth of The Mahabharata, their interactions paint a mythic road map, helping a person understand themselves through its images. One such character is Duryodhana, the Kuru prince, who represents the shadow at its most corrupt and morally reprehensible. An understanding of Duryodhana’s character will lead a person, Eastern or Western, to a necessary understanding of the dark side of the psyche. This understanding will bring a person closer to owning the shadow and achieving self-actualization, leading to enlightenment.

From the perspective of the Western reader, Duryodhana is a compelling character because his actions and behavior are counter to anything we find favorable. Within the framework of Western literature, exploring the hidden depths of psyche’s closet is much more interesting and necessary than analyzing the conscious world; thus, the prevalence of hero journeys and antiheroes in the stories. Due to the major differences between Western and Eastern cultures, one should ask why this tale is so compelling? One reason I would attribute to this phenomenon is the interest on the part of the West for the exotic nature of the East. When the British Empire controlled India, there was a vast wealth of exchange between the two societies, including goods, people and myths. The Mahabharata appeals to Western sensibilities because the myth focuses on the feud between cousins, raised as brothers. Western myths and fairy tales often focus on the single hero or ruler, and the story is of his or her quest. The Mahabharata offers five heroes, but they function mostly as a single unit fighting for their family honor against Duryodhana. In the context of chivalry, the match is unfairly numbered, but the five brothers are their strongest when they act as one unit and weakest when separated. Duryodhana is the worthy villain of a Western interpretation because he represents an antithesis to morality, as demonstrated below, showing that many moral tenants are universal and transcendent of culture and historical era.

Psyche’s Road Map: The Characters of The Mahabharata

Myths lay a framework for understanding not only the universe, but the psyche as well. Often, one can turn to myths, which lend themselves nicely to multiple interpretations, and find guidance. This is what Joseph Campbell describes as the psychological function of mythology: to help an individual understand his or her own role in the larger schema of society (Campbell 5). Within this understanding lies the secondary need of understanding one’s self. In the mythic story structure, all elements of the psyche are represented as the various characters. The hero, or protagonist, represents the conscious, complete with all of the moral and behavioral attributes the reader or participant either consciously possess or strive to possess. The antagonist, or villain, represents the primary manifestation of the shadow, the element of the personal unconscious that houses rejected attributes. The lover is the anima/animus, and is often the catalyst that either pushes the hero on a journey or provides companionship during the journey.

In The Mahabharata, the protagonists are the Pandavas. Each of the five brothers represents a particular heroic strength. For example, Yudhisthira demonstrates leadership and dharma, Bhima characterizes strength and fearlessness, Arjuna is the face of patience and compassion, Sahadeva is wisdom and Nakula is beauty. That the brothers are strongest when banded together is due in part to the fact that they are each dominated by a particular, though admirable, characteristic. Together, they reinforce each other, forming an almost undefeatable group. Yet they are weak when working individually. For example, Yudhisthira lost the kingdom and almost his wife too easily to the dice game with Duryodhana, allowing the stakes to rise higher and higher until he and his brothers had nothing left.

The Pandavas’ uncle, Dhritarashtra, is born blind because his mother closed her eyes when approached by Vyasa for his conception. For this reason he cannot be the king, despite being the first-born. He represents the unconscious. In a similar vein, his younger brother, Pandu, the pale-skinned king, represents consciousness. As the family patriarchs, they set the theme for their offspring. Being blind, Dhritarashtra has access to senses most conscious beings take for granted and is therefore likely to act and raise his children accordingly. For example, upon the birth of Duryodhana, Dhritarashtra begins to consider his son for king. Because he cannot see the effects of dharma on the family, his uncharacteristically emotional desire to have his son on the throne plants the seeds for the future disputes. His blindness also manifests itself in his responses to Duryodhana’s subtle manipulation to siphon the Pandavas out of the kingdom. Pandu, on the other hand, is noble and his light skin exemplifies the light in the darkness his sons are meant to bring. His death brought about the coming of darkness.

Duryodhana represents the shadow, which is appropriate for the son of the unconscious. He possesses all of the negative characteristics the Pandavas suppress, and he is also the poster character for the Kurus, because he is Dhritarashtra’s first son. As the shadow, Duryodhana’s behaviors are morally reprehensible. He is blinded by jealousy and greed for the Pandavas’ wealth and good fortune. He is easily prejudiced against them and holds deep grudges. He cheats, lies, and has no concern for any of the suffering his actions may cause (Sutton 307). His character is the antithesis to all heroic traits. In spite of all his ill deeds, Duryodhana experiences a heroic end and receives a place in heaven, the realm of self-actualization, typically reserved for conscious heroes. Similar to Jung’s model of the shadow, Duryodhana’s actions do harm against, not only the Pandavas, but against anyone caught in their feud as well. The goal of the Pandavas, as the sons of consciousness and light, is to "own the shadow" and to find the means of controlling it before it does irreparable harm to the kingdom.

Bhima represents the brute force of the brothers, and it is necessary for him to defeat Duryodhana to restore the Pandava honor. The two cousins were the same age and trained together under Drona’s tutelage. In order for the Pandavas to succeed, Bhima has to counter this aspect of the Pandava shadow, Duryodhana’s might and force, to bring the war to an end, a task symbolic of honoring the shadow. In his book, Owning Your Own Shadow, Robert Johnson presents an example of how a little violent action prior to a presentation, such as throwing a wet towel on the ground, releases built-up energy, and enabling him to give the presentation without fear, nerves, or other trepidations (46-47). This violent release allows the shadow a moment to surface and to be acknowledged before it is thrown back into the personal unconscious. In myths and literature, this is represented by a skirmish or a battle between the hero and either a minor or major shadow character. When it is a major character, such as Duryodhana, it enables the hero, consciousness, or heroes, the Pandavas, to finally pursue the boon or achieve the intended task, such as restoration of the kingdom. Because The Mahabharata is the myth of usher in the age of the shadow, the shadow has the last laugh and what seemed like a conscious victory was really a subterfuge: For all their efforts, Duryodhana still manages to receive a seat in heaven.

Briefly, Draupadi is the primary anima of Buck’s treatment of The Mahabharata. She is equally married to all Pandavas and plays the role of first wife, despite the subsequent wives some of the individual Pandavas gain. According to Jung, while the shadow represents the personal unconscious, the anima transcends this realm, helping pull a person into the collective unconscious (Jung 10). Duryodhana greatly insults Draupadi during the dice match, representing the shadow insulting the anima. Continuing the model of the psyche, the insult is the unconscious attempt to not yield completely to the pull of anima into the collective unconscious. It also communicates to the conscious an attempt to keep certain things unconscious. This insult of Draupadi acts as reinforcement of Duryodhana’s behavior while also fueling the Pandava hatred towards him.

The Birth and Death of Duryodhana

Gandhari had difficulties with pregnancy. She was promised by Vyasa to bear 100 sons and one daughter. Because of these difficulties, Vyasa arranged to have the unborn babies removed from Gandhari and buried in jars in the garden. When the time came, they were harvested as fully-grown children, the first one being Duryodhana, harvested on the same day at Bhima. The children of Dhritarashtra were born twice. Often, being born again gives the impression that one is closer to god-like. In Western religious traditions, children and adults are baptized, "born again," to forgive them their sins and enable them access to heaven when they die. In Eastern religions, reincarnation allows a person a second chance at enlightenment by being born again in another lifetime as another life form, animal or human. Duryodhana’s second birth occurs before he is truly born, corrupting him before he has a chance at life. Also, Duryodhana, prior to the incubation period in the jar, is one piece of a "hard ball of flesh," one among many (Buck 33). Because he was born first, Duryodhana was encouraged to become his own individual. This in contrast to the immaculate births of the Pandavas, each fathered by a different god at Kunti’s bequest.

In the last Great Vision of Yudhisthira, he is given the opportunity to visit heaven and is surprised to find Duryodhana there. Although Duryodhana may have lived an immoral life, he had a noble death, dying in battle specifically in one-to-one combat (Buck 367). Yudhisthira passes on a place in heaven, because it was a personal hell to him to share paradise with one so vile. This is Duryodhana’s last success: the shadow conquering the element of the self that is the key to self-actualization. Had the Pandavas been successful they would have defeated Duryodhana in a manner that gained them paradise, maintaining balance.

The Kali Yuga

The Mahabharata serves as the myth to usher in the Kali Yuga, a time that is the "worst of anything" (Zimmer 15). This is the time of social and political chaos, and the time when the world is at its most unbalanced, imaged, according to Zimmer, by a cow trying to stand on a single leg. Also, the Kali Yuga is the time of Kali, the goddess of death and transformation, who represents both creative and destructive principles. During the time of the shadow, Kali employs her destructive function and "takes back and swallows again the creatures brought forth" (Zimmer 211).

When the Pandavas battle Duryodhana, they hope to avoid the chaos and destruction established by the Kurus, beginning with their mutual great-grandmother, Queen Satyavati, who upset the balance of the fates when she asked her first-born son, Vyasa, to conceive heirs with her widowed daughters-in-law. Her primary concern was to keep her lineage on the throne, rather than obey the natural order. Succession was given to Pandu, the second-born of these sons, because Dhritarashtra, the first-born and rightful heir, was born blind and unfit to rule. Before the birth of Duryodhana, the shadow, dharma remained in a delicate balance. When Duryodhana was born, Dhritarashtra began to consider whether or not his son should be the rightful heir, questions that made their way to Duryodhana.

To right the perceived wrong, and to shift the dharma fully out of balance, Duryodhana challenges and cheats Yudhisthira out of his portion of Hastinapur, reversing Dhritarashtra’s gift of a portion of the kingdom to the Pandavas. Through his skills, Duryodhana "managed to undo the Partition of the ancestral kingdom but his actions had reopened the decades-old controversy about whether the legitimate successor to the throne was the oldest prince of the joint family … or the son of the oldest son of the previous king…" (Suri 53). The Mahabharata tells only of how the balance is upset amongst the royal family. In Buck’s rendering, we are given glimpses to how this imbalance affects others outside the family: other kingdoms fearing a battle with Duryodhana, woods people fearing the Pandavas as if they were Duryodhana’s forces, and the terrorization of the demonic forces. We do not see the oncoming shadow forces beyond the realm of the Kurus and Pandavas.

The Kali Yuga is thus also the time of dharma upset, a time when family fights amongst itself. The Pandavas feared this, but could not prevent it, suggesting that the imbalance was inevitable. This is further proven by Yudhishthira’s Great Vision, in which he saw Duryodhana in Paradise being rewarded for his heroic death and the Pandavas in an equivalent to Hell.

Duryodhana in Modern Times

In keeping with the impression that The Mahabharata contains lessons that resonate through mythology, I would like to briefly consider a couple modern shadow figures that resemble, to a degree, Duryodhana. The reason for this is to contextualize The Mahabharata, to bring its messages to a modern reader’s understanding, especially that of Western readers who are not immersed in the epic from a young age and may never experience its texts. This is to suggest that the shadow archetype, regardless of mythology, is dangerous and to ignore it can do damage both to the individual psyche and to the greater social function.

Modern politics is rife with Duryodhanas: leaders who have fought or manipulated election results so they could hold a seat of power. Once in that seat they refuse to let it go, removing or silencing opposition either legally, illegally, or by force. Because modern political seats, or “thrones,” are not passed among blood relatives in democratic societies, it is more difficult to honor and enforce any sense of dharma. Opposition leaders must rely instead on precedent and old documents to enforce their stances. Modern history has seen opponents constantly fight, like the Pandavas confronting Duryodhana, but we have also seen the opponents disappear from public spotlight, as though they were banished like the Pandavas. It is difficult to say which is more prevalent, the fighters or the silent opposition.

Leaders act without seeming to consider the results of their actions and any benefits toward the greater good. The Mahabharata does not give a full account of the kingdom because Duryodhana never fully becomes king. Instead, he manipulates his blind father into consenting with his actions in pursuit of his plans for when he does gain the throne. This includes removing the Pandavas, who are loved and respected, and battling neighboring kingdoms to expand what he intends on one day inheriting. According to Carl Jung, such recognition of a shadow figure’s actions and consequences thereof is “quite within the bounds of possibility for a man to recognize the relative evil of his nature, but it is a rare and shattering experience for him to gaze into the face of absolute evil" (Jung 10). This suggests that the shadow figures governing the modern world, the modern Duryodhanas, are bound by their very psychological make-up to behave the way they do. Confronting their true natures, to see themselves, is counter-intuitive to the pursuit of power.

The nature of evil has been studied in countless volumes from all disciplines. It is not my intention to undertake such a heavy task with this paper. I simply want to suggest, following the model for the psyche outlined above and the considerations I have presented of the Kali Yuga, that Duryodhana’s actions extend beyond literary, but represent an inherent collective human need to tend the shadow. I do not presume to imply that all cognizant beings across the world need to honor their own shadows, but, rather, state that to constantly and collectively ignore the shadow will eventually cause it seep into the collective psyche and manifest in the conscious world. I can almost picture this as being Kali’s Last Laugh prior to the launch of the next cycle.

Works cited

  • Buck, William, trans. Mahabharata. Berkeley: U of California Press, 1973.
  • Campbell, Joseph. Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor. Ed. Eugene Kennedy. Novato: New World, 2001.
  • Johnson, Robert A. Owning Your Own Shadow. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991.
  • Jung, Carl G. “The Shadow.” Trans. R.F.C. Hull. Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self. Ed. Sir Herbert Read, et al. 2nd ed. New York: Bollingen, 1959. 8-10.
  • Suri, Chander Kanta. The Life and Times of Duryodhan. Characters from the Mahabharat 11. Delhi: Books for All, 1992.
  • Sutton, Nicholas. Religious Doctrines in the Mahabharata. Delhi: Notical Banarsidass, 2000.
  • Zimmer, Heinrich. Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. Ed. Joseph Campbell. Washington, D.C.: Bollingen, 1946.

Works consulted

  • Gitomer, David L. “Raksasa Bhima: Wolfbelly Among Ogres and Brahmans in the Sanskrit Mahabharata and the Veniramhara.” Essays on the Mahabharata. Ed. Arvind Sharma. Leiden: Brill, 1991. 296-304.

Some Thoughts on the Mahabharata

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My fascination with the shadow began during my initial visit/interview at Pacifica, when I bought a copy of Robert Johnson’s Owning Your Own Shadow with the open house gift certificate. I read the entire book on the plane between Salt Lake City and Austin. The book altered my perspective so much I have found the shadow everywhere since I read it. Perhaps this is a proverbial call to adventure to explore this particular nature of myself; or perhaps it is simply that exploring the hidden depths of psyche’s closet is much more interesting than analyzing the conscious world. When trying to decide what topic to explore of The Mahabharata, I realized I was attracted to two things. Deciding to not write a love letter to Arjuna, I decided to explore the shadow nature of Duryodhana. As a literary character, Duryodhana is cunning like a fox who is afraid of losing the power given to him, which sounds chillingly like most shadow figures in both popular culture and politics these days.

By Western standards, Duryodhana’s jealousy of his cousin-brothers is expected. Duryodhana came to believe he was going to inherit the kingdom, and faced conflict with the family dharma. His prejudice was fueled in part by his rivalry to Bhima. This scenario appears often in Western literature, except that I cannot recall a story in which the banished brother or brothers are allowed to return to the kingdom after a period of time. In the stories I recall, the usurping brother will try to have the unfavored brothers permanently incapacitated, rather than hope the fates will destroy them during the period of banishment. I think Duryodhana genuinely thought his brothers would not survive the exile, but his actions were guided by jealousy, rendering his reason blind.

In my preliminary research of Duryodhana, I came to realize that The Mahabharata acts as the myth to usher in the Kali Yuga. Before this Hinduism class, I vaguely understood through reading Joseph Campbell that the Kali Yuga is a Hindu epoch of time, but I mostly understood the word as the name of Kilik’s Bo staff in the video game, Soul Calibur. At the end of a battle, Kilik cries, "Kali-Yuga, show me the way!" I mention this battle-cry because the Kali Yuga is the time of the shadow: the time when all of humanity’s dragons and demons roam free and create chaos and destruction. Some might call this pure religious bunk, but I cannot overlook the coincidence that our current world is experiencing chaos and destruction through war, epidemics, economic insecurity, and illogical, irrational leaders. To borrow from a Love and Rockets song, the world seems, from my perspective, to be a massive "Ball of Confusion." It seems to me that this is exactly what the Pandavas were fighting against, yet were powerless to prevent. Since The Mahabharata is not a "Choose Your Own Adventure" story, I can only speculate whether the paradigm shift was inevitable, or whether Duryodhana’s actions set the change in motion. Perhaps the blame lies not with Duryodhana, but with his great-grandmother, Satyavati, who married King Shantanu only on the condition that her children would inherit the throne. She had to manipulate destiny to produce heirs, and perhaps this is the catalyst that foraged the path for Duryodhana’s jealousy and the epic war between the Kurus and the Pandavas.

When reading The Mahabharata, I kept mentally comparing Duryodhana to the Harry Potter shadow character Lord Voldemort. They each embody a different degree of evil, using whatever techniques are necessary to achieve their goals. However, the question is not the degree to which Duryodhana is evil, but, rather, to what extent his characteristics are found within my psyche. By exploring these characteristics, I will be one step closer to owning my own shadow.

The Moon in Mythology

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(This post is a response to Randy’s July Myth Café prompt.)

When I was younger than I am now, I worked with a bunch of ladies that always celebrated the full moon by drinking red wine and hanging out illegally in the public park after dark. I went along once, and we were asked to leave by the police, and one of the ladies lost her keys in the dark. It was kind of fun, really. So, this was followed by an exploration on the relationship between women and the moon: modern women menstruate in accordance to the lunar cycle; ancient matriarchal societies (so they say) operated under some semblance of a lunar calendar; the moon represents fertility (it gets fat, then it’s not, like pregnancy); the moon is linked with snakes (who shed their skins) and thus represents rebirth; and etc. so on and so forth. In truth, I’ve never really considered my personal relationship to the moon. Being more of a morning person than a night owl, I tend to ignore moon cycles, until there are noticeable changes in some around the time of the full moon.

There was this one occasion, which trumps all moon events I’ve encountered so far. We were driving in Arizona late at night, leaving Phoenix on our way to Tucson, and there was a lit up building on the horizon. It was so huge that I thought it either was a stadium or one of those inflatable-looking football practice fields. As we got closer to where this building should be, I had the realization that it was actually the moon rising over the Arizona desert. It was one of those moments when you can’t take a good picture with your cell phone, but you really wish you had been able to take the picture…

…and it wasn’t a Space Station, thankfully.

So, to write this post, I decided to set out to find a moon myth. Now, you say “moon myth,” and I say… “Tomorrowland!” but that’s the space I seem to permanently live in these days. A series on the “Tomorrowland” segment of the Disneyland television show in 1956(?) explored what our first voyage to the moon would look like, complete with recreations of a space flight and lunar landing. Of course, they got a few things wrong, such as what the moon would actually look like, but it is nonetheless fascinating to watch (this series is captured on the Tomorrowland collection of the Walt Disney Treasures DVDs). I can only imagine what it was like to watch the lunar landing on television. This event is one of the most crucial in modern American history, because a) it gave us a real view of what the globe really looks like and b) it vastly altered our relationship to our cultural myths. Following 1969, science fiction stories exploded and Westerns started fading into the sunset. This isn’t a happy accident. Thanks to the footage of the “earth rise,” our little blue planet seemed small compared to the vast expanse of outer space, a new frontier to be conquered, civilized, tamed. Sure, there is science fiction dating back to the 1800s (I recommend here that you go to YouTube and pull up La Voyage dans la Lune right now to look at an early example of a science fiction film, one you will recognize even if you haven’t already seen it), but the realm of the fantastic (science fiction or otherwise) became a mythic proving ground after World War II). How interesting then, on the eve of the end of the NASA program, that we have not made it back to the moon. Are we giving up on the outer space wasteland or are we choosing to adhere to the science fiction fantasy of the “inner reaches of outer space?”

But the moon is nonetheless an orb in the sky, whether we actually go back to it or not. I took the challenge to find a moon myth that is not tied to American popular culture. Of course, I drifted immediately to warewolves, but I can’t discuss those without discussing Twilight, and I’d rather not go there right now. This leaves the need to look a little further into the past. Looking at Greece, Egypt, etc., is too easy. And then I remembered that there is a moon myth in the Humanities textbook I use to teach, Gloria Fiero’s The Humanistic Tradition. The story is Native American – credit is given to the Northwest Coast – and it’s called “Raven and the Moon”:

One day Raven learnt that an old fisherman, living alone with his daughter on an island far to the north, had a box containing a bright light called the moon. He felt that he must get hold of this wonderful thing, so he changed himself into a leaf growing on a bush near to the old fisherman’s home. When the fisherman’s daughter came to pick berries from the wild fruit patch, she pulled at the twig on which the leaf stood and it fell down and entered into her body. In time a child was born, a dark-complexioned boy with a long, hooked nose, almost like a bird’s bill. As soon as the child could crawl, he began to cry for the moon. He would knock at the box and keep calling, “Moon, moon, shining moon.” At first nobody paid any attention, but as the child became more vocal and knocked harder at the box, the old fisherman said to his daughter, “Well, perhaps we should give the boy the ball of light to play with.” The girl opened the box and took out another box, and then another, from inside that. All the boxes were beautifully painted and carved, and inside the tenth there was a net of nettle thread. She loosened this and opened the lid of the innermost box. Suddenly light filled the lodge, and they saw the moon inside the box; bright, round like a ball, shining white. The mother threw it towards her baby son and he caught and held it so firmly they thought he was content. But after a few days he began to fuss and cry again. His grandfather felt sorry for him and asked the mother to explain what the child was trying to say. So his mother listened very carefully and explained that he wanted to look out at the sky and see the stars in the dark sky, but that the roof board over the smoke hole prevented him from doing so. So the old man said, “Open the smoke hole.” No sooner had she opened the hole than the child changed himself back into the Raven. With the moon in his bill he flew off. After a moment he landed on a mountain top and then threw the moon into the sky where it remains, still circling in the heavens where Raven threw it. (Chapter 18, copied from the e-book)

Ravens are night creatures, and birds that I tend to associate either with Edgar Allan Poe or with The Crow. The raven is often the counter to a white bird, such as a dove. How interesting that this raven should want to play with the moon as if it were a ball, and to do so, he had to become human. Divine pregnancies are very interesting in myths. They just happen, and sometimes in the most creative ways possible – being poked with a stick. Freud would have fun with that one.

As I was formatting this passage, I was reminded of another story from the same textbook, this one coming from the Vishnu Purana (Hindu):

… [Krishna], observing the clear sky, bright with the autumnal moon, and the air perfumed with the fragrance of the wild water-lily, in whose buds the clusteringbees were murmuring their songs, felt inclined to join with the milkmaids [Gopis] in sport….

Then Madhava [Krishna], coming amongst them, conciliated some with soft speeches, some with gentle looks; and some he took by the hand: and the illustrious deity sported with them in the stations of the dance. As each of the milkmaids, however, attempted to keep in one place, close to the side of Krishna, the circle of the dance could not be constructed; and he, therefore, took each by the hand, and when their eyelids were shut by the effects of such touch, the circle was formed.

Then proceeded the dance, to the music of their clashing bracelets, and songs that celebrated, in suitable strain, the charms of the autumnal season. Krishna sang of  the moon of autumn—a mine of gentle radiance; but the nymphs repeated the praises of Krishna alone. At times, one of them, wearied by the revolving dance, threw her arms, ornamented with tinkling bracelets, round the neck of the destroyer of Madhu [Krishna]; another, skilled in the art of singing his praises, embraced him. The drops of perspiration from the arms of Hari [Krishna] were like fertilizing rain, which produced a crop of down upon the temples of the milkmaids. Krishna sang the strain that was appropriate to the dance. The milkmaids repeatedly exclaimed “Bravo, Krishna!” to his song. When leading, they followed him; when returning they encountered him; and whether he went forwards or backwards, they ever attended on his steps. Whilst frolicking thus, they considered every instant without him a myriad of years; and prohibited (in vain) by husbands, fathers, brothers, they went forth at night to sport with Krishna, the object of their affection.

Thus, the illimitable being, the benevolent remover of all imperfections, assumed the character of a youth among the females of the herdsmen of [the district of] Vraja; pervading their natures and that of their lords by his own essence, all-diffusive like the wind. For even as the elements of ether, fire, earth, water, and air are comprehended in all creatures, so also is he everywhere present, and in all … (Chapter 14, copied from the e-book)

The celebration of the moon is thus a festive occasion, and there certainly is a Greek version of this story somewhere replacing Krishna with Dionysos. Which leads me to wonder what it is about the “autumn” moon that is so inviting of celebration? Dancing and singing of the autumn moon leads me to think about Halloween, but perhaps that is another post for another occasion.