I didn’t attach much significance to the words on the jacket – High above the sky stands Swarga, paradise, abode of the gods. Still above is Vaikuntha, heaven, abode of God. The doorkeepers of Vaikuntha are the twins, Jaya and Vijaya, both whose names mean ‘victory’. One keeps you in Swarga; the other raises you into Vaikuntha. In Vaikuntha there is bliss forever, in Swarga there is pleasure for only as long as you deserve. What is the difference between Jaya and Vijaya? Solve this puzzle and you will solve the mystery of the Mahabharata. But it was only after I finished ‘Jaya’ (by Devdutt Pattanaik) that I realised this was what the complex and layered epic was all about. While swarga is considered an afterlife phenomenon, the dichotomy above is significant for life as well.


Vijaya is material victory, where there is a loser. Jaya is spiritual victory, where there are no losers. The tale ends when Yudhishtira attains Jaya, not when the Pandavas achieve Vijaya over the Kauravas. That is the significance. Jaya is victory over the self. Only when there is undiluted compassion for everyone including our worst enemies, is ego truly conquered.

Janamejaya, probably on behalf of all of us who would like to attain Jaya, asks what insight eluded his forefathers, and Astika replies “That conflict comes from rage, rage comes from fear, fear comes from lack of faith.” He does not expand much. I’d have to assume that here, the faith is in the self, the true self that is intrinsically connected to the larger consciousness. Thanks to material advances, Vijaya itself is a moving target and difficult to achieve. With all the distractions, Jaya is even tougher. Thus very few would even attempt it, and thus the entire concept of dharma spiraling downwards across yugas is very logical.

The book provides many examples in humility. For me, the new things I learned and the increased awareness of the epic and its layers was a lesson in humility in itself. Even more humbling is the concept of Jaya.

until next time, #epic #win