What is the greatest wonder of the world?
As we know, there are several wonders in the world. What could be the greatest wonder of the world? Thankfully, we don’t need to guess as this has been succinctly answered by Yudhishtira, the eldest of the Pandava brothers. The entire episode, known as Yaksha Prashna (the questions of a Yaksha) is documented in Mahabharata by Veda Vyasa. This can be found in the Vana Parva when the Pandavas spend their 12 years exile in the forest.
More often than not, we think of Bhima and Arjuna as the most powerful of the Pandavas owing to their superiority in wielding weapons and showing bravery in a battlefield. However, Yudhishtira displayed another form of bravery by following Dharma (righteousness) at all times. He was also the wisest among the Pandavas capable of understanding complex situations and treading in the path of Dharma. Thanks to his intelligence, the Pandavas were saved more than once. He was also a great warrior who fought a just war and displayed his valour by killing his maternal uncle Shalya on the final day of Mahabharata war.
While the Pandavas were in exile, they were requested by some sages to retrieve their belongings which were lost in the forest. While searching, they grew tired and Yudhishtira ordered Sahadeva to fetch water. One by one, the four Pandavas who went in search of water, reached a poisonous pond, drank its water and fell dead. Only Yudhishtira remained. He then noticed a Yaksha (divine person) standing in the way. The Yaksha ordered Yudhishtira to answer a set of questions in order to revive his brothers. Yudhishtira obliged and started answering in an eloquent way much to the delight of the Yaksha. The Yaksha was none other than his father Dharmadeva who came in disguise to test his son.
Here is an excerpt of some of the questions by Dharmadeva and the answers by Yudhishtira. It is amazing to note the knowledge Yudhishtira exhibited and his sense of righteousness while answering the questions.
- How does one become learned? How does one attain greatness? And how does one become intelligent?
One becomes learned by going through sacred texts. One attains greatness by performing Dharmic activities. One becomes intelligent by serving the elders.
It is interesting to note how one’s intellect is nurtured by social consciousness and not by merely reading books.
- How does one become a Brahmin – birth, occupation, study or learning?
Neither birth, nor study nor learning will lead to Brahminhood. It is determined only by one’s conduct.
- What is the divine trait of Brahmins?
The study of the Vedas is their divine trait.
Note that there is no mention of lineage here. Also, it is implied that the moment one stops studying the Vedas, he ceases to be a Brahmin.
- Who experiences the senses, is intelligent, is worshipped by all, but is not alive?
A person who does not render offerings to the five – gods, guests, servants, ancestors and himself – breathes but is not considered alive.
Thus Gods, guests and servants are to be considered equals. Also, self-esteem is quite important.
The below answers are testimony to the brilliant intellect of Yudhishtira:
- What is heavier than earth?
The mother is heavier than the earth.
- What is higher than the sky?
The father is higher than the sky.
- What is swifter than the wind?
The mind is swifter than the wind.
- What is more numerous than people?
Worries are more numerous than people.
- Who is a friend to one who is travelling?
A companion is a friend to a traveler.
- Who is a friend at home?
A wife (spouse) is a friend at home.
- Who is a friend to one who is sick?
A physician is a friend to one who is sick.
- Who is a friend to one who is about to die?
Charity is a friend to one who is about to die.
- What travels alone? What is born again and again?
The sun travels alone. The moon is born again after birth.
- What is supreme among riches?
Knowledge of the sacred texts is supreme among riches.
- What is supreme gain?
Health is supreme gain.
- What is supreme happiness?
Satisfaction is supreme happiness.
- What is supreme dharma in this world?
Non-violence is supreme dharma.
- Who is the richest man?
The richest man is the one who treats the pleasant and the unpleasant, happiness and unhappiness, the past and the future to be the same.
The above answer has a gist of Bhagavad Gita in it.
- What is the greatest wonder of the world?
Every day people around us are dying and leaving this world. However each of us think that somehow we will escape death and live forever. Isn’t this the greatest wonder of the world?
The above answer is my favorite. Several yugas have passed, but don’t we all still think the same?
The Impartial Emperor
There was a twist at the end of Yaksha Prashna. The Yaksha without revealing himself praised Yudhishtira and offered of revive any one of the Pandavas. Yudhisthira then chose Nakula to be revived. Surprised, the Yaksha asked him why he chose Nakula instead of the powerful brothers Bhima or Arjuna. To which he replied, ‘King Pandu had two wives, while I survive as Kunti’s son, let Nakula survive as Maadhri’s son’. Such was his righteousness! Elated, Dharmadeva revealed his true form and revived all Pandavas.
This episode teaches us that not all warriors wield weapons and that intelligence and righteousness are the weapons to wield in the present times!
Note: Mahabharata has yielded several gems such as Bhagavad Gita, Vidura Neethi, Gajendra Moksha, Vishnu Sahasranama etc., which are valuable and necessary to lead a satisfied life. Hence the reason to call Mahabharata as the fifth Veda (‘bhaaratham panchamo veda:’).