The Mango Of Truth!

A tale from the Mahabharata

Mango is the most loved king of fruits in India. But did you know that mangoes have a deep-rooted connection with Indian culture and history too?

The quintessential mango fruit has been an integral part of several Indian stories, be it stories of kings who planted mango trees alongside the roads to compete with other kingdoms, the famous tale of the fight for a mango that Narada triggered between Lord Ganesha and Kartikeya or the story of Karaikkal Ammaiyar the famous bhakti poetess who faced her husband’s suspicion because of a missing mango.

Without getting into too many facts or figures, we can safely say that mangoes were equally popular in the Mahabharata era as well!

Hence this mango season, we bring you a ‘mango story’ from the ‘Sarala Mahabharata’ which was written in Odia language by Sarala Das, a 15th-century poet and scholar of Odia literature. This is a slightly different version of the Mahabharata wherein Sarala Das made numerous deviations and added various other stories known to him.

As per the tale, it had been nine years since the Pandavas were in exile after their bitter loss in the ill-fated dice game incident. Duryodhana was anxious since there had been no news of the Pandavas, have they perished in hunger, or in the hands of some demon in the forest?… he wondered.

After seeking Shakuni’s advice, Duryodhana decided to send Gouramukha to investigate the whereabouts of the Pandavas. However, Gouramukha argued he wouldn’t recognize the Pandavas, which according to Duryodhana was an advantage since they wouldn’t recognize him too! He told Gouramukha to disguise himself as a sage and to identify the Pandavas by asking for a ‘ripe mango’ as bhiksha. This was a clever ploy indeed because it was the autumn season and hence impossible to find a ripe mango anywhere. However, the only way to obtain such a mango in this season was through the miraculous ritual performed to summon the ‘mango of truth’, a feat that could be only achieved by the Pandavas who were known as the flagbearers of honesty!

Hence Gouramukha went on his quest and finally came across the Pandavas in a remote forest region. Yudhisthira welcomed him with great humility and asked him what food would he accept as the bhiksha offering. As per the plan, Gouramukha cunningly proclaimed that if at all, he would only accept a ripe mango!

Yudhisthira was confused – where would he possibly get a ripe mango in the autumn season? He sent his brothers far and deep into the forest in search of ripe mangoes but they returned tired and empty-handed! This turned out to be a serious dilemma, as it was against his dhrama to allow a sage to depart empty-handed without offering the bhiksha being demanded. In utter desperation, Yudhisthira fell to his knees and invoked Lord Krishna.

Lord Krishna appeared before the helpless Yudhisthira and revealed the ritual of growing the ‘mango of truth’, but there was a catch… it could be performed only if each of the Pandavas, as well as Draupadi, revealed a truth which they had never uttered before! However, if they were to utter a lie or an incomplete truth then the ritual would fail to bear fruit! 

Thus, as instructed by Lord Krishna, the divine ritual was performed and finally, one by one the household members stepped forth to speak the ‘truth’. The six truths spoken by them would summon forth the miraculous ‘mango of truth’. They were as follows:

Yudhishthira’s truth: “I have always followed the path of dharma, I am troubled by the suffering of others, I am also free of anger, greed, attachments and hatred.” – As soon as he uttered this truth a beautiful tiny mango sapling grew in front of him.

Bhima’s truth: “I am never content with food, fight, sleep and sex. I always crave more.” – The tiny mango sapling grew into a tree with numerous branches.

Arjuna’s truth: “I do not fear anyone in the battlefield, gods, humans, demons or even the eleven rudras would not be able to defeat me as long as I hold my Gaandiva, the divine bow. I never longed for what belonged to others, be it wealth, territory, or women. I would never hurt one who is fleeing from the battlefield. My devotion to Krishna is absolute.” – The mango tree started blossoming gloriously.

Nakula’s truth: ” I am a man of conscience, and I will protect one who has sought my protection at all cost, even if it meant fighting my brothers. I have no craving for food, sleep or sex. My reverence for Yudhisthira is boundless and I am completely loyal to him.” – The blossoms started turning into little fruits

Sahadeva’s truth: “I have the knowledge of the past, the present and the future. One would never come to grief if one sought my advice, but I shall not volunteer to offer any advice or suggestion to anyone on my own.” – The little fruits started growing into large raw mango fruits.

Now it was Draupadi’s turn, she hesitated when she began speaking: “I am like any woman who feels attraction for a handsome male. Although all the five Pandavas are my husbands I have a greater love for Arjuna…” – And then the raw mangoes started ripening with a heavenly fragrance.

After Sarala Dasa wrote this tale, several other writers have been re-telling it with their own twists and flavours, mostly with different versions of Draupadi revealing her truth. As per some of them, the raw mangoes did not ripen after Draupadi revealed her truth. Apparently, she had concealed something! Finally, the raw mangoes ripened only after Draupadi confessed that she was attracted towards Karna as well!

This story is perhaps meant to signify the importance of truth in our lives and existence. However, it will surely make you wonder the next time you eat a ripe and tasty mango!

In case you too have an interesting mango story then do share it with us.