sabha: Meeting halls

The hall that the sovereign Yudhishthira had built for his consecration as suzerain, the hall integral to the plot of the epic history of the Paadava family, served as a place of assembly and as a lodge to which visiting kings, who came to the consecration to give their consent to Yudhishthira's claim as king of kings, retired after the ceremonies. The design of the hall merited comparison to the halls of the World Guardians in the four directions and that of Brahma in heaven. When Prince Duryodhana returned there after the sacrificial ritual portion of the consecration, he was fooled by the illusory qualities of its materials and design. Afraid of walking on a crystal floor because it looked like water and then falling into a pool adorned with crystalline lotuses, thinking it was solid, Duryodhana was mocked by the Paadavas. Duryodhana was not resentful of being mocked, but rather he resented YudhiB*hira's wealth, the wealth manifest in the design of the hall, and in the sacrificial ritual that satisfied both the Gods and the brahmins with its abundance of oblations and food. Filled with resentment, Duryodhana sought his revenge not with war but in the final ritual of the consecration, the dicing game, where, as in the Vedic rajasuya, the great sacrifice performed at the coronation of a king by himself and his tributary princes, the new suzerain is required to contest his newly acquired kingdom with challengers.

Had the Mahabharata been written in a later period, the construction of a temple might have been mentioned as an expression of Yudhishthira's wealth. Temples, too, served as means for patrons to distribute their wealth and, reciprocally, to gain the assent of those so supported; political gain was commensurate with economic investment. During the Vedic period, kings legitimized both their own power and the authority of brahmana priests by paying for sacrifices. When forms of worship involving sculptural representations of divinities installed in temples were developing and contending with the Vedic sacrificial ritual, kings began to patronize temple construction and the religious communities controlling temple worship, and temples became economic centers where gifts to deities enabled the continuous transformation of material resources into kingly status and Brahmanical authority.















Patrick A. George