Bhaga is a Vedic god. Not much is known about him except that he was one of the 12 solar gods, the Adityas, and he was associated with marriage and prosperity. Bhaga refers to female genitalia and so the source of life and pleasure. It gives rise to two words: bhaaga, or share, and bhaagya, or fate.
The two words are closely related to each other. For in Hindu belief, fate is the share of fortune we are supposed to get in life. Thus some people are born in wealth, some in poverty. Some lose wealth in their lifetime, some gain. Pandavas spent most of their lives in the forest while the Kauravas spent all their lives in palaces. Sita married a prince but spent all her life away from the palace, and him.
What is fair share in life? Imagine a mother feeding her two sons. How should she divide the food? Equally? Or as per need? Who decides the need? Does the elder get more? Does the weaker get more? Does the hungrier get more? Does the obedient get more? Does the favourite get more? Does the smarter get more? And if there was a daughter, would she get less? What is the correct formula of distribution?
“Every good king and every judge knows rules are never objective; they are highly subjective. There is no formula for fairness.”
Dividing things and giving people a share is where rules come in. Rules that determine proportions, hence fate hence fortune hence pleasure. He who makes the rules and implements them is the bhaagya-vidhata, the king, the judge. He who can see all portions, and every fate, and is always in pleasure, is the wisest of the wise, God himself. Hence, bhaga-van.
Every good king and every judge knows rules are never objective; they are highly subjective. There is no formula for fairness. This is most evident in cases of inheritance. Sons wonder how much their mother loves them. They compete for mother’s milk. They compete for mother’s time. They compete for mother’s attention. They compete for mother’s wealth. Mother’s also seek payback. How much time and attention does the son give me, especially after another woman comes into his life? Inheritance then becomes tangible proof of how much love we are willing to bestow on our children. Mean mothers deny mean children inheritance to teach them a lesson. Mature mothers give mean children inheritance anyway. Mature brothers do not fight over inheritance. Mean brothers compete over inheritance which they see as compensation for love denied. Thus proportions given have nothing to do with fairness; it has to do with love and maturity.
As you read headlines of fabulously rich and successful people, lawyers even, fighting over property and arguing in court of laws over fairness, justice and law, you can see beneath the veneer of rationality the festering hurt, rage, meanness and the lack of maturity. How hard we pretend to be civil, and hide behind polished language, when the heart is full of rage at mummy’s love being denied.
Devdutt Pattanaik is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist, author and communicator whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, religion, mythology, and management.