Thursday, September 18, 2014

How Dhaumya became the priest of the Pandavas

In those days, a priest was a very important part of any family. Primarily because the priest prayed to the Gods for the well-being of the family and the society as the whole. Such positions went to well-read and trustworthy persons. The priest of the Pandavas was Dhaumya. Here is the story of how he became the priest of the Pandavas....

Duryodhana, the Kaurava prince, hated the Pandavas so much that he along with Karna and Shakuni planned and arranged for the Pandavas to be burnt in the House of Lac. However, with the help of Vidura, the Pandavas thwarted the plan and escaped from there. 
Everyone except ofcourse, Vidura believed the Pandavas to be dead. 
To protect themselves from further attacks, the Pandavas kept up the pretense of their death and went to the town of Ekachakra. There they lived in the house of a Brahmin. To further conceal their real identity, the Pandavas lived on alms there.
It was here that Bheema rescued the Brahmin family by killing the asura Vaka or Baka.
*********
'Do you know that King Drupada of Panchala, he has just performed a yagna?' The Brahmin told Kunti and the brothers.
'For what?' Arjuna asked. He was the one who had been responsible for the defeat of the formidable Drupada in battle. That was the Guru Dakshina which Drona had asked from him.
'Unable to bear the humiliation of being defeated by Drona, Drupada searched far and wide in his kingdom for someone who could defeat Drona!' Arjuna sighed shaking his head as the Brahmin continued. 'King Drupada was unable to find anyone who could defeat Drona. So King Drupada pleased Sage Yaja and Upayaja so that they would perform a yagna on his behalf! The sages performed the yagna and from the fires emerged a handsome man with full armour. They called him Dhristadhyumna!'
'Is he going to kill Dronacharya?' Arjuna demanded from the man.
The Brahmin nodded gravely. 'Yes! When he emerged from the fire, a heavenly voice announced that he was going to bring the death of Drona!'
Arjuna was about to retort something when the man continued. 'But that is not all!'
The brothers listened attentively as the man continued. 'After Dhrishtadyumna, from the fire a beautiful woman also emerged! The woman was so beautiful that she looked like Goddess Sri herself! She was dark with beautiful eyes and has lovely, beautiful curls! It is said that gave out a fragrance which could be scented two miles away! Because she was dark, she was called Krishna!'
The brothers looked wondrously at each other unable to remove the image which the man's words bought. Kunti studied her sons and smiled not saying anything. The man continued, not realizing that the brothers had almost stopped listening. 'When the woman arrived, the heavenly voice announced that she was born to accomplish the work of the Gods!'
Kunti thanked the man and sent him on his way, well realizing the mood of her sons. 
Long after the man had left Kunti called her sons and was surprised to find that for the first time in her life, her sons seemed rather listless and inattentive to her calls. Suppressing a grin, she called the eldest Pandava, 'Son! I think we have stayed enough in this town!' Yudhishtara looked surprised as his mother continued. 'We will have to move on!'
'Where shall we go, mother?' Yudhishtara asked suddenly feeling very happy.
'How about Panchala?' Kunti asked trying hard not to grin.
********
And so the next day, the six of them happily trudged along to the kingdom of Panchala. Probably it was destiny or probably some other undefinable reason, whatever it was the Pandavas never felt the reason to rest, when they were traveling to Panchala. They even traveled at night as they came close to the Ganga.
It was at that time that a Gandharva was there in the river enjoying with his wives. The Gandharva was proud and arrogant. 
Seeing a group of humans come up to the river late at night, made the Gandharva rather haughty. The Gandharva felt that the humans had no right to disturb him when he was enjoying with his wives.
Angrily he came up before the Pandavas. 'Who are you humans, disturbing me at this time?'
The Pandavas looked suitably shocked at the arrogance of the Gandharva. 'We were on our way! We did not want to disturb you....' Arjuna began politely. But the Gandharva rudely interrupted him. 'The night belongs to Gandharvas, yakshas and rakshasas! How dare you interrupt......'
The ever careful Arjuna realized that the Gandharva was thirsting for a fight and pulled out his bow and pointed it straight at Gandharva. Foolishly the Gandharva thought that he could win this fight. He got on a beautiful glowing chariot and laughed. 'I am Angaaraparvana! I am the best friend of Kubera and the best of the Gandharvas! You cannot pass this river!'
'How can you think of barring others from using rivers or any other water body?' Arjuna said angrily. 'Besides this is the Ganga, the river which washes away your sins! How on earth can you prevent anyone from coming to it! It is the purest river in the world.....'
The Gandharva did not even let Arjuna finish the sentence. He pulled out his bow and started firing arrows at top speed at the Pandavas. The Gandharva should have known better....
Arjuna stopped all the arrows with his shield and pulled out a gleaming arrow and pointed it at the Gandharva. The arrow gleamed at night as for the first time, there was fear in the Gandharva's eyes.
Arjuna nodded angrily. 'This arrow was given by the Guru of Indra – Vrihaspasthi to Bharadwaja and from him to Agnivesya! Agnivesya gave this to my Guru Drona and he gave this to me! See what it does!' Quick as lightning, Arjuna fired the arrow and the arrow blazed through the path and burnt the chariot of the Gandharva. The Gandharva watched in horror as his chariot was being burnt down and jumped from it to escape the fire. The impact hit the Gandharva hard and he fell unconscious....
Heaving angrily, Arjuna pulled the Gandharva from the wreckage and dragged him towards Yudhishtara.
Arjuna was looking angrily at the Gandharva who was regaining his conscious when the Gandharvi ladies ran towards Yudhishtara. One of them spoke hurriedly to Yudhishtara. 'I am Kumbasini! I am his wife! Please spare his life!'
Yudhishtara looked angrily at Angaaraparvana and then at the lady. 'Let him go, Arjuna! Don't belittle yourself by killing a man who needs protection from someone else to stay alive!'
Disgusted, Arjuna pushed the Gandharva away. The Gandharva stumbled as he got on his feet. 
'I have been defeated by you! I shall give you anything you want!' He said his voice hoarse from the fire.
'I want nothing from a man, whose life I have spared!' Arjuna said.
'No! No! No!' The Gandharva said desperately trying to save face in front of his wives.
'We Gandharvas have the power of illusion! It is called Chakshusi! This is the power which differentiates Gandharvas from the humans! I will give it to you!' The Gandharva said.
Arjuna was about to protest when the Gandharva continued. 'I will give you each, fifty horses like the once I have! They look lean, but these horses never tire, no matter how much you drive them!'
'I....I...' Arjuna faltered. He cleared his throat. 'I have nothing to give you, in return of what you are offering me!'
'You have saved my life! What more....' The Gandharva asked incredulously. The Gandharva saw that Arjuna really meant what you have said. 'I have met really good people today! For that I am grateful! As a mark of our friendship! I will not call myself, Angaaraparvana anymore!' The Gandharva looked at his chariot which was now in ashes. 'Anyway, I cannot call myself that, anymore!' (Angaaraparvana means 'blazing chariot' in Sanskrit)
'You can give me your arrow in return of my gift!' The Gandharva said finally.
Arjuna agreed happily and the exchange was made.
'Let us be friends for life!' Arjuna smiled.
'Gladly, O Tapatya!' The Gandharva said.
'Why did you call me that?' Arjuna asked frowning. 'Who is Tapti?'
'Tapti is the daughter of Lord Surya! She is the younger sister of Savitri! She was extraordinarily beautiful! A king called Samvarna loved her! It was because of the efforts of Sage Vasishta, who was the royal priest of King Samvarna that the king was able to marry Tapti!' The Gandharva smiled as he continued. 'Samvarna and Tapti had a brave son! Do you know his name?'
The Pandavas shook their heads when the Gandharva continued. 'Their son was Kuru! Kuru is your ancestor! That is the reason you are called from the house of Kurus!'
The Pandavas nodded their head and then Arjuna cleared his head. 'Friend! I will take your horses later on, when I need them! For now, keep them with you!'
The Gandharva nodded, as Arjuna continued. 'You said that the king married Tapti because of Sage Vasishta, who was his priest! Is it so important to have a priest for your own family?'
The Gandharva nodded his head head earnestly. 'Yes! The priest would pray for your welfare and prosperity. That would give you victory in all your battles. Besides it is always good to have good people around you! Such a priest is necessary for your kingdom to flourish!'
The Gadharva talked some more, trying to convince the princes the need for a priest.
'Do you know any person who would be willing to be our priest?' Arjuna finally asked.
'In this very forest, near the Ganga, there is a place called Utkochaka! There you will find a sage by name Dhaumya! He is the younger brother of Sage Devala! He would be the perfect man to be your priest!'
That very night, the Pandavas with Kunti set out to meet the Sage Dhaumya.
Seeing the serene, calm and powerful sage, the Pandavas felt an immediate connection with the sage.
The Pandavas were more than thrilled when Dhaumya accepted the position to be their priest. The relationship between the Pandavas continued throughout their lives. He was the one who performed the marriage of Krishna (Draupadi) with the five Pandavas. He was the one who performed all the yagnas in Indraprastha. Dhaumya even traveled with the Pandavas when they went on a 13 year exile from Indraprastha....He became the perfect friend and spiritual guide for the Pandavas to guide them on the path of righteousness.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Indradyumna

After their exile in the forests, the Pandavas were a dejected lot. 
And adding to their misery of the other Pandavas, the third Pandava went to the Himalayas to meditate and obtain divine weapons from the Gods. 
The remaining four brothers with Draupadi were even more unhappy. So in order to make them happy, many sages came to their hermitage and told them different stories and strange sights that they had seen. One such time Sage Markandeya came to the hermitage. The sage was the one who had conquered death by the grace of Lord Shiva.
The Pandavas received him warmly. Markandeya in turn told them great and lively stories.
The first thing that struck the Pandavas on seeing the sage was that the sage looked not a day older than the day he conquered death. But his eyes were the only giveaway...the eyes spoke of a man with infinite wisdom and of a man who had seen and heard things that others had not even dreamt of.
As they listened to the stories, the Pandavas realized that the man before them was someone ancient...someone who had been there long before them and had seen things they did not even know existed...
Yudhishtara in jest asked a question to the great sage. 'Great sage! Is there anyone who is older than you?'
Markandeya looked amused at the question as he laughed quietly. 'I will tell you a story! You can decide for yourself!'
The Pandavas looked bewildered as Markandeya continued with his story.

'I will tell you of something I saw many years back....'' Markandeya said looking outside of the hermitage with glazed eyes. 'Once I had just returned from a long pilgrimage and was just back home, when I saw a man, suddenly appear before me, out of nowhere. He just appeared, without any warning...Just like that...When he appeared before me, the man himself looked surprised like he could not believe what he was seeing. The man looked around muttering to himself. Despite being shocked, the man looked regal and almost powerful. He had an ancient aura around him, one that I could not define or understand....
'I ran towards him and helped him up. 'Who are you, great one?' I asked.
The man was now looking anguished and sad. 'I have fallen!' He mumbled.
I looked at him not understanding when the man continued. 'Long ago, I was a human and I led a good life. I helped people whenever I could. After my death, because of all the good deeds I had done, I was chosen to go to Indraloka. As you know, after your death, you spend the time in the various realms, depending on the works that you have done! If you do good, you go to one of the swargas! You can stay there till your good merits last! If you do bad things, you stay in the lower realms! The minute your merits get over, you come back to earth for another cycle of birth and death!' The man looked crestfallen. 'It looks like all the merits that I have done have been forgotten!'
'Who are you sir?' I asked.
'I am Indradhyumna!' The man said unhappily.
I looked sympathetically at the man when the man suddenly looked at me with a strange expression. 'You are Markandeya! You are a Chiranjeevi! Have you never seen me before?'
I looked surprised and shook my head. 'I rarely stay in the same place for more than a day! There is no way I would know...!'
The man looked unhappy for a few seconds when he brightened again. 'Do you know anyone who is older than you? Someone who may remember me and my good deeds!'
I nodded my head. 'In Himavat, there is an owl by name Pravarkarna! He is older than me! He may know you! But he is far away from here....'
As soon as I said these words, Indradyumna changed himself into a horse and carried me to Himavat. There we found Pravarkarna.
Indradyumna transformed into a human and asked the owl without any preamble. 'Have you seen me?' The owl looked shocked for a few seconds and then looked at the man up and down. 'I am afraid, I have not seen you.'
'Then is there anyone who is older than you?' Indradhyumna immediately asked.
The owl looked at the king for a few seconds. 'What is your name, sir?'
'Indradyumna!' the man replied.
The owl looked shocked. The man looked eagerly as the owl continued. 'Strange though it may sound there is a lake by name Indradyumna! Near the lake, lives a crane called Nadijangha! He is older than me! He may know you!'
Then me, the sage and the owl went to Nadijangha, the crane, and asked him the same question. Unfortunately the crane also did not know Indradyumna.
But then the crane smiled saying, 'In this very lake, there is a very old tortoise. The name of the tortoise is Akupura. He is older than me!' Saying this Nadijangha turned to the lake and shouted. 'Akupura! Please come here! We need to ask you something!'
The tortoise came out of the lake and the first person he saw was Indradyumna. Seeing the king, the tortoise started trembling with joy and weeping uncontrollably. 'I never thought I would see you again!' Akupura said looking at Indradyumna. 'My king! I am so grateful to you!'
All of us looked astonished at the tortoise as it continued. 'He is a great king! He was the most generous man ever.' The tortoise said looking at Indradyumna with shining eyes. 'Do you know how this lake was formed? It was formed from the hooves of the cattle that he gave away as gifts to other people...These cattle that kept walking in the land, they all together formed a depression in the land, creating this pond! I have lived here, since then!' Akupura finished.
No sooner had the tortoise finished the tale, a heavenly vehicle came whizzing to the place as a heavenly voice said. 'As long as your good deeds are remembered, you will live in heaven! The tortoise still lives because of your merits. Come! Come back to the higher heavens!'
Happily Indradyumna dropped me and the owl back at our places and then rode away on the vehicle, going to the swarga, which he deserved...


Markandeya looked at the Pandavas with playful eyes. 'Does that answer your question, my friends?'...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The mighty warrior - After the end

Arjuna and Krishna had just finished decimating the Samptikas when the conch for the end of the day's battle sounded. Arjuna was about to heave a sigh of relief when he felt an almost giddy, nauseous feeling pass through him. He was finding it difficult to breath when he gasped. 'Keshava! Som...something is wrong!' He said clutching his heart. Krishna said nothing as Arjuna rapidly came out of the chariot. Arjuna looked at the battlefield from far. 'Something terrible....' Arjuna had not even finished talking when he saw the morose looking Pandava camp.
He was breathing in gasps as he continued. 'The tents are normally lighted! Why is it dark?' Arjuna looked around suspiciously. 'Abimanyu is the first one to congratulate me on the end of the day's battle! Where is he?'
The two entered Yudhishtara's tent which still had no Abhimanyu when Arjuna looked at Yudhishtara. 'Dronacharya formed the Chakravyugha today! Whom did you send inside it?'
Yudhishtara looked at Arjuna with bleary eyes silently as Arjuna continued. 'None of you can break it! Abhimanyu is the only one who can break it!' By now Arjuna's was almost sobbing. 'You did not send him alone, inside, did you?' Arjuna demanded as Yudhishtara was still silent.
Yudhishtara did not answer at all when Arjuna looked at Yudhishtara incredulously. 'How can you send a sixteen year old boy against the entire Kuru army?'
Arjuna was feeling a mixture of anger, hatred, grief so badly that he was unable to maintain his balance as he swooned and fell unconscious. When his brothers woke him up, Arjuna was whispering. 'What am I going to tell Subhadra?'Arjuna suddenly looked panic stricken. 'What am I going to tell Uttara? Oh my God! They have been married a few months back....'
'How did he die?' Arjuna asked his brothers. 
None of his brothers said anything as Arjuna shouted. 'TELL ME HOW HE DIED!'
'Jayadratha stopped us!' Bheema said haltingly. For the first time in his life, Bheema looked afraid of his younger brother. Arjuna looked like he was almost over the edge.
'What do you mean Jayadratha stopped you?' Arjuna asked sneeringly. 'YOU single-handed defeated him, at the Kamakya forest!' Arjuna looked at Bheema. 'How on earth can that man stop you especially when my son's life was at stake?'
The brothers said nothing because there was nothing that they could say in their defense....
'Jayadratha has a boon of Lord Shiva, my friend!' It was Krishna who answered. 
Arjuna whipped his head as he looked at Krishna. 
'Lord Shiva gave Jayadratha a boon that he can stop the four Pandavas if Nara and Narayana were not with them!' Krishna said so quietly that Arjuna was the only one who heard him.
Arjuna closed his eyes as the earth suddenly seemed spinning very fast. He wished that the earth would swallow him up.....at least then he would be where his son was, right now....
kaleidoscope of images of Abhimanyu life came to Arjuna. 
A bright child who had made him proud every single time, he had done anything....A child with whom he had spent pitifully less time.....Abhimanyu had died for a battle, which had absolutely nothing to do with him. Abhimanyu got nothing from this war. And he still fought it and fought with his body, mind and soul...And happily gave up his life...
Arjuna felt a sharp anger course through him, almost burning him....
Jayadratha...Jayadratha killed a sixteen year old boy, who was the bravest of them all....
'JAYADRATHA DIES TOMORROW!' Arjuna shouted into the night. 'As sure as the sun rises tomorrow, as sure as Abhimanyu is dead today...Jayadratha dies tomorrow!' Arjuna looked fiercely at all of them. 'If that does not happen by sunset....I will reach the realms of my father by tomorrow evening!' Arjuan said twanging his Gandiva which gave a terrible sound shattering the quiet of the night....
**********
The next day Dronacharya realized was the day which would determine the victor of the battle. If Arjuna could not get to Jayadraratha, Arjuna would keep his word and kill himself. Dronacharya knew that without Arjuna, the battle against the Pandavas was half won. 
The next day Dronacharya forms three vyughas - the shakata vyugha and behind it the padma vyugha and behind these two vyugha the Maharathas were arranged in a needle like a straight line. 
Dronacharya genuinely believed that the three vyughas would have been enough to stop Arjuna.....Dronacharya nearly succeeded too...
Arjuna with clinical efficiency laid waste to almost half the Kaurava army. Even with all his magnificence, Arjuna all but failed at getting to Jayadraratha. It was Krishna, who using the fact that the day was an eclipse, allowed Arjuna to kill Jayadraratha at the time the sun was about to set.
That was the day which singlehanded changed the fate of the battle. After that it was almost a certainty that the Pandavas were going to win...
And all that was because a sixteen year old warrior stood up against the might of the entire Kuru army, all alone....
**********
After the death of Abhimanyu, Princess Uttara was inconsolable...She thought of giving up her life but the fact that she was carrying Abhimanyu's and her child made her go on.....
However even that story had twist..... 
After the Pandavas won the war, Ashwattaman, the son of Drona, unable to take in the deceit with which the Pandavas had killed his father, had his revenge. 
On the day the Pandavas were not in the camp, when the other Pandava soldiers were sleeping, Ashwattaman massacred all the Pandava soldiers, in their sleep...every single one of them.....
The ghastly turn of events, left the Pandavas beyond being shocked...The Pandavas had won the kingdom but had absolutely no one to share it with. 
As if Ashwattamana felt that the damage he did was not enough, he aimed a Brahmastra at the Pandavas. Arjuna countered with his own Brahmastra. But at the advice of the sages, with great concentration, Arjuna recalled the Brahmastra. 
But Ashwattaman never learned how to recall the weapon and instead of recalling it, he fired it at Drauapadi and the other women in the Pandava family. The weapon left the women barren for life.
The child in Uttara's womb died from Ashwattaman's cowardly attack.....
******
As always it was Krishna who came to the rescue of the Pandavas. It is said that Krishna brought the child back to life.
As this child of Abhimanyu, had already been tested by death, the child was called Parikshit. After the Pandavas ruled for 36 years, the Pandavas gave up the kingdom to Parikshit and retired to the Himalayas......
*******
Thus back to the beginning, Abhimanyu's life and death marked the fulfillment of all the boons given to Soma Deva, based on which Soma Deva had let Varchas incarnate on the earth, as Abhimanyu. 
Soma Deva could not be separated from Varchaas for more than 16 years, which was the year Abhimanyu had died. Abhimanyu had decimated one-fourth of the Kaurava army when neither Arjuna nor Krishna (Nara and Narayana) were there. 
And finally, the almost extinct Pandava race was continued by Parikshit, the son of Abhimanyu.... 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The mighty warrior - Part 11

Dronacharya could not believe the damage that one boy could cause to such a huge army. He realized that if he wished to save the Kaurava army, or what was remaining of it, the only thing he could do was to attack the seemingly invincible Abhimanyu, from all sides. 
Dronacharya did not care that it was against the rules of the battle. At this stage, the way the Kaurava soldiers were falling, any means seemed justified to bring down the young prince.
He turned to Duryodhana. 'Collect our warriors together...' Dronacharya looked at Duryodhana sharply. 'All of them, do you hear? We attack him together!' he said. 'Don't go marching against him, alone!'
If Duryodhana found the instructions wrong or against the rules of war, he made no comment. He just rallied his Maharathas to attack Abhimanyu together...
And so Dronacharya, Ashwattama, Vrihadvala, Kripacharya, Duryodhana, Karna, Kritivarman and Shakuni together fell on the young boy. Dronacharya had taken a chance and unfortunately for him, he was in for a shock. All of them were beaten back...Every single one. Forget defeating Abhimanyu, none of their weapons were even able to pierce the place anywhere near Abhimanyu's chariot. The air around the battlefield near Abhimanyu was thick with arrows, but then to the Kaurava soldiers it hardly looked like Abhimanyu cared at all. If anything he continued with the massacre of the Kaurava soldiers with more fervour than before...
Lakshmana, the son of Duryodhana could hardly believe what he was seeing in the battle. He really could not believe that his father and Karna were so effortlessly beaten back by Abhimanyu. Foolishly or probably due to his inexperience in fighting any real battles, Lakshmana decided that he was going to be the saviour of the Kaurava army.
As the other Maharathas of the Kaurava army were falling back from the joint fight with Abhimanyu, Lakshmana came forward. Ignoring the others, he challenged Abhimanyu. Just having been beaten by Abhimanyu, the elders were watching the fight listlessly almost sure of what was going to happen.
But then something else happened. Whether it was by luck or by genuine practice on the part of Lakshmana, for the first time since Abhimanyu penetrated the Chakravyugha, he seemed to be failing. Lakshmana's arrows penetrated Abhimanyu's impeccable defences. The Kaurava forces were about to cheer Lakshmana to egg him forth when the inevitable happened. Abhimanyu picked up an arrow in the shape of a snake and shot it straight at Lakshmana.
Duryodhana watched horrified as the arrow found its mark with brutal accuracy and his son Lakshmana lay dead on the battlefield.
'KILL HIM!' Duryodhana screamed as he went towards Abhimanyu. Once again all the Maharathas fell on Abhimanyu. This time, the results were no different than before. Abhimanyu still prevailed.
The Kalingas and the Nishadas fell on Abhimanyu. The battle between them was fierce but then Abhimanyu was still invincible. It almost seemed like as long as Abhimanyu had a bow in his hand, he would win, no matter what...
As if Abhimanyu felt that he was not doing enough damage to the Kaurava army, he took it upon himself to rout the elephant division. The elephants of the Kaurava army started running away from Abhimanyu unable to bear the onslaught from his attack. They trampled of their own soldiers while running away. 
Kratha, one of the warriors of the Kaurava army tried to stand up to Abhimanyu....It was no use. Abhimanyu plodded through him, the same way, he destroyed everything else before him...
Having no other choice, the Maharathas together once more attacked Abhimanyu.
Drona, the teacher of Arjuna, looked completely out of his class when he fought with Abhimanyu. Though he was able to pierce the armour of Abhimanyu on some occasions, it is said that Abhimanyu pierced Dronacharya with fifty arrows and Vrihadvala with twenty arrows. Karna, Kripacharya, Ashwattaman were all great warriors, but then before Arjuna's son they remained as clueless as any other ordinary soldier of the Kaurava army. (It is said that Abhimanyu paralysed Ashwattaman so badly that he could not even move from his chariot) To add to the body count, Abhimanyu killed a warrior – Vrindaraka.
Vrihadvala, the king of Kosala, had his chance to kill Abhimanyu. Abhimanyu killed the king's horses and broke the man's bow and charioteer. Vrihadvala pulled out his sword and angrily marched before Abhimanyu...It made no difference. Vrihadvala was killed in the battlefield that day....Abhimanyu also killed another warrior Aswaketu that day in his blood bath.
Dusshasana's son then decided to try his luck with Abhimanyu. Dusshansana's son pierced Abhimanyu's four horses, his charioteer and even Abhimanyu himself. Abhimanyu pulled out the arrow from his body and threw it aside and then looked at Dusshasana's son with contempt. 'Your father, just ran away from me! Watch what I do with you!' Abhimanyu pulled out a long, beautifully polished arrow and let it fly. Dusshasana's son would have died that day, had it not been for Ashwattaman. Just as the arrow was about to hit Dusshasana's son, Ashwattaman came driving from the left and cut down the arrow. Ashwattama and Abhimanyu fought a short and fierce battle, but then it was not before long when Abhimanyu killed five other warriors named Satrunjaya, Chadraketu, Mahamegba, Suvarchas and Suryabhasa.
Karna watched this and drove towards Drona. 'If this boy keeps this up, I think the war is going to get over today! What are we supposed to do?'
Drona looked at Karna quietly. 'With the bow and arrow in his hands, it is not possible to defeat him! I have studied his fighting style and I have not been able to deduct a single fault in it! The only thing we can do is to cut off his bow!'
Karna would have rolled his eyes in anger had it not hurt him to do it. 'He will pull out another bow! That does not stop him at all!'
Drona signaled Kritvarman and Kripacharya to come close to him. 'Karna will cut off the bow of Abhimanyu and while he does that...I wish you Kritivarman to kill his horses and Kripacharya destroy his chariot!'
Kripacharya looked at Dronacharya sharply. 'At the same time?'
Dronacharya said nothing as he drove away.
And so it was done, Karna cut off Abhimanyu's bow. As Abhimanyu was about to pull out another bow, Kritivarman killed Abhimanyu's horses. Abhimanyu was right in the centre not being able to move, when Kripacharya destroyed Abhimanyu's chariot.
Now Abhimanyu was truly alone. No bow, no chariot and no horses....The soldiers whom he had till now annihilated from the chariot were frighteningly close and they were all looking for blood...his blood. They pounced on him angrily when from the carnage, Abhimanyu angrily pulled out his sword and shield. He fell on the soldiers near him and was killed many of them, when Dronacharya cut the hilt of Abhimanyu's sword. At the same time, Karna also broke Abhimanyu's shield...
Even after this, the warriors never stopped attacking Abhimanyu. 
Having no other weapons, Abhimanyu pulled out a huge chariot wheel from his own chariot as he whirled it around, killing more than he had, when he had his sword with him. It is said that at this stage he looked as handsome as Krishna did when Krishna had the discus Sudarshana with him...Probably the only thing which signified his end was that there was not a single armour on him which was visible...The entire armour was completely wet with blood and so were his robes...But then his attacks never stopped..
The Kaurava army became so exceedingly anxious by the attacks of Abhimanyu with the chariot wheel that they destroyed it too. Unfazed, Abhimanyu pulled out a mace from the ground and attacked Ashwattaman. Ashwattaman saw nothing more than a blur as the mace was swung towards his direction. Completely and thoroughly afraid, Ashwattaman ran from the ground to his chariot. Abhimanyu killed Ashwattaman's horses and destroyed the chariot, while Ashwattaman escaped.
It is said that at this stage of the battle, Abhimanyu had been pierced so many times by so many arrows, that he resembled a porcupine.
This was when Abhimanyu killed a warrior called Kalikeya with his mace and also ten other chariot warriors from the Brahma Vasatiya clan...
Abhimanyu attacked with his mace left and right and this time he was met by Dusshasana's son met him on the field again. 
The two warriors grunted as they tried to pierced each other's defences. Everyone saw that Dusshasana's son was struggling. What they failed to notice was that Abhimanyu was almost nearing his end. Abhimanyu was not able to focus very well and was running on sheer warrior instinct and will power.
The two fought in the field and it was at that time that Dusshasana's son by chance hit Abhimanyu on the crown of his head.
The sun set on the Kurukshetra battlefield as Abhimanyu shaken by the violence of the blow fell on the ground....
The warriors of the Kaurava army were actually shocked to see Abhimanyu fall down. All of them had lost hope that Abhimanyu could actually be brought down. 
But Abhimanyu had been beaten too many times and had lost too much blood. The blow from Dusshasana's son was the last straw. The sixteen year old mighty warrior, fell on the ground, never to wake up again.....
To be continued

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The mighty warrior - Part 10

The next day was a marvelous sight to behold for the Pandava army. All the Kaurava soldiers were dressed in red and walked towards the field with a definite plan. 
As the soldiers were getting into formation, Drona gave the order as the Samshaptakas raced towards Arjuna. The Samshaptakas challenged Arjuna. Having no other choice, Arjuna followed the Samshaptakas. Just as Krishna had predicted, the Samshaptakas led Arjuna to the far south of the battlefield. There Arjuna fought like he had never fought before. But then there were just too many of the enemy. No matter how many Arjuna killed, more kept coming in their place....
*************
Yudhishtara watched the Kaurava army with stunned awe as the Kaurava soldiers formed a huge Chakravyugha right in the middle of the battlefield. With their red dress, the battlefield resembled a huge multilayered blood-red wheel. Drona was adept at forming the Chakravyugha and the Pandavas were without Arjuna to penetrate the Vyugha. The Vyugha was so cunningly made that the Kaurava lost almost no soldiers. But because of the expert formation, the Pandavas lost men in hundreds...
Bheema along with Yudhishtara and the twins did some excellent archery, but the Vyugha did not yield.
Watching the Pandava army razed to the ground, Yudhishtara rapidly drove towards Abhimanyu. 'Son! Do something! If you do not fight Dronacharya's chakra, I am afraid this will be the very end of the battle! The way we are losing our forces without Arjuna....' Yudhishtara gulped hastily as he took a deep breath trying to steady himself. 'I have heard that there are only four people in the entire world who can break the Chakravyugha – Arjuna, Krishna, Pradhyumna and you! Please son!' Yudhishtara pleaded. 'Please break the Vyugha!'
Abhimanyu looked at the blood red wheel in the battlefield as he nodded his head. He remembered listening about the Chakravyugha. He could not remember from where...Then he knew...Frowning he turned to Yudhishtara. 'Sir! I have heard my father explain about the Vyugha to my mother, when I was in her womb! Though I learnt how to break the Vyugha, I never learnt how to come out of it!'
Bheema drove towards Abhimanyu as he aimed a few arrows uselessly at the Vyugha. 'Son! It does not matter! Create an opening inside the Vyugha! We will follow you!' Bheema said grimly. 'Once inside, we will break the Vyugha from the inside!'
Abhimanyu smiled as he nodded. He turned to his charioteer, Sumitra. 'Drive! Drive towards the Vyugha, Sumitra!'
'Prince Abhimanyu!' The old charioteer spoke. 'These are the Kaurava forces...All of them. Look Duryodhana right in the middle of the circle and surrounding him are his brothers, the elders of the Hastinapur and obviously Duryodhana's friend – Karna! Around that is another circle of elephants...Not just any elephants...they are well trained war elephants! Then the archery section and then finally Jayadratha with his akshauni in the outer circle! All of them are great warriors...I am afraid if we go inside, the warriors may overwhelm us...'
Abhimanyu smiled again. 'King Yudhishtara has asked for our help! Other than father and my maternal uncle (Krishna), there is no one in the battlefield who can break this Vyugha! You were watching how badly the Pandava soldiers were being killed in the battle....There is no way we can survive this onslaught continuously. We have to do something! Come my friend!'
Sumitra looked at the sharp, young face of the prince and nodded his head. 'As you wish my prince!' 
And off they drove...towards the Chakravyugha.
The four Pandavas followed Abhimanyu as he drove forward. Bheema watched with utter amazement as Abhimanyu aimed at the left from where he was going. Abhimanyu fired continuous arrows as a throng of Kaurava soldiers on the left fell. Bheema watched astonished as the other soldiers tried to rapidly fill in the places of the fallen soldiers. But then Abhimanyu rapidly fired to the right. The same thing happened in the right of the Vyugha and the soldiers tried filling in the place of the dead soldiers. 
Much to Bheema's astonishment, the Kaurava soldiers were busy filling up the places of their dead, and they moved away from the place, clearing the area where Abhimanyu was about to enter the Vyugha, making an almost perfect path for Abhimanyu's chariot to enter....
Bheema cheered as he was about to follow Abhimanyu when from nowhere an arrow landed right in front of him. The horses almost skidded to a stop as Bheema was thrown forward. Bheema looked annoyed as he saw Jayadratha coming before him with an almost smug expression in his face.
Bheema saw Abhimanyu was entering the Chakravyugha and fumed. 'I think the lesson I gave that man in the Kamakya forests were not sufficient! That man needs to be killed....' Bheema told his charioteer as he angrily picked up his arrow as he countered Jayadratha's arrows.
Bheema was in for a shock. The man whom he had so easily defeated in the Kamakya forest looked like he had suddenly raised the level of the battle to a different level. No matter what Bheema did, Jayadratha was able to counter it and counter it brilliantly. Yudhishtara, Nakula and Sahadeva saw Abhimanyu getting deeper inside the Chakravyugha and took turns trying to defeat Jayadratha. However what started as a simple fight and what should have been over in a matter of minutes prolonged on and on....The four Pandava brothers were unable to get through Jayadratha, no matter what....That day Jayadratha fought like a man possessed....
And a young prince without any backup, was all alone in Dronacharya's Chakravyugha.
**********
Inside the Chakravyugha, Abhimanyu was hunting like Yama, the God of death. Nobody, no archer or any warrior was able to stand before him. The dual between him and the other Kaurava warriors was remarkably short. It did not matter who came before him, the elephant warriors or the horse soldiers, Abhimanyu annihilated them with clinical efficiency. As Abhimanyu shot deeper and deeper into the Vyugha, there was a trail of dead soldiers in his wake. 
******
Duryodhana watched the massacre almost unable to believe his eyes. Watching his soldiers run, Duryodhana let out a feral shout pulling out his bow and arrow urging his charioteer to go towards Abhimanyu.
Dronacharya watched Duryodhana going towards Abhimanyu and shouted. 'NO! Don't go...' But it was wasted. Duryodhana had already marched forward, out of hearing distance.
'SURROUND DURYODHANA!' Dronacharya shouted to the other warriors of the Kuru army. 'Duryodhana is going to his death by going to fight with Abhimanyu alone! SURROUND HIM!'
Fortunately for Duryodhana, the other Kuru warriors heard Dronacharya. In no time, Karna, Drona, Ashwattaman, Kripacharya, Kritivarman, Bhurisravas, Vrishasena and a hoard of warriors surrounded Duryodhana before he could reach Abhimanyu. Together all of them fired at Abhimanyu. Abhimanyu was able to check most of the arrows but still some of them shot through his defense injuring him. However that did not stop Abhimanyu. The continuous onslaught of arrows from Abhimanyu at the Kaurava warriors made sure that the people who fought against Abhimanyu were in worse shape than him....
Dusshasana, Duryodhana's brother looked at Abhimanyu with anger. Like his elder brother, he believed that he could stop Abhimanyu. He shouted to Karna. 'Watch me, Karna! I am going to kill this boy today! I will break the hearts of the two Krishnas (In the Mahabharatha, during the Kurukshetra battle, both Krishna and Arjuna were together referred to as the two Krishnas). Probably watching him die, the Krishnas will lose the will to fight...' Dusshasana said gleefully.
Dusshasana went towards the young warrior and he started what became an almost desperate fight with Abhimanyu....Desperate, because Dusshasana realized very soon that he could never be in the same league as Abhimanyu, no matter how much he tried. Without even trying too hard Abhimanyu broke Dusshasana's bow. Abhimanyu fired rapidly at Dusshasana completely rendering Dusshasana helpless. As Dusshasana lay helpless before him, Abhimanyu spoke softly to Sumitra. 'Dusshasana is a cruel man, my friend! This man has hurt my father and Mother Krishna (Draupadi) much. By killing him, I will be free of the debt...' Abhimanyu pulled out his gleaming crescent shaped arrow and was about to take aim, when Dusshasana's charioteer showing quick presence of mind led the unconscious warrior away from the battlefield, which was probably what saved Dusshasan's life, that day.
At Dusshasana's fall, Karna came up again against the youth. Using his first arrow Abhimanyu pierced Karna's armour deep. Karna fell down on the chariot momentarily shocked as his bow dropped from his hand. What really shocked Karna was that as Abhimanyu was fighting with him, Abhimanyu maintained the fight with Kritivarman and pierced Kritivarman's armour too! Both the warriors retreated, unable to face Abhimanyu....
Shalya came up, but he had picked up the wrong day to battle Abhimanyu. Shalya was unable to defend himself and one of the arrows of Abhimanyu pierced Shalya deep and the king of Madra fell on the chariot unconscious. His charioteer drove Shalya away least the young Abhimanyu kill Shalya. Shalya's army ran away from the field seeing their leader fall....
********
Not having learnt the lesson, Rukmartha, Shalya's brother boasted that he was going to stop Abhimanyu....He lost his life almost immediately to the brilliant archery of Abhimanyu. Karna's younger brother (born to Adhiratha and Radha, Karna's adopted parents) attacked Abhimanyu, because Karna's brother was unable to bear the fact that Karna had been defeated by such a young boy. He rushed at Abhimanyu. Unfortunately Karna's brother was not in the same class as Abhimanyu and he was killed by Abhimanyu in a very short battle. It was also said that another king Vasatiya lost his life fighting with Abhimanyu....
The way the Kaurava soldiers and warriors were falling it almost looked like Abhimanyu was performing a sacrifice with the blood of the Kaurava soldiers and warriors...
The air around Abhimanyu and the other warriors were so thick with arrows that almost nothing could be seen by any of the soldiers of the Kaurava army....
It was at this stage of the battle that Abhimanyu used an arrow called the Gandharva Tumvuru. This arrow was got by Arjuna when he helped Indra fight the Nitavatakavachas. Arjuna had given the arrow to Abhimanyu and had also taught Abhimanyu the mantra to invoke it. Abhimanyu fired the arrow and to the horror of the Kaurava army, Abhimanyu suddenly disappeared from where he was standing....The Kaurava soldiers looked around shocked as there were a dozen Abhimanyus all over the battlefield...To their horror, the Kaurava soldiers now found the arrows were coming from everywhere, as they did not know where the real Abhimanyu was. The soldiers whose moral had already been hit hard now almost started fleeing from the field watching the dreaded Abhimanyu everywhere....
*****
However the problem was that despite everything, Abhimanyu was still human. He was a tremendously good warrior, but still nothing more than a young boy of sixteen. The continuous battle in the hostile territory was taking its toll on Abhimanyu. Abhimanyu had been pierced so many times by so many arrows that his coat overflowed with his own blood. But still Abhimanyu fought on...It seemed almost as if he had crushed all the need for rest and recuperation as he plodded on through the Chakravyugha.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The mighty warrior - Part 9

Arjuna woke up with a start as he stared at the roof of the tent he was sleeping in. He breathed deeply as he realized that it was nothing more than a dream. Since the war had started, sleep had been an elusive thing. Every time he slept all he dreamt were of the gory war....After the tenth day of the battle, it had become terrible. Watching Bhishma fall Arjuna felt like he could never sleep again. 
Arjuna swallowed as he turned and stared at the blank side of the tent illuminated by the fire torches. It took a few seconds for Arjuna to realize what he was seeing. Arjuna realized that he was seeing the silhouette of the person he knew very well. Wondering why the Dark Lord was awake at this time, Arjuna debated whether he should disturb the Lord.
His curiosity won out as he rapidly got out of the bed, walking out.
Arjuna felt a calm pervade his uneasy mind as he took a deep breath enjoying the silence that the night brought. The night were the only times now when there were no soldiers screaming....or crying out for help....
'Shouldn't you be asleep, my friend?' Krishna asked, not turning, breaking Arjuna from his reverie. 
Arjuna was about to give a customary answer when he looked at the Dark Lord and shook his head. 'I could not sleep, my Lord!'
'Nightmares? Bheeshma?' Krishna asked softly.
Arjuna began nodding his head but then shook it. 'This time it was not grandfather Bheeshma! It was something else!'
'What is it?' Krishna asked eyeing Arjuna. Somehow Arjuna always felt that Krishna could see more to him than anyone else ever could.
'This happened during the exile, when we were in the Kamakya forest!' Arjuna said quietly, taking another deep breath.
Krishna said nothing as Arjuna continued. 'We had gone hunting. The five of us and we had left Draupadi alone in the ashrama!'
Arjuna fell quiet because he suddenly was not sure whether he wanted to tell anyone this story. But then Krishna was there and he was waiting for him. Arjuna continued. 'It was at that time that Prince Jayadratha of the Sindhu Kingdom had also come to the Kamakya forest!' Arjuna said falling silent again.
Krishna said nothing as he realized that his friend was hesitating bringing up the topic. Krishna knew that he had to be silent and let Arjuna tell the events his own way...
'Jayadratha saw Draupadi, all alone in the hut!' Arjuna said with angry pursed lips.
Krishna nodded understandingly. 'Did Jayadratha try to kidnap the dark Krishna (Draupadi)?'
Arjuna looked at Krishna with troubled eyes nodding his head. 'That wretched man kidnapped her and dragged her away on his chariot!' Arjuna looked close to exploding in anger. Arjuna then took a deep breath and controlled himself.
'One of Panchali's (Draupadi) maid - Dhatreyaki she found us and told us all! We chased down Jayadratha!' Arjuna said scornfully. Krishna did not say anything. He wondered what foolishness prompted Jayadratha to kidnap the wife of the Pandavas. That no one could stand up against the brothers was a certainty. Standing up against the brothers when they were angry....Krishna shook his head. Jayadratha must have been really a very foolish man....
'We defeated Jayadratha....' Arjuna said haltingly.
Krishna frowned wondering where this story was going when Arjuna continued. 'Bheema humiliated Jayadratha! He humiliated the prince so badly that....' Arjuna shook his head.
'What happened?' Krishna asked sharply.
'It is rumoured that as revenge Jayadratha went away from the place and performed severe penance to the three-eyed Lord Shiva! He obtained some great boon from the Lord!' Arjuna said quietly.
Krishna looked at Arjuna quietly for a long time not saying anything. Arjuna was getting more and more worried with the silence as Krishna finally spoke. 'With or without any boon, he is not your equal, Partha!'
Arjuna did not say anything. 'But what was the boon....'
'There is nothing we can do about it! We have to be more worried about what happens tomorrow!' Krishna said firmly. 
Arjuna frowned. He realized that Krishna had deliberately changed the topic. He did not know why.....
Krishna continued. 'Today Dronacharya was made the commander of the Kaurava forces. He tried to kidnap Yudhishtara and the Trigarthas continuously called you to battle.....Fighting the Trigarthas and keeping Yudhishtara safe at the same time was extremely tiring and difficult. I am sure Dronacharya realized it and he would attack tomorrow with more forces....If he has his way Kaurava victory would be a certainty!'
'What do we suggest we do?' Arjuna asked.
'Abhimanyu!' Krishna said so quietly with such a fierce expression that Arjuna was rattled for a few seconds. 'Abhimanyu is the only person who is capable of handling anything that Dronacharya can do! I think he should be left to guard Yudhishtara tomorrow!' 
Arjuna nodded as the warrior in him realized that suggestion was prudent. He looked at Krishna with a smile. 'I must say Krishna, he is equal to both of us in battle! Nobody, not one person can stand up against him!' He said proudly. 'As long as Abhimanyu has his bow and arrow with him, he can defeat the entire Kaurava army!' Arjuna announced his eyes dancing with joy. 'Dronacharya cannot get anywhere near Yudhishtara with Abhimanyu guarding him!'
'As long as he has his bow and arrow!' Krishna said faintly with an expression which Arjuna was unable to decipher....

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The mighty warrior - Part 8

Arjuna watched the Dark Lord leave for Hastinapur with a silent prayer in the lips. He was worried….Duryodhana had already rejected the offer of the learned man, Drupada (the father-in-law of the Pandavas) had sent, to give Indraprastha back to the Pandavas. On receiving the answer of Duryodhana, Drupada and Dhrishtadhyumna (Draupadi’s brother) had started sending messages to their allies to join forces and the kings of the various kingdoms had started arriving with their armies, to pledge alliance to Yudhishtara.
Arjuna had no doubt that Duryodhana was doing the same. But then Arjuna knew that he had to try again…He had to know that he had done everything in his power to avoid the war. That was the reason Krishna was now going to Hastinapur, for another round of talks with Duryodhana, to settle the issue, without any bloodshed.
Arjuna turned to see Abhimanyu beside him and knew that he really wanted to avoid the war. Abhimanyu was sixteen and standing beside him was his newly wedded wife, the spirited Princess Uttara, of the Matsya kingdom. Was sixteen an age to go to war? Arjuna wondered. Because Arjuna had no doubt in his mind, not one, that if the Pandavas went to war, Abhimanyu would join it. Age notwithstanding, his marriage notwithstanding, Abhimanyu would join the war….
Arjuna closed his eyes willing himself not to think about what was going to happen. But it was impossible. No matter what he did to think about something else, his mind always wandered back to Krishna….He said another prayer, hoping against hope that the Dark Lord would pull a miracle and avoid the war…
******
The Dark Lord argued brilliantly in the court of Hastinapur. Krishna went to the extent of even settling for five villages, one for each Pandava, to avoid the war.
Duryodhana with all his haughtiness refused the offer. He smugly went to the extent of saying that he was not going to give the Pandavas a place as small as the head of needle. Duryodhana in his arrogance, tried to even capture Krishna, who was there only in the capacity of a messenger.
Krishna showed his Vishwarupa to the court of Hastinapur, which effectively put an end to Duryodhana’s foolishness.
And so Duryodhana’s arrogance, put an end to any speculation of peace. There was going to be war…
*****
Duryodhana watched the Pandavas and their army from his own camp and looked at his own army camp, swelling with pride. Agreed, Duryodhana had not expected the Pandavas to gather so many allies, but compared to what he had….the Pandavas army looked positively puny. He watched the grandsire Bhishma as he was checking up with his men, giving orders….Duryodhana went to Bhishma’s tent.
Sir! You have now seen both the armies! I wish you would tell me, who among the Pandava army and our army are ‘Rathas’, ‘Athirathas’ and ‘Maharahtas!’’ (It is a classification among the warriors to determine the best)
Bhishma stopped stringing his bow as he looked at the prince of Hastinapur with something close to pity. For deep down Bhishma realized that the Kuru prince was going to annihilate himself and all his friends in this great battle. Bhishma could not understand how Duryodhana entertained the thought that he could stand up against the Dark Lord and get away with it. It seemed almost laughable to Bhishma.
Bhishma realized that what Duryodhana did not seem to understand was that no matter whom he threw against Krishna and Arjuna, the two would find a way to bring the enemy down….Krishna would make sure of it. 
And to think that it was Duryodhana’s own choice….Bhishma thought almost feeling the bitter taste of defeat. (When the battle was imminent, both Duryodhana and Arjuna had approached Krishna for helping them. As both of them, had asked at the same time, Krishna decided that they both could choose between him and the Yadava army. And so there was Krishna (Krishna would not wield any arms) on one side and the entire powerful Yadava army on the other side. Arjuna chose Krishna and Duryodhana chose the Yadava army.)
Bhishma shook his head, trying to stop thinking in this way. He was a general of the Hastinapur army. It was his duty to keep the spirits of his men up…no matter what he personally believed. But as Bhishma saw his grandson, he wondered whether there was way he could convince Duryodhana to stop the foolishness…
Bhishma continued in a quiet voice. ‘You and your brothers, my prince, are foremost of Rathas!’ Duryodhana listened as Bhishma continued. ‘Shalya, the maternal uncle of the Pandavas, who is fighting on your side, in an Athiratha!’ (Shalya was the brother of Madri, the mother of Nakula and Sahadeva, the Pandava twins. However by Duryodhana’s manipulating, Shalya was forced to fight on behalf of the Kauravas, against his own nephews.)
Bhishma continued to rank all the warriors of the Kauravas. He ranked Bhurisravas as equal to two Rathas, the five royal brothers of Trigarthas as Rathas. Bhishma ranked Lakshmana, Duryodhana’s son and Shakuni as equal to a Ratha. Bhishma equaled Drona, Vrishasena (Karna’s son) and a rakshasa – Alambusa as Maharathas.
Surprisingly, Bhishma had a very interesting observation regarding Ashwattama, the son of Drona. According to Bhishma, Ashwattama had the capacity to be a Maharatha. Bhishma firmly believed that Ashwattama could destroy the three worlds if he so wished. But then Bhishma added a caveat – Ashwattama was too fond of living and because of which Bhishma said that he could not rank Ashwattama either as a Ratha or a Maharatha.
Duryodhana decided that his grandfather was purposely silent about his best friend and said arrogantly. ‘What do you think of King of Anga?’
Bhishma was quiet for a long time saying nothing. Duryodhana looked impatiently at Bhishma. Bhishma saw Karna who was just passing by. ‘Your friend Karna….I would rank him as half a Ratha!’
Both Karna and Duryodhana looked shocked as Karna’s face changed colour to beet red. ‘Why are you…’
Were you not cursed by your Guru Parashurama, when you finished your education?’ Bhishma asked sharply.
Karna did not say anything.
Did you part with your kavacha and kundala, the armour which would have made you invincible, out of some foolish sense of being ‘the right thing to do!’’ Bhishma asked again as Karna remained tongue tied.
Were you not defeated by Partha (Arjuna) when you were captured by the Gandharva – Chitrangada? Were you not defeated by the very same Partha when you attacked the Matsya kingdom? Haven’t you learnt your lesson atleast now?’ Bhishma’s question was a whiplash. ‘You are no match for Arjuna when he was alone and now he has Krishna with him too!’
Karna remained silent almost bursting with anger.
You boast! That is all you do!’ Bhishma said viciously. ‘Trusting you, Duryodhana has walked down this path of destruction and you are not even worthy of fighting!’ Bhishma said angrily.
Karna was about to say something when Duryodhana interrupted angrily. ‘I wish to know about the Pandava warriors!’ Duryodhana said hurriedly. The last thing Duryodhana wanted was that his soldiers watch two warriors of the Kaurava army fight each other. The soldiers were already staring at the tent curiously.
Karna looked at Duryodhana and the other soldiers and kept his mouth shut and walked away from there. Watching him go, Bhishma continued. 'As you asked, my prince, I rank Yudhishtata, Nakula and Sahadeva as Rathas! Similarly, Shikhandin is also a Ratha! Though Drupada and Virata are old, they are Maharathas! The five sons of Draupadi are obviously Maharathas!'
'What about Falguni (Arjuna)?' Duryodhana quietly.
'Just him alone, I would not rate him! He is beyond all the warriors I just mentioned to you! And...you my prince, have made Arjuna very angry! You humiliated his wife...before the entire Hastinapur Court....' Duryodhana looked tight-lipped as Bhishma continued softly. 'And Arjuna has the Dark Lord with him! Nothing can stop them! Nothing!'
Duryodhana was sitting shell-shocked as Bhishma said in a solemn voice. 'I almost forgot, my prince! Abhimanyu! Arjuna's son and Krishna's nephew! He is equal to both of them! If there was someone who equal to both Krishna and Arjuna in battle, it is Abhimanyu!'
***********
And so the war started. 
As the days progressed, the Pandavas were steadily gaining advantage. Abhimanyu fought the war with the same brilliance as his father and was able to raze plenty of soldiers of the Kaurava army. But however Krishna and the Pandavas realized that as long as Bhishma was alive, they could not hope to defeat the Kauravas. And so on the tenth day of the battle, Arjuna had Shikhandi with him in the chariot. (Shikhandi, in his previous life, was Amba, a woman who loved Bhishma and was spurned by him. Shikhandi was born with the specific purpose of killing Bhishma. Bhishma would not attack Shikhandi, because he had been a woman once. Bhishma felt it was against his warrior code to attack Shikhandi because of this.)
And so Bhishma was brought down on the tenth day of the battle.
As Dronacharya was the eldest person after Bhishma, he was made the general of the Kaurava army after Bhishma fell. Unlike Bhishma, Dronacharya unfortunately, was easily swayed by Duryodhana's taunts. (Duryodhana believed that none of the elders of the Kuru kingdom fought to the best of the abilities because they all supported the Pandavas. Duryodhana very often taunted Bhishma about this. However Bhishma was rarely bothered by his grandson's outbursts. Dronacharya was however another matter.)
**********
On the eleventh day of battle was when Karna joined the war. (Bhishma had imposed a condition that Karna should not fight as long as he was the general of the Kaurava army.) It seemed to the Kaurava army that Karna was almost flying at the enemies at taking them down at will.
However there was one warrior who even made Karna's feat pale by comparison - Abhimanyu. From the minute the battle on the eleventh day started, it almost seemed like he was everywhere. Almost no one could stand before him.
King Paurava, one from the Kaurava army challenged Abhimanyu and even went to the extent of breaking Abhimanyu's bow. Unfazed, Abhimanyu picked up his sword and fought with the king and in no time had defeated Paurava.
Jayadratha was extraordinarily proud and arrogant of himself. He always thought that he was the best swordsman and seeing the young Abhimanyu with a sword made way towards him and challenged the boy. 
Jayadratha had picked the wrong fight. In no time, the young boy had broken Jayadratha's sword in two. Abhimanyu was about to come forward when Jayadratha ran towards his chariot.
Seeing the Kaurava soldiers run from Abhimanyu, Shalya attacked Abhimanyu and the two warriors meet every arrow for arrow. In the end when all the arrows were exhausted, Shalya pulled out his mace. Abhimanyu was about pick his mace when Bheema came and joined the fight, pushing Abhimanyu to a side.
Another brilliant warrior on the battlefield was Vrikshasena, Karna's son. It took all the five of Draupadi's son to hold back Vrikshasena who had been joined by Ashwattaman. 
As the five sons of Draupadi fight, Dronacharya decided that if he had to stop the battle, he had to take Yudhishtara captive. However Dronacharya was thwarted by Arjuna.
*******
Duryodhana angrily went to his guru's tent in the evening of that day. 'You are all talk! How can the great Drona, who is the teacher of both the Kauravas and Pandavas, not be able to defeat the Pandavas...If I did not know better, I would say you are not fighting the war to the best of your abilities! You support the Pandavas!' Duryodhana said angrily.
Dronacharya was shocked by the words of the prince. He took a deep breath trying to control himself. 'I did everything, I could....Arjuna....' He started.
'Tomorrow, the Trigarthas, the five kings have said that they would lead Arjuna away from Yudhishtara...What can you do then?' Duryodhana asked challengingly, almost in a contemptuous voice.
Dronacharya was actually stung by Duryodhana's words. 'Tomorrow! Take Arjuna away from Yudhishtara! I will bring Yudhishtara captive to you...or....'
'Or what?' Duryodhana asked sharply.
'I will cause the death of one of their Maharathas!' Dronacharya said sharply.

Dronacharya had spoken out of anger that Duryodhana had not trusted him. However Dronacharya had no idea about the effect of the promise he had just made....