Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 7

After the incident with Ekalavya, Arjuna became more serious. He was found in the training ground all the time honing his almost perfect archery skills.
Duryodhana and Ashwattama both saw this and neither of them were happy. Duryodhana, who had till now believed that the five Pandavas could easily be defeated by him in cases of need, saw that Arjuna was a seriously formidable warrior. Duryodhana realized deep down that Arjuna had the capacity to beat all of them if necessary.
The actual realization that Arjuna could defeat them came when Duryodhana saw two incidents involving Arjuna and Dronacharya.....
One day when all of them had come to the training ground, their teacher had told them that on the top branch of the tree there was a wooden bird. True enough Duryodhana had seen it. He was sure all of them could see it. The test was simple...or atleast it seemed simple...All they had to do was hit the eye of the bird.
Their teacher called Yudhishtara and asked him to aim at the bird and that they had to fire only when he said so. Before firing, Dronacharya had asked Yudhishtara, what they saw. Duryodhana realized with sadness that all of them, including the Pandavas made the same mistake...All except Arjuna. When the teacher asked them what they could see, they claimed to have seen everything...the trees, the leaves, the branches...At that time Duryodhana never understood why Dronacharya was so angry with them for that...
And then in the end Arjuna came forward.
'What do you see?'
'The bird!' Arjuna replied.
'Surely you see me, or your brothers!'
Arjuna shook his head. 'I do not even see the tree or the branches...Just the bird!' he replied, his arrow poised on the string of the bow.
'Describe the bird to me!' Droncharya further insisted.
'I...I can see only its head! Not even its body!' Arjuna said.
Dronacharya smiled. 'Shoot!' he said softly.
No sooner had he spoken the words, the wooden bird fell from the tree...an arrow in its eye....
Duryodhana looked at Arjuna with almost open hatred. He knew that the dark Arjuna with his skills was going to haunt him in the years to come...
Ashwattama looked at Arjuna with anger. He realized that to his father, Arjuna would always be more special than him....no matter what...
Dronacharya smiled because he knew that Drupada did not have a chance now...The king of Panchala was as good as defeated....
The second incident was something that worried Duryodhana, even more.
That day when they had all gone for swimming for some relief from the hot afternoon sun. Happily playing in the water, they failed to see the danger lurking near them.
Their teacher had also joined them. 
That was when a huge crocodile had grabbed Dronacharya and threatened to pull him away.
'HELP!' Dronacharya shouted. He was about to shout again, when Dronacharya himself free from the clutches of the monster. Shocked and surprised, Dronacharya turned and saw five arrows in the mouth of the crocodile.....Dronacharya turned to the bank and saw Arjuna there with the bow in his hand.
Dronacharya came forward with a smile, hobbling over to the bank, ignoring the pain in his thigh. 'You have saved my life! For this I will give you the knowledge of one of the most powerful weapons ever in existence....' Dronacharya said pulling the young boy towards him.
Dronacharya pulled out a dangerous weapon as it gleamed in the sunlight. Duryodhana gasped as he saw that the weapon in Dronacharya's hands was the Bramhasira. The weapon had the power to destroy the entire world.....
'This is the Brahmasira!' Droancharya said as he watched utmost wonder and respect in Arjuna's face. 'You have shown yourself worthy for using this weapon! So I grant this to you! Remember use this only against powerful enemies like the Devas or Asuras. If you use it against any humans, it would destroy the very world!' Dronacharya looked at the young boy. 'Use it well!'
Both Duryodhana and Ashwattama burned with jealously as Arjuna learnt the mantra for the weapon....
********
The classes were over and the boys had gone back to the palace of Hastinapur. Dronacharya was in the home when he saw Ashwattaman sulkily sitting in the corner.
'What...' Droancharya started when Ashwattaman interrupted him. 'I want to learn how to use the Brahmasira!'
Dronacharya shook his head. 'No! That knowledge is not meant for everyone! Only people who have shown to be completely in control of.....'
'YOU TAUGHT IT TO ARJUNA!' Ashwattaman yelled. 'I am your son! Teach it to me too!'
Dronacharya shook his head. 'No...'
'FATHER!' Ashwattaman said his eyes burning with anger. 'I will not be inferior to that Pandava! You have taught that boy everything that you have taught me! And now he knows more than me....This...This...'
Ashwattaman sulked and ranted for sometime. His father tried to convince him that the weapon was not meant for all. But then Dronacharya loved his son too much.
Dronacharya gave in to his parental love and taught his son the mantra to invoke the Brahmasira...
No sooner had Drona taught the mantra to Ashwattaman, Dronacharya had a sudden flash....probably a premonition from the future or probably just a gut feeling. Dronacharya saw Ashwattaman walking all alone...friendless, without the stone in his forehead (Ashwattaman was born with a stone in his forehead. The stone was meant to keep Ashwattaman free from disease or old age)...in great pain...just walking....without any goal....
Dronacharya looked around and saw himself in his own place. The vision that he had had disturbed him real bad. He looked at Ashwattaman. '..You are not meant to follow the path of virtue!' he said before he could stop himself.

Dronacharya realized at that time, that he had committed an unforgivable folly by teaching Ashwattaman the mantra. Droancharya realized that someone was going to pay a terrible price for his mistake....

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 6

Let’s go for a hunting trip!’ Vikarna, Duryodhana’s brother, called on to all his brothers. The princes all agreed happily. They had all just finished their basic weapons class and all of them were fairly good with the use of the weapons. The princes were all itching to try out their skills in the real jungle….
And so the Pandavas and the Kauravas together went to the forest with great pomp and show. They set up their tents in the forests and in the morning, started with their hunting. The princes came back to the camp with their kills when one of their dogs also went deep inside the forest.
Almost all the princes were back to the tent when, they heard one of their dogs barking furiously. The princes had no sooner then heard the bark when they all ran towards the sound. The princes found the dog barking furiously at an uncouth looking jungle boy. The princes were about to pull the dog away when suddenly within a matter of seconds, seven arrows flew into the dog’s mouth, before the dog could close it!
All the princes looked at Arjuna, but then Arjuna had not even drawn his bow. They all looked stupefied as they saw the jungle boy standing before him who was looking at the dog with slight irritation. It took a minute for it to sink in, but the princes realized that it was the jungle boy who had effectively stopped the dog from barking…..
Did you see….?’
How….?’
That was so fast! How….’
The dog is not even hurt……
There was a general hubhub of conversation as all the Kaurava princes were looking stupefied at each other. Agreed they all saw Arjuna practice daily and he was brilliant….But what they had seen right now was not ‘brilliant’, it was incredible….
Yudhishtara spotted Arjuna looking around shocked and saw that the jungle boy was now nowhere to be seen. Arjuna pushed past the princes and walked in a daze towards the direction where the boy had walked. Yudhishtara pushed passed the other princes and walked with his brother as the other Pandavas followed Yudhishtara one by one.
Arjuna walked long and hard before he could see the other boy. But Arjuna was so such in shock that he did not remember most of the journey towards the boy.
Who are you?’ Arjuna blurted out as soon as he saw the boy.
The boy looked at Arjuna his bow and arrow poised. ‘..I am Ekalavya.’ He said shrugging.
Who are your parents, Ekalavya? What are you doing here?’ Yudhishtara interposed.
My father is Hiranyadhanus, the king of the Nishadas! I was hunting here, when you dog came up and annoyed me!’ Ekalavya said frowning. Ekalavya wondered where he had seen the boy who was looking at him like he had been possessed.
Who taught you archery?’ Arjuna asked Ekalavya with almost reverence in his eyes.
I am the student of Dronacharya!’ Ekalavya said shrugging turning away.
Arjuna felt like someone had hit him with sledgehammer. He wanted to call the boy a liar and demand the truth from him. But deep down, beneath the shock, Arjuna realized that the boy had spoken the truth. That meant that his teacher had taught the boy and made Ekalavya, a better archer than him….Arjuna blinked as everything was appearing too bright and too hazy to him. His brothers were telling him something but the voices were coming from a far end of a tunnel and it was not making sense to him. He stumbled as he walked on blindly. Arjuna had no recollection of his journey back to Hastinapur.
*******
Drona waited patiently for the boys to come home. He had planned on another test to teach the boys real concentration. Drona smiled as he heard the voice of the boys coming through. Drona went to the front of his house and his eyes searched for his favourite pupil….when Dronacharya suddenly faltered. For the first time in memory, he saw Arjuna look ashen….almost defeated. Pushing through the other princes, barely acknowledging the words of the Kauravas, Drona almost ran toward Arjuna.
You said that no student of yours would be as good as me!’ Arjuna mumbled without any preamble.
Drona looked at the other Pandavas who were also looking somber. ‘What happened?’
Slowly, haltingly, Drona got the entire story out of the Pandavas.
He told you, he was my student?’ Drona asked incredulously.
When Arjuna nodded angrily, Drona blinked. He took a deep breath trying to steady himself. ‘Take me to the boy!’ Drona said to Arjuna. ‘NOW!’
********
Drona walked behind Arjuna who stumbled as he walked through the jungle. As they neared a clearing, Drona was surprised as he heard the twang of the bow. It was exactly like the sound that Arjuna made when he was practicing archery….rhythmic and an absolute melody to any teacher of arms….Drona followed Arjuna and the first thing he saw was not a boy practicing bow and arrow but a clay statue right in the middle of the clearing. A clay statute which resembled Dronacharya to an uncanny extent. Shocked Drona walked forward as he went towards the boy who was shooting the arrows almost effortlessly into the target.
The boy heard footsteps and turned as he saw. Drona saw genuine joy and love in the boy’s eyes as he turned. ‘Acharya! You have come! You have come to see me!’ Ekalavya said falling at Drona’s feet.
As Drona saw the boy he realized the boy whom he had seen some time back asking to be taught archery. Dronacharya remembered turning away the boy. ‘Why do you call yourself my student?’ Drona asked coldly.
The boy frowned. ‘You….you gave me your blessings! I practiced archery, assuming you to be my teacher!’ the boy said by way of explanation.
Drona was shocked as he realized that the boy had learnt everything….all the nuances of archery, all by himself…
Do you really consider me your teacher?’ Dronacharya squeaked, finally.
Yes!’ the boy said firmly. ‘I would be proud to call myself your student!’
I demand Gurudakshina!’ Drona said, a cold light in his eyes.
The boy did not even blink. ‘Anything you want, acharya!’
Your right thumb!’ Drona said as Arjuna almost gasped. Being an archer…he knew…he knew exactly what Drona was asking from Ekalavya.
Arjuna was more than shocked as he realized that Ekalavya was reaching out for his dagger. It almost seemed like Ekalavya did not realize what it was that Drona was asking from him. Ekalavya looked at Drona once more, smiled and without a second glance cut off his right thumb.
Drona looked at Arjuna who was looking like he was unable to move from there to Ekalavya who was standing there with a bleeding hand.
With a heavy heart, Dronacharya painfully swallowed as he pulled Arjuna away from the place and walked away without a second glance. Drona knew that Ekalavya would still practice with his remaining four fingers. But then, now, Ekalavya could not challenge Arjuna's fighting prowess....

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 5

Seeing Arjuna's devotion, Dronacharya taught Arjuna to fight on ground, on horse back and when he was in a chariot. Word spread around about Arjuna's amazing fighting skills.
Princes from all over the country flocked to learn from the now famous teacher.
The news of the famous teacher also reached the kingdom of the Nishadas. The prince of the Nishadas, the son of Hiranyadhanus, heard about Droancharya. The more he heard about the teacher, the more the prince yearned for the knowledge that the teacher had.
Dronacharya had taught Arjuna everything because of the passion that Arjuna has in archery. If I present myself before the great teacher, I am sure he would also see the passion I have and teach me all the skills...The prince thought naively. And so not considering the fact that the Nishadas were generally looked down upon, the prince went to Hastinapur.
There the prince approached Dronacharya's hermitage and the first thing which struck him was the vast training arena and the princes of varying ages practicing arms of all kinds. The prince saw it but then the one thing which always drew his attention was invariably the twang of the bow. The prince saw a boy his own age firing arrows one after the other. The speed with which the boy fired the arrows caught the prince's imagination. He knew that he had to learn it. He came forward when he saw a dark, stern looking man watching the boys practicing. The prince's eyes widened as he realized that he was the very man whom he had traveled so long to see.
The prince found himself being dragged before the teacher. 'Acharya!' He said bowing before the great man.
Drona turned and saw a strange boy with matted hair standing and looking at him eagerly. Drona looked at the young boy almost with contempt. 'What do you want?'
The prince again looked at the young boy with the bow and arrow and turned to Drona. 'I wish to learn archery from you,sir!'
Drona looked at the young boy as if he had lost his senses. 'Who do you think you are? I am Dronacharya! I am the royal teacher of Hastinapur! I do not go about teaching urchins from the street...'
The prince was suddenly shocked on hearing the words of the teacher. He had come here with so much hope. 'No Acharya! You do not understand! I am...I am Ekalavya! I am the son of King Hiranyadhanus, the king of the Nishadas! Please accept me also as your pupil! Please!' The boy said almost pleading with Drona.
Drona studied the eyes of the boy before him. There was the same fire in those eyes that he had seen in Arjuna. And Drona studied the boy's physique and realized that there was every chance that the boy could outdo all his students....Drona looked at the boy and shook his head. 'I am afraid, I cannot teach you! You are a Nishada! I am a teacher of all the princes of Hastinapur! I cannot teach you!' Drona repeated.
Drona saw the face of Ekalavya wilt before him. Ekalavya opened and closed his mouth once or twice. But then he seemed to realize that no matter what he said Drona would not change his mind.
Sadly Ekalavya did the only thing he could do. He fell at the feet of Drona. 'If you would not give me your knowledge, atleast give me your blessings, sir!'

Drona looked at the boy as he blessed the prince. The prince looked at the teacher for one last time and walked away from there without a backward glance....

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 4

Drona looked around at his young class. ‘Children! I am Drona! I will be your teacher! After I finish teaching you advanced weapons….’ Drona looked at the entire class with smoldering eyes. ‘After your education is complete, there is something I want you to do! Will you do it for me?’
The entire class was silent. They did not know what to make out of the dark, tall, slightly scary looking man. That he knew how to wield weapons was not something they doubted. But his eyes had a fire in it. A fire which spoke of a madness hidden inside him. None of the princes were sure of what the man would ask and they did not want to commit.
I will!’ The entire class turned to see Arjuna, looking confidently at Drona. Ever since Arjuna had seen Drona, Arjuna looked like a boy who had been possessed. ‘I will give you whatever you ask for!’ Arjuna repeated. Drona studied the boy once again as a beautiful smile lit up his features.
Drona drew up the young boy close to him and studied his fingers. ‘You have learnt archery before?’ Drona asked.
Arjuna nodded.
From whom?’ Drona asked slightly puzzled. The marks on the boy’s hands were not recently made. And from what Dronacharya knew, Kripacharya had been teaching the boys weapons, only recently. And the bow in the boy’s hands were old…much older…
I was living in the forests, before I came here sir!’ Arjuna said looking at the man. There was probably some slight snickering from behind. But he did not care. ‘There I was taught by Suka, the son of Sage Sayyati! He gave me this bow sir!’ Arjuna said without a hint of pride.
Come my son!’ Drona said embracing Arjuna. He knew, he just knew that Arjuna was going to be the one who got him his sweet revenge. ‘I will teach you everything….everything there is to know about weapons!’ Drona said wiping a single tear from his eyes.
And so their classes started.
Drona taught all the princes everything. Once Drona started teaching the princes everything, the princes from the other lands like the Vrishnis and the Andhakas also came to learn from Drona. Strangely enough, the Veda Vyasa’s Mahabharatha states that Karna also became a pupil of Drona. It is also said that out of jealousy, Karna frequently fought with Arjuna and was supported by Duryodhana in these events. Veda Vyasa’s Mahabharatha also finally states that Dronacharya was convinced that none of his other pupils could equal Arjuna…..
Before the start of every class, the students were given a vessel to fill water from. Drona gave Ashwattaman, his son, a wider mouthed vessel. As Ashwattaman came back earlier, Drona would start teaching Ashwattamana alone, knowledge of the advanced weapons.
Then one day in class, Drona was telling his students to invoke the Varuna astra, the weapon to invoke water from anywhere….The other students saw no need of it. Arjuna obviously learnt it well.
The next day Arjuna came quickly to the hermitage with his pot full of water and found his teacher teaching Ashwattaman, about some astras that he had not even heard of. He saw Ashwattaman’s pot and realized that it was a wider mouth. Arjuna finally realized that when the other students had been collecting water, Drona had been teaching his own son, advanced weapons.
Arjuna yearned for the knowledge that Drona gave Ashwattaman alone. But looking at his own pot and Ashwattaman’s pot, Arjuna realized that he could not compete with Ashwattaman’s speed. Arjuna was slightly disheartened. But then his eyes brightened. He knew exactly what he had to do….
The next day, Dronacharya was shocked to see not just Ashwattama but also Arjuna with their pots full of water.
Drona then smiled. Because he had realized that Arjuna had invoked the Varuna astra for filling the water instead of going all the way to the river to fetch it….And so the special lessons for the two of them alone started….
A few months later, Drona went to the cook of the royal palace of Hastinapur. ‘You will never serve food to Arjuna in the dark! EVER!’ The teacher thundered to the bewildered cook. ‘And you will never tell him that I told you this!’ Drona said walking away from there.
The cook found the instructions from the teacher strange. But then who was he to even complain about the royal teacher of Hastinapur….
A few days after this incident when Arjuna was eating his food a sudden gust of wind blew away the lamp. Arjuna sighed, but then he did not stop eating…..Methodically Arjuna’s hands put the food in his mouth. This went on when suddenly…Arjuna blinked. That night, the cook was surprised when he saw the third Pandava rapidly washing his hands and walking out of the palace. The cook understood nothing as he saw a servant lighting up the lamp near the place where the boy had finished his hurried dinner and the cook definitely did not understand why Arjuna was carrying his weapons so late in the night….
Drona was about to retire for the night when he heard it. At first he was sure he had heard something wrong. Then it came again…and again. Ignoring the calls of Kripi and Ashwattaman, Drona rapidly went out of his house towards the clearing where the boys practiced daily. There Drona could not hide his smile as he saw Arjuna with his bow and arrow shooting at the targets, which was now completely invisible in the dark. Arjuna already knew where the targets were. He was just learning to shoot it from memory….Drona smiled as he realized that that was also going to help Arjuna fight using his other senses and not just his eyes…..
Acharya!’ Arjuna said as Drona realized that the twang of the bow had stopped and Arjuna was bowing before him.
There will be no one equal to you, Arjuna!’ Was all Drona said.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 3

Bhishma knew that though Kripacharya was a good teacher, if he needed to make his grandchildren excellent warriors, he needed to find a teacher par excellence. His own teacher was Parashurama...Bhishma shook his head sadly as he realized that his teacher would never teach his grandchildren. Parashurama and Bhishma had had a terrible fight when Amba had approached Parashurama to avenge her. After that fight, there was no way that Parashurama would come forward to teach anyone related to Bhishma. (Parashurama was a sage and he hated all warriors. He had been unwilling to teach Bhishma initially. But because Ganga (Bhishma's mother) had repeatedly requested Sage Parashurama, Parashurama had taught Bhishma.)

And so Bhishma was surprised when once, all his grandchildren came running to him breathless. 'You would not believe what we saw today!' Yudhishtara started as Duryodhana interrupted him. 'A tall, dark man...he got...our ball out of the well, with mere blades of grass!'

Bhishma listened attentively as Arjuna said with something close to reverence in his voice. 'That man aimed the grass at the ball! The blade of grass pierced the grass...Then he threw one blade after another which attached to the other blades....making a chain! Then he threw his ring inside the well and brought that out of the well, as well! He brought the ring out with a bow and arrow!'

Bhishma smiled as he realized the only person who it could be. He was suddenly anxious as he looked at his grandchildren. 'Where is he? He did not....'

Yudhishtara looked surprised as he looked at Bhishma and continued. 'That man said that if we were tell you all this, you would know who he was!' Bhishma smiled as Yudhishtara continued. 'Do you know him, grandfather?'

Bhishma chuckled. 'Why Yudhishtara? He is going to be your teacher! He is your acharya from now on!'

Yudhishtara paled on hearing this. Bhishma sensed something wrong and looked enquiringly at the young boy. 'Not knowing who he was....I...I....' Yudhishtara fumbled. Bhishma waited patiently as Yudhishtara continued. 'I spoke in an insulting manner....'

'What did you tell the man?' Bhishma asked alarmed.

'I told him that if he got the ring and the ball out, we would make sure he would be fed to his fill!' Yudhishtara muttered.

Bhishma laughed. 'Do not worry! The man that you speak about has spent his life in meditation and penance! He would not take offence to anything! He would forgive anyone!' Bhishma said as he got ready to bring the man to the palace.

Bhishma did not know how wrong he was about the man....

*********

Bhishma went and saw Drona in the exact place where the boys had left him, near the well. 'Drona! It is good to see you! What....' Bhishma stopped as he saw that all was not well. The man who stood before him was not a man of kindness or compassion but a man consumed by hatred.

'What happened to you?' Bhishma asked worried.

Drona shook his head angrily. 'I heard that you were looking for a teacher who would teach your grandchildren! I wish to teach them...Would you....'

'Drona!' Bhishma called Drona sternly. 'What happened?'

Drona looked at Bhishma as suddenly all the fight left him. 'Ashwattama! My son....' Drona began seemingly irrelevantly. He shook his head as he realized that he was being incoherent. 'I was always interested in penance and meditation! Making money was never a passion with me....' Drona told Bhishma about how Ashwattaman asked for milk and how the boys gave him powdered milk. 'As I was staring speechless at my son...I heard people looking at me insultingly! They said....that I was a bad father....that it was because of me that my son was drinking powdered rice and calling it milk...' Drona whispered as a tear escaped him.

'What happened after that?' Bhishma asked gently.

For some reason Drona looked dangerously mad as he continued. 'Drupada!' Drona spat out of the name. 'He studied in my father's ashrama! We were childhood friends!' Drona said panting angrily. 'When we were younger...he promised....he promised...' Drona's voice chocked off unable to continue.

'I decided to go to him for help!' Drona said finally. 'When I went to Drupada....right there in the open court, he insulted me!' Drona said furiously, turning a dangerous shade of red. 'He said that friendship could be only between equals! He said that I was poor beggar whereas he was the king of Panchala! He had me thrown out of the court!' Drona said bitterly. 'He said that he was friends with me when we were younger because it was necessary at that time! He said that I was foolish to expect that all that he spoke when he was younger was real!'

Drona breathed angrily as Bhishma was silent for some time.

'After that, I came to Hastinapur! I have been staying in Kripa's house! I learnt that you were looking for a teacher to teach advanced weapons! I will take the job!' Drona said quietly.

'What do you wish in return?' Bhishma said.


'Revenge!' Drona said with burning hatred. There was a poisonous smile in his lips. 'I will teach your grandchildren everything I know about weapons! In return as my gurudakshina (fees which is given to the teacher, after the complete of education) I will ask my students to defeat Drupada and bring him to me....' Drona said looking almost mad in anger. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 2

King Prishata, the king of Panchala, watched his son Drupada run across into the hermitage of the Sage Bharadwaja. He followed his son as he saw the great sage. He bowed to the sage and turned to hear a happy shout of joy from Drupada as Drupada found another boy, his own age, in the hermitage.
'Who is he?' The king asked looking at the serious looking dark boy with whom his son was talking.
'He is Drona! My son!' Bharadwaja said quietly.
'Your son?' The king looked surprised. 'Why do you call him 'Drona'?' [In Sanskrit 'Drona' meant vessel or pot.]
'Yes!' Sage Bharadwaja said. 'Many years ago, I fell in love with an apsara Ghritachi! It was because of my desire for her that I was able to develop this baby from a pot! Drona was not born inside the womb of a woman, but from a pot! That was the reason I named him Drona!'
The king nodded as he smiled as he saw the two boys now playing around the hermitage.

The two boys had a very happy children in the ashram of Sage Bharadwaj.
'My friend!' Drupada said hugging Drona, once after Drona had helped him in a particularly difficult task. 'I am a prince! And there will be a time when I am the king of Panchala! At that time, I will do anything for you! Just come to me and I will help you!' Drupada said with a shining smile.
Drona smiled and took no notice of the words....

Fate took its course as King Prishata died and his son, Drupada ascended the throne. Drona being the son of a sage, engaged himself in penance and meditation.
When Drona grew up, he married Kripi, the daughter of Sarwadat. The two of them had a son. As soon as the son was born, it is said that the baby's crying resembled the neighing of a horse! And so it was decided that the baby should be called as Ashwattaman (Ashwattaman in Sanskrit means 'the one whose voice is like a horse')
But then despite being brought up as a sage, like his father-in-law – Sarwadat, Drona had a natural interest in weapons. Drona practiced with his weapons regularly, in his hermitage. It was even said that when Drona was younger he even learnt to control the use of the powerful weapon – Agneya, from his father.
After Ashwattaman was born, Drona came to know that Sage Parashurama who was one of the greatest warriors of his times was giving away all his wealth.
Drona hurriedly left his hermitage and went to see the sage, who was at that time living in the Mahendra mountains. However the journey was a long one and Drona was late by the time he reached the place, where Parashurama was staying. By this time, the warrior sage Parashurama had given away most of the possessions. 
Seeing Drona, Parashurama looked dismayed. 'I have given away all my gold and money! I have only two more things to give....my body or my weapons! What do you want?'
Drona smiled to himself. 'I am not late! I came here to learn about all the advanced weapons that you know!'
Sage Parashurama smiled. 
Sage Parashurama taught Drona all that he knew about weapons. And Drona was a very good student and he learnt it all. After teaching Drona, Sage Parashurama left the place and went to the mountains to meditate.
Armed with his knowledge Drona went back to his hermitage, happy.
However till now, Drona only had knowledge. He had not yet used it.
Being the son of the sage, Drona was poor. Drona had no interest in making money and he became more poor. Their condition was so bad that they did not have even a cow with them. Once Ashwattaman seeing some rich children drinking milk threw a tantrum about wanting to drink milk....
However that was not the last straw. 
Once when Ashwattaman was playing with the boys...he looked at the boys as they drank milk. 'Can I have some?' Ashwattaman asked his friends.
The boys however played a prank on the young Ashwattaman. They mixed some powdered rice with some water and gave it to the boy.
The rice powder was dripping from his mouth as Ashwattaman ran home to his father. 
'FATHER!' Ashwattaman shouted.'I have tasted milk! I have finally tasted real milk!' he said with innocent eyes....
It was at that minute that Drona decided that he would go to see his childhood friend Drupada. He would go and ask help from the king of Panchala. Drona had no doubt in his mind that King Drupada would help him....
They were after all best friends....

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 1

Saradwat, a sage, was engaged in rigorous meditation in the forest, in earth. Naturally, Indra, the Lord of the Devas was scared of it.
He summoned Janapadi, one of his beautiful apsaras. 'In earth, you will find a sage called Saradwat - a sage with bow and arrows....'
Janapadi looked surprised. 'What? A sage with bow and arrows?' she asked the Deva incredulously. (In those days, the sages performed penance and the warriors knew about weapons. Their paths rarely crossed.)
Indra sighed as he nodded his head. 'Saradwat is the son of Sage Gautham! Though his father was a rishi, it is said that Saradwat was born with bow and arrows! Even as he grew Saradwat showed a natural inclination for learning weapons, more than the ways of meditation and penance! He is a powerfully good warrior!' Indra said gravely.
'Then why is he doing penance?' Janapadi asked completely confused.
Indra sighed shaking his head. 'I do not know! What I do know is that Saradwat is a formidable warrior! Imagine, what would happen if a man like that also has the power of penance and meditation with him!' Indra asked Janapadi with scared eyes. 'Why? He may become more powerful than me! He may even overthrow me from the heavens!' Indra whispered fearfully.
Janapadi sighed mentally not saying anything. The fact remained that every time anyone on earth performed penance, the Lord of the Devas became insecure. Indra tried his best to thwart the penance in some way or the other.
But then this was Indra, the king of the Heavens. No matter what she believed, Janapadi was duty bound to follow the words of her king. So halfheartedly Janapadi left the heavens to tempt the Saradwat, the sage with bow and arrows....
*****

Saradwat opened his eyes as he saw a subtle change in the surrounding. He saw a woman right in front of him, looking radiantly beautiful. In that minute, Sarwadat all but lost control over himself. For a whole second, Saradwat wanted nothing more than to marry the woman before him....But then Saradwat was a sage, a good one too. He realized that he was losing control over himself and with great effort controlled himself.....

Janapadi for her part realized that the sage was in complete control of himself and left the place and went back to the heavens...

Saradwat for his part was dispirited that he had lost control over himself, even for a minute..... Without even picking up the weapons with which he was born, Saradwat left the place without a backward glance. As he walked Saradwat promised himself that he was going to perform even more rigorous penance to make sure he was completely in control of himself.

******

King Shantanu of Hastinapur, was in his favourite place. He was in the wild forests, with the bow and arrow in his hands. Though the Scriptures said that excessive hunting was one of the vices of a king, King Shantanu was unable to stop this habit.

Shantanu moved through the forests as he chased the deer, leaving his people far behind. The deer swiftly ran through and was hiding behind a bush. Shantanu waited behind a tree as he looked at the shrub as he pulled his bow and aimed the arrow at the shrub and waited....He waited patiently for the deer to come out when...

'Your Majesty!' Shantanu was so shocked that he almost let go of the arrow. It was only sheer practice by which he held on to the arrow. Startled by the noise, he saw the deer run away from the bush. Shantanu was about to yell at the young soldier who was running towards him when he saw that the soldier if anything, was badly rattled.

'What?' He snapped getting up.

'Your majesty! There...There....' The soldier spoke pointing towards the opposite side looking incapable of breathing properly.

'What?' Shantanu asked as he pulled his weapons out and went towards the direction the man had pointed. At first Shantanu heard nothing. But then as he walked deeper, Shantanu was shocked. In a place where, the wild animals roamed freely without a single fear, incongruously, he heard the cry of infants.

Bewildered, he put his weapons aside as he walked further. There in the clearing, between the coarse grass, Shantanu was shocked as he saw two beautiful babies – a girl and boy, lying on the deer skin with a bow and arrow nearby. Though a part of Shantanu was wondering about the unlikely combination of the deer skin and the bow and arrows, he gave it no further thought as he looked at the babies. (The deer skin was generally used by sages for meditation)

The minute Shantanu saw the babies, Shantanu felt a strange emotion in his heart....He aborted the hunt as he took the babies, with him. 'These are my children! Henceforth, they will also grow up in the kingdom of Hastinapur!' he announced to all the people in the group.

Shantanu brought the children to the capital and there he decided to perform all the rites and rituals for the children.

'My Lord!' The priest said. 'We need to name the children to perform the ceremony...Have you....'

Shantanu smiled as he saw the twins. 'I was moved to pity when I saw the children. So the boy shall be called 'Kripa' and the girl shall be called 'Kripi!'' [In Sanskrit, 'Krip' means pity.]

And so the children grew up in Hastinapur.

********

A few years later, a powerful looking sage came to King Shantanu. 'Your Majesty! I have divined that you have my children with you!'

Shantanu looked completely nonplussed. 'Who are you? What children are you referring to?'

'My name is Saradwat! I am the son of Sage Gautham! From a young age, I have been interested in weapons and though I am a sage, I learnt the art of warfare well!' The powerful sage said. 'I was performing penances to obtain more knowledge of weapons, when Lord Indra sent Janapadi....' Sardwat told the king everything. '...Though I was able to control my desire....the fact remains that I lost control of myself! I am a sage...so my desires are powerful...These two children emerged from my desire, in a clump of heath....where I fell in love with Janapadi! That is where, you found them....'

Shantanu was convinced that the sage was speaking the truth. He then nodded as the sage continued with with gratitude in his eyes. 'I abandoned my children...But you...You took them in and took good care of them...For that I will always be grateful to you!'

The sage smiled. 'I will teach my children all the science of arms that I have learnt....They would be able to teach it to your descendants, your majesty!'

Shantanu smiled as he nodded his head.

So that was how, Kripa learnt the art of warfare from his father. He learnt all that his father had to teach him and he came back to Hastinapur.

Meanwhile, Shantanu had married and fate took its course as the sons of Dhirdarashtra (Kauravas) and the sons of Pandu (Pandavas) were born in the royal family.


Kripa became the royal teacher in the House of Kuru and he taught the Karuravas and the Pandavas, the basic rules of warfare and the laws of administration of the kingdom. As he was a teacher, he came to be known as Kripacharya. [Acharya means 'teacher' in Sanskrit]