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 Sampatakas raced towards Arjuna. The Sampatakas challenged Arjuna. Having no other choice, Arjuna followed the Sampatakas. Just as Krishna had predicted, the Sampatakas 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....

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The mighty warrior - Part 7

Brother! The twelve years of exile are almost getting over!’ Yudhishtara called his brother Arjuna as all the five Pandavas with Draupadi were inside the hut, in the forest. ‘We need to find a place to stay hidden for the next one year.’ (The rules for the dice game played for the second time were that the Pandavas had to spend 12 years in exile and the next one year in disguise. If the Kauravas found the location of the Pandavas during the 13th year, when they were in disguise, the Pandavas would have to again go for 12 years exile and spend the 13th year incognito and so on…)
Yudhishtara studied the third Pandava with quiet pride. There had always been a passion in Arjuna’s eyes which could never be masked. However after Arjuna’s visit to his father’s domain in the heavens (Arjuna’s biological father was Indra, the Lord of the Devas) Arjuna had become more mature, more restrained. Yudhishtara heard the stories of how Arjuna had fought with the three-eyed Lord Shiva with utmost wonder. Yudhishtara was stupefied when Arjuna narrated how he had vanquished the Nivatakavachas.
But probably the most amazingly impossible fact was when Yudhishtara heard Arjuna sing for them. Arjuna the peerless warrior, whose arrows had never failed him, sang with the passion which almost brought tears to Yudhishtara’s eyes. Yudhishtara realized that this brother of his was special. Whatever Arjuna did, he did it with passion and achieved excellence in it.
Where did you learn this?’ Draupadi asked looking amazed, after Arjuna finished singing.
The gandharvas and the apsaras in the heavens! They taught me how to sing and dance!’ Arjuna said looking a little embarrassed.
Draupadi misread his embarrassment. ‘Were the apsaras really beautiful?’ She asked with a hint of jealousy in her voice.
Arjuna laughed miserably shaking his head. ‘I have not yet told you the entire story!’ He said heavily.
What is it?’ Draupadi asked sharply.
In the heavens, I watched Urvashi dance in my father’s court!’ Arjuna said as Draupadi’s face grew darker. ‘I remembered thinking that this was the woman who had married Puru, our ancestor! Urvashi was like our mother!’ Arjuna said as Draupadi watched her husband perplexed.
However Urvashi thought that I was a very handsome man!’ Arjuna said colouring up right to his roots.
What happened then?’ Nakula asked his brother.
When I told Urvashi, I thought of her like our mother….she…she…’ Arjuna looked down faltering.
What happened?’ Yudhishtara demanded.
'She cursed me to be a shandha!' Arjuna finished lamely. (A Shandha is a person who is neither a male nor a female)

Draupadi watched her husband completely numb, her thoughts spiraling completely out of control. She tried talking and failed as her mouth just refused to listen to her mind.
WHAT?’ Bheema thundered.
Arjuna nodded. ‘My father interfered!' Arjuna said looking down. 'He said that the curse was for the best! He modified the curse and let it be in force only for a year and that it would be in force for the one year that we were in disguise!' Arjuna said looking at his brothers and his wife. 'My father Indra said otherwise, the marks on my hand as an archer would have been impossible to hide! And that people would know immediately that I was Arjuna!’
None of them could think of anything to say to it. It was not a situation which required any reply. Yudhishtara cleared his throat. ‘So what do we do now?’ He asked finally.
Arjuna nodded his head. ‘We send the sages accompanying us to Dwaravati! As a diversion!’ Arjuna started. ‘That way Suyodhana (Duryodhana) would believe that we have gone there! It would take a few months for his spies to know that we are not in Dwaravathi!’
Yudhishtara smiled as he nodded. ‘And in the meantime, the six of us go to King Virata’s kingdom!’
Why are we going to the Matsya kingdom?’ Bheema asked. (King Virata ruled the Matsya kingdom.)
He is just and firm! He is not too young to give way to his whims, nor too old!’ Yudhishtara said as the others nodded. ‘I am going under the name of Kanka! I have now mastered the art of dice!’ Yudhishtara said looking a little shamefaced. ‘I will be with the king to entertain him during his free time!’
Bheema nodded. ‘Fine! I will join the royal kitchens of Virata, as a cook! I will go by the name of Vallabha!’ Arjuna was about to shake his head when Bheema continued. ‘I will tell the king that I am a part time wrestler! Otherwise he would not believe that I am only a cook!’ Arjuna nodded satisfied.
I will go as Brihannila, a teacher of dance and music to the royal ladies, including Princess Uttara (King Virata's daughter)!’ Arjuna said.
Nakula and Sahadeva smiled.
I will go as Granthika, to look after the royal horses and Sahadeva would go as Arishtanemi, the tenderer of cows!’ Nakula said smiling. ‘We are both exceedingly good with animals!’ The other brothers nodded. All of them knew too well the truth of the words.
They all turned to Draupadi who sighed before she spoke. ‘I will go as a Sairandhri to Queen Sudeshna! (A Sairandhri is a woman who works in the employment of another) I will tell them that I worked as a Sairandhri to Satyabhama, Krishna’s favourite wife and then worked under Draupadi!’ Draupadi smiled mirthlessly. ‘I will call myself as Malini!’
It was agreed that all of them would meet the king at various times and tell them that they had worked for Yudhishtara until now and that because they could not find him now, they were coming in employment to the Matsya King.
And so it was done. The five brothers came in the court of King Virata.
Draupadi entered the Virata kingdom, but looking at how ravishing the dark beauty was, the ordinary people did not want anything to do with her. People surrounded her just looking stunned at how much beautiful she was. Queen Sudeshna who was passing by the market saw the crowd and went up to investigate.
Why are you…..?’ Queen Sudeshna saw the dark beauty and found that no words came readily to her. She finally cleared her throat asking sharply. ‘Who are you? What do you want?’
I am a Sairandhri! I am looking for work!’ Draupadi repeated the words that she had rehearsed well.
You are a Sairandhri?’ Queen Sudeshna asked incredulously. ‘You look like someone who has people waiting on her….Not like someone who works for another!’
Draupadi said nothing as she looked at the queen. Queen Sudeshana herself was apprehensive that if King Virata saw the beautiful dark woman, he would leave her and marry the woman. So to keep her hidden, she brought Malini to her own apartments and kept her there.
Who are you?’ Queen Sudeshna asked, once they were in the familiar confines of the palace.
I am Malini…’ Draupadi started when the queen interrupted. ‘I know that! I want to know more about you!’
Draupadi licked her lips as she continued. ‘I am a married woman! I have five gandharvas as my husbands! They would always protect me! They wanted me to work in a good household where I would be well looked after…So here I am…’
Queen Sudeshna realized that the woman before her was speaking the truth, but not the entire truth. But she could get no other answers from the Sairandhri.
You will be well looked after here!’ the queen said finally.
The Pandavas along with Draupadi lived there for almost three months, when in a fair, Vallabha displayed his fighting prowess and killed another powerful wrestler – Jimuta.
King Virata was pleased with his cook and made the cook a part time wrestler of his kingdom.
********
The year was almost going to get over when a problem arose in the form of Keechaka, the brother of Queen Sudeshna. Though Virata was the ruler of the Matsya kingdom, in reality, it was the brute force of Keechaka which helped King Virata, keep the kingdom under his control. Keechaka also knew of this fact and he was more or less a law onto himself. The people of Matsya disliked Keechaka, but were too afraid of Keechaka’s strength to openly go against him.
As Keechaka was once visiting his sister, there he laid eyes on the dark Malini. The minute he saw Malini, all hell broke loose.
He arrogantly rode up to her. ‘I am Keechaka! I am the real power behind the throne of Matsya! It is a great fortune for you that you are so beautiful! I like you very much and I desire to marry you! I know that you work for my sister! I will speak with her! Give up everything and just marry me!’ He told her.
Malini looked angrily at the strong warrior. ‘I am a married woman and I have five gandharvas as my husbands! Mind you they are not ordinary mortals! If they know that you have even come to me with such a proposal, they will kill you!’ She said with utter conviction.
Keechaka was already drunk with his own power. The words of the Sairandhri changed nothing in him.
I will deal with them! Just….’ He pulled Malini as she pushed him hard and ran away from there.
Getting up and dusting himself, Keechaka could not believe that anyone had the courage to defy him. He genuinely thought that Malini was refusing him out of fear of his sister. He went to the queen.
Sudeshna! Who is Malini?’ He asked the minute he entered her chambers.
She is my Sairandhri! Why?’ Sudeshna asked as she turned to look at her brother. One look at her brother, she did not need to know why he wanted to know about her.
She is married!’ Sudeshna said sighing. ‘She is married to five gandharvas!’
So?’ Keechaka asked with an almost dreamy look in his eyes.
Keechaka please!’ Sudeshna said pleading with her brother trying to make him see sense.
I cannot! Ever since I have seen her, she is all I can see everywhere! Please….’ Keechaka said haughtily.
Sudeshna realized that her brother was beyond talk and shook her head, sighing. ‘Fine! I will make up some excuse for sending her to your apartment!’ said the foolish queen, without thinking of the effect of her sentence. ‘Talk to her kindly and try to win her heart!’ Sudeshna said.
Keechaka laughed but said nothing, as he walked away from there.
As Sudeshna went inside her apartment, she summoned Malini. 'I am very thirsty! Please go to Keechaka’s apartment and get me a drink!'
Please queen! Do not do this! Keechaka…’ Malini started when Sudeshna interrupted her rudely. ‘I am thirsty! Go now!’ she said handing over a golden pot to her Sairandhri.
Malini went to Keechaka’s apartment and there she found the warrior waiting for her, with a gloating expression on his face.

It was that minute that Malini realized that the whole thing was a ploy and ran to the king. As she ran to the court, Keechaka followed her and there in Virata’s court, Malini was pushed and kicked by Keechaka. Malini asked for the king to help her but the king was too afraid of Keechaka himself.
Kanka who was in the court looked at Sairandhri angrily. ‘Go back to your apartment! Your gandharva husbands do not think that this is the right time to show their anger! Your act here is disturbing the game of dice being played here! Leave!’ He told her.
Malini’s eyes blazed with anger as she left the king's court. From there, she did not go to her apartment. She went to the kitchens.
Making sure she was alone with Vallabha, she embraced him tightly telling him the whole story. Not just about Keechaka but Malini spoke of her general misery at everything starting from Yudhishtara’s gambling to watching her husbands who were kings working in menial jobs.
Vallabha got ferociously angry. He told Malini to accept Keechaka’s proposal and told Malini to ask Keechaka to come to the dancing hall at midnight. Malini did not ask why, she did not need to.
At night Vallabha went to the dancing hall and waited for Keechaka to come.
Excited to hear from the Sairandhri, Keechaka entered the dancing hall at midnight.
Keechaka was enraged to find the cook in the dancing hall. And the cook was looking angry enough to raze an army.... If Keechaka had really thought at that time, he could have run from there and probably saved himself.
But then, the foolish Keechaka was extraordinarily arrogant and genuinely believed that he could best Vallabha in a fight.
Keechaka really did not have chance that night, because besides being stronger than Keechaka, Vallabha was exceptionally angry and frustrated as a result of hearing Malini's ranting....
Some time later, Vallabha left the hall and slipped back to the kitchens.
*******
Malini watched Vallabha go back to the kitchens and then went to the hall and shouted shrilly summoning all the guards. ‘I WARNED KEECHAKA! I warned him not to come near me! See what my gandharva husband has done!’ she said pointing at the hall.
All the guards watched numbly as the great warrior Keechaka lay dead in the dancing hall....
********
Keechaka, the warrior had plenty of relatives who were called Keechakas. They were very angry with Malini, who had been the reason for the death of one of their own. They caught Malini and tied her and took her to the funeral pyre of Keechaka and tried to burn her along with Keechaka.
The Keechakas should have known better than to hurt Malini. Vallabha again came to graveyard and was so infuriated with the whole lot that it was said that he plucked a huge tree and threw it at them. It was said that 105 of the Keechakas died in this attack of Vallabha....Malini escaped unscathed and Vallabha went back to the palace, without anyone's knowledge....
The kingdom of Matsya was reeling under the devastating attacks, twice in two days....
**********
King Virata was scared stiff and called his queen. ‘I do not know who Malini is! I do not wish to know either! Please just tell her to leave Matsya and never come back! Ever!’
Sudeshna was already heartbroken at the death of her brother. She realized that it was her own foolishness which had resulted in the death of Keechaka. But she also realized the wisdom of the king’s words and hastily went to the Malini. 'The king requests you to please leave the kingdom!'
Malini studied the scared face of the queen and said quietly. 'Tell the king that I would be here for 13 more days and then I would be gone!'
*********
Unfortunately for the Pandavas, the news of the death of the Keechaka and his relatives came to the knowledge of Suyodhana. Keechaka was an outstanding wrestler and it was uncommon for people to even stand up against him. To kill such a warrior, would take someone of exceptional strength....Besides there was also the death of the wrestler - Jimuta, a few months back...
Suyodhana was more than sure that the Pandavas were in the Matsya kingdom. But then he needed proof and fast, because the thirteenth year was going to get over in a few days....
Suyodhana decided on a very good strategy to flush out the Pandavas.
He divided his army into two. The first army was led by Susharma of the Trigarthas. Susharma attacked the Matsya kingdom and led the cattle of the Matsya kingdom away. King Virata, without thinking, led his entire army, against Susharma and the Trigarthas, leaving only his son Bhuminjaya behind. (Bhuminjaya was also known as Uttar)
On the next day, after the attack of Susharma, Suyodhana himself led the second part of the army, attacking the other side of Matsya kingdom.
So against Suyodhana and the other Kurus, as the only fighting royal in the palace, Prince Uttar had to go and fight. Prince Uttar smiled a little boastfully.'If only I had a good charioteer I would personally crush all the Kurus!'
Brihannila sighed as he heard the boast of the prince. He drew Malini aside, speaking something to her.
Malini went to Prince Uttar. 'Fear not, Prince Uttar! You see, Brihannila has been a charioteer to the great Arjuna himself! Why don't you take him along as your charioteer?'
******
Prince Uttar put on his shining armour proudly and watched amused as Brihannila struggled with the armour. 'Here! Let me help you!' He said ignoring the giggling royal ladies behind him.
'Brihannila!' Princess Uttara called as Brihannila had properly worn the armour and was ready to drive. 'Bring back some gifts and clothes after defeating the Kurus! I will adorn my dolls with it!'
Brihannila looked at Prince Uttar. 'If he defeats the Kurus, I will bring them back, my princess!'
And so, Uttar and his charioteer went to battlefield.
However once Uttar saw the size of the Hastinapur army, Uttar realized how silly he must have sounded boasting before the ladies. Prince Uttar ran away from the battlefield, without fighting.
The Kurus of Hastinapur were more than amused to see the prince of Matsya run away from the battlefield as he was being called back by his charioteer.
************
Under the guidance of the charioteer, Prince Uttar drove to the outskirts of kingdom and there found a bundle tied to a Sami Tree.
'Why have you brought me here, Brihannila? What is in the bundle?' Prince Uttar asked,looking up at the tree.
'Get it down, Prince Uttar!' Brihannila insisted.
'It looks like a corpse!' Prince Uttar said disgusted. 'I am not touching it!'
'Just get it down!' The charioteer said again firmly and Prince Uttar found it impossible to resist the charioteer's orders.
Prince Uttar climbed up the tree and brought down the bundle and was shocked to see shining, celestial weapons inside the bundle....the likes of which he had never even heard about, let alone see....
'Who are you?' He asked the charioteer in amazement. Prince Uttar could see some changes in the charioteer as he spoke.
'I am Arjuna!' The charioteer said as he felt the curse of Urvashi leaving his body.
Prince Uttar watched in amazement as his hero appeared him. 'Wh....Who....' Prince Uttar was almost stuttering in disbelief.
Arjuna smiled. 'All your questions would be answered! I believe we have an army to fight!' Prince Uttar looked ashamed as Arjuna smiled. 'Would you be my charioteer, Prince Uttar?' Arjuna said as he twanged the Gandiva. A thunderous roar emerged from the bow....
*******
The Kurus who were leading the cattle far away were shocked on hearing the sound of the Gandiva.
However Suyodhana almost jumped in joy. 'That is Arjuna!' Suyodhana said smugly. 'He has shown himself before the 13 years are up! The Pandavas have to go on an exile again!'
Bhishma looked annoyed at the young prince, as he saw the setting sun. 'The thirteenth year is over, Prince Suyodhana! Partha knows that! That was the reason he decided to show himself!'
Suyodhana huffed and was about to throw a tantrum when Bhishma heard the hooves of the coming horses. 'I believe we have a more immediate problem than that! Partha is here!'
The Kurus turned and saw Prince Uttar driving the blazing Pandava.
**********
Arjuna looked at the entire Kuru army studying them all, missing nothing. In a deft movement, the Gandiva was in his hands.
Arjuna was more than angry when he saw Karna ready to fight him. And this time, Karna had picked the wrong fight. Arjuna more or less decimated Karna, in the duel. Thoroughly wounded, Karna fled the battlefield. Watching him run, the Kurus soldiers ran away from the attacking Pandava.
Bhishma was ready with the bow in his hands. A fierce battle took place between the two warriors. However, Arjuna besides being younger was more motivated than the older Bhishma. Bhishma really did not have a chance. Arjuna defeated him in the battle.
The Kuru army was routed. Right from Ashwattaman and Duryodhana to Kripacharya, Arjuna toyed with all of them. Nobody...not one person could even stand before the Pandava and his charioteer.
Conceding defeat, the Kuru army ran away from there. True to his principles, Arjuna never went after an enemy who was retreating. He brought back all the cows driven away by the Kurus.
However as he watched the retreating Kurus, Arjuna remembered a small promise as he drew out his arrow again.
Suyodhana looked back shocked as he heard an arrow whizzing towards him. He was so shell shocked that he could hardly move. But then the arrow was not meant for his head, it was for his crown. The arrow shattered his crown in pieces as the pieces fell on the ground. Arjuna fired another arrow as the dress worn by the warriors was torn to pieces and deposited itself near the shattered crown.
'Take those trinkets and clothes, Prince Uttar!' Arjuna said smiling. 'Princess Uttara asked for them!'
Suyodhana angrily huffed back to Hastinapur with his army.
**********
King Virata was thrilled at defeating Susharma and the Trigarthas. (In reality, Virata had been captured by Susharma. Vallabha fought with Susharma and defeated him, thereby helping King Virata win the war)
However King Virata's surprises for the day, were not over. He was amazed when he learnt that his son had single-handed driven away the entire Kuru army lead by Suyodhana and was bringing the cattle back to the kingdom.
'Prince Uttar defeated the Kurus of Hastinapur?' King Virata asked his guard almost disbelievingly.
'Yes your majesty!' The guard replied. 'The prince will be returning shortly!'
'This calls for a double celebration!' King Virata shouted happily. 'Did you see that Kanka? My son...My son...drove away the Kurus!'
Kanka shook his head with a wry smile. 'With Brihannila as his charioteer, his victory was certain!'
Hearing the words of Kanka, King Virata became almost red with anger. Furiously King Virata threw his dice at Kanka which hurt Kanka's nose. Kanka's nose was bleeding. Malini who was nearby hastily picked up a golden vessel and placed it under Kanka's nose to make sure the blood did not fall on the ground. (It was believed that a blood of a good man spilled in a kingdom would render the kingdom barren. It was to prevent this misfortune, Draupadi and Yudhishtara acted this way)
'HOW DARE YOU COMPARE MY SON WITH A SHANDHA?' He demanded angrily.
**********
Prince Uttar came inside at that precise time and was shocked to find Kanka bleeding. 'Who did that?' He asked sharply.
'I did!' Virata said carelessly. 'I was telling him of how you fought the Kurus and he compared you with Brihannila...'
Prince Uttar turned to Kanka. 'I apologize sir!' He said with genuine regret in his eyes. Virata saw an invisible dialogue between Kanka and his son and had no idea what it was about.
'Why are you apologizing.....?' King Virata asked his son, in a halting fashion.
'FATHER!' Uttar shouted angrily. 'You acted in anger! Apologize to the man at once!'
King Virata looked at his son's expression and for once in his life, did not argue at all. He turned to Kanka apologizing.
Prince Uttar took a deep breath when he saw Kanka looking appeased. He then turned to his father. 'Father! It was not me!' He said quietly. King Virata fell quiet as Prince Uttar continued. 'It was not me who drove away the Kurus!'
'Who was it?' King Virata asked confused, eyeing Kanka, wondering about his son's new found humility and also wondered what all this had to do with Kanka....
'A son of a Deva helped me!' Prince Uttar said as Arjuna had asked Uttar not to reveal who he, his brothers and wife, really were.
'I wish to see this warrior!' King Virata said.
Prince Uttar smiled. 'He vanished after the battle! But he would be back...in two of three days, sir!'
************
Brihannila gave the clothes and the jewels of the Kurus to Princess Uttara.
'Did my brother really drive away the Kurus?' Uttara asked Brihannila, with wide-eyed innocence.
Brihannila smiled saying nothing....
Princess Uttara frowned as she studied Brihannila. There was suddenly something different about her dance teacher. But Uttara was not able to see clearly because Brihannila kept her face hidden from view.
********
Two days later, King Virata was shocked to see Kanka, his cook, the dancer and the tenders of cows and horses and the dreaded Sairandhri dressed in royal clothes and sitting on thrones meant of royalty. For a minute King Virata wondered why the people looked so much like they belonged in the thrones....Then he became very angry. 'HOW DARE YOU....'
'Father! Meet the Pandavas and their wife Princess Draupadi!' Prince Uttar said hastily before his father could speak any further. King Virata looked at his son and the six people repeatedly...and slowly the pieces of the puzzle came together.
'I...I...' King Virata said as words failed him.
'Thank you for offering protection to me and my brothers and our wife in your kingdom!' Yudhishtara said formally.
However King Virata was too shocked. He could not believe what he had done...He turned to Arjuna. 'I cannot believe I have been so thoughtless...' King Virata was worried, because he did not want to be stop being allies of the Pandavas...
Arjuna was about to say something when King Virata held his hands. 'Please...I would feel better...if...' King Virata swallowed as he continued. 'If Princess Uttara agrees to it, will you marry her?'
Arjuna looked shocked..more shocked than King Virata himself. 'NO!' Arjuna said sharply shaking his head. 'I am her guru! I am her teacher! She is like my daughter! I cannot...'
King Virata shook his head sadly, looking crestfallen. Arjuna however smiled. 'Please ask Princess Uttara, whether she would be willing to marry my son Abhimanyu!'