Monday, February 23, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 18

The Samshaptakas organized themselves in the shape of the crescent moon as they bravely drove on towards Arjuna and challenged him to the battle. Arjuna looked at his elder brother and bowed to him and signaled Krishna to move towards the Samshaptakas. The entire Kaurava army watched with delight as Arjuna followed the Samshaptakas, away from Yudhishtara.
*****
Arjuna picked up his conch and blew loudly as he started his battle. It is said that the sound of the conch was so terrible that it could drive the enemies senseless, which was exactly what happened to the Samshaptakas.
The soldiers clutched their ears unable to move as their heart filled with terrors from their worst nightmares. And before they could recover, Arjuna started his attack. Krishna was moving in so swiftly that Arjuna killed the soldiers before any of them could offer any good defence. In fact in the first few minutes, Arjuna was even able to kill a warrior leader of a division whose name of Sudhanwan. The minute the leader of the division fell dead, the soldiers of Sudhanwan's division ran back to the main Kaurava army. All the soldiers were sure that none of them could face Arjuna.
It was at this time that the king of the Trigarthas rallied his troops together. 'Come back, you fools!' he shouted as he drove before the running soldiers. 'You are all sworn to either conquer or die! Running back will bring you the greatest shame! Is that the life you wish for yourself?' he asked the soldiers loudly.
Slowly the words of the king sank in the minds of the soldiers. They realized that they were here for Arjuna and they had only two options – win or die. The soldiers looked at the angry king of the Trigarthas and having no other choice, turned towards Arjuna. They were all ready to face the two invincible Krishnas....
As the soldiers turned and saw Arjuna, they all fired their various weapons at Arjuna, who cut them off before it could reach him, without much effort. 
Arjuna fired the Twashtra weapon. The weapon caused a powerful illusion in the minds of the victims. The group of the Samshaptakas soldiers on whom the weapon was fired suddenly saw Arjuna and Krishna everywhere.
'Arjuna is here!' One of the Samshaptakas soldiers screamed as he fired the arrow and unfortunately killed one of his own.
Another soldier saw Krishna near him and tried to impale him with his sword, only to discover that the person was none other than another solider from his own division.
Arjuna put his knowledge of divine weapons to devastating effect as the Samshaptaka soldiers were killing each other. As the effect of the weapon was wearing off, Arjuna killed the remaining soldiers...
However the king of the Trigarthas and the Mallekas were also warriors. They rallied their soldiers and by sheer numbers, they were able to overwhelm the two warriors. There was a time when the stream of arrows was so continuous that the place where both Krishna and Arjuna were there, there was nothing but a dark cloud of arrows visible.
Arjuna tried cutting down the arrows, but then it was just too many of them. One of the arrows went past Arjuna's defence and pierced Krishna...
A loud cheer rose up from the Samshaptakas because they all thought that Krishna was down....
'Partha! I cannot see!' Krishna winced as he pulled out the arrow from his body. 'I...I feel...'
'KRISHNA!' Arjuna shouted as he hastily pulled out the Vayavya astra (Weapon of the Wind). Arjuna used so much force that the weapon of the Wind, not only drove away the weapons, but also the soldiers who were near them....
The air around the two warriors was cleared as the Samshaptakas saw the two warriors emerging majestically from the dark cloud of arrows and the worst part....Arjuna was still firing the arrows as if nothing had happened....
******
Meanwhile back in the main battlefield, Dronacharya had exactly what he wanted – Yudhishtara without Arjuna by his side. Smiling grimly, Dronacharya ordered his troops in the Garuda formation. Yudhishtara immediately countered it by arranging his own troops in a semi-circular formation.
Watching Drona come forward, Yudhishtara was filled with sudden fear. 
Dhrishtadyumna who was near Yudhishtara shook his head. 'I am meant to kill that man! I will go and stop him, my king! Do not fear!'
And Dhrishtadhyumna fell on Drona's troops. And he fought like a man possessed. Dhrishtadhyumna fought so well that Drona was finding it increasingly difficult to face him. Durmukha, one of the brothers of Duryodhana realizing that his teacher could not fight Dhrishtadhyumna, intervened and challenged Dhrishtadhyumna and led him away to another part of the field.
Now with Dhrishtadhyumna gone, Drona focused his attention back to Yudhishtara. That was when Satyajit, the Panchala prince and presumably, another brother of Druapadi came forward.
The battle between Drona and Satyajit was magnificent, but short.
For a very short while, Satyajit did all the right things, repeatedly countering all the weapons that Drona used. But then Drona showed his true capabilities....Drona beheaded Satyajit as the entire Pandava army watched....
Watching this, Yudhishtara was filled with sudden dread. Satyajit's death and his teacher's face reminded him of Arjuna's words...Even if the entire Pandava army was there, if Satyajit fell....

Yudhishtara did what he had promised Arjuna. He fled from the battlefield....

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 17

Drona was angrily pacing his tent. ‘All I wanted was that you keep Arjuna away from Yudhishtara!’ he shouted at Duryodhana who was sitting grumpily in the side of the tent. ‘I had Yudhishtara right in my sight!’ Drona yelled angrily. ‘Just….’ Drona took a deep breath trying to control himself. ‘And do you know that if the sun had not set, Arjuna would have finished the war today!’ Drona said seething with anger unable to stop himself.
WHAT DO YOU PROPOSE WE DO?’ Duryodhana asked loudly just to stop his teacher from continuing his ranting. Drona angrily opened his mouth and then let out another breath controlling himself. ‘We need people who would draw Arjuna far away from the battlefield! Not one or two warriors....An entire division! So that even if Arjuna wants to get back to Yudhishtara, he should not be able to….’
Nobody said anything, because presumably everyone realized that it was a suicide mission. Since the war started, Arjuna had fought with all the people who had challenged him and Arjuna had never been unsuccessful in killing his opponent....
Duryodhana realized almost with despair how much he missed his grandfather - Bhishma. Though Bhishma had promised that he would never kill the Pandavas....Arjuna had not seemed such a big threat with the grandsire around....
Duryodhana took a deep breath trying to control himself when, Satyakarman, the ruler of the Trigarthas came forward boldly. ‘Me and my brothers would do that!’
Duryodhana and Drona both looked slightly shocked at the man as his four brothers – Satyaratha, Satyavarman, Satyavratha and Satyeshu also came by his side and nodded their heads. 
‘We did nothing to Arjuna, yet in the battlefield, he has humiliated us….again and again.....So we all are burning for revenge against the man!’ Satyaratha said angrily.
Satyakarman looked at his brothers and then back at Drona and Duryodhana. ‘We, the Trigarthas swear that all of us will attack Arjuna and bring him down… or atleast try to bring him down….’
Duryodhana’s eyes shone with anticipation as Satyakarma pronounced firmly. ‘The world would be either without Arjuna or without us!’
The five brothers with their ten thousand chariots promised to lead Arjuna away from Yudhishtara.
Seeing the bravery of the Trigarthas, others also joined them. First to join them was Susharman, the ruler of Prasthala and then the tribes of Mavellakas, Lalithas and Madrakas also joined the Trigarthas.
So now there were a total of thirty thousand soldiers on chariots fighting only against Arjuna and his charioteer – the Dark Lord, Krishna. Their only aim was to make sure Arjuna was not near Yudhishtara....
********
The faithful spies of the Pandavas reported these developments to the generals of the Pandava army.
Yudhishtara looked troubled as he eyed Arjuna.
If I am challenged than I will have to accept it…and because of the sheer numbers of soldiers…I would be away from you!’ Arjuna murmured.
What are we supposed to do, without you?’ Yudhishtara asked worried.
Satyajit!’ Arjuna said firmly pointing at the warrior who was sitting there. ‘Satyajit will protect you….’
Yudhishtara whipped his head head around as Arjuna led the warrior Satyajit, towards Yudhishtara.
Looking at the confident and proud face of Satyajit, Yudhishtara nodded quietly to himself...his worried almost melting away. If Arjuna trusted Satyajit, Yudhishtara saw no reason to doubt the warrior.
Satyajit smiled as Arjuna continued. ‘This brave warrior will protect you no matter what….As long as he is alive, not one person would be able to do anything to you!' Yudhishtara nodded as Arjuna continued in an almost angry tone, '....And brother remember one more thing....’
Yudhishtara frowned as Arjuna continued. ‘If Satyajit falls….no matter what, you will leave the battlefield, immediately!’
WHAT?’ Yudhishtara asked shocked as Arjuna nodded. 
'You want me to run away from the battlefield?' Yudhishtara asked in an aghast tone.
'Should anything happen to Satyajit....even if every single warrior from the Pandava army is surrounding you, you will come back to the camp!' Arjuna repeated. Do you understand?’ Arjuna asked sharply as Yudhishtara looked like he was going to argue.
Looking at the ferocious look on Arjuna’s face, Yudhishtara realized that his brother was not in a mood to listen to his talk and solemnly nodded his head.

And it was after extracting this promise from Yudhishtara that Arjuna started his battle with the Samshaptakas.…. (Samshaptakas are the soldiers who have promised to either win or die in the battlefield.)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 16

The spies of Pandavas told them about Dronacharya's plan to kidnap Yudhishtara alive. The minute Arjuna heard it, he turned to Yudhishtara, his eyes serious. 'As long as I alive, even if Lord Vishnu himself helps Dronacharya, he will not be able to take you in the battlefield!'
The next day Dronacharya led the Kaurava forces and Arjuna protected the Pandava forces. The fight between Drona and Arjuna was so evenly poised that for some time it almost seemed like the two armies were not moving. Whatever Drona did, Arjuna countered it and anything which Arjuna did, Drona nullified it....
Suddenly Drona had a breakthrough and he fell upon the Pandava forces.
Dronacharya was massacring the troops so ruthlessly that they ran from the very sound of his chariot.
Once that Dronacharya had broken into the Pandava army, it was a day of single battles.
First, to stop Drona, Yudhishtara and the other warriors rushed towards the Acharya. The Kauravas came to the protection of Drona.
Shakuni and Sahadeva, Bhima and Vivinsati, Salya and Nakula were having a spirited battle, with one another. In another part Dhrishtaketu and Kripacharya were fighting each other. The two Yadavas – Satyaki (who fought on the side of the Pandavas, because he was disciple of Arjuna) and Kritivarman, were having a vicious one-to-one battle. Elsewhere King Virata was fighting with Karna's son. Drupada was fighting with Bhagadatta and his son Shikandin was fighting with Bhurisravas.
Duryodhana's son Lakshmana fought with Kshtradeva and Paurava fought with Abhimanyu.
Abhimanyu was about to kill Paurava when a warrior cut off Abhimanyu's bow and arrow. Abhimanyu pulled out his sword and jumped down the chariot and was brandishing it around destroyed everyone and everything in his vicinity.
In no time, Paurava was facing the sharp edge of Abhimanyu, completely incapacitated. Abhimanyu was about to raise his sword when Jarasandha picked up a sword and attacked Abhimanyu, or atleast tried to attack him.
Paurava was already down and Abhimanyu lost all interest in fighting him and he turned his attention to Jarasandha. The two fought brilliantly but then Abhimanyu had been trained by Krishna and Arjuna. As Jarasandha came forward to penetrate Abhimanyu's shield, in one swift attack, Abhimanyu cut off Jarasandha's sword. Jarasandha was so shocked that he actually stopped the fight and ran back into his chariot.
But then Salya in order to protect Jarasandha threw his spear at Abhimanyu. Wonders of wonders, Abhimanyu caught the spear right in air and threw the spear down and pulled out his own sword. In no time Abhimanyu was before Salya's chariot and he broke Salya's chariot and also killed Salya's charioteer.
Salya angrily picked up his mace when Bheema intervened. Bheema knew that in a mace fight, few were Salya's equal and besides Abhimanyu had done more than enough damage. Taking his nephew's place, Bheema came forward with his own mace...
It was said that sparks flew when Bheema and Salya's mace met in the air. They both fought brilliantly but for a very short time. Bheema had a ferocious strength was able to quickly render Salya unconscious. Bheema was coming forward to the kill, when Kritivarman dashed forward and took the unconscious Salya in his chariot and drove him away.
Seeing this Vrishasena, Karna's son could take it no more. From deep inside the battlefield he came forward and he did a brilliant job of singlehanded protecting the Kaurava troops who were now about to run away from the battlefield from fear of Bheema. Vrishasena rallied the Kaurava troops so well that the soldiers fought back and now the Pandava army was on the edge.
Satanika, Nakula's son, came forward and he fought with Vrishasena. However Vrishasena was a better warrior and he was about to incapacitate Satanika when the other sons of Draupadi (Satanika was the son of Nakula and Draupadi. She had five sons with the five Pandavas who were called as UpaPandavas and were referred to as the sons of Draupadi.) came forward to protect their brother.
Ashwattaman came forward at this time and he attacked the sons of Draupadi with his own legions.
In the confusion, Drona made his way towards Yudhishtara.
Yudhishtara tried to defend himself but then he was not in the same class as Drona. Drona quickly cut off Yudhishtara's bow and angrily came forward when he was stopped by Kumara. Kumara was a prince of Panchala (presumably the son of Drupad and the brother of Draupadi) and he was given the job of protecting the chariot wheels of Yudhishtara.
Kumara fought like a man possessed that day. He nearly pushed Drona back and destroying the Kaurava troops, like the God of Death. But then this was Drona, the very man who had taught Arjuna. Though Kumara fought with shades of brilliance, in no time at all, Drona killed Kumara and without losing his focus made his way towards Yudhishtara.
On his way towards Yudhishtara, Drona injured Nakula, Shikandin, Satyaki, Uttamaujas and even the sons of Draupadi and pierced their armour. But then today Drona had no time for the rest of them. He just pushed across and moved towards Yudhistara.
Yugandhara, another prince, tried to stand up before Drona. But then Dronacharya killed Yugandhara and without taking a break moved on towards Yudhishtara. Singhasena and Vyaghradatta (another prince of Panchalas) tried to protect Yudhishtara and lost their life to Drona, on that day....
And for one brief moment, Drona stood right in front of Yudhishtara's chariot, his arrow poised and ready pointing right at Yudhishtara. Dronacharya was about to fire the arrow when to his surprise he saw that the arrow broke. Surprised, Dronacharya turned and saw two dark men coming towards him in their magnificent chariot.....
As Arjuna and Krishna came forward, there was not a breath to be wasted as Arjuna fired the arrows so fast that it was not clear as to when he pulled out the arrow and when he shot it. Krishna drove the chariot, weaving in and out of the Drona's army so beautifully that he almost placed Arjuna's target almost in direct line for Arjuna's vision.....The entire division of Drona was filled with arrows as Drona's division could see nothing ahead of them.....

Whether Arjuna would have routed Drona and his troops that was day was anybody's guess, because it was the moment that the sun set. Drona and Duryodhana realizing that nothing more could be done today, called off the day's fight.... 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 15

The Pandavas spent thirteen years in exile according to the conditions of the dice game.
However, the inevitable happened and Duryodhana refused to give Indraprastha back to the Pandavas. War was the verdict.
Being the Royal teacher of Hastinapur, Dronacharya and Kripacharya fought on the side of the Kauravas. Ashwattaman, was already drawn towards the Kauravas and also fought on their side.
Bhishma was the eldest and was a formidable warrior. So for the first ten days of the battle, Bhishma was made as the general of the army.
Using Shikhandi, Drauapdi’s sibling, the Pandavas incapacitated Bhishma. For the remaining 8 days of the battle, Bhishma was lying on the bed of arrows as he watched the battle unfold .
(Shikhandi was Amba reborn. Amba was the Princess of Kashi, and wanted to marry Bhishma. When Bhishma refused to marry her, Amba vowed to be the cause of Bhishma’s death and killed herself. Amba was reborn as Shikhandin, the daughter of the Princess of Panchala. Even as Shikhandin, she remembered who she was in her past life and prayed to a yaksha in the forest. The yaksha converted Shikhandin into a man.
Bhishma had taken a vow that he would never fire a weapon against a woman or children. As Shikhandi was originally a female, Bhishma refused to engage in battle with Shikhandi. Shikhandi went with Arjuna in his chariot on the tenth day. Bhishma refused to fire at Shikhandi allowing Arjuna to incapacitate Bhishma. However the interesting part is that in this story, the Pandavas looking at how much damage Bhishma was causing to the Pandava army, went to Bhishma and asked him the advice on how they could defeat him. Bhishma himself gave the Pandavas the way of killing him!)
After Bhishma fell, the first thing which happened was that Karna was called to fight the battle. When Bhishma assumed the command of the Kaurava army, the first condition that Bhishma imposed was that he did not want Karna to be fighting in his army. (The reason given by Bhishma for not letting Karna fight was that Karna was taught by Parashurama, whom Bhishma thought of as an enemy. Both Bhishma and Karna were taught by Parashurama. However when Bhishma spurned Amba’s proposal to marry her, Amba went to many kings to have Bhishma killed. None of the kings were brave enough to fight Bhishma. The only person who came forward to fight for Amba was Parashurama. Both Parashurama and Bhishma fought for a long time. However Parashurama withdrew from the fight saying that he could not win this fight. It was only after this that Amba killed herself. As Parashurama had fought with Bhishma, Bhishma was angry with him and hence refused to let Karna, Parashurama’s disciple, fight. However there could be another reason also. Bhishma was one of the few people in the Kaurava army who knew of Karna’s origin. Bhishma knew that Karna was the son of Kunti and he wanted to make sure that all the six sons of Kunti survived the war, which could be why Bhishma refused to let Karna fight)
Almost everyone in the Kaurava army wanted Karna to succeed Bhishma, but then Karna was a smart warrior. He realized that he was neither the eldest in the Kaurava army nor did he have the respect of the entire Kaurava army (Karna was always considered as a charioteer’s son and throughout the epic, he was never respected as a warrior.) Karna realized that for any army to win the war it was important not to have any internal strife between the warriors. So Karna performed a brilliant move to avert any misgivings. He suggested the name of Drona as the commander of the Kaurava army.
Duryodhana gladly accepted the suggestion and so Dronacharya was made the general of the army.
Drona was shocked. The newfound position made the simple Dronacharya think that Duryodhana actually trusted him. In a spur of the moment, Dronacharya looked at Duryodhana proudly and told him. ‘Ask me any boon in the battle and I will grant it to you!’
Duryodhana smiled. ‘Bring Yudhishtara to me, alive!’ was all he said.
Alive?’ Drona asked surprised.
Duryodhana nodded. ‘If you kill Yudhishtara, you will bring in the wrath of Arjuna!’ Duryodhana almost shuddered as he continued. ‘And he would possibly destroy all of us, the very same day! So….please bring Yudhishtara alive! I can make Yudhishtara play dice with me! And I will make sure Yudhishtara is exiled again….Yudhishtara is a man of his words! If he lost, he would walk away and the Pandavas would follow him! There would be no further bloodshed!’ Duryodhana said triumphantly.

Dronacharya looked at the Pandava army at a distance and turned to Duryodhana. ‘If Arjuna is not there with Yudhishtara….!’ Drona smiled faintly. ‘Yudhishtara would be here, tied and bound, by sundown!’

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 14

When Dhirdarashtra came to know of the marriage of the Pandavas to Draupadi, he probably realized that the Pandavas were no longer poor sons of his brother - Pandu. Dhirdarastra immediately divided the kingdom of Hastinapur and assigned the Khandavaprastha to the Pandavas. It is interesting to note that the exact reason given by Dhiradarashtra for dividing the kingdom was that he wanted to make sure that there was no difference of opinion between his sons and the Pandavas and that he wanted to make sure that the Pandavas faced no further injury.
Khandavaprastha was originally a desert. Arjuna and Krishna helped Lord Agni in burning the dangerous forest of Khandava which was home to many asuras and nagas.
In doing so, Arjuna and Krishna won the friendship of one of the most brilliant architects of an era long gone – Maya, the architect of the asuras.
When Arjuna spared the life of Maya, who resided in the Khandaprastha, Maya insisted on doing something in return to the Pandavas. Wanting nothing for himself, Arjuna asked Maya to obey the wishes of Krishna. Krishna asked Maya to build a ‘sabha’ (Meeting Hall) in Khandavaprastha, of such grandeur that no one would be able to imitate the sabha even a after examining the same again and again. Krishna asked Maya to build the sabha combining the architecture of the Devas, Asuras and the humans.
And thus in the place of the barren Khandavaprastha came the exquisite Indraprastha. It is said that Indraprastha rivaled the beauty of the Bhogvathi, the prosperous city in the netherworld and Amaravathi, the city of Indra, in the heavens.
Such a beautiful place was one of the root causes for the ultimate war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas….
Subsequently with the help of Krishna, the Pandavas killed Jarasandha, a powerful king of Magadha. After the death of Jarasandha, Yudhishtara performed the Rajasuya yagna which was for proclaiming himself as the emperor of the country.
Yudhishtara invited Dhiradarashtra and the other elders of Hastinapur for the Rajasuya. It was during the Rajasuya yagna, Duryodhana was given the job of handling the wealth which came in from the various kings of the country. The collected wealth was enormous and given generously. The ‘Sabha’ was probably built using optic illusions because in some places it looked like a stream was running through the palace and some places looked like the place was closed, though the door was open wide.
Duryodhana saw all this and he burned with jealousy. Already he felt insecure of his cousins, now their prosperity almost drove him insane.
He along with Karna, Dusshasana and Shakuni hatched a plot to take everything away from the Pandavas without any unnecessary bloodshed. And so with Dhirdarashtra’s blessings came the dice game…A simple game which went so much out of control that it changed the very essence of the enmity between the Pandavas and the Kauravas….
During the dice game, Duryodhana, Dusshasana and Karna misbehaved with Draupadi so badly that it was said that unholy signs which signified the end of the entire Kaurava race was heard and seen by all the people in the Kuru assembly. And in the name of the dice game being considered proper, the Pandavas were also quiet and did not question the atrocities of Duryodhana, Dusshasana and Karna.
And strangely enough, the great teacher – Dronacharya, the man who had taught the Kauravas and the Pandavas, kept quiet when Drauapdi came asking him about the rightness of Duryodhana’s act. Not just him, Bhishma and Kripacharya also chose to remain silent…..


Friday, January 9, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 13

'Her intelligence is unrivaled!' The people whispered.
'She is supposed to be as beautiful as Goddess Sri herself!' Others spoke.
'The fragrance from her body is supposed to spread for two miles!' Yet another spoke.
The Pandavas heard the words of people around them as they were walking towards the Panchala kingdom to attend the swayamvara of the fire-born princess. As they were still in hiding from the Kauravas, the Pandavas joined with the Scholars of the Vedas and dressed as the scholars as they went to the Panchala kingdom.

The swayamvara of Princess Draupadi was a colourful affair to say the least. The festivities were nothing compared to anything ever seen in the country. Princes and Kings from the entire country had gathered to see the swayamvara...all of them nursing a secret hope of marrying the glorious princess.

And when the royalty saw Draupadi, they all realized that all that they had done was still not worth it. The dark princess with her intelligent, sharp eyes was beyond any wealth that the monarchs could offer.
Dhrishtadyumna led his sister to the hall and the entire hall drew collective gasp at the sight of the princess. Realizing that he had the attention of every single person in the hall, Dhrishtadhyumna pointed to the heavy bow lying on a pedestal in the middle of the hall. 'Any person who strings this bow and hits the tiny target on the machine above shall win my sister's hand!'

Dhrishtadhyumna introduced his sister to all the suitors as she signaled for the people to start with the competition.

All the princes came and tried their luck. But none of them could even lift the heavy bow...stringing it...was a distant dream.

Looking disdainfully at all of them, Karna got up as he went towards the bow. He effortlessly lifted it and was about to string it when Draupadi called out. 'I will not marry him!' 
And so that was it. Even before Karna could participate in the swayamvara, Draupadi rejected him as her suitor. Karna was vexed as he dropped the bow back and walked back to his seat.
(As Veda Vyasa's Mahabharatha makes no mention of anybody protesting Draupadi's comment, it is obvious that during the swayamvara, the bride could decide who could or could not participate in the tournament. )

In the first row of the royalty was a dark prince watching the events. He eyed all the princes who had come and was shaking his head as he saw them one by one. He then turned his attention to the scholars who had come to attend the event. He watched all of them and suddenly his eyes widened. He turned to his brother beside him. 'Rama! Do you see those five scholars?' he whispered

The strong Rama turned to the people whom his brother was pointing and grinned to himself. 'Those scholars look smitten by the princess of Panchala! And....' Rama frowned as he studied them again. 'These men hardly look like scholars....They look so strong and powerful....'
'Yes they do!' his brother said nodding as he smiled....

*******

Drupada was getting worried. He expected that the competition that he had set for the person winning his daughter's hand was difficult....but this was getting out of hand. Almost all the princes had tried to lift the bow and none of them had succeeded....

Dhrishtadhyumna sensing his father's discomfiture called out to all the people in the assembly. 'This competition is open to all the people here! Any of you may also try to lift the bow....'

The princes and the kings scoffed at this idea. When the mighty warriors were struggling with to even lift the bow, there was no way that the puny scholars could do anything....But the warriors were in for a surprise.

Among the scholars, a man came forward. The man looked powerful...hardly like any scholar that the royalty had ever seen. The scholar looked at Draupadi before going towards the bow. The princess and the commoner saw each other....speaking volumes without uttering word.

The scholar came forward and much to the surprise of all the people there, the man first prostrated to the bow. Getting up, the man touched the bow and before anybody could blink, the man picked up the bow and began to string it....

The warriors were awestruck as the man picked up the arrow and shot at the tiny target in the machine...The five arrows flew in one after the other in such quick succession that nobody was even able to see the five arrows being shot...

The entire assembly watched as the fire-born princess eagerly came forward with a beautiful smile as shegarlanded the scholar...

The dark prince was watching the entire event with a smile....

******

The kings and the princes could not believe it. The dark Panchali was going to be the wife of a scholar...There was a big uproar in the assembly as the kings and the princes were now angrily pulling out their swords trying to kill the man whom Panchali had chosen as her husband.
But then none of the princes knew who they were up against.

The scholar was able to swiftly deal with all of them. Karna and the scholar fought with each other but as the fight progressed, Karna began to have doubts of who the man was....The man fought like someone else that Karna knew....But then, Karna believing that the man was not a warrior, stopped the fighting. Meanwhile another gigantic hefty scholar was fighting with Shalya, the king of Madra and effortlessly defeated him.

In the ensuring confusion, five scholars led the princess of Panchala away with them....

*****

'Mother!' Arjuna shouted as he came inside the house of the potter that they were staying for the night. 'Mother! See what I have brought!'
Kunti was worried about her sons gone for so long and missed her son's ecstatic expression. 'Share it between your brothers!' she said absently looking for her other sons.
Kunti was lost for words when she saw five shocked expressions looking back at her. Frowning she wondered what she had said wrong, when she spied a heavenly perfume in the room. She saw at the door and saw a gloriously beautiful girl standing there. That was when Kunti realized the folly of what she had said. It dawned on her that her son had won the swayamvara...The Princess of Panchala had chosen Arjuna as her husband and she, Kunti, had unthinkingly asked Arjuna to...Kunti shook her head trying to clear it wondering how she had spoken without thinking.
'I spoke without realizing...' Kunti said looking very embarrassed.
Yudhishtara felt as if someone had just flicked on a light in his head. He remembered what his great grandfather Veda Vyasa had said just before they had come here...
You shall not have one husband...but five of them....

*****

'Do you know who I am?' A mischievous voice reached the group as they all turned. Standing before them was a tall, sturdily built, dark man with a smiling face.

The five Pandavas looked at each other and then their mother who was looking speechless as the dark prince continued. 'I am Krishna, a prince of the Yadavas and I am also....' Krishna looked at Kunti with a another mischievous smile. '...your mother's brother's son!' (Surasena was the father of Vasudeva and Prutha. Surasena gave Prutha in adoption to his cousin Kuntibhoja who changed Prutha's name to Kunti. Krishna was Vasudeva's son and the Pandavas were the sons of Kunti.)

'How did you know that we were alive?'Yudhishtara asked as he looked at the Dark Lord, bewildered.

'Whatever you do, you can never hide who you really are!' Krishna said as he watched the five Pandavas with their mother and Draupadi. 'I am really glad that you survived the fire at the house of lac!' Krishna said.

Then realizing that the Pandavas were still in hiding from the Kauravas and that they were drawing unnecessary attention to themselves by staying there, Krishna and Balarama left the place as quickly as they had come...

*******

Drupada badly wanted to know the name of the man who had won the competition. Seeing the man in action, for one second Drupada wondered whether it was indeed the great Arjuna himself. But then remembering that Arjuna had perished in the house of lac, Drupada had tried to come forward trying to know more about the man.

But the fight between the princes and man whom Draupadi had chosen, made it impossible for Drupada to come any closer.

And by the time all the mess was sorted out, the princess and the winner were both missing.

Drupada sent his son Dhristadhyumna to find out about the people, wondering who the winner really was....

Dhrishtadhyumna followed his sister and quietly overheard the conversation of the people in the potter's hut and realized that whoever the people were, they were warriors...He happily went back and reported the matter to his father.

Drupada called on the people in the potter's house and invited them to the palace.

The five Pandavas came with Kunti and Draupadi to the Panchala palace. Drupada was ecstatic when he realized that it was indeed the great Arjuna who had won his daughter's hand.

But then he was in for a shock...

'All the five of us would marry the princess of Panchala!' Yudhishtara, the eldest Pandava told the flabbergasted king.

Yudhishtara was badly worried as he saw the shocked expression on the face of the king and was almost relieved when he heard a voice behind him. 'Yes! That is what is meant to be, King Drupada!'

King Drupada and Yudhishtara turned as they saw Veda Vyasa come inside the royal palace. 'Yudhishtara speaks the truth! The princess of Panchala is meant to marry all the five Pandavas!' the sage said in a grave voice.

Before Drupada could speak, Sage Vyasa continued. 'Before you speak, there is a story from the ancient times which you must know!Drupada sat in an uneasy silence as Sage Veda Vyasa continued.

'There was a time when Lord Shiva was playing dice with the Goddess! It was during this time that Lord Indra was very disrespectful towards the couple! Lord Shiva got very angry with Indra and pushed Indra inside a cave! Inside that cave Indra was in for a surprise as he found that there were four other people! The other four men were all powerful Indras, of different times. The five Indras who were named Vishwabhuk, Bhutadhaman, Sivi, Santi and Tejaswin were all looking morose because they had all at some point of time angered the three eyed Lord.

Lord Shiva looked at the five Indras and cursed them 'It is only when the five of you are born among humans and fight with ordinary and celestial weapons that you will regain your place in the heavens!' he thundered.

The present Indra however appealed to Lord Shiva. 'Please your Lord, instead of me being born as a human...I would send a portion of myself with all my energy...and create a person and please send that person to earth, instead of me! Please Lord concede this one wish!'

Lord Shiva relented and granted this wish. He allowed the five Indras to each create a human being who would have a portion of their powers and be born on earth as them.
Seeing them, the Goddess Sri herself agreed to be the wife of the five Indras in the mortal human world.

Veda Vyasa smiled as he looked at Drupada. 'The five Pandavas that you see are the five Indras of old....'

'That means...' Drupada asked shocked as Veda Vyasa nodded his head.

'Draupadi is the incarnation of Goddess Sri! And she is meant to marry all the five of them!' Veda Vyasa said firmly.

Drupada looked shocked as Veda Vyasa continued and told Drupada the story of the daughter of the sage who prayed to Lord Shiva for a husband. 'The daughter asked for a husband who had every single accomplishment, in the world! Lord Shiva knew that it was impossible for one man to have all those characteristics, which is why Lord Shiva made sure that the sage's daughter married five men!' Veda Vyasa said finally.

- The author thanks Mr. A. Narayanan for his review comments .

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 12

The miner who had helped the Pandavas build the canal out of palace after the burning of the house of lac come back had come back and closed the hole. He had done such a skillful job that nobody realized that the Pandavas could have escaped the fire.
Realizing that they were not yet powerful enough to fight against the sons of Dhirdarashtra, the Pandavas along with their mother were in hiding in the villages near the banks of the river Ganga.
That was the time when they were hiding in the village of Ekachakra. While they were hiding there, Bheema killed a monster named Bakasura to protect the family in whose house they were staying.
Destiny definitely worked in mysterious ways here.
In the village of Ekachakra, a man who had traveled far and wide for the study of the Vedas came and stayed in the house of the Pandavas. There the man spoke of all the kingdoms that he had visited. That was when the man spoke of how Arjuna helped his teacher Drona in defeating the King Drupada of Panchala. The man who told the stories had no idea to whom he was telling the story! The man further told the Pandavas about the birth of the three children of King Drupada – Shikandi, Dhrishtadhyumna and Draupadi.
All the five Pandavas were smitten the minute they heard of the beauty of Draupadi. None of them spoke out aloud but all the five of them wanted to marry this dark, celestial beauty.
Kunti realized this almost immediately and immediately made preparations to leave for the kingdom of Panchala,
Together as they were about to set out to the kingdom of Panchala, they had a very distinguished guest coming to meet them. The Pandavas were shocked when standing before them was none other than their own great-grandfather Veda Vyasa, the son of Satyavathi!
As they bowed to the sage, the sage told them a very interesting story. 'Before you begin your journey, my children, there is something that you need to know! A story!'
The Pandavas looked at each other wondering what the great man had to say when he continued.
'In times of old, there lived an illustrious sage who had a beautiful daughter! The daughter was extremely intelligent and well-versed in all the arts but she unfortunately could not get married!'
'The daughter wanted to get married and she performed severe penances to Lord Shiva! After Lord Shiva appeared before her, the woman was completely speechless. But when the Lord Shiva agreed to grant her a boon, the woman spoke of the topmost wish in her mind.
She said 'I want a husband! Oh, I definitely want a husband! I need a husband! I need to have a husband! Please Lord, I want to have a husband!'
Lord Shiva heard the woman and smiled to himself. 'I grant you your boon! You shall not have one husband! You shall have five of them!'
The woman was aghast as she rapidly shook her head. 'No! My Lord! I wish for only one husband!'
The three-eyed Lord shook his head. 'You asked for a husband not once, but five times...so in another life you shall have five husbands!'
The Pandavas listened to this story as Sage Veda Vyasa continued. 'I think that sage's daughter has been reborn now! I think you will meet her when you travel to the kingdom of Panchala! Go and fulfill yours and her destiny, my children!'
With these blessings, the sages vanished from there, as the Pandavas set out for the capital of Panchala.
**********
Meanwhile Drupada who had been defeated by Arjuna had actually been spell-bound by the archery of the young man. Though Arjuna had worked for Drona, Drupada could not forget the fact that Arjuna was the most faultless archer ever. As much as Drupada wanted revenge on Drona, Drupada wanted to somehow be related to Arjuna. And so the minute Draupadi had sprung up from the sacrificial fire, the only desire Drupada had was to marry Draupadi to Arjuna.
But then Drupada got the information about the death of the Pandavas in the house of lac. Drupada was devastated.
He finally decided that if he could have not have Arjuna as his son-in-law, he needed to have someone who was atleast half as talented as Arjuna, as his son-in-law.
So for this purpose, Drupada organized a difficult archery contest which only the likes of Arjuna would win. He invited the people from all over the country to participate in the contest with the condition that the winner could marry his daughter.