Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 22

Duryodhana watched his demoralized troops heading back to the tent and was angry beyond reason.
Today was a failure on two counts and Duryodhana knew it – one was that the Samshaptakas were unable to keep Arjuna away from the main battlefield. Duryodhana knew that he had lost more than enough people on a single day, then was sensible in a single day of war, but then he ruthlessly crushed all thoughts in that direction. The second and the more grievous cause of anger was that Dronacharya had failed to deliver on his promise. The more he thought about it, the more Duryodhana got furious about it. That man…that teacher had promised to bring Yudhishtara captive to him. And he had failed....Duryodhana fumed angrily.
Karna sensing that his friend was in a dangerous mood, led his friend away from the Guru. Karna realized the importance of having the soldiers believe that all was well in the army. Having two top generals verbally assault each other, would do nothing for the morale of the soldiers. So that day Karna was able to get his friend to sleep without a confrontation with Dronacharya. Karna hoped….really hoped that his friend’s bad mood would be washed away in the morning….
*****
Duryodhana woke up early in the morning and after his prayers, the first person he saw was Dronacharya. As Karna was not there near him, Duryodhana felt his anger rise again. Without caring about anything, Duryodhana lashed out at the teacher. ‘You promised! You promised!’ Duryodhana shouted so loudly that almost every single Kaurava soldier heard him. ‘You had Yudhishtara right in your sight and you failed! You purposely did not capture him!’ Duryodhana said in a sneering voice. 
Dronacharya looked lost for words as he looked unable to talk back. The sudden paling of the teacher combined with the silence only made Duryodhana more angry. ‘The Gods themselves cannot stand against you and you are trying to tell me that you failed to bring Yudhishtara captive, because the Pandavas stopped you!’ Duryodhana yelled loudly.
Jayadratha, the king of Sindhu watched this scene quietly. Being a soldier of the Kaurava army, he knew that Drona had done no wrong. It was just that Arjuna had been a brilliant fighter. Besides now Jayadratha saw a few soldiers snickering as they saw Dronacharya receiving a verbal lash from Duryodhana. He walked up to Duryodhana leading the two men inside the camp. ‘My friend! Let us talk about this inside!’ Jayadratha said in a fierce whisper.
Who the…’ Duryodhana shouted almost pushing Jayadratha away. But Jayadratha was firm as he pulled the prince inside the tent with him.
Dronacharya was unable to believe that Duryodhana was shouting at him for yesterday’s battle. Dronacharya did not understand how Duryodhana could blame him for it. And adding to this was the feeling of shame…Duryodhana talked to him like this before all the soldiers…
We need to have a plan!’ Jayadratha was talking to Duryodhana in a soothing voice.
What plan?’ Duryodhana demanded angrily. ‘No matter how much we plan, this man here, does not seem capable of keeping his promise!’
My friend!’ Karna hurriedly came inside as Jayadratha sighed in relief. If anyone could control Duryodhana, it would be Karna.
'Karna! Another day in battle and the cursed Yudhishtara is not yet captured! Despite having the best soldiers...I just...' Duryodhana looked angrily at Dronacharya as Karna shook his head.
'I will form the Chakravyugha today!' Drona said finally finding his voice.
There was a silence in the tent for some minutes as everyone thought what Dronacharya had just said.
Karna slowly nodded his head. 'There are only four people in the Pandava army who can break the Chakravyugha!'
Jayadratha frowned as he looked at Karna. 'Four?'
It was Dronacharya, who answered. 'Krishna, Arjuna, Pradhyumna....'
Jayadratha frowned. 'Pradhyumna? The first son of Krishna?' Dronacharya nodded.
'Who is the fourth?' Jayadratha asked as the teacher looked like he had no intention of continuing.
'Abhimanyu!' Dronacharya said after a long time. He looked at Duryodhana, with hurt anger. 'If I do not get Yudhishtara today, I will atleast kill a Maharathi (the highest grade of warriors) of the Pandavas!'
Duryodhana cleared his throat and shook his head. 'If Arjuna can break the Chakravyugha, what is going to prevent him, from doing what he did yesterday? He would just break open any formation and lay waste all our soldiers!' Duryodhana said half in anger and half in misery.
'The Samshaptakas have to still keep their promise!' Karna reminded Duryodhana gently.
Duryodhana looked at Karna for a few seconds and then again turned to Dronacharya. 'If Arjuna and Krishna are led away by the Samshaptakas....then....'
Dronacharya slowly nodded his head. 'Yes! Either the Pandavas would fall to our formation or they would have to send the young Abhimanyu inside!'
'Abhimanyu is a minor!' Duryodhana said in a sneering manner. 'What will he do against the might of the Kaurava army?'
Duryodhana suddenly faltered as he watched Drona in anger again. 'If Abhimanyu is able to break the formation, the other Pandavas would just follow him and wreck the soldiers! What sort of a foolish plan is that?' he demanded angrily.
'No, they won't!' Jayadratha said softly as all of them looked at the king of the Sindhu.
'What are you talking about?' Duryodhana asked.
Jayadratha said with an almost dangerous smile. 'Just lead Arjuna away with the Samshaptakas, I will make sure that the other four Pandavas cannot do anything!'
'You are saying that you can stop the four Pandavas?' Karna asked almost shocked at the expression on Jayadratha's face.
'Yes!' Jayadratha said with a conviction that shocked Karna, more than anything else.

Duryodhana gave a chilling smile as he turned to Karna. 'I believe, today, the Pandavas would lose someone powerful and really close to them!'

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 21

The second battle between Arjuna and Bhagadatta was ridiculously short. Bhagadatta had had a special and very strong armour created for his elephant – Supratika. Any arrows shot at the armour were just deflected by the shield as the elephant went on a rampage mode.
But this time around, Arjuna did not aim at the armour. The armour had weak links which were small, almost hidden to the sight of normal humans. But then Arjuna shot precisely at the weak links. He shot it so perfectly that as the elephant trudged towards him, the armour just collapsed as the weak links were broken. And so right in the middle of the battlefield, as Supratika was charging towards the two Krishnas, its armour fell like a heap on the ground.
Without even waiting for a second, Arjuna pulled out a potent arrow and this time shot through all the vital organs of the elephant....
Supratika, the fighter elephant had endured much and could do nothing more....It fell on the battlefield.
******
Bhagadatta watched in horror as he felt Supratika was moving sluggishly. He realized that the elephant was fighting in its last breath and tried to urge the elephant forward. But deep down Bhagadatta realized that the elephant could no longer obey him...
Angrily Bhagadatta, jumped down on the ground. He started firing non stop at Arjuna. But then, the arrows never really did any damage to Arjuna.
And without Supratika, Bhagadatta found that he had lost half his strength. The brave king tried to fight, but then Arjuna picked up a crescent shaped arrow. He aimed at Bhagadatta and let it go....
The brave Bhagadatta fell dead near his beloved elephant.
*****
The entire Kaurava army watched in fascination the twang of the Gandiva stopped for a few seconds. They all turned towards the direction where Arjuna and Krishna had been and were shocked to see that Arjuna had got down from the chariot. Arjuna went towards the dead warrior and closed his eyes for a few seconds. With regret in his eyes, Arjuna folded his hands in prayer and went around the dead warrior.

Before the other warriors could register any of this, Arjuna nodded his head and went back to Krishna, in the chariot.
'He was Indra's friend!' Arjuna said, though Krishna had not asked anything.'He fought against me but he was still my father's favourite! And so I paid my respects to him!' Arjuna said as the Gandiva was back in his hands.
******

The Kaurava army watched as Arjuna was studying the battlefield, when his attention was drawn to two warriors driving ferociously towards him. 'Kesava! Achala and Vrishaka are coming towards us! We will meet them in battle, today!'
Achala and Vrishaka were the brothers of Gandhari and were the princes of Gandhar like Shakuni. On seeing the death of Bhagadatta, the two of them challenged Arjuna to a fight. But as usual, they found themselves woefully short-matched to Arjuna. The warriors fought with Arjuna separately. Then Arjuna destroyed the chariot of Vrishaka, who jumped over to the chariot of his brother.
Now in the same chariot, the brothers were able to coordinate better, but then Arjuna quickly killed the two of them....
Shakuni who was watching this, let out a roar of despair as he drove angrily towards Arjuna. Duryodhana who was near his uncle also ran to help his uncle. Duryodhana threw a various weapons at Arjuna, which Arjuna cut down.
But Shakuni was a warrior of a different mettle. He was learned in the art of illusions and he created weapons from this power and hurled them at Arjuna.
However it did not matter to Arjuna, what came in his way, he just cut down any and all weapons, which came anywhere near him.
Arjuna almost finished decimating the last of the weapons, when a very strange sight met his eyes. He saw various wild animals in the battlefield coming towards him, trying to eat him. For a second Arjuna was shocked, but just for a second. Then he remembered that Shakuni was extremely good with the art of illusions and Arjuna used a weapon for burning up all the illusions which faced him.
The battlefield then looked normal to Arjuna as he sighed in relief. However Arjuna dropped his guard too quick. Suddenly around him, there was a thick darkness in all sides. A darkness so thick that nothing seemed to penetrate it. Arjuna momentarily lost his vision as he felt the horses move without a tether, wobbling.
'Partha!' Krishna's voice came from somewhere, but Arjuna did not know where.....
And the worst was that this illusion was not a battle of weapons. From within the impenetrable darkness came voices...Harsh voices which yelled and shouted at Arjuna...The voices cursed him for being what he was...
Arjuna almost faltered, but then he remembered the weapon of Jyotishka. The very purpose of the Jyotishka astra was to dispel this darkness. Arjuna knew that he had to do something fast. The horses were getting nervous in the dark.
Quickly Arjuna let the Jyotishka and the darkness disappeared. But in its place appeared a huge torrent of water gushing ferociously at him. But Arjuna was ready. Using the Aditya astra, he burnt up the entire water.
Arjuna waited for anything more to come.
There were again some more illusions, but Arjuna faced all of it.
Arjuna then pulled out his arrow and aimed straight for Shakuni. Shakuni, knowing that he could not handle Arjuna in archery any more, fled from the battlefield....

After this there was no holding back Arjuna. He fell on the Kaurava army. It is said that he was so devastatingly good that not even a single soldier dared to stand before him. Veda Vyasa describes Arjuna's archery in a very scenic manner, saying that the soldiers before Arjuna ran away like a river Ganga parting when there was mountain in the middle.
The soldiers from the massacred division ran away and mixed with Drona and Duryodhana's division.
Meanwhile elsewhere in the field, there was another warrior of the Pandavas called Nila who was destroying the Kaurava soldiers. Wishing to stop the massacre of Kaurava soldiers. Ashwattaman challenged Nila to a fight.
The battle between the Nila and Ashwattaman was fierce. Nila cut off Ashwattaman's standards and umbrella. Watching Ashwattaman without his standard, Nila smirked as he pulled out his sword to kill Ashwattaman. But Nila had forgottent that Ashwattaman still had his bow. He fired his unerring arrow at Nila, killing the warrior on the spot...

For the Kauravas, Drona was making mincemeat of the Panchala army facing him. Unable to bear this, Bheema attacked Drona. In the madness and the mayhem which followed, no one escaped the battle unhurt. Bheema with his ferocious strength was on a rampage and Drona was clinically annihilating the Pandava soldiers before him.

And then came the battle that everyone was waiting for. Arjuna found himself face to face with Karna. However before the epic battle could begin, the other Pandava soldiers also joined the fight. Dhristadhyumna, Bheema and Satyaki all fought with Karna. Karna magnificently, fought not only Arjuna, but also dealt with the arrows of the other warriors.

The other Kaurava soldiers also joined Karna. But then this battle was costly for Karna. He lost three of his brothers – the brothers born to his adopted mother – Radha, to Arjuna on that day.

But before Karna could retaliate, Satyaki challanged Karna. Satyaki fought brilliantly well and injured Karna really badly and Satyaki also broke Karna's bow. Realizing that Satyaki was in a dangerous mood and fearing for Karna's life, Drona and Duryodhana came to Karna's rescue.
However Karna needed no help. He fought on his own against the Pandava soldiers.

The bloody war would have gone on mindlessly....But then the earth received some respite from the continuous killing as the sun set, stopping the day of war....

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 20

Krishna smiled as he turned his attention to the battlefield driving towards Bhagadatta and his elephant Supratika. There were almost upon the king of Pragjyotishpur when an arrow whizzed passed Arjuna.
Startled Arjuna turned and saw that it was Susarman, the king of the Trigarthas, one of the Samshaptakas.
Arjuna badly wanted to go to Bhagadatta who was killing untold number of Pandava soldiers, but then the Samshaptakas were obviously challenging him again to a fight. Unable to decide, Arjuna turned to Krishna. 'Krishna! I cannot decide! Whom do I attack?'
Krishna saw that his friend was in a dilemma and when any warrior failed to reach a proper decision, it was impossible for him to fight properly. Besides Arjuna trusted him to take the right decision, Krishna whirled the horses and led them right towards the Samshaptakas again.
Arjuna did not question Krishna or ask him the reasons behind his gesture. He just realized that the Dark Lord wanted him to fight these soldiers instead of going to Bhagadatta and just did what he was told. Arjuna fell on the Samshaptakas.....
Arjuna rendered Susarman senseless and killed Susarman's brothers who had attacked him.
The Samshaptaka soldiers were running away from Arjuna when he was finished, Arjuna saw the battlefield without any soldiers.
Standing right in front of him was Bhagadatta....Bhagadatta with his angry elephant – Supratika.
It is said that the fight between Bhagadatta and Arjuna was a sight to watch. The Dark Lord and Arjuna in the swift horses were traveling all around Bhagadatta trying to find a weak spot in his armour and Bhagadatta with his powerful elephant which was trying to get an opportunity to trample on Krishna and Arjuna....It was a battle of brute strength against swiftness.
Bhagadatta pulled out an arrow made of strong iron as he shot it straight at Arjuna. Arjuna cut it down before it reached him. Krishna in the meantime, deciding to give advantage to Arjuna, turned the chariot, bringing it almost right behind Bhagadatta and Supratika.
However Arjuna, knowing the rules of war well, did not hit the elephant from behind, as Krishna urged the horses towards Bhagadatta.
In the time it took for Arjuna to switch sides, Supratika demolished a part of the elephant division of the Pandavas.
Angered by this, Arjuna and Bhagadatta had a fierce fight, where Bhagadatta matched Arjuna, arrow for arrow,lance for lance. Slowly Arjuna was gaining the upper hand, when suddenly Bhagadatta hit an arrow which made off with Arjuna's crown.
Angrily Arjuna pulled out arrow after arrow and shot it rapidly at Bhagadatta. Bhagadatta finally pulled out a fierce weapon, the likes of which Arjuna had heard, but never seen.
Arjuna watched with almost a horrid fascination, as Bhagadatta attached the arrow to the string and pointed the weapon straight at Arjuna. Bhagadatta hesitated for a fraction of a second and with a smile, let the arrow go....
Arjuna thought it was all over. He never thought that he would ever even see the Vaishnava weapon, let alone, be the one who was going to be the victim of the Vaishnava weapon. The weapon had no counter. For what it was worth, Arjuna shot at the weapon, trying to bring it down. But then the weapon just bulldozed the firing arrows as if it was nothing and with unerring aim made straight for the two Krishnas.
Arjuna saw the entire thing happening in slow motion as he realized dully that he had failed his brother – Yudhishtara. If Yudhishtara was to win the war, it would be without him. Arjuna saw the Vaishnava weapon almost upon him, when Arjuna saw Krishna stand up from his seat in the front of the chariot. Arjuna shouted something unintelligible when the weapon passed straight through Krishna. Arjuna was numb and he closed his eyes, as his mind completely abandoned him. Krishna...his Krishna....had taken the Vaishnava weapon for him...
Arjuna realized the futility of the action. If anything happened to Krishna, Arjuna thought numbly, forget fighting, Arjuna was not even willing to live. He would gladly go the same place where Krishna was....
Arjuna was all prepared to hear the sudden hush in the battlefield. He even thought that the world itself would stop without Krishna...But it took a moment's notice for Arjuna to realize that nothing happened. The battle continued exactly as it had before as if nobody noticed anything wrong.
'Partha! What happened? You are not going to fight?' the voice of the Dark Lord came as it always did. Somewhere in Arjuna's mind, it registered that he was still hearing Krishna's voice. He opened his eyes and saw with considerable shock that Krishna was where he always was. The new addition if any, was a garland in his neck, which had not been there a few minutes back.
'Krishna?' Arjuna sure wanted to believe that everything was alright, but then what he saw.....
'Bhagadatta just fired the Vaishnava weapon!' Krishna said taking the chariot slightly away from the battlefield.
Arjuna wanted to say something but then words utterly failed him. He wondered what Krishna was saying or whether he had imagined the whole thing.
'I saw the weapon hit you!' Arjuna said finally as the words formed in his mind.
'It is mine, my friend! The Vaishnava weapon is mine! It will come back to me! It cannot hurt me!' Krishna said almost grinning.
Somewhere, Arjuna realized that Krishna had done what he had always done – save his life....
'You promised!' Arjuna said almost dizzy with relief. 'You promised....' Arjuna hissed angrily wondering exactly how quickly he was going to kill Bhagadatta. 'You promised that you would not fight!'
'I also promised to protect you, my friend!' Krishna said in a reasonable voice. 'That weapon – the Vaishnava, it has no counter! That is the reason I absorbed it...!'
'How on earth, does that monster have that weapon?' Arjuna demanded angrily, still not able to believe what he had seen.
'Bhagadatta's father is Narakasura!' Krishna said by way of explanation. 'There are four forms I have, my friend! Out of my four forms, one is of Narayana, in the form which reclines and is asleep for a thousand years. When I awake in that form, I grant any person any boon that they seek. Bhuma Devi, the Earth Goddess knows that and Narakasura is her son! When I awoke as Narayana, Bhuma Devi asked for the Vaishnava weapon for her son! And I gave it to her!'
'And Narakasura passed on the weapon to his son!' Arjuna said slowly nodding his head.
'And now he does not have it!' Krishna said with a smile.

The two Krishnas turned to face Bhagadatta and Supratika, again....

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 19

After Yudhishtara fled from the battlefield, there was mayhem everywhere. The Kaurava soldiers were energized watching the king of the Pandavas run from the battle. Drona fell on the Pandava soldiers massacring them. Watching the ferocious attack of the teacher, it seemed like he was going to destroy all the Pandava soldiers that day.
Dhrishtadyumna, rallied the Pandava troops who were running helter-skelter. Finally, the Pandava soldiers tried to fight Dronacharya, and were successful in curbing him to a very small extent.
Duryodhana who was watching the Dronacharya fight from far, pointed it out to Karna. 'Watch this! Yudhishtara ran away from the battlefield!' he said gleefully. 'I think the acharya is going to annihilate the Pandavas today!'
Karna saw the entire scene and suddenly turned to Duryodhana. 'The teacher needs help! He cannot handle all the Pandava soldiers that are coming towards him!'
Duryodhana turned and saw that Bheema was at the head of the Pandava soldiers and urged his horse forward. The two cousins fought with real hatred for each other, wounding each other deeply.
But Bheema won the upper hand and broke Duryodhana's standard and horses.
As Duryodhana ran from there, Bheema fell on the Kaurava soldiers killing them left and right.
As Duryodhana was fleeing from Bheema, Bhagadatta, the king of Pragjyotishpur came forward on his magnificent elephant – Supratika. Bhagadatta was the oldest man in the battlefield. In fact he was so old that he tied a scarf on top of his eyes to make sure the drooping skin from his forehead did not close his eyes. But then these things did not deter the man. The man fought like demon and always won. Half the reason no one faced Bhagadatta was his elephant – Supratika. The elephant did more damage than a single division of the army and with Bhagadatta at his helm, it seemed that the two of them were invincible.
The Pandava soldiers were already miserable as they were unable to bear the brunt of Dronacharya's attack. Now with Bhagadatta, most of them felt like running away from the battlefield. The elephant smashed all and any person who came near him.
Bheema realized that he was the only person in the army who could deal with the elephant and charged towards it.
Bheema heaved his mace and walked towards the elephant. Bheema had learnt the art of Anjalikabhedha. Knowing this art well, Bheema instead of attacking the elephant from any particular side, went under the elephant. He attacked Supratika from its stomach and almost drove the elephant powerless, with his technique.
Thinking that Supratika would collapse, Bheema hurriedly got out from under the elephant. But then the elephant did not give up without a fight. Seeing Bheema, Supratika picked Bheema up with his trunk and threw him down heavily. Bheema quickly picked himself up and ran trying to get one of his own elephant...
Back at the camp, Yudhishtara was unable to bear the fact that he had run away from the battlefield. Ignoring Arjuna's express instructions, Yudhishtara entered the battlefield. In fact he entered it at the precise moment when Bheema was searching for an elephant. Thinking that Bheema was running away from Bhagadatta, Yudhishtara along with his force attacked Bhagadatta and his elephant.
But then Bhagadatta was too powerful. He ravaged the Pandava forces and almost killed Yuyutsu that day. [Yuyutsu was the son of Dhirdarashtra. He was not the son of Gandhari, but was born of a maid Suvala.] Yuyutsu just escaped with his life and Supratika was on a rampage.....

*******

From another part of the field, Arjuna heard the wailing of the Pandava soldiers with the triumphant trumpet of Supratika and realized that Bhagadatta was on a rampage. But then the stream of arrows from the Samshaptaka soldiers were steady and continuous, giving Arjuna no respite.
And the inevitable happened. One of the arrows pierced Krishna. Few things could make Arjuna angry...Seeing Krishna hurt was one of them. No sooner than the arrow pierced Krishna, Arjuna was so enraged that he let out the Brahma weapon. The weapon was supposed to be so powerful that it nearly vapourised all the Samshaptakas.
'Krishna! Are you....?' Arjuna asked turning towards Krishna.
'You have nearly destroyed all the Samshaptakas, my friend!' Krishna said looking at the battlefield, pulling out the arrow. 'Where do you wish to go, now?'
Arjuna smiled at Krishna realizing that he was alright. 'Bhagadatta!' was all Arjuna said.

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....