Friday, September 26, 2014

Vikarna - Part 1 of 2

If there was one particular incident in the Mahabharatha which could be termed as changing the very nature of the story it would probably be the Sabha Parva, where Yudhishtara played dice with Shakuni and lost his kingdom and everything else. Until this point in the story, the Pandavas and the Kauravas were just two groups within a family who were vying for the throne of Hastinapur.
Strangely enough, in this decisive parva, neither the Pandavas, nor the elders of the Kaurava assembly speak much. The actually talking is done by Draupadi and one another person....a Kaurava who spoke in favour of Draupadi.
Read on the story of one such unsung hero in the Mahabharatha...

The ill-fated dice game was going on in the court of Hastinapur. The elders were watching the game fearfully as Shakuni rolled the dice with confidence. Yudhishtara, was heavily losing and was steadily getting reckless.
As the game went on Yudhishtara lost his brothers one by one. In the end Yudhishtara even lost himself as a slave to the Kauravas...But the game was not over....not yet.....
Shakuni looked tauntingly at Yudhishtara. ‘You have lost even yourself, son of Pandu!'
Yudhishtara squirmed unable to meet the eyes of anyone in the court, not believing what he had done....
Shakuni paused studying the former king of Indraprastha and continued with a dangerous smile on his lips. '....However there is one thing you still have! Probably if you stake that, there is a chance you may win yourself back!’ he said softly.
What do I have?’ Yudhishtara asked.
The beautiful Krishna, the princess of Panchala!’ Shakuni whispered.
Though Shakuni spoke softly, every single person in the assembly heard him. There was not a single breath in the assembly as people watched dumbfolded the spectacle which unfolded before them.
Yudhishtara blinked as Shakuni mentioned Draupadi's name. Draupadi, the princess of Panchala, his wife....their wife....the queen of Indraprastha....Too many thoughts passed through Yudhishtara's head.
Not daring to look at any of his brothers, he nodded his head fearfully. I will bet the dark Princess Krishna!’ He said hoarsely.

The elders of the court – Vidura, Bhishma, Drona and Kripa were looking shocked unable to believe the level Yudhishtara had descended into. But not one person spoke….Not one…

King Dhirdarashtra listened with astonishment as Yudhishtara announced that he was going to stake Panchali. His keen ears followed the sound of the dice as Shakuni cast it. King Dhirdarashtra regretted his blindness as he called, 'Was the game won?'

King Dhirdarashtra was even more angry as he realized that no one answered his question. Normally adept at hiding his feelings, he was unable to do so anymore as he called shrilly again, ‘WAS THE GAME WON?’

Yes! It is!’ was all Shakuni said onto the eerily silent court.
HA!’ Duryodhana let out a shout and looking viciously at the Pandavas and then at Vidura, who had collapsed on the floor, looking incapable of getting up. ‘Get that woman here! She is going to sweep these chambers and stay where our servants stay! Go get her!’
Vidura looked at Duryodhana slowly willing himself to speak normally. ‘Carried away by the game, Yudhishtara has failed to understand that he no longer had Krishna! He lost himself!’ he said his voice raising shrilly. ‘After that Yudhishtara, no longer has any rights on the dark Panchali!’
Duryodhana smiled smugly, ignoring Vidura's remarks as usual, when Vidura shouted. ‘You wretch! You foolish wretch! Do not do this! You take one more step and you are inviting your doom! And you will drag the entire Kuru household with you!’
Duryodhana looked dangerously at Vidura and then turned to the Pratikamin. ‘Go! Get her!’
The Pratikamin looked fearfully at the Pandavas when Duryodhana shouted. ‘You have nothing to fear from these slave Pandavas! Vidura….’ Duryodhana said looking at Vidura. ‘…he is just raving! He cannot do anything!’
The Pratikarmin slowly nodded his head as he went to Draupadi's room. 'You are wanted in the Kuru Sabha! The King has lost you in a game of dice!' he said without any preamble.
Draupadi blinked, her mind unable to process anything the man had said. 'WHAT?' she asked faintly.
The man repeated his words.
'Did the king have nothing else to play with, that he staked me in the game?' demanded Draupadi flustered.
The Pratikarmin looked at the furious red face of the Queen of the Pandavas and almost faltered. 'He has lost everything in the game of dice, Princess! He even lost himself and in the end, he staked you too!'
Draupadi looked numbly at the man, unable to believe the insanity of the entire situation. She the queen of Indraprastha, the most prosperous kingdom in the world, the kingdom which rivalled Indra's Amravathi....And she was staked in a game of dice.....Draupadi shook her head trying to make sense of something....
Slowly Draupadi's resolute nature took over as she looked at the Pratikarmin with cool eyes, her heart thundering with fear. 'Go to the Kuru assembly and ask a question! In the game of dice, did the king lose himself or lose me first?'
The Partikarmin hesitated. He was here under the orders of Prince Duryodhana to bring the Princess to the assembly. From experience, the Pratikarmin knew exactly how furious the Prince would be when he went to the court alone....
He was about to open his mouth when the fire-born princess looked at him. 'I NEED THE ANSWER!'
The Pratikarmin quavered at the look of anger in Panchali's eyes and decided that he might as well brave Prince Duryodhana's anger and made way to the Kuru assembly alone.
There slowly, hesitatingly, he asked the Kuru assembly Draupadi's question.
'HA!' Duruyodhana shouted with almost with delirious vengeance. 'Ask the princess to come here and ask the question herself!'
The Pratikarmin looked at Duryodhana and realized that he was almost fearing the prince as much as he feared Draupadi. But realizing that he has no choice in this matter he went back to Draupadi's chambers.
Draupadi looked at the Pratikarmin as he told them of what had happened in the Kuru Sabha, getting more and more bewildered and furious, by the minute.
She took a deep breath and looked at the Pratikarmin. 'I am a daughter-in-law of the Kuru house! Ask the elders about the morality of the issue involved in this case! Ask the elders of the assembly whether my coming to the assembly like this...(it is said that at that time, Draupadi was clad in a single piece of cloth) whether it is moral or not?'
The Prathikarmin hesitated once more, but he knew that the Princess was not going to change her mind.
He returned to the Kuru assembly and repeated her question.
No one answered.
'What shall I tell Krishna?' The Pratikarmin asked swallowing fearfully at the prospect of facing the princess without an answer.
Duryodhana looked at the Pratikarmin with disgust. He turned to Dusshasana. 'This foolish man is afraid of Bheema! Brother, you go and get her!'

Dusshasana nodded his head as he set out for Panchali.
'KRISHNA!' He roared as he entered the her chambers. 'KRISHNA!' he called out again.
When Draupadi heard Dusshasana, she realized that there was no negotiation with the man.
The man was drunk with power and arrogance and beyond negotiation...
She ran from there to the rooms of the Kaurava women. That did not stop Dusshasana. He roared angrily pulling Drauapdi to the Kuru assembly with her long hair as she screamed angrily at him. Karna laughed loudly at the treatment of Draupadi.
Draupadi was brought to the Kuru assembly and there was shocked to find the silent Pandavas sitting beside the dice game.
Draupadi angrily looked at the elders of the Kuru assembly, not believing that these great men would have allowed such a foolishness to be allowed right in front of their own eyes.
That was when she remembered that she was brought her to address a question.
She looked at the grandsire angrily waiting for him to answer.
Bhishma looked down mumbling. 'I cannot decide the morality of the issue! One cannot bet what one does not have! But....I cannot decide....' The great Bhishma said.

Looking at the treatment that Draupadi was receiving at the hands of the Kauravas, Bheema looked angrily at Yudhishtara. 'Even poor gamblers do not bet their women in any games...And you...You, the just king of Hastinapur...' Bheema said sneeringly, ' staked Panchali.....I will burn your hands for this! Your very hands which threw the dice...!' Bheema said viciously.
'Bheema!' Arjuna looked at him shaking his head. 'You never have spoken to your elder brother like this! Do not do this now....'
Bheema looked at his younger brother and seethed angrily trying his best to keep quiet.

Draupadi watched the entire scene as no one spoke...Not one.
That was when one young man came up to the court. A young man who is Karna's words was an 'immature child'. He was Vikarna, the son of Dhirdarashtra and one of the 99 brothers of Duryodhana.
Vikarna looked at the entire Kuru assembly and angrily came forward. 'How can you people allow this?' He asked the Kuru assembly looking at disgust at his own brothers and the elders of the assembly. 'How can Bhishma, Drona and Vidura, not know the answer that Draupadi has asked us? If you do not answer her question, you will all go to hell! Answer her questions, before doing anything.'
The entire assembly looked at the angry young Kaurava prince who was fighting for Draupadi. But then still no one answered.
Vikarna huffed angrily. 'Fine! You people will not answer! I will! I will answer the question that Draupadi had asked....'
The young prince said looking around. 'I am neither the oldest nor the most knowledgeable in this assembly! But I will say what I know! It is said that hunting, drinking, enjoying the company of too many women and gambling are the evils which a king may have. King Yudhishtara was addicted to one of these, which is why he acted the way he did and he staked Draupadi. When a man acts by evil, how can what he does be called as correct? Besides Draupadi is the wife of all the five Pandavas. How can Yudhistara stake her alone? And Yudhishtara staked her after he staked himself....He has no rights over her, after he lost himself....And remember that the other side cannot ask a person playing dice to stake anything. Shakuni asked for Krishna to cast as a stake! That is wrong! For all these reasons, I think that Draupadi's stake is wrong...Draupadi cannot be considered as won!'
Vikarna looked at the assembly angrily as he let out a deep breath.
The assembly applauded the young prince.
But then Karna looked furious, almost as if he had lost his senses. 'Her husbands are quiet! And who are you to talk in her favour? You talk because you are just an immature kid!' Karna said spluttering. 'Yudhishtara lost himself....after that Draupadi was his possession, she was lost then itself....And...Though Shakuni mentioned her as a stake, Yudhishtara approved it!' Karna looked viciously at Draupadi. 'A woman can have one husband! A woman who has more than one husband....she is no chaste woman....She has to be considered as won by us!'
The story goes on to how the Kuru assembly degraded itself and allowed its daughter-in-law to be humiliated.....

And so in this decisive part of the Mahabhartha, in the entire Kaurava assembly, not the Pandavas or most of the Kauravas, or the great Karna or the elders who were well-versed in Scriptures spoke....
Just one young boy spoke fearlessly. He was the only one who was willing to speak the truth without bothering about the consequences.....

The author thanks Mr. A. Narayanan, Mr. A. Ananthakrishnan and Mr. B.N. Gururaj for their review comments.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

How Dhaumya became the priest of the Pandavas

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

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

Thursday, September 11, 2014


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

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

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

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The mighty warrior - After the end

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The mighty warrior - Part 11

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

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The mighty warrior - Part 10

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