Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 31

The Kaurava warriors could not believe what they were watching. Till now, the gleaming chariot with the two dark men was nothing more that blur, in the battlefield. No matter what or who appeared before them, either Arjuna mercilessly destroyed them or Krishna weaved through them with his chariot. The galloping of the horses was accompanied by a steady twang of the arrows making an impossibly beautiful rhythm. But then unexpectedly it stopped. More from the sudden absence of the sound than anything else, the Kaurava soldiers looked up towards the direction of the twanging of the arrows....Without the accompanying galloping of the horses, the twanging of the arrows seemed....almost incomplete.

That was when the Kauravas had the second shock....
Right there in the middle of the battlefield, Krishna had unyoked the horses and as Kaurava soldiers watched, Arjuna got down from the chariot. The Kauravas glanced at the sun warily hoping...really hoping that the sun had set, because otherwise there seemed no other reason for the actions of the Dark Lord. But the day was not yet over of surprises.
Krishna was tending to the horses as he was running his hands through the wounds of the horses, presumably treating them! Right there, in the middle of the battlefield...
That was when one of the Kaurava soldier realized the inevitable truth as he shouted out aloud. 'ARJUNA IS NOT IN THE CHARIOT!' He shouted. He looked at his fellow warriors, quiet frankly not able to believe what he himself was saying. 'Arjuna is not in his chariot!' the others repeated. The word got around the Kaurava army in surprisingly short time.
There were many warriors who believed that Arjuna was a great warrior only because he had the Dark Lord as his charioteer. While it was true that Krishna and Arjuna together were invincible, but Arjuna by himself was a formidable warrior and that time he proved it....
The Kauravas warriors probably thinking that Arjuna without the Dark Lord was weak, attacked him, as he was standing right there in the middle of field, his bow and arrow ready in his hands.....
*****

Krishna murmured as he lovingly tended to the animals.
Looking at him, it definitely looked like Krishna did not have a care in the world. The fact that the sun was now setting, the fact that they were in the middle of the battlefield, surrounded by completely hostile enemies, did not seem to matter to him at all. Right now, his job was to attend to the injured animals and get them refreshed and that was all he cared about.....
Krishna smiled as he saw his lone warrior standing before him, firing arrows rapidly one after the other, at the warriors who was attacking him. The two of them were supposed to be surrounded by enemies, but then not one arrow reached Krishna...not one, actually...Arjuna had made sure of that. It almost seemed like there was an invisible barrier between Krishna and the Kaurava warriors, one that they they could not breach, no matter how hard they tried.
Krishna saw that the horses were now almost well, as he looked at Arjuna. 'Partha! The horses need water!' he called out above the twang of the arrows.
Probably it was not correct to disturb a warrior when he was fighting off almost an entire army standing right in the middle of it. But Krishna did not seem to think it wrong.
There was a rapid change in twang of weapons as Krishna heard a whizzing sound almost next to him. The Kaurava warriors who were facing Arjuna definitely did not know anything different, as the stream of arrows coming towards them seemed as relentless as before...
But none of the Kaurava warriors could explain it, when right there in the middle of the battlefield, where until a minute back was nothing but hard ground, was a beautiful lake...
'Let the horses have their fill, Krishna!' Arjuna said putting the Varunastra back. Arjuna permitted himself a small smile, as he saw the impossible expression which came on the faces of the warriors who were facing him....

**********

Duryodhana was furious. In fact Duryodhana was beyond that. This was the second time in two days, when what he had thought was a simple job was getting steadily out of hand. Yesterday, it had that boy...Abhimanyu, whom Duryodhana had dismissed nothing more than a young kid....Abhimanyu proved to be so disastrous that even his death could not make up for the loss that Abhimanyu had inflicted on the Kaurava army.
And today...All the Kaurava army had to do was to keep Arjuna away from Jayadratha and considering the sheer size of his army, that could not be an impossible task...or so Duryodhana thought. But Duryodhana had not counted on Arjuna's expertise, or the Dark Lord's capability of handling the chariot. The two men together were probably destroying more people today than most of his warriors had done overall till now...As if adding insult to injury, Arjuna was now taking time off coming out of his chariot and letting his horses rest...
Duryodhana was so furious that he drove his horses directly towards the man whom he thought was responsible for all this.
'You were our teacher!' he said as he found himself face to face with his teacher. 'You were invincible! You said no one could penetrate this Vyugha!' Duryodhana said as his words slurred in anger, as he looked dangerously close to the brink. 'And those two men defied you! Just like that!' 
Dronacharya looked at Duryodhana with hurt eyes as Duryodhana continued viciously. 'I think you are also like Bheeshma! You merely say that you will fight on my behalf and all you do is TALK!' Duryodhana shouted loudly.
Dronacharya closed his eyes as his took deep breaths to control himself. He opened his eyes and looked at Duryodhana. Dronacharya probably realized that no matter what he did, Duryodhana would probably never trust him. Dronacharya also realized that talking with the prince was also a waste of time. The prince would not believe anything he said anyway.
Dronacharya shook his head as he removed his armour.
Duryodhana looked shocked as Dronacharya got down from his chariot with his armour in his hand. 'This is one of the most powerful armours, which was given to me! The armours have also been made strong by the mantras of ancient times! Wear it, my prince! Nothing can penetrate this armour!'
Duryodhana looked shocked as he looked at Dronacharya, probably a little ashamed, that he had doubted his teacher. 'I am sorry! I....' Duryodhana said fumbling with apology as he saw his teacher helping him on with the armour.
'You are like Ashwattaman to me! I would forgive him too, if he spoke that way to me!' Dronacharya said quietly. Dronacharya took a deep breath and continued with a small smile. 'And go and fight, my prince! Go and fight the Pandava warriors and remember that nothing can hurt you...GO NOW!'

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 30

Krishna drove the chariot deeper inside the enemy territory...and for once, the thick arrows around them proved a useful cover to him. His warrior was hurt and hurt badly. Krishna quickly turned as he pulled out the lance from Arjuna's body.
Arjuna gasped as he blearily glanced at Krishna.
'Get up, Partha!' Krishna muttered as he looked at the closing Kaurava army.
Arjuna slowly nodded his head, as he looked around realizing what was happening.
'The aindrastra!' Arjuna muttered even as he struggled to get up on his feet.
Arjuna fixed the arrow on his bow, even before he was fully alert. Arjuna spotted Srutayus almost immediately as he let loose the aindrastra.
The arrow found its mark.....Even before the surprised Srutayus could react, the Aindrastra hit him and his brother, killing the two brilliant warriors on the spot.....

********

Yudhishtara watched his brother go with the Dark Lord inside Drona's army. The battle between the teacher and his brother was breathtakingly beautiful. Though his brother escaped from Drona, Yudhishtara realized that he could not risk Drona attacking Arjuna again, now that the two Krishnas were deep inside the Vyugha.

Yudhishtara eyed the outer Vyugha and turned to Bheema. 'Take your division! Attack Jalasandha and his men!' Yudhishtara looked at the Vyugha again. 'I am going after Kritivarman's division!'

Bheema hefted his mace and looked at Yudhishtara. 'What about the teacher? Whom are we going to send to fight him?'

Yudhishtara looked at the prince of Panchala, Dhrishtadhyumna, the one who was prophecised to kill Dronacharya, who was his wife – Draupadi's, brother.

'Let Dhrishtadhyumna meet the teacher!' Yudhishtara said turning to the prince of Panchala.

As Arjuna had asked Yuyudhana (Satyaki) to protect Yudhishtara, Satyaki accompanied Yudhishtara's division.

Before the Kauravas could recover from Arjuna's attack, Yudhishtara started his attack. For a brief second it looked like the Pandavas had an upper hand....For a very small second.....

Yudhishtara had not counted on Drona's expertise nor the ferocity with with Drona countered the Pandava attack.

Dhrishtadhyumna and Drona fought arrow for arrow, blade for blade, but then Dhrishtadhyumna did not have the experience of his teacher and neither did he have the knowledge. Without thinking, Dhrishtadhyumna got in too close to the teacher. The teacher now started using a variety of weapons against Dhrishtadhyumna and not just his bow and arrow. And the way the teacher was going, Dhrishtadhyumna did not look like he was going to make it out alive....

Yudhishtara looked almost horrified as Dronacharya was letting arrows fly real fast at Dhrishtadhyumna. Dhrishtadhyumna tried fighting back, but there really was no hope for him. It looked at Dhrishtadhyumna was almost living on borrowed time and that the teacher was going to do the impossible and make the prophecy false.....But then out of nowhere, a warrior came from the Pandava army. Arjuna's student and the only Yadava (besides Krishna, of course) who fought on the side of the Pandavas – Satyaki.
[Before the start of the war, Krishna had promised that the Yadavas would fight on behalf of Duryodhana, whereas he himself would be on the side of the Pandavas. However Satyaki, though he was a Yadava, as he was a student of Arjuna, he was allowed to fight on behalf of his Guru.]
As Drona let the last arrow fly towards Dhrishtadhyumna, almost everyone in the Pandava army had written off Dhrishdhyumna. And that was when Satyaki came. At the last minute as the arrow almost reached Dhrishdhyumna, Satyaki, emerged from Yudhishtara's division and cut off the arrow.
The other warriors also reached Dhrishtadhyumna as Drona dismissed the prince of Panchala and turned his attention to Satyaki.
This fight was brilliant – almost like the one between the Dronacharya and Arjuna. Arjuna had taught Satyaki real well and it showed. Satyaki was able to counter almost everything that Drona did and was able to do it with the same confidence that his teacher had. It is said that in this battle, Satyaki broke Drona's bow, not once, or twice, but sixteen times continuously.....
Drona watched almost dazed at Satyaki from the other side with a smile, as he realized that the warrior before him was really good.

Drona fired the Agneyastra. Screaming, the astra made its way to Satyaki. Without blinking, Satyaki fired the Varunastra.
The sound made by the two weapons were so ferocious that the soldiers who had stopped to watch the fight were sure that the two weapons were powerful enough to end the world....They watched with a horrid fascination as the two arrows met.....
The perfect counter for the Agneyastra was the Varunastra and the two weapons were fired by persons who knew what they were doing. Miraculously, the two weapons canceled out each other, rendering each other useless....

As Drona was about to pull his next arrow, he briefly eyed the sky....It was past noon. For a second, Drona turned and saw his favourite pupil who was storming inside the Vyugha, a single thought burning through Drona's mind...Could his student actually reach Jayadratha before the day was up?.........
*****

After the almost game changing fight by Srutayus and Achyutayus, almost no one was able to stand up to Arjuna.
But then the princes of Avanti – Vinda and Anuvinda gave a brief fight to Arjuna. But then Arjuna did not want to waste too much time on them. Arjuna injured the two brothers very badly without actually killing them. But the two brothers would not give up so easily. Though injured, they followed the two Krishnas deeper inside the Vyugha.
Realizing that the two warriors were so brilliantly synchronized as to cover for each other's mistakes, Arjuna first took out Vinda.....
Anuvinda watched horrified as his brother lay dead before him. Screaming, Anuvinda, pulled out his mace and raced after the two Krishnas. With utter hatred and anger, Anuvinda lashed out with his mace. Anuvinda could have aimed better, or atleast tried to hit the right person. The mace hit Krishna who bore the brunt of the mace attack.
And after that Anuvinda really had no hope. Arjuna did not waste even a single second as all the next six arrows found Anuvinda, with unerring accuracy. Anuvinda met the same end as his brother. Arjuna was now dispatching the Kaurava warriors before him, with disdain, as he plodded deeper inside the Vyugha.
*****
Arjuna resembled a forest fire and burnt everything which came in his path. He actually looked like he was going to finish the war that day. But then Krishna knew that they were having problems, really, big problems....
Arjuna frowned as he felt the horses moving sluggishly. 'Krishna! Why....'
'Partha! The horses!' Krishna said as he looked around.'They are hurt, tired and thirsty! They need some rest!'
Arjuna looked at sun and then at Jayadratha, who was looking a lot closer than he had been a few hours before. Arjuna then looked at Krishna and nodded. 'Stop and tend to the horses, Krishna!'
The Dark Lord almost smiled as he urged the horses to stop, right there in the middle of the battlefield....

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 29

Drona looked at his own army. Before proceeding to the outside of the Vyugha, Drona fist went to Jayadratha. 'You, Bhurisravas, Karna, Ashwattamana, Salya. Vrishasena and Kripacharya with your twenty thousand soldiers, horses and elephants shall be twelve miles behind me!' Drona smiled looking at Jayadratha. 'Nothing is going to happen to you!'
The Vyugha formed by Drona was brilliant. The first Vyugha was exceedingly huge where Drona had placed many kings and warriors where each warrior was to help the other, making it impossible for them to be attacked. Inside this Vyudha was another Vyugha in the form of a lotus. And inside the lotus were the six Kaurava Maharathas in the form of a needle, protecting Jayadratha.
At the entrance of the Sakata Vyugha, Drona took his troops and waited for Arjuna....
*****

Satanika, Nakula's son saw the Kaurava Vyugha and almost gasped. The sheer size of the Kaurava army was enormous. But then with Dhrishtadyumna's help, they managed to place the Pandava army properly.

*****

Durmarshana looked at the almost puny Pandava army when suddenly from within its rank, Arjuna emerged along with Krishna. Durmarshana looked at his army and then at the two warriors. He then looked at Duryodhana, his brother. 'Let me go and stop him first, brother!'
Duryodhana looked surprised as Durmarshana nodded. 'Just like how the huge continents are able to stop the seas, I will stop Arjuna today!' As his brother was about to say something, Durmarshana held up his hands. 'I will go alone! The other warrior's troops do not need to join me!'
Durmarshana had definitely done a smart thing. Bhimasena, the second Pandava had sworn to kill all of Duryodhana's brothers. It was but natural that the other warriors in the Pandava army would not kill Duryodhana's brothers to help Bheema keep up his vow. So whatever else Arjuna could do, he would not kill Durmarshana or any of Duryodhana's brothers. So they were well protected compared to the other warriors. Which was probably what Durmarshana had in mind when he spoke of attacking the Pandava first.

******

Arjuna studied the entire Kaurava army and did not speak a word. He finally looked at Krishna.
'Are you ready Partha?' Krishna asked.

'We go through Durmarshana's elephant section! Through that we go towards the Vyugha!' Krishna nodded as Arjuna pulled out his conch and blew loudly on it. A second later, Krishna joined him. The sound of the Devadatta and the Panchajanya melted as one as the Kaurava soldiers almost trembled hearing the sounds of the two conches. And with that Arjuna was off....

*******

To say that Arjuna massacred Durmashasana's division was probably an understatement. All that the people in Durmashasana's division saw was that Arjuna was rapidly moving his hands and feet, almost as if he was dancing in his chariot. No one knew when the arrow was fixed in the bow and when it was released. And by the time the soldiers realized that they were the target of the arrow....it was too late.
Elephant, Elephant drivers, horses, charioteers, chariot warriors....Arjuna spared no one. Arjuna had not even entered the Vyugha and already the Kaurava soldiers were running away from him with fear...

Dusshasana was getting furious at the pace with which Arjuna was progressing towards the Vyugha. He got the elephants from his own division and had all of them surround Arjuna.
As if that was going to stop Arjuna. Veda Vyasa has a very interesting metaphor to describe Arjuna's progress through Dusshasan's elephants. He said that Arjuna ripped through Dusshasana's elephant division like a crocodile rips through water waves.

Arjuna had still not entered the Vyugha and the Kauravas were facing heavy casualties.
Seeing Arjuna on a rampage, Dusshasana ran to his teacher, the man who had made the Vyugha...

*********

'Ready!' Drona yelled to his men, as he saw Arjuna and Krishna come towards him. Drona frowned as he saw the chariot slow down marginally. Krishna was saying something as Arjuna was nodding his head. Drona then saw as Arjuna straightened and the chariot came towards him in a flash.

Drona was about to fire his arrow when he heard Arjuna speak to him. 'You are my Guru! You are like a father to me! All the protection that you give Ashwattama....you are bound to protect me the same way! Please let me inside the Vyugha, so that I may fulfill my vow!'

Drona said a sad smile to Arjuna as he eyed Krishna. Drona was more than sure that this talk was Krishna's idea. Dronacharya shook his head. 'You can get to Jayadratha only if you defeat me!' Drona pulled out his bow and arrow and aimed it ready at Arjuna. 'Fight!'

The fight between the teacher and the stodent was a beautiful one. Neither yielded an inch to the other. What one had in flair, the other had in experience. And Arjuna's vow almost seemed like it would not be fulfilled as Arjuna had been stopped just outside the Sakata Vyugha....Stopped by none other than his own teacher...

'Partha!' Krishna shouted as he veered his chariot all over the place. 'You are wasting far too much time and we have not even penetrated the Vyugha! Finish this encounter! The teacher is delaying you purposely!'

'Krishna! Turn to the right of Drona's division!' Arjuna yelled as he fired weapons in quick succession. 'We will get deep into the Vyugha, away from the teacher!'

Krishna needed no further encouragement. He urged his chariot to the right of Drona.

Drona roared, partly out of shock that his student, the great Arjuna had actually run away from a battle, and partly because he realized too late what Arjuna was doing.
'I thought you never gave up a fight without defeating your foe!' Drona yelled loudly.

'You are not my foe!' Arjuna shouted as his chariot just passed Drona's division. 'You are my Guru and I am your student! I am like your son! And there is no one in the whole world you can defeat you in battle!'

Before Drona could do anything, Arjuna let loose his arrows at the troops to the right of Drona. A break appeared among the army soldiers as Krishna drove his chariot expertly, penetrating the Vyugha with a clinical efficiency.

During any war, a chariot warrior was given protection by atleast two other chariot warriors. Their job was to protect the chariot wheels of the first warrior. They had to make sure no one attacked the chariot wheels and disabled the warrior. Arjuna was protected by Yudhamanyu and Uttamaujas, the Panchala princes. As Arjuna entered the Vyugha, the two princes followed him too.

Inside the Vyugha, Jaya, Kritavarman, Sudakshina, the king of Kamvojas and Srutayus attacked the Krishnas (Arjuna and Krishna were called as the two Krishnas, during the battle). As if that was not enough Drona angrily turned his chariot around as he came inside the Vyugha and he along with the Surasenas, Sivis, Vastis, Mavellakas, Kaikeyas and some other tribes were coming towards the two heroes.

*****

Arjuna sighed. He was really hoping that he could avoid fighting with Dronacharya. But then his teacher was making it difficult not to face him.
Drona was showering the two of them with continuous arrows. Having no other choice, Arjuna pulled out the Brahma arrow and fired it. The rain of arrows from Drona was cut off. But Drona showed no signs of stopping. He continued firing the arrows as if nothing had happened.

Arjuna sighed again as he turned his attention to the Bhojas and started attacking them, an idea already half forming in his mind.
'Krishna!' Arjuna called out. 'Get the chariot between Kritivarman and Sudakshina!'
Krishna smiled as he expertly maneuvered the vehicle between the troops of Kritivarman and Sudakshina. Arjuna's ploy was definitely a good one. Kritivarman and Sudakshina were definitely easier people to face, atleast easier than Dronacharya. And if Arjuna and Krishna were between the two troops, Dronacharya would not fire because there was every chance that Dronacharya would hit his own Kaurava soldiers...

With Drona removed from the picture for now, Kritivarman and Arjuna were having a marvelous battle between them. Krishna however sighed as he saw the battle. He realized that his friend was again not fighting to the best of his abilities.
'Partha!' Krishna shouted. 'Forget that you know this man! Forget how he is related to you! Right now he is your enemy! Kill him!' Krishna said looking at Kritivarman.
Arjuna took a deep breath as he pulled the next arrow and fired. This time the arrow hit Kritivarman penetrating his shield as Kritivarman staggered in his chariot.
As Arjuna's chariot veered away from there, Kritivarman angrily turned his attention to Yudhamanyu and Uttamaujas.
Kritivarman angrily broke the bows of the two warriors. But without hesitation, the two warriors pulled out two other bows and starting fighting with Kritivarman. Thus the two princes were able to stop Kritivarman from attacking Arjuna but at a cost....Arjuna penetrated deeper into the Vyugha. But as the two warriors were still fighting with Kritivarman, they could not follow Arjuna.

******
Inside the Vyugha, Srutayudha and Arjuna were having another fierce fight. Srutayudha tried to contain Arjuna and for all his efforts, he lost his charioteer and horses and Arjuna even broke Srutayudha's bow.
Srutayudha fell down heavily on his ground as his chariot lay crumbling before him. Angrily Srutayudha picked up his mace from the remains of the chariot.....

*********
Arjuna was almost turning his attention away from Srutayodha, as he usually never attacked a person after they had fallen. Even now he did the same. Srutayodha had fallen and Arjuna was about to turn his attention to the other warriors. But Krishna was now looking angrily at Srutayudha. The horses remained in the same place as Arjuna wondered what was going on....

******

Srutayudha picked up his mace as he saw the two Krishnas. He saw that Arjuna did not understand...Arjuna did not understand what Srutayudha had in his hands. But Krishna knew and knew too well.
Without realizing what he was doing, Srutayudha threw the mace. Unfortunately for Srutayudha and fortunately for Arjuna, Srutayudha aimed the mace at the wrong person.
Srutayudha threw the mace at Krishna. Sudakshina threw the mace at Krishna who bore no weapons and who was in the Mahabharatha war strictly as a charioteer.

Arjuna fired his arrows at the mace, but to his horror, the mace just brushed aside his arrows as if they were nothing.
'TURN THE CHARIOT!' Arjuna shouted. But then he was too late. The weapon was almost upon Krishna when Arjuna watched almost with horror filled eyes.

Arjuna was sure he was dreaming when the mace turned. He was watching with an almost unreal feeling as he saw the mace turn away from them as if it was deflected by Krishna. Arjuna was blinking as now Srutayudha looked horrified. The mace was now going straight for Srutayudha and before Srutayudha could blink, the mace came and hit Srutayudha, killing him on the spot....

'What.....?' Arjuna blinked wondering what he was seeing. 'What just happened?'

Krishna smiled as he turned the chariot. 'Just be glad he aimed for me!'

'What?' Arjuna asked he pulled the Gandiva closer.
'Srutayudha is the son of Varuna, Partha! As soon as he was born, Srutayudha's mother asked for a boon from Varuna. She wanted Srutayudha to be invincible! Varuna gave Srutayudha this mace and said that as long as Srutayudha had the mace, he would be invincible! The only caveat that Varuna gave Srutayudha was that in case Srutayudha ever aimed the mace at some one who was unarmed, the weapon would turn back at him and kill him!' Krishna said as they made their way to the next division, in the army.

Arjuna was completely lost for words. All that he had seen was slowly making sense....But then he was in a middle of a battle...that was when Sudakshina caught up with him.

And watching Srutayudha fall had done nothing good to Sudakshina's temper.

Sudakshina and Arjuna were exchanging arrows with great ferocity and for the first time, Sudakshina gained the upper hand! He shot Arjuna with a solid iron arrow. The arrow pierced through Arjuna's shield and penetrated his body. Arjuna almost swooned in the chariot as the arrow passed through.

Clutching the Gandiva almost with bleary eyes, Arjuna aimed the arrow and managed to break Sudakshina's chariot first, then killed Sudakshina's horses and also destroyed Sudakshina's bow and finally killed the charioteer. Barely conscious Arjuna fired the last arrow straight at Sudakshina's heart.....
***

But this time at the fall of Sudakshina, the Kaurava soldiers became furious at Krishnas. The Abhishahas, Surasenas, Sivis and the Vasatis together attacked Arjuna.

It is said that Arjuna killed six hundred of these soldiers with one arrow!

The fall of Sudakshina or Srutayudha did not scare the Kaurava soldiers, but this definitely did. The Kaurava soldiers started running away from Arjuna...

*****

But this then brought Arjuna to face two brilliant warriors – Srutayus and Achyutayus. Together the two of them completely surrounded the places around Krishna and Arjuna with arrows.

But then Srutayus was not only a good archer, he was very good with the lance. While Ashyutayus engaged with Arjuna, Srutayus threw a well aimed lance at Arjuna. Arjuna did not react on time as the spear penetrated his shield....

Krishna watched almost shocked as Achyutayus threw another spear at Arjuna before Arjuna could recover. Arjuna was already bleary eyed and unable to focus. He was not able to react and the Achyutayus's spear also penetrated him.

'ARJUNA!' Krishna shouted almost shocked as Arjuna staggered falling back heavily on the chariot, unable to breath.

'Arjuna, breath!' Krishna said rapidly as he scanned the battlefield trying to take the chariot to a relatively safe place. 'Arjuna! Can you hear me? Arjuna...' Krishna called as the chariot careened dangerously, all over the battlefield.

Arjuna has fallen! A ripple went through the battlefield. An impossible whisper ran through the Kaurava soldiers. ARJUNA HAS FALLEN! The whispers suddenly became a shout. The continuous shower of arrows from the two warriors rendered Krishna and Arjuna invisible to everyone as the confusion continued....

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 28

Arjuna sighed as he saw the dark Pandava camp again. He looked at the Dark Lord once more. ‘I cannot….’ Arjuna said his words cut off by a sob. He took a deep breath and continued. ‘I cannot meet Bhadra or Uttara today! I am very sure Draupadi would be there too!’ Arjuna shook his head as he felt an invisible hand clutch his chest twisting it. ‘I will meet them tomorrow, after I have kept my vow! But today…please go to them!’ Arjuna looked at Krishna with almost desperately sad eyes. ‘Talk to them and…..’ Arjuna fumbled unable to go on.
Krishna nodded saying nothing else. Subhadra was his sister and as long as he had known she had loved Arjuna. She eloped with him and Krishna thought that after Abhimanyu…Krishna sighed as painful thoughts threatened to surface and he slowly made the way to Arjuna’s home.
Krishna thought that he had seen enough people break down in one day….But that was before he went to Arjuna’s house.
As he saw the disheveled place of death, Krishna was seriously at a loss about who needed him more….his sister or Uttara. The two were inconsolable. Draupadi was there too. Being the eldest of them, she was atleast strong enough for the two of them…But Krishna knew…He knew that she was very close to the edge.
You are princesses and queens!’ Krishna told them. ‘Wives or mothers or sisters of warriors! Please… do not grieve for one who died doing their duty! Know that they have reached the highest levels of heavens, doing what they were meant to do!’
If anything Subhadra began to wail louder as she heard the Dark Lord’s words. ‘HE WAS A BOY!’ She shouted. ‘His father was the greatest archer ever and he had you! And with all that, he is gone! Why…’
Krishna did his best.
He let Subhadra yell, shout and scream some more. Finally, exhausted Subhadra swooned as she fell in the Dark Lord’s arms.
Leaving Uttara and Subhadra in the hands of Draupadi, Krishna made his way back to the battlefield.
*****
Krishna walked into Arjuna’s tent as he watched his warrior in a fitful sleep. Krishna turned as he rapidly walked out of the tent. His charioteer Daruka, almost seemed to sense the Dark Lord needing him as he came to Krishna.
Prepare my chariot!’ Krishna said in a steely voice.
My Lord!’ Daruka was properly and completely stunned. ‘Are you going to battle?’
Krishna said nothing as he watched Daruka. Daruka was in shock as he shook his head. ‘My Lord! You cannot! You promised you would not wield any weapons! You cannot break your own promise! You will be…’
Arjuna has promised to forfeit his life if he does not kill Jayadratha!’ Krishna said as Daruka seemed completely incapable of talking. ‘Drona knows of Arjuna’s vow! And he is an incredibly good strategist! He knows that Partha has placed his life in the hands of the Kauravas! All Drona has to do is to make sure that Arjuna does not keep his vow! And if that happens….’ Krishna asked looking at Daruka. ‘Arjuna will kill himself! Without Arjuna, I…..’ Krishna closed his eyes. ‘Arjuna is dearer to me than my life! If anything should happen to him I will not be able to live!’ Daruka was appalled as he watched Krishna’s dark eyes filled with a strange emotion as he continued. ‘Without Arjuna, this…entire…’ Krishna looked at the battlefield. ‘The Kaurava would win, my friend!’ Krishna said placing his hands on Daruka’s shoulder, clutching it tightly. ‘That I cannot allow!’
If Arjuna is not able to keep his vow, I will break mine!’ Krishna said so simply that Daruka was stunned.
Keep my weapons ready!’ Krishna said as Daruka nodded his head slowly. ‘Keep my four favourite horses – Meghapushpa, Valahaka, Saivya and Sugriva ready! If you hear me sound the shrill Rishaba note on the Panchajanya (Krishna’s conch), you will bring my chariot to me immediately!’ Krishna looked at Daruka. ‘Do you understand?’
Daruka nodded looking almost scared at the ferocity in Krishna’s eyes. He had heard that Krishna and Arjuna were Nara and Narayana, two halves of a whole, but watching it now, was almost terrifying for the charioteer.
He will keep his vow, my Lord!’ Daruka fumbled trying his best to convince Krishna. Krishna said nothing as Daruka continued. ‘Please go to sleep my Lord! You have a lot to do tomorrow! Just as your warrior sleeps, you need to be rested and fit!’
Krishna looked at Daruka and smiled sadly. ‘You are a good friend, Daruka! Go to your tent and sleep well too!’ And with that the Dark Lord turned and walked back to his tent.
********
Arjuna looked around as he knew that he was dreaming. The place he was in was neither the earth nor the heavens. But a place felt familiar…. Some place he had seem somewhere, but could not recognize. But before he could think about it, Arjuna turned, because there was a presence. A presence, which no matter what, he could never ignore. Something which was part of him…
Krishna!’ Arjuna said looking around as the Dark Lord came forward. ‘Where….’
You were thinking about all the weapons you knew which could defeat Jayadratha in battle!’ Krishna said, 'Which is why I came!' Arjuna frowned. ‘I do not understand, my Lord!’
I am here to help you with using your most powerful weapon, Partha! One that would be useful for tomorrow! The one you got from the Three eyed Lord!’ Krishna said.
The Pashupatastra!’ Arjuna said, as Krishna nodded.
Let us meditate on the Lord! I am sure he would teach us what we want to know!’ Krishna said.
And so Arjuna closed his eyes and meditated. As he meditated, Arjuna found the surroundings change. With Krishna near him, he found himself being dragged to a beautiful place. The raw beauty was the place was unmatched and could not be even compared with the lavish beauty of any palace.
Kailash!’ Krishna announced as Arjuna looked at delight that the Dark Lord was with him when he was to meet the Three-eyed Lord.
The sight was beautiful as Arjuna arrived at the abode of Lord Shiva. There Arjuna saw the Goddess and frankly was unable to find words to even describe her. The Ganas and the sages were speaking with the Lord when he saw the two warriors.
What do you wish, warriors?’ Lord Shiva spoke in a deep voice as he saw the two men.
Arjuna for once could not speak. The sight of the Lord with the Goddess suddenly robbed his words. As Arjuna studied the Lord, Arjuna was shocked to find that all the offerings that he had made to Krishna were near Lord Shiva. Krishna smiled encouraging his friend as Arjuna fell down on the feet of the Lord.
Lord Shiva smiled as he repeated his question.
I wish for the knowledge of the Pashupatastra, my Lord!’ Arjuna said finally.
There is a lake of Amrita nearby!’ Lord Shiva said with a slight smile. ‘My bow and arrow are lying there! Please go and get it!’
Krishna and Arjuna both looked at each other as they nodded. The Ganas of Lord Shiva led the two warriors to the lake. But there was no Bow and Arrow there. Instead there were two huge snakes breathing fire.
Neither Krishna and Arjuna were afraid as they fearlessly bowed to the snakes.
In an instant, the two snakes vanished and in their places appeared a bow and arrow.
The two of them took it back to the Lord.
Arjuna watched amazed as a man emerged from Lord Shiva – a man resembling the Three-eyed Lord. The man taught Arjuna how to use the weapon and the mantra to invoke it. Arjuna always a quick learner, learnt the mantra as if it were etched in his mind.
The man smiled as he picked up the bow and shot the arrow. The arrow landed in the same lake as before. The man threw the bow inside the water too.
Arjuna understood. The weapon and its power was waiting for him….He could use it whenever he summoned it in battle.
Both Krishna and Arjuna were jubilant as they looked at each other…
******
Arjuna woke up with a start as he saw the morning rays shine through his tent.
Arjuna watched his Gandiva as he realized something. Whatever it was that he had seen, it was no dream. It was something which had actually happened.
He walked out his tent.
Yudhishtara walked out of the tent and saw Arjuna. He almost ran to Krishna. ‘He looks like….’ Yudhishtara saw Krishna properly again. ‘The two of you look like you have found some wonderful secret of the world! The light which shines from you is almost dazzling! I already feel like Jayadratha has no chance to make it out of the day’s battle alive!’
Arjuna walked over as he listened to Yudhishtara’s words and smiled as he looked at Krishna. He turned his attention to Yuyudhana. ‘My friend! There is something that we have all forgotten! No matter what I do or where I am, the fact remains that Dronacharya has promised to take Yudhishtara captive! Today you are responsible for Yudhihstara! Protect him well!’
*********
Krishna and Arjuna were both in the chariot. Exactly as Krishna’s spies had informed him, Drona formed a Vyugha with half a Sakata formation and the other has as a circle. It was said that formation of Drona was 48 miles long and 20 miles wide!

Krishna looked at his friend. ‘Shall we begin, Partha?’ 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 27

Arjuna was really glad that the sun had set. That he was exhausted after decimating the Samshaptakas was probably an understatement. He was almost glad as Krishna turned the horses towards the Pandava camp.
Arjuna watched at the Dark Lord drove the horses home, and as usual Krishna was quiet. But then Arjuna was more than tuned in to Krishna's feelings. This was not the normal silence of the Dark Lord. It was darker...something which spoke of a deep fore brooding. It seemed like the calm before the....Arjuna blinked as he saw the Pandava camp coming into focus. 'Krishna! Why is the Pandava camp so dark?' he demanded.
There was no reply as Krishna stopped the chariot just outside the camp. 'Why is there no musical instruments playing? Why are....' Arjuna stumbled as he almost fell out of the chariot towards the camp.
'Krishna! Abhimanyu is the first one to wish me after the day's battle! I....' This time Arjuna caught Krishna looking at him with an almost miserable expression in his face. Arjuna shook his head, unable to believe it. NO! No....I..I...' Arjuna staggered as Krishna helped him to Yudhishtara's tent.
If Arjuna had any hope until he entered Yudhishtara's camp, it vaporised the minute he saw Yudhishtara. 'I heard that Dronacharya formed the Chakravyugha today!' Arjuna glanced at all the people in the room. 'None of you can break it!' the stillness in the tent was almost suffocating as Arjuna shouted. 'WHOM DID YOU SEND INSIDE THE VYUGHA?'
No one spoke. There was no need to. Arjuna collapsed in the tent. Some part of him registered Krishna was near him looking devastated. But Arjuna was too numb to pay proper attention to it. 
'I did not teach him how to get out of it! I did not...' Arjuna whispered to himself, as the words chocked in his mouth.
A feral anger gave way to the overwhelming sadness as he looked at his brothers. 'You! The great Pandavas!' he sneered angrily. 'You sent a boy inside the Chakravyugha! Are you not....' Arjuna found that words refused to cooperate with his mouth as he chocked again. 'What will I tell Subhadra?' Arjuna moaned falling back on the wall. 'Draupadi loved him like her own son! What am I going to tell her?' Arjuna almost yelped as he looked around haunted. 'What am I going to tell Uttara? They have been married just a few months...' Arjuna wailed, as words once again failed him.
Nobody could speak. Just before the arrival of Arjuna, Yudhishtara had been inconsolable as he was sitting in his tent, thinking the entire uselessness of the war. Veda Vyasa, himself had come to the battlefield and consoled Yudhishtara. It was because of this that the other four Pandavas were in slightly better shape than Arjuna. But the haunted words of Arjuna again brought the stark reality to all of them...They had sent a sixteen year old boy to his death....
All the five Pandavas whimpered as Arjuna murmured to Krishna. 'All the Kaurava Maharathas must have faced him! He would have been all alone while he was facing them and he must have thought that his father was going to come and protect him....' Tears filled Arjuna's face 'And when my son needed me the most, I was not there for him!' Arjuna said his eyes almost popping in madness as an ice cold rage built inside him.
Krishna held Arjuna's hands, his eyes filled with tears as he shook his head. 'Partha! Abhimanyu has now reached that realm of heaven, which only the bravest people can have! Your brothers now look to you for comfort! Please control yourself!'
Arjuna turned to Krishna and Yudhishtara with a quiet coldness which was more terrifying than the helpless sobbing before. 'How did this happen? I need to know all that happened!'
******

Yuyutsu (He was the son of Dhirdarashtra, but he was not the son of Gandhari. He was the son of a trader woman. He fought the war on behalf of the Pandavas because he always supported them.) was beyond anger as he saw the Kaurava soldiers rejoicing. He could take it no more as he angrily pushed the soldiers away and entered the Kaurava camp.
'What are you happy about?' He asked them angrily. 'WHAT ARE YOU HAPPY ABOUT?' He shouted as all the soldiers parted ways for him. 'You think you have done something great by killing a boy?' There was a sudden silence as the Kaurava soldiers looked at Yuyutsu, afraid. 'Do you know what you have done?' Yuyutsu asked fiercely. 'Krishna and Arjuna are now furious! Where do you think you can run from them?' Now the Kaurava soldiers were terrified as Yuyutsu continued. 'For the crime that you have committed today, you will all pay! EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU!' Yuyutsu said angrily pushing the soldiers away as he walked back to the Pandava camp.
********
'Jayadratha? The King of Sindhu?' Arjuna wondered whether his grief had actually unhinged him. Jayadratha was at best a mediocre warrior. Bheema alone was sufficient to stop him. And his brother were telling him that the King of Sindhu singlehanded stopped them from entering the Vyugha....
'After Bheema defeated him, Jayadratha performed severe penance towards the three eyed Lord Shiva, Partha!' Krishna said quietly. Arjuna turned as he tried to focus on Krishna's words trying to forget the pain which was filling in his chest. 'Jayadratha's penance was so strong that Lord Shiva granted him a boon that as long as you were not with your brothers, he would be able to stop the other four Pandavas!' Krishna finished sadly.
Arjuna fell back as a feeling of complete and utter defeat washed over him. So it was him....He was not there for his son. It was because he was not there that his son was now not here. The son whose fair eyes and beautiful face was something that always cheered him no matter what. The son whose optimism was infectious. His son....
Arjuna looked at Krishna first as Krishna sensed him in an almost dangerous mood. Arjuna then turned to Yudhishtara. 'Jayadratha dies tomorrow!' Arjuna said in a vicious voice. 'And he dies by my hands!' His brothers stayed almost away from Arjuna as Arjuna got up looking something beyond anger. 'Unless that wretch comes to us for protection or goes to Krishna for protection, I will kill that man! And I don't care who is protecting that man! If they are protecting him....they will be filled with my arrows!' Arjuna said with a definite shout. 'And if I don't do what I say, I will kill myself!' Arjuna huffed as he pulled his Gandiva close to himself. Krishna picked up his conch – the Panchajanya and blew on it loudly, closely joined by Arjuna's conch the Devadatta. An unearthly sound filled the world...the almost sounded like a death knell....
********

'ARJUNA WHAT?' Jayadratha asked stunned as the spies informed the Kauravas of Arjuna's promise. Beads do perspiration appeared in his forehead which Karna found very odd. The man had been very confident in the morning when he had said that he would stop the four Pandavas. Now the man was scared...actually he was terrified. 'I am going to run away!' Jayadratha said swallowing. 'With Arjuna against me, it does not matter who is here to prtect me....He will kill me! I wish to hide from the Pandavas! I will...'
Duryodhana came forward to Jayadratha with a smile which was almost unnerving to watch. 'Why do you fear my friend? You are a warrior! Fear does not suit you! All my 11 Akshauhinis (a battalion of soldiers) are for protecting you! Nothing will happen to you!'
In desperation, Jayadratha almost believed the man. 
Too afraid to speak anything else, the two men met Drona. Drona shook his head. 'I will make a formation today that will make it impossible for Arjuna to even come near you!' Duryodhana was another matter, but Jayadratha believed Drona almost instantaneously. For the first time since he heard the news of Arjuna's promise, Jayadratha felt relieved. 'You have lived a good life and had done your duty well! Why do you fear Death, my son?' Drona shook her head. 'Fear does not suit you! Let it go and go to sleep! Be in peace, my son!'
Jayadratha gave a hesitant smile and nodded as he looked at the wizened face of the Teacher.
*********

Arjuna was not feeling good, but he was feeling a rather different emotion from the Dark Lord. Krishna was listening, as a rather indistinct looking man was talking to Krishna. 
The man finished and again melted back in the crowd. 
Krishna turned to Arjuna as Arjuna realized with a jolt that Krishna was angry with him. 'You have made a rash promise, my friend!' Krishna said in quiet anger. Arjuna was looking completely blankly at Krishna wondering whether he had heard right. He seemed incapable of words as Krishna continued. 'You made a vow to kill Jayadratha by tomorrow or kill yourself if you do not succeed!'
Arjuna said nothing as Krishna continued. 'My spies tell me that the Kauravas know all about your vow! Drona has planned a special Vyugha just for you! It is going to half like a Sakata (a vehicle of some sort) and half a lotus. And in the middle Jayadratha would be surrounded by six Maharathas from the Kaurava army!'

'You think I cannot keep my promise?' Arjuna looked at Karna with mild bewilderment. 'I have the Gandiva with me! I trust I can equal all those six Maharathas! And you are my charioteer! When you are with me, what do you think I cannot do?' Arjuna asked Krishna. 'I will do exactly what I have said!' Arjuna said firmly.