Monday, May 18, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 26

The Nishadas and the Kalingas found themselves facing Abhimanyu. They really never had hope against him. But that was not the purpose of their counter attack. The Nishadas and Kalingas did exactly what Duryodhana wanted. They kept Abhimanyu occupied inside the Vyugha, so that he could not attack Jayadratha.
Abhimanyu laid waste to more than half the Kaurava army and had killed far too many Maharathas to even be counted. In one particular encounter, Abhimanyu killed five warriors – Satrunjaya, Chadraketu, Mahamegba, Suvarchas and Suryobhasa. And then Abhimanyu attacked the warrior standing next to them – who happened to be Shakuni. Barely surviving the attack, Shakuni galloped over to where Duryodhana was there. ‘We cannot attack this boy alone!’ he gasped. ’If each one of us attack him singly, he will take out all of us! We need to attack him together!'
Karna who heard this, drove his chariot to Drona. ‘If we don’t do something now, this boy is going to kill all of us! We would not even have people to fight the battle tomorrow! What can we do now?’ Karna demanded.
The teacher in Drona was actually aroused by Abhimanyu’s fighting technique. He realized that Abhimanyu was a far better warrior than many that he had taught. ‘I cannot detect a flaw in his fighting! I doubt anyone here has seen any flaw in Abhimanyu’s fighting technique! The time taken for him to draw the arrow and fire it….it is so quick that we see almost nothing!’ Drona said with an almost wondrous expression.
Acharya!’ Karna shouted trying to get the teacher’s attention. ‘This boy has attacked me and wounded me so badly that all I want to do is go back to my tent! It is only because I am required to fight that I am staying here! We need to stop him!’ Karna said fiercely.
Drona nodded absently. ‘His father has taught him to wear his armour such that weapons cannot pierce it!’
Karna was about to shout when Drona held up his hands. ‘As long as he has his bow, he cannot be defeated! Not you, not me, no one can defeat him! Attack him together if you wish to defeat him….’
Karna nodded as he looked at Abhimanyu who was attacking another warrior.
As Abhimanyu was attacking the other warrior, Karna shot at Abhimanyu and broke Abhimanyu’s bow. Abhimanyu was shocked that someone could attack him when he was fighting with some other warrior…and looked up angrily, when another shock hit him. Kritivarman killed Abhimanyu’s horses and Kripacharya killed Abhimanyu’s charioteer….
And so the young boy was right in the middle of the Vyugha without his chariot and even without his bow, facing six of the greatest warriors of the Kaurava army. That would have stopped many warriors, or atleast make them hesitate before they attacked. But apparently, Abhimanyu did not fall within that category of warriors.
After the initial shock, Abhimanyu pulled out his sword and mercilessly started attacking all those who had the misfortune of attacking him. Even with the sword Abhimanyu was getting quiet out of hand, when Dronacharya shot at Abhimanyu’s sword and broke it. At the same time, Karna shot at Abhimanyu’s shield repeatedly as the shield also lay broken in the middle of the battlefield.
The Kaurava warriors watched shocked as Abhimanyu lifted up a huge chariot wheel from the battlefield and twirled it around attacking everyone trying to make it towards Drona. Even at this time, the Kaurava soldiers were actually filled with fear of Abhimanyu that the boy was somehow going to be the death of them as they tried to stay away from him. Veda Vyasa in the Mahabharatha said that at time with the wheel in his hand, Abhimanyu looked like the second Krishna in the battlefield….
However the Kaurava Maharathas destroyed the wheel as it shattered into a hundred pieces. Abhimanyu stumbled around in the battlefield and he picked up the first thing which came to his hands, mostly out of self defence than anything else. The thing that Abhimanyu picked up happened to be a, mace belonging to one of the many who had lost their lives in the battlefield that day…
Using the mace, Abhimanyu attacked the person closest to him who was Ashwattaman. Ashwattaman was flabbergasted as he was unable to react as he saw the young boy swing the mace effortlessly, at him. Ashwattaman jumped back, almost running away from the scene, when the mace fell on Ashwattaman’s horses killing them and the charioteer almost immediately.
Probably Abhimanyu realized that his time was approaching real fast and that he had to make every second count…Because now the slew of arrows from the Kaurava soldiers pierced Abhimanyu causing real harm and injury to the young boy….With that and without his bow, and without his chariot, Abhimanyu went on to wreck havoc on the Kaurava army. It is said that Abhimanyu killed ten chariot warriors and ten huge elephants at this stage….And the next in Abhimanyu’s target was Dusshasana’s son.
Abhimanyu destroyed Dusshasana’s son’s chariot as Dusshasana’s son fell down hard on the battlefield.
Without wasting a second, Dusshasana’s son pulled out his own mace as the two warriors eyed each other…..
Abhimanyu’s mace caught Dusshasana’s son right in his chest as he fell down hard, but not before he was able to push Abhimanyu down. Both the warriors were on the ground, when Dusshasana’s son got up first and he hit Abhimanyu…..
For a second there was absolute silence in the entire battlefield. That the sun had set and the day’s battle was over was something that almost no one noticed. All that the Kaurava soldiers were wondering was why Abhimanyu was not getting up…..
*********
The 13th day of the battle and Dronacharya’s promise to Duryodhana had taken its toll.

Arjuna and Subhadra had lost their sixteen year old boy to the Kurukshetra war…..

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 25

Karna watched the entire scene in horror as his brother fell dead right in front of him. He let out a furious shout as he ordered his charioteer to turn around and attack the boy. Unfortunately, this time too, Karna found himself no match for Abhimanyu. Karna was also defeated the second time he faced Abhimanyu and Karna fled the battlefield...
The Kaurava army now had no one to lead them. With Karna gone, the soldiers ran helter-skelter from the battlefield, just trying to get away from Abhimanyu.
And Abhimanyu was merciless. It did not matter to him who or what was before him. Bodies of elephants, horses, great warriors all lay strewn on the battlefield for the only reason that they had crossed Abhimanyu's path.
*****
Meanwhile, at the edge of the Chakravyugha, Jayadratha was fighting like a man possessed. There was not a single flaw in his technique as he seemed to keep the Pandavas out of the Chakravyugha, with an almost effortless ease. None of the Pandavas, especially Bheema, could believe this.
This was even more difficult for Bheema to accept because he was the one who had single handedly defeated Jayadratha, when the king of Sindhu (Jayadratha) had tried to kidnap Draupadi during their years in the exile. The man who was fighting before him right now did not even remotely resemble that arrogant man, whom Bheema had fought during the exile...This Jaydratha knew what he was doing and had the confidence to check all the four Pandavas.
Bheema wondered what had changed this time to enable Jayadratha to fight him off so effortlessly....
********

Salya had already been defeated by Abhimanyu and he had been taken away from the battlefield by his charioteer. Salya's son Rukmaratha was unable to accept the fact that his father had been defeated by a little boy. He charged ahead in the battlefield, coming before Abhimanyu, hoping that today was the day he was going to outshine his father. 'I am going to take him captive! I am going to bring that boy here bound and then we will decide what to do with him!'
The other Kaurava soldiers encouraged Rukamaratha to go forward, but then Rukmaratha lasted now more than a few seconds as Abhimanyu made short work of the warrior and Rukmaratha fell dead...
Watching Rukmaratha fall had probably been the last straw. The Kaurava princes accompanying Rukamaratha were enraged by Abhimanyu and all of them together attacked Abhimanyu. It was said that there were so many of them that Abhimanyu was lost in the maze of arrows which were fired at him.
For a second, just for a second, Duryodhana actually rejoiced as something in the day's battle was actually going his way....
Whether Abhimanyu knew that he was facing insurmountable odds was something that Duryodhana did not know. But the way Abhimanyu fought, it showed like he really did not care. In reply to the barrage of arrows being fired at him, after cutting down the arrows, Abhimanyu pulled out the Gandharva arrow of illusion, which was taught to him by his father...Abhimanyu looked at the princes and he fired the weapon....
Once the arrow was fired, things went really bad. Already the battle for the Kauravas, in reality, was going really bad and now they had to deal with the illusion that the arrow created. Instead of a single Abhimanyu, the princes saw a hundred Abhimanyus...a thousand Abhimanyus, all over the battlefield. Whichever direction they turned they saw Abhimanyu firing an arrow at them....
The confusion helped Abhimanyu as he lost no time in killing the Kaurava princes who had attacked him.
Duryodhana watched the entire thing as a gripping fear possessed him....Was this boy going to be the downfall of the Kauravas? Duryodhana was unable to cope up with his fear as he turned from the battle and fled.....
Lakshmana, Duryodhana's son watched as his proud father ran away from the battlefield. Karna, Kritivarman, Kripacharya, Ashwattaman, Dronacharya and Shakuni were together trying to contain the boy and were having absolutely no success. Lakshmana, angrily pushed the other warriors aside and came forward to meet Abhimanyu head on.
****

Duryodhana who was already halfway away from the battlefield was alerted by his generals that Lakshmana was in harm's way. Duryodhana turned around as he watched Lakshmana had almost reached Abhimanyu. Not able to believe how foolish his son could be, Duryodhana shouted to call his son back. But then Lakshmana did not hear his father. Looking around wildly, Duryodhana called in his warriors as all of them desperately tried to reach Abhimanyu before Lakshmana could.
But it was a vain effort. Abhimanyu was like a warrior elephant gone berserk, as he killed Lakshmana and he also succeeded in keeping the other great Kaurava Maharathas from reaching Lakshmana.
As Abhimanyu was veering his chariot all over the battlefield, he realized that he had done something impossible. His battle had brought him right back in the beginning. He was back at Jayadratha's force who was stopping his uncles from getting inside the Chakravyugha.
Giving a whooping shout, Abhimanyu started attacking Jayadratha's forces from the inside of the Chakravyugha as he tried to make way for his uncles to get inside....
*******

Duryodhana was speechless as he watched his dead son. He could not believe that his son...the one who had grown up in the lap of luxury, surrounded by all lavishness that life could offer was lying dead in the battlefield.

He finally looked at Abhimanyu, a feral anger building inside him. 'Stop him from attacking Jayadratha!' Duryodhana said coldly. 'Throw everything that we have at him! That boy dies inside this Vyugha!'

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 24

Duryodhana watched in despair as the tables turned right before his eyes. He had a simple plan, hardly anything devious. All he had wanted was for Abhimanyu to be alone inside the Chakravyuha, so that the Kauravas may be able to kill Abhimanyu.
But then the way Abhimanyu fought, it was almost as if, he had sworn to finish the battle singlehanded. Duryodhana looked at Jayadratha who was still preventing the other Pandavas from entering as a really horrible thought entered his mind….Instead of keeping the Pandavas out, was Jayadratha keeping the Kauravas sealed inside with Abhimanyu?
Angrily Duryodhana shook his head, wondering why he was thinking such useless thoughts. Abhimanyu was a warrior of the Pandavas and their youngest and probably least experiences one. If the others found it difficult to face him, then it was Duyodhana’s duty as king to finish off the young warrior. Without a word to anyone else, Duryodhana angrily commanded his charioteer to go towards Abhimanyu.
The minute he drove away, Dronacharya saw the foolishness of Duryodhana. In the wonderful form that Abhimanyu was exhibiting, Dronacharya realized that Duryodhana would last no more than a few seconds against the boy. He yelled loudly at Duryodhana, asking him to come back. Either Duryodhana did not hear him or did not care.
Dronacharya called on the other warriors. ‘PROTECT THE KING!’ He shouted loudly as he himself drove towards Duryodhana. Dronacharya was closely followed by Ashwattaman, Kripa, Karna, Kritavarman and a host of other warriors, as they tried to reach Duryodhana before he reached Abhimanyu.
Meanwhile Abhimanyu saw Duryodhana coming towards him and pulled out a gleaming arrow. He realized that Duryodhana was foolishly providing himself as an excellent target and pulled back the arrow. Abhimanyu let the arrow go, when the arrow was cut off. Abhimanyu angrily looked about and saw that Duryodhana was not alone. He was surrounded by all the warriors of the Kaurava army.
Duryodhana smiled smugly at the boy, as he realized that the young warrior was completely at his mercy….
That was when all hell broke loose….
Duryodhana was shocked as Karna - his best friend, the man whom he believed to be the best archer in the world, had an arrow whizzing towards him. Abhimanyu shot the arrow with so much force and accuracy that the arrow entered Karna’s body and passed out through the other end. Duryodhana yelled as he saw Karna fall down heavily on the chariot.
KARNA!’ Duryodhana’s shout was lost in the clamour of the bow twanging and swords clanging. Duryodhana did not even notice that the boy was far from done. Sushena, Drighalochana and Kundavedhin – three Kaurava warriors fell dead before Duryodhana could even register it.
But then Karna was a strong man. He got up from the chariot and tried his best to contain Abhimanyu. Karna was ably assisted by Ashwattaman and Kritivarman. Despite this, Abhimanyu not only countered them, he was even able to shoot Salya, the king of Madras. The shot pierced Salya very badly as Salya fainted away in the chariot. Luckily for Salya, his charioteer drove him away before the boy could actually kill him.
Duryodhana watched as Salya’s younger brother foolishly attacked Abhimanyu and lost his life almost immediately. And after that, Duryodhana was aghast as Abhimanyu pulled out the same kind of weapons that Arjuna had with him. Duryodhana did not know it, but Abhimanyu not only had the knowledge of weapons which Arjuna had given him. What Abhimanyu was using was more than that. Because Abhimanyu was also a student of Krishna…The Dark Lord had taught Abhimanyu a lot more than Arjuna ever could. And now Abhimanyu was putting almost each and every one in effect against the Kauravas, inside the Chakravyugha. With nowhere to run, the Kauravas were being systematically killed by Abhimanyu.
Dronacharya watched the boy and despite himself shook his head in wonder. He turned to Kripa. ‘That boy is greater than all his uncles put together! If he wants to, he can finish the war today! I do not think that there is any archer who is equal to him! I wonder what is stopping him from unleashing his true potential!’ Dronacharya mused almost helpless before the boy’s archery.
Unfortunately for Drona, his words were heard by the one person in the Kaurava army who already mistrusted him – Duryodhana.
Duryodhana looked around his group of warriors and angrily cursed Dronacharya. ‘I have heard that Dronacharya is one of the best warriors in the world!’ Duryodhana said sneering at Dronacharya. ‘I have heard that even the Devas themselves fear him! And he is here praising that young boy!’ Duryodhana angrily pointed at the young Abhimanyu who was hunting the Kaurava soldiers. ‘That boy is a nobody! He is as ordinary a warrior as anyone else! Dronacharya is not fighting the battle to the best of his abilities and is trying to make us believe that Abhimanyu is a great warrior!’ Duryodhana spat out angrily.
Dusshansana looked angrily at Abhimanyu and then turned to Duryodhana. ‘You speak the truth, brother! Watch what I do now!’ Without another word Dusshasana turned his chariot and drove towards the fierce Abhimanyu.
I will kill you!’ Dusshasana said angrily pulling out his arrow shooting at Abhimanyu. Abhimanyu studied the Kaurava prince as he was shouting loudly and shooting arrows.
You have come to me, yourself!’ Abhimanyu said with a quiet smile. ‘Mother Krishna, (As Draupadi had a dark complexion, she also had another name – Krishna) is dear to me like my own mother! Your vile hands disgraced her! Today…’ Abhimanyu said shooting arrows to counter all of Dusshasana’s arrows. ‘I will free myself of the debt I owe her, my father and my uncle Bheema!’ Abhimanyu watched as Dusshasana was lying helpless before him. ‘They will be happy to hear the news of your death!’ Abhimanyu said as he let the arrow go. The arrow went straight inside Dusshasana, who stared bleary eyed at Abhimanyu, completely helpless. Abhimanyu was about to shoot the next arrow, which could have killed Dusshasana when Dusshasana’s charioteer luckily drove the unconscious warrior away….
Dusshasana!’ Duryodhana whispered unable to believe what he was just seeing. He looked at Karna with glazed eyes. ‘My brother….’ Duryodhana said, unable to complete the sentence.
Karna took Duryodhana’s hands. ‘I am here, my friend!’ so saying Karna picked up his bow and was off to meet the young warrior.
The clash between Abhimanyu and Karna was a beautiful sight with neither giving an inch to the other. All the arrows never reached either side as they were broken almost as soon as they left the bow of the archer. It went on for a long time, when suddenly Karna gained a small advantage. His arrow pierced Abhimanyu’s defence.
It would have stopped any other warrior. But the only thing it did to Abhimanyu was make him more angry. Abhimanyu pulled out his next arrow and with great swiftness cut off Karna’s standard and bow, in one arrow.
Karna was almost defenceless before the young warrior when Karna’s younger brother charged ahead. Karna’s younger brother was unable to believe that Abhimanyu had been able to render his brother defenceless and charged angrily at the young boy, helping Karna get away.

But then, Karna’s brother’s act was in vain. Abhimanyu killed Karna’s younger brother in almost no time…..

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 23

Duryodhana was actually surprised at how well Dronacharya's plan worked. The Samshaptakas came and led Arjuna away in the form of a challenge.
As he was in the far side of the battlefield, Arjuna faintly saw the outlines of the circular fashion of Duryodhana's fashion. But then he was surrounded by so many Samshaptakas that he had no time to think about it.
*****
Duryodhana jeered as he watched the start of the war. The Chakravyuha was undoubtedly one of the best crafted vyuhas of the guru. The Vyuha offered the Kaurava soldiers almost complete immunity from the Pandava attacks. All the arrows of the Pandavas were either deviated or destroyed before they could reach his troopes. Added to that, the formation also was able to hide from the Pandavas exactly who was firing the arrows and towards whom. Unable to know anything, the Pandava soldiers were falling in large numbers as they were unable to counter the attack of the Kaurava soldiers.
Duryodhana almost smiled as he saw the despair in Yudhishtara's face.
Duryodhana frowned as he saw the eldest Pandava drive towards the youngest Pandava in the army. Duryodhana watched grimly as there was a dialogue between Yudhishtara, Bheema and the sixteen year old Abhimanyu. Duryodhana was slightly shocked as Abhimanyu rode on towards the Vyugha.
'Is...is the great Yudhishtara sending that...boy...towards us?' Duryodhana asked. He was not to know, but these words were to come back and haunt him later today. Karna who was near Duroydhana was also slightly shocked as he nodded.
'Does not Yudhishtara love Abhimanyu? He has sent the boy all alone to face the might of the Kaurava army!' Duroydhana asked trying hard not to grin, a plan already forming in his head. He knew that this particular boy, this Abhimanyu, was special. His grandfather Bhishma considered the boy almost equal to a Arjuna and Krishna in the battlefield. But that was not what was interesting. Abhimanyu was special because not only was he Arjuna's son, he was also Krishna's nephew – the son of Krishna's sister – Bhadra. Duryodhana realized that if he killed the boy today, not only would he have killed a Maharatha from the Pandava army, he would have demoralised both Arjuna and Krishna.
'Abhimanyu is not alone!' Dronacharya told Dronacharya from the other side. 'The other Pandavas are following him!' Dronacharya slowly nodded. 'Yudhishtara wants Abhimanyu to break the Vyugha so that the others may be able to come inside the Vyugha! That is why they have sent such a young warrior inside the vyugha!'
'A soldier is a soldier!' Duryodhana said grimly. He turned to his men. 'Jayadratha! Go to the edge of the Chakravyugha! You said that you would stop the others if Arjuna was not there!' Even as Duryodhana said it, he realized the impossibility of the sentence. It did not seem possible that Jayadratha could stop the four Pandavas. But then Jayadratha had seemed so confident when he said that he could stop the Pandavas, without Arjuna. Even now as Jayadratha drove his horses forward, he did not seem particularly worried. Duryodhana wondered why Jayadratha was so confident. But then, the young Abhimanyu was almost upon them and Duryodhana had a challenger to his Chakravyugha.
'If Abhimanyu is able to break the Vyugha, let him in! We will kill him inside the Chakravyugha!' Duryodhana said with a smile. 'But if Abhimanyu is not able to breach the vyugha, just make sure that the boy is killed today! I am sure that that would hurt Arjuna and Krishna, more than anything else!'

****

Duryodhana was almost sure that Abhimanyu cannot get inside the Yugha. But then he was in for a shock. The boy not only effortlessly breached the vyugha, he made an opening in the vyugha almost wide enough for all the others from the Pandava army to enter.
'Go towards Jayadratha!' Duryodhana shouted. He was suddenly doubtful whether the king of Sindhu could hold off....But then Duryodhana was in for a second shock. Jayadratha did not need any help. As Abhimanyu entered the Vyugha, Jayadratha and his men moved in over to the close the path created by the young warrior.
Bheema, Nakula, Sahadeva and even Yudishtara himself threw all their forces at the man. But Jayadratha seemed unfazed. In fact he seemed like different warrior as he calmly countered everything that the Pandavas were throwing at him.
Jayadratha had pulled off the impossible. He had effectively sealed Abhimanyu inside the Chakravyugha with no means of escape and absolutely no back up.....
********
Duryodhana did not know whether Abhimanyu knew that the Chakravyugha had closed behind him and that he was all alone. But Abhimanyu definitely looked like he did not care. Duryodhana realized that Abhimanyu had not volunteered to break inside the Vyugha, counting on his uncles support. Abhimanyu was inside the Vyugha because he knew that he count handle the Kaurava warriors.
And Abhimanyu was doing it ruthlessly.
Watching Abhimanyu fight, Duryodhana suddenly wondered whether the person who had breached in the formation was Arjuna...It was impossible to tell the difference between Arjuna and Abhimanyu's fighting technique. And the effect was the same. No matter which direction, the boy went, it was followed by the sounds of the rapid twanging of the bow and then the screams of the Kaurava warriors. It went so bad that the Kaurava warriors started running away as they heard the sound of Abhimanyu's chariot.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 22

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

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

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 20

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

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