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....

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 19

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

*******

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

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Gurus of Hastinapur - Part 18

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

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