Bheema and Duryodhana were eying each other murderously their maces in hand. The maces met in mid-air with such a force that the other Pandavas could feel the air around them vibrate….
The other Pandavas were furious as they watched the battle. Duryodhana – the vile scheming, jealous Kaurava was the root cause of the war…The Pandavas had suffered much at their hands. Until now Duryodhana had been protected with his generals and his soldiers. But now he was all alone…..All alone to face the wrath of the Pandavas….He had to pay for all that he had done to them ….
The Pandavas knew that it was a fight to the death.
Krishna watched the battle thinking…..The purpose of my life has more or less coming to an end….The only things that remained now was to destroy my own clan before the complete onset of the Kali Yuga. And then there was this thing about making good a debt he owed to someone….Krishna shook his head. That was still a long way away. He had to focus on the battle at hand. Bheema was good with the mace but Duryodhana was a class apart. Krishna now knew why his elder brother Balarama, preferred Duryodhana to Bheema.
As Krishna saw he suddenly realized that even though Bheema had hit Duryodhana on the torso plenty of times, Duryodhana’s body bore no wounds….Bheema’s body on the other hand showed all the injuries he had received and Krishna also realized something else….. Bheema was tiring and tiring fast.
Krishna was puzzled with Duryodhana’s lack of injury, when it suddenly stuck him. He now knew what was making Duryodhana so powerful. Krishna now knew how he could get this over with, once and for all. Though it was not a fair game, Krishna knew he had no choice.
Bheema had just fallen back as Duryodhana had kicked him fiercely in the stomach. Gasping Bheema was trying to get up as he saw Duryodhana looking at him with a complete calm in his eyes. All the Pandavas bristled. They had never seen their brother lose. They were encouraging their brother to get up and fight.
Krishna was the only one who realized that Duryodhana had no interest in fighting. Krishna smiled sadly at Duryodhana. Duryodhana had committed many crimes in his life, but then he had many good qualities as well. His love for his friend Karna was one among them. Duryodhana was closer to Karna than he had ever been with his own brothers. Karna had been Duryodhana’s strength, his confidence, his arrogance….. Once Karna was dead, Duryodhana had lost the will to live, let alone fight. But Duryodhana still fought…Because he knew he had to take the war to its logical conclusion….
Krishna caught sight of Bheema as Bheema staggered to his feet. Krishna patted his thigh. ‘Remember Bheema. Remember what he did…’ Bheema’s eyes became murderous again as he remembered what Krishna was trying to tell him…This vile wretched creature had asked his wife Draupadi to sit on his thigh….Bheema shot up like an arrow as he watched Duryodhana with an angry look. I am going to make you pay….I am going to hit you on the very thigh that you asked my wife to sit on…Hitting below the torso during a mace fight was against the rules of the fight. But Bheema did not care. He was filled with so much anger that he thought he was going to explode. Attacking Duryodhana relentlessly, he pushed Duryodhana back As Duryodhana was in a corner, Bheema with one skilled movement brought down the mace with all his anger on Duryodhana’s thigh. Bheema watched with grim satisfaction as he saw Duryodhana collapse before him screaming and clutching his thigh.
Bheema looked venomously as he screamed. ‘This was the thigh on which you asked my wife to sit, didn’t you?’ Duryodhana tried to look back angrily at Bheema but he was filled with too much pain. He just collapsed on the battlefield among the thousands of other dead soldiers of the war, unable to get up….
‘LOOK!’ Bheema shouted at Duryodhana. ‘LOOK AROUND YOU!’ Bheema pointed to the horrible battlefield around him, ‘Look at how many people have died for your arrogance…take a long look around you and think about it as you also leave this world….’ Bheema looked at Duryodhana contemptuously as he turned back and walked away from there.
The Pandavas now left the battlefield with the eldest Kaurava dying in the battlefield. It was over….the gruesome, bloody war which they had fought for 18 days was over….all their demons buried…
Little did they know how much the victory was actually going to cost them….
Now that the war was over, the actual force of what they had done struck the Pandavas. They had killed their own cousins….all of them…As Yudhishtara was thinking about the next course of action, he began to tremble with fear.
Yudhishtara turned to Krishna, ‘Krishna! What have I done? The war….the war is one of the most terrible things ever….All of them…all the Kauravas are dead. What am I going to tell King Dhridarashtra? He may have been blind to the follies of his son and he would have even supported all the crimes which were carried out by Duruyodhana, but he is still our uncle, my father’s own brother…What will I tell him?’ Yudhishtara asked in anguish, ‘Shall I tell him that I killed a hundred of his sons…and that none of them who fought against us are alive?’ Yudhishtara then looked terrified as he moaned, ‘What am I going to tell Queen Gandhari….’ Yudhishtara was so broken hearted that Krishna held him shoulders tightly trying to calm him down.
The other Pandavas also heard Yudhishtara and all of them now trembled. More than Dhridarashtra, they feared facing queen Gandhari. She was the Queen Mother of Hastinapur, the mother of all the Kauravas. She was such a pure and good hearted woman that the Pandavas feared even going before her.
Krishna knew that not only were the fears of the Pandavas justified, it was totally probable that they would face a very huge calamity because of the anger of the grand old lady. She was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva and had immense powers of penance with her. If she uttered even a single word out of anger at the Pandavas, they would be reduced to less than nothing…Krishna knew that Gandhari had to be consoled if the Pandavas were to enjoy the fruits of the war.
That night Krishna took the Pandavas far away from the Pandava camp, away from the misery of it, so that atleast for sometime, the Pandavas would feel happy….
Meanwhile at the battlefield as Duryodhana lay dying, Ashwattama came to meet him. Ashwattama was the son of Dronacharya, the teacher of the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Yudhishtara had lied to Dronacharya that Ashwattama had been killed by Bheema. After that Dronacharya lost the will to fight and gave up his weapons. As he lay meditating on the field, Dhrishtadhyumna, the brother of Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, killed Dronacharya!
Ashwattama entered the Pandava camp at night and killed all the sons of the Pandavas, their allies, friends everybody…. when all of them were asleep! All this happened the very night when Krishna took the Pandavas away from the Pandava camp….
The Pandavas came back to camp the next morning and were horrified. They were not able to believe that the people who had made the very victory possible were no more....
Slowly with a broken heart, they realized that they had won a bitter victory. They had won the war, but they had no one…not even one person to share it with….The only people left from the war were the five Pandavas themselves….
Like wounded men, the Pandavas made their way to Hastinapur to meet the blind king Dhridarashtra and his wife Gandhari. Krishna knew the dangers of this. Though Dhridarashtra was blind, he was powerful….phenomenally so. Krishna knew that the Pandavas, specifically Bheema was in a terrible danger around Dhridarashtra.
There was an iron statue of Bheema on which Duryodhana used to practice hitting with the mace. Krishna had the iron statue bought into Dhridarashtra’s chambers as the Pandavas met the blind king.
Yudhishtara came forward and spoke in a bedraggled manner. His voice clearly showing his misery at losing all his children and his fear of meeting the father of the sons, he had killed. ‘King Dhridarashtra! I have come with….’
‘Where is Bheema?’ The blind king spoke sharply. Dhridarashtra was adept at hiding his true feelings. He tried his best as he cut down his sharp voice and tried to make it neutral, ‘I wish to hug my brother’s son…now that the war is over!’ As Bheema came forward, Krishna pulled him back and stopped him. ‘Here is Bheema, your Highness!’ Krishna said as he went and stood behind the iron statue. Eagerly Dhridarashtra went forward.
As Dhridarashtra hugged the statue, the Pandavas were aghast….There was a loud crash and where a huge iron statue stood, there was nothing more than crumbled pieces of iron lying everywhere! For the first time, the Pandavas saw the unadulterated pure hatred in the face of the blind king as he crushed the iron statue with his bare hands.
But immediately after crushing the statue, Dhridarashtra collapsed as he fell to the ground. ‘What have I done? Oh my God, what have I done? I have killed my own brother’s son….Whatever he may have done, he was still my brother’s son…I…’ Dhridarashtra wailed, ‘I should have loved him…I should have loved all of you like my own sons….’ The blind king shook his head, tears falling everywhere, ‘I did not…I loved my own children more…I wanted them to be the kings after me…Oh Lord now what have I done?’
‘Your Highness! Bheema still lives! Please do not worry. Your Highness, please control yourself!’ Krishna spoke softly.
Dhridarashtra stared uncomprehendingly at Krishna’s words. He did not even have the energy to ask what Krishna meant by it. He looked like a man really lost. But slowly it seeped into his conscious. He had not done anything rash…He had not killed Bheema. Dhridarashtra felt a profound sense of relief flowing through him. In a moment of clarity he understood. He understood that in a way, it was his desire to rule the kingdom and inability to love his brother’s children as his own, which had led to this war. He had been responsible for this…And he had got what he had deserved. None of his and Gandhari’s hundred sons lived…They had all perished; because he had been weak…He had not stopped his son, when he should have….And so here he was…..
But Dhridarashtra knew something else now. However late, he could still make up for his weakness. He could be a good father now to the Pandavas, when they needed comfort from their own miseries….He wildly searched with his hands as he whirled around, ‘My children! Where are you? I understand everything now. Please come to me, my children! Even though you have won the war, you like me have lost all your children. Come and I will give you some comfort! Come and embrace me like your father…come!’
Krishna and the Pandavas realized the subtle change in the king. All of them realized that Dhridarashtra was no longer against them. The Pandavas hugged Dhridarashtra as Krishna watched calmly from behind them.
After taking leave of Dhridarashtra, Yudhistara and his brothers were actually shivering to meet Gandhari. Gandhari was further away from Dhridarashtra when she sensed the Pandavas approaching. No matter how much she tried she could not shake out the feeling of hatred. All of her hundred sons were dead. Bheema had killed them all….As Gandhari thought about it, her breathing became uneven. She wanted nothing more than to just….just smite down the Pandavas…They had brought her so much pain…so much anguish…She really hated them. In that one single minute, Gandhari opened her mouth to curse the Pandavas. She suddenly whirled when she sensed the calming presence of someone near her.
Gandhari curbed her anger with great difficulty as she sensed the man who had come near her. ‘Lord Veda Vyasa! To what do I owe this honour!’ She said haltingly.
‘Please my daughter! Do not curse the Pandavas! It is not the right thing to do!’ Veda Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharatha and the great Grandfather of the Pandavas and the Kauravas spoke gently. Veda Vyasa had sensed the anger of Gandhari and with his power of penance he had appeared in front of Gandhari before she did anything rash.
‘RIGHT? Right?’ Gandhari shrieked. ‘I do not have a single son left, all because of the Pandavas. And you are trying to tell me I am not right in cursing them…’ Gandhari laughed miserably, ‘What more can I do now?’
Veda Vyasa spoke calmly. ‘The Pandavas are not responsible for this war, my child. Then why are you blaming only them for it…’
Gandhari opened her mouth to retort angrily, when she felt another presence near her. She turned as she said, ‘Krishna! Have you come here as well?’ she asked sharply.
Krishna said gently, ‘Yes mother! I am here…’ Krishna had asked the Pandavas and Draupadi to wait outside while he talked with Gandhari.
Veda Vyasa asked Gandhari a simple question, 'Just before the war, your son Duruyodhana came to ask for your blessings, what did you do at that time, Gandhari?'
Gandhari was quiet unable to answer the words of the sage.
Veda Vyasasharply repeated his question, 'What were the blessings you gave your son, Gandhari?'
Gandhari sobbed as she mumbled listlessly, 'Whereever there was truth, victory would be there!'
There was a silence as Veda Vyasa spoke gently, 'Even you, one of the most powerful mothers did not wish your son to be victorious. You blessed the truthful side to win. Your words have not been in vain! The Pandavas adhered to their Dharma and fought for truth! They won!' Veda Vyasa said simply.
Gandhari was shaken. She remembered the times she had talked to her sons to stop their ways.....She started crying. Together Veda Vyasa and Krishna gently talked with Gandhari trying to calm her down. Slowly the queen forgot her anger. She took a deep breath as she turned to her guards. ‘Get the Pandavas. I wish to speak with them.’
When the Pandavas were inside, anger flared up again when he felt Bheema near her. ‘Bheema! You hit my son Duruyodhana, on the thigh, while fighting with the mace! Is this…’ Gandhari’’s voice chocked as she cleared her throat, her anger getting the better of her. ‘Is this how you fight a righteous war?’ She yelled.
Bheema quailed. He looked at Krishna and slowly spoke, ‘Mother! Duryodhana is the greatest mace fighter in the world.’ Now that the war was over, Bheema could see that Duruyodhana had been a better fighter than him. ‘There was no way, I could have defeated him, if I had followed the rules of the fight…’
‘Besides mother, your penance protected him!’ Krishna said softly. ‘More than anything else…The only place in Duruyodhana’s body which was not protected were his thighs…otherwise he could never be defeated…’ All the Pandavas looked at Krishna, realising now why Krishna had asked Bheema to remember hitting his thighs.
When Gandhari heard Bheema praise Duruyodhana with utter sincerity, she cooled down. Slowly the love of the Pandavas won her over. She was magnanimous even to console Draupadi, who like her had lost all her sons as well.
The next day they all went to the battlefield to cremate the dead.
When they reached the battlefield, Gandhari sensed everything that had happened there. Countless of people dying, screaming, pain….Gandhari was shaken. All this for what? So much death and destruction for a piece of land…Would all the lands in the world now give her back even one of her sons…just one…Gandhari’s temper grew. As they arrived at the battlefield, slowly she walked around the battlefield sensing every single one of her sons lying there….so many soldiers dead…it was so meaningless and pointless…Wherever she went she was followed by the screams of her daughters-in-law as they had found their husbands in the battlefield. Gandhari watched with growing anger as she had a moment of clarity. The Pandavas had lost as much as her. They were not to blame for this, but then somebody else was….’KRISHNA!’ She screamed as her voice was heard above the loud cries of the others. ‘Krishna! Where are you?’ She sensed Krishna walk up towards her and for some reason, the image maddened her. ‘Look around you! So much death and destruction. All for what? It was so worthless…Their deaths so pointless…You! You are responsible for this! You are supposed to be the Avatara of the Great Lord. Is this your greatness?’ Gandhari spoke with such contempt that everybody looked at the blindfolded queen, aghast. Gandhari continued ferociously, ‘You could have averted this war, Krishna! You should have stopped all this from happening. You should have stopped the pointless and meaningless death of so many people…Why didn’t you?’ Gandhari shrieked. The fury of the queen was so terrible that everybody backed away from her…All except Krishna. He looked at her waiting for her complete. Gandhari continued her tirade, ‘Look at my daughters-in-law, they do not know whether to cry for their husbands or their sons…all of them are here lying here in the battlefield…dead, and because of whom?’ Gandhari said her voice dangerous, ‘You!’ Gandhari said softly, ‘It is because of you! Gandhari spoke venomously, ‘So listen to my words and listen them well! You and your people, will kill each other and die…every last one of you…’ The Pandavas gasped as Gandhari continued. ‘And you Krishna, thirty six years from now, when you die, you will have no one near you! No one to talk to and you will also die unattended like my sons! These are the words of the mother whose hundred sons you killed’
The author thanks Mr. A. Narayanan for his review comments.
The author thanks Mr. A. Narayanan for his review comments.