Monday, June 2, 2014

The birth of a mighty warrior - Prelude - Part 1

It was time for the next yuga. The burden of the warriors on the earth was becoming unbearable. And so Narayana himself had decided to incarnate on earth. The other Gods of the heavens obviously incarnated with Lord Narayana to help him with the task.
Soma Deva remained alone and did not help the Devas in any way. Seeing this the other Gods approached him.
'Lord Narayana himself is incarnating in earth! Soma Deva, you also will have to contribute in some manner to this!'
Soma Deva staunchly refused to meet the eyes of the other Devas. Probably he knew exactly what they were going to ask.
Seeing him silent, the other Devas did indeed ask for the one thing which the Deva did not want to hear. 'Your valiant son, Varchas! He is one of the greatest warriors ever! You will have to let him incarnate on earth for this divine purpose....'
Soma Deva murmured something which no one heard.
'Speak up, Soma Deva! We cannot hear you!' The other Gods spoke angrily.
Soma Deva took a deep breath and spoke quietly. 'Varchas is dear to me, than my life! I cannot part with him...please ask me for anything else!' he pleaded with the others.
The other Gods shook his head. 'The entire incarnation is for the purpose of the destruction of Asuras on earth! We are Devas! The destruction of Asuras is our purpose too! You cannot shirk away from it, Soma Deva!'
All the Gods convinced Soma Deva some more and he finally relented. However he imposed a very important condition before he allowed his son to incarnate on earth. 'What you say is true! This is indeed our purpose! But I have some conditions! Only if they are met, I can allow Varchas to incarnate on earth! I cannot be parted with Varchas for long! So he will have to come back to me as soon as his work there is done....Probably as soon as he is sixteen years.....' The other Gods watched Soma Deva as he continued. 'When he incarnates on earth, he will be one of the greatest warriors on earth! In fact he will fight a battle when both Narayana and Nara would not be there and still keep away all his enemies effortlessly....He would be powerful enough to decimate almost one-fourth of the enemies forces....just in a day!' Soma Deva looked proudly as he continued. 'I also wish that it is through this son of mine that the almost extinct heroic race should continue!' He finished with a ringing voice.
The other Gods looked at Soma Deva quietly and finally they all nodded their head. 'So be it!' They intoned as one....

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The mighty warrior - Part 2

Arjuna looked back at Indraprastha as he smiled sadly at it. He was not going to see it for the next 12 years. Arjuna sighed as he turned back and walked away from there, without a backward glance.
There had never been a place where Arjuna had stayed for long. Arjuna was born in the forests and felt at home in the rough and tough jungle. The only rule there was the rule of survival. Arjuna, now an archer par excellence felt that he owed it all because of his upbringing in the forest.
When Arjuna’s father Pandu had been alive, Pandu, had often told him of the stories of Hastinapur. But to Arjuna, Hastinapur seemed some sort of mirage. Something like a dream….But then talking to Yudhishtara convinced Arjuna, that their father, the pale man, who roamed about the jungles with the sharp skills of a hunter, was in fact, the king of Hastinapur.
Pandu, the king of Hastinapur….Arjuna tried thinking about it and found the idea too incongruous. His father who always wore the coarse clothes made of tree bark and who lived in a thatched hut in the middle of the forest and who ate simple food….could not be the king of Hastinapur. But then as Arjua studied his father and mothers, he realized that he had been foolish in not guessing this fact before. Agreed his father was not surrounded by the lavish wealth of the palace, but his parents had that stamp of regal authority which was present in almost everything they did.
And then when Yudhistara had become sixteen, their father had died. Mother Madri was sobbing so hard that Arjuna felt more sorry for her than he felt for himself. Mother Madri took Nakula and Sahadeva, aside and took them to Kunti. ‘She is your mother from now on! Follow Yudhishtara and support him! He now holds the position of your father!’ She had said to the twins.
Mother Madri turned to Kunti and no actual words were exchanged between the two women. There was no need to. Both the women loved the same man who was now lying dead. Kunti, the stronger and the more mature of the two queens would carry on looking after the children. She loved all the five Pandavas like her own children and never differentiated between her own children and Madri’s children. In fact her favourite among the five was Sahadeva, the youngest of the lot.
Madri nodded to Kunti and without a backward glance had stepped into the funeral pyre along with Pandu’s dead body.
After that, Kunti had brought the five of them to Hastinapur. She had felt that the Pandavas being princes of Hastinapur, they had to know all the arts of warfare and diplomacy and for their education had come back to the palace.
Arjuna could not explain it, not even to himself, but the palace never felt like home to him. Agreed, now he had comfort which he had not dreamt of even in his wildest dreams. He could do everything….and strangely enough Arjuna found himself wanting to be in the open jungles more than ever. Though there were several reasons for his discomfiture, Arjuna attributed his uneasy feelings mostly to the Kauravas, his cousins and the sons of Dhirdarashtra, his father’s blind brother and now the king of Hastinapur.
Arjuna could not help but feel that Duryodhana, the eldest son of Dhisrdarashtra, did not like them at all. The way Duryodhana looked at them always made Arjuna feel like he was in a wrong place enjoying something, which was not his.
Arjuna was not sure he could take this continuous animosity directed towards him when something happened which changed his life forever.
Dronacharya. The man who had made Arjuna realize his passion in life. Arjuan never forgot the feeling when he had had his first archery lesson.
When Arjuna felt the bow in his hands, it felt like time had stood still. The bow and the arrow felt like a part of him and the target was all he could see, as the world paled to insignificance. The sound of the world had ceased and all Arjuna could hear was his own heart, steadily beating, the thrumming moving to the bow in his hand. Between the sounds of heartbeats he knew the exact minute he had to let the arrow go and at the exact second he let the arrow loose. He watched it with absolute certainty as the arrow seemed to follow his thoughts and thwack! The arrow had hit the target exactly where he had aimed it. Arjuna watched the arrow firmly embedded in the target and then suddenly blinked as he was brought back to reality. It seemed to him like the volume was turned on as the world came back to focus sharply. His brothers thumped him in the back for the excellent shot….Arjuna saw the quiet pride in Dronacharya’s eyes and smiled….
After that there was no looking back. But then on the front of his cousins, all that his archery skills did was to make Duryodhana more angry at him.
Yudhishtara learnt the art of managing a kingdom really well and people began talking of making Yudhishtara the king of Hastinapur after Dhirdarashtra. After all Yudhishtara was the son of Pandu and he was the eldest among both the Kauravas and the Pandavas.
As if Duryodhana needed any more reason to hate them…The talk of the people was the final straw. The animosity which he secretly had was threatening to become a full-fledged hatred…The weak Dhirdarashtra, finally having no other choice in the matter, had handed over the barren land – Khandavaprastha to Yudhishtara for him to rule.
It was Arjuna and Krishna who had been responsible in making Khandavapastha, a barren place run over by Asuras and thieves and dangerous beasts, into Indraprastha, the place what it was under the rule of Yudhishtara. And Yudhishtara ruled Indraprastha like a man born to rule.
In fame, power and prosperity, Indraprastha eclipsed Hastinapur almost into insignificance. And for some time Arjuna had actually liked staying in Indraprastha.
But then he was exiled from Indraprastha for the next 12 years….
Arjuna and his brothers had all married Krishna Draupadi, the fire-born, dark princess of Panchala. Wanting to avoid any jealousy among the Pandavas, the brothers and Draupadi had agreed for a system where Draupadi stayed with one of the brothers for a full year and then staying with the next brother for the next year. In order to deter further problems, the brothers had agreed that if any one of the brother broke the deal, that brother had to go on a self-imposed exile for 12 years. For the next 12 years, the Pandava would never come near Indraprastha.
And now through a quirk of fate, Arjuna had broken this promise. He had been in Draupadi’s inner chambers when she was with Yudhishtara.
Arjuna’s mistake was that he had placed his bow in Yudhishtara’s inner chambers, the previous day. The next day, a subject had come running to him for help because someone was abducting his cows. Having no other choice, Arjuna knew that he was consigning himself to a twelve year exile, he entered his brother’s chambers and took his bow.

Yudhishtara and his other brothers tried convincing Arjuna that the exile was not necessary. But then Arjuna never spoke a lie and he always kept his promises. Arjuna started his 12 year exile from Indraprastha….

The mighty warrior - Part 3

Arjuna went to the pilgrimage places in the country. Many learned sages and rishis followed Arjuna as he set out. In the midst of the group still Arjuna felt uneasy. He knew that someone was watching him. Someone unconnected with the group. But try as he might Arjuna could not find the person.
Feeling such, one day, Arjuna immersed himself in the Ganga before his daily morning prayers. That was when he felt it. A powerful surge of current came towards him. It was so strong that Arjuna was almost incapable of fighting it. Arjuna tried to pull himself back up, but the current was strong. Finally, Arjuna gave in to the current and found himself dragged deep into the darker waters, until Arjuna could see no more and he collapsed letting the water drag him further.
When Arjuna opened his eyes he found himself in one of the most beautiful and lavish palaces he had seen. For a brief second Arjuna wondered whether he was indeed back in Indraprastha. But no, the palace was different.
There he saw the unlit sacrificial fire and bowing to it, lit the fire. He prayed to Agni when he heard a rustling sound behind him.
Arjuna turned to see a beautiful woman behind him and lay stunned as he watched her. She was a ravishing beauty with deep, intelligent eyes. She was looking shyly at him as Arjuna realized that the he was definitely not hallucinating. The woman was responsible for dragging him into the waters…Arjuna was more than sure.
Who are you? Where am I? Why have you brought me here?’ Arjuna asked rapidly one after the other. Though he was in a strange palace with a strange woman, Arjuna did not feel threatened. Not in the least.
I am Uloopi! I am the daughter of Kauravaya, the king of the Nagas. My father is a descendent of Airavat!’ The woman said proudly.
Arjuna listened to the melodious words of the woman and felt a little muddled. He shook his head trying to clear his mind. ‘You still have not told me, why you have brought me here?’ He said finally.
Uloopi smiled shyly. ‘I know who you are, Arjuna! I have watched you for so many days! I…I….’ Uloopi looked almost embarrassed unable to speak any further.
Arjuna waited patiently a mischievous smile playing in his lips, as Uloopi continued. ‘I love you, great warrior!’ Uloopi said finally. ‘Will you marry me?’
I will marry you! But I am afraid I cannot stay here for long!’ Arjuna replied. So Arjuna married Uloopi. [Arjuna and Uloopi had a son called Iravan, who fought the Mahabharatha war.]
The very next day Uloopi left Arjuna back in the banks of the river Ganga. She also granted him a boon that he could never be defeated in water by any aquatic animal.
From there Arjuna went to the city of Manipur. There Arjuna met a beautiful woman in the garden. Arjuna followed her and found her entering the royal palace. Astonished Arjuna entered the palace himself. The guards look twice but did not try to stop the fierce looking warrior.
My king!’ Arjuna said bowing to the majestic man on the throne.
The king studied the bow string marks in the hands of the man and the other scars on the body. He knew for sure that the man before him was a warrior par excellence. ‘Who are you, great warrior?’ The king asked curiously offering a throne to the stranger.
I am Arjuna, the son of Pandu and Kunti!’ Arjuna said clutching his bow.
King Chiravahana looked almost dizzy with surprise as he got up from his throne hugging the young warrior. ‘What brings you here?’ He cried as he ordered his men for a grand feast.
I am in a self-imposed exile, your majesty!’ Arjuna said gravely. ‘As I was travelling, I saw your daughter! I am in love with her! If your daughter also likes me and if you are willing, would you allow our marraige?’ Arjuna said looking a little worried.
King Chitravahana was delighted but then he looked at the young warrior. One look at Chitrangada told him that Chitrangada was more than willing for the union.
He took a deep breath turning to the Pandava. ‘Before I answer your question, you need to know something about us!’ Arjuna frowned as he heard the king.
One of our ancestors Prabhanjana, did not have any children! He performed severe penance towards Lord Shiva. Finally when Lord Shiva appeared, he granted a boon that henceforth all of Prabhanjana's descendants would have one child!’ King Chitravahana looked at his daughter with quiet pride and said. ‘Chitrangada is my only daughter! I look upon her as my son! You see as per Lord Shiva’s boon, everyone of us would have only one child! If you marry and take Chitrangada with you, my kingdom would be without an heir!’
Arjuna nodded gravely as the king continued. ‘So my only wish is that after your marriage, Chitrangada continues to stay here! Her child would rule the kingdom later! That is my only wish!’
Arjuna looked at the earnest face of the king long and hard and finally nodded his head. ‘As you wish, your majesty!’
And so Arjuna married Chitrangada. After three years, they had a son called Babruvahana. The kingdom rejoiced as Arjuna again set out of his travels.
From there as Arjuna travelled forth he saw five powerful rivers – Agastya, Sabhadra, Pauloma, Karandhama and Bharadwaja. However strangely enough, though the rivers were surrounded by many hermitages, the sages there, almost shunned the rivers. Arjuna wondered why, as he met up with the sages.
He asked the sages who were traveling great lengths to get water from other sources. ‘Why are you avoiding these rivers sir? Are these waters dangerous or poisoned?’
The sage smiled sadly. ‘These five rivers have five extremely dangerous crocodiles, young prince! These crocodiles are vicious! No person who enters the river has ever come back alive! That is the reason, we have completely stopped using them….’
Arjuna's eyes were gleaming as he studied the swirling waters. The sage who had spoken to Arjuna watched shell-shocked as Arjuna jumped inside the river, without a backward glance.
Hearing the commotion made by the sage, quiet a few sages from nearby had come around the water and watched the rivers, worried. Before them a mighty battle had started. Arjuna was wrestling with a massive crocodile single handed. The crocodile snapped and bit back but Arjuna seemed too quick for the crocodile. He dodged and tried dragging the crocodile back to the shore. The battle was almost getting out of hand, when Arjuna heaved and dragged the huge crocodile to the shore.
Oblivious to the sages clapping for him, Arjuna lay limp on the river bank panting as he tried to get his breath back. For a second he looked at the crocodile which also looked spent and then looked shocked.
Surrounding the crocodile was a powerful halo as something bright seemed to emerge from the crocodile.
Pushing himself away from it, Arjuna rapidly tried getting up when he saw a beautiful transparent woman stand before him.
Who are you?’ Arjuna rasped as he saw the woman.
The woman smiled with tears in her eyes as she continued. ‘I am an apsara from Kubera’s court! I am Varga! We are cursed to be crocodiles! You freed us from the curse!’
Arjuna blinked as he understood what the woman was trying to tell him. ‘We?’
Varga nodded. ‘Saurabhya, Samichi, Vudvuda, Lata and me! Five of us!’
Arjuna nodded. Five rivers, five apsaras, five crocodiles! Varga nodded almost divining his thoughts. ‘We tried to disturb a sage who was performing some very difficult penance! For this the rishi cursed us to become crocodiles till we were delivered from the curse by a brave man!’
Varga looked proud with her tear filled eyes. ‘Thanks to you, I can now go back home! Please free my sisters too!’ She asked before she disappeared from there.
Arjuna nodded his head and then set out to the other four rivers and freed the other apsaras.
The rivers were now free of crocodiles and Arjuna felt satisfied as he watched the sages use the waters.
But the Arjuna grew restless again. He set out from the place and from there Arjuna visited Chitrangada one more time.
Arjuna saw Chitrangada and their young son Babruvahana and stayed there for some time. But then Arjuna started feeling restless.Bidding goodbye to them, Arjuna once again set out on his travels.
Unlike the other times, this time Arjuna knew exactly where he wanted to go. The yearning to go to the place was too strong. He was going to meet his Krishna. It had been ages since Arjuna had met Krishna and Arjuna knew that all his pilgrimages, everything would be useless, if he did not go to the Dark Lord.
Arjuna could not explain it, not even to himself, but any place where Krishna was, always seemed home to him. Arjuna's home. A place where he would be welcome, a place where he could be himself. Being near Krishna always made Arjuna feel complete.....
Tired from the journey, just in the outskirts of Prabhasa, the place where Krishna was staying, Arjuna slept with the smile on his lips, thinking of the Dark Lord.
'Arjuna!' Gada was standing near him. Both of them had bows and arrows as they rested from their archery practice.
Arjuna turned to see Gada, Krishna's cousin who was smiling at him. 'The only person who uses the bow and arrow as well as you do is Krishna! I have never seen anyone else so brilliant with it!'
Arjuna smiled as Gada continued. 'You know Bhadra! She keeps watching Krishna with the bow and the arrow! All the time!'
Arjuna frowned. 'Bhadra?'
Gada nodded. 'Subhadra! She is Balarama and Krishna's younger sister!' Gada nodded his head appreciatively thinking of her. 'My friend! You must see Subhadra! She is a ravishing beauty! One of the most beautiful girls, I have ever seen in my life!'
As Gada continued to describe Subhadra, an image of a beautiful girl filled the young Arjuna's mind. For some strange reason, the image just wouldn't go away. The image was so perfect that Arjuna was muddled for a few seconds just imagining it...
Arjuna woke up with a start as he realized that he had been in a sleep so deep that he had been dreaming.
Now that he was awake, the dream was almost fading away. But the memory of the did not dissolve. If anything it became stronger when he woke up.
Arjuna wondered why he had had the dream now. But then he had no answers. As Arjuna brushed himself and continued with the journey, the yearning to see the kingdom of Prabhasa was almost overpowering.
But now it was not just Krishna that Arjuna wanted to see.....

The mighty warrior - Part 4

'You should practice harder! Only then you can become as great an archer like Arjuna!' One of the Yadava boys practicing archery in the royal gardens told his sibling. The other boy suitably nodded his head and tried harder. 
Bhadra who was watching the entire scene from her room felt a strange emotion pass through her when she heard the conversation of the young boys.
It had always been like this. Most of the Yadava elders blessed their children to either become like Krishna or Arjuna. Krishna was the incarnation of Lord Vishnu himself so obviously, there was no one who could ever become like him. However Arjuna was more...human. He was a man who had become a great warrior by his sheer practice. People all over the country loved him for that and the Yadava kingdom was no exception. People everywhere knew him and stories of his legend spread all over the country, which made him even more likable.
Bhadra, Krishna's sister felt a special connection to the Pandava. One that she could not explain even to herself. The more she heard about Arjuna, the more she wanted to know. It seemed like an insatiable yearning which was never fulfilled.

So it was with considerable trepidation that Subhadra went to meet her elder brother Balarama, one evening. She was more or less sure of what the conversation was going to be about and she did not want to hear it.
'Subhadra!' The strong Yadava's face crinkled into a smile as he saw his sister. 'I have the perfect news for you!'
'What?' Subhadra mumbled, now more than sure of what exactly the news was going to be.
Krishna who was standing behind Balarama hastily shook his head as he looked at Subhadra.
I do not want this...Subhadra looked pleading at Krishna.
I will handle this...Krishna signaled to Subhadra, willing her to keep a straight face when around their elder brother.
How...Subhadra asked feeling slightly uncertain.
Krishna did not reply but then Subhadra was sure that Krishna would do something.
Balarama continued, completely not realizing the silent communication between Bhadra and Krishna.
'Subhadra! You know that Duryodhana is my favourite pupil! He is the prince of Hastinapur! He wants you to be his wife...' Said Balarama in a booming voice. It was no great secret that Balarama favoured the eldest Kaurava.
For a second Subhadra was scared but then she remembered what Krishna had told her. Looking at Krishna, who was studiously avoiding her gaze, Subhadra said nothing. 'As you wish, brother!' She said in a barely audible voice as she hastily left the room.
Balarama missed Subhadra's anguished eyes and Krishna's mischievous glint. He was delighted. 'See! I told you that Subhadra would like the match!' he said laughing.
Krishna said nothing as he sighed mentally realizing that his sister had understood exactly what he had wanted. If Subhadra had created a scene right now, Balarama with all his reckless anger would have done something rather hastily....Now Krishna needed a little more time. Just enough till his friend came to Prabhasa...Because Krishna had no doubt, not one, that his friend would come to meet him....
Arjuna looked at the rishis and the sages who were traveling with him, along with the other natives of Prabhasa. The merchant before him bowed deeply to one of the rishis. Arjuna watched the entire scene disconnected from it. He was in seventh heaven as images of Krishna and the girl beckoned him to Prabhasa.
'Do you know, Prince Balarama is planning to get his sister Bhadra married?' One of the merchant's spoke to his neighbour as they were walking.
Arjuna was sure he was heard wrong. But then the words repeated again and again in his mind. Stumbling he went towards the merchant, shaking him roughly. 'What? What did you say?' he demanded angrily.
The merchant looked flustered at the wild man. But what really scared the merchant was the ferocious expression in the other man's face.
'Prince Balarama wants to get his sister Subhadra married to Duryodhana, his favourite pupil!' The merchant mumbled back as the wild man's expression changed.
'Did Princess Subhadra accept the proposal?' Arjuna demanded.
The merchant shrugged. 'If she had not accepted, would Prince Balarama have continued with the proposal?'
The merchant blinked as the expression of the man before him suddenly went dark. It almost looked like the light from his eyes had been snuffed out.
Subhadra was getting married to someone else. His Subhadra...Arjuna's mind repeated to him as he shook his head to clear it. Arjuna had never even seen Subhadra, but still he felt that she belonged to him. Now she was taken away.
The others walked away towards the city as Arjuna was finding it difficult to even breathe, let alone walk.
Losing hope? A cheerful voice came from his heart as Arjuna faltered. Arjuna looked around and saw no one. But Arjuna had no doubt that Krishna was talking to him. It almost felt like Krishna was jeering at him.
Subhadra is getting married! Arjuna whined. A part of him wondered why he was so sure that Krishna was with him.
The image of the sages and the rishis walking towards Prabhasa came to Arjuna. That should give you a clue as to what you have to do!
Arjuna frowned. You want me to come to Prabhasa dressed as a sage. Why?
A tiny drop of rain fell on Arjuna's arm as he frowned looking at it.
Oh Good! The four months of rains have started! Just come to the royal temple courtyard. Krishna's laugh was undeniable this time.
What have you planned, Krishna? Arjuna thought feeling completely clueless.
Arjuna received no reply, just a beautiful laughter.
Arjuna was looking nervous in his thick beard, unmatted hair and sage's dress, as he walked inside Prabhasa. There were some people here, who knew him really well. If they recognized him, Arjuna knew that whatever Krishna had planned for him would not work out.
Hastily he made the way to the temple of Raivataka as the skies opened and the rains poured down. He sat in the covered temple courtyard taking a deep breaths trying to calm himself. When Arjuna opened his eyes, he almost yelped in fear as he saw a royal man come towards him. Arjuna was nervous because he knew exactly who the man was. And it was not someone he wanted to see....
Balarama was surprised to see the sage inside the temple courtyard. Though the sage looked fairly young, his face had a charismatic quality in him, almost a powerful aura....Balarama frowned wondering whom the sage reminded him of....But try as he might, Balarama could not remember any other sages resembling the one before him. More out of custom than any other reason, Balarama bowed to the sage.
The sage seemed to look at Balarama nervously.
'Brother!' A cheerful voice came beside Balarama as Balarama smiled at his dark young brother, who was just entering the temple. Much to Balarama's chagrin, his younger brother completely ignored the sage. 'Brother! I wished to speak to you....'
Balarama hushed Krishna with his eyes pointing at sage in the temple. Krishna did not seem to notice the sage and continued talking, as Balarama looked angrily at him. Krishna seemed to finally realize the presence of the third person in the temple and then turned to look at the sage.
Krishna's expression changed from a smile to a frown in one second flat. 'And who is he?' he barked.
'KRISHNA!' Balarama hissed angrily, looking well beyond shocked. 'He is a great sage! He has come here just before the rains! It is a good omen!' Balarama said in a placatory tone hoping the sage did not take offence to his brother.
'How can a sage coming before the rainy season be a good omen?' Krishna demanded angrily.
Balarama took a deep breath trying to control himself. 'Krishna! We have a sister! A younger sister! An unmarried younger sister!' Balarama emphasized.
Krishna looked blankly at the sage and then at Balarama. 'So?'
Balarama was now really struggling to control himself. 'We have a custom that if any unmarried girl serves a great sage really well, the sage would bless her to get a good husband!' Balarama said pointing at the sage with his eyes. 'Subhadra would serve the sage for the four rainy months when the sage would stay here!' (In those days, traveling during the rainy season was almost unheard of.) Balarama said feeling very proud of himself.
Balarama missed a sudden mischievous glint on his younger brother's face. He even missed the sudden gasp from the sage himself. He continued. 'That would get Bhadra a good husband!'
Not one hair betrayed Krishna's true feelings. The sage was however finding it very difficult to control his euphoria. Krishna noticed this and realized that Balarama had to be taken away from there. Besides right now everything was tentative. There was one more thing which needed to be done if his plan were to materialize.
'Brother! May I speak to you in private?' Krishna said edging his brother away, least his brother see the real love struck face of the sage and discover who he was.
Balarama looked annoyed but nevertheless followed his brother. 'Did you look at him?' Krishna hissed at his brother, far away from the sage's ears. 'He is too young and too good looking!' Balarama scoffed as Krishna continued. 'I would not leave that sage alone with any girl, let alone with our Bhadra!' Balarama was steadily getting angry as Krishna spoke the last sentence. 'I think he is a false sage!'
That did it. Balarama was so angry that he stomped away from there, not even bothering to reply to his brother. Krishna followed his brother trying to talk to him, who studiously ignored him. Balarama bowed to the sage again,completely ignoring Krishna. 'Great Sage! I would be honoured if you were to come to our royal gardens! Please spend the rainy seasons in our garden! Our sister Princess Subhadra would take good care of you there!'

The sage seemed to have gotten control over himself and first looked at Krishna and then at Balarama and nodded his head gravely. 'As you wish, my son!'

The mighty warrior - Part 5

Subhadra wondered why her brothers were coming to her gardens and frowned as she saw someone with them. The rains was making to difficult for Subhadra to see any clearly. Reaching a sudden decision, she left her room going downstairs towards her brothers.
Balarama was walking respectfully beside a man, but it was Krishna's look which caught her attention. He looked like....Krishna looked like he had done something particularly mischievous, a part of him filled with mirth and the other part looking very proud of himself. Shaking her head, Subhadra studied the man in between them. The man turned out to be sage...A sage...Subhadra frowned. For a sage, he looked far too young. But then there he was in his thick beard and matted hair. Without meaning too Subhadra studied the man's fingers when she was surprised. The hands were coarse with various marks....That was something she had seen plenty of....Usually in the hands of archers. Subhadra's heartbeat sped up as she studied the sage again.
There was something about the sage. The way she was studying her....Subhadra was not normally self-conscious...But the man's gaze made her uncomfortable. Something....
'Bhadra!' Balarama said beckoning Subhadra to come forward. She walked forward watching the sage. The sage's expression was hungry...almost as if...She shook her head struggling to pay attention to what her brother was saying. 'The sage was found in the temple of Raivataka! The rains have started! I invited him over so that you could look after him during the four rainy months. If he is pleased with you he will bless you so that you will lead a happy life with your husband....'
Subhadra gasped. Hearing her brother, she suddenly realized whom the sage reminded her of....
'Subhadra! Why don't you make the sage comfortable?' Krishna said interrupting his brother. Krishna realized that Subhadra had understood who the sage was.
Subhadra nodded as she mischievously looked at Balarama. 'Who is he, brother?'
'A great sage!' Balarama said with complete conviction. Subhadra controlled her giggle with great difficulty as she continued looking at Balarama.
'If you take good care of him, you will get a good husband!' Krishna said drily.
Subhadra burst out laughing as Balarama looked surprised. 'It is true!' Balarama said. 'This customs has been practiced among warriors for ages!' Subhadra controlled herself with great difficulty as she nodded her head demurely. She looked at the 'sage' as if all her dreams had come true. Krishna shook his head almost grinning. 'Go!' He urged his sister.
Subhadra took the sage to a corner of the garden, well protected from the rain. The view of the garden from there was beautiful.
She laid down the mat for the sage to sit. She turned to her maid. 'Please bring some refreshments!' The maid nodded wondering why the princess was suddenly looking so bright, almost as if she could not stop smiling.
The maid looked surprised at the sage. He was a very handsome man...a sage, but still a very handsome man....He was looking at the princess with such...The maid realized that she could never explain the look on the sage's eyes. Shaking her head the maid went inside the palace to get some refreshments.

The next few days were one of the happiest ones for Arjuna. Meeting Subhadra and talking to her....seemed to rejuvenate him. He was happy with the realization that she loved him as much as he loved her. For one dark minute he thought of Draupadi back home and realized that what happened between Subhadra and Draupadi was something he could not predict or plan for.
The days passed happily and too soon for both Subhadra and Arjuna.
Then one evening, Krishna came to see Arjuna and Subhadra. 'I will be leaving my four favourite horses tomorrow! We are all going to a fair at Raivataka! The security at the palace would be minimum and....tomorrow is a very auspicious day!'
'For what?' Subhadra asked mischievously.
'I do not know! For everything in general!' Krishna said smiling. He turned to Arjuna. 'Make good use of the time, my friend!'
Arjuna nodded.
And so on the next day, when the palace was more or less deserted, Arjuna changed his garb. Within a matter of minutes he went from Arjuna the sage to Arjuna, the warrior.
He adorned his armour which he had not touched for a long time and got on the beautiful chariot which Krishna had left for him. He drove the chariot straight inside Subhadra's palace. Arjuna almost gasped as he saw her. She had decked up specially for the occasion and looked ravishingly beautiful. There before the few warriors who were left behind, Arjuna pulled Subhadra with him as they both got on the chariot.
The warriors watched the entire scene in silence and then suddenly it dawned on them that their princess was being abducted. The few warriors which remained formed a line and were about to attack when Arjuna quickly disarmed the warriors....without even trying too hard. However noticing that Arjuna was preoccupied, Subhadra picked up the reins of the horses and drove the horses expertly out. Arjuna smiled as he felt the chariot move. The animals responded to her touch, the same way it responded to Krishna's touch.

Balarama was furious as he paced the palace angrily. 'It was Arjuna, your majesty!' The disarmed warriors looked slightly shame-faced as they spoke to Balarama. 'There was nothing we could do!'
'KRISHNA!' Balarama bellowed loudly as the warriors looked startled. Krishna for his part looked magnificently unperturbed.
'You knew!' Balarama said with absolutely no doubt in his mind. 'You did this!'
Krishna looked hurt, which looked very believable. 'Me? I had nothing to with this! I actually told you, that he was a false sage!'
Balarama spluttered so angrily that Krishna for a second was afraid that Balarama's head would start smoking.
'That Pandava! I trusted him and he took my sister away! I am personally going to kill Arjuna!' Balarama said viciously.
Krishna looked at his brother and the other courtiers who were eagerly nodding their head at the prospect of war with the invincible Pandava.
'Brother!' He said quietly.
'NOT ONE WORD!' Balarama said angrily.
'Please! This is important!' Krishna insisted.
'I AM NOT LISTENING TO YOU!' Balarama shouted so loudly that Krishna's ears were ringing for a few minutes.
Krishna winced as he continued. 'Just talk to the guards who were there at that time! That is all I ask!'
Balarama frowned suddenly stopping. Whatever else it was, he was not expecting Krishna to say that. Before Balarama could say anything, Krishna nodded his head to the guards to come forward.
'Arjuna disarmed you?' Krishna asked rapidly.
The guard nodded as Krishna continued. 'He was in a chariot?'
The guard nodded again as Krishna continued. 'How was he able to fire his arrows and drive the chariot, at the same time?'
The guard looked a little more shame-faced as he studied Balarama's face which looked almost beet red.
'Answer the question!' Balarama snapped angrily.
'The...' The guard hesitated.
'ANSWER!' Balarama shouted.
'The princess drove the chariot, your majesty!' The guard said wanting nothing more than to just vanish from there.
Balarama blinked for a whole second. 'Bhadra? Princess Bhadra drove the chariot?' He asked harshly.
The guard reluctantly nodded his head as Balarama's head reeled.
'Arjuna is a warrior! Subhadra is a princess! One of the approved forms of marriage between a warrior and the princess is when the warrior takes the princess away! Subhadra even helped him! Theirs is a marriage of love! The highest form of marriage, ever! Nothing is more important than...'
'Quiet!' Balarama grumbled as he realized that his sister and Arjuna loved each other and Krishna had just perfectly executed Subhadra's 'abduction'.
'Brother! Arjuna is a good man and Subhadra loves him! She has chosen him! This marriage is beneficial to the Yadavas! Please accept it!' Krishna said quietly.
Balarama looked at the court and then at Krishna. He knew beforehand that if he let Krishna speak, this was the only outcome....But then what could he do? What could anybody do if Krishna willed for something to happen? Balarama sighed.

The twelve years of exile were over when Arjuna abducted Subhadra. He watched from behind as Subhadra drove the chariot expertly through the road to Indraprastha. He nodded and took the reins as she offered it to him, taking a break.
Back in Indraprastha, Draupadi was jealous of the beautiful Subhadra when she saw her. But Subhadra wisely met Draupadi dressed as a simple girl from a cowherd family instead of like a princess.
Talking with Subhadra, Draupadi realized that Subhadra loved Arjuna the same way she loved him – unconditionally and completely. Besides Bhadra was the sister of Krishna...the Dark Lord. Draupadi smiled as she embraced Subhadra.
The Yadavas properly performed the marriage of Arjuna and Subhadra and rejoiced when they knew that she was in the family way. They gave plenty of gifts to the princess, from their kingdom.
Arjuna was always fascinated by Subhadra's interest in warfare and administrative matters. He always tried explaining to her the nuances of warfare that he had learnt over the years.
'Chakra Vyugha?' Subhadra asked her eyes shining .
Arjuna nodded as he continued. 'That is one of the most beautiful battle formations, you can see! As the name implies, the troops are arranged like a circle! The animals are in the outer most circle. Defeating them itself is a difficult job! If anyone breaks it in and comes inside, they will meet the foot soldiers. Besides the cavalry would be firing continuously....'
Subhadra's eyes felt tired form the days excitement as the day's work caught up with her and she felt very tired. 'Then how do you break it?' She asked frowning suddenly.
Arjuna chuckled. 'You do not aim at the centre! You always aim first at the right and then at the left! When the animals there scatter, they will cause immense damage to their own army. That way, not only the first, but the second line of defence would be attacked!'
Subhadra nodded as she struggled to keep her eyes open. But it was a wasted effort. Arjuna spotted the tired Subhadra and immediately carried her back to her palace.

The next day Bhadra forgot all about this and started something new. Their conversation about the Chakra Vyugha was never completed....

The mighty warrior - Part 6

Subhadra gave birth to a healthy baby boy as the whole kingdom rejoiced. They named him Abhimanyu. He was very gentle and loved by all. Arjuna and all his brothers, including Draupadi, Kunti and the elders in the family loved Abhimanyu.
Arjuna would spend hours near his son's cradle explaining to him how his day went, how he practiced his archery, how the king behaved....everything. The little baby with the big innocent eyes listened to everything.
However there was one particular person who was very unhappy with all this. The eldest of the Kauravas, Duryodhana had a special hatred for the Pandavas. Somehow seeing Abhimanyu, Duryodhana got more and more infuriated.
Learning about this, Krishna came to visit his friend.
'Arjuna! There is something I need to tell you!' Krishna started looking uncharacteristically grave.
Arjuna frowned as Krishna continued. 'The events which are to come...' Krishna sighed sadly as Arjuna felt a strange fear in his heart. 'Duryodhana has his eyes on the throne of Indraprastha!' Krishna said quietly.
Arjuna looked afraid as he looked at his cousin. 'What can be done, Krishna?'
Krishna shook his head sadly. 'Nothing as of now! But there is something we should do!'
Arjuna looked hopefully as Krishna looked even more sad. 'Do you mind if Abhimanyu and Subhadra come and stay with us in Dwaraka?'
'Why?' Arjuna asked his voice in a cold whisper.
'You know why, my friend!' Krishna said smiling mirthlessly. 'I cannot save all of you! But Subhadra and Abhimanyu can live in Dwaraka!'
Krishna did not need to say anything else. Arjuna understood. He went to Subhadra and told her that she had to go to Dwaraka. Looking at Krishna, Subhadra understood too. She asked no questions as she and Abhimanyu went to Dwaraka.
Arjuna was almost heartbroken to be away from Abhimnayu. He would go to Dwaraka often and meet him there, but he always kept his distance and never asked either of them to come back to Indraprastha. He trusted Krishna too much to go against him. Besides Arjuna realized that Abhimnayu had an enjoyable childhood among the Yadavas, with no fear and no hatred....
Abhimnayu was two years old when he saw his mother look devastated and sitting in her room with her hair undone. She looked so much like the feared Goddess Durga that Abhimanyu started crying.
Subhadra picked up her son in a melancholy fashion trying to quiet him. 'Your father...The Pandavas....they have lost everything!' She told the two year old child who did not understand anything other than the fact that his mother was very very unhappy.
'Yudhishtara played the dice game, not once....but twice! He lost and he is in the forests...with father, your uncles and Draupadi Mother!' And so Subhadra ranted on and on, about the misfortune of the Pandavas.
As Abhimnayu grew up, he realized about why he never saw his father. People spoke of his father's greatness as an archer, the prosperity of Indraprastha and how they had lost it all.
It fueled in him a desire to help his father somehow. Abhimnayu would often hear his maternal uncle talk of the impending war with the Kauravas...The Kauravas who were responsible for him never seeing his father....That decided the course for Abhimnayu's life. He knew he was going to become a warrior, the best of them all, so that he could help his father, when the time of right.

And so Abhimnayu practiced. He practiced with the same fervour of his father. He was taught by Pradhyumna, the son of Krishna and obviously by Krishna and Balarama, themselves. Krishna was not at all surprised to know that Abhimnayu mastered the art of warfare with utmost ease. Abhimnayu also did it all with a speed that matched his father. Whatever took the others a month to learn, Abhimnayu learnt it in a matter of a week...It almost seemed like Abhimnayu knew that the only thing he would not have in his life was time.....