Friday, September 26, 2014

Vikarna - Part 1 of 2

If there was one particular incident in the Mahabharatha which could be termed as changing the very nature of the story it would probably be the Sabha Parva, where Yudhishtara played dice with Shakuni and lost his kingdom and everything else. Until this point in the story, the Pandavas and the Kauravas were just two groups within a family who were vying for the throne of Hastinapur.
Strangely enough, in this decisive parva, neither the Pandavas, nor the elders of the Kaurava assembly speak much. The actually talking is done by Draupadi and one another person....a Kaurava who spoke in favour of Draupadi.
Read on the story of one such unsung hero in the Mahabharatha...

The ill-fated dice game was going on in the court of Hastinapur. The elders were watching the game fearfully as Shakuni rolled the dice with confidence. Yudhishtara, was heavily losing and was steadily getting reckless.
As the game went on Yudhishtara lost his brothers one by one. In the end Yudhishtara even lost himself as a slave to the Kauravas...But the game was not over....not yet.....
Shakuni looked tauntingly at Yudhishtara. ‘You have lost even yourself, son of Pandu!'
Yudhishtara squirmed unable to meet the eyes of anyone in the court, not believing what he had done....
Shakuni paused studying the former king of Indraprastha and continued with a dangerous smile on his lips. '....However there is one thing you still have! Probably if you stake that, there is a chance you may win yourself back!’ he said softly.
What do I have?’ Yudhishtara asked.
The beautiful Krishna, the princess of Panchala!’ Shakuni whispered.
Though Shakuni spoke softly, every single person in the assembly heard him. There was not a single breath in the assembly as people watched dumbfolded the spectacle which unfolded before them.
Yudhishtara blinked as Shakuni mentioned Draupadi's name. Draupadi, the princess of Panchala, his wife....their wife....the queen of Indraprastha....Too many thoughts passed through Yudhishtara's head.
Not daring to look at any of his brothers, he nodded his head fearfully. I will bet the dark Princess Krishna!’ He said hoarsely.

The elders of the court – Vidura, Bhishma, Drona and Kripa were looking shocked unable to believe the level Yudhishtara had descended into. But not one person spoke….Not one…

King Dhirdarashtra listened with astonishment as Yudhishtara announced that he was going to stake Panchali. His keen ears followed the sound of the dice as Shakuni cast it. King Dhirdarashtra regretted his blindness as he called, 'Was the game won?'

King Dhirdarashtra was even more angry as he realized that no one answered his question. Normally adept at hiding his feelings, he was unable to do so anymore as he called shrilly again, ‘WAS THE GAME WON?’

Yes! It is!’ was all Shakuni said onto the eerily silent court.
HA!’ Duryodhana let out a shout and looking viciously at the Pandavas and then at Vidura, who had collapsed on the floor, looking incapable of getting up. ‘Get that woman here! She is going to sweep these chambers and stay where our servants stay! Go get her!’
Vidura looked at Duryodhana slowly willing himself to speak normally. ‘Carried away by the game, Yudhishtara has failed to understand that he no longer had Krishna! He lost himself!’ he said his voice raising shrilly. ‘After that Yudhishtara, no longer has any rights on the dark Panchali!’
Duryodhana smiled smugly, ignoring Vidura's remarks as usual, when Vidura shouted. ‘You wretch! You foolish wretch! Do not do this! You take one more step and you are inviting your doom! And you will drag the entire Kuru household with you!’
Duryodhana looked dangerously at Vidura and then turned to the Pratikamin. ‘Go! Get her!’
The Pratikamin looked fearfully at the Pandavas when Duryodhana shouted. ‘You have nothing to fear from these slave Pandavas! Vidura….’ Duryodhana said looking at Vidura. ‘…he is just raving! He cannot do anything!’
The Pratikarmin slowly nodded his head as he went to Draupadi's room. 'You are wanted in the Kuru Sabha! The King has lost you in a game of dice!' he said without any preamble.
Draupadi blinked, her mind unable to process anything the man had said. 'WHAT?' she asked faintly.
The man repeated his words.
'Did the king have nothing else to play with, that he staked me in the game?' demanded Draupadi flustered.
The Pratikarmin looked at the furious red face of the Queen of the Pandavas and almost faltered. 'He has lost everything in the game of dice, Princess! He even lost himself and in the end, he staked you too!'
Draupadi looked numbly at the man, unable to believe the insanity of the entire situation. She the queen of Indraprastha, the most prosperous kingdom in the world, the kingdom which rivalled Indra's Amravathi....And she was staked in a game of dice.....Draupadi shook her head trying to make sense of something....
Slowly Draupadi's resolute nature took over as she looked at the Pratikarmin with cool eyes, her heart thundering with fear. 'Go to the Kuru assembly and ask a question! In the game of dice, did the king lose himself or lose me first?'
The Partikarmin hesitated. He was here under the orders of Prince Duryodhana to bring the Princess to the assembly. From experience, the Pratikarmin knew exactly how furious the Prince would be when he went to the court alone....
He was about to open his mouth when the fire-born princess looked at him. 'I NEED THE ANSWER!'
The Pratikarmin quavered at the look of anger in Panchali's eyes and decided that he might as well brave Prince Duryodhana's anger and made way to the Kuru assembly alone.
There slowly, hesitatingly, he asked the Kuru assembly Draupadi's question.
'HA!' Duruyodhana shouted with almost with delirious vengeance. 'Ask the princess to come here and ask the question herself!'
The Pratikarmin looked at Duryodhana and realized that he was almost fearing the prince as much as he feared Draupadi. But realizing that he has no choice in this matter he went back to Draupadi's chambers.
Draupadi looked at the Pratikarmin as he told them of what had happened in the Kuru Sabha, getting more and more bewildered and furious, by the minute.
She took a deep breath and looked at the Pratikarmin. 'I am a daughter-in-law of the Kuru house! Ask the elders about the morality of the issue involved in this case! Ask the elders of the assembly whether my coming to the assembly like this...(it is said that at that time, Draupadi was clad in a single piece of cloth) whether it is moral or not?'
The Prathikarmin hesitated once more, but he knew that the Princess was not going to change her mind.
He returned to the Kuru assembly and repeated her question.
No one answered.
'What shall I tell Krishna?' The Pratikarmin asked swallowing fearfully at the prospect of facing the princess without an answer.
Duryodhana looked at the Pratikarmin with disgust. He turned to Dusshasana. 'This foolish man is afraid of Bheema! Brother, you go and get her!'

Dusshasana nodded his head as he set out for Panchali.
'KRISHNA!' He roared as he entered the her chambers. 'KRISHNA!' he called out again.
When Draupadi heard Dusshasana, she realized that there was no negotiation with the man.
The man was drunk with power and arrogance and beyond negotiation...
She ran from there to the rooms of the Kaurava women. That did not stop Dusshasana. He roared angrily pulling Drauapdi to the Kuru assembly with her long hair as she screamed angrily at him. Karna laughed loudly at the treatment of Draupadi.
Draupadi was brought to the Kuru assembly and there was shocked to find the silent Pandavas sitting beside the dice game.
Draupadi angrily looked at the elders of the Kuru assembly, not believing that these great men would have allowed such a foolishness to be allowed right in front of their own eyes.
That was when she remembered that she was brought her to address a question.
She looked at the grandsire angrily waiting for him to answer.
Bhishma looked down mumbling. 'I cannot decide the morality of the issue! One cannot bet what one does not have! But....I cannot decide....' The great Bhishma said.

Looking at the treatment that Draupadi was receiving at the hands of the Kauravas, Bheema looked angrily at Yudhishtara. 'Even poor gamblers do not bet their women in any games...And you...You, the just king of Hastinapur...' Bheema said sneeringly, ' staked Panchali.....I will burn your hands for this! Your very hands which threw the dice...!' Bheema said viciously.
'Bheema!' Arjuna looked at him shaking his head. 'You never have spoken to your elder brother like this! Do not do this now....'
Bheema looked at his younger brother and seethed angrily trying his best to keep quiet.

Draupadi watched the entire scene as no one spoke...Not one.
That was when one young man came up to the court. A young man who is Karna's words was an 'immature child'. He was Vikarna, the son of Dhirdarashtra and one of the 99 brothers of Duryodhana.
Vikarna looked at the entire Kuru assembly and angrily came forward. 'How can you people allow this?' He asked the Kuru assembly looking at disgust at his own brothers and the elders of the assembly. 'How can Bhishma, Drona and Vidura, not know the answer that Draupadi has asked us? If you do not answer her question, you will all go to hell! Answer her questions, before doing anything.'
The entire assembly looked at the angry young Kaurava prince who was fighting for Draupadi. But then still no one answered.
Vikarna huffed angrily. 'Fine! You people will not answer! I will! I will answer the question that Draupadi had asked....'
The young prince said looking around. 'I am neither the oldest nor the most knowledgeable in this assembly! But I will say what I know! It is said that hunting, drinking, enjoying the company of too many women and gambling are the evils which a king may have. King Yudhishtara was addicted to one of these, which is why he acted the way he did and he staked Draupadi. When a man acts by evil, how can what he does be called as correct? Besides Draupadi is the wife of all the five Pandavas. How can Yudhistara stake her alone? And Yudhishtara staked her after he staked himself....He has no rights over her, after he lost himself....And remember that the other side cannot ask a person playing dice to stake anything. Shakuni asked for Krishna to cast as a stake! That is wrong! For all these reasons, I think that Draupadi's stake is wrong...Draupadi cannot be considered as won!'
Vikarna looked at the assembly angrily as he let out a deep breath.
The assembly applauded the young prince.
But then Karna looked furious, almost as if he had lost his senses. 'Her husbands are quiet! And who are you to talk in her favour? You talk because you are just an immature kid!' Karna said spluttering. 'Yudhishtara lost himself....after that Draupadi was his possession, she was lost then itself....And...Though Shakuni mentioned her as a stake, Yudhishtara approved it!' Karna looked viciously at Draupadi. 'A woman can have one husband! A woman who has more than one husband....she is no chaste woman....She has to be considered as won by us!'
The story goes on to how the Kuru assembly degraded itself and allowed its daughter-in-law to be humiliated.....

And so in this decisive part of the Mahabhartha, in the entire Kaurava assembly, not the Pandavas or most of the Kauravas, or the great Karna or the elders who were well-versed in Scriptures spoke....
Just one young boy spoke fearlessly. He was the only one who was willing to speak the truth without bothering about the consequences.....

The author thanks Mr. A. Narayanan, Mr. A. Ananthakrishnan and Mr. B.N. Gururaj for their review comments.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Vikarna - Part 2 of 2

The war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas was about to commence. Before the commencement of the battle, Yudhishtara felt that he needed the blessing of the elders. So without considering that the elders were on the other side, he got down from his chariot and walked over to the other side. With utmost devotion, he fell at the feet of Bhishma, Droanacharya and Kripacharya and asked for their blessings to win in the war.
After receiving their blessings, Yudhishtara was walking back to his own side when he suddenly turned. He looked at the Kaurava side. ‘If anyone feels like fighting on the side of Dharma, you are welcome to join and fight on our side!’ He shouted.
The entire Kaurava side was silent for a second. However, then one person spoke. ‘I will come if you will have me!’
Yudhishtara turned and saw that it was Yuyutsu. Yuyutsu was the son of Dhirdarashtra. But he was not the son of Gandhari. He was son of Dhirdarashtra and Sauvali, a woman from the trader community.
Yudhishtara happily welcomed Yuyutsu. Probably it was complete faith in Krishna. But whatever the reason Yudhishtara looked at the Kauravas and said smugly. ‘King Dhirdarashtra would now have atleast one son alive, at the end of the war!’
Yuyutsu was obviously always welcome in the Pandava side. Yuyutsu had been silently helping the Pandavas, over the years. Yuyutsu was the person who informed Yudhishtara about Duryodhana’s plan to kill Bheema, when they were children. That was the reason the Pandavas were able to go in search of Bheema, as soon as he went missing.
However, at this stage, rather strangely, Vikarna said nothing. The Vikarna who had defied his brother in open court and who had supported Draupadi, because he felt it was the right thing to do, did nothing when he was given a chance to openly support the Pandavas. It could of course be that Vikarna felt that no matter what, whether his elder brother was right or wrong, it was his duty to fight for him and Vikarna was content to let himself fight for the Kauravas.
When the battle moved on to the 13th day, Drona had formed the Chakravyuha and had trapped the young Abhimanyu inside it. Inside the Vyuha, the young Abhimanyu massacred every Kaurava in sight. Looking at his technique, Dronacharya decided that Abhimanyu could not be defeated as long as he had a bow and arrow in his hands. It was for this reason that Dronacharya ordered a hoard of Kaurava warriors to attack Abhimanyu at the same time. This was against the laws of war. But then no one said anything.
The lone voice which spoke against this was again Vikarna. ‘This is breaking the rules of war!’ he exclaimed aghast at his own teacher.
Dronacharya looked angrily at Vikarna. ‘Did the Pandavas follow the law when they killed Bhishma using Shikandi?’ Drona snapped.
So this time too Vikarna’s words went in vain and all the Kaurava warriors together killed the sixteen year old Abhimanyu.
Hearing the death of Abhimanyu, Arjuna swore that he was going to kill Jayadratha who was the one who made sure that Abhimanyu was all alone in the Chakravyuha, without any backup. Arjuna swore that if he did not kill Jayadratha by the end of the day, he was going to kill himself. Dronacharya being smart realized a golden opportunity and guarded Jayadratha inside three Vyuhas.
But then it was Arjuna they were talking about. When Arjuna started doing something, he did with his whole mind,body and soul. On the fourteenth day of the battle too, it did not matter to Arjuna who was before him. All that mattered to him was to kill Jayadratha. The existence of the other Kaurava soldiers probably did not even come inside his radar.
Arjuna was clinically annihilating the Kaurava army trying to get to Jayadratha.
Obviously there was a catch.
After Bhishma had fallen, when Dronacharya had taken over the reigns as the General of the Kaurava army, Dronacharya had promised Duryodhana that he was going to bring Yudhishtara captive to the Kaurava prince. However every time Dronacharya tried to take Yudhishtara captive, he was thwarted by Arjuna and Krishna. Now with Arjuna deep inside the enemy territory, Dronacharya set out to capture Yudhishtara.
However both Arjuna and Krishna had anticipated this and asked Satyaki and Bheema to protect Yudhishtara.
Satyaki has a very interesting story in the war. Satyaki was a Yadava. Before the beginning of the war, Krishna had assigned the entire Yadava army to fight for the Kauravas. So the Yadava army fought for the Kauravas. Despite this Satyaki fought for the Pandavas because he was a disciple of Arjuna. As Arjuna had taught him the use of weapons, Satyaki supported his Guru in the war.
When Dronacharya attacked Yudhishtara, both Satyaki and Bheema fought off the acharya. However in this short and fierce battle, Yudhishtara lost sight of Arjuna.
Fearing the worst, Yudhishtara sent Satyaki after Arjuna. Satyaki tried to convince Yudhishtara that nothing would happen to Arjuna, but Yudhishtara would not hear anything. So asking Bheema to defend Yudhishtara, Satyaki went inside the Vyugha.
However Satyaki was extraordinarily tired by the time when he reached Arjuna. In fact it was Arjuna who had to protect Satyaki from Bhurishravas. And so Satyaki could not give any message to Yudhishtara, about the well-being of Arjuna.
And so back to the Pandavas, Yudhishtara steadily grew worried as there was no news from Satyaki. Realizing that he had to send his best warrior to protect Arjuna and Satyaki, Yudhishtara sent Bheema into the Vyuha.
Having Dhrishtadyumna protect Yudhishtara, Bheema set out inside the Vyuha.
Dronacharya was standing at the rim of the Vyuha. Both Arjuna and Satyaki had bypassed the teacher because both of them respected Dronacharya. However Bheema saw no such need. To him Dronacharya was no longer worthy of respect. He was just the general of the Kaurava army. Bheema fought well and killed Drona’s horses and charioteer and brought down Drona’s chariot too. Drona ran to another chariot and by this time Bheema was inside the Vyuha.
Inside the Vyuha, there were two intense battles between Karna and Bheema. In the first battle Karna all but killed Bheema, completely humiliating Bheema and letting Bheema live because of his promise to Kunti to not hurt any other Pandava other than Arjuna. However in the second battle, Karna was not so lucky. Bheema fought back and fought back brilliantly. But as Bheema was about to completely disable Karna, Duryodhana sent his seven brothers to attack Bheema.
Bheema let Karna go and turned to Duryodhana’s brothers. He had promised that he was going to kill everyone of Duryodhana’s brothers and he had already killed 39 of Duryodhana’s brothers. Seeing seven more, Bheema’s eyes shone with the insanity of battle as he fell on them. But then Bheema stopped short. Because he suddenly saw who was the seventh Kaurava brother – It was Vikarna.
Bheema tried to push away Vikarna because he did not want to fight him. But in the end, the bloodlust of war won out and Bheema after a ferocious struggle killed Vikarna in battle.
As Vikarna fell dead, Bheema broke down crying. ‘My Vikarna! I killed you too! War is such a hated thing!’ Bheema said looking disgusted with himself. ‘You were a man of Dharma! You knew what was right and were brave enough to act on it! And a wretch that I am, I was forced to kill a man of Dharma like yourself…..’

And thus fell Vikarna, one of the unsung heroes of Mahabharatha….

Thursday, September 18, 2014

How Dhaumya became the priest of the Pandavas

In those days, a priest was a very important part of any family. Primarily because the priest prayed to the Gods for the well-being of the family and the society as the whole. Such positions went to well-read and trustworthy persons. The priest of the Pandavas was Dhaumya. Here is the story of how he became the priest of the Pandavas....

Duryodhana, the Kaurava prince, hated the Pandavas so much that he along with Karna and Shakuni planned and arranged for the Pandavas to be burnt in the House of Lac. However, with the help of Vidura, the Pandavas thwarted the plan and escaped from there. 
Everyone except ofcourse, Vidura believed the Pandavas to be dead. 
To protect themselves from further attacks, the Pandavas kept up the pretense of their death and went to the town of Ekachakra. There they lived in the house of a Brahmin. To further conceal their real identity, the Pandavas lived on alms there.
It was here that Bheema rescued the Brahmin family by killing the asura Vaka or Baka.
'Do you know that King Drupada of Panchala, he has just performed a yagna?' The Brahmin told Kunti and the brothers.
'For what?' Arjuna asked. He was the one who had been responsible for the defeat of the formidable Drupada in battle. That was the Guru Dakshina which Drona had asked from him.
'Unable to bear the humiliation of being defeated by Drona, Drupada searched far and wide in his kingdom for someone who could defeat Drona!' Arjuna sighed shaking his head as the Brahmin continued. 'King Drupada was unable to find anyone who could defeat Drona. So King Drupada pleased Sage Yaja and Upayaja so that they would perform a yagna on his behalf! The sages performed the yagna and from the fires emerged a handsome man with full armour. They called him Dhristadhyumna!'
'Is he going to kill Dronacharya?' Arjuna demanded from the man.
The Brahmin nodded gravely. 'Yes! When he emerged from the fire, a heavenly voice announced that he was going to bring the death of Drona!'
Arjuna was about to retort something when the man continued. 'But that is not all!'
The brothers listened attentively as the man continued. 'After Dhrishtadyumna, from the fire a beautiful woman also emerged! The woman was so beautiful that she looked like Goddess Sri herself! She was dark with beautiful eyes and has lovely, beautiful curls! It is said that gave out a fragrance which could be scented two miles away! Because she was dark, she was called Krishna!'
The brothers looked wondrously at each other unable to remove the image which the man's words bought. Kunti studied her sons and smiled not saying anything. The man continued, not realizing that the brothers had almost stopped listening. 'When the woman arrived, the heavenly voice announced that she was born to accomplish the work of the Gods!'
Kunti thanked the man and sent him on his way, well realizing the mood of her sons. 
Long after the man had left Kunti called her sons and was surprised to find that for the first time in her life, her sons seemed rather listless and inattentive to her calls. Suppressing a grin, she called the eldest Pandava, 'Son! I think we have stayed enough in this town!' Yudhishtara looked surprised as his mother continued. 'We will have to move on!'
'Where shall we go, mother?' Yudhishtara asked suddenly feeling very happy.
'How about Panchala?' Kunti asked trying hard not to grin.
And so the next day, the six of them happily trudged along to the kingdom of Panchala. Probably it was destiny or probably some other undefinable reason, whatever it was the Pandavas never felt the reason to rest, when they were traveling to Panchala. They even traveled at night as they came close to the Ganga.
It was at that time that a Gandharva was there in the river enjoying with his wives. The Gandharva was proud and arrogant. 
Seeing a group of humans come up to the river late at night, made the Gandharva rather haughty. The Gandharva felt that the humans had no right to disturb him when he was enjoying with his wives.
Angrily he came up before the Pandavas. 'Who are you humans, disturbing me at this time?'
The Pandavas looked suitably shocked at the arrogance of the Gandharva. 'We were on our way! We did not want to disturb you....' Arjuna began politely. But the Gandharva rudely interrupted him. 'The night belongs to Gandharvas, yakshas and rakshasas! How dare you interrupt......'
The ever careful Arjuna realized that the Gandharva was thirsting for a fight and pulled out his bow and pointed it straight at Gandharva. Foolishly the Gandharva thought that he could win this fight. He got on a beautiful glowing chariot and laughed. 'I am Angaaraparvana! I am the best friend of Kubera and the best of the Gandharvas! You cannot pass this river!'
'How can you think of barring others from using rivers or any other water body?' Arjuna said angrily. 'Besides this is the Ganga, the river which washes away your sins! How on earth can you prevent anyone from coming to it! It is the purest river in the world.....'
The Gandharva did not even let Arjuna finish the sentence. He pulled out his bow and started firing arrows at top speed at the Pandavas. The Gandharva should have known better....
Arjuna stopped all the arrows with his shield and pulled out a gleaming arrow and pointed it at the Gandharva. The arrow gleamed at night as for the first time, there was fear in the Gandharva's eyes.
Arjuna nodded angrily. 'This arrow was given by the Guru of Indra – Vrihaspasthi to Bharadwaja and from him to Agnivesya! Agnivesya gave this to my Guru Drona and he gave this to me! See what it does!' Quick as lightning, Arjuna fired the arrow and the arrow blazed through the path and burnt the chariot of the Gandharva. The Gandharva watched in horror as his chariot was being burnt down and jumped from it to escape the fire. The impact hit the Gandharva hard and he fell unconscious....
Heaving angrily, Arjuna pulled the Gandharva from the wreckage and dragged him towards Yudhishtara.
Arjuna was looking angrily at the Gandharva who was regaining his conscious when the Gandharvi ladies ran towards Yudhishtara. One of them spoke hurriedly to Yudhishtara. 'I am Kumbasini! I am his wife! Please spare his life!'
Yudhishtara looked angrily at Angaaraparvana and then at the lady. 'Let him go, Arjuna! Don't belittle yourself by killing a man who needs protection from someone else to stay alive!'
Disgusted, Arjuna pushed the Gandharva away. The Gandharva stumbled as he got on his feet. 
'I have been defeated by you! I shall give you anything you want!' He said his voice hoarse from the fire.
'I want nothing from a man, whose life I have spared!' Arjuna said.
'No! No! No!' The Gandharva said desperately trying to save face in front of his wives.
'We Gandharvas have the power of illusion! It is called Chakshusi! This is the power which differentiates Gandharvas from the humans! I will give it to you!' The Gandharva said.
Arjuna was about to protest when the Gandharva continued. 'I will give you each, fifty horses like the once I have! They look lean, but these horses never tire, no matter how much you drive them!'
'I....I...' Arjuna faltered. He cleared his throat. 'I have nothing to give you, in return of what you are offering me!'
'You have saved my life! What more....' The Gandharva asked incredulously. The Gandharva saw that Arjuna really meant what you have said. 'I have met really good people today! For that I am grateful! As a mark of our friendship! I will not call myself, Angaaraparvana anymore!' The Gandharva looked at his chariot which was now in ashes. 'Anyway, I cannot call myself that, anymore!' (Angaaraparvana means 'blazing chariot' in Sanskrit)
'You can give me your arrow in return of my gift!' The Gandharva said finally.
Arjuna agreed happily and the exchange was made.
'Let us be friends for life!' Arjuna smiled.
'Gladly, O Tapatya!' The Gandharva said.
'Why did you call me that?' Arjuna asked frowning. 'Who is Tapti?'
'Tapti is the daughter of Lord Surya! She is the younger sister of Savitri! She was extraordinarily beautiful! A king called Samvarna loved her! It was because of the efforts of Sage Vasishta, who was the royal priest of King Samvarna that the king was able to marry Tapti!' The Gandharva smiled as he continued. 'Samvarna and Tapti had a brave son! Do you know his name?'
The Pandavas shook their heads when the Gandharva continued. 'Their son was Kuru! Kuru is your ancestor! That is the reason you are called from the house of Kurus!'
The Pandavas nodded their head and then Arjuna cleared his head. 'Friend! I will take your horses later on, when I need them! For now, keep them with you!'
The Gandharva nodded, as Arjuna continued. 'You said that the king married Tapti because of Sage Vasishta, who was his priest! Is it so important to have a priest for your own family?'
The Gandharva nodded his head head earnestly. 'Yes! The priest would pray for your welfare and prosperity. That would give you victory in all your battles. Besides it is always good to have good people around you! Such a priest is necessary for your kingdom to flourish!'
The Gadharva talked some more, trying to convince the princes the need for a priest.
'Do you know any person who would be willing to be our priest?' Arjuna finally asked.
'In this very forest, near the Ganga, there is a place called Utkochaka! There you will find a sage by name Dhaumya! He is the younger brother of Sage Devala! He would be the perfect man to be your priest!'
That very night, the Pandavas with Kunti set out to meet the Sage Dhaumya.
Seeing the serene, calm and powerful sage, the Pandavas felt an immediate connection with the sage.
The Pandavas were more than thrilled when Dhaumya accepted the position to be their priest. The relationship between the Pandavas continued throughout their lives. He was the one who performed the marriage of Krishna (Draupadi) with the five Pandavas. He was the one who performed all the yagnas in Indraprastha. Dhaumya even traveled with the Pandavas when they went on a 13 year exile from Indraprastha....He became the perfect friend and spiritual guide for the Pandavas to guide them on the path of righteousness.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


The epic of Mahabharatha tells the story of the five Pandava brothers who fought a great war against their hundred cousins – the Kauravas. The Pandavas and the Kauravas fought this war for deciding on who would be the ruler of the prosperous kingdom of Hastinapur.
Much before this war, the eldest Pandava – Yudhishtara, played the game of dice with Shakuni – the maternal uncle of the Kauravas.
Yudhishtara lost the game.
Not only was Shakuni a formidable player of the dice and it was rumoured that Shakuni played with a loaded dice - Yudhishtara was an abysmally bad player.
In his continuous foolishness, Yudhishtara bet on his kingdom, his brothers and even Draupadi – the common wife of the five Pandava brothers, in the game of dice and Yudhishtara lost it all.
Worse, Yudhishtara did not play this game once, but twice.
Because after losing the dice game for the first time, Draupadi argued brilliantly and got back the kingdom which Yudhishtara had lost.
Foolishly, Yudhishtara played the game of dice for the second time with Shakuni and this time for losing the game of dice, the five Pandavas and Draupadi were exiled to the forests.
During their exile in the forests, the Pandavas were a dejected lot.
Adding to the misery of the other Pandavas, the third Pandava – Arjuna – went to the Himalayas to obtain divine weapons from the Devas. That was because after their treatment at the hands of the Kauravas, it was obvious that after the exile was completed, there was going to be war between the two sides.
Arjuna was one of the best warriors of the Pandavas and he wanted to be better prepared by getting more celestial weapons from the Devas.
The remaining four brothers with Draupadi were even more unhappy.
So in order to make them happy, many sages came to their hermitage and told them different stories and strange sights that the sages had seen from around the world.
One such time Sage Markandeya came to the hermitage of the Pandavas.
The Pandavas received him warmly.
Markandeya in turn told them lively stories.
Markandeya was a brilliant sage. But he looked as young as a sixteen year old boy. Markandeya was the one who had conquered death by the grace of Lord Shiva.
The first thing that struck the Pandavas on seeing the sage was that the sage looked not a day older than the day he had conquered death - the age of sixteen.
But the great sage's eyes were the only giveaway. The sage's eyes spoke of a man with infinite wisdom and of a man who had seen and heard things that others had not even dreamt of.
As they listened to the stories, the Pandavas realized that the man before them was... ancient....someone who had been there long before them and had seen things they did not even know existed.
Yudhishtara in jest, asked a question to the great sage. "Is there anyone who is older than you, sir?"
Markandeya looked amused at the question as he laughed quietly. "I will tell you a story. Then you can decide for yourself."
The Pandavas were bewildered as Markandeya continued.
"I will tell you something I saw many years back."
Markandeya said looking outside the hermitage with glazed eyes.
Once I had just returned from a long pilgrimage and I was back home, when I saw a man suddenly appear before me, out of nowhere. He appeared without any warning. Just like that. When he appeared before me, the man himself looked surprised like he could not believe what he was seeing. The man looked shocked and was muttering to himself.’
Despite being shocked, the man looked regal and powerful. He had an ancient aura around him, one that I could not define or understand.’
I ran towards him and helped him up.’
"Who are you, great one?" I asked.’
The man was now looking anguished and sad.’
"I have fallen." He mumbled.’
I looked at him without understanding when the man continued.’
"Long ago, I was a human and I led a good life. I helped people whenever I could. After my death, because of all the good deeds that I had done, I was chosen to go to Indraloka, in the Skies. As you know, after your death, you spend the time in the various realms, depending on the works that you have done. If you do good, you go to one of the swargas – one of the heavens. You can stay there till your good merits last. If you do bad deeds, you stay in the lower realms. The minute your merits get over, you come back to earth for another cycle of birth and death."’
The man looked crestfallen.’
"It looks like all the merits that I have done have been forgotten. Which is why I have fallen back on earth."’
"Who are you sir?" I asked.’
"I am Indradhyumna." The man said unhappily.’
I looked sympathetically at the man when the man suddenly looked at me with a strange expression on his face.’
"You are Markandeya. You are a Chiranjeevi, someone who lives forever. Have you never seen me before?"’
I was surprised and shook my head. "I rarely stay in the same place for more than a day. There is no way I would know about you, sir."’
The man looked unhappy for a few seconds when he brightened again. "Do you know anyone who is older than you? Someone who may remember me and my good deeds."’
I nodded my head.’
"In Himavat, there is an owl by name Pravarkarna. He is older than me. He may know you. But he lives far away from here."’
As soon as I said these words, Indradyumna changed himself into a horse. Indradhyumna carried me and we reached Himavat very soon.’
There we found Pravarkarna.’
Indradyumna transformed into a human and asked the owl without any preamble.’
"Have you ever seen me before?"’
The owl looked shocked for a few seconds and then looked at the man up and down. "I am afraid, I have not seen you, sir."’
"Then is there anyone who is older than you?" Indradhyumna immediately asked the owl.’
The owl looked at the king for a few seconds.’
"What is your name, sir?"’
"Indradyumna." The king replied.’
The owl looked shocked.’
The man suddenly looked eager as the owl continued. "Strange though it may sound there is a lake by name Indradyumna nearby. Near the lake, lives a crane called Nadijangha. He is older than me. He may know you."’
Then me, the sage and the owl went to Nadijangha, the crane, and asked him the same question.’
Unfortunately the crane also did not know Indradyumna.’
But then the crane smiled.’
"In this very lake, there is a very old tortoise. The name of the tortoise is Akupura. He is older than me."’
Nadijangha turned to the lake and shouted. "Akupura. Please come here. We need to ask you something."’
The tortoise came out of the lake and the first person the tortoise saw was Indradyumna.’
Seeing the king, the tortoise started trembling with joy and he was weeping uncontrollably.’
"I never thought I would see you again." Akupura said looking at Indradyumna. "My king, I am so grateful to you."’
All of us looked astonished at the tortoise as it continued. "He is a great king. He was the most generous man ever." The tortoise said looking at Indradyumna with shining eyes. "Do you know how this lake was formed? It was formed from the hooves of the cattle that this king gave away as gifts to other people. These cattle that kept walking in the land, that was what had formed this depression in the land and that created this pond. I have lived here, since then." Akupura finished.’
No sooner had the tortoise finished the tale, a vehicle came whizzing to the place as a heavenly voice said. "As long as your good deeds are remembered, you will live in heaven. The tortoise still lives because of your merits. Come. Come back to the higher heavens."’
Happily’ Indradyumna dropped me and the owl back at our places and then rode away on the vehicle, going to the heavens, which he deserved.’
Markandeya looked at the Pandavas with playful eyes. "Does that answer your question, my friends?"