Subhadra looked around the forests and she was feeling uneasy. Till date, she had never seen Daruka lose his way.
But somehow the forests made her uneasy.
“Are you sure we are going to the Virata kingdom, Daruka?” Subhadra asked in a quiet voice.
Abhimanyu was puzzled. “Why mother? Why do you doubt Daruka?”
“The forests make me uncomfortable.” Subhadra said in a quiet voice looking around, as Daruka drove around a tree and kept going in the same direction.
“Do not worry mother.” Abhimanyu said with a quiet pride. “Rest your mind. No matter what happens, I shall…”
Abhimanyu had not even finished talking when the chariot skidded to a sudden halt. Daruka pulled the reins of the horses tightly as Abhimanyu caught the chariot in one hand and held his mother in the other hand.
Even at that time before Daruka spoke, the warrior in Abhimanyu was instinctive and powerful, as he was looking around and pulling the arrow from his quiver.
“What is it, Daruka?” Abhimanyu asked Daruka in a whisper as he was making sure that his mother was well hidden inside the chariot.
“I sense movement. There is someone in the forest watching us, my prince.” Daruka said in a quiet voice. “I do not think it is advisable to drive further without…”
That was when the two men saw it. A powerfully built rakshasa came from behind the tree and he was studying the chariot and its people with slight interest and a lot of suspicion marked his face.
Abhimanyu’s arrow was in the bow as he pulled it back and he looked at the rakshasa. “Step no further! Or the arrow shall decapitate you.”
The rakshasa laughed loudly. “I am a part rakshasa. I have magic in my blood. You think you can stop me with mere mortal weapons?”
Saying this, the rakshasa vanished from the place.
Subhadra and Daruka from inside the chariot gasped as they saw the suddenly missing rakshasa. But then not for nothing was Abhimanyu the pupil of Krishna. He jumped out of the chariot and he did not even blink and he fired arrows in a clean trajectory in the direction that the rakshasa had been there.
Much to the rakshasa’s surprise, the aim of the boy was perfect.
Even without seeing him, Abhimanyu was able to pierce the rakshasa with his arrow.
Gasping, the rakshasa made himself visible as he pulled out the arrow from his arm. Seeing that his enemy was in a weakened state, Abhimanyu threw down his arrow and bow and stood before the rakshasa.
Subhadra and Daruka watched with baited breath as the two people fought bare handed and it almost seemed like Abhimanyu was going to win the fight.
That was when Subhadra saw someone else in the forest. A feminine form which was walking towards the two fighters. A few seconds later, Subhadra could see better and the form turned out to be an old female rakshasi. She had presumably been dragged here by the sounds of the fighting of the two men.
It was at that minute that Subhadra saw the fallen rakshasa looking wide-eyed with surprise to see the older rakshasi here. “Mother! What are you doing here?” The rakshasa demanded looking furious. “You were supposed to stay in the house with Ahilawati and the children.”
Abhimanyu stepped back confused as he saw the older rakshasi.
It seemed to Subhadra like the older rakshasi was shocked too. “How… How..” She stammered looking at the young Abhimanyu again. “How can a young human overpower the son of Bheema?” She shook her head looking shocked. “It is impossible.”
Subhadra was shocked as she heard the older rakshasi’s words. She hurriedly came out of the chariot and stood before Abhimanyu before Abhimanyu could attack the fallen rakshasa. The older rakshasi seemed shocked too as she saw the woman.
“The rakshasa is the son of Bheema? Bheema the second Pandava?” Subhadra asked the older rakshasi in a dazed voice. “How…”
Subhadra suddenly bowed to the older rakshasi. She turned to her confused son and waved him over.
“Abhimanyu, meet your cousin, Gatothgaja. The son of Bheema uncle and Hidimbi, the queen of the rakshasas of the forest.”
Daruka claimed to have lost his way. Everybody was suspicious about it, but then no one asked any questions.
Abhimanyu was thrilled to find his cousin’s children in the beautiful house in the forest – the children were Babarika and Anjanaparva. Abhimanyu also met Gatothgaja’s wife Ahilwati in the forests there.
Abhimanyu found the older Gatothgaja, a sweet and lovable older brother who seemed eager to help him.
Just like Abhimanyu, Gatothgaja had spent far too little time with his own father.
“There was a family which was passing through the forest. I was tracking them for the sacrifice before Goddess Kali. The family had a father, mother and three children. When they saw me and saw that I wanted one of them for the sacrifice of Goddess Kali, the wife wanted to come with me. The husband refused to listen to his wife and he wanted to come instead. Finally, the second son agreed and I was to take him to the temple, when a human came to the scene.” Gatothgaja told his cousin.
“The human was huge and powerfully built. When he saw the second son, he asked what the matter was.” Gatothgaja shrugged. “The human offered to come with me, instead of the second son, on the condition that I had to defeat him in a fair fight.”
Gatothgaja smiled in an absentminded tone, as he studied Abhimanyu. “We fought for hours together and the human could match my speed for speed and ferocity for ferocity.” Gatothgaja smiled at his younger brother. “Just like the fight between you and me, mother interfered that time too. She told me that the human fighting me was Bheema, the second Pandava.”
Abhimanyu looked surprised as Gatothgaja continued. “After that day we no longer follow the practice of sacrifice. We have given it up all together.” Gatothgaja smiled at his younger brother. “Enough about me. You said you were going to Matsya kingdom? Why? What work do you have there?”
Slowly over lunch, Abhimanyu told him the reason for his travels to the Matsya kingdom and how Daruka had lost the way.
Gatothgaja looked slightly angry after Abhimanyu had finished.
“That was not fair. Yudhishtara uncle gambled away the kingdom. Why should the Virata king refuse to marry his daughter to Arjuna’s son for that?”
Abhimanyu said nothing as he was looking dejected. The young prince was surprised as he saw a sudden smile in the face of the young rakshasa.
“Fear not young brother.” Gatothgaja told Abhimanyu with a sudden smile. “Whether you have lost your way or not, the fact remains that you have come to the right place. Uttara loves you and you love her. It is my duty to make sure that you marry the woman that you love.” That was all that the rakshasa said with a hearty laugh.