Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Brahmin's story.. Visiting Mahabharata 37

The Pandavas continued to live in the house of the brahmin. One day a brahmin traveller came to the house, a welcome visit, a stranger coming from another country was a great event. People were eager to hear stories of others. His real mission this time..'I have been made to travel like this to tell the world about the swayamvara of a princess'. News did travel in the old days!

The Pandavas hear the stories they already know and also hear about things they did not know. The hatred of Drupada for Drona..his only aim is to get a son great enough to kill Drona. He decides to perform a yajna for this purpose. 'A son to kill Drona and a daughter as my gift to Arjuna'.

After a year spent in pleasing two rishis, Yaja and Upayaja, they perform a yaga called Putrakama. At the end of the yaga, there arose a chariot out of the sacrificial fire. Seated in it was a god-like youth (Dhrishtadyumna), dressed like a warrior. Drupada was speechless with joy. He knew that the death of Drona was certain. Then arose a beautiful woman (Draupadi), her flashing eyes bewitched everyone. A voice from the heaven proclaimed: 'This woman, who is the most beautiful of all women, will be the cause of the destruction of all kshatriyas...'

They also hear from the brahmin the story of their own death and how Drupada looked as if he was mourning the death of his own sons and of his guru's feeling that Pandavas were not dead! The guru suggests a plan to proclaim that there will be a swayamvara held in the city and there would be a test of archery. He is sure that Pandavas are somewhere, disguised and Arjuna would surely attend!

My friend Raghu disagreed with me when I said mine was an outsider's view. He said it was not as I have grown up with the epic as any other Indian. True, but I do feel strange when I see two rishis helping Drupada in his path of revenge. Or for that matter Drona tutoring Dhrishtadyumna even though the prince was born to kill him, accepting the fact that there was no use fighting fate. But I probably could accept the voice from heaven about Draupadi! Shades of a greek tragedy here.

The princes are silent for a long time after the brahmin slept and Kunti realises that they all wish to go to Panchala. The arguments she uses in Vachana Bharata is more nuanced, but she manages to convince the already willing Pandavas to move on. She tells them that they probably are overstaying their welcome in the city. There is less biksha (alms) when they go begging.

The pandavas did not sleep. They knew that Draupadi was meant for Arjuna. But ever since they heard the description of this woman, the thoughts of all of them were hovering round her. Even the eldest Yudhisthira felt he wanted this woman for himself. He was distressed at these thoughts that haunted him. But he could not help it.

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