My reactions as I read epics: Mahabharata by Kamala Subramaniam and Samhita Arni, Vachana Bharata by Krishna Shastri.
As a friend said, it is a Aam Admi view of epics
Wednesday, 28 September 2011
Draupadi's swayamvara- The combat- Visiting Mahabharata 41
(The story of Draupadi's swayamvara is based on Vachana Bharata. It is delightfully compact and each sentence, word is so packed with meaning that it is a challenge to imitate it in English!)
The enraged kings moved towards Drupada with an intent to kill. Arjuna and Bhima block this stampede of the virtually angry elephants. A fight ensues and the brahmins pitch in by throwing their Kamandalu at them. Arjuna with a smile asks the brahmins to keep away and tells them he will take care. Bhima stands next to him firm like a mountain. The kings decide to kill the brahmins as they have engaged in a battle.
Karna attacks Arjuna and Shalya falls on Bhima. Very soon Karna realises that this brahmin is skilled and full of courage. He tells Arjuna 'I am impressed with your ability. It is only Indra or Arjuna who can equal me. Tell me who you are?'. Arjuna replies 'Karna I am just a skilled archer and my guru has even taught me how to use the Brahmaastra!' Karna aware that he had no answer to this astra stops the fight. While Bhima easily lifts Shalya up and slams him down on the ground, but does not kill him. The others give up when they see the best amongst them defeated.
Krishna who was keeping an eye on the combat suspects that they must be Bhima and Arjuna and suggests to the assembled kings that they stop fighting as these brahmins have won the competition in the right way. Thus Bhima and Arjuna with Draupadi accompanying him walk towards home surrounded by the happy brahmins.
I find many aspects of the story intriguing. While the angry kings had no compunction about throwing Draupadi into the fire if she refused to choose one of them, they seemed to have a code of conduct when it concerned a fight. While one would expect a fracas from such a group angry alpha males, it turned out to be an orderly combat. Also there is obvioulsy a rule against killing brahmins.
They also did not hesitate to give up the fight once they recognised the superiority of the opponent. If you watch a tv series animal planet, you will be reminded of the male lions, faced with a much stronger lion, suddenly give up fight and walk away with their tails between the legs,.
Most surprising of all was the way Draupadi just accompanies Arjuna without apparently even looking back.