Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The story of Indra and Nahusha. Mahabharata 105

 The story below which Shalya narrates to console Yudhisthira is borrowed from vachana bharata:
'Once त्व्ष्ट्र,  Brahma, the heavenly builder, the creator of all living beings  plotting against Indra  acquires a son named Trishirasa.  The son seeking to usurp the position of Indra performs a penance. As Indra's apsaras are unable to break the penance and stop him,  Indra  kills him! Then the creator gets another stronger son Vritra. Indra is unable to tackle him and runs away from heaven. Later the gods manage a truce between the two. Indra promises not to kill Vritra with the use of weapons. But Indra waiting for the right opportunity manages to kill Vritra with the foam created by the waves at the seafront. As he has killed two sons of Brahma, the stigma of Brahmahatya is visibly attached to Indra. Indra ashamed of this stigma, goes into hiding!'

'After some deliberations Devatas and Deva Rishis invite Nahusha to become the protector of gods and offer him the position of Indra. Nahusha soon gets used to the privileges Indra enjoyed.  In time,  Aprsaras are not enough and he desires Sachidevi, the wife of Indra! Sachidevi meets Nahusha and seeks time. In the meantime gods locate Indra who has gone into hiding, and get him to perform Ashwameda yaga. With this he is relieved of the stigma attached to him.

Meantime Sachidevi meets Nahusha and tells him that she would be his, only if the saptha rishis carry him to her palace! Nahusha believes, his mind clouded by his passion, that it is part of the ritual and agrees. He, as the god of kings, makes the saptha rishis carry him. Accidently his leg touches the muni Agastya and  the rishi is very upset. He curses Nahusha and he looses all his acquired merits. Immediately Nahusha falls down and turns into a serpent. The gods then locate Indra and reinstall him back to his position. Thus he and his consort Sachidevi get back to being together and Indra begins to rule devaloka as before.'

Shalya concludes the story and reassures Yudhisthira that his enemies would be destroyed soon and even he, the same way as Indra and Sachidevi, who underwent hardships and Indra had to hide himself from his enemies, would be happy again.

Wonder why sage Vyaasa or the later pundits added this story. Anyway it illustrates the fact that 'The gods have the same problems as us or gods are no better than us or humans and gods were not very different!'

As I read about Indra , I see that Indra  is known in many other countries and in an other religion. Indra was very visible in Thailand.  We see in Wat Arun a beautiful sculpture of  Indra riding on Airavata (Eravan).  His  story is fascinating, especially his drop in importance over a period of time. He was very important during the vedic times. It may be as we progressed and moved from agriculture, we needed better icons!

The story of Nahusha is confusing. I wonder if it is meant to tell us that a human could aspire to be a deva and also as a warning. He could become a naga ( A serpent) if he loses his head!

But then I read an autobiography of Sri M, ( I have also heard him speak!)  'Apprentice to a Himalayan Master. A yogi's autobiography.' As an apprenctice  he and his guru had the experience of the visitation a naga from a nagalokha, but their visitor came from another planet and not from पाताल, lower regions of the world. According to Sri M's guru, these nagas are more evolved than humans.

 'In the milky way there exists a stellar system with seven planets and eighteen moons. One of these planets is called Sarpa Lokha, and is entirely inhabited by highly evolved, hooded snakes. The serpents are called naga devatas. The person you saw is the deputy chief of this realm and he is called Nagaraja. the supreme head of the nagas is the five-hooded golden serpent, known in ancient Indian texts, as Anantha.'

Monday, 27 February 2012

King Shalya on his way to meet Pandavas is enticed by the hospitality of Duryodhana. MB blog 104

At the request of the pandavas, Shalya the king of Madhra, brother of Madhri, is on his way to meet them accompanied by his children and his large army. Duryodhana comes to know and orders wayside pavilions be built for them to rest and to treat them with great hospitality. King Shalya, immensely pleased, 'Call the people who built these pavilions, I want to reward them.' Duryodhana who was behind the scenes all this while comes forward to claim credit. Shalya very happy embraces him and asks him, 'What can I do for you?' Duryodhan answers 'Uncle, please lead the entire kaurava army!' and Shalya having asked, accepts ! Duryodhana departs, a very happy man.

Shalya then goes on to meet Yudhisthira, embraces him affectionately and recounts what transpired on his way and his promise to  Duryodhana. Yudhisthira reacts with, 'It is just as well! But please do us a favor. Vasudeva and you are considered equal in a combat. When the time comes for Karna and Arjuna to fight, you will be required to become  Karna's charioteer. Uncle, if you have any regard for me, you should protect Arjuna! You must destroy Karna's confidence. I know it should not be done, but do it for us!'

Shalya agrees, 'True! I will attack his ego by arguing with him word to word. It is easier to defeat him if his confidence is low! I will do whatever I can. I know that you have suffered in many ways. All this will end  and you will soon be happy. Do not feel bad. It happens even to devatas!'  And tells him a story where god Indra and his wife face difficulties and finally overcome them. (The message is that even gods get into trouble!) 

Saturday, 25 February 2012

War preparations go on with token overtures for a settlement. Mahabharata 103

As Krishna travels back to Dwaraka, serious war preparations begin. When Duryodhana hears that kings are joining the pandavas, he reacts by inviting his friends for a meeting. A lot of activity is seen on both the sides. Meanwhile Drupada sends his old priest to meet Duryodhana. While he has little hopes that this visit would have any effect, he hopes that Bheeshma and Drona would support the message brought by the old priest and Duryodhana would need more time to convince them to accept his stance. Pandavas would thus gain some more time to prepare.

As Krishna and Balarama reach Dvaravati, they are immediately followed by Duryodhana and  later by Arjuna on the same day. Krishna is asleep at that time and they both go to his room and wait for him to wake up. Duryodhana occupies a seat near Krishna's head and Arjuna chooses to stand with his hand folded near the foot. Krishna waking, notices Arjuna first and then Duryodhana who is  sitting by his side. After greeting them, he wants to know the purpose of their visit. Duryodhana is the first to speak 'Krishna, I have come seeking your help in the war. Both I and Arjuna are equal to you, but as I came ahead of him I feel it is right for you to agree to help me!'

Krishna as diplomatic as ever, 'Duryodhana, it is true that you came first. But I saw Arjuna first so I will help you both!  As Arjuna is younger, I will give him the first choice. Arjuna tell me whether you want me or my millions-strong army? Know that I will also not fight in the war.' Arjuna not worried that Krishna will not fight, chooses him. Duryodhana is happy to get a huge army and later goes to meet Balarama. Balarama tells Duryodhana 'I cannot be away from Krishna and he is with Arjuna. So I have decided not involve myself. You are a khsatriya, go and fight like one!' Duryodhana is happy with Balarama's decision. He then meets Kruthavarma and a collects a large army and returns.

Krishna, curious, asks Arjuna who is still with him, 'Why did you want me Arjuna, even when I said that I would not fight?'  Arjuna is very clear about his choice, 'Krishna, I know you can demolish them all by yourself. Even I feel confident I can defeat them by myself. Please be my charioteer, that is all I want and I have been wanting it for a long time!' Krishna agrees to be Arjuna's Saarathi and wishes him luck.

Udyog parva so far has a different texture! The story moves at a human level. It is as if gods have taken a back seat for a  while. Narada does not come on a visit to initiate god's will. Vyasa who has been in and out officiating in rituals has not made an appearance! It is as if the humans are given an opportunity to decide for themselves!

Friday, 24 February 2012

ऊद्योग parva. Strenuous continuous endeavour. Mahabharata 102

After Abimanyu's wedding, leaders who sided with the pandavas congregate at Virata's sabha.  Attending the meeting are Pandavas and their children, Drupada, Virata, Balarama, Krishna, Satyaki and many more. Krishna addresses them, 'Pandavas have fulfilled their vows. We now have to  think what is right for them and Duryodhana. Yudhisthira will not accept anything which is not according to dharma. If it is not as per dharma, even if the kingdom of devatas is offered to him, he will reject it. Also, he will be happy to accept just one village, if it is what dharma sanctions. All of you are aware how he was cheated out of his heritage and had to face a lot of difficulties. It is not that they defeated Arjuna in a war. Pandavas are happy if kauravas give them whatever they had earlier won on their own in a battle. But kauravas are only intent on killing pandavas and keeping everything for themselves. We have to consider all this. If kauravs do not play fair, pandavas though smaller in number, will surely seek help from their well wishers and fight. We do not know what Duryodhana's thoughts are, we can act only after veryfying this. I suggest we depute an able emissary who will convey to the kauravas that we expect that half the kingdom will be given to the pandavas.

Balarama endorses this and hopes that they will agree and there will be peace. He adds that it was not entirely Sakuni's doing as Yudhisthira need not have gambled when things went wrong, but persisted. Thus Balarama  advocates being polite in their approach. Saatyaki does not agree with Balarama and insists that Yudhisthira was cheated out of his kingdom. In addition as they have met the conditions imposed, they have a right to ask for the return of their kingdom and feels that there is no need to ask them in a polite manner. 'Begging from the enemies is not dharma! Let them give our half of the kingdom or choose to die in the battle field.'

Drupada too supports Satyaki 'Duryodhana is not the one to give away his kingdom just  because we use nice words and Dhriharashtra will never oppose his son. Bheeshma and Drona will support him because they are needy and Karna and Sakuni because they are foolish. Duryodhana will consider being soft is a weakness. We need to get ready for a war! Let us send  words to all the kings fast, Duryodhana would be doing the same. Traditionally the kings will join those who ask them first. My head priest is going to the assembly of kauravas. You can give him the message you want to convey to the kauravas.'

Krishna while agreeing with Drupada says 'Both kauravas and pandavas are related to us. You are elder to us, Dhritarashtra will respect your words, you are also a friend of Drona and Kripa, hence please decide what is best for pandavas and send words to kauravas. If kauravas follow the path of justice and peace, we can avoid the total destruction of brothers. If they act arrogant, please send words to all the kings and also to us. The foolish Duryodhana along with his brothers and ministers will be destroyed by Arjuna's anger.'

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Abhimanyu marries Uttarae. Mahabharata 101

Three days later, Pandavas bathe and dress in white and arrive at the sabha of king Virata and occupy the seats meant only for the royals. Virata appears to hold court as usual  and perceives the well adorned five radiant  men. Seeing Yudhisthira in the midst of the pandavas, he asks lightly 'Did you not play dice with me? Were you not an assistant in my court? How is it that you are so well dressed and are occupying a seat which is reserved only for the kings?'

Arjuna replies with a pleasant smile 'Maharaja! This person is worthy of occupying even the throne of devata Indira! He is Yudhisthira, the son of Kunti! His fame has spread the world over like the brilliance of the sun. While in the land of the kurus, ten thousand elephants would follow him whenever he travelled. Thirty thousand golden chariots with the best horses in harness would go behind him. Eight hundred minstrels would sing in his praise. Multitude of  kings are loyal to him. He is a follower of dharma, patient, without anger and speaker of truth. Duryodhana and Sakuni were jealous of his wealth and his qualities. How is it that such a person is not fit to occupy a seat suitable for a king?'

King virata asks, 'If he is king Yudhisthira, where are his brothers Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula and  Sahadeva and where is Draupadi?  None knew where the Pandavas went after they lost their kingdom in a game of dice.' Arjuna replies, 'Your cook Ballava is the courageous and powerful Bheema, he is the one who killed the evil-natured Keechaka, and the one who killed the tigers, bears and wild boar to amuse the ladies in your antahpurah (अन्तःपुर.).  The protector of your horses is Nakula, Sahadeva took care of your cattle. Sairendri is Draupadi and I am Arjuna. We completed our stay in concealment with you, safe as in an embryo and were happy.'

Uttara then speaks in praise of the pandava, 'Maharaja! He is the one who moved amidst the enemy chariots, like a lion amongst the deer, and punished them. He is the one who defeated the kauravas and recovered our cattle from them. The sound  of  his conch has made me deaf!' And adds, 'Father, they are worthy of being worshipped and honoured!'  Virata concurs, 'I was caught by the enemies and it was Bheema who rescued me and also recovered the cattle for us!'  He then turns towards Yudhisthira, 'I and my ministers beg your forgiveness. Please pardon us! Everything in my treasury is yours!'  and embraces Yudhisthira with a lot of warmth.

Virata with the intention of developing a greater  relationship with the pandavas, offers, 'Let Arjuna marry Uttarae, he is the ideal choice for her.'  Yudhisthira looks at Arjuna to seek his reaction, and Arjuna responds, 'I will accept her as my daughter-in-law. It is the proper connection between our two families'. Virata wonders why Arjuna does not want to marry Uttarae!

Arjuna explains, 'Maharaja! I used to see Uttarae everyday. She always treated me as if I was her father. As a teacher I had her trust, affection and regard! Having been with her for an year, if I get married to her now, people may suspect of things which were not there. I have been pure and in control of my senses and have also seen to that she is also pure. If you accept my suggestion, there will be no room for speculation by anyone! My son is the nephew of  Vasudeva, truly a deva kumara. Sri Krishna's favourite and became an expert in the use of weapons at a very young age! He is eminently suitable as your  son-in-law and a husband to your daughter.'  Virata gladly accepts the suggestion and as he and Partha come to an understanding, they send messages to friends,  relatives and Vasudeva.

The pandavas move to a place within king Virata's domain. Many kings come to visit them and are received with great hospitality by king Virata. Later Balarama, Krishna, Subhadra, Abimanyu and the rest of the family arrive. Following them are ten thousand elephants, a lakh of horses, innumerable chariots and soldiers. Sri Krishna gifts the pandavas with fine clothes, jewellery and women. The marriage is performed with due rituals and ceremony. It is full of grandeur, a variety of meat and intoxicating drinks are served. Singers and dancers keep the invitees entertained. The grandly dressed women of Matsya Raja arrive with Sudheshne in the lead and Draupadi looks best among all the women present. The princess Uttarae beautifully adorned is brought forward and Arjuna acceptes her on behalf of his son. Abimanyu is gifted with seven thousand horses and two hundred elephantas. Later after the wedding he is also gifted with thousands of cattle, fine clothes and precious stones  by Sri Krishna. The whole city looks festive. 

Virata parva is interesting in many ways.  Some details of the story are mystifying, the number of foot soldiers accompanying Krishna is said to be a निखर्व, which translates into a billion! The Chariots are numbered अर्बुद which is ten million! We must check if population in such numbers existed in those days!

Equally significant is the offer by Virata that Arjuna marries his daughter Uttarae and the reasons why Arjuna declines. Close proximity men and women who were not blood relatives was unusual and did give room to speculation!

Monday, 20 February 2012

King Virata apologises to Yudhisthira. Mahabharata 100

King Virata, accompanied by the four pandavas, returns after defeating the Trigartas. His people assemble to honor his victory. After they leave he asks, 'Where is Uttara?'  The women proudly tell him, 'The kauravas captured our cattle! We heard that all the great warriors; Bheeshma, Drona, Ashwattama, Karna and Duryodhana have all come. Hearing this Uttara Kumara went to face and defeat them with Brihanade as his saarathi.'

This news shocks the king. He hopes that, 'If they hear that Trigartas have lost, they may not stay. However send all those who are not injured to help the prince.' And orders  a messenger 'Go and check if Uttara is still living. I am afraid by taking a eunuch as a saarathi, he may not be alive.'  Yudhisthira hears this and  tells the king smiling, 'Maharaja! If Brihanade is with him, the enemies cannot take away the cattle. With his help your son will defeat all the kings, demons or yakshas!'  In the meanwhile the messengers arrive with the good news of Uttara's success!

 Kanka (Yudhisthira) hears this message and informs the king 'Maharaja! It is very fortunate that your son has come back alive. He has won back the cows and has defeated the kauravas. To me it does not appear to be a miracle. Whoever has Brihanade as a saarathi has to win.'

The king is overjoyed. He rewards the messenger for bringing such a good news and instructs his ministers, 'Let the streets be decorated, perform pooja for the devatas, ask the warrior chiefs and the courtesans accompanied by  musicians greet the prince as enters the city. Announce the victory in every corner of the ciry. Ask Uttare and other girls to greet Brihannade as he enters the city with the prince.'

King Virata then gets into a mood to play a game of dice. Yudhisthira reluctantly joins him. Virata cannot contain his joy and gloats, 'Did you see! My son has defeated such formidable kauravas!'  Yudhisthira cannot let this go without a comment, 'How can he not win when he had Brihanade as his charioteer?' This angers the king and he scolds Yudhisthira, 'You lowly brahmin. How dare you praise a eunuch instead of my son? You do not know what to speak and thus are insulting my son. There is no reason why he cannot defeat the kauravas! I am keeping quiet considering your age. I suggest you desist speaking in this manner if you value your life.' But Yudhisthira unable to accept this says, 'When great warriors like Drona, Bheeshma, Karna, Kripa are there, who else but Brihanade can face them in a combat?'

A very enraged Virata shouts at Yudhisthira 'It seems you will not stop talking this way unless you are punished'  and throws the dice at his face. The dice hits Yudhisthira's nose and he starts bleeding profusely. Yudhisthira cups the flowing blood in his hand and looks at Sairendri. She understands and gets a golden cup, collects the blood and ensures that it does not spill on  to the ground.

Meanwhile Uttara felicitated by the citizens along the way, reaches the gates of the palace and sends a message to his father. The sentry at the gate conveys the message to the king 'Maharaja! Prince Uttara and Brihanade are at the gate!' The kings tells him to bring them over immediately, 'I am eagerly waiting for them.' Yudhisthira asks the sentry to get only the prince and not Brihanade. 'If he sees that I am injured by anyone,  except in a war, he has taken a vow to kill that person. He will surely get angry and destroy Virata and the rest.'

Uttara comes in alone and touches the feet of his father and then looks at Yudhisthria who is hurt and  bleeding and Sairendri standing by his side. He asks his father 'Who hit him, why did they commit this terrible act.'  King Virata admits that he did it as Kanka was praising only the eunuch and not his own son. Uttara tells his father that he did a great wrong and asks him to pacify Yudhisthira and says, 'His anger is too dangerous and will burn till the roots are destroyed.'

A very contrite Virata asks for forgiveness. Yudhisthira tells Virata that he has already forgiven him and tells the king, 'If my blood had fallen on the earth, you and  your kingdom would have been destroyed! Even if I do not harm anyone, sometimes it happens without my meaning it to happen.'

After Kanka stops bleeding, Brihanade walks in and shows his respect to king Virata and his brother. Virata turns towards Uttara and wants to know everything about his son's achievements. He showers praises on him, 'Son, there was no one like you and there  will be no one in the future who could be compared to you. Tell me how you defeated Karna, who is known not to miss even thousand moving targets! Or face the great Bheeshma who is immovable like the sea but unbearable like fire that ends the world! How did you fight with Drona who is the greatest of the warriors and the guru of khastriyas or the brave men like Kripa or Ashwattama?

Uttara truthfully replies 'I did not recover the cattle or win battles against the enemies. It was a devakumara who did this. He caught hold of me as I was running away from the battle, very afraid , and made me sit on the chariot and fought with the kauravas and recovered our cattle.'

Uttara then describes the battle in detail and Virata asks his son 'Where is this Devakumara? I would like to honour him.' Uttara replies that he disappeared after the war and would be seen again in a day or two. Virata is unable to imagine that it could have been Brihanade who was there listening to their conversation.

Arjuna then seeks permission of the king, meets Uttarae and gives her the very fine clothes they had collected from the kauravs. Then Utttara, Uttarae and Arjuna discuss their future plans and come to a decision.

I have reached a magical figure of 100 blogs. It is not something I had  planned. But the story has gripped me. While in the begining I tried to seek answers to things that bothered me at that moment, I realise it is much more complex than I had imagined.

I am lucky that the internet provides me with many links to the story of Mahabharata. It is like sitting in  a library and doing research. While internet has the capacity to lure me away from the basic story, I am glad that I am sticking to my task of reading the two books I began with and narrating a story as I read. While I enjoy Kamala Subramaniam's version, I am more with Vachana Bharata. It is mostly because I enjoy the challenge of translating from kannada.

As I surf the net, I am glad to see that many have traveled the route. A few are curious about the actual date of  the  Mahabharata war. Others worry about the original text being still intact. (Tough considering that the story was oral before it was scripted in Sanskrit.) Some seek to establish the levels of science and maths that existed in the epic times. They believe that there is enough data for one to design a flying machine, an atomic device from our ancient texts. In any case the concepts were there!

I was also happy to see that some have researched the way the story has moved beyond the seas to Indonesia, Cambodia and other places. I was thrilled to see the way Mahabharata has inspired many kannada stories, plays, yakshagana and  also kathakali. I even saw a connection between mahabharata events and a movie based on the indigenous people in South America. Not the story, but it does illustrate the similarties in human nature and development.

A few friends keep encouraging me and some do by keeping track.  One wrote to me about how deep it is in the bengali litreature. Another suggested that I read more books in kannada. Hope I will get around to reading the books they speak about. I am sure the tough parts are yet to come. I hope finally, as another friend predicted, some good will come out of all this!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Uttara and Arjuna return. Mahabharata 99

As Arjuna surveys the unconscious kauravas, he remembers Uttare's request and tells her brother, 'Rajakumara! Collect the white clothes from Drona and Kripa, the yellow from Karna and the blue from Duryodhana and Ashwattama. Do not go near Bheeshma, he may be awake. He would know how to counter my astra.'

Uttara collects the many colored clothes and as he returns to the chariot, Bheeshma awakened shoots at him. But Arjuna has a reply and soon they are out from the midst of the kauravas. Duryodhana wakes up and sees Arjuna's chariot moving out and is very upset! 'How can he escape from your midst. Why didn't  you stop him?'

Bheeshma hears him and laughs.'It seems you have lost your mind! What happened to your valour? Why were you  lying down quiet when all this happened? Be thankful that Arjuna followed dharma and did not kill us when we were all unconscious. Just think of getting back home, let Arjuna take the cattle!'

Duryodhana realises that it is in his interest to heed Bheeshma and becomes silent. Kauravas thus decide not to provoke Arjuna further and decide to get Duryodhana back to safety. Arjuna is happy to see that they have given up the fight and are intent on going back. He follows his elders and speaks with them for a while and returns. He salutes Kripa and Ashwattama with his arrow and knocks down the crown of Duryodhana in a final gesture of anger, blows on the conch and turns back towards Virata.

On the way the Kaurava soldiers who were hiding in the forest come out and seek orders from Arjuna. Noticing that they are tired and hungry allows them to go. The soldiers relieved, praise his kindness and leave. Then Arjuna suggests ' Rajakumara! Let the cowherds get back with the good tidings of our victory. We shall rest the horses for a while and leave in the afternoon!'

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Arjuna demonstrates his superiority. Mahabhrarata 98.

 While Bheeshma is busy instructing the warriors, Arjuna arrives and salutes Drona by shooting two arrows which just touch his feet and two more which fly past his ears, bringing a smile on his guru's face. Arjuna moves forward but is unable to spot Duryodhana in the formation and guesses that Duryodhana is with the soldiers who are seen leaving!

Arjuna asks Uttara to bypass the assembled kaurava army and turn the chariot towards Duryodhana 'Let me fight him and recover the cattle!' and moves forward. He begins to shower arrows and the sky becomes dark with them, then blows on the conch and the cattle begin to run in fear. Arjuna drives them back towards the city and follows Duryodhana. The other chiefs of the kurus block him. Arjuna then sees Karna and moves towards him, but Chitrasena, Shatrusaha and others  try come in the way and Arjuna uses his 'Sharaagni' and immolates them. Many young warriors confront Arjuna and are destroyed one by one. Finally he is face to face with Karna. Karna attacks him with the ferocity of a tiger and showers a dozen arrows at his horses and his charioteer. Arjuna replies by hitting Karna on his thigh, arms and neck with arrows. Karna unable to bear this onslaught retreats!

Kripa attacks next. Arjuna keeps destroying his bows but Kripa manages to replace them with new ones. Arjuna then kills the charioteer and demolishes the chariot, but Kripa responds by throwing a mace at Arjuna which rebounds back at him with the power of Arjuna's arrows. Soon Kripa looses his weapons and his chariot and his men rescue him and take him behind the lines.

Arjuna then guides his chariot towards Drona, salutes him and tells him that 'Please do not be angry, we have lived all these years thinking only of revenge. I cannot fight unless you begin the fight. Please do that for me!' Drona accordingly shoots an array of tweny arrows which are cut by Arjuna in the air. They continue the fight and their contest mesmerises the soldiers and many elephants and horses are injured by the arrows which cover the sky. Ashwattama intervenes in the contest and Drona retreats. While he is fighting with Ashwattama, Arjuna sees Karna approaching again and goes after him. There is also a war of words as they fight, they throw insults at each other as they shoot arrows. In the end Karna is unable to bear the pain as arrows begin to pierce his armour, gives up the fight and retreats.

Arjuna after defeating Karna moves to attack Bheeshma.  Dussasana, Dussaha, Drona, Kripa and many more try to stop him but do not succeed. Bheeshma and Arjuna, both being very  skilled,  fight for a long time. Ultimately Arjuna succeeds in breaking Bheeshma's bow and inflict an injury. The charioteer notices that Bheeshma  is unconscious saves him by turning the chariot around and races away from the combat.

Duryodhana has no choice but to join. As he enters the fray he aims a sharp pointed arrow at Arjuna's forehead and draws blood. This infuriates Arjuna and he starts raining the most vicious arrows at Duryodhana. Vikarna attacks Arjuna at the same time riding on an elephant, but Arjuna splits the head of the elephant with a powerful arrow and it falls dead. Arjuna aims an equally powerful arrow at Duryodhana, and Duryodhana unable to bear the pain tries to retreat. Arjuna taunts him 'Why are you running away? We did not hear any superior power from above asking us to stop! I am still here, turn around and show me your face!'

Hurt by this taunt, Duryodhana returns. When Karna sees Duryodhana getting back to fight, he joins in support from the right, Bheeshma who has recovered also supports him from the rear and others, Drona, Kripa and many more surround Arjuna and rain arrows at him. He retaliates with some divine weapons and finally uses the 'Sammohana astra' at them and  follows it by the sounding  the conch. The kauravas are stunned by the astra and the sound of the conch which fills the sky and the earth and loose their consciousness.


Thursday, 16 February 2012

Arjuna face to face with kauravas. Mahabharata 97

Arjuna bolsters the confidence of the very scared Uttara by suggesting, 'You can be my charioteer if you do not want to fight'. Also asks Uttara to retrieve the weapons from the tree and reveals that he is, in fact, Arjuna. Uttara is overwhelmed and is too pleased to be Arujna's charioteer! (That was brave considering that Uttara's saarathi died in a recent war!'). Uttara however has a doubt,  'How is it you are an eunuch?' Arjuna explains why and  says it is time now to change back to being himself!

Arjuna then takes off his bangles and ties his hair up in a white cloth and climbs the chariot harnessed with swift horses whose feet would become a blur as they gallop. Arjuna picks up his Gandiva bow, tests it by plucking its string. The twang reverberates as if two mountains had collided and the earth shakes. There is a strong breeze, the trees sway and the birds, disturbed from their perches, take flight. When Drona hears this thunderous sound he guesses that it must be from the bow of Arjuna.

Arjuna changes the flag on the chariot to that of  the pandavas, gets ready for the war and heads towards north and blows on the conch shell once. The sound that emanates from the conch frightens the horses and Uttara is paralysed with fear. Arjuna seeing this and reins in the scared horses and asks Uttara not to worry, 'You surely are familiar with these sounds in a warfare!'  But Uttara says he has never heard so powerful a conch sounded in a war! 

Drona recognises the sounds, 'It must be Arjuna! Our soldiers are already affected by it. They show no entusiasm to fight and there are bad omens all round. The crows are sitting on our flags, we hear the foxes and the horses look tired.'

Duryodhana is upset by this comment. He addresses the elders Bheeshma, Drona and Kripa and asks them 'Why are you sitting perplexed on your chariots.  We have come to fight and fight we will'. He says he does not know who it is out there, 'If indeed it is Arjuna, then the pandavas will go again to the forest for twelve years!'

Then declares, 'Drona is very fond of Arjuna, so he praises him and attempts to scare us! Let us leave him out of this and  decide strategies for a victory!' He is also very sarcastic about the ill omens  noticed and the dire predictions.'We should not listen pandits who are quick in predicting dangers based on ill omens.  Forget them and think of ways to capture the cows and defeat our enemies!'

Karna is also critical of the elders and proclaims, 'Arjuna may be famuous in the three worlds, but I am no less a warrior.' And promises Duryodhana that he alone will defeat Arjuna, , 'Let the others either take care of herding the cattle or just sit and watch me fight!'

Kripa reacts with, 'Karna, I have seen that you always hanker after a war, our shastras say that war should be the lost resort, as it is the most sinful of all actions. A war fought for right causes brings merit but one fought for the wrong reasons do not bring you any benefit. In my opinion we should not fight Arjuna.'  Also cautions Karna, 'Arjuna has fought alone a number of times successfully. Where is it you have fought on your own? It is not wise to fight Arjuna single handedly. Let us fight in a proper formation! This is not the time to show bravery!'

Ashwatthma is not impressed by the boasts of Karna. He chastises him for talking without actually achieving anything. He says 'Karna, we have not captured the cattle yet and you have already begun to boast. The real heroes do not boast, they are quiet like the sun which shines or  like the earth which carries the weight of all beings. Yes, Drona is fond of Arjuna as it is known that a disciple is closest after his own children.' 

 'Indraprastha was won in a game of dice. Why don't you ask uncle Sakuni to fight Arjuna with a set of dies. Only, Arjuna's gandiva does not throw dice, but shoots sharp arrows which can split mountains. I am not ready to fight Arjuna. If Matysa Raja comes here to protect the cattle let us fight him!'

Bheeshma intercedes in time before things go out of hand. He finds merit in all their arguments and advoctes patience to Ashwattama and requests the others to be forgiving of Drona and work together and fight Arjuna.

He then tells Duryodhana that as per his calculations, due to Adhika maasa which comes evey five years, pandavas have spent thirteen years, five months and eighteen days in the forest and have fullfilled their promise. 'Yudhisthira is not the one to claim what is not his, at the same time he will demand his rights at the appropriate time. There is no guarantee of a victory in any war. Please decide quickly and tell  me whether you want war or do is what is right!'

Duryodhana is very clear that he wants to fight, 'Grandfather! I do not want to give them anything. Let there be a war!'. Bheeshma replies, 'Then this is what I think we should do. Let us divide the forces into four groups. Duryodhana, you take one group and return to Hastinapura. One more quarter will take care of the cattle. The rest will fight whether it is Arjuna, the Matsya Raja or Indira or whoever!' And as they start forming the groups, Arjuna appears in front of them.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Trigartas and Kauravas jointly attack Virata. Mahabharata 96

As planned Trigartas attack and take over Virata's cattle. The cowherds run to the king to inform him.  Soon the king, his brothers and his eldest son  Shanka get ready to recover the cattle. Virata tells his brother that the four visitors could be conscripted as they look able bodied. The pandavas in disguise are too happy to join. The group leave the town and sight the enemy by evening. An intense battle ensues and many are killed on either side. They stop fighting as it gets dark and dusty. Later with the rise of the moon, the battle begins again. Susharma and his brother Sumarma kill the charioteer and the horses of king Virata and capture himThe Matsya soldiers seeing their king in captivity, run away scared.

Yudhisthira then asks Bheema to go and rescue the king. Bheema looks to uproot a tree, to use it as his weapon. Yudhisthira stops him as he would be recognised with such a feat and tells him to fight with regular arms! The Virata soldiers get back  into the fight when they see the pandavas moving forward to attack. The pandavs kill thousands of soldiers and finally Bheema gets close to Susharma and leaps on to the chariot, kills his charioteer and holds Susharma captive. The frightened Trigata army retreats. King Virata also forgets his age and fights valiantly. The victorious king Virata and his army stay the night in the battle field.

Next day the Kauravas  attack  the town as planned from another direction and capture the cattle. The cowherds come to town and request the prince Uttara to rescue their cattle. Uttara who is in the midst of the ladies pleads his inability to recover the stolen cattle as he is without his charioteer, killed in a recent war! He adds,  'A pity, as the kauravas would have been impressed with my abilities to fight and would have compared me to Arjuna!'

As I read the story of Uttara, the boastful but cowardly prince, it is clear that none could have done a better job than Maharshi Vyaasa as a script writer. The cameo has everything a director would love. Arjuna as an eunuch, dressed up as a woman, pretending to be a shy dance teacher. Uttara a protected prince not experienced in real warfare showing off in front of women. His attempt to run away from the battle field is good for a couple of laughs. The story also pits a lone pandava against an array of kauravas; Bheeshma, Drona, Aswatthama, Duryodhana and Karna and the rest of the brothers.

I had hoped to locate a good representative video of Uttarana Paurusha. Did come across a full length movie in the yakshagana talamaddale style. But it involved a download technique which I am not familiar with, so gave up.

  Bayalata literally means a play in the field. I do remember watching a couple of them as a kid. Not in full as they were long, went on and on till early in the morning. However here are a couple which illustrates the robust style of our folk theatre. Men acted the female roles!


Saturday, 11 February 2012

Kaurava spies have no clue about where of the pandavas have gone hiding. Mahabhrata 95

The spies, deputed by Duryodhana return to Hastinapura and report 'Maharaja! We searched the forests and could not find them. Having heard that the chariots were taken to Dvaravati, we looked there, but no sign of either the Pandavas or Draupadi! But we have some good news! Keechaka who conquered the land of Trigarta is dead, killed by gandharvas in the night.  What do we do next? We await your orders.'

Duryodhana goes silent for a while and  then says, 'It is difficult to decide what to do next. If the pandavas complete the year, they will surely be here, full of anger. But if we expose them before the year, they will be forced to swallow their anger and go back to the forest!' then asks the assembled courtiers 'Give me your suggestions!'

Karna suggests sending a better group to search more thoroughly. Dussasana supports the suggestion, but adds, 'They could have been killed by the wild animals or must have sailed the seas. You need not worry about them any more'. Drona reacts differently, does not believe that the pandavas are dead, 'Pandavas are brave and intelligent, with Arjuna taking care of them, they cannot be dead.  They are just waiting for the period to end. You can try to locate them, but they will not be found.'

Bheeshma concurs with Drona, 'They are not dead, they are waiting for the period of the oath to end. Their dharma will protect them, others will not be able to discover them. I will tell you what I think.  Wherever Yudhisthira lives, people will be without jealousy, followers of dhrama, yagna and yaaga will be performed, there will good rains and good harvest, fruits will be sweet, flowers fragrant, cattle will be healthy and yeild a lot of milk. People will be happy and they would be hiding in such a place. I cannot think of anything else. If you believe this, I suggest you take a suitable action!'

Guru Kripa advises, 'Keep searching! But I also suggest we prepare for the expected eventualities. We should not underestimate even the ordinary enemies. Then what should one say about the very skilled pandavas? They are in hiding now, but they are bound to come out into the open. You need  to collect people around you and accumulate wealth to face them. You must decide and act, only then will you be able to meet their challenge.'

The king of Trigartha, Susharma, tries to avenge his earlier defeats from the  Virata king. 'Keechaka, the chief of their army is now dead, killed for his misdeeds by a gandharva. The king is now weak and helpless. If you agree let us attack. His country is known to be wealthy. We can plunder their riches. We can attack the country piece by piece or go directly to his capital and steal all his cattle. Force him to accede or destroy his army conquer his kingdom. This will make you stronger'.

Karna supports the idea! Duryodhana agrees and calls his younger brother Dussasana and tells him 'Consult the elders and collect an army. Let all of us go. Let Susharma go with Trigartha army and attack Virata and capture the cows. We will follow a day later.'

Author Kamala's version gives Duryodhana the credit of analysing, Keechaka's death and Bheeshma's opinion that wherever Yudhisthrira lives would be a place of prosperity, and concluding that the most likely place for Pandavas to hide would be Virata and deciding to attack Virata.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Draupadi is rescued again. Mahabharata 94

Keechaka spent the whole day in anticipation of his meeting with Sairendhri and it felt like a month as he waited for the night to fall. He never imagined that she would be the cause of his death as he got ready to meet her. He was dressed for the occasion, his body covered with sandal paste and decked with garlands.

Impatient, Keechaka  enters the dancing hall as soon as it is dark. Sees a fully covered figure on the cot and as he touches the  reclining person, he whispers happily, 'Today, you will experience a beautiful man. Women who have come to me have said there is none better than me.' 

Bheema who was lying in wait, laughs and jumps on Keechaka and after a brief and intense fight, kills him and pounds him into a pulp in sheer anger. He then calls out to Draupadi 'Come and see the condition of this lecher!',  calms down and gets back in to the kitchen.

Draupadi immediately shouts for help as she announces 'Ayyo! The lustful Keechaka has been killed by my Gandharava husbands!'  The watchmen and then his family gather around the pounded and bloodied body of Keechaka. They conclude it is indeed the handiwork of the gandharvas and after a bout of wailing and crying get ready to cremate the body.

Seeing Draupadi, supporting herself against a pillar, their anguish turns into anger. 'It is because of her Keechaka was killed. Let us kill her'. Then one of them suggests 'Let us burn her along with Keechaka. I am sure he will like that better.'  The relatives hold her captive and seek permission   from king Virata to burn her. The king, aware of their strength agrees.

  Draupadi is again in great danger. As she is carried away, she shouts for help calling out the code names of  the pandavas. Bheema hears her and shouts back,  'I heard you Sairendhri. Don't be scared! I am coming.'

Bheema follows them in disguise and on the way uproots a tree and chases after them. One look at him, the very scared Keehaka's men, thinking he is a gandharva,  release Draupadi and run back towards the town. Bheema relentless, follows them, kills altogether a hundred and five of them and tells Draupadi 'There is no fear now. You can go back.' and returns to the kitchen from a different route.

The citizens are now very worried  for their safety and approach the king and inform him about the hundred men killed by the gandharvas and of Draupadi being freed. They speak of  their fear of the gandhravas and want the king to do something about it. The king does not want to take a risk of offending the gandharavas by talking to Draupadi directly, asks the queen to tell her to leave town.

As a very nervous Draupadi walks back, the women and men run away from her as she nears them.
Draupadi meets the queen and  she is told about the worries of the king and his desire that she leave town. Draupadi pleads with the queen to allow her to stay for another thirteen days, when her husbands will be free to meet her and promises that her husbands will be very grateful and will thank them properly for their kindness. The queen agrees!

As I blog about Mahabharata my questions about the shocking behaviours of  most kings were explained by a friend as normal, 'During Vyasa's times, molestation of women and rape( + kidnapping) was common. The powerful did this as a routine. The immorality of high society was accepted by the helpless.'

And another friend spoke of an incident in recent history, wherein parents whisked away a pretty teenager from the precincts of a palace. She had strayed by mistake into the inner rooms of the palace and they did not want to risk her being seen by the powerful men in  the palace. Obviously people in power have a different set of rules.

The story of Draupadi does intrigue me.  It seems she is the only queen singled out for all the indignities perpetrated against women. So what is it about Draupadi?  She is different, she is dark skinned, she emerged a full grown woman from a sacrificial fire. She is married to five men. She is a strong personality and is unafraid to ask questions! In short a challenge  to all the males and to the alpha males in particular!

 It is said she is the most written about woman of our epics. There are many versions. There is even a version by the Bheel tribals. Interpretations by the pious, the feminists, the psychologists, the liberated, the prurient and the list is endless! When I first read about the pandavas being asked by their mother to share what they had brought, none of these were really issues for me!

Being part of a very middle class society, where most women, stay home mothers, waited for their husbands to come home after work, the scene was very different. The women would wait at the gate, having a chat with the other waiting women. The moment the man of the house, appeared, either walking or an a bicycle, the woman would rush back home, conversations dropped at whatever point. We kids avoided fathers as a rule, some fathers were pretty obnoxious and their sons would stop playing and slink home. I do not think we even thought about it, but if we did, it would be: 'Why would any sensible woman choose to deal with five such obnoxious characters!'

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Keechaka Vadha. Mahabharata 93

Draupadi, seething with anger, reaches her dwelling, wipes herself clean and washes the clothes she has on her body by poring water on herself as she continues to cry! She cannot bear the humility of her existence any longer, wants an end to it. While caution makes sense, she wants revenge, she wants action! 

Suddenly decides that it is only Bheema who will act to please her. She quietly enters the kitchen and tries to wake him up. 'Wake up Bheema. How can you sleep like a dead man, when Keechaka, my enemy, who misbehaved with me, is still alive?'

Bheema sits up and asks Draupadi 'How is it you are here at this time of the night! Tell me what is bothering you. You know I am always there to take care. Tell me quickly and go back to sleep before we are discovered.' This question touches a raw spot, the deep sense of hurt festering in her mind and the floodgates open with a force which she is unable to contain.  'What has not Yudhisthira's wife suffered? How can you ask me this again and again when you know how I have suffered.'

She narrates in great detail the indignities she and the rest of Pandavas  have faced and blames Yudhisthira for all their troubles. She is now worried about the very persistent Keechaka. 'He is after me every day and I cannot bear it anymore. I think my heart will break into pieces with the tension! Any amount of reproach is not enough for your brother who has brought us into this state.'

Draupadi rests her head on Bheema's chest sighs 'Bheemasena! I must have committed innumerable sins, if not, I should have been dead by now instead of suffering like this'. Unable to control she begins to sob again! Bheema takes her hands to console her and is shocked to see the condition of her once delicate palms! Totally upset, he places the swollen and callused palms against his cheeks and cries uncontrollably. 'As I feel your hardened hand I think my strength and Arjuna's bow are useless! While all I want is to kill the kauravas and kick Dussasana's severed head like a  ball, being unable to act feels like a dagger stuck in my heart!'

He then cautions her that if Yudhisthira ever hears her speak this way, he would die. He counsels her to be patient like Sita and the many pativratas before her, who supported their husbands, whatever the difficulty. Anyway she would be queen again in just fifteen days.

Draupadi calms down and tells Bheema she just had to talk as it had become unbearable and she had no intention speaking against her king. She then tells Bheema that each day has become impossible as the queen Sudheshne is ever worried about the king Virata getting attracted to her. And that Keechaka is constantly after her. She is certain that he will not give up.  'Keechaka just laughed at me when I told him that five gandharva husbands protect me.'

  'You must kill him as you did Jarasandra and others. If  he is not killed by tomorrow, I will take poison and die. I rather do it before  anything untoward happens to me.' She breaks down again and cries resting her head against his chest. Beema yields and tells her that he would kill Keechaka and others  supporting  him. They make a plan. Draupadi should ask Keechaka to come to the Dancing hall secretly without telling anyone and Bheema would take care of the rest. They then spend the whole night  crying and consoling each other

 As she anticipated, Keechaka accosts Draupadi, first thing in the morning. He tells her that she has seen even the king cannot protect her. Claims he is the real king and again pleads with her to be his. Offers meet her at her place if that what she wants. Draupadi pretends to agree and has a condition. 'You must come alone as I am afraid my Gandharava husbands will come to know'. She invites him to the dance hall in the night. 'Even Gandharvas will not know this place'.

 Keechaka comes in the  night for his tryst with Draubadi but meets his death at the hands of Bheema.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Keechaka's infatuation becomes his undoing. Mahabharata 92


Plenty of poignant moments: The romantic, courageous and aggressive anti-heroes from the Puranas such as Ravana, Duryodhana, Keechaka and Narakasura who represent ‘rajas’ attributes, took centre stage in the intimate space of Rukmini Arangam. (A quote from The Hindu news paper, Sept 29, 2011)

Many of us would know the story of Keechaka. I remember watching plays and movies based on puranas and invariably the so-called anti-heroes were more dramatic and very colourful, while the heroes were often pale. As a kid I would be fascinated by these scary characters. Invariably the best actors would perform these negative roles. They were strong personalities with large eyes and huge moustaches added to it they had a loud stentorian voice and a wicked laughter. Predictably they continue fascinate us!

Pandavas have managed to stay incognito for ten months. It  has not been easy for Draupadi to work as the maid of queen Sudheshne . One day while Draupadi is running an errand, the queen's brother Keechaka, the commander of the army, has a glimpse of her and is instantly smitten. He promptly propositions her and being ever complacent about his own attractiveness to women, tries to entice her with sweet words. 'You beautiful woman! Your youth and beauty unused, is a sheer waste. I will give up all my wives for your sake. You can even put them to use as your maids. And even I will be your slave. Just be mine!'

Raja Ravi Varma's painting!

Draupadi will have none of it. Berates him for his insolent proposal and adds 'I belong to a lower caste, just a maid and a wife of another. While I am weak, five gandharvas  protect me.' and warns him 'If provoked, they will kill you. Do not risk your life needlessly.'  

Unable to bear this rejection, Keechaka goes to his sister and declares his infatuation and pleads with her to help him. 'You must arrange a meeting! If not, I will die!'  Seeing his misery and desparation, her heart melts. 'I will send her to you to bring me some wine, try and win over her when she is alone'. She then commands a very reluctant Draupadi to go over to her brother's house on a pretext of bringing a specially prepared drink to quench her thirst.

Draupadi does not want to go. 'Madam I afraid to go. I know that he lusts after me and he is not bashful or one to hesitate. I am sure he will try to violate me and bring me disgrace. Please send someone else!' Sudheshne does not agree, 'Nothing will happen to you as I am sending you! Go!'  So Draupadi goes, very afraid, crying and finally resigns herself to the will of god and prays 'I have  not known anyone but my husbands, let this truth protect me from being overpowered by him!'

Keechaka is overwhelmed by desire as soon as he sees her at his doorstep and not one to waste time welcomes her with 'Sairendhri! Welcome! Tonight is going to be meaningful! Come and make me happy' Draupadi tells him that she is just there to collect a drink for her queen who is very thirsty. Keechaka tells her not to worry about it as he would send someone else and grabs her hand.

Draupadi reacts fast by jerking her hand free and pushes him down and runs out towards the court of the king. An infuriated Keechaka chases, gets hold of her hair as she keeps running, trips her down with a kick right in front of the king. Yudhisthira and Bheema are at the sabha and Bheema gnashes his teeth in anger and  Yudhisthira signals Bheema to remind him of their need to remain incognito and Bheema is constrained to hold his temper.
Draupadi unable to control herself, crying, indirectly addresses her silent husbands, who are constrained by their need to keep their identity a secret. 'This son of a chieftain has kicked a woman of honor. Where are her powerful husbands hiding? How is it they are being cowardly and acting impotent when I am kicked by this wicked man. There is no point in calling him unrighteous, while the so called righteous men are silent and are, in reality, the wicked ones'.  She then directly addresses the king and is very critical of him and the people in the assembly for failing to stop Keechaka's indecent behaviour. She urges the king to ask whole court to reflect on this atrocity and come to a conclusion.

But the king Virata, unwilling to confront Keechaka, refuses to get involved, 'Sairendhri your fight did not take place in front of us. So is it right to decide without knowing the true facts?'  and becomes silent. The courtiers seem unhappy and are critical of Keechaka. Even Yudhisthira is angry and manages to control himself. He breaks into a sweat with the effort and tells Draupadi, 'Sairendhri, do not stand here. Go and be with Sudheshne. It is the duty of  a 'Veerapatnis' to follow their  husbands. I believe that your husbands have decided that it is not the time to get upset. So please go! Do not come in the way of the king's game of dice. Gandharvas will take care to placate you at the right time!'

Draupadi totally upset and distraught, eyes red with anger and crying, runs to the queen's chamber. Sudheshne seeing Draupadi asks, 'Why are you crying? Who upset you?'  Draupadi replies, 'When I went to collect your drink,  your brother Keechaka did something in public what is done in private! He kicked me, right in front of the king in the royal court.'  Sudheshne tries to console Draupadi with, 'If you like, I will see that my brother, who got carried away with his passion for you, is punished for ill-treating you.'  Draupadi, still seething with anger retorts, 'Let it be! There are others to punish him. He is sure to depart from this world today. I know that for sure!' and walks out.