Wednesday, 30 May 2012

End of Drona Parva. Mahabharta 155

A little later, Ashwatthama who was engaged in an other part of the battle field, is surprised to discover the kaurava army in disarray and running helter-skelter. Asks Kripa for the reason and is aghast at learning about his father's death, extremely angry, he avows, 'Let the earth quench its thirst with the blood of Yudhisthira, who cheated and made my father give up his fight.  I can have peace only after killing the panchalas and Dhristadhyumna!' 

He then invokes Naryana astra and directs it against the pandavas. This astra takes the form of different weapons and begins to destroy the pandava army. The astra also has the capacity to match the strength of the army it is against and grow in size if required. The pandava army has no answer to this astra and are feeling helpless!

It is Krishna who knows the secret of neutralising this astra, advises the pandava army to drop its weapons. The whole army complies except  Bheema. The astra leaves the rest of the army alone and attacks Bheema. Krishna and Arjuna seeing this, run and pull Bheeema down. They counsel him to stop fighting, ' Do you not see the others standing without a fight. If there was a chance of winning would we have not fought?.'  Once the whole pandava army stops fighting, the Narayana Astra becomes quiet. There is no further danger from it, as it can be used only once! Ashwatthama tries other astras, but Arjuna has answers to these, so a discouraged Ashwatthama gives up and returns to his camp.

While Vachana Bharata is brief about the war, Kamala's version does have more details. For instance Ashwatthama cannot understand how Naryana Astra was neutralised and did not destroy the pandavas as he had hoped.

Ashwatthama asks Vyasa, 'My lord, why did my astras fail? How could they?' Vyasa explains to him that Krishna and Arjuna are in fact incarnations of Nara and Narayana. 'You cannot either defy them or destroy them. You are trying to do the impossible. Your father has reached the heavens, there is nothing for you to grieve. Go home, my child and think of tomorrow!'

The concept of Astras itself is thought provoking.
In Hindu mythology an astra (Sanskrit: अस्त्र) was a supernatural weapon, presided over by a specific deity. To summon or use an astra required knowledge of a specific incantation/invocation, when armed. The deity invoked would then endow the weapon, making it impossible to counter through regular means. Specific conditions existed involving the usage of astras, the violation of which could be fatal. Because of the power involved, the knowledge involving an astra was passed from a teacher to a pupil by word of mouth alone, and only following the establishment of the student's character. Certain astras had to be handed down from the deity involved directly, knowledge of the incantation being insufficient...wikipedia 

More or less a safe system, even if we come across some situations wherein a diety does bestow these Astras to undesirable characters. But luckily for humanity, there is always a Vishnu or a  Shiva saving mankind at the nick of time!

Today Proliferation of Nuclear weapons is a serious concern. Again thanks to almighty, it was only used against one country, twice unfortuantely, and after that there have been confrontations and threats, but so far no one has pushed the button!  But more and more are into making Nuclear weapons!  They neither need the blessing of a guru or a major diety. They can invent or steal the technology!

Again I read that India was the largest buyer of armaments last year! Perhaps placating gods would have been cheaper and more productive.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

It is now Drona's turn. Mahabharata 154

There is full moon early in the morning and in its light the war begins. Soon, Drona kills Drupada, Virata and more. Dhristdhyumna advances to face  Drona, while Duryodhana and Karna move to protect him. Drona, very hurt by Duryodhana's criticism, is fighting with a vengeance. In this state it seems impossibe to defeat Drona. 

 Unless Drona drops his bow and sits quiet, there is no hope of victory for pandavas. This sets Krishna thinking. 'Let someone declare that Aswatthma is dead, Drona will then stop fighting.' No one is willing to do this. Meanwhile Bheema  kills an elephant named Ashwatthama and shouts   'Ashwatthma is dead', making sure that Drona hears him. As soon as Drona hears the shout, he becomes very dejected, but as he suspects its veracity, he knows his son's ability as a warrior, he recovers quickly and attacks Drishtadyumna with a renewed vigour.

Looking at the situation, Krishna advises Yudhisthira, 'If Drona continues to fight  this way, very soon there will be no army left. It is the truth. A lie is now more important  now than truth. There is no sin if  you speak a lie to save your life.'  Bheema supports Krishna and tells him about what he did  just then, 'Drona did not believe me, listen to Govinda so that we can win.  If he hears this news from your mouth, he will believe you. You are known to be a truthful person.'

Yudhisthira yields to Bheema's request and shouts अश्वत्थाम हत:  and softly कुञ्जर: (Ashwatthama the elephant is dead!). Hearing this and believing it this time, Drona looses interest in the fight. In spite of the sudden drop in his energy, he kills the charioteer of Dhristadyumna breaks his bow. Both Satyaki and Arjuna come to support and Bheema takes Dhristhadyumna on his chariot and addresses Drona, 'If Brahmins do not learn the skills of an archer and engage in wars,  Khsatriyas will be saved.  Non-violence is a supreme dharma and Brahmins are the basis for this dharma. Among brahmins you are the greatest. The person for whom you took to teaching the use of arms is now lying down dead! 

Drona reacting to Bheema's words, gives up the fight, 'Kripa, Karna, Duryodhana you take over now. Let both you and the pandavas be blessed. I am keeping down my arms'. and cries  'Oh Ashwatthama!'  And after blessing every being he goes into a yogic trance. As he starts meditating a bright light leaves his body.

Drhristadhyumna then jumps down from the chariot and strides close to the inert body of Drona and holds his tuft and quickly cuts off his head. Thus ends the life of a man, who at eighty five fought like a sixteen year old! 

Drona was the Royal guru and one wonders whether it was necessary for him get involved directly in the war. As I read about him in Wikipedia, I was surprised with some of the details, some strange, but not during those times!

Whoever contributed to wikipedia, was highly critical of Drona, the Brahmin guru!

Drona was born a Bharadwaja  brahmin in 9000BC Dehradun. Drona implies that he was not gestated in a womb, but outside the human body in a droon (vessel). The story of Drona's birth is recounted dramatically in Mahābhārata, Book I: Adi Parva, and Sambhava Parva.
Bharadwaja went with his companions to the Ganges to perform his ablutions. There he beheld a beautiful apsara named Ghritachi who had come to bathe. The sage was overcome by desire, causing him to produce a reproductive fluid. Bharadwaja captured the fluid in a vessel called a drona, and Drona/Dronacharya himself sprang from the fluid thus preserved. Drona would later boast that he had sprung from Bharadwaja without ever having been in a womb.

Drona married Kripi, the sister of Kripa, the royal teacher of the princes and other children of the kings born out of maidservants in Hastinapura. Like Drona himself, Kripi and her brother had not been gestated in a womb, but outside the human body (see Kripa page). Kripi and Drona had a son, Ashwathama.

The strongest criticism of Drona springs from his behavior towards Ekalavya and his strong bias in favor of Arjuna. Drona similarly rejected Karna, as he did not belong to the kshatriya caste. Thus, Drona inadvertently laid the foundation for Karna's great rivalry with Arjuna. 

It was Drona's own greed, snobbery and lust for power, position, name and fame as a teacher of rich and high-born pupils that led to his betrayal of his dharma as a teacher, for teachers are bound to teach those who are the fittest to learn, and not those who have the most power and wealth.

It may also be concluded that he was responsible for the devious murder of Abhimanyu, as it was he who had suggested simultaneously attacking and disabling the tired, outnumbered and trapped warrior.

The Government of India annually awards the Dronacharya Award for excellence in sports tutelage to the best sports teachers and coaches in India.

It is believed that the city of Gurgaon (literally - "Village of the Guru") was founded as "Guru Gram" by Drona on land given to him by Dhritarashtra, the king of Hastinapur in recognition of his teachings of martial arts to the princes, and the 'Dronacharya Tank', still exists within the Gurgaon city, along with a village called Gurgaon.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Ghatotkacha is the next one to go. Strangely Krishna cannot contain his joy at this. Mahabharata 153

With the battle field lit with lanterns, Satyaki and Dhristadhyumna fight with great valour, Bheema kills Bahlika, ten brothers of Duryodhana and five brothers of Sakuni. Arjuna expresses a desire to fight with Karna, but Krishna does not agree and calls Ghatotkacha and tells him, 'Look child! This is the right time for you to show your prowess. You have Bheema's strength and many weapons. You can also fight an illusory war. In addition the rakshas have more power in the night. Hence fight with Karna and by killing him you will help pandavas immensely. We all hope that our children will come to our aid here and hereafter!'

Accordingly Ghatotkacha proceeds and kills Alayudha and others. He then confronts Karna and after a fierce fight disappears into the skies and engages in a deceptive war. This creates a havoc in  the kaurava ranks and battle field is filled with cries of despair. Hearing this, Karna uses a very powerful astra known as Vijayanthi and Ghatotkacha is struck and  falls from the sky and dies. This news saddens Bheema and Yudhisthira. While they and the rest of pandavas are sad, surprisingly Krishna looks happy and roars like a lion and embraces Arjuna!

Arjuna is perplexed and asks Krishna to explain. Krishna tells Arjuna, 'It is an extremely good news Arjuna. I am a very relieved person. As Karna has expended his power against Ghatotkacha, take it that he is dead! Fortunately for us, his कवच armour and his  कुण्डल ear-ring were given away earlier, now his special powers are gone. If these three things were still with him he could have won the three worlds easily. By giving up the first two to Indra in exchange for the special powers, he had assumed that he could easily kill you. Now you are safe as he is just an ordinary human being. It is now possible to defeat and kill him'. Soon the fighting stops and the army is able to rest.

We now see how far a friendship can go! Krishna knowingly sends Ghatotkacha to his death to save his friend Arjuna, thus pandavas.  It could be because Ghatotkacha is just a half-pandava and  in reality more of a rakshasa.

The other versions are different. Bheema invites Ghatotkacha to join pandavas as some rakshasas with old enmities towards pandavas join Duryodhana and pandavas need him to counter their ability to wage a 'Maya yuddha'. When Ghatotkacha creates a havoc with the kaurava army by becoming invisible and waging war from the skies, it is Duryodhana who requests Karna to do something or the entire kaurava army would be demolished.

Whatever the reason, it is Krishna who realises the significance of  Karna using his most powerful astra to kill Ghatotkacha. Karna has nothing more left  to defeat Arjuna after using up this astra to save the kaurava army.

Anyway Ghatotkacha is not totally forgotten. 'There is a temple built in Manali, Himachal Pradesh for Ghatotkacha near Hidimba Devi Temple.'- Wikipedia

Who or what  are rakshasas?
rakshas, is a race of mythological humanoid beings or unrighteous spirit in Hindu and Buddhist religion. Rakshasas are also called man-eaters ("Nri-chakshas," "Kravyads"). A female Rakshasa is called a Rakshasi, and a female Rakshasa in human form is a Manushya-Rakshasi. Often Asura and Rakshasa are interchangeably used.-Wikipedia

Tara remembered seeing panadava temples in Yogyakarta in Indonesia.
Sites of temples in Dieng can be grouped into four parts, namely the First Pandava temple as a place of worship Arjuna temple, Heroine temple, Puntodewo temple, Sembrada temple, and Semar temple. The second group Ghatotkacha Temple. The third group of Bhima temple.

 There is also a mention of a monument in Bali. The war between Ghatotkacha and Karna.

Rules of war forgotten! Mahabharata 152

Once Arjuna's oath is fulfilled it is not dark anymore and the sun is visible again. People realise that it is Krishna's doing. Pandavas return to their camps happy, Krishna and Arjuna meet Yudhisthira and inform him of Jayadratha's death. Kaurava camp is depressed and Duryodhana goes to Drona, complains that as Arjuna was his disciple, Drona is partial to him and is indifferent in war and that caused the death of Jayadratha, Saumadatta and others.

Drona says no,  'I have already told you that Arjuna is invincible, in addition I was engaged with Dhrishtadhymna and you know my death will be through him. While I was concentrating on him, none of you were able to protect Jayadratha and then you call me partial to Arjuna. It does not matter! I promise you that I will not remove my armour till I destroy the army of panchalas and pandavas who will attack today!'

Karna speaks in support of Drona, 'Do not blame Dronacharya! This brahmin is fighting with all his strength and with enthusiasm without any thought for his own life. If Arjuna  could avoid him, it is no fault of Drona. Arjuna is young and  he has Krishna as his charioteer. If such a man, with an impenetrable armour is able to breach the formation that is to be expected. If Saindhava died with all of us  protecting him, it was god's will and we have to accept that!...'

As the kauravas are busy talking, the pandava army appear again in the battle field and start fighting. Soon the sun sets. But the war continues with the help of lanterns. Each chariot is lit with five lanterns, the elephants with three and horses with one lantern. As both armies use lanterns the battle field is well lit!

Interesting  how rules laid out gets broken. The clever argue that rules are meant to be broken! In this instance we can argue that it was God Krishna's doing! Then again, the idea of night war would be a natural outcome once lantrens were invented!

The rules of war today! '
A body of customs, practices, usages, conventions, protocols, treaties, laws, and other norms that govern the commencement, conduct, and termination of hostilities between belligerent states or parties.

Frequently violated and sometimes ridiculed, the rules of war have evolved over centuries. They distinguish nations whose armed forces respect some minimal standard of human decency from terrorists, marauders, and other outlaws who use illegal and unrestricted methods of warfare to achieve political, economic, or military objectives.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Jayadratha is very worried! Mahabharata 151

Jayadhratha learns about Arjuna's vow from his spies and becomes afraid and does not know how to face this threat to his life. He meets the kings in the kaurava camp and laments, 'I heard that Arjuna has made a vow to kill me tomorrow. Even devas and gandharvas cannot stop him, how can I stand before him alone? If you cannot assure me  of my safety, I will quietly go away from here and hide in my country. Give me permission to leave.'

Duryodhana tries to bolster the confidence of his brother-in -law, 'Would Drona, Karna, Dussasana and many more heroic warriors forsake you? You are also no less in your courage and abilities.' He then, in the very night, takes Saindhava to meet Dronacharya.

Drona promises him full protection.'I will construct an impregnable formation which will be impossible for Arjuna to penetrate. Do not be scared of Arjuna. Fight like a true warrior!' And consoles him with, 'We are all in line  for death and it is inevitable. Let us do our duty and be ready to go to heaven.' 

In the morning, Drona forms a शकट(wedge) vyuha and behind it a Padma vyuha and inside it a सूचि formation. Creates the sharpest offence  with Krithavarma, Kamboja, Duryodhana, Karna and many more in front and places Jayadratha behind them. Drona places himself in front of the shakata vyuha.

The war begins, Arjuna defeats Dussasana, Duryodhana in no time and approaches Drona and salutes him. 'Acharaya! Please bless me. You are like my father. You should protect me like you would Ashwatthama.  With your loving kindness, I propose to fight with Jayadratha and kill him.'

Drona smiles, 'How can you hope to defeat Jayadratha, without first defeating me?' and starts showering arrows on Arjuna. Krishna realises that there is no way to defeat Drona and suggests that they should not waste time with Drona and suggests, 'Let us leave this Brahmin alone and go further'. Arjuna agrees and Krishna deftly manoeuvres the chariot away from Drona. Drona noticing this shouts 'Hey! How can you leave without defeating your enemy?'

Arjuna replies as they leave Drona, 'You are not my enemy, you are my guru and I am like your son. And there is no one who can hope to defeat you.'  And they suddenly turn and penetrate deeper in to the karava army. There is a fierce combat and many are killed. But the warriors who are guarding Jayadratha,  keeping a low profile, shield him well.

Krishna sees that it is almost evening and thinks of a ploy. He tells Arjuna, 'I will create an illusion of the sun setting. Jayadratha relieved that he is saved, will raise his head and you must kill him at that moment.'  It becomes dark and both the armies thinking that the sun has set, stop fighting and raise their heads to look up! Jayadratha also very happy looks up and Arjuna severs his head with a powerful arrow.

If Jayadratha's head had rolled on to the ground, it would have split Arjuna's head into thousand pieces. But Krishna had told him about this. So Arjuna shoots many more arrows at the severed head and it flies towards Jayadratha's father, Vriddhakshatra, who is offering prayers to the sun at that time and lands on his lap. As his father concludes the prayers and gets up, Jayadratha's head rolls down to the ground and his fathers head splits into smithereens.

Jayadratha's father had earlier thrown a curse that whoever drops his son's head on earth,  that persons' head would split at that instant into a thousand pieces. The curse thus became the cause of his own death. If not it would have been Arjuna's head. No sooner Arjuna's vow is fulfilled, the sun appears again and people realise it was Krisna's maya!

This combination of myth and reality in the story is intriguing! God should be on your side, to remind and counteract the various boons given at different times to different people for various reasons. Arjuna was lucky that Krishna was on his side!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Arjuna takes a terrible oath.Mahabharata 150

 Krishna advises  Arjuna to stop grieving for his son as he has attained Veera swarga, but Arjuna is still inconsolable. He turns to his brothers and asks, his voice quivering with sadness 'Tell me what happened to Abhimanyu. How is it possible that while highly skilled warriors like you were with him, he was killed? If I had known this, I would not have left him alone in the battle field. If Abhimanyu died right in front of your eyes, can we still claim that you are brave and formidable warriors! It is mainly my fault that I believed in you and left him in your care. You are only capable of talking in a sabha and are incapable of  protecting a mere boy. The arms and armours with you are just  for show!'

With Arjuna in this state, none is able to talk or even look at him, except Yudhisthira and Krishna.  Finally Yudhisthira tells him briefly how it happened. 'We were right behind Abhimanyu, but Saindhava, blessed by a boon by Rudra, stopped all of us from following Abhimanyu. Once he was in, Drona, Kripa, Karna, Ashwathama, Bruhadbala and Kruthavarma surrounded him. He fought valiantly sent hundreds of Rajaputras and Bruhadbala to heaven, then destiny took him away from us, leaving us all desolate. This is what happened.' 

Arjuna is overcome with grief and cries 'Oh my son!' He gnashes his teeth and wrings his hand like a man who is delirious with a high fever. He appears as if he has gone mad and announces, 'Here is my oath! I will kill that Saindhava Jayadratha tomorrow. If he runs away scared and deserts the kaurava army or if he comes and surrenders to either me or Krishna, I will spare him. If not, it is certain that I will kill him. Whoever comes to protect him, whether it is Dronacharya or Kripacharya, I will also kill them. If I am unable to do this, let me be derprived my place in heaven and suffer the misfortune that befalls the killers of their own parents. If the sun sets tomorrow and I have not yet killed him , I will offer myself  as a sacrifice to agni.' . Having said this, Arjuna rotates his bow Gandhiva around him and sounds his conch Devadatta, Krishna sounds his conch Panchajanya supporting his resolve. Soon others followed with drums and musical instruments and loud war-cries.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Arjuna is devastated. Mahabharata 149

It is evening, the war is stopped for the day. Yudhisthira returns to his tent a very sad man. He does not know how to face  Arjuna. As he mourns the loss of an incomparable hero, he does not want war anymore and the thought of victory has no meaning for him.

As Arjuna returns after defeating the warriors who had drawn him out of the battle field, he senses that something is amiss. 'Krishna! Why is it that there is a flutter in my heart? My lips tremble? I have no control over my body. I cannot sit still on the chariot, I have a feeling that a calamity has occurred and the thought does not leave me. I see many signs which signify misfortune. Hope my elder brother and the rest are all safe.' Krishna tries to calm him, 'I am sure that Yudhisthira and others are all safe. Do not worry! It could be a small  untoward incidence!'

When they reach the camp, it appears dull like a faded painting. The usual welcome that Arjuna is given everyday, as he returns from the battlefield, is not evident. There is no auspicious chanting, music or beating of the drums and the sound of conches. The camp is quiet, the soldiers avoid meeting his eyes and go about with bowed heads. Abhimanyu who is always present when he returns is not to be seen. These signs further worry Arjuna .

Inside in the tent Pandavas and the rest are quiet and look very pre-occupied. And there is still no sign of  Abhimanyu. Arjuna is now very worried, 'How is it you are all so dull? You do not seem to be happy that  I have come. Where is Abhimanyu? I heard that Drona had created the Padma vyuha today. Only Abhimanyu is able to go inside this formation. But I have not yet taught him how to come out of it. Hope you did not ask  him to penetrate the 'vyuha' and is not killed by the enemies. How can he, who is equal to Keshava in his valour and knowledge, be killed? If my child is dead, it is better that I also die. I will have no peace if I am unable to hear his voice or see his face.' Arjuna continues to wail helplessly in the manner of a merchant who has lost his ship in the seas.

He then looks at Yudhisthira, 'Why has not Abhimanyu, after he has defeated the enemies, come to greet me? Surely our enemies, have brought  my son down, it is as if the sun has been knocked down from the skies'. And asks Krishna, 'Earlier I heard the shout of victory from the kauravas, even heard Yuyutsu deriding them for killing a young man sinfully and shamelessly and warning them that Krishna and Arjuna will mete out the right punishment for their evil act. Why did you not tell me earlier? I would have gone and destroyed them all!'

Krishna looks at Arjuna, whose eyes are filled with tears. 'Heroes who do not retreat all have the same temperament. All Khsatriya heroes expect the same fate. The prince has killed many powerful and brave men and has finally attained the state every khsatriya desires. Do not grieve for him. If you continue to  grieve, your brothers and other friends will do the same. Go and pacify them.'

I am reminded of the second world war cemetary near the river Kwai in Thailand. It is beautifully maintained, with lots flowers. It is only when you step closer to read the inscriptions that it hits you. Most of the graves are for men who are in their twenties and thirties! It is a cliche', but humans seem to have no qualms about sending their young sons' to death. Now it is also the daughters in some cases!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Abhimanyu breaches the padma vyuha, but cannot come out. Mahabharata 148

Samhita's view of  Abhimanyu dealing with chakra vyuha.

When Yudhisthira tells Abhimanyu that he should breach the vyuha and they will support him from behind, he agrees. 'This will surely please my father and my uncle.  Let the world see how a boy can destroy hordes of enemies. If I let anyone escape with his life, I am not the one born to Arjuna and Subhadra!' 

Abhimanyu accordingly races towards the vyuha and breaches it and kills Bruhadbala and hundreds of kings, including Lakshmana, son of Duryodhana. Both Karna and Dussasana faint unable to face his assault! But the pandavas who followed him are thwarted by Jayadratha and he stops them from entering the formation alongside Abhimanyu.

Finally Abhimanyu is face to face with Duryodhana. To protect him Drona, Ashwatthama, Karna, Kripa, Shalya, Shakuni and many others surround Abhimanyu. But Abhimanyu is relentless in his attack. Both Sakuni and Karna get worried, 'It seems he is going to kill us all one by one! What should we do?'

Drona with a smile says, 'What you say is true! He has an impregnable sheild, so no one can beat him fighting from the front. Get behind him and kill his charioteer and break his bow. We can then manage to stop him.'  Karna follows his advice, and Drona then kills the horse and demolishes the chariot. Others continue to shower arrows on the lone warrior.

Abhimanyu then with a mace in his hand  jumps out of the broken chariot and starts fighting. Dussasana's son engages him in a duel and Abhimanyu  keeps fighting but is killed and attains the heaven of the brave! Thus kauravas manage to kill the lone Abhimanyu in the manner of hunters killing a wild elephant. 

Samhita calls it the 'warrior dance!'

Monday, 21 May 2012

The fight intensifies further. Mahabharata 147

Yudhisthira seeing Satyajeet die, tries to leave the battle field in haste. Drona gets closer to capture  Yudhisthira, but Bheema and others block him. Bhagadatta riding a strong and handsome elephant named Suprathika goes after Bheema and scatters thousands of  pandava soldiers. A strong wind creates a dust storm and visibility becomes poor. Arjuna hears the trumpeting elephant and seeing the rising dust, tells Krishna, 'Bhagadatta is equal to Indra! Only we can stop him and his elephant.' Arjuna then pounds his opponents to pulp with his vajra astra and goes to help Bheema.

Bhagadatta then turns his elephant towards Arjuna, Krishna with great dexterity avoids their chariot being crushed by the huge elephant. There is an intense duel between Arjuna and Bhagadatta. Bhagadatta invokes a 'Vishnu astra' and aims his spear it at Arjuna's heart and throws. Krishna moves in front of Arjuna and takes it on his chest.  Arjuna is upset and asks, 'Krishna! How is it that you forgot your vow not to fight! It was alright if I had lost concentration or was incapable of protecting myself. I am capable of defeating the whole world! Why did you have to do it?'    

Krishna pacifies Arjuna by telling him that no one else could have withstood the astra and tells him, 'Bhagadatta is now without an astra, kill him the way I killed his father Narakasura.'  Arjuna  then severs Bhagadatta's head and also kills his elephant. Hence Drona is unable with the constant protection given by both Arjuna and Bheema, to fulfil his promise to capture Yudhisthira.

The next day Duryodhana complains. 'Acharya, Yudhisthira was within your reach, still you did not capture him. It seems you consider us as your enemies. If you had made up your mind, you could have captured him, even if Devatas were protecting him. It seems the boon you gave me so happily is now being changed.  Acharya, you should not disappoint your devotees this way!' 

This accusation upsets Drona a little, 'Duryodhana, do not feel like this. Gods and asuras, yakshas and gandharvas, no one can defeat the person who is protected by Arjuna. I will form a chakra vyuha today. I will kill one of their great warriors, but you must find a way to draw Arjuna away from the battle field and you will see I take my vows seriously.'

Drona starts the war by  forming the chakra vyuha (also called 'padma' lotus vyuha!). Pandavas are unable to break this and make inroads into the kaurava army and suffer great losses. A worried Yuhisthira calls Abhimanyu and tells him that there are only four in the world who can break this formation. 'There is no one except; you, Arjuna, Krishna  and Pradyumna who can penetrate the chakra vyuha. Let us not be censured by Arjuna for not doing enough. Go and breach this formation.'

Abhimanyu tells his uncle that he has only learnt how to break the formation and get inside, but he has not learnt how to come out of it in case he is in danger. Yudhisthira thinks that they could easily follow him as he makes his way in and protect him. With this assurance from his uncle, Abhimanyu is ready!

Yudhisthira concerned with the loss of men, worried with what Arjuna would say, takes a decision typical of a man who lacks depth as a warrior, no matter how well versed he is in matters of dharma.
The chief of Pandava army Dhristadhyumna and Bheema prove to be over optimistic. The story of Abhimanya is often used as an example of how half-knowledge is dangerous. It is now also used to support the new trend of educating a child right in the embryo!  Hope the kids thus educated do not go the Abhimanyu way.

Friday, 18 May 2012

The war intensifies with Drona in charge. Mahabharata 146

On that day kauravas used the falcon formation and pandavas chose the pheasant shape. Drona went through the pandava army like the forest fire and killed many. But the plan to capture Yudhisthira failed. It is sunset and the two armies get  back to their camps. Drona addresses Duryodhana, sad and embarrassed, 'When Arjuna is there facing you, I had said  this earlier, even Indra cannot defeat him. It is impossible for me to defeat the team of Krishna and Arjuna. Find a way of leading them away, let some one else challenge Arjuna, he will not return till he has defeated them. In the meanwhile I will go in and as Dhristadhyumna looks on, I will capture Yudhisthira and bring him to you.'

On hearing this, Trigarta raja Susharma and his brothers volunteer. They have in the past suffered insults from Arjuna and are keen on avenging them now. More warriors also volunteer to face Arjuna and take a vow to kill him at any cost. These men send a challenge to Arjuna.

Arjuna goes to Yudhisthira, 'Elder brother, Susharma and other संशप्तक (warriors who have taken a vow to fight till death) have challenged me and I cannot refuse. Please permit me!'  Yudhisthira replies, 'You have heard Drona's intentions. He is a fearless and a skilled warrior. He has taken a vow to capture me. Make sure that he does not succeed.' Arjuna replies, 'When I am not here, Satyajeet, (a panchala prince) will protect you. You have nothing to fear till he is alive. If he dies just do not stay in the battle-field!' 

Thus taking permission from Yudhisthira, Arjuna goes after the volunteers like a lion chasing deer. In the battle field the kauravas and pandavas converge in a tumultuous battle, like the rivers Ganga and Sarayu in a turbulent confluence during the heavy rainy season.

As Drona rushes towards Yudhisthira, Satyajeet manages to protect him for a while. Later Drona demolishes Satyajeet's charioteer, his chariot and the horses, snaps his bow and finally severs his head with a half-moon shaped arrow.

I have yet to understand this aspect of human nature fully! What is it that motivates some humans to keep fighting even when they know the final result is death? This death wish must be in their genes. We do know that some animals do fight unto death, but that is instinctive. Why do we take orders from higher ups when we know certain that we are used as 'cannon fodder'? Why do we accpet to be the pawns in this war of higher ups.

As I recall, Balrama was the only conscientious objector and there was another king who decided to become neutral as neither pandavas or kauravas approached him properly. What about a common soldier? In modern warfare draft dodging was a crime and a shame. Deserters were  arrested and shot! They were treated as cowards and not as people with a conscience!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Drona's boon. Mahabharata 145

Drona has a few questions for Duryodhana, 'You asked me to only capture Yudhisthira. He is surely fortunate! Why is it you did not ask for his death? Is it because you wanted to spare me from killing him. Or is it that Dharmaraja has no enemies. Or you wanted that at least one of them to remain to propagate their vamsha. Or you wanted to win and then share the kingdom with them, be friends again and have peace. Whatever it is Yudhisthira is fortunate! With your show of friendship, and thus becoming अजातशत्रु , one without enemies, his life has truly become meaningful.'

These words from Drona takes Duryodhana unawares and has the effect of exposing his real intentions! It does happen that even the most intelligent cannot sometime hide what is on their minds. Duryodhana replies with a smile 'If we kill Yudhitshira, we will never win the war. His brothers will surely destroy us. Even gods cannot defeat them. If we capture him, we can again defeat him in a game of dice and send him to the forests. His brothers will then follow him. It is as good as a win. This is the reason I did not want him killed!'

Drona understands Duryodhana's devious intentions and adds a condition to the boon he granted. 'If Arjuna does not protect Yudhisthira, consider that he is in your hands. But if Arjuna comes to his rescue, even Indra cannot face him. He may be my student, but he is very young, is blessed with many astras from Indra, Rudra and such. So I would not like to fight him. If you manage to take him away some where, you have Yudhisthira'. Duryodhana agrees to this condition and imagines Yudhisthira already in his captivity!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Drona accepts Duryodhana's request. Takes charge of Kaurava army. Mahabharta 144

Losing Bheeshma is a serious blow for kauravas. The army is now like a flock of sheep without a shepard. But Duryodhana has no thoughts of giving up. He is happy to see Karna, who has come to meet him after paying respects to Bheeshma and seeks advice on how to proceed. Karna is happy with whatever his leader Duryodhana decides!

Duryodhana speaks about the need to select the next chief of the army and seeks Karna's opinion. Karna says that there are many candidates, but choosing one may not please others who are equally qualified. He suggests guru Dronacharya as he is the teacher of many, senior and an eminent warrior.

Immediately, Duryodhana approaches Drona and tells him that he is the most qualified amongst them and requests him politely, to take charge of his army. 'If you agree to become the chief, we will all follow you.   Even if Arjuna spots you, he will not want to fight with you. We can then defeat the rest and thus Yudhisthira.'  On hearing this, the warriors raise victory slogans in approval. Drona accepts, 'Maharaja, it is a great honor to be asked to take the place of kurushresta Bheeshma. I like to acknowledge this by offering you a boon! What can I give you!'

Duryodhana consults Karna, Dusshyasana and others and asks, 'Acharya, I want you to capture Yudhisthira and bring him to us. This is our desire.'. Drona is surprised with the request and is happy that he was not asked to 'kill' Yudhisthira. 

Karna's choice of Drona  as the chief of the army, while sensible, is also a bit surprising. The fact that Drona refused to teach him because he was the son of a charioteer must have been festering in his mind, but he does let it cloud his judgement when Drona is the obvious choice to take over from Bheeshma.  Equally intriguing is the request from Duryodhana that Yudhisthira be captured and not killed!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Karna's final meeting with Bheeshma. Mahabharata 143

The fall of Bheeshma affects Karna. He feels afraid, runs to meet the god-like great man, lying on his death bed, with his eyes closed! Overcome with emotion the teary eyed Karna speaks, 'Kurushreshta! It is Radheya! The man you hated, for no fault of mine, as soon as you set your eyes on me'. 

Bheeshma hears him, opens his eyes with difficulty and looks at Karna. He then sends his attendants away, hugs Karna, like a father would hug his son, with his arm around him. 'Come my dear opponent, if you had not come to visit me now, it would not have been praiseworthy. You are not a Radheya, you are a Kaunteya. I have no hatred for you child, I spoke to you harshly to bring down your ego and pride. I feel that you hate pandavas without reason. It is the reason why I  spoke to you harshly. I am aware of your great courage and your limitless generosity. You are like a god. There are not many like you. You are equal to Arjuna and Krishna in your ability. There is no anger in me now. Man cannot go against the will of gods. Pandavas are your brothers.  If you want to make me happy, go and join your brothers. Let the enmity die with me, let all the kings live happily.

Karna replies, 'Grandfather, I know that I am a kaunteya. But when Kunti did not want me and let go of me, a suta brought me up! Duryodhana made me a rich man. I cannot turn these facts into lies. I have pledged my body, my wealth, my reputation and everything else to Duryodhana. Under his shelter, I have provoked pandavas. What is required to be done cannot be changed by anyone. Who has the ability to change god's will? It is the time for destruction of the world. You have seen signs of this, and also spoke about it in the sabha.'

'I know that pandavas and Vasudeva are invincible. The reason why I am enthused to fight them. If you consent with love and affection, I believe I can fight them. If I have spoken ill of you out of anger or misbehaved, please forgive me.'

Bheeshma replies, 'Karna! If you are unable to control your intense enmity, I consent! Fight expecting to go to the heaven of the brave. Give up your anger and sorrow and perform the duties of a khsatriya well and achieve a happy state of mind. Try your best to be virtuous, your wishes will come true. Depend on your strength and bravery, forsake arrogance. There is no better dharma for a khsatriya than to fight in a war. I tried my best for peace, but could not succeed. The victory will be for those who have dharma with them.'  Karna salutes Bheeshma and goes to meet Duryodhana.

Finally the two ill-starred men, grandfather and grandson,  meet and manage a closure.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Bheeshma's last words to Duryodhana. Mahabharata 142

People collect the next morning to see Bheeshma and to seek his blessings. Maidens shower shavings of sandalwood, flowers and puffed rice on him. Men, women and children come in throngs to look at him. Singers and dancers come and show respect by performing for him. Kauravas and pandavas stop their war preparations, and behave as friends like before and together take care of Bheeshma . 

Bheeshma while bearing pain courageously is unable to show his happiness at all the attention. 'I feel faint with the pain, I want water.'  Cold Water and plenty of food is brought by many. Looking at them, 'I am on a bed of arrows and I cannot enjoy food. I am just waiting for the sun and moon to change their directions!'  and then looks at Arjuna, 'Arjuna! The arrows sting and the pain inside me is immense and it is unbearable. The body is hot and the mouth is dry. I want water which will cool my body. I think you know how to get me this type of water!'  Arjuna understands, goes round Bheeshma in prayer,  raises his Gandiva, invokes the rain-god and splits the earth to the right of Bheeshma. Light fragrant water, like nectar, sprouts from the split earth. Bheeshma's thirst is quenched and he is happy. He praises Arjuna for his skills and calls him the greatest archer in the world.

He then turns towards the crestfallen Duryodhana and extolls Arjuna's abilities and thinks that only Krishna could equal him. Tells Duryodhana again that pandavas are invincible and that is better to make peace with them before the whole kaurava army is destroyed. Pleads with him to stop the war with pandavas by giving them half the kingdom. Wishes that with his death, the fight within the family will end. Bheeshma then becomes very tired  and stops speaking. Duryodhana chooses not to respond to his grandfather's pleas.

One surely feels sorry for the old man Bheeshma. Raghu comments on him thus, 'Bheeshma is the epitome of the right person caught in the wrong place. However, he doesn't flinch. It was so easy for him to switch sides.'  Very true!

 But we also see that Bheeshma is also very honest and does not think of hiding his true feelings for the pandavas. Does not hold back his praise for Arjuna! He stokes Duryodhana's jealousy without thinking of the consequences. Upsets the egoistic Duryodhana by predicting pandavas victory in the war and actually hardens the resolve not to yeild to his grandfather's death bed pleas. 

 Bheeshma was brought up by a single parent, that too in heaven. It seems, not the right mixture, if one has to cope with realities of a khsatriya life.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Bheeshma falls. Mahabharata 141

In the next day's व्यूह , pandavas put Shikandi in front. On either side are Bheema and Arjuna. Behind them are the upa-pandavas and Abhimanyu.  Further back are Dhristadhyumna and his warriors and soldiers. Kauravas have as usual, Bheeshma in front, Dussasana and a few other kauravas are on his sides. Drona, Ashwatthama and Bhagadatta at the rear.

The war begins and Bheeshma inflicts a lot of pain on the pandavas with his weapons. Arjuna  encourages Shikandi with, 'I will protect you from those who attack,  face Bheeshma without fear.'   However, Bheeshma is not bothered by Shikandi's arrows, and does not care to counter-attack Shikandi. Dussasana engages Arjuna in a fight to stop him from supporting Shikandi, looses and retreats, but stays on Bheeshma's side. Bheeshma ignores Shikandi and concentrates on attacking Arjuna.

Arjuna withstands the onslaught from Bheeshma, also kills warriors from videha, kalinga and others by using special astras which sears them. Kripa, Shalya, Vikarna and many more retreat unable to face Arjuna. Pandavas then encircle Bheeshma and shoot arrows non-stop. The arrows tear his armour , break his bow and his body is riddled with them. Finally Bheeshma falls with the arrows still sticking to his body.

There is uproar all over. Both the armies, stupefied,  put their weapons down and stand quietly. But Bheeshma is not dead. As it was not a propitious time to depart, to ensure his place in heaven, he waits for 'uttarayana'. Being blessed, he is able to choose the time of his death.

By then it was sunset and the fighting stopped.  Warriors from both the side go to Bheeshma and salute him to show their respect. He is pleased with the gesture and tells them that his head needs a support. Soft pillows are brought and he tells them that it is not what he wants. He says with a smile  that for a वीरशयन (couch of a hero) soft pillows are unsuitable. He looks at Arjuna and asks him, if he knows, to get him a pillow that is right. Arjuna offers prayers and shoots three arrows to support  Bheeshma's head and he is pleased that Arjuna understood him.

Doctors arrive with instruments to remove the arrows that are lodged on his body. Bheeshma declines and tells those attending him to pay the doctors their due. 'I do not need doctors now. I have attained the highest success a khsatriya can hope. Just cremate me with my arrows embedded in me!'

Friday, 4 May 2012

Pandavas meet Bheeshma in the night. Mahabhara 140

 I thought I will use Samhita's interpretation of the meeting with Bheeshma.

Pandavas walk quietly to meet Bheeshma
It was a dark night, Five unarmed figures advanced towards Bheeshma's tent, in the kauravas camp. When the tent flap opened, they entered. 

Bheeshma's tent

In the lamplight  they removed their cloaks to reveal their identities. They were no other than the five pandavas. Bheeshma smiled and said, 'What can I do for you? Ah, it is good to see you here, rather than on the battlefield.'

'Bheeshma, our forces are being vanquished by you. We need to know how you can be killed, so that we  can win this war.' Bheeshma smiled again,  'That is an easier task than you think. All you have to do is to place Shikandin in front of me and Arjuna behind him, Since she was a woman in her previous birth and spent part of her life being a woman, I cannot and will not confront Shikandin.'

Yudhisthira thanked him. Pandavas departed from the kaurava camp.

Vachana Bharata has some more detail:
Arjuna is not happy that he has to kill Bheeshma. He thinks about  Bheeshma their guru, the oldest in the Vamsha, intelligent and wise. He remembers his childhood, when very young, dirty and muddy after playing, how  he  sat on his lap and called him 'appa' and Bheeshma replied, 'I am your appa's appa'. With such memories he is reluctant to fight, 'Krishna, even if our army is depleted further, I will not fight Bheeshma. I do not care whether I win or loose! Let Bheeshma kill me.'

Krishna again reminds Arjuna, 'Having  taken a vow to kill Bheeshma, how can you  say now you cannot? Is it khsatriya dharma? If you do not kill Gangeya, there is no hope of victory. It is god's will, and it will happen. Excepting you, there is no other who can kill him.'

Arjuna gets back to reality and tells Krishna, 'Bheeshma has to meet his death through Shikandi. I will  keep Shikandi in front and find a way to bring Bheeshma down. If  Bheeshma attacks Shikandi , I will see that Shikandi is protected. I will drive out the others who try to kill him'. The plan is thus set for the next day.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

War continues. Mahabharata 139

On the fourth day, Bheemasena  totally destroys Duryodhana's war elephants. And also kills Jalasandha, Sushena and other six brothers of the kauravas. Then Bhagadatta riding a huge elephant confronts  Bheema and makes him unconcious with a shower of arrows. Ghatothkacha comes forward to help, attacks and inflicts pain on the elephant and it howls in pain. Bheeshma and others hear this and come to rescue  Bhagadatta. But Bheeshma sees Ghatothkacha and hesitates, 'I do not want to fight this evil man. He is very strong and able, has help in other ways. Very accurate in his aim. Whereas we are all tired and injured, Let us stop fighting  for the day!' The fourth day ends in this manner.

The next day pandavas adopt the falcon formation and kauravas create the alligator shape and begin the fight. As Bhurishravas kills ten sons of Satyaki, Satyaki faces him and fights.  Nearby Arjuna kills twentyfive great warriors, hence Matsya and Kekaya and others surround him. Meanwhile the sun sets and the fighting stops!

The war goes on in the same manner for nine days. Bheema eliminates any kaurava son he sees and Arjuna kills numerous  रथिक, warriors on chariots. But Bheeshma still has the upper hand and while pandavas are safe, many brave warriors and countless soldiers are killed. In the night, pandavas, vrishnis and other supporters meet to discuss the situation which has become  quite serious.

After a long discussion, Yudhisthira turns to Krishna, 'Look Krishna! Bheeshma is proving to be very dangerous and deadly. Fighting with him is like the flying insects going to war against a blazing fire. We have lost a lot for the sake of the kingdom. My brothers are hurt and I am tired. I feel like seeking a  different dharma and spend the rest of our lives following it. Tell me if there is dharma which is the opposite of khsatriya dharma!'

Krishna calms Yudhisthira, 'Do not worry Yudhisthira. Your brothers are brave, they will surely win. If Arjuna is not willing to fight, I will fight Bheeshma and if you think that he has to be killed for you  to be victorious, I will kill him. Your enemy is my enemy. Your work is my work. Arjuna is a friend, relative and my disciple. For his sake I will cut a piece of my body and give. He is equally ready to sacrifice his life for my sake. This is an agreement between us. But Arjuna has taken a vow to kill Bheeshma, and I should not come in his way. There is no difficulty in killing an old man!'

Yudhisthira thus consoled, tells Krishna 'You are right! I should not come in the way of your vow not to fight. Help us in any other way you can. In fact, Bheeshma has promised me that if there is a need, he will think and suggest a way. So, let us go and ask him the way to kill him! We will do as he says. He has been like our father, taking care of us when our father was no more. We are forced now to kill one who is our well wisher, father and grandfather. But this useless khsatriya dharma gives us no other choice.'

Krishsna agrees to this suggestion. They take off their armours, leave their weapons behind and walk to see Bheeshma in his  शिबिर, tent.