Thursday, 28 June 2012

Krishna consoles Gandhaari and Ashwatthama is consecrated as the commander-in-chief. Mahabharata 167

Krishna advises pandavas to keep calm and return to their camp. As soon as Krishna and Arjuna reach camp and get down from their chariot, it catches fire and burns down! A shocked Arjuna asks Krishna the reason for this! Krishna explains that the astras used by Drona and Karna had already burnt it, but had remained intact as Krishna was on it. Now that their work is done and they do not need it anymore, it had caught fire! Krishna then decides that it is better they do not stay at the camp that night and asks them to camp near river Oghavathi. 

Yudhisthira has another worry and has a request for Krishna . 'Krishna with your blessings we have won the kingdom. Now it is for you to ensure that we do not loose it again! You must go and console Gandhaari. She is a great पतिव्रता virtuous woman. After hearing the loss of her sons and grandsons, the distress she feels will destroy us. No one ,but you can stand in front of her now!' Krishna agrees and goes to Hastinapura immediately. He prostrates to both Gandhaari and Dhritarashtra and begins to cry loudly! After a while, he washes his eyes and speaks to Dhritarashtra, 'Lord! There is nothing you do not know!'  Krishna then narrates the various events which brought on this war and requests, 'Please do not fault pandavas for the destruction of the khsatriya clan. They will take care of you and Gandhaari. You know Dharmaraja's nature. He has great regard and affection for you. He is suffering and does not know how to come and meet you!'

He then addresses Gandhaari, reminds her of the advice she gave Duryodhana, "Amma! You told him, 'Listen to me, Victory is with the virtuous!' It has now happened. Remembering this, bear your great pain. Do not curse the pandavas. You can destroy three worlds with one look from your angry eyes.". Gandhaari replies, 'You are right Keshava, my mind was in a turmoil with grief. I feel better with your talk. There is no one for us now except you and the pandavas.'   Then she breaks down in uncontrollable grief. Krishna continues to comfort her and later seeks permission to leave and returns the same night.

Ashwatthama, Krupa and Krithavarma learn about the fall of Duryodhana and rush back. They see Duryodhana lying like a fallen tree and with blood all over him. Ashwatthama begins to weep, 'Duryodhana! To see you, who ruled the world, lying on the ground covered with dust and unattended, tells me there is no virtue in this world.' Keeps lamenting that nothing is permanent in this world!

Duryodhana also wipes his tears, tells how he was felled by cheating. Is happy that at least  three of them still remain. Says he has no regrets, as he fought like a khastriya and will die like one. He is happy that he will join the others who fought for him and died. Asks them not to feel bad as they all tried their best.

Ashwatthama is inconsolable, he seeks permission to continue fighting to avenge the death of his father. He tells Duryodhana 'Looking at your condition, I feel even more unhappy than I felt when my father was killed! I want to kill the pandavas right in front of Vasudeva! Give me permission to do so!' Duryodhana asks Krupa to get some water and consecrate Ashwatthama as the commander-in-cheif, saying, 'Soldiers, especially Brahmins who plan to follow khsatriya dharma should be given  orders by the king and then only fight' . Ashwatthama then embraces Duryodhana and leaves. The rest also follow, leaving behind the almost dead Duryodhana.

It is a strange ending for the 18th day of war. While a Brahmin, Ashwathhama,  thirsts for revenge,  Kritavarma, the only Khsatriya left is happy to just go along with the brahmins!

We are again exposed to mythology, by the incidence of Arjuna's chariot burning dramatically as soon as they alight it and the fact Yudhisthira is afraid of Gandhaari's curse! It seems the curse of  a pativrata is powerful and could mean disaster, while her well meant advice can be ignored by her son with impunity!

Monday, 25 June 2012

As Duryodhana lies on the ground. Mahabharta 166

Bheema cannot contain himself after he strikes Duryodhana down. He looks at the people around him. 'Look! They ridiculed us, called us cows! We now call them the same! Cows! Cows! We did not depend on either fire or  dice or deceit! It was just the strength of our arms. We have killed all those who made fun of us and treated us with contempt.' Bheema then kicks Duryodhana on his head, calling him a Cheat!

Yudhisthira stops Bheema, 'Bheema, it is all over! You have fulfilled your vows! Do not do things which are unlucky. He should not be kicked, it is not dharma. In any case we are related, very recently he was the lord of 11 akshohini army! We should feel sorry for his plight, it is not right to make fun!'

Yudhisthira then gets emotional and laments, 'Duryodhana! Do not grieve! We must all face the consequences of our karma. You brought this on yourself by to your misdeeds! Your brothers had the same fate. Your near and dears were destroyed! Their wives, now widowed will curse you!'

Balarama is very upset and angry! 'It is a shame. Bheema hit below the navel. I have never seen this happen in a fight with clubs. It is not allowed. He is doing as he likes and is breaking rules!'  Totally enraged, he picks up his yoke and rushes to hit Bheema with it. Krishna stops him very politely! 'Pandavas are our natural friends from the beginning, they are pure and brave.  They are also related, children of our aunt! They were cheated by their enemies. Moreover Bheema had vowed to break Duryodhana's thigh. It is khsatriya dharma to keep your vows. In addition, Maitreya had cursed Duryodhana that Bheema would break his thighs. This had to happen, hence I did not see any wrong doing here! Stop being angry!' 

Balarama is still unhappy, 'Whatever you say! One should not give up dharma to fulfil desires! I feel upset that Bheema fulfilled his vows by going against dharma. He will get a bad name in the world for this. Duryodhana will attain heaven for his right conduct in the war!' and immediately leaves for Dwaraka.

Bheema then speaks to Dharmaraja 'Here! The whole world is yours now. Duryodhana, who was the root cause for all your troubles, is lying on the ground defeated! The rest, the fierce warriors are all dead!'  Dharmaraja  agrees that with the blessings of Krishna, they have destroyed their enemy and are victorious. They all celebrate by blowing their individual conch and the whole sky is filled with its reverberating sound.

Krishna suggest that they move from there 'It is not right to keep talking in front of the fallen enemy. Let us go from here. He is lying here having lost his honor, by collecting a group of sinners around him and by not listening to the sound advice of his elders, Vidura and Bheeshma. He refused to give a share to pandavs even when they begged for it. He is now lying here like a log. What is the use of hurting him further! Let us go!'    

The contemptuous words of Krishna has the desired effect. Duryodhana lifts himself up, like a snake whose tail is cut, and stares angrily at Krishna, 'Are you not ashamed of the many things you have done? Was it not adharma?'   Duyodhana then lists out things which Krishna initiated in the warfare which were not honest and caused the death to many who were conducting themselves correctly in the war, including himself, Drona, and Bheeshma. Of using Ghatokacha as a pawn to save Arjuna and so on. Krishna responds that Duryodhana only reaped what he had sown and it was due to his evil actions! He recounts all the things Duryodhana did against the pandavas.

Duryodhana replies, 'As long as I lived, I tried to educate myself. Did charity. Enjoyed being a king. Defeated enemies and I am now dying the way a kshatriya who practices dharma, dies! Is there a better way to die? I will now go to heaven with all my heroic relatives and friends! Whereas you will all be unhappy with your low thoughts and deeds!' 

I had thought that the story ended with the fall of Duryodhana! With a bang, as it were! But I see that the author keeps going back to the events again and again with slightly different view points. Nothing seems to be in black and white, there are shades of grey. It is in fact confusing or very clear depending on your understanding of human nature or for that matter nature of gods! 

I wondered about Duryodhana's place in history and here is what I find: will see that Duryodhana was a respected and loved king in Uttaranchal. He was clearly more than unpleasant to Draupadi (Panchali, the princess of Punjab, his sister-in-law), but his people loved him and remember him to this day, to the extent that they worship him as God. It is said that Dehradhun was named after Duryodhana and the people here are spoken of as very nice people.

....This wonderland is called as Jaunsar-Bawar in Dehradun district and Rawain in Uttarkashi district. There the people are culturally distinct from their Garhwali or Kumaoni brethren. The Jaunsaris are one of the few polyandrous societies anywhere and they tend to be more liberal and their women enjoy greater freedom of choosing and divorcing. Jaunsaris are also famous for their colourful clothes and festivals.

.....Lakhamandal is in the same area where Duryodhana had tried to get the Pandavas burnt to death in the Lakshagriha or the palace made of wax. The land is replete with icons of the Mahabharata age. The local people consider themselves as inheritors of them. It is believed that the kingdom of Raja Viraat was also in the same region.

.....This entire region of sporadic villages is considered to be the domain of Duryodhana Maharaj. The man whom the spirit of Duryodhana visits is called Maali. He issues orders while the spirit has taken over his ‘subjects’ carry them out undefiantly. In other cases, Sayanas, or the elderly, of the villages issue orders, which are final. But, if problems still remain or are not solved, Duryodhana Maharaj is approached for the final and unquestionable judgement.

......The reason being that complaints are hardly directed to the government representatives like Patwari because Duryodhana is the final word. Duryodhana’s entry into this magnificent land is filled with myths and still sung by locals and narrated through Jaagars, a form of invoking the deities. Dr Nautiyal says that legend has it that during Dwapara Yuga, King Duryodhana, after travelling through Kashmir and Kullu, arrived in Hanol situated in Jaunsar-Bawar region where he was mesmerised by the sheer natural beauty.

....He thought it was the place for him and appealed to Lord Mahasu, the reigning local deity, that a piece of valley, next to Himalaya, be given to him, which Lord Mahasu accepted and bestowed upon him this region instructing him to look after the people carefully. Even today, inhabitants of Har-Ki-Doon believe that their king Duryodhana is the one who looks after them.

...It is only Jakhol village where an idol of Duryodhana has been installed. Incidentally, Jakhol is the seat of the Lord and also it is here where his main temple is seated. Other such village temples do not have idols of Duryodhana. The icon is carried to each temple turnwise. When the customary journey is concluded it is taken back to the main seat in Jakhol.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Bheema defeats Duryodhana. Mahabharata 165

Krishna is worried about the outcome of a combat between Duryodhana and Bheema. He thinks that there is no way Bheema can win in a fair fight as Duryodhana has better skills. But, Bheema is confident! He tells Krishna not to worry. 'I will surely kill Suyodhana. My club is longer and heavier and I will fight with it. You all can watch me!'

Bheema then  looks at Duryodhana, standing like a lone elephant separated from its herd and challenges him, 'Duryodhana! It is time for you to recall all the harm you and your father did to us. Remember the disgrace Draupadi had to go through because of you. It is time  for  you  to pay for your evil deeds! I have killed all your brothers, only you are left. I will kill you also with my club! Come on!' Duryodhana retorts, 'Vrukodhara! There is no point in praising yourself. I will fulfil your desire for a fight. Don't you know that I have greater skills than you! Don't thunder like a cloud without rain! Show your powers in a fight!'

Meanwhile, they have a surprise visitor. Balarama returns from his pilgrimage.  And he hears about the impending war between his two students and comes there directly. Both Bheema and Duryodhana were his disciples. After being honoured by everyone and polite enquiries are made about each others well being, he takes a seat along with others to watch the contest.

Both fight like two intoxicated elephants. They both exhibit great versatality and skill. They avoid each others blows. If they get hit, they recover quickly! They keep fighting for a long time. Krishna speaks to Arjuna, 'Bheema has taken a vow to break Duryodhana's thigh. He must fulfil his vow. It will not happen if he depends only on his power and fights in a just manner. A cheat should be defeated only by deceitful means, if not Yudhisthira will be in difficulties. One who has lost everything and is fighting for his life will fight extremely well as he has nothing to lose, but everything to gain. It is very difficult to defeat such warriors! Hence, if Bheema does not kill him, even if by unfair means, it is certain that a kaurava will be our king again.'

Arjuna realising the gravity of the situation, catches the eye of Bheema and touches his left thigh. Bheema understands, he starts moving in circular, doubling back and forward, zig-zag and many different ways to confuse Duryodhana. Duryodhana does not get carried away by his moves and waits for a chance to hit Bheema. Once Bheema faints with the blow he receives, but Duryodhana thinks that Bheema has taken a pause to change his tactics and Bheema recovers quickly. As they keep fighting, Duryodhana once jumps to avoid a blow and Bheema aims his club at Duryodhana's thigh and breaks it and Duryodhana falls.

 Duryodhana falls, like a huge tree falling! Bheema goes near him, 'Wicked man! You called the scantily clad Krishne a cow in midst of the sabha and made fun of her. Enjoy now the fruits of your action!' and kicks his head with his left foot. 

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Duryodhana who had given up is goaded to fight! Mahabharata 164

As reality hits Duryodhana, he says  he cannot envisage a life without his nears and dears. He offers the kingdom to Yudhisthira and tells him he has no desire to live and that he will wear the clothes of an ascetic and go to the forest. He tells Yudhisthira 'Go and enjoy the kingdom I own and ruled!'

Yudhisthira declines. 'Don't keep grumbling under water. Come up! While you may imagine that you can offer me the kingdom, I will not accept. It is not khsatriya dhrama to receive a gift. I will claim the kingdom after our victory. Why did you not give it earlier when we asked for it?  You refused to yield land,  even the size of a needle point. No king will offer his kingdom when he is invited to fight a war! Is this a ploy to save your life? There is no way we can let you go now! If we both are alive, people will always worry about the future, they will never be sure who will come out victorious in the end. You have tried to kill us earlier, by any means. You have to bear the consequences and pay with your life. Come out and fight!'

Similarly many others taunt Duryodhana. Unable to bear their harsh words, he agrees to fight but says, 'You are many! You have chariots, weapons and I am all alone. I have no chariot, no weapons and no armour! I am also injured. It is not right that you ask me to fight in this condition. I am not afraid of you! If  provoked I am sure to defeat you and force you to retreat. I still say that it is not dharma to make me fight now. Just wait for a while, I will come out and kill each one of you and pay you back for killing Drona, Karna, Bheeshma and others.'

Yudhisthira compliments Duryodhana for finally accepting that it is khsatriya dharma to fight and offers, 'You choose your weapon and the person you want to fight. The rest of us will watch. If you win, the kingdom is yours and if you die you go to heaven.'  Duryodhana accepts as he is required to fight only one of them. He chooses the club as his weapon and is willing to fight a गदायुद्ध with one of them. Yudhisthira agrees and asks him to come out and prove his manhood!

Angered by this insult, Duryodhana comes out of the water like a wild elephant, with an iron club on his shoulder . His body is covered with blood and he challenges, 'Whoever it is, let him come and fight, it does not matter that I am injured, I am tired and I was in water all this while!

 Krishna is dismayed  by the offer and he scolds Yudhisthira, 'How could you have offered that he could fight with any one? What type of bravery is this?  What if he had chosen you or  Arjuna or Nakula or Sahadeva?  There is no one but Bheema or Arjuna who can fight him. Even they are not as experienced as Duryodhana. With the intention of killing Bheema he has been practising  the last thirteen years! Bheema may be stronger than Duryodhana, but is not as skilled!'

 'You always do something like this and get into problems!'

Yudhisthira read the future well and is right in thinking that there is no hope for peace for him as long as Duryodhana is alive, but almost messes it up by making a grand gesture of letting Duryodhana choose his weapon and the opponent. No wonder Krishna, the strategist is upset!

It is not surprising that Duryodhana tries to somehow save himself . His survival instincts are strong.
Another question that crops up is; if Shakuni were still alive, would he have stopped Duryodhana from fighting Bheema and made him choose a weaker opponent?

Friday, 22 June 2012

Both pandavas and kauravas go looking for Duryodhana. Mahabharata 163

Sanjaya learns about Suyodhana's hiding place and informs Ashwatthama, Krupa and Krithavarma. They reach the water tank and address Duryodhana, who is in it. 'Maharaja! Come out! Continue to fight. We are all here. If we win, we keep the kingdom. If we die, we attain swarga. Pandavas also have lost most of their army and many of the survivors are injured. If we go and attack, they will not able to stop us!'

Duryodhana, still inside, says that he is fortunate that while so many are dead, they are still alive. He agrees with the suggestion, but thinks as both he and they are very tired, it is better to resume the fight the next day. But Ashwatthama does not agree and tries to convince Duryodhana that he should come out immediately to fight. Promises that he will kill all the pandavas who are now rejoicing. He vows that he will not remove his armour till he has killled them all.

In the meantime pandavas, worried that Duryodhana is still alive, send spies to look for him. The spies return without any news of Duryodhana. At the same time, a group of hunters, who supply meat to Bheema every day, overhear the conversation between Duryodhana and his commanders  and expecting to be rewarded by Bheema, rush to inform him. Pandavas come to know the hiding place and proceed there with Krishna and other warriors. Seeing the pandavas approach, Krithavarma and others take leave of Duryodhana and take shelter under a banyan tree.

 Yudhisthira and Krishna decide not to let Duryodhana get away with his clever magic act. Yudhisthira shouts, 'Hey, after being the cause of death of your clan and many khsatriyas, are you now trying to save your life by hiding in the water?  Come out and fight! What happened to your pride and self-respect? Looking at the way  you are sleeping cooly in the water, it appears the claim that you are a great hero proves to be a big lie! Remember you are born in a good khsatriya family, that too in the kuru vamsha. Retreating from a battle is unworthy, a sure way to miss going to heaven! If you want to follow khsatria dharma, do not try to save your life. Fight and defeat us and enjoy your kingdom or die fighting!'

Duryodhana replies from within the water, 'If animals are afraid for their life, it is no surprise! But I have not run away for that reason. I have lost everything, my chariot, arrows and my charioteer and I am tired. I will rest for a while and then I will come out and fight.'  Yudhisthira retorts, 'We had our rest before we came to look for you! Come out, Win and get yout kingdom or die and go to heaven'.

Duryodhana is not ready, 'Where is the need for any kingdom? All my brothers are dead. Having lost brothers who were precious like gems and supreme khsatriya kings, why should I now aspire for mere land?What is the use of the kingdom, when Drona and Karna are dead and Bheeshma is lying on a bed of arrows? You can have it!  Which king will want to rule all alone by himself?'

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The eighteenth day of war! Mahabharata 162

Shalya leaves the battle ground with Karna's body, while pandavas celebrate the death of Karna, with shouts of victory, blow the conch and beat the drums. Duryodhana leads the despondent karuavas back to the camp. Shalya praises Karna and consoles Duryodhana, 'Fate is helping pandavas and destiny is against us, what can we do?'

Arjuna prostrates before Yudhisthira and his brother lifts him up and embraces him. Brothers congratulate each other and embrace. Krishna tells Yudhisthira, 'With Karna's death, we can take it that kauravas and the kings supporting them are also gone! While it would not have been possible to kill Karna, even if the three worlds were fighting him, he is dead because of your anger.'

Yudhisthira replies, 'Govinda, it is because of  your calmness, kindness that we were able to defeat the great and very successful warrior Karna. I am able to sleep well and without worries tonight because of this.' Krishna says, 'Yudhisthira, I am only a means to your happiness.  Bheema, Arjuna and the rest of your heroic brothers, Dhristadhyumna and many other relatives and friends are the real reasons for your happiness. You will always enjoy my trust and confidence.'  

After Karna dies Kripaacharya suggests a truce with pandavas. But Duryodhana does not agree. He decides to continue with the war and appoints Shalya as his army commander. The next day  Shalya chooses the सर्वतोभद्र (safe from all directions!) formation. Shalya occupies the front of the formation and Krithavarma is on the left and Krupa on the right. Ashwatthama is at the back. Duryodhana is in the middle!

On Krishna's advice, Yudhisthira takes command of the army and faces Shalya. They decide that Arjuna will face Krithavarma and Bheema takes on Krupa. It is the eighteenth day of the war and the last day! The day starts with Nakula killing, Chitrasena, Susharma and Satyasena, children of Karna. Bheema, Satyaki, Nakula and Sahadeva converge on Shalya from four sides to help Yudhisthira and begin shooting arrows. Yudhisthira invokes Shaktayuda and uses it against Shalya. Blood spurts out from Shalya's eyes, ears, nose and mouth and Shalya falls off from his chariot and dies.

Seeing that their commander is dead, Kaurava soldiers disperse, running in all directions. Duryodhana stops them, takes over and giving them encouragement begins to fight. But the bravery of Arjuna nullifies this effort. Satyaki kills Salva and defeats Krithavarma.  Dhristadhymna defeats Duryodhna and runs him out of the battle field. As he goes out of sight, Krupa, Krithavarma and Ashwatthama go looking for Duryodhana.

Dhrishtadhyumna later starts demolishing the remaining karurava army. Bheema seeks out the surviving younger brothers of Duryodhana and beats them all to death. Sahadeva kills Shakuni and Ulaka. After Shakuni's fall, the soldiers helping him attack Sahadeva. Bheema and Arjuna go to help,  defeats and kills them all. Kaurava army is practically destroyed on that day. Duryodhana reappears and collects the remaining soldiers and orders them to kill Dhristadhyumna. They obey, but are  killed in no time. Thus kaurava eleven akshohini army, thousands of kings all die and only Duryodhana remains.

Duryodhana looks around and sees total emptiness, there is no one to fight along with him. He sees the pandavas celebrating all round. He looses his confidence. In just a few days, a man who had eleven akshohini army, now has nothing. There is no one to accompany him, there are no chariots, even his horse is dead. Duryodhana lifts up his mace and starts walking towards east. He nears a tank and applies his knowledge of जलस्तम्भ, enters the tank and hides in it.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Curtains for Karna. Mahabharata 161

It is still the seventeenth day of the great war. There is a lull in the war after the horrific spectacle of Bheema drinking Dushyasana's blood, which stuns both the armies. Thinking about it, I wondered whether Dushyasana actually saw Bheema drink blood as it gushed out of his heart. He could have! Being a hardy warrior, he would have not died immediately out of shock. I suppose this is what what violence does. Our threshold level for horror goes up as we get used to more and more violence.

After a lull in the war, Dushyasana's brothers, Alambu, Jarasandha and others go after Bheema and rain arrows on him. But Bheema kills all the nine brothers attacking him with nine arrows. Seeing this Karna becomes afraid, but Vrushasena comes forward and faces Bheema. Nakula goes in between them and kills Vrushasena's horses. Meanwhile Arjuna shoots ten arrows, cuts his bows, arms and finally severs Vrushasena's head. Karna bears the loss of his son bravely and challenges Arjuna to a combat. The two chariots face each other! Many great warriors surround them with their chariots, blow their conch and shout encouraging words.

The fight begins. It appears as though two mountains are confronting each other. They invoke many different astras but as they are equally matched the battle continues with no clear advantage to either side for a while. Bheema looses patience and urges Arjuna. 'Why are you fighting like this Arjuna! Stand more firm, like you did in Khandava vana and kill him. Or let me use my mace and smash him into a pulp! His time has come! Let us not  allow him to escape from here alive.' Krishna also counsels Arjuna, 'Do you not see that he has प्रत्यस्त्र answering astras to all your astras. Remember the way you fought Ishwara and pleased him. Apply all your skills and ability to kill Karna!'

Coaxed thus by both, Arjuna invokes Bhramhaastra, the astra envelopes Karna's chariot with innumerable arrows shining like the sun. Kauravs who were with  Karna retreat in fear and Duryodhana's encouraging words to them does not have any effect. But Karna is unmoved and stops the Bhramaastra and attacks Arjuna with many sharp and severe arrows. Arjuna answers by shooting more arrows and the whole battle field is filled with arrows.

Karna then takes out the sarpaastra he had reserved specially to attack Arjuna. As he readies the astra, the whole area is lit with its radiance. As he aims it at Arjuna the arrow tilts a little. In his anger and eagerness, Karna does not notice this, but Shalya does. He tells Karna that his aim is not right and suggests that he correct it. Karna does not pay heed. He brushes aside Shalya's advice, 'Karna does not aim twice for a single target, Madraraja! People like us do not take war lightly!' Karna releases the astra as it is, shouting! 'Arjuna you are dead!'

Krishna notices the astra traversing through the skies and presses the chariot down a little. The sarpaastra hits Arjuna's crown and carries it with it. The crown falls a little ahead but the astra keeps moving up. Krishna tells Arjuna, 'Look at the snake which was meant to kill you.' Arjuna asks Krishna, 'Where did this food for eagles came from'. Krishna tells him that this snake survived while its mother died in the Kandava vana and was seeking revenge for its mother's death. Arjuna shoots six arrows at the snake and kills it.

 As Karna's time of death is nearing, his sarpaastra goes waste and he forgets the astra which Parusharama had taught him. Added to this his chariot sinks into the ground and tilts. His horses stumble. His charioteer dies. All this upsets Karna and he bemoans his bad luck. He is injured all over and is tired and blames dharma. 'People who know dharma tell that dharma protects those who follow it. But it seems that dharma is killing them instead protecting them.'

Karna then looks at Arjuna and tells him 'Hey Partha! Wait a moment! I will straighten out my chariot, in the meantime do not shoot arrows at me in the ways of vile people. You know Yuddha (war)dharma. You are a hero, a khsatriya and born to a great family. You are sitting on a chariot at a higher level, so you should not attack me who is unarmed and sitting on the ground. I am not afraid of either you or Krishan. I am just asking you to wait.

Krishna intervenes before Arjuna speaks, 'It is fortunate that you remember dharma now! It is normal for people from the lower class to blame gods for their difficult times. They do not think that it is their own doing! Result of their bad acts. When you, Suyodhana, Shakuni and Dushyasana  brought Draupadi to the sabha with just a single piece of cloth covering her body, was dharma not necessary? When you defeated an unskilled Yudhisthira in a game of  dice, where did your dharma go? After completing Vanavasa for thirteen years, which dharma stopped you from giving his kingdom back? It is with your consent that Duryodhana tried to kill Bheema by feeding him poisoned food and letting poisoned snakes on him. Where did your dharma go then? You had planned to kill pandavas who were sleeping in the wax palace in Varanavrata, where was your dharma at that time? When Draupadi was held by Dushyasana in the sabha, where was dharma when you laughed at her? Where did dharma go, when you told her that pandavas are destroyed and  advised her to marry another? When great warriors surrounded a mere boy Abhimanyu and killed him, where did dharma go?' Karna with no real answers, keeps quiet.

Then suddenly a very enraged Karna begins to fight again with ferocity. A fierce arrow hits Arjuna's shoulder and his bow Gandiva falls from his hand and he faints. Taking this opportunity, Karna jumps from the chariot and tries to lift it up. He does not succeed inspite of his strength! It seems fate intervenes again! Meanwhile Arjuna recovers and picks up arrow 'Pranjalika'! Krishna urges him to kill Karna before he climbs back to the chariot. Arjuna cuts off the Karna's flag hoisted on the chariot and takes another arrow 'Anjalika'  invokes a maha astra with a prayer 'If I have performed penance, pleased my elders, let this arrow kill Karna by its virtue!' and lets the arrow fly! Karna's severed head falls like the sun from the heavens!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

A gruesome end for Dussasana. Mahabharata 160

Krishna pushes towards Karna and Bheema follows in support! The war enters a very fierce phase, the men fight in a frenzy, rush against each other and use a variety of weapons to impale their opponents. Horses and elephants rush headlong towards each other and fall due to the impact! In this melee Dussasana appears in front of Bheema. Bheema rushes towards him and leaps on him like a lion. They both fight full of pent up rage. It was as if Indra and Sambhara are fighting!

Bheema gloats. 'Dussasana! It is lucky that I saw you today. Come, I will return your debt with full interest!'  Bheema then breaks Dussasana's bow and cuts his charioteer. Dussasana in repy kills Bheema's charioteer, horses and even breaks the yoke of the chariot. Bheema jumps down and smashes Dussasana's horses to death with his mace and shakes the chariot and Dussasana gets down and hits Bheema on his chest with his javelin. Bheema who has been haunted by memories the last thirteen years strikes Dussasana with his mace and knocks him down. As he remembers the indignities suffered by Draupadi, his anger goes out of control like the fire which flares up when ghee is added to it. He stares at Duryodhana, Karna, Kripa and Ashwatthama and Krithvarma and challenges them, 'Here, I am about the kill the evil Dussasana, let the brave warriors come and rescue him.' 

Bheema then steps on Dussasana's throat and taunts him to say 'cow! cow!' and  scoops his heart out and drinks the hot blood that spurts out with a great show of relishing it! 'This blood tastes better than milk, honey, cane sugar, curds and mothers milk'. He is unable to do anything more as Dussasana dies. A few who see this spectacle faint and others drop their weapons. Many run away in fear screaming, 'He is not human'. In a flash the fierce battle comes to a halt and silence pervades the battle field.


Monday, 18 June 2012

Arjuna returns to the battlefield. Mahabharata 159

Arjuna disappoints Yudhisthira, tells him that he was busy fighting the संशप्तक warriors  and Ashwatthama, but  came back having heard about Yudhisthira, 'I came to see you as I heard you were injured and had returned to the camp. I will surely kill Karna the moment I see him.'

A very disturbed Yudhisthira speaks with disappointment, anger and shows his frustration. He implies that Arjuna, afraid to fight Karna, has run away from the battle and ridicules him. Tells him to give his Gandiva bow to Krishna. Arjuna is very upset, thinks he is unfairly and unnecessarily criticised by his brother. His hand automatically goes to the hilt of his sword! But Krishna intervenes and brings them back to their senses. Both repent their actions and Yudhisthira embraces his younger brother and blesses him.

Arjuna promises, 'Elder Brother! I will go now and confront Karna and kill him'. On the way back, Arjuna starts sweating worried about the outcome of that day's war. Krishna notices his worried look and asks. 'Gandivi! Why are you looking so listless! Those you have defeated so far,\are not ordinary warriors! Is there anyone else who could face Bheeshma and Drona and come back alive? Even then I have to tell you something important. Do not belittle Karna, he is equal to you! In some ways he is even superior. It is because of him Duryodhana is strong. He has a high regard for kauravas and equally hates pandavas. Hence, you have to fight with all your might! I also believe that apart from you even devatas cannot kill him. Destroy him and please Yudhisthira.'

Arjuna returns and joins Bheema, Satyaki and others who are fighting Karna. Both sides have lost many warriors. The battle ground is filled with those dead and dying, broken chariots, dead horses and elephants are seen everywhere. The scene is as if river वैतरणी  (river that flows between earth and hell) flows there and it is terrifying. The battle field has become uneven and become difficult to move. In this condition, kauravas concentrate on Bheema and he is in danger. Arjuna comes to his rescue and scatters the army which is surrounding him. Arjuna then informs Bheema about Yudhisthira's well being and they fight together supporting each other.

Kaurava army retreats unable to face the onslaught of Arjuna. Karna comes forward and engages Shatanika, Sutasoma, Dhrishtadhyumna and the rest in a combat. Satyaki kills Karna's son Sushena. In reply Karna kills Dhrishtadyumna's son. It is now Krishna who gets worried and says 'At this rate no one  will be left amongst us. We must kill Karna quickly!' and moves Arjuna's chariot towards Karna.

It is apparent that both sides are tired of the war as the carnage mounts. I guess they moved the dead and the wounded men. Wonder how they managed  the dead animals! Especially the dead elephants!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

It is the 17th day of the war. War lasted just 18 days! Mahabharata 158

The moment Duryodhana agrees to Shalya's conditions, Karna's chariot is made ready. Shalya climbs up in the front and Karna occupies the rear. Duryodhana speaks to Karna, 'I had thought that Bheeshma and Drona, the great warriors, would kill Bheema and Arjuna, but it is now for you to perform this  heroic task. Capture Yudhisthira, if not kill Bheema and Ajuna and destroy the pamdava army. Come back victorious and good luck to you!'

The chariot moves forward to sounds of instrumental music. As it moves the earth shakes, meteors fall, fires are visible at the end of the horizon, fierce winds blow, birds and animals come from inauspicious directions, horses stumble, flags flutter. In spite of such inauspicious portents, kaurava kings make way for the chariot with shouts of victory!

As they near the pandavas formation, Shalya observes,  'Karna! Can you hear the sound of Arjuna's chariot wheels? Can you see his flag? He is on his way to fight the volunteers again! He is fighting valiantly.'  Karna visibly annoyed replies, 'Yes! I see that surrounded by angry warriors, he has disappeared like the sun behind the clouds!' Shalya responds, 'If it pleases you can talk this way! But will anyone beat the rain god Varuna, make him fall by throwing water at him? Put out fire, agni, by using wood? Tie up Vayu, the air?  Or drink the ocean?  Even Devas and Asuras cannot beat Arjuna!'

They near the pandava army and the fight begins! Karna penetrates the enemy army and defeats Dharmaraja. Bheema comes forward and there is a fierce fight between the two and Bheema makes Karna unconscious and is about to kill him. Shalya reminds Bheema about Arjuna's vow to kill Karna, so Bheema spares Karna and reserves him for Arjuna! Shalya takes Karna away from the war field. Then kauravas attack Bheema with a vengeance and many of Duryodhana's brothers are killed in the fracas.  

Ashwatthama engages Arjuna, who is fighting with warriors, and is defeated. In the meanwhile, Karna regains consciousness ,  manages to scatter the pandava army and renews his fight with Bheema. Meanwhile Arjuna hears that Yudhisthira is injured and is worried. He stops his fight and goes to the camp to check on his brother. Yudhithira is not seriously injured, but is hurt and is lying down on his bed. He is overjoyed to see Krishna and Arjuna. He mistakenly thinks that they have come to tell him about Karna's death and starts complimenting them.

Blogging again after taking a break.  Actually it was tiring to read about the constant killings! In fact, it is the seventeenth day of the war and the conflict seems very desperate and  it is just an eighteen-day war!

Compare this with second world war. It began with the invasion of Poland to the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 Hitler invades Poland on 1 September, 1939. Britain and France declare war on Germany two days later. Germany surrendered unconditionally on 7 May, 1945 and the following day was celebrated as VE (Victory in Europe) day

...... on 6 August, 1945 one of the atom bombs  was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later another was dropped on Nagasaki.... and the Japanese surrendered on 14 August, 1945. Totally it lasted about 120.6  times longer than the Mahabharata war!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Karna Parava. Mahabharata 157

It is early in the morning on the seventeenth day of the war. Karna goes to meet Duryodhana, 'Today I will fight with Arjuna and kill him, if not Arjuna will kill me.  I was too pre-occupied yesterday and  could not focus on Arjuna. You must also know that I am superior to Arjuna as an archer in my virtuosity, dexterity, swiftness, skill, defence, bravery, knowledge and courage. His bow Ghandiva is not equal to my bow. This bow was made by Vishwakarma specially for Indra. He gave it to Parusharama after destroying the Asuras and Parusharama used this bow and won twenty one expeditions on earth. And it is now with me.'

'I must also tell you where I lack when compared to Arjuna. He has a chariot gifted to him by Agni. His horses are indestructible. Moreover he has Krishna as his charioteer and his quiver is inexhaustible. These are not with me. If I had a charioteer like Shalya, who knows the heart of horses like Krishna does and a chariot with good horses, loaded with arrows, I am sure to defeat Arjuna as I am much superior to him.'

Duryodhana then goes to Shalya and bows to him and speaks very politely, 'I have come to you with a request which will help us in destroying the pandavas and it is for my benefit. Earlier, in the times of burning Tripura, Brahma was the charioteer for Rudra, in the same way, you can protect us by becoming the charioteer of Karna.  If you take charge of Karna's chariot, he will defeat our enemies. Arjuna has Vasudeva as his charioteer, but Karna does not have one who is equal to Krishna. You are the only two remaining great warriors with us. Today Karna will fight Arjuna and he is confident of  defeating Arjuna if you become his charioteer! If you both enter the battlefield together, like Aruna and Surya, the kaunteyas and panchalas will disappear like the darkness from the place.'    

Shalya is shocked by this request, his eye brows come together in anger and his eyes turn red! 'Maharaja! It is not right to ask me to do this. How can I be a charioteer to a person of lower status! I am a crowned King and born to a family of Rajarshis. How can I be charioteer to a Sutaputra? You talk as if he is a better warrior than me, but I do not consider him even to equal to me. If you want, I will face the greatest warrior of our enemies or I will confront them all by myself. Only then will you know my ability. Asking me to be a charioteer to a suta is an insult. After such an insult, I do not want to fight anymore. I want to go back to my city, permit me to do so.'

Duryodhana stops Shalya with a show of respect and love, speaks to him softly and agrees with whatever he has to say. Then tells him, 'Karna or others, none is better than you. But Karna is better than Arjuna and you are better than Vasudeva, If Karna is better than Arjuna in his skills as an archer, you are better than Krishna in both, you are better than him with the horses and you are stronger!' Thus pacified, Shalya agrees to stay on. On one condition, 'I will speak anything that comes to my mind and no one should object to that. Duryodhana agrees.

Obviously  Karna, unaware of the promise Shalya had made to Yudhisthira earlier, invites trouble on himself. I guess most of us have this type of experience. We get into trouble, in spite of some inner warnings, and blame luck!

Karna is surely a victim of fate as he is not even aware of the understanding between Yudhisthira and Shalya. That Shalya will try to demoralise Karna in case he is invited to take charge of Karna's chariot.


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

It is Karna's honor to lead the kauravas. Mahabharata 156

The night Drona died, Duryodhana consults his commanders about the future. Ashwatthama suggests that Karna be appointed as chief of the kaurava army.  Duryodhana agrees and speaks to Karna 'I know of your valor and the love and affection you have for me.  Great warriors Bhishma and Drona who commanded our army are no more.  Now I want you to be the chief. You are stronger than them and you are not old! In addition, they were partial to Arjuna. I honored them as chiefs as per your wish. If anyone can give me victory, it is you, there is no doubt about it. Once you enter the battlefield, pandavas and panchalas tremble.

Karna accepts gladly and the next morning he adapts the Alligator formation and positions himself in the mouth. The eyes are occupied by Sakuni and Uluka  and Duryodhana is in the middle of the formation. Arjuna chooses the half-moon shape,  Bheema and Dhristadhyumna are at either end and Dharmaraja and Arjuna are in the middle. 

The war begins to the sound of conchs and drums. Bheema kills Khsemadoorthy, Satyaki takes care of Vindanuvinda. Bheema and Ashwatthama then confront each other and as both faint in the conflict, they are taken away by their charioteers. Nakula is defeated by Karna and is driven away by Karna as he does not want to kill him. There were huge losses on both sides due to power and bravery of both Arjuna and Karna. Soon the sun sets and kauravas get back to their camps as they are afraid of more losses. Pandavas think that the day belongs to them.

Karna meets Duryodhana in the camp later and shows he is very upset. 'Arjuna no doubt is very skilled and is full of courage, more than that he has Krishna as his charioteer. He is cautioned by Krishna time and again, hence we could not make much headway today'. He consoles Duryodhna with, 'I will see that none of his plans work tomorrow!'