Sunday, June 25, 2017

33. After the Escape

The citizens of Varanavata, after discovering the dead body of a woman, (presumably) her five sons and of another man, concluded that the bodies were that of Pandavas, her mother and Purochana. They conveyed the news of the death of Kunti and her sons to King Dhritarashtra.

Dhitarashtra, on hearing the news, felt grieved and wept uncontrollably. He then directed that men be sent to Varanavata  to perform the funeral rites of Kunti and her sons in ways befitting their royal status. He himself performed the rites, as ordained by custom. The citizens of Hastinapura also felt grieved by the loss and many of them wept. One person who did not cry much was Vidura, who knew that the Pandavas were alive.

After having made their escape from the house of wax  (lakshagriha, as it is called in Sanskrit), the Pandavas, with their mother, were wandering for a while in the forest with a view to hiding themselves from others. Bhima, with his strength was able to cut through the trees and make a path for their movement.

Soon, they were met by a person sent by Vidura, who had been able to estimate the whereabouts of the Pandavas by studying the geography of the place. He told them, “I will repeat the words of Vidura to convince you that I had, in fact, been sent by Vidura. ‘That which consumes the straw and the wood and dries the due won’t burn the inmates of a hole.’”

He also repeated a few other messages conveyed by Vidura to Udhishtira in a secret language to Yudhishtira.

Yudhishtira was convinced that the man was sent by Vidura. This person took Kunti and her sons to a place on the banks of the river Ganga where a boat fitted with engines was stationed.

Using the boat, he ferried the Pandavas and their mother to the other side of the Ganga. He then uttered the word ‘jaya,’ meaning victory, and took leave of them. The Pandavas also sent a message to Vidura through him and began to move secretly.

The Pandavas, with her mother, kept moving through the thick forests, swimming through water at some places. Bhima carried Kunti on his shoulders, most of the time. 

After walking a long distance, the Pandavas felt fatigued and thirsty. Kunti was unable to bear her thirst anymore and lamented at her plight in spite of being the mother of the Pandavas.

Bhima set out to bring some water. After walking a distance of about four miles, he found a lake. He washed himself in the lake, drank some water and took some water to his mother and brothers by soaking his upper garments in water.

When he reached the place where he had left his mother and brothers, he found them sleeping on the ground.  He thought, ‘These people who could not sleep on the soft cushions at Varanavata are sleeping on the bare ground!!  My mother, the daughter of King Kuntiboja, the daughter in law of Emperor Vichitraveerya, the sister of  Krishna, the destroyer of foes, the wife of  the illustrious Pandu, and the mother of five valiant men was used to sleep on the most comfortable luxurious beds but is now sleeping on the ground in a forest. Can there be a more painful sight?

‘This has happened to us after our  escaping from the wicked plans of the sons of Dhritarashtra. These wicked men are alive only because Yudhishtira has not commanded me to take their lives. Otherwise, I would have sent Duryodhana, along with his brothers, Karna and Sakuni to the region of Yama (Plutoi.’

Bhima then said to himself, ‘I think there is a town nearby. I will wait till they wake up from sleep. After they quench their thirst, we will go in search of that town, where we will be able to take up residence.’

Thursday, June 22, 2017

32. The Escape

On learning about the arrival of the Pandavas to their city, the people of Varanavata gave them a rousing welcome. They received the Pandavas by performing the auspicious rituals and by presenting them with garlands, flowers and other gifts. Standing in their midst, Yudhishtira shone like Indra, the king of the celestials.

The Pandavas, with their mother, visited the houses of the officials of the town, the leading citizens and even the poor people by way of honouring them by accepting their invitation.

After about ten days, Purochana met the Pandavas and invited them to reside in the mansion he had erected for them .Accepting his invitation, the Pandavas, with their mother, accompanied Purochana to the mansion. Purochana put them up in the mansion and made them settle down there comfortably.
Kunti and their sons began to live in the palace, well attended to by Purochana and adored by the people of Varanavata.

Yudhishtira, on inspecting the house, smelled the scent of fat mixed with butter and lac. He told Bhima, “Bhima! This house has been built using inflammable materials like hemp, resin, straw, wood and bamboos soaked in butter and mixed with lac. The wicked Purochana, acting at the behest of Duryodhana, is planning to burn all of us alive. Our uncle Vidura has sensed this plan and warned me of the danger, in a subtle way.“

Hearing this Bhima said, “If you think that this house is inflammable, will it not be better for us to leave this house immediately and stay at  some other place?”

Yudhishtira replied, “It will be a better strategy for us to continue to remain here acting unsuspicious, while remaining vigilant and quietly looking for an escape route. If Purochana suspects that we are aware of his designs, he may hasten his plan and burn us to death immediately.

"If we flee from here, Duryodhana who has power and wealth at his command, will devise some other way to destroy us. Let us, therefore, live here, deceiving Purochana and his master Duryodhana. We will move about and explore this area, engaging ourselves in hunting. We should familiarize ourselves with various paths. We will also dig a subterranean passage from our chamber. If we follow this plan, fire will not consume us.”

After a few days, a man skilled in mining, sent by Vidura met Yudhishtira secretly and told him “I am sent by Vidura to render you any help you need. He told me that Purochana  would set fire to your house on the fourteenth night of Krishna Paksha (new moon phase). He gave you a message in a foreign language which  you acknowledged. I am mentioning this incident to prove my credentials.”

Yudhishtira replied, “Since you have proved your credentials, I accept you as a person sent by Vidura, who cares for us. This mansion has been built by Purochana, at the command of Duryodhana, using inflammatory materials. He plans to burn us to death. You can help us by structuring a secret path of escape.“

The miner, began to construct a subterranean  passage from the chamber in which the Pandavas slept. The excavation was done secretly ensuring that Purochana or his men won’t be able to sense it. The mouth of the passage was covered by wooden planks.

The Pandavas slept with arms in their hands, ready to confront any attack. During the day, they went out for hunting.

Thus, the Pandavas  were always on guard, while outwardly  trusting Purochana. They lived there for one year. Seeing them living with cheer and trust in him, Purochana was highly pleased.

Yudhishtira told Bhima and Arjuna  “The wicked Purochana has become complacent. It is time for us to leave this place. We will leave after setting fire to the house.”

The Pandavas arranged for a mass feasting. A number of people were fed.  A woman belonging to the Nishada caste, with her five sons,  came for the feast. She and her sons drank excessively and became intoxicated. They  lost their consciousness and lay down in the mansion falling into sleep.

In the night, there were heavy winds. Bhima   set fire  first to the entrance and then to the other parts of the mansion. Purochana, the Nishada woman and her five sons were sleeping in the mansion.when the fire was set.

The Pandavas, with her mother, escaped through the subterranean passage.

In the morning, after the entire mansion had been burnt, the residents of Varanavata visited the site and were appalled at the tragedy. They concluded that Purochana  had constructed the mansion using inflammable materials, made the Pandavas stay there and burnt them alive when they were sleeping, all under the instruction of Duryodhana and that he himself  got trapped inside inadvertently and was burnt to death. They cursed Duryodhana  for his wickedness, while also blaming Dritharashtra  for his failure to restrain Duryodhana.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

32. Vidura's Message

Duryodhana took steps to win over people to his side luring them with wealth and honours.

As directed by Dhritarashtra, some of his councillors talked about the town of Varanavata in the court of the king when the Pandavas were present. They described the splendour of the ensuing Pasupati festival. The Pandavas eventually became interested in visiting Varanavata.

After learning about the Pandava’s interest in visiting Varanavata, Dhritarashtra suggested to the Pandavas that they visit the town with their friends, witness the  festival, give donations to the Brahmins, the musicians etc, spend some time in the town and then return to Hastinapura.

Yudhishtira understood the motives of Dhritarashtra. Yet, he accepted the suggestion. He sought the blessings and wishes of Bhishma, Drona, Dhritarashtra,Vidura and others. The Pandavas received the blessings of the elders and the good wishes of their cousins, the Kauravas.

"The Pandavas, after performing the  propitiatory rites for obtaining their share of the kingdom, began to make preparations for their journey.

Duryodhna called a councilor by name Purochana and spoke to him in confidence: “I don’t trust anyone more than I trust you. I need your help to destroy my enemies using a clever scheme. Leave for Varanavata immediately along with your men, riding the fastest horses. Build a quadrangular house for the Pandavas to stay. The house should be built using inflammable materials like wood, resin, lac etc. But it should look like a normal house without arousing any suspicion. The people of Varanavata should not know anything about the materials used for constructing the house.

“Get the mansion ready before Pandavas would arrive there. When they arrive there, request them to stay there. Make their stay comfortable and take good care of them. After a few days, set fire to the house when they will be sleeping. All the Pandavas and their mother should be burnt alive in their sleep. But people should consider this to be an accident.”

Agreeing to act as instructed by Duryodana, Purochana left for Varanavata immediately.
The Pandavas departed for Varanavata. Vidura, some councillors and citizens accompanied them to some distance. Some of the citizens openly expressed their suspicion of the motive behind sending the Pandavas to Varanavata. They deprecated the wickedness of Duryodhana and the complicity of Dhritarshtra,

After some distance, Yudhishtira sent the citizens back after telling them “The king is our father and spiritual guide. We should respect him. It is our duty to carry out his wishes. I am grateful to you for your goodwill. If you want to do anything to us, you can do it when the time comes. Please return to your homes.”

After the citizens had departed, Vidura spoke to Yudhishtira in a language that only Yudhishtira could understand. “He who knows the plans of his enemies should act in ways to avoid danger. He who knows that there are sharp weapons not made of steel but capable of cutting through the body and possesses the knowledge to ward them off, can never be hurt by his enemies.

“He protects himself by knowing that  neither the consumer of straw and wood nor the drier of the dew can burn the inmates of a hole in the deep woods. He can escape from fire by making his abode like that of a jackal, with many outlets.  A man acquires knowledge by wandering. By looking at the stars, he can find the direction. One who keeps his five senses under control can never be put down by his enemies.”

Yudhishtira replied, “I have understood your message.”

Vidura then went back to Hastinapura.

Kunti asked Yudhishtira, “Vidura spoke to you in a language we couldn’t understand. Your reply was also terse. Please tell us what he conveyed to you.”

Yudhishtira said, “Vidura told me that the mansion we would be staying in at Varanavata is built of inflammable materials. He also said  'The path of escape is not unknown to you. Those who can control their senses can conquer the world.’ I replied that I understood his message."

Saturday, June 17, 2017

30. Duryodhana convinces his father to act against the Pandavas

Duryodhana became jealous of the accomplishments of Bhima and Arjuna.  He, in consultation with his brother  Duschasana, his uncle Sakuni and his friend Karna devised various plans to kill the Pandavas. But the Pandavas came unscathed from all these attempts. In deference to the counsel of Vidura, they didn’t  mention these attempts to anyone.

The citizens of the country, after  hearing about the accomplishments of the Pandavas and after observing the way they conducted themselves, began to speak highly of them at public places. Opinions were expressed in courtyards and other places of gathering that Yudhishtira possessed the qualifications to become the king.

The citizens felt that since Dhritarashtra was already considered not fit to be the king because of his visual handicap and Pandu was chosen the king, he could not become the king now.  With Bhishma having opted out long time back, they felt that installing Yudhishtira as the king was the right thing to do. Since Yudhishtira was truthful, kind, well accomplished in battle and well versed in Vedas and was respectful towards Bhishma and Dhritarashtra, he would  take proper care of  Bhishma, Dhritarashtra and his sons, they averred.

When these views reached Duryodhana’s ears, he became even more distressed.  Burning with jealousy, he went to his father and conveyed to him what he had heard. He pointed out that the citizens' stand was highly unfair to Dhritarashtra and his sons. He said that if this proposal was accepted, the kingdom would pass on only to Pandu’s descendants. “Being the eldest son, you should have become the king and if this had happened, we would have inherited the throne. But this did not happen because of your blindness. We and our children will be kept out of the royal line. We will have to depend on Pandu’s descendants even for food.  Please adopt a course that will save us from this perpetual distress,” he pleaded.

On hearing this, Dhritarashtra became upset, Fearing that his sons and their offspring would have to live a life of common people, despite his being a king. He thus  became inclined to consider plans for preventing  this from happening.

Duryodhana in consultation with his brother Duhsasana, uncle Sakuni  and friend Karna, devised a plan to kill the Pandavas and their mother.

Duryodhana went to Dhritarashtra and told him “Oh father, If, by some means, you can send the Pandavas to the town of Varanavata, then we need not have any fear of them.”

Dhritarashtra, after reflecting for a moment, replied, “Duryodhana! My brother Pandu was a man of virtues. He didn’t care for the pleasures of the world. He was devoted to all his relatives, particularly to me. He even gave me the kingdom that was bestowed on him. His son Yudhishtira is just like his father in being virtuous and in his devotion to me. He is also adored by the people and he has strong allies. So, how can we force him out of his ancestral kingdom? The ministers, counselors, the generals, the soldiers and others  were well maintained by Pandu. They will all support only the Pandavas. The citizens will kill all of us if we cause any harm to the Pandavas.”

Duryodhana replied, “What you say is true. But we have the power and the wealth. We can appease people by bestowing wealth and honour on them. The ministers and counsellors will stick with us since we have the power. We only have to send the Pandavas to Varanavata, through some gentle means. Once they are out, you can make me the king. After sovereignty is vested in me, Kunti and her sons can be asked to come back.”

Dhritarashtra said, “Duyodhana! I have also thought on these lines. But the sinfulness of this proposal has deterred me. Bhishma, Drona and others will never consent to the idea of sending the Pandavas out of this country. They consider us and the Pandavas equal. If we do such injustice to the Pandavas, we will  incur their wrath.”

Duryodhana replied, “Father! Bhishma will be neutral. Drona’s son Aswathaman is on my side. Drona will be on the same side as his son. Kripa will also go with his nephew Aswaththaman. Vidura has his sympathies with the Pandavas. But since he is dependent on us, he cannot act against us. So, go ahead and send the Pandavas to Varanavata.  That is the only way you can extinguish the grief that has been burning within me.”

Dhritarashtra began to relent.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

29. The Brahmastra

One year after the public demonstration of their talents by the princes, Dhritarashtra installed Yudhishtira  as the heir-apparent of the kingdom. Yudhishtira, within a short time, earned the goodwill of the people through his admirable manners, good behaviur and righteous attitude. He even overshadowed his father, the late Pandu.

Bhima continued his education in the skill of using the mace and the chariot from Balarama, Krishna’s elder brother, as did Duryodhana.

Arjuna  received acclamation for his sklilful use of weapons  having attained unrivaled proficiency in  the firmness of his grasp of the weapons, lightness of motion,  accuracy of aim etc. Drona declared that there was none in the world who could equal Arjuna in dexterity and proficiency in the use of any weapon, straight, curved or heavy.

Once in an assembly of  the kaurava ana Pandava princes (Though the title kaurava will include the Pandavas also, for differentiating between the sons of Dhritarashtra and the sons of Pandu, the term Kaurava is being used to denore the former and the term Pandavas to denote the latter), Drona told Arjuna “By undergoing severe austerity, I obtained the most powerful weapon Brahmastra from Agnivesa, a disciple of Agastya. This weapon is similar to the thunder in its impact and it has the power to consume the whole earth. Once released, it will never become futile.  While imparting this powerful weapon to me, my preceptor had ordained that this should never be used on any human being especially on one on. This weapon should pass from one to his disciple. I am imparting this weapon to you by virtue of you being my most deserving disciple. I ask you to give me the preceptor's  fee (Gurudakshina) in the presence of your brothers, cousins and other relatives.”

Arjuna said that he would give whatever fee that was demanded by his  Guru. . Drona said, “You should fight with me when I fight with you.”

Arjuna pledged his word to do  so and touched Drona’s feet.

Nakula  became an accomplished chariot warrior (Ati-Ratha)

Sahadeva  learnt the Science of Morality, Virtues and Duties from Brihaspati, the Guru of the Devas (the Celestials).

Arjuna and his brothers conquered several powerful kings. These included Sauvira who had performed a sacrifice for three years, undaunted  by the attacks by the Gandharvas to disrupt the sacrifice, the king of the Yuvanas, whom even the powerful Pandu  could not defeat and Vipula, the king of Sauviras, a long time foe of the Kuru kingdom.

Arjuna, assisted by Bhima, overpowered all the kings of the East who were backed by ten thousand chariots. He also conquered the whole of the South.

Arjuna, with the help of his brothers, thus, extended the boundaries of the Kuru kingdom.

King Dhritarashtra, witnessing the prowess of the sons of Padu, began to develop a feeling of animosity towards them, his sentiments having become poisoned by his affection towards his own sons. He could not even sleep peacefully.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

28. Arjuna has a Rival!

When Drona was teaching martial arts to the Kaurava princes, princes from many countries flocked to him. One of them was Ekalavya, son of Hiranyadhanus, King of the Nishadas. Since the Nishadas were of a mixed race, they were considered to be of a lower order in the social hierarchy. Therefore, Drona expressed his inability to accept Ekalavya as his pupil, in keeping with the conventions observed at that time.

Ekalavya took leave of Drona after paying  obeisance to him by touching Drona's feet. He went back to his place in the woods. He made a clay image of Drona and began to practice archery in front of the statue.

As a result of his abiding faith, deep devotion, sustained focus and persistent efforts, Ekalavya was soon able to acquire a high level of skill in archery. His skills in all the three areas viz, fixing the arrow on the bowstring, aiming the arrow and releasing it at the right moment were outstanding.

Once, the Pandava and the Kaurava princes went on a hunting expedition. They took along a dog for helping them in hunting. The dog strayed away and came to the place where Ekalavya was stationed.

Looking at Ekalavya, the dog began to bark, considering him to be an undesirable person. Ekalavya
sent seven arrows into the mouth of the dog with a view to silencing the dog. The dog returned to the camp of the princes, with the arrows embedded in its mouth.

The princes were amazed by the skill of the person who had sent the arrows into the mouth of the dog. They went in search of him. When they found Ekalavya, they asked him who he was. Ekalavya introduced himself as the son of the Nishada King Hiranyadhamus and as a pupil of Drona.

The Pandavas returned to the palace and told Drona about the extraordinary skill in archery displayed by Ekalavya. When Arjuna was alone with Drona, he asked him "You told me that no disciple of you would be equal to me. How is it that Ekalavya has superior to me in skill?"

Drona reflected on the question posed by Arjuna. He momentarily decided upon the course of action. He went to Ekalavya, taking Arjuna along with him..

After spotting Drona from a distance, Ekalavya ran towards him and fell at his feet. Drona told him, "Oh, King of Nishada, if you are a disciple of me as claimed by you, should you not offer me the Gurudakshina (remuneration payable by a student to the teacher)?"

Ekalavya replied, "You are my teacher. Please tell me what Gurudakshina I should give you. I will offer whatever is desired by you."

Drona said, "Please give me the thumb of your right hand. That is the Gurudakshina I seek from you."

Ekalavya cut off his right thumb without even a moment of hesitation and offered it to Drona.
with a cheerful face.

After this, Ekalavya tried to fix an arrow on his bow using the remaining four thumbs and aim at a target. He found that he had lost his dexterity. Arjuna was relieved that the only person in the world who was superior to him in skill had the skill taken away from him.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

27. Drona Humbles Drupada

Drona decided that the time had come for him to seek his fee (Gurudhakshina) from the princes. After assembling them together, he told them,“Defeat Drupada, the King of Panchala in  battle and bring him to me. This will be the Gurudhakshina (offering to the preceptor) that will satisfy me the most.”

The Kuru princes marched to Panchala with their army and laid siege to the capital of Panchala. The troops were led by Duryodhana, his brothers and Karna. Hearing the loud noises, Drupada came out of the palace. The Kuru army assailed  Drupada by pounding him with a shower of arrows but conquering him was not easy.

Meanwhile, learning about Duryodhana’s marching to Panchala, Arjuna told Drona that he and his brothers would act after the Kuru army returned. He waited outside the Panchala capital. Drupda, fighting from his chariot attacked the Kurus fiercely. He struck Duryodhana, his brothers and Karna with his arrows. Enthused by their king’s valor, the citizens also joined the battle against the Kurus.

King Drupada, with his arrows, smote Duryodhana and Vikarna and even the mighty Karna and many other heroic princes and numberless warriors, and slaked their thirst for battle. Then all the citizens showered upon the Kurus various missiles like clouds showering rain-drops upon the earth. Young and old, they all rushed to battle, assailing the Kurus with vigour. The Kauravas, unable to withstand the onslaught fled to the place where the Pandavas were camping. They came running, wailing all the way.

Hearing the terrible wail of the beaten Kurus, the Pandavas marched to the battle site after saluting Drona and receiving his blessings. Arjuna asked Yudhishtira not to engage in the fight and asked Nakula and Sahadeva to stand guard near Yudhishtira's chariot. Bhima ran ahead holding his mace in hand. Like a fish jumping into water, he plunged into the battle field. He rushed towards the elephants and killed them with his mace. Arjuna attacked the army with weapons. The Pandava army brought down thousands of elephants, horses and chariots.

Arjuna then fought with Drupada  and made him fall off the elephant he was riding. The battle became furious. People who watched Arjuna could not perceive any interval between the time he began to fix the arrow on the string of his bow and the time the arrow left the bow.  Satyajit, the General of Drupada’s army, who initially offered stiff resistance to Arjuna, gave up after Arjuna destroyed his chariot and bow.

Seeing that his general was discomfited, Drupada began to shower his arrows on Arjuna. But very soon Arjuna  pierced his horses and the charioteer with arrows. Then he got down from his chariot and confronted Drupada with his sword. Soon, the Panchala troops ran away in all directions.

Arjuna then took Drupada captive. Seeing Arjuna coming with Drupada, the Pandava forces began to attack Drupada’s capital. Arjuna told Bhima, “Drupada is a relative of the Kurus. Therefore, let us not kill his soldiers. Let us only offer Drupada to our preceptor.”

The Pandavas took Drupada and his counselors along with them and reached the abode of Drona. They offered Drupada to their preceptor.

Looking at the humiliated Drupada, Drona said, “Your kingdom has been captured by me. But I have spared your life. I still consider you a friend. Therefore, I am granting you a boon even without your asking for it. I will return half of your kingdom to you. You told me earlier that only a king can be the friend of a king. So, I retain half of your kingdom so as to qualify myself to be your friend! You will be the king of the territory lying on the southern side of the river Bhagirathi, while I will be the king of all the territory lying  on the northern side of that river. So, if it pleases you, you can be my friend."

Drupada said, "You are a person of noble soul and great prowess. Therefore, I am not surprised by what you have done. I feel gratified by your words.  I desire your eternal friendship.”

After this, Drona released Drupada from captivity and bestowed on him half of his kingdom, duly performing the customary rites.

After this, Drupada began to reside in the city of Kampilya within the province of Makandi on the banks of the Ganga. His kingdom comprised only the Southern Panchala up to the bank of the Charmanwati river. He was a sad man, always tormented by the humiliation meted out to him by Drona. He realized that he could not defeat Drona by his might alone. He began to wander over the whole earth to find out the means of obtaining a son who would subjugate Drona.

Drona began to reside in Ahicchatra, the territory obtained by Arjuna, and offered to him.