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.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

26. Karna throws a challenge

After Drona was satisfied that the Kaurava and the Pandava princes had become accomplished in the use of arms, he went to Dritharashtra and told him that the princes had completed their education and that it was time for them to show their proficiency. Bhishma, Vidura, Vyasa , Kripa and others were present at that time.  Dritharashtra felt very happy on hearing this and praised Drona for accomplishing a great deed by educating the princes. He felt sorry that he could not witness the feats that would be performed by his sons and others. He then asked Vidura to arrange for the function in consultation with Drona.

Drona chose a piece of land devoid of trees for holding the demonstration. He also chose an auspicious day and offered a sacrifice to God in the presence of a vast crowd. After this, skilled artisans built a large stage as per the specifications prescribed by the scriptures. They also built a large hall for the lady spectators.

"When the day fixed for the Tournament came, the king accompanied by his ministers, Bhishma and Kripa arrived at the arena. Gandhari, Kunti, and the other royal ladies were also present. The public also attended the function in large numbers. The presence of  a vast gathering and  the reverberating sounds of trumpets and drums made the  vast concourse appear like an agitated ocean.

At the appointed time, Drona dressed in white arrived at the place along with his son Aswathama.  It appeared as if the Moon himself accompanied by the planet Mars appeared on a clear sky. Drona performed a formal worship of God. This was followed by the Brahmins reciting the Vedic hymns and performing the rites. After this, several  musical instruments were played. After these formalities were over, the princes headed by Yudhishtira entered in the order of age and began to show their spectacular skills in the use of their weapons. Some of the spectators lowered their heads, apprehending fall of arrows while others fearlessly gazed on with wonder.

After demonstrating their skills  in the use of bows and arrows and in hitting the targets by sitting on horsebacks and  chariots, the mighty warriors began to show their prowess in the use of  swords and bucklers.The spectators were amazed by  their agility, the symmetry of their bodies, their grace, their calmness, the firmness of their grasp and their deftness in the use of the weapons.

Then Bhima  and Duryodhana entered the arena, mace in hand, like two mountains.  These two mighty warriors, summoning all their energy, roared like two furious elephants. The spectators  began to take sides, some supporting Bhima and others supporting Duryodhana and shouted hailing their heroes.

Sensing the polarized atmosphere and the tension that was building up, Drona asked Awathama to restrain both the warriors lest the spectators should become emotionally surcharged. After Awathama restrained the two heroes, Drona himself entered the arena. He asked the musicians to stop playing their instruments and told the crowd “Behold Arjuna who is dearer to me than my own son. Arjuna, who is the son of Indra  and who is  like a younger brother of Vishnu, is  the master of all arms.“ Thus introduced, Arjuna entered  the arena  with gloves in his hands, his quiver full of arrows and his bow.

On seeing Arjuna, the crowd erupted with cries and slogans hailing him.  Conches were blown even as the play of musical instruments was resumed. Slogans like 'This is the graceful son of Kunti!' 'This is the son of the mighty Indra!' 'This is the protector of the Kurus' 'This is the foremost of those versed in arms!''This is the foremost of all cherishers of virtue!' 'This is the foremost of the persons of correct behaviour, the great repository of the knowledge of manners!'  etc.  On hearing these, tears of joy rolled down  from Kunti's eyes. Dhritarashtra, hearing the uproar, asked Vidura “What is  the reason for the great uproar  resembling the sound of  the troubled ocean rising up to the heavens?”
Vidura replied “O mighty King, Arjuna has just entered the arena. Hence the uproar.”
 Dhritarashtra said, “I feel blessed, favoured and protected!"

Arjuna displayed his prowess by creating water using the Varuna weapon, creating air using the Vayavya weapon, creating clouds by using the  Parjanya weapon, creating  land using the Bhauma weapon and creating mountains using the Parvatya weapon, He then made all these disappear by the use of the Antardhana weapon. He was so agile that he appeared tall one moment and short the next moment. He was on the yoke of his chariot and was instantly seen on the chariot itself. And in no time he was on the ground. He displayed his skill with the bow, the sword and the mace  by performing various feats.

After  the performances by the princes were completed and the musical instruments went into silence, the spectators heard, from the gate, the sound of the slapping of arms, conveying might and strength. Karna entered the arena through the gate, with the spectators making way for him.  His energy was like that of a lion, a bull or the head of a herd of elephants. In splendour, he resembled the Sun, in loveliness, the Moon, and in energy, the fire. He was tall in stature like a golden palm tree. He was handsome and had the vigor of the youth.  With his eyes surveying the arena, he bowed indifferently to Drona and Kripa.  The entire crowd stood motionless watching him with a steady gaze and wondering who he was

Karna spoke to Arjuna in a challenging tone “O Arjuna, I shall perform feats excelling the ones you have performed! Watching them, you will be amazed.”  

Hearing this, the spectators stood up all at once, as if pushed up from their seats by some device. Duryodhana was filled with delight, while Arjuna  became irritated, insulted by Karna’s words. With the permission of Drona, Karna performed all the feats performed by Arjuna.  

Duryodhana and  his brothers embraced Karna in joy and said, “'Welcome mighty warrior! I got you due to my good fortune. I and the kingdom of the Kurus are at your command.  

Kama replied, " I only long for your friendship. My wish is to have at least one combat with Arjuna."

Arjuna, enraged by Karna’s words told him “You will reach the destination, the unwelcome intruder and the uninvited talker reach. You will be slain by me.”

Karna replied, 'Arjuna, this arena is meant for all, not for you alone. What is the need for verbal exchanges which is an exercise of the weak? Speak through your arrows till I  strike off  your head today in front of the preceptor himself!”

Arjuna, after seeking  the permission of Drona, advanced for the combat. Karna took up his bow and arrows and stood ready for the fight. The sky became  enveloped in clouds emitting flashes of lightning, and the coloured bow of Indra (the rainbow) appeared shedding its effulgent rays. Seeing that  Indra  was viewing the arena out of affection for his son Arjuna, the Sun dispersed the clouds from the part of the sky above his own offspring Karna.  Arjuna  stood under cover of the clouds, while Karna stood  being surrounded by the rays of the Sun.

Duryodhana  stood by Karna while Drona,  Kripa and Bhishma stood beside Arjuna. The spectators were divided in their support. Kunti, realizing that her two sons are about to be engaged in a deadly combat, swooned. Vidura brought her to consciousness by asking her female attendants to sprinkle sandal paste and water on her face. Kunti looked at her two sons with apprehension but felt helpless.

Kripa, who knew the rules about duels, told Karna “This Pandava who is the youngest son of Kunti, belongs to the Kaurava race. He will engage in combat with you. But, you too must tell us your lineage, the names of your father and mother and the royal line to which you belong. Sons of kings never fight with men of inglorious lineage.”

Hearing Kripa’s words, Karna’s face became crestfallen. 

Immediately, Duryodhana said, "O preceptor, the  scriptures say that three classes of persons – persons of royal blood, heroes and those who lead armies - can lay claim to royalty. However, If Arjuna is unwilling to fight with one who is not a king, I will install Karna as the king of Anga."

Immediately, Duryodhana installed Karna as the king of Anga by seating him on a golden chair. Other formalities like the chanting of mantras by Brahmins were also complied with.  

Overwhelmed by  Duryodhana’s gesture, Karna said, “'O tiger among monarchs, what shall I give you in return for this precious gift you have given me? I will always act as per your bidding.”

Duryodhana told Karna, 'I eagerly wish for your friendship."

Karna replied,"So be it." And they embraced each other in joy.

After this,  Adhiratha, the charioteer and the foster father of Karna entered the arena, perspiring and trembling. Seeing him,  Karna left his bow and bowed down his head still wet with the water of inauguration. The charioteer embraced Karna. Witnessing this scene, Bhimas ridiculed Karna saying, “O son of a charioteer, you do  not deserve death in fight at the hands of Arjuna.  You should wield a whip befitting your race, not a bow.”

Thus addressed, Karna looked at the God of the day in the skies. 

Duryodhana, enraged by Bhima's words said, “'O Bhima, it does not befit you  to speak such words. Might is the cardinal virtue of a Kshatriya, and even a Kshatriya of inferior birth deserves to be fought with. People like Viswamitra  born in the Kashatriya racer have become Brahmins.  Our preceptor Drona was born in a water pot. Your own births are known to me. This prince among men deserves the sovereignty of the world, not of just Anga"

There arose a confused murmur among the spectators approving of Duryodhana's speech. 

Presently, the sun went down.  

Duryodhana took Karna's hand  and led him out of the arena. The Pandavas also, accompanied by Drona and Kripa and Bhishma, returned to their abodes.  The spectators also went away some supporting Arjuna, some Duryodhana and some Karna. 

Kunti felt relieved that the combat was averted. He was also pleased at Karna having been made the king of Anga.

Friday, July 15, 2016

25. Arjuna's Prowess

Arjuna was devoted to his Guru . Though Drona taught everyone the same way, Arjuna  excelled all others in skill. Drona was convinced that none of his other disciples could match Arjuna in skill in the use of arms. However, Drona  adopted a trick to teach his own son Aswatama more than what he thought others. He would ask all his disciples to fetch water from the river. While he gave narrow-mouthed vessels to others, he would give a broad-mouthed vessel to Aswathama so that he could fill it fast and return earlier than others. In that time, Drona would teach his son several superior methods of using weapons.

Arjuna discovered this and got his narrow-mouthed vessel filled quickly by using the Varuna Astra (weapon) and managed to return at the same time as did Aswathama. He was thus able to receive the additional lessons that Drona gave his son. Drona soon became the favorite student of his Guru. Drona once secretly instructed his cook not to give food to Arjuna in the dark. However, one night when Arjuna was taking his food, the lamp was snuffed out by the wind. Arjuna continued to eat in the dark. This experience gave him the idea that he could do things in the dark also by cultivating a habit. So, he began to practice his bow in the night. Hearing the vibration of the bowstring, Drona came to him, embraced him and said, “I will do everything to make you an archer for whom there will be no match in this world."

After this incident, Drona began to teach Arjuna to fight sitting on the horse back, on the elephant and on the chariot and to fight from the ground. He also taught him the use of the mace, the sword, the lance, the spear, and the dart. He also taught him the art of fighting many men at a time by using multiple weapons.

Among the other disciples of Drona , Duryodhana and Bhima became skilled in the use of the mace. These two, however, were always jealous of each other.  Aswathama excelled everyone  in the mysteries of the science of arms. Nakula and Sahadeva  became the best  in handling the sword. Yudhishtira surpassed everyone else as a car-warrior. Arjuna, apart from excelling in the use of  the bow, outshone every other disciple of Drona in intelligence, resourcefulness, strength, perseverance, devotion to the preceptor  and other aspects. Accomplished in the use of all weapons, Arjuna became the foremost of even the foremost of car warriors. Among  all the princes, Arjuna alone became an Atiratha (a car warrior capable of fighting at one time with sixty thousand foes). The sons of Dhritarashtra, finding that Bhima became endued with great strength and that Arjuna became accomplished in all arms, became very jealous of them.

One day Drona decided to test the accomplishment of his pupils. He had an artificial bird placed on the top of a tree and then called all his disciples. He told them, “Take your bows and aim at the bird. You should cut off the bird’s head with your arrow as soon as I give my command. I will give each of you a turn, one by one.”

He called Yudhishtira first.  “Do you see the bird on the top of the tree?” 

Yudhishtira said, “Yes, I do.”

Drona then asked him, “What do you see now, the tree, me or your brothers?”

Yudhishtira said, “'I see the tree, you, my brothers and the bird.”

 Drona repeated his question but got the same answer.

Drona, dissatisfied with Yudhishtira’s answer said, “Step aside You can’t hit the target.”

He then called Duryodhana, then his brothers, then Bhima and then all others, one by one. Everyone gave the same answer as did Yudhishtira. Drona asked every one to step aside, one by one.  

Finally Drona called Arjuna and gave him a similar command. When Arjuna stood aiming at the bird, Drona asked him, “Arjuna, what do you see, the bird there, the tree or me?”

 Arjuna replied, 'I see only the bird, not the tree, or you.”

Drona told him, “Describe the tree to me.”

 Arjuna said “I see only the head of the bird, not its body.”

On hearing these words of Arjuna, Drona felt that the hair on his body stood on end due to the delight experienced by him.

He then said, “Shoot.”

Arjuna let the arrow leave his bow instantly. The arrow struck the head of the bird on the tree and brought it down to the ground. Drona hugged Arjuna in admiration and delight.

On another occasion, Drona  went to the Ganges along with his pupils. When he was bathing n the river by submerging his body in water, an alligator seized him by the thigh. Though Drona was capable of freeing himself, he asked his students to kill the alligator and save him. Immediately after Drona called for help, Arjun  struck the alligator with five sharp arrows, while the other pupils stood watching helplessly, not knowing what to do.

Drona who was released from the clutches of the alligator after it was killed by Arjuna’s arrows was very much pleased with Arjuna’s alacrity and acumen. He then gave Arjuna the superior weapon Brahmastra. However he cautioned him against using it on any human being since the weapon had the potential to destroy the whole universe.  He then blessed Arjuna saying, “'None else in this world will ever become a superior bowman to you. You will never be vanquished by any foe. You will achieve great things.”     

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

24. Drona becomes the Teacher of the Kuru Princes

Drona came to Hastinapura and continued to live in Kripa's house, silently suffering his humiliation at the hands of Drupada. Even while Kripa was teaching the Kuru princes, Drona's son Aswathaman would, now and then, give the princes some lessons in the use of arms.

Once the princes were playing with a ball which fell into a well.  Their efforts to retrieve the ball did not bear fruit. At that time, they saw a lean Brahmin, dark in complexion coming that way. The princes went to him. That Brahmin, who was Drona teased them by saying that it was shameful that the princes belonging to the Bhrata race could not retrieve the ball. He said that he would throw his ring also in the well and retrieve both the ball and the ring, using just a blade of grass, if only the princes could offer him a dinner that evening.

Yudhishtira prayed to him that with Kripa's permission, Drona could get from them something that would last him for his entire life, rather than an evening dinner.

Drona threw his ring into the dry well. He showed the princes the blades of grass he was carrying in his hand and told them that he would empower those grasses with his Mantras, make one blade of grass pierce the ball, create a chain using a few more blades and then pull up the ball. bring up the ball. He did exactly that. He then pierced the ring by shooting an arrow from his bow and the bow returned to him with the ring.

Astonished by these feats, the princes wanted to know who he was and what they could do for him. Drona told the princes to describe his appearance and what he did to Bhishma, who would be able to identify him.

When the princes narrated their experience to Bhishma, he immediately recognised that it was Drona. He also thought that Drona would be the best teacher for the princes. He went to Drona and brought him to the palace. When he asked Drona how he came to reside in Hastinapura, Drona narrated his story. He said that after he was humiliated by Drupada, he came to the Kuru kingdom expecting to get intelligent and obedient disciples.

Bhishma requeted Drona to train the Kuru princes in the use of weapons. He provided  house for Drona and made arrangements for his comfortable stay. He then took his grandsons to Bhima and handed them over to him.

Drona told the princes even at the outset, "I have a purpose in  mind. Promise me that you will accomplish it for me after you become skilled in the use of arms.  While all other princes remained silent, Arjuna vowed  to fulfill his uru's desire. Drona embraced him with joy.

The Kuru princes remained silent. But Arjuna instantly vowed to accomplish the purpose of his Guru. Drona hugged Arjuna and shed tears of joy. Drona then taught the princes the use of many weapons including celestial weapons. Some other princes including the Vrishnis and the Andhakas and Karna, the adopted son of Radha were also taught by Drona along with the Kuru princes. Karna was jealous of Arjuna and had some brush with him quite often. He received support from Duryodhana, who had developed a hatred for the Pandavas right from his childhood days.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

23. Drona and Parasurama

As the princes were growing up, Bhishma wanted them to be trained in the art of warfare and in the use of arms. Looking out for the most outstanding teacher, Bhishma  chose Drona, the son of Saint Bharadwaja as the tutor for the Pandavas and the Kauravas.  Pleased with the reception given to him by Bhishma when he visited the palace on invitation, Drona accepted the assignment. He taught the princes all aspects relating to the use of arms. Both the Kauravas and the Pandavas became proficient in the use of all kinds of arms.

Prompted by Janamejaya, Sage Vysampayana  narrated the story of Dtona in detail.

Sage Bharadwaja was living at the source of the river Ganga, observing rigid vows. Once when he went to the river to perform his ablutions, he met Ghritachi, a celestial woman known as an Apsara. Seeing the beautiful woman emerging from the river after taking her bath, the sage was consumed with a burning desire. On seeing her clothes coming off her body, his vital fluid came out. The sage held it in a vessel called Drona. Eventually, Drona, the child, sprang out of the fluid preserved by the sage.  The child thus born studied the Vedas and other scriptures.  Bharadwaja taught his knowledge of arms to his illustrious disciple Agnivesa, who was born from fire. Agnivesa, in turn, taught the Science of Weapons to Drona.

King Prishata, a great friend of Bharadwaja had a son by name  Drupada.  Drupada, came to the hermitage of Bharadwaja to study under the sage. He was studying in the company of Drona and was also playing with him. When Prishata was dead, Drupada became the king of the northern Panchalas. At about this time, Bharadwaja also ascended to heaven.

Drona continued to reside in his father's hermitage, devoting himself to as ascetic way of life. As per the wishes expressed by his father before his death, Drona married Kripi, the daughter of Saradwat. A son was born to them. When he came into this world, the child neighed like the celestial horse Ucchaihsravas. Hearing that cry, a voice from the sky ordained that the child be named  Aswatthaman, meaning ‘the horse-voiced’. Drona, exhilarated by the birth of a son, continued to reside in that hermitage, devoting  himself to the study of the science of arms.

Drona came to know that the illustrious brahmin Parasurama, son of Jamadagnya, the foremost among all wielders of weapons, had expressed a desire to give away all his wealth to brahmins. Having heard of Parasurama's knowledge of arms and of his celestial weapons he possessed, Drona set his heart on getting them as well as  the knowledge of ethics and morals that Parasurama possessed.  

Drona, accompanied by his disciples set out for the Mahendra mountains, where he met Parasurama. After prostrating before Parasurama and  introducing himself  as  one born in the lineage of  Angiras,  Drona said, “I have sprung from Bharadwaja. But I have not entered the womb of any woman. I have come to you seeking your wealth.”

Parasurama said, “I welcome you. I have gifted all my wealth to brahmins. I have given the earth conquered by me to Sage Kashyapa. I have only my body and my weapons. I am willing to give you either my body or my weapons. Please indicate your choice.”

Drona said, “Please give me all your weapons along with the knowledge of hurling and recalling them.”

Parasurama gave all his weapons and the knowledge of using them to Drona. Drona then proceeded to the city of his friend Drupada.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

22. Kripa becomes the first teacher of the Kuru Princes

Sage Gautama had a son named Saradwat, who was born with arrows in hand. Saradwat had a keen aptitude for learning about the weapons. He acquired many weapons by means of the austerities through which students would acquire the knowledge of the Vedas.

Indra, the God of the celestials became afraid of Saradwat and sent a celestial damsel named Janapadi to entice Saradwat and distract him so that he would lose his concentration on learning. Seeing Janapadi appear before him clad only in a single piece of cloth, Saradwat was momentarily stunned. His bows and arrows slipped from his hands. Though his ascetic way of life enabled him to overcome the temptation, the feelings stirred up in him for a moment resulted in his semen falling on to a bush of weeds. He left the place quickly to avoid the damsel.

The semen that fell on the bush of weeds divided the bush into two parts and two children, twins, sprang from the two parts. The presence of the twins was noticed by a soldier accompanying King Santanu, who was in the forest on a hunting exercise. Seeing the deer skin and the bow and arrows abandoned near that place by Saradwat, the soldier thought that the twins should be the children of a sage. He took the children along with the deer skin, the bow and the arrows to King Santanu. Santanu took the children to his palace, performed the religious ceremonies prescribed and named them Kripa and Kripi.

Saradwat left his former abode but continued his study of  the Science of the Weapons by settling down at another place. Because of his insight developed through his spiritual pursuits, he became aware that his son and daughter were being brought up by Santanu. He went to Santanu, identified himself as the father of Kripa and Kripi and narrated to him what had happened. With Santanu's consent, he taught  Kripa the four branches of the Science of arms, and various other recondite subjects. As a result, within a short time, Kripa became an expert in the Science of Arms.

Dritarashtra wanted the Kauravas and the Pandavas to become well versed in the Science of Arms and other branches of knowledge. With Kripa's eminence having become widely known, he sent the princes to Kripa, after consulting with Bhishma. The Kauravas and Pandavas were well groomed by Kripa under whom many other princes also got trained.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

21. More Attempts by Duryodhana

In the meanwhile, the Kaurava and the Pandava princes set out for Hastinapura. On the way, the Pandavas noticed that Bhima was not with them. They wondered whether Bhima had left earlier. On reaching the palace, Yudhishtira enquired of his mother whether Bhima had returned. Kunti was alarmed that Bhima had not returned and advised her sons to look for Bhima.

Kunti then summoned Vidhura and conveyed to him the news of Bhima missing. She shared her suspicion that he might have been harmed by Duryodhana. Vidhura advised her not to accuse Duryodhana lest he should harm her other sons too! He consoled her saying that Vyasa had told him that all the Pandavas would have a long life.

It was only after seven days that Bhima woke up from his slumber. He felt refreshed after the sleep. He also realized that he felt very strong as a result of the nectar he had ingested. Seeing him awake, the Nagas cheered him saying, "Oh man of mighty arms, you have now acquired the might of a thousand elephants. Now, no one can vanquish you in a fight. Take bath in this holy water and return home. Your brothers and your mother may be worried about you."

Accordingly, Bhima took bath in that holy water wore the new clothes and flowers offered by the Nagas, ate the food offered by them and took leave of them. The Nagas lifted Bhima above the surface of the water and placed him in the garden where he had been sporting earlier.

Bhima rushed to Hastinapura and presented himself to his mother and brothers. All of them embraced him expressing their joy and relief. Bhima narrated to them the things that had happened to him. After listening to Bhima's story, Yudhishtira said, "Let us not talk about this to anyone. From now onwards, we should carefully protect one another."

Though shocked by Bhima's return, Duryodhana, in pursuit of his obsession, made another attempt on Bhima's life, by poisoning Bhima's food once again. However, Yuyutsu (Dhritarashtra's son by a Vaisya wife), a man of virtues, informed the Pandavas of this. Bhima consumed the poisoned food but the poison had no effect on him, his body having been conditioned by the nectar given by the Nagas.

Duryodhana was puzzled by the fact that the poison did not act on Bhima. He consulted his uncle Sakuni and friend Karna and tried several other ways to kill Bhima. However, all his attempts turned futile. Though all these designs were known to the Pandavas, they kept quiet in keeping with the advice given to them by Vidhura.

20. Duryodhana Attempts to Kill Bhima!

The Pandavas were brought to the palace after they had performed all purifying rites. They began to live in the palace along with the Kauravas. Whenever they were engaged in play or other activity with the sons of  Dhritarashtra, their supremacy was revealed. Bhima excelled the Kauravas in speed of action, in striking objects with accuracy of aim, in consuming food and in scattering food. He would also pull their hairs playfully and laugh when they cried out of pain. Sometimes, he would pull them by the hair and draw them along, causing injuries to their knees, heads or shoulders in the process. Sometimes, he would hold ten of them and drown them in water and release them only after they felt extremely suffocated. When a Kauravasclimbed up a tree for plucking fruits, Bhima would kick the tree with his foot, bringing down some fruits and the fruitplucker too!  Bhima tormented the Kauravas in many such childish ways but he had no malice towards them.

Having seen and experienced the might of Bhima, Duryodhana began to develop hostility and hatred towards Bhima. He decided to kill Bhima by devising a cunning scheme. He planned to throw Bhima into the river Ganga when the latter was asleep. He could then imprison Yudhishtira and Arjuna and rule the country, he thought!

Duryodhana selected a beautiful place called Pramanakoti on the banks of the Ganga and  built a palace for sporting in the water, The palace was named  'The Water Sport House.' Skilled cooks were engaged to prepare delicious food and facilities for a variety of entertainments were created. When the palace was ready for use, Duryodhana invited the Pandavas to visit the palace and sport at the spot. The unsuspecting Yudhishtira accepted the invitation and the Pandavas were taken to the palace.

The Pandavas were impressed by the elegance of the palace and the facilities provided there. Sitting down with the Kauravas, they began to enjoy the things provided for them. They became engaged in, play and exchanged morsels of food with one another. Meanwhile the wicked Duryodhana had mixed poison with a particular item of food and in a friendly way fed Bhima  with that poisoned food. After they had had their food, the sons of Dhritarashtra and Pandu together began to sport

After playing for sometime, the princes retired to the palace. Bhima on whom the poison had begun to act felt fatigued and lay down on the ground. Duryodhana, who was waiting for this moment,  tied him with chords and threw him into the water. Bhima sank down the river and reached the Naga kingdom. The snakes inhabiting the Naga kingdom which had fangs filled with virulent venom, bit him by thousands. The poison from the food fed to him by Duryodhana which had entered Bhima's blood was neutralised by the snake-poison.

"On regaining consciousness, Bhima burst his bands and pressed the snakes down. While some snakes were crushed to death, others fled and went to their King Vasuki and narrated their experience. Vasuki, along with other snakes, went to Bhima. One of the snakes named Aryaka, who was the grandfather of Kunti's father recognized Bhima and embraced him. Vasuki wanted to give Bhima a present since he was related t one of the snakes. Aryaka suggested that Bhima be permitted to drink the nectar stored in rasakundas (nectar-vessels) and thus acquire immeasurable strength. Vasuki told Bhima that the nectar in one vessel would give the strength of a thousand elephants and permitted Bhima to drink as much as he could. Bhima There is the strength of a thousand elephants in each one of those vessels. Let this prince drink as mucdrank the nectar contained in eight vessels. The serpents prepared a comfortable bed for him, on which Bhima lay down and relaxed.

Friday, March 25, 2016

19. The End of Satyavati

The  sages after consulting among themselves decided to take Kunti and the five sons of Pandu to Hastinapura and hand them over to Bhishma and Drhitarashtra, Accordingly, they left for Hastinapura taking Kunti, the Pandavas and the two dead bodies along with them.When the entourage arrived at Kurujangala (the western region of the Kuru kingdom), the ascetics sent word to Dhritarashtra and Bhishma through the gatekeepers. The citizens came out in large numbers, amazed at the sight of the large number of ascetics. After getting the message, Bishma, Dhritarashtra, Somadatta, Vidura, Duryodhana and his brothers also arrived at Kurujangala.

After the ascetics were duly received, extended appropriate hospitality and offered seats, the oldest of the ascetics narrated the events that took place in the forest. The substance of their message was this."After living a virtuous life and reviving the almost extinct line of his grandfather by making use of the boon grated to Kunti, Pandu departed from this world. His wife Madri ascended the funeral pyre of her husband and sacrificed her life. We have brought the unburnt portions of the two bodies. Appropriate rites could be performed for the departed souls."  The ascetics also presented the five children of Pandu and requested that they be received with due honor. After giving their message, the ascetics instantly vanished into thin air.

Dhritarashtra asked Vidura to make arrangements for performing the funeral ceremonies for Pandu and Madri and to liberally donate cattle, clothes, gems and other kinds of wealth to the poor and the needy. He also said, "Let us not lament the death of Pandu, who was a heroic king and who has left behind him five heroic sons equal to the celestials."

Vidura, in consultation with Bhishma, selected a suitable place and made arrangements for the funeral rites. The citizens, watching the remains of the dead bodies wailed in grief and said that they would follow their king by giving up their lives. The Pandavas lit the pyre and cremated the dead bodies. Seeing the bodies go up  in flames, Pandu's mother Ambalika cried "Oh my son!" and fell down unconscious. The wise Vidura and Bhishma also cried. So did Dhritarashtra.

Seeing the Pandavas sleep on the ground during the period of mourning, the citizens also renounced their beds and observed a 12-day mourning along with the Pandavas.

After the mourning period was over and all ceremonial functions were duly completed, the Pandavas returned to Hastinapura. The citizens of the Kuru kingdom continued to grieve over Pandu, who had been occupying a special place in their hearts due to his virtues, valor, simplicity and sacrifice.

Vyasa told his mother Satyavati, "Mother, our days of happiness are over. They have been succeeded by days of calamity. Sin is going up day by day. The Kaurava empire will no longer endure because many wrongs are going to be committed by the rulers. It will be better for you to retire to the forest and spend your time in devotion and yoga. You will save yourself from witnessing, in your old age, the annihilation of your race."

Accepting the counsel of her wise son, Satyavati retired to the forest along with her two daughters in law, after obtaining the consent of Bhishma and spent her time in contemplation of God. After some time, she ascended to heaven.

Friday, March 18, 2016

18. Pandu Invites His Death

After three sons were born to Kunti and hundred sons were born to Gandhari, Madri, Pandu's second wife told her husband " I feel grieved that unlike Kunti, I am childless.But I feel reluctant to seek this favor from Kunti. So, I feel that you should ask Kunti to fulfill my desire to have children."'

Pandu replied, 'O Madri, I have been thinking about this myself but I was reluctant to suggest this to you since I was not sure how you would receive the idea. Now that you have conveyed your desire to me, I will speak to Kunti. I am confident that she will not refuse to help you."

Pandu then asked Kunti to help Madri get children andgain the satisfaction of making her a mother. Kunti readily agreed to this. She told Madri, "Think of some celestial and you will get a child through him."

Madri  thought of the Aswini Devata, the Twin Gods of Health. The twins gave her two beautiful children Nakula and Sahadeva. At the time the children came out of their mother's womb, a celestial voice said, "In energy and beauty, these twins will surpass Aswini Devatas themselves."

After all the five children were born, they were blessed by the sages living in the mountains by performing the first rites of birth and bestowing appellations on them. The three sons of Kunti were called Yudhishtira, Bhimasena and Arjuna and the two sons of Madri Nakula and Sahadeva. The five sons born at an interval of one year after one another looked like an embodiment of a five year period.

Pandu was elated by looking at the five children of celestial beauty, abundant energy, great strength and prowess, The children were also loved by the sages and their wives living in the mountains.

After sometime, Pandu again approached Kunti at the behest of Madri. Kunti said, "When I gave her the formula for invoking it once, she managed to obtain two sons. She has deceived me. If I give her the formula again, she will end up having more children than me. This is the way of wicked women. I was a fool to have not used the formula to get two children at a time. I beseech you not to command me to give the formula to Madri once again. Let this be a boon granted to me by you."

As the five sons of Pandu were growing up in the forest, the sages' affection and admirationfor the children began to grow as well.

One day, in the season of spring, Pandu was wandering in the forest with his wife Madri. They witnessed several species of animals and birds engaged in mating, with their passions stirred up by the spring season. Pandu felt the  desire to unite with his wife. Overpowered by this desire, he embraced Madri. Though Madri, apprehensive of the effect of the sage's curse, resisted him, Pandu had his way And with the curse acting on him,  Pandu died while being united in intercourse with his wife.

Madri, clasping the dead body of Pandu, began to weep loudly.  Kunit and the children, hearing her cries, came rushing to the spot. Madri requested Kunti to come alone, leaving the children where they were. Kunti asked the children to stay behind and came to the spot. Beholding  Pandu and Madri lying prostrate on the ground, Kunti said, "O Madri, knowing the sage's curse, how did you let yourself enjoy his company?  However, I envy you because you have seen the face of our husband suffused with joy."

Madri replied with tears in her eyes, "'Revered sister, I resisted the king, but he could not control himself, as if he was determined to make the curse take effect."

Kunti said, 'I being his first wife, I have to follow him in death. Please don't prevent me from doing this."

Madri replied, Since it was my fault in not preventing this tragedy from happening, it is only fair that I follow him. If I were to survive you, I won't be able to rear your childrentreating them as my own children. But you will bring up my sons considering them as your own."

Eventually, Madri ascended the funeral pyre of Pandu.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

17. The Birth of Bhima and Arjuna

After Yudhishtira was born, Pandu asked Kunti to seek a son with great strength since a Kshatriya was expected to be a man of great strength. Kunti invoked Vayu and sought a son through him, who would be endowed with great strength, large limbs and the capability to humble the pride of everyone. Vayu gave her Bhima. When Bhima was born, a voice from the skies said, "This child shall be the foremost of all those endowed with strength."

Once when the child Bhima was sleeping in his mother's lap, Kunti, frightened by a tiger, got up suddenly, momentarily becoming unconscious of the child lying in her lap. The child fell on the rocky surface on which her mother was sitting. The rock was broken into fragments by the impact of Bhima's fall. Pandu was amazed at this sight.

As mentioned earlier, Duryodhana was born on the same day as Bhima was born.

After Bhima was born, Pandu began to think of getting a son who would achieve world-wide fame. Since Indra, the chief of the celestials was considered  to be endowed with immense strength and prowess and boundless energy, Pandu wanted to have a son through Indra. He felt that that son would possess superior skills and capabilities that would enable him vanquish all other men and other creatures.

After taking the advice of some sages, Pandu asked Kunti to observe an auspicious vow for the next one year with the objective of pleasing Indra. He himself practiced severe austerities by standing on one leg from morning to evening and meditating upon the Lord.

After a long time, Indra, gratified by the devotion shown by Pandu and Kunti appeared before Pandu and said, "I will give you a son who will be celebrated over all the three worlds and who will promote the welfare of virtuous people and destroy the wicked. He will be foremost among all men and will destroy all his foes."

Elated by Indra's words, Pandu conveyed his message to Kunti and asked her to invoke Indra.

Arjuna was born as a result of Kunti's union with Indra. Immediately after he was born, a celestial voice  pronounced that the child would be equal to Kartavirya in energy and Siva in prowess and invincible like Indra himself and that he would achieve great fame.

Kunti was excited to hear these words. The ascetics doing penance in the mountains and the celestials also heard these words. There were shouts of joy and celebrations all around. The sages began to utter propitiatory hymns.

Pandu wanted to have more children and broached the subject to Kunti. But Kunti declined his proposal saying that  she won't have intercourse with a fourth person.