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.