In the history of mankind, many cultures have come and gone but Hinduism has withstood many challenges posed by the time and has spread all over the world. The secret of this success of Hindu(Sanatan Dharma) religion lies in the fact in its practical approach towards human life, belief in eternal truths, and modifications made without changing the basic beliefs
ago in Bharatavarsha, as India was known then, there was a sage by name
Krishna Dwaipayana. His name in Sanskrit meant, the dark one, born in
an island, because he was dark and was born in an island. He was not
merely dark. He was rather fierce looking as well. That was the reason
why poor Ambika got frightened and closed her eyes when he entered her
bedroom. But wait, this comes later in the story and there are many
things to know before we reach there.
Krishna Dwaipayana was, by
far, the most intelligent person of all times. He consolidated the four
Vedas or eternal truth, which are like the four pillars on which the
entire edifice of Hindu religion is built. This earned him the name Veda
Vyasa, the elaborator of the Vedas. We shall also refer to him as Vyasa
Vyasa had a great tale to relate to posterity. A
tale in which he himself was an important character. But the tale was
too big for any human to write it down. In fact, it took a god to write
One day the creator, Brahma, appeared before Vyasa. The sage
prostrated before the god and stood with his hands joined. The god told
Vyasa, “You appear to be disturbed. What is the reason?” Vyasa
answered, “Venerable Lord, I need someone to write the epic tale of the
Bharata War, which I have formed in verse in my mind.” The god advised
Vyasa to meditate on the elephant-faced god, Vinayaka.
Vyasa did as Brahma had advised him, Vinayaka materialized before his
eyes. Vyasa told the god of his desire for an amanuensis to write his
tale. “I can help you in writing down the tale," Vinayaka told Vyasa.
"Actually, I can write it for you. But you must agree to a condition.”
Vyasa replied, “It would be my privilege to observe any condition that
you may lay down.”
Vinayaka said, “I am a busy god. I can give
only one opportunity for you to dictate your story for me to write. You
should recite the verses without a break. If you break even once, I
shall stop and leave you.”
Vyasa agreed, but not before laying
down a counter-condition. Vinayaka should understand every verse that
Vyasa dictated. The god smiled and nodded his head in agreement.
tale was to be written on palm leaf. For a pen, Vinayaka broke one of
his tusks and used the sharp edge. This is the reason why the
elephant-god is always depicted with one tusk broken.
Vyasa narrated was enormous. It ran into 88,000 verses. But Vyasa was a
human. So many verses cannot be dictated without a break. He found a
solution to this problem. Whenever he wanted a break he would recite a
verse which was difficult even for the god to understand. While Vinayaka
would try to fathom the meaning of the verse with his pen on his nose,
Vyasa would utilize the interval to leave the god’s presence.
is no wonder that Vyasa, who could manipulate the most intelligent god
himself, found it quite easy to manipulate men and remained an influence
on all the characters of his epic. It is hard to guess who was more
tired at the end of the 88,000th verse, Vinayaka or Vyasa.
number 18 has a mystical significance in the story that Vyasa told. The
Great War, which is the centre piece of this epic tale, was fought for
18 days. The Gita, as told to Arjuna by Krishna, has 18 sections. And
the narration itself has 18 chapters, or Parvas, in it. The first of
these chapters is the Adi Parva.
Chapter 1 Adiparva - Part 1
CHAPTER 1 - ADI PARVA Part 1
asks Vaisampayana to recite the Mahabharata. The Kaurava Ancestors.
Santanu becomes King. Mahavisa’s crime and punishment. How Satyavati was
born. Vyasa is born to Satyavati. The tale of the eight Vasus.
Vyasa asks Vaisampayana to recite the Mahabharata
Naimisha Forest in the Himalayan range contained dense vegetation. The
holy aura it wore made it ideal for rishis or sages to dwell in,
meditate and perform sacrifices.
Suta, a learned and much
traveled sage, arrived at Naimisha forest where he went to the ashram of
some eminent sages who were engaged in performing a sacrifice. The
sages were happy at Suta’s visit since Suta was a learned man who
gathered much information during his travels. After duly honouring their
guest, the sages sat around his feet and asked him, “O great sage, tell
us what is happening in the three worlds as we are totally cut off from
them in our meditation of the Lord.” The three worlds referred to
ether, earth and sea.
Suta told them that the great Vyasa had
composed an incomparable history of the War between the Kauravas and the
Pandavas, the sons of Dhritarashtra and Pandu respectively. “I had the
privilege of hearing it,” Suta said. “If you worthy souls are inclined, I
would recite it for you.” The sages answered in the affirmative and
Suta began his tale.
King Janamejaya, son of Parikshit, who in
turn was the grandson of Arjuna, was holding a snake sacrifice.
Janamajeya was intent on having all the snakes in the three worlds,
including their king, Takshaka, thrown into the sacrificial fire. This
was in revenge for Takshaka killing Parikshit. A search was on to catch
Takshaka who was hiding in some dark corner for his dear life.
Meanwhile, a learned brahmin boy, Astika, appeared at the sacrificial
hall and succeeded in persuading the king to stop the sacrifice.
Takshaka and his tribe escaped, by the skin of their backs, from
While the sacrifice was being performed, Vyasa
with his disciples reached the hall. Janamejaya received him with
reverence and asked him, “O Maharishi, we hear that you have composed an
epic about the Great War fought between my ancestors and their evil
cousins, in which, the Pandavas, whose grandson I am, were victorious.
That tale should be music to our ears. Could you recite it for us?”
assured the king that they would hear the tale, “But not from me. I
have to hurry elsewhere. My favourite disciple here, Vaisampayana, who
has heard it once from me and hence remembers the entire story, would
recite it to you”.
“I had the good fortune to be present at the
sacrifice when Vaisampayana recited the tale,” Suta said. “I shall now
repeat it to you.”
The Kaurava Ancestors
ancient India belonged to either the Surya Vamsa (Sun dynasty) or the
Chandra Vamsa (Moon dynasty). The Kauravas belonged to the Chandra
Manu, a grandson of Daksha who was created from Brahma’s
toe in the beginning, was the progenitor of human beings. To his
daughter, Ila, was born the valiant and learned Pururavas. In the line
of Pururavas was born King Yayati.
Yayati had two wives. The
first, Deveyani, was the beautiful daughter of Sukra, the brahmin seer
of the Danavas who were asuras or demons. Being very learned, Sukra was a
great asset to the asuras. In the continuing battle between the asuras
and the devas (gods), Sukra’s knowledge of reviving the dead to life was
a matter of great concern to the devas who did not possess this skill.
Day by day the asuras were increasing in numbers whereas the population
of devas started dwindling. In desperation, the gods devised a scheme
whereby a spy, Kacha, was planted among the asuras to steal the secret
of resuscitation. Kacha was able to gain Sukra’s confidence. Soon he
secured the secret, much to the relief of the gods.
and Sukra’s daughter, Deveyani, were born two sons, Yadu and Turvasu.
Yayati’s life became complicated when he fell in love with Sharmishta,
Deveyani’s maid. Sharmishta, was a princess, being the daughter of the
asura King Vishaparva. She and Deveyani were friends from childhood. By
winning a wager, Deveyani had made Sharmishta her maid.
Yayati married Sharmishta secretly. They had three sons in succession, Drahyu, Anu and Puru.
would be out, as they say. Deveyani one day discovered that her husband
and her maid had married secretly. She became furious. Deveyani rushed
to her father, Sukra, and told him how her husband had betrayed her.
This in turn made Sukra furious. He cornered Yayati and released on him a
curse. He said, “You proud monarch, you were unfaithful to my daughter.
It is because of your youth that you betrayed her. May you lose that
youth and become old and decrepit.”
When Yayati sought Sukra’s
forgiveness, the sage relented. He told Yayati, “I can, out of
compassion, modify the curse. If you are keen to remain young and
vigorous, you may exchange your old age with any one of your sons for a
period of time. The son who agrees to your proposal would, one day,
become a great monarch.”
Yayati called his sons and told them
about Sukra’s curse and the way he could be redeemed from it. The first
four sons valued their youth too much to agree to switch it for their
father’s old age. It was the last son, Puru, who readily stepped forward
and offered to help his father.
The exchange of old age with
youth between the father and son lasted a thousand years. At the end of
that period the process was reversed. Puru became young again and Yayati
relapsed to old age. Yayati handed over his kingdom to his faithful son
and retired to the forest to meditate upon the Lord.
Puru ruled as a wise king. This was the beginning of the Puru dynasty.
From Yadu rose the Yadavas, among whom were born Krishna and Balarama.
The tribes of Yavanas, Bhojas and Mleechas sprang from the other sons,
Turvasu, Drahyu and Anu respectively. All these tribes had their roles
to play in the Kurukshetra War.
A distinguished king of the
Chandra Vamsa was Dushyanta. He married Sakuntala, daughter of the sage
Viswamitra and the apsara (nymph), Menaka. A saga was enacted in their
life when they had to separate. But their son, Bharata, achieved great
fame. Bharata had three wives who together gave him nine sons. These
nine sons did not possess the character to please the king. Hence the
wives killed them all.
In order to obtain a successor the king
performed a sacrifice. The sacrificial fire yielded a son, Bhumanyu, who
fulfilled his father’s expectation in all ways.
generations later there appeared in this line a great king, Kuru by
name. It was he who established the holy site of Kurukshetra at a place
called Kurujangala, all named after him. Kurukshetra became a holy site
in which great sacrifices were performed and great battles were fought.
Santanu becomes King
later came King Pratipa, a descendent of these illustrious kings. He
ruled a vast kingdom with his capital in Hastinapura. Pratipa had three
sons, Devapi, Balhika and Santanu. The eldest, Devapi, was afflicted by
skin disease. He was therefore declared unfit for kingship by the
brahmins and other elders. A disappointed Devapi renounced the world and
wandered as an ascetic. The next son, Balhika, was adopted by his
maternal grandfather whose rich kingdom he became heir to. It was to
Santanu that the prized possession of Hastinapura fell when Pratipa
died. Santanu was a worthy scion of the Kuru dynasty and he ruled
Mahavisa’s crime and punishment
Santanu’s birth as Pratipa’s son was due to certain happenings in the
heavenly court of the Supreme Lord. All kings who had performed their
duties properly on earth were eligible to enter heaven when their mortal
life was over. King Mahavisa was one such who had gained admittance to
heaven. In the great hall of the Lord, Mahavisa was seated along with
many sages and kings worshipping the Supreme Being. When Goddess Ganga,
the Queen of Rivers, entered the hall, her garment inadvertently fell
off her person. All those assembled in the august conclave avoided
looking at her. But Mahavisa alone kept his gaze fixed on her. This
angered the Lord who cursed him, “For your wretched action, you shall be
re-born on earth. Ganga would also be born on earth and provoke your
As a result of this curse, Mahavisa was born to King Pratipa on earth and given the name Santanu.
it were not for a chance encounter with a maiden by Santanu, this
entire story would not have been written. The maiden’s name was
Satyavati. We should investigate how this happened.
How Satyavati was born
the time our story is set, there were several other kingdoms in India
apart from Hastinapura. One of them was Chedi whose ruler was
Uparichara. Besides being a benevolent king, Uparichara was also deeply
religious. He performed great sacrifices to the Supreme Lord. This
activity of his was causing concern to Indra who was the lord of the
regions inhabited by gods. There had been instances when a king, through
severe penance, had pleased the Lord. The king would then ask for a
boon. He would want to depose Indra and sit in his throne. Indra had
constantly to guard himself from such usurpers. He would distract such
kings and mislead them into bad ways. An easy way would be to send
apsaras to dance before them. This device worked with Uparichara who
relapsed into an easy life.
Uparichara was fond of hunting. He
would leave alone with his bow and arrows on distant expeditions, deep
into the jungle. In one such trip he suddenly realized that the stars
had aligned in a way that it was auspicious to have a progeny. It was
not possible to return to his kingdom. So he used an eagle to send his
vital energy to his queen. The eagle, while on its way to Chedi, was
attacked by another eagle and its precious cargo fell into the River
A fish swallowed what the eagle dropped. This fish was
in reality an apsara who was undergoing a curse. Ten months after this
strange happening, a fisherman chief caught the fish. When he took it
home and cut it he was surprised to see a male and a female human baby
in the fish’s stomach.
The fisherman was surprised and also
frightened at what he found. He took the two babies to the king and told
him of the strange occurrence. It happened that the king was issueless
and was just then looking for a boy to adopt. He thought that God had
sent him the baby in answer to his prayers. He therefore kept the boy
and asked the fisherman chief to take away the girl. The fisherman named
her Satyavati and brought her up as his daughter.
Vyasa is born to Satyavati
grew up to be a beautiful maiden. But, being born of a fish, she had
the repulsive smell of fish emanating from her. No effort on her part
could rid her of this smell. Being a dutiful daughter, she assisted her
father by plying a boat in the River Yamuna.
The sage Parasar,
who had great mystic powers, was one day being ferried across the river
by Satyavati. He was captivated by her beauty and told her of his desire
for her. Satyavati pleaded that she wanted to remain a maiden. Parasar
persisted and finally won her consent by giving her two boons.
first boon was that Satyavati would remain a maiden, even after union
with him. The second boon was that the offensive odour she carried would
disappear and, instead, she would smell of perfume. The second boon
benefited Satyavati so much that she began to smell of flowers. She was
transformed from Matsyagandha (she who smelt of fish) to Yojanagandha
(she whose fragrance spread to a ‘yojana’ or nine miles).
boat, to avoid being seen by the rishis on either bank, Parasar caused a
fog to occur. As soon as the sage left her, Sayavati conceived. By
Parasar’s grace she gave birth to a male child immediately in an island
in the river. Since the child had a dark complexion Satyavati named him
Krishna. Since he was born in an island, Dwaipayana, or island-born, was
added to his name. Krishna attained maturity as soon as he was born,
again thanks to the mystical powers of his father. He was, after he grew
up, to become proficient in scriptures and to earn the name Veda Vyasa
for his elaboration of the Vedas. He left his mother to seek knowledge
after assuring her that he would return to her side whenever she called
him in her mind. For the present we shall leave Satyavati to ply her
trade and turn to Santanu.
The tale of the eight Vasus
was walking along the banks of the river Ganga, admiring its vast
expanse and tranquil surface. Suddenly there appeared on the waters a
beautiful damsel, dressed in white, walking towards him gracefully.
Captivated by her sight, Santanu wanted to know more about her. He
beckoned to her and asked her who she was. The maiden introduced herself
as Ganga. She seemed to be equally attracted by the king. When Santanu
proposed marriage to her, she immediately consented. But she was willing
to marry Santanu only on a condition. Once married, he would, at no
time, restrain her from doing what she pleased, nor ask her to explain
any of her actions.
Santanu took Ganga to his palace where he
celebrated his marriage with her. They were soon blessed with a son. But
as soon as the baby was born, Ganga carried him to the river and threw
him into the water. Santanu who was watching this strange act was
helpless to intervene, remembering his promise not to interfere with
anything Ganga did.
When the next son was born, Ganga repeated
the same act of throwing the baby into the river. This behaviour of
Ganga went on till seven sons were born and all the seven were killed.
When the eighth son was born, Ganga, as usual, picked up the baby and
started walking towards the river.
Santanu had come to the end
of his patience. His anger and frustration at seeing his sons thrown
into the river got the better of him and he confronted Ganga. He bade
her to stop killing his children and demanded an explanation from her
for her action.
Ganga told Santanu that since the king had
broken the contract made at the time of their marriage, she was leaving
him. She would however not kill the eighth child. Ganga then related to
Santanu the reason for all her actions. Ganga said :
There is a
group of eight demigods in the ether world known as the Vasus, They are
always found together. Once, when they were roaming about on earth with
their wives, they came to the forest where the sage Vasishta had his
hermitage. In the pasture nearby they saw the divine cow, Nandini, the
proud possession of the sage. The cow was grazing peacefully. She had a
glorious appearance, and her milk, which she yielded in abundance, was
known to have a rejuvenating power. The wife of the Vasu Dyau desired to
obtain the cow so that she can present it to her dear friend, Jitavati,
daughter of the sage Usinara.
Dyau wanted to satisfy his wife’s
desire. He found that the sage had left the hermitage and gone to the
river. The cow was unguarded and Dyau had no difficulty in capturing
When the sage returned to the hermitage, he found the cow
missing. Through his vision he learnt that the Vasus had abducted her in
his absence. An angry Vasishta cursed the Vasus, “Because you stole the
cow Nandini, you should all be born as humans on earth.”
their mistake, the Vasus rushed to the sage and fell at his feet,
begging forgiveness. They prayed for the withdrawal of the curse. It is
in the nature of a curse that once it is given, it cannot be withdrawn.
It can however be modified or redemption can be offered.
felt pacified and he modified the curse. He said that the Vasus cannot
escape from being born on earth. But they could return to heaven
immediately after their birth. That is, all of them except Dyau who
actually stole the cow. He will remain on earth for a longer period.
While on earth, he would be devoted to his father. Due to his strength,
virtue and knowledge, his fame would spread far and wide. But female
companionship or progeny, he will have none.
“The Vasus then
approached me,” Ganga continued. “After explaining their predicament,
they sought my help. They desired to be born to me on earth. I agreed to
help them in their deliverance.”
The seven children which were
born to me were seven of the Vasus. I killed them immediately so that
they could return to heaven. The eighth one, Dyau, who is born as your
son now, will remain alive. He will live a noble life on earth until he
finally gets his release.”
After relating the story of the Vasus
to Santanu, Ganga took the child with her, promising to return him to
the king after nursing him through his childhood. She gave the child,
who was named Devavrata, the best of education in all disciplines, from
Vedas to warfare, under preceptors as distinguished as the sages
Vasishta and Parasurama. After some years, Ganga returned Devavrata, now
a youth, to Santanu as promised. There was none in the three worlds to
equal the handsome young prince in bravery, wisdom and dedication to
truth. Santanu installed Devavrata as his heir apparent.
Chapter 1 Adiparva - Part 2
Synopsis Satyavati enters Santanu’s life. This is the terrible one, a Bhishma. Santanu’s
boon to Bhishma. The abduction of the Kasi princesses. Parasurama
intervenes for Amba. Amba seeks a boon from Siva. Amba becomes
Sikhandin. Sex exchange with a Yaksha. A lifeline for the Kuru race, the
birth of Dhritarashtra and Pandu. Vidura is born. The story of
Mandavya. Bhishma brings up Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura. A bride for
Dhritarashtra. The birth of Vasusena. Two wives for Pandu. The curse on Pandu. The birth of Yudhishthira and his brothers. The strange birth of Duryodhana, his brothers and sister
Satyavati enters Santanu’s life.
an admirer of rivers, Santanu was this time walking on the banks of the
river Yamuna. A sweet fragrance floating in the air captivated him.
Looking for its source, he found a lovely maiden negotiating the waters
with her boat. He learnt from her that she was the daughter of a
fisherman chief, engaged in transporting passengers across the river.
Santanu was instantly ensnared by her beauty and decided to have her as
his wife. He approached the maiden’s father and asked for her hand in
The wise fisherman chief told the king, “I would
certainly like to get a good husband for my daughter. But you already
have a son who has a claim on your throne. Given in marriage to you, my
daughter’s children cannot dream of becoming your heir. I could,
however, consider making her your wife if you give a solemn commitment
that only descendents of Satyavati would occupy the throne, and that
your son Devavrata would be disinherited.”
This is the terrible one, a Bhishma
affection for Devavrata being unqualified, Santanu had no inclination
to agree to the condition laid down by the fisherman chief. He turned
down the proposal and returned to his palace. But his longing for
Satyavati was clearly reflected in his behaviour, and Devavrata was
quick to observe the change in his father. When he questioned Santanu,
the father had this to say. “Devavrata, you are my only son and the
future of the Kuru race depends on your being well and alive. How better
it would be for me to have more children!”
sensed a deeper meaning in Santanu’s speech, learnt from his father’s
old minister and charioteer about the king’s infatuation for the
fisherman’s daughter. Repairing to the banks of River Yamuna, Devavrata
sought the fisherman chief. He solicited the chief’s daughter for the
king. The fisherman chief repeated what he had already told the king.
immediately allayed the chief’s fears. Then and there he vowed that he
would not claim the throne, nor would he marry, lest his progenies may
compete with Satyavati’s progenies. Hearing this vow pronounced in his
majestic voice, the devas and apsaras from above hailed, this is the
terrible one, a Bhishma. That name stuck to him all his life.
Santanu’s boon to Bhishma
married Satyavati. Although Satyavati was about his own age, Bhishma
was devoted to her as a son to his mother. Santanu was greatly pleased
by Bhishma’s action. Having acquired powers through austerity, Santanu
gave a boon to his son. He could choose the time of his own death. This
made Bhishma invincible.
Out of the union of Santanu and
Satyavati were born two sons, Chitrangada and Vichitravirya. On
Santanu’s death, Chitrangada succeeded to the throne. He was a
headstrong monarch, fond of wars, who did not last long. After a
three-year battle with the Gandharvas, a heavenly tribe whose king bore
his name, Chitrangada lost his life while fighting. He was not married
and had left no issues.
The abduction of the Kasi princesses
grieving Bhishma installed the second son of Satyavati, Vichitravirya,
as king. The new king was still a young boy and Bhishma himself looked
after the governance and welfare of the state. As Vichitravirya grew up,
Bhishma thought it was time to get him married. He had just heard that
the King of Kasi had three pretty and accomplished daughters for whom he
was looking for grooms.
Among kings of the warring race,
Kshatriyas, there existed the practice of holding a Swayamvara, where
the prospective bride would choose her future lord from among the many
eligible young men who had come to the function splendidly attired to
catch her eye. She would go around the hall and garland the person she
chose. This was accepted by all the others with grace.
of Kasi organized one such Swayamvara for his three daughters. On the
Swayamvara day, Bhishma reached Kasi and walked into the function hall.
Already many powerful and eligible monarchs had gathered there and were
waiting for the princesses to arrive. Although Bhishma was the most
powerful of the princes present, nobody thought he was in the race,
knowing fully about his age and celibacy vow.
The sisters, Amba,
Ambika and Ambalika, beautifully dressed and radiating charm, arrived
at the hall and started on their selection tour. Garland in hand, they
went from one prince to another. Hardly had they passed a few when an
impatient Bhishma rounded them up and took them away to his chariot that
was waiting outside. As Bhishma was about to drive away with his booty,
the greatly incensed monarchs who were present, King Salwa of Saubha
among them, chased the abductor and showered arrows on him. Bhishma
stood up and warded them all off, subduing Salwa who fought fiercely.
Secure in his chariot, Bhishma returned to his capital, Hastinapura,
where he offered all three girls for the prince, Vichitravirya, to
While Ambika and Ambalika were quickly reconciled to the
situation and thought that their prayers had been answered, the eldest,
Amba, pleaded with Bhishma that she had already lost her heart to the
Saubha king. Not desiring to force her into marrying Vichitravirya
against her wishes, Bhishma released her and sent her back to Kasi. Amba
approached the Saubha king, Salwa, and expressed her desire to marry
him. Salwa turned her down. He was unwilling to accept a girl discarded
by another prince. Amba’s pleadings were of no avail as the Saubha king
Parasurama intervenes for Amba
both places, Amba regretted not having jumped out of Bhishma’s chariot
when she was abducted. She cursed herself, but instead of returning to
her father, she wandered into the woods. When she reached a hermitage,
the ascetics there took pity on her. Just then, a venerable sage,
Hotravahana, came to the hermitage. It turned out that the sage was
Amba’s maternal grandfather. Hearing her story, he suggested that Amba
should approach the sage Jamadagni’s son, Parasurama, the legendary
warrior and destroyer of Kshatriyas, and seek his help.
they were discussing on how to meet Parasurama who had retired to a
resort in the Himalayas, by a strange coincidence, the warrior himself
turned up at the hermitage.
Parasurama was a great friend of
Hotravahana. Hearing the story of Amba, he offered to persuade Saubha to
marry her. Alternatively, he would ask Bhishma to marry her. Amba
declined both offers. After Saubha’s refusal, that king was now out of
question. As for Bhishma, she wanted revenge. She wanted Bhishma’s life.
to fight, Parasurama decided on a path of conciliation. He took Amba
and proceeded to Kurukshetra along with his followers. He then sent word
to Bhishma at Hastinapura about his arrival. Joyous at the opportunity
of meeting his preceptor of old, Bhishma reached Kurukshetra with gifts
of cows and other valuables. After paying his respects to the guest,
Bhishma asked him what he owed this visit to.
Bhishma, “I have brought here with me Amba, the daughter of the Kasi
king. Having no desires yourself, you abducted this innocent girl from
the Swayamvara. You then sent her back to join Saubha. Unfortunately,
Saubha has also rejected her. It therefore falls on you to accept her as
Bhishma replied, “Sir, my brother Vichitravirya for
whose sake I abducted this girl, refuses to marry her after hearing her
declare her love for Saubha. As for me, I have vowed never to marry.”
refusal to accept Amba angered the ancient warrior who was not used to
his requests being turned down. A battle between the two ensued.
the end of twenty-three days of fierce fighting, neither could vanquish
the other. So equally matched were they. At this point Bhishma prepared
to use the deadliest of the weapons in his armoury, the Praswapa.
Knowing its efficacy and terrible side-effects on the world, the gods
and the Vasus themselves appeared before Bhishma to dissuade him from
using it. “Parasurama is a brahmin by birth,” they said, “and killing a
brahmin is a sin. He has also once been your preceptor. Using this
weapon will certainly destroy him. Killing him would be doubly sinful
for you.” But Bhishma showed no sign of relenting.
Parasurama saw Bhishma take up the weapon he was truly frightened. He
cried, “Cease Bhishma! I am vanquished.” As Bhishma saw his adversary
surrender, he laid down his bow. The ancestors of Parasurama appeared
before him. They told him that his persecution of the Kshatriyas should
come to an end. From that moment he should kill them no more.
Amba seeks a boon from Siva
at Parasurama’s failure to bring to book the great Bhishma, the
princess Amba retired to the forest. For twelve years she was engaged in
severe penance, invoking the god Siva. Pleased with her devotion, Siva
appeared before her.
“My child,” Siva said, “Your devotion gratifies me. Ask me a boon and I will grant it.”
related to him her story and prayed that she should be given the power
to destroy Bhishma. “So be it,” the god said. When Amba asked how a
woman could vanquish the mighty Bhishma, the god told her that she would
soon have another birth when, although a woman, she would be a man for
some time. The relevance of such a strange boon would become evident
later in the story.
Amba becomes Sikhandin
hardly wait for her next birth. She set fire to herself to end her
present life. Her next birth was as the daughter of Drupada, the King of
Drupada, who had no male issue, prayed intensely to
Siva for a son. The god granted him his wish, adding, “The child you get
would be a female first, and then a male.”
A female child was
born to Drupada’s queen. But the queen, knowing that her husband was
longing for a male issue, misinformed him that the new born child was a
son. Drupada believed her words and the child, named Sikhandin, was
brought up as a prince. She was even taught warfare under the great
teacher Drona who took her to be a prince. When Sikhandin came of age,
Drupada wanted to get his ‘son’ married. The daughter of King
Hiranyavarman of the Dasarnas was chosen as the bride.
after the wedding, Hiranyavarman received news from his daughter that
Sikhandin was a girl. In anger, he vowed to kill both Drupada and
Sikhandin. Hiranyavarman marched a huge army towards Panchala.
Sex exchange with a Yaksha
news reached Drupada that Hiranyavarman was on his way to Panchala to
fight with him, he found out the reason for Hiranyavarman’s chagrin. It
was only now that the truth about Sikhandin’s sex was revealed to
Drupada by his queen. He started making preparations to meet the threat
from Hiranyavarman. Pressed by the sudden turn of events and not ready
for war, he despaired over the situation to his queen. Amba overheard
Amba felt guilty for having caused all this
misery to her parents. She decided to end her life and, with that
object, set out to a forest in the region of Kubera (god of wealth and
patron of Yakshas, a celestial tribe). Seeing a mansion in the forest,
Amba took refuge there. She then starved with the idea of killing
The mansion belonged to a Yaksha called Sthuna. He appeared before Amba who acquainted him of her story.
is the use of my existence?” Amba asked Sthuna. “My only purpose to be
born was to be the cause of Bhishma’s death. How could I achieve that,
being a woman?”
Sthuna took pity on Amba and by his magical
power exchanged his sex with hers. Sikhandin transformed into a man.
This arrangement was to be for a temporary period, at the end of which
Sikhandin was to return to Sthuna his manhood.
With her new
identity as a man Sikhandin went back to Drupada’s capital, Kampilya.
She proved her credentials to Drupada and Hiranyavarman and
reconciliation was brought about between the two.
this, Kubera visited Sthuna. When he learnt about the Yaksha’s action,
the god became angry. He cursed Sthuna that the sex exchange would not
be of a temporary nature but that he would remain a woman until
A lifeline for the Kuru race, the birth of Dhritarashtra and Pandu
the Kuru King, under the benevolent guidance of Bhishma, ruled wisely.
However, after seven years of married life, he fell victim to a deadly
disease. He died, leaving his two wives without children. A crisis of
the first order descended on the family. They had lost a young king and
there was no successor to the throne.
The Queen Mother,
Satyavati, was plunged in grief at the loss of both her sons with no
progeny to occupy the throne. She summoned her stepson, Bhishma, and
told him, “Virtuous prince! It is in your hands to ensure the
perpetuation of the Kuru race. Your brother has left two wives, neither
having children. Oh! If I could only release you from the promise you
made to my father that you would neither be a king nor marry and beget
“I however see a way out. You may be aware of the
convention that permits you to act as the husband of Vichitravirya’s
queens and sire a successor to our dynasty.”
Bhishma turned down
the proposal, reminding Satyavati of his vow of strict celibacy. He
instead came up with a plan. He said, “Parasurama, the son of Jamadagni,
vowed to destroy all the Kshatriya males on earth. He wiped them out
twenty-one times. The Kshatriyas had to find a way to perpetuate their
race. The widowed women begot children through the priestly class of
brahmins. Hence, seeking the help of a brahmin to be a father is an
accepted Kshatriya practice.”
With Bhishma’s refusal,
Satyavati’s thoughts now turned to her son from the sage Parasar. Vyasa
was both a brahmin and a brother of Vichitravirya. Satyavati related to
Bhishma the story of Vyasa’s birth and his promise to appear whenever
Satyavati desired his presence. “I would call him now,” she said, “and
ask him to help us during this critical time.” Bhishma fully supported
the idea of Vyasa siring the queens’ children. Satyavati mentally
Vyasa appeared before his mother and after
paying his respects to her, asked her the reason for her summoning him.
Satyavati explained to him the grave crisis faced by the Kuru dynasty.
told Vyasa, “Only you can ensure the future of our dynasty. With the
death of Vichitravirya, only you can sire his successors through his
Vyasa replied, “Your plan is certainly sanctioned by our laws. I shall follow your wishes.”
the elder of Vichitravirya’s two widows, was selected by Satyavati for
the purpose of begetting a child. Ambika agreed to the plan. But what
she expected was that Bhishma would take her husband’s place.
Vyasa was endowed with all the best qualities, he was dark in
complexion, with matted locks and blazing eyes. Waiting in her chamber,
Ambika was expecting to receive the handsome Bhishma. On seeing the
formidable-looking Vyasa enter her room, a frightened Ambika closed her
eyes. When later Satyavati asked her son about the meeting, Vyasa
replied that Ambika would have a strong and powerful son, but he would
be born blind. Satyavati anxiously asked Vyasa, how a blind man can rule
a kingdom like the Kauravas’, although he may be endowed with all the
best qualities of a king. Vyasa expressed that what was done could not
Even as Vyasa had predicted, Ambika brought forth a
healthy baby with the one handicap of being blind. The baby was named
A dissatisfied Satyavati again summoned Vyasa and
persuaded him to give her another grandson. This time a meeting with
the younger wife of Vichithravirya, Ambalika, was arranged. Unlike her
sister, Ambalika kept her eyes open while receiving Vyasa in her
chamber. But she became pale out of fear when Vyasa came near her. The
result was that the son born to her was of sallow complexion. But
Ambalika’s son, Pandu, otherwise looked a noble child, born to be a
king. This gave Satyavati great satisfaction.
Vidura is born
Queen Mother still had doubts lingering in her mind. What if some harm
befell both the grandsons? She thought that one more son eligible for
succession would be playing it safe. She asked for Vyasa’s help for a
third time. Ambika was chosen for the purpose.
After her earlier
experience with Vyasa, Ambika was keen to avoid another similar
encounter. She called her maid attendant and instructed her to wait for
Vyasa in the bedchamber.
When Vyasa entered Ambica’s bedchamber,
the maid received him with great reverence. She was about to leave when
Vyasa stopped her.
Vyasa told the maid, “I am pleased with your
behaviour. I would therefore bless you with a child who would one day
become the wisest man in the kingdom.”
As a result of Vyasa’s liaison with the maid, Vidhura was born.
The story of Mandavya
interesting story surrounds Vidura’s antecedent. There was a sage by
the name of Mandavya. He was in deep meditation in the forest one day
when soldiers of a nearby kingdom intruded into his hermitage and asked
if he had seen some thieves who were running away with loot. His eyes
closed, the sage made no reply. When the soldiers searched the woods
nearby, they were able to catch the thieves red handed with the loot.
They suspected that the sage had given the thieves asylum in his
hermitage and was therefore their accomplice. Arresting him along with
the thieves, they handed him over to the king. In the inquiry, Mandavya
was not given an opportunity to defend himself. The rash king gave the
unfortunate sage the same punishment that he gave the thieves. He was
impaled. While the other thieves died when they were impaled,
Mandavya languished, all the time performing penance. A few Rishis came
to know about the sufferings of Mandavya. They approached him and asked
what offence he had committed to be so condemned. The sage was unable to
recollect having done anything to deserve this punishment. The king
soon came to know that even after several days in the stake the sage had
not died. He realized that the sage had mystic powers and he had erred
in his dispensation of justice. Rushing to Mandavya, the king begged
forgiveness. Mandavya generously forgave him.
After his term of
life in the world was over, Mandavya was rewarded with heaven. There he
encountered the God of Justice (Dharma) from whom he demanded to know
what sin he had committed to be punished on earth with impalement.
Dharma said that as a boy, the sage once tortured a fly by piercing it
with a wire. As a consequence, he also had to be similarly punished.
pointed out to Dharma that, according to the scriptures, no punishment
was to be given if a child of less than twelve years committed a sin.
Hence, Dharma had erred and he should pay for it. The sage condemned
Dharma to be born on earth to a woman of the working class (Sudra). As a
result Dharma came to be born as Vidura.
When Vidura grew up,
he mastered law and justice and his fame spread far and wide. He became
the conscience keeper of the Kauravas and a storehouse of virtue.
Bhishma brings up Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura
brought up Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura with great care, as if they
were his own children. They were taught all the Vedas and were trained
to be excellent warriors. Till they reached adulthood, Bhishma himself
conducted the business of government for which his fame spread
everywhere. When the time came to install a king, Pandu was chosen.
Dhritarashtra was overlooked because of his blindness.
A bride for Dhritarashtra
Bhishma then addressed himself to the task of finding suitable brides for the three brothers.
the King of Gandhara, had a daughter by name Gandhari. She was
beautiful and accomplished. Austere by nature, she was a great devotee
of the god Siva. Pleased with her constant prayers, Siva appeared before
her and gave her a boon, that she would one day be blessed with a
Bhishma thought that Gandhari would make an ideal
bride for Dhritarashtra. When Bhishma approached Suvala with the
proposal, the Gandhara King at first hesitated to give away his daughter
in marriage to a blind man. But considering the reputation of the
Kurus, he agreed for the union. The marriage of Dhritarashtra with
Gandhari was consecrated with pomp, the Prince of Suvala, Sakuni, being
in the forefront of the ceremonies. Gandhari, as a mark of love and
respect for her blind husband, denied herself sight by bandaging her
eyes and vowed to remain thus till the end of her life. She gained the
reputation of being a devoted wife and a respecter of the elders.
Having settled Dhritarashtra’s wedding, Bhishma turned his attention to Pandu. His search led him to the Yadava kingdom.
The birth of Vasusena
Yadava race into which Krishna and his brother Balarama were born, was
ruled by King Sura. To him were born a son, Vasudeva (father of Krishna
and Balarama), and a daughter, Pritha by name. Pritha was unrivalled in
her beauty and also became well versed in religious matters. Bhishma
decided that Pritha would make an ideal wife for the younger Kuru
When Bhishma sought her hand for Pandu, Sura
readily agreed. Pritha was then living with Sura’s cousin, King
Kuntibhoja, who was childless, to whom she had been given in adoption.
For this reason the princess was also known as Kunti.
Durvasa, a sage of radiance and great learning, visited Kuntibhoja. A
young Pritha was assigned to look after his comforts. Known for his
quick temper, the sage was very irregular in his habits, and handling
him needed great patience. But Pritha so pleased him with her devotion
that he granted her a boon. He taught her a Mantra (holy verse), on
reciting which she could summon any celestial to her side and beget a
child through him.
Soon after, the ascetic left. Kunti could not
get her mind off the boon Durvasa had given her. One morning, alone in
her apartment, Pritha, yielded to her curiosity. She summoned the lord
Surya (Sun) to her side to test the boon. When Surya appeared, Pritha
got frightened and wanted to withdraw her wish. But the god persuaded
her to have a child through him.
Surya told Kunti that she would
beget a son who would be adorned with a pair of ear-rings and an armour
around his chest. These appendages would invest him with invincibility.
The god then disappeared. By Surya’s grace, Pritha remained a maiden
even after this incident.
Fearing adverse reaction from members
of her family, Pritha decided to keep concealed her meeting with Surya.
She kept her confinement a secret by remaining in her apartments with
only a nurse to attend on her. In due time, a son was born to her.
soon as the baby was born, she put him in a basket and cast him into
the River Aswa, a tributary of the River Ganga. She prayed to god that
the child should be safe until someone found him and took him home. The
basket drifted along until it reached the Ganga. There it was found by
Radha, the wife of Adhiratha, a charioteer who had once served
Dhritarashtra. Radha and Adhiratha took the baby to their home and
brought it up as their own. The adopted child was named Vasusena. He
remained the charioteer’s son till the end of his life, his true
identity hidden from the world.
The son of Radha, or Radheya,
was possessed of great beauty and strength. When he grew up, he became a
very skilful wielder of weapons and, besides, acquired fame for his
charitable disposition. From dawn to midday, everyday, he would stand in
the river and worship the sun. During this period he would give away
anything that he possessed to brahmins who approached him.
Two wives for Pandu
order to choose a husband for Pritha, Kuntibhoja invited the leading
princes of the country for a Swayamvara. Many princes turned up for the
ceremony, Pandu being one. His fame had preceded him and Pritha’s choice
fell on him. Kuntibhoja was more than happy to give away his daughter
as bride to Pandu. Immediate arrangements were made for their wedding.
some time, Bhishma desired to have a second wife for Pandu. Madra or
Salya, king of the Balhikas, had a beautiful sister, Madri by name.
Bhishma set his heart on having her married to Pandu. Arriving at the
Madras’ capital, Bhishma made his proposal to Salya after offering the
king gifts of elephants, horses, cars and money. Salya consented to
Pandu marrying his sister.
Nor did Bhishma forget Vidura. He
obtained for him a beautiful and intelligent bride, a daughter born to
King Devaka of a working woman.
The curse on Pandu
was a brave king who extended his kingdom far and wide. He soon became
the foremost of rulers. With his empire well established, Pandu retired
to the forest with his two wives to devote himself to his favourite
pastime, deer hunting.
An event happened to disturb the tranquil
and joyous life of Pandu. One day, while hunting on the foothills of
the Himalayas, he shot his arrows on a couple of deer that were mating.
He was not aware that the stag was a sage of high merit, in disguise.
The stag began to moan in human voice. Before dying, it cursed the king
for his reckless act. Pandu was condemned to meet his end when in the
intimate company of a woman.
After this incident Pandu became
depressed. He realized that he was spending all his time in pleasure,
without observing austerities. His immediate reaction was to leave his
two wives and take to the life of an ascetic and wander without an aim.
He wanted to leave alone since he wanted to observe strict celibacy. But
both Kunti and Madri persuaded him to take them along in his
wanderings, assuring him that they would not interfere with his vow..
ordered his retinue to return to Hastinapura, taking with them all the
wealth that he was carrying. Clad in deerskin, he started wandering in
the forests in the company of his wives. He observed severe austerity,
which pleased the gods.
The birth of Yudhishthira and his brothers
one occasion, certain Rishis whom Pandu met blessed him with progenies.
This made him suddenly realize that he had no children to succeed him
as king. He therefore approached Kunti and proposed to her that she
beget a child through the offices of a good brahmin. He quoted examples
of kings taking such a course in order to continue their lineage.
told Pandu of the boon she had received from the sage Durvasa whereby
she could invoke any of the gods to give her a child. She however took
care not mention her earlier adventure with the Sun god. Pandu’s face
brightened and he urged her to use the boon.
which of the various gods should be invoked by Kunti’s Mantra to bless
them with a child. Pandu desired to have a son who would be the
embodiment of justice. Kunti invoked the god of Justice, Dharma. The god
appeared before her and gave her a son. The child was named
Yudhishthira. At about the same time that Yudhishthira was born in the
forest, in the palace in Hastinapura, Gandhari, Dhritarashtra’s wife,
was pregnant for a year.
Happy with the success of the
experiment with Dharma, Pandu’s desire for children grew further. He now
desired to have a son who would be brave and strong. Vayu (god of Wind)
was chosen as the sire. Accordingly, Bhimasena was born as the son of
Vayu. The child was very strong. When, by accident, he fell from his
mother’s arms, instead of getting hurt, he broke the stone below.
was born on the same day as Gandhari’s eldest son, Duryodhana, was
born. How and why Gandhari delivered her child so late after her
conception, we shall know soon.
Not satisfied with the two sons
Kunti had given him, Pandu dreamed of having one more son, a son who
would become the foremost warrior in the world and whose fame would be
everlasting. Who better than the lord of the celestials, Indra, to be
the sire? Towards this goal, Pandu undertook a severe penance directed
towards that god. Indra was highly pleased. He appeared before Kunti and
gave her a son. As a result, Arjuna was born. The birth of Arjuna was
heralded by great rejoicing in the ether world, where apsaras and
gandharvas sang and danced and showered their blessings.
along, Pandu’s other wife, Madri, was watching the arrival of Kunti’s
sons with awe. The desire to have children was kindled in her. She
approached her husband, Pandu, and pleaded with him to talk to Kunti. If
Kunti could utter the Mantra on her behalf and summon a god, her desire
could also be fulfilled. Pandu understood Madri’s longings. He talked
to Kunti who graciously agreed to help Madri.
Kunti asked Madri
to summon any god of her choice. The clever Madri closed her eyes and
invoked the twin Aswins, gods who were like two sides of the same coin.
The Mantra took effect and Madri was able to obtain two sons from a
single boon. The twins Nakula and Sahadeva were born. Pandu now had five
sons, all of them sprung from gods.
The strange birth of Duryodhana, his brothers and sister
one day visited Dhritarashtra’s queen, Gandhari. He was received with
great respect by her. This pleased the sage who asked the queen what she
would like most. Gandhari told Vyasa of her desire to have a hundred
“You can rest assured,” Vyasa told her. “Your wish will certainly be fulfilled.”
Gandhari at last conceived, for two years she did not bring forth a
child. In the meanwhile news of Yudhishthira’s birth reached her. She
waited patiently for her labour, but in the end her longing gave way to
frustration. She beat her own stomach. As a result of this desperate act
she brought forth a big piece of flesh.
Vyasa was aware of
Gandhari’s action. He had the ascetic power to see everything that
happened everywhere. He now appeared before the grieving woman.
Gandhari, Vyasa told her that all was not lost. He directed her to
prepare a hundred-and-one vessels and fill them with clarified butter.
He caused water to be sprinkled on the flesh that Gandhari had
delivered. The flesh became divided into a hundred-and-one parts, each
the size of a thumb. In each vessel, one piece of the flesh was placed,
and all the vessels were carefully preserved.
After two years,
from the first of the hundred-and-one vessels, Gandhari’s eldest son,
Duryodhana, was born. When the baby issued from the vessel, he
frightened all the elders, as his crying resembled the braying of an
Dhritarashtra anxiously addressed Bhishma and Vidura,
“Yudhishthira is elder to Duryodhana and he would become king. Will
Duryodhana also become king?”
As soon as Dhritarashtra asked
this question, the hideous calls of jackals and other animals were
heard. Vidura interpreted this as an evil sign, and recommended that
Duryodhana should be killed then and there. Of course, no father would
agree to kill his son.
It happened that the day Duryodhana was born was the same as on which Bhima was born to Kunti.
a month, the remaining ninety-nine sons of Gandhari were born. From the
hundred-and-first vessel was born, a daughter. This satisfied Gandhari
who had the desire for a daughter in addition to her hundred sons. In
due time, the daughter, Dussala, was married to Jayadratha, the King of
During the pregnancy of Gandhari, Dhritarashtra liaised
with a Vaisya (service class) woman as a result of which he got a son,
Chapter 1 Adiparva - Part 3
a victim of desire. Vyasa warns of dark days. Duryodhana’s attempt to
kill Bhima. Bhima visits the netherworld. Tutor for the princes. Drona’s
birth. Drona gets Parasurama’s weapons. Drupada turns out Drona.
Drona’s skill wins him a job.
A thumb for preceptor’s fee. Arjuna
is Drona’s foremost pupil. Duryodhana gifts Anga kingdom to Radheya.
Drona humbles Drupada. Yudhishthira is heir apparent. Arjuna’s fee to
his preceptor. Minister Kanika cautions Dhritarashtra.
Pandu, a victim of desire
with his wives and five handsome sons, was leading a happy life in the
forest. Remembering the curse that was upon him, he carefully followed
his discipline of maintaining his celibacy. But Fate cannot be cheated.
In a weak moment, when Kunti was absent, Pandu desired the company of
Madri. Madri agreed. The curse chased Pandu, and he died in Madri’s
The family was plunged in deep sorrow, and Madri could not
forgive herself for causing Pandu’s death. Her remorse was such that
she decided to kill herself by climbing into her husband’s funeral pyre,
an accepted practice among Kshatriya women. Before Madri mounted the
funeral pyre, Kunti promised that she would show the same affection to
the twins, as she did to her own three sons, a promise which she kept.
ascetics in the forest came to know about Pandu’s death. Since they
regarded the departed king highly, they took Kunti and the children to
the Kaurava capital of Hastinapura.
The kingdom was plunged in
sorrow when they learnt about Pandu’s death. The ascetics were given
full honours and were sent back with appropriate presents.
Vyasa warns of dark days
met Satyavati during the obsequies that were performed for Pandu and
Madri, She asked him anxiously, “With your power to visualize the
future, what do you see ahead for this family?”
“Respectful mother, I see destruction and misery to the world, caused by
infighting among your great-grandchildren. Rather than your witnessing
those sorrowful events, I would advise you to retire to the forest and
devote yourself to prayers.”
Satyavati followed Vyasa’s advice. Joined by Ambika and Ambalika, she left Hastinapura and entered the woods.
Duryodhana’s attempt to kill Bhima
Pandu dead, the reins of government now passed into the hands of
Dhritarashtra. The Kaurava (Dhritarashtra’s family) and the Pandava
children grew up together in Hastinapura. From the earliest days the
Pandava children were miles ahead of the Kauravas in intelligence,
capacity to learn and physical strength. Bhima who was a strong lad, was
also a big bully. He was fond of teasing his Kaurava cousins whose
despair he soon became. Duryodhana, in particular, grew a deep hatred
for Bhima, resulting in his earliest attempt to kill his cousin.
had a water pavilion built at a place called Pramankoti on the banks of
the River Ganga. He then proposed that all his brothers and his five
cousins spend a holiday there.
The children were sent to the new
resort where they had a happy time, bathing in the river and feasting.
At an opportune moment, Duryodhana managed to slip poison into Bhima’s
food. Towards evening, while all the other children dressed up and
returned to the palace, Bhima, under the influence of the poison, fell
unconscious on the river bank and was lying alone. Making sure that
nobody was watching, Duryodhana bound Bhima in ropes of creepers and
threw him into the deep water. He then returned to the palace, sure that
his cousin would be eaten by the creatures under the water.
Bhima visits the netherworld
sank to the bottom of the river, reaching the kingdom of snakes.
Poisonous snakes living there bit him all over his body, excepting his
chest, which was too hard to be penetrated. The venom of the snakes
acted as antidote to the poison that Bhima had consumed. He regained his
consciousness and broke the ropes binding him. The strong Bhima then
pushed the snakes down. Soon the oppressed snakes took him to Vasuki,
king of the Naga world.
At the Naga court, Bhima met a snake,
Aryaka, who turned out to be the great-grandfather of Kunti. Intermixing
of humans with asuras, nagas and apsaras was not uncommon in the epic.
The venerable old snake was pleased to recognize Kunti’s son. He admired
the boy’s strength and recommended to Vasuki that Bhima should be given
Rasakunda (vessels with nectar) that would restore him from his recent
ordeal. After swallowing eight vessels-full of the nectar, Bhima went
off to sleep.
Meanwhile, in the palace in Hastinapura, there was
great commotion as Bhima’s absence was noticed. Kunti was inconsolable.
Vidura pacified her by saying that Bhima would definitely return,
although he suspected foul play by Duryodhana.
There was great
relief when, eight days after he disappeared, Bhima walked in, happy and
majestic. He related to his brothers what he felt certain was
Duryodhana’s treachery and his own adventures in the nether world.
Yudhishthira instructed him not to mention this to anyone. At the same
time he advised his brothers to be cautious.
Duryodhana made yet
another attempt to poison Bhima and failed. By now Duryodhana had
formed a coterie with his uncle Sakuni and friend Radheya. Together they
kept plotting against the Pandavas.
As the Kaurava and Pandava princes grew up, Bhishma looked out for a tutor for them. His choice fell on Kripa.
Tutor for the princes
Gautama, the great sage, due to his penance, had acquired immense
prowess in the wielding of the bow and arrow. When Indra observed him
intensely meditating, he became concerned. In order to disturb his
concentration, he sent the apsara, Janapadi, of unsurpassed beauty, to
the lonely spot where Gautama was meditating. The sage was momentarily
distracted by the apsara, but pulling himself together, he fled the
scene. Due to the haste of his departure, he left his bow and arrow and
deerskin on the ground. In that split second, his energy fell into a
bush from which a pair of twins, a boy and a girl, materialized.
Santanu who was passing that way while hunting, saw the twins. He took
them with him and brought them up in the palace. Santanu named them
Kripa (pity) and Kripi since he took them with him out of pity.
through his spiritual insight, came to know that his son and daughter
were with Santanu. The sage called on the king and explained the
children’s lineage to him. He also spent time to teach Kripa arms and
In due course, Kripa was appointed tutor to
the Kaurava and Pandava princes. On Bhishma’s recommendation Kripa also
took under his wings the Vrishnis (of Yadava origin).
children had learnt all that Kripa had to offer, Bhishma, ever concerned
about his clan, felt the need to appoint a preceptor who could impart
them higher education. The choice fell on Drona, a brahmin well versed
in the Vedas and equally so in the various branches of warfare. The
Kauravas, Pandavas and other princes, all benefited from this great
Drona means born out of a vessel.
The sage Bharadwaja, one who observed the most rigid vows and was well
versed in arms, once went to the River Ganga to bathe. There he saw the
beautiful apsara, Gritachi, and momentarily lost his concentration. His
vital energy was held in a vessel, out of which Drona was born. As he
grew up Drona learnt all the Vedas and the science of warfare under
various teachers. Bharadwaja had knowledge of an astra (arrow) called
Agneya, which was all-powerful. This knowledge was imparted by him to a
sage, Agnivesa by name. Agnivesa, in turn, taught this astra to Drona.
sire, Bharadwaja, was a friend of the Panchala king, Prishata, father
of King Drupada. As children, Drona and Drupada used to play together.
Drupada, once in play, offered Drona his kingdom, whenever he became
king. When Prishata died Drupada became monarch of the powerful kingdom.
soon attained heaven. Drona grew up to marry Kripi, the twin sister of
Kripa. To them was born a son, who, as soon as he was born, gave a cry
which resembled the neighing of a horse. Those who heard the sound
compared it to the neighing of the divine steed Ucchaisravas. The child
was therefore named Aswatthama (horse-voiced). This son of Drona was
endowed with immense strength and intelligence.
Drona gets Parasurama’s weapons
great destroyer of Kshatriyas, Parasurama, after his encounter with
Bhishma, laid down his arms and turned his attention to performing
penance. Drona heard about this and immediately went to Parasurama.
Drona’s obeisance towards him pleased Parasurama.
told Drona, “Lo! I do not know how to reward you. You have come to me at
a time when I have left with me only two things. My body and my
weapons. You can have either of them, if you so desire.”
Drona chose the warrior’s his weapons. Parasurama obliged by handing over to Drona all his powerful weapons.
Drupada turns out Drona
spent his early life in poverty. He was so poor that, after
Aswatthama’s birth, he found that once he could not even buy milk for
his child. It was then that he remembered the promise made by Drupada
when they were children, that the prince would give his kingdom to his
friend. Drona repaired to Panchala with his wife and son, and met the
After being received with the civility due to a brahmin,
Drona reminded Drupada of the promise he had made when they were
“I do not ask for your entire kingdom. Give me at
least part of it,” Drona told the king. Drupada rudely turned Drona out
saying, “A promise made in childhood has no meaning. You are in no way
equal to me and should not desire my friendship. One who is not a king,
should not aspire to be a king’s friend, let alone ask for his kingdom.”
walked out in a rage. Revenge was foremost in his mind. But he had no
means of countering a powerful monarch like Drupada. He therefore
thought of a scheme. He would acquire intelligent and loyal pupils who
would fight for him and help him subdue Drupada. For the present, he
sought the shelter of his brother-in-law, Kripa, who was living in
Drona’s skill wins him a job
day, the princes of Hastinapura who were playing in the vast palace
garden, chanced to stray near where Drona lived with Kripa. One of the
princes dropped a ball into a well and could not get it out. Drona who
was watching him, offered to help. He took his bow and formed a chain of
arrows from willows of grass. He shot one end of the chain into the
well. The leading arrow pierced the ball, and as the chain was pulled,
the ball was retrieved. Drona gave a further demonstration of his skill.
He threw a ring into the well and retrieved it in a similar fashion.
princes, who were watching Drona’s awesome skill, ran to Bhishma. They
told their grandfather the story of how a strange brahmin had recovered
the ball and the ring from the well. Realising that the brahmin could be
none other than Drona, Bhishma sent for him. When Drona arrived, he was
received with warmth and respect. Bhishma offered him the tutorship of
the sons of Dhritarashtra and Pandu. Drona readily accepted the offer.
the first day of his tutorship, Drona asked his young pupils, “I shall
impart to you excellent knowledge on warfare. I however have an object
in mind. Would you help me achieve it?” All the children were quiet.
Arjuna alone stepped out and assured to do whatever his preceptor bid
him to do. This pleased Drona and Arjuna became his favourite pupil from
Drona taught his wards, which included his own son
Aswatthama, all skills, spiritual and martial. His fame as a teacher
spread far and wide. Soon princes of the Vrishni and Andhaka clans, as
well as Radheya, the charioteer’s son, became his pupils.
Drona treated all his pupils with the same care. But it was Arjuna who became his favourite.
a father, however, Drona did show some partiality towards Aswatthama,
He would set all the princes on the job of fetching water from a nearby
river. Aswatthama was always given a receptacle with a broad mouth,
which he could fill ahead of others so that he returned to his father’s
side earlier than the others. Drona taught extra skills to his son
during the period when they were alone.
The clever Arjuna,
however, was quick to discover Drona’s trick. He would fill the
receptacle with the Varuna (god of Water) arrow, and rush to Drona’s
side, in time to catch any special lessons Aswatthama might receive.
ambidextrous Arjuna was an ideal student. He learnt everything that his
teacher had to offer, including the skill to operate his weapons in the
dark. All this pleased the preceptor to no end and he vowed to make
Arjuna the greatest bowman of all time.
A thumb for preceptor’s fee
interesting side story of this period is that of Ekalavya who was the
son of the ruler of the Nishadas, a tribe of hunters living in the
forest. Ekalavya desired to become the greatest bowman in the world.
Nishada prince realized that to become a great bowman he needed to have
a great teacher. He had heard about Drona, the celebrated tutor of
Hastinapura. Ekalavya approached the venerable teacher for lessons. But
Drona turned him down because of his low birth. Ekalavya had to return
to the forest in disappointment.
Some time later, the Pandava
princes went on a deer hunt. A dog that was being led by an attendant
strayed into the forest. The attendant later found it lying dead with
five arrows piercing it from its mouth and leaving through its tail. The
attendant brought this to the attention of the Pandavas who set out to
find who could shoot so skillfully with his bow. When they saw Ekalavya
practicing in the forest, they asked him who he was and who his teacher
was. Declaring himself to be the prince of the Nishadas, he told them
that Drona was his teacher.
Arjuna heard this and was deeply
perturbed. With Drona’s tutelage, the Nishada could very well overtake
him in archery. He rushed to his teacher.
Arjuna described the
incident in the forest to Drona, at the same time reminding his mater of
his promise that no other pupil of his would excel the Pandava prince
in archery. Drona asked to be taken to Ekalavya.
prince, after prostrating before the revered Guru, told him that, having
been rejected as a pupil, he made an image of Drona and installed it on
a pedestal. He practiced in front of the image and acquired all his
skill. He therefore acknowledged Drona as his teacher.
preceptor,” Drona told Ekalavya, “I should be paid a fee.” Ekalavya
assured that he would pay anything the teacher asked. Drona demanded
that Ekalavya should cut his right thumb and offer it. Without
hesitation, the Nishada prince cut off the thumb.
Arjuna is Drona’s foremost pupil
being excellent with the bow and arrow, Arjuna also became an Atiratha,
one who can, from his chariot, vanquish sixty thousand foes. A supreme
test of Arjuna’s abilities as an archer was when the teacher asked his
students to aim at a clay bird installed on the tree. He asked each
student what he saw as he set his aim. All the pupils described the
tree, the branch, the leaves and finally the bird. Arjuna said he saw
only the bird and nothing else. When Drona questioned further, Arjuna
said that he saw only the bird’s head. The next moment Arjuna released
his arrow, which took the bird’s head.
In the wielding of the
mace, both Bhima and Duryodhana showed equal ability. Being an excellent
preceptor, Drona developed a particular skill in each of the princes.
Arjuna alone was skilful in all disciplines.
Once Drona and his
pupils went to the River Ganga for a bath. As he stepped into the water,
a ferocious crocodile caught hold of his foot. As Drona cried for help,
there was only one who could react fast enough. It was Arjuna, who sent
five deadly arrows and destroyed the reptile. Pleased at Arjuna’s
readiness and quick reflexes, Drona taught him a divine weapon, the
Brahmastra. It was so potent that, if it was directed against an
inferior opponent, it will destroy the whole world. Arjuna was cautioned
to use it only against celestials, not humans.
Duryodhana gifts Anga kingdom to Radheya
graduation day, an arena was built where the students displayed all the
skills that they had acquired under Drona’s tutelage. The King, Bhishma
and all the other elders watched the students as they showed their
mastery over various martial arts. Arjuna impressed all by his skills
with the bow. But he was challenged by the charioteer’s son, Radheya,
who boasted that he was a better bowman. Duryodhana and his brothers
felt elated at the prospect of Arjuna being humiliated by Radheya.
settle the issue as to who was the better archer, Arjuna or Radheya, a
contest between the two was arranged. In keeping with the vogue, the two
contestants were introduced to the assembly, the master of ceremonies
being Kripa. While Arjuna’s credentials as a prince were clear, Radheya
could make no such claim. He was only the son of a charioteer.
were raised from the assembly that Radheya, due to his low rank, was
not eligible to challenge Arjuna. The contest was about to be called off
when Duryodhana intervened.
“If all that is wanting is that
Radheya should be a king to challenge Arjuna,” Duryodhana said, “then I
would make him a king now and here.” He immediately offered his friend a
kingdom that was under his suzerainty, Anga, and Radheya was installed a
king. The friendship between Duryodhana and Radheya was sealed forever.
the fight between Arjuna and the newly crowned king of Anga could take
place, the sun went down and the meet was called off. Duryodhana
proudly led his friend by his hand, out of the arena.
Drona humbles Drupada
now thought that he should ask from his pupils, his fee as preceptor.
The moment he was waiting for, to avenge the insult he had received from
Drupada, had arrived. He told the princes that they should march on
Panchala and seize its king, Drupada. All joined the campaign
Drona, with his army of young princes, marched
on Panchala. In the battle that ensued, Duryodhana, supported by his
brothers and Radheya, was given the first opportunity to attack Drupada.
The Panchala king fought bravely and the Kauravas had to show their
The Pandavas now took over. Leaving out Yudhishthira, the
other four brothers attacked the Panchala forces. Both Bhima and Arjuna
distinguished themselves in the battle, and soon Drupada was captured
and brought before Drona.
Drona addressed Drupada thus. “Fear
not for your life. Once again I seek your friendship. You told me that
one, who is not a king, should not aspire to be a king’s friend. I shall
become a king by taking half of your kingdom. We can then be friends.”
the defeat of Drupada in the battle, the Panchala kingdom was divided
into two. Drona took the northern part of the kingdom with Ahicchatra as
its capital. The southern part, with Kampilya as its capital, was
returned to Drupada.
Made to swallow his pride, Drupada realized
that being a Kshatriya was not enough. One should, in addition, be as
learned as a brahmin to be able to subdue an enemy like Drona. He
decided to seek knowledge and also get a son who would one day destroy
Yudhishthira is heir apparent
after the above incidents, Dhritarashtra installed Yudhishthira as his
heir apparent, and in stages handed over to him the administration of
the Kaurava kingdom. Yudhishthira, with the active support of his
brothers, was quick in showing the Pandava stamp of quality in
administration, justice and security for the subjects. Bhima who
continued his education on the use of the mace under Balarama, the
illustrious elder brother of Krishna, became a source of strength to
Yudhishthira. He and Arjuna launched an extensive campaign to subdue
several powerful kings and extended the kingdom. While Nakula became an
expert in handling the chariot, Sahadeva learnt spiritualism from
Brihaspati, the teacher of gods, himself.
Arjuna’s fee to his preceptor
day, Drona asked Arjuna, “I have given you the celestial weapon,
Brahmastra. I now demand a fee for imparting that knowledge to you.
There may come a day when you may have to fight with me in battle. You
should then do so wholeheartedly, and not yield ground because I am your
teacher.” Arjuna agreed, not fully realizing the implications of this
Minister Kanika cautions Dhritarashtra
success and fame of the five brothers slowly started working in the mind
of Dhritarashtra, jealousy making its appearance. In his restlessness,
he summoned his minister Kanika to whom he told of his misgivings and
asked for advice.
Kanika gave his master a lecture on the art of
diplomacy and statecraft. He said that the king should always have his
mace raised in order to strike the enemy. He should be alert like a
deer, always apprehending danger. Like a jackal, he should outwit
everyone while reaching his goal. Killing of anyone, even if it is a
friend or a relative, was permitted for the king if his security was
threatened. Kanika’s lecture was a treatise on diplomacy, fit to be
followed by any king. He concluded by saying that the Pandavas were a
threat to Dhritarashtra’s sons and the king should act with this in
Chapter 1 Adiparva - Part 4
Burning the Pandavas alive. Dhritarashtra bemoans the Pandavas’ death. A demoness’ infatuation for Bhima.
Bhima deals with rakshasa Bakasura. The birth of Draupadi. Pandavas desire Draupadi.
Arjuna chastises Angararpana. Draupadi’s Swayamvara. Krishna endorses the Swayamvara result.
One bride and five grooms. Drupada gives away Draupadi to the five brothers.
Burning the Pandavas alive
was Duryodhana unaffected by the fame of the Pandavas. This was a
subject of constant discussion between him and his associates - his
brother Duscasana, uncle Sakuni and friend Radheya. They decided that
the only way to halt the Pandavas and bring Duryodhana to prominence was
to kill all five of them. A plan was hatched for this purpose.
Siva festival was to be held in the nearby town of Varanavata.
Dhritarashtra suggested to his nephews to go on a holiday to the
beautiful town and take part in the festival. The five brothers agreed
and left for Varanavata along with their mother, Kunti.
Duryodhana had a castle built exclusively for the Pandavas’ stay at
Varanavata. He engaged Purochana from the Mleecha class, known for their
lowness, to design and build the spacious castle. On Duryodhana’s
instruction, Purochana built the entire structure with lac, a highly
inflammable material. The furniture was also of inflammable material. It
was planned to burn the Pandavas alive when they retired for the night.
who had spies everywhere, came to know about the conspiracy. He warned
Yudhishthira in advance about Duryodhana’s nefarious plot and took
immediate steps to devise an escape. A subterranean passage leading out
of the death trap was secretly dug for the Pandavas. The passage ended
at the riverfront where a boat was placed for them. It was decided that
the Pandavas would set fire to the palace and escape unharmed through
the secret tunnel.
It so happened that during the night, a
tribal (Nishada) woman entered the castle along with her five sons.
Fully drunk, they all fell deep asleep in one of the rooms. The
architect Purochana himself was sleeping in another room. Bhima chose
this moment to set fire to the castle. In no time at all the pleasure
palace was engulfed in flames. The five brothers and Kunti escaped from
the blazing inferno through the secret tunnel.
the charred remains of Purochana in one room and that of the Nishada
woman and her sons in another, everyone, in great distress, believed
that Kunti and her five sons had perished in the fire along with the
Dhritarashtra bemoans the Pandavas’ death
of the disaster at Varanavata was received in Hastinapura with shock.
Everyone, except Vidura, was wailing at the fate of Kunti and her sons.
Dhritarashtra ordered that obsequies for the wife and children of his
beloved brother be fittingly performed.
A demoness’ infatuation for Bhima
posse of escapees from the burning lac house crossed the Ganga in the
dead of night and reached the opposite shore. Leaving the boat behind,
they made their way into the forest. Fatigue soon overtook them. Bhima
alone seemed to possess the strength to carry on. At Yudhishthira’s
bidding, he carried his mother and four brothers on his shoulders and
wended southwards. After some distance they stopped to have rest. They
were all very thirsty.
Leaving the others behind, Bhima set off
to find a watering place. He soon found one nearby where he quenched his
thirst. He then went back to fetch the others.
On returning, he
found that his mother and brothers had gone to sleep in exhaustion. He
stood guard over them as he waited for them to rise. This part of the
forest was the haunt of a terrible demon, the rakshasa Hidimbva. He and
his sister, Hidimbvi, were cannibals, living on human beings who strayed
into their domain. Hidimbva’s nose picked up the scent of humans, and
his appetite was wetted.
“We have a nice dinner coming our way,”
Hidimbva told his sister. “I could smell humans in that direction. You
go and get them while I wait for you in the cave.”
orders, Hidimbvi reached the spot where the Pandavas were resting. On
seeing the handsome and well-built Bhima, Hidimbvi lost her heart to
him. She wanted to have him as her husband. Rakshasas knew magic and
were masters of disguise. Hidimbvi turned herself into a beautiful
female and approached Bhima. She declared her love to Bhima who found he
had similar feelings for her.
“My lord,” Hidimbvi told Bhima.
“My brother would be getting impatient and is probably on his way here.
He is such a terrible monster that he would pounce on you and kill you.
It is better that we flee from here. I can carry you away on my
Bhima did not want to leave his mother and brothers behind. Infatuated by her though he was, he refused to accompany her.
as they were talking, Hidimbva, with a mighty roar, made his
appearance. A terrible fight ensued between the rakshasa and Bhima. The
sleeping persons woke up to see the strange spectacle. The mighty
Pandava broke the Rakshasa’s back and sent him packing to the next
Kunti and Yudhishthira heard from Hidimbvi of her
infatuation for Bhima. She told them, “I yearn to have a son through
this mighty human.” The elders advised Bhima to marry Hidimbvi. Although
at first he resisted, Bhima eventually agreed. He however laid one
condition: Hidimbvi should leave him as soon as a son was born to them.
a reversal of roles, the bride lifted the groom and carried him to a
distant spot in the mountains for their honeymoon. Soon the couple was
blessed with a mighty rakshasa boy whom they named Ghatotkaja (one whose
head was bald like a mud pot). The god Indra gave a portion of himself
to this son of Bhima, knowing that he had an important role in the war
that would one day take place. As was common with rakshasas, Ghatotkaja
was born the day he was conceived and immediately attained maturity.
Acting on her promise, Hidimbvi, along with her son, took leave of the
Pandavas, with Ghatotkaja assuring his father and uncles to return
whenever he was summoned.
Bhima deals with rakshasa Bakasura
Pandavas had no desire to return to Hastinapura in a hurry. They
dressed as ascetics and wandered from place to place, seeing many
strange countries. After a period they encountered their grandsire,
Vyasa. The sage consoled them for their misfortune but predicted that
they would one day regain their lost kingdom and rule the world. For the
present, he said, he would take them to a brahmin family in the town of
The Pandavas reached Ekachakra disguised as
brahmins. The family with whom they stayed consisted of husband, wife, a
son and a daughter. Although poor, they were kind and helpful to the
Pandavas. The five brothers, adopting the brahmin tradition, set out
every morning and collected alms from far and wide. In the evening they
would pool the food and Kunti would divide it amongst them all. An extra
allowance was always made for the insatiable Bhima.
region there lived a fierce rakshasa, Baka by name. He was a cannibal.
Since the local ruler was weak-kneed and could not control the
predations of the rakshasa, the town’s inhabitants had made an
arrangement with him. Every day a man was sent to him with a cartload of
rice and two buffaloes. Baka would eat all the food and, as a bonus,
eat the human who brought it. In return, the rakshasa left the
inhabitants alone, and even protected them from any external danger.
Every family in the village sent a member to the cannibal by turn.
turn of the brahmin family soon arrived, and there was naturally
wailing emanating from their quarters. Kunti enquired and found out the
reason. The brahmin told her that from among the husband, wife, son and
daughter, one of them had to go to Baka as his food the next morning.
brahmin told Kunti, “We are in despair, with each insisting on going so
that the others could live. The only solution seems to be for all of us
to go tomorrow and offer ourselves to the rakshasa.”
offered to help the brahmin by sending one of her sons to Baka. “I have
five sons,” she told the couple, “whereas you have only one. Besides, I
know that the son I intend sending would easily slay the rakshasa.” With
great reluctance, the brahmin family agreed to Kunti’s proposal.
Yudhishthira initially expressed to Kunti his misgivings on being
involved in the whole affair. But he yielded ultimately, and Bhima was
chosen to go.
Bhima left the next morning to the rakshasa’s
abode, taking the rice and buffaloes with him. Arriving at the forest,
Bhima started to eat the food himself while calling out for Baka. The
rakshasa was enraged at Bhima’s conduct, and a fight ensued between the
two. In that fierce battle, Bhima killed the rakshasa and threw him to
the ground. Baka’s kinsmen who were watching the slaughter with awe were
warned not to harass human beings any more. Peace and happiness
returned to the region.
The birth of Draupadi
Drupada, who was humbled by Drona, was living in one half of his
erstwhile kingdom. The desire to take revenge on Drona was burning in
Drupada’s heart. But he realised that Kshatriya power alone was not
enough to subdue Drona. He needed brahmin power as well.
approached the sages Yaja and Upayaja and with their help performed a
sacrifice for obtaining a son who would have the strength and knowledge
to kill Drona. Drupada was amply rewarded for his efforts. Out of the
sacrificial fire came a male and a female child. The male was born with
an armour (dyumna) and looked big and majestic. He was named
Drishtadyumna. This prince, when he grew up, ironically, learned
weaponry from Drona himself, whom he was destined to slay.
female child was radiant, with big eyes, long hair and sharp features.
Since she had a dark complexion, she was named Krishna (dark). Better
known as Draupadi, the daughter of Drupada, this child grew up to be a
very accomplished princess. When she came of age, Drupada wanted to find
a suitable husband for her. He arranged a Swayamvara.
Pandavas desire Draupadi
Ekachakra, a traveling mendicant stopped at the brahmin’s house where
the Pandavas were staying, and narrated his experiences during his
wanderings. He mentioned that in the Kingdom of Panchala, King Drupada
was holding the Swayamvara of his daughter, Krishna, to choose a husband
The same thought, namely to win over Krishna as a
daughter-in-law for the family, passed the minds of the mother and five
sons. Kunti, not expressing her real intent, proposed that they travel
to Panchala where brahmins received much respect and alms. There was
total agreement from the brothers.
Coincidentally, Vyasa made
one of his appearances in their abode, and was received with great
respect. Vyasa related to them the story of a rishi’s daughter who
observed a great penance honouring Lord Siva. Pleased with her efforts,
Siva appeared before her and asked her what she wished.
maiden was overwhelmed by the god’s presence and nervously stuttered,
five times, that she wanted a husband possessing the best of qualities.
Siva granted her the boon and told her that since she had repeated her
request five times, she would get five husbands who would all of them
become famous. For this, she would be born in the sacrificial fire of
King Drupada in Panchala. This was the origin of Krishna’s birth. Vyasa
advised the Pandava brothers to proceed to Panchala and participate in
Arjuna chastises Angararpana
mother and five sons were wending their way through the forest towards
Panchala, they reached the bank of the river Ganga. A gandharva,
Angararpana by name, stopped them and warned that the time was reserved
only for his kind to visit that spot. With disdain, Arjuna replied that
Ganga was everybody’s property and challenged the gandharva from
The infuriated gandharva attacked the Pandavas. In
the battle that ensued, Arjuna humbled Angararpana whose life was
spared only due to the pleas of the gandharva’s wife. The gandharva
himself was grateful to the Pandavas to be let off alive. He bowed to
them and offered to teach them the secret of seeing the past and the
future, a skill possessed by his tribe. He also gave the brothers
several thousand horses, which Arjuna assured, would be collected later.
Arjuna, in return, taught the gandharva the use of the celestial fire
weapon. A close friendship was forged between Angararpana and Arjuna.
to have a family priest, Arjuna asked the gandharva to suggest a
person. Angararpana directed the Pandavas to a brahmin, well versed in
the Vedas and moral conduct, Dhaumya by name. When the Pandavas
approached Dhaumya who was living nearby, the latter agreed to become
their adviser on religious matters and accompanied them to Panchala.
Arriving at Panchala, the group, still dressed as brahmins, took
residence at a potter’s house.
witnessed the beauty and valour of Arjuna when he fought on behalf of
Drona, Drupada was nurturing the desire that the prince who married his
daughter would stand up in comparison to the Pandava hero. To test the
valour of the suitors, an archery competition was devised for the
Swayamvara. An elaborate machine was installed in which there was a
moving object. The aspiring prince should shoot five arrows through an
orifice and hit the object, a task which none inferior to Arjuna could
perform. The bow itself was so heavy that only an Arjuna could lift it.
the appointed day the city was gaily decorated, even as hundreds of
princes rode into Panchala as participants or observers of the
Swayamvara. The list of kings read like a who-is-who of royalty of that
period. Kalinga, Salya, Duryodhana and his brothers, Sakhuni, Radheya,
were all there. Even Balarama and Krishna, the illustrious sons of
Vasudeva, turned up for the event.
In the crowd of spectators
were the five Pandava brothers, disguised as brahmins. They however did
not escape being observed by Krishna who whispered to Balarama, “Behold
those five. They must be the Pandavas, escaped from the house of lac.”
by one the suitors tried their hand at the bow. Amidst ‘hoos and haas’
from the crowd, those who could lift the mighty bow, fixed the arrow and
had a go at the target. None succeeded in even clearing the orifice,
and it looked as though that Draupadi would have to spend the rest of
her life as a maiden.
When Radheya walked into the arena and
stringed the bow, there was hope that he would be successful. But the
princess declared that she would not marry a person of low class.
Radheya had to leave the bow on the ground and withdraw.
all the assembled princes had failed in the contest, there emerged from
among the spectators a brahmin youth, tall, handsome and radiating
brilliance. He boldly stepped into the arena and offered to string the
bow. There was mixed reaction all around, some of those assembled
ridiculing him and some encouraging him. The young man, ignoring all
comments, took his stand. Even as the entire assembly watched him with
bated breath, he performed the task of hitting the target with
consummate ease. And lo! A hero had emerged to claim Draupadi’s hand.
Drupada himself was gladdened by the brahmin’s feat and felt relieved
that someone in the assembly could pass the test and win Draupadi for
Yudhishthira and the twins left the hall immediately
to carry the happy news of Arjuna’s success in the Swayamvara to their
Krishna endorses the Swayamvara result
of the brahmin youth incensed the assembly of princes who felt
dishonoured. They accused Drupada of deliberately insulting them, and
together they rose to attack the hapless king. The two Pandava brothers
who were present came to his defence. Among the suitors who were
foremost who took up arms against Drupada were Radheya and Salya. Arjuna
fought off Radheya with his arrows, while Bhima viciously attacked
Salya with his fists.
Observing the fight, Krishna rose and
announced to the assembly that the brahmin had won the princess in a
fair contest. The jilted princes should therefore retire in good grace.
His counsel was accepted.
One bride and five grooms
and Bhima took Draupadi with them and caught up with Yudhishthira and
the twins. On reaching the potter’s house, they left Draupadi at the
door and went inside. They told Kunti that they had returned with the
alms collected during the day. The mother, as was usual, told them to
enjoy the fruit equally. When Draupadi was led in, Kunti was shocked to
find that what was to be equally shared was a wife. There ensued an
argument amongst the mother and the brothers as to who should marry the
princess. They then recalled Vyasa’s words that the princess was
destined to have five husbands, and it was agreed that all five brothers
should marry Draupadi.
Krishna found out where the Pandavas
were staying and reached there with his consort Rukmini and brother
Balarama. They were meeting their aunt and cousins after a long period.
Krishna expressed his happiness in finding the Pandavas alive and well.
Soon after, Krishna left for his kingdom of Dwaraka.
Drupada gives away Draupadi to the five brothers
brother, Drishtyadumna, secretly followed the brahmins and the princess
to the potter’s hut. Spying on the Pandavas he discovered by their
behaviour that they were of high, royal lineage. He returned to his
father and told of his conviction that the brahmin youth was Arjuna and
that the Pandavas who were believed to have perished in a terrible fire
were, in fact, alive.
The next morning Drupada sent his high
priest to escort the wedding party to the palace. Yudhishthira revealed
to the king their identity. The king became happy as he pictured in his
mind Arjuna marrying his daughter. It therefore came as a shock to
Drupada when Yudhishthira told him that Draupadi was to be married to
all the five Pandava brothers.
Seeing the confusion Drupada was
in, Yudhishthira narrated to him instances of polyandry from mythology,
justifying their proposed action. Drupada still believed that it was
sinful for one woman to marry many husbands.
It was at moments
like these that Vyasa, who watched everything through his insight,
stepped in to clarify matters. He appeared now on the scene. Taking
Drupada aside, Vyasa told him that the five brothers were parts of the
Vyasa explained to the king, “The present Indra and
four of his predecessors had offended the god Siva by their proud
behaviour. As punishment, Siva wanted them to be born as humans. On
their pleading with the god, he made them a concession. He blessed them
with power and fame while they were humans. The supreme goddess Sree
(consort of Mahavishnu) would be born to become their wife. Siva
approached Vishnu and told him of these developments. Vishnu endorsed
Vyasa also told Drupada of Siva’s blessing to
Draupadi in a previous birth, that she would have five husbands. The
five brothers were the Indras, while Draupadi was the goddess Sree.
Drupada was now satisfied and he felt happy at his good fortune. He
celebrated his daughter’s wedding with the Pandava brothers in pomp and
Chapter 1 Adiparva - Part 5
reaction to Pandavas’ return. A kingdom for the Pandavas. The birth of
Indraprastha. Narada’s advise to Pandavas on domestic bliss. Arjuna’s
exile as he breaks the code. Arjuna meets Ulipi. A son for Arjuna
through Chitrangada. Arjuna redeems five Apsaras. Arjuna abducts Subhadra. Birth of Abhimanyu. Arjuna gets his Gandiva and Krishna his Chakra.
Kauravas’ reaction to Pandavas’ return
tidings reached Dhritarashtra that a prince from his family had won the
hand of the Panchala princess, the king felt elated. He assumed that
the prince who was talked about was his own son, Duryodhana. It was
Vidura, who met the king soon after, who pricked the bubble by telling
him that the Pandavas were alive and it was they who were successful in
Dhritarashtra was disappointed at his son’s
failure in the Swayamvara. Added to this was the shock of knowing that
the Pandavas were alive. Although he pretended to be happy, his heart
was festering with hatred for the Pandavas. As soon as Vidura left, he
sent for Duryodhana and Radheya. He told them that the Pandavas were
alive and would no doubt come back and claim the kingdom. Duryodhana
strongly represented to the king that the Pandava power should be broken
by some intrigue or internal dissension. Radheya pointed out that
Pandava unity could not be breached. He argued instead for the forceful
elimination of the Pandavas by attacking them immediately, when they
were not backed with military might.
The indecisive monarch
summoned the elders for advice. Bhishma and Drona declared that their
love for the Pandavas was no less than their love for Dhritarashtra’s
sons. Discouraging the king from any thought of attacking the Pandavas,
they pointed to the invincibility of the Pandavas in battle. They
derided the ‘low born’ Radheya for giving pernicious advice to the king.
Vidura forcefully endorsed their views. The king had to bow to superior
A kingdom for the Pandavas
Vidura to Panchala to fetch Kunti and her sons back to Hastinapura. When
the Pandavas arrived, they were given a rousing reception by the
gentry, while the elders in the palace embraced them in happiness. There
was much rejoicing all around over the family reunion.
proposed that the Pandavas be given half the kingdom, with their
capital located in Khandavaprastha. The region allotted to them was wild
and backward, partly desert and partly forest. But the Pandavas
accepted the proposal and immediately moved to their new habitation.
The birth of Indraprastha
paid a brief visit to the Pandavas at Khandavaprastha and blessed them.
Krishna visited them and helped them to settle down. With their
blessings and encouragement, the Pandavas transformed the desert into a
garden. Innumerable trees of different kinds were planted, several lakes
were dug and in a very short time, Khandavaprastha became like a
paradise. A variety of animals migrated into that area. Brahmins took
residence to receive benefits from the Pandavas. Vaisyas set up
flourishing trade. A mighty fortification with wide trenches and high
walls was built around the town. The new city was named Indraprastha, a
city fit for gods. Neighbouring kings became vassals, some willingly and
some being forced to. Seeing his cousins well settled, Krishna returned
to his capital, Dwaraka.
Narada’s advise to Pandavas on domestic bliss
divine sage Narada, always a well-wisher of the Pandavas, made a visit
to bless the new king and offer him advise on various matters. A subject
he touched upon was that of family harmony. Pointing out, with
appropriate instances in mythology, to the likely unpleasant situations
that might arise when a woman had more than one husband, Narada made a
suggestion. At any time, when Draupadi was with one of the brothers, the
others should stay away from the couple’s apartment. If anyone breached
this understanding, he should observe celibacy and depart from the
kingdom for twelve years. Yudhishthira and his brothers agreed to follow
the advise of Narada.
Arjuna’s exile as he breaks the code
day a brahmin came running to Arjuna, wailing that his belongings had
been robbed and that the robbers were fleeing. He appealed to Arjuna to
give them a chase. It so happened that all the Pandava arms were stored
in the quarter occupied by Yudhishthira who was then in the company of
Draupadi. Since he was called upon to help a person in distress, Arjuna
dashed into Yudhishthira’s apartment, disregarding the consequences.
Picking his weapons, Arjuna chased the robbers and brought them to
Returning to the palace, Arjuna approached Yudhishthira
and told him that he had breached the understanding the brothers had.
The punishment agreed upon, namely exile, should be imposed on Arjuna.
Yudhishthira’s arguments to dissuade Arjuna, the latter was determined
to banish himself from Indraprastha for twelve years.
A host of
brahmins followed Arjuna as he set out from Indraprastha. They chanted
hymns from the Vedas, and Arjuna distributed food, kind and cattle
liberally to them. They entered the region at the foot of the Himalayas
where Ganga made her descent into the plains. There they camped and
Arjuna meets Ulipi
One day, when
Arjuna was bathing in the river, he was dragged to the bottom by Ulupi,
the daughter of the Naga king. On reaching the snakeworld, she expressed
her desire for union with the Pandava hero. When Arjuna told her of his
celibacy vow, Ulipi said she knew all about it. But the vow, she
explained, pertained only to Draupadi and did not prohibit Arjuna from
having relations with other women. Satisfied with her argument, Arjuna
acceded to her request.
Ulipi later took Arjuna to their king,
Kauravya. The king was pleased with the Pandava prince and treated him
warmly. The Nagas taught Arjuna the art of staying inside water for a
long time. They also made him invincible when attacked by an amphibian. A
few strong snakes were sent along with Arjuna to escort him to the
Travelling northwards, Arjuna ascended the peak of
Vasishta in the Himalayas. From there he traversed the rich, green
forests of Naimisha, reaching the gate of the Kingdom of Kalinga in the
East. Here the brahmins took leave of their benefactor. Arjuna crossed
the Kalinga country and arrived at the Mahendra Mountains. Along the
Himalayas he traversed to Manipura in Northeast India.
A son for Arjuna through Chitrangada
was ruled by King Chitravahana whose daughter, the princess
Chitrangada, was a great beauty. The king welcomed Arjuna and treated
him as his guest.
While walking in the garden one day, Arjuna
happened to see the princess. The god of love, ever ready with his bow,
aimed a few darts at Arjuna’s heart. Arjuna approached Chitravahana and
asked for the princess’ hand. Chitravahana was pleased with Arjuna.
king, however, had this to say, “Due to a curse on one of my ancestors,
every succeeding king could have not more than one child. Hitherto only
sons were born in the family, and the dynasty continued without a
hitch. I have, however, been blessed with a daughter. You could marry my
daughter only if you promise to leave behind your wife and progeny in
Manipura, so that the dynasty could continue.”
Arjuna agreed to
Chitravahana’s condition. He took Chitrangada for his wife. When he left
Manipura three years later, Arjuna had given Chitrangada a bonny son
who resembled his father in his splendid appearanc . The son was named
Arjuna redeems five Apsaras
South, Arjuna reached the shores of the ocean. He arrived at a place
having five regions inhabited by ascetics. Each of these regions had a
sacred watering place. But the ascetics were afraid of stepping into
these waters as a ferocious crocodile lived in each of the five watering
places. Hearing about this, Arjuna resolved to destroy those creatures
and make the waters safe for the ascetics.
When Arjuna stepped
into one of these holy waters, a crocodile tried to drag him in. Arjuna
grabbed the reptile and pulled it out of the water. The crocodile
immediately turned into an apsara. She bowed to the prince and told him
that she was grateful to him for releasing her from a terrible curse.
apsara related to Arjuna how a sage had cursed her and four of her
companions when they disturbed him while he was in penance. They would
all become crocodiles for a hundred years, the sage had pronounced. When
the apsaras pleaded with the sage to forgive them, he told them that
their deliverance would come when one day a hero of great fame would
pull them out of the waters and set them free. The apsara asked Arjuna
to help her companions also to regain their previous form. Arjuna
obliged her. The five spots where the apsaras were redeemed from their
curse acquired the name, Narithirthas (the holy waters of the nymphs).
Arjuna abducts Subhadra
West, Vibhatsu (which was one of Arjuna’s names) reached the holy sea
shore of Prabhasa in the vicinity of Dwaraka. Krishna who lived in
Dwaraka among the Yadavas, heard about Arjuna’s arrival and rushed to
meet his alter ego. For indeed, Arjuna and Krishna were the sages Nara
and Narayana of yore. Together they had performed great deeds in the
past, cleansing the world of evil forces. Krishna escorted Arjuna to
Dwaraka where a great welcome had been arranged for the Pandava hero.
Arjuna paid his respects to Krishna’s father Vasudeva, mother Devaki and
elder brother Balarama. There was feasting and rejoicing.
decided to stay as the Yadavas’ guest for a few months. When Arjuna was
one day strolling in the company of Krishna, he spied a maiden of
divine beauty, elegant in walk, with eyes like a doe’s. Arjuna was
smitten with desire.
Sizing the situation, Krishna explained to
Arjuna, “The maiden you just saw is none other than my sister Subhadra. I
could see from your look that you would like to win her. You have my
consent to marry her.”
Describing the various ways a man could
obtain a bride, Krishna listed abduction as one of them, sanctioned by
Kshatriya code. Subhadra also gave her consent for the proposal, having
been similarly afflicted in her heart on seeing Arjuna. Krishna sent a
fast messenger to Yudhishthira and obtained his permission for the
A grand festival was at that time being held at the
nearby Raivataka Mountain where the entire royal family, nobility and
common people had assembled. Krishna chose this moment for Arjuna to
abduct the princess, providing a chariot for the purpose.
Arjuna swept the princess in his chariot and was about to leave,
bystanders observed the act and raised a cry. The chariot was stopped
and both Balarama and Vasudeva were about to attack Arjuna. But seeing
Krishna calmly watching the proceedings with a smile on his face,
Balarama realized that it was all his younger brother’s machination. He
called off the attack and consent was given for the wedding. The
marriage was duly sanctified, and all the elders joined in blessing the
Birth of Abhimanyu
After a year of bliss at Dwaraka, Arjuna spent the last year of his exile with Subhadra in the holy town of Prabhasa.
and the other members of the family gave Arjuna and his bride a warm
welcome when they finally reached Indraprastha. Closely following this,
Krishna and his family members, along with their close relatives,
arrived at the Pandava capital, bringing with them a handsome dowry. It
consisted of a thousand cars having gold frills, each with four steeds
and a charioteer, ten thousand of the best Mathura cows, a thousand
mares, a thousand mules, a thousand attending maids, hundreds and
thousands of draught horses, ten carrier loads of gold, a thousand
elephants, gems and rich clothing.
After much merriment, the
bride’s party of Vrishnis, Andhakas and Bhojas, all of the Yadava tribe,
returned to Dwaraka. Krishna alone stayed back to spend some time with
To Arjuna and Subhadra was born a son, Abhimanyu. And
Panchali bore a son to each of the five brothers, in intervals of one
year. They were Prativindhya of Yudhishthira, Sutasoma of Bhima,
Srutakarman of Arjuna, Satanika of Nakula and Srutasena of Sahadeva.
Arjuna gets his Gandiva and Krishna his Chakra
Krishna’s stay with the Pandavas, Arjuna proposed to Krishna that they
spend a day at the Yamuna River. Accordingly, they reached the banks of
the river early in the morning accompanied by a retinue. Arjuna and
Krishna then ventured alone into the woods known as Khandava forest.
They were suddenly confronted by a brahmin who appeared to be hungry and
wanted food. The royal visitors promised to satisfy the brahmin.
brahmin who was in disguise, took his real form and introduced himself
as the god Agni (Fire). He narrated to them a strange story.
once lived a famous king, Swetaki by name. He was fond of performing
sacrifices where sages chanted Vedas, sitting around a huge fire. The
incessant and unbroken performance of sacrifices left the sages rubbing
their eyes in pain, irritated as they were by the smoke.
soon came a stage when the sages would no more cooperate with the king
in carrying out his sacrifice. After the sages left, a desperate Swetaki
undertook a severe penance, concentrating his thought on the god Siva.
Mightily pleased with his devotee, the great god appeared before the
king and asked what he desired. The king told him his story and asked
the god himself to be the officiating priest in the sacrifice.
told Swetaki that he would assist the king if he satisfied a condition.
For twelve years, Swetaki should lead the life of a celibate. During
this period, he should continuously pour libation in the sacrificial
fire. Swetaki fulfilled this condition and prayed to Siva again.
Siva once again appeared before him. Satisfied with Swetaki, he deputed the sage Durvasa to assist in his sacrifice.
god of Fire, Agni, is the receiver of all sacrificial libation. The
twelve years of continuous offering of clarified butter by Swetaki, led
to Agni becoming satiated. The overdose of libation made him sick and
In despair, Agni approached the supreme lord, Brahman, and
sought his help. Brahman advised that the cure for his surfeit lay in
his destroying the entire forest known as Khandava, and eating the fat
of all who lived there. The forest was populated by creatures hostile to
Agni followed Brahman’s advise, but every time he spread
his ferocious flame in the forest, the inhabitants found ways of
quelling the fire. The elephants splashed water from their trunks and
the serpents snuffed the fire with their hoods. In addition, Indra kept
striking with his thunderbolt, causing rain. His interest was to protect
his friend, the serpent Takshaka, who lived in that forest.
times Agni tried; and seven times he failed to destroy the forest. He
rushed to Brahman and once again poured his woe unto him. Brahman told
him, “Do not despair. The great sages Nara and Narayana have become
incarnate on earth as Arjuna and Krishna in order to fight evil forces.
Even now they are in the Khandava forest. Seek their help in consuming
Arjuna and Krishna expressed their willingness to
help Agni but pointed out that they did not possess the necessary
weapons to carry out such a massive operation. Agni, with Varuna’s help,
immediately provided Arjuna with a divine bow, Gandiva by name, and a
splendid car with the celestial ape in its flag. The bow was endowed
with great power, and even its twang could bring death to enemies
through the fear it inspired. Along with the bow came two quivers, which
were inexhaustible. These were the weapons that the god Soma had used
to vanquish the demonic Danavas.
As for Krishna, Agni gave him a
disc endowed with the power to destroy any enemy and return to the
owner after the deed was done. He also gave Krishna a mace of immense
prowess, the Kaumudaki. Armed with these weapons, the two brave princes
fought the forces opposing Agni.
With the protection given by
Nara and Narayana, Agni was able to consume the entire forest. Indra
tried his best to thwart Agni, but failed in the face of Arjuna’s
arrows. Takshaka, the serpent king, being away at Kurukshetra, escaped.
His son Aswasena was caught in the fire along with his mother. Aswasena
escaped by deceiving Arjuna with Indra’s help, but his mother was killed
by Arjuna’s arrows. Arjuna, Krishna and Agni cursed Aswasena for his
deceit, “You shall never become famous.”
The fire raged for
fifteen days. Only five other creatures, besides Aswasena, escaped death
as the forest was destroyed, the Danava demon Maya who pleaded for
mercy, and four birds called Sarangakas. These birds were in fact the
sons of the sage Mandapala who met Agni when the latter was proceeding
towards Khandava. Knowing his mission, Mandapala appealed to Agni to
spare his sons. Agni acquiesced.
Strangely, the destruction of
the Khandava forest that harboured the enemies of god pleased Indra
immensely despite his earlier opposition to Agni. He asked the two
defenders of truth to seek boons from him. Arjuna sought the famous
weapons of Indra, which were of immense power. Indra promised to oblige
when the appropriate time came. Krishna’s wish was that the friendship
between him and Arjuna should endure forever. The boon was given. He
also gave them the boon that they could go to any region, nether, earth
or ether, at will.
Soon after their return to the palace Krishna left for Dwaraka.
Chapter 2 Sabha Parva - Part 1
Maya builds a Hall. Pandu not qualified for Indrasabha, says Narada. Yudhishthira consults Krishna on Rajasuya. Two halves of a baby. Can Jarasandha be killed?Financing the Rajasuya sacrifice. Yudhishthira’s Rajasuya sacrifice. Sisupala obstructs the Rajasuya sacrifice. The three eyes and four hands of Sisupala. Sisupala’s blasphemy and its consequences. Vyasa’s prediction after the Rajasuya. Yudhishthira’s vow. Duryodhana’s exhibition in Maya’s hall. Sakuni’s scheme for a dice game. Pandavas invited for dice game
Maya builds a Hall
Danava demon, Maya, whose life was spared during the exhumation of the
Khandava forest, felt grateful to Arjuna. He wanted an opportunity to
return the favour. Maya was the son of the foremost asura, Diti, and was
renowned for his skill in architecture.
Maya told Arjuna, “For
the mercy you showed me when you burnt down the Khandava forest, the
least I can do in return would be to build for you a hall in
Indraprastha, where I can show my skill as an architect.”
accepted Maya’s offer. Over a period of fourteen months, the Danava put
up a hall of great majesty in Indraparastha, lavishly decorated by
gems, and comparable to the god Indra’s assembly hall. The huge
amphitheatre was admired by one and all as an architectural marvel.
Pandu not qualified for Indrasabha, says Narada
the Pandava fame spread far and wide, many kings and celestials visited
Yudhishthira’s court where they were received with the courtesy and
honour due to them. The divine sage Narada was one such visitor. After
his feet were washed by the king and the symbolic Arghya grass was
offered to him, the sage expressed his happiness at the courtesy shown
When Yudhshthira showed Narada around the newly built
hall of Maya, the sage expressed his admiration for its architectural
brilliance. “This is easily one of the best I have seen,” the sage said.
He then described to Yudhishthira the halls of the various gods.
said, “By gradation, they start with the hall of Yama, God of Death, at
the lower end, and progress to that of the Supreme Brahman. But the
most prestigious is the Indrasabha, the Hall of Indra. This houses a
conclave which is limited to the most outstanding of kings and sages.”
Yudhishthira asked Narada eagerly, “Surely, my father, the incomparable Pandu, should be occupying a prominent place there.”
replied, “Alas, I regret to say that your father, for all the fame he
enjoyed on earth, has not been admitted to Indrasabha. For a king to
enter the Hall, he should have at least one of three qualifications.
While on earth, he should have performed the Rajasuya (assertion of
omnipotence) sacrifice, he should have lost his life in battle or he
should have performed severe penance. Since your father had done none of
the above, he is not to be found in Indra’s company.”
continued, “I met your illustrious father while I was on my way to
earth. When he heard that I was visiting your court, he wanted me to
convey to you his desire that you hold a Rajasuya sacrifice where you
could establish your supremacy over all the kings of the earth. Your
father would get the benefit of such a sacrifice and would qualify for
admission into Indra’s court.” Narada then took leave of the king.
felt deeply saddened that his father did no find a place in Indra’s
court. Fired by Narada’s words, Yudhishthira consulted the elders and
his brothers and decided to perform the Rajasuya sacrifice. The Rajasuya
was of a rigorous nature when all other kings on earth were made to
acknowledge voluntarily or through force, the superiority of the
performer. It was well known that the demons known as Brahma Rakshas
would try all they could to disturb and destroy the sacrifice. The king
performing the sacrifice had therefore to be very powerful. He should
also be virtuous, just and charitable.
Yudhishthira consults Krishna on Rajasuya
those around Yudhishthira eulogized him and urged him to embark on the
Rajasuya sacrifice. But Yudhishthira would not take a final decision
without consulting the knower of all things, Krishna. He sent a
messenger to Dwaraka, seeking Krishna’s advise. Krishna took the
opportunity to visit Indraprastha where he could meet his cousins, aunt
and sister. He proceeded in his celestial chariot that traveled like a
ray of the sun.
On reaching Indraprastha, Krishna paid his
regards to Yudhishthira and Kunti, affectionately embraced his other
cousins and blessed his sister Subhadra. He then sat down to answer the
king’s query about his eligibility to perform the Rajasuya.
told the mighty Pandava monarch, “Narada’s advice is worthy of being
followed. I, however, have a concern. A survey of the kings in the
country shows that you are superior to all of them. There is, however,
one exception. And that is the Magadha king, Jarasandha. This evil
oppressor of mankind is so powerful that even I had to abandon my
capital, Mathura, for fear of him, and flee to the Western coast.
had to build a very strong fort at Dwaraka so that my people and I
could live free of Jarasandha’s attacks. Jarasandha carries a grouse
against us because I killed the evil king Kamsa who was married to two
of his daughters. All kings have become Jarasandha’s vassals, and those
who resist him are imprisoned in a fort. He has so far imprisoned
eighty-six kings. After capturing fourteen more, he intends to offer
them one by one as sacrifice to the god Rudra. He will surely not accept
you as superior to him, and would do all he could to obstruct the
sacrifice. He would seek eternal fame by defeating you.”
“What makes him so invincible?” Yudhishthira asked Krishna.
Krishna related Jarasandha’s story to the king.
Two halves of a baby
the mighty king of Magadha, married the twins of the Kasi ruler, both
endowed with beauty and intelligence. The two wives gave him great
happiness but failed to provide a son to carry on the dynasty. One day,
he heard that a sage, Chandakausika, was camping at the outskirts of his
capital. Thither the king went with his wives.
pleased the rishi by worshipping him and offering him valuable presents.
When the king told the sage of his desire to have a son, the rishi
blessed him and said, so be it. Just then a mango from the tree under
which they were sitting, fell on the lap of Chandakausika. The holy man
handed over the fruit to the king and asked him to give it to his wives.
The sage left after assuring the king that he would get a son who would
be a mighty monarch.
Being equally fond of both his wives,
Brihadratha divided the fruit between them. Both of them conceived. When
they delivered, each wife had half of a baby, having one arm, one leg,
half a head and half a torso. The disappointed queens disposed of the
sundered baby through a maid who threw the parts out through the
backdoor of the palace.
A rakshasa woman, Jara by name, who
lived on flesh, was foraging in the garbage for food. She found the two
halves of the baby thrown by the maid. Fate playing a part, she joined
the two symmetrical pieces together. A healthy baby was formed which
started to howl in a thunderous voice. It was so large and heavy that
Jara could not carry it away. The inmates of the palace came running to
find out what the commotion was about. Jara handed over the baby to them
and ran away. When the queens recognised the baby, they were overjoyed.
The baby was given the name Jarasandha, joined together by Jara.
time later, the rishi Chandakausika again visited Magadha. King
Brihadrada received him with great respect and worshipped him. The
learned one predicted to the king that the child born to him would grow
in strength and conquer the whole world. All the kings of the earth
would tremble before his might. After making this prediction, the sage
went away to attend to his business. When Jarasandha came of age,
Brihadrada retired to the forest, installing his son as ruler.
time Jarasandha grew into a fearsome king. Being a friend of Kamsa whom
I slew, Jarasandha drove our tribe of Vrishnis along with our cousins,
the Kukuras and the Andhakas, out of Mathura. I recognized that
Jarasandha was invincible and his death was not yet due, and to keep out
of his way, I moved to Dwaraka.
Can Jarasandha be killed?
told Yudhishthira that he would not be able to perform his Rajasuya
unless Jarasandha was eliminated. This could be achieved only if
Jarasandha was engaged in a personal combat, as the Magadha king was
incapable of being vanquished in the battlefield. It was decided that
Arjuna and Bhima, along with Krishna, should proceed to Magadha to put
an end to this oppressor of kings.
On arriving at Magadha,
Arjuna, Bhima and Krishna gained entry into the city disguised as
brahmins. They did not want to be recognized as princes. Soon they were
in the presence of Jarasandha.
Once they reached Jarasandha’s
presence, they revealed their identity to him. Krishna demanded that all
the kings that Jarasandha had imprisoned should be released.
scornfully replied that he would add these three to those imprisoned.
“But,” he said, “I always defeat my foe in war before killing or
imprisoning him. In your case, since you are without an army, I am
prepared to fight you individually.”
It was decided that a
combat between the king and one of the three visitors should be held.
When asked to select his opponent, the proud Jarasandha pointed to
Bhima, the one who looked the biggest and strongest.
took the precaution of installing his son Sahadeva as king before the
battle started, in the unlikely event of his being killed in the fight.
followed was a war between two mountains. Bhima and Jarasandha were
engaged in personal combat for fourteen days even as the earth shook
under them. They clashed like elephants and let out roars that sent fear
in the spines of those who heard them. Finally, Bhima overwhelmed
Jarasandha who lay down exhausted. Jarasandha appealed to Bhima to give
him time to recover. But Krishna prompted the mighty Pandava to put an
end to the Magadha king. Bhima lifted his opponent and dashed him to the
ground. He then broke Jarasandha’s back with his knee. There was a
great roar from Jarasandha as he met his death.
all the kings imprisoned by Jarasandha in the hill fortress known as
Girivraja. The liberated kings worshipped Krishna and asked what command
he had for them. Krishna told them that they were free to return to
“You have Bhima to thank for your liberation,”
Krishna told the kings. “He is the brother of the great king,
Yudhishthira, who is holding a Rajasuya sacrifice. You should all assist
the Pandava king in his Rajasuya.” The kings agreed in one voice.
The new king of Maghada, Sahadeva, sought Krishna’s blessings and commenced his beneficial rule.
victorious three were given a rousing welcome when they returned to
Indraparastha. Krishna took leave of the Pandavas and left for Dwaraka,
having accomplished his objective of eliminating Jarasandha.
Financing the Rajasuya sacrifice
the one big obstacle in performing the Rajasuya removed, Yudhishthira,
his brothers and their counselors met to plan for the sacrifice. An
event of this size and importance, they realized, would cost enormous
money, what with hosting innumerable kings and providing presents to an
ocean of brahmins and others who would turn up on the occasion. The
Pandava coffers just did not have enough gold to meet these expenses.
was therefore decided that the four brothers of Yudhishthira would
undertake a tour of conquest and extract money from the various kings of
the country. Accordingly, Arjuna went North, Bhima went East, Nakula
went West and Sahadeva went South. The Pandava brothers marched
fearlessly in the four directions. Most kings acknowledged
Yudhishthira’s suzerainty and paid generously. Those who hesitated were
brought to their knees.
The princes met with resistance only
once, when Sahadeva had an encounter with Agni, the god of fire, in the
city of Mahishmati. The ruler of the city, Nila, was protected by Agni.
Agni had been enamoured of the daughter of Nila whose hand he sought.
Nila agreed for the marriage on condition that Agni would always protect
Sahadeva was unable to defeat Agni. He bowed to the
god and prayed to him. Agni was pleased by the prayer and bade Nila to
accept Pandava superiority and pay tribute.
When they returned, the four brothers had brought enough wealth for the Pandava treasury to overflow.
was chosen as Yudhishthira’s ambassador to Dhritarashtra’s court to
invite the king for the sacrifice. He repaired to Hastinapura where,
after paying his respect to his grandsire, uncles and preceptors, he
told them, “My brother, the King of Khandavaprastha, by your leave,
desires to hold the Rajasuya sacrifice. He seeks your blessings and
encouragement to do so.”
“I am proud that Yudhishthira is taking
this step,” Dhritarashtra said. “We are all behind this enterprise and
shall attend the sacrifice and personally give him our blessings.”
Sahadeva also called on Duryodhana and his brothers and invited to grace the function.
Yudhishthira’s Rajasuya sacrifice
the day of the sacrifice, hundreds of Kshatriya kings, in addition to
those he had invited at Hastinapura, turned up for the grand sacrifice.
Sakuni, Radheya, Jayadratha, Drupada and Salya were all present. The
illustrious princes of the Yadava race, Balarama and Krishna, came well
ahead to help in the preparations. People of all four classes flowed
Those that were near and dear to Yudhishthira
were given various offices. Duryodhana was the receiver of gifts and
tributes from the kings. Duscasana took charge of the kitchen.
Aswatthama attended to the comfort of the brahmins. Kripa handled the
gifts to those brahmins. Sanjaya recieved the kings. Vidura was the
disburser of funds. Krishna himself went around washing the feet of
The sacrifice was planned fully observing the
established rules, and in a manner that pleased both those on earth and
those above. The sage Narada appeared and was pleased to observe the
grand event. Being a god, he could foresee the future. Narada was struck
by the thought that very soon this august assembly of Kshatriyas would
be divided into two camps and would battle each other till they were all
effaced from the earth. He knew that Lord Narayana who had already
incarnated himself on earth as Krishna would take away all these whom he
had caused to be born from the gods.
Sisupala obstructs the Rajasuya sacrifice
the sacrifice commenced, Bhishma told Yudhishthira that it was
necessary to first honour the distinguished guests by offering them the
Arghya (holy grass, symbolic of respect). The foremost among the guests
should be offered the Arghya first. Bhishma named Krishna as best suited
to receive the honour.
In that great assembly was present
Sisupala, the King of Chedi. When Bhishma suggested Krishna’s name,
Sisupala stood up and protested loudly.
Sisupala said, “To
propose Krishna for the honour is an insult to many of the eminent kings
who are assembled here. I am myself much superior to Krishna in valour
and strength. My own claim should be met first.”
went on to heap insults on Krishna. “This Krishna is a mere cowherd. He
uses magic to meet his ends. He tricked other princes and abducted
Rukmini, much against the wishes of her family.” And so on.
few other kings joined Sisupala in a chorus. When Yudhishthira did not
accede to Sisupala’s demands, the Chedi King prepared to walk out of the
hall. Yudhishthira ran after him, trying to conciliate him. An angry
Bhishma asked the Pandava king to desist, and declared, “Those who know
not the nature of Krishna do not deserve to be conciliated.”
stood up and warned that anyone trying to obstruct Krishna being
honoured would have his head ground by his foot. On behalf of his king,
he proceeded to wash Krishna’s feet and offered him the Arghya.
and his followers rose in arms, aiming to disrupt the sacrifice. When
Bhima prepared to meet their attack, Bhishma restrained him saying,
“Fear not, prince. The lion would know how to deal with the dogs.” He
then related to the assembly, the story of Sisupala. Bhishma said,
The three eyes and four hands of Sisupala
Sisupala was born to the King of Chedi with three eyes and four hands.
He brayed like a donkey when he was born. The Chedi king and the queen,
who was the Yadava Vasudeva’s sister, frightened by the child’s
appearance and behaviour, wanted to destroy him. A voice from the
heavens told them that this child was destined to become a great king.
Although his exterminator was already born, his time to die was not now.
The king asked who his killer would be. The voice said, ‘The person by
whose presence the third eye and the two extra arms would get detached
and fall off would be the person to kill Sisupala.’
monarchs visiting Chedi were shown the baby with the hope that his
would-be killer be identified. Balarama and Krishna heard about the
happenings in Chedi and made a visit to their aunt. The child was shown
to the brothers. When Krishna lifted the baby and put him on his lap,
its extra eye and extra hands fell to the ground.
aunt appealed to Krishna to show mercy on her child and asked for a
boon. “Please do not kill my son, even if he offended you.” she
pleaded. Krishna agreed, adding that he would forgive Sisupala if he
offended him, not once, but a hundred times.
In time Sisupala
became a cruel and wicked monarch, causing distress to his subjects and
other kings. The fool does not realize that destiny is beckoning him,
and he is insulting none other than his deliverer.
Sisupala’s blasphemy and its consequences
words only incensed Sisupala further. He continued to mount insult upon
insult on Krishna. Krishna told the assembly that the low minded
Sisupala coveted his own aunt, the wife of Akrura, and was even claiming
the hand of Rukmini, Krishna’s consort. Sisupala continued to challenge
Krishna, mounting abuse upon abuse on him. Krishna said that in keeping
with his promise to his aunt, he had patiently listened to a hundred
insults from the wretch, but now the time had come to show Sisupala the
way. So saying, he released his disc, which, with a great blaze, flew at
Sisupala and dismembered his head.
Vyasa’s prediction after the Rajasuya
all impediments removed, the sacrifice was carried to a successful
conclusion. After receiving as much gifts as they could carry, the kings
and commoners who had converged in Indraprastha started to leave.
Krishna, satisfied at the success of the sacrifice, left for Dwaraka.
informed Yudhishthira that he was leaving. The king bowed to the
illustrious sage and asked a question. “Whenever a sacrifice of the
dimension of Rajasuya is performed, there may be a terrible fallout,
like an earthquake or flood. Is this condition satisfied with the death
Vyasa replied, “I see terrible times in the next
thirteen years, and you, Yudhishthira, would be in the eye of the storm.
As a portend, the mighty god Siva might appear in your dream.” With
this, the dark one left.
Vyasa’s words, Yudhishthira became so remorseful that he wanted to end
his life rather than live and cause misery to the world. His brothers
consoled him and asked him to meet the coming events with the fortitude
he was famous for. Yudhishthira resolved that he would, from that day,
observe the strictest self-discipline. He would not offend anyone by
word or deed and would preserve his equanimity in the most trying
Duryodhana’s exhibition in Maya’s hall
the departure of all the guests, Duryodhana and Sakuni alone remained
in Indraprastha to enjoy the hospitality of the Pandavas. It happened
that Duryodhana was one day strolling inside the famous assembly hall
built by the asura Maya. The crystal floor and the doors had a magical
quality about them. Where there appeared to be a pool, there was none,
and where it looked like solid ground there was water. Where there
appeared to be a door, there was a wall, and where there was a door, one
could not see it. All this confused Duryodhana to no end. He kept
falling into the pool and dashing against the wall. Yudhishthira was
engaged in matters of state. But the other four Pandava brothers who
were watching Duryodhana, were greatly amused and were ridiculing their
cousin. Duryodhana flushed with shame.
Sakuni’s scheme for a dice game
their way home from Indraprastha, Duryodhana, in his misery, expressed
to his uncle Sakuni that he would like to end his life, being unable to
endure the Pandavas’ prosperity. Sakuni talked to him encouragingly.
scheming uncle of Duryodhana said, “Where the might of arms cannot win,
cunning could. I have a plan precisely for this. I know that
Yudhishthira loves to gamble with the dice but possesses poor skill in
that game. I am a past master in rolling the dice and could outwit any
By the time they reached Hastinapura, the idea of
inviting Yudhishthira for a game of dice had taken deep root in
Duryodhana was raving with hatred and
jealousy for the Pandavas as he reached Hastinapura. He declared to his
father that he could not continue living, after seeing the fame and
prosperity of the Pandavas. Having been the treasurer at the Rajasuya,
he was witness to the enormous wealth that came pouring in from kings
all over the world. “When would I ever become as wealthy as the
Pandavas?” he asked Dhritarashtra. His father tried to console him.
told his son, “You are in no way inferior to the Pandavas. You are
equally wealthy and your kingdom extends far and wide. You have all the
pleasures of life at your beck and call.”
With gnawing jealousy Duryodhana responded that he would rather die than continue with this wretched existence.
who was with the father and son, intervened and said that Duryodhana’s
woes could end if the Pandava king be brought to Indraprastha for a game
of dice. Sakuni knew all about how to call the right number as well as
to play any number he wanted.
“With the dice as my bow and the
numbers as my arrows,” the son of Suvala declared, “I shall defeat the
Pandavas. Yuthishthira is fond of the game but is very poor in play. If
thou, O King, invited the Pandavas for a friendly game, they would
respond without demurring.” Pandavas invited for dice game
irresolute king consulted Kshatta (as his brother Vidura was known) who
stoutly opposed Sakuni’s idea of inviting Yuthishthira to gamble. When
the king showed no inclination to listen to good counsel, Vidura
realised that the Kauravas were heading towards their own destruction.
Kali, the age of decay, has started, he grimly reflected. Not only was
his opposition to the dice game ignored, the king sent Vidura himself to
Indraprastha to invite Yudhishthira.
Meanwhile, an enormous
hall with thousand pillars, walls studded with gems, was specially
constructed and furnished lavishly in preparation for the game.
at Indraprastha, Vidura was received with all honours by his nephews.
After exchanging pleasantries, Vidura conveyed to Yudhishthira,
Dhritarashtra’s invitation to the Pandavas to see the newly constructed
palace at Hastinapura and compare it with the famous hall at
“Incidentally,” Vidura said, “You could
participate in a game of dice. Many eminent dice players, including
Sakuni, have been invited, and an exciting fare is in the offing.”
clearly expressed his disinclination to engage in a dice game, which,
he said, might lead to enmity within the family. Vidura agreed with him
but pleaded helplessness in the face of Dhritarashtra’s insistence to
hold the game.
Resigning to fate, and duly honouring the king’s
invitation, Yudhishthira set out to Hastinapura in the company of his
wife and brothers.
Chapter 2 Sabha Parva - Part 2
I have won. Duryodhana insults Vidura. Yudhishthira wagers brothers
.and Draupadi. Draupadi is dragged to the gambling hall. Draupadi’s
appeals fall on deaf ears. The attempt to disrobe Draupadi. Radheya's hurting words.Bhima’s vow. Dhritarashtra is frightened. Hook Yudhishthira once again, cries Duryodhana. The second dice game. Pandavas vow again. Vidura describes Pandavas’ exit. Ominous forebodings. Drona's warning to Duryodhana.
Hurrah! I have won
Hastinapura, the gamblers and those close to the two families had
already gathered at the new pleasure palace. When the Pandavas arrived,
Dhritarashtra welcomed them and smelt each on his head out of affection.
They were then shown to their magnificent apartment, and the night was
spent in sport and joy.
The next morning all the guests
assembled in the game hall. Without wasting time, Sakuni stood up and
invited Yudhishthira for the dice game.
The great defender of
truth said, “O son of Suvala. Deceitful gambling is contrary to the code
of Kshatriyas. Wealth should be won in fair battle and wealth so won
should be distributed to the brahmins. However, having been invited by
the king, I would play. We shall accept whatever destiny has in store
Duryodhana, instead of himself playing, nominated
Sakuni to play on his behalf, contrary to established practice. Here
again Yudhishthira acquiesced and the game commenced.
first throw of the dice by Sakuni, Yudhishthira pledged some costly
jewelry. The dice rolled and Sakuni called it right. “Hurrah! I have
won,” he cried.
Yudhishthira next pledged his royal car, known
for its splendour. Adopting unfair means, Sakuni once again won.
“Hurrah! I have won,” he exclaimed.
A hundred thousand girls and
a thousand soldiers were staked by Yudhishthira. The result was the
same and so was Sakuni’s refrain, “Hurrah! I have won.”
stakes kept mounting. Elephants, steeds, chariots, draught animals. The
dice decided their fate and every time it was in Sakuni’s favour.
“Hurrah! I have won.” The shrill voice of the villain rent the air again
As the game progressed inexorably in favour of the
plotters, the elders sat with their heads hanging, unable to intervene.
Vidura however got up and addressed the king, warning him against the
perilous direction in which events were unfolding. “Call off the game
and save the Kuru race,” he urged Dhritarashtra. “This son of yours
would be the cause of the destruction of our entire race.”
Duryodhana insults Vidura
to the quick, Duryodhana flared like a hooded snake. “Eating my salt,
you show no loyalty to me,” he told Vidura. “You pretend to know
everything, but do not understand that you are only the son of a menial
and have not the status to advise me. Treachery comes to you easily and
you are known to always favour my enemy. If you do not approve of the
goings on here, you should walk out.”
outburst, Vidura addressed Dhritarashtra again. “Do not encourage this
evil. This son of yours is blinded by rage. Call off the game. Remember
how the Andhakas, the Yadavas and the Bhojas united to put an end to
Kamsa. It is time now to put an end to Duryodhana. Let Arjuna kill your
evil son. Destroy him before he destroys your race. Keep the Pandavas
with you. To save the peacocks, a crow may be sacrificed. To save the
tigers, a jackal may be sacrificed. Further than this, I have nothing to
say.” So saying, Vidura sat down. Dhritarashtra was unmoved.
Yudhishthira wagers brothers and Draupadi
his personal wealth lost in wager, Yuthishthira started setting parts
of his kingdom on the dice floor. In no time Sakuni, through his skilful
manipulations, won all of it. Soon there was nothing left with
Yudhishthira to play with.
“My brothers are my wealth,”
Yudhishthira declared. Nakula was offered and lost. The dice favoured
its master, Sakuni. It was Sahadeva next, and he too was lost.
cunning Sakuni taunted Yudhishthira. “These are after all Madri’s sons.
But Bhimasena and Arjuna are dear to you, being born to Kunti along
with you,” the Gandhari king said. “You wretch,” Yudhishthira snapped,
“you are trying to sow the seed of disunion amongst us. Here, I offer
“My lucky dice,” Sakuni whispered to the contrivance in
his hand and let it roll. And Arjuna was lost. Bhima followed.
Yudhishthira had now only himself to offer.
Once more the dice rolled and he too was lost.
not despair,” Sakuni told Yudhishthira. “I shall give you one more
chance to regain all that you have lost. Bring the beautiful daughter of
Panchala. With her as stake you may still regain all that you have
As if possessed, Yudhishthira accepted the challenge and
announced that he was wagering what was nearest to his heart, his queen,
the faultless Draupadi.
Hardly waiting for the dice to roll,
Dhritarashtra impatiently enquired, “Has the wager been won?” Radheya
and Duscasana were clapping their hands and laughing. Bhishma, Drona,
and Kripa were staring at the floor, covered with perspiration, despair
written on their faces. Vidura sat with his hands holding his head.
savouring the situation, took his time, knowing fully well that the
dice would obey his command. He kissed the contraption and threw it on
the ground. After rolling for a few fearful moments, the dice settled
down. Exactly as Sakuni had called. “Hurrah! I have won,” he cried out
Draupadi is dragged to the gambling hall
jumped up in joy and commanded Vidura to fetch Draupadi. “The Pandavas
are all my slaves,” he said. “And so is Draupadi. Her quarters from now
should be with the servants and not where the queens and princesses
live.” Vidura stood up and angrily rebuked Duryodhana for the insults he
was heaping on the Pandava brothers and their faultless wife. “The
consequences are going to be serious and the destruction of the Kurus is
sure to follow,” he warned.
“Fie unto you Kshatta,” cried
Duryodhana, intoxicated with Sakuni’s success. He called a Pratikamin
(attendant) standing nearby. He commanded the servant to seek Draupadi
and fetch her to the hall. The Pratikamin went to where the royal ladies
were resting and told Draupadi that her lord had lost everything in the
gamble, including his queen. At his master’s command, the Pratikamin
continued, he had come to take her to the gambling hall. A shocked and
distraught Draupadi sent back the attendant saying, “Go find out first
whether my lord lost me before he lost himself or after.”
Paratikamin returned to the hall and repeated Draupadi’s words to those
present. He looked at Yudhishthira for an answer. Yudhishthira sat
grimly, without uttering a word. Nor did any of the elders speak. It was
Duryodhana who burst out. “Let the Panchali princess come hither and
put the question to her husband so that the entire assembly can hear the
answer. Go and fetch her hither.” he commanded the attendant.
managed to send a message secretly to Draupadi, asking her to come,
scantily dressed though she was due to her season, and appeal to the
Meanwhile, the impatient Duryodhana howled once again at
the attendant to carry out his command. The Pratikamin stood terrified
at the prospect of having to face Draupadi again. “What should I tell
her?” he stuttered.
“This fool is possessed of fear,” Duryodhana
shouted to his brother Duscasana. “You go and fetch her. If necessary,
by force.” Duscasana, with his eyes red, went to where Draupadi was. On
seeing him Draupadi tried to run to the interior, but the evil brother
of Duryodhana chased her and caught her. Disregarding her protests and
pleas he dragged her by her tresses to the assembly. The Panchali
princess looked up and prayed, “Krishna, thou very incarnation of the
supreme god Narayana, I look to thee alone to protect me.”
Draupadi’s appeals fall on deaf ears
she was dragged to the gambling hall, Draupadi appealed to the elders
who were seated frozen in silence. “Do not let this wretch abuse me,”
she cried. She turned to her husbands and her fiery glance seemed to
scorch them. Witnessing her misery, Duscasana kept calling her “Slave”.
He received applause from his brother and the vicious Radheya and
Sakuni. All the others in that great assembly sat benumbed, as if hit by
Draupadi turned to the grandsire and pleaded,
“Have I been won?” Looking at the floor, Bhishma said, “Lo! What can I
say? Indeed, morality is subtle. Yudhishthira himself is silent. I do
not know if I can justifiably intervene.”
Duscasana continued to
mouth profanities, pulling at Draupadi’s clothes. Inflamed though they
were, the Pandava brothers sat as if their hands were tied. Bhima
however could no longer bear to witness the abuses suffered by their
queen. Looking at Yudhishthira’s hands he swore, “All this misery is due
to those hands. Let me burn them.” Arjuna remained self-possessed and
he pacified his brother, “Be not angry with our venerable elder brother.
He has done nothing wrong. He has followed truth. Have faith in him.”
Bhima remained silent.
From the shocked and confused assembly of
kings there arose one voice defending Draupadi. It was that of Vikarna,
one of Dhritarashtra’s sons. “Draupadi has not been won,” he declared.
“She was not the wife of Yudhishthira alone. Besides, there was deceit
practiced by Sakuni. He made Yudhishthira gamble her away. Yudhishthira
had no right to stake her when he himself had been won. Why are the
great Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and Vidura silent when such a travesty of
justice is taking place?” So argued Vikarna, the only one of the hundred
brothers who showed sympathy for the Pandavas.
It was Radheya
who spoke now, ridiculing Vikarna as immature and ill informed. “When
her own husbands are not defending her, it is obvious that Draupadi has
been lost by them in a fair game. She is a slave. Strip her of her
clothes.” screamed to Duscasana. “What is the impropriety in this action
on a woman who could submit herself to five husbands? Take off her
husbands’ clothes as well.” Thus did Radheya spew poison.
The attempt to disrobe Draupadi
Pandava brothers removed their upper garments and sat with their heads
dropped. Duscasana caught one end of the cloth Draupadi was draped in
and started to pull at it. Closing her eyes, her palms joined in prayer,
Draupadi cried, “Hey Krishna, thou protector of the weak and the
faithful, see thou not the well into which we have fallen? See thou not
how the Kauravas are humiliating us? Thou art our only salvation.” And
Krishna heard her voice. Appearing in the scene but invisible to
everyone, he covered his faithful devotee with many layers of clothes of
As the miscreant Duscasana tried to remove
her scanty dress, Draupadi found herself draped once again in a
different apparel. Once more Duscasana pulled and yet again a new
apparel appeared on her. Soon there was a hillock of clothing as
Duscasana, his energy giving way, continued in his attempt to disrobe
the Panchali princess. Like a river flowing from its source, the
clothing kept coming. Until Duscasana fell on the ground, exhausted and
His eyes fiery and his countenance terrible, Bhima swore,
“I shall one day kill this Duscasana who has caused blemish to the
Bharata race. I shall tear his breast and drink his blood. If this
happens not, let me not deserve to join my ancestors when I am dead.”
Radheya's hurting words
urged Duscasana to drag the dishonoured princess away to where the
workingwomen were lodged. He tauntingly told Draupadi that she should
abandon her husbands and marry someone who would give her freedom and
not gamble her away again. Draupadi stood up and turning to the elders,
demanded of them an answer to her question, whether she was won by the
Kauravas or not.
Bhishma squirmed in his seat and repeated what
he had said before. He confessed that he did not know what was right and
what was wrong.
Draupadi’s question went a-begging. Vidura
repeated that having himself become a slave, Yudhishthira had no
authority to stake his wife.
Duryodhana jeered at Yudhishthira.
“You who are knowledgeable in all departments, you tell the assembly
that you have lost Panchali to me.” But Yudhishthira uttered not a word.
Baring his left lap and showing it to Panchali, the wicked Duryodhana
said that since Yudhishthira had failed to give an answer, let the other
four answer the question.
Duryodhana’s gesture in showing his bare lap, the angry Bhima flared up
once again and swore to the assembly, “When the great fight comes, I
would break that offending thigh. If I failed to do so, may I not
When Duryodhana taunted the four brothers
again to answer Draupadi’s question, Arjuna said that before the game
started they were under the sway of Yudhishthira. Now that they have all
become slaves, it was for the Kauravas and their king to decide. As he
said this, the shrieking whine of a jackal issued from the king’s prayer
room. Donkeys brayed and birds shrieked from all sides. Vidura, as well
as Gandhari, read the omen very well. This was the signal that the
Kauravas were on their way to doom, they thought.
Gloating over their success, Duryodhana and his friends left the hall.
Dhritarashtra is frightened
gripped the heart of Dhritarashtra as he heard these noises. He swore
at Duryodhana for having brought about the ruin of the Kauravas. Turning
to Draupadi, he told her in a conciliatory tone that he would grant her
Draupadi asked the king, “Let my husband Yudhishthira,
the personification of truth, be freed from his bondage,” The king
granted her wish and told Draupadi to seek a second boon. Draupadi
desired her other four husbands should be freed from slavery as well.
“Granted,” said Dhritarashtra, urging Draupadi to ask for a third boon.
Draupadi declined. There was no need for a third boon. She said that her
husbands could get back to their old glory, now that they were free.
told Yudhishthira, “You are now a free man. Go to Khandavaprastha and
rule over your kingdom in peace. Forgive Duryodhana for his rashness.
Let brotherly love be restored between you and your cousins.”
Hook Yudhishthira once again, cries Duryodhana
been freed by Dhritarashtra, the Pandavas with Draupadi bowed to the
king and the elders, and left for Indraprastha. Duryodhana and his
confederates who had left the hall were unaware of the boons granted to
Draupadi by Dhritarashtra. It was Duscasana who learnt about it, and he
ran to Duryodhana, wailing that the foolish king had caused all that was
won, to be lost.
Duryodhana, along with Duscasana, Sakuni and
Radheya, rushed to Dhritarashtra. “What a folly this,” he cried at the
king. “We made the Pandavas our slaves, and now you have let them off.
They are mighty and the insults they have suffered would be rankling in
their minds. They would certainly wreak vengeance on us. Lo, we are all
“We can still save the situation,” Duryodhana continued,
“Let us bring them back and make them play the dice game once again. We
shall play for a specific stake. If the Pandavas lose, they should don
deerskins and retire to the forest for twelve years. After the twelfth
year ended, they should spend the thirteenth year in disguise at an
inhabitable place. If detected in the thirteenth year, they should spend
another twelve years in the forest.
“In the event the Pandavas
won, the Kauravas would spend twelve years in the forest and one year
incognito,. After the period is successfully completed, both would have
their original kingdoms restored to them.”
Bhishma, Drona and
Vidura in one voice advised the king not to entertain this plan.
Gandhari who heard of it, pleaded with her husband not to listen to
Duryodhana any more. In fact, she said, they should have followed
Vidura’s advice and killed their first son as soon as he was born. The
path he was pursuing would only lead to the wiping out of the Kauravas.
king, however, would not listen to them. To satisfy Duryodhana seemed
to be the only thought in his mind. “If, as a consequence, my race would
face extinction, let it happen,” he said. He commanded a messenger to
be sent to intercept the Pandavas and bring them back for one last dice
The second dice game
The Pandavas had gone some
distance when the messenger caught up with them and conveyed the king’s
command. Yudhishthira’s brothers were not in favour of entertaining the
invitation, knowing that this was another plot of Duryodhana.
Yudhishthira said, “I know fully well what is to follow. Would Rama not
have known that there could be no deer made of gold? Yet he pursued it
for that was ordained by fate. Besides, we have to honour the king’s
command.” With his brothers and Draupadi he turned back to Hastinapura.
Yudhishthira reached the gambling hall, the assembly was already full.
Sakuni started the proceedings and described the wager to Yudhishthira.
Yudhishthira agreed to the terms and the dice rolled once again. The
inevitable happened. Sakuni called right. The Pandava brothers, along
with Draupadi, were now condemned to spend the next twelve years in the
forest and a thirteenth year incognito.
Pandavas vow again
of “Fie unto Dhritarashtra’s sons” were heard. But Duryodhana and his
intimates made no secret of their joy. The Pandava brothers removed
their regalia and dressed themselves in deerskin, preparing to go to the
Duscasana addressed the Panchali princess, “Pity unto
Drupada who sacrificed his daughter to the worthless Pandavas. Now they
are condemned to a miserable life. But thou, Panchali, need not follow
them. Choose from those present here, a husband.”
words of his cousin, an inflamed Bhima rose and reiterated his vow. “You
wretch, riding as you do on the success of Sakuni, you are piercing our
hearts with boastful words. I would soon pierce your heart in battle
and drink your blood. May entry into my ancestors’ abode be denied to me
if this vow is not fulfilled.”
As the Pandavas started leaving
the hall, Duryodhana walked with a swaying gait, in imitation of Bhima.
Noticing this, Bhima roared at the Kaurava prince, “Bide your time you
wretch. The day is not far off when, with my mace, I would make you
prostrate before me and place my foot on your head.”
said, “As does my powerful brother, so do I swear to kill Radheya in the
great battle.” And Sahadeva said, “This Sakuni will fall unto my
Vidura, after blessing the Pandavas, asked Yudhishthira
to leave his mother, the venerable Kunti, in his care, till the period
of exile was over. Yudhishthira bowed to his uncle’s wish.
Vidura describes Pandavas’ exit
the Pandavas and Draupadi had left, the blind Dhritarashtra called
Vidura and asked him to describe their departure. This is what Vidura
had to say.
The crowds on the way shout, ‘cursed are
Dhritarashtra’s sons for bringing about this calamity to the faultless
Pandavas’. Yudhishthira has his head covered, lest his angry glance may
burn the people. Bhima is stretching his arms as if to say, these are
ready to soon show their worth against the Kauravas. Arjuna goes
scattering grains all around, indicating that his arrows will soon fly
everywhere, seeking the Kauravas. The handsome Nakula has covered
himself with dust so that the women may not look at him and sigh.
Sahadeva has also besmeared himself, not desiring to be recognized on
this day of his misfortune. As for the princess, she goes with only a
piece of cloth covering her, as though to tell the women, in fourteen
years so would you enter Hastinapura, weeping and wailing for your
husbands dead in battle. The priest Dhaumya utters verses from Sama Veda
relating to Yama, the Lord of Death.
the king and Vidura were talking thus, the celestial Narada appeared
before them and warned them that fourteen years hence would see their
entire clan being wiped out. He left immediately. The whining of jackals
and the braying of asses was once again heard from inside the palace.
The sky was dark but for flashes of lightning.
Drona’s warning to Duryodhana
by these omen, Duryodhana and his brothers prayed to Drona to protect
them in the coming days. Drona assured them that he would, but added
that the Pandavas were gods, and humans cannot kill them.
the next thirteen years,” Drona told Duryodhana, “the Pandavas would
adopt strict celibacy, perform penance and seek more education. They
would have become more formidable when they come back. My own death has
been sealed with the birth of a son from the sacrificial fire of
Drupada. Do what good you can during the period till the Pandvas
A distraught Dhritarashtra bade his attendant Sanjay
recall the Pandavas. But before Sanjay could react, that wavering moment
passed, and the king was caught once again in the web of his love for
his first-born. He sighed and retired.
Chapter 3 Vana Parva - Part 1 VANA PARVA Part 1
celestial bowl from the Sun god. The irresolute king. Duryodhana
desires to kill the Pandavas. Duryodhana collects a curse. Bhima kills
Bakasura’s brother. Salwa’s action brings his own doom. Pandavas proceed
to Dwaita. Arjuna leaves to acquire weapons. Arjuna meets Indra.
Arjuna’s scorching penance. Siva gives Arjuna the Pasupata. The gods
give Arjuna their weapons. Arjuna reaches Indra’s hall. Urvasi curses
Arjuna. Arjuna subdues the Nivata-Kavachas.
The celestial bowl from the Sun god
Yudhishthira, his brothers and Draupadi proceeded to the gates of
Hastinapura, the citizens, whose eyes were red with crying, surrounded
them. “Leave us not, O noble Pandavas,” they said. “We could not
conceive of life without you. We would follow you, wherever you go, and
continue to live under your protection.”
“We are undeserving of
so much love,” Yudhishthira told them. “Our hearts do go out for you.
But the grandsire Bhishma, the king, Vidura and our revered mother are
all here in Hastinapura. In this hour you should stay back and be of
support to them.”
The citizens bade the Pandavas a tearful
farewell at the Vardhaman gate (they left, not through the Royal gate,
but the traders’ gate). There the exiles got into their chariots and
drove towards the Ganga river. They spent the night under the great
Banyan tree, Pramana, on the banks of the river where the Pandavas had
played as children. A number of brahmins, chanting holy verses, followed
them and set camp with them.
The next morning Yudhishthira
addressed the mendicants who were depending on him for food. “It is the
duty of the king to provide the necessities of brahmins. His wealth is
for this reason alone. But you know I have been divested of all my
wealth. I do not know how well I could support you.” The brahmins would
not listen to him and continued to stay.
The priest Dhaumya
advised Yudhishthira to pray to the Sun god, for he it was who provided
food and sustenance to all living things. Dhaumya knew a Mantra for
invoking the Sun god, which he imparted to Yudhishthira. Yudhishthira
recited the Mantra, and meditated deeply. The Sun god was pleased with
Yudhishthira’s prayer and he appeared before the erstwhile king.
Learning about Yudhishthira’s concern to provide food for his followers,
the god presented him with a copper vessel of celestial quality.
long as the chaste Panchali, who always eats last, does not eat out of
it and clean it, this vessel will be full with the four kinds of food
made in her kitchen and stored in it; the four kinds of food being meat,
root, vegetable and fruit. May your objective be achieved, and may you
regain your kingdom in fourteen years.” With these blessings, the Sun
With the divine bowl providing inexhaustible
quantities of food, Yudhishthira pleased the brahmins, after feeding
whom he and his family fed themselves.
The irresolute king
Hastinapura, brooding alone over the happenings of the past few days,
King Dhritarashtra felt restless and desired conversation with someone
near to him. He sent for Vidura and asked him, “Kshatta, I am disturbed
at what has happened. You alone have the clear mind to tell me what is
in store for us. Does destruction await us?”
characteristic adherence to truthful talk, Vidura replied, “O King. What
your son has done to the Pandavas is certain to draw fearful
consequences. Yet it is not too late to make amends. Make peace with the
Pandavas and give them back their kingdom. Knowing Yudhishthira, I am
confident that he will forgive his vicious cousin for all his misdeeds.
The two families should live in peace and amity with each other.”
such as this tasted bitter to the king who could find no fault with his
son. He became angry with Vidura and told him, “Truly Kshatta, you are
like an unfaithful wife. Stay here and accept things or go away.”
by the king’s rude words, Vidura left Hastinapura. He knew where the
Pandavas had gone and made that his destination. News of Vidura’s
departure was received with great joy by Duryodhana and his cohorts.
sons of Pandu had moved from the banks of the river Ganga to the forest
known as Kamyaka. As Vidura reached the Pandava camp, an overjoyed
Yudhishthira welcomed him with respect and the two were engaged in
As`soon as Vidura had left Hastinapura,
the king was smitten with repentance at his treatment of his brother. He
fell down in a swoon. On being revived, he bade his faithful servant
Sanjaya to immediately follow Vidura and bring him back. Sanjaya soon
brought Vidura back, much to the consolation of the king.
Duryodhana desires to kill the Pandavas
return to favour of Vidura was a subject discussed by Duryodhana and
his confederates with great concern. Duryodhana was afraid that his
uncle would try to influence the king in favour of the Pandavas and
succeed in bringing the Pandavas back. Radheya suggested that the best
solution would be to chase the Pandavas and kill them. This suggestion
greatly appealed to Duryodhana. Once the Pandavas were dead, Duryodhana
thought, he could rule his country without any fear. He immediately
raised an army with Radheya’s assistance and set out towards the
Pandavas’ quarter in Kamyaka.
Vyasa observed Duryadhana’s action
through his mental powers and accosted the prince on the way. He
stopped Duryodhana and strongly admonished him for his ill-advised move.
Duryodhana had no choice but to call off his expedition and return to
Hastinapura. Vyasa then called on the king and warned him against any
move of Duryodhana to attack the Pandavas. “Even now, stripped of their
kingdom, they are more than a match to your evil-minded son,” he told
Duryodhana collects a curse
Even as Vyasa left
for his abode in the forest, the sage Maitreya arrived at the Kaurava
capital. He was received in the court by the king and duly honoured with
a seat. The sage expressed his dissatisfaction over the injustice done
to the Pandavas and urged the king to recall them.
said, “O King! What has happened can never be justified. Moreover, the
Pandavas, if not recalled, would return after thirteen years, stronger
Listening to the sage, Duryodhana slapped his
thigh and scratched the ground with his foot, showing his impatience and
disrespect for the venerable seer. The enraged sage cursed that the
mighty Bhima would break the insolent prince’s thigh when war came. A
frightened king pleaded with Maitreya to forgive his son. Maitreya said,
“My curse will happen, unless you recall the Pandavas and restore to
them their kingdom.” So saying he walked out, his anger not a bit
Bhima kills Bakasura’s brother
News just then
arrived at Hastinapura of the killing of Kirmira, the brother of the
rakshasa Bakasura, by Bhimasena. The king asked Vidura to give him an
account of the event.
Vidura said, “Pandu’s sons, after their
expulsion from Hastinapura, traveled three days before reaching the
Kamyaka forest. At dead of night, when they were asleep under a tree,
there appeared before them a fearful looking rakshasa, a cannibal,
Kirmira by name. This Kirmira was the brother of Bakasura, the monster
that Bhima killed on an earlier occasion. Recognizing Bhima, the
rakshasa wanted to kill Bhima to avenge his brother’s death. A fierce
battle took place between Kirmira and Bhima. In the end, by sheer might,
the illustrious Pandava strongman killed that terror of the forest. I
saw the huge body of the slain rakshasa lying in the forest, when on my
way to the Pandavas’ dwelling.”
The story, reflecting the Pandavas’ might, only added to Dhritarashtra’s misery, while Duryodhana was deeply perturbed.
Salwa’s action brings his own doom
were the visitors to the humble dwelling of the Pandava heroes at
Kamyaka. Their cousins, the Bhojas, the Vrishnis, Krishna among them,
and the Andhakas as well as other relatives like Drupada and the king of
Chedi, visited them.
Krishna, during a visit, was discussing
the plight of the Pandavas, when he expressed his anger at the Kauravas’
behaviour. Arjuna pacified him. In good time, he said, with Krishna’s
blessing, their difficult days would come to an end.
said that had he been present at Hastinapura on that fateful day, he
would have prevented the Kauravas’ deceitful dice game. “It was during
that time that I was chasing Salwa to his capital in order to end his
life.” he said.
Krishna related to the Pandavas, the Vrishnis’
battle with Salwa. He said, “Salwa, the king of Saubha, deciding to
avenge the death of Sisupala, ‘his brother-king’, marched on Dwaraka
even before I could return from Indraprastha after the Rajasuya
“When I reached Dwaraka, I found that Salwa had
already killed many of the eminent Vrishni warriors. He had caused
widespread destruction to Dwaraka and was returning triumphantly to
Saubha. Angered by the scene, I chased the villain. I finally caught up
with him in an island in the ocean. A fierce battle took place when the
host of Saubha’s Danava warriors adopted various tactics including
illusion. After dispelling them all, I finally released my Sudarshan
disc, a weapon capable of destroying the mightiest of enemies. It killed
Salwa and returned to me. I learnt of the events in Hastinapura only on
my return to Dwaraka after Salwa had been despatched.”
Pandavas proceed to Dwaita
Pandavas soon left their retinue and most of their cars at Kamyaka and
proceeded to the Dwaita forest where, they decided, they would spend
their exile. The forest, full of tall trees, surrounded the sacred lake
of Dwaitavana. The many Rishis who were performing austerities there
blessed the Pandavas. The brahmins who had followed the exiled
Kshatriyas continued to live under their benevolence at Dwaita.
Arjuna leaves to acquire weapons
who visited the Pandavas, told Yudhishthira, “I could see that Arjuna
will slay your foes when the time comes. He should seek the necessary
weapons for the purpose from the gods Rudra, Indra, Varuna, Yama and
Kubera. I shall teach you a Mantra, which would enable one to behold the
gods. You may, in turn, impart the knowledge to Arjuna.”
also advised Yudhishthira to keep moving to different places so that the
forests do not get denuded and depleted by their continued presence.
the sage’s departure, Yudhishthira advised Arjuna, “The Kauravas have
stalwarts like Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, Radheya and Aswathamma, with whom
all knowledge of wielding weapons reside. You alone amongst us are
capable of gaining such mastery in warfare as they possess. The god
Indra is the repository of all the weapons of the gods. I have received
instruction from the venerable Vyasa of a Mantra which, when recited,
will expose to one, the entire universe including the gods. As desired
by him, I shall pass that knowledge to you. Use it to seek Indra. Seek
from him all his weapons which alone can help us in the battle to come.
Seek weapons also from Rudra, Varuna, Yama and Kubera.”
to his brother’s wishes, Arjuna soon left on his quest for weapons. The
remaining Pandavas, heeded to Vyasa’a advise and shifted their camp to
the Kamyaka forest once again, this time on the banks of the River
Saraswati. There they lived for the next five years.
Arjuna meets Indra
with the Mantra received from Yudhishthira, Arjuna made his way to the
Himalayas. Fully armed, with the Gandiva bow in his hand, Arjuna looked
resplendent when he reached Indrakila, the region of Indra. A thin,
emaciated ascetic stopped him and asked, “Who are you? Why are you armed
to your fingernail? You have entered the region where there is no need
for fighting. Disarm and seek bliss. Choose any celestial region you
desire and live there forever.”
Arjuna refused to disarm. “I
have no desire to become a celestial. I have a mission to avenge the
insults heaped on me and my brothers by the son of Dhritarashtra.
Besides, I cannot forsake my brothers who wait for me at Kamyaka.” The
ascetic at once revealed himself to be the god Indra. Paying his respect
to the god, Arjuna said, “It is to meet you that I came here. I seek
from you your weapons.”
Indra replied, “I am aware of your
mission. All my weapons are available for you. But you must first do
penance to the greatest of gods, Siva. I shall give you my weapons only
if you are able to see him.” With this, the god departed.
Arjuna’s scorching penance
and there Arjuna went into the meditation of Maheswara. The penance
undertaken by Arjuna was of the severest nature. He shed the armour he
was wearing, and clad in deerskin, he prayed. Little by little he
reduced his food until, in the fourth month, he subsisted on air alone.
He stood on the tip of one toe with his arms joined above his head. The
heat radiating from him was such that it became unbearable for all the
sages meditating in the region. These sages approached the Lord of the
Mountains, Rudra, and appealed to him to protect them from the severe
effects of Arjuna’s penance. The all-knowing god smiled and sent them
away with the assurance that he would answer his devotee and end his
The god Rudra disguised himself as a Kirata (a tribe of
hunters living in the deep woods). Accompanied by his consort, Uma,
also disguised, and a host of other women, he appeared where Arjuna was
doing penance. Just then a Danava (demon), Muka by name, in the form of a
boar, was about to attack Arjuna. Arjuna prepared to release some
deadly arrows from his Gandiva on the boar. The Kirata bade him stop.
“This mountain of a boar was first sighted by me. Hence it is mine.”
the claim of the Kirata, Arjuna showered his arrows on the boar. The
hunter also sent his arrows and pierced the boar at the same time. The
boar assumed its original form of a rakshasa and fell roaring.
angry Kirata questioned Arjuna about his conduct in breaking the
hunters’ code. Soon the argument led to Arjuna releasing his shafts on
the hunter. The two quivers, which had the quality of being
inexhaustible, became empty even as his arrows bounced off the hunter.
Arjuna swiped his Gandiva bow on the Kirata who deftly snatched it away.
Arjuna took out his sword and aimed a mighty blow on the crown of the
hunter. On landing, the sword broke into pieces, as if it had hit a
solid rock. Having lost all his weapons, Arjuna pounced on the hunter
for physical combat.
The two were engaged in a fierce fight when
a deadly embrace by the hunter caused Arjuna to fall on the ground
unconscious. When he regained his senses, the blood-covered Arjuna found
the hunter gone. He made an image of the god Siva and worshipped it,
asking for strength. He placed a floral wreath on the crown of the
Siva gives Arjuna the Pasupata
Even as Arjuna was
praying, to his surprise, the Kirata appeared, with the wreath on his
head. Arjuna realized that he was in the presence of none other than
Lord Maheswara himself. He prostrated before the god and prayed
forgiveness for his conduct in attacking him. The god raised him with
his arms and embraced him, this time in love.
pleased Lord of the Mountains heard from Arjuna of his desire to possess
arms that could counter the heroes Bhishma, Drona and Kripa. The god
told him, “I know you to be the rishi Nara of old who, with Narayana,
protected the world from the demons. I shall give you that favourite
weapon of mine, Pasupata, the knowledge of which no human or celestial
has. It should be used only against a superior foe. Wrongly used, it
might destroy the entire universe.” The god then imparted to Arjuna, the
knowledge of the use of the weapon.
It was thus that Lord Siva
blessed Arjuna with the holy weapon, the mere touch of which purified
the prince. The god returned the Gandiva to Arjuna. The two quivers were
also restored of their magical quality. “Go now to heaven,” he
commanded the devotee who stood with his head bowed and left to his
abode in the company of Uma.
The gods give Arjuna their weapons
soon as Mahadeva and Uma left, the gods Yama, Varuna, Kubera and Indra
appeared before Arjuna. Yama said, “We are pleased with you, you
incarnate of Nara. I give you spiritual vision with which you can see
celestials. Also accept from me this mace which, when hurled, no one can
escape from.” Varuna gave him the Varuna weapon, capable of bringing
rain and thunder. Kubera gave him the magical weapon Antarddhana, which
can put to sleep any adversary. Indra said, “O son of Pritha, I shall
provide you with my own chariot to transport you to heaven. There I
shall give you my weapons.”
Arjuna reaches Indra’s hall
after the gods left, Indra’s car, huge and splendid, drawn by ten
thousand horses of golden hue, arrived. The charioteer, Matali, conveyed
Indra’s wish that Arjuna be brought to his court. As Arjuna mounted it,
the car flying Indra’s flag and capable of traveling like wind,
transported the great warrior to the court of Indra.
arrived at Amaravati, Indra’s city, Arjuna was greeted by apsaras and
Gandharvas to the chanting of verses by Siddhas and Rishis. As he
reached the great hall of Indra, the lord of thunderbolt himself
welcomed him. He proudly led his son to his throne and sat him by his
side. The divine ladies Gritachi, Rambha, Urvasi, Swayamprabha and many
others danced and sang in the court. The splendid Indra instructed the
celestial artist Chitrasena to teach Arjuna dance and music.
Urvasi curses Arjuna
all the entertainment provided by Indra, Arjuna wore a sad countenance,
remembering the insults heaped on the Pandavas by Duryodhana and his
evil associates. In order to cheer him, Indra approached the apsara,
Urvasi, with the request that she make Arjuna happy.
was already smarting with infatuation for Arjuna, was only too glad to
carry out her mission. She approached Arjuna and declared her love for
him, recalling the interest with which he gazed at her in Indra’s court
while she was dancing. Arjuna explained that his admiration for her was
like his admiration for Kunti or Cachi, Indra’s queen. “You were the
consort of one of my ancestors. Hence, I think of you as the mother of
the Puru race,” he said.
Urvasi explained to Arjuna that apsaras
were free spirits and not bound by conventional morality. But Arjuna
was unmoved. Arjuna’s stubbornness incensed the apsara who cursed him,
“It is at your father’s command that I came to you. When I needed your
love you refused me. For this you shall pass some time in female
company, deprived of your manhood.”
News of Urvasi’s encounter
with Arjuna reached Indra who became pleased with his son’s
steadfastness. He called Arjuna and told him, “You have done your mother
Kunti proud. But do not despair. This curse of Urvasi will come in
handy in the thirteenth year of exile that you and your brothers with
Draupadi will have to spend in disguise. Being a eunuch will give you a
cover and you can then use your knowledge of dancing.”
called the rishi Lomasa and sent him as his emissary to Yudhishthira to
inform him that Arjuna would soon return to earth after mastering all
the weapons given to him by his sire. Arjuna subdues the Nivata-Kavachas
Danavas, Nivata-Kavachas, were demons opposed to the gods. The gods
found them growing in strength day by day. Numbering thirty million,
they lived in the ocean depths. Indra told Arjuna, “As your preceptor, I
demand from you my fees. You should undertake a campaign against my
enemies, the Nivata-Kavachas. You must destroy them and free the gods
from fear of those demons.” Arjuna cheerfully accepted the task. The god
gave him the standard war accessory, a conch, Devadatta, the blowing of
which could inspire fear in enemies.
Arjuna was taken to the
region of the Nivata-Kavachas in Indra’s chariot, driven by Matali.
Arjuna successfully destroyed their might and stormed their city,
Chapter 3 Vana Parva - Part 2
Brihadwaswa tells Nala’s story to Yudhishthira, teaches dice game
especially learned ones, were always welcome in the Pandava abode. One
such was the sage Brihadwaswa. In his conversation with Brihadwaswa, the
sorrowful Yudhishthira blamed himself for losing everything in gambling
with the dice. The sage told him not to despair. He then related to the
Pandava, the story of Nala and Damayanti.
There was a king of
the Nishadas, Nala by name, who was endowed with great beauty and
valour. He subdued all his enemies and was very charitable. He was much
loved by his subjects.
Elsewhere, in the country of Vidharba,
there ruled a similarly virtuous and brave king, Bhima by name. He had
no offspring. The celestial sage Damana once visited him. Learning of
the king’s longing for progeny, he granted him a boon whereby Bhima got a
daughter and three sons. The daughter was named Damayanti, and the sons
were named Dama, Danta and Damana. While the three sons were strong and
intelligent, the daughter grew up to be as beautiful as an apsara. Her
fame spread far and wide.
Many visitors to Nala’s court spoke of
the Vidharbha princess’ looks and accomplishments, just as many spoke
to Damayanti about Nala’s appearance and achievements. Without meeting,
they fell deeply in love with each other.
Nala was able to
convey his affection to Damayanti through a swan which he caught and
whose life he spared. The swan, along with his flock, flew unto
Vidharbha and talked to Damayanti in private about Nala’s love for her.
The princess favourably responded by sending a message to Nala through
In order to find a suitable husband for Damayanti,
Bhima organized a Swayamvara for his daughter. Kings from far and wide
in all the worlds heard about the event and set off to Vidharbha to woo
the princess. In the celestial world, the gods Indra, Yama, Agni and
Varuna became interested in obtaining Damayanti. The four of them
proceeded to earth in disguised as humans.
While on their way to
attend the Swayamvara function, the gods met Nala. They learnt that the
prince was also on his way to Vidharbha to attend Damayanti’s
Nala’s majestic appearance stunned the celestials.
They thought that their own chances with Damayanti were greatly
diminished by Nala’s participation in the Swayamvara. To eliminate him
from the competition, they approached him and asked him for a favour.
Due to his generous disposition, Nala agreed without knowing what they
would ask. The four then revealed their identity and asked Nala to meet
Damayanti and plead their case with her. Nala said that he himself was a
suitor to Damayanti and hence could not help anyone else in this
matter. The gods reminded him of his promise. Nala had to agree.
the help of the four gods, Nala broke through the security in the
palace and reached Damayanti in her private apartment. Their first
meeting only confirmed their attraction for each other. But Nala told
Damayanti about his mission on behalf of the four gods. “It is not
wisdom to antagonize the gods. Do choose one of them and remain happy,”
Despite Nala’s words, Damayanti was firm on choosing
her only true love. At the Swayamvara she perceived five persons who
looked identical, and there appeared to be five Nalas. This confused
Damayanti. She bowed before the five of them and said piteously, “Nala
is the one I want to unite with. I seek the blessings of you gods to
help me. Do please reveal yourselves to me so that I can choose my
Damayanti’s appeal made the gods relent. They also
realized that it was destiny that Nala and Damayanti should be married.
They assumed their godly forms – they looked splendid, their eyelids did
not bat, they had no perspiration, they cast no shadows and their feet
did not touch the ground. Damayanti could now see the human Nala and she
garlanded him. The gods blessed the couple and left.
gods were returning to the ether world, they met Kali and Dwapara, the
two Yugas (eras in the form of divinity). The Dwapara era, where there
remained a modicum of good behaviour in the world, was coming to an end.
Kali, where morals were plunging to a low point, was slowly
establishing his rule. Kali heard the story of the gods’ visit to
Vidharbha and was enraged that a mortal could win in a contest with the
gods. He wanted revenge. The gods reminded him that it was with their
sanction that Damayanti chose Nala. And the four went on their way.
vile and vengeful Kali decided to make Nala suffer for his deed. Saying
that he would make Nala lose everything in gambling, he persuaded
Dwapara to be his dice.
Kali approached Nala’s brother,
Pushkara, and enticed him. ‘”nvite Nala for a game of dice. I assure
you, I would make you win everything he has. You can then rule this vast
kingdom.” The greedy Pushkara agreed.
Kali could not harm Nala
as long as he was pure and devoted to god. He waited for an opportunity
when the prince would commit a breach and enter Nala and possess him so
that he could make him play dice with his brother. Such an opportunity
came when Nala was one day caught performing his evening prayers without
washing his feet, an act of sacrilege, contrary to what the scriptures
said. Kali now entered Nala’s body and took control of him. He made Nala
accept Pushkara’s invitation to gamble.
In the deceitful dice
game that followed, with Dwapara as the dice, Pushkara made Nala lose
his possessions one by one. Nala’s friends and his subjects all appealed
to him to stop playing. But he would listen to none, possessed as he
was by Kali. The dice game continued for many months, with Nala losing
at every throw. Even Damayanti’s words fell on deaf ears. The alarmed
queen realized that there was some power driving her husband along the
dangerous path. As a precaution, she sent her twin son and daughter to
her father Bhima’s house in Vidharbha through a faithful charioteer,
Leaving the twins Indrasena and Indraseni along with
the chariot and steeds at Vidharbha, Varshneya bade farewell to Bhima
and started wandering. He then found employment with King Ritupurna at
Nala eventually lost everything he had to Pushkara in
the dice game and he had to leave his capital with only a piece of cloth
to cover him. His wife followed him similarly garbed. Pushkara had
warned against anyone showing the slightest sympathy for the fallen
king. For three nights the couple languished in the outskirts of the
city, living on water alone. They then went into the forest.
the forest, Nala observed a few birds feeding on the grass. He felt
happy at the prospect of catching those birds for food. He removed the
cloth he was wearing and threw it on the birds. Immediately the birds
took off, carrying the cloth. One of them said, “You foolish man, we are
the spirit that was in the dice. We came to deprive you of your last
With his garment gone, Nala tore a piece of the
cloth that Damayanti was wearing and covered himself. He tried his best
to persuade Damayanti to leave him and go back to her father. But the
noble lady had no desire to leave her husband in such a state. Nala
thought that it was in the best interest of both if he abandoned his
wife. After some hesitation, Nala left her that night when she was
asleep. He started wandering in the forest.
When Damayanti woke
up, she found Nala missing. She wailed and cried out for Nala. While
ruing her helplessness, a big serpent caught her and was about to devour
her. Luckily for her, a hunter who was passing by rescued her. The
hunter was attracted by Damayanti’s beauty and wanted to possess
Damayanti. By the power of her chastity, however, Damayanti caused the
hunter to fall dead.
Damayanti wandered aimlessly in the
fearsome forest until she reached a place where she found some rishis.
The rishis heard her story and blessed her, saying that she would find
her husband and become queen again. The next moment, the rishis
A caravan of merchants passing that way found
Damayanti. The merchants took care of her and she started traveling with
them towards the country of Chedi. On the way the caravan was attacked
by a herd of elephants. Many in the caravan were killed. Those who
survived the attack took Damayanti to Chedi. There she could get
employed by the queen of that kingdom as maid for the princess.
during his wanderings in the forest, Nala encountered a raging fire.
From the fire he heard a snake cry out for help, promising to be his
friend if rescued. Nala rescued the snake from the fire. On being freed,
the snake bit Nala. The next moment Nala’s appearance changed
completely. He lost all his good looks and took a hideous form.
snake said, “O mighty one. The venom I have injected in you will
torture the spirit possessing you. From now you would be immune to any
kind of poison. This change in your form is temporary, so that none
could recognize you. Proceed to Ayodhya and present yourself to King
Rituparna as Bahuka, the equine expert. He would teach you dice game in
return for your teaching him skill with horses. Soon you would regain
your wife and kingdom. I give you a garment which will restore you to
your true form. You can wear it at a suitable time.” Nala took the
garment and proceeded to Ayodhya.
Just as the serpent had told
him, Rituparna employed Nala to care for the Royal stable. From
Rituparna, the Nishada prince learnt all the skills relating to dice
After some time Bhima came to know through his spies that
his daughter was in Chedi. She was soon restored to her father. After
hearing her story, Bhima started to search for Nala far and wide.
charioteer, Varshney, by close observation, discovered that Bahuka was
his old master, Nala, in disguise. He immediately proceeded to Bhima’s
court and told the king about Nala being in Ayodhya in a changed form.
Knowing that Nala would never reveal himself to Damayanti in his present
form and would refuse to come to Vidharbha, the king conceived of a
plan. He sent back Varshney after briefing him of his plan.
to the plan, Bhima sent word to Rituparna that a Swayamvara was being
held for Damayanti. Since there was not much time to journey to
Vidharbha, Ritupurna engaged Nala to drive his chariot, knowing that he
could drive fast.
Once Rituparna reached Bhima’s palace,
Damayanti met the charioteer Bahuka. She realized that he was indeed
Nala. Nala, not wishing to reveal himself to her, kept denying his real
identity. But when he saw his son and daughter, he could not resist
embracing them. Damayanti approached him and pleaded with him to come
out with the truth. Nala finally relented. He took out the garment the
serpent had given him and threw it on his shoulder. His original form
returned and after four years, Nala and Damayanti were reunited. Kali
also left him.
Nala went back to Nishada where he enticed his
brother to gamble with him again. Pushkara thought that this time he
could win over Damayanti whom he coveted, and he consented. But in the
dice game, Nala won back his kingdom and all his wealth. Pushkara was
disgraced. However, filial affection prevailed, and Nala forgave
Pushkara. He gave his brother a portion of his kingdom.
Brihadwaswa revealed that he knew the entire science of dice game. At
Yudhishthira’s request, the sage imparted the knowledge to the Pandava
king. Before Brihadwaswa left, Yudhishthira had learnt all the nuances
of the game.
Chapter 3 Vana Parva - Part 3
Vana Parva Part - 3
plan pilgrimage.The pilgrims’ progress.The lotus of Gandhamadana.The
monkey that subdued Bhima. A traitor in the Pandava camp. Arjuna
returns. A fallen Indra is redeemed. Return to Dwaitavana. The arrival
of Kalki. A needless humiliation for Duryodhana. Duryodhana's strange
dream. The Vaishnava sacrifice. Pandavas' hospitality tested. Give me
food, demands Krishna. Jayadratha is chastised. Radheya loses his
ear-rings and mail. Yudhishthira answers the Yaksha.
Pandavas plan pilgrimage
sage Narada made a visit to the Pandava abode when he talked to them
about the pilgrimage their grandsire Bhishma undertook on the advise of
the sage Pulastya. Narada described the various places Bhishma had
visited, along with their location and history. After Narada’s
departure, Yudhishthira expressed to his priest Dhaumya his desire to
undertake a long pilgrimage to the various holy spots in emulation of
Bhishma. Supporting the idea, Dhaumya also gave a discourse to
Yudhishthira about the various places of pilgrimage. The sage Lomasa
arrived from Indra’s court at this time and it was decided that he
should accompany them and explain to them the glory of each spot that
Yudhishthira called all the brahmins and the
others he was supporting and told them of his plan to undertake a
pilgrimage along with the other Pandavas. A few who were strong enough
joined them. As for the others, he arranged to send them to the court of
Dhritarashtra where they were looked after very well.
The pilgrims’ progress
Arjuna away seeking weapons from Indra, Yudhishthira, his three
brothers, their wife Draupadi, priest Dhaumya and sage Lomasa, along
with some brahmins, set off on the pilgrimage. Starting with Naimisha,
they proceeded to Prayag and Gaya in the foothills of the Himalayas.
They observed the holy rites at each place under the guidance of the
preceptors accompanying them.
When they reached Durjaya in
Central India, they visited the sage Agastya’s hermitage. Here Lomasa
related to them the story of how Agastya swallowed and digested Ilvala’s
brother, Vatapi, and put an end to the persecution of brahmins by the
two demon brothers.
When they took a bath in the sacred river of
Vadhusara, Lomasa described how with a dip here, the warrior Parasurama
recovered his strength after being chastised by Sri Rama whom he
offended by his arrogance.
His rage against Kshatriyas subsided,
Parasurama had taken up residence at Mahendra Mountain. When the
Pandavas reached there, the great warrior made an appearance and blessed
Traveling South, the group of pilgrims went to
where the Godavari River joins the sea. They crossed the Dravida land
and reached Prabhasa, much as Arjuna did on an earlier occasion. They
were now in the proximity of Dwaraka, in Yadava land. Many Vrishni
heroes like Satyaki, with Balarama and Krishna at the head, welcomed
Taking leave of the Yadavas, the Pandavas journeyed north
until they reached Kasmira. At the gate to Manasarover Lake on the
Himalayas, they saw with awe the peaks covered with snow.
The lotus of Gandhamadana
the party reached the Gandhamadana area in the mountains, they were
struck by a severe storm. When the storm subsided, Draupadi swooned due
to exhaustion. Yudhishthira suggested to Bhima that he should carry
Draupadi on his shoulders. But the strong man summoned his son
Gatotkacha who organized a number of rakshasas to carry all the pilgrims
including the brahmins, on their shoulders. The rakshasas, adopting the
aerial route, showed them many holy spots including the place near
Kailasa where in ancient times the rishis Nara and Narayana dwelled by
the side of the river Bhagirathi.
As they descended the
mountains of Gandhamadhana, they spent a few days and nights on the
banks of Bhagirathi where the water was crystal clear. All around was
rich vegetation. It came to pass one day that a lotus of divine beauty
and unearthly fragrance came floating in the wind and landed near
Draupadi. The princess was so enamoured of the flower that she bade
Bhima to find its source and fetch a few more of them.
The monkey that subdued Bhima
order to fulfill Draupadi’s wishes, Bhimasena set out in the direction
from which the wind had brought the lotus. The forest was dense with
trees and plants, requiring Bhima to uproot several of them to find a
path. He warded off many huge elephants and wild animals that came to
attack him. After covering some distance he found his passage blocked by
a huge monkey that was lying across in slumber. The angry Bhima bade
the monkey move. But the monkey said that the wood Bhima was trying to
enter was forbidden to humans.
“You cannot proceed further,” the
monkey said. “Only celestials could enter this region. Besides, I am
too tired to rise. If you so desire, you may leap over me.”
said, “It is out of respect that I do not leap over you. Leap I could,
even as Hanuman leapt over the ocean to reach Lankapuri.”
“Who is this Hanuman you are talking about?” queried the monkey.
told him about Hanuman who was the devoted servant of Lord Rama. “Being
the god Vayu’s son, I am that great Hanuman’s brother,” said Bhima
Still desiring to amuse himself, the monkey, who was
none other than Hanuman, told Bhima, “I am ill. I cannot move. You may,
if you want, push my tail aside and proceed.”
towards the monkey and tried to lift its tail. In spite of using all his
strength, Bhima found that the tail would not move. He realized that
this was no ordinary monkey. He bowed to it and asked, “Who are you? Are
you a Gandharva or a god?”
Hanuman revealed his true
identity to Bhima. “I am the son of the wind god Vayu through Kesari.
You are also the son of Vayu, through Kunti. We are indeed brothers.”
was thrilled to meet his illustrious brother. He asked Hanuman, “Is it
true that you could assume any form from the size of an ant to that of
the Meru hill?”
At Bhima’s request, Hanuman assumed his super
form, displaying his ability to become as large as he desired. Reverting
to his normal size, he advised Bhima on his duties as a Kshatriya and
on the need to uphold truth always. Pleased with his younger brother,
Hanuman assured that during the war he would create confusion in the
enemy ranks by letting out fearsome roars from Arjuna’s flagstaff. He
then showed Bhima the path towards the lake of the divine lotuses and
When Bhima reached the lake he was attacked by innumerable
rakshasas. He easily scattered them with his might. The defeated
rakshasas went running to Kubera to whom the lake belonged.
Understanding who Bhima was, Kubera instructed the guardians of the lake
to allow him to take as many flowers as he wanted. Bhima returned to
the Pandava camp, his hands laden with the lotuses.
A traitor in the Pandava camp
a rakshasa, had assumed the form of a brahmin and was living in the
Pandava hermitage on the banks of the Bhagirathi River. He was waiting
for an opportunity to steal the bows and other weapons the Pandavas had,
and to ravish Draupadi. Such an opportunity presented itself when, one
day, Bhima was away from the hermitage. Jatasura captured Yudhishthira,
Draupadi, Nakula and Sahadeva, and tried to carry them away. However,
Bhima returned in time to combat the rakshasa and kill him.
Arjuna embarked on his quest for weapons, it was the understanding that
he would return after five years. That period was coming to an end.
Yudhishthira, with his entourage, was waiting with expectation in the
Himalayan range to receive his brother. Arjuna arrived in Indra’s own
chariot, driven by the charioteer Matali. It was a glorious sight when,
from the resplendent car of the god, Arjuna alighted majestically. Indra
himself made an appearance. He left after blessing the Pandavas.
Arjuna recounted to the others, his meeting with Mahadeva and his visit to Indra’s court.
To satisfy Yudhishthira’s desire, Arjuna displayed all the weapons that he had acquired from Mahadeva and other gods.
next four years were spent by the Pandavas in the same forest, living
as they did in an abode provided for them by Indra. The four years
passed pleasantly like four nights. Realising that ten years of their
exile had passed, the Pandavas left the region of Indra and came back to
terra firma. On the way to Dwaitavana they spent one year at Visakayupa
on the banks of Yamuna.
A fallen Indra is redeemed
one of his hunting expeditions, Bhima was caught by a huge serpent and
was about to be swallowed by it. Overwhelmed by the snake’s strength,
Bhima asked him who he was. The snake answered that he was Nahusha, a
former Indra, who was cursed by Agastya to roam the earth as a serpent.
This was in punishment for his arrogant behaviour after being made
While Bhima and Nahusha were thus engaged, Yudhishthira arrived at the spot.
snake repeated his story to Yudhishthira and asked him a few questions.
Yudhishthira answered them satisfactorily. Immediately, the serpent
changed his form to that of Nahusha. The redeemed Nahusha explained,
“Agastya had said that his curse would end with my meeting with
Yudhishthira, and Yudhishthira answering my questions.”
Return to Dwaitavana
their return to Dwaitavana, Krishna called on them. Arjuna enquired of
Krishna about his wife Subhadra and son Abhimanyu. Krishna informed that
they were doing well, and so also the five sons of Draupadi. All the
children had grown up to be fine warriors, besides being well versed in
the scriptures and rituals.
The arrival of Kalki
sage Markandeya, ancient and learned, visited the Pandavas and gave
them long discourses on many subjects, clearing all their doubts. Asked
about the recurrent Yugas (Ages), Markandeya told Yudhishthira, “Dwapara
has given place to Kali, the darkest of the four Yugas. During this age
duties will increasingly be neglected, morals will take a plunge and
there will be a steady fall in values. The end of this age would see the
arrival of Kalki. He would be born in a brahmin family in the town of
Sambhala. He would purge the world of all evil elements and pave the way
for the golden age, Krita Yuga, which is the first of the cycle of four
Satyabhama who had accompanied her husband Krishna to
visit the Pandavas, was given mature advise on her duties by that
foremost of women, Draupadi.
A needless humiliation for Duryodhana
was spending some very happy years in Hastinapura. Monarchs in all four
directions had been subjugated by him. His coffers were overflowing.
His friends Radheya and Sakuni, and his brother Duscasana, were always
with him, praising and flattering him.
Radheya came up with the
idea that Duryodhana should visit Dwaitavana in the pretext of a hunting
expedition. He could derive great pleasure in observing the Pandavas’
miserable existence in the forest. At the same time he could flaunt his
own prosperity to the Pandavas.
Duryodhana fully endorsed the
idea but was diffident about getting his father’s permission. It was
Radheya again who came up with a solution. ”Huge herds of our cattle are
stationed near Dwaitavana,” he said. “As king you have the duty to
inspect our cattle stations. Your father, the king, will certainly
approve of your visiting the place. As a relief from your strenuous
duties, you could then go for a hunt in the forest.”
was far from happy over the prospect of Duryodhana and his friends
going anywhere near the Pandava abode. But he relented eventually, and
plans were made for the trip.
Duryodhana reached the cattle
station with a big retinue, including many royal ladies. Radheya,
Sakuni, Duscasana and the other brothers accompanied him. He set up camp
four miles away from Dwaitavana. After dutifully inspecting the cattle,
the prince retired for some sport and diversion. He ordered his men to
enter the forest and set up a camping place near the lake.
Kaurava soldiers who approached the lake were stopped by Gandharvas who
told them, “This is the habitat of Gandharvas. Humans are not permitted
to enter here.” When Duryodhana heard of this, he became angry and sent
his army. This time his men forced their way in, despite opposition from
the Gandharvas. Those heavenly creatures rushed to their king
Chitrasena and reported the matter.
Chitrasena, with a horde of
Gandharvas, descended on the scene to beat back the Kaurava army.
Meanwhile, Duryodhana and the other prominent Kauravas reached the lake.
What ensued was a battle between the Kauravas and the Gandharvas.
Although the Kauravas at first beat back the guardians of the lake, soon
Chitrasena overcame them. All the Kaurava soldiers retreated, leaving
only their masters in the field. Radheya showed courage initially, but
he soon lost his car and his weapons. To save himself, he had to run
away from the battle.
Most of the Kauravas had, by now,
abandoned their king and run away. Chitrasena fought relentlessly. Soon
he could capture Duryodhana, Duscasana and a few other princes. He also
rounded up the royal ladies. They were all taken prisoners.
soldiers who fled from the battle approached the Pandavas and told them
about the misfortune that had befallen the Kaurava prince and his
entourage. While Bhima expressed his glee over Duryodhana’s plight,
Yudhishthira told his brother, “This is no time for rejoicing. Members
of our family have been captured by the Gandharvas. It is our duty to
see that they are released.” He instructed his brothers to leave
“Approach the Gandharvas,” Yudhishthira said, with
wisdom. “Get the Kauravas released by adopting conciliatory methods. If
the Gandharvas do not listen, engage in light skirmishes. If they are
still stubborn, then crush the foe.”
The four brothers proceeded
to carry out their elder brother’s orders. The Gandharvas were in no
mood to yield to the Pandavas. A great battle ensued. The brothers
fought off the thousands of Gandharvas who poured in. Chitrasena
employed various subterfuges to overcome Arjuna, but the Pandava hero
who was armed with celestial weapons, effectively answered him. In the
end, Chitrasena, who had become Arjuna’s friend when the latter visited
Indralok, appeared before the Pandavas. “Cease my friend,” he told
Arjuna. “I do not desire to fight with you.” The two embraced each
Arjuna asked Chitrasena the reason for his taking the
Kauravas prisoners. Chitrasena replied, “This wretched son of
Dhritarashtra, along with his friends, came to Dwaitavana with the sole
purpose of mocking at you, your brothers and Draupadhi. Indra sent me
here to chastise the miscreants. You can do what you want with them.”
brothers took Chitrasena to Yudhishthira who welcomed and honoured the
Gandharva chief. At the request of Yudhishthira, Chitrasena released
Duryodhana and the rest of the Kauravas.
After the departure of
Chitrasena, Yudhishthira addressed his chastised cousin, “Child, do not
again commit such rash acts. Nothing good will come out of it.”
his head in shame and weary of his misadventure, the Kaurava prince
trudged back to his camp. Seeing him return, Radheya thought that
Duryodhana was alive because he had subdued the Gandharvas. Duryodhana
related his story to the Radheya king.
“Instead of plunging the
Pandavas in misery, it is I who is now plunged in misery,” the Kaurava
prince lamented. Full of humiliation and anger, Duryodhana expressed his
resolve to kill himself rather than live in shame. Neither Radheya nor
Sakuni was able to dissuade him. At this point, Duryodhana fell on the
Duryodhana’s strange dream
Asuras Danavas and Daityas who were opposed to the gods, were watching
these events. They became worried. They were depending on Duryodhana for
their fight against the gods. They immediately arranged for Duryodhana
to be present before them.
The Danavas said, “O mighty
Duryodhana. We specially obtained you from Maheswara after pleasing him
with our austerities. Your upper portion is made of parts of Vajra
(thunderbolt). The goddess Uma herself offered flowers to make your
lower portion, thus making it attractive for females. You are therefore
no ordinary human being. It is the soul of the demon Naraka who resides
in the body of Radheya. Due to our influence, even Bhishma, Drona and
Kripa who were previously inclined towards the Pandavas are now turning
their support to you. Many, many rakshasas and Daityas have been born as
Kshatriyas, only to aid you. The Samasapthakas, those do or die
warriors, whom you will obtain during the war, are none but our kin. If
Arjuna is the weapon of the gods, you are our weapon. Do not despair.
Victory will be yours.”
Duryodhana considered his encounter with
the Danavas and the Daityas as a mere dream. But the experience
restored to him his self-confidence as he returned to Hastinapura.
The Vaishnava sacrifice
could be expected, Duryodhana and his friends came in for severe
criticism in the court of Dhritarashtra. Bhishma was particularly severe
on Radheya. “It was Radheya who led you to this foolish campaign,” he
told Duryodhana. “But at the slightest danger the coward abandoned you
and ran away.”
Radheya’s pride was hurt. Alone with Duryodhana,
he told the prince, “The grandsire is always against me. Give me
permission and I shall prove my valour. Let me go on a tour of conquest.
I shall bring all the kings of this world to your feet.”
for such a mission was easily obtained from the king, and Karna left
with a huge army. He marched against rulers all over the country, and
soon, as promised, he was able to make them all acknowledge Duryodhana’s
superiority and pay him tributes.
When Radheya returned, there
was much celebration of this event. He found himself to be a hero.
Remembering Yudhishthira’s Rajasuya, Duryodhana desired to hold a
similar sacrifice. But he was advised by the priests that with his
father Dhritarashtra alive, Duryodhana should not perform Rajasuya.
Instead, he could perform the sacrifice known as Vaishnava, which was
much superior to Rajasuya.
The sacrifice was performed in great
splendour. Only the Pandavas were not present. When a messenger was sent
to them, Bhima replied, “Tell your king that we shall come to
Hastinapura as his conquerors, not as his guests.”
as an overlord, Duryodhana ruled the world. He looked after the welfare
of all the rulers under him and was very generous to his subjects.
Pandavas’ hospitality tested
dreamt that the deer in Dwaita appealed to him to stop their slaughter
for food or the species would disappear. The Pandavas immediately moved
to a spot near Lake Trinavindu in the Kamyaka forest. There they
continued to find food for themselves and also supported their
followers, thanks to the celestial bowl.
The sage Durvasa,
famous for his eccentricities and short temper, visited Duryodhana.
Knowing the ascetic’s nature, Duryodhana did all he could to please him.
He was in personal attendance on the sage during his stay in
Hastinapura. The holy one was always unpredictable, especially in his
eating habits. When food was ready, he would decline it. And at
unearthly hours he would demand that he and his big retinue of brahmins
Duryodhana pleased the sage with his devotion. “Ask for a
boon,” the sage told the Kaurava prince. “O great sage,” Duryodhana
prayed to him. “Please visit my brother Yudhishthira in the forest. Call
on the Pandavas at a time when Panchali has fed the brahmins and her
family, and lies down after feeding herself.”
“So be it,” the sage said and left. Duryodhana rejoiced with Karna. “This is the end of the Pandavas,” he said.
that Draupadi had finished her repast and was resting, Durvasa
descended on the Pandava abode, followed by ten thousand brahmins.
Yudhishthira received him with all honours. He bade the sage to proceed
to the river along with his followers, and return for dinner after
performing the evening rites.
Give me food, demands Krishna
Pandavas were deeply worried. The celestial bowl had been retired for
the day. They could see no way to feed Durvasa and his army of brahmins.
While they were so despairing, Draupadi prayed to Krishna. “Save us
from this grave danger, O Kesava. The Muni is known for his wrath. If we
do not feed him and the brahmins, we are doomed.” Krishna heard her
prayers in Dwaraka. Leaving Rukmini’s side, he appeared at the Pandava
In the midst of the crisis they were in, Draupadi and her
husbands were greatly cheered by Krishna’s arrival. After the exchange
of courtesies was over, a tired Krishna addressed Draupadi, “Panchali. I
have reached here after a strenuous journey. I am hungry. Bring me some
Draupadi hung her head down and said, “Alas Krishna, we
have no food to offer you. Since I have finished eating, the celestial
bowl can no more produce food for the day.” Krishna insisted on seeing
When Panchali brought the vessel, Krishna pointed to a
particle of rice and a piece of vegetable sticking to the rim. The bowl
soon overflowed with food. Bhimasena was sent to fetch Durvasa and his
In the river, the brahmins had a refreshing bath.
Suddenly they felt as though they had partaken of a heavy dinner. When
they heard Bhima’s voice calling them, they rushed to their preceptor
and told him that it would be impossible for them to eat even an atom of
food. Durvasa told them, “Yudhishthira has great spiritual power. He
would have prepared dinner for us. If we do not eat he may curse us. It
is therefore best that we make ourselves scarce.”
reached the river, he found Durvasa and his disciples had vanished.
Greatly perplexed, he returned home without the guests, Krishna smiled
and told his Pandava hosts, “Your guests have all vanished. They will
never come here again.” Krishna took leave of his cousins and returned
Jayadratha is chastised
The Pandavas had
gone to hunt, leaving Draupadi in the hermitage. Jayadratha, the king of
Sindhu and the husband of Duryodhana’s sister Dussala, was passing by
with a few fellow princes. Seeing Draupadi alone, with her husbands not
to be seen, evil thoughts came to his mind. Despite her warnings, he
abducted Draupadi and was fleeing.
The Pandava brothers returned
just in time to give the misguided prince a chase. Yudhishthira sent
his four brothers after the abductor. In no time at all they routed the
king’s troops and took Jayadratha in chains to Yudhishthira. But the
first among the Pandavas admonished his brothers for ill-treating their
sister’s husband, and set Jayadratha free. Jayadratha found the
Pandavas’ generosity towards him highly humiliating.
went to the forest resolved to become powerful enough to take on the
Pandavas. He did intense penance, invoking Siva. The god appeared before
Jayadratha and offered him a boon. Jayadratha prayed that he should be
given the power to destroy the Pandavas. The Lord of Kailas flatly
refused. All he could grant Jayadratha was the power, for just one day
during the battle, to keep in check the four Pandava brothers other than
Arjuna. A boon which had far reaching consequences at the time of the
Radheya loses his ear-rings and mail
years of the Pandava exile had come to an end. The god Indra was
thinking of the battle that was sure to follow when the Pandavas
returned after their thirteen-year exile was over. He was aware that no
one, other than Radheya, would be a threat to his son, Arjuna. To strip
Radheya of his power became his only thought. “If I obtain Radheya’s
ear-rings and his armour he would lose his strength. The son of Surya is
known for his charitable disposition. He would not deny anything,
including his life, if a brahmin approached him for alms.”
who was moved by his affection for his son, appeared in Radheya’s dream
and warned him of Indra’s plans. He advised Radheya, “When Indra, in
the guise of a brahmin, seeks your ear-rings, do not yield. Without them
your life will be shortened. Do not yield your armour without which
your strength would diminish. You were born with these for your
protection. Give everything else Indra seeks. Please him by any other
Karna clearly conveyed to Surya that rather than deny a brahmin seeking something from him, he would gladly give up his life.
told him, “If Indra succeeds in depriving you of your ear-rings and
armour, ask from him in return his invincible weapon that could kill
Indra chose the best time in which to approach Radheya
to fulfill his scheme. Radheya had the habit of praying to the Sun god
early in the morning. He would stand in the lake or river, gaze at the
Sun and raise both arms. As he came out of his prayer he would give away
anything that was sought from him.
Approaching Radheya at such
a moment in the guise of a brahmin, Indra first got an assurance that
whatever he sought would be given. When he asked for Radheya’s ear-rings
and armour, Surya’s son explained to the brahmin that his very life and
welfare depended on those two objects. The brahmin was adamant and
would accept no other gift.
From the brahmin’s insistence it
became obvious to Radheya that he was in the presence of Indra. In order
to fulfill his promise, he had no option but to agree to give away the
two precious objects with which he was born. Remembering Surya’s advise,
Radheya asked for Indra’s celestial weapon in return. Indra agreed.
Radheya removed his ear-rings, while his armour he tore off, with blood
dripping. He handed over both to Indra.
Indra gave his weapon to
Radheya, but with a condition. The weapon could be used only once.
Indra also cautioned that he would be unable to use this weapon to kill
the person he had in his mind, namely Arjuna. For Arjuna was protected
by Narayana himself and there was no power that could kill him.
For his act of tearing away the armour he was born with, Radheya came to be known as Karna.
Yudhishthira answers the Yaksha
Drauapadi abduction episode made the Pandavas move back to Dwaitavana
once again for reasons of safety. When they had settled down to a placid
life near the lake, a brahmin one day came running to them. ”O
Princes,” he said. “A big deer strayed into the place where I perform my
rituals and carried away the holy fire sticks which got entangled in
its antlers. Do pursue it and recover the sticks for me.”
five brothers immediately set off in pursuit of the deer. After a long
chase they became extremely thirsty. Yudhishthira asked Nakula to climb a
tree and look for a watering spot. Nakula saw a lake nearby. He took a
quiver with the intention of filling it with water for his brothers
after quenching his own thirst, and proceeded to the lake.
throat parched with thirst, Nakula reached the lake. He was about to
scoop some water when he heard a voice, “Stop. This lake belongs to me.
None takes water from here without my permission. If anyone attempts to
do so, he will drop dead. Answer my question and I will permit you to
Nakula was in no mood to answer the voice that came
from an invisible source. He drank the cool water and felt refreshed.
But the next moment he fell down dead.
With Nakula not returning
for a long time, Yudhishthira sent Sahadeva to search for him. Sahadeva
reached the lake. He was similarly challenged by the voice. Being too
thirsty, he also ignored it and drank the water. He fell dead by
Nakula’s side. Sahadeva was followed by Arjuna and Bhima and before long
all four brothers of Yudhishthira were lying dead by the side of the
Yudhishthira himself finally went in search of his
brothers. When he reached the lake, he found them all lying dead.
Knowing the valour of Arjuna and Bhima, Yudhishthira concluded that
there was the hand of a superior power behind their deaths. He decided
to quench his thirst first and then investigate further.
again the voice was heard. ”Stop. This lake belongs to me,” it said. “If
you drink the water without my permission you would meet with the same
fate as your brothers.”
Yudhishthira called out to the voice,
“If you say this is your lake, I do not dispute it. But first show
yourself to me and tell me why these brothers of mine are dead.”
Yaksha (celestial) of immense proportions materialized. He told
Yudhishthira, “I am the Yaksha that owns this lake. These brothers of
yours disregarded me and drank the water. All I demanded was that they
should answer my questions first and then drink. They have now met with
their punishment. I warn you again. You should answer my questions
first. If I am satisfied with your answers, I shall permit you to
Yudhishthira humbly accepted the challenge and the Yaksha started posing the questions.
were on a wide range of subjects. With great wisdom Yudhishthira
answered them all. Some of the questions were of a mundane nature, while
some were highly philosophical. To sample a few,
Q : Who is the friend of one who is ill? A : The physician. Q : What is it that does not close its eyes when asleep? A : Fish. Q : What is the best of all possessions? A : Knowledge. Q : What is patience? A : Subjugation of the senses.
the end of the session, the Yaksha told Yudhishthira, “Your answers
satisfy me. I can bring back to life one of your brothers. You can
choose which one it could be.” Yudhishthira chose Nakula.
Yaksha asked Yudhishthira why he chose Nakula in preference over the
others. Yudhishthira replied, “Among Kunti’s sons, I am alive. Hence let
a son of Madri also be alive.”
The Yaksha changed his form.
Yudhishthira found the god of justice, Dharma, standing in front of him.
The god said, “Son, I am mightily pleased with you. Let all your
brothers be alive. It is to test you that I enacted this small play. You
truly do your father proud. Ask for a boon and I shall grant it.”
Remembering the immediate task in hand, Yudhishthira wished that in the
following year, he and his brothers should be able to effectively
conceal their identities so that they would not be found out by
Duryodhana. The god granted the boon. He restored the four brothers to
life and returned the sticks of the brahmin that he had carried away in
the guise of a deer. “Drink as much water as you want,” he said. “And
return to your hermitage happy.”
Chapter 4 Virata Parva
CHAPTER 4 VIRATA PARVA
disguise for each Pandava. Dhaumya’s words of wisdom. Pandavas
infiltrate Virata’s court. Bhima’s wrestling match. Kichaka’s overtures
to Draupadi. Kichaka’s infatuation and devious plans. Kichaka pays
dearly. The scene at Kichaka’s funeral. Duryodhana’s search for the
Pandavas. Duryodhana battles Virata. Who is that eunach? Arjuna routs
the Kauravas. Virata hits Kanka. Abhimanyu marries Uttara.
A disguise for each Pandava
years of life in the wilderness having come to an end, the Pandavas
started preparing for the thirteenth year to be spent in an inhabitable
place without being discovered by Duryodhana. Arjuna, with his extensive
knowledge of the country, suggested several places. But Yudhishthira
chose Virata in the kingdom of the Matsyas. “The Virata king is old and
hospitable and he will be best suited for our purpose,” Yudhishthira
The Pandavas then discussed what disguise each one would take.
said, “I shall go to Virata as a brahmin, under the name of Kanka. I
shall be a courtier, would play dice with the king and generally please
him. If questioned, I shall say that I was formerly in the employ of the
Pandava king, Yudhishthira.”
The other four brothers chose their own disguises.
said he would become a cook in the Virata household, calling himself
Vallaba. “Besides pleasing his majesty’s palate,” Bhima said. “I shall
also entertain him in sports as a wrestler.”
For Arjuna, the
curse that he had received from the Apsara Urvasi, that he would lose
his manhood for a year, came in handy. He would serve the Virata royal
ladies in the disguise of a eunuch. Eunachs were often engaged in
various capacities in the women’s apartments. Assuming the name of
Brihannala, he would teach dance and music to the women of the royal
household, thanks to the knowledge he had received in these arts from
the Gandharva Chitrasena.
Nakula would join Virata as an expert
on horses. He would take care of the royal stable, breed quality horses
and train the equines. His name would be Granthika.
would use his knowledge of cattle breeding. Under the name of Tantripal,
he would seek employment with Virata and take charge of his cattle.
had her plan ready. She would become a Sairindhri or a beauty
specialist, attached to the queen, Sudeshna. If asked about her previous
employment, she would mention that she was in the service of the
Pandava queen Draupadi and the Vrishni, Satyabhama, two names well known
in the country.
Dhaumya’s words of wisdom
parting, the priest Dhaumya advised the brothers on how they should
carry themselves while in disguise. “Draupadi’s position would be
vulnerable,” he warned the Pandavas. “There may be bad elements in the
court that would be attracted to her and may try to take advantage of
her. You should keep a close watch over her without giving away your
identities. You should serve the king in a way you expect your
subordinates to serve you. Do not either rebel against the king or try
to excel him in any department. Be ready to please the king always, but
in ways that are truthful. Use the clothes that are provided to you and
be contented with whatever rewards you receive. As soon as you as you
reach Virata, hide your weapons in a safe but handy place. God be with
Arrangements were made to send the chariots and steeds to
Dwaraka to be in the custody of Krishna. Dhaumya left for Panchala with
Pandavas infiltrate Virata’s court
moved according to the Pandava plan. Having reached Virata, they
deposited their weapons on a huge Sami tree having twisted branches, at
the outskirts of the city. They hung a corpse on the tree, so that the
smell of rotting body would keep people away.
prayed to the goddess Kaali before entering Virata. Pleased with the
prayer, the goddess appeared before the Pandavas. She blessed them and
said, “You will have my protection. During the year to follow none would
discover your identity.”
One by one the Pandavas infiltrated
into Virata’s court and took up the positions they had planned. Virata
was impressed by Kanka and made him his companion. Bhima approached the
king who was pleased with his appearance and culinary talk. He was made
supervisor of the royal kitchen.
Draupadi entered the city and
was wandering near the palace. The queen took notice of her and had her
brought to her presence. Learning that she was a skilful Sairindhri,
Sudeshna engaged her as her personal beautician. Draupadi informed the
queen that she had five husbands who were Gandharvas.
the queen, “My husbands are very protective and powerful. Should anyone
make advances at me, they would immediately take vengeance.”
Nakula and Sahadeva followed and got installed as supervisors in the equine and bovine departments of the king respectively.
appeared at the gate of the city in the guise of a eunuch. His
masculine frame, despite definite feminine traits, intrigued the monarch
to whom he was taken. Arjuna explained that he was of the neutral sex
and was well versed in dance and music. He could be the princess
Uttara’s teacher. After ascertaining the truth about his gender, the
monarch sent him to the maidens’ apartments.
Bhima’s wrestling match
first three months of the Pandavas’ stay in Virata passed without
incidents. The brothers and their wife kept in touch with each other,
even ministering to one another’s needs, but with their identity a well
It was in the fourth month that a wrestling match
was arranged in which Vallaba participated. In his match with the
strongest wrestler in Virata, Jimuta, Vallaba vanquished and killed his
adversary. From then on he was asked to fight lions and elephants for
the king’s amusement.
Kichaka’s overtures to Draupadi
was during the tenth month of her stay with Sudeshna that Draupadi
caught the eye of the commander of the Virata army, Kichaka. The
commander approached the queen who was his sister, and declared his love
for the maiden. He then went into Draupadi’s apartment and tried to win
her with his words. Draupadi warned that she had five Gandharva
husbands whose wrath would bring him destruction if his conduct with her
Kichaka’s infatuation and devious plans
left Draupadi. He could not however get over his affliction for her. He
hatched a plan with his sister, the queen. According to the plan,
Sudeshna would send Draupadi to Kichaka’s apartment under the excuse of
fetching her some wine. Once in his apartment, Kichaka should win
After much persuasion by the queen, Draupadi
agreed to go to Kichaka’s apartment. On the way she prayed to Surya.
Pleased with her prayer, the god sent a rakshasa to follow her invisibly
and protect her.
As soon as Draupadi was in Kichaka’s presence,
the fiend tried to drag her to him. Draupadi ran out of the apartment
and reached the place where the king was seated with Yudhishthira.
Kichaka chased her there and catching her by the hair, threw her on the
floor. But the next moment he fell down, having received a blow from the
rakshasa protecting Draupadi. Sairindhiri then wailed and complained to
Bhima who arrived there was accidentally a witness to
the scene. His rage kindled, he was about to attack Kichaka. But
Yudhishthira restrained him and sent him away as though on an errand.
understood that her husbands, due to the need to remain incognito, were
not in a position to intervene. Five times she cried out, “Alas! Here I
am being dishonoured by this brute, and my brave husband is not coming
to my rescue.”
Yudhishthira said, “Wail not, girl. Go back to
the queen’s apartment. Your Gandharva husbands will not let you down. Be
Draupadi returned to the queen’s apartment and told
Sudeshna about her encounter with Kichaka. The queen said angrily, “I
shall immediately have the miscreant killed.” Draupadi replied, “There
would be no need for it. My Gandharva husbands would sooner than later
put an end to that beast.”
Kichaka pays dearly
very disturbed by the events, Draupadi yearned to share her grief with
one of her husbands. She managed to reach Bhima to whom she poured out
her woes. That lion of a man swore to take revenge. He asked Draupadi
to set up a meeting for herself with Kichaka the next day.
in the morning, Kichaka went to Draupadi’s apartment and enticed her
with riches, asking her to accept his suit. This time Draupadi pretended
that she was agreeable. “My lord,” she said. “Our union is fraught with
danger. If my Gandharva husbands know about it, they might attack you.
We should meet in secret. Late this evening, I shall wait for you in the
room adjoining the dancing hall where you should come alone.” Kichaka
Draupadi secretly met Bhima and told him about the plan.
In the evening, when the dance hall was empty, Draupadi sat in the
room, waiting for Kichaka. Bhima had already reached there and was in
hiding. Kichaka arrived expectantly and called for Draupadi.
sprang out of his hiding place and caught Kichaka by his hair. There
ensued a fierce fight between the two. In the end Kichaka was killed and
his limbs were badly mangled. He lay in a heap on the floor. His deed
done, Bhima quietly slipped out of the hall and returned to the kitchen.
called the guards. Soon the entire palace assembled at the scene of the
gory killing. Draupadi cried, “Look at what has befallen this wretch
who tried to abuse me. My Gandharva husbands have punished him.”
king sent for the slain general’s relatives, also called the Kichakas.
The angry relatives demanded that the king should suitably punish
Draupadi for her crime. Virata gave in and sentenced Draupadi to be
burnt in Kichaka’s funeral pyre.
The scene at Kichaka’s funeral
Kichakas dragged Draupadi along as they took their slain chief’s body
to the burning ghat. Bhima heard Draupadi as she wailed and quickly
found out the reason. He ran to the crematorium and, uprooting a huge
tree, waited for the procession to arrive.
On arriving at the
crematorium, the Kichakas were accosted by a huge Gandharva carrying an
enormous tree. Frightened, they left Draupadi and Kichaka’s body behind
and fled. Bhima threw the tree on the scattering Kichakas and killed one
hundred and five of them.
Kichaka’s death was welcomed
everywhere as he and his followers were notorious oppressors, and King
Virata was virtually his prisoner.
Virata’s advisers told him
that he should free Draupadi and send her away. The Gandharvas might
otherwise wreak further vengeance on the king. When Sudeshna conveyed
this to Sairindhri, the girl pleaded that she be allowed to remain with
the queen for just another thirteen days. “By then my Gandharva husbands
would come and take me away,” she said. The queen agreed.
Duryodhana’s search for the Pandavas
that the thirteenth year of the Pandavas’ exile had started, Duryodhana
sent out his spies in all directions to find them out. The spies
searched far and wide only to report to the angry king that not a trace
of the six could be found anywhere. This only confirmed the confidence
that Bhishma, Drona and Kripa had in the Pandavas’ capabaility to remain
undetected during the thirteenth year of their exile. Duryodhana asked
his men to redouble their efforts.
Duryodhana battles Virata
Susarman of the Trigartas was a powerful monarch. But he had to endure
much from Kichaka who raided his kingdom at will. With the death of
Kichaka, Susarman thought it opportune to invade Virata. He met
Duryodhana and enticed him to join in the campaign. “Virata is a rich
country. Conquering them, we can help ourselves to herds of cattle and
immense riches,” Susarman said.
Duryodhana agreed and a campaign
was organized. Susarman reached Virata’s borders first and seized
thousands of cattle. The border guards ran to the king and reported the
matter. Virata at once made preparations to meet the invaders.
invited Kanka, Vallaba, Tantripala and Granthika, the four Pandava
brothers other than Arjuna, to fight with his army. They readily agreed.
the fierce battle that ensued, Susarman’s forces showed themselves to
be superior. Susarman was able to capture Virata. On seeing this,
Yudhishthira bade Bhima to rescue the king. Bhima was in favour of
uprooting a huge tree and using it as his mace. Yudhishthira restrained
him and asked him to fight with bow and arrow. The worthy brother took
up his bow and in no time he humbled Susarman.
Susarman and took him to Yudhishthira. “Set the wretch free,”
Yudhishthira commanded his brother who did so accordingly.
Who is that eunach?
the king was away chasing Susarman and recovering his cattle,
Duryodhana and his formidable force including Bhishma, Drona, Kripa,
Karna and Aswatthama, attacked the defenseless city. After plundering
huge herds of cattle and other riches, the victorious Kauravas left the
Virata’s son, Prince Uttara, was helpless against the
onslaught of the Kauravas. It was then that Brihannala stepped in and
offered to help him. Draupadi told the prince that Brihannala was once
the charioteer of the renowned Pandava prince Arjuna, and hence he could
be relied on.
With Arjuna as his charioteer, the young Virata
prince proceeded towards the Kauravas. On seeing the formidable array of
warriors among the Kauravas, the prince developed fear. He jumped out
of the chariot and started running. Arjuna followed him, pleading with
him to stay and fight. The Kauravas witnessed this incredible sight of a
eunuch persuading a prince to fight, and started laughing.
started as to who the eunuch could be. The Kauravas were impressed by
Brihannala’s majesty and gait, but Arjuna’s concealment was so perfect
that they could not guess it was he.
Dragging Uttara into the
chariot, Arjuna drove to the Sami tree nearby. He asked Uttara to climb
the tree and fetch his bow and arrows from the concealed spot. With
great difficulty Uttara lifted the Gandiva and brought it down. “Weapons
such as these could not belong to ordinary humans,” he told Arjuna.
”Who are you, Brihannala?” he asked. It was then that Arjuna revealed
his identity to the prince and also told him about Draupadi and his four
Arjuna routs the Kauravas
Fear gripped the
Kauravas when Arjuna came back armed with his famous weapon. Bhishma and
Drona thought that this strange person must be Arjuna. “It is the
Pandava prince, without doubt,” they said.” He is sure to wipe us out,
armed with all the weapons he has recently won.”
gladdened. “If it is Arjuna,” he said. ”Then we have found out the
Pandavas before the end of the thirteenth year. If not, it is a mere
eunuch and I shall kill him.” His admirers hailed him for his brave
Prince Uttara felt inspired when he learnt about Arjuna’s
identity. All his fears left him. He offered to be Arjuna’s charioteer
so that the Pandava hero could fight Virata’s enemies.
presence in the battlefield, bow in hand, put the Kauravas in disarray.
Karna urged Duryodhana to fight. Bhishma derided Karna and asked him to
name one instance when he had successfully fought the Pandavas. Drona
intervened and talked the two into keeping the Kauravas united.
as Duryodhana was exulting at having recognized the Pandavas, Bhishma
calculated the period of the Pandavas’ exile. Making adjustments for the
shifting of planetary bodies, he came to the conclusion that the
Pandavas had exceeded the thirteen years by as much as five months and
twelve nights. “They have won the wager,” he said. “They should be
welcomed by us and their kingdom should be restored to them.”
was now adamant to fight Arjuna. It was however decided that he should
return to Hastinapura with the cattle while Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Kripa
and Aswatthama would stay back and fight.
Arjuna let a fierce
twang from his Gandiva that gladdened Drona. “It is Arjuna, whispering
his salutations into his preceptor’s ears,” he said. Instead of
attacking the army in front of him, Arjuna, spotting Duryodhana
retreating with the cattle, dashed after him. Duryodhana was drawn into
The exchange of arrows began. Many of the Kaurava
princes fell, Vikarna being one of them. Karna was unable to withstand
Arjuna’s barbs and he retreated from the field.
warriors of the Kauravas stood in a column and fought against Arjuna who
was fluent in handling weapons with both hands equally. One by one the
Kauravas fell. Bhishma swooned and was driven away by his charioteer.
When he returned, he saw Arjuna fighting with more vigour. The Kaurava
strength kept waning and that of Arjuna’s kept waxing. Following his
friend, the king of Anga, Duryodhana also retreated.
Kauravas found it prudent to fly. They abandoned the cattle and ran,
setting their course towards Hastinapura. Arjuna and Uttara turned back
and triumphantly made their way to their capital.
On his return
after the campaign against Susarman, Virata was told about the routing
of the Kauravas by Prince Uttara who had Brihannala as his charioteer.
The old king was overjoyed at Uttara’s feat. He ordered that there
should be a hero’s welcome organized for the prince, not aware that it
was Arjuna who had routed the Kauravas.
Virata hits Kanka
waiting for Uttara to return, Virata called Kanka for a game of dice.
Yudhishthira tried to dissuade the king from playing, but the king was
adamant. While playing, the happy king expressed his pride over his
son’s achievement. Kanka remarked, “This is to be expected. With
Brihannala as his charioteer, none in the world could fight him.”
remark of his servant incensed Virata who hit him with the dice. The
dice injured Yudhishthira’s forehead and he started bleeding. Draupadi
who was in attendance on the king, rushed to her husband and wiped the
blood off his forehead.
Just then Prince Uttara returned
triumphantly and was about to enter the king’s chamber. Yudhishthira
instructed that the prince should enter alone. He apprehended that
Arjuna, on seeing his eldest brother injured by Virata, would get into a
rage and destroy the entire Virata clan.
Abhimanyu marries Uttara
being briefed of the happenings in the battle by his son, the old
monarch asked Kanka to forgive him. When the identity of the Pandavas
was revealed to him, Virata felt very happy. Taken in by the appearance
and valour of Arjuna, the king offered his daughter, Princess Uttara, as
Arjuna explained to the king that he considered
Uttara as his own daughter. Rather than marrying her, he would be happy
to have her as his daughter-in-law. Virata agreed to marry his daughter
to Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna and Subhadra.
Chapter 5 Udyoga Parva
gathering storm. Duryodhana and Arjuna both seek Krishna’s help.
Duryodhana manipulates Salya. How Nahusha became a serpent. Drupada’s
messenger to Dhritarashtra. Sanjaya reports to Dhritarashtra. Elders’
plea to Duryodhana. Duryodhana’s rage at elders. Krishna counsels
Pandavas. Krishna goes to Kaurava court. Krishna’s no to Duryodhana.
Rishis invited to court. Krishna’s brief to Kauravas. Not a needlepoint,
says Duryodhana. Duryodhana plans to imprison Krishna. Krishna shows.
Duryodhana his terrible form. Krishna’s encounter with Karna. Karna’s
vow to Kunti, I shall kill only Arjuna. Commander-in-Chief of Pandava
army. The Army marches. Either Karna or I, says Bhishma. Balarama leaves
on pilgrimage. Rukmi makes a spectacle of himself. A jesting Duryodhana
sends Sakuni’s son to the Pandavas. Karna in special category. How long
would the War last?.
The gathering storm
celebration of the wedding of Abhimanyu and Uttara, a conclave of kings
was held at Virata’s court. Drupada, Balarama, Krishna, Satyaki (of the
Yadavas), Abhimanyu, Pradyumna (Krishna’s son) and the five sons of
Draupadi were gathered, in addition to the Pandava brothers and Virata
Reviewing the events that had led to the Pandavas’
misfortunes, Krishna strongly condemned the atrocities committed by the
Kauravas. “What would be Duryodhana’s next move?” pondered the Vrishni.
“Let us immediately send a messenger to ascertain their plans. If they
are willing to return to Yudhishthira his kingdom, then there would be
peace. If not, it is wisdom that we prepare for war.”
was in favour of conciliation. He said, “Yudhishthira lost his kingdom
due to his own folly. Let us not think of war with the Kurus. Let a
messenger proceed to Hastinapura to conciliate the king.”
criticized Balarama for his views, while endorsing Krishna’s plan.
Drupada’s counsel was, “By now Duryodhana must be sending his messengers
to various kings, seeking their support in the war that is certain to
take place soon. Let us also send word to our friends to be prepared. In
the meantime, let us send a messenger to Dhritarashtra.” His advise was
accepted by everyone.
After the departure of Krishna and
Balarama to Dwaraka, Virata started his war preparations. He, as well as
Drupada, enlisted the support of all those who were sympathetic to the
Pandava cause. In a similar action, the Kurus were contacting their
supporters, most of who began to send their armies.
Duryodhana and Arjuna both seek Krishna’s help
on the heels of Krishna’s departure to Dwaraka, Arjuna followed him
with the object of formally seeking his help if there was war.
Duryodhana’s spies, in the meantime, brought him news that Krishna was
returning to Dwaraka. The Kaurava prince took a fast steed and set out
to Dwaraka to enlist the Yadava’s support. He reached there ahead of
Finding Krishna in slumber, Duryodhana took a fine seat
at the head of the bed. Arjuna who arrived later, stood at the foot of
the bed, his head bowed and his hands formed in prayer. When Krishna
rose, he saw Arjuna standing at his feet. Turning around, he saw
Duryodhana seated on a splendid chair.
One by one the two
princes informed Krishna of the object of their visit. They both sought
Krishna’s help in the event of a war between the Kauravas and the
Pandavas. Duryodhana claimed that he had arrived first and hence Krishna
should give him support. Krishna answered, “You are both very important
for me. I would therefore like to help you both. One of you can have my
troop known as Narayanas numbering ten crores. The other can have me by
his side when there is war, although I would not lift my bow or fight.”
added to Duryodhana, “It is always the younger one who should be given
the first choice. Besides, it was Arjuna that I saw first when I woke
up. Hence he should choose first.”
Without hesitation Arjuna
chose to have Krishna by his side. Duryodhana heaved a sigh of relief
that Arjuna did not choose Krishna’s army. “With Krishna’s army fighting
for me the war is as good as won,” he thought.
left, Krishna asked Arjuna, “Partha, what made you choose me? Of what
use would I be to you if I am not going to fight?”
know your might very well. There is none who can oppose you in battle.
You also know that, single handed, I can vanquish the entire Kaurava
force. Besides, it has long been my desire that you should drive my
chariot. I am blessed that I have got the opportunity now.”
his meeting with Krishna, Duryodhana went to Balarama. The elder
brother of Krishna told the prince that he was not in favour of war and
hence he would not back either side.
Duryodhana manipulates Salya
king of the Madras and uncle of Nakula and Sahadeva, left his capital
with an Akshauhini (army division consisting of 1,10,000 soldiers,
22,000 elephants, 22,000 chariots and 66,000 horses), with the idea of
joining forces with Yudhishthira. Informed by his spies, the wily
Duryodhana rushed to the route to be taken by Salya. He chose a spot in
which he erected arches and tents, and filled the encampment with all
luxuries. Salya occupied the camp, but was surprised to find that he
owed all the hospitality to Duryodhana.
When Duryodhana made his
appearance and showed respect to Salya, the Madras king felt obliged to
the Kaurava prince. He acceded to Duryodhana’s request and threw in his
lot with him.
After committing his loyalty to Duryodhana, Salya
proceeded to meet the Pandavas. Receiving a proper welcome, the Madras
king informed Yudhishthira of his promise to Duryodhana. The gracious
Pandava king found no fault in this. All he did was to ask for a favour.
uncle,” Yudhishthira said. “There is no doubt that during the war you
may have to drive Karna’s chariot. At that time, you should do all you
could to discourage Radhey and instill diffidence in him.” Salya agreed.
How Nahusha became a serpent
in conversation with Salya, Yudhishthira told him how his encounter
with Nahusha turned the latter from a serpent to his original form.
Salya related to Yudhishthira, the story of Indra and Nahusha. Indra was
once hiding after committing brahminicide, a crime not tolerated in all
the worlds. In the absence of Indra, the gods made one of them, Nahusha
their king. Drunk with power, Nahusha started ill-treating the rishis.
He made them carry him in a palanquin. He also coveted Indra’s wife,
The great rishi, Agastya, was offended by Nahusha’s
behaviour. He cursed Nahusha to be born a serpent in the world and spend
a thousand years in that condition until he was redeemed by a king in
exile. With the exit of Nahusha, Brihaspati, the foremost of gods,
sought Indra and persuaded him to resume his duties. Salya cited this as
an example of how evil-minded persons eventually get punished for their
Drupada’s messenger to Dhritarashtra
decided in the war council, an emissary, a brahmin, was selected by
Drupada to formally present the Pandava demands at the Kaurava court.
With proper briefing, the learned one left for Hastinapura.
the introductions and enquiries about each other’s welfare were over,
the brahmin told the Kaurava king, “Our king, Yudhishthira, is of the
opinion that the Pandavas have fulfilled the conditions laid upon them
at the dice game thirteen years ago. They would now want you to return
to them the kingdom that they lost. If a proper settlement was not
arrived at, there may be war, with a high cost of human lives and
material. We are aware that your son Duryodhana has already started
preparing for a war with the Pandavas and has gathered a force of eleven
Akshauhinis. Please be informed that the Pandavas also have at their
call seven Akshauhinis from their supporters. No doubt there is a
difference in numbers. But that is more than made up by the presence
among the Pandavas of that wielder of celestial weapons, their middle
Bhishma was quick to respond. He told the king
that the demand conveyed by the brahmin should be acceded to and
justice should be done to the Pandavas. Karna flared up on behalf of
Duryodhana. He insisted that the Pandavas remain subservient to the
When emotions started to run high, Dhritarashtra said
that, after due deliberation, he would send Sanjaya to Yudhishthira. The
brahmin was asked to return to the Pandavas with that message.
the son of Gavalgani and confidante of Dhritarashtra, carried the
king’s brief to Yudhishthira. He reached Upaplavya, a place in the
Matsya kingdom where the Pandavas were now residing. He was received by
Yudhshithira with respect.
After the formal enquiries, Sanjaya
conveyed Dhritarashtra’s message to Yudhishthira. “The king feels deeply
sorry for the travails you have undergone. Great is the trust he
reposes on you, for he thinks that your action will determine the future
course of events. Your period of exile is over. You should think of
living peacefully. After all, whatever has happened to you in the last
thirteen years is due to your own folly.
“Even during your
period of exile, you had at least two opportunities when you could have
taken your revenge on the Kauravas. Due to your adherence to truth, you
did not avail of them. Now you are talking of war. War would benefit
neither the Pandavas nor the Kauravas. Both have very powerful warriors
on their sides. Bhishma has the capability of destroying the entire
Pandava army. So has Arjuna the power to wipe the Kauravas out of
existence. There are others who are equally endowed. At the end of the
war, who will remain? Of what avail would such a victory be for the
survivors? Peace would therefore suit both families.”
replied, “Sanjaya. You know all that has happened; how the evil son of
the king schemed and deprived us of our rightful possessions. We endured
all that. The king’s only objective now seems to be to make his son the
monarch of the entire world. On the other hand, we only desire to
recover for ourselves what we were cheated of. Here is the all-knowing
Krishna on whose word the Vrishnis, the Andhakas, the Srinjayas and the
Bhojas do or do not wage war. Let us hear him.”
“It is not right that inaction be taken as the solution to a problem.
Nor should a disposition towards peace be construed as weakness. I
always have the good of both the Pandavas and the Kauravas in my heart.
But there is no doubt that Yudhishthira and his brothers have been
deceitfully deprived of what belongs to them. It is not only fair, but
it becomes their duty, to use force to procure justice. The onus
therefore is on the king to yield to their fair demands or face war.
Subject to this, Sanjaya, the Pandavas are still at peace with your
The four brothers of Yudhishthira were unequivocal in
conveying to Sanjaya their eagerness to take revenge on Duryodhana and
his friends. They made it clear that they were raring to go against the
With this, Sanjaya took leave of the Pandavas, the
final message he carried from Yudhishthira being, “Give me back my
Indraprastha or fight with me.”
Sanjaya reports to Dhritarashtra
was late in the evening when Sanjaya reached Hastinapura. He was
quickly ushered into the presence of the king. Dhritarashtra eagerly
enquired of him the result of his mission. A weary Sanjaya spoke harshly
of his master’s policies and his weakness for Duryodhana. He told the
king, “As a result of the misdoings of your son, the situation has
become serious. The entire Kaurava clan stands in danger of being wiped
out by those noble warriors, the Pandavas. Yudhishthira has demanded
that his kingdom be returned or he would fight for it.” The king
dismissed Sanjaya, asking him to give a detailed report in the morning
at his court.
The failure of Sanjaya’s mission increased the
agitation in Dhritarashtra’s mind. He could get no sleep. He sent for
Vidura looking for some solace. After giving a long discourse, Vidura
summoned the sage Sanat Sujata to talk to the king. Vidura himself left.
next morning Sanjaya presented his report to the king formally.
Bhishma, Drona and Kripa were seated in the court. Also present were
Duryodhana, Karna, Duscasana and Sakuni who all sat in a group.
Elders’ plea to Duryodhana
told the court about the reaction of Yudhishthira and his brothers to
the proposal carried by him. He conveyed to the king the message Krishna
had sent. The envoy also gave an account of the war preparations of the
Pandavas and the support they were getting from various kings. Arjuna
and Bhima wanted him to convey to Duryodhana their wrath and their
determination to suitably avenge the insults and injury they had
Bhishma was quick to caution Duryodhana. “Following
the advise of your friend, the charioteer’s son, you are bringing
destruction to your race. Know you who these Arjuna and Krishna are?
They are the sages Nara and Narayana who, from ancient times, have made
their appearance on earth to redeem mankind from evil forces. They have
fought and slain thousands of Asuras and other disturbers of peace. Many
are the gods who have taken refuge at their feet and this faultless
pair has given them succour. The mere sight of the powerful Krishna
driving the chariot of Arjuna would make you shiver and cow. Do not take
arms against them. Give up this foolish obstinacy of yours and return
to the Pandavas what is due to them.”
Drona confirmed what
Bhishma said. “There is no one in all the three worlds who could match
Arjuna in the battle field. Making peace with the Pandavas is the best
course. Give them back what belongs to them and avoid battle,” he
Duryodhana sat grimly, without uttering a word.
asked Sanjaya to describe further the armies that were gathering in
support of the Pandavas. An exhausted Sanjaya swooned, but quickly
Sanjaya said, “Among those that are responding to the
Pandavas are the Panchalas, the Matsyas, the Kekeya princes, the
Vrishnis, Sisupala’s son Dhrishtaketu, Jarasandhan’s son Sahadeva and a
host of others. Krishna is present there and would himself drive
Arjuna’s chariot. Many who are paying tribute to you would now join
Duryodhana’s rage at elders
rage was kindled on hearing Sanjaya, Bhishma and Drona. He felt that
they were unnecessarily praising the enemy. He told Dhritarashtra, “Do
not despair, O King. When the Pandavas left in disgrace to the forest,
many were the kings who met them and offered them support. Krishna was
also very much there. At that time I was overawed by fear of them. When I
expressed my apprehensions to Bhishma, Drona and Kripa they assured me
that whatever support the Pandavas got, we have the power to ward them
off. Today, we have the whole world under our feet. The Pandavas have no
kingdom, no army. Arjuna will be no force in front of our warriors.
Bhishma, whom Parasurama himself acknowledged as a superior, can wipe
out the entire Pandavas. Arjuna’s preceptor, Drona, himself stands by
“Even Balarama has acknowledged that I am superior to
Bhima in mace battle. We have heroes like Karna and Aswathamma, each
individually equal to the entire Pandava force. Our Samasaptakas are
do-or-die warriors who would slay or be slain. Even if all of you
forsake me, the three of us, Karna, Duscasana and myself, can destroy
The elders were hardly convinced by Duryodhana’s
speech and kept expressing their misgivings. Duryodhana left the hall in
anger. After dismissing his court, Dhritarashtra sent for Vyasa and
Gandhari. Duryodhana was also recalled. But the advise of his mother and
grandsire fell on Duryodhana’s deaf ears.
Krishna counsels Pandavas
and his four brothers sat with Krishna, debating on their next move.
Bhima and Arjuna showed a strange change in their attitude. Both now
talked about avoiding the war, even if compromises were to be made with
Duryodhana. Krishna showed his surprise. “I could hardly believe that
you have so easily forgotten the insults you received from Duryodhana.
Panchali has waited patiently and now looks forward to avenge the
insolent behaviour of Duryodhana and his wicked companions thirteen
years ago. It cannot be that fear causes you to talk thus. You probably
think that total war is too high a cost to regain your kingdom. But it
is not only your kingdom you have to recover. It is your glory and the
fulfillment of your vows that is important. Do not abandon the only path
that is right.”
Sahadeva also criticized his brothers for
wavering. Draupadi said, “It gladdens to hear Sahadeva talk so
vehemently. These tresses are witness to the base behaviour towards me
of Duryodhana and his brother. Could they ever be forgiven? Our king
even offered to the Kauravas that, instead of a kingdom, we could settle
for five villages, Avisthala, Brihasthala, Makandi, Varanavata and for a
fifth, any other. But Duryodhana refused, insisting that he would yield
nothing. Where is the basis for negotiations?”
were all now united and the blood that coursed their veins seemed to get
hotter. Nothing short of grounding the Kauravas in the various manners
as vowed after the dice game would satisfy them.
Krishna goes to Kaurava court
said, “To me also war seems to be inevitable. I am known to be close to
both the Pandavas and the Kauravas. It should not therefore come to
pass that I caused you to embark on this war. I shall clear my name if I
make one last attempt to prevent war by going to the Kaurava court to
make a plea for peace.”
Yudhishthira opposed this plan. “The
Kaurava court is now full of kings inimical to us,” he told Krishna.
“There are those who would take advantage of your being alone and cause
you harm. We can ill afford anything happening to you.” Krishna allayed
Yudhishthira’s fear and it was agreed that he should go.
next morning Krishna set off to Hastinapura in his splendid car driven
by Daruka and drawn by Saivya, Sugriva and other steeds. News of his
journey reached Dhritarashtra early, and he made elaborate preparations
to receive the Vrishni hero. He ordered that Krishna should be honoured
with chariots and costly gems as present.
Vidura told the king,
“Krishna is coming here on an important mission. He would accept no
present from you till he obtains what he wants. These presents would not
impress him. We know that he desires justice to be done. This is our
last opportunity. Do not let this go.”
“It is well known that
Krishna is aligned to the Pandavas,” Duryodhana said. “It would
therefore be a waste to shower presents on him. Without doubt, he
deserves respect. But let us not behave as though we worship him out of
fear of the enemy.”
“Whether or not you worship him,” Bhishma
said. “Krishna can never be frustrated. He would only recommend what is
right and truthful.”
Duryodhana replied, “O Grandsire! I will
share nothing with the Pandavas. I look forward to Krishna’s visit so
that, once he is here, I can imprison him. With him in my jail, the
Pandavas and the Vrishnis would meekly submit to me.”
and all his counselors were outraged at the prince’s speech.
Dhritarashtra scolded his son for entertaining such ideas. Bhishma
walked out angrily with the remark, “Nothing can save you, O King, or
your son, from total destruction.”
Arriving at Hastinapura,
Krishna was warmly received at Dhritarashtra’s palace. After exchanging
greetings with the king and all the others assembled, Krishna, with the
king’s leave, went to Vidura’s abode. He met Vidura and Kunti. To the
latter, he conveyed news about the welfare of her sons and
daughter-in-law. She in turn asked Krishna to convey her blessings to
the Pandavas and her hope that they would fulfill her expectations about
Krishna’s no to Duryodhana
From Vidura’s palace,
Krishna went straight to that of Duryodhana. The prince welcomed him
with the usual platitudes and placed at his feet many valuable presents.
He invited the Vrishni chief to dine with him. Krishna declined,
saying, “Noble prince. A good envoy never accepts gifts or entertainment
until his object is fulfilled.”
Duryodhana pointed out that
Krishna has already given him his army. He would therefore show his
gratitude by entertaining Krishna as an honoured guest.
replied, “A person accepts dinner from another for one of two reasons.
One is that he is hungry and needs food. The other is that food is
offered out of love. Since neither is the case here, I would not accept
your hospitality. I shall dine only with Vidura and none else.” So
saying, he left. There was a perceptible increase in temperature around
Rishis invited to court
When Krishna arrived
at Dhritarashtra’s court the next morning, he observed a number of
rishis, including Narada, standing in the firmament, eager to observe
the proceedings. At his behest, Bhishma invited them and offered them
seats. In the splendid court of Dhritarashtra, where the seats were all
inlayed with costly gems, the conclave began.
Krishna’s brief to Kauravas
Dhritarashtra, his advisers and the assembled monarchs, Krishna
presented the Pandava case. “O Chief of the Kauravas! Your glory and
power has spread and today you are the foremost of kings. The Pandavas
are your sons and they would only be happy to acknowledge you as their
superior. They are all endowed with skill as warriors. With them on your
side you can truly become the envy of even Indra.
subject turns to the king for justice. The Pandavas have been deceived
into losing their kingdom. They have undergone thirteen years of exile
as required of them. Now they are turning to you for the return of their
kingdom in fulfillment of your promise. It behooves you to do what is
right. The alternative would be to plunge the world into war and total
annihilation. Save the Kshatriya race. Save mankind.”
the rishis who were present, Parasurama, Kanva and Narada spoke. With
all wisdom and spirituality concentrated in them, they advised
Dhritarashtra to follow Krishna’s advise. They gave examples of kings
coming to grief due to their greed and selfishness. They said, “When
Nara and Narayana are combining, of what avail is it to fight the
Dhritarashtra replied that he had no power over his
son. “I have told him to desist from this dangerous path. But he listens
to me not.”
Krishna then spoke to Duryodhana. He reminded the
Kaurava prince of his immense responsibility in protecting his race and
saving the world from destruction. Bhishma and Drona followed, pointing
out to the king and his son the wisdom in what Krishna had said.
Not a needlepoint, says Duryodhana
the counsel given by the best of beings, Duryodhana said, "Whoever has
spoken has only found fault with me. The Pandavas played the dice game
of their own volition. They lost all. Yet I restored everything to them.
But they came back and played again. They lost again in a fair bet. How
am I responsible for this?
“This entire kingdom belongs to my
illustrious father. Out of the goodness of his heart he gave half of it
to his brothers’ sons. They have lost their portion and are now claiming
it from us. They are so desperate that they would even settle for five
“There is no question of accommodating the Pandavas.
To fight, I am ready, being a Kshatriya. I have warriors whom even the
gods cannot defeat. I would not yield to the Pandavas a needlepoint of
land. This is final.”
His eyes red with anger, Krishna addressed
Duryodhana. ”From the earliest time you have done everything you could
to harm the Pandavas. Your jealousy and the advise of your evil friends
have driven you to make many attempts on their lives. You schemed the
dice game and used Sakuni to deceive your cousins. You and this
Duscasana behaved disgracefully towards your own brothers’ wife. Now
when the Pandavas are asking for what belongs to them, you are denying
it. And yet you say you are innocent. Your foolishness is such that
nothing can stop it from destroying you.”
Duscasana turned to
his brother and said, “It is obvious that what these people want is to
hand over the entire kingdom to the Pandavas so that they can bind us in
ropes and take us to their king.” Duryodhana rose from his seat,
hissing like a snake, and walked out of the hall. He was followed by his
Krishna appealed to the king. “It is now in your
hands to immediately bind your two sons along with Karna and Sakuni and
hand the four over to the Pandavas. By sacrificing this much, you can
save the whole world.”
A besieged Dhritarashtra asked for his queen to be fetched so that she can advise his ‘wretched son’.
the arrival of Gandhari, Duryodhana was summoned once again to the
court. Gandhari patiently explained to her son the folly he was
committing and asked him to follow the advise of his illustrious elders.
Disregarding his mother’s words, the proud prince once again walked
Duryodhana plans to imprison Krishna
Even as he was
leaving, the idea was forming in Duryodhana’s mind to quickly nab
Krishna and imprison him. With Krishna was present the Vrishni chief
Satyaki who had the ability to read peoples’ minds. He knew that the
foursome would attempt to capture Krishna. He rushed out of the hall and
had a chariot readied.
Returning to the court, Satyaki
appraised the king of Duryodhana’s plan. The king expressed his outrage.
Vidura said that any effort to harm Krishna would only hasten
Duryodhana towards his doom. Dhritarashtra brought Duryodhana back once
Krishna shows Duryodhana his terrible form
addressed Duryodhana. “You think that I am alone here and hence you can
bind me. Far from it, I have all my forces surrounding me this very
moment.” So saying Krishna took a terrible form. On him could be seen
Brahman, Rudra and all the other gods. He was surrounded by the tribes
of Vrishni and Andhakas. Standing by him were Arjuna and the other
Pandava brothers. The intensity of the sight was such that all closed
their eyes, save Bhishma, Drona and the rishis. To them it was a sight
to be enjoyed.
Resuming his normal form, Krishna left Dhritarashtra’s court. He went to Kunti’s apartment to take leave of her.
Krishna’s encounter with Karna
in the evening, Dhritarashtra sent for Sanjaya. He asked him, “Is it
true that in the midst of the day’s events, Krishna took Karna in his
chariot alone? What transpired between them?” Sanjaya said that he had
come to know the following.
Krishna told Karna, ‘Radheya. You
are no doubt aware of the circumstances of your birth. You were born to
Kunti with Surya as your sire. You are therefore a brother of the
Pandavas; the eldest among them. The Pandavas do not know this. If they
do, they would, without doubt, bow to you and treat you with reverence.
Join them and fight for their cause, abandoning the evil Duryodhana. The
Pandavas alone have the ability to conquer the world. When they do
conquer the world, they would make you their king. The five mighty
brothers would stand in attendance on you. Your real mother would
embrace you in happiness.’
Karna replied, ‘O Kesava. I am fully
aware of your greatness. I know that victory will be where you are. I am
also aware of how I was born. You must appreciate that Pritha abandoned
me soon after I was born. It was Adhiratha and his wife Radha who found
me and brought me up as their own. I have gone through all the
religious rites as applicable to the Suta class. It is Adhiratha who is
my Pitra to whom I owe all religious sacraments. It is Radha who
breathed life into me. They are my parents and they would remain so. As
for my allegiance to Duryodhana, it is unshakeable. Right or wrong, I
shall follow him to the end. The great and holy battle site of
Kurukshetra awaits this showdown, which will involve all humanity. It is
my destiny to fight Arjuna. Either he survives or I. All I seek is that
I do not swerve in my loyalty, and I reach heaven that is reserved for
the Kshatriya warrior who falls in the battlefield.’
assured that such would be the case. He added, ‘Now that war is
inevitable, you may tell the king and his venerable advisers that seven
days from now would be the right time to start it.’ This is what I
learn, great king.
Karna’s vow to Kunti, I shall kill only Arjuna
briefed Kunti of the happenings during the day. He expressed his
concern over the gathering of war clouds and the helplessness of the
elders in stopping it. Kunti realized that Karna was playing a key role
in the developments, being Duryodhana’s adviser. He was also the main
strength Duryodhana depended on. “Karna was born to me,” she reflected.
“Surely he would heed my words if I make a fervent appeal to him. I
should do what I can to prevent this war.”
The next morning she
went to the banks of Ganga where she observed Karna standing in the
water and praying to the Sun god. She waited even as the sun rose higher
and higher. As Karna came out of the water, she was standing like a
Karna was surprised to see the lady. He paid his
respects to her, “I, the son of Radha and Adhiratha, bow to you. I would
have come to you if you had sent me a message. Of what service can I be
Kunti spoke, “You are Kunti’s son. Not Radha’s or
Adhiratha’s.” She narrated to him the story of his birth. “You are
Partha, brother of Arjuna. You are now enjoying the prosperity wrested
by Duryodhana unjustly from Yudhishthira. Leave Dhritarashtra’s son and
go to the Pandavas where you rightly belong. Let henceforth people talk
of you and Arjuna as they talk of Balarama and Krishna.”
Even as Kunti spoke, the voice of Surya could be heard, urging Karna to follow his mother’s advise.
told Kunti, “It is, no doubt, one’s duty to respect his mother’s
wishes. But consider your own action when I was born. You abandoned me, a
helpless infant. If it were not for Adhiratha, my life would have ended
that day. I was born a Kshatriya, but was denied the right to call
myself one. You have never considered my good. Even today you are acting
with a selfish motive. You are doing this for the Pandavas. Not for me.
Besides, everyone knows the might of Arjuna. If I today go to him I
would only be called a coward. I have grown under the shadow of
Duryodhana’s friendship. In this his hour of need it becomes my duty to
stand by him.
“However, since you have appealed to me, I can
give you one assurance. In the ensuing battle, excepting for Arjuna, I
would not aim to kill any of the other Pandava brothers.”
With this exchange, the two went on their different paths.
Commander-in-Chief of Pandava army
Hastinapura, Krishna returned to Upaplavya where he briefed
Yudhishthira about his mission. He also informed that Duryodhana had
raised an army of eleven Akshauhinis with the help of several kings.
Bhishma had been elected Commander-in-Chief of the Kaurava army which
was now repairing to Kurukshetra.
Yudhishthira informed Krishna
that the Pandavas had also raised an army, seven Akshauhinis in
strength. “Drupada, Virata, Drishtadyumna, Sikhandin, Satyaki, Chekitana
and Bhimasena have been appointed the Akshauhini commanders. We now
have the task of electing our army leader.”
The names of Virata,
Drupada and Sikhandinn were considered. Arjuna suggested that
Drishtadyumna should be the commander. Yudhishthira left the choice to
Krishna who endorsed Arjuna’s suggestion. Drishtadyumna, the son born to
Drupada from the sacrificial fire to counter Drona, was named the
Pandava Commander-in-Chief for the War.
The Army marches
Pandavas made adequate arrangements for the stay and security of
Draupadi and the other women in Upaplavya. The army formations were made
and the march to Kurukshetra commenced. Krishna and the five brothers,
along with the other kings and warriors, took up their positions in the
Arriving at Kurukshetra, they selected a proper place
for camping. A defensive moat was built and soldiers posted all around.
The artisans set to work on the tents and assembly rooms. The physicians
and veterinarians were given proper accommodation. The kings were
provided tents that were big and well decorated. Storehouses were built
for arms and weapons. Kitchens were set up to feed the forces.
Either Karna or I, says Bhishma
similarly organized his troop of eleven Akshauhinis. Kripa, Drona,
Salya, Jayadratha, Sudhakshina, Kritavarman, Aswatthama, Karna,
Bhurisrawas, Sakuni and Bahlika took command of the eleven divisions.
chief-elect, Bhishma, gave the pledge that despite his sympathies for
the Pandava cause, he would remain loyal to the Kauravas while in
battle. ”Let me however warn you,” he said. “The Pandavas are
invincible. As long as I am alive I shall slaughter at least ten
thousand of their troops every day. But let me also make this clear.
This charioteer’s son always boasts of his prowess and thinks he is
superior to me. Hence, either Karna fights first or I fight.”
quickly responded, “As long as Ganga’s son is alive, I shall not fight.
It shall be after he is slain that I shall take arms against Arjuna.”
The army then marched towards Kurukshetra.
Balarama leaves on pilgrimage
surrounded by a few Vrishni worthies, arrived at the Pandava camp. He
addressed the assembly of kings, “My attachment to both the Pandavas and
the Kauravas is of the same degree. I tried to argue with Krishna to
treat both on an equal footing. No doubt he has committed his forces to
the Kauravas, but he has personally aligned with Arjuna.
not approve of this war. However, I am always with Krishna, whatever he
does. Duryodhana and Bhima alike have become champions in the wielding
of the mace, having learnt the art from me. I have no desire to stay and
witness the slaughter of these two families. I am therefore leaving on a
pilgrimage.” So saying, Balarama left the scene.
Rukmi makes a spectacle of himself
had obtained Rukmini by abducting her, much to the chagrin of her
brother, Rukmi, the prince of Vidharba. A great warrior by his own
right, Rukmi owned the celestial bow Vijaya, and had an Akshauhini for
his army. When Krishna made off with Rukmini, Rukmi sought revenge. But
in his battle with Krishna, he was totally humiliated. He built a city,
Bhojkata, at precisely the same place where Krishna downsized him, and
ruled a vast kingdom from there.
Rukmi now arrived at the
Pandava camp with his huge force and addressed Yudhishthira in the
presence of Krishna thus. “O King. If you are afraid of the coming war, I
can assist you. I am capable of vanquishing all those Kaurava warriors
single-handedly. I can win the war for you and make you king of the
Yudhishthira replied politely, “Born as Pandu’s son,
with Drona as my teacher, and with Arjuna and Krishna by my side, why
should I be afraid? I can very well fight this war without your help.
You may, if you wish, stay. Otherwise you may leave.” Rukmi left with
his sea of warriors.
Reaching Duryodhana, Rukmi enacted the same
drama there. The proud Duryodhana promptly rejected him. Rukmi went
home with all his forces, not getting an opportunity to participate in
the Great War.
A jesting Duryodhana sends Sakuni’s son to the Pandavas
the battle to commence the next day, Duryodhana, with Duscasana, Karna
and Sakuni in attendance, called Uluka, the gambler’s son, and sent him
to the Pandava camp. He asked Uluka to individually warn Yudhishthira,
Bhima, Arjuna, Krishna and all the other kings of the doom that was
awaiting them in the coming war. He laughingly coached Uluka on the kind
of offensive language he should use.
Uluka carried the message
to the Pandava camp. Both the language and the content of Duryodhana’s
message, faithfully repeated by Uluka, so incensed Bhima that he took a
step towards the messenger. Krishna intervened and advised the envoy to
Karna in special category
made a quick survey of the warriors on both sides, dividing them into
Rathas, Maharathas and Atirathas, in the ascending order of their
capabilities. He said that among the Kauravas, there were thousands who
were Rathas, including the hundred brothers and Sakuni. Karna’s son
Vrihasena and Drona’s son Aswatthama were included in the list of
Maharathas. As for Karna, Bhishma said, he was ‘half-a-Ratha’.
His face red, Karna stood up and said he would prove the grandsire wrong by wiping out the entire Pandava army.
the Pandava army, Bhishma classified all the Pandava brothers as
Maharathas. So were Drupada and Virata. Among the Atirathas were
Drupada’s sons Satyajit and Dhrishtadyumna.
Talking of his own
weakness, Bhishma pointed out that due to his vow never to fight against
a woman, Sikhandin may very well cause his death. Although a man in
appearance, Bhishma held Sikhandin to be a woman.
How long would the War last?
Duryodhana asked his advisers, how long would it take to annihilate the Pandava forces?
Bhishma said, “One month.” Drona said, “One month.” Kripa said, “Two months.” Aswatthama said, “Ten nights.” Karna said, “Five nights.” Bhishma smiled and said, “So you can in five nights, if you do not encounter Arjuna. It costs nothing to say what pleases you.”
Chapter 6 Bhishma Parva
CHAPTER 6 BHISHMA PARVA
Sanjaya becomes Dhritarashtra’s eyes. Battle positions. The conches sound. Arjuna
lays down his bow. The god speaks. Yudhishthira’s strange move. Krishna
meets Karna again. Yuyutsu joins Pandavas. Day 1of Battle – Bhishma
routs the Pandavas. Day 2 of Battle – Duryodhana taunts Bhishma. Day 3
of Battle – Bhishma pleads with Krishna to kill him. Day 4 of Battle –
Bhima causes havoc. Day 5 of Battle – Honours are shared. Day 6 of
Battle – Dhritarashtra’s frustration and Sanjaya’s answer. Day 7 of
Battle – Abhimanyu lets off Duryodhana’s brothers. Day 8 of Battle –
Iravat, Arjuna’s valiant son. Day 9 of Battle – How to kill Bhishma?.
Day 10 of Battle – Closing-in on Bhishma..
Sanjaya becomes Dhritarashtra’s eyes
the King of the Kauravas, was restless. Being blind, he could not
witness the preparations his son was making to meet the Pandavas at
Kurukshetra. It was at this time that Vyasa who could divine
Dhritarashtra’s discomfiture visited him.
“O King,” Vyasa said.
“The event all of us tried to prevent is now about to take place. The
greatest war of our times is about to begin. The omens are deadly. The
configuration of planets in the skies is very disturbing. Crows are
constantly cawing. Jackals and vultures are congregating at Kurukshetra,
looking forward to having a feast. Donkeys are braying and unnatural
births are taking place. The hour for the death of all the great
monarchs with their followers has come. Try not to yield to grief.
“I shall, if you desire, grant you vision to witness this great event.”
replied, “Venerable Muni. What is going to happen is the carnage of the
Kshatriyas. Those that are near and dear to me will slaughter each
other. Regardless of who wins or loses this war, the grief it would
cause will be limitless. I do not want to gain my sight to witness the
killing. I, however, want to know the happenings in the battlefield in
Vyasa told Dhritarashtra’s faithful servant Sanjaya
that he would grant him the vision to see and the ear to hear
everything that takes place in the war. He could act as the king’s eyes
and ears and describe the war as events unfolded. The eighteen days of
the war are known to us from Sanjaya’s commentary to his king.
adversaries took their positions in the battlefield of Kurukshetra. The
Kaurava army was in the east, facing the western firmament. The
Pandavas faced east. Led by Bhishma, the Kauravas with their vast army
of eleven Akshauhinis moved forward like a vast ocean. They looked like
an army of Danavas (ethereal beings, hostile to god). The Pandavas with
seven Akshauhinis looked less in number but had the aspect of a
celestial army. The wind, blowing from east to west, seemed to carry a
message from the beasts of prey to Duryodhana’s army.
voiced his concern to Arjuna at being outnumbered by the Kaurava
forces. Arjuna spoke confidently. He said, “In a similar situation, when
Indra was fighting the Asuras, the supreme god told the deity that what
mattered was not might but truth. Victory would be where there is
righteousness. Besides, as Narada says, where there is Krishna, there
The conches sound
Krishna advised Arjuna to
first offer prayer to the goddess Durga, that invincible slayer of
asuras. Arjuna did so. The goddess appeared before him and blessed him.
the warriors were taking their positions, the awe-inspiring sounds of
the conches were heard. Krishna blew his Panchajanya, Arjuna his
Devadatta, Bhima his Paundara, Yudhishthira his Anantavijaya, Nakula his
Sughosa and Sahadeva his Manipushpaka.
Arjuna lays down his bow
asked his charioteer Krishna to steer him to a position from where he
could review the opponent’s army. When Arjuna looked at Bhisma, Drona
and all those that were dear to him, arrayed for battle, a feeling of
despondency overtook him. He told Krishna that his limbs trembled. “Of
what use is it to gain sovereignty over all the three worlds if it is by
killing my preceptors and kinsmen?” he asked. “Woe unto me that I
should kill those who offer sacrificial offerings to my ancestors.”
saying, Arjuna sat down in his chariot, refusing to fight. The greatest
moment of the Mahabharata narration had arrived. What Sanjaya described
to his king next was Krishna’s advise to the disconsolate and dejected
Arjuna; that incomparable discourse on the very definition of one’s
duty, of righteousness, of virtue in the face of the transience of the
soul, of what formed the core, the pith of Hindu faith and belief.
The god speaks
“Achutha. How can I take up arms against Bhishma and Drona who deserve
my worship? How can I, out of avarice for wealth and fame, strike at
those who are my preceptors? Compassion has possessed me. Fight, I do
not want to. Show me the right path. I am lost without you.” Saying
this, he bowed his head to Krishna.
Krishna: “Rise, Arjuna. It ill becomes you to lay down your arms in this hour. You mourn for those that do not deserve mourning.
in every man is his soul. The soul is indestructible. Like changing
clothes, the soul changes bodies. Besides, life is ephemeral. None who
is born can escape death.
“To each is given a station in life.
Duties are attached to it. Born a Kshatriya, it is your duty to face
battle. Not doing so will only bring you infamy.
without devotion is meaningless. Devotion is Yoga. Yoga is to do your
duty without expecting its fruits. Separate emotion from duty. Be of
Arjuna: “How does one attain steadiness of mind?”
“He who remains calm in the midst of calamities, he who no more craves
for pleasure, he who has conquered fear and anger, he who has overcome
attachment, his is the steady mind.”
Arjuna: “If devotion is superior to work, then why should I work?”
“Devotion is of two kinds. Sankhya is through knowledge. Yoga is
through work, work of the detached kind. I am the Supreme Being. Yet I
work. If I cease to work, there would be chaos. By doing your work
without expectation, you leave it to me to decide on the results. Hence
take up your bow and fight. Realising your duty and doing it, is right.
Not action impelled by others.”
Arjuna: “What forces interfere with my devotion?”
“It is your senses. They come in the way of your understanding your
duty. Control them, you must. I taught this to Vivaswat, he to Manu,
Manu to Ikshaku. And you have come in the line of those.”
Arjuna: “Living in our generation, how could you have imparted this knowledge so long ago?”
“This birth of mine is one of many. I am born in different ages in
different forms. Men who have cleansed themselves have come to me and I
have accepted them. It is knowledge that cleanses. Knowledge follows
devotion. Use this knowledge to dispel your doubts.”
Arjuna: “How do you talk of action and abandonment of action as both commendable? Which is superior?”
“Both lead to emancipation. But action is far superior of the two.
Sankhya and Yoga are ultimately one. To be free from opposites, one
should have no aversion or desire. But where there is devotion, the path
is shorter. To be free is knowledge.”
Arjuna: “What of him who has faith, but has fallen short in devotion?”
“Such a person will be born again for regeneration. Knowing me is the
ultimate goal. Many who have strived hard have yet not reached me. I am
the beginning and the end. I am the OM of the Vedas. Nothing can be
attained beyond me. At the end of many lives the truly devoted can reach
“All are in me. I am in none. There are long stretches of
time known as Kalpas. Everything ends in one Kalpa and everything starts
again with another. I create the Kalpas. I sit outside them. Yet I am
manifest in everything. All physical phenomena are I and so are thought.
Those that do not know me have their thought on inconsequential things.
There are many gods and many rishis who do not know me. The few who do
have attained supreme knowledge.”
Arjuna: “How shall I attain that knowledge? What qualities of yours do I meditate upon?”
“I am the foremost of all that is perfect. Among Adityas, I am Vishnu.
Among mountains, I am Meru. Among the Rudras, I am Sankara. Among the
Rishis, I am Narada. I am Vasudeva among the Vrishnis. I am Dhananjaya
among the Pandavas. I am Vyasa among the ascetics. Whatever is great has
a portion of me. I support the universe. I am the Adhyatman, the
Arjuna: “Show me then, you great one, your eternal form.”
revealed to Arjuna his supreme form. Struck with awe, Arjuna saw in it
the entire universe. It was radiant like a thousand suns. All the gods,
all the rishis were there. Into his mouth, Arjuna could see created
beings rush, to be consumed by fire.
Gripped with fear, Arjuna asked, “What form is that you are showing me now?”
god answered, “I am Death. All those warriors standing before me,
Bhishma, Drona, Karna and the others, they are waiting to be consumed by
me. With or without you, they would cease to be. Take your bow and
release the shafts, with your right or left hand, and slay them.
Consider it is I who is slaying them, not you.”
fear and overawed by the apparition, Arjuna joined his hands. He bowed
low and said, “Indeed you are the Supreme Being. The Rishis are right in
proclaiming you so. I feel like a speck in front of you. Yet I thought
of you as only Krishna of the Yadavas. I had equated myself with you,
played with you, sat in the same table and presumed you were my
companion. Pardon me for my innumerable lapses. Forgive me as a father
forgives his son. This awesome sight I can stand no more. Please resume
the form I am familiar with.”
Krishna said, “Fear not. This form
is seen by you alone. There are very few before you who have seen it.
Freed of all fear, resume your duty.”
Krishna returned to his normal form. All doubts dispelled from his mind, Arjuna got ready for the war.
Yudhishthira’s strange move
mighty armies stood facing each other for the battle to begin. Suddenly
it was observed that Yudhishthira alighted from his car and started
walking towards the Kaurava side. Amazed at his conduct, Arjuna and
Bhima followed him, asking where he was going. Krishna who could guess
the reason bade the two brothers to stay back.
Approaching Bhishma, Yudhishthira prostrated before him. “O grandsire, with you we shall battle today. Grant me permission.”
said, “Rise, O lord. Your action is commendable. Had you not come thus,
I would have cursed you. Ask of me anything and I shall give it to you.
Anything not connected with the battle.”
“The Kauravas are being led by you. As long as you are alive there can
be no victory for us. Tell me how we can kill you.”
replied, “I am invincible. None amongst you or amongst the celestials
can kill me. I have to choose my own time of death. Go now and come to
me once again when doubt grips you.”
approached his preceptor, Drona, and asked him similarly how to kill
him. Drona replied, “As long as I fight, there can be no victory for
you. Therefore seek to destroy me early. I can be killed only when I lay
down my arms and am in meditation. That will happen if I hear something
disagreeable from someone who can be trusted.”
Yudhishthira approached Kripa similarly, the teacher answered, “I am
incapable of being slain. Fight as best as you can and victory will be
Finally, approaching Salya and paying his respects to
him, Yudhishthira told him, “I solicit a boon from you. When Karna joins
the fight and you navigate his chariot, do all you could to weaken him,
by word and deed consistent with your duty.” Salya promised to do so.
With this, Yudhishthira returned to his chariot.
Krishna meets Karna again
Yudhishthira was away, Krishna walked up to Karna. After greeting him
he said, “As long as Bhishma leads Duryodhana’s forces, you would be
sitting out of the battle. Join the Pandavas and fight for them till the
time Bhishma falls. When Bhishma is gone, you may return to
Duryodhana’s side.” Karna refused.
Yuyutsu joins Pandavas
before the battle commenced, Yuyutsu, Dhritarashtra’s son by a Vaisya,
came to Yudhishthira. With devotion he said, “I shall fight for you.
Please accept me.”
Yudhishthira replied, “I accept you, mighty
one. This is also for the good. You alone of Dhritarashtra’s sons may
survive this war. When the time comes, his last rites can be done by
Day 1of Battle – Bhishma routs the Pandavas
was great anticipation in both camps as the war was about to start. The
men as well as the animals were raring to go. Duryodhana ordered strong
protection for his chief commander, Bhishma.
With a great roar
the two armies set on each other. The air was filled with the battle cry
of the men. The elephants trumpeted aloud. The horses reared their
forelegs and neighed. The commanders cried hoarse their instructions to
the soldiers. When the clash between the two armies took place, a huge
cloud of dust enveloped the place. Sounds of clashing metals and
colliding bodies pervaded the atmosphere.
For the first part of
the forenoon, thousands of individual engagements took place. Like
attacked like, elephant against elephant, horse against horse and
chariot against chariot.
The melee slowly gave way to concerted
attacks. Foremost during the following part was the Pandava attack on
Bhishma. Realising that he was the kingpin of the enemy, a host of
Pandava heroes attacked him. Abhimanyu, the brave son of Arjuna, let go a
shower of arrows on the grandsire. He made audacious advances. It
pleased Bhishma to see Arjuna’s son display so much valour. Abhimanyu
however had to leave, having lost his chariot.
A great duel took
place between Salya and the youthful Virata prince, Uttara. It was a
case of young impetuosity engaging age and experience. After a fierce
battle, Uttara fell from his elephant. Salya jumped out of his chariot
and directed a deadly arrow at him. The prince was pierced through.
Uttara fall, his brother Sweta mounted an attack on Salya. So effective
it was that it looked as though Salya would succumb to it. Seven
leading Kaurava warriors rushed to stave off Sweta. The Virata prince
warded off all the seven, but Salya had meanwhile slipped away. Sweta’s
brave stand drew Bhishma into the attack. The two were now engaged in a
Sweta was able to cause extensive damage to Bhishma’s
chariot. His standard with the palmyra insignia was cut down by Sweta’s
arrows. The assault mounted by Virata’s son incensed the old warrior who
vowed to kill him. He directed some deadly arrows at the prince who
lost his charioteer and his four steeds. Sweta jumped out of his car. He
hurled a mace at Bhishma even as the Kaurava warrior jumped out of his
chariot. The mace missed Bhishma but hit the chariot, which was reduced
A host of Kauravas rushed to Bhishma’s aid. The
venerable warrior mounted another car and from there aimed some deadly
celestial weapons at Sweta. The Virata prince fell on the ground dead.
this battle, Sanjaya commented that Bhishma had committed a
transgression in that he attacked from his car the Virata prince who was
on foot. According to the code of fair fight when a warrior loses his
chariot and is stranded on the ground, he should be attacked only from
The day ended with the Pandavas suffering huge
losses, thanks to the exertion of the Kaurava Commander-in-Chief. Bhima
did cause some damage to the Dhritarashtra forces. But Arjuna kept a low
Later in the evening, Yudhishthira sought Krishna and
told him, “O Kesava. Bhishma has routed our forces today. Two of
Drupada’s sons have been killed. As long as Bhishma leads the foes, we
have no chance of victory. Rather than cause death to my friends, I
shall retire to the forest and practice austerities.” Krishna raised his
spirits with a few words, and a war council was held to plan for the
Day 2 of Battle – Duryodhana taunts Bhishma
Pandavas entered the battle on the second day adopting the Krauncha (a
bird) formation, the one the teacher Brihaspati recommended to Indra in
his fight against the asuras. Arjuna was at the head of the formation,
while the other units took various positions as neck, wings, body and
Quick to observe the Pandava formation, Duryodhana
arranged with his commanders a counter-formation. Bhishma moved
majestically to the center of the arena. He was surrounded by Salya, the
brothers Bhagadatta and Bhusrisravas (sons of King Somadatta of the
clan Bahlika) and Duryodhana with his brothers. The conches were sounded
and the battle started.
Bhishma opened the day with a shower
of arrows, the brunt of which was borne g foughtwarriors, Krishna drove
Arjuna’s chariot with skill and took him to Bhishma’s proximity. Drona,
Kripa, Duryodhana and Sala (another son of King Somadatta) rushed to
support Bhishma. Arjuna repelled all of them, leaving only Bhishma in
Seeing the intensity of Arjuna’s onslaught,
Duryodhana was quick to tell the grandsire, “Because of you Karna is
staying out of the war, leaving Arjuna stronger. Hence you should bring
down the owner of Ghandiva.” Bhishma was not too happy at the taunt but
nevertheless concentrated on Arjuna.
Between Arjuna and Bhishma,
showers of arrows were exchanged. Three of Bhishma’s arrows struck
Krishna on his chest. An angry Arjuna felled Bhishma’s charioteer in
Other straight fights were being fought. Drona and
Dhrishtadyumna were locked in battle. Each hit the other several times
and blood flowed from both. Finally, Drona dislodged the Panchali prince
who had to flee in another car.
The fiercest battle was between
Bhima and the King of Kalinga. In this encounter Bhima was a clear
victor. The king and two of his sons were felled by Bhima’s arrows and
the Kalinga army ran away in terror.
As the shadows lengthened,
Bhishma and Arjuna were still exchanging arrows, neither appearing to be
capable of being slain. The sun had set, and the two armies pulled out
of the battlefield for the day.
Day 3 of Battle – Bhishma pleads with Krishna to kill him
day dawned, Bhishma ordered the Kauravas to adopt the Garuda (Kite)
formation. He himself occupied the beak, with Aswatthama and Kripa in
the head. Duryodhana and all his followers formed the back.
the Kaurava formation, Arjuna countered with the half moon formation.
He and Bhima were in the left and right horn. Between them were Virata,
Nila and Dhrishtaketu. In the middle and rear were the rest of the
Pandava generals. Also in the rear were the five sons of Draupadi and
Bhima’s son Ghatotkacha. There was an uproar when the two formations
As the battle developed, Arjuna was seen energetically
chastising the Kaurava forces. Most of the commanders now turned against
Arjuna with the object of felling him. A thousand cars converged on him
and he was covered in a shower of arrows.
In a straight
encounter, Bhima struck at Duryodhana who was forced to sit down on the
deck of his car. His charioteer took him away. Bhima routed the forces
left behind by Duryodhana.
Due to the steady attack of the
Pandavas, Dhritarashtra’s army was fleeing in all directions. Bhishma
and Drona alone stood and fought. Duryodhana reached Bhishma and taunted
him once again. “With you, Drona and Kripa leading us, how can my army
be in such disarray?” he asked.
Bhishma answered laughingly, “I
have told you many times that the Pandavas are incapable of being
vanquished. In spite of my old age, I am fighting as best as I could.
Watch now how I check the Pandavas.”
A charged Bhishma entered
the ranks of the Pandavas, killing anything that came his way. Those
that dared to attack him fell like flies attacking a fire. Krishna told
Arjuna, “Look Dhananjaya, our warriors are running away like weak
animals at the sight of a lion.” Then on Arjuna’s command, Krishna took
the chariot to Bhishma’s proximity.
As Bhishma sent a shower of
arrows on Arjuna, the dexterous Pandava warrior responded with lightning
reflex, drawing the admiration of the grandsire. Twice Arjuna broke
Bhishma’s bow. But Bhishma’s arrows landed like lightning, leaving both
the charioteer and the warrior struggling. Thousands of Kauravas
converged on the besieged Arjuna, even as Krishna was wondering whether
Arjuna was holding back on Bhishma out of reverence.
addressed Satyaki who was nearby. “Let those who are running away, run. I
shall wipe out Bhishma and all the Kauravas with my discus. None will
escape my anger.” So saying, he jumped out of his car and rushed towards
Observing Krishna’s wrath, Bhishma cried out, “O
Krishna, O lord of the universe, I bow to you. I could pray for nothing
better than death at your hands.”
Arjuna left the car and,
running towards Krishna, he restrained the angry god. “O Krishna,” he
begged. “Do not be rash. I swear that I shall fight with all my skill
and rout the Kauravas. Do come back and take your seat in the chariot.”
Krishna returned, a regenerated Arjuna broke into the Kaurava ranks,
causing the death of ten thousand car-warriors and seven hundred
elephants. As evening set in and the warriors were returning, there was
talk everywhere of Arjuna’s achievement.
Day 4 of Battle – Bhima causes havoc
commenced on the fourth day, with the atmosphere covered by the dust of
the previous day. The battlefield looked eerie. The massive Kaurava
formation, with Bhishma leading, ground ahead to meet the Pandavas. The
sight of Arjuna at the vanguard of the Pandava army, however, inspired
fear in the Kaurava ranks.
The battle started with the clash of
the two mighty armies. In the welter, Bhishma, surrounded by Drona,
Kripa, Vivingciti and Duryodhana, sought Arjuna. Showers of arrows were
exchanged between the two.
Abhimanyu, who joined his father,
held five kings belonging to the Kaurava forces at bay and fought like a
lion among elephants. Seeing father and son besieged, Drishtayadumna
rushed to their help.
Salya, the Madri king, now came under the
Pandava attack. Ten divisions surrounded him, prominent among them being
his own two nephews Nakula and Sahadeva.
Mace in hand, Bhima rushed in with a loud roar to Arjuna’s help. His very sight made the elephants tremble.
ruler of the Magadhas, Dandadhara, advanced in a majestic elephant. Man
and elephant were brought down by Abhimanyu. The elephant force
buckled, as many amongst them were massacred by Bhima.
to check Bhima, Duryodhana deployed his entire force to attack the
Pandava prince. Bhima, swinging his mace fiercely, kept them all at bay.
Bhishma now rushed towards Bhima. The Vrishni hero, Satyaki, sprung on
Bhishma’s forces and scattered them.
Suddenly, Satyaki became
the eye of the whirlpool that drew the armies of both sides. Duryodhana
now turned to Bhima, intent on felling him. He was followed by fourteen
of his brothers. Seeing Bhima fall, Duryodhana left him for his brothers
to handle. But Bhima quickly regained his ground and attacked the
hapless brothers. Eight of them were killed and the rest fled the field.
With this Bhima opened his account of Duryodhana’s brothers killed.
now entered the fray and attacked Bhima. He managed to hit Bhima on his
breast causing the Pandava hero to sit, holding to his flagstaff.
Ghatotkacha materialized from nowhere to protect his father. He was
followed by several Rakshasas on elephants, all assuming gigantic forms.
Bhagadatta in a tight spot, Drona rushed to his rescue. He was chased
by the Pandava forces. Mercifully for Bhagadatta, the sun dipped into
the horizon and Bhishma proclaimed the day’s battle over.
Bhima and Ghatotkacha led the Pandavas back to their camp with leonine
roars, Duryodhana retired to mourn the loss of his brothers.
listening to the account given by Sanjaya of the day’s battle, the king
asked, “You are always giving me news that is in high praise of the
Pandavas. All I hear about is the setback my son is suffering. Why is
this so? Are the Pandavas invincible? Cannot they be slain?”
replied, “Even this, O great King, is the question asked by your son of
Bhishma. And this is what his grandsire told him. Krishna and Arjuna
are the great sages Nara and Narayana who have taken birth in order to
purge the world of evil elements, as the Dwapara age is yielding to the
Kali age. The Pandavas are celestials whom none among the Kauravas could
kill, Bhishma included. It is for this reason that the grandsire is
once again advising Duryodhana to make peace with them and enjoy the
earth. He advises in vain.”
Day 5 of Battle – Honours are shared
launched the fifth day of the battle with the Makara (crocodile)
formation. As usual, he led the assault. The Pandavas countered this
with the Syena (hawk) formation with Bhima in the beak. He had for the
eyes Sikhandin and Dhrishtadyumna. Arjuna occupied the neck and the
rest, the other parts of the body.
When the battle started,
Bhima led his forces right into the mouth of the Makara. This took
Arjuna to the presence of Bhishma. As the two were exchanging arrows,
Sikhandin drove across towards Bhishma. Bhishma lowered his bow, not
wishing to hit the Panchala prince whom he believed to be a woman. Drona
rushed to take control and relieved Bhishma of the stress.
the carnage caused by Bhima the previous day, Bhishma and the other
Kaurava generals surrounded the mighty Pandava prince in order to
disable him. Arjuna rushed to his brother’s aid and attacked the
grandsire. The scorching pace of Arjuna put the Kaurava army in total
disarray, with Bhishma alone successful in checking him.
the Pandava generals picked on an adversary, and there were many
straight fights. Loss in terms of car-warriors and steed was high on
both sides. Many elephants fell, and the field was strewn with their
Lakshmana, Duryodhana’s son, and Abhimanyu were
engaged in a headlong conflict. Though he fought bravely, Lakshmana
could not stand Abhimanyu’s assault. He swooned and fell. Kripa picked
him in his car and took him to safety.
With fighting fierce at
various parts of the battlefield, the horizon slowly changed its hue
from orange to blue. The fifth day of battle had come to a close.
Day 6 of Battle – Dhritarashtra’s frustration and Sanjaya’s answer
the sixth day, Yudhishthira entered the arena with the Makara
(crocodile) formation. Bhimasena, Drupada and Arjuna were in the
forefront, followed by Nakula and Sahadeva. Observing the Pandava move,
Bhishma adopted the Crane countermove. Drona was at its beak while
Aswatthama and Kripa constituted the eyes.
The battle commenced
with the great clash of men, animals and weapons. The leaders on both
sides, Drona and Bhima attacked each other. Others picked up their
adversaries and fighting became fierce.
interrupted the narrative and asked Sanjaya, “Our army is the best
equipped one ever to take to the battlefield. Our soldiers are selected
on the strength of their ability and not on the basis of lineage. They
don’t drink or fritter their energies. They are well paid and well
trained. They are provided with the best weapons. They have lions for
their leaders. Yet they suffer defeat in the hands of the Pandavas. Is
this due to destiny?”
Sanjaya answered, “This is the result of
your own sin. Several times you were warned by Bhishma, Drona, Vidura
and me not to provoke the Pandavas to a war. You ignored us all and
preferred to follow the path of your evil son. Now you are witnessing
the decimation of the Kauravas by Pandu’s sons.” Sanjaya continued with
his narration of the war.
Having broken the Kaurava array, Bhima
entered into the heart of their formation. Suddenly he found himself
surrounded by several car-warriors of the Kaurava army. Bhima found
himself isolated as these warriors closed in with the idea of killing
Bhima abandoned his car and jumped into the melee,
his mace swinging. He caused immense loss to the Kauravas, fatally
hitting elephants and smashing chariots. Beholding Bhima alone and
surrounded by the Kauravas, Dhrishtadyumna rushed to his aid. Fighting
bravely, he gained entry into the ring of Kaurava warriors who were
stalking Bhima. Bhima jumped into the Panchala prince’s chariot and the
two scattered arrows on the Kauravas. Duryodhana ordered his men to kill
The Panchala prince now used his deadly weapon
called Pramohana, which stunned the Kaurava warriors. Observing this,
Drona rushed to the scene and used his weapon called Prajna to
neutralize the Pramohana weapon.
Cut off from the two warriors,
Yudhishthira became anxious for their welfare. He sent heavy
reinforcements. Abhimanyu and a host of others rushed in, scattering the
Kaurava ranks. Blows were traded between the two forces.
battlefield became an ocean of blood, the shafts were like eddies, the
bodies of elephants were like islands, and the chariots seemed like
boats. By the time the rival forces were withdrawn for the day, the
battlefield was covered with the bodies of warriors, giving it a
frightful aspect. Those that survived returned to their camps to apply
unguents on their wounds and to recover their strength for the morrow.
Day 7 of Battle – Abhimanyu lets off Duryodhana’s brothers
arrayed his forces in the Mandala (circular) formation to take on the
Pandavas on the seventh day. Yudhishthira countered with the Vajra
After the initial clash, individual
encounters commenced. Three of Dhritarashtra’s sons attacked Abhimanya
who staved them off. Drona and his son were pitched against Sikhandin.
Duryodhana rushed at Dhrishtadyumna. The rakshasa son of Rishyasringar,
Alumbasa, attacked the Vrishni hero Satyaki. Thousands of Kaurava
warriors surrounded Arjuna in order to contain him.
cleverly navigated the besieged Arjuna. The Pandava hero soon had to use
his Aindra weapon of celestial quality. The arrows dispersed in all
directions, hitting the Kaurava warriors. Unable to stand the intensity
of the weapon, the warriors retreated, some of them turning to Bhishma
for protection. Kaurava losses were heavy in this encounter.
was engaged in a contest with Drona. Drona dispossessed the old warrior
of his chariot. Jumping down from his disintegrating car, Virata got
into the chariot of his son, Sankhya. Drona’s arrows pierced Sankhya at
his breast, and the prince fell down dead. Virata fled from the scene.
Aswatthama kept up his assault on Sikhandin. The Panchala prince had to
abandon his chariot and get into that of Satyaki. Satyaki himself,
finding the pressure from Alumbasa unbearable, used the Aindra, taught
him by his preceptor, Arjuna. The rakshasa fled away in fear.
Dhritarashtra interrupted Sanjaya. He asked, “My troops are also fighting bravely. Why are they not achieving more?”
replied, “Just as the waters of the ocean remain brackish even after
contact with the holy river Ganga, so do your troops fail to match the
Pandavas despite their resolute fight.”
As the sun neared the
meridian, Ghatotkacha was engaged in a fierce fight with Bhagadatta. In
this encounter, Bhagadatta got the better of Bhima’s son who had to
Salya, the Madri king, and his two nephews were locked in a
roaring combat. The nephews got the better of their uncle who abandoned
his position. Though losing the fight, Salya was heartened by his
Chekitana of the Satwata (Yadava) race
encountered Kripa. They were equally matched. Both lost their chariots
and started fighting on the ground with sabres. Both fell unconscious
and were whisked away by their supporters.
In the battle where
three of Duryodhana’s brothers, Chatanika, Chitrasena and Vikarna were
opposing Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s son was at the point of killing them. Just
then he remembered Bhima’s vow to kill all hundred sons of Dhritarashtra
by his own hands. He allowed the three to escape.
Sixty car-warriors who surrounded Arjuna were all consumed by his firepower. Yuthishthira
goaded the Panchali prince, Sikhandin, by reminding him of his duties.
An inspired Sikhandin used the Varuna (master of the ocean) weapon,
which baffled all the Kauravas who were surrounding him.
As the evening shadows stretched, the armies left behind the carnage generated during the day and returned to their camps.
Day 8 of Battle – Iravat, Arjuna’s valiant son
Kauravas entered the field on the eighth day forming an array that had
its front as solid as a wall. Bhishma, Duryodhana, his brother
Chitrasena, and Vivingsati rode side by side in their majestic chariots.
Next in line were Drona and Bhagadatta. Behind them were Aswatthama and
the ruler of Kosala, Brihadbala.
Yudhishthira countered the
Kauravas with the formation known as Sringataka, with Bhima and Satyaki
occupying the horns. After the clash of sabre with sabre, chariot with
chariot and animal with animal, strategic encounters began.
with his brothers, gave a circle of protection to Bhishma so that the
grandsire could concentrate on the Pandava warriors. Bhima attacked the
circle. As a result, eight of Duryodhana’s brothers fell to Bhima’s
arrows. The other brothers fled. Duryodhana turned to Bhishma and
shouted, “My heroic brothers are being killed one by one. Yet you do not
interfere, as though you were a spectator.” Bhishma replied, “These
events are happening just as Vidura, Drona and I had warned. Keep
fighting and make heaven your goal.”
Arjuna, during his twelve
years of self-imposed exile, had met a princess of the Nagas, Ulipi, of
the serpent world. He left her immediately and was therefore not aware
that out of their union a son was born. The son was named Iravat. Later,
when Arjuna was staying with Indra, he was sought by Iravat. Arjuna was
immensely pleased to meet his son, now an accomplished young boy. When
they parted, Iravat promised to turn up when the Great War took place in
order to help his father.
On the eighth day of the war, Iravat
turned up at Kurukshetra to fight for the Pandavas. Riding on a majestic
steed, he had a cavalry behind him. Six of Sakuni’s sons on horses went
forth to stalk the Naga prince. Sakuni’s sons fought bravely and
brought Iravat down from his charger. Iravat stood his ground with a
sword in his hand. Finding this an opportune time, six sons of Sakuni
jumped from their horses and attacked Iravat on foot. In the fight that
ensued, five of the brothers were cut to pieces by Iravat, while the
sixth one ran away, badly wounded.
Seeing the carnage caused by
Iravat, Duryodhana thought it appropriate to send the rakshasa,
Alumbasa, to fight him. A fierce battle ensued, where both combatants
used skill and magic power to fox each other. In the end, however,
Iravat was slain.
Agitated by the death of Iravat, Ghatotkacha
attacked Duryodhana. Unable to stand the rakshasa’s wizardry on the
field, Duryodhana rushed to Bhishma, complaining. Bhishma advised him
that like should fight like. Duryodhana should fight with the foremost
warriors among the Pandavas, and not pitch at all and sundry. Bhagadatta
was sent to contain Ghatotkacha.
By sunset, Bhima had killed seven more of Dhritarashtra’s sons.
in the evening, Duryodhana, Karna, Sakuni and Duscasana were discussing
the day’s events. Duryodhana expressed his frustration at the poor
showing of his army, despite having as its leaders Bhishma, Drona and
Kripa. “It is obvious that due to their affection for the Pandavas, our
leaders do not want to kill them,” Duryodhana said.
addressed them, “It is because of Bhishma that I am watching everything
helplessly. If he should withdraw, then I would certainly join the fight
and annihilate the Pandavas. Persuade him to lay down his arms.”
followed by many of his brothers, proceeded to Bhishma’s tent. After
paying his respects to the grandsire, Duryodhana told him, “You are
capable of wiping out the Pandavas. Either out of hatred for me or love
for the Pandavas, you are not vanquishing them. If that is the case, let
Karna be permitted to fight.”
Duryodhana’s words pierced
Bhishma’s heart. “Your words are like dagger to me and I deeply grieve
at them. I am endeavouring my best to win this war for you. You are
talking of Karna taking over. Just remember that his record against the
Pandavas has been dismal. Many times Arjuna has stripped him of his very
clothes. I assure you that either I will send the Pandavas to heaven
or, slain by them, I shall myself go there.”
Day 9 of Battle – How to kill Bhishma?
realized the need to provide a strong cordon around Bhishma to protect
him from the twin dangers of Sikhandin and Arjuna. The next day he asked
Drona, Kripa, Sakuni, Salya and Vivingsati to give maximum protection
to the grandsire. The Kauravas entered the field with the Sarvatobhadra
(a square) formation.
In the counter-formation, Yudhishthira,
Bhima and the twins were in the vanguard. In the middle were Arjuna and
Sikhandin, while the other generals formed the back.
and cymbals sounded and with a roar the two armies clashed. Early in the
battle, Abhimanyu made a dash at Duryodhana’s ranks, causing great
damage. Duryodhana became concerned with the onslaught. He summoned the
rakshasa, Alumbasa, and commanded him to lead the attack on Abhimanyu.
Like an elephant trampling lotus-stalks, Alumbasa attacked the Pandava
forces. The five sons of Draupadi joined the battle and sought to cut
off Alumbasa with a fierce offensive. They were, however, effectively
countered by the rakshasa who made them abandon their chariots.
Confronting Abhimanyu, Alumbasa used his magic powers to confuse the
brave son of Subhadra. But Abhimanyu was more than a match to the
rakshasa who was ultimately rescued by Bhishma.
For most of the
morning, Arjuna stayed in the rear while the other four brothers kept up
an attack on the grandsire. Bhishma was at his fierce best as he cut
the Somakas, a sizeable division of the Pandava forces. The Pandavas
were finding it extremely difficult to keep the old warrior in check.
spoke to Arjuna, reminding him of his resolve to wipe out the Kaurava
forces. He then took Arjuna very near Bhishma and secured for him an
advantageous position from which to attack. But he found Arjuna’s
offensive mild, as though there was a lack of resolve. In anger, Krishna
once more left the chariot and started walking towards Bhishma, intent
on fighting him. Bhishma looked at him expectantly and expressed his
eagerness to be killed by the god. Arjuna jumped out of the chariot and
caught Krishna by his leg at the tenth step.
“O mighty one, it
behoves you not to get angry,” Arjuna said. “I swear that I shall exert
myself fully to slay the grandsire and wipe out the Kaurava army.” In
the battle that followed, Arjuna fought bravely. Yet Bhishma was
unstoppable. The casualty suffered in his hands by the Pandava army was
enormous. The battle raged till sunset.
Back in the Pandava camp
Yudhishthira was very depressed by the sufferings caused by Bhishma to
his forces. There seemed to be only one course left. To seek advise from
Bhishma himself. The five Pandava brothers, along with Krishna,
proceeded unarmed to Bhishma’s tent.
Yudhishthira expressed to
Bhishma, “This carnage of Kshatriyas is proceeding unabated. As long as
you live, we have no hope of victory. Tell us how to kill you and bring
this war to an end.”
Bhishma said, “It is true that I stand
between you and victory. None save Krishna has the capability to slay
me. He is however not taking arms. It is good that you have come to me
and asked this question or there would be no end to this war. You will
win only after I fall.”
Yudhishthira asked again, “How do we make you fall?”
replied. ”When I lay down my arms, any car warrior can slay me. One who
has thrown away his weapons, one who has fallen down, one whose armour
has slipped, one whose standard is down, one who is running away, one
who is frightened, one who surrenders, one who is a female or bears a
female name and one who has a single son – with these persons I do not
battle. The time of my death, however, is to be chosen by me.
sons of Pandu! I permit you to kill me in battle if that would bring
you victory. The Drupada prince, Sikhandin, is, in my opinion, a female.
Let Dhananjaya place such a person in my front and fight. It is then
that you could kill me.”
The Pandavas returned to their camp, their hopes revived.
Day 10 of Battle – Closing-in on Bhishma
Bhishma’s death as their goal, the Pandavas formed their array with
Sikhandin in the front. Protecting his car wheels were Bhima and Arjuna
on either side. All the other mighty Pandava warriors were placed behind
them. In the Kauravas’ show of might, Bhishma was at the head. Drona,
Kripa, Bhagadatta and others were close behind him, lending support.
two formations got closer, with Arjuna smiting the Kaurava hosts and
Bhishma afflicting the Pandavas. Soon Sikhandin and Bhishma were within
distance of hearing each other. Bhishma told Drupada’s son, “I know you
to be the Sikhandin as god created. You are a woman and I shall not
His wrath kindled, Sikhandin answered, “I know your
prowess very well, son of Ganga. I know about your humbling the great
Parasurama. But I swear that I shall kill you today, whether you fight
or not.” So saying, Sikhandin directed several arrows against Bhishma,
with Arjuna encouraging him from his side.
Meanwhile, the other
Kaurava warriors came in between, relieving Bhishma from the Pandava
attack. In the exchange of blows, many from both the ranks fell.
Mounting a severe attack on Arjuna, Duscasana fought bravely and
acquitted himself very well. Bhima was locked in battle with
Bhurisravas. Gadotkacha was challenged by Durmukha, Duryodhana’s
brother. Drona was felling sizeable chunks of the Pandava army.
Sikhandin and Arjuna zeroed in on Bhishma, Duryodhana ordered his
generals to rush to the grandsire’s aid. But Arjuna drove them all with
his prowess. Even as Sikhandin was striking Bhishma with his arrows, the
old warrior ignored him. With great energy the grandsire was fighting
off the other Pandavas.
Bhishma was steadily outnumbered as the
Pandavas poured their arrows on him. Arjuna directed at him many of his
choicest weapons. Bhishma looked at the sky and said, “The time for my
return has come. I want to lay my life.” The Vasus, his companions in
heaven, answered from above, “Even so be it.”
Both Sikhandin and
Arjuna poured arrows on the grandsire. Bhishma told Duscasana who was
at his side, “Behold those arrows coming in a continuous line. Those are
from the wielder of the Gandiva, not from Sikhandin.”
Attacked by those mighty shafts of Arjuna, Bhishma fell, his head to the east.
as he fell, his mother, Ganga, sent to him a host of rishis in the form
of swans. The rishis circled her illustrious son and reminded him that
the sun was at its southern solstice, which was not an auspicious time
to die. Bhishma resolved that he would not give up his life till the sun
crossed to its northern solstice. He lay there on a bed of arrows.
came to a stop as the Kauravas started to move about in a daze, rudely
shocked by their commander’s fall. Grief struck the Pandavas equally.
Warriors from both sides surrounded the great man.
“Get me a pillow to lay my head.” The kings from both camps rushed and
found soft pillows for him. Bhishma refused them. He turned to Arjuna
and said, “O Dhananjaya, provide me with support for my head.” The
Pandava hero, with tears in his eyes, guided three shafts from his
Gandiva on the ground that provided support to the recumbent hero’s
Duryodhana sent for the physicians to attend on the fallen
soldier. Bhishma turned them away. He expressed his desire that after
his death, he should be burnt with the innumerable arrows still stuck on
Chapter 7 Drona Parva
CHAPTER 7 DRONA PARVA
11 of Battle – Drona becomes Kaurava military chief. Day 12 of Battle –
I shall capture Yudhishthira, vows Drona. Day 13 of Battle – Abhimanyu
and the Chakra formation. Day 14 of Battle – A day without end for
Jayadratha. Day 15 of Battle – The prince of truth utters a lie.
Day 11 of Battle – Drona becomes Kaurava military chief
The Terrible. The Pure. The Perfect. Even as day dawned, crowds milled
to have a glimpse of the fallen hero. Soldiers paid their respects,
women showered sandal powder on him and ordinary citizens
circumambulated him, weeping.
Pandavas and Kauravas stood around him as he lay in the battlefield, their enmity temporarily forgotten.
old hero said, “My throat has become dry. Let me have some water.”
Water in ornamental containers was rushed to him. He refused them all.
“I shall have none of these,” he said, and turned once again to Arjuna.
The son of Pandu struck an arrow to the ground from his Gandiva, causing
a fountain to spring. The water that gushed out gratified the fallen
Addressing Arjuna, Bhishma said, “Those who know you
know that you are the rishi Nara. With the god Narayana by your side, is
there anything you cannot achieve?” To Duryodhana he said, “Even now it
is not late. Make peace with the Pandavas. You cannot vanquish them.
You saw Arjuna’s feat. With Vasudeva by his side you can never hope for
victory against the Pandavas.”
The dying man’s words were wasted
on the Kaurava prince. Duryodhana said, “As a Kshatriya it is my duty
to fight, even if death is waiting for me. Permit me to fight,
grandsire.” Bhishma replied, “Resolved as you are to seek heaven through
a hero’s death by falling in the battlefield, I permit you to fight.”
Duryodhana departed with a sad heart.
Hearing about the fall of
Bhishma, Karna repaired to Duryodhana. Karna said, “O mighty king! The
lion among men has fallen. Him no human or celestial can defeat, now
lies brought down by Arjuna’s arrows. But you should not grieve. I am
more than a match to all the Pandavas. Because of Bhishma I have not
fought these last ten days. I shall now fight. Victory will be yours.”
then proceeded to where the grandsire was lying. He told Bhishma,
“Without you, the Kauravas are bereft of their most able hero and guide.
But I assure you that I shall endeavour my best to protect the Kauravas
and fight till my last breadth for their victory.” Bhishma appreciated
Karna for his resolve and asked him to look after the Kauravas as a
father does his son.
When Karna met Duryodhana again, the two
discussed the question of who should be appointed supreme commander, now
that Bhishma was in his deathbed. Karna recommended Drona for the
office. Duryodhana agreed. Drona was sent for and invested with the job
of leading the Kaurava army.
Planning the strategy to be
adopted against the Pandavas, Duryodhana sought a boon from Drona. When
the preceptor agreed to give one, Duryodhana said, “I would want you to
capture Yudhishthira and bring him to me.”
Drona was gladdened
by this request. He asked the prince, “It is, no doubt, to conclude
peace with him that you want me to bring him to you alive. Are you
planning to return to them their kingdom?”
“If Yudhishthira is killed there are the other Pandava brothers. I want
Yudhishthira alive so that I can play dice with him again and deprive
him of everything.”
Pained though he was by Duryodhana’s crooked
thinking, Drona nevertheless said, “I shall certainly try to fulfill
your desire. However, I want to make it clear that Yudhishthira cannot
be captured as long as Arjuna is nearby to protect him. Device a
strategy to keep Arjuna away from his eldest brother. I shall then
capture the Pandava king.”
Yudhishthira came to know of
Duryodhana’s plan and he told his generals to provide him with maximum
protection. Arjuna swore that he would never let his king be captured by
Drona adopted the Cakata (cartwheel) formation as he led
his forces into the field. The Pandavas countered with the Krauncha
(crane) formation. Drona started with an offensive which took a heavy
toll of the Pandava forces. Arjuna, Drupada, Abhimanyu and a host of
others turned their attention to Drona in order to check him. Drona
launched a fierce onslaught on the Pandavas. But he could not reach
The day passed in many individual encounters. But
the Kaurava objective was to keep Arjuna engaged so that Drona could
capture Yudhishthira. This they failed to do. Yudhishthira returned
safely to his camp.
Drona was crestfallen at his failure. As
Duryodhana taunted him, Drona reiterated that as long as the Pandava
king was protected by Arjuna, he could not be captured. A strategy had
to be devised. Someone should challenge Arjuna for a fight and engage
him at another part of the battlefield.
Day 12 of Battle – I shall capture Yudhishthira, vows Drona
next morning the Kauravas set the eldest of the Trigartas, Susarman of
Prasthala, with his followers, to challenge Arjuna to a fight. Honouring
Kshatriya traditions, Arjuna accepted the challenge. Arjuna knew that
in his absence the Kauravas would mount an attack on Yudhishthira. He
detailed Satyajit of the Panchalas, a capable general, to stay close to
Krishna took Arjuna to the quarter where Susarman
was waiting with his Trigarta and Samasapthaka (do-or-die) squads.
Joining them was the host of Narayanas, Krishna’s own force, now
fighting for the Kauravas. To cope with their numbers, Arjuna first blew
his conch to put fear in them. He then released a weapon, Tashtra,
which was capable of creating an illusion. The motley force saw
innumerable Arjunas and Krishnas. Thoroughly confused, they started to
kill each other. Arjuna then used a weapon, Vayavya (wind), which
created a terrific storm that swept away the Samasapthakas along with
their cars and animals.
Meanwhile, Drona found his strategy
working to his advantage. With Arjuna out of the way, the Pandava
defence buckled under Drona’s attack. Satyajit was killed in a straight
battle with Drona. Drona was now within hand’s reach of Yudhishthira.
But his prey still eluded him as the Pandavas, headed by Bhima, rushed
to rescue their king. The battle was now joined by warriors from both
Arjuna was aware of the siege his king was under. But he
decided to stay and deal with the Samasapthakas. In the end he used the
highly potent Brahma weapon, which wiped out most of the desperate
fighters. His job done for the present, Arjuna rushed to take Drona.
was now accosted by the spirited Kaurava general, Bhagadatta. After
many exchanges of arrows, Bhagadatta hurled at Arjuna his weapon called
Vaishnava. Krishna quickly stepped across and received the weapon on his
chest. Puzzled by Krishna’s action, Arjuna asked for an explanation.
Krishna said, “This Vaishnava weapon was given by me to Naraka Asura who
passed it on to Bhagadatta. It is capable of slaying even Indra and
Rudra. It is to neutralize it that I received it on my chest.” In the
next few minutes Arjuna directed an arrow at Bhagadatta which killed
Until evening did Drona try to take Yudhishthira captive.
But with Arjuna back and Bhima fighting at his best, he had to retire
with his vow unfulfilled.
Drona’s repeated failure to capture
Yudhishthira weighed heavily on the Kaurava forces. Duryodhana was quick
to point out to the preceptor that he had failed to keep his promise.
The Kaurava prince’s words were like dagger to Drona. He said, “Where
there is Arjuna and Krishna, no force in the three worlds can win. This I
have told you several times. I now vow that in tomorrow’s battle I
shall slay a very important Pandava.” This gave Duryodhana some solace.
Day 13 of Battle – Abhimanyu and the Chakra formation
all the best qualities of the five Pandava princes and that of Krishna
are to be found concentrated in one person, that person can easily be
the prince Abhimanyu.” Thus did Sanjaya describe Arjuna’s son to
A determined Drona entered the battlefield on the
thirteenth day, his forces arrayed in the Chakra (circular) formation.
The formation dazzled as all the kings supporting the Kaurava cause took
their places, resplendent in their glittering armours and ornaments.
the absence of Arjuna, Yudhishthira told Abhimanyu to keep Drona and
his forces under check. Arjuna had gone to take care of the unfinished
job of the previous day, to annihilate what was left of Susarman’s
Yudhishthira told Abhimanyu, “This Chakra array formed
by Drona is impenetrable for all but four persons. Three of them are
Arjuna, Krishna and his son Pradyumna. The fourth one is you. Since the
other three are not present here, it becomes your responsibility to
tackle Drona and break his cordon.”
Abhimanyu replied, “That is true. But my father taught me only to break into the array. Not to come out of it.”
said, “You break into the array. We shall all closely follow you
inside. Once inside, we shall tackle the enemy.” With great enthusiasm,
Abhimanyu undertook the task.
The Pandava formation with Bhima
at its head and the other warriors on either side, dashed against the
Kauravas like a giant wave against a rock.
There was a churning
of the forces as the Pandava and Kaurava hosts met, like a great river
mixing with the ocean. Abhimanyu took the lead and pierced the Kaurava
defence. He released arrows all around, causing immense loss to
Duryodhana’s forces. The Kaurava prince commanded all his men to
concentrate on Abhimanyu. Even the enemy had to admire the skill of
Arjuna’s son as he scattered them at will.
The rest of the
Pandavas were quick to rush to Abhimanyu’s support. It was only
Jayadratha, Dhritarashtra’s son-in-law, who was able to check the
Pandavas. For, it was indeed Jayadratha’s day when he could keep all the
Pandavas, excepting Arjuna, at bay. During the exile of the Pandavas,
the Sindhu prince misbehaved with Draupadi when she was alone in her
forest abode. Caught red handed by the Pandavas, he was reprimanded by
Bhima. Jayadratha felt deeply humiliated. He returned home, licking his
“It is because I am not strong enough that the Pandavas
could treat me thus,” thought Jayadratha. To gain strength he performed a
penance to Lord Siva. The god was pleased and gave him a boon that
during the war, he would, for one day, hold all Pandavas, excepting
Arjuna, under check. That boon was now working.
Madras prince, was in wrath at Abhimanyu’s onslaught. He got into a duel
with the Pandava prince who promptly dispatched him to the abode of
Yama. Many lesser-known princes followed Rukmartha’s path.
made several futile attempts to contain Abhimanyu. Every time he did
so, he was repelled. Driven to desperation, he rushed to Drona for
advise. Drona told him, “Arjuna’s son has mastered the art of protecting
himself with his armour. Further, as long as he moves in his chariot
and wields his bow, he cannot be checked. Concentrate on dispossessing
him of his chariot.”
Karna and the other Kaurava warriors struck
at Abhimanyu’s charioteer and steeds, killing them all. They then
attacked the chariot and reduced it to pieces. Abhimanyu, forced to
abandon his chariot, rushed to the ground with a mace in hand. He
crushed with his mace whatever or whoever came in his way.
who was in the thick of the battle rushed at Abhimanyu with his mace.
The two traded blows and Abhimanyu fell down. The exertion of the last
few hours was telling on the Pandava prince. The leading Kaurava
warriors closed in on him. Thanks to Jayadratha, help from the Pandavas
was not reaching him. Fatigue caused him to slow down. Even as he was
rising, Duscasana struck Abhimanyu on the crown. The blow was decisive.
The hero fell, having fought single-handed a host of Kauravas including
Drona and Kripa. Abhimanyu’s death brought him kudos, but it also
brought condemnation to those who dealt it to him. The Pandavas had to
retreat, leaving Abhimanyu behind.
After the day’s war, the
highly dispirited Pandavas returned to camp earlier than Arjuna did.
Lamenting the fact that he was responsible for sending Abhimanyu into
the trap laid by the Kauravas, Yudhishthira was distressed at the
prospect of having to break the news to Arjuna and Krishna.
arrived at this juncture. He gave a discourse to Yudhishthira on the
inevitability of death and on how illustrious fathers in the past had
borne their sons’ death. There is a tradition of listening to such
discourses when one is in grief. It is said to bring solace.
Arjuna returned to the camp after slaughtering the Samasapthakas, he
was given a detailed account of Abhimanyu’s death. Infuriated at the
role of Jayadratha in the killing, the wielder of Gandiva swore that
before sunset next day he would kill the Sindhu king. If he failed,
Arjuna vowed, he would enter fire. In wrath Krishna blew his Panchajanya
and as the wind carried its sound to the Kaurava camp, the heroes among
them shivered like little animals.
Spies brought to the Kaurava
camp, news about Arjuna’s vow. Jayadratha ran to Duryodhana, frightened
for his life. He sought permission to return home in order to escape
Arjuna’s fury. Duryodhana advised him to stay, assuring that Drona would
give him all the protection that he needed.
troubled as he went to bed that night. He realized that killing
Jayadratha would be no easy task, with Drona protecting the Sindhu king.
He called his charioteer Daruka and ordered that his chariot and
weapons be kept ready for the next day and that he should follow
Pacified by the words of Krishna at
Abhimanyu’s death, Arjuna was able to enter the world of slumber. In his
dream he was awakened by Krishna who told him, “Dhananjaya, the
challenge you have thrown for the ‘morrow is indeed difficult to
achieve. Now is the time to approach the god Rudra and obtain the
Pasupata missile that he promised to give you. Let us together proceed
to his abode.”
So saying, Krishna took Arjuna by his hand, and
they were traveling at the speed of thought. Reaching Siva’s abode in
the Himalayas, they stood facing the hill and prayed. The mountain god
appeared before them and expressed his happiness to see Nara and
When Arjuna told him the purpose of their
visit, Siva directed them to a lake. There they found two serpents, each
having a thousand heads, rising out to greet them. As they came out,
the serpents transformed themselves into a bow and arrow. Arjuna
reverentially picked them up and, with Krishna, he went back to Siva.
From Siva’s body, a form emerged which was tall, strong and beautiful.
The form taught Arjuna how to handle the weapon and the mantra which
went with it. Arjuna quickly grasped the procedures and memorized the
mantra. He and Krishna returned after paying their respects to Pasupati.
Day 14 of Battle – A day without end for Jayadratha
the cartwheel formation of Cakata and part Circle was the plan that
Drona devised for the fourteenth day of battle, having foremost in his
mind, the protection of Jayadratha. Around Jayadratha, who was deep
inside the Cakata, were posted the best among the Kauravas including
Karna, Aswatthama, Salya and Kripa. An immense army was deployed around
the Sindhu king. Drona himself stood at the entrance of the Cakata.
the Pandava attack commenced, the sound of the conches Devadatta and
Panchajanya heralded the approach of Arjuna with his illustrious
charioteer. The mercurial warrior shattered the Kaurava defence, causing
many kings to run for cover. Duscasana who sought to check the flood,
had to retreat with his force depleted. Brushing aside all opposition,
Arjuna was face to face with Drona. After bowing to his preceptor, the
favourite student commenced his attack.
Unable to ward off Drona
despite using the Brahma weapon, Arjuna changed his tactics. He
sidetracked the preceptor and penetrated into the Kaurava formation.
the mighty king, was the son of Varuna (rain god) of a river called
Parnasa. His mother prayed intensely for the invincibility of her son.
She was rewarded when Varuna gave Srutayudha a mace that could kill any
foe. A condition attached to the weapon was that if it is directed
against an unarmed person, it will return to kill its owner. When this
king attacked Arjuna, he was unfortunate to hurl the mace at Krishna who
was unarmed. The mace returned and killed the hurler.
fall while fighting against Arjuna was Sudhakshina, the prince of
Kambhoja. Many princes of diverse races, along with their forces, fell
to Arjuna’s wrath. In a panic Duryodhana approached Drona, appealing to
him to neutralize Arjuna.
Drona told him, “At this moment I see
Yudhishthira isolated from Arjuna. I should concentrate my efforts on
him. You attack Arjuna.” Duryodhana confessed that it was beyond his
power to hold Arjuna. Drona then gave him an armour capable of warding
off attack from any power.
“This armour was the one used by
Indra to vanquish his foe, Vritra,” Drona explained to Duryodhana. “It
has come down through several sages to my teacher, Agnivesa, who gave it
to me. Wear it and you would be safe”
Drona’s attempt to reach
Yudhishthira turned out to be futile as the Pandava king had a strong
cordon around him. Dhrishtadyumna, Satyaki, Bhima, Virata and his sons
and others, despite having to face a formidable Drona, were successfully
protecting their king.
When Arjuna and Krishna found Duryodhana
giving them a chase, they wondered what his inspiration was. They soon
found that none of Arjuna’s arrows could penetrate the Kaurava prince’s
armour. Arjuna quickly recognized the armour and told Krishna about it.
Instead of directing his arrows on Duryodhana, Arjuna proceeded to kill
his charioteers and steeds and finally blew up his chariot. He then sent
a few arrows, which pierced Duryodhana’s palms, making him incapable of
using his bow. The Kaurava forces quickly rescued their king and bore
Drona made good progress and was able to get
Yudhishthira leave his car and stand on the ground defenceless. But the
Pandava forces quickly picked him up and took him away to safety. A
fierce battle took place between the two rakshasas, Ghatotkacha and
Alumbasa where Bhima’s son subdued his counterpart in the Kaurava army.
was specifically instructed by Arjuna to stay with Yudhishthira and
protect him. But Yudhishthira was now confident that the other Pandava
heroes could provide him the necessary cover from Drona. He sent away
Satyaki to assist Arjuna and Krishna. Seeing Satyaki leave, Drona
decided to give him a chase.
Satyaki’s progress through the
Kaurava defence was steady, as he felled many princes on the way. He
made Duscasana who attacked him, fly in fear. The Kaurava prince was
stopped by Drona who put some courage into his heart and sent him back
to face Satyaki. Satyaki was quick in disarming Duscasana who was
rescued by his forces.
There was panic once again in
Yudhishthira’s mind. Not knowing what was happening with Arjuna, Krishna
and Satyaki, he now sent Bhima to find out. Bhima’s entry into the
Kaurava formation was checked by Drona. Overcoming all opposition, Bhima
broke into the formation. He soon sighted Arjuna, Krishna and Satyaki
fighting with the Kauravas. He let out a huge roar, which Yudhishthira
recognized as signal that all was well.
The strongest opposition
that Bhima faced was from Karna. Karna was persistent, but Bhima
dispossessed him of his chariot several times. Two of Duryodhana’s
brothers who rushed to Karna’s help were promptly dispatched by Bhima to
death. Karna finally fled the field, unable to face the Pandava. Five
more sons of Dhritarashtra rushed to attack Bhima and all five lost
their lives. This was followed by six more brothers of Duryodhana, all
of whom were dispatched by Bhima to the next world.
under severe attack from King Somadatta’s son, Bhurisravas. In the
fight when blows were exchanged freely by the two, Satyaki fell from his
car. Bhurisravas jumped after him and placed a foot on his face. He
drew his sword from his scabbard and was about to strike the fallen
Vrishni hero when Krishna drew Arjuna’s attention to Satyaki’s
predicament. Arjuna quickly sent an arrow, which cut off the hand
holding the sword. Bhurisravas released his hold on Satyaki and stood
with one arm severed.
After exchanging a few words with Arjuna,
Bhurisravas sat down in prayer. Satyaki brought down his sword on
Bhurisravas, cutting his head off. To attack a warrior who had laid down
his arms and was praying, was strictly against the code of fairness in
warfare. Questioned on his role in Bhurisravas’ killing, Arjuna said,
“As long as someone belonging to us is in danger, it is my duty to save
him if he is within the range of my arrow.”
The sun was racing
down the western horizon to disappear behind the Asta hill. The Kauravas
formed a very deep cordon around Jayadratha, making it impossible for
Arjuna to approach him. Duryodhana was already proclaiming that Arjuna
was dead. “According to his vow, if he is unable to slay Jayadratha
before sunset, he would have to walk into the fire. With Arjuna gone,
the rest of the Pandavas will be crushed by me. I can then rule the
world,” he exulted.
Not knowing how to reach Jayadratha, a
desperate Arjuna turned to Krishna. Krishna asked him to remain calm. He
then created the illusion of darkness that is a sign of sundown. A loud
roar was heard from the Kauravas who concluded that the sun had set. As
they were jumping and dancing, Jayadratha, with a great sense of
relief, emerged from his hiding. Krishna wheeled Arjuna close to the
Sindhu king like a hunter approaching an animal.
As soon as they
were within the range for Arjuna to mark his arrow on Jayadratha,
Krishna said, “Wait. This Jayadratha is the son of the evil
Vriddakshatra who is powerful due to severe penances. He gave his son
the boon – ‘Whoever causes your head to fall on the ground while in
battle, his head will crack into pieces.’
“Installing his son on
the throne, Vriddakshatra retired to do penance. Right now he is just
outside this battlefield, observing penance. Use your skill, Partha, so
that your arrow would cause Jayadratha’s head to fall on his father’s
Arjuna aimed his bow and did exactly as his mentor bid.
His arrow carried Jayadratha’s head and let it land on the lap of
Vriddakshatra who was sitting in seclusion, deep in meditation. When the
sire stood up after the penance, the head fell on the ground.
Vriddakshatra’s head broke into pieces. He thus became a victim of his
Krishna then dispelled the illusion and the sun was
seen once more just as its disc touched the Asta hill. Thus did Arjuna,
with the help of Krishna, outwit the Kauravas, and fulfilled his vow of
killing Jayadratha before sunset.
Satyaki who had lost his car
while fighting Bhurisravas, was standing helpless. Karna was closing in
on him. Observing this, Krishna blew his conch, signaling his car
driver, Daruka, to bring his car to the fore. Satyaki mounted Krishna’s
car and continued to fight.
In a departure from practice, the battle continued after sunset.
the paleness of dusk, Duryodhana approached his Commander-in-chief,
Drona, and expressed his grave concern over the loss of Bhagadatta and
Jayadratha. He implied that Drona had not done his best to prevent
Arjuna from entering the Kaurava formation and reaching Jayadratha.
Drona wondered whether it was the Pandava’s arrows or Duryodhana’s words
which were sharper.
Duryodhana next had a hurried meeting with
Kripa, Karna and Aswatthama. Karna boasted of his own capability and his
confidence to slay all the Pandavas. Kripa derided him. “Show your
skill in battle and not in words,” he said. Karna abused the preceptor
and warned that he would cut off Kripa’s tongue if he continued to
praise the Pandavas. Aswatthama was furious with Karna for insulting his
uncle. He drew his sword and tried to attack Karna. Kripa and
Duryodhana restrained him.
Encountering Satyaki in the
battlefield, Somadatta expressed his anger over the former’s killing of
his son Bhurisravas. In the fight that ensued, Satyaki took the father’s
life as well.
As the skies became darker, thousands of torches
were lit up. Both the antagonists continued to fight as mangled bodies
filled the battlefield. Karna was on the rampage. To check him, Arjuna
sent Ghatotkacha. The fierce looking rakshasa sent the Kaurava army
scampering as he approached Karna. The rakshasa force that followed him
threw stones and trees on the opposing soldiers. Illusion and magic were
Alayudha, a rakshasa, approached Duryodhana and
asked for permission to attack Bhimasena. The rakshasa was a kinsman of
Baka, Kirmira and Hidimbva, All three had been killed by Bhima, and
Alayudha wanted revenge. Duryodhana gladly sent the rakshasa to fight
Bhima. Leaving Karna for the moment, Ghatotkacha rushed to his father’s
aid and killed Alayudha.
When Bhima’s son returned, Karna found
the rakshasa’s combination of magic and warring ability a little too
much for him. The Kaurava army was in tatters, looking as though it
would never survive the Ghatotkacha onslaught. Unable to check him,
Karna took out the weapon Indra had given him and used it on the
rakshasa. The rakshasa was shattered to death. The coveted weapon that
could be used only once, Karna’s only trump card against Arjuna, was
The entire Pandava camp was steeped in sorrow at the loss
of the beloved son of Bhima. But Krishna alone showed joy. He explained
to Arjuna the reason for his happiness. “Karna was born with ear rings
and armour capable of protecting him from any god or man. If he had them
now, he would be unslayable by even you or me. He lost those defences
to Indra. In return Indra equipped him with his weapon, which had the
potential to kill you. But that weapon could be used only once. Now that
has also been wasted on Ghatotkacha. Karna is no more a god. He is a
man and could be killed by you. He is like an angry snake that has lost
“O Partha. The opportunity to kill Karna will soon
come to you. When his chariot wheel is broken and he is on the ground
trying to fix it, that would be the time for you to kill him. I would
then make a sign with my hand.
“As regards Ghatotkacha, his
death was inevitable. If Karna had not killed him, I would have had to
kill him myself. He is guilty of the sin of brahmin slaughter.”
Dhritarashtra asked Sanjaya a simple question. “My son and Karna knew
that Indra’s weapon could kill Arjuna. Why then did Karna not use it on
Arjuna on one of the many occasions the two confronted each other? Why
was it used against a straw like Ghatotkacha?”
in one word, “Fate.” He must have recollected Bhishma’s advise to
Duryodhana that Ghatotkacha should be tackled by a low ranking warrior.
Pandavas were by now exhausted after hours of battling in the night.
Arjuna called aloud, asking the troops to rest till the early rays of
the sun dispelled darkness. The Kauravas also lay in the field and
snatched some badly needed rest.
Duryodhana alone regretted that
the Pandavas were not slain, as they lay exhausted. He had reason to be
peeved. He had, that day, lost seventeen of his brothers and quite a
few other generals.
Fighting resumed as the moon paled against the coppery rays of the rising sun.
Day 15 ofBattle – The prince of truth utters a lie
the early morning sun bathed the glittering armour and chariots with
its rays, the warriors got ready to fight. They picked up where they
left off a few hours earlier. The clutter and dust reached a pitch when
the warriors flung their weapons at one another as they entered the
fifteenth day of battle.
The Pandavas were aware that their
success depended on eliminating Drona. To that end they concentrated
their energies. Drona was surrounded by a number of Pandava heroes. But
the able brahmin treated them with ease. In the fracas, two prominent
kings of the Pandava camp met their end. Those were the venerable
Drupada and Virata, both falling to Drona’s arrows.
the antagonists were locked in a one-to-one fight. The preceptor and
favourite pupil were soon facing each other. Drona and Arjuna traded all
the weapons known to man and god. But each knew how to counter the
other. They seemed to be equally matched. Those observing them felt that
either there would be no result or both would perish.
and Arjuna soon received support from their respective camps. Krishna
told Arjuna to concentrate on the Kauravas surrounding Drona in order to
make the preceptor vulnerable. When Arjuna left him, Drona turned on
the Pandava forces, causing large damage to them.
Arjuna, “Look at Drona assaulting our forces. He should be killed by any
means. Let someone tell him that Aswatthama has been killed. In grief,
he would lay down his bow.”
Krishna’s counsel was hotly debated
upon by the Pandavas. Arjuna, in particular, was against uttering such a
blatant falsehood. But he was eventually convinced. Yudhishthira, keen
to stop the massive killing by Drona, agreed to the suggestion, a deeply
painful action for the upholder of truth.
Bhimasena, by a
mighty blow of his mace, killed an elephant, Aswatthama by name,
belonging to Indravarman of the Pandava force. He then drove to Drona
and cried out, “Aswatthama is dead. Lay down your arms.”
at first disregarded Bhima’s words. But his mind was filled with doubt.
He thought that the only person who would tell the truth was
Yudhishthira. To him he went and asked, “Is Bhima telling the truth? Is
Aswatthama really dead?” Urged by Krishna, the personification of truth
confirmed, “Aswatthama the elephant is dead.” The words the elephant
were said indistinctly, so that Drona could not hear him. Until then
Yudhishthira’s chariot and horses were four inches above the ground. Now
they dropped that height and were planted to the earth.
to bear the news about his son’s death and exhausted by four days of
continuous fighting, Drona dropped his bow. He sat on the platform of
his chariot and closed his eyes in meditation. Drishtadyumna, to fulfill
his destiny, veered his chariot towards Drona. He jumped out and got
into Drona’s chariot. Catching the old man by his hair, the Panchala
prince dragged him across. He then took his sword and with one stroke
severed Drona’s head.
Sanjaya told Dhritarashtra that Drona’s
soul gently floated to heaven. Only a few could see this phenomenon –
Krishna, Yudhishthira and Sanjaya himself amongst them.
The Kaurava army, observing their leader killed, scattered in panic. Even Duryodhana was so frightened that he fled the scene.
who was fighting at a different place, observed the flight of the
mighty Kaurava warriors. He approached Kripa and asked him what the
reason was for the panic. Kripa described to him the fall of Drona in
the hands of Drishtadyumna. Like an enraged lion, Aswatthama flung
himself at the Pandavas, in rage over his father’s death.
fury of Aswatthama was such that all the Pandava warriors, excepting
Arjuna with his charioteer, Krishna, were running for their lives. A
fierce battle took place between those two excellent disciples of Drona.
Aswatthama used the most powerful weapons against Arjuna, but the
latter countered him at every stage. Aswatthama then took out his most
potent weapon, the Narayana.
As soon as Krishna saw the Narayana
being used by Drona’s son, he shouted out to all the Pandava fighters
to throw down their weapons. All of them obeyed, excepting Bhima who
wanted to attack the celestial shaft. As Bhima defied it, the weapon
became blazing hot and the entire atmosphere was lit up by its energy.
Arjuna and Krishna ran to Bhima and forced him to disarm. The Narayana
made a round and then fell down ineffectively. There was relief in all
the three worlds, and a cool breeze set in.
Seeing the Pandava
forces standing deprived of their arms, Duryodhana urged Aswatthama to
use the Narayana again. Aswatthama said, “Alas, this weapon can be used
only once. Once released, it should not be recalled. If it is recalled,
it would kill the person who recalls it. It does not attack unarmed
persons. Since the Pandavas have laid down their arms, it has not killed
any of them. The all-knowing Krishna has made the weapon ineffective.”
continued to fight with the other weapons that he was carrying. When he
used the Agneya weapon which his father had taught him, it spread fire
over a vast area. But Arjuna quickly used the Brahma weapon to
Baffled by the ineffectiveness of his best
weapons, the dispirited Aswatthama threw his bow and ran away. While
running, he met Vyasa whom he asked, “Respected sage. Why have all my
weapons failed me?”
Vyasa told Aswatthama, “Those you are
fighting, Arjuna and Krishna, are Nara and Narayana, the ancient sages,
older than the oldest of gods, who visit the earth in every Yuga to
establish truth. They are blessed by the greatest of gods, Mahadeva, and
are unconquerable. Although you also have the aspect of Mahadeva, you
should recognize that they are far superior to you.”
later met Vyasa asked, “While I was fighting Drona’s son, there was a
shadow in front of me that was protecting me. Who was it?”
“It was none other than Mahadeva himself,” the sage answered.
Chapter 8 Karna Parva
Synopsis Day 16 of Battle – Kauravas’ new general. Day 17 of Battle – The tragedy that was Karna.
Day 16 of Battle – Kauravas’ new general
Drona’s death, the choice of leadership of the Kaurava army fell on
Karna. Aswatthama proposed his name and Duryodhana heartily endorsed it.
Such was his confidence in Karna that the Kaurava prince thought that
with his friend’s appointment as Commander-in-chief, the war was already
Karna started in his new office with several
disadvantages. Indra had deprived him of his ear-rings and armour, and
without those, Karna had lost his invincibility. The weapon he had
received from Indra in return carried the condition that it could be
used only once. And once it had already been used on Ghatotkacha. His
promise to Kunti stood in his way of killing the four Pandava brothers,
other than Arjuna. The Kaurava army was depleted, with most of its
frontline warriors dead. To be added to this list were two curses he had
One was from Parasurama, the son of the sage
Jamadagni, who had vowed to destroy all Kshatriyas in revenge for their
cruelty to his father. The Kshatriyas lived in fear of him, especially
because there was none who could excel him in the use of the bow and
arrow as well as the axe.
Karna and Arjuna were both disciples
of Drona. When their training was over, they were asked to demonstrate
their skills to Bhishma and the other elders. Arjuna refused to match
his skill with Karna because of the latter’s inferior social status. It
was then that Duryodhana made Karna the king of Anga. Karna vowed to
excel Arjuna with the bow and approached Parasurama for lessons. Karna
knew that Parasurama would reject him if he knew his antecedents. He
therefore lied to Parasurama that he was a brahmin. The old warrior took
Karna as his student.
Parasurama was very generous to Karna and
he taught him several potent weapons. But the deadliest of them all was
During Karna’s stay with Parasurama, an
incident took place which gave Karna away. Parasurama was one day
reclining with his head on Karna’s lap, fast asleep. An insect, Indra in
disguise, pierced the pupil’s lap. Even as blood flowed, Karna bore the
pain of it, not wishing to disturb his teacher. When Parasurama woke up
and noticed this, he asked Karna, “Tell me the truth about yourself.
You cannot be a brahmin. Only a Kshatriya can bear such pain without
moving an iota. Who are you?”
When Karna confessed to Parasurama
that he was the son of a charioteer, the warrior-sage became furious at
being deceived. He cursed that, when he needed it most, Karna would be
unable to use the Brahmastra. He would forget the invocatory mantra.
another occasion, while practicing with his bow Vijaya, Karna
accidentally killed a calf belonging to a brahmin. The brahmin cursed
him, “You killed my holy calf. For this you would be punished. When you
are fighting a war, your chariot wheel would sink into the ground. You
would be stranded and left at the mercy of your foe.”
during the Great War, Karna’s spirit was very high when he led his
forces into the field. Adopting the Makara formation, he himself
occupied the front position. The Pandavas adopted the half moon
formation to counter him. When the two armies met, it was like the clash
of two huge clouds resulting in a reverberating thunder.
day’s battle was marked by several fierce encounters. Satyaki routed the
Kaikeyas and killed the two Avanti princes, Vinda and Anuvinda.
Kshemadurthi of the Kulatas was killed by Bhima, while the Magadha king,
Dandadhara, was killed by Arjuna. The Pandyan king, Malayadwaja, who
had come all the way from the South to fight for the Pandavas, lost his
life to Aswatthama after a spirited fight. In an encounter between
Arjuna and Aswatthama, the latter had to seek refuge behind Karna.
onslaught on the Pandava army was heavy. In a fight with Nakula, he
disarmed the youngest of the Pandava brothers. But he spared the
prince’s life due to his promise to Kunti not to kill any of the Pandava
brothers, excepting Arjuna.
In a similar situation,
Yudhishthira was in a position to kill Duryodhana but spared him.
Duryodhana was marked by the Pandavas for Bhima to kill.
range of weapons was used in the various engagements. Among the arms in
use were bows and arrows, spiked clubs, swords, lances, axes, short
clubs, darts, rapiers and battle-axes. Bhima’s bare hands were equally
effective in dealing with the enemies.
Day 17 of Battle – The tragedy that was Karna
in the morning of the seventeenth day, Karna counseled with Duryodhana.
The Commander-in-chief was still breathing confidence when he said, “I
might have lost the weapon Indra gave me. But I still have the bow
Vijaya, which is equal to the Gandiva. Vijaya was given to me by
Parasurama who got it from his ancestor Bhirgu who himself received it
from Indra. I vow that today I shall kill Arjuna or I would not return
Planning his strategy, Karna told Duryodhana that he
needed the most competent charioteer to counter Arjuna who had Krishna
to steer him. Karna chose the Madri king Salya for the purpose. The
proud Salya refused, saying that he would not be charioteer to a person
of low class. When Duryodhana flattered him by comparing him to Krishna,
the king of the Madras agreed. But he laid down one condition. “I shall
say anything I please at any time while fighting. Karna should not
object to it.” Karna agreed
As Karna set out with Salya as his
charioteer, he announced to his soldiers, “I have vowed to kill Arjuna
today. Whoever points him out to me shall be rewarded with immense
Salya felt offended by Karna’s words. He said, “I am
your charioteer. I shall take you to Arjuna. Besides, you need not seek
Arjuna. He shall seek you.”
Salya’s tirade against Karna had
started. He continued, “You desire to fight someone you could never
vanquish in battle. A hare cannot challenge a mighty elephant. A fox
cannot overthrow lions. A tiger is not affected by a dog barking at him.
Truth is like a rock and deceit cannot triumph over it.”
was quick in returning the abuses. He said, “You are a coward and unfit
to be a Kshatriya. You do not know my strength. You do not realize that I
can slay all the Pandavas. You are a foe, pretending to be a friend.
You Madrakas are a degenerate race. You are lustful and have no
character. Each one of you is of doubtful parentage. The only reason I
have not taken your life for your offensive words is because you are
fighting for Duryodhana.”
Salya countered, “A crow cannot be a
swan. That you are a coward has been proved by many instances in the
past.” True to his word to Yudhishthira before the war commenced, Salya
continued to rant, praising Arjuna and Krishna, while rebuking Karna.
Karna found it hard to ignore him and concentrate on the fight.
a direct encounter, Karna inflicted several wounds on the Pandava king
who had to retreat to his tent. Arjuna and Krishna, when they heard of
the injury to Yudhishthira, rushed to meet him. Yudhishthira rebuked
Arjuna for abandoning the battlefield and coming back to the camp. “If
you cannot use the Gandiva,” he said, “Give it to someone else.” A
furious Arjuna was about to hit his brother with his sword, when Krishna
intervened. The two brothers apologized to each other, and Arjuna
returned to fight.
Several of Duryodhana’s brothers, including
Duscasana, attacked Bhima. In the fight that followed, Duscasana lost
his weapons and fell exhausted from his chariot. As he lay trembling on
the ground, Bhima jumped down and, rushing to the Kaurava prince, struck
him with his sword, severing his head. In fulfillment of the vow he had
made after the dice game, Bhima quaffed the blood of the slain brother
of Duryodhana. Many including Duryodhana and Karna, watched the scene,
terror written on their faces.
Following this, Bhima dispatched ten more brothers of Duryodhana to the other world.
battle between Karna and Arjuna drew everybody’s attention. The gods,
the rishis, the asuras and humans, all sensed that a great event was
taking place. Indra prayed to Brahman for his son’s victory. Brahman
told him, “This is a fight between the forces of the gods and those of
the demons. Arjuna represents the gods and would surely win.”
by the clash of the two, Aswatthama appealed to Duryodhana to call off
the war and make peace with the Pandavas. But Duryodhana was full of
confidence that Karna will slay Arjuna.
Arjuna showered his
arrows on the Kaurava forces, making them scatter. Soon Karna was
standing alone and resisting Arjuna. Karna released a deadly
snake-mouthed arrow on Arjuna. The arrow careered straight towards
Arjuna’s head. Krishna quickly pressed Arjuna’s chariot into the earth.
The arrow flew past Arjuna’s head, knocking off his headgear. It then
returned to Karna, not finding its target.
Karna heard a voice,
“See me well. Use the arrow again. This time Arjuna will not escape.”
Karna asked, “Who are you?” The voice replied, “I am Aswasena, the snake
in your arrow. You used me without seeing me. If you see me well and
shoot me again I shall kill Arjuna. I have been wronged by Arjuna when
he burned the Khandava forest and I desire to take my revenge.”
proud Karna told the snake, “I never use the same arrow twice. Besides,
I do not rely on another to slay my foe. I depend on my own strength.
The snake attacked Arjuna on its own, in the form of
an arrow. Without any effort, Arjuna felled it with several arrows.
Krishna reminded Arjuna of the snake whose mother he had killed while
destroying the Khandava forest. That snake was now trying to avenge his
Karna struggled. His shafts, aimed at Arjuna, failed to reach their target. He was himself peppered by Arjuna’s arrows.
pulled out his Brahmastra. But try as he did, he failed to remember the
chant needed to launch the supreme weapon. Now he found that the left
wheel of his chariot was sinking into the ground. He jumped out of the
chariot and tried to lift the wheel free. Unsuccessful in his attempt,
he appealed to Arjuna to give him time. “It is but virtue that you
should not attack a person who is in my state,” he said.
Krishna asked him, “Where was your virtue when you caused the Panchali princess to be brutalized after the dice game?”
by Krishna, Arjuna closed in on his kill. He took out a deadly arrow,
Anjalika, from his quiver and aimed it at Karna. The shaft flew straight
and took Karna’s head. The mighty son of Surya, the pillar on which
Duryodhana’s dreams were built, fell dead.
Karna’s fall left the
remnants of the Kaurava forces in a state of shock. Duryodhana kept
wailing, “O Karna.” But he quickly collected himself and rallied his
forces that were flying in all directions. ”Wherever you run,” he told
them, “the Pandavas will pursue you and kill you. It is therefore better
to stay here and fight.”
Arjuna and Krishna returned to their camp to a tumultuous welcome. Yudhishthira was overjoyed at the fall of a powerful foe.
When Sanjaya conveyed the news of Karna’s death to Dhritarashtra and Gandhari, they both fell down in a swoon.
the day’s battle was over, the Kauravas shifted their camp to a spot
two Yojanas away, to a beautiful tableland at the foot of the Himavat
hills, on the banks of Saraswati River.
On the recommendation of Aswatthama, Duryodhana appointed Salya as his next Commander-in-chief. Chapter 9 Salya Parva
CHAPTER 9 SALYA PARVA Synopsis
18 of Battle – The sun sets on the Great War. Duryodhana goes into
hiding. I have nothing to fight for, says Duryodhana. A sudden-death
offer from Yudhishthira. Duryodhana and Bhima, the final showdown.
Duryodhana accuses Krishna. Aswatthama on the rampage
Day 18 of Battle – The sun sets on the Great War
the daily briefing prior to embarking on the battle on the eighteenth
day, Krishna counseled Yudhishthira to lead the attack and have as his
personal target, Salya.
On the Kaurava side, it was decided that
the entire army, or what was left of it, would fight in a closely-knit
formation, presenting a solid front to the Pandavas.
entered the field with their forces much depleted after seventeen days
of fierce fighting. Yet they continued to fight.
high spirit in attacking the Pandavas. He had to be checked by Bhima who
caused him to fall on the platform of his chariot. Kripa came in and
rescued the beleaguered Commander. But the Madras king was soon back in
action, causing heavy damage to the Pandava army. Bhima, Satyaki and
several others closed in on him, greatly afflicting him.
appointed hour of Salya’s death had however come. Yudhishthira came
within range of firing at the brave king. He fixed a special arrow on
his bow, an arrow made of gold with gems studded. After an invocatory
hymn he released it at Salya. The shaft flew straight and pierced the
Commander-in-chief on his broad chest. Salya fell on the ground dead.
Observing Salya fall, his deputies rushed to attack Yudhishthira. But they were also consumed by the Pandava chief’s arrows.
immediate reaction to these events was that the Kaurava forces turned
their backs and started to run in fear. Duryodhana and Sakuni kept their
feet planted and resisted the Pandavas. The frightened soldiers drew
courage from observing their king fight. They slowly started to return
to the scene.
Of the hundred sons of Gandhari, only two were
left, namely, Duryodhana and Sudarsana. Bhima had killed all the rest.
But that number shrank to one, as Bhima took the life of Sudarsana.
and Arjuna were holding Sakuni and his forces. In the apportioning of
their prey by the Pandavas, Sakuni was allotted to Sahadeva. With a
shining, golden arrow, Sahadeva severed Sakuni’s head. The gambler had
lasted till the last day of the war.
Duryodhana was now left
alone in the field. All his generals, all his troops had been consumed
by the Pandavas’ might. There were only three other survivors of the
Kaurava forces, Kripa, Aswatthama and Kritavarman, the Bhoja king. They
had already fled. All the eleven Akshauhinis of the Kauravas had been
destroyed. The dazed Duryodhana staggered until he reached a lake,
Duryodhana goes into hiding
Sanjaya who was
in the battlefield, was caught by Satyaki. The Vrishni chief was about
to kill him when Vyasa appeared on the scene and ordered his release. On
his way back, Sanjaya met the lonely Duryodhana who was incoherent.
Sanjaya observed the fallen hero entering the lake where, through his
powers of illusion, he made a space for himself at the bottom.
in his path, Sanjaya met the retreating trio of Kripa, Aswatthama and
Kritavarman, to whom he passed on information about Duryodhana’s
The sun was racing to the west, to set on the great, eighteen-day war.
Kaurava forces had been completely destroyed. Duryodhana was missing.
Yuyutsu, the Vaisya son of Dhritarashtra, approached Yudhishthira and
asked for permission to take the ladies belonging to the Kaurava Royal
family who were camping with their husbands, to Hastinapura. Escorting
the wailing women, he reached the city. Vidura who received them at the
city gate remembered Draupadi’s action as she dragged herself out of
Hastinapura fourteen years earlier, disgraced and humiliated.
as the light was fading, the Pandavas spread out in all directions,
mounting a hunt for Duryodhana. Meanwhile, the three warriors, Kripa,
Aswatthama and Kritavarman stealthily reached the lake where Duryodhana
had taken refuge. They urged their king to come out of the lake. But the
fallen king had no desire to do so.
While the three warriors
were thus conversing with Duryodhana, a few hunters came to the lake to
slake their thirst. Observing the scene there, they reported to the
Pandavas that the Kaurava king was hiding in the lake. The hunters were
amply rewarded for giving this intelligence.
Very soon the
Pandavas with Krishna and other close associates reached the lake.
Krishna caused Duryodhana to become visible. Yudhishthira rebuked his
cousin for running away for his life and hiding in the water.
I have nothing to fight for, says Duryodhana
am here not to hide from you,” Duryodhana said. “I have lost everything
in the battle, even my chariot and my horses. Being alone, without an
army, I cannot fight you. I have taken refuge in this lake in order to
rest. Moreover, I have no desire to fight for my kingdom anymore. You
may take it and be happy.”
Yudhishthira said, “We have reduced
you to this unenviable position in battle. We do not want your kingdom
as a piece of charity. We would complete our conquest over you and take
the kingdom. Respect Kshatriya rules and come out and fight.”
replied, “Without my troops I can only fight you individually. We have
seen many beautiful encounters while fighting from our cars. We can now
fight with our maces, on the ground. I am confident to take any one of
you at a time.”
A sudden-death offer from Yudhishthira
made a sporting offer. He told the Kaurava king, “We accept your
challenge. If you are able to defeat any one of us in a combat, you may
have your kingdom restored to you. This is more than what you did when
so many of you surrounded Abhimanyu and killed the innocent prince.”
expressed his anxiety and chided Yudhishthira for making such an offer.
He thought that none of the Pandavas was a match to Duryodhana in a
fight with the mace, not even Bhima. While Bhima possessed might,
Duryodhana possessed skill. In a straight fight, skill would always
Bhima talked with assurance to Vasudeva and it was decided that he would battle Duryodhana in a single-combat with the mace.
Duryodhana rose out of the water and the fierce battle between the Kaurava and Pandava princes was set to commence.
Duryodhana and Bhima, the final showdown
as the combat between Duryodhana and Bhima was about to commence,
Balarama, Krishna’s brother, arrived at the scene after his forty-two
days of pilgrimage. He was very sad at the events that had taken place
during his absence, but was consoled to be back in time to witness his
two favourite pupils in fight. He proposed that they all proceed to a
holy spot of Kurukshetra called Samantapanchaka, where the fight could
In the fierce fight that took place, both combatants
seemed to be equally matched. But just as Krishna had warned,
Duryodhana was slowly getting the upper hand.
Arjuna, “In this battle, Bhima can never win if he fights fairly. Let
him adopt deception and win. What you fought for and have already won is
at stake. Even the gods sometime adopt deception in their fight against
“After the dice game, Bhima swore that he would break Duryodhana’s thigh. Let him do it now.”
to the rules of fighting with the mace, no blow should be dealt below
the opponent’s navel. Arjuna slapped his thigh, indicating to Bhima what
he should do. Bhima quickly understood the signal. Waiting for an
opportune moment, he dealt a mighty blow to Duryodhana’s thighs. The
Kaurava prince fell, his thighs broken by the impact.
Duryodhana lying prostrate before him, Bhima placed his foot on the head
of the fallen man. He cried in frenzy that he had avenged Duryodhana
for his wrong doings in the manner he had sworn. Yudhishthira restrained
him, reminding him that with all his faults, Duryodhana was a king and a
Balarama who was furious at Bhima’s flagrant violation
of the code, stepped forward to hit him with his plough, the weapon he
was known to wield with effect. Krishna pulled him back and tried to
justify to him Bhima’s action. Balarama was unconvinced. He mounted his
chariot and left for Dwaraka in anger.
Duryodhana accuses Krishna
completely disabled, raised the upper portion of his body and addressed
Krishna. “You have been the cause of all the unfair practices pursued
by the Pandavas in this war. Through Arjuna you signaled to Bhima to
break the code and hit me on my thighs. You caused Sikhandin to be
brought before Bhishma and that led the grandsire to his fall. You were
responsible for Indra depriving Karna of his earrings and armour as also
for the Anga king wasting the weapon Indra gave him. Drona and
Bhurisravas were both killed when unarmed, due to your counsel. You
frustrated us by making many of our weapons ineffective. This war has
been won by you by unfair means.”
Krishna replied, “You have no
claim to talk about the methods we adopted to baffle you. You have been
responsible for innumerable crimes committed against the Pandavas. You
tried to kill them by several means. You abused their queen, Panchali,
in your court. You cheated them out of their kingdom through Sakuni’s
dice play. You refused to yield to their just demand when they returned
from their exile. You killed an innocent lad, Abhimanyu, in an unfair
fight. You claim to be purified by your charity to brahmins. But that is
offset by your insolence towards your elders. It is because of these
various crimes that you are now reduced to this. To defeat you, adopting
any means was fair.”
Duryodhana said, “I do not regret my
actions. I have enjoyed the earth as its monarch. I now die as a brave
Kshatriya with my place in heaven assured.” When he spoke these words,
flowers were showered over him from above by the Gandharvas and other
As they were returning to their tents, the
Pandavas were pondering over Duryodhana’s words. Krishna lifted their
spirits by pointing out to them that warriors like Bhishma, Drona and
Karna were unassailable in the normal course. Without adopting the
strategies that he had recommended, the Pandavas could not have won the
On reaching their camp, Krishna asked Arjuna to alight from
the chariot Indra had given him. As soon as Arjuna complied, the ape in
his banner disappeared. The chariot, with all the arms and weapons in
it, went up in flames. Krishna explained to Arjuna, “As long as I was
sitting in the chariot, nothing could harm it. It bore the brunt of all
kinds of weapons. Now that I have left it, it is reduced to ashes.”
then proposed that, as an act of propitiation, they leave the camp and
spend the night on the banks of River Oghavati. After they had moved to
the sacred place, Krishna left for Hastinapura. He told Yuthishthira, “I
shall go to Hastinapura and break the news of Duryodhana’s fall to the
king and queen. This will soften them, especially Gandhari whose sons
have all been killed. She is so pure that by an angry look she can burn
anyone in front of her. Let her anger diminish before you call on her.”
Krishna’s mission was made easy by the presence of Vyasa in Hastinapura.
Kripa, Aswatthama and Kritavarman, the sole survivors in the Kaurava
camp, met Duryodhana who was lying in the battlefield, wounded and
immobile. The three of them heard an account of the battle between their
king and Bhima, and were incensed at the foul play that had taken
place. They swore to take revenge on the Pandavas.
Duryodhana told Aswatthama, “The mantle of Commander-in-chief of the Kaurava army now falls on you.”
Chapter 10 Sauptika Parva
CHAPTER 10 SAUPTIKA PARVA
Aswatthama on the rampage. Mission accomplished, Aswatthama reports to dying Duryodhana. The hunt for Aswatthama.
Aswatthama on the rampage
three Kaurava warriors, Kripa, Aswatthama and Kritavarman, took refuge
under a huge banyan tree in a nearby forest to spend the night. While
Kripa and the Bhoja king slept out of fatigue, Aswatthama kept awake.
The deep vaults of his mind were filled with rage to destroy the
Panchalas as revenge for the dastardly killing of his father by their
On a nearby tree Aswatthama observed an owl
attacking a crow’s nest. In a matter of minutes, the predator reduced
his prey to shreds. This gave Drona’s son the idea that he should attack
his enemies, particularly the Panchalas, when they were sleeping.
yoked his chariot and started towards the Pandava camp. His companions
who had woken up asked him where he was going. Learning his intentions,
they tried to dissuade him. Finding Aswatthama insistent, they decided
to follow him. When they reached the Panchala quarters of the Pandava
camp, Aswatthama left the other two at the gate, and proceeded inside by
As he entered the camp, he was accosted by a
terrifying figure of huge proportions, breathing fire, which seemed to
be guarding the entrance. Aswatthama attacked the figure with his
arrows, his scimitar and his mace. Nothing had any effect on the
apparition. Thoroughly frustrated, he sat down and prayed intensely to
the god Siva. The Mountain God appeared before him.
“I know for
what purpose you are praying to me,” the god told Drona’s son. “Due to
my promise to Krishna, it is I who have been protecting the Panchala
princes. Now that the purpose of their birth has been fulfilled, and the
time for their death has arrived, I shall grant you your wish.” The god
infused his own energy into Aswatthama and gave him a sword.
went to his companions and asked them to kill anyone who tried to leave
the camp. Entering the quarters, this time unopposed, he descended on
the sleeping Panchalas like a tornado. He appeared dark and fierce as he
started to kill anyone who came in his way. He first sought
Dhrishtadyumna, the slayer of Drona. Placing his foot on the prince’s
chest, he drove his sword into him. His next target was the five sons of
Draupadi who were rudely awakened by the commotion. Aswatthama killed
all of them, some with his sword and some with his arrows.
mustered his men and attacked the raging lion. In no time all of them,
including Sikhandin, were slaughtered. Aswatthama then went about
mercilessly killing all the other inmates of the Panchala camp. Those
who tried to run away were taken care of by Kripa and his companion
outside. The three of them set the tents on fire and left the scene of
Mission accomplished, Aswatthama reports to dying Duryodhana
accomplished their dark deed, Aswatthama and his two companions went to
Duryodhana and informed him of their act. The Kaurava prince,
struggling as he was for his life, expressed his happiness, saying,
“What the great Bhishma, Drona and Karna could not accomplish, you have.
I die happily. We shall meet in heaven.” He then closed his eyes.
was morning by now. The only survivor of the carnage in the Panchala
camp was the charioteer of Dhrishtadyumna. He rushed to the River where
the Pandava brothers were camping. The news of the tragedy was received
by them with profound shock. Draupadi was sent for and told about the
death of her sons. She was struck with grief. She demanded of the
Pandava brothers that they kill Aswatthama and bring to her the diadem
on his head. “I would not rest until that diadem is placed on the head
of the Pandava king,” she said.
The hunt for Aswatthama
rushed to find Aswatthama and slay him. Krishna, who had by now
returned from Hastinapura, told Arjuna, “We should follow Bhima.
Aswatthama is now endowed with immense strength and only you can kill
him. The son of Drona is evil, having dishonourable intentions. Earlier,
having obtained the Brahmasira weapon from his father, he approached
me. He begged me to trade his formidable weapon for my celestial disc. I
agreed and laid the disc on the ground. He tried to lift it with one
hand. He found it too heavy. He then tried to lift it with both his
hands. He failed again. When he ceased his effort, I asked him why he
wanted my disc. To use it against you, he said, and then to conquer the
world. He is indeed a wicked and restless soul.”
brothers, whom Bhima left behind, and Krishna, mounted a chariot and
followed the prince’s trial. Bhima reached the hermitage of Vyasa where
he found Aswatthama sitting by the side of the illustrious sage. They
caught up with Bhima, and Aswatthama saw all of them approaching him
together. He thought his end was near, and in desperation, he took out
the supreme Brahmastra weapon in his possession. Even as Bhima started
to shower his arrows on him, Aswatthama, after performing the necessary
prayers, released his deadly weapon.
Arjuna had been taught the
same weapon by Drona. Krishna asked him to counter Aswatthama and
neutralize the deadly weapon. Arjuna also launched his weapon.
sages Narada and Vyasa who were witness to the battle that was brewing,
became alarmed. They knew that the Brahma weapon was not meant to be
used against humans, and that if the two weapons met, there would be
disastrous results on earth. They stood in between the two warriors, and
holding the rival weapons in the air, appealed to both the antagonists
to withdraw. Arjuna had the knowledge to withdraw his arrow, and he
complied. Aswatthama did not know the art of withdrawing the weapon. It
was in the nature of the weapon that if a proper target were not
assigned, it would return and kill the person who invoked it. Aswatthama
had to find a target for the weapon. He let it go with instruction that
it should destroy the children in the womb of every Pandava woman.
to their respect for their teacher, Drona, the Pandavas spared
Aswatthama’s life. He was however compelled to give up his diadem in
return. Without the diadem, Aswatthama was shorn of all courage and
became incapable of fighting.
Krishna told Aswatthama, “Your
weapon will no doubt kill the foetus in every Pandava womb. But I shall
revive the son that is developing in the womb of Abhimanyu’s wife,
Uttara. That son would bear the torch of the Kuru race and bring glory
to it. As for you, for your evil deed, you shall roam the world for
three thousand years without a companion. You will be shunned by all,
and people would forsake your company.”
Considering that it was
the preceptor’s son and sufficient punishment had been meted out to him,
Draupadi reconciled herself to Aswatthama’s life being spared.
the conclusion of the war on the eighteenth day, there was nothing for
Sanjaya to report to the blind king. The boon granted to him by Vyasa,
to be able to see and hear the happenings in the battle field, became
Vyasa called on Dhritarashtra to console him for
his loss. The sage was aware that Gandhari, due to her austerities, had
the power to curse the Pandavas and bring disaster to them. He therefore
advised her to get over her grief and think of the Pandavas as her own
Dhritarashtra assembled all the royal ladies and
together they proceeded to the battlefield. He was received by
Yudhishthira and his brothers with respect. The king expressed his
desire to embrace each one of the five brothers. He first embraced
Yudhishthira. Next on line was Bhima. Krishna knew that the king was
harbouring intense hatred for Bhima since he it was that killed all his
hundred sons. Being the well-wisher of the Pandavas, he drew away Bhima
and instead, pushed an iron image of Bhima towards Dhritarashtra. The
blind man, in his embrace, crushed the image and let the mangled remains
fall on the earth. He then asked if Bhima was killed.
told Dhritarashtra, “Bhima is alive and well. What you crushed is only
an image of Bhima. It is not proper that you should hate the Pandavas
for what happened. But for your encouraging your wicked son, there would
have been no war and the near total destruction of the Kshatriyas could
have been avoided. The Pandavas still consider you as their father, and
you should consider them as your sons.”
Dhritarashtra overcame his hatred for the Pandavas and embraced them one by one, this time with affection.
Gandhari curses Krishna
the old king, the Pandava brothers and Krishna went to meet Gandhari
and the other ladies of the Kuru family. Despite Vyasa’s advise the
queen had not got over her anger at the destroyers of her near and dear
ones. Her eyes were hooded, but through the lower portion of her
blindfold, her glance fell on Yudhishthira’s toe as the prince bowed to
her. The toenail was instantly burnt. Such was her wrath. She called
Bhima heartless for having drunk her son’s blood. Bhima denied that he
actually drank Duscasana’s blood, but only smeared it on his mouth.
advised Gandhari to bury her hatred and receive the Pandavas with love.
Gandhari’s attitude towards the Pandavas changed and she blessed them.
Her anger at Krishna was however not abated. She said, “Krishna, you
were in the middle of this great war. You could have prevented the
massacre of my hundred sons and the killing of the innumerable Kshatriya
princes. Instead, you encouraged the Pandavas and even helped them to
adopt unfair means in the war. Bear this in mind. Just as these
Kshatriyas slew one another, thirty-six years from now so would your
Yadava race perish, killing one another. As for you, you would meet with
an inglorious end in the wilderness. This is my curse on you.”
replied, “Your curse will certainly take its course since you are
endowed with great virtue. Indeed the Yadava race will be wiped out due
to infighting, since none outside could kill them.”
asked Yudhishthira, “You are an ocean of knowledge. Could you tell me
how many Kshatriyas lost their lives in the war, and how many survived?”
told the king, “The number of those who perished is one billion six
hundred sixty million and twenty thousand. Those who survived were
twenty four thousand one hundred and sixty five.”
rites were arranged for all those slain in the battle. It was then that
Kunti revealed to the Pandava brothers that Karna was the firstborn son
of hers. The truth about Karna’s birth added to the agony of
Yudhishthira who wanted to renounce his newly won kingdom and take to
the woods. Vyasa advised him against it, reminding him of his duties as
Chapter 12 Santhi Parva
CHAPTER 12 SANTHI PARVA
as arrangements were made for his coronation, Yudhishthira spent long
hours with Bhishma who was lying in his bed of arrows, waiting for the
right moment to meet his death. The king sat at the sage’s feet,
listening to his discourse on a wide range of subjects – from creation
to death, from social organization to religious observances, from the
king’s duties to individual behaviour. Some of Bhishma’s observations
On creation: The primeval being was known as Manasa
(Mind). He is without beginning or end. All creatures are born through
him and die through him. Manasa created the divine being known as Mahat
(Great). Mahat created consciousness and Space. From Space was born
Water, from Water, Fire and Wind. With the union of Fire and Wind was
born the earth. Manasa then created the divine lotus from which sprang
Brahman. It is Brahman who created all living things.
elements are the constituents of all creatures. Ear is of space, nose is
of earth, tongue is of water, touch is of wind and eyes are of light.
kinds of wind are essential for life. Prana enables movement. Vyana
gives strength for movement. Apana is gravity. Samana is the heart.
Udana controls the flow of wind, which gives speech.
On Soul: It
is the occupation of the soul in the body that gives life. It is a
manifestation of Brahman. Soul is consciousness. The soul continues to
live after the body dies.
On Truth: Truth is Brahman. Truth is
Light. Untruth is Darkness. All conduct is divided between the two. The
opposition of these two extremes is the essence of life.
On Mind: Mind is the sixth sense. It gives understanding. It crystallizes the three qualities of Darkness, Passion and Goodness.
Emancipation: Emancipation is freedom from the extremes. He who is
emancipated is free from the influence of the five organs. He feels no
heat or cold, no misery or happiness. He feels no scent. His mind is
stable in respect of things that are unstable.
On Yoga: Yoga is
the means of emancipation. All the five senses are fixed when in
meditation. The sixth sense, mind, is the means by which the other five
senses are controlled.
On Brahman: The attainment of Brahman or
supreme consciousness is the soul’s ultimate objective. With such
attainment, there is no rebirth. Brahman can neither be seen nor
touched. It can only be felt.
On Brahmacharya: It is the
religion of abstention. It is freedom from all senses. Its true practice
is the way to attain Brahman. Yoga is the vehicle of Brahmacharya.
Dreams: Dreams arise from desire. Passion and Darkness take over.
Dreams occur when asleep. True Yogis therefore always remain awake.
However, he who has self-restraint sleeps without dreaming.
Fortitude: When distress strikes, only fortitude can overcome it. One
who has developed fortitude will have both physical and mental strength
to meet disaster.
On Time: Time assails everyone equally. Many,
who had conquered the three worlds, had performed a hundred sacrifices
and had sought to live forever, have been consumed by Time. Time is the
creator and the destroyer. What existed yesterday is swept away today by
Time. Changes wrought by Time are irreversible.
Time: Fifteen winks of the eye make a Kastha. Thirty Kasthas make a
Kala. Thirty and one-tenth Kala make a Muhurta. Thirty Muhurtas make one
day and night. Thirty days make a month. Twelve months make a year. A
year is made of two solstices of the sun, southern and northern, known
On Years of the Deities: For the deities, the day consists of one solstice. Night consists of the other.
Yugas: There are four Yugas – the Krita, the Treta, the Dwapara and the
Kali, in that order of occurrence. In terms of the years of the
deities, Krita has four thousand and eight hundred years. Treta has
three thousand six hundred years. Dwapara has two thousand four hundred
years. Kali has one thousand two hundred years.
On Brahman’s Day: A thousand Yugas of twelve thousand years each, constitutes a day. A similar period constitutes the night. During the night, Brahman sleeps. On waking up, he starts creation afresh.
the Yuga Cycle: Krita starts with the initial creation when life is
pure and righteousness rules. Dilution of truth takes place in the
successive eras, Treta and Dwapara. It reaches the low point in the Kali
Yuga. Time facilitates this passage.
Destruction: The process
of destruction at the end of Brahman’s day is exactly in the reverse
direction of creation. In the ultimate step, Consciousness, Space and
Time are swallowed by Brahman.
On the King’s Duty: The severity
with which a king should rule depends on the Yuga. In Krita, there is
total absence of severity. In Treta, it should be of one-fourth degree.
In Dwapara, it increases to three-fourths. In Kali, it reaches almost
the full degree.
On what benefits the Un-learned: These are three; worship of the preceptor, reverence to elders and listening to the scriptures.
Yudhishthira : Tell me, O great one, the thousand names that glorify Lord Vishnu. Bhishma : Sukhlam Bharatharam Vishnum…………
Chapter 13 Anusasana Parva
CHAPTER 13 ANUSASANA PARVA
Death waits on Bhishma
continued his discourse to Yudhishthira and the other illustrious
princes and sages gathered around him. He then became silent, as did all
those around him. Vyasa told the grandsire, “O learned one, the war in
the Kuru family is over and Yudhishthira has been restored his kingdom.
It is in the order of things that he should now return to Hastinapura
and take up the reins of government for a beneficial rule. Give him
Bhishma told Yudhishthira, “When the Sun changes his
direction towards the North, my soul will depart from my body. Proceed
now to Hastinapura and return at that time, when my death would take
Yudhishthira did as his grandsire bid him. He returned
to Hastinapura where he was duly installed as king amidst all pomp and
ceremony. At the appointed hour Yudhishthira with his entourage arrived
at Bhishma’s side. The old sage gave him and Dhritarashtra appropriate
advise, the former on his responsibilities as a monarch and the latter
on the need to get over his grief.
Bhishma turned to Krishna and
said, “O Lord. I am fortunate to have you at my side when I depart from
this world. Bless me and give me permission to leave. I strived my best
to live a life of virtue and truth on this earth, and I now look
forward to joining the Vasus above where I belong.”
said, “It is because you have not committed a single transgression in
this life that even Death waits on you. You would receive the best in
the next world, which is what you deserve.”
The dying prince
adopted Yoga. Fifty-eight nights after his fall in the battle, his life
breath left its corporeal and ascended to the heavens. Wrapping the body
with white silk and adorning it with gems, Yudhishthira led the funeral
procession to the banks of the Bhagirathi River. The goddess Ganga rose
from the River and lamented for her son. Krishna consoled her, pointing
out to the noble life that the prince had led. Ganga then disappeared.
The funeral rites were completed as per religious rules and the party
turned away, leaving behind the mortal remains of Bhishma to reduce to
Chapter 14 Aswamedha Parva
CHAPTER 14 ASWAMEDHA PARVA
Finance for a Horse sacrifice. Abhimanyu’s son is born. Yudhishthira performs the Horse sacrifice. Ulipi engineers Arjuna’s death. Ulipi engineers Arjuna’s death
Finance for a Horse sacrifice
was steeped in sorrow and was constantly blaming himself for the
destruction and grief caused by the war. Krishna as well as Vyasa
consoled him, pointing out to the fact that it was the evil Duryodhana
who caused the holocaust. Forever desiring the welfare of the Pandava
king, Vyasa advised Yudhishthira to perform the Aswamedha (Horse)
sacrifice along with the Rajasuya, Sarvamedha and Naramedha sacrifices.
pointed out that the sacrifice would entail heavy expenses that he
could ill afford at the present juncture. Vyasa had a solution for this.
He said, “In the Himalayas there lies buried a huge treasure. This was
left behind by brahmins who received enormous quantities of gold from
the king Marutta during a sacrifice. Go thither and recover the gold.”
Vyasa then gave details about the location of the treasure to
Yudhishthira, with a huge army, proceeded to the
Himalayas and camped at the spot indicated by Vyasa. After observing
religious ceremonies, he caused the site to be excavated. The treasure
that issued from the earth was so huge that thousands of camels and
elephants had to be employed to transport it to Hastinapura.
Abhimanyu’s son is born
had, in the meanwhile, returned to Dwaraka. He narrated the events of
the war to his father, Vasudeva. The patriarch swooned on hearing about
Abhimanyu’s death. After spending some time with his people, Krishna
started for Hastinapura.
As Krishna reached Hastinapura, there
were joyous tidings that Uttara had given birth to a son. Almost
immediately came the news from the delivery room that Uttara’s son was
still born. The wailing princess reminded Krishna of his promise that
the child would live. Krishna withdrew the Brahma weapon of Aswatthama
that had scorched the foetus, and the child came to life. Thus was born
the great king Parikshit (one born after testing times), the son of
Abhimanyu, and the perpetuation of the Kuru dynasty was assured.
Yudhishthira performs the Horse sacrifice
the active participation of Krishna and Vyasa, the Horse sacrifice was
launched. According to the rules of the sacrifice, the royal horse was
to roam the four corners of the country. Any king who challenged it
would have to fight the performer of the sacrifice. Arjuna was deputed
to follow the horse on its triumphal footsteps, fighting off anyone
daring to interfere with its movements. Yudhishthira gave strict
instructions to Arjuna not to kill those who opposed him but to merely
As was to be expected, most of the opposition came
from the successors of those who were vanquished by the Pandavas at the
Kurukshetra war. The first was from the Trigartas, whose king
Suryavarman was easily put aside. Next was from Vajradatta, the son of
Bhagadatta of the Pragyothishas. Vajradatta was brought to his knees.
then had an encounter with the Sindhus whose king, Jayadratha, he had
slain in the war. The Sindhus at first resisted Arjuna. But Jayadratha’s
widow and Dritarashtra’s daughter, Dussala, appealed to Arjuna to spare
them. Arjuna graciously agreed and left his sister happy.
Ulipi engineers Arjuna’s death
next event in the triumphal tour turned out to be unusual. Arjuna had
reached Manipura where his son Babruvahana was the king. The young king
welcomed his father with reverence. But Arjuna bade him to fight, since
he had transgressed into Babruvahana’s territory.
Just then the
Naga princess, Ulipi, made her appearance and encouraged Babruvahana to
fight against the intruder. In the exchange of arrows, Babruvahana
pierced Arjuna who fell down dead. Babruvahana’s mother, Chitrangada,
rushed to the scene and accused Ulipi of causing Arjuna’s death. Ulipi
assured them that they were witnessing only an illusion, since Arjuna
could not be vanquished. She produced a gem with which she revived the
Asked by Arjuna, Ulipi explained her action. She
said, “During the war of the princes, you killed Bhishma by unfair
means. The old warrior, refusing to face Sikhandin, had laid down his
arms. It was then that your arrows penetrated him and brought him down. I
overheard a conversation between the heavenly Vasus and the goddess
Ganga. The Vasus cursed you for your foul act and Ganga endorsed the
curse. Alarmed, I sought my sire, Kauravya, and asked for his advise. My
sire immediately went to the Vasus and represented your case. The Vasus
relented and said that if the highly endowed Babruvahana killed you,
you would be expiated of your sin. I enacted this play only for that
Reaching Rajagriha, the capital of Magadha, Arjuna was
challenged by Jarasandha’s son, Meghasandhi. The Magadha prince was
defeated in the battle, but his life was spared.
son of Sisupala of the Chedis, stopped Arjuna as the Pandava prince
entered their capital, Saktimati. After a token engagement, Sarabha
worshipped Arjuna and assured to attend the sacrifice.
Ugrasena of the Vrishnis received Arjuna at Dwaraka and duly honoured
him. At the next port of call, Gandhara, Sakuni’s son led a charge
against Arjuna, only to be overpowered by the conqueror.
A strange intruder during sacrifice
his triumphant tour, Arjuna returned to Hastinapura, just in time for
the sacrifice, fixed for the full moon day of Chitra (April). Elaborate
arrangements had been made for the royal guests to stay and a special
hall had been put up for performing the religious rites.
successful completion of the Horse Sacrifice established Yudhishthira as
the supreme ruler of the country. The sacrifice was however marred by a
small incident. A mongoose appeared near the holy fire and started
making disparaging remarks about sacrifices and righteousness. It later
came to be known that the animal was the god Dharma (the custodian of
righteousness) who was under a curse for misbehaving in a sacrifice
performed by the sage Jamadagni. He was redeemed from the curse by
talking derogatorily about himself. The animal disappeared as strangely
as it had appeared.
Chapter 15 Asramavasaka Parva
CHAPTER 15 ASRAMAVASIKA PARVA
Yudhishthira, a benevolent monarch. Bhima’s remarks and Dhritarashtra’s reaction.
Dhritarashtra takes to the forest. The soul of Vidura.
The living meet the dead.Dhritarashtra, Gandhari and Kunti die.
Yudhishthira, a benevolent monarch
the ascension of Yudhishthira to the throne, an era of benevolent rule
from Hastinapura commenced. Prosperity prevailed everywhere and justice
ruled. The Pandava kingdom extended far and wide. Where the Pandavas did
not rule, the other rulers were made to pay tributes.
Pandavas were highly respectful of their uncle Dhritarashtra, and his
queen, Gandhari. They appointed Vidura and Kripa to high offices. Bhima
alone was still harbouring a measure of hatred for Dhritarashtra and
could never forgive the old king for encouraging Duryodhana.
Bhima’s remarks and Dhritarashtra’s reaction
years passed in tranquility since Yudhishthira became king. One day
Dhritarashtra and Gandhari overheard Bhima boasting of his prowess and
how he had killed all the hundred Kaurava brothers. While Gandhari was
generous enough to brush aside Bhima’s remarks, Dhritarashtra became
very sad. He was reminded of his own role in bringing about the war. He
decided to retire to the forest and take to penance.
Dhritarashtra takes to the forest
pleaded against Dhritarashtra proceeding to the forest. But Vyasa who
was present at Hastinapura persuaded Yudhishthira to let his uncle have
his way. Gandhari, Kunti, Vidura and Sanjaya also insisted on
Preparations were made for
Dhritarashtra to leave for the forest. He had a meeting with the Pandava
king when he gave a long discourse on how to rule his country and how
to carry on the great traditions set by the Kurus. He then sought leave
of his subjects. He apologized to them for his follies in backing his
evil-minded son. His subjects were touched by his oration and responded
by saying that they carried no grudge against him.
The next day
Vidura was deputed by Dhritarashtra to solicit wealth from the treasury
for distribution to the people in memory of Bhishma, Drona, his hundred
sons and all those near to him who were slain in the battle. Despite
opposition from Bhima, the king opened out his treasury to his uncle.
accompanied by Gandhari, Kunti, Vidura, Sanjaya and a host of brahmins,
first reached the banks of Bhagirathi. He then proceeded to the
hermitage of Satayapu, the former king of the Kekeyas. Commanded by
Vyasa whose abode was nearby, Satayapu instructed Dhrirarashtra on how
to conduct himself as an ascetic.
Narada who visited
Dhritarashtra told him, “The gods are pleased with the severe
austerities undertaken by you. You have been absolved of all your sins.
You have three more years left after which, along with Gandhari, you
would leave this world for your after life in heaven.”
The soul of Vidura
Pandava brothers, despite having become the lords of the earth, were
deeply depressed at the thought of their mother, uncles and aunt living
in the forest, bereft of all comforts. They were soon possessed with the
desire to visit them. Yudhishthira made elaborate preparations and,
accompanied by his near and dear ones, set out to the forest.
happy family reunion took place in the hermitage. Yudhishthira, however,
observed the absence of his uncle Vidura. When he made enquiries, he
was told that Vidura was mostly away, roaming the forest, and sometimes
seen in the company of brahmins. Yudhishthira immediately went alone in
search of his younger uncle.
When he spotted Vidura, he found
him to be emaciated, naked and covered with dirt. Vidura walked away
from the king who ran to catch up with the ascetic. “Behold me, your
favourite nephew,” Yudhishthira called. ”I have come to visit you.”
uttered not a word. He leaned back on a tree and looked at Yudhishthira
with concentration. Through Yogic power, little by little, he
transferred all his energy into the body of Yudhishthira.
son realized that both he and Vidura belonged to the same essence,
namely the god Dharma. A voice was heard saying, “The soul of Vidura has
now merged with yours. Do not cremate him. Leave him as he is and
Yudhishthira did as he was told and returned to the hermitage.
The living meet the dead
who was on a visit to the Satyapu hermitage, asked Dhritarashtra, “You
have been without eyesight. Is there anyone you would like to meet from
among the dead? I could, by the power of my penances, call them to our
It was Gandhari who answered Vyasa. She said, “This
mighty monarch has been passing the last sixteen years since the
conclusion of the war, sighing constantly in remembrance of his sons. So
have I been thinking constantly about them. Kunti has been thinking of
her son, Karna, to whom she was unable to show her affection. Draupadi
must be depressed, thinking of her five sons who were slain.”
“I shall gratify the desire of everyone here,” the great sage said. “Follow me to the banks of Bhagirathi.”
entourage spent a day on the river bank, engaged in various religious
ceremonies. When it was dark, Vyasa invoked the dead who came out of the
river in all splendour. Parents met children and wives met husbands.
Bhishma, Duryodhana and his brothers, the sons of Draupadi, cousins and
uncles were all there. The living embraced the dead. All enmity was
forgotten, and the night was spent in bliss.
As dawn approached,
the noble Vyasa announced, “The time for parting has come. All the
slain Kshatriya heroes would now return to their various abodes. Those
wives who want to join their dead husbands can do so by entering the
river.” Many of the Kshatriya women took the option and merged into the
Dhritarashtra, Gandhari and Kunti die
passed after the Pandavas returned to Hastinapura from the memorable
visit to Satayupa’s hermitage. Narada visited Yudhishthira, bringing
news about Dhritarashtra. He said,
The noble descendent of Kuru
undertook severe penance. His wife also took to meditation. Your mother,
ever a monument of virtue, considered the old couple as her own parents
and helped them in their austere life. Your uncle then left for
Gangadhwara along with the others. There he was caught in a huge forest
fire, the origin of which was from the sacrificial fire he was
nurturing. When Sanjaya and the others offered to help him, he refused,
preferring to stay and be consumed by the fire. Gandhari and Kunti also
stayed with him and followed him in death. Sanjaya alone escaped, and he
proceeded to the Himalayas to join the ascetics there”
of the death of his mother, uncle and aunt, caused great grief to
Yudhishthira. Along with the other members of his family, he proceeded
to the River Ganga where obsequies were performed for the departed ones.
Chapter 16 Mausala Parva
CHAPTER 16 MAUSALA PARVA
Story of the iron rod. Asses born to cows, mules to elephants.
years had passed since Gandhari cursed the Yadava race to total
annihilation, blaming Krishna for the Mahabharata war. The chain of
events leading to disaster and destruction of the race started from a
prank, indulged in by the Yadava youth.
The sages Viswamitra,
Kanva and Narada arrived on a visit to Dwaraka. Their senses fogged by
Fate, some of the Yadava youth approached the distinguished rishis to
play a prank on them. One of the youth, Samba, was dressed like a
pregnant woman. They asked the sages, “You noble ones, this is the wife
of Babhru who is desirous of having a son. Could you tell if she would
be blessed with one?”
The rishis immediately understood the
mischief being played upon them. They cursed the youth, “This scion of
the Vasudeva family, Samba, would bring forth an iron rod which would
cause the destruction of the Yadavas. All of them, excepting Balarama
and Krishna, would perish due to this curse.”
The very next day
Samba brought forth an iron rod. When the king of the Vrishnis,
Ugrasena, came to know about this, he became alarmed. He ordered the
iron rod to be ground to powder and thrown into the sea. He also
announced a total ban on the manufacture and consumption of spirits
throughout his kingdom.
Asses born to cows, mules to elephants
Yadava clans of Vrishnis, Andhakas, Bhojas and Kukuras were at their
best behaviour, in fear of the sages’ curse. But there were omens of
impending disaster. Asses were born to cows and mules to elephants.
Worms were found in the food that was cooked clean. Brahmins were
ill-treated and wives and husbands deceived their spouses. The
configuration in the sky was similar to what appeared before the
eighteen-day war. Death in the form of a black and hideous woman roamed
the city. The discus given by Agni to Krishna disappeared into the sky.
The standards in the chariots of Krishna and Balarama, the Garuda (Kite)
and the Palmyra tree, were taken away by the apsaras. The chariot of
Krishna, drawn by the four famous steeds, Sugriva, Saivya, Megapushpa
and Balahaka, bolted away.
Alarmed by these signals, the
Yadavas, with their families, journeyed to the holy sea shore of
Prabhasa. Having reached Prabhasa, however, they took to drinking wine,
even in the presence of Krishna, and were soon intoxicated. Balarama
himself joined the revelers. There followed arguments that led to
fights. Inebriated by spirit, Satyaki derided Kritavarman for having
killed at Kurukshetra, those who were sleeping. Kritavarman hurled back
abuses at Satyaki who promptly severed his adversary’s head. A free for
all ensued and whatever weapons could be found, was used to attack and
kill. Whoever could not find a weapon took blades of grass, which turned
into iron rods.
Knowing that the Yadavas’ hour of destruction
had arrived, and remembering Gandhari’s curse, Krishna did not interfere
in the fight. In fact Krishna himself killed many of his kinsmen, using
the rod. All the men, save Krishna, his charioteer Daruka and Balarama,
Krishna dispatched Daruka
to Hastinapura to inform Arjuna of the events, so that the Pandava
prince could come and take the surviving Yadava women with him.
Balarama, grieved at the slaughter of the Yadavas, walked into the
forest. When Krishna caught up with him, he saw his brother’s soul
leaving its body. A ten-headed serpent issued from Balarama’s mouth and
drifted into the seas. Adisesha, the serpent under Vishnu’s feet, had
completed his mission on earth and was returning to the region of gods.
Krishna decided that his own hour to give up his body had come.
laid himself down in the forest and entered into meditation. On an
earlier occasion, Durvasa had given him the boon that his body would be
invulnerable, excepting for his feet. A hunter, Jara by name, mistook
him for a deer and shot at him. The arrow pierced Krishna’s foot at the
sole and went through his body.
Alarmed at his mistake, the
hunter sought Krishna’s pardon. Krishna comforted him and sent him away.
The supreme deity returned to his abode in Heaven, to the welcome of
all gods and demigods.
Arjuna visits Dwaraka
news about the happenings in Prabhasa, Arjuna went to Dwaraka where he
met his uncle Vasudeva. The aged father of Krishna was found lying on
the ground, deeply afflicted by the loss of his near and dear ones. Soon
after Arjuna’s arrival, Vasudeva died, unable to bear the grief over
Arjuna performed the rites for his uncle. Vasudeva’s
four wives, Devaki, Bhadra, Rohini and Madira also ended their lives,
overwhelmed by the loss of their husband.
Arjuna gave seven days
for the inhabitants of Dwaraka to leave the city. He knew that the
Yadava capital would be swallowed by the sea. He told the citizens that
the young prince, Vajra, Krishna’s grandson, would be their king. Arjuna
then proceeded to Prabhasa to perform the last rites for Krishna,
Balarama and the others who had died.
days after his arrival, Arjuna started his journey back to Hastinapura.
He proceeded with a huge entourage of women and children, and carried
with him all the wealth that he could. Close on his heels, the city of
Dwaraka disappeared under the rising waves of the ocean.
way home, Arjuna’s party was plundered by robbers. Besides gold and
other valuables, the robbers carried away many of the women. Arjuna
found himself bereft of the power to ward off the robbers, unable to
invoke any of his celestial weapons.
Arjuna took all the
surviving Yadavas to Kurukshetra. He then established Vajra as king at
Indraprastha. Krishna’s wife, Rukmini, ended her life by entering fire.
His other wife, Satyabhama, proceeded to the Himalayas to undertake
From Kurukshetra, Arjuna went to the hermitage of
Vyasa. There the sage consoled Arjuna by saying, “There is no need for
you to be depressed. The robbers were successful because all your power
has been lost since you have accomplished all that was expected of you.
Whatever happened to the Kshatriyas and the Yadavas was pre-ordained.” Chapter 17 Mahaprasthanika Parva
CHAPTER 17 MAHAPRASTHANIKA PARVA
Synopsis Pandavas’ journey to the next world. “Why has Draupadi fallen?” The dog that followed Yudhishthira
Pandavas’ journey to the next world
his return to Hastinapura, Arjuna gave Yudhishthira an account of the
destruction of the Yadavas. The king then and there resolved to abdicate
the throne and retire from the world itself. In this resolve, he was
followed by his four brothers and Panchali. Parikshit, Abhimanyu’s son,
was installed the Kuru king and Yuyutsu, Dhritarashtra’s son by the
Vaisya woman, was appointed regent.
The five Pandava brothers and Draupadi started on their journey, with a dog following them.
five brothers and Draupadi traversed the country for a while, steeped
in the spirit of renunciation. Yudhishthira led the group, followed by
Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, Sahadeva, Draupadi and the dog, in that order.
They traveled east and reached the seashore. The god Agni appeared
before them and advised Arjuna to cast the Gandiva bow and the two
inexhaustible quivers into the sea. They were of no further use to the
Pandava hero. Arjuna complied.
The party then proceeded
southwards along the coast. After a distance, they cut across the
sub-continent and reached the western coast. There they saw the waters
that had swallowed Krishna’s Dwaraka. They finally wound their way north
and reached the foot of the Himalayas.
“Why has Draupadi fallen?”
party of seven then made the Meru hill in the Himalayas their
destination. They walked in silence, steeped in Yogic exercise. After
traversing some distance, Draupadi fell down. Yudhishthira and his
brothers did not stop. They left the lifeless Draupadi behind and walked
on their course.
Bhima asked Yudhishthira, “O fearless one. For
what sin has Panchali fallen on the ground?” Yudhishthira replied,
“This is the result of her partiality for Arjuna.”
Some distance further, Sahadeva fell. Yudhishthira explained that Sahadeva’s sin was his pride, that he was the wisest of all.
to fall was Nakula. To Bhima’s query this time, Yudhishthira’s answer
was that Nakula was always conscious of his good looks.
Arjuna fell next, Yudhishthira told Bhima. “Arjuna declared that he
would single-handedly kill all his foes in one day. He could not fulfill
It was finally Bhima’s turn to fall. Before he
parted with his life, Bhima asked his brother what sin had he committed.
Yudhishthira replied, “In the matter of eating, you were selfish. You
never cared if others needed food. You also boasted about your own
strength.” So saying, the eldest of the Pandavas continued to walk,
leaving his brothers and Panchali behind. He was now followed only by
The dog that followed Yudhishthira
human alive from among the Pandavas, Yudhishthira, walked some more
distance. Suddenly, amidst much sound and radiance, Indra descended in
his chariot and landed in front of Yudhishthira.
bade the Pandava king to ascend the chariot in order to proceed to
Heaven. Yudhishthira refused, saying that he would not go to Heaven
unless accompanied by his brothers and Draupadi. Indra explained that
they had all gone to Heaven, casting off their bodies. Yudhishthira
alone was privileged to reach Heaven without parting with his earthly
There then arose an argument about the dog that had
faithfully followed the Pandava king till the end. Yudhishthira insisted
that the dog should also climb into the chariot. It finally turned out
that the dog was none other than the god Dharma. The god of justice, who
had come to test Yudhishthira, expressed his pleasure at his son’s
Chapter 18 Swargarohanika Parva
CHAPTER 18 SWARGAROHANIKA PARVA
Duryodhana in Heaven. Yudhishthira’s visit to Hell. Yudhishthira attains Heaven
Duryodhana in Heaven
arriving at Heaven, Yudhishthira was greeted by the sight of Duryodhana
sitting in splendour, surrounded by several deities. A shocked
Yudhishthira asked Narada who was with him, “By what right is this
wicked Duryodhana enjoying the felicities of Heaven? Where are my
brothers and Panchali? Where are all those kings and friends of mine who
fought for Truth? I do not want to stay here for a moment. Take me to
those noble souls.”
Narada told Yudhishthira, “O king! You have
reached Heaven where there is no room for such animosities. Besides,
Duryodhana has attained this region by virtue of his being noble in the
battlefield. However, if you insist, I shall have you taken to those
heroes whom you are yearning to meet.”
Yudhishthira’s visit to Hell
messenger led Yudhishthira to Hell. It was a dark and thorny path,
damp, with bad odour. Corpses were seen strewn all around. There was the
sound of moaning, of people in agony. Suddenly, Yudhishthira heard some
familiar voices, those of his brothers, of Panchali, of Karna and of
the truthful heroes who fought for justice in the Great War. They were
all pleading to Yudhishthira to save them from their suffering.
was indignant. He told his messenger, “Return to Heaven and inform the
gods that I want to stay here and share the pain my dear ones are
Yudhishthira attains Heaven
did as he was told. Immediately, Indra, accompanied by several other
gods, appeared before Yudhishthira. Indra told the king, “This is in the
order of things. Those who are to be consigned to Hell are first sent
to Heaven for a short duration, to enjoy the fruits of the few goods
deeds they have performed on earth. Those who are assured of their place
in Heaven are given a glimpse of Hell, to expiate the few sins they
have committed. Your visit to Hell is due to your deception of Drona in
“With all sins being washed off, you and your friends would now become permanent residents of Heaven.”
was then taken to River Ganga that flows through the three worlds,
Heaven, Earth and the netherworld. He took a bath in the river and his
body was purified. He then reached Heaven where he found already
arrived, those noble souls who fought to establish truth on earth.