Sunday, July 30, 2017

37. The Story of Tapati and Samparana

The Gandharva  then pointed out to Arjuna that he and his brothers lacked three things.

First, though they had completed their studies, they were yet to get married.

Second, they were not following any Ashram (way of life) While their life of Brahmacharyam (bachelorhood) was over, they had not yet entered Grahastashram (the married life).

Third, they were without the guide of a priest (Guru).

The Gandharva  said that he lost to Arjuna in the fight because Arjuna was not married while the Gandharva himself was under the grip of anger at having been humiliated in front of his wife.  The Gandharva  would defeat a married man but if the married man had a priest to guide him, the Gandharva won’t be able to defeat him. That was the power of having a priest as a guide, he said.

He then narrated the story of Samvarana, one of Arjuna’s ancestors. Samvarana, the son of Riksha, once met Tapati, the daughter of Surya, the Sun God. in the forests and instantly fell in love with her.  When Samvarana expressed his love to Tapati, she said that she had also fallen in love with him but that he should seek her father’s consent for having her as his wife.

After Tapati went away, Samvarana became unconscious, unable to bear the separation.  His minister came to him and helped him gain consciousness by sprinkling water on him.

When the minister advised Samvarana to return to his kingdom, the king refused to come. He sat there in penance prating to Surya. He also prayed to Vasishta, the Guru of his kingdom, to help him.

Sage Vasishta appeared before him on the 12th day and offered to help him.

Vasishta went to Surya and asked him to give his daughter Tapati in marriage to Samvarana, after apprising Surya of Samvarana's virtues.  Suryawas pleased. He said that he had always considered Samvarana to be a prospective groom for his daughter. He  handed over Tapati to Vasishta and requested him to get her married to Samvarana

Accordingly, Vasishta performed the marriage of Tapati with Samvarana.

Vasishta having been the Guru of Samvarana’s ancestors came to the help of Samvarana, said the Gandharva.  The ancestors of the Pandavas were able to perform grand sacrifices by having Vasishta as their priest, the Gandharva added

After marrying Tapati, Samvarana remained in the forest for 12 years. He did not visit his capital even once. There were no rains in the kingdom for these 12 years. Affected by the severe drought, people began to leave the country. Seeing the plight of the people affected by the drought, Vasishta came to Samvarana and asked him to return to his capital.

After Samvarana returned to his capital, it began to rain and the drought came to an end. To express his gratitude to Indra for blessing his kingdom with rain and ending the drought, Samparana, in the company of his wife Tapati, performed a sacrifice for 12 years.

Kuru was born to Samvarana and Tapati.  It was after him that Arjuna’s ancestors began to be called Kauravas (the descendants of Kuru), said the Gandharva. the Gandharva 

The Gandharva advised Arjuna to have a learned Brahmin as his priest to accomplish great things.

Friday, July 28, 2017

36. Pandavas leave for Panchala

After Bakasura was  slain, the Pandavas were living  a quiet life.

One day, a  learned Brahmin visited them. The Pandavas entertained him as their guest.  At the request of the Pandavas, the Brahmin spoke to them about the various countries he had visited and about moral values. He then spoke of the Swayamvara* of Draupati, the daughter of the Panchala king Drupada (also kown as Yagnasena). He also narrated the story of Drupada’s obtaining his son Drishtadyumna and daughter Draupadi through a sacrifice.

After the Brahmin had let, Kunti suggested that they leave for Panchala since they had stayed  at Ekachakra  for a long time. Her sons agreed. They left that place after taking leave of the Brahmin in whose hose they were residing.

As promised  by him earlier, Vyasa came to see them. Kunti and her sons received the sage and paid obeisance to him. After enquiring about their welfare and their activities and advising of their moral duty to pursue a virtuous path, he narrated a story.

A sage had a daughter. Though she was beautiful and virtuous, she could not get a husband. She practiced ascetic penances for seeking a good husband for her. Pleased by her penances, Lord Siva appeared before her and asked her to seek any boon that she wished. She said, “Oh lord! Give me a husband endowed with all accomplishments.” In her anxiety, she repeated her request several times.
Lord Siva said, “You will have five husbands from the Bharata race.”

The girl replied, “Oh lord! I want to have only one husband.”

Siva said, “Since you made your request five times, you will have five husbands. But this will happen in your next birth.”

Vyasa said, “That girl has been born as the princess of Panchala. Go to the Panchala kingdom and reside there. You will be very happy after getting her as your wife.”

Vyasa then took leave of them.

(There is a kind of ambiguity here. It is not clear whether the Pandavas left for Panchala after hearing what Vyasa  had said or after listening to the Brahmin who visited them. Possibly, one of the two incidents is an interpolation into the text. We can see this kind of a discontinuity at several places. Perhaps some scholars had studied these and given some valid reasons for them.)

Kunti and Pandavas  left for Panchala. When they were walking on the banks of the Ganga, a Gandharva who was sporting  in the river with his wives intercepted them. 

He told them, “As you know, except for the first forty seconds, the twilight preceding the nightfall is earmarked for the wandering of the Yakshas, the Gandharvas and the Rakshasas, near reservoirs of water.  If any other person wanders near any pool of water during this time, we will kill them. Therefore, even kings do not come near any reservoir of water during this appointed time. I am Angarparna (the blazing vehicle), the Gandharva and I am a friend of Kubera. This forest is called Angarparna, after my name. Even Devas, Yakshas, Kapalikas or other Gandharvas do not dare to set foot on my land. So, how dare do you walk on the banks of the Ganga at this time?”

Arjuna replied, “Whether it is day, night or twilight, who can bar anyone from visiting the ocean, the Himalayas and this sacred river? People who are too weak to fight you may fear you and avoid coming here. But we are mighty people capable of taking on you. So, we are not concerned about disturbing you. This river emanating from the Himalayas gets distributed into seven streams before reaching the ocean, the streams being  Ganga, Yamuna,  Saraswati, Vitashtha, Sarayu, Gomati and Gandaki.  All the seven streams have the power to clean people of their sins. This Ganga, flowing through the Devaloka (the land of the celestials) is called Alakananda and flowing through the Pitruloka (the world of the Pitrus – our deceased ancestors), it becomes Vitarani, a river difficult for sinners to cross. Why do you prevent us from going to this auspicious river that can lead us to the Heaven?”

Enraged by Arjuna’s words, Angarparna  began to shoot arrows from his bow on Arjuna.  After warding them off using a shirld, Arjuna told him “I consider you to be superior to men in prowess. Therefore I shall fight you with the celestial weapon which was given by Vrishapati, the preceptor of Indra to Bharadwaj, from whom it was passed on to  Agnivesya, from him to my preceptor Drona and  from him to me.”

Arjuna hurled the weapon at Angarparna. The weapon burnt  the Gandharva’s chariot  making him fall head downward. Arjuna seized his head and dragged him towards Yudhishtira.  Kumbhinasi, the Gandharva’s wife appealed to Yudhishtira to save her husband’s life. Yudhishtira  asked Arjuna to spare the life of the Gandharva  and Arjuna  obeyed his brother’s command.

The Gandharva told Arjuna, “From now, I abandon my name Angarparna, since I have been vanquished by you. In return for your sparing my life, I want to impart to you the science of producing illusions, which only the Gandharvas have mastered.  This science called Chakshushi was taught by Manu to Soma, by Soma to Viswavasu and by Viswavasu to me. I will also give you and your brothers hundred horses,  born in the land of the Gandharvas. These horses, the offspring of Vadava, have been used for carrying the Devas and the Gandharvas because of their ability to run very fast.”

Arjuna said that he could not accept the gifts if they were given in return for his sparing the life of the Gandharva. The Gandharva  said, “Lest the gifting should appear to flow in one direction,  I will accept from you the weapon of fire, as your gift to me.”

Arjuna agreed to this suggestion. He told the Gandharva that they would remain friends forever.

*Swayamvara – an event in which a prospective bride  9a princess)will choose her groom from among the men offering to marry her. This practice had prevailed mostly among kings.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

35. The Slaying of Bakasura

The Pandavas, with their mother, walked for several days, passing through the  countries  of the Matsyas, the Trigartas, the Panchalas and the Kichakas.  With their hair matted in locks and attired  in barks and animal skins, they had the appearance of ascetics.

Realizing the need for caution, they sometimes used disguises. They were reciting and discussing  the Vedas and other works on morals and politics that they had learnt.

After travelling some distance, they met their grandfather Vyasa. (‘Vyasa’ is more like a designation than a name. There were many Vyasa. The name of the grandfather of Pandavas, the sage who wrote the Mahabharata was Krishna Dwaipayana. For convenience, he will be referred to as Vyasa in this blog.)

Kunti and the Pandavas paid their obeisance to the sage.

Vyasa said, “I knew about the sufferings you would undergo. I have come here for doing some good to you. Though in my eyes, the sons of Pandava and the sons of Dhritarashtra are equal, I have greater affection for you because you are facing an adversity. There is a town nearby. Live there in disguise till you hear from me and you will be safe.”

Vyasa led them to a place called Ekachakra. He told Kunti, “Don’t feel grieved over your present plight.  Your son Yudhishtira  will rule  the world helped by mighty Bhima and Arjuna and also the sons of Madri who are great car warriors. Yudhishtira will perform sacrifices like the Rajasuya and will attain fame and glory.”

Vyasa led them to the house of a Brahmin and took leave of them promising to come back after some time.
Kunti and the Pandavas lived in the house of that Brahmin. The Pandavas would go out during the day, seek alms  and return home in the evening with the alms received, which they would offer to Kunti. Kunti would divide the food into two parts giving one to Bhima. The other part would be shared by the other four sons and Kunti.

One day, when Kunti was in the house with Bhima, with the others having gone out, she heard some wailings from the members of the family. Kunti told Bhima, “Living in the house of this Brahmin, we should render him whatever help we can. Let us find out what their problem is.”

When Kunti entered the quarters of the Brahmin, she heard him saying, “The pursuit of wealth invites misery. Earlier, I had suggested that we migrate to some other place. But you wanted to live here because you grew up here.Your parents and many of your relatives have passed away. But you still wanted to live here. Now you have to witness the death of one of us. I cannot sacrifice you, our daughter or our little son.I think the time has come for me to leave this world.”

His wife replied “You are a man of learning. You know that one should not grieve over the inevitable. If you die, I won’t be able to support our children. But you are capable of taking care of our children, even when I am not here. So I will choose to die.”

Hearing this, the Brahmin embraced her and both began to weep.

Their daughter who was witnessing this, said, “You have to abandon me sometime (when I will get married). You can as well abandon me now itself. If father dies, mother won’t live without him and my little brother cannot survive if he loses both his parents at this tender age. Then I will be plunged into deeper grief and will die eventually. Instead, if I am allowed to die now, all of you can be alive and our race will also continue.”

The daughter’s words only aggravated the grief of the parents and all the three cried. The youngest son, a boy of tender age, seeing his parents and sister crying, took a blade of grass in his hands and said, “I will kill the Rakshasa (demon) with this.”

This made the three of them laugh even in the midst of their grief.

Using this opportunity to intervene, Kunti asked them what their problem was, offering  to extend whatever help she and her sons could.

The Brahmin said, “Your offering to help is worthy of your ascetic state. But you won’t be able to save us. There is a Rakshasa called Bakasura who lives in a place near our town. He is a cannibal and he rules this region. He has ordered that every day, one household send him a cartload of rice, two buffaloes and a human being  for his food. Today is our turn. One of my family members has to go to Baka along with the food cart. This is what is causing us to grieve.”

Kunti told the Brahmin, “Do not grieve. I can rescue all the members of your family from the Rakshasa. I have five sons. One of them will go to the Rakshasa with the food cart.”
The Brahmin said, “Oh lady, for the sake of saving my life, I cannot sacrifice your family. Abandoning a person who has come to your house or has sought protection from you is a great sin.”

Kunti said, “Don’t worry. The Rakshasa will not be able to kill my son. I have seen my son killing many demons of huge bodies. But don’t tell this to anyone. If people come to know of my son’s power, they will come to him for getting this power from him. But my son cannot  impart any knowledge to anyone without the permission of his Guru.”

The Brahmin then accepted her help. Kunti told Bhima about her commitment to the Brahmin’s family and Bhima gladly accepted the task.

Presently, the other Pandavas returned home with the alms. Kunti told them about what transpired when they were away.

Yudhishtita  was concerned about the formidability of the task and asked Kunti in private whether Bhima had accepted the task on his own or at her command. Kunti said that Bhima had accepted the task at her command with the objective of helping the family.

Yudhishtira said “Oh mother! What have you done? You have put your son at risk. We are able to sleep peacefully only because we are under the protection of Bhima. We also need his prowess to get back our kingdom from Duryodhana. Duryodhana and Sakuni spend sleepless nights fearing Bhima. You have decided to risk the life of such a valuable person!”

Kunti replied, “You don’t have to worry about Bhima. He has the strength of thousand elephants. When he was a child, he fell on the mountain from my lap and the mountain broke to pieces. We owe a debt to this family which has given us protection during the time of distress. I am doing this for two purposes – one for requiting our debt to the Brahmin and two for acquiring religious merit (punya).”

Yudhishtira was convinced  by his mother’s words. He told her, “Mother! You have done the right  thing. Bhima will slay the cannibal and come back. However, please request the Brahmin to ensure that no one in this town knows about this.”

Bhima set out to the forest with the cart of food. On reaching the place where  Bakasura lived, Bhima began to eat the food and called the demon by name.

Enraged by Bhima’s yelling, Bakasura, who had red eyes and hair and a terrifying appearance, came towards Bhima. His mouth was opening from ear to ear and his forehead furrowed into three lines.

Bakasura asked Bhima “Who is this fool eating my food with a desire to go the abode of Yama (the God of death)?

Bhima smiled at him derisively and continued to eat the food.

Bakasura raised both his hands high and struck Bhima. But Bhima was unaffected by this and continued to eat. Baka then plucked out a tree and ran towards Bhima.

By this time, Bhima had finished eating. He washed himself and stood ready to fight Baka. He caught the tree thrown at him by Baka with his left hand. Baka plucked out more trees and threw at Bhima. Bhima also plucked out trees and threw at Baka.. Soon the region was devoid of all trees.

After a while, both began to fight with their fists and arms. Eventually, Bakasura was killed by Bhima. Baka died giving out a big cry. Hearing his cry, his relatives came out. Bhima consoled them and asked them to give up cannibalism. He told them, Hereafter, don’t kill human beings. If you do, you will meet the same fate as Bakasura.” They promised to give up cannibalism.

Bhima dragged the body of Bakasura to one of the gates of the town and went away unobserved by anyone. Baka’s relatives were terrified and they fled in different directions.
Bhima returned to his house and told the Brahmin what had happened.

The residents of the town, after a while, discovered the body of Bakasura. They went to the Brahmin and asked him what had happened since he was the last person to have delivered food to Bakasura. The Brahmin replied “Seeing our family in tears, a Brahmin skilled in Mantras asked me why we were crying. When I told him about Bakasura, he said that he would carry the food cart to Bakasura on our behalf. He should have killed Bakasura through the power of his Mantras.”

The people of the town accepted this explanation and went away. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

34. The Birth of Ghatotkacha

Not far from the place where the Pandavas were sleeping, a Rakshasa (demon) by name Hidimva was sitting on a Sala tree. He was a cannibal with a frightening appearance.

He was very hungry and was longing for human flesh. Scenting the odor of men, he walked some distance and sighted the Pandavas and Kunti sleeping in the forest.  

He became excited and told his sister “After a long time, I am looking at such a large quantity of food. My mouth is watering. I can’t wait to eat the flesh and drink the blood. Go and kill those people and bring them to me. We both will eat to our hearts’ content and then dance.”

Hidimva, the female cannibal went to the place where the Pandavas were sleeping. But looking at Bhima sitting near them, she, fascinated by his beauty, instantly fell in love with him. She decided to marry Bhima. Consequently, she also decided to disobey her brother.

She went near Bhima and told him “Oh, bull among men! Who are you and where have you come from? And who are these people sleeping here? They are all sleeping so peacefully. Don’t they know that this is an abode of the terrifying demon Hidimva? I have been sent by him on the mission of killing you all so as to make you all available as food for him and me, his sister. 

"But after looking at you, I have decided that I will have no one but you as my husband.Both my heart and my body have been pierced by the arrows of Manmata (the Cupid). I will save you from the demon. You and I can get married and live happily in the mountains.”

Bhima replied, “I have been living like a saint, keeping all my passions under control. I can’t abandon my mother and brothers to be consumed as food by a demon and come after you, led by my lust.”

She said, “Awaken them. I will save all of you.”

Bhima replied, “I will not awaken my mother and brothers from their sleep, out of fear for your wicked brother. No Rakshasa will be able to withstand  my prowess. Nor will be Gandharvas or Yakshas. You may do what you please to. You can even send your cannibal brother to me.”

The cannibal Hidimva, in the meanwhile, climbed down from the tree and walked towards Bhima, wondering what was keeping his sister from killing the people there. Seeing him coming towards them, his sister became alarmed. 

She told Bhima, “He is coming here. As a Rakshasa woman, I have extraordinary powers. I can carry all of you on my hip and quickly take you to a far off place. Please awaken your mother and brothers immediately.”

Bhima said, "Oh woman of beautiful hip! As long as I am here, your brother cannot do any harm to my mother or to my brothers. Look at my arms which have the strength of an elephant’s trunks, my thighs which are like iron maces and my broad chest. I have the strength of Indra. Don’t underestimate my power”

The cannibal Hidimva who had come near them, heard Bhima’s words and became very angry. He also observed that her sister had abandoned her original form and taken the form of a beautiful woman. He chided her for succumbing to her lust and sacrificing the honor of the Rakshasas.

When Hidimva advanced towards his sister with the intention of killing her, Bhima stopped him saying, “Oh Hidimva! Why do you want to wake up people who are sleeping peacefully? Don’t attack your sister. It is not her fault that she was overcome by the power of the Cupid. She came her as per your command and she fell in love with me. Confront me and I will send you to the abode of Yama (the God of death.) Your sister will witness an elephant being dragged by a lion. This forest will be devoid of a wicked person like you and people will feel safe in the forest hereafter."

Hidimva said, “Stop boasting and fight me. I will not disturb your relatives before testing your strength in a fight. After drinking your blood, I will kill them and finally kill this sister of mine who has caused me an injury.”

So saying, he extended his arm. Bhima seized the extended arm and dragged the Rakshsa some distance after pushing him down. Hidimva began to yell, unable to bear the pain. They both fought like two big mad elephants seized by rage. 

Hearing the sounds, Kunti and her four sons woke up from sleep.
Looking at Hidimva who looked bewitchingly beautiful, Kunti aske her “Who are you young lady? Are you a forest angel? What are you doing here?”

Hidimva replied, “This forest is controlled by my brother Hidimva, a cruel demon. At his behest, I came here to kill you all. But after looking at your son, I instantly fell in love with him. Even as I was beseeching him to take me as his wife, my brother came after me. Your son and my brother are having a fight.”

Arjuna went to the site where Bhima was fighting Hidimva and told him that they had waken up and were ready to help him in fighting the Rakshasa.

But Bhima said, “Just witness this fight as an observer. I will finish him off.”

Arjuna said, “The morning twilight is about to set in. As you know, the Rakshsas will become more powerful  at the times of sunrise and sunset. Finish him off quickly. Don’t prolong the fight by playing with him and teasing him. We also need to move away from here fast.”

After hearing Arjuna’s words, Bhima invoked all his strength, lifted up the demon, whirled his body in the air a hundred times and then threw him down with great force. The Rakshasa died sending out a terrible yell which filled the entire forest.

Bhima’s brothers congratulated him on his feat.

Arjuna told Bhima, “I think there is a town not far from here. Let us go there so that Duryodhana won’t be able to trace us in the forest.”

Accepting Arjuna’s suggestion, his mother and brothers began to walk towards the town. Hidimva, the Rakshasa woman followed them.

Bhima told Hidimva, “ I know that Rakshasas take revenge on their enemies through deception. So, I will not be fooled by you. I will send you to the place your brother has gone.”

Yudhishtira told Bhima that one should not kill a woman. “Observance of virtue is even more important than saving one’s life. What harm can this woman do to us?” he asked.

Hidimva told Kunti, “As a woman, you can understand the pangs a woman is made to suffer at the hands of the God of love. Your son Bhima is the cause of my pain. I have given up my brother, my other relatives and my entire race for the sake of your son. If your son is going to reject me, I will no longer be able to live. Please unite me with your son. I will take him with me to places I like. After sometime, I will return him to you. In the meantime, if you just think of me, I will come to you with your son. I will carry you all to wherever you want to go and I will save you from all dangers.”

Yudhishthira said, “Bhima will be with you during the day. But you must bring him back at the time of sunset. This should be the routine every day”

Bhima agreed to marry Hidimva on the condition that he would be with her only till she gives birth to a son. Hidimva agreed to this.

Bhima and Hidimva then travelled to various places like mountain peaks, sacred places, river banks, islands, pools caves, lakes (including the Manasarovara) etc. 

Hidimva assumed the figure of a beautiful woman when she was with Bhima  She gave birth to a son, who had the terrible appearance of a Rakshasa. He grew into a young man immediately after his birth and touched the feet of his parents. He was given the name Ghatotkacha (the pot headed) since his head resembled a pot. 

Ghatotkacha acquired proficiency in the use of all weapons within a short time. He became devoted to all the Pandavas and became their favorite too.

Hidimva realized that her stay with her husband had to end and took leave of Bhima, his mother and brothers. Ghatotkacha also took leave of his father and went northward promising to come whenever his father thought of him.

Ghatotkacha was created by Indra as an appropriate antagonist of Karna. His intention was that Karna would use the weapon to be given to him by Indra against Ghatotkacha so that the weapon could not be used against Indra’s son Arjuna. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

33. After the Escape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

32. The Escape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 18, 2017

32. Vidura's Message

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yudhishtira replied, “I have understood your message.”

Vidura then went back to Hastinapura.

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

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

Saturday, June 17, 2017

30. Duryodhana convinces his father to act against the Pandavas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dhritarashtra began to relent.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

29. The Brahmastra

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nakula  became an accomplished chariot warrior (Ati-Ratha)

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 25, 2017

28. Arjuna has a Rival!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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