Thursday, February 21, 2013

Duryodhana and the five arrows of Bhishma - Part 2 of 3


King Chitrasena, leader of the gandharvas was elated to hear the conch... everything was proceeding exactly as per the plan…. He was here on a purpose.

Gandharvas were not from this planet. They were heavenly beings, far stronger, more powerful and much faster than humans. Most of the gandharvas were interested in dancing and singing and arts in general. That was the reason humans dismissed gandharvas as singing people of the heavens. Humans never understood exactly how ferocious a gandharva could be in battle….

Chitrasena still remembered with joy when Arjuna, the third Pandava had come to the heavens. Arjuna had performed a great penance and even won the Pashupatastra from the three eyed blue God – Shiva. Arjuna had also come to the heavens to help Indra [Indra was the biological father of Arjuna] fight the Nivatakavachas and the Kalakeyas.

Chitrasena had been much impressed with Arjuna. After winning the battle against the Nivatakavachas and the Kalakeyas, Arjuna had stayed behind in the heavens. There Chitrasena himself had taught Arjuna the art of dancing and singing. Chitrasena was amazed.. Arjuna learned singing and dancing with the same fervor and passion that he did everything else…..Arjuna soon became a master in the arts…as good as Chitrasena himself. Chitrasena loved Arjuna like his own son….

Chitrasena’s thoughts flew back to the previous day, when Indra had come to see him. Indra was looking angry. ‘That vile Duryodhana….he just cannot leave the Pandavas in peace….’ Chitrasena had followed the destiny of the Pandavas and was feeling sad that decent people like the Pandavas had to undergo so much hardship. He bowed to Indra. ‘Is there anything you want me to do?’

Indra nodded. ‘Yes…’ Indra explained to Chitrasena what Duryodhana had planned and Chitrasena grew more and more angry as he listened. ‘I want you to go to the forest near the river and make sure that Duryodhana never tries to mess with my son anymore!’ Chitrasena nodded his head and left with his men to the forests.

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Now looking at the Kaurava army, Chitrasena realized that the Kauravas had played right into his hands. Duryodhana wanted battle. Chitrasena looked at his men and back at Duryodhana….It was going to be a very short battle and one that Duryodhana would never forget….

Karna gave the sign for the attack to begin. The Kaurava army advanced….They were surprised to see a quick blur come straight towards them….Wherever the blur hit the Kaurava troops it was followed by screams of the Kaurava soldiers….Duryodhana watched in panic as the well-trained Kaurava troops were systematically being decimated by Chitrasena and his men…. Karna was fighting the gandharvas in a remote corner and soon went out of sight…In a short while the Kaurava army was reduced to rubble….

Duryodhana was staring in disbelief as a tall gandharva came forward with his men and captured Dushasana, himself and all his queens and took them prisoners….

Chitrasena spoke to Duryodhana in anger. ‘You came here to show-off did you not?…’ Chitrasena looked at the downcast Duryodhana and smiled to himself leaving the Kaurava prince in the prison….

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Meanwhile two Kaurava soldiers who had escaped the massacre ran helter-skelter. They knew that the Pandavas were nearby….The two soldiers almost stumbled into the Pandava’s hermitage where Yudhishtara came forward to meet them.

Yudhishtara calmly noticed the uniforms of the Kaurava soldiers and their panic.

The guards panted out. ‘Kaurava forces destroyed by gandharvas….Duryodhana taken prisoner….’ The soldiers took a deep breath….’Please help!’ They said looking desperately at the Pandavas.

Predictably it was Bheema who broke out in a derisive laugh, ‘Help? Who should we help? We ought to reward the gandharvas for helping us!’ He looked at his brothers. ‘Probably we will go and see the great Duryodhana in his prison….Are you coming? We will thank the gandharvas for their help….’

Arjuna looked at the Kaurava soldiers. ‘Gandharvas are ferocious warriors….Why did Duryodhana go and fight against them?....They kill all their prisoners….’ Arjuna said in a matter-of-fact voice. The guards paled a little. They desperately looked at Yudhishtra hoping he would save their king.

Yudhishtara turned to Arjuna and Bheema, his lips set in a firm line. ‘Save Duryodhana now!’

Both Arjuna and Bheema looked at Yudhishtara wondering whether they had heard right. Arjuna told Yudhishtara. ‘I do not need to save that evil man…He invited this problem….I have no obligation to save a sworn enemy….’ Bheema also snorted in disgust as he looked at his elder brother.  

Yudhishtara looked at Arjuna first and then at Bheema. ‘If the gandharvas kill Duryodhana….whom will you have your revenge against?’ Yudhishtara turned to Bheema. ‘To the gandharvas we must seem like a united front….whatever may be our personal differences….We cannot show others how divided we are…Go now!’ Yudhishtara said. The words of Yudhishtara about revenge hit both Arjuna and Bheema.

The four brothers – Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva followed the two Kaurava soldiers. They came to the clearing where the battle had taken place. Then Bheema shouted. ‘Gandharvas! Come out! Come out and show your faces….Come out and fight with us….’

A few gandharva soldiers came out and saw four people and howled in laughter. ‘We just decimated an entire army…you think four of you would be any challenge to us?’

Arjuna twanged his bow as Bheema shouted , ‘We four represent four armies…Come out and fight!!’ A few gandharvas came and fought with the four brothers….But it was the turn of the gandharvas to be shocked… The four brothers fought like demons….The gandharvas wilted under the attack of the brothers….The gandharvas ran to Chitrasena, their king. Surprised at the bravery of four humans, Chitrasena followed his soldiers….He was still in the thick forest not seeing the Pandavas. He shouted, ‘Who are you? What do you want?’

We are the cousins of the people you just imprisoned. Release them….’ Arjuna shouted back.

They lost the battle fairly!’ Chitrasena replied. There was a sudden doubt in his voice. ‘Who are you? I have heard your voice before…’ Chitrasena came out into the open and looked at the four brothers….He was in for a shock….Standing before him were the four Pandavas. As he saw them, Chitrasena also realized that the gandharvas losing to the Pandavas was no big deal ….The Pandavas could not be defeated...

My friend Arjuna!’ Chitrasena ran towards the third Pandava.

Shocked on seeing his heavenly friend Arjuna was elated as Chitrasena hugged him. ‘How are you my friend? enquired Chitrasena in an excited voice. Arjuna introduced his brothers to Chitrasena. After the introductions, Arjuna requested Chitrasena. ‘Friend! I have a favour to ask of you! Please release Duryodhana, his relatives and his queens…Please!’

Chitrasena looked astounded. ‘I thought you would be happy that I have imprisoned them….Why do you want them released? In fact I am here at the request of your father….Indra!’

Arjuna looked wistful and then said. ‘No my friend! Duryodhana and his friends are destined to be defeated and killed in our hands…It is our duty to put an end to their menace….I thank you and my father for your well-meaning actions….But please release Duryodhana now….’

Chitrasena looked at Arjuna and the other Pandavas partly in wonder and partly with pride. He studied Arjuna for some time and then nodded his head. He turned to his soldiers. ‘Bring the prisoners here….We will release them….’

The soldiers went away when Chitrasena looked at Arjuna. ‘I take it you are still practicing your singing and dancing my friend!’ Arjuna smiled as he nodded his head. Arjuna did not know exactly how useful the dancing and singing skills would be….[In the second dice game, Duryodhana had placed a bet that if the Pandavas lost, they had to spend twelve years in the forest and one year in hiding. If Duryodhana found them out during the one year of hiding, the Pandavas would have to go for another 12 years exile and one year hiding….Arjuna spent the last one year as Brihanalla in the court of Virata, teaching dance and singing to Virata’s daughter – Uttarakumari.]

The soldiers dragged Duryodhana and his relatives before Chitrasena and the Pandavas. Chitrasena looked haughtily at Duryodhana. Duryodhana’s eyes burned with shame…He had come here to show off….Instead he was standing bound and tied, before the wretched Pandavas…Duryodhana felt he would rather die of shame….

Chitrasena continued arrogantly. ‘I would have made you my servant and kept you in my heavenly palace….Instead my friends here….’ Chitrasena pointed at the Pandavas.. ‘…they want you fools to be released….’ Chitrasena shrugged. ‘So, much against my wishes, I am releasing you…GO!’ Chitrasena said not even looking at Duryodhana.

Duryodhana prayed that the earth would cave in and swallow him.…He wished he could turn invisible, instead of standing and watching the smug smile on Bheema’s face. Nakula and Sahadeva looked like they were trying their level best not to laugh. Arjuna looked grim, his face expressionless.

The gandharva soldiers were jeering as they let Duryodhana go. His hands free, Duryodhana gruffly approached Arjuna. He saw no one else and paid no attention to anybody else. He spoke slowly as if unable to get the words out. ‘You…Today .you have given me my freedom back….I am a man who respects my honour. You can ask me one boon anytime and I will grant it to you….anything!’ Duryodhana said seriously. Arjuna was tempted to snipe at him and laugh out loud. But he held his tongue. Besides Arjuna was too seasoned a warrior to enter into a war of words with a defeated enemy. His face still grim he nodded his head. ‘I will ask you, when the time is right!’ Arjuna found himself saying.

The gandharvas left for their heavenly abode and the Pandavas went back to their hermitage.

His heart burning with revenge and hatred, Duryodhana, with his queens and relatives went back to Hastinapur….

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