Monday, March 19, 2012

Some Interesting Asides of the Mahabharata

Some interesting asides from Mahabharata.

Shantanu's son, Bheeshma's half brother from Satyavati, Vichitraveerya, is unable to produce heirs to the Kuru dynasty. His wives are impregnated by sage Vyaasa, Satyavati's other son, and thus are Pandu and Dhritharashtra born.Vyaasa is asked to father another son as one is born blind (Dritharashtra) and the other white as snow (Pandu) and he fathers Vidura, born to a maid whom the Princess substitutes for herself in bed. Vidura is the wisest of the three, as the maid participates wilfully.

Kunti is given a boon by Sage Durvasa that she can summon any God she likes. She summons Surya as a trial basis and is shocked to find that summoning has other meanings. Karna is born out of their union. Similarly she summons Dharma (Yudhisthir's father), Varuna (Bheema's father) and Indra (Arjuna's father). Nakula and Sahadeva at Pandu's other wife, Maadri's sons. The lineages are all mixed up by now.

The war is pretty much the result of Duryodhana's one single failing - his envy of the Pandavas. Incensed by the way Pandavas create Indraprastha out of the waste land Khandavaprastha, and by the humiliation he perceives at the Mayasabha, he decides to call his cousins and humiliate them and banish them. Sakuni comes up with his devious plan of playing dice - something that appeals to Duryodhana and his father.

Yudhishtir loses the game of dice twice. Once after losing his entire kingdom and his riches and even his wife, and suffering the ignominy of being slaves and seeing the attempt to disrobe Draupadi, the eldest Pandava gambles again, and brings upon the thirteen year banishment to himself and his brothers.

Duryodhana fights the war convinced that his great friend Karna will kill Arjuna and then he would win the war. Karna fights despite losing his kavacha and kundala which make him invincible, the curses on him by his guru Bhargava and the brahmin. He has only one weapon to kill Arjuna with and he uses that to kill Ghatotkacha.

Karna fights the war despite knowing that he is Kunti's eldest born, because he has given his word to Duryodhana that he would kill Arjuna. He also tells Kunti that he will spare the other brothers but not Arjuna.

Krishna masterminds the entire war - he leads the Pandava decision making in all crucial stages and in doing so keeps his vow to Draupadi that he will avenge her dishonour.

One Kaurava brother, Vikarna, goes against his brother and the court and is the lone voice apart from Vidura to take Draupadi's side when she is disrobed. Similarly one Kaurava brother, Yuyutsu, fights on the side of Pandavas, switching sides before the war begins.

Kauravas fight with eleven aukshahinis against the seven aukshahinis of the Pandavas. With superior strength, superior warriors, the Kaurava army never fights full strength as Bheeshma refuses  to fight when Karna fights. Also they appear to be fighting a war that is not theirs.

Bheeshma is the first commander-in-chief of the Kaurava army until he is felled on the tenth day, followed by Drona (14th day), Karna (17th day) and Salya (18th day). Save Salya, the others are killed when they are defenceless - Bheeshma gives up arms against Shikhandi, Drona when he hears of Aswattama's death from Yudhisthir and Karna when his chariot is trapped in mud. Even Duryodhana is killed by a below the belt blow by Bheema which breaks his thighs.

The Pandava army has Drishtadyumna, brother of Draupadi as its Commander-in-Chief. He survives the war but dies after the war, killed by Aswattama in his sleep.

Only three warriors from Kaurava army and six from the Pandava army survive finally. Aswattama, Kripa and Kritavarma from Kaurava army and the five Pandavas, Krishna and Satyaki from the Pandava side. Yuyutsu the son born to Dhritarashtra (from a Sudra woman) is the only one from the Kaurava sons who survives and is made the guardian of Parikshit, Abhimanyu's son as the Pandavas leave for their final journey. Though the Pandava warriors and army survives the war, a mad with grief Aswattama, slays them all while they are sleeping after Duryodhana's death.

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