Tuesday, September 02, 2008


On the eve of Teachers' Day as well as the release of an eponymous film, it is in order to recount the story of one of the most famous teachers we know - one who has the country's most prestigious sports coaching award named after him.

This story is necessitated by people's request to write about that one sin committed by the King of Virtue, Yudhishthir. People in those times had strange notions of virtue. Gambling away your brothers and wife was considered to be perfectly within a day's work as was five brothers marrying the same woman to keep the mother's casual utterance truthful.

Anyway, the Kurukshetra war lasted for 18 days and the Kauravas were led by commanders in order of seniority - Bhishma, Drona, Karna and Shalya. Now, each one of these commanders were enough to chew up the Paandav army except for one hitch - the first two loved the Paandavs more than the Kauravas but had to fight against them to fulfil their duty to the Hastinapur throne.
Bhishma, for example, refused to kill any of the Paandav brothers in battle. Drona, after being defeated by Arjun in a duel during the war, shed tears of joy at his favourite student's skills. But despite this, they consumed thousands of Paandav warriors.
I think Bhishma lasted till the 10th day of the war, when he was killed by Arjun hidden behind Shikhandi (whom Bhishma recognised as a woman reborn and refused to attack).
Talk about the virtuous and valiant Paandavs!

Now, came Drona!
He presided over the killing of Abhimanyu and caused untold damage to the Paandav forces. He killed Draupadi's father (Drupad) as well. Seeing his valour, Krishna realised that it would be impossible to contain him as long as he was armed. So, he surmised that Drona needs to give up arms to be killed.
In order to do so, Krishna suggested spreading the rumour that Ashwathama (Drona's son and apple of his eye) had died. It spread and Bheem announced to Drona that Ashwathama had died. Drona refused to believe him and asked for Yudhishthir to confirm the news because he knew that the King of Virtue would never lie.
Bheem, in the meantime, had killed an elephant called Ashwathama and informed Yudi.
His conversation with Drona went something like this:
D: Yudi, is it true that Ashwathama has been killed?
Y: Yes. (Sound effect of victorious conches and trumpets). The elephant, I mean (sotto voce).
Hearing this news, Drona lost all will to live and dropped his weapons. Draupadi's brother, Dhrishtadyumna (Wow, what a name! Beats even Diptakirti and Dyujoy...) went and killed the defenceless prof (thus avenging his father's death).

This was the only 'sin' Yudishthir committed in his life. Prior to this, his chariot used to glide four fingers above the ground but after this fall from grace, it touched the ground. Also, because of this, before Yudhishthir was allowed entry into heaven (in his mortal body), he had to take a tour of hell (which is probably the shortest stay in hell for anybody).
When he was touring hell, he saw all his brothers, wife and many relatives there. Most of Kaurava clan was in heaven, he was told. Seeing this, he refused to go to heaven because he wanted to spend his afterlife with his near and dear ones.
Another brownie point scored, he was told that virtuous people with some bit of sinning spend a short period in hell before spending an eternity in heaven. Which is why the Paandavs were doing their T20 in hell before being sent up for the Test match. Kauravas, on the other hand, were doing the opposite.
Hearing this and completing punishment for his only sin, Dharma Raaj reached and afterlived happily ever after!

While we are at it, I might as well recount why Dhrishthadyumna killed Drona.
Drupad and Drona were childhood friends and swore undying loyalty to each other. However, Drupad grew up and inherited the throne of Panchal while Drona was at a bit of a loose end. So, he travelled to Panchal and asked for help from his childhood friends. Drupad - drunk on power - told him that friendship is possible between equals and he can give alms to a brahmin beggar but nothing else.
A furious Drona went away and reached Hastinapur, impressed the princes with his skills of archery and was appointed their Acharya. He was given a village (to be called Guru Gaon or Gurgaon in the future!) outside the city.
ASIDE: Since Panchal is the present-day West UP near Agra, you can imagine how much richer Drona became than Drupad!
Anyway, Drona taught the princes well - and Arjun excelled to become his star pupil. At the end of the training, Drona asked the princes to give him his gurudakshina - they had to capture Drupad alive.
The Kauravas tried first and were beaten back by the valiant Drupad. In true Bollywood tradition, Paandavs came next and the five brothers steamrolled the Panchal army, with Arjun capturing Drupad. When brought before Drona, he set Drupad free and took half his kingdom, thus formally becoming his equal. Drupad was totally humiliated but he accepted the offer and Drona's friendship. What else could he have done, anyway?
But once back in his kingdom, he performed a powerful yagna to give him progeny to slay Drona. From the fire of the yagna, out walked a son Dhrishtadyumna (with the pronouncement, "the son who will kill Drona") and a daughter Draupadi (with the pronouncement, "the daughter who will precipitate the war in which Drona will be killed").

Okay, that's enough... Read Wikipedia for other Mahabharat stories!


Prithi Shetty said...

Oh boy ! So the whole war was only for Drupad's revenge ?
But thanks for this post.

Eika said...

Have you also managed to read Ashok Banker's Ramayana series... fairly factual and honestly translated... tough does not cover the favourite Sita exile and the luv-kush episode... read it..

rahul chakravarti said...

While most of us think that the pandavs are the paragons of virtue and the kauravs are bats out of hell....if one were to analyse the war carefully, the inference will be just the opposite. There are innumerable instances where deceit and trickery were used by the pandavs to get around the kauravs....in fact if it were to be a free & fair fight, the result might well have been the opposite.

Some instances of the "virtues" used by the pandavs during the war
1. Killing of bhishma (using shikhandi as a shield)
2. Killing of drona (when he was defenceless)
3. Killing jayadrath (using the solar eclipse trick)
4. Killing karna (when he was down struggling with his chariot wheel)
5. Killing duryodhan (hitting literally below the belt)

Actually some of the people who have shown the highest forms of humanity and viryue are to be found on the side of the kauravs
1. Bhishma giving up the right to his throne
2. Duryodhan providing friendship to karna
3. Karna refusing to go over to the pandav side even after kunti came and pleaded with him

Net-net, if the great strategist krishan, were not on the side of the pandavs then the end of this epic might well have been different. Without the guidance and the advice of krishna, the pandavs were nothing!!!!

Truly this is one epic which is the true bestseller of all time

Oops - sorry for this long post...but got carried away

priya said...

you know what.. you should start an 'epics retold' series. so well-written, accurate and contemporary! best i've read!

Goofy Mumma said...

I second Priya, please do a series, so even we can re-learn along with Dyujoy! You have a very sharp mind CC, and accompanied by a great writing style!

OrangeJammies said...

I loved it! Could you recommend a good beginner's guide to the Mahabharat? One that keeps it short and simple?

Anonymous said...

Well written, I enjoyed reading it. I find the Mahabharata much more complex than is given to understand to the lay man.

By the way, yudhishthir's exact words (when asked by Drona if Ashwathama was dead) were: "Narowaa kunjarowaa".
Meaning: "I know *someone* named Ashwathama died, but I don't know if it was elephant or man".

I don't know if the movie uses those actual words, but given Bollywood's propensity for overdoing everything, I doubt it ! A pity really.

The actual dialogue [narowaa kunjarowaa] has passed into popular conscience as an equivalent for intentional deception. :-)


Anonymous said...

p.s. I meant "naroVa kunjaroVa". Sorry !


Anonymous said...

I am a little in love with you after reading the Epic posts :) Hope to read more Epical Trivia here.


barun said...

Hey! Great post, this one. And I really liked your comments and observations in between :)

~ Barun

Calvin said...

Debate of vitues in mahabharta :-) ... possibly one of the longest standing debates :-) .. adding my bit to it ....
Recommenting on one of the posts above:

Some instances of the "virtues" used by the pandavs during the war
1. Killing of bhishma (using shikhandi as a shield)
Me: This way was hinted by Bhishma himself. He knew he is fighting the so called adhrma side, so he will lose. Krishna knew that killing bhisma, given the damage he has done in 10days, is the 1st step that pandavas need to climb. He asked Yudhisthir to go and ask Bhisma himself how to defeat him. He did on which Bhisma said that in case confronted by a women in teh battlefeild, he wont raise arms against her. Hence the Sikhandi plot, who Bhisma considered to be a women.

2. Killing of drona (when he was defenceless)
Yes, non virtuous killing. But it was well punished. Yudhisthir had to lie, leading to his losing the status of being the truthful one. This also became the reason for later killing of all the sons and kins of pandavas and also Dristadhumya being killed by Aswathamma post the war was over and Duryodhan killed. Add to it that Drona himself didnt act virtuously in killing of abhimanyu.

3. Killing jayadrath (using the solar eclipse trick)
What was non virtuous about it? Tricky yes, non virtuous?? Jayadrath was hiding behind the whole army of Kauravas so that Arjun is not able to reach him before sunset for Arjun has taken oath to kill Jayadrath before sunset or to immolate himself. Post Solar Eclipse, he came in the front laughing. On which Arjun killed him. Note that Jayadrath was fully armed to defend if he could and neither did the war was stopped, which could only happen after both side announced the stoppage

4. Killing karna (when he was down struggling with his chariot wheel)
Yes it was not virtuos. But this was following the several curses he had, including of his wheel getting stuck. Plus Karna was directly responsible, apart from Jayadrath, for killing of abhimanyu

5. Killing duryodhan (hitting literally below the belt)
Yes again. Well documented in words of Krishna that this was following the numerous non virtue things done by Duryodhan


Calvin said...

1. Bhishma giving up the right to his throne
You cant Attribute Bhisma to Kaurava side! He was patriach of both Pandavas and Kauravas

2. Duryodhan providing friendship to karna
Very opportunistic!! Duryodhan knew that the star warrior of Pandavas was Bhima and Arjun, They both solely would be responsible for winning any battle that Pandavas undertake. While he himself believed to be a good match for Bhim, he had no answer for Arjun! The moment he saw Karna, and his ability to challenge Arjun, bingo he had someone he can bank on to defeat Arjun. Hence the friendship, and importance of Karna in Duryodhans life! He could bank only on Karna to kill Arjun for neither Drona, nor Bhisma, two other people who cud do this, wud do it! Infact I can even argue that he wudnt have taken up the war had it not been for Karna. He even said so many a times.

3. Karna refusing to go over to the pandav side even after kunti came and pleaded with him
Karna was actually very virtuos in deeds, except for the some instances. He infact got the boon of being remembered as a good soul because of this.

There are two ways of looking at Mahabharat, primarily based on Krishna. One believing him as a human, other as God. Neither Pandava nor Kaurava were the central one in Mahabharta, it was Krishna. Everything happened according to his plans and wishes. He commented the same in Gita – loosely translated, its something like … Rise Arjun, don’t be bothered about the deaths that you would be facing, for these deaths has already been planned by me and me alone, and would take place even if you don’t participate, You are merely but a toll in my hand. Faced with thus, its best for you to perform your duty that you are faced with rather than cowering….
It was he who planned each and very important wins for Pandavas, and was primary reason why kauravs got defeated. If you believe him as a god, then it was his said purpose of get the earth rid of in fighting that had been going on, primarily because of existence of more than required khastriyas. Hence a big war to kill most of them.

If you look at him as a human, the he was the greatest strategist of all times, being able to manipulate all possible people existing, kaurava, pandava and other kingdoms included! This I believe is no mean feat and something that cannot be done by a human being. It requires omnipresence, being there everywhere, knowing everything and acting on all possible opportunities! And that’s all the characteristics of how you can define god, if you can! And that’s why I personally believe Kishna was god himself.


Spirited_soul said...

Man O Man
I am a first time visitor on your blog...But the kind of analysis you have done ....... it amzed me...Never knew there was so much juice left in the story ,but you beautifully got that out...

LivingDreams said...

Good one.

Abhishek Mukherjee, BSc MStat said...

Drona's birth story seems relevant here as well. That happened when his father was, well, taking pot luck.