The recurring nightmare


bhima-duryodhana

Yet again the queen woke up with a start; her hand-maiden, the one who had been in her service for the past 40 odd years now was by her side in a flash. She knew that her mistress would be troubled by that nightmare tonight as well, and if she knew her mistress as well as she thought she did, then that nightmare would continue to recur forever. She gently consoled the queen and helped her get back to sleep.

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While most kshatriya wives knew that their dharma instructed them to embrace valor and war with dignity and grace, the fact remained that whenever the men of their homes went to war, the one emotion that was at the forefront of their minds was the love they had for their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons.

The old queen was no different. Three generations of her family were on the battlefield; her grandsire, her brother, her sons and nephews. What was worse was the fact that her sons and nephews were on opposing sides, so either way she faced severe losses at the end of the war.

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As a young bride, she was considered the most beautiful and most chaste of all the queens of her age. Her womanly qualities endeared her to each and every member of her husband’s court and her elegance and charm was spoken about by all her subjects.

On one occasion, pleased by the courtesies she provided as a host, a holy man granted her a boon for which she requested that she be the mother to a hundred brave sons who would be as powerful as her husband. Her boon was granted and she thereafter soon became pregnant.

But despite two years of pregnancy, her baby was not born, and when she finally delivered, she gave birth to a lifeless piece of flesh that was not a baby at all. Under the guidance of the same holy man who granted her the boon, she cut the piece of flesh into a hundred pieces and placed each one of them in a jar with some ghee in it.

After two more years of waiting, when the jars were opened, she was the proud mother of a hundred brave and valorous sons. She was the happiest mother in the world.

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Today, 13 yrs after that eventful day in the court when her nephews’ wife, her daughter-in-law was humiliated in open court by her sons, when her family was on the battlefield with her sons and her nephews taking up arms against each other, she was reminded of that one vow that her nephew had taken against her sons.

“I shall not rest until I have killed each and every one of you. This shall be the revenge for the grave mistreatment of my wife and the absolute lack of respect that you have shown to this august gathering.”

While the fact remained that her sons had indeed committed a grave error and had sinned when they laid their hands on their cousin’s wife and had tried to disrobe her in the open court, hers was a mother’s heart and the very thought of her nephew killing all of them distressed her.

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Yet again the queen woke up with a start; now that the Great War had started at Kurukshetra, Gandhari knew that it was only a matter of time before Bhima fulfilled his vow and killed each and every one of her hundred Kaurava sons. Her recurring nightmare of the last 13 yrs would finally bear fruition and there was nothing that she could do about it.

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This post is written for WordPress Daily Prompts: 365 Writing Prompts where the idea is to publish at least one post a day based on the prompts provided.

Today’s prompt was “Describe the last nightmare you remember having. What do you think it meant?” and I have taken the liberty of narrating an incident from the great epic Mahabharata and using the prompt to describe a nightmare that Gandhari might have had about Bhima killing her sons in the battlefield. 

Bhanumathi – The forgotten wife


All of us are well aware of the wives of the Pandava brothers, at least Draupadi for sure and to a lesser extent Bhima’s wife Hidimba [Link to earlier posts with her stories, Link 1, Link 2] and Arjuna’s wife Subhadra, the mother of the ill-fated Abhimanyu [Link to earlier posts with his stories, Link1, Link 2]. But, how many of us have ever spared a thought to whether Duryodhana was married, whether he had a wife. This post shall try and provide a few more details of this forgotten wife of Duryodhana.

BhanumathiDuryodhana was married to Bhanumathi, the daughter of Bhagadatta, the king of Pragjyotishya. While not much more is known about her, some versions of the Mahabharata state that Bhanumathi was one person who raised severe objections to Draupadi’s treatment after the game of dice when Duhshasana tried to disrobe her in the Kaurava court. Legend has it that Draupadi’s temper was ferocious and fearing that this foul temper of hers would cause immediate destruction to Duryodhana and his brothers, Bhanumathi is said to have come running to Draupadi’s aid and requesting Duryodhana to stop this humiliation meted out to her.

Another incident where Bhanumathi finds a mention in this great epic is to provide an example of some of Duryodhana’s positive traits. Apparently in one instance, Bhanumathi and Karna were playing a game of dice where the stakes were substantial materially. As the game progressed, it became evident that Karna was winning.

Just then Duryodhana entered the chamber where Karna had his back to the door and could not see him come in. Seeing her husband come in, Bhanumathi stood up as a mark of respect as was the norm for a married woman. Karna, however, mistook her to be trying to escape the embarrassment of certain defeat in the game, and snatched at her drape which was embedded with pearls.

The thread of the drape snapped and all the pearls fell to the floor. Bhanumathi was quite stunned and did not quite know how to react to the situation. For all practical purposes, Duryodhana had every reason to misunderstand her and Karna’s behavior which looked extremely offensive and insensitive. Sensing her discomfort, Karna turned around to see what she was looking at and immediately noticed his friend walking into the chamber. He was also shocked as he realized what the scene would look like to Duryodhana. He mentally prepared himself for the inevitable consequences knowing fully well that the scene would enrage his friend beyond control.

However, what happened next is mentioned as an example of one of the few positive traits of Duryodhana.

The only question that Duryodhana asked Bhanumathi was “Should I just collect all the beads or should I go ahead and string them as well?

Both his wife and his best friend had misjudged his reaction to the perceived situation. Duryodhana had a lot of implicit trust and faith, both in his queen and in his best friend. Not for one split second did he suspect either of them of doing anything wrong. Such was his faith in his wife and friend.

Duryodhana crowning Karna as the king of Anga
Duryodhana crowning Karna as the king of Anga

This incident is cited every once in a while as an example of how loyal Duryodhana was to his relationships. Not a story we hear very often about the Mahabharata or about the Kaurava prince, do we?

What I personally found very interesting is that despite the fact that this great epic is 100,000 verses long and has been rewritten multiple times by various authors, none of them deemed it necessary to include the character of Duryodhana’s wife. While the epic talks about how Dhritarashtra and Gandhari grieve for all their sons killed in the way, I was left wondering how Bhanumathi reacted when her husband was deceitfully killed by Bhima during the gadhayudha.

Did she resign herself to the fact that her husband begot the rewards of his unjust actions or was there a part of her which was angry at the way the Pandavas bent the rules of warfare to ensure that they defeated her husband comprehensively in the war? This is probably a question that we can debate about, but would never arrive at a satisfactory answer, would we.

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Verses for Introspection:4

सुखं हि दु:खाननुभूय शोभते घनांधकारेष्विव दीपदर्शनम्।

Sukham hi duhkhaan-anubhooya shobhathe ghana-andhakaareshviva deepadarshanam

–          Mricchakatikam of Raja Sudraka.

Meaning:

Happiness is more appreciated after one experiences grief over a period in the same way as light is more appreciated by a person in pitch darkness.

Points for Introspection:

Happiness and grief are just temporary effects on the human mind, it is better to treat both of them equally without getting unduly affected by either.

Inspired by Swami Bhoomananda TirthaJi’s talks and satsangs. 

A blessing in disguise


Brihannala_revised
Image courtesy : Wikipedia

Once when Urvashi was attracted to Arjuna, she approaches him in his chambers. Arjuna however rejects her advances stating that she was the muse of his ancestor Pururava, which made her almost like a mother to him.

Enraged by this rejection, Urvashi curses Arjuna – “Since you have disregarded a woman who has come to you of her own accord and at the command of your father, you shall have to pass your time among females unregarded, as a eunuch.

Little did Arjuna know then that this curse was going to be a blessing in disguise.

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This post has been written for Write Tribe’s 100 words on a Saturday – 11 prompt where the post had to be about “a blessing in disguise” which has been provided by the awesome Shilpa Garg who blogs at ‘A Rose is a Rose is a Rose’.

I will publish a follow-up post with the entire story of this curse and how it turns out to be a blessing in disguise for Arjuna.

100 Words on Saturday - Write Tribe

Ghatotkacha – The pot headed warrior


Amar Chitra Katha cover
Amar Chitra Katha cover

Read my earlier post [Link to post] about how Bhima defeats the demon Hidimba and marries his sister Hidimbi. However on condition that Kunti agrees to this marriage was that while Hidimbi could spend time with Bhima during the daytime, she would have to return to her forest by dusk. Hidimbi agrees to this condition and after a few months, they have a son Ghatotkacha.

Ghatotkacha got his name from his hairless head which was shaped like a pot. The sanskit word utkaca means hairless and the word for pot was ghatam, and therefore his name was Ghatotkacha, the pot headed hairless one.

Ghatotkacha was very attached to his father and his uncles and was Yudhisthira’s favorite nephew as well. When their exile was about to come to an end Kunti summoned him and instructed him that he would always be considered the eldest son by all the Pandava brothers. And on this occasion Ghatotkacha also promised that he would provide them with any assistance as and when they required it from him.

By virtue of a boon granted to him by Krishna, Ghatotkacha was unmatched with his magical abilities by anyone in this world with the exception of Krishna himself and these magical abilities were enhanced multi fold during night times by virtue of the fact that this son of Bhima was half demon. This particular trait of his would prove to be especially useful to the Pandavas during the Kurukshetra war.

During the Kurukshetra war, Ghatotkacha wrought havoc on the Kaurava forces when he took to the field. Using his formidable magical powers, he defeated and killed many Kaurava warriors and Duryodhana and his armies did not have any answer for his might and valor on the battlefield.

One incident which assumes significance in this context is that before the war, Indra realizes that Karna would prove to be invincible in battle and would not be killed as long as he wore the golden armor and golden earrings that Surya had bestowed him with. He conceives a plot to weaken Karna to enable Arjuna to defeat him in battle. He approaches Karna in the guise of a poor Brahmin and asks for his golden armor and earrings as alms.

Despite the fact that Karna had been warned by Surya of Indra’s plans and intentions, it was against Karna’s principles to refuse alms to anybody who asked him for the same. He therefore gladly parted with his armor and earrings. Shamed by Karna’s generosity, Indra granted him one time use of his most powerful weapon the Vasavi Shakti. Karna decides to save this weapon to defeat his greatest rival, Arjuna.

Coming back to the Kurukshetra war, Duryodhana realizes that conventional methods of war would not be sufficient to defeat Bhima’s son. He then requests Karna to use the Vasavi Shakti to defeat Ghatotkacha before he can inflict more substantial damage on the Kaurava army.

At this point in time Ghatotkach was using extremely unconventional tactics against the Kaurava army. Given that the war extended into the night as well after Jayadratha’s death, his magical powers were multiplied and he was flying down from the skies and using them to great effect. Understanding the gravity of the situation and unable to refuse his friend Duryodhana, Karna uses Indra’s celestial weapon against Ghatotkacha which results in his death.

While the rest of the Pandava army was shocked by this turn of events, only Krishna sported an enigmatic smile. He knew something that the rest of the Pandavas did not.

It was only a day earlier that Krishna had summoned Ghatotkacha and informed him about the fact that Karna was in possession of Indra’s celestial weapon which could be used only once. He also told that Karna intended to use this to defeat and kill his uncle Arjuna and that the only way this could be prevented was if Ghatotkacha dueled with Karna and forced him to use this weapon.

On hearing this Ghatotkacha immediately promised Krishna that he would do all that he could to ensure Karna used this weapon against him, knowing fully well that it would ultimately result in his demise. Such was his love for his uncles and the word of Krishna. The young asura son of Bhima ultimately sacrificed himself so that Karna and the Kauravas would have no possible way to kill Arjuna, the greatest Pandava warrior.

ghatotkacha-killed-by-karna-mahabharata

The death of Duhshasana


duhshasana_death

On the battlefield, the initial few rounds were won by Duhshasana, Duryodhana’s favorite brother. Using his skills with the bow, he managed to cut off Bhima’s bow and injure his charioteer as well. Enthused by these results, he also managed to injure Bhima himself with his well placed arrows. Enraged by this onslaught, Bhima flung a well aimed spear at his opponent which was also promptly shot down into pieces.

Not to be outdone, Bhima took up his weapon of choice, the mace and hurled it at Duhshasana. The mace stuck the Kaurava prince on the head and he was thrown out of his chariot. Bhima then rushed at him and stuck blow after resounding blow with his mace. Thus Duhshasana was all but completely decapitated at the fury and prowess of Bhima and his mace.

Remembering the promise he had made to his wife Draupadi about avenging the horrible treatment meted out to her by the Kaurava prince, Bhima put one foot on Duhshasana’s throat, ripped open his chest and drank his blood.

“I regard the blood of my enemy to be sweeter than any other ambrosia or nectar that I have ever had the fortune of tasting” he said.

He then addressed the warriors present, all of whom were now scared of Bhima’s rage, and said “I have fulfilled the vow which I had made regarding Duhshasana and it shall not be long before I fulfill my other vow involving  Duryodhana.”

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This post has been written for the Trifecta Week 103 prompt where the post has to include the following meaning of remember : to keep in mind for attention or consideration, which is why the word has been specifically highlighted in the post.