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.
While it is a well known tale that when Krishna was approached by both Duryodhana and Arjuna to take their respective sides in the Kurukshetra war, Krishna made two offers. The first offer was that one person would get the entire Vrishni army totaling almost 10,000 soldiers or more and the second offer was his own personal support albeit under the condition that he would not actually lift any weapons and fight in the battlefield. Since Arjuna was the younger one, he was given the first right of choice and he chose the unarmed Krishna thus leaving Duryodhana with Krishna’s army.
On Day 3 of the Kurukshetra war, Bhishma arranged the Kaurava army in the eagle formation and proceeded to lead the same from the front. To counter this formation, Arjuna and Dhristadyumna decided to arrange the Pandava army in the crescent formation with Bhima leading the right flank and Arjuna himself leading the left flank.
During the course of the battle, Bhima managed to wound Duryodhana who lay down in a swoon in his chariot. When his charioteer took him close to Bhishma, Duryodhana accused the Kaurava commander of being too soft on the Pandavas, which enraged the grand old sire a lot.
Stung by the young Duryodhana’s reproaches, Bhishma fought during the second half of the day with extremely high intensity and delivered quite a severe attack on the Pandava army. Despite attempts by several brave Pandava warriors, the onslaught of Bhishma was causing a great number of fatalities in the Pandava army.
Spurred on by Krishna, young Arjuna took it upon himself to fight the grand old commander of the Kaurava army. While Bhishma was very impressed with his grand nephew’s prowess on the battlefield, Krishna sensed that Arjuna was not fighting at his best on that particular day. He could clearly see that Arjuna simply did not have the heart to fight Bhishma, someone he had always admired and treated as a role model from his childhood.
This angered Krishna and he dropped the reins of the chariot, jumped down and went forward towards Bhishma with his Sudarsana Chakra. Ecstatic at this turn of events, Bhishma welcomed Krishna by dropping his weapons and stated that it would be his absolute joy to die at the hands of Krishna, the Lord of the World.
Completely distressed at this situation, Arjuna raced down towards Krishna and reminded him of his promise of not lifting any weapons on the battlefield in this war. He also promised him that he would not flinch anymore at the thought of fighting his own kith and kin in the Kaurava army and that he would unfailingly do his duty to Dharma. It was only when the young Pandava prince provided these assurances that Krishna put away his weapon and came back to Arjuna’s chariot.
Thus, Day 3 of the Kurukshetra War almost saw Krishna break his promise and kill Bhishma.
This post has been written for the Week at the Merge, Week 45 writing prompt where the post had to be about the William Shakespeare quote – “The third day comes a frost, a killing frost.”
On the sixteenth day of the Kurukshetra war when Karna was the commander of the Kaurava army, he single-handedly defeated all of the Pandava brothers with the exception of Arjuna. He stuck by the promise that he made to Kunti that he would not kill any of the Pandava brothers with the exception of Arjuna.
When he defeated Bhima, he leaves him alive stating that as Bhima was younger than him he wouldn’t kill him. When he defeated Yudhisthira, he leaves him alive asking him to practice all that his gurus and teachers have taught him. Similarly he refuses to kill Nakula and Sahadeva after defeating them in one to one battle on that day.
Finally Karna asks his charioteer to take him to where Arjuna was on the battlefield. In the fierce battle that ensues between these two great warriors, neither one budged or hesitated. When Karna shot the powerful Nagastra at Arjuna, Krishna gently presses Arjuna’s chariot downwards using his divine powers, enabling the Pandava prince to survive this assault. Not to be outdone, Arjuna showers Karna with all his arrows, but Karna manages to neutralize all of them with arrows of his own.
Finally when all of Arjuna’s weapons are exhausted and he is defenseless, the only thing that saves him on the sixteenth day was nightfall, and since it was against the code of war to battle at night, Arjuna managed to escape the wrath of Karna that day.
However, as a parting shot, Karna shouted out “Oh Arjuna, today you were saved from the powerful Nagastra due to the insidious tactics of your beloved Krishna. But mark my words Pandava prince, tomorrow will be your last day on this earth.”
On the seventeenth day, both the warriors resumed their dueling, which was so fierce that it is said that even the Gods from heaven were witnessing this spectacle. Karna managed to cut Arjuna’s bowstring many times, but Arjuna managed to tie it back so soon that Karna had to acknowledge his rival’s skills with the bow as a weapon.
As the duel went on, Karna slowly began to forget all the divine incantations that were revealed to him during his training with Parasurama. This was the result of a curse of his guru Parasurama as a punishment for lying about his caste.
And suddenly his chariot wheel also got stuck in the wet mud of the battlefield. Descending from his chariot, when Karna was trying to pry open the greasy chariot wheel from the mud, Krishna reminded Arjuna of all the rules and etiquettes that Karna had violated in the past, by assisting Duryodhana in trying to kill the Pandavas in the house of lacquer, by encouraging Duhshasana to disrobe Draupadi after the game of dice. Krishna advices Arjuna that he would not get a better opportunity to kill Karna and that he should go ahead and kill him despite the fact that he was unarmed and the rules of war forbade attacking an unarmed warrior.
Reminded of these incidents, an enraged Arjuna uses the Anjalika weapon grievously injure Karna and leave him dying on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
Thus, Karna, the charioteer’s son died on the battlefield tending to his chariot. Now, if that wasn’t poetic justice, what else is.
This post has been written for the Three Word Wednesday prompt where the post had to include the words greasy, insidious and reveal, and that is the reason that these words have been underlined in the post.
At the beginning of the Kurukshetra war, faced with the dilemma of the inevitability of raising arms and spilling the blood of his relative, cousins and kinsmen, Arjuna is filled with despair and is completely despondent at the helplessness of his situation. So much so, that he even neglects his duty as a Kshatriya warrior and drops his weapons in his chariot and steadfastly refuses to pick them up and prepare for the war.
At this juncture, Krishna counsels Arjuna about his duties as a warrior and a Kshatriya prince, elaborating on a variety of philosophical concepts. To convince Arjuna of his words, Krishna also reveals his true divine form, his Viswaroopa to him. Arjuna experiences the vision of the Viswaroopa with divine vision endowed to him by Krishna.
Some descriptions of the Viswaroopa are thus – He has innumerable forms, eyes, faces, mouths and arms. All creatures of the universe are part of Him. He is the infinite universe, without a beginning or an end. He contains peaceful as well as wrathful forms.
Another description of the Viswaroopa goes thus – In this form, Krishna no longer looks familiar. He is neither cowherd nor charioteer. He is a magnificent being with countless legs and countless arms and countless heads, breathing fire, containing within himself all the things that exist – all the worlds, all the animate beings and inanimate objects. It is an awe inspiring sight. Containing everything that Arjuna imagined and also everything that was beyond Arjuna’s imagination.
Despite multiple descriptions of the Viswaroopa, one thing is for certain, Arjuna was so dazzled by the brilliance and the magnificence of this particular form of Krishna that all his doubts, fears and hesitation was immediately put to rest and he picked up his weapons and prepared for combat. The Viswaroopa convinced him that performance of one’s duty was of paramount importance. Arjuna was so overcome with faith, devotion and confidence in Krishna that all his doubts were assuaged immediately.
Thus, the episode with the Viswaroopa is a clear allusion to the bhakti rasa in the Mahabharata.
When the Pandavas were in exile, Yudhisthira was performing the Rajarsi sacrifice with the help of some learned Brahmins on the shore of a lake in Dwaitavana. Duryodhana who happened to be passing by suddenly noticed the Pandavas on the lake shore and egged on by Karna decided to put on a show of his opulence and wealth to make the Pandavas jealous. He instructed his men to construct pleasure houses on the opposite shore of the lake. However, his men were prevented from doing so by a Gandharva king, Chitrasena who claimed the lake and its surrounding areas to be his.
Enraged by this interruption of his plans, Duryodhana attacked the Gandharva army with his own and suffered a humiliating defeat despite fighting valiantly and valorously. Duryodhana, his brothers and Karna were then taken prisoner by Chitrasena. Some of the soldiers who had escaped the Gandharva army fled to the other side of the lake and narrated what had happened to Yudhisthira and his brothers.
Upon hearing this, Arjuna and Bhima started laughing at the plight of their Kaurava cousins. Both of them were happy that their duties had become that much easier with Duryodhana and his brothers out of the way. In their opinion, Duryodhana got what he deserved as he surely had camped on the opposite side of the lake with evil intentions only.
To this, Yudhisthira intervened and told them that this was not the time for cruelty. He stated that it was the duty of family members to protect and uphold the honor and dignity of the family name. Despite the fact that the Kaurava cousins had treated him and his brothers shabbily, the fact remained that it was a family dispute and should not be used as a reason not to help them when they were in need of assistance. After all, all of them were Kuru princes and they were duty bound to defend the honor of their family name.
Saying so, Yudhisthira instructed Arjuna to battle the Gandharvas and free the Kauravas. Since he himself was bound by the sacred vows that he had taken before starting the Rajarsi sacrifice, he could not go into battle himself, but he was compassionate enough towards the Kauravas to send his brother to do the job.
Arjuna accompanied by Bhima and the twins, then attacked the Gandharva army and after a fierce battle managed to defeat the Gandharvas and free the Kauravas.
Thus, Duryodhana who had come to Dwaitavana to humiliate the Pandavas with his show of opulence and wealth had to go back to Hastinapura after being humiliated himself.
This incident is a clear case of Yudhisthira displaying compassion and kindness towards his sworn enemies, the Kauravas and is an example of the karunya rasa referred to in the Mahabharata. Despite the fact that he was duty bound to defend his family name, Yudhisthira could have easily avoided the same on some pretext or the other, but the fact that he chose not to displays his commitment to his duty and his compassionate nature.