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. 

Shakuni and his craft


Image courtesy : wikimedia
Image courtesy : wikimedia

At one point in time Duryodhana was completely bereft of ideas as to how to overcome his Pandava cousins. He had tried burning them alive in the palace of wax at Varnavrata, and as if that weren’t enough his nemesis, Bhima had not only managed to escape the wrath of Bakasura at Ekachakra but also managed to kill him instead [Read about that incident here].

It was at this point in time that his maternal uncle Shakuni, unable to see his favorite nephew so despondent and depressed, proposed the idea of getting rid of the Pandavas and making them relinquish their right to the throne of Hastinapura without so much as shedding a drop of blood.

Shakuni was renowned for his skill as a gambler and was such a master of this craft that he was undefeated at the game of dice. Little did his opponents know that he always played with loaded dice and that was the only reason that he never tasted defeat. He therefore decided to make full use of this craft of his to enable Duryodhana to eliminate the threat of his Pandava cousins.

Invite the Pandavas for a game of dice. Yudhisthira has a weakness for the game of dice, even though he is not a good player. Ask him to throw the dice with me. As you are well aware, nobody in the three worlds is my equal in this game. I will ensure that his kingdom becomes yours before the game is finished” Shakuni told Duryodhana.

For the first time in his life, he believed his opinion mattered and Shakuni also put in a word with his brother in law, the blind king Dhritarashtra to invite the Pandavas to Hastinapura for a friendly game of dice.

Although Dhritarashtra knew that Shakuni was upto some mischief, his unbridled love for his son and his anxiety at Duryodhana’s depressed state forced him to accede to this request.

Thus, the stage was set for one of the most memorable episodes in this great epic.

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This post has been written for multiple prompts :

Today’s Author Write Now prompt for Nov 5, 2013 where the post had to include the phrase – for the first time in his life, he knew his opinion mattered

Trifecta Week 102 prompt where the post had to include the following meaning of the word craft – skill in deceiving to gain an end

The vengeful Ashwatthama


Ashwatthama in a Javanese Wayang shadow puppet
Ashwatthama in a Javanese Wayang shadow puppet

During the combat of maces, the Gadhayuddha between Bhima and Duryodhana, Ashwatthama was enraged when Bhima cheats to defeat Duryodhana. The act of Bhima striking his opponent’s thighs which was clearly a violation of the rules of the Gadhayuddha made him extremely angry and he swore revenge on the Pandavas for this.

This incident further fueled the fire that Ashwatthama had for the Pandavas when he had found out that the illustrious Yudhisthira had lied (or at least hidden the truth) about killing an elephant which bore his name, which led to his father, Drona, laying down his weapons on the battlefield [Link to my earlier post on this story]. This act of deceit by the eldest Pandava had led to his father being beheaded by Dhristadyumna and had given Drona a dishonorable death.

That night Ashwatthama went to the injured Duryodhana and made a vow to kill the Pandavas by any means. “This I will do to avenge my father’s death and also to avenge the acts of deceit committed” he swore.

That night when he was planning his vengeance, he noticed that an owl which had been attacked by a group of crows in the morning was now in turn attacking and killing the crows in the night. The owl was playing to its strength, the ability to see in the darkness. Suddenly an idea struck him and his plans for fulfilling the vow were formed.

He crept into the Pandava camp at night and first killed Dhristadyumna, Shikhandi and other Pandava warriors in their sleep, all the while muttering “This I will do to avenge my father’s death and also to avenge the acts of deceit committed”.

He then beheaded the Upapandavas, Draupadi’s five sons believing them to be the Pandavas themselves, once again uttering the same words “This I will do to avenge my father’s death and also to avenge the acts of deceit committed

It was only after he took the five heads to Duryodhana that he realizes that he had not killed the Pandavas and his vow was incomplete.

Ashwatthama who upto this point believed that his vengeance was valid as the Pandavas had used deceitful means to kill his father Drona and wrong his friend Duryodhana, suddenly realized the magnitude of his mistake. By attacking the Pandava warriors at night, when they were unarmed and helpless, he had broken many laws that were held sacrosanct by Kshatriyas of the time.

He therefore took refuge in Veda Vyasa’s ashrama and sought salvation for his sins committed on that one fateful night when his anger, passions and thirst for vengeance turned him into a lunatic.

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This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. We give out themes for creative writing each weekend for Indian bloggers.

The prompt was that the post had to include the same sentence repeated at least thrice and the said sentence has been highlighted separately in this post.

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This post has been selected as one of Blogadda’s WoW picks of the week.

wowbadge

Santha rasa – Yudhisthira and his attempts for peace


Image courtesy: wikipedia
Image courtesy: wikipedia

Read this post about an introduction to the Rasas.

Read this post for the shringara rasa referred to in the Mahabharata – Ganga and her love

Read this post for the hasya rasa referred to in the Mahabharata – Draupadi and her laughter

Read this post for the raudra rasa referred to in the Mahabharata – Amba and her anger

Read this post for the karunya  rasa referred to in the Mahabharata – Chitrasena and Duryodhana

Read this post for the bibhatsa rasa referred to in the Mahabharata – The effect of Vyasa on Ambika and Ambalika

Read this post for the bhayanaka rasa referred to in the Mahabharata – Hidimba and his hideous Asura form

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After the Pandava brothers completed their exile of 12 yrs and the 13th year in disguise evading all attempts by the Kauravas in trying to find out where they were during this year, they came out of exile and temporarily settled down in Upalavya. From there Yudhisthira send out emissaries to summon all his friends, relatives and brethren, to which almost all responded and arrived.

Addressing the gathering, Krishna spoke and reminded the people present as to how Duryodhana and Shakuni had cheated Yudhisthira at the game of dice and sent the Pandava brothers to exile for the past 13 yrs. He went on to state that Yudhisthira did not want to spill the blood of his cousins and wanted only what was rightfully his share of the kingdom. Despite the fact that the Kauravas had treated them wrongly and had cheated them out of their rights, the Pandavas were magnanimous to treat their cousins with ‘dharma’ and did not hold any grudges against them. He then went on to state that it was the intention of Yudhisthira to send an envoy of peace to the Kauravas to ask for their rightful share of the kingdom.

However, despite multiple attempts by the Pandavas to find a peaceful solution to the issue, Duryodhana refused to budge from his position. He steadfastly refused to recognize the right of the Pandavas to the kingdom and even went to the extent of declaring in open court that the Pandavas will not receive a needle-point of territory from him. Even after this declaration, Yudhisthira maintained his calm despite protests from his own brothers, kinsmen and other friends, and sent Krishna as an envoy of peace to convince Duryodhana of the mistake of his actions.

Thus, despite being cheated by the Kauravas out of his share of the kingdom, despite the fact that Duryodhana and his brothers had humiliated him and his brothers, despite the fact that they had tried to disrobe his wife in open court, Yudhisthira maintained his efforts to find a peaceful solution to this issue. This is a classic example of the santha rasa being referred to in the Mahabharata.

Karunya Rasa – Chitrasena and Duryodhana


Image courtesy : Wikipedia
Image courtesy : Wikipedia

Read this post about an introduction to the Rasas.

Read this post for the shringara rasa referred to in the Mahabharata – Ganga and her love

Read this post for the hasya rasa referred to in the Mahabharata – Draupadi and her laughter

Read this post for the raudra rasa referred to in the Mahabharata – Amba and her anger

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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.