Since the elder issue of Veda Vyasa from Ambika, Dhritharashtra was born blind, Ambalika’s son Pandu was made the King with the approval of Bhishma, the driving force of the Kingdom, with Hastinapura as the Capital. The elder brother had two wives Gandhari and Sauvali, the former being the Prime Wife and the latter was a keep in the household. Gandhari, the daughter of Gandhara Desa and brother of Sakuni, gave birth to one hundred sons, the elder two being the notorious Duryodhana and Dussasana (actual names were Suyodhana and Susasana, standing for Good Warrior and Good Administrator). Gandhari preferred to close her eyes always, out of sentiment as her husband was blind. Sauvali’s son was Yuyutsu. Pandu Raja, the earlier King, was married to Kunti, the daughter of King Surasena and the paternal aunt of Lord Krishna. The Raja also married Madri, the daughter of King Madra. When Kunti was a very young girl, her father asked her to assist Sage Durvasa in a four month long Sacrifice / Yagna performed by him and after the end of the Function, he was pleased to teach a Mantra to her which could invoke any of the Demi Gods and Allied Devatas including Indra, Surya, Yamadharma Raja and Vayu, as well as allied Demi-Gods like Aswini Kumars. Out of curiosity, Kunti experimented by invoking Sun God in her private chamber and to her great surprise and dismay she found Surya Himself standing before her and asked her as to whether she desired a son or a daughter. Being of a tender age of preteens, she was flabbergasted at the odd statement of Surya’s but since the latter understood the predicament of the girl, Surya gave her the boon that her virginity would not be disturbed, but she should however be conceived. Kunti took her personal maid into confidence and even informing her mother of the incident, she did not step out of her chamber. After nine months, she delivered a boy of exceeding radiance and attraction with inborn armoury and ear-rings. With the help of the maid, she arranged the child in a floating box and placed it on a nearby waterbody. A charioteer of the Court of the King, Atiradha and his wife found the floating casket and as they did not have an issue, considered the child as a great blessing and brought him up as ‘Karna’ since he had ear-rings in-born and as Radheya after the name of the step mother. Therafter Kunti considered the incident as forgotten of her innocent childhood. Subsequently Kunti married King Pandu in a ‘Swayamvara’(as per the bride’s own choice), but soon thereafter, King Pandu received a curse from a Brahmana who was targetted by the King’s arrow mistaken for a deer in copulation and the curse was that if he slept with a woman, he would fall dead at once. The King knew that without begetting a son he would not be able to cross the River Vaitarani at the entry point of hell itself and the soul would get stuck there itself! Pandu suggested that Scriptures would allow a virtuous Brahmana to sleep with her and Kunti informed that she knew a Mantra as gifted by Durvasa Muni and by reciting that she could be blessed.Thus, Kunti invoked Yama Dharma Raja, Vayu, and Indra from time to time and was blessed with three sons, viz. Dharmaraja, Bhima and Arjuna respectively. She also passed on the Mantra to Madri who begot Nakula and Sahadeva as twin brothers. Once when Pandu ventured a wrong move to invite Madri in bed, Pandu died because of the Brahmana’s curse as expected, and Madri too died in self-immolation, leaving the two sons to Kunti’s care. Hence they came to be popular as Pancha-Pandavas.As Pandu died, Dhritarashtra was sworn in as the King and there were quick changes in Hastinapura, because of a blind King doting on his children especially Duryodhana who was in evil league as ‘Dushta Chatushtaya’ or the Four Wicked Men along with his younger brother Dussasana, his maternal uncle Sakuni and Karna (who was declared as the Ruler of a Subsidiary Anga Desa, as he was barred otherwise from Royal responsibilities and rights since he did not have Kshatria origin as the son of a charioteer). The Evil Four had constant quarrels with their Pandava cousins, due to jealousy, as the cousins were far more disciplined and stronger as also since Kuru Vamsa elders and others liked them more. The Evil Four pretended sympathy for Pandavas and wanted them to move into a new Palace but their intention was to kill them while sleeping as the Palace was made of lac and susceptible to quick fire. Thanks to Krishna’s foresight and precautionary measures, Pandavas exited safe from the burning Palace through a secret passage, as the Evil Four misled the Public that Pandavas and Kunti were burnt. Meanwhile Pandavas masqueraded as Brahmanas and stayed in a poor family house on rent. When the turn of sparing a person from the landlord’s house came up for Sacrifice to a Demon, named Bakasura, (as per a contract with the village heads and the Demon that instead of his killing the Villagers indiscriminately), Bhima the strong man opted to reach the Demon’s abode away from the Village and brought relief to the Villagers by killing him in a severe duel. From thereon, Pandavas still appearing as Brahmanas, moved on to King Drupada’s Court for Druapadi’s Swayamvara and succeded in the test of destroying a fish on a quickly moving wheel kept above one’s head by an arrow while viewing its reflection down in a water pool underneath. This feat was possible only to an ace archer. Karna and Kauvaras attended the Swayam Vara too. Only Arjuna could perform the feat as Karna who too was a great archer had failed, again causing jealousy on learning that the Brahmanas were fake and actually they were Pandavas. On hearing the good news that after all Pandavas were not dead, the Elders of Kuru Vamsa including Bhishna, Dronacharya, and Kripacharya were overjoyed but the Evil Four were shaken. They agreed that a portion of the Kigdom be given away to Pandavas as a peace making measure and the Elders like Bhishna appreciated the gesture. Pandavas thus moved to a new Capital at Indrprastha where a fantastic ‘Maya Sabha’ or a Palace of Illusions built by the Divine Architect-Designer by the name Maya. Recovering from their days of misfortune, Pandavas recouped and performed ‘Rajasuya Yagna’and invited Kauravas including the Elders like Bhishma, Drona, Vidura and Kripacharya as well as the Evil Four. Lord Krishna who had always been a staunch supporter of Pandavas was honoured as the Chief Guest and when King Sisupala the evil opponent of Krishna objected and insulted the latter, his Sudarsana Chakra (Wheel) snipped his head. The Evil Four, especially Duryodhana felt highly envious of Pandavas, invited them to Hastinapura only to trap Dharmaraja into an unjust chess game with Sakuni who was an expert in it and defeated Pandavas against stiff conditions of losing their Kingdom and even themselves including Draupadi, with whom an attempt was made for disrobing. The conditions were twelve years of forest life and one year of unidentifiable destination where they should not be recognised failing which, the terms could be doubled! During the forest life of twelve years, Kauravas tormented Pandavas and during the year long ‘Ajnanavas’ or unreconizable place, took refuge in changed status with Dharmaraja as Kanku Bhat or Brahmana Adviser to King Virat in his latter’s court, Draupadi as ‘Sairandhri’ as the Maid in the Queen’s Chamber, Bhima as the cook in the Royal kitchen, Arjuna as ‘Brihannala’-the transgender dance teacher of the Princess Uttara; Nakula and Sahadeva as the keepers of horses and cows. During the course of their stay in the Virat kingdom, Pandavas underwent unknown torture and humiliation including the attempted molestation of Sairandhri by the King’s powerful brother-in-law, named Keechaka who was quietly eliminated by Bhima in a night duel. At the end of their stay in cognito, Kauravas tried to capture the cows of King Virat but by that time Brihannala came into the form of Arjuna as the ‘Agyata vasa’ year was over and destroyed the Kaurava Army single handedly and having utilised the ‘Sammohana Astra’ or the ‘Mantra’ which lulled the War Stalvarts like Bhishma, Drona, Asvatthama and of course the Evil Four into long slumber and released the cows of King Virat back home. There were talks of ‘Sandhi’ or Reconcilliation held by Krishna on behalf of Pandavas but the puffed up Evil Four refused even to a pin-some space to Pandavas, let alone five villages to the five some and the Great War of Mahabharata was fought for eighteen days dragging even the Elders of Kuru Vamsa like Bhishma, Drona and quite a few pious persons by the Evil Four on one side and Pandavas on the other with Krishna as Charioteer cum unarmed Adviser of Pandavas. A major casuality from the Pandavas side was that of brave and young Abhimanyu, the son of Arjun and Subhadra, in a ‘Chakra Vyuha’ (a circular closed fight) among many- to-one unjust encounter. There was mass destruction on both sides and the tragedies of stalwarts including the entire generation of Illustrious Elders who took part in the Battle as also the Evil Four, with Duryodhana as the last to fall to Bhima, who killed Dussasana earlier.
Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham
Kamakoti.org presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India The author can be contacted at [email protected]