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Mahabharata

Author: Vyasadeva

Year: cerca 2900 to 3000 B.C.

Language: Sanskrit

 

The Mahabharata, “the story of the Great India”, is one of the most appreciated literatures in the world for both academic scholars and spiritual enthusiasts. The Mahabharata is accepted to be the world’s longest epic, having 1,500,000 verses describing the history of India and the fall of civilization right before the onset of the present age of quarrel and hypocrisy, known as Kali Yuga. The Mahabharata is divided into eighteen sections known as parvanas.

 

Vyasadeva also included a supplementary text called the Harivamsa Parvana (also known as Harivamsa Purana). This portion contains the pastimes of Lord Krsna not covered in the main text of the Mahabharata.

 

Prelude to the Current Events of the Mahabharata

 

Many millennia ago, in India, there was a king named Bharata, who was one of the great kings of Lunar Dynasty or Kuru Dynasty. Bharata was not famous for extending the borders of his nation and having the nation named after him (the word for “India” in Sanskrit is “Bharata-varsa”), but he was a righteous, moral king who obeyed dharma and religious principles. He instilled the fact that one’s deeds have more value than one birth and he had a truly democratic government, where citizens had a say in their ideas. Bharata was so righteous that in selecting his heir apparent, he chose the son of an ascetic, rather than his own nine sons. Bharata’s decision shocked everyone, as he chose some other child other than his own. However, Bharata stood firm in his decision, as his own sons were unworthy of ruling such a kingdom.

 

As Dvapara Yuga, the third cosmic era where vice and sinful actions are on the rise, came by, the lineage of king Bharata started to put more emphasis on birth rather than deeds and true democratic thinking. This lay the foundations of the Mahabharata war.

 

King Santanu’s Reign

 

Towards the middle of Dvapara Yuga, the king of Hastinapura (India’s capital) was Santanu. Santanu fell in love with the beautiful personification of the Ganga River. Santanu was so enamored by her beauty that he married her. She only accepted this marriage proposal if he vowed not to question any of her actions. Santanu agreed blindly and married her. Soon after their marriage, Santanu and Ganga produced a child. While Santanu and Hastinapura were celebrating the birth of their first child, Ganga drowned the first child in the water. Bound by the condition Ganga put forth before marriage, Santanu could not question her. In this manner, she drowned seven children in total. When the eighth child was born, Santanu intervened and questioned her. Ganga explained to Santanu how the eight children were actually eight Vasus cursed to be born on earth. The eight Vasu was cursed to live a long and difficult life on earth. As ordained by the curse and Santanu feeling pity for the child, Ganga reassured Santanu that the eight child will be sent to the heavenly planets and be fully educated for some time. After training is completed, he will return and live with Santanu. After nearly twenty years, Ganga returned back on earth to present Santanu their eighth son, who was named Devavrata. Devavrata was entrusted to Santanu and Ganga returned to her abode.

 

Devavrata was soon to be declared the new crowned prince of Hastinapura. To celebrate this event, King Santanu took a hunting trip to the forest. As he was in search for his prey, he found a beautiful girl who was paddling passengers across the river on her boat. This beautiful girl is Satyavati, the daughter of a nearby fisherman. Santanu took frequent rides with Satyavati as they both fell in love. Satyavati requested that he request her father for marriage. Santanu met with the fisherman to discuss potential marriage planning. The fisherman would allow Satyavati to marry Santanu if Santanu declares Satyavati’s children to be heir apparent to the throne. Santanu was immediately upset, as he promised Devavrata to be the new king of Hastinapura. Santanu was dejected and upset and would not come home until very late in the night. Devavrata, being a devoted son, would often wonder what the cause of his father’s sadness could be. Devavrata decided to find out for himself. He found the fisherman and found out the real cause of his father’s distress. Devavrata, in order to please his father and act in favor of what fate has determined, made a terrible vow not to be accept the throne, remain a bachelor (as being a bachelor would prevent him from having any children), and serve the king of the throne seeing the father’s image. When Santanu learned of his son’s terrible vow and powerful sacrifice, he renamed his son, Bhisma (“the terrible one”). In addition, Santanu gave Bhisma a boon that he will live forever. He will not die unless he is willing to die. Santanu and Satyavati were married. Even though Santanu had married the person of his dreams, his heart was filled with grief and discontent, as his son was the victim of injustice. Even the citizens of Hastinapura were upset at Bhisma’s vow. Santanu and Satyavati had two children, Citrangada and Vicitravirya. Santanu, still, lived the remainder of his life in grief. Toward his last days, he entrusted the care of Satyavati, Citrangada, and Vicitravirya to Bhisma and passed away. Santanu’s final rites were conducted per scriptural injunction. In addition, a new family priest, named Krpacarya, was hired as the royal priest of the Bharatas.

 

King Citrangada and Vicitravirya’s Reign

 

When Satyavati’s eldest son, Citrangada, came to age, Bhisma coronated him as the new king of Hastinapura. However, his rule was short-lived as he was killed in a battle with tribal people by a person who happened to have the same name as him. The next successor was his younger brother, Vicitravirya.

 

While the political status and rule of King Vicitravirya in Hastinapura was stable, his need to appoint a successor was still in question. His mother, Satyavati, suggested finding a good wife for Vicitravirya. Bhisma suggested that the teenage princess-daughters of the King of Kashi would be the most apt choice, as traditionally, princes from the Kuru Dynasty would marry princesses from the kingdom of Kashi. In hopes of this, Bhisma and Satyavati awaited for their invitations to the svayamvara (the marriage ceremony, where the princess selects a husband from the men assembled) of the Kashi princesses.

 

The King of Kashi had different views. He refused to invite anyone from Hastinapura or the Kuru Dynasty, since Santanu rejected to proposal in marrying Bhisma and the king’s daughter. Bhisma, upon knowing that the king of Kashi not inviting the Kuru clan, was very angry and felt that the king insulted Hastinapura. Bhisma stormed to the kingdom of Kashi as the representative of Vicitravirya. Many guest kings present at the wedding ceremony insulted Bhisma. However, Bhisma defeated the honor of the kings assembled. Bound by the norms of the warriors duty, the king of Kashi had no other option but to have his three daughters, Amba, Ambalika, and Ambika, go with Bhisma and marry Vicitravirya. With great honor, pomp, and show, Bhisma returned the three brides to his stepmother, Satyavati, and stepbrother, Vicitravirya. Amba, before being accepted to Vicitravirya, humbly refused and described to Satyavati and Bhisma that she has fallen in love with one of the kings defeated. Bhisma, being very compassionate, sent her off with great honor to her lover. However, the lover rejected her since she was “the prize won by his opponent.” Insulted, she stormed back to Hastinapura and requested that Bhisma marry her, as her father could not reaccept her, and her lover cannot reaccept her, and the only person who can accept her is Bhisma. Bhisma, who was already bound to his word, could not accept her and kept refusing her. Angry, insulted, and tormented, she put a curse on Bhisma that somehow, she will be the cause of his death.

 

 

King Vicitravirya’s Three Representative Sons

 

Despite this episode, Ambika and Ambalika married Vicitravirya and enjoyed a blissful marriage. However, their marital bliss remained short and Vicitravirya had an early death. More issues came up than before, as Hastinapura is without a king, and Vicitravirya did not leave any progeny behind. As Hastinapura was in this great political dilemma, Bhisma could not become king or impregnate his late brother’s wives. So, Satyavati summoned her distant son, Vyasadeva. Vyasadeva was the spiritualized son of Satyavati and Parasara. Vyasadeva, in actuality is the literary form of Krsna. Since Vyasadeva was the son of Satyavati, this would make Vyasadeva and Vicitravirya as half-brothers. In ancient Vedic injunctions, if a man is unable to impregnate his wife, then his older brother would have the right to impregnate his wife. Of course, this practice is considered unacceptable in Kali Yuga. Satyavati requested Vyasadeva to impregnate the wives of Vicitravirya. Vyasadeva humbly requested that her request wait, as he was in a hideous form. Satyavati insisted on completing this task. Vyasadeva carried out his mother’s order, reluctantly.

 

Ambika was sent to Vyasadeva first. She was immensely frightened by his hideous form that she closed her eyes. Ambalika was sent next to Vyasadeva, and she was so frightened that her body became very pale and she was felt very ill. Ambika was requested to go to Vyasadeva again, but in fear of being put through her torturous experience again, she sent her maid. Her maid was very humble to Vyasadeva and this purpose.

 

Due to the reactions of the princesses, Ambika (who closed her eyes) will bear a child who is blind. Ambalika (who became ill and pale) will have an unhealthy child. Ambika’s maid (who was humble to Vyasadeva) will be an intelligent child. It was ironic that the two children of the princesses were physically impaired, while the knowledgeable and wise one would be born to a maid. The children were born in due time and were trained by Bhisma, the fields of arts, military science and warfare, political sciences, ethics, philosophy, and royal dharma. The eldest child, the son of Ambika, was Dhrtarastra. As predicted, he was born blind. Ambalika’s son, Pandu, was unusually pale looking. Ambika’s maid, Vidura, was a very humble and learned person. Even though he was the son of a maid, he was never reminded of that fact due to the love of his two older brothers. Even though it was truly the mercy of Vyasadeva that these three were born, they are accepted as the sons of Vicitravirya.

 

It was time to discuss the new ruler of Hastinapura. Per tradition, the oldest child would be the new king of Hastinapura. As Dhrtarastra was about to be nominated as the new king of Hastinpura, Vidura objected to this, as Vidura pointed out that a king who cannot take care of himself cannot rule the nation properly. Dhrtarastra’s disability prevented him from ascending the throne. Therefore, Pandu was the only acceptable ruler who was able to rule Hastinapura. Bhisma, Satyavati, and family priest, Krpacarya, accepted Pandu to be the new king of Hastinpura. While his coronation ceremony and celebration was filled joy, Dhrtarastra’s heart was filled with upset and feelings of anger, due to this injustice.

 

Marriages of Dhrtarastra and Pandu

 

Satyavati suggested that it was time Dhrtarastra and Pandu search other kingdoms in search for their wives. Bhisma felt that the princess of the kingdom of Gandhara (now, known as Afghanistan), Gandhari, was the ideal match for the elder son, Dhrtarastra. Bhisma went over to Gandhara to meet with King Subala, the king of Gandhara. King Subala warmly welcomed Bhisma to Gandhara. Bhisma gave the proposal of marriage for Gandhari with Dhrtarastra. Everyone was shocked and insulted as this marriage proposal was with a man who was blind. Subala’s son, Sakuni, was deeply offended by this proposal. While everyone rejected, Gandhari accepted this proposal to marry Dhrtarastra. She heard of his glories that she became enamored of him. She immediately took a piece of clothes and covered her eyes so she may remain blind and share the lifestyle with her new husband. While everyone was happy in celebrating this wedding, Sakuni was angry and upset to see the potential suffering of his sister. He vowed to never forgive the entire Kuru Dynasty and tried to find a way to destroy the dynasty.

 

After Dhrtarastra’s wedding, eyes were on Pandu, as the citizens and the Kuru family, were awaiting for a new queen of Hastinapura. Bhisma suggested that Pandu attend the wedding ceremony of the princess of King Kuntibhoja, Kunti. Kunti, who was originally named Prtha, was a descendant of the cobra dynasty. She was brought up in the Vrsni dynasty, the same dynasty where Lord Krsna was soon to take appearance. She was adopted by King Kuntibhoja was renamed Kunti. She was a very virtuous and intelligent princess, as well as very beautiful. King Pandu went to the marriage ceremony. Kunti selected Pandu to be her husband and their marriage ceremony was celebrated from Kuntibhoja’s kingdom to Hastinapura. On their wedding night, Pandu went off to a victory conquest in order to conquer neighboring lands and extend the borders his kingdom. He returned successfully after extending his borders. While he was returning, he was encountered by the King of Madra (nearby Sialkot, Pakistan), Salya. Salya extended his hand in friendship with Pandu. Pandu accepted the friendship with King Salya. Salya, as a token of his friendship, offered his sister, Madri to Pandu, to be his wife. As Kunti was somewhat upset initially, Pandu had to take great care in introducing his new wife. Kunti and Madri got along very quickly and King Pandu was happy. King Pandu was a very just ruler and his citizens were very happy. Everyone in their kingdom was happy except for two people, Dhrtarastra and Sakuni.

 

During the rule of King Pandu, the citizens and his ministers suggested that he take a vacation, due to his hard work and successes brought upon Hastinapura. Pandu accepted the vacation offer with his two wives. Before his leaving, he declared Dhrtarastra as the substitute ruler. Dhrtarastra, even though he knew he was not the real king, felt very happy being able to wear the king’s crown and being called the king. His wise and intelligent wife, Gandhari, warned him not to be too attached to the crown, as this is really Pandu’s.

 

Pandu, Kunti, and Madri stayed in the cottage in the forest on the outskirts of Hastinapura. They served nearby brahmana Kindam Muni and his wife. They had imbibed knowledge from the rsi and his wife. They were given many blessings to be blessed with virtuous children. Ironically, they were blessing Pandu, Kunti, and Madri with such a blessing, even though Kindam Muni and his wife are childless. In order to fulfill their duty on earth as parents, they had to disguise themselves as deer to remain anonymous in their intercourse. Pandu heard some strange animal in the forest. As his ksatriya sporty nature, he decided to hunt it. Without actually seeing the animal and relying only on the sound, he shot a very powerful arrow. This arrow pierced both deer, who were really Kindam Muni and his wife. Unable to fulfill their final duty to produce progeny on earth made Kindam Muni very angry that he cursed Pandu that the moment he begins to embrace his wife, he will die. Kindam Muni and his wife both died after cursing Pandu. Pandu, being depressed about his sinful act, informed his wives. They returned to Hastinapura and informed the public of this decision. While everyone agreed that Pandu’s act, itself, was a sinful one, Bhisma encouraged everyone that Pandu should be applauded that as he was a king, he respected the law and admitted this to everyone. Pandu and his wives decided to see repentance by retiring from the royal duties. He declared Dhrtarastra as the new king of Hastinapura. Dhrtarastra was happy as he was not merely the representative, but a new king. The citizens of Hastinapura and Pandu’s family were very upset at his leaving.

 

 

Children of Dhrtarastra (Kauravas) and Pandu (Pandavas)

 

Pandu had one problem to worry about. The problem was how to produce children. He was unable to produce children with his wives. Kunti found a solution to the problem. Kunti remembered a special mantra she received from Durvasa Muni, when she served him when she was a young girl. The special mantra allows any demigod of her choice to give her a child. Pandu, overjoyed with new rays of hope, requested Kunti to summon the Yamaraja, the demigod of death and justice, for a son. A son was born to Kunti and was named Yudhisthira (“Firm in War”). Pandu requested Kunti to summon the demigod of wind, Vayu. Vayu gave a son to Kunti. When Kunti received the son, Kunti accidentally dropped him, as his cry sounded like that of a lion’s! The baby broke a big slab of stone in which he fell on. They decided to name him Bhima (“Terror of Foes.”) In this way, Indra, king of demigods, gave Kunti a son, who was named Arjuna. Kunti gave this mantra to Madri, as she summoned the two Asvina Kumara (twin demigods), and she received twin boys, who were named Nakula and Sahadeva. These five sons of Pandu were known as the Pandavas.

 

Upon receiving the great name of Yudhisthira’s birth, the entire city of Hastinapura overjoyed. Dhrtarastra and Gandhari were very upset that of their generation, Pandu’s child was the oldest, thus the next successor to the throne. Gandhari was more surprised, that she conceived a child before Kunti did, yet Kunti gave birth to Yudhisthira. In a fit of upset and anger, Gandhari smashed her womb and the embryo of the new-born split into one-hundred fragments. Each fragment become a child. Hence, Gandhari gave birth to one hundred children. The oldest child was named Duryodhana. The second oldest child was Duhsasana. Dhrtarastra and Gandhari also had a daughter, Dusala. Dhrtarastra and one his maid had an illegitimate child named Yuyutsu. Due to Sakuni’s revenge attitude, he misled the sons of Dhrtarastras (who are later known as the Kauravas).

 

While in the forest, the five sons of Pandu served the forest ascetics and sought knowledge from them. Yudhisthira being the eldest was very wise and had the knowledge of ethics and morals since childhood. Bhima was a very hungry person would try to get the most food, yet he was naturally strong. Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva were very bright children too. When they in their late childhood, Pandu was meditating one day. Madri had just completed her bath and she was going leaving the waters to change into her clothes. Pandu saw the form of Madri and he was enamored by her. Madri, who longed to be in the arms of Pandu, was afraid of getting near him, because of the curse. However, Pandu embraced her tightly. While doing this, Pandu immediately died. As Madri felt she was at fault for the death of her and Kunti’s husband, Madri decided to be burned alive with Pandu. Madri entrusted her two children, Nakula and Sahadeva to Kunti’s care and died on the pyre of her husband. Kunti with her five children, having no shelter, went back to Hastinapura. While Hastinapura, along with the Satyavati, Bhisma, Ambika, and Ambalika gave them a warm welcome back, Dhrtarastra and Gandhari worried of their return back. Furthermore, Duryodhana and his ninety-nine younger brothers were already envious of their cousins. They already showed signs of anger and hate from the day they met. One day, when all of the children were playing, Duryodhana and Duhsasana gave Bhima poisoned porridge and through his unconscious body in the river, where cobras neutralizes the effect of the poison and Bhima came back to life stronger than before.

 

Vidura and Bhisma realized that these children needed to be formally educated. They summoned family priest, Krpacarya, to teach Kauravas and Pandavas. When Dhrtarastra knew of their priest aiding his young enemies, he distracted Krpacarya for trivial matters, just to disrupt class. The children would play whenever there is no teacher. Once, the children threw a ball down a well accidentally. A brahmana, using a special technique of combining stalks of straw together, got the ball out. That brahmana was Dronacarya, the disciple of Parasurama and son of Bharadvaja Muni. When Bhisma learned of this event, Bhisma and Vidura hired him as the teacher of the Kuru princes. Dronacarya taught these Kuru princes military science. Dronacarya found Arjuna the most keen and diligent student. He impressed Dronacarya with his determination to learn so much that Dronacarya made it his own resolve to teach Arjuna everything he learned and make Arjuna the world’s greatest archer. He even denied this opportunity to his own son, Asvatthama, who felt jealous of Arjuna.

 

For many years until late youth, the Pandava and Kaurava princes studied military science and warfare through Dronacarya. He displayed their skill and strength through a public arena. When Arjuna showed off his skill, an unknown man came to the field and challenged Arjuna. That unknown personality was Karna, who had a very upsetting birth story. Karna is actually the son of Kunti. When Kunti, first, received her mantra to invoke a demigod, she decided to try it out to see if it works. She invoked the demigod of the sun, Vivasvan (or Suryadeva). She didn’t know of the consequence of her having a baby with Suryadeva. As she was not married to Pandu at the time, she couldn’t keep that baby boy, in fear of her reputation. The beautiful boy, whose chest skin was golden, and was born with golden in his body, was placed in a box and sent away through a river. Down the river, Dhrtarastra’s charioteer, Adiratha, and his wife, Radha, saw the boy and accepted him as their own. They named him Karna. Despite his true birth as a ksatriya, his “adopted” title was regarded as a low-class, as he was “born” as the “son of a charioteer.” As a result, he was denied admission in Dronacarya’s school. He had to pretend to be a brahmana to seek instruction of Parasurama. However, his instruction became fruitless, as Parasurama found out the truth and cursed Karna that he will forget his knowledge when his life depends on it. Carrying the stigma of his unknown birth and curse, Karna challenges Arjuna. In an arena, only a prince could fight a prince. Since Karna was not a prince or a “ksatriya”, he was disqualified. Duryodhana objected to this and immediately crowned Karna as the king of the land of Anga. This way, Karna would be qualified to fight. However, the sunset took place and this fight was not destined to take place yet.

 

 

Early Signs of Tension Between Pandavas and Kauravas

 

After the tournament at the arena was completed, the Pandavas and Kauravas had to offer a fee to Dronacarya. Dronacarya requested that the Kauravas capture the king of Pancala, Dhrupada, and bring him to Dronacarya. Kauravas, were very egotistical about this task so they went off trying to capture Dhrupada, but Dhrupada’s army was so vast that the army, that after hours of fighting, the Kauravas were tired away to flee back home. Dronacarya accepted their effort as an offering, despite their defeat. Dronacarya challenged the Pandavas to this task. The Pandavas, even though they were five people alone without an army, conquered the army and captured Dhrupada very quickly. Dhrupada was sent to Dronacarya. The reason why Dhrupada was captured, was because Dronacarya wanted to take revenge. Dronacarya and Dhrupada were very close childhood friends. When they moved apart, Dhrupada became a king. Dronacarya was very poor, and there was no cow to get milk for his child, Asvatthama. Even though he was an exalted brahmana, he went to beg for a cow from Dhrupada, but Dhrupada insulted him and said that “friendship only happens between equals.” Since they were not equals, they could not be friends. Dronacarya was very insulted and remembered the hardships faced because of this. Dronacarya made the conquered Dhrupada realize how the tables have turned. Dronacarya announced his decision to take a cow for himself, so he can finally give milk to his grown son, Asvatthama.

 

Dhrtarastra’s heart was impeding with fear as he wants to nominate his son, Duryodhana, as the new crowned prince. However, the people of Hastinapura, the ministers, Vidura, and Bhisma wanted Yudhisthira as the crowned prince, as he was not only the oldest but the wisest and most worthy person to be next successor. Dhrtarastra, in fear of public response, was forced to select Yudhisthira. Duryodhana was very upset and wanted to find a way to kill the Pandavas. Duryodhana, Duhsasana, Sakuni, and Karna would conspire ways to kill the Pandavas and find ways to make Duryodhana the new king of Hastinapura. There was a special Siva festival that was taking place at a nearby city of Varnavata. Per tradition, the king of Hastinapura attends this event. As the evil-minded Dhrtarastra did not want the Pandavas to claim ownership of the kingdom, Dhrtarastra, as well as Duryodhana, Duhsasana, Sakuni, and Karna,  wanted Yudhisthira to go to Varnavata. The Kauravas decided to hire an architect to build a house made of wax, so that while Yudhisthira is sleeping, they can burn the house on fire. Yudhisthira, not knowing of this treacherous plan, invited his four brother and his mother, Kunti, along. They departed with great celebration to their new home, which is made of wax. No one suspected any problems with their stay, except for Vidura. Through his spies, he learned of this plan and immediately informed Yudhisthira in subtle ways by sending spies to him. The Pandavas and Kunti realized that this is another way of Duryodhana trying to kill the Pandavas. They decided to leave the house by an underground tunnel the day before the burning of the house. The burning of the house yielded seven casualties, one woman, five sons, and the architect who built this house. Many people assumed the Pandavas to be dead at that point, as they saw the woman and sons dead bodies. The Pandavas left the house in time and stayed in the forest, in disguise. They stayed at Ekacakra serving brahmanas and killing demons harassing the citizens.

 

Marriage of Draupadi

 

While in the forest, they learned of the marriage ceremony of Draupadi. King Dhrupada created a test that the suitor must pass. The suitor must be able to lift a very heavy bow and attack the target by looking at the water reflection of the target. This test would only be passed by Arjuna, thought Dhrupada. Many kings and princes from lands all over India came to give their shot, but no one was able to lift the bow. Karna was the first one able to lift the bow, however, Draupadi, by the instruction of Lord Krsna, who was present as a special guest, refused to marry “the son of a charioteer.” Arjuna, in disguise as a brahmana, after seeing many kings and princes having the test, decided to try his might and he succeeded without any effort. Draupadi accepted this brahmana, not knowing who he really was. The fact that a brahmana was able to participate spurred a conflict, which was quickly resolved. Draupadi came to realize that the brahmana who won her was Arjuna. She was greatly pleased. When Arjuna returned home, Arjuna told Kunti, “We have brought home alms.” Without looking up, she said, “Split it amongst your brothers.” Being the command of his mother, he could not disobey and this brought forth a great moral dilemma. This meant that all five brothers had to marry Draupadi. Draupadi was understood to be the wive of the Pandavas. To ensure that no disharmony takes place, Narada Muni instructed that there will special periods where Draupadi can share time with each Pandava. If one of the Pandava interrupts this special time, then that one will have to go to the forest and seek repentance.

 

After the burning of the wax home, Dhrtarastra, Sakuni, Duryodhana, Duhsasana, and Karna were all elated to known that the Pandavas supposedly died. Bhisma and Vidura knew the actual truth that they were alive. However, Arjuna’s winning Draupadi gave word out everyone that the Pandavas are very much alive. This struck a chord of fear to the Kauravas, while this played a chord of joy to the citizens of Hastinapura who loved them very much. They were awaiting to see their new bride, Draupadi.

 

Partitioning Hastinapura

 

Duryodhana and his assembly of his supporters were not happy of Pandavas’ returning of Hastinapura. He knew they would come back to reclaim their place in the assembly of Hastinapura’s court. Dhrtarastra understood this potential outbreak take place. As much as the wise ministers, Bhisma, Vidura, Dronacarya, and Krpacarya persuaded and explained to Duryodhana and Dhrtarastra that Yudhisthira is the rightful and most deserving heir apparent. As Dhrtarastra, being a foolish king, disregarded the opinions of the elders and the wise, Bhisma was forced to take the most extreme decision to partition the nation. Dhrtarastra decided to give Hastinapura to Duryodhana and a barren and deserted place called Khandavaprastha. Even though the four younger Pandava brothers felt cheated, Yudhisthira accepted this land as a token of love from his second father-figure. Even though he knew very well that this was injustice, for the sake of peace, he was willing to accept that much. Lord Krsna and His dear brother, Balarama, gave help to their cousins and friends, the Pandavas, in rebuiling Khandavaprastha to an amazing land known as Indraprastha. To establish new rule, Yudhisthira had to complete a special yajna, or a sacrificial fire ceremony, called the Rajasuya Yajna. Events such as killing the demoniac king, Jarasandha, took place. When the ceremony began, all kings from India came to Indraprastha to partake the event.

 

The Kauravas from Hastinapura visited Indraprastha, as a formality. Duryodhana could not stand to see the victory of Yudhisthira. In anger, he decided to blow off his steam by visiting The Palace of Illusions in Indraprastha, created by a demon named Maya, who was protected by Lord Krsna and the Pandavas. While visiting the Palace of Illusions, Duryodhana assumed a lake was the solid floor. While falling into the water, Draupadi was nearby and saw this event. She laughed and ridiculed him saying, “A blind man’s son is also blind.” That insult helped to fuel the anger, envy, and vengeful behavior of Duryodhana.

 

The Gambling Tournament

 

Sakuni, Duryodhana’s evil-minded maternal uncle, realized how Duryodhana was suffering in the heat of anger and envy, as the Pandavas were quick to success. Sakuni suggested that there was one ray of hope to make the rich and opulent Pandavas become paupers. Sakuni invited the Pandavas for a gambling tournament. Even though it is forbidden to gamble by religious principles, Yudhisthira had to accept the challenge, as it was considered to be adhering to the duty of a ksatriya. Yudhisthira, his brothers, and Draupadi came back to Hastinapura’s court, where Bhisma, Vidura, Dronacarya, Krpacarya, and King Dhrtarastra were present. The gambling tournament took place with two sides: the Pandava brothers and the Kaurava side with Duryodhana, Duhsasana, Sakuni, and Karna. There was one big catch to the tournament; Sakuni was using haunted dice. Sakuni’s family were known to be expert gamblers, as their dice was made from the bones of the ancestors. The soul of the ancestors of Gandhara would subject the dice to roll in whichever way the mind wants. Hence, Sakuni was in full control with these dice. The first round of play was very simple, although the Pandavas were losing, as expected. The second round of play started to become more costly, as stakes were higher. Yudhisthira, initially, put his wealth and personal material possessions in stake. After losing those, he started putting Indraprastha’s wealth, people, and his land in stake. Due to Sakuni’s deceitful ways, the dice obeyed Sakuni and Duryodhana now has the other half of the kingdom he wanted. Yudhisthira still kept playing, despite losing his kingdom. He staked his younger brothers, one after one. From princes, Sahadeva, Nakula, Arjuna, and then Bhima, became servants and slaves of Duryodhana. Then Yudhisthira staked himself and as expected, he was dethroned from the position of the king of Hastinapura and became a slave of Duryodhana. When Yudhisthira thought he had no other possessions left, the evil minded Kauravas reminded Yudhisthira of the fact that Draupadi is still up from grabs. Despite having lost to Duryodhana, he found the power to put Drapuadi on stake. Draupadi was won by Duryodhana’s sinful camp.

 

While this commotion was taking place, Draupadi was changing into the proper attire to take a bath. Duhsasana went into her room when she was half dressed and dragged her by her hair. When she appeared in court in such a state, the Pandavas were not able to rescue her, as they were enslaved by Duryodhana. When Draupadi was in the court, everyone lowered their eyes and did nothing. Draupadi asked poignant questions to people who she used to admire as “wise people.” Bhisma, Vidura, Krpacarya, Dronacarya, and Dhrtarastra did not give any answer. While crying for justice, Karna and Duryodhana called her a whore, as she had five husbands. Immediately, without wasting any time, Duhsasana was ordered to strip Draupadi. Immediately, having no real person to get help from, she prayed to Lord Krsna to protect her honor and modesty. Immediately, Lord Krsna appeared to her providing extra cloth to add on to Draupadi’s clothing. Duhsasana got tired pulling this cloth of great lengths, by Krsna’s mercy. Immediately, when Duhsasana fainted and Draupadi crying, Bhima made a vengeful vow that he will not know any peace if he does not break Duryodhana’s thigh and rip Duhsasana’s chest and drink his blood. Arjuna also vowed to kill Karna. In fear of hearing these awesome vows, Dhrtarastra immediately returned any losses through the gambling tournament back to the Pandavas.

 

The Pandavas received another gambling tournament invitation. The four younger Pandava brothers and Draupadi were worried, but Yudhisthira vowed not put them at stake. This time, Dhrtarastra ordered the Pandavas to tournament. Bound their “second father figure”, they accepted the invitation and took part. This time, the stakes were raised that the loser will have to spend twelve years in the forest and one year living in anonymity. Another condition to the exile is that if anyone recognizes them in their final year, they will have to redo their exile in its entirety. Sakuni used his haunted dice and controlled the game in such a way that the Pandavas lost again.

 

The Thirteen Years of Exile

 

Dhrtarastra was extremely happy of seeing the Pandavas suffer in the forest. He put on a fake act on being sympathetic to the Pandavas. Even though the Pandavas accepted the exile, the Kauravas found no peace. Their interactions throughout the first twelve years included sending demons and people to torture them, creating unnecessary problems with the Gandharva tribes. Despite those attempts, they passed each test. Krsna visited them to give them solace. Krsna saw a forthcoming war which was destined to take place. He requested Arjuna to worship Lord Siva in order to get divine weapons. He won the blessings of Lord Siva and received divine weapons and a course in the art of dancing. Twelve years passed very quickly by the blessings of Lord Krsna.

 

In the final year, they took disguise as servants or people offering service to the land of Matysa. Yudhisthira took the role as Kank, the king’s associate who gambles with him. Bhima was the cook known as Ballava. Arjuna, due to a curse from a heavenly damsel during the exile, was cursed to be a eunuch for one year. Arjuna became the eunuch known as Brhanalla. He became the teacher of the princess, Uttara, in dancing and singing. Nakula and Sahadeva became the cow and horse caretakers. Draupadi was Sairandri. the maid of the queen of Matysa. For one year, they endured living in a subservient manner, and occasionally dealt with some abuse from the family, due to status differences. After the year was completed, the Pandavas assumed their original form and the king’s family for offering them shelter. The king of Matsya and his family begged forgiveness for any misbehavior on their part. The king offered his daughter, Uttara, to Arjuna’s son, Abhimanyu in marriage.

 

Years Before The War

 

The Pandavas returned to Indraprastha after the marriage ceremony. The Kauravas were not interested in allowing the Pandavas to return to their kingdom, as during the exile, there was one episode when Arjuna, as Brhanalla, conquered the army of the Kauravas. The elders of Hastinapura refute the allegation, as mathetmatically, the year was technically over when Brhanalla fired upon the Kaurava army while in disguise at the Matsya kingdom. All of India knew that a great war was going to take place. Therefore, both sides were choosing and selecting their allies. Krsna decided to make a proposal to the Pandavas and Kauravas, on allies. Krsna offered either His divine army or an unarmed Krsna. Arjuna, being a devotee and friend of the Lord, wanted only Krsna, while Duryodhana, being foolish, took the divine army. Krsna, being officially on the side of the Pandavas, tried to make every peace proposal. However, the mind of Dhrtarastra and Duryodhana was so foolish that they not only refused any compromise or peace, but they insulted Lord Krsna in the process. When Duryodhana tried to arrest Krsna, He assumed such a powerful form with great radiation of light, that no one was able to see anything, except for Bhisma and Vidura, who were pure devotees of the Lord.

 

Right before the onset of the war, Kunti revealed to Karna that she was his biological mother. Karna, after hearing the painful confession and realization of who his true brothers are, decided that he will spare the other four Pandavas and attack Arjuna. Whether Arjuna dies or Karna dies, there will be five sons remaining. Krsna, too, persuaded Karna to join the Pandavas. He even assured that Yudhisthira will give up any aspiration to seize any kingdom if Karna joined the Pandavas. However, considering his loyalty and his debt to his friend, Duryodhana, to be most important, Karna rejected the offer of Lord Krsna.

 

Every peace proposal was rejected and one thing was certain: war was inevitable. Vidura was upset on this situation that he resigned as minister. Having no one by his side, Dhrtarastra was alone. By the command and the mercy of Vyasadeva, Sanjaya (disciple of Vyasadeva) obtained divine vision to be able to see the events of the war, even though they were at the court of Hastinapura. This way, Sanjaya was able to narrate the happenings of the war to Dhrtarastra.

 

The Start of the War

 

The Pandavas and Kauravas were fully energized in the war. Both sides had a great number of allies.

 

The side of the Pandavas consisted of Lord Krsna, the five Pandava brothers, the army of King Dhrupada, and the army of King Matsya. Only one Kaurava, Yuyutsu, joined the forces of the Pandavas. In addition, Arjuna’s son, Abhimanyu (son of Subhadra and nephew and disciple of Lord Krsna), Ghatotkaca (the son of Bhima and Hidimba, born of the demon race), and the sons of Draupadi took part in this war. Hanuman was the blessing of the war, as he was serving Lord Krsna in the image of Lord Rama. The brother of Draupadi, Drstadyumna, was the commander-in-chief.

 

The side of the Kauravas consisted of the one-hundred Kaurava brothers, their sister-in-law (Dusala’s husband) Jayadratha (the king of Sindhu [presently known as Pakistan]), the divine army of Lord Krsna, the army of Gandhara (Sakuni’s land), Karna and his army (the land of Anga), and the army of Trigarta. The most unfortunate result was pious people and well-wishers of Hastinapura and dharma, Bhisma, Dronacarya, and Krpacarya, ended up joining the forces of evil, due to their duty. The king of Madra (uncle of Nakula and Sahadeva) was conned into joining forced with the Kauravas. Bhisma was nominated as the commander-in-chief. During his reign, he ordered that Karna would not fight under his banner.

 

Just before the start of war, Arjuna saw his relatives and family friends on the opposite army and he began to feel fear and compassion for them. He lost the ability to fight. Lord Krsna advised him to give up these feelings of compassion and follow his duty as a warrior of dharma. The conversation between Lord Krsna and Arjuna became what is known as the Bhagavad-Gita. (Bhagavad-Gita can be read here on KKSongs.org).

 

The war started and from the start, the Pandavas made a powerful blow to the Kaurava army. For the first nine days of war, the Kauravas kept loosing many of the one-hundred brothers, but the war headed in no real direction. The Pandavas were powerful, however, Bhisma could not die, unless he wanted it; Bhisma had the boon of wishful death. In addition, Dronacarya, Krpacarya, and Bhisma, who were the real well-wishers of the Pandavas, did not kill them or make any attempt to kill them. This compassionate attitude made Duryodhana and the other Kaurava brothers very angry. On a secret meeting with the Pandavas, Bhisma gave the powerful hint that he will lay down his arms if a woman joins the battlefield. There was one solution to this problem: inviting Sikhandi. Sikhandi is the half-brother of Draupadi. Sikhandi is a male who took a female body, for this very moment. He was actually Amba, the princess who Bhisma refused to marry many generations ago. She cursed Bhisma that she would be the cause of his death. Bhisma realized who Sikhandi was and immediately, Bhisma threw his weapons on the ground. Arjuna, by the order of Krsna and Bhisma, shot Bhisma repeatedly until his body, full of arrows, collapsed on the ground. Bhisma was still alive despite this pain and weakness. He retired from fighting the war, but he laid there on this bed of arrows, and he will not leave his unsuitable bodily condition until Hastinapura is safe.

 

Immediately, Dronacarya was the new commander-in-chief of the war. Karna was allowed to join in and the consequences of the war became very powerful. King Dhrupada, King of Matsya, and his son, Uttar-kumara, were killed by Dronacarya and the Pandava army was taking a powerful blow. The Kauravas designed a special plan to capture Yudhisthira, by sending Krsna and Arjuna off to the other end of the battlefield. Abhimanyu, finding his duty to protect his uncle Yudhisthira, decided to take on the Kauravas and try to break this powerful trap. He was successful getting into this obscure formation. Getting out was the problem. Sakuni, Dronacarya, Krpacarya, Duryodhana, Duhsasana, Karna, and Krtavarma surrounded Abhimanyu and removed him of any weapons. When Abhimanyu was severly wounded and unarmed, all seven warriors attacked him at once and killed him using unethical means. This became the point in war where unethical tactics took place.

 

When war was traditionally stopped at sunset, war would still go on in the night causing more casualties. Ghatotkaca, Bhima’s demon son, destroyed a significant part of the Kaurava army. Karna killed Ghatotkaca the next day using the Sakti spear, the invincible spear Karna saved for killing Arjuna.

 

Lord Krsna encouraged Yudhisthira to tell a lie to Dronacarya that Asvatthama is dead. Asvatthama is the name of Dronacarya’s son, as well as another elephant in the war. The elephant was dead, but Yudhisthira reluctantly lied that his son was dead. Dronacarya, immersed in grief, disarmed himself and sat in the battlefield with his eyes closed. Drstadyumna took a sword and killed him. Karna was named the new commander-in-chief.

 

Karna, unlike Dronacarya and Bhisma, was not a well-wisher of the Pandavas, although known to Krsna, Kunti, the Suryadeva, he will spare the lives of Yudhisthira, Bhima, Nakula, and Sahadeva. However, Arjuna is his prime target. Karna was indeed, a powerful match for Arjuna. On this day, the Pandava’s casualties were their allies, except for Drstadyumna and Krsna, Abhimanyu, and Ghatotkaca. The Kaurava’s causalties were Bhisma retiring from the war, Dronacarya, the Trigarta army, Jayadratha, and the ninety-eight brothers of Duryodhana. Bhima and Duhsasana wear having their fierce duel. This resulted in Bhima ripping off Duhsasana’s left army, ripping his chest, and drinking his blood. He also took some blood of Duhsasana and smeared it on Draupadi’s open hair to pacify her insult.

 

The duel for Arjuna and Karna lasted for two days. When Karna was on the verge of defeating Arjuna, Karna’s charioteer’s got stuck within the earth. Arjuna, being an ethical warrior, waited until Karna fixed his chariot. Krsna suggested Arjuna shoot Karna in that position, as Karna never obeyed any ethics of war and dharma throughout his life. Even though he was loyal as a friend to Duryodhana, he was unloyal to the side of dharma and used unethical means of killing Abhimanyu. While Karna realizes his death was coming, he tried to invoke a missle to kill Arjuna, but his memory deceived him. Parasurama’s curse did not go in vain. Arjuna sent a powerful arrow which killed Karna. The loss of Duhsasana and Karna made a powerful blow to Duryodhana. It was at this night, Kunti revealed the truth of Karna. Yudhisthira was very upset at this that he cursed womanhood of being incapable of keeping such secrets.

 

Final Three Days of War

 

The last three days of war ended up with the Pandavas on the streak of victory and the Kauravas suffering losses. On the sixteenth day of war, Sakuni was killed by Sahadeva, and the king of Madra (the new commander-in-chief after Karna) was killed by Yudhisthira. The army of Hastinapura was vanquished by the sixteenth day. The Pandavas and their army was very much in strength, while the Kaurava side had only four people left: Duryodhana, Krpacarya, Asvatthama, and Krtavarma.

 

The seventeenth day involved the duel of Bhima and Duryodhana. Duryodhana was given a special boon of strength which made all of his body, except for his lower body, metallic. Bhima and Duryodhana engaged in mace warfare. This duel took a great amount of time. However, Bhima was getting tired as Duryodhana was nearly invincible that day. Krsna suggested that Bhima strike Duryodhana on the thigh, as Bhima made this promise. Such a tactic is unethical and violates the code of war. Duryodhana’s metallic boon was taken away and he had fallen. Duryodhana was holding onto his life as long as he could, nearly on the verge of death. That night, Krpacarya, Krtavarma, and Asvatthama were very upset to see their leader fallen. Asvatthama decided to take vengeance in his own hands. While everyone was asleep in the Pandava side, Asvatthama decided to use unethical means to kill Drstadyumna and Draupadi’s five sons while they were asleep and defenseless. When Asvatthama returned to Duryodhana to deliver the news, Duryodhana scolded such an act and disapproved of Asvatthama’s behavior. In frustration, Duryodhana died and Asvatthama decided to seek repentance.

 

When the Pandavas woke up the next day, they were shocked to see their five sons all dead. They recognized the arrows of Asvatthama. Arjuna made a vow that he will take a bath upon Asvatthama’s head, in order to pacify Draupadi’s grief. Asvatthama sought shelter at Vyasadeva’s hermitage. Krsna took the Pandavas to where Asvatthama was hiding. Asvatthama made an attempt to kill the Pandavas with a powerful nuclear weapon of Brahma. When this failed, he took that very weapon and attacked the embryo of the unborn child of Uttara and Abhimanyu, which is the seed of the Pandava’s future generation. Krsna protected the unborn child from the attack of Asvatthama. Krsna ordered that Arjuna kill Asvatthama, but Draupadi requested that he be released free, as she does not want his mother to weep like her. Such exemplary compassion by Draupadi forced Krsna to curse Asvatthama that he roam throughout the earth throughout the duration of Earth being disfigured and rejected by society. This eighteenth day ended the Mahabharata war. All five Pandavas survived, but all of the allies, except Lord Krsna, and all of the Pandava’s sons were killed. The entire clan of the Kauravas were killed except for Krtavarma, who surrendered to Lord Krsna, and Krpacarya. Such were the terrible consequences of this war.

 

King Yudhisthira and Passing of Bhisma

 

Dhrtarastra and Gandhari still had some feelings of anger towards the Pandavas. Gandhari even cursed Krsna that his race meets destruction, as Gandhari felt Krsna was the source of the war. However, after the war and proper realizations, Dhrtarastra had a change of heart and accepted the Pandavas. Yudhisthira was the new king of Hasintapura and he ensured a new rule under the law of dharma and religion. Before officially ruling the kingdom of Hastinapura, Krsna and the Pandavas decided to meet Bhisma, who was still alive, despite resting on a bed of arrows. Bhisma realized that crowning Yudhisthira meant that Hastinapura was safe and in good hands. Bhisma gave a great discourse of human duty, dharma, religion, and political ethics. After this sermon, with the permission of Krsna, Bhisma left his body for the heavenly planets. Demigods showered flowers upon the dead body of Bhisma, glorifying this true personality who suffered his entire life in protecting his nation and being very dear to Lord Krsna. After the cremation ceremony of Bhisma, Dhrtarastra, Vidura, Kunti, and Gandhari decided to leave the political and royal life and head to the forest and retire. Their retired life ended abruptly, as a sudden forest fire killed Dhrtarastra, Gandhari, Vidura, and Kunti. Krsna left back to Dwarka to attend political matters back at home.

 

Epilogue of the Mahabharata

 

Many years passed by and Yudhisthira’s rule was still exemplary with dharma and religious principles. Krsna’s race of the Yadus, by the will of the Lord, became drunk and started to commit sinful acts. In this manner, the Yadu dynasty was destroyed. Lord Krsna’s desire and Gandhari’s curse have both been fulfilled. Lord Krsna’s elder brother, Balarama, and Krsna were the two survivors. Knowing that dharma is on the verge of destruction and knowing that the dark age is about to come, Balarama and Krsna found it suitable to end Their earthly pastimes. Balarama left before Krsna did. Krsna decided to relax on a tree. A hunter, named Jara, thought that Krsna’s foot was the head of a deer, so he shot the Lord’s foot. Even though Krsna cannot die, Krsna did this pastime to leave this world. Krsna’s departure sent bad omens to the Pandavas as their beloved friend had left the world.

 

Kali Yuga had started from that point onwards. The five Pandava brothers and Draupadi decided to retire from their hectic and turbulent political lives and go to the Himalayas. They enthroned Pariksita, the son of Uttara and Abhimanyu, as the new king of Hastinapura.

 

On the way, a strange dog accompanied the Pandavas and Draupadi. First, Draupadi died on the way. Then, Sahadeva passed away. Nakula and Arjuna passed away on the middle of walking up the mountain. Near the top, Bhima began feeling weak and then gave up his life. Yudhisthira was all alone with the dog and made it to the top, where an aerial car was awaiting him. Indra, the king of demigods, wanted to take Yudhisthira to the heavenly planets. Yudhisthira insisted the dog come too, as he has accompanied them. Indra scoffed at that idea; Yudhisthira decided to stay on earth and keep the dog company. The dog was actually the demigod of the death and the father of Yudhisthira, Yamaraja. Yudhisthira took many tests of his character before ascending the heavenly planets, which is beyond the effects of time, and material illness and suffering.

 

UPDATED: July 24, 2010

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