“Krishna, I was sure, you would appear before me well in time. I could never breathe my last unless I have a full glance of your blissful countenance. You fought against me as your foe but adored me in the heart of your heart. You have exploded the myth of my invincibility. Now I lie fallen in the battle field with blood-smeared wounds all over the body. In a short while from now I would have to give up my earthly form and pass into oblivion. Time may paint me in its own colour, as a hero or a villain. I don’t have any regret for that. The burdens of my life’s sorrows are full to its brim. I shall get rid of them soon and feel greatly relieved. How long could I carry the pressing weight of guilt on my shoulders? I am unable to bear it any longer. The time has come when I can share with you the tale of my woes and derive a sense of solace. I have never shared my deep seated anguish with others as I did not confide any one on a matter so delicate for me. Ever since the outbreak of the war, I lost all interests to live a life that destiny chalked out for me. It is only you who knows the ambivalence of the situation in which I find myself. By now I know who I am. The mystery surrounding my birth stands unveiled before me. I find myself a self-defeating warrior. Who could resolve the identity crisis that I was faced with throughout the course of the war? I am the eldest among the Pandavs and also the trusted commander-in-chief of the Kaurav forces. My biological brothers are yet to know the secret. In any case, it follows that the death of the eldest one precedes that of the younger siblings. Death would make me proud. What could be more celebrated than death in the battle field in your presence? It gives me a sense of immense fulfilment that I fought the battle for my friend Duryodhan till the end of my life and paid off my debt, true to my words. The vicissitudes which intervened in my way had not distracted me from the war. He must have the feeling that I was worthy of the trust. I never deserted him when he needed me most to the extent of laying down my life in the war. ”
“Vasudev! Fate was very unkind to me. Throughout my life I had to fight against misfortunes. All that I had to face was rejection, isolation and ignominy. My unwed mother abandoned me in my infancy to protect her honour. I was set afloat in the flowing water of the river Ashwa. Always busy in his work my father had hardly any time for me. However, his two parting gifts, armour and a pair of ear ornaments, grew with me and was a part of my being, meant for protection of my life. While floating in the water, Adhirath, the charioteer of Hastinapur came to my rescue and his wife Radha nursed me like her own son. My presence in their house was a great source of joy for the childless couple who used to pray daily for the gift of a child. They became my parents and I came to be known as Radheya, the son of Radha, wife of the charioteer. Adhirath rescued me from getting drowned in the river water and gave me a fresh lease of life but all along I felt as a lost person, floating in the vast sea of the humanity. Someone who is faced with an imminent fear of getting drowned and lost clings even to a straw for support. It is this sense of insecurity, helplessness and loneliness which prompted me to make alliances, sacred or profane, with persons who came my way. ”
“Adhirath made all efforts to train me in the traditional occupation of his caste and I was on my way to succeed him as a carpenter. But at this juncture of time Jambaban, the bear with a human face arrived at the village, looking for me. He met and convinced my parents to leave me with him for my education. He trained me in various fields of martial arts and could accurately assess the innate aptitude in me . He inflamed in me the passion for learning. It is at his instance I approached Parsuram, the legendary teacher, to accept me as his disciple. Earlier Drona refused to teach me since I was of lowly origin and he only imparted his lessons to the princes of the Kuru clan. For me anonymity was distressingly painful in my childhood. I desired to learn all the lessons which are ideally meant for a prince. I felt restless and could not supress the impulse that rose within me like tempests. I left for Parsuram’s hermitage for my learning. He had a great feeling of animosity against the Kshatriyas. Without any further inquiry he not only accepted me as his disciple but also took all possible care to train me as the greatest of archers and an adept in warfare. He treated me with so much of love and kindness that he even made me more capable than himself. Time rolled on and my lessons from him were nearing completion. An incident which took place in one afternoon made him seriously angry and in spite of my sincerest apology and devotion to him I could not pacify his anger. It was an unfortunate incident for me. While leaning on my thighs and taking rest he deeply fell asleep. A poisonous insect came from nowhere and wounded me severely. It was very painful for me and I bled profusely. I successfully resisted not groaning in pain lest my mentor would be disturbed in his sleep. When he woke up and saw the pool of blood oozing out of my thigh, he was sure that I was not a Brahmin boy as he thought of me earlier and I have cheated him by my look. In our first meeting he never enquired about my caste nor have I ever posed as a Brahmin boy. It was his delusion. Humbly I begged him for his pardon and explained my own helpless position . Nothing could calm down his violent rage. He cursed me since he thought it was a grave mistake on my part. Nevertheless, he loved me well and gifted me with his most powerful bow Vijay. He further advised me to participate in the forthcoming tournament and arms’ exhibition slated to be held in Hastinapur on the occasion of the graduation ceremony of the princes. Out of deep respect I obeyed him. My participation in the tournament was a turning point in my life. When Arjun was acknowledged as the greatest among the archers, I had to contest the declaration since I felt that with the education and skill imparted to me by my revered teacher I could defeat Arjun. I was capable of performing all the feats displayed by Arjun in the distinguished assembly. ”
“Vasudev! Won’t you appreciate the attitude of an adolescent boy with a sound tutelage to grow ambitious? But my humble origin stood in my way. I was not only debarred from participating in a duel with Arjun but also greatly insulted. Bhima called me to a stray dog. Further, he admonished me and asked me to take care of my chariot and horses only. The society had drawn a line segregating the princes of royal blood and the commoners. Birth was given priority over worth. Nobody came forward to appreciate my learning and skill except Duryodhan who extended his warm friendship to me. My coronation as the king of Ang was held then and there. ”
“Janardhan! In spite of my determination to help people in need in giving away any object they asked for, a heap of abuses was hurled at me. It is not only my revered preceptor who cursed me for my alleged pretence of telling him a lie, there were others too. While I was practicing my lessons on bow and arrow all of a sudden a cow came from nowhere and headed towards me and was killed by the arrow I shot. The cow belonged to a Brahmin who used to fall back upon it as his means of subsistence. Deeply hurt by the death of the animal he cursed me for killing a helpless creature. I offered him to compensate for his loss, more than thousand times of its real price but I failed to satisfy or persuade the Brahmin. He cursed me to die helpless in the battle field which has come true. There was one more instance in which my good intention brought me disrepute. I felt pity on a small girl who was weeping desperately. On inquiry I learnt that the girl was terribly scarred of her step mother as she had spilt the ghee which she was carrying home. I offered her another pot full of ghee but she insisted on getting back the same ghee that was spoiled and mixed up with earth, sands and pebbles. It was painful for me to see tears in the eyes of a small girl who had lost her mother. In order to console her and to compensate for the loss, I had to squeeze hard the earth with all my might to extract ghee out of it. My exploit enraged Goddess Bhoomi Devi. She too cursed me and said that a time would come in my life when the wheel of my chariot would get stuck on earth and I would fail to release it with all my might. I look back and recount all those unpleasant incidents and wonder how did all these events take place to contrive against my life?”
“ Keshav! Just now, Shailya , my charioteer in the great war left the field to deliver the message to Duryodhan. I could not keep up my promise to my benefactor to win the war. He is the only one who extended his patronage to me and transformed a humble carpenter boy into a king. It is through his support my valour and skill came to light. I acquired an identity in the eyes of the world. The stigma of lowly origin that the society attributed to me haunted me every now and then. Duryodhan elevated my status in the eyes of the people. He made me the King of Anga. I readily accepted his friendly offer not because of my lust for power and the regalia associated with it but to obey the commands of my teacher who desired me to take part in the event. The course of events following the tournament was interplay of circumstances over which I had hardly any control. One event followed another in quick succession. He won my support instantaneously. However, I did enquire from him then what he expected from me in return of the favour. His reply was I should maintain friendship with him without any precondition. Once I made the commitment, it was impossible for me get out of it. I am glad I lived up to this sense of righteousness and loyalty to him till the last moment of my life. ”
“Madhav! in the grand assembly of spectators who were present to witness the display of prowess of the princes my mother too was present. There was a great applause from the Kaurav princes following my challenge to Arjun. The assembly seemed to have been divided between my supporters and those of Arjun. I came to know at a later period that my mother was also there in the company of the queens, princesses and her entourage in attendance. Soon after she had a glimpse on me she fainted and became unconscious. She regained her senses after a while with the care of her attendants. She must have realised then that I have overcome the sordid ordeal to which I was put by her soon after my birth. It was not possible for her to mistake me for somebody else’s son as long as I had the dazzling pair of ear ornaments on my ears. Had she disclosed the secret of my birth then, history would have taken a completely different turn.
“I was married to Vrushali, the friend of Bhanumati, wife of the crown prince Duryodhan. He always gave me a place of honour and made me a part of the royalty. People say Duryodhan made my friendship a ploy to crush the Pandavs whom he knew to be stronger than him in every respect. But I am convinced of earnestness in his relationship with me. He loved and respected me from the core of his heart and had no doubt on my conduct. I had access to all people close to him in his palace without any hindrance. His queen Bhanumati used to play dice with me even when Duryodhan was outside the palace. On one occasion both of us were seriously engrossed in the game in his absence. Bhanumati was losing in spite of her well thought- out move and we were in the middle of the game. The entrance of the room where we were playing was on my back and the queen was facing it directly. When all of a sudden Bhanumati stood up, I assumed she was quitting the game to avoid the embarrassment of losing it to me. With a view to compel her not to leave in the middle of the game and resume playing I tried to make her sit once again and I pulled her drape very strongly as a result of which the strings of the pearls embedded on it on got impaired and the beads fell on the floor spreading all around. When I looked at the door to my great amazement I saw Duryodhan entering the room. Bhanumati’s face turned pale. With her drape in my hands I felt very much embarrassed for the fear of castigation as the scene was sure to enrage her husband. I was deeply upset and unable to utter a word. But what I saw later was a great exception. Duryodhan entered the room smiling and in an approving mood asked both of us whether he would help us in collecting the pearls spread on the ground or he himself alone should take care of them. His words came to me as a great relief and my confidence in him was greatly enhanced. His friendly gesture compelled me to be his close associate in all his activities. However, I was always conscious of his Himalayan ego, arrogance and misdemeanours. He was over-ambitious and nourished a deep seated jealousy towards his cousins, the five Pandavs. At times I have warned him of the consequences, advised him to give up the means of trickery and follow a course of action appropriate for the brave and courageous princes. All my efforts were of no avail. He never listened to the counsels of prudence of the grandsire Bhisma, his teacher Drona and the arch advisor Vidur. Dhritrastra was not only blind physically but also his love for Duryodhan had blinded him further. Even the king accepted the suggestion of Vidur at a point of time and wanted an amicable settlement. But Duryodhan never gave in.
My sense of gratitude always prompted me to take his side without thinking of the consequences just like what his father did. I could not prevent him from taking recourse to certain means which were unethical. My most grievous fault lies here which proved fatal and calamitous. His offer of friendship came at a critical moment of my life when I felt most helpless and weak, and I was bound down by a strong sense of loyalty to him. I did raise some questions before my friend but never gave him a chance to question my loyalty. My association with all his actions was greatly impulsive. I made serious war campaigns all over Aryavarta to subjugate the Kings and the ruling dynasties and made them render their loyalty to Duryodhan. I fought for him and made him win the hands of his queen Bhanumati, the princess of Kashi, who was snatched away from her swayambar. Through my sincere efforts Duryodhan emerged as one of foremost rulers and was able to make very powerful connections. He could raise a formidable array of warriors in this war. Throughout my life I had to pay my debt of gratitude to him for the favour he showed me once. I never entertained a single thought of ungratefulness to my friend even in the most obsessive circumstances. All my sons except Vrishaketu fought on his side in this war and all of them laid down their life in Kurukshetra. It is my turn to follow them now. Vrishaketu is too young and I am leaving him behind as an orphan without a future. Just like me he would grow as a helpless child and even may face serious threats to his life. I am left with no purpose in life. My loyalty to Duryodhan may have been misplaced, may have been an aberration of my judgement but could never be questioned. I always looked upon ungratefulness with denunciation. He ventured to fight against the Pandavs whom he knew to be stronger than him because he was sure of getting support from me and from warriors like Bhisma,Drona and his son Ashwatthama who had their own reasons for support to the throne of Hastinapur. We have realised by now that we are all equally guilty for the outbreak of the catastrophic war and the ravages it has wrought. Bhism’s obdurate vow, Drona’s unflinching loyalty to his bread-giver and the bond of my camaraderie are at the root of the massive destruction which none of us could avert. Now I fully realise that whatever actions are performed by a man under whatever circumstances, he gets the fruits of those actions.
Giridhar! Yudhidthir’s recklessness in coping with the conduct of a conceited prince like Duryodhan was in no measure less liable to the cataclysmic outbreak. He could have been prudent on many occasions and conduct himself in a way that would have saved the situation without hurting the self-esteem of his younger cousins. He had reasons to decline the game of dice from the very beginning. After the worst situation of attempting to disrobe Draupadi took place, on her pleading the twentieth round of the game was considered flawed. Even after that incident he resumed playing the game. All his actions further accentuated the smouldering discontents among the two rival groups. The attitudes on both sides got hardened. There were promises in plenty to kill each other. Is he not guilty of looking upon his brothers and wife merely as commodities to further his personal ends? Didn’t he use them as merely pawns? Could he not foresee the impending affront to Panchali in the event of his defeat in the game which was critically apparent? Was he not an addict to the game? I would rather say his lustful attraction towards Draupadi led to her marriage with five men. As the eldest brother it was his duty to get her marriage sanctified with Arjun soon after the Swayambar was over. Did it look decent to project her as the day’s alms and indirectly get a screaming nod from their mother to share a bride by all the brothers? The society let alone the Kauravs looked upon this act as a serious blemish on the character of Draupadi. She was degraded in their eyes and made a laughing stock in the assembly of the Kurus. He always looked upon you as his guardian angel but never bothered to think of you at that moment. Faced with the most terrifying incident of disrobing her by Dusasan ,Draupadi was helpless. All his four younger brothers were mute spectators to the dastardly scene. Yudhisthir had compelled them to keep their mouth shut up. Is it the sense of proportions of a King who gets regards from you as the personification of virtue and righteousness? There would have been no war had he declined to join the game at any point of time. He should have put a limitation on his love for the game in preference to love of his brothers, wife and above all the vast mass of subjects of his kingdom. Having enjoyed the ruling-power of both Indraprastha and Hastinapur for a period thirteen years during the exile of the Pandavs, Duryodhan’s lust for the undivided kingdom knew no bounds.
Achyuta! You know very well how all my possessions of material wealth were on offer for anyone who approached me for a gift even at the cost of endangering my own being. This particular trait of my conduct has amazed even those who conspired to end of my life. My avowed principle was to please my guest with any object or promise desired from me. God Indra, the king of gods approached me to donate him my armour and ear ornaments which were a part of my body. Watching me severing these objects from my body and ears he could well imagine the physical pains that it caused. He immediately asked me to take from him a benefit of my choice in return. He blessed me to apply his celestial weapon Vasav Shakti for only once against my adversary in a war. Even a few moments back in this battle ground where I am lying forlorn, a Brahmin came to me and asked me to part with the small pieces of gold fitted into my teeth. I had to please him though the task was extremely agonising with my bodily organs badly maimed and bruised.
Murari! Looking back I do realise that I was a prisoner of my own image that I longed for keeping intact at the cost of any price that I may have to pay. My friendship with Duryodhan triggered contempt in me for the Pandavs. I looked upon them as my own enemy. But at the same time I did have a great appreciation for their valour and righteousness. Panchali turned me away at the time of her swayambar on the ground of my mythical low- caste origin. My valour and prowess were of no consideration and I had to swallow the unpalatable words of indignity linked with my birth and upbringing. It was a moment of great distress for me. When she faced the terrible humiliation in the hands of Dusasan, Vikarna the younger brother of Duryodhan opposed him straight but Duryodhan turned a deaf ear to his words and rebuked him in a violent rage.
I am full of remorse for the fact that I failed to maintain the kinship and the agnatic relationship with you, despite your cordial inducement. The wise and the enlightened ones always yearn for your company. But, you always have a chosen few around you. It is my hard luck that I sided with the Kauravs and had to fight against you. I very well remember the incident when you preferred to meet me alone and told me the facts about my birth. You persuaded me to quit the camp of Duryodhan and join the side of the Pandavs as their eldest brother. You also told me that in the event of victory in the war I would be the king and get married to Draupadi. I had to turn down both the offers. I had no inclination to be the king of Hastinapur. As regards the second offer I was not worthy of it since I had insulted Draupadi and incurred her dislike in the court of Hastinapur when Dusasan attempted to disrobe her. I do admit even I uttered some words against her which were blasphemous. Perhaps the rage and affront which I felt then found an unceremonious expression in the court which I feel is a serious blemish on my conduct. All the four brothers of Yudhistir were not only great heroes but they were also highly sensitive and sensible. Any verbal or physical attack on their wife by an outsider should have provoked them to rise against the occasion. That was exactly what I expected from them. But alas! They were dead on the altar of loyalty to the eldest brother. Had they reacted, the situation might have changed a lot.
As you know I have never strayed away from the path of my own dharma. Taking the advantage of my physical prowess I have never harassed the weak. I have never deprived any one of his possessions. I believed in fulfilling the needs of others even at the cost of my life. Through the examples I set, my message to mankind was “Live for others”. I have never lived for myself. Every one used me as a boat to reach the destination.
At the moment, all my angers and feelings of enmity with the Pandavs have melted away. I am eager to have a close look of my five brothers before I finally depart from them. I wish I had the good fortune in the past to play with them, partake of the food served by our mother and share with them the joys of childhood. I spent a whole life time even without coming in close contact with any one of them. Whenever we met we looked upon ourselves as rivals. I am full of admiration for the intricate knowledge of archery of Arjun. Besides, he is an adept in music and dance, a rare attainment on the part of a warrior. Bhima had cultivated a great physical proficiency right from his childhood. Though short-tempered and fitful at times, his prowess immensely benefitted his brothers in times of their misfortunes. Nakul and Shahadev, the tender looking handsome duo, are always respectful and obedient to all the three elder brothers. They have certainly a well-knit enviable family. My misfortune kept me away from them for all time to come.
Govinda! I did not know my parentage then but found an irresistible attraction to Sun God and used to perform my daily sacrifices in his honour. On a day just after completion of my worship to Him in the bank of the river Ganga, I saw an old woman painfully sobbing with eyes full of tears. She held my garment left in the bank close to her bosom and tears in her eyes knew no bounds. It was an intriguing scene for me. People in need usually thronged my place for gifts at that point of time after completion of my daily worship. The lady clad in royal attire looked graceful and did not seem to me as a needy one looking for a gift of apparel. I drew near her I was surprised to see Kunti in her distress. I was overcome by a strong sense of pity and wanted to know the reasons of her deep sadness. While she kept standing, I sat near her feet and begged her to ask me for whatever she expected from me. She did not look straight at me, shedding tears with down cast eyes which fell on my forehead. I could feel the torrent of warm tears falling from her eyes which made my forehead moist. Her silence continued for a long time before she narrated to me all that had happened before and after my birth and appeared greatly apologetic. Who was my mother? How did she look like? Why did she desert me? What might have been the compelling reasons of her cruelty to her own child? All these were very painful questions which bothered me all the way through my life. I had nourished a deep seated grievance against her without knowing her. Sometimes I felt angry with her for the unkind treatment to which I was subjected by her. But looking at the frail wailing figure standing near me all my past anger and resentment vanished at once and I did feel the presence of a person who inspired in me love and reverence. No doubt, then I had left my childhood far behind which I could not share with her. Nor could she enjoy taking care of her newly born child. But all of a sudden I found myself tied with a strong and powerful bond with her. I did realise then blood is thicker than water. She asked me to join with the Pandavas and stay with them as their eldest brother for all time to come.
Hrishikesh! I got back to my mother but in a strange situation. For me it was too late, my search for parentage was over but at a moment that was highly critical. I could never have thought of deserting my close friend. Certainly, it would have been ingratitude on my part to have changed side. I would have clearly exposed my lust for power which never bothered me in my life. I touched her both feet and pressed my forehead against them. My tears too fell on her feet making them moist. I didn’t have a chance to wash the feet of my mother in my whole life. It was the only time when at least I could make her feet wet with my tears. I told her my own story, the saga of my indebtedness to Adhirath and Radha and also to Duryodhan who came forward with his gesture of friendship and made me the king of Anga.
I made a promise to her. I assured her that I would spare the lives of her four sons in the impending war. It would be a fight between me and Arjun. In the event of death of any one of us in the war, she would remain as the mother of five sons. I also told her that every one used me as a boat to reach the destination. I could read the impact of my words in her agonised face . Let no woman on earth face a painful situation like that. I really feel too much for her as I am sure the news of my death would come to her as a heavy blow. Besides the promise I made to her, my last request to her was not to divulge the secret of my birth to my brothers so long as I was alive.
While lying unarmed on the ground I can see the horrors of the battle-field. The painful groaning of the wounded and the heap of the dead warriors of either side presents the picture of a carnage which is unheard of. The ghastly scene suggests without slightest doubt that a war can never solve any problem. It is the saddest saga of human misery, a sordid tale of destruction and violence. Victory in a war is merely a pigment of imagination. You are with the Pandavs now but sure to leave them soon. What would victory mean for them after a gruesome slaughter of their own kith and kin in a huge scale?
I do not blame Arjun for shooting his arrow at me while I was unarmed and preoccupied with releasing the wheel my chariot stuck on earth. Earlier I asked Salya to get down and see that the chariot moved ahead but he refused to do so. My charioteer was my greatest critic. Instead of giving me strength and support he used to praise the heroic virtues of Arjun, my adversary. Perhaps he wanted to avenge the Kauravs for the trickery and cunningness through which they secured his support in their favour. My death in a situation like this was predestined. When I got down from my chariot to release the left wheel stuck on the ground, I raised the question of righteousness and observe the rules of war. The words which you uttered then are still ringing in my ears. The words may still continue echoing in my ears as long as I am in my senses. You questioned me the principles of righteousness and justice involved in the game of dice planned by Shakuni, disrobing Draupadi in the Assembly, poisoning Bhima and leaving him in the midst of venomous snakes, attempt to burn the Pandavs to death, dragging Draupadi from female apartment forcefully and making her a laughing stock when she was scantily dressed and slaying Abhimanyu in a combined attack. Certainly these are misdeeds perpetrated on my implicit consent. Arjun who is conscientious and well-intentioned could have never excused me for the wrongs done to him. We who claimed to have been great warriors in our life committed the grievous offence by killing Abhimanyu, a boy of merely sixteen years old. He appeared so ruthless and fierce in the battle ground that the Kaurav forces were left terrified. Lakshman Kumar,the son of Duryodhan including many others were slain by him in a rare show of valour. The way we were combined against him is a sad saga of treachery and cowardliness in the annals of warfare. I am full of repentance and remorse for the dastardly attack on him but my proclaimed loyalty made me stick to the whims and caprices of Duryodhan. Abhimanyu’s valour and prowess would be remembered for ever.
I always held Bhisma, the Grand Sire in the highest esteem. I did feel the lack of an affectionate touch from a person of his stature over my head unlike the Pandav and the Kaurav brothers. Beneath the rough exterior of the greatest warrior there was unbounded love and affection for his grandchildren, though at times he was greatly annoyed with Duryodhan for his misdemeanour. But I had a misgiving on the Grand Sire. He greatly disliked my support for Duryodhan. He often ridiculed me whenever I used to make a statement in support of Duryodhan.
He looked down upon me when he assumed charge as the commander-in-chief of the Karauv forces in the beginning of the war. I had a feeling that he underrated my skill and valour to the great disappointment of Duryodhan. At the final stage of war preparation a question was raised how long it would take us to annihilate the Pandav forces. To this Bhism’s and Drona’s answer was one month, Kripa’s two months, Aswatthama’s ten days and mine was five days. My reply was greatly disliked by him. While listing the Rathas, Atirathas and the Ardhrathas of the Kaurav side I was rated as an Ardharatha. Once again I thought it might be due to his contempt for my humble origin. In any case I had to abide by his decision and decided not to join the war till he commanded it. After he admitted defeat on the ninth day of the war and was lying in his bed of arrows, I met him to convey my regards. The warriors from both sides thronged the place where the Grand Sire was lying. The fall of Bhisma signalled the beginning of the end of the Kaurav forces. He advised Duryodhan then to put an end to the war before a massive damage is wrought on either side. But Duryodhan paid no heed to his suggestion. After the warriors left the place the Grand Sire was alone lying on his bed of arrows with his eyes closed. Earlier he had refused the physicians who were called upon to treat his multiple wounds. I announced my presence to his hearing and sought his permission to join the war. Slowly he opened his eyes and looked at me. Then I noticed a remarkable change in his behaviour towards me. His feeble voice was overflowing with love, sympathy and genuine feelings for me. He embraced me with one arm. He spoke very high of me and of my activities in helping the people with generous gifts. He admired my bravery in helping Duryodhan in winning the hands and love of Bhanumati, the princess of Kashi. He knew every bit of my life which was a secret to others. He told me that he learnt the truth about my parentage from the sage Narad and Krishna-Daipayan. He explained to me the reason why he did not include me in the Kaurav forces and always discouraged me when I used harsh words against the Pandavs. It came to me as a great surprise when he acclaimed my valour and complimented me as one of the greatest warriors of Aryavarta so much so that he placed me on the same footing with you and Arjun as a warrior. He advised me to help the Pandavs in getting back their rights and told me that virtue and justice were on their side. He urged upon me to put an end to the war and find a peaceful solution and return Indraprasth to the Pandavs. With tears in his eyes, he clearly expressed his intention as to why he did not allow me to be included in his forces. That was because he did not like me to fight against my own brother Arjun. Further, he said he could never see the country getting bereft of two outstanding warriors laying down their lives in a battle that could be averted. He told me that he was bound by his own vow to the throne but I could have taken a decision of my own to dissociate myself from the war and join with the Pandavs. His remorseful words wounded me a lot and I felt very sad before him. His parting words, however, were of lasting value which I realised at the eleventh hour. The moments which I spent with him were the rarest ones of love and affection which I used to miss throughout my life. With respectful dissonance I explained to him the predicament of my borrowed existence. Humbly I told him that exertion failed to influence my life that I was destined to live. I conveyed to him my firm resolve. Then it dawned on me that we are all embarking on a sinking ship. Though extremely distressed with my attitude to stick to my resolution, he blessed and advised me to wage a war following strictly the principles of justice and righteousness so that a grand legacy is left to the posterity. He cautioned me against losing love and admiration for me in the heart of the succeeding generations.
Keshav! I have all regards for Drodan’s learning and scholarship but despite his superior knowledge he did not succeed in influencing Duryodhan’s decisions in any way. It is a paradox that perhaps has no comparison. He had to fight against his own pupil Arjun whom he loved most. A learned man of his stature had to spend his days in abject penury till he was assured a livelihood by Bhisma. It was the compulsion of keeping his body and soul together that landed him in Hasinalpur and made him loyal to the throne. After Drona fell in the war, there was a moment of great introspection in the Kaurav camp. The surviving warriors headed by Duryodhan consoled Ashwathama and his mother and performed the last rites of their preceptor. Gloom descended on all of us in a massive scale at that night which appeared to us as long as a period of a hundred years. No one could sleep at the sight of the carnage of the battle field. The young princes of both sides had lost their lives leaving behind their young widows and children. The heaps of corpses and the wailing sounds of the wounded combined with howling of the dogs and jackals made it an intensely terrifying night. I passed the night in the tent of Duryodhan in the company of Dushasan and Shakuni reflecting upon the suffering we inflicted on the Pandavs. All of us were greatly repentant and regretted for the misdeeds and passed the night with deep sorrows. I was made the commander-in-chief of the Kaurav forces in the next morning. Dushasan was killed by Bhima and it was greatly agonising for me to see my own son Vishwasena killed in my presence in the battle field. At that moment Ashwathama too suggested Duryodhan to make peace and part with half of the kingdom to the Pandavs but Duryodhan was in no mood to listen to him or to anybody.
I always admired Arjun for his straight forwardness and heroic virtues. I have a great sympathy for the tribulations he had to pass through although from the very beginning I looked upon him as my rival. He is generous and kind. He intervened and released Duryodhan when the Gandharva chained him down and put him in prison for his lewd behaviour. I had a long standing desire to fight against him with the ultimate objective either to kill him or get killed by him. Last night I had a vision of my preceptor Parshuram. I cried before him like a child for my misfortunes. He affectionately touched my head with tears in his eyes. He gave me his last advice to sacrifice my life for the cause of justice and righteousness. He regretted his inability to withdraw the curse for which I was destined.
“Murari, when engaged in war I looked at you and Arjun from my chariot and to my greatest surprise both of you looked alike. The appearances of both of you were identical. The differences between the warrior and the charioteer looked blurred as if my fight were against two Krishnas. I had a feeling that this is not the only one but I have fought thousands of battles against both of you, stretching over millennia. I really wonder at this kind of illusion that overtook me in course of the war. No human being is capable enough to know you but there is nothing that is not known to you. ”
“Achyut! You reside in everything both animate and inanimate in this universe which is your own creation. You are seated as talent in every human being. Those who meditate on you and your creation they could be seers and great achievers. No one could know better than you with how deep and constant endeavours the weapons used in this ghastly war were invented by people with unmatched knowledge and devotion to work. Do you consider their prolonged efforts were fruitful? The weapons of mass destruction used in a family feud have made the whole of Aryabrat a barren ground. The Pandavs fought the war on your strength. Duryodhan was unyielding. All of your efforts for peace failed. You may be said to have inaugurated the devastating carnage for maintaining righteousness. Don’t you think the price for these efforts is abnormally high? The loss of lives and property is abysmal. The people who proved to be resourceful in various ways for the whole mankind have lost their lives and with them the knowledge which they had acquired is lost for ever. How do you overlook the massacre and sufferings of the innocent people due to the devastating war?
“Madhav! Are you under the faulty impression that the horrors and blood-shed of the war would serve as a reminder for the succeeding generations to eschew violence and follow the path of righteousness? Can you regenerate a society free from violence? Can you ensure feelings of love and respect in every family? Could all human beings be tied to-gather in a single bond of friendship and brotherhood? Can you make certain that the rulers would cease to divide people into warring blocs? Can you wipe out the stigma of hatred for the lower castes who are helpless victims to unfair practice and maltreatment? The rich and the powerful always terrorise the poor and the weak. Can you equip the weakest of the weak with courage to question the rich and the powerful? If you do not have answers to all these questions you could never have an excuse for the hapless annihilation perpetrated in this battle field meant for upholding virtue and justice.
Narayan! My voice is getting chocked. I am unable to utter a word to convey my feelings any longer. My eye-lids are getting closed. Life seems to be deserting me fast from all parts of my body. I can see now the faint flicker of the setting sun in the horizon. Perhaps my father wants to withdraw himself as soon as possible from this ghastly scene. For him everything has changed beyond his expectation. Before I leave, let me have a glance of your ecstatic vision, radiant with a thousand suns and a massive halo. I can see your glittering diadem and the dazzling tilak on your forehead. The resplendent mace and the disc in your hands form an aura which has been radiating the rays of a thousand suns combined with numerous flames of brilliant effulgence. I am unable to stand the sight that I have before me. I bow down unto you once more. It seems I am being carried away by a massive flood of light. I want a place beside you so that I don’t have to find myself in a vicious circle once again. I have erred as a human, now it is your turn to extend to me your exalted forgiveness.
Om Namoh Bhagabate Vasudebaya”