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Mahabharata: Adi Parva Part 6

Drona Becomes the Teacher of the Kuru Boys

After the Pan­davas and Kau­ravas grow up, the elders of the Kuru dynasty decide that it is time for some rig­or­ous train­ing, and hence Kri­pacharya is appoint­ed as their teacher. Kripa’s sis­ter is Kripi, who is mar­ried to Dronacharya. Drona is the son of Mahar­ishi Bharad­wa­ja. ’Drona’ means –‘pot born’, because Bharadwaja’s vital flu­ids were pre­served in a pot and Drona was not born in a womb. Kri­pa and Kripi too were not born in a womb.

The Kuru boys were once play­ing and their ball fell into the well. They gath­ered around the well to fig­ure out a way to retrieve the ball. Drona who was on his way noticed the boys. Drona asked the boys if they knew archery and why they could­n’t use their archery skills to retrieve the ball. Yud­histhi­ra replied that if he could get their ball out, they would take him for a meal to Kripacharya’s house. Dronacharya took a blade of grass, aimed at the ball and took it out. Under­stand­ing the per­son to be of great skill, the boys apol­o­gized for their igno­rance. Drona asked them to inform about this to Bhish­ma. Bhish­ma, imme­di­ate­ly under­stand­ing the great­ness of Drona, request­ed him to be the teacher for both the Kau­ravas and Pan­davas.

Drona becomes the for­mal mas­ter of the ksha­triyas-the Pan­davas, the Kau­ravas, the Andhakas,the Bho­jas and many oth­er ksha­triya clans. Arju­na becomes his favourite stu­dent, because he has great qual­i­ties and is as quick as light­ning. He justs grasps every­thing before the words fall from Drona’s lips. And he imme­di­ate­ly lives it. Once, Drona tells the cook who serves food to the Pan­davas, “Arju­na should not be served food when it is dark — com­plete­ly dark”. The cook does not under­stand why, but he fol­lows the instruc­tions. Once it so hap­pens that they are hav­ing food for din­ner and the lights are off. And when the lights come back, Arju­na is gone. Where did he dis­ap­pear? He has gone to prac­tise archery, because the only peri­od of the month when he would not be able to prac­tise archery would be dur­ing the peri­od of Amavasya, because it is dark. But, with this inci­dent, he dis­cov­ers that he could put food auto­mat­i­cal­ly to his mouth irre­spec­tive of his vision. That’s an amaz­ing dis­cov­ery. So he extends this by math­e­mat­i­cal induc­tion. He knows now that he can do archery even in the dark. He does not need vision. Many oth­er inci­dents like this hap­pen which show us how Arju­na is so won­der­ful that he comes to be the favourite stu­dent of Drona. Final­ly, Drona con­ducts a tour­na­ment where all the ksha­triyas dis­play their pow­ers and skills in weapon­ry. After Arjuna’s dis­play, every­one is awestruck, wit­ness­ing his phe­nom­e­nal skills. After his mind-blow­ing dis­play, in walks Kar­na. He can­not stand Arju­na, and he dis­plays skill that is bet­ter than Arjuna’s. But he is not allowed to com­pete because he is a suta­pu­tra — a charioteer’s son and not a ksha­triya. And hence, Dury­o­d­hana, in his “large-heart­ed­ness”, makes Kar­na the king of Angade­sha. These are an impor­tant turn of events, as we would soon see.

Drupada’s Defeat

After the tour­na­ment, as Guru­dak­shi­na, Dronacharya wants King Drupada’s defeat. As chil­dren, Dru­pa­da and Drona had stud­ied in Bharadwaja’s ashra­ma. And Dru­pa­da had promised to give half of his king­dom to Drona after they had grown up. Lat­er, when Drona needs it, he walks in front of the king and asks his friend,” Don’t you remem­ber me? Give me half the king­dom.” He demands this of Dru­pa­da while he is in his sab­ha. Dru­pa­da can­not believe that this poor brah­mana is ask­ing him in such a man­ner. He just sends him out — throws him out. Drona is insult­ed and angry at Dru­pa­da. Hence, he wants revenge. Arju­na gives him that sweet revenge. He defeats Dru­pa­da and brings him as a pris­on­er of war. And Drona says, “Now,we are equal. In fact, I am supe­ri­or to you, Dru­pa­da. I will give you half my king­dom”. Now, Dru­pa­da is not hap­py. Drona for­gets all about but Dru­pa­da retains it and that becomes the end of Drona lat­er on.

After this tour­na­ment and Drupada’s con­quest, Yud­hishthi­ra is made heir appar­ent — the prince who will become the king. Yud­hishthi­ra, with his broth­ers, con­quers many lands, just as Pan­du did, and every­body is hap­py with Yud­hishthi­ra.

The Lac Palace

Dury­o­d­hana is not hap­py with the fact that Yud­hishthi­ra, and not he, will be the next king.That is when he decides, “I have had enough. Let me burn the Pan­davas to death.” So he instructs his min­is­ter Purochana to build a palace of inflam­ma­ble mate­r­i­al- lac and wax-at a place called Varana­va­ta. Dury­o­d­hana does this with the con­sent of Dhri­tarash­tra-the unwill­ing con­sent of Dhri­tarash­tra. But Dhri­tarash­tra is also not hap­py because his son has to be the king. How can his brother’s son be the king? Dhri­tarash­tra has triv­ial affec­tion for his son. Thus, Dhri­tarash­tra per­mits Dury­o­d­hana to com­mit this crime. Dhri­tarash­tra asks the Pan­davas, along with Kun­ti, to take a vaca­tion at Varana­va­ta, and to stay in the palace con­struct­ed by Purochana.The palace is called Jatu­gra­ha — house of lac. Vidu­ra knows this whole game. So, while the Pan­davas are about to leave, Vidu­ra instructs him in a Mlec­cha (low­er class) lan­guage which no one else could under­stand. Vidu­ra lov­ing­ly says to him, “One who knows the schemes of his ene­my should act in such a way as to avoid all dan­ger. He who knows that there are sharp weapons capa­ble of cut­ting the body which are not made of steel, and under­stands the means of avoid­ing them, can nev­er be harmed. One who knows that the con­sumer of straw and wood and the dri­er of dew nev­er burns the inmates of a hole in the for­est, lives to see anoth­er day. Remem­ber­ing this, be on guard. One who is giv­en a weapon by his foes that is not made of steel, can escape from his ene­mies by mak­ing his abode like unto the jack­al [one who lives under­ground]. By wan­der­ing, a man can acquire cer­tain knowl­edge, and by the stars he can ascer­tain direc­tion, and he who keeps his sens­es under con­trol can nev­er be oppressed by his ene­mies..”

Yud­hishthi­ra under­stands the mes­sage of Vidu­ra. So the Pan­davas and Kun­ti go there not as a plea­sure trip but in full anx­i­ety. They go there and in the mean­time, a minor is sent to the Pan­davas at Varana­va­ta by Vidu­ra, and he helps them build a tun­nel that takes them safe­ly out­side to the banks of Gan­ga. All this is done secret­ly. They behave as if they are very com­fort­able. Purochana has no idea what they are planning.They invite a Nisha­da woman and five broth­ers to the palace. When the time comes, the Pan­davas and Kun­ti escape through the tun­nel and Bhi­ma sets fire to the house so that these six peo­ple, along with Purochana are burnt to death. So the Pan­cha­pan­davas, along with their moth­er Kun­ti escape safe­ly and they are tak­en beyond everybody’s access. When every­body comes to know of this, they are sure that it is Duryodhana’s doing, because, many times in the past, he has tried to elim­i­nate the Pan­davas. Every­body knows of Duryodhana’s envy. It’s not a secret. So all the peo­ple at Hasti­na­pu­ra claim, “These peo­ple are adharmic.They have sup­port­ed Dury­o­d­hana’s crime. But what to do? Noth­ing can be done.”

In the mean­time, the Pan­davas are safe because of Vidura’s advice. They go to a for­est where they encounter Hidim­ba-the rak­shasa. He smells human flesh -”Ah! Final­ly, humans!”. He is all excit­ed. He can­not wait to have their flesh. So he sends his sis­ter Hidim­bi. But Hidim­bi takes one look at Bhi­ma and falls for him. She los­es her heart. She is a rak­shasi, but she assumes a beau­ti­ful, enchant­i­ng form and approach­es Bhi­ma. Kun­ti sees her. She is very agree­able and in her heart of hearts, Kun­ti has decid­ed, “Yes, she can be my daugh­ter-in-law.” In the mean­time, Hidim­ba comes. He sees what Hidim­bi has done and is furi­ous, “Oh!You rak­shasi, I sent you to bring these human beings and you have…!”. In his fury, he is about to attack Hidim­bi when Bhi­ma takes hold of Hidim­ba and crush­es him to death. Hidim­bi is giv­en in mar­riage to Bhi­ma and Gha­totkacha is born to them. ’Ghata’-means ‘pot’. He is so bald that he is ‘pot-head­ed’. And so Gha­totkacha is born.

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