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Mahabharata: Adi Parva Part 7

The Pandavas at Ekachakra

The Pan­davas, along with Kun­ti, as per Vyasa Maharishi’s advice, go to Ekachakra, which though under a par­tic­u­lar king, is not suf­fi­cient­ly pro­tect­ed by that king, and hence has fall­en in the hands of an asura-Baka­sura. The deal is that instead of Baka­sura delib­er­ate­ly killing and mur­der­ing peo­ple, each fam­i­ly will take turns to give him food and also offer them­selves as food. The Pan­davas, in the guise of brah­manas, go for bhik­sha every­day. They are stay­ing in the house­hold of a par­tic­u­lar brah­mana as advised by Vyasa Mahar­ishi and life goes on. Bhi­ma, espe­cial­ly, is the worst affect­ed, because what­ev­er they get by beg­ging is hard­ly suf­fi­cient for him.

Bhima fights Bakasura

He is also called ‘Vriko­dara’ mean­ing, ‘one with the stom­ach of a wolf’. If one observes a wolf’s body, it has a broad chest, but a taper­ing, almost non-exis­tent stom­ach. How­ev­er much it eats, its appetite is so high, that it digests very fast. The Jatarag­ni-the diges­tive fire, is so high that it digests just like that. Bhi­ma is gen­er­al­ly depict­ed as a bulky man in many Indi­an tele­vi­sion seri­als. He is not bulky; he is all sinew, rough and tough- strong beyond imag­i­na­tion.

So he is called Vriko­dara and bhik­sha is not at all suf­fi­cient to sat­is­fy his appetite.Whatever they get in bhik­sha, Kun­ti dis­trib­utes it in this man­ner : She keeps half of what­ev­er has been got­ten for Bhi­mase­na and the remain­ing half is shared by the four broth­ers and her­self. Now, the turn of the brah­mana fam­i­ly they live with comes, and they are in deep fear and anx­i­ety. The father, moth­er and the two chil­dren each say, “I will go to Baka­sura”. Their rea­son­ing is very intense and makes one’s heart trem­ble. On hear­ing this Kun­ti sug­gests that her son Bhi­mase­na can go. So Bhi­ma goes with cart­loads of deli­cious food. Now, Bhi­ma has not had such good food in a long time and this is a great oppor­tu­ni­ty for him. He stops right before Bakasura’s cave and he eats, enjoy­ing and rel­ish­ing his food. In the mean­time Baka­sura is hun­gry and impa­tient- “What is hap­pen­ing? Where is my food?”. So he comes out, roars and finds Bhi­ma, a puny human being, eat­ing up all the cart­loads of food. He is an asura‑a great asura-and Bhi­ma does not even care to look at him!

He is real­ly enjoy­ing his food. He has been on diet for so long. After a diet, one real­ly rel­ish­es food. In Tamil, they say “Pasi irun­thaal rusi irukkum”. (Mean­ing: With appro­pri­ate hunger, one’s taste buds are kin­dled).

So when Bhi­ma, com­plete­ly rel­ish­ing his food, does not care to look at him, Baka­sura gets angry. He comes out and dash­es his fist on Bhima’s back, but there is no response from him. Baka­sura is amazed! He becomes real­ly angry. He is going to do away with Bhi­ma in the most cru­el man­ner-or that’s what he thinks. Bhi­ma, once he is done eat­ing and he is sat­is­fied, becomes ready for the duel. So he takes up Baka­sura and leaves the man­gled body of Baka­sura right out­side the gate of Ekachakra! Peo­ple see it and they think it might have been gand­har­vas or devas who have done this. They are all extreme­ly hap­py. This is how time pass­es in Ekachakra.

The story of Draupadi and Drishtadyumna

Then, the Pan­davas hear the news of the swayam­vara of Drau­pa­di in Pan­cha­lade­sha. They hear about the mirac­u­lous birth of Drau­pa­di and her broth­er Drish­tadyum­na. We have seen ear­li­er that Drona devel­oped enmi­ty against Dru­pa­da and took his revenge against him through the Pan­davas, espe­cial­ly Arju­na. After that, it is like a fes­ter­ing wound with­in Dru­pa­da. He wants revenge against Drona. So he approach­es two rishis-Yaja and Upaya­ja, who con­duct a yaj­na, and out of the yaj­nakun­da, come Drish­tadyum­na-the awe­some Drish­tadyum­na and Drau­pa­di-the world renowned beau­ty Drau­pa­di. She is also called ‘Krish­naa’ mean­ing ‘the dark one’. She is a dark beau­ty.

Inter­est­ing­ly, in the Mahab­hara­ta, we find that the most beau­ti­ful peo­ple are dark-skinned. For exam­ple, Naku­la is con­sid­ered the most hand­some per­son in the whole of the Mahab­hara­ta. And he is dark. Bha­ga­van Sri Krish­na is dark. Krish­naa or Drau­pa­di is dark and extreme­ly beau­ti­ful.

The swayamvara of Draupadi

So, Drau­pa­di aris­es out of the fire and word is sent out that her swayam­vara is going to be con­duct­ed. All the kings from all the lands assem­ble there because her beau­ty has, by now, become some­thing like a leg­end, and every ksha­triya aspires for her hand in mar­riage. But Dru­pa­da has in mind Arju­na, because he wants him as an ally. For Arju­na had been the one who had defeat­ed him-the pow­er­ful Dru­pa­da. So, if Arju­na becomes his son-in-law, nobody would be able to defeat him. Drish­tadyum­na is born to take revenge on Drona-to elim­i­nate him. So the Pan­davas, along with Kun­ti go to Pan­cha­lade­sha, again as per Vyasa’a advice.

Vyasa Mahar­ishi appears at key points. He just appears out of thin air, sim­ply mate­ri­al­iz­ing him­self. And then, when his job is done, he dema­te­ri­al­izes-van­ish­es into thin air again! This is awe­some! It is not fan­ta­sy, it is very real. Vyasa advis­es them to seek the hand of Drau­pa­di. Every­one is assem­bled. The Pan­davas are dis­guised as brah­manas, not ksha­triyas. So nobody knows them. After the episode at Varana­va­ta, every­one is under the impres­sion that the Pan­davas are dead – that they have been burnt. Hence, nobody expects them. They stay at a potter’s house and have a very good time. So, when the swayam­vara arrives, the Pan­davas go there. To win the hand of Drau­pa­di, the ksha­triyas have to shoot a Mat­sya Yantra — a machine of a fish. They have to fire arrows and bring that machine down. But, not every­body can string it. Great ksha­triyas — pow­er­ful ksha­triyas — try to lift the bow and they find them­selves inca­pable of even mov­ing the bow! Every­body is sur­prised. Final­ly Kar­na comes. He picks the bow-there is a huge applause-and he strings it.But then, Drau­pa­di inter­venes and says,”I will not mar­ry a suta­pu­tra.” And that’s a great insult to Kar­na. He leaves the bow there and goes away. Kar­na is now the Raja of Angade­sha, and Drau­pa­di insults him in front of every­body, call­ing him a suta­pu­tra- a charioteer’s son. He feels great­ly insult­ed. Then, from the brahmana’s side, Arju­na stands up and comes for­ward. There is a huge uproar. The ksha­triyas say, “In an assem­bly of ksha­triyas, how can a mere brah­mana come for­ward?”. But some of the brah­manas present there argue, “Did not Agastya, did not Bhar­ga­va Rama take up arms? Why can’t a brah­mana do it? In fact ksha­triyas have come forth only from brahmanas.”-that is the course of evo­lu­tion, as we have seen ear­li­er. So Arju­na comes for­ward. With­out even look­ing at the yantra, he justs shoots five arrows and brings it down.

Sri Krishna enters the scene

And there is a huge applause as well as an uproar. In the audi­ence, are Sri Krish­na and Balara­ma. Krish­na knows clear­ly that it was Arju­na. He looks at all the Pan­cha­pan­davas and he knows them. Till then, they have nev­er met each oth­er, but Krish­na knows. Krish­na has made the Yadus, the And­hakas, the Bho­jas, and the Vrish­nis not to par­tic­i­pate in the swayam­vara. Because if they par­tic­i­pate, if Krish­na par­tic­i­pates, every­thing is lost. So, he strate­gi­cal­ly pre­vents the par­tic­i­pa­tion of his clan in this swayam­vara. So Arju­na is the hero, but the ksha­triyas can­not take this lying down. So they chal­lenge him. Arju­na and Bhi­ma become ready for the chal­lenge. Arju­na and Kar­na meet in a duel and Salya and Bhi­mase­na meet in a duel.

But final­ly the ksha­triyas resolve it. Krish­na con­vinces every­one. Krish­na is always sweet-speeched. Sweet words come out of his mouth. Sri Krishna’s speech is mad­hu­ra-like hon­ey. So Krish­na cajoles every­one say­ing, “These are brahmanas…let them be.If they have won the swayam­vara, so be it.” Every­one agrees and the ksha­triyas resolve say­ing, “After all, these are brah­manas. Why should we fight with them? If they have won the swayam­vara, so be it. If they have won the hand of Drau­pa­di, so be it”. And the crowd dis­pers­es.

Draupadi’s marriage to the Panchapandavas

Now, along with Drau­pa­di, the Pan­davas go back to Kun­ti. Kun­ti, as in the habit says, “Share the alms, bhik­sha, amongst your­selves.” But the “alms” is Drau­pa­di! But a mother’s word can­not become untrue, and hence they decide that all five of them will mar­ry Drau­pa­di togeth­er. That’s how it is decid­ed. Drish­tadyum­na, after the swayam­vara, fol­lows the five brah­manas and finds out their true iden­ti­ty as the Pan­cha­pan­davas. Krish­na and Balara­ma, just before then, fol­low the Pan­davas back to where Kun­ti is. Krish­na and Balara­ma intro­duce them­selves, and fall at their feet, because they are younger to Yud­hishthi­ra. They are hap­py, every­body is very hap­py, but Krish­na and Balara­ma quick­ly retreat, because it is not yet time for the Pan­davas to be dis­cov­ered. Dury­o­d­hana has very good spies every­where and he might harm them. Drish­tadyum­na goes back to Dru­pa­da and Dru­pa­da invites them for a for­mal mar­riage. There, Yud­hishthi­ra intro­duces them­selves as the Pan­davas and says, “All five of us will mar­ry Drau­pa­di”. On know­ing that they are the Pan­davas, Dru­pa­da is very hap­py and thinks,” Oh! So, Arju­na has won her hand!” But on com­ing to know that all five Pan­davas will mar­ry a sin­gle lady, he is mighty unhap­py. That’s when Vyasa Mahar­ishi enters. Vyasa Mahar­ishi takes Dru­pa­da to a dif­fer­ent cham­ber and explains the back­ground. He explains what had hap­pened in some pre­vi­ous births.

The story of the past lives of Draupadi and the Panchapandavas

It so hap­pens that once on a time, beings don’t die, because Surya is con­duct­ing a yaj­na and Yama is part of it. Hence, Yama does not do his work. For the time being, there is a hol­i­day. So, human beings don’t die. That’s a good time for every­body. There is also Indra par­tic­i­pat­ing in the yaj­na. He sees gold­en lotus­es com­ing down the celes­tial riv­er Gan­ga. He is curi­ous as to where they are com­ing from. As he fol­lows it upstream in the Himalayas, he comes across a lady who is cry­ing, and each of her tears become gold­en lotus­es that float down­stream. So Indra asks the lady, “What is the prob­lem? Who are you?” She leads him to a place where there is a youth, who is play­ing. So Indra announces him­self, “I am the lord of the uni­verse.” The youth does not even pay atten­tion to him and is busy playing.Indra gets angry and says, “How dare you insult the lord of the universe?”-For which, one glance from the youth — Katak­sha – and Indra is par­a­lyzed. ‘Katak­sha’ means ‘one side glance’. A direct glance might burn the per­son! One side glance and Indra is par­a­lyzed. Then he comes to real­ize that the youth is Shi­va Mahade­va. He is just a deva. He is just a god. Shi­va is the God of gods-the Lord of the Uni­verse. Now Indra has had it. Shi­va says, “You are arro­gant. You need to be taught a les­son”, all the while smil­ing! So Shi­va takes him to a cave, and when they get inside the cave, there are four oth­er Indras.

Now, ’Indra’ is a position‑a title. People’s posi­tions keep chang­ing. Like­wise, these are for­mer Indras. They are Vish­wab­huk, Bhoothad­haman, Sibi, Shan­ti and Tejaswin. These are the Indras. They are shut inside the cave. Shi­va has a good rea­son to do that. These five are born as the Pan­cha­pan­davas lat­er on. Shi­va says, “This lady who was cry­ing is Sri Lak­sh­mi her­self. In a future birth, she will be born and will mar­ry all five of you. For a length of time, you will be in this cave, until you real­ize your arro­gance and it dies down and you come back in humil­i­ty”. These are the Pan­cha­pan­davas, who, in their past births, were five Indras. Vyasa explains all this. He fur­ther explains that Sri Lak­sh­mi was lat­er born as a rishipu­tri-the daugh­ter of a famous rishi. She did tremen­dous tapas, because she did not have a hus­band. So Shankara (Shi­va) was grat­i­fied and appeared in front of her. She asked him, “I want a hus­band”. There was no response from Shi­va. So she asked again, “I want a hus­band.” No response.”Husband!” No response. “Hus­band!” Then Shi­va grant­ed her wish “So be it. You will have five hus­bands”. She had been under the impres­sion that Shi­va was not lis­ten­ing. Poor lady! So she had asked five times! She is born lat­er as Drau­pa­di and she is des­tined to have five hus­bands, but excel­lent hus­bands-these five Indras. When Vyasa explains all this, Dru­pa­da is sat­is­fied and agrees to the mar­riage.

The duel with Angaraparna and meeting their Guru

An impor­tant event hap­pens when the Pan­davas are on their way to Draupadi’s swayam­vara — the Pan­davas find their Guru. Before the mar­riage, they are actu­al­ly with­out a Guru — a spir­i­tu­al pre­cep­tor — one who can take care of them. On the way to the swayam­vara, they encounter a gand­har­va named Angara­parna. Angara­parna is haughty. He is a gand­har­va. He is sport­ing along with his wives in a riv­er. How dare these human beings dis­turb him? He is annoyed and says, “Get lost”. But Arju­na and the oth­er Pan­davas are in no mood to lis­ten. They say, “Who are you? This is a com­mon place. Earth is a place for every­body. Rivers are for every­body. Every­body can enjoy. Who are you to ask us to get lost?” There hap­pens a duel, and Angara­parna is defeat­ed bad­ly. ‘Angara­parna’ means ‘fiery char­i­ot’. His ratha- char­i­ot- is burnt and hence he gives up the name Angara­parna. He says, “I am not wor­thy of the name, because I have been defeat­ed by a mere human”. So, in exchange, he wants the friend­ship of Arju­na and the knowl­edge of the astra that Arju­na used in their duel. Arju­na gives it will­ing­ly, and in exchange, Angara­parna gifts him a won­der­ful char­i­ot and steeds, which when thought of, will appear. Arju­na receives excel­lent hors­es that are not found on earth. The hors­es are lean, but can go at tremen­dous speeds, and do not get tired. Ana­gara­parna also gives him the sci­ence of Chak­shasi-the sci­ence of dis­tant-see­ing, to Arju­na. He advis­es the need for a Guru. He points the Pan­davas to Sage Dhaumya. Hence Dhaumya is approached and the Pan­davas request him to be their Guru. Dhaumya agrees. From then on, Dhaumya is along with the Pan­davas in what­ev­er they do. Angara­parna calls Arju­na ‘Tap­atya’. Arju­na is amused,” ’Tap­atya’? Why do you call us ‘Tap­atya’?” Angara­parna explains,“You are the son in the lin­eage of Tap­ati, the daugh­ter of Surya, who mar­ried Sam­varana.” Sam­varana, belonged to the lin­eage of Puru. Sam­varana and Tap­ati give birth to Kuru, whose descen­dants are the Kau­ravas. The Pan­davas also belong to the Kuru lin­eage.


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