The 10 Avengers of the Mahabharat

The ancient Indian epic of Mahabharat saw a war at Kurukshetra. The war was nothing but a calumniation of grudges. Here are the avengers and their stories:

Shakuni – the sweet and silent avenger. Shakuni was no well-wisher of the Kauravs. He wished for and systematically worked towards the downfall of the Hastinapur kingdom. Fuelling jealousy, false pride and hatred, Shakuni made a mess of Duryodhan’s life. His cunning ideas ensured the relations between Kauravs and Pandavs reached a point of irreversible collapse, eventually leading to bloodbath at Kurukshetra. Shakuni had his reasons to hate the royal family of Hastinapur. His family was ruined at their hands and he wanted to give back what he got. He silently did what he wanted to and no one realized what he was up to. For deception was the best weapon Shakuni had. When Shakuni got killed in war, the Kauravs were on the brink of defeat.

Shikandi – the patient avenger. First as Amba, a woman and then as Shikandi, a woman in a man’s body. Bhishma accidentally ruined Amba’s life and did what he considered his best to salvage the situation. Amba didn’t get what she wanted as reparation. Amba pleased Shiva with her penance and was blessed with a boon that were to materialize in the next birth. Shikhandi had waited too long and was actually helping himself when he agreed to help Arjun in the war at Kurukshetra. Bhishma lowed his weapons sighting Shikhandi on Arjun’s chariot. What Arjun did as a result not only changed the course of the war but gave immense happiness and a sense of retribution to Amba.

Duryodhan – the tit-for-tat avenger. Full of despise for his cousins, the Pandavs since childhood and jealous of their recent success, Duryodhan was already a volcano waiting to erupt. Draupadi’s laughter and mocking was something his bloated ego couldn’t take sportingly. What Duryodhan considered insulting had to be avenged by a stronger insult. With Shakuni’s trickery by his side, Duryodhan ensured the Pandavs lost everything they had in gamble, including Draupadi. Not stopping there, he had Dushasan drag Draupadi into a packed court and humiliate her, taking the politics of Hastinapur to its nadir. Draupadi’s cries was music to Duryodhan’s ears. It was his day to laugh.

Bheem – the most ruthless avenger of his time. Draupadi’s insult didn’t go down well with the Pandavs, particularly Bheem. We vowed to break Duryodhan’s thigh into pieces and sip blood from Dushasan’s chest to quench his anger. Known for his abilities to accomplish arduous tasks, Bheem’s words sent shockwaves across the court. In the war at Kurukshetra, Bheem brutally killed Dushasan, mutilating his body and dancing around it. Later, flouting rules of the war, Bheem used his mace to land massive blows on Duryodhan’s thigh, leaving him bleeding profusely. Bheem’s revenge was what brought victory to the Pandavs for only he could kill Duryodhan.

Arjun – the quickest of all avengers. The war at Kurukshetra was at its peak. Drona as the chief of the Kaurav forces decided to end the war by capturing Yudhisthir. Arjun ensured every attempt failed which lead Drona into a masterplan. The Kauravs got Arjun busy elsewhere and arranged their army in the circular formation. Arjun’s son Abhimanyu rescued his side from the crisis that ensued but was brutally killed. Jayadrath was the one who didn’t allow any help reach the lone Abhimanyu. Arjun vowed to kill Jayadrath within a day, failing which he promised to commit suicide. With help from Krishna and using his fine archery, tearing apart layers of Kaurav protection, Arjun put Jayadrath to rest in the nick of time.

Drupad, Drona, Eklavya, Dhrishtadyumna & Ashwathama – a messy circle of revenge. Drupad made a promise to Drona which he never fulfilled. Drona took it as an insult and carried a grudge. Drona ruined Eklavya’s career as an archer for he was seen as a potential threat to Drona’s favourite pupil Arjun. Eklavya wanted to repay it to Drona and died after a boon from Krishna. The boon ensured Eklavya would be reborn to kill Drona. Drona later got Drupad captured by Pandavs and usurped half of Drupad’s kingdom for his son Ashwathama. Now, Drupad carried the grudge and sought divine help to settle scores with Drona. He was blessed with Dhrishtadyumna as his son who already had the martial skills needed to kill Drona. Dhrishtadyumna arrival was also the rebirth of Eklavya. Certain that Drona would die at the hands of Dhrishtadyumna, Drupad waited patiently. In the war at Kurukshetra, they all came face to face. Drona and Ashwathama were by the Kaurav side and Drupad and Dhrishtadyumna fought by the Pandav side. Drona killed Drupad and Dhrishtadyumna killed Drona. Ashwathama later killed Dhrishtadyumna. Ashwathama’s attempt to end the Pandav lineage was reversed by Krishna. Krishna’s curse sent Ashwathama into oblivion, putting an end the horrid cycle of revenge that killed almost all involved.

For detailed stories, read: The Avengers of the Mahabharat – Full Stories — storysellersid

 

 

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12 Lessons From The Life of Krishna

12 Lessons From The Life of Krishna

Krishna is the eight incarnation of Vishnu in Hindu mythology. I bring you some examples of how Krishna’s life leave a mark on ours with inspiration and valuable lessons.

  1. Birth is nothing but an accident. Krishna was born in jail to parents imprisoned for no fault of theirs. His life began with jail break and he was raised by foster parents. Though royalty, he lived his early childhood as a mere cowherd. He was deprived of his parent’s love and enjoyed no privileges as a prince.
  1. The scars of your childhood troubling you? Krishna survived attempts on his life, tamed venomous snakes and challenged norms that were considered sacrosanct. Moreover, he had no formal education till he reached his teens. Indra, the king of gods challenged Krishna’s ways, lost and apologised. Krishna granted him a boon – promising to protect his son Arjun.
  1. First love lost? That happened with Krishna too. Krishna’s first love with Radha, only became a legend and never resulted in wedlock. After he left the home of his foster parents, he got engrossed with the world in a way he never looked back. Krishna’s marriage to Rukmini was more of a rescue than a formal royal wedding.
  1. Get your own house in order first. To set his own parents free, to ensure his people are prosperous and his country enjoys peace, Krishna had to kill his only uncle Kansa. As the one to kill Kansa, Krishna had the right to the throne of Mathura. Instead he reinstated his grandfather as the King. Before venturing into helping others, Krishna ensured everything back home was good.
  1. With absolute power comes great responsibility. Krishna had the most powerful weapon of the time at his disposal. He could have ended battles in minutes and reigned the era himself. But, that’s not what he did for he was to be the kingmaker and not the king. He used his divine discus very sparingly and stated that not every enemy is worthy of a death caused by divine weapons. Krishna preached the same to Arjun.
  1. Right decisions are unpopular, unwelcome and make you infamous. Krishna made the bold proposal of leaving Mathura and shifting the kingdom to a safer Dwarka. His clan objected, his brother hated the proposal and his parents were shocked. But he did the convincing needed for he was confident about the choice he made. The Yadav’s eventually moved and were happier than ever before. Krishna was hailed as the catalyst of prosperity but also ended up being tagged as a coward.  
  1. A promise is a promise. Krishna promised Indra he would stand by Arjun. Most of what we know of Krishna after he set his own house in order revolves around Arjun. He was the friend, philosopher and guide Arjun needed. Krishna felt indebted to Draupadi for she tore her robe to bandage his wound. Krishna put his mystic powers to use when needed most and ensured Draupadi’s honour was saved. Krishna kept his word. Always.
  1. Be prepared for the worst. Krishna did not encourage war and always encouraged the Pandav’s to solve issues with their cousins amicably. However, knowing the worst could happen, he guided Arjun into a quest for divine weapons. Krishna instilled the thought of “being safe than sorry” in Arjun and insisted the quiver full of divine arrows be treated as a deterrent.
  1. Peace should always be the first choice. When all attempts failed, Krishna himself assumed the role of a peacemaker. He spent months negotiating the peace process. Arguing, debating and trying to convince all stakeholders that peace was not a luxury but a necessity for a prosperous society. It was only after everything failed and peace was no longer an option, Krishna wore the strategist’s hat in the war. 
  1. First come, need not be first served. When Duryodhan reached Krishna for help first, he was quick-witted in turning him down. Krishna stated that he saw Arjun first even if Arjun reached later than Duryodhan. On being given the first choice, Arjun chose Krishna instead of a powerful army. Krishna happily agreed to be the charioteer to Arjun in the biggest battle of his life.  
  1. Ends justify means. In the battle, Krishna used tricks and half-truths. He bent and even openly flouted rules. Had it not been for Krishna’s ways of getting things done, the Pandavs would have never overcome the likes of Bhishma, Drona, Jayadrath, Karn and Duryodhan on merit alone. Convinced he was on the right side, Krishna did not shy away from using the wrong methods.
  1. Be prepared to be cursed. Krishna sought peace for one and all. When left with no choice he went into battle as a charioteer and not a warrior. He got his side to victory and saved the lineage of the Hastinapur clan. But in the end, he was cursed by Duryondhan’s mother. The curse came to life years after the war, when Krishna saw his own clan perish killing one another.

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To know more, read the full story: The Many Shades of Krishna

The Many Shades of Krishna

The Many Shades of Krishna

Krishna’s life is full of inspiration. This Janmashtami, I bring you the story of Krishna. #HappyJanmashtami

Being born in jail to being Prince

Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu was born on the eighth day of the waning moon of Bhadrapad month of the Hindu calendar as the eighth son of Devaki and Vasudev. The first six children were brutally killed at birth. The seventh son, Krishna’s elder brother Balaram, was saved thanks to mystic powers. Krishna was born in jail. Krishna’s parents hailed from powerful royal families of the Yadav clan, but were sent behind bars after a prophecy told Krishna’s maternal uncle Kansa was told that Devaki’s eighth son would kill him. As soon as Krishna’s birth at midnight, divine powers put the guards of the jail to deep sleep, unlocked the shackles Devaki and Vasudev were bound to and flung open the jail gates. Vasudev, in a bid to save Krishna from the wrath of Kansa took him to a village called Gokul and handed the new-born to his friend Nand. Krishna thus grew up in the loving care of Nand and his wife Yashoda who loved and looked after him as their own son. Krishna grew up in Gokul and Vrindavan. Nand was a cowherd by profession and Krishna too developed liking for cows. Krishna learnt to play the flute so well that the cows would gather around him when he played. Cows were not the only ones mesmerized by Krishnas flute. The milkmaids of Gokul fell for the tunes and charms of Krishna. Radha was the one Krishna was fond of and turned out to his first love, which never resulted in wedlock. Krishna was very fond of butter and would steal the same from the homes of Gokul. Out of love and affection, all the mischiefs were laughed off by people. Not everything in Krishna’s childhood was about flutes, butter and cows. As he grew up, he became a challenger of sorts. In one instance when the village was preparing for a grand festive worship of Indra, the king of the gods, Krishna advised people against doing the same. Krishna wanted the cows to be worshipped instead. Irked by the remarks, Indra unleashed thunderstorms on Gokul having people run for cover. Krishna lifted a hillock called Govardhan to protect against the torrential rains. Days passed and Indra finally gave up. He appeared and apologized for his act. Krishna was gracious and accepted the apology granting Indra a boon. Indra asked Krishna to befriend and protect his son Arjun which Krishna smilingly granted. On another instance, the cows of Gokul started dying after drinking from the river. It was understood as the effect of a venomous snake called Kalia which had polluted the water. Out of his love for cows, Krishna dived into the river without a second thought and tamed the snake once and for all.  Krishna danced on the hoods of the mighty snake who agreed to move on to a different place. Meanwhile, Kansa had not forgotten the fact that Devaki’s eight son was still alive. Stories of Krishna’s heroics with Indra and Kalia reached far and wide. Kansa, on hearing them was now sure that the flute playing cowherd of Gokul was none other than Devaki’s eight son. He made numerous attempts on Krishna’s life. None were successful given the mystic powers of Krishna. Kansa, frustrated with the failed attempts of his choicest assassins, now decided to take on Krishna himself. He called for Balaram and Krishna, now in their teens, to his capital Mathura. Before Krishna could meet Kansa in person, he was subject to numerous challenges such as facing a rampaging elephant to bouts with Kansa’s best wrestlers. The challenges proved to be too little given Krishna’s powers and confidence. Eventually, the prophecy proved to be true as Krishna killed Kansa. After Kansa’s death, his father and Krishna’s grandfather King Ugrasen, together with Krishna’s parents were freed from the dungeons of Mathura. Krishna reinstated Ugrasen as King and Ugrasen appointed the young princes Balaram and Krishna as his ministers in court. Thus, after years of anarchy, there was peace in Mathura. With his house in order and Mathura set to prosper under the leadership of Ugrasen, Krishna then moved to Gurukul under the tutelage of Guru Sandipani. That’s where he learnt law, administration, scriptures, and martial arts – everything a future King ought to know. Krishna became friends with a poor Brahmin Sudama, setting an example of putting relations above social status. As a fee for his education, Krishna promised Guru Sandipani to find him his long lost son, which he fulfilled. Happy with Krishna, Sandipani gave him a divine conch Panchajanya, which later became Krishna’s signature war cry. Parshuram, the wielder of the axe, visited Krishna on his last day in Gurukul. He reminded Krishna of his duties as the torchbearer of truth and handed over a powerful discus – the Sudarshan Chakra. Krishna was the only one during his time to have that divine discus at his disposal. Back in Mathura, things weren’t as Krishna had left. Kansa’s allies, particularly the devilish and powerful Jarasand had opened a barrage of attacks on Mathura to avenge Kansa’s death. Mathura was bleeding. Balaram insisted Krishna unleash his discus and end the story once and for all to which Krishna asserted that not every neck in the world is worthy of using a divine weapon on and that of Jarasand was certainly not. After much deliberation, Krishna came forward and made a proposal. He proposed to move the kingdom from Mathura to a far off city called Dwarka, surrounded by water and safe. The Yadav clan did not welcome the idea and there was uproar in the court. The clan felt that the world would see the move as fleeing from battle and name them cowards. Krishna convinced the Yadav’s after much debate yet ended up getting the title “Ranchor” or the one who runs away from battle. Krishna got the city of Dwarka constructed by the celestial architect Vishwakarma. Thus began a new era for the Yadav’s of Dwarka. Krishna the prince had now earned the reputation that of a fine general and minister of Dwarka. One day, he received a letter from Rukmini, the princess of Vidarbh. Rukmini’s family was keen on getting her married to Shishupal, the crown prince of the kingdom of Cheddi. Rukmini was against the idea and sought help from Krishna. Rukmini was sure her plea won’t go unanswered and she was elated to see Krishna reach Vidarbh to fetch her. Rukmini happily accepted Krishna as her better half and got on his chariot, knowing there was no looking back. On their way Krishna defeated Rukmini’s brother and his army when they blocked path. The cowherd from Gokul was now a King in Dwarka and Rukmini was the first of his many queens. The infant born in a jail now had a prospering and peaceful kingdom, a powerful army and a divine weapon to use.

Being the source of strength to the Pandavs

The Pandav’s were Krishna’s distant cousins. By the time Krishna met them, they were in deep crisis having survived an attempt on their lives. A long standing dispute with their first cousins Kauravs had lead Pandav’s leave their kingdom of Hastinapur in live a life that of vagabonds. Arjun had just won Draupadi’s hand in marriage when Krishna recognized his cousins. Krishna followed the Pandav’s to their hut and advised them to visit Hastinapur and rightfully claim what belongs to them – half of the kingdom. The Pandav’s did as advised and what seemed to be an unfair settlement got Khandavprasth – the barren and deep forested region of Hastinapur as their share. Krishna instilled the thought of making the most of what they have in the Pandavs. With Krishna as the guiding light, Arjun asked Agni, the god of fire to turn the forests into ashes thus making way for a city that would be their capital. The forests were home to Nagas, the snakes and demons. The burning of Khandavprasth didn’t go well with Indra, an ally of the Nagas. Indra sent thunderstorms and winds to douse the fire. The Nagas too resisted the fire and thus began a battle. Krishna defeated the Nagas and Arjun did the same to Indra. Agni eventually burnt the forest down and the demons too conceded defeat. Satiated, Agni gifted Arjun a divine chariot and a powerful bow. Maya, a demon who’s life Arjun spared, built a magnificent palace for the Pandavs. The palace was grand and considered second to none, not even the one owned by Indra. Thus, with Krishna by their side, the Pandav’s turned barren Khandavprasth into a great city and named it Indraprasth. Yudhisthir, the eldest of the Pandav’s, then shared with Krishna his ambition of becoming an emperor. Krishna supported the idea and explained the political situation to Yudhisthir. Sharing his acute assessment of each and every kingdom in question. Krishna, like an expert on the topic, put forth in front of Yudhisthir a plan of action needed to be an emperor. Krishna convinced Yudhisthir that Jarasand was by far the biggest obstacle and had to be gotten rid of. Krishna got Bheem, the second of the Pandav siblings challenge Jarasand into a duel and shared the secret of killing Jarasand. Useful and timely tips from Krishna were enough for the powerful Bheem to squash Jarasand to death. The Pandav’s defeated other smaller kingdoms who resisted and thus an auspicious date was chosen for Yudhisthir’s coronation as emperor. Indraprasth was decorated like never before as it hosted the holiest of the sages and the most powerful allies and relatives of the Pandav’s. The Kuru cousins too graced the occasion. Krishna was being honoured by the Pandav’s before the ceremony when Shishupal entered the scene. A distant cousin of both Krishna and the Pandav’s, Shishupal has his own reasons to hate Krishna for he was deprived of marrying Rukmini. As per a prophecy made at Shishupal’s birth, he was destined to be killed by Krishna. Shishupal’s mother plead to Krishna for mercy and Krishna promised her that he would forgive Shishupal hundred times before taking the difficult decision of killing him. In front of the gathering in Yudhisthir’s court, Shishupal hurled the choicest of abuses on Krishna, insulting and mocking him. Krishna merely smiled as he was busy counting. He had to keep his word made to Shishupal’s mother. When Shishupal got close to the triple digit mark, Krishna warned him of dire consequences if he doesn’t stop. Shishupal ignored and continued with his barrage of insults. On hearing the hundredth insult, Krishna fired his discus at Shishupal, which slit his throat to death. The scene shook the gathering as all witnessed the power of Krishna’s weapon. In the process of unleashing the discus, Krishna’s finger bled. Draupadi couldn’t stand Krishna’s wound and without a second thought, tore a piece from her robe to bandage the bleeding finger. Krishna was deeply touched by the gesture and felt indebted to Draupadi. He promised her of duly returning the favour at the right time. Yudhisthir became the emperor and Krishna came to be recognized as the kingmaker. The string of successes earned by the Pandav’s didn’t go down well, as expected, by the Kaurav cousins. Duryodhan, the eldest of the Kaurav cousins was green with envy. Draupadi’s mocking added salt to the wounds and thus lay the stage for a plot. Shakuni, Duryodhan’s uncle and an expert in gambling, invited the Pandav’s to Hastinapur for a game. Shakuni’s trickery worked as Yudhisthir lost round after round losing his wealth, assets, kingdom, brothers and himself. The last round had Draupadi at stake and that too was lost. Duryodhan rejoiced as he had all the Pandav’s as slaves. It wasn’t all for Duryodhan. He summoned Draupadi and asked her to be stripped in the court. The courts men stood appalled as the politics in Hastinapur had reached its nadir. The seniors tried to intervene but failed. It was Duryodhan’s day after all. Draupadi was dragged into the court full of damp eyes and tied tongues. When all her attempts to save her honour failed and she was about to get stripped, all she did was thought of Krishna and prayed to him for help. Though not present, Krishna’s mystic powers ensured the robe being pulled off Draupadi’s body kept extending and never really came of her body. The gathering, already stunned with the turn of events, witnessed a miracle. Krishna had kept his word, yet again. The mess that ensued led the Pandav’s into thirteen years of exile. With their kingdom lost and their self-esteem shattered, they left for the forests. Krishna took the sons of Pandav’s with him to Dwarka and assumed the role of their guardian. It was during this period that Krishna advised Arjun penance for divine weapons instead of brooding over the incidents. Krishna wanted Arjun to prepare for a war which would be inevitable if all attempts to reconcile fail. With Arjun set out for the task, Krishna advised the other Pandav’s and Draupadi to patiently wait for exile to end. By the time the exile imposed on the Pandav’s ended, Arjun’s quiver was full of divine weapons, making him the most powerful archer on earth. The Pandav’s on the advice of Krishna sent emissaries of peace to the Kaurav’s. Round of discussions between both camps failed and war was inevitable. Both camps called on their allies to join forces and started forging alliances with the neutral powers. Krishna had already declared that in case of a war, he would not participate as a warrior however the powerful army of Dwarka was available. Both Arjun and Duryodhan arrived at Dwarka to seek help from Krishna. Whilst Krishna slept, Duryodhan sat by Krishna’s head and Arjun stood by Krishna’s feet. When Krishna’s woke up, he saw Arjun and even after being told that it was Duryodhan who came first, Krishna asked Arjun to choose between him and his army. Krishna’s based this on who he saw first and not who came first. Arjun was quick to choose Krishna and asked him to be his charioteer in the biggest war of his life. Krishna readily agreed. Duryodhan feigned feeling sorry to have lost Krishna’s support in the war but happily left Dwarka with Krishna’s mighty army. Duryodhan thought he got the better deal as an armless Krishna seemed to be of no use to him. Arjun saw Krishna as the supreme self and returned assured of victory.

From being peacemaker to being charioteer 

Emissaries were sent, meetings were held and alliances were sealed. Both Kauravs and Pandavs had now amassed huge armies with thousands of chariots, horses, elephants and millions of men lining up infantry battalions. Conches, drums and bugles were prepared. Bows were primed and arrows were dipped in poison. Swords and spears were sharpened. The barren land of Kurukshetra was chosen as the battleground. The war was slated to be nothing less than an apocalypse. This made Krishna make a last attempt at restoring peace. He chose to go to Hastinapur himself as the messenger of the Pandavs. Krishna reached Hastinapur amidst fanfare and was greeted with protocols deemed fit for a royal guest. In the court of Hastinapur, Krishna explained the dire consequences of war and urged Duryodhan to be fair to Pandavs. The negotiation eventually came down to Pandavs settling for mere five villages instead of Indraprasth which too was denied by Duryodhan. On further persuasion, Duryodhan was so furious that he ordered the guards to capture and imprison Krishna. This is when Krishna exhibited his original form as the master of the universe. The court was left awestruck and the guards attempting to capture Krishna ran amok. Before leaving Hastinapur, Krishna spent time with Karn. He revealed Karn’s true identity as the eldest of the Pandav cousins. The reality stunned Karn as he was one of the most trusted ally by Duryodhan’s side and was to eventually fight his own brothers.  Krishna offered Karn to switch sides. Krishna stated that with Karn doing so, the war which seemed inevitable would end before it starts. Too staunch to Duryodhan and having come far too ahead in his rivalry with Arjun, Karn humbly denies the offer. All roads now lead to Kurukshetra. Both armies lined up for battle. The fine generals on both sides inspected enemy formations. The fluttering of the flags was the only thing heard in the battle ground as the armies stood alert waiting to hear the sound of the conch followed by the command to attack. The butchery was about to begin when Krishna found Arjun in a pensive mood. On asking where his thoughts were, Arjun expressed his inhibitions in fighting his relatives. What followed was a discourse from Krishna on karma which enlightened Arjun. Krishna also showed Arjun his divine form. Realizing his duty, Arjun got ready for battle and a twang from his bow sent shivers across the enemy forces. The battle began. The Pandav forces were being inflicted major damage from Bhishma, the commander in chief of the Kauravs. Not only was he one of the most fierce and powerful of warriors, he was also blessed with a boon. He and only he could choose the time of his death, making him almost immortal. With no solution in mind, the Pandav’s approached Krishna who came with a novel idea. Krishna knew Bhishma would lower his weapons if a Pandav general Shikhandi were to fight him. Krishna knew their history. Shikhandi accompanied Arjun on his chariot the next day. With a human shield of sorts in front of an armless opponent, Arjun fired multiple arrows permanently incapacitating Bhishma. The hurdle was crossed only to meet another. Drona took over as the commander in chief of the Kaurav army. More clinical in his approach than Bhishma, Drona was proving to be a bigger threat. He made numerous attempts to take Yudhisthir prisoner with the objective of ending the war with a Kaurav victory. Arjun managed to thwart the move every time in the nick of time. In one such attempt, the Kaurav’s had almost succeeded by engaging Arjun in a different combat whilst creating a formation no one else among the Pandav generals could tackle. The day was saved by Abhimanyu, Krishna’s nephew and Arjun’s son who never returned to the camp. Jayadrath, a general in the Kaurav army had proven to be the reason of Abhimanyu’s death and Arjun promised to immolate himself if Jayadrath were alive till sunset the next day. When Arjun wasn’t able to locate Jayadrath, Krishna used his divine powers to create an eclipse. Thinking the sun has set, Jayadrath came out in the open mocking Arjun. Soon, the sun reappeared on the horizon to everyone’s shock. Krishna reassured Arjun and twang went Arjun’s bow. Jayadrath was history and Arjun had kept his word. With no respite from the menacing Drona, Krishna was the one looked up with hope. Whilst contemplating a solution, Krishna spotted an elephant with the same name as Drona’s son Ashwatthama and got a brainwave. Krishna got the elephant killed and asked the Pandav generals to inform Drona that Ashwatthama was slain in battle. The Pandav’s did as directed leaving Drona shattered. The thought of losing his son made Drona lower his weapons. One of the Pandav generals beheaded an armless Drona, must to the fury of Arjun. As the battle progressed, the Kaurav army kept suffering losses and losing their generals. With Drona out of the way, Karn took over the reins of the Kaurav army. Karn and Arjun were arch rivals since the day they met and Karn was the last hope for the Kauravs. Krishna was more than watchful than ever as Arjun’s charioteer knowing Karn held a divine weapon that could be lethal for Arjun. The duels between Karn and Arjun were the fiercest with each proving to be better than the other every now and then. Krishna put to use both his divine powers and his skills as a charioteer to support Arjun in the battles with Karn. Karn eventually used his one divine weapon elsewhere which relieved Krishna. The one threat looming over Arjun was gone. In what turned out to be Karn’s last day in the battle, Krishna made Arjun fire a divine arrow on Karn killing him when he was armless and not ready for battle. Karn’s killing was against the rules of battle and called an act of cowardice on Arjun’s part. Krishna justified the act stating that breaching rules was a precedent set by the Kauravs and Arjun had only followed suit. Victory was just one step away. Duryodhan had to be killed for the war to be called over and Bheem was the one to take on Duryodhan in a one to one duel. Like Karn and Arjun, these two mace wielding warriors too shared mutual despise for the longest time. The duel saw both of them pouncing at one another like wild elephants. Bheem had more power but Duryodhan was more agile. More than that, Duryodhan’s mother had used her powers to turn his body into iron. It was Krishna who tricked Duryodhan to ensure his thigh was left vulnerable. If rules of a mace duel had to be followed, Bheem could not have emerged victorious. But Krishna has already thought of a plan. Knowing very well that it was against the rules, Krishna prompted Bheem to hit Duryondhan’s thigh. Bheem did as directed and in a couple of strikes, broke Duryondhan’s thigh bone into pieces leaving him bleed to death. It was dusk when the Pandav’s left the battlefield once and for all. The Pandav’s had won the war and Krishna, without using any weapon himself, played the most instrumental role in the victory. Ashwatthama was an immortal and one of the three Kaurav generals left alive. He wanted to avenge the killing of his father Drona. Whilst Duryodhan bled awaiting death, Ashwatthama went on a wild killing spree by the night. He killed all of Draupadi’s sons thinking they were the Pandav’s. Duryodhan was dead by the time Ashwatthama came to tell the tale. By morning, it was clear that the Pandav’s were alive and were on the hunt for Ashwatthama, furious at the killing of their sons. In an attempt to end the Pandav lineage, Ashwatthama fired a divine arrow killing Abhimanyu’s son in his mother’s womb. Infuriated, Krishna cursed Ashwatthama and used his divine power yet again, this time to give life to a stillborn who grew up to be King Parikshit.

Being cursed

Though Krishna secured the lineage of the Hastinapur kingdom, he ended up with a curse. Duryondhan’s mother blamed Krishna for the war, telling him that he could have tried harder to avert the mayhem at Kurukshetra if he really wished to. Overwhelmed by the sorrow of losing all her sons, she cursed Krishna that he too would witness the end of his clan just as she did. Krishna gracefully accepted the curse. Yudhisthir was reinstated as emperor. With the well-being of the Pandavs restored, Krishna went back to Dwarka. After years, a drunken brawl in Dwarka turned into a civil war in which the Yadav folks killed each other. Distraught, Krishna headed towards the forests for meditation. A hunter mistook Krishna’s foot for a deer and shot an arrow that fatally wounded him. With that, the age of the eighth incarnation of Vishnu came to an end.

Friendship – the gift from you to you!

Friendship – the gift from you to you!

Our scriptures, the Ramayan and the Mahabharat have some examples of great friendships. Social status, caste or race couldn’t deter friendships even then. These stories go on to substantiate the strength of the relationship we choose for ourselves.

Ram – Sugreev

Ram was the seventh incarnation of Vishnu. He was in pursuit of his wife Sita, abducted by the demon king Ravana. Sugreev, the king of apes too had a similar story. His brother Bali had banished from the kingdom. Sugreev lived in the mountains of Rishimukh, where Bali would never come due to a curse. Sugreev needed someone powerful enough to overthrow Bali. Ram needed someone with the resources to locate Sita and free her from Ravana’s captivity. The situation sowed the seeds of friendship between individuals of two different species. As per the pact, first Ram killed Bali and made Sugreev the king. Sugreev then mobilized a huge army of apes to locate Sita and help Ram kill Ravana in battle. A friendship forged in mutual distress, lasted lifelong. Adversities create strong friendships!

Ram – Vibhishan

Ravana’s brother Vibhishan was a firm devotee of Vishnu. This was peculiar given he belonged to the demon race and it was obviously not appreciated by the demon king. Vibhishan was quick to recognize Ram has the supreme self and insisted Ravana return Sita and apologise for the act. Ravana, too egoistic to realize his mistakes and blinded by his powers, banished Vibhishan from the kingdom. Left with no choice, Vibhishan befriended Ram who promised to make him the king after killing Ravana. In a friendship between individuals of two different races, Vibhishan helped Ram in various stages of the war and ended up divulging the secret of Ravana’s immortality. A victorious Ram, as promised, declared Vibhishan the king of Lanka. A foe’s foe, always a useful friend!

Krishna – Sudama

Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu belonged to the royal family of Mathura. Sudama had his roots in a poor Brahmin household. Being classmates, they became closest friends. Once, when assigned the task of gathering firewood, they got stuck in a thunderstorm and spent the night on two adjacent trees. Sudama carried all the food and ended up eating Krishna’s portion as well. Krishna joked about making Sudama ‘pay-up’ for the same, someday. As grown-ups, they moved on with life. Krishna became the king of Dwarka whilst Sudama remained poor. With time, Sudama’s poverty got worse and he decided to seek help from Krishna. He reached the palace of Dwarka with a fistful of beaten rice as a humble gift for his long lost friend. Krishna wept at Sudama’s state and greeted him with open arms. Such a bond friendship that went beyond social status shocked everyone. Sudama was treated as a royal guest whilst Krishna savoured every bite of the beaten rice. Sudama returned home to realize his poverty was a thing of the past. Mystic powers of Krishna had given him all that he needed but could not say. A true friend listens to words unspoken!

Krishna – Arjun  

Krishna and the Pandav princes were cousins and Krishna was particularly fond of Arjun. It was friendship that that bound them more than the family relations. A friendship that stood the test of time, Krishna was by Arjun’s side through thick and thin. Among many things, it was Krishna who helped Arjun build the city of Indraprasth. To strengthen their ties, Krishna got his sister Subhadra married to Arjun, against the wish of his elder brother Balram. It was on Krishna’s advice that Arjun set on his pursuit of divine weapons and attained them. Arjun considered Krishna’s guidance and advice so valuable that he chose an unarmed Krishna over Krishna’s million strong army. In spite of being a king himself, Krishna agreed to be Arjun’s charioteer is the war of Mahabharat. When Arjun’s mind wavered at the thought of fighting his own kith and kin, it was Krishna who guided him back to the path of Karma through the Bhagwat Geeta discourse. During the war, it was the combination of Krishna’s strategic thinking and Arjun’s execution that led to victory. Right friendships do put you on the winning track!

Duryodhan – Karn

The citizens of Hastinapur had just witnessed the martial skills of their royal princes who trained under the tutelage of Guru Drona. The young Pandav prince Arjun, an archer, had the audience mesmerized with some sharp shooting and use of divine arrows. Guru Drona claimed Arjun to be most skilled archer of the time. A young man entered the scene, challenging the claim. Karn, who claimed to be a skilled archer himself wanted to fight Arjun to show his mettle. On being asked to introduce himself, Karn claimed to be the son of a charioteer. He came from a lowly class versus the royalty of Arjun. Karn was denied an opportunity to exhibit his skills and was insulted. Duryodhan, the eldest Kuru prince was impressed by Karn’s courage and declared him the king of Anga, which bestowed Karn a status equal to that of Arjun. Thus began a friendship that went beyond caste. Karn, till the end of his life, remained a staunch friend. He remained a loyal friend when Duryodhan needed him most, fighting the Pandavs. Even after discovering that he too belonged to the Pandav clan. Friends in need, friends indeed!

12 Lessons From The Life of Arjun

12 Lessons From The Life of Arjun

The Mahabharat is an ancient Indian epic. The story has Arjun as the protagonist and Krishna as his companion. Incidences from Arjun’s life teach us 12 valuable lessons as follows:

  1. Start Early

Arjun, since his early days in Gurukul, identified his interest in Archery. Of all the weapons available, he chose to go with his ‘first love’ – the bow and the arrow as his primary weapons.

We all need to identify our interests sooner than later. Identifying an interest helps channelize energies towards learning, exploring and experimenting. These convert interests into passions and become the stepping stone towards mastery.

2. Exhibit Focus and Courage

Having realized his passion for archery, Arjun showed high levels of focus. One day, Guru Drona tested the shooting skills of all his pupil by placing a wooden bird on a tree. Of all the warrior princes taking the test, Arjun & Arjun alone could see nothing but the eye of the bird – the ‘bull’s eye’ so to say – thereby exhibiting focus. In another instance, Guru Drona was attacked by a Crocodile. While his mates ran amok for help, Arjun was the only one who attacked the Crocodile with his arrows – thus exhibiting courage. The crocodile was nothing but a ruse used by Guru Drona to test the reaction of his pupil.

Focus keeps the unnecessary away and makes things easy & courage drives action which drives results. Focus helps us keep our eye on the target and courage fuels us in the direction towards the target. Also, when we exhibit focus and courage at the right time, we get noticed by the right people.

3. Get a Guru

Arjun’s focus and courage impressed Guru Drona. These qualities in Arjun got him special attention from his Guru who took keen interest in developing his skills as an archer. Guru Drona took it upon himself to train Arjun to be the finest archer the world has ever seen. Not only did he develop Arjun, he also killed Arjun’s competition at an early stage – having noticed Eklavya as a potential threat to Arjun’s supremacy, Guru Drona asked Eklavya to cut off his right thumb, thereby incapacitating Eklavya permanently.

Finding a Guru is a competitive advantage and the sooner we find one, the better. We need to exhibit the right qualities to get noticed by a Guru, who would then ensure we move ahead in the right direction and would help us hone our skills. Not just ensuring you get the right skills, a great Guru would also ensure you constantly upgrade. Your Guru would be your sounding board and a source of motivation.

4. Embrace Realities

Arjun and his brothers (together known as the Pandavs) never had good relations with their cousins (the Kauravs). The Pandavs demonstrated patience, righteousness and a firm resolve to sort issues amicably under the leadership of Yudhishthir (eldest of the Pandav brothers and known for this honesty) but the Kauravs showed no signs of reciprocation and left no stone unturned to make the Pandav brother’s life miserable. Being the finest archer and a prince, Arjun was subject to insult, injustice and deceit. Arjun never questioned the leadership of Yudhishthir who lost their kingdom in gamble and the brothers had to face exile and anonymity. Arjun took of all this in his stride and embraced cruel realities of life.

Life isn’t all easy and fair, even you’re Arjun! The sooner we realize this, the quicker we’re able to plan ahead. There are and will be times when our capabilities and skills won’t help us. Circumstances tend to get the better of us at some point in time or the other. It’s critical to approach things that aren’t under our control in three steps: accept and assess the situation, assess our own strengths & weaknesses and lastly, plan and work towards getting our way.

5. Upgrade Skills

Arjun realized that the differences with Kauravs would only result in a war. Neither would Kauravs give in nor could the Pandavs live all their lives in exile. Having experienced and lived with the bitter realities of life for years, Arjun decided to make the most of the years in exile to upgrade his skills as an archer. He knew the war with Kaurav’s would be a tough one, with many a mighty warriors on their side, though only a handful could stand a chance in front of an archer like Arjun. Arjun, the finest archer who had now mastered all the skills of archery known to mortals, now set out on his quest for divine weapons – spending months in meditation to please the Gods! Arjun’s mediation bore fruit with Shiva and other Gods blessing Arjun with their special divine weapons. Arjun did not stop at that. He visited his God father Indra in heaven to get more divine weapons and trained further on their use. Indra asked Arjun to fight and eliminate demons as a fee for this training.

Even the finest need to constantly upgrade. Howsoever good we may be at what we do or know, we need to be cognizant of the bigger challenges that lie ahead and prepare to overcome them. Not only does this preparation take a lot of time, effort and sweat, it also comes at a price. The price of losing sleep, sacrificing our comfort zones and more often than not, giving something in return. In some cases being prepared also comes at the price of living with uncomfortable situations.

6. Exploit Situations

While in heaven, Indra asked Arjun to learn music and dance from the celestial artists, which he did. During his stay, a celestial nymph called Urvashi fell for Arjun’s looks and he rejected her advances. Urvashi took the rejection as an insult and cursed him to lose his manhood. Indra later reduced the duration of the curse from a lifetime to a year. Pandav’s last year in exile was spent in the kingdom of Viraat and each of the brothers assumed a guise. This is where Arjun implemented Urvashi’s curse and turned into a eunuch called Brihannala. He used his music and dance skills to train the princess of Viraat. That’s how Arjun used Urvashi’s curse and the music he learnt in heaven to his advantage. The Kaurav’s suspected the presence of Pandav’s in Viraat and waged war on Viraat. Uttar, the Viraat prince decides to take on the attack and Brihannala volunteered to be his charioteer. Noticing the might of the Kaurav army, Uttar decides to flee and that’s when Brihannala revels his real identity. Arjun then swaps position with Uttar and singlehandedly compels the Kaurav army to retreat – thus giving this foes a taste of his fierce arrows!

Life will land us in situations that we never anticipate or plan for. We head towards a specific plan and end up, whilst chasing our goals, in peculiar and undesirable situations. First, we need to exhibit high levels of flexibility to address the demands of such situations. Without being flexible, we might end up converting a mole into a mountain. And second, we should strive to convert such situations to our advantage. If we do not salvage the situation and do not get something out of it, we end up being slaves. Getting into undesirable situations, when not everything is in our control is normal but making the most of such situations is something extraordinary. 

7. Forge Alliances

A friendship based on mutual respect and affection with Krishna was the most important alliance for Arjun. Krishna played an important role in Arjun’s life by guiding and mentoring the Pandav’s through thick and thin, particularly Arjun. Arjun too reciprocated by demonstrating his strong faith and allegiance. When given a choice, Arjun chose Krishna over Krishna’s powerful army for the biggest war of his life. Vowed not to raise weapons, Krishna played Arjun’s charioteer. Earlier, when the Pandav’s decided to make the forests of Khandav their home, Arjun & Krishna teamed up with the God of Fire, Agni and the God of Rain, Varun to clear the forest and make way for their kingdom – Indraprasth. Agni burnt the forest to quench his thirst, whilst Varun blessed Arjun with his celestial bow. Agni also later presented Arjun his chariot with four white horses. Whilst the forest burnt, Arjun saved a demon called Mayasur, who later helped build the magnificent Mayasabha – the hall which became symbolic of the grandeur of the Pandav rule. Mayasur also gifted Arjun with a divine conch, the sound of which later became Arjun’s signature war cry. Arjun’s marriages with Ulupi, Subhadra & Chitrangada were a part of sealing alliances with powerful kingdoms.

All of us need partnerships with people who would add value to our lives. We all need strong alliances which create win-win situations and when based on mutual respect, the alliances tend to sustain over a period of time. All alliances come at a cost and that’s how they need to be so that they are valued. You would need to give something to get something. Your true allies will watch your back when you get on with your act and if the need arises, would also fill in for you. Identifying, winning and maintaining strong alliances end up giving us a strong edge.

8. When in Doubt, Ask

After all peace making initiatives failed, the mighty armies of the Pandav and Kaurav cousins, along with their allies, headed towards battle ground Kurukshetra. Arjun, sat on his four horse chariot he got from Agni, equipped with his celestial bow, divine arrows and with Krishna as his charioteer. His heart sank at the thought of fighting the fiercest battle of his live with none other than his grandsire, gurus, cousins and friends. He thought to himself if a kingdom would be worth the bloodshed of his very own and a though of retiring from the battle before it starts crossed his mind. He shared his doubt with Krishna. What followed was a conversation between Krishna & Arjun with the former speaking of the world, one-self, supreme-self, senses and action.

Never approach things half-heartedly. It’s a recipe for failure. Seeking guidance from someone with an objective of clearing your mind of doubts is not something bad or a sign of weakness. Ask, seek and show inquisitiveness to someone who can guide your path and obviously who you thinks knows more on the subject than you do. It will ensure you single-mindedly focus on execution of your plans, rather than concentrating on the ifs and buts.  

9. When in Need, Seek Help

Having his doubts cleared and realizing the purpose of life, Arjun got on with the fierce battle in Kurukshetra. The toughest to face for all of Pandavs was Bhishma – the great grandfather of the warring cousins. Bhishma had the boon to decide the time of his death – making it impossible to kill him. He was also a warrior par excellence – making him unstoppable. Bhishma was bound by his own oath to protect the Kaurav’s till his last breath – which made him go all out on the Pandav forces. Bhishma’s wrath was something the Pandav forces could not handle. The only thing that could be done was to make him drop his weapons and incapacitate him. Arjun could do the latter, provided someone compelled Bhishma to do the former. Shikhandi, a general in the Pandav forces was seen by Bhishma as a woman reborn in a man’s body. Krishna & Arjun realized that Bhishma, being a warrior with high principles, would never attack someone he sees as a woman. Thus Shikandi’s presence with Arjun in the battlefield became necessary, so Arjun could do the needful. Arjun, walked up to Shikandi for help. Shikandi, a less celebrated warrior in the Pandav ranks, was delighted to help. Before dusk the next day, Bhishma lay on a bed of arrows. Far from the battlefield.

Even Arjun couldn’t achieve everything on his own. How so ever strong you are, you will need help and you can’t shy away from the reality. Help need not always come from people at par your capabilities or greater. Help also need not always come from someone with credentials as strong as yours. Situations and circumstances tend to put everyone on the same pedestal making each one of us equal and important under given circumstances. Help also never arrives on its own, it needs to be called for. We need to first realize the need for help, very objectively scan the potential sources and leaving our egos behind, and seek.

10. Bear Losses

The war in Kurukshetra was not a one sided affair. With each passing day, warriors on either side kept falling. Arjun too was subject to the grief of loss of his allies and relatives. The loss that really shattered Arjun was the death of his son Abhimanyu. Having barely crossed his teens, Abhimanyu was a brave heart. Trained under Krishna himself, he was a mirror image of his father when it came to archery. On the thirteenth day of the war, Drona lead the Kaurav army into a circular formation with the objective of capturing Yudhisthir. None on the Pandav side except Arjun and Krishna could tackle such a formation but they were engaged in another fierce battle. Abhimanyu knew the way to break into the formation, but lacked the know how to come out of it. Aware of the fatal consequences, the boy volunteered to lead the Pandav counter attack, but was left alone inside the circular formation. Facing the mighty Kaurav warriors, Abhimanyu fired a barrage of sharp arrows. None were left unhurt as Abhimanyu showed his mettle. The best of the best bled fighting the brave son of Arjun and were so frustrated that they pounced on him together like hungry wolves. There was a deafening silence in the Pandav camp that evening. Abhimanyu had saved the day for his side but never returned to meet Arjun. It was the saddest day of life for the wailing father!

There are times you will be on the receiving end. Nothing in life, worth to be called an achievement, will come without bringing losses and blows. Whilst we do our bit, things will go against us and we will need to sustain stressful situations. In the war zone, no one is immune to losses. With the joy of gains, also comes the sorrow of losses. Situations come in packages and not everything that comes in the package is desirable. A loss can lead to learning and can lead to a stronger resolve. What we make out of our losses, howsoever sever they may be, is in our own hands.

11. Never Forgive, Never Forget

Abhimanyu was cremated with full honours privileged to a brave warrior. Arjun’s sorrow was overpowered by anger. His blood boiling with rage and veins throbbing, Arjun vowed to avenge his son’s death by killing Jayadrath, who did not let any help reach out to Abhimanyu as he singlehandedly fought trapped in the battle formation. Arjun also announced that he would commit suicide by self-immolation if he failed to avenge by sunset the very next day. Arjun’s suicide would lead to a Pandav defeat. No one slept that night with the Pandavs tense and Kauravs planning. With the whole Kaurav army standing between Arjun and Jayadrath the next day on the battlefield, Arjun’s rampage was epic! Flanked by other Pandav warriors, Arjun tore apart the protective formation. With help and good advice from Krishna, Arjun fired a divine arrow, knocking off Jayadrath’s head. Arjun not only avenged the death of Abhimanyu, but in the process also demoralized enemy forces to a great extent.

We forgive once and we have to forgive always. We forget and there is no lesson learnt or taught. We cannot be on the receiving end always. In the war zone, forgiving and forgetting is like adding to the enemy’s armoury and sowing seeds for bigger losses in the future. We must convert anger into energy for action. Our foes ought to know we’re going to give it back.

12. Strike at the Right Time

The fiercest of duels in the war was between Karn and Arjun. Sworn enemies since the day they first saw each other, both were hell-bent on killing the other. The fate of the warring sides depended on the result of the duel between these two as the victor would seal a victory for his side. If Arjun had all divine weapons at his disposal, Karn too was no less even if not equipped with those. On some occasions, Karn had Arjun at his mercy and on others, Arjun left Karn flabbergasted by his salvos. With such a fierce fight in sight, everyone on the battlefield watched awestruck. More than Arjun’s blows, what actually went against Karn were the curses he was subject to. Some, a result of his own past doings, some a result of sheer misfortune. Karn was cursed by his guru that his knowledge would evade him when he needed it the most, thus Karn could not evoke his most potent arrows against Arjun. As a result of another curse, a wheel of Karn’s chariot got stuck in the mud and he dropped his weapons to free the same. Seeing Karn armless, Arjun, on the insistence of Krishna, fired a choicest arrow beheading his dreaded foe. The last hope of the Kauravs lay dead and with this, Arjun completed his part in the Pandav victory.

At times, even the toughest nuts are not as tough to crack. We need to be quick to spot such situations where things can be relatively ‘easier than usual’ to achieve. First we need alert senses of our own and/or a network of trusted of allies, which will first help identify opportune situations. The more the eyes and ears at your service, the better! Once we’re aware of such an opportunity, we have but two ways of dealing with it. Either we do nothing about it and keep going the hard way or make the most of the situation by showing action and getting our way. What we usually won’t get is the luxury of time hence the need would be for a quick decision.

Note: Arjun’s story has been picked from information available in the public domain. The interpretations and lessons derived therefrom are my own.