Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mahabharat : Part 2 : Education and Politics.

Krishna and Balarama grew up in Gokul. Teenage Krishna  raised his voice against the excessive taxes paid be Gokul-ites to Mathura. Kans sent his army to Gokul to extort the taxes, and the Gokulites were forced to flee. They settled in the nearby district of Nand-gaon. Kans came to know that Nand's adopted son is actually Devaki's 8th child. Remembering the astrologer's prophecy, he tried his best to eliminate Krishna. He sent his spies to have him killed, but Krishna was too clever for him and overpowered his spies (e.g. Pootna). Finally, Kans openly invited Krishna and Balaram to a wrestling duel in Mathura. Krishna faced Kans and killed him, freeing his parents Devaki and Vasudev, and also his grandfather, King Ugrasen, who re-ascended the throne of Mathura after 20 years. Krishna and Balaram was sent for their high school studies in Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh), under the teacher Guru Sandipan.
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In Dehradun (Uttarakhand) lived a poor scholar named Drona, who was a great archer, trained under Parashuram Bhargav. His brother-in-law (wife Kripi's brother) Kripacharya was the royal advisor of Hastinapur, and the teacher of the princes. Due to increasing responsibilities in the court of Dritarashtra, Kripacharya needed another teacher in his school. He recommended his brother-in-law to be employed by Dritarashtra as the new teacher of the Princes. Dronacharya relocated from Dehradun to Hastinapur, and began teaching the art of warfare to the teenage princes.

Kunti's abandoned son Karna, was ambitious to become an archer; instead of an chauffeur (like his godfather Adirath). He applied to Drona's school, but based on the caste-system, his application was rejected. (It was Royal Gurukul, reserved for princes only). Not losing heart, he went to become a student of Parashuram Bhargav.

Maternal uncle Shakuni poisoned teenage nephew Duryodhan's mind against the Pandavs (The five sons of Pandu). They pictured the eldest prince Yudhisthir as the heir-apparent of Hastinapur, and seethed in jealousy. To weaken them, Duryodhan decided to eliminate the strongest Pandav, Bheem. He poisoned Bheem's dessert, who was rendered unconscious. Duryodhan and Dushshan pushed him into the Yamuna river. However, the Naga tribe inhabiting the bank of Yanuma saved him with their Ayurvedic treatment. The head of the Naga tribe was also the maternal grandfather of Kunti, who recognized Bheem and safely returned him to Hastinapur. He and his brothers guessed that it was Duryodhan was behind this murder attempt, but decided to hold their silence.
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As their education continued, Arjun became the best student in archery. Bheem and Duryadhan excelled in mace-fighting. Yudhisthir specialized in javelin-combat, while Nakul and Sahadev became master swordsmen. For undergradute studies, Yudhisthira studied Ethics, Political science and Law. Bheem, Duryodhan and Arjun studied professional warfare and war strategy. Nakul studied Veterinary Medicine (specializing in horses), and so did Sahadev (specializing in cattle).

At the graduation convocation (commencement), all the princes showcased their warfare skills, and Arjun received the Best Graduating Student Award. This was openly challenged by Karna, who had recently graduated from Bhargav's college. He showcased his archery skills, and excelled in them as much as Arjun. He openly challenged Arjun in an archery duel, but Kripacharya intervened and prevented it with a lame excuse that 'only a prince can face a prince in a duel'. In retaliation to this insult, Duryodhan befriended Karna and appointed him the Governor of Ang. He needed someone equally strong in archery as Arjun as his ally, which was Karna.

Drona's classmate in Bhargav's Gurukul was Drupad, the prince of Panchal. They were bosom friends, but after he attained the throne, Drupad refused to acknowledge his friendship with the poor Drona. Seething in anger, Drona vowed revenge. Thus, on successful graduation, guru Dronacharya demanded Gurudakshina from his royal students. They were supposed to defeat King Drupad, the ruler of Panchal in central Uttar Pradesh, east of Ganga. Duryodhana and his brothers failed, but the five Pandav brothers defeated Drupad and captured him. When he was brought before Dronacharya, the latter usurped half of his kingdom Panchal. Ashwathhama, Drona's son, began to rule it. Drupad planned a counter-revenge, and made his son Dritadhyumna a powerful warrior with intense training under Rishi Vyaja. Drupad was also highly impressed by Arjun, and wanted him as his son-in-law. He educated and groomed his daughter Draupadi into the most desirable princess of India.
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Krishna and Balaram also graduated from their college in Ujjain, and returned home to Mathura. His uncle Kans's murder was still fresh in the mind of Kans's father-in-law Jarasandh, the ruler of Magadha (Jharkhand). Jarasandh repeatedly attacked Mathura to avenge his son-in-law's death, but was defeated every time. Incurring unnecessary losses on the state's finances due to the frequent wars, Krishna suggested shifting the capital to Dwaraka (Gujarat). Architect Vishwakarma planned and designed the city, and the Braj population relocated there.
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In Hastinapur, popular Yudhisthir was reluctantly crowned as the Yuvaraj by Dritarashtra, much to his unpopular son Duryodhan's chagrin. Losing political presence, Duryodhan attempted another assassination of the whole Pandav family. The five brothers, with their mother Kunti, were sent to the Varanavat district to represent the royal family at a the ShivaRatri Festival, where they were housed in an inflammable palace. The shrewd prime minister Vidur, got wind of the plot through is strong spy-system, and planned to save the Pandavs. He sent word about this conspiracy to Yudhisthir, and asked him to escape incognito. The brothers dug a tunnel in the basement of the house as an emergency exit, set the house on fire and escaped northwards with their mother. New spread that they were dead. Dritarashtra was saddenned, but immediately crowned Duryodhan as the Yuvaraj.

The Pandavs reached Himachal Pradesh, rules by the tribal king Hidimba. Struggling in poverty and desperate to recapture political power, Bheem slew Hidimba in a duel and married his sister Hidimbi, taking over Himachal. The couple had a powerful son Gatotkach, who later became the king of Himachal, capital Manali.
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In the meantime, in Gujarat, prince Balaram married Revati. Krishna and Rukmini, the princess of Vidharba (eastern Maharashtra) fell in love with each other. Rukmini's father, Bhishmak, the ruler of Vidharba, wanted her to marry Shishupal, the general of Jarasandh. She disliked Shishupal, and eloped with Krishna to Dwaraka.

..............to be continued.

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