Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mahabharat : Part 6 : 12-year Exile

The disrobing of Draupadi (Draupadi ka VastraHaran) the single most important defining moment of Mahabharat, directing the course of events that followed. Indraprashtha was thoroughly disgraced, with their banishment being the ultimate insult. Duryodhan was able to temporarily remove his only major political rival and exert his supremacy in India.

Draupadi swore to leave her hair loose for 13 years, and was determined to wash them with Dushshan's blood. Bheem swore to tear open Dushshan's chest and drink his blood, and also smash Duryodhan's thigh. Arjun swore to kill Karna, while Sahadev pledged to kill Shakuni.

Leaving the mother Kunti in Uncle-Prime Minister Vidur's house, the Pandavs travelled to Dwaita Van (forest) in Punjab. Grandsire Bheeshma was extremely saddened by this dice-game, in insult of the Pandavs, the disrobing of Draupadi and the exile of his beloved grandsons. He urged Vidur to convince King Dritarashtra to recall his nephews (Pandavs) and restore their kingdom to them. But Dritarashtra, wanting to ensure the political future of his son, flatly refused. Vidur visited the Pandavs in their exile, and so did Draupadi's brother Drishtadyumna, the prince of Panchal (eastern Uttar Pradesh). Uncle Shakuni assured Duryodhan that the Pandavs would never return to power before the 13 years they lost in the dice-game.

Sage Ved Vyas, Dritarashtra's biological father, tried to convince him to strike a compromise with the powerful Pandavs, but Duryodhan was adamant to see his rivals in trouble. Wanting to actually see their sufferring, he led an recreational camping expedition to Punjab, accompanied by friend Karna and brother Dushshan. They camped close to the exile residence of the Pandavs, eager to see their destitute living. Bheem and Arjun noticed their camp, and tried to ignore his taunts. Yudhisthir sat still in his house, meditating in remorse, rebuking himself for losing control in the dice-game. Unable to forgive himself, he accepted the exile as his punishment for transgressing all limits of dignity and morality.

The chief of the Gandharva tribe Chitrarath, who ruled over southern Himachal Pradesh (adjoining Uttarakhand), came to the same place for an excursion. Duryodhan made an indecent proposal to the Gandharva princess, and in revenge, the angry tribe captured Duryodhan. Dushshan and Karna fled, while Duryodhan's bodygurad ran to Yudhisthir to seek help. Asked by him, Bheem and Arjun reluctantly went forth to Chitrarath, and requested to free the Crown prince of Hastinapur. Chitrarath, becoming an ally of Indraprashtha, agreed, and Duryodhan returned to Hastinapur with his self-esteem badly shaken. He slew his bodyguars in a duel, and attempted suicide when Karna stopped him. Bhishma was unhappy at the Gandharvas becoming another enemy of Hastinapur.

Cousin Krishna visited the Pandavs from Gujarat. Arjun and Draupadi vented all her anger before him, while he patiently listened and asked them to look forward to the end of their exile. Krishna mildly rebuked the emperor, saying that he had absolutely no right to pawn his kingdom, his brothers and Draupadi in the dice-game, and thus must must spend 13 repentant years in exile. The four younger brothers were eager to attack Hastinapur, but Krishna asked them to wait till the end of the exile, and in the meantime, prepare for the attack. Krishna foresaw the inevitable war between Hastinapur and the Pandavs, and asked Arjun to prepare for it. He asked Arjun to enroll in advanced archery in the Himalayas, which would last for five years and prepare him for the ultimate war. He asked secretly told Draupadi that the war would definitely take place, and her extreme insult would be revenged by the deaths of Duryodhan, Dushshan, Karna and Shakuni.

Arjun appeared for the first qualifying examination of the Advanced Archery course, which the Prime Minister of Swarga (Pamir Knots), Indra, declared he has cleared. Duryodhan heard of Arjun's advanced warfare training pursuits, and send a friend to put an end to them. However, Arjun killed Duryodhan's spy-cum-ally and continued his preparation. The second part of the two-stage exam saw Arjun pitted against Shiva, the powerful Yogi of Mount Kailash, whom he had to defeat in a duel to qualify for Swarga. Shiva was the most powerful being on the planet, but Arjun gave him a tough time. Happy at his efforts, Shiva declared him qualified, and Arjun left his brothers and Draupadi for his five-year training. In the meantime, Karna led an conquest expedition all over India, and returned victorious. Allies of Indraprashtha were forced to pay taxes to Hastinapur. This increased Duryodhan's confidence against the Pandavs. The Pandavs did not sit idle. They traveled all over India, won allies (Chitrarath Gandharva), and slew enemies like Kirmeer.

Bheem met his half-brother Hanuman in the forest. (Hanuman had fought in Ayodhya prince Ram's army against Ravan, the king of Lanka a few decades ago). He also met his first wife Hidimba, and son Ghatotkach, now the king of Himachal Pradesh, capital Manali. Bheem found this tribe still continued animal sacrifices, and sometimes even the gross human sacrifice. Bheem raised his voice and out his end to this evil practice. Queen Mother Hidimba enacted a law making sacrifices illegal in Himachal.

In Swarga, Arjun continued his advanced warfare training. In his final year, he found he still needed a few more credits to complete his course requirements for graduation. Planning to disguise himself as an eunuch danseuse in the 13th year of the exile, he enrolled for classical dance, under instructor Chitrasen Gandharva. Chitrasen's assistant and Indra's court dancer Urvashi Apsara fell for Arjun, but Arjun benevolently turned her lustful proposal down. He mastered classical dance and returned to Dwaita Van where the Pandavs were exiling.

Once, Jayadrath, the king of Sindh and Duryodhan's sister Dushshala's husband, tried to abduct Draupadi when all the five brothers were out hunting. Bheem and Arjun caught up with him, rescued their wife and brought the pervert before Yudhisthir, who asked Draupadi to punish her culprit. She asked Bheem to shave Jayadrath's head and leave five locks, and enslave him. However, the kind-hearted, ever-forgiving Yudhisthir set him free, who vowed revenge on the Pandavs. Duryodhan also came to know of this incident. be continued.

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