The Eternity thinks of the morrow…

September 24, 2015, Chennai

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The Eternity thinks of the morrow…We were talking about Arjuna’s vow to kill Jayadratha before sunset the next day.


  Arjuna undertook this vow on hearing that it was Jayadratha who held the other four Pandava brothers at bay and delayed their entry into the Chakra Vyuha, once it was broken by Abhimanyu.  We know that Abhimanyu had learnt the art of penetrating this tricky array—or arrangement of the four divisions of the army—but didn’t know how to come out of it.  The original plan was that (in the absence of Arjuna elsewhere, who was the only one that knew the art of both breaking in and emerging out of this particular formation) Abhimanyu would break in, and would immediately be followed by Bhima for whom breaking out of any kind of formation was a child’s play, though even he could not break in through the Chakra Vyuha.  Bhima would then be followed by the other three Pandava brothers and their men.  The plan sounded neat and clean at the face of it.  But Sumitra, the Charioteer of Abhimanyu had the gut feeling that this might go wrong somewhere and forewarned Abhimanyu.  An enthusiastic youngster as Abhimanyu could not but laugh it off.  Anyway, he did his best and it took the combined efforts of six of the Commanders-in-Chief of Duryodhana’s side to kill Abhimanyu in the most unfair, unjust and audacious of manners.  The shameless plan to kill Abhimanyu jointly was devised by Sakuni, fine-tuned by Drona, executed by Karna, Kripa and Kritavarma (the king of Bhojas).  And when Abhimanyu was worn out beyond words, Jayanta the son of Duhsasana hit him on the crown of his head when Abhimanyu was in the process of rising up (obviously after ducking to ward off the opponent’s mace).  It is really amazing that critics who go gaga about the manner in which Bhima struck Duryodhana, do not even pay attention to the shameless way adopted by the greatest of great masters to silence this lad of sixteen.  

That aside.  We will go into that later.  Jayadratha was instrumental in the killing of Abhimanyu.  Had Bhima been able to follow Abhimanyu, the story would have had a different reading.  And it is no wonder that Arjuna was pained at the reason behind the death of his son.  What troubled Arjuna was the manner in which Abhimanyu was killed, more than his death.  A warrior is born to die in battle.  As Mahabharata repeatedly says ‘it is by weapons that we (Kshatriyas) are protected and it is by weapons that we die’.  Death of a son was not the point at hand.  Arjuna had lost his other sons too, Iravan for instance, the son born to him and Nagakanya, Ulupi.  It was the gory manner in which Abhimanyu was slain by six of the seasoned warriors that had the pride of having seen a hundred battles and more.

Stung by the fact that Jayadratha held the seed of the death of Abhimanyu, Arjuna undertook the vow to either kill him before sunset the next day or to kill himself by jumping into flames.  Jayadratha was the husband of Dussala, the only sister of the Kaurava-hundred, and therefore by relationship he was the brother-in-law of both Kauravas and Pandavas.  It was for this reason that Jayadratha was let off with the simple punishment of tonsuring the head, leaving with five-tufts, when he misbehaved with Draupadi during the exile in the forest and attempted to abduct her.  ‘After all, he is our sister’s husband’ was Dharmaptura’s reasoning, in restraining the other brothers from killing him there and then.  

The vow of Arjuna consists of two parts and it was the second part of the vow by which Arjuna bound himself.  Listen to him.  “Listen now to another oath of mine!  If tomorrow's sun set without my slaying that wretch, then even here I shall enter the blazing fire! Ye Asuras and gods and men., ye birds and snakes, ye Pitris and all wanderers of the night, ye regenerate Rishis and celestial Rishis, ye mobile and immobile creatures, ye all that I have not mentioned, ye will not succeed in protecting my foe from me!” (Mahabharata, Book 7, Chapter 73).

The first vow of Arjuna sent shock waves all around in Duryodhana’s camp, and made Jayadratha to seek his permission to let him go back to his city, abandoning the war.  “Blessed be ye, I shall, therefore go back to my home from desire of life! Or, ye bulls among Kshatriyas, protect me by the force of your weapons!” (Mahabharata, Book 7, Chapter 74).  However, Duryodhana saw the excellent opportunity they had to eliminate Arjuna.  The person whom Duryodhana himself considered matchless in archery—which was the sole reason behind his forming friendship with Karna—is now at his mercy.  He need not move a finger to kill Arjuna!  Just manage this whole affair till sunset the next day, and delay Arjuna reaching Jayadratha for a mere twelve hours, Arjuna would kill himself. To him, Jayadratha was the bait to hunt the tiger, Arjuna.  Every other hunter would expose the bait to succeed in the hunt.  Duryodhana had to guard this bait for not more than twelve hours!  That was as easy as that.  While narrating the fact that he consoled Jayadratha, Vyasa does not fail to point out the intention of Duryodhana.  “While indulging in such lamentations, with heart agitated by fear, king Duryodhana, always looking upon the accomplishment of his own business to be preferable to everything else, said unto him these words” is what he remarks.  (Mahabharata, Book 7, Chapter 74).  

Well, the plot has thickened.  On the other side, Lord Krishna was not idle.  He had—of course, not letting Arjuna know about it—sent spies and picked up the scent of the plan of action on Duryodhana’s side.  And he was worried.

This exactly is what I am trying to depict.  This person, this one who unlike Rama is aware of his Omniscience, who could not be considered to hold the dread of the unknown, the Timeless, of whom Time is but a part, exhibits anxiety.  Tomorrow is less than a drop in the ocean of Eternity.  And here is this Eternity worried about tomorrow!  The ocean acting ignorant of its own droplet!  Let us see how the Lord prepares himself to face the ‘unknown’!

(To be contd.)
                                                                                                                                         
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Hari Krishnan