Jan 25, 2015

5 arrows: Duryodhana and Bhishma

The atmosphere was filled with the overwhelming smell of burning flesh and bone from the mass funeral. Hundreds of thousands of men had lost their lives in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, one of the gruesome war histories has ever witnessed. Many more have lost their limbs and other body parts fighting a brave battle between the good and the bad. Both Kauravas and Pandavas fought the war with valor and utmost resistance that the end of the war is nowhere in sight even after the end of the eighth day.

Duryodhana occupying a makeshift chair outside his tent sobbed continuously looking at the lifeless bodies of eight of his kinsmen who died in the battlefield at the hands of Bhima. His red, swollen eyes and grief-stricken face cried for revenge. “Pandavas should die, every one of them”, he grudged. It seems to be an impossible task as long as the old man acted as his Commander-in-chief, he thought, eying at his great-grandfather Bhishma scornfully.

“There is only one way to end this battle without losing more of your kinsmen, my dear son. It is to seek peace with the Pandavas”, Bhishma spoke to the lamented Dhuryodhan.

The words of Bhishma drove him crazy. “How can such words come out from your mouth, my great-grandfather? Are you fighting the battle for Pandavas or for us?” he asked. “Did you switch your loyalty? Have you forgotten your vow to protect Hastinapur from its enemies?” he continued his questions as if there was a war between them and he was shooting each question as if they were a string of arrows pointed towards Bhishma’s heart.

His last question reminded the invincible warrior of his vow to his father that he would remain celibate and protect Hastinapur as a servant and not as a ruler. “How can you utter such nonsense Duryodhana? To protect Hastinapur has been my Dharma and I have been pursuing it with utmost sincerity. The fact that I am standing in front of you on this battlefield and had raised my arms against your cousin proves the point”.

“But it is of no use old man. It is true that you are standing here and physically fighting for us. But your heart is with the Pandavas. Deep in your heart, you yearn for their victory. Why else would it take eight days for you to fight against five Pandavas whose collective strength does not match your valor?”

Duryodhan’s words were provocative. He conveniently forgot that Bhishma had accepted Duryodhan’s request to command his army on the condition that he would not harm the Pandava brothers. But having seen his kinsmen’s lifeless bodies, he could not satisfy himself with the mere destruction of Pandava’s army. He would like to see them killed brutally, the way his brothers were killed by the ruthless murderer.

“How dare you suspect my integrity?” Bhishma roared. An awful silence reigned throughout the Kauravas camp.

“It is now the time for you to prove it, dear pitamah”, he replied.

Bhishma hasted to his tent furiously, picked up five golden arrows from his quiver, chanted verses and meditated on them briefly. He then returned to Duryodhana and declared, “I have imbued my life’s penance on these five golden arrows. Tomorrow, I will kill the Pandavas using these arrows”.

Duryodhana felt elated hearing Bhishma’s response. Why would not he? Tomorrow, everything would come to an end. The war and with it the killings of his brothers and on top of all, the downfall of his enemies. He whistled in joy. Not having complete faith in Bhishma’s words, he ordered Bhishma to make him custody of those five arrows saying he would return them the next morning.

Did the five golden arrows take the life of Pandavas? Of course, we know that that did not happen. However, there can be no second opinion about the power of Bhishma’s penance. So why did not the five golden arrows kill the Pandavas? What happened to them? The second part of this five-part series will shed more light on these questions.