Mahabharat Episode 41: When Arjuna Single-Handedly Defeated the Kauravas
The Pandavas and Draupadi have completed their twelve years of forest exile and are now living incognito in King Virata’s kingdom. As their time expires, the Kuru army comes looking for them. As Bhima blows their cover, Arjuna has to fight Duryodhana, Karna, Dushasana, and Bhishma.
What happened so far : Sadhguru answers a question about the significance of twelve years. The Pandavas and Draupadi are now living incognito in King Virata's kingdom to satisfy the conditions for the final phase of their exile.Sadhguru: Life continued for the Pandavas and Draupadi during their time living undercover in King Virata’s kingdom. Yudhishthira became very popular with the king. They were waiting for these twelve months to get over. By the eleventh month, Duryodhana was desperately trying to find the Pandavas and Draupadi. His spies could not produce any results, so he sent out his brothers to search for them everywhere. They tried to find out their whereabouts in all kinds of ways, asking astrologers, aghoris, and mystics to find out where they are. But it was upon Krishna’s advice that the Pandavas and Draupadi had gone to Matsya, under the guidance of the sages Dhaumya and Lomasa. So they were under Krishna’s protection. He assured them, “No matter what happens, you will not be discovered in that one year. Do not fear, just go and settle there.”
In the eleventh month, a certain incident happened. One day, the queen’s brother Kichaka set his eyes on Draupadi, the flower girl. He went mad with desire. When warriors came back from campaigns, they were in a certain mode, thinking they could grab anything they wanted. They were used to that. Wherever they went, in every kingdom they conquered, they grabbed the women they wanted. So when he came to see his sister, and he saw Draupadi, he instantly went crazy. He told his sister, “I want this girl.” She tried to tell him, “It seems she has five Gandharva husbands.” He said, “Rubbish. If they come, I will make sure that she has no husbands – it is as simple as that.” He was a battle-hardened man and he wanted her.
Initially, when the queen asked her to go to him, Draupadi said, “No.” But later on, the queen insisted, “Take wine and go to Kichaka’s quarters in the evening.” Then Draupadi activated Bhima, though she was not supposed to contact anyone. She knew if she went to Yudhishthira, he would talk dharma. And, above all, if you do anything to Kichaka, the chances of being discovered were too high. Virata was the king of the Matsya kingdom only in name, because he had become old – almost seventy years of age. Kichaka was the real power. He was the one who controlled the army. If something happened to Kichaka, it would be serious trouble. So she went and instigated Bhima. She said, “I am not going to that man. Either you do something about it, or I am going to kill myself today.”
Bhima Leaves His Mark
A secret rendezvous was arranged between Draupadi and Kichaka. But instead of Draupadi, Bhima came and killed him. It had been a long time – eleven months since he had killed anybody. He had done nothing but cooking, and now he was itching for action. So after Bhima killed Kichaka, he did not leave it at that but pushed Kichaka’s arms and legs into his body with sheer brute force. At first, when the news spread, no one knew who killed Kichaka. When the queen said, “It must have been Draupadi’s Gandharva husbands,” everyone got scared of Draupadi, that she has some magical husbands who mysteriously came and killed someone like Kichaka. Since Kichaka was a strong man, people could not believe he could be killed like this, with bare hands.
When the news went to Duryodhana, he was alarmed. He asked, “How was he killed?” They said that each limb was pushed into the body. Then he said, “Only Bhima does that. It is his modus operandi.” After killing somebody, he pushed the limbs into the body, because he is not satisfied killing – he has to do something more. So he said, “It is Bhima – let’s go there.”
The Kauravas Attack
Duryodhana, Dushasana, Karna, Bhishma, Drona, Kripacharya, all the stalwarts decided to ride there, along with a small battalion of the Kaurava army. They asked an allied king to steal Virata’s cows, so that Virata would go chasing the cow thieves. They took away the cow herds in one direction. Virata and the whole army went there, chasing the thieves. None of them were in the city when the Kuru army came there. Just Virata’s only son Uttara, who was about seventeen years of age, was at home with his sister, his friends, and all the women. When he realized the Kuru army was approaching, he said, “I will go and take them on single-handedly.”
Only among the harem women was Uttara brave. He knew nothing about fighting. He had never been in a battlefield. Still, he thought he could beat the Kuru army and boast about it. But he needed a charioteer, and there was no one around. Then Arjuna came forth to volunteer, in the guise of Brihanala, a eunuch. Uttara said, “It would be a shame for me to be charioted by a eunuch. No, find a man as a charioteer.” But there was no one else. Then Yudhishthira, who was Kanka now, came and said, “Take Brihanala – you’ll have no problems. I know he is a great charioteer.” So, Arjuna went as a charioteer, Uttara as the warrior, to face the Kuru army. When Uttara saw all these battle-hardened warriors standing there, he shook in his pants, and his heart sank into his footwear.
Arjuna Drops His Disguise
Uttara told Arjuna, “Let us turn back.”
Arjuna replied, “Why turn back? We wanted to fight them. Let us fight!”
“No way! Turn back, immediately! I order you! Let us go back.”
Arjuna said, “No.” Uttara got off the chariot and started running. Arjuna chased him, caught hold of him, put him in the chariot, and said, “Wait.” Arjuna took down his Gandiva (bow) and told Uttara, “I am Arjuna.” Just then, the thirteenth year was over, according to the solar calendar. According to Duryodhana’s calculations, there were still a few days left. At first, people could not recognize Arjuna. But then he came out as a warrior. When he strummed the Gandiva, it always made a particular sound that struck terror in people’s hearts. So when Arjuna strummed the Gandiva, people realized it was him.
Duryodhana was happy, thinking that now Arjuna was caught, and the Pandavas would have to go back into exile for twelve more years. Bhishma frowned and said, “You are ignorant of these things. The solar calendar gives them their freedom – the thirteenth year is over. That is the reason why Arjuna has appeared in front of us.” Duryodhana said, “Nothing doing. We are Chandravamshis – we must follow the lunar calendar.” Bhishma said, “We may be Chandravamshis by lineage, but on the battlefield, we belong to Surya, and that is the cycle we go by. That is the dharma in this land. You cannot change that now, simply because it does not work to your advantage.”
Arjuna and the Kauravas Face Off
Then they went into battle. Arjuna told Uttara that his sister, a young girl of fifteen or sixteen years of age, had told him to convey the following message: “Brother, when you win the war, get the upper clothes of all the Kauravas for me. I want to use them to dress up my dolls.” That was dangerous. When they went to battle, Uttara saw the magic of Arjuna’s archery. Karna said, “Wait, I will finish him today. Whether it is twelve years, thirteen years, fourteen years – what does it matter.” Arjuna gave him battle in such a way that he broke Karna’s bow. Karna had to turn back and escape from the fight.
Arjuna used a weapon that made them all faint. After everyone fainted, Uttara went there, took the upper clothes of Duryodhana, Karna, Dushasana, and Ashwatthama – leaving out the elders – and went away. When they came to their consciousness, they discovered their upper clothes were gone. It was a matter of shame that someone came in the battlefield, took off your clothes and went away, and you could not do anything about it.
Completely shamed, they left. But Duryodhana was still arguing, according to which calendar or astrologer the years should be calculated. Bhishma said, “They went by the law. You have to keep your word.” Duryodhana had always been determined, but now he expressed it: “It does not matter if it is thirteen years or fourteen years – I am not going to give back anything to them.”
To be continued..
Editor’s Note : A version of this article was originally published in the Forest Flower magazine, March 2018.