Karna Gets Upset

The Kaurava camp on the East end of the field is clearly much larger than the other one. There are hundreds of tents. Bheeshma’s tent is the most prominent – very large with multiple chambers and surrounded by guards. A few tents down is another large one. But this one was strangely unguarded. The tent is dark outside – to protect the identity of any spies that came in or went out. Although well lit inside, it did not have any sentries. Occupying the tent was Duryodhana – in deep meditation.

Duryodhana appeared strong and powerful and in trance. He looked calm and peaceful. His face radiated an energy not seen in normal people. His breathing was deep and steady. His well-built pectoral muscles rose and fell with each long breath. He sat cross-legged on a raised platform, facing east. There was something captivating about this eldest of Kauravas.

A few minutes later a shrouded figure entered the tent from the rear entrance. The figure did not make a sound as it stood behind Duryodhana. The Kaurava prince opened his eyes and exhaled.

“Finally after 4 days of war you remembered your friend!” he said, getting off the podium and turning around.

The figure took it’s hood off, revealing yet another tall and strong warrior. It was Karna. If Duryodhana was captivating, Karna was hypnotic. His face radiated like a thousand suns. His eyes were bright and incisive. He had a tattoo of the rising sun in between his eyebrows. He was taller than Duryodhana. It seemed like Karna had a natural armor built into his chest. He did not wear anything to cover his upper body. But his shoulders and chest looked like a thick protective plate.

When he spoke, his voice was mesmeric.

“You know that I am not supposed to be around the camp my friend,” he said in his intense voice.

“I know about Pitamaha’s stipulation. But who has the gall to tell him you were in my chambers?”

“The walls have ears my Kuru prince”

“I don’t care about spies Anga’s king. They can tell Bheeshma Pitamaha what they want. He knows I trust you more than anyone else – including him. I would gladly defy him and win the war”

“Suyodhana – you speak ill of your Chief Commander. This cannot be good for our morale. You have to remember – the commanders and generals only give out orders. They have to be carried out by the foot soldiers. If they are clueless or demoralized they become easy prey. Specially when dealing with the Pandavas”

“Have you come here to praise my enemy my friend?”

“You are my friend – my lord. I want the Pandavas dead as much as you do. But it is my duty as your friend and counsel to tell you never to underestimate an enemy. Pandavas are powerful. You have to win them with cunning and deceit. Conventional warfare will only weaken them a little bit. But each of the Pandavas is capable of defeating a large army single-handedly.”

“Then tell me Karna. How can we defeat these 5 brothers? I am not unaware of their power. I am well educated in the matters of the state. I fought several wars and resoundingly won them. The Hastinapura kingdom has reigned supreme for generations now. There is not a kingdom we haven’t conquered – by war or by stealth. We have even prevailed on Yudhishtira’s Indraprastha by defeating him in the game of chance. But for some reason I do not feel good about this war. Omens do not bode well this time. So how can we win this one time?”

“I see that one thought is bothering you my friend. But like I said before, this war cannot be won by orthodox methods. Following rules will only lead us to defeat. Our army is larger than theirs. But your teachers, your uncles, and most importantly your Commander-in-Chief have publicly announced that we are fighting against dharma – indicating that we are at fault. Do you realize what that does to the morale of the army? Unless our army believes they are fighting a righteous war they will not win. It is just impossible. But we cannot do much about it now. The damage has been done. The only way now is to throw all honesty aside and resort to trickery. Let me ask you one question. Who do you think is the most feared warrior on the Pandava side?”

“Why that is an easy question. Bhimasena undoubtedly. As you may have heard he has killed 10 of my brothers in gruesome fashion. Some of my brothers’ body parts haven’t been recovered. They say after killing the last one he threw the body to wolves in the forest. If we can kill Bhimasena we would have broken their back”

“Forgive me for disagreeing with you my friend. The Pandavas did not enter this war on the back of Bhimasena’s power. The only reason they went to war with us is because of Arjuna. They believe Arjuna can annihilate our armies. They are not wrong by the way. After me, Arjuna is the best archer in this world. There is not an archer in the current Kaurava army that can stand up to him – not even your very own dear granduncle. Arjuna has in his armory weapons that can wreak unparalleled destruction. He has also obtained special weapons training during his travels before the fourteen-year banishment and even during that period. Bheeshma doesn’t stand a chance when Arjuna is in his element. There is just one and only one person that can stop him. And that is me. I have acquired a special weapon called the Shakti with only one purpose in mind – to kill Arjuna. I don’t mean to wish for Bheeshma’s death but I cannot wait to use that weapon on Arjuna. I want to see the look on the Pandavas’ faces when that weapons strikes him and he explodes into a thousand pieces.”

Duryodhana’s face lights up when he hears of this. He immediately embraces Karna. He turns and walks to the window.

“That should right all the wrongs that have happened to my family. Let me tell you something that I have never said before. Everyone thinks I am evil. They all think I have usurped Yudhishtira’s kingdom by sleight. They think I do not know the cost of this war. They could not be more wrong Karna. I am not the devil. I only wanted justice for my father. Several years ago a mistake happened in this kingdom. The first born in the family was not made the king. Both the brothers were born with congenital defects. If my father was blind uncle Pandu was frail. There was no way he could run the kingdom by himself. He rode on the crutches called Bheeshma, Kripa and Vidura.  He was completely incapable of being the king. You have only seen my father at the court – blind and unable to see right from wrong. But I have seen what he is physically capable of. He is the strongest man you can find Karna. He can crush your bones with one hand. I have seen him blast holes through the walls when he is angry. My father was clearly the more capable among the two. So why did they rob him of his position? I have seen him cry in his solitude because he was never considered the king of Hastinapura. He has spoken to me of the countless insults he bore because he could not see. Apparently even uncle Pandu would taunt him. Can you imagine living in the shadow of a much weaker person all your life? It consumed my father. I could see the pain in his heart. It was my duty to make it right. That is all I am doing”

Karna sat down in one of the large seats. He could easily relate to Duryodhana’s story. His own life had a parallel. Duryodhana continued “And then that evil woman – my aunt Kunti”

Karna suddenly felt a prick in his heart. Every time he heard the name Kunti something overcame him. He could not explain it. It was as if he knew her very well – yet did not. He had heard her speak only once. Her voice sounded very familiar. It was the same voice that subconsciously calmed him down whenever he was agitated. Her voice came through as a lullaby to him. If there was one thing that stopped Karna from attacking any of the Pandavas it was that they were Kunti’s sons. For some incomprehensible reason he felt guilty at the thought of hurting her sons. Hearing Duryodhana speak ill of her made his stomach queasy. He coughed. Duryodhana turned to look towards his friend. He tried to interpret the strange expression on his friend’s face but could not. He carried on nevertheless.

“That woman. How can she claim to be a Kshatriya queen? She did not have any of the children through her husband. All her three children were born through others. Even her stepchildren were not born through her husband. She knew uncle Pandu was feeble and impotent. She found someone else to bear her children. What kind of a woman does that? You know what we call such women?”

Before Duryodhana could complete his sentence Karna stood up. A bead of sweat trickled down the side of his face. His face reddened with a slight hint of anger. Strange emotions swelled in his heart. He felt like throttling the person in front of him. He started pacing around the room. He could not explain this feeling to himself, nor his friend. He got agitated. He felt claustrophobic in this chamber of his friend and savior. He wanted fresh air.

Duryodhana noticed this sudden change in disposition in his friend. “What is wrong my dear Karna?”

“I think we should leave the women out of our discussions. They are of no use to us in this war. We need to focus on weakening the Pandavas first – especially Arjuna. Arjuna has one weakness in this war – his young son Abhimanyu. If we can capture or kill Abhimanyu it would cripple Arjuna. Do not forget Abhimanyu is also Krishna’s nephew. If something were to happen to Abhimanyu both the warrior and his ace charioteer would break. I would strike my Shakti right at that moment. Who knows? Maybe we can kill Krishna too”

Duryodhana smacked his lips at this idea. He hated Krishna. He knew Krishna could turn this war around in an instant. Apart from being a highly astute person he also knew hypnosis and magic. Killing them both would end this war in an instant.

“So what would you have me do my friend? How can we kill Abhimanyu?”

“Abhimanyu is a fearless warrior. They only way to kill him would be to surround him with several of our best warriors and down him. Again, there is nobody in the Kaurava army that is on the field today that can kill the young prince. I am the only one that can account for him. We will wait for our time Suyodhana. It will come”

As the first light began to appear on the horizon Karna took leave of his friend and made his way into the shadows of the woods. He boarded his chariot at the edge of the forest. As the chariot sped off towards Hastinapura he felt disturbed. The unkind words Duryodhana had for Kunti still reverberated in his ears. He did not like those words. He gripped his sword as the words echoed in his head. To his amazement he realizes that had it been someone else in place of Duryodhana, he would not have hesitated to use that sword. That thought alarmed him more than anything else. He needed answers. He made a mental note to speak to the one person he knew would answer all his questions. As soon as he arrived at his palace he sent for his trusted messenger. He instructed the messenger to go to the Pandava camp and ask Krishna to meet him at the north end of the river after sunset.

Draupadi’s Reasoning

News of the slaying of ten Kaurava brothers had reached the Pandava camp before Bhimasena did. He marched into the tent and gestured everyone to leave. His face looked like that of a lion which just finished a sumptuous meal – smeared in the blood of its prey. He carried with him the femur bone of the last Kaurava brother he killed. The last drops of blood still dripped from the flesh clinging to the bone. He held it aloft like a trophy and proclaimed, “This is for you my queen”

Draupadi was sitting on the edge of her bed. She wore simple clothes. She wore no jewelry. Even while sitting she seemed a tall woman. Her hair was so long it almost touched the ground when she sat. But it was unkempt. It looked like it hadn’t been washed in years. She lifted her head when Bhimasena spoke. She looked stunning even in such simple clothes. She was dark complexioned with well defined facial features but her face betrayed the pain and suffering she had endured for the past fourteen years. Her anguish showed in the question she asked the second of Kunti’s sons: “Did you finally kill Dusshasana? Have you finally brought respite to my hair? Tell me O Bhimasena. Is the one non-Pandava that dared touch me finally dead?”

His silence answered her question.

“They call you the mightiest Pandava. They call you son of the wind because nothing can stop your fury. They say you can single-handedly down trees and buildings. You have slain the mightiest people in the world with your bare hands. Yet you come in here empty handed. That bone in your hand does not mean anything to me if it does not belong to that evil brother of Duryodhana.”

Bhimasena’s pride vanishes in the matter of seconds. He had strutted in proudly expecting a congratulatory reception.

“Bhimasena, of all my husbands you were the one that protected my pride. During the gambling match you were the one that stood up for me. You proclaimed you would break Duryodhana’s thigh and drink Dusshasana’s blood. You were the one that killed Keechaka in that dance chamber that night. But here you are, boasting the death of a weak prince. You should be ashamed of yourself. This bone you show me is that of a dog – an opponent unworthy of you. The smile will return on my face only when you kill that scum Dusshasana.”

The words stung Bhimasena. He realizes that nothing could satisfy this bloodthirsty woman.

“What have you become O beautiful daughter of Drupada? Do you realize this war is being fought because of you? Even if I hate the Kauravas, even if I completely disagree with Yudhishtir about letting the Kauravas give us just five villages, I would still not fight this war if I had a choice. Do you know how destructive a war is? You women folk sit in your grand palaces served upon by your fawning attendants. It’s not a choice for us warriors. We have to go kill people or be killed. We kill people we do not even know. These ten brothers I killed today, I do not remember ever seeing them, ever talking to them. They are my cousins. They share the same blood that I do. They were royals. Yet, now they lie disfigured and mangled up on a piece of land soaked with blood. We could have avoided this. But you! You wanted death and destruction. Your are only obsessed with the extinction of the Kuru dynasty. Even before the war started you went up to your brother Krishna and told him to jeopardize his peacemaking. Maybe if you were willing to forget and forgive…”

Draupadi’s countenance changes instantly on hearing those two words. She stands up and walks towards the window, facing away from her husband. Tears roll down her beautiful face. She looks blankly into the azure sky as if trying to remember something. She turns back to address her accuser calmly.

“Forget and forgive. Kunti’s son! Do you know what you just said?”

She grabs her tresses and flips them to the front. Then she asks him a direct question.

“You have been with many women in your life. How many have you grabbed by their hair?”

Bhimasena is stunned into silence.

“Do you know why women take care of their hair more than any other part of their body? The hair represents life. Strands of hair fall off and regrow. It depicts the resilience of life, as we know it. It embodies the circle of life – of death and rebirth. Grabbing a person – man or woman – by hair is not just an insult to that person’s external beauty. It’s an insult to life. It shows you have no respect for the human race. More so when you do it to a woman. The female of any species – human or animal – is the key to the continuation of that species. Dusshasana is not a moor to be ignorant of that. Moreover he grabbed me at my most private moment. In our culture we value women. We worship them. By barging into my quarters and seizing me, Duryodhana’s pet brother showed contempt to women – the life bearers. If I forgive him, future generations will think it is fine to be irreverent towards us. Disrespect for the female will end up destroying life on earth. If our descendants have to honor women like our ancestors did, the person that did this to me has to die. I am not unaware of the perils of war my dear Bhimasena. I know this war will consume every person here. I might lose my own children. Maybe even one of you. But I am willing to offer that sacrifice for the benefit of women for generations to come. Let this be a lesson to anyone insulting womanhood that the result is horrifying death. There can be forgiveness for mistakes, not for contempt”

Bhimasena is aghast at the end of this articulation. All this time he was under the impression Draupadi wanted revenge for the treatment meted out to her. This line of reasoning leaves him awestruck. He is unable to utter a word. He turns back and slowly walks towards his waiting chariot, leaving behind sobs of despair in the tent.

 

The Monstrous Killing Machine

Bhimasena licks his lips seeing Duryodhana’s ten brothers in a semi-circle in front of him. He fires off four arrows that instantly kill three and hit the fourth in the chest. Bhimasena descends from his chariot. He yells out ‘So who among you has the privilege to die first?’ Two of the brothers approach gingerly with their swords. Bhimasena picks up his sword and fights them both at the same time. But it is clear the pair is no match for him. Within seconds he cuts their heads off. One of the others turns back to run.

‘Yes of course, you are as much a coward as your blind father who wanted to burn us to death in that wax house’

Mention of his father makes the stupid prince to turn back. But before he could look up the powerful mace hits him in the face, mangling up his face so badly his charioteer throws up.

The three other princes left start to retreat. One turns back and starts running towards his chariot. Bhimasena chases after him and pushes him to the ground. As the young brother of Duryodhana falls face down Bhimasena presses his powerful knee into the back of his head. He suffocates for air several seconds before Bhimasena releases the pressure. As the prince gasps for air Bhimasena presses the head again into the dirt. He repeats this several times – playing with Duryodhana’s brother. He then picks him up one final time. As the weak prince opens his mouth to gasp for air Bhimasena drives his dagger right through it. As the people around them watch in horror he withdraws the blade and sinks the dagger vertically into the dead prince’s skull. Bhimasena then deliberately takes the dagger out and tastes the blood dripping from the tip of the blade. He then smears himself with the rest of the blood from the dagger and looks in the direction of the two brothers left able.

They have already given up their weapons – having seen the macabre death of their brother. He grabs each by their throats in both his arms and chokes them. Being the taller one he then lifts them off the ground. The one in his right arm dies after a few seconds. The one on the left fights a few seconds more. Bhimasena lets him off the death grip. As the prince falls to the ground Bhimasena picks him up with both hands and slams him down. The sound of breaking ribs brings out frightening laughter out of Bhimasena. As the prince writhes in pain Bhimasena bends down on one knee and punches him powerfully in the chest. The heart stops instantly and the prince lies dead on the ground. Bhimasena lays him flat, takes his dagger out and stabs him in the chest. Blood squirts out of him like a spring. Bhimasena washes his hands in the blood and turns around to take care of the last alive among the band of ten.

The one brother that was not dead when Bhimasena fired the first four arrows is now lying helpless, watching Bhimasena do the death dance around him. As the big Pandava approaches him he soils his loins. Bhimasena smirks.

“Duryodhana thought his ten worthless brothers could hurt my nephew. Too bad you won’t be alive when he cries for you”

“Please leave me. My brother is the one you want.”

“Leave you? As far as I am concerned you are as evil as your brother. You are all the same. I don’t even remember your name. I will only call you Duryodhana’s brother”

“I have never hurt you. I knew in my heart that you Pandavas were the righteous ones. But I had to support my brothers”

“The fear of death is a strange one isn’t it? You want to live. You know what is going to happen of you. Yet you lie”

“If I have to die let it be quick. I have seen your power and your vengeance. I don’t want to die a slow painful death”

“You are one of the lucky ones O son of Dhritarashtra. Not many people have the good fortune of seeing their internals themselves.”

Without another word Bhimasena takes out the same dagger he used on the other brothers and stabs the wounded prince in the thigh. As he lets out a painful cry Bhimasena slits the man’s thigh all the way down to his knee. Once the gash is large enough Bhimasena puts his hand in and fishes for the femur bone. The son of Dhritarashtra had already passed out in pain. As the Kaurava soldiers watch in revulsion Bhimasena steps on the prince’s knee, bends down and pulls the bone out with all his might. The femur bone snaps at both the knee and pelvis and breaks free. In a demonic gesture Bhimasena picks up the bone, uses it as a weapon and clobbers the Kaurava prince’s head until it gets mashed up.

Bhimasena stands up and lets out a wild roar. The people around him, including Satyaki are stunned at this gruesome act. Conches are blown to signal a brief respite in the war to honor the fallen royals. Bhimasena, soaked in the blood of his victims climbs into his chariot.

“Ninety more to go”

Saying this he directs Visoka to take him to Draupadi’s tent.

Demonic!

There was commotion in the Kaurava forces. They were down after the ruthless killing of a young prince by the Pandava Commander-in-Chief. Confidence was low. Bheeshma thought it was time to introduce a secret warrior.

All armies kept a collection of secret warriors to surprise the enemy. These warriors were not normal people. They were either very large for humans, or had some physical deformity that made them look scary and abominable. Some had large heads with only one eye; others had three arms instead of the regular two. Yet others were very hairy like a primate. But one thing was common – they all had superhuman strength and were savage.

This warrior was almost seven and a half feet tall and black like a rock. He was hairy like a gorilla. His hair was long and unkempt. His face was tattooed with strange symbols in bright colors – making him look even dreadful than he was. Saliva oozed from his mouth as he heaved towards the enemy. His canines were much longer than the rest of his rather ugly looking teeth. He looked more monster than human. His hands were very long; almost stretching down to his knees. He was broad with large well-toned chest muscles. He hardly wore any clothes – just a leather cloth covering his loins. Wild flowers and fruits hung from his necklace. He had twisty bracelets made with leaves around strong wrists. He smelled those leaves from time to time. Every time he did he’d let out a blood-curdling roar that sent tremors down his own soldiers. Pandava legions stopped in their tracks and backtracked. He was the mighty Alambusa.

If Alambusa’s appearance was ghastly his weapons were even worse. In his right hand he held a large machete. In his left he had a flail with three balls attached. The balls had iron spikes on them. Blood dripped from the spikes – a sign that Alambusa had been on a killing spree. He advanced uncontested into the Pandava legions and wreaked havoc. Each time he flung his left hand three Pandava soldiers ended up with spikes in their skull. With his right hand he cut down several soldiers into half. Those that survived his weapons came under his feet and were crushed to death. Several Pandava warriors made the mistake of going too close to him. Some fired arrows at him. But his skin was covered with some kind of a shiny paste that made the arrows bounce off him. Within a few minutes he laid dead several hundred Pandava soldiers. A lieutenant raced to the far end to notify Drishtadyumna of this monstrous beast.

Right next to the Pandava chief was a cherubic warrior. In a surprisingly confident and resonant voice he said, ‘let me take this one uncle’

Mercenary-in-Chief

Drishtadyumna is engaged in a fierce battle with Sala – the son of Somadatta. Watching Drishtadyumna is like watching a mercenary at work. He does not show emotion. His eyes are fixated on his target. He stands tall and confident in his chariot, shouting out orders to his charioteer as to which way to steer.

Sala has vexed the Pandava legion for over an hour, killing hundreds of foot soldiers and horsemen. Seeing Drishtadyumna his eyes light up. He thinks he can take the Pandava Commander-in-Chief and perhaps kill him in battle. Little does he know the fate about to befall him. Drishtadyumna directs his chariot right into the path of Sala’s. Sala’s charioteer veers away nervously to avoid collision. Finding the right angle, Drishtadyumna fires off several arrows into Sala’s chariot. As the wheels come off the chariot grinds to a halt in the dirt. Sala jumps out with a sword in hand. Drishtadyumna smiles. He has Sala right where he wanted. Drishtadyumna is an expert at sword fighting. As Sala rushes towards his chariot Drishtadyumna instructs his charioteer to slow down and gets off. The youthful Bahlika prince jumps high in the air wanting to take the Pandava brother-in-law by surprise. Anticipating his move Drishtadyumna ducks and sways away, causing Sala to land hard behind him. He then rapidly turns around and faces his attacker. Sala picks up his sword with both hands and goes after Drishtadyumna. With his left hand behind his back Drishtadyumna gets into position to play a little game with his right.

With a dagger in his hand Drishtadyumna parries Sala’s attacks. Grasping the blade with his left hand and holding the sword parallel to the ground Sala tries to land blows to Drishtadyumna’s face. But Drishtadyumna expertly dodges them by ducking down swiftly. Sensing an attack coming Sala springs up and over his enemy. Sala holds the handle with both hands and powerfully tries to drive his sword into Drishtadyumna’s body. But Drishtadyumna uses his dagger to catch the sword and throw Sala off balance. Bouncing back on his feet Sala attempts to jab Drupada’s son in the shoulder with his free left hand. Drishtadyumna clasps his attacker’s hand, twists him around and holds him in a death grip with his weighty forearms. Sala stomps on Drishtadyumna’s foot and breaks free. The cat and mouse game continues several minutes with Sala attacking and Drishtadyumna mocking the young inexperienced warrior.

As his energy saps Sala realizes Drishtadyumna is no ordinary warrior. He is a gifted and chilling swordsman. He anticipates Sala’s every move and either sways away or rebuts him. Finally Drishtadyumna decides to put an end to this unequal fight. In one nimble move Drishtadyumna crouches down and drives his blade through Sala’s chest. The sharp metal punctures Sala’s heart killing him instantly. Without withdrawing Drishtadyumna picks the weight of the dead prince on his dagger and swings him towards a few Kaurava soldiers. As Sala falls lifeless facedown Drishtadyumna walks up, lifts his sword and brings it down on his neck in one smooth motion, separating it from the body. He then looks up at the Kaurava forces, walks back to his chariot and calmly wipes the spattered crimson fluid off his hands.