The Lying Truth – II

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On the other side, Duryodhana entered Dronacharya’s tent. He was visibly agitated.

“Acharya, how long will these contemptible Pandavas keep putting up fight against our might? Why aren’t we destroying them already? Fourteen days and all we could do was kill a couple of kids. Forget about the Pandavas, even their secondary kings are alive. Why aren’t you unable to pierce their formations?”

Unwilling to be slighted by such accusations, Dronacharya deflected the question, “How is Radheya? Will he recover fully? We need him in the battle today. He is our main commander against a raging Savyasachi”, but instantly realized he had used the wrong appellation to describe their archenemy. A jealous Duryodhana did not need to be reminded of Arjuna’s supreme expertise in ambidexterity.

“He is a faithful, a warrior, and a champion. He will give his life to the Kaurava cause. Even if he half fit, he would lead from the front, and decimate the enemy”, he said disdainfully.

Again, not wanting to engage in frivolous conversations before the start of battles, Dronacharya smiled and said, “He needs extra protection today. Double up on his protective circles, at least in the morning”

Duryodhana was impatient. He wanted the teacher to shoot a retort, so he could berate the commander in chief. He was disappointed at the lack of fuel in this potentially explosive conversation.

Dronacharya continued.

“You are his best friend and closest confidant; you have his best interests at heart. Make sure you stay within close reach. I am certain Bheema will make an attempt, and who better to counter him than you”

The crafty mention of his nemesis Bheema potentially posing mortal danger to his best friend caught Duryodhana by surprise, and instantly shifted his thoughts towards protection of Karna. He turned back and stormed out, animatedly shouting instructions, and called for Dusshasana. He wanted to ensure both the brothers formed an impenetrable wall around the best archer in their side.

But his slightful words did have an effect on the veteran. The venerable teacher was torn between good and bad, and recognized that he had not been giving his all. His restraint had already resulted in both Bheema and Nakula escaping severe injury. He felt severely conflicted. He didn’t owe any allegiance to Duryodhana, and detested him. But he certainly was loyal to the throne of Hastinapura, and to its blind king.

How symbolic was Dhritarashtra’s blindness, the sage thought. He was physically sightless, but also completely blind to his son’s shenanigans. He was blinded by his love for his son, he was blinded by the jealousy towards Pandu and his 5 sons. He was blinded by his brother-in-law’s injustice to his nephews. And he was blinded by the illusion of strength that Karna gave his army. His complete obliviousness would cause the destruction of a generation, a genocide from which it would take decades to recover, emotionally and economically. This war would bring down every kingdom in the land, no matter which side they were on. It would wipe out almost every able man. To what end? Because a blind, indulgent father failed to discipline his ignorant, resentful child.

As a result, today, he, Dronacharya, the greatest of instructors in the entire world, the man whose lifeless sculpture exuded such power as to turn a tribal novice into a skillful archer, had to bear insults from an insolent brute of a man. It made him unhappy first, and then angry.

He turned to his attendant, and asked him to find out about the Pandavas’ vyuha today, “Of particular interest to me is the placement of Drupada. I need to know where he will be, how far from Arjuna and Drishtadyumna, who will be flanking him, and what weapons is he packing”

He had some old scores to settle.

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The Lying Truth – I

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Weary armies on both sides were ready to resume battles. It was the fifteenth day of hostilities, with no clear winner. Except for Bhishma, most maharathis and atirathis were still fighting, even though the respective armies dwindled.

Kauravas suffered more losses on the ground, losing more akshauhinis so far than their righteous enemy. At the end of fourteen days, both armies stood almost equal in number, even though the Kauravas started with four akshauhinis more.

But both sides knew that army strength meant nothing when it came to atirathis. As long as the their respective commanders were alive, battles would continue, and only death or disablement of the chiefs mattered.

As the faint glow of sunrise began to radiate out of east, Krishna walked calmly into Yudhishtira’s tent. The eldest Pandava, gloomy and preparing for yet another weary day of seemingly endless battles, looked listless and spent. Krishna knew the day’s significance, and needed to reassure and boost him up.

“Subhodayam, O King!”

Yudhishtira was surprised at the addressing. But it definitely put a smile on his lips. With just two words, the last two days seemed distant.

“Dharmaraja, I did not get a chance to speak to you for the past two nights. The events have affected us all, but I had to console the fathers first.”

He continued in a somber tone, “We knew very well that this war will cost us near and dear, kith and kin. But when it actually happens, we feel devastated. Before we have had any time to recover from Abhimanyu, we lost Ghatotkacha. Words cannot convey the grief Arjuna and Bheema are going through right now”

He then changed his tone slightly, turning inspirational, “Even though both are warriors par excellence, the sheer magnitude of tragedy affects them, and they may be less than brutal today. It is natural, and I don’t blame them for it.”

“While Arjuna’s archery skills and Bheema’s strength are unmatched on either side, I have not seen a more rounded warrior than you. Of all his pupils, Dronacharya looks to you as the example for correctness of technique and delivery, which of course incenses the Kauravas even more”

“You are also the most conscientious leader among us all, certainly more than I am. You stand up for your principles. You gave up everything you had, so you could stand up for your ethics. The flip side of that character is that you cannot tolerate injustice and dishonor. It displeases you, it annoys you, it embitters you, and it inflames you”

The crafty Yadava continued, knowing well the effect his speech was already having on his sagely cousin, “You know very well that the heir to your throne was murdered, not martyred. It was cold blooded, calculated, inhuman, and completely against the rules of engagement. He was dismounted, unarmed and alone. He was surrounded by the same Kauravas who will be on the field today; the so called warriors, maharathis and atirathis”

Noticing that the hairs on Yudhishtira’s arms were beginning to stand up, Krishna upped his ante, “They have no honor, no integrity, these so called elders and patriarchs. They watched silently as you were robbed off of your kingdom unjustly. They did not utter a word when the queen of a land, their daughter-in-law was stripped in public. They watched in silence when Duryodhana refused to give your kingdom back. And then, they collaborated in the murder of my nephew”

He then nailed home his point.

“When will they pay the price but now, where but on this sacred land? The time has come for you, O King, to shed your inhibitions, to release yourself of the attachments and break your mental barriers. Today, you will pounce like a tiger, you will ravage the remains of this Kaurava vermin, you will be death personified”

Almost as a passing comment, Krishna drove home his point, “The time for playing by the rules is over, Dharmaja! Remember, they started the war. If we are to finish it, we must start bending them”

As raging emotions churned inside, Yudhishtira, flushed in anger, ordered his men to double up on his weapons.

A righteous man is always dangerous. But an outraged, spiteful righteous man is murderous.

Today, the battlefield would witness a rare phenomenon.

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The screams were heard far, and instantly the Pandava camp fell silent; they knew there was only one person on both sides who could make that sound, and that was no war cry. It was the last sounds of a fearless son, a peerless warrior.

Bheema was the first to lift his head, and looked at Krishna. He detected a hint of smile, but brushed it as a mirage, a vision of a tired body and a fatigued mind; that of an anxious father.

“What was that?”, Sahadeva was the first to ask.

Krishna rose, and while pacing around, began to frame his answer in his mind. But he had a spring in his step, and it wasn’t lost on the mightiest Pandava. He moved his arms around animatedly, as if calculating something. He stopped by the window and looked out, seemingly waiting for something, or someone. The perplexed brothers didn’t say a word, as though anticipating some bad news.

The sound of an approaching chariot drew everyone’s attention outward. As soon as he saw the empty black chariot, Krishna threw his arms up in the air, in exultation. He looked up towards the skies, closed his eyes, and let out a deep breath, as if in relief. With no regard to the surroundings, he turned around, walked to the center of the tent, poured himself a large chalice of soma, and gulped it down in a single swig. He turned around and faced the five brothers.

“We just won the war”, he said in jubilation, “we are unconquerable now”. He sank into the armchair smiling, a very content man.

It took only a few moments for the crowd to understand the meaning of the empty chariot, and the jubilant screams from the enemy. Melancholy stuck them for the second day in a row. They looked at the second eldest brother, who was crestfallen.

Bheemasena truly believed Ghatotkacha would seal the war for them tonight. He was their X-factor. He was to be used very strategically. Krishna had promised that he would introduce Ghatotkacha only at the most opportune moment, so that the war would tilt decisively in their favor. Instead, from the news coming out of the Kaurava camp, Karna was alive, and was expected to fully recover by the morning.

His son was dead, and Krishna was celebrating.

Bheema angrily turned in his cousin’s direction. At that moment, if it were anyone else, he would wring their neck and squish the life out of them. He couldn’t do it to Krishna. He stormed out of the tent, overcome with anger and sadness.

Krishna watched him leave, and soon realized that his own reaction to Ghatotkacha’s death was inconsiderate to the situation, and inconsistent with his demeanor. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and collected his thoughts. Slowly he rose up, turned to the small crew and said, “Believe me, this is the most important sacrifice in this war”

He walked out, seeking the grieving father. He found him standing on the banks of Yamuna, staring up at the moonlit sky. It was Chaturdasi, and the sun’s glow reflected bright on Earth’s only satellite. He stopped by Bheema’s side, and put an arm around him. Tears flowed down the strong man’s cheeks, “Why Madhava? Why my son? He wasn’t even a contender to the throne. He loved the woods and the wild. He didn’t aspire for positions for which we city folk crave. He would have gone back to his forest tomorrow, having done his job. Then why did you send him to his death?”

“Bheemasena, my behavior at the news of Ghatotkacha’s martyrdom was reprehensible. I should have known better. But my elation was not directed at his death, but at the eventual outcome of this conflict. His death is more significant to our future than anything that has happened over the past fourteen days. Without his sacrifice, even I could not guarantee our victory in this war.”

He walked towards the river, flowing without a care to the carnage happening on its banks. The water, at high tide because of the approaching full moon, rolled along melodiously. Krishna bent down to pick up a smooth pebble, rounded through millions of years of abrasion.

“Look at this pebble. Who knows how many millennia it has been around. Who knows how large it originally was, and how deformed? Today, it is smooth, almost a perfect sphere. The sharp protrusions, the big bulges are all gone. It was probably a rock one day. Tonight, it’s a pebble. The bumps weren’t necessarily bad for the rock, but in order for this to be a perfect sphere, they had to go”

“There was only one weapon Karna could have used, to kill Ghatotkacha. I know Karna like none of you do, and I know all his weapons. He obtained that weapon with only one purpose – Arjuna’s death. In a head to head battle between the two, which will happen eventually, Karna would have been pushed closer to death by Arjuna’s sheer brilliance and superior skill. But this weapon – the Vasavi Shakti – had the power to not only bail Karna out of the situation, but also slay the potential assassin. None other than Indra granted him the weapon, unknowingly. There is no antidote or countermeasure to the Vasavi Shakti”

“Other than Partha, there was only one person between both the armies that could push Karna to that limit. To me, it was a simple choice between the two. I am also certain that given the same choice, you would have taken the same decision”

Bheema turned towards Krishna, and smiled, “Madhava, I never doubted your intentions. But I am hurt. We lost two sons in two days. We will probably lose more, we knew that coming into this war. I grieved for Abhimanyu the same way I am grieving for Ghatotkacha. Maybe the trauma of witnessing death all around me, killing kin and friends and innocent soldiers is beginning to affect me. I hoped that after the war was won, I would retreat briefly to the woods, and spend time with my son. It will not happen now. How many more days will this go on Krishna? When will this end?”

Krishna smiled his enigmatic smile, “Certainly before amavasya, Gadadhara!”

As they walked back to the camp, bugles sounded to end tonight’s battle.

When they approached the tent, Krishna looked around, and noticed that a restless elephant was troubling its mahout, stomping wildly, swinging its trunk agitatedly and trumpeting loudly. The mahout was trying his best to calm the beast, but was unable to. Krishna walked over to the stables and watched the mahout, as he managed to control and eventually sedate the animal.

“Will he be fine in the morning?”, he asked, surprising the mahout.

“I don’t believe so, Madhava. We may have to keep him out of the battle tomorrow. He may be harmful to us”

With yet another enigmatic smile, the lord said, “No! He will be of great use to us tomorrow. Let him rest tonight, and do not feed him in the morning. Bring him into battle around mid day, and make sure he’s within Bheemasena’s reach. What is his name?”

“Strangely I have never named him”

“Tomorrow, he will get a name”

A Giant Sacrificed – III

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The young Pandava warrior’s frightening form, the sheer size, and terrorizing appearance flustered Karna at first. Ghatotkacha’s volley of sharp, poisonous darts had already laid waste to Karna’s protective circle. His own burst was treated like from an amateur and mowed down like blades of grass. The ferocity and power surprised Karna, who had fought more celebrated warriors and came out on top. Karna had trained for fighting in unusual situations, but this was like nothing he had anticipated.

He realized this would be a different battle tonight. He needed to fight on his own terms, or he would return defeated. He made a mental calculation of the time remaining, and containment tactics to ride out the night. He directed his charioteer to focus on avoidance and to run in circles, instead of going head on against the raging Ghatotkacha. Ghatotkacha initially fell for it, chasing Karna around, trying to gain on him. But it soon dawned on him that this was a stalling tactic.

He veered himself away from the chase, aimed his bow, released a single arrow. It expertly pierced one of the enemy horse’s hoofs, peeling its horseshoe out. The animal squealed a bit, and slowed down to a limp. Karna was amazed at the skill – the animal wasn’t injured at all, and yet his chariot came to a standstill. This was a master at work, with a godly familiarity of the animal’s anatomy. But it worried him, as he now had to fight stationary, with limited or no mobility.

The next sound he heard was a thud, as the lifeless body of his charioteer hit the ground, the shaft of an arrow evenly balanced on either side of its neck. The swiftness of action surprised Karna, and before he realized, the his vehicle sank to the right, its wheel shattered by a spear. Things were coming undone too fast, leaving Karna no time to react.

Th next thing he heard perplexed him; popping sounds, like fire crackers. He turned in that direction, as the noise steadily increased. They were indeed fireworks, and they were coming from Ghatotkacha’s chariot. Although they didn’t light up the sky, the reached deafening levels very quickly. Before he understood the reason, he was airborne, falling on his back, as his horses bolted into the darkness, frightful of the sounds. Within a matter of seconds, he was completely exposed, only his bow and a quiver full of weapons to face a giant of a man, intent on killing him. His driver was dead. His horses and chariot was gone. His personal bodyguards and the circle of soldiers protecting him were lying around him, lifeless.

For the first time in his life, Karna was helpless. He was in mortal danger. And he had no recourse.

Or did he?

He centralized his focus and quickly assessed the situation. He had a limited set of arrows in his quiver. Several of them were specialized weapons; some that rained fire on the enemy, others that killed them with poisonous gases, and yet others that stung like bees, temporarily disabling them while allowing Karna to escape or regroup. But this was a different enemy. This was a magician, a wizard and a warrior too good for Karna. He acted fast.

He used a special arrow to light up the sky, so he assess the surroundings. He saw that they were both in a fairly desolate area, and there was nothing for him to hide behind. In fact, they both had a direct line of sight, which usually is to his advantage, but not this time. He then took out the Varnastra, and shot it into the sky. Rain started to fall almost instantly, as the weapon condensed the water vapor in the air, forming temporary precipitation.

It did not deter the the magical Ghatotkacha, as he rained volley after volley towards Karna. He was used to fighting in all natural situations, and rain was not a strange phenomenon. Additionally, he had the advantage of higher ground, being on the chariot, as well as full access to weapons. No other enemy was in sight, as Karna had isolated himself. He increased his volley, and turned to hurling spears.

Karna was getting exhausted. He knew he couldn’t hold it much longer. When was midnight? How can he stop this madman? Can he survive the night?

A thousand thoughts began to race in his mind when it happened. A fierce arrowhead, filled with plant poison grazed his left thigh. He felt a sharp pain, and instantly knew this was a toxic arrow. Even though hitting below the waist was considered disorderly, it was only applicable if Karna was in his chariot. He would also have been protected by the chariot walls. Now though, a rogue arrow could easily hit him anywhere, and it was fair game. He knew that he would be soon immobilized, at least from the waist down. It meant his enemy would be able to get closer to him.

For a moment, he visualized his own death. Him completely paralyzed by the venom from the arrow, Ghatotkacha stopping his chariot a few feet away, getting down slowly and deliberately, approaching him with a sword in hand, and in one smooth motion, separating his head from his body.

That would be the end of the war. Karna’s death would cripple Duryodhana, and he would abandon the battlefield. Drona, Dusshasana, and the rest would put up only a token fight, while a jubilant Pandava army crushed them. The listless Kauravas would probably fold in a day.

Fear gripped him. A strange sense of resignation embraced him, as the leg began to go stiff. He could feel the impairment started to spread. Death stared him in the face.

The chariot stopped a few feet from him, and the giant form stepped off slowly, deliberately. He pulled out his sword, gripped it with both hands, and advanced towards Radheya.

Karna closed his eyes for one second. At that moment, his mentor Parasurama came to his mind. And then it came back, Indra’s Vasavi Shakti weapon. He reached for it in his quiver. It was there. His fingers trembling, he pulled it out and with great difficulty strung it to his bow.

He remembered Indra’s words.

“Ghatotkacha, with this weapon, this holy land will be rid of your uncivilized, boorish presence”, said Karna as he released the weapon.

The weapon sprung to life, piercing the night like lightning, and cleaved through Ghatotkacha’s armor, stabbing past his heart and puncturing it instantly. Blood gushed out of the valiant Pandava kin’s chest. His face turned pale first, and then blue. He fell to the ground, the raised sword still in hand. He let out a scream that was heard miles away. Kaalavallabha pricked his ears, and heard agony in the cries. He approached the falling giant slowly, but Ghatotkacha said something in a native tongue. As soon as he heard the instruction, the steed dashed, without its master.

Karna then dragged himself towards his chariot with great difficulty. He cut one of the horses loose, mounted it and slumped, unconscious.

The horse sped towards the Kaurava camp.

As life escaped the mighty Ghatotkacha, he prayed; to his mother, his father, and to Mother Earth. He prayed to the sky and the wind, water and fire. He had lived for the wonder of nature. And now, he died by it.

Continued here

A Giant Sacrificed – II

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When he reached the tent, the Pandava brothers were raring to go. Arjuna excitedly gesticulated to his cousin and said, “let’s go Madhava, this is a good night to engage my archenemy. Spies tell us that he is engaging in low percentage battles, hiding away from Ghatotkacha. His confidence will be low. My archery skills in the dark are unmatched. I could hit the eye of a sparrow in the middle of the night with precision. Let’s take him on!”

Krishna smiled, “In your eagerness, you forget the basics of warfare my dear Gandeevadhaara! For the same reason you mentioned, to hide away from Ghatotkacha, his protection will be doubled and tripled at this time. By the time we break the outer rings and engage Karna, it will be midnight, and the conches will blow to call the end of battles for the night. There is a time for his death, and it will come; I have foreseen it. But it is not tonight. Tonight, we focus on chiseling away at the bottom feeders. We kill the support actors and foot soldiers, in order to make it easy to approach the leaders in the coming days. The thinner their protection, the easier it is for us to go one-on-one”

Arjuna calmed down, but by his side, his older brother had some nagging thoughts. “Where is Ghatotkacha at this time?”, asked Bheema, looking straight at Madhava.

“He is where he is best tonight, my dear Bheemasena, slaying thousands of enemy soldiers, captains and generals. His army has done well tonight. The one advantage that the enemy had in the night, in the shape of Karna’s night riders, has been neutralized. The tables have turned on them tonight. And we still have some more fighting to go. It will be a major victory for us tonight. It is a big night”

Bheema didn’t buy the vague response and pressed harder, “But who is he engaging right now? His desire has always been to slay at least one Maharathi from the Kauravas. If hadn’t vowed to kill all the 100 siblings, he would have accounted at least for Dusshasana tonight. Krishna, you know what is happening in every inch of this battlefield. Can’t you see where he is? My paternal instincts portend danger”

Krishna couldn’t answer the question directly. He instead parried and said, “I will send some of our spies and seek that information for you”, as he hurriedly walked out of the tent.

Everyone thought that was strange, for Krishna to not have an answer. They exchanged looks, and knew better not to ask the question they all had in their minds.

On the other side, tiny dark clouds began to form, as the giant’s chariot hurtled towards Karna, with the giant occupant in rage, regurgitating every insult borne by him, his family, and his clan over the years. The taunts, the heckles of being called a bastard, the jeers of being insulted as the son of a feeble and inept father who couldn’t keep his kingdom, they all came back to him in this moment of anger and despair. He pictured Karna’s face, and visualized the verbal abuse he must have spewed at Krishna and the Pandavas.

The lone vehicle, pulled by a single horse, cut a swathe through the meager Kaurava defenses. The horse was specially bred, strong as a bull, fast as an antelope, and sturdy as a mule. This particular breed had larger eyes, and hence was better adjusted to night riding. The stallion carrying Bhimasena’s son – named Kaalavallabha – was black like the night. Specially made horseshoes, forged from tree bark and leather, mitigated the sounds of hoofs. Tonight, Kaalavallabha rode like the sun wouldn’t rise on the morrow. Nothing stopped him, not the pitiful arrows of inconsequential soldiers, nor the spears and axes hurled by their captains and generals. Trained to dodge sharp branches and poisonous vines, he ducked and weaved, and advanced towards the far end, where his fate awaited him, and his beloved master.

Continued here

A Giant Sacrificed – I

As midnight approached, the two wearied armes began to slack in their battles. The Kaurava generals spread their battalions thin, wanting to give Ghatotkacha as little to kill as possible. They knew that he would be ineffective on the morrow, in broad daylight. He and his band of merry men had already wreaked havoc and accounted for more than a hundred thousand men and animals. Now was the time for containment, not heroics.

On the other side, Krishna noticed that Karna was not to be seen at the center of the war zone. He was fighting small battles on the fringes. Krishna needed to act, and act fast. He sought out Ghatotkacha and reached him as the giant was slaying yet another band of Kauravas.

“Son, you are wasting your time killing small fish. If you want to make the night count, you must account for at least one gigantic Kaurava warrior. Who will it be?”

“I know my father swore to kill every one of the hundred brothers. I also know that uncle Arjuna dearly wants to account for Karna. Among the four, I can easily take on and kill Shakuni, the most cunning and devious of all the Kauravas”

The crafty Madhava smiled, “You are not only big and powerful but also wise and have an uncanny presence of mind. Even in the heat of the battle you remembered your father’s vows. Your name will be immortal my child”

“Sakuni is a worthy kill. He is a great warrior himself, the prince of Gandhara. Word goes that in his prime he would take on a horde of elephants and subdue them single-handedly. They say he would hunt, kill, and eat an entire boar all by himself. He was so powerful and industrious that they employed him to move large rocks when they built the roadway to their capital. He was…”

Ghatotkacha cut him off, “O Narayana! what gains would my father and my uncles make if I were to kill a spent force? My efforts tonight must have a lasting effect on this war. More than recognition, I crave victory for us, even if I have to die for it. Dharma must be protected. I have seen the destruction caused by the Kauravas’ expansionist ideas, and the havoc it created when forest folk were displaced. I have also seen the inhuman treatment meted out to the different, unusual, and uncommon folks during their reign. We came together for one purpose, the defeat of Kauravas. If I have to fight Dronacharya tonight, I will, even though I know he is invincible.”

Krishna smiled again, showing his admiration for the young warrior, who was not much older than his own nephew who was martyred the previous day. He understood, and sympathized with Ghatotkacha’s cause, and his love for his people. He would’ve made a fabulous satrap to the Indraprastha empire. But in the grand scheme of this war, he had a purpose. And needed to be at his fiercest to pull it off. He began slowly.

“Son, among the malicious quartet, Dusshasana is the most impetuous. Duryodhana has, from their childhood, conditioned his younger brother to be intensely devoted, and to not think for himself. If Duryodhana is thought, Dusshasana is action. There is no benefit in disabling or killing him. Duryodhana on the other hand, is pure grudge, and nothing else. He was poured resentment instead of love during his upbringing. He was trained to hate Yudhishtira, and the Pandavas. His only goal in life is to strip Yudhistira of everything he owns. He actually has tremendous respect for your father, and even fears him for his strength. Other than rivalry arising out of intimidation, he doesn’t hate your father. The third among the foursome, Shakuni, is the cunning one, the brains behind all plots and deceptions. He understands peoples’ weaknesses, and exploits them to the fullest. His grand plan is different from what many people believe. If that plan were to be accomplished through Pandavas instead of Kauravas, he would gladly switch sides”

Sri Krishna’s simplification of the Kauravas left Ghatotkacha bewildered. But the lord continued.

“The one person that is driven purely by confidence there is Karna. He has tremendous belief in his ability, and rightfully so. He is almost entirely self trained, and matches Arjuna skill for skill. Everyone knows he has Kshatriya blood in him, and the fearlessness that is its hallmark. He knows nobody can break him. That makes him immensely dangerous. His weapons are unmatched, his skill unparalleled, and his determination unrelenting”

As Krishna sensed the desire inside Ghatotkacha rising, he upped the rhetoric, “His one weakness is that he thinks he is righteous, and detests those he believes aren’t. He has said unspoken things about Draupadi, as witnessed by several members of Dhritarashtra’s court. But his diatribe did not stop there. He carried it well into the peace negotiations, prior to this war. I was there, I have heard with my ears things I would not repeat. He is a cold, calculated person. He has said things about every one of us, including you and your mother; things that are untrue and wrong. He called your clan illegitimate and imperfect; your mother a whore and your father a good-for-nothing vagabond. The reason I tell you this is that if you face him in battle tonight, I want you to show him no mercy, as you will receive none. Even if you don’t slay him, bring out all your wizardry and valor and ensure that he is defeated for the night, so his confidence is dented. Tomorrow when he turns up at sunrise, he should tremble at the sight of the Pandava army”

Ghatotkacha had already increased his size in anger, at these words. He turned flush in rage and gripped his weapons harder.

“Let me go forth and cut his head off Madhava, such men do not deserve time on this beautiful planet. He is a burden, and what better place to snuff his life than Dharmakshetra?”

“Son, remember. Anger will only work when it is under control. Do not let him get the better of your anger. Go forth, and bring glory!”

Krishna looked longingly in the direction the angry giant and his chariot rode off. He felt a pang of guilt. For a moment he thought, “how many young men must be sacrificed to quench the blood lust of this thirsty land?”

He turned towards the makeshift camp where Arjuna and the other Pandavas were taking a respite, to prepare for one last hour of battle for the night.

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