And another year draws to a close...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thus, another year ends …

The curtains on 2014 are drawing to a close on a year filled with a motley bag of happenings.  I do not really want to get very philosophical on this post, but my year-end posts always are, tinged with a bit of reflection. :-)

If I had to sum up 2014 in one word, I would have to say it was QUICK. It seems just like yesterday that we were out at ECP bringing in 2014. What seemed like a quirky start to the New Year involving hailing down unresponsive cabs and trip by the metro early in the morning, soon spiraled into one of the fastest years in recent times. So many things have happened, so many events have unfolded, and things are much clearer in so many aspects.

This year, filled with a multitude of happenings, will be a year that I can never forget and will be one of those years that I can look back and say that, 2014 in many ways will always be a very special year for me. There have been some awesome highs, some tragic lows, much deserved peace of mind, some well-warranted closures, a few nasty fights, some amazing get-togethers, and unforgettable moments. People who have come into my life, some who have exited from it, others whose value in my life has exponentially increased and a few others who have just made it a better place by being simply being there. There have been a few hard lessons learnt, some tough times dealt with - few in good ways and others in very childish ways. There has been a lot of giving up and letting go moments, fighting for what it’s worth moments, and knowing for sure this is what I want moments. There have also been some brilliant instances, a few revelations and a lot more happy bursts than I expected. There have been fewer regrets this year and for that, I am grateful. It has been a year that has been filled with lots of growing up, lots of reflection, lots of understanding of the person that I am turning into (and liking it btw) and lots of clarity in knowing what I want from my life.

It is crazy how all of that happened in just one single year. It has been a total mixed bag and a fun ride in 2014. Good while it lasted, and while it reached the peak somewhere during the middle of the year, and has sobered down a lot over the last few weeks, there’s always that anticipation tingling inside of me about things that are yet to come, plans that will be made and events that will unfold.

My love for new beginnings, have been spelt out enough on this blog. So no surprises that, I am looking forward to 2015.

2015, I hope, is filled with lots of happiness, good health, cheer and prosperity.

I hope the coming year will have lots of magic moments, dreams that will be fulfilled and madness in the quirkiest sense. I hope to start something anew and finish it. Take up new challenges. Grow up. I hope to have lots of travel. Go on road trips. Meet new people. Explore places. I hope to see sunrises. Contemplate over sunsets. I hope to revel in spots of sunshine, splashes of rain and the wind on my face. I hope to sweat it out and become more fit. I hope to dance until I drop. Write until I run out of ideas. And give into life!!! I wish to live life to the fullest and enjoy every single moment of it. 

Here to a brand NEW YEAR ... Here's to 2015!! 

Glasses clinking, Eyes twinkling and all guns ablaze!! 

Gear up!! Pull out all stops. 2015, I am on my way!!!  :-) :-) :-) 

Ghatotkacha, Son of Bheemasena - The Mahabharata Chronicles #9

Friday, November 7, 2014

I see a bright shaft of light.

It penetrates into me. It engulfs my entire being with its vibrancy. It dulls the ache that I have been carrying in my gut ever since I can remember.

It is always the same dream. Each time towards the break of dawn. Every time the same feeling of peace.

I have pondered much about it. I have asked everyone I could think of about what it means, starting with my mother and all the learned men who passed through my land. The closest I came to getting an answer for what seemed like more as mollification to my incessant questioning was from father’s cousin – Achyutha.

“The answer shall be revealed to you when it’s the right time.”

When the right time was, or how soon it was, he never bothered to expound on it. I put the dream out of my mind, suppressed the dull ache inside of me, and went about my life. And there was nothing that I could about this, now that he had told me to wait. Apparently, self-restraint was something I had to learn yet.

HE was always like that. Enigmatic. Pragmatic. Possessor of many epithets.

Out of all his monikers, my favorite was Achyutha. Meaning the infallible. In my eyes, there was nothing that he did not know and nothing that he could not do. Achyutha was someone I looked up to a lot. He was a father figure and brother all rolled into one.

My father was Bheemasena. Son of the wind god. I had very few chances of spending time with my father who visited us very rarely. Hidimbavana where I grew up was called so after my mother who was reigning queen of the forest. It was a place that humans rarely frequented. My mother, Hidimbaa, brought me up on a steady diet of stories about his valor and prowess. How he vanquished her brother Hidimba, and usurped her heart. How a single shout from him could stun the living daylights out of most living things. Those rare instances that he visited us in the forest, he used to regale me with stories, about the clan that I was a part of, about far-flung lands where evil was wreaking havoc, about his cousins and how they were making things difficult for all of us. These occasional visits always left me craving for more. Sometimes, he brought his brothers along. Those days were fun. I learnt a lot as I was growing up, training with father and uncles, listening to old anecdotes some of which centered on my birth and their experiences in the forests.

Out of all the tales that I heard, my favorite one was the one about my birth. Father told me, rubbing my pate affectionately that they had named me Ghatotkacha because of the round bald pot-like head that I sported. My uncle Arjuna told me how stunned all were when I became an almost full-grown child within the span of a few minutes owing of the rakshasa blood in me. He remarked how they had to use an arrow casing to cut off the umbilical cord because of how strong and thick it was. I liked that story the best of all. It made me proud of how strong I was and filled me with a sense of superiority. I remember commenting to Achyutha that the dull gnawing in my stomach was probably because of the arrow casing they used. He would look at me in a strange way and then pull my leg saying that it was probably because of hunger and tease me calling me a glutton. Momentary though it was, I could never discern what that gleam in his eyes was.

My life in the forest passed quite uneventfully, except for these rare bouts of our family get-togethers. When I matured into a full-grown rakshasa, mother handed over the rule of the forest to me. She only gave me a very crucial piece of advice. To always, serve my father, regardless of what he asked me to do. She secured a promise from me that I would always attend to my father’s summons any time, whenever he thought of me irrespective of day or night. I only received his summons twice ever in my life. Once when he and his brothers, along with grandmother Kunti and Draupadi ma, were on a forest pilgrimage and stranded upon a mountain, tired from the journey.

The other, during the war at Kurukshetra.

The second time I sensed my father’s summons, I remember my mother eyeing at me with a look akin to apprehension upon her striking features. I asked her what was worrying her and she said that I was at last going to receive answers to my queries. It filled me with a sense of foreboding, yet as I took leave of her, I fell at her feet seeking her blessings. She blessed me that my fame and recognition would spread far and wide because of my abilities on the field.  I kissed my son and wife, and left them to the protection of my clan and proceeded to answer my father’s summons.

Kurukshetra was a place like none other. I fumed as I stood on the battlefield and surveyed the damage wrought by kin and brethren upon each other. My entire being filled with rage as I saw the amount of destruction that was lying in front of my eyes. I saw my eldest uncle, whose favorite I was, slumped in his chariot, unable to see the carnage. I saw my cousin’s frail body, elegant even in death, held by Arjuna, seemingly stunned at the demise of his progeny. I then saw my father. He was looking up at me. I saw in his eyes a fear and a worry for having brought me in to the field. I sensed in him the burden that he was forced to bear seeking for my support yet fearing for my life much like Abhimanyu’s. Then quite suddenly, I felt a calming presence next to me. I turned to see Achyutha, standing beside me, his eyes filled with tears. In all my life, I had never seen HIM like this. For once, he seemed at a loss for words. Yet I knew what he wanted to say. For once, I knew his words even before he spoke them.

It was turning dark. The sun had gone down and now it was time for the first son of the Pandavas to take the limelight. I grew to my full size, summoned all my powers and started smashing the Kaurava army to smithereens. I spared no man and no beast. I turned savage, calling upon the rakshasa blood in me.

[Pic Courtesy - http://molee.deviantart.com/]

And then I saw him. Scion of Surya. Holding in his hands the arrow that was destined to destroy the hopes of the Pandavas. The one that Karna was saving for Arjuna, Indra’s weapon, the Shakti.

I glanced at Achyutha. I saw that his eyes were downcast; his shoulders slumped with the agony of what was in his mind. He sensed me eyeing him, looked up at me and raised his hands in a benevolent gesture.

I nodded my head to show that I understood. I had no regrets. If this was what my Achyutha wanted for me, I would gladly take it, no questions asked.

I heard the twang of Karna’s bow and saw him fitting the arrow to it.

I expected to see death staring at my face, but to my surprise, I felt a tug in my gut. This was it. I knew. My moment of truth.

I have saved the Pandavas and my clan from imminent defeat. I have left my mark on this world and this battlefield. I sent a silent thought to my mother, wife and my son, looked up to the heavens, grew to the most gargantuan size that I could muster and turned to face my adversary.

I see the Shakti in all its glory. It is now a bright shaft of light. It seeks to permeate me. It strives to dull the ache in my gut.

Over the horizon, I see the sun starting his ascent. The streak of dawn is now a vivid orange.

The shaft found its mark and its energy engulfed me.

Somewhere I heard HIS voice;
“The casing that Arjuna used when you were born belonged to the arrow. Try as we did, we could not stop it from entering your navel when we cut off the umbilical cord. The arrow has found its home at last.  This is how it was to be. This is how it is supposed to conclude.”

I smiled. I had now gotten the answers to my incessant questions.  

Finally, I am at peace. 

Vrikodara - The Mahabharata Chronicles #8

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A woman on the battlefield was unheard of. However, he did not care. He was about to fulfill one of his vows today. It had been a long wait.

He slowly took her arm and led her onto the battleground. Reverentially, he seated her on a broken chariot, pointed at the almost dead inert body lying close to it.

She looked at the broken man lying drenched in blood, the man who had tried to disrobe her that shameful day. She averted her gaze for fear that her wrath would burn him to ashes and looked up at the one who had brought her onto the battlefield. He folded his hands deferentially towards her, and looked back at the man who was aware of the fate that awaited him.  

With a huge savage cry, he rushed towards him, and tore out his entrails in a beastly manner and proceeded to wash her hair with the blood on his hands. He did it with a veneration bordering on worship, almost trance-like, a devotee appeasing his Goddess.

She sat there, rigid as an idol, basking in the adulation showered upon her. Heaving a sigh of contentment, she looked at him, cupped his face in her hands and gazed at him.

He had never failed her.  She reveled with pride in the fact that he never would.

----- X -----

Krishna observed the sight unfolding in front of his eyes. Everyone around were but, mute spectators to whatever was happening. He watched silently, as the embodiment of the Wind-God, knelt before the personification of the Goddess. He watched the devotion, the child-like adoration on Vrikodara’s face when he was propitiating Krishnaa.

Vrikodara.

The one with a wolf’s belly. The strongest of all Pandavas. The gentle giant.

                                                                                     [Pic Couresty: http://molee.deviantart.com/

He had neither Yudhisthira’s steady demeanor nor Arjuna’s single-mindedness. He was someone who swung between extremes, someone who was prone to wild flashes of mood swings, gusts of emotions. He had his own concepts of Dharma and Karma and usually insisted on immediate payback, unlike the other brothers who would wait for the most opportune moment to strike back or retaliate. He was someone who could not stand the very sight of injustice irrespective of whomsoever it was meted out to. In spite of all this, he was most often the gentlest of all. The epitome of humility. Narayana’s staunchest devotee. And the most fun to be with because of his unpredictable nature.

There was however, one thing that was predictable about him.

Draupadi.

Like everyone else before him, and as everyone else after him, he had succumbed to her charms as well. Everybody knew that Bheema was silly putty in Draupadi’s hands. All she had to do was ask him something, and he would do it no questions asked. Whether it was the quest for the Saugandhika flowers or Keechaka’s death, it was Bheema Draupadi had turned to, for she knew that, he would never fail her, even while the others did; citing reasons that bordered on excuses. He was the only one to raise his voice against the happenings on that dreadful day in the court sabha; he was the one who had sworn that the death of all of Kali’s followers would be at his hands. And slowly yet steadily, he was getting there.

----- X -----

Bheema looked around. His shoulders sagged with the sights in front of him. The blood, the carnage, the destruction, the devastation and the deaths. He was single-handedly responsible for half of the destruction that lay before their eyes. The war had taken a great deal out of him. He had lost a lot to it as well. The deaths of his son and nephew weighed upon his being. The fratricide he had committed had taken its toll on him.

He looked up at Krishna.

He saw Krishna gazing back at him, a world of understanding in his benevolent gaze.

----- X -----

Krishna knew.

Out of all the Pandava brothers, Bheema was the only one who understood the true need for the war. He was the only one who had never questioned on why this war should happen. He was the one who looked beyond the materialistic gains that this war would bring forth and recognized the bigger picture and the ramifications of this battle. With unwavering faith and belief on Krishna, Bheema had stood steadfast in his opinion that the war should ensue.

To the rest of the world, Bheema was fulfilling his vows, his pledges to Draupadi. Presumably as an act of true love. However, Krishna knew that Bheema had long before moved beyond his assertions of love for Draupadi. Bheema had come to the realization that in Draupadi’s eyes; he would always be second best, maybe even third best. He had become aware that for her, he was only a means; that the temptation of her love was only a lure, a means to a greater end. He had also accepted this fact in all humility, as he understood the reasoning behind it. Enlightened that Draupadi was Goddess incarnate and his way forward was to serve her and help in the cleansing of evil from the world, he had taken it upon himself to ensure that he was pivotal in the destruction of all of evil’s personifications. In that sense alone, he was the true hero of the Mahabharata war.

----- X -----

Vrikodara knew that his job was far from done. There was a lot more to come. He was however a step closer to that final rung.

He looked up at Duryodhana standing afar, shock in his eyes at his beloved brother’s gruesome death at the hands of his worst enemy. One by one, he had picked off and killed all the Kaurava brethren until only the eldest of them all was standing. Signaling to the Duryodhana that he was next, he held up his conch, Paundra, and blew into it deeply.

He had made the first strike in this war.

The last strike would be his as well.

----- X -----

Damn you... Writer's Block!!! Oh and there's a template change too!! :) :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What do you do when you have a big-sized Writer's block?? 





You change your template and hope it inspires you enough to pen something down...!!! :P 

Hope you guys like it! :P 

And also here's hoping it DOES inspire me to post something soon.... 

Uloopi, Queen of Nagas - The Mahabharata Chronicles #7

Monday, August 11, 2014

I see him. Sprawled on the battlefield. Struck in the chest. The greatest archer in the world. Killed by the son I brought up. His son.

I see the Empress - my son’s mother. Beating her chest. Lamenting. Crying for her husband who was dead. Sobbing for her son who was the cause of it.

I see the king - my son. In a stupor. Unable to understand how this had come about. Unable to fathom that he had just killed his father. His father whom he was seeing for the very first time.

I see them both look at me. With questions in their eyes. With blame etched on their faces. No words uttered.

I should be there with them. On the battlefield. Lamenting my husband’s death. Consoling my son. Holding my dead husband’s head on my lap. Hugging his inert body close to my chest. Sobbing for being a widow once over again.

Yet, I smiled.

I remembered the day I had seen him for the first time. By the riverside. Offering his ablutions. Praying earnestly. His sinewed arms. The calmness that pervaded him. The battle scars that glistened as he went about his daily routine. The strong baritone that uttered the mantras to invoke and appease the mighty ones.

I knew who he was and what he was doing in the forest. Why he was there and what had brought him there.

The great Pandava Prince. Krishna’s comrade. The one who had won Draupadi’s hand at her swayamvara. The prodigious son of Kunti - Arjuna.

Ever since I had heard of his prowess at Panchal, I had been waiting for a sight of him, for a vision of the great warrior who had vanquished countless kingpins and their armies. Even without setting my eyes on him, I had surrendered my heart to him. I – Uloopi, the Naga princess, had lost her heart to a mortal. However, this was no mere mortal. This was Indra himself, glorified in his amsa as Gandivdhanava. The day I saw him, I knew that my dreams had not been in vain. I remembered staring at him unabashedly. Wanting to make him mine forever. Wanting to be with him forever.

                                          [http://saryth.deviantart.com/art/Naga-queen-268752312]

Overcome by the god of desire, passion coursing through every pore of my body, I overpowered the warrior prince during his daily ablutions one morning and dragged him down to my world, hoping for a chance to convince him to accept me and behold me. Unwilling as he was, bound by the oath of celibacy he was forced to undertake as part of the pact between the brothers, I debated with him, forced him to consider what I was proposing, and gave him my word that I wouldn’t hold him back a minute longer if he chose to leave. I reasoned with him that his oath only bound him to be celibate with respect to Draupadi, and not to other women. Intoxicated by desire, convinced by my arguments, the son of Pandu gave into my demands.

Those were blissful days. Everything was perfect with the world, and nothing could go wrong. There were no threats to ward off and no enemies to vanquish. It was a peaceful and serene world that we were in. Our union brought forth a perfect offspring whom I named Iravan. He was the epitome of his father, flawless in every aspect, distinguished by the thirty-six marks that made him a perfect man, as like his father.  

Soon, the day I was dreading did come to pass and I had to let go of Arjuna. Back to his kith and kin, even though we were also part of the same; back to his life, to his dharma. I knew that the minute he left the waters of Ganges, he would have no memory of us. Not of me. Not of his son. Not of the times, we spent together in the netherworlds. However, his dharma beckoned and mine was to let him go in order to fulfill it. I had after all given him my word that it would be so, if he willed it. Therefore, for the very last time, I embraced him, bestowed upon him the gift that he would be invincible against all water-borne threats and prepared to send him upon his way.

Years later, when Iravan, now a strapping young man, heard of the Great War at Kurukshetra, he expressed his desire to go meet his father and offer his services. Much as I dissuaded him from going to a place, where no one would recognize him or care for him as one of their own, he was determined to head on to meet his father and help him out on the battlefield. What I dreaded ensued. Iravan, being one of the three perfect warriors on the side of Dharma, was requested to sacrifice his life to Kali to ensure victory in the war. My son willingly gave up his life for his father’s victory, a father who did not even remember him, a father who acknowledged him as his son only to have more warriors that are able on their side of the war. And what could I do, except accept it as my son’s destiny and move on with life.

I had heard of Arjuna’s other marriages during his 12 year self-exile, one of them being to Chitrangada, warrior princess of Manipura. I went ahead to meet her, introducing myself as I did so. She accepted me as her sister and entrusted me with the care of her son – Babruvahana, a boy like none other. I took care of him as I did my own son, Iravan and trained him in the art of war and mastery of weapons. The winds that flew from the battlefield, had whispered into my ears, a curse that had been laid upon Arjuna for the offence of felling the grand-sire of the dynasty, Bhishma. Cursed by the other Vasus, that Arjuna would meet his death at the hands of his son this was made known to me by the river-goddess Ganga, whose waters I inhabited from time to time. I looked up to her for advice on how to alleviate the curse from my husband and she was the one who guided me to use the fabled Mritasanjivini gem of my clan. This gem, with its miraculous properties could bring back the dead to life. Therefore, I had landed at my foster-son’s kingdom to witness the scene that had just unfolded in front of my eyes.

Following the sacred horse from the Ashwamedha Yagna that his elder brother Yudhishthira was conducting, Arjuna had landed at the city of Manipura and challenged Babruvahana to a duel. When my foster son looked upon me for counsel, I had asked him to go ahead and engage his father in battle. After a fierce duel, a well-placed arrow had found its mark and had struck the mightiest archer in the world dead. While mother and son glared at me with blame etched on their faces, seeking answers to what had just transpired; I had smiled and moved over to do my part.

I brought back my husband to life with the powers bestowed upon me through my ancestors.

When he awoke, Arjuna embraced his son and rejoiced in his prowess. He was delighted to see his wife, Chitrangada and exulted in the fact that their son was a fine warrior indeed. However, he had no recollection of me. I was not part of his memories. He only had a vague remembrance of a Naga princess that he had met once on his voyages. To him, I was inconsequential. Just as his son, Iravan, who had sacrificed his life for his father’s success had been.

I, on the other hand, have no grievances whatsoever. I am content with my reminiscences of him. Of the times that we spent in my world.  

To the world, I may be one of Arjuna’s many wives. To Arjuna, I may have just been another conquest on his journey of life.

My son sacrificed his life to ensure his father’s triumph.

The very least I could do was to ensure his efforts do not end up in vain.

In the cycle of Karmic dues, I have fulfilled my Dharma.

To me, that is the utmost gratification of the life that I have striven to live. 

I am Uloopi – Queen of Nagas. Descendent of the mighty Airavata. Daughter of King Kauravya. Wife to Arjuna.

And, most importantly, Mother of Iravan.


Pritha - The Mahabharata Chronicles #6

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I was named Pritha.

Pritha. Meaning the well-endowed one.

Pritha. Birth Daughter of Surasena. Foster daughter to KuntiBhoja. Sister of Vasudeva. Paternal aunt to Lord Krishna. Mother of the Pandavas.

Individualistic. Willful. Righteous. Intractable.

Born into a clan of kingmakers. Wedded into a clan of kings and rulers.

This was how people spoke of me. This was how they described me.

I was given up in early childhood, to my father’s cousin, Kunti Bhoja who was childless. He took care of me as his own daughter, lavishing upon me all affection and care. Brought up in all ways befitting the princess of an illustrious kingdom and trained in all matters of administration of a kingdom as well as in warfare, I was allowed the indulgence of being independent right from a young age. However, the fact that I was only an adopted daughter of the family still irked me from time to time. In my heart and soul, I was still a Vrishni.

When I was young, my foster-father entrusted to me the duty of looking after the irascible sage, Durvasa. I duly did so, and pleased with my services he offered me a boon. Na├»ve girl that I was, I asked him to bless me with a boon that would be useful to me in my future life. The all-knowing one blessed me with a mantra that would enable me to beget progeny from celestials. I did not know of the course my life would take then. Soon after, I chose King Pandu at my swayamvar. While this was an easy decision to make, I realized soon that my life was fraught with difficulties. I was forced to share my husband with another princess, unparalleled in beauty, soon after my marriage. Scared of the fact that his family line would not flourish after having been cursed by Rishi Kindama, he begged me to undergo niyoga with other men and beget children in order to carry forward the Kuru lineage. The scriptures did allow this and so I let him know of the boon I had received. He was thrilled and upon his requests, I soon became mother to three strapping young boys – Yudhishthira (son of Dharma), Bhima (son of Vayu) and Arjuna (son of Indra). I was also asked to share the boon with Madri who then proceeded to invoke the Ashwini Kumaras and was blessed with Nakula and Sahadeva. It was a happy time in the forests for a short while until I was witness to Pandu’s death, owing to his lack of self-control and Madri’s by Sati. It was in my Dharma to go the same way as her, but the onus of looking after our five sons fell upon me.

                                                                             [Pic Couresty: http://molee.deviantart.com/]

I had to provide for their well-being, and so I went back to the kingdom that my husband had renounced.  The same kingdom that then questioned the parenthood of my sons. The same kingdom that was now ruled by a king birthed from a Suta. And whose lineage descended from a fisherwoman. They had the audacity to question me on the parenthood and the caste of my sons. I did not deem it fit to answer their questions. My only answer to them in the face of all their questions was that my sons had an equal right to the throne, Yudhishthira being the eldest of all the crown princes. It was an arduous task to put up with the politics, scheming and the jealousy that we encountered in the palace.  Over the years, adversaries made innumerable attempts on our lives. I could not pretend to be unaware of what was happening; neither could I afford to be tolerant of the same.  I had to be vigilant and ensure that I always stayed one-step ahead of the scheming parties. I managed this largely, due to the support and help received from Vidura, friend and confidant as well as the unquestioning nature of my sons.

For my sons, I was both their father and mother. And I never made them feel otherwise. They abided by my suggestions, took my opinion on everything and never ever strayed away from what I told them to. To them, my word was the be-all and end-all of all things said and done. I was their guiding force and their partner-in-crime over the years of struggles and obstacles. To say that we have been through a lot would be an understatement.

You know me as the mother of the Pandavas. You talk of me as the woman who made her sons share their wife, between the five of them. You speak of me as the woman who without any second thoughts cast away her newborn son into the river. You identify me as the spineless person, who offered the same son, the kingdom and the illustrious daughter in law as his wife, knowing that he had loved her once, provided he came over to the side of Dharma. You declare that I was the sole reason that a son cursed the entire women clan that we would not be able to keep any secrets. You proclaim me as the villain who brought forth fratricide between children of the same family.

I agree; I am guilty of all this and much more.

I AM the mother of Pandavas. I brought up my sons fairly and justly, instilling in them a sense of Dharma as well as my own individualistic spirit and tenacity. I motivated them to be masters of their own being, while being persistent in their unity in face of adversity. I taught them of the rights and wrongs, ensuring that their skills and morality would hold them in good stead.

Yes, I am the woman who made her sons share their wife, between the five of them. The strength of my sons lay in their unity. United they were an unbreakable force, a power to be reckoned with. Divided, none would even see light of the day. The lust in each of their eyes upon sighting the renowned princess of Panchala, made me realize how much they all craved her. Hence, I ensured that they all got married to the same woman. That she was the driving force behind the course of my sons’ lives. That she would be the one they would now be answerable to, and the one who would propel them towards their destiny. I could now leave them in safe hands and step back.   

I am also the person who without any second thoughts cast away her firstborn son into the river, fearing scorn of the society and ruin of the family honor. I cannot truly justify this act in any way, but I can only say this in my defense. Curiosity got the better of me and I invoked the mantra that I was blessed with. I called down Arka in all his blazing grandeur and was blessed with a boy. He was born in resplendent glory, with his shining kundals and indestructible kavach. However, the thought of tarnishing the family honor scared me out of my wits and with a heavy heart, I gave up the baby and entrusted him to the care of the river goddess. The guilt overwhelmed me, but I was powerless and helpless. For a young virgin princess, upholding the honor of the clan took more weightage at that point than the life she held in her hands. The guilt of letting go of my firstborn always weighs me down, because I could never shower upon him any motherly affections not could I offer him a mothers’ love.

And yes, I am that spineless woman, who then offered the same son, the kingdom and the illustrious daughter in law as his wife, knowing that he had loved her once, provided he came over to the side of Dharma. You will speak of it as my selfishness for without him, Duryodhana’s strongest ally and closest friend, the Kauravas would be weakened. What you may not know was that inwardly, it was also a mother’s last hope to save her first-born and be united with him again. Besides, righting the wrong that I had done to him, it would also save him from certain death in the War of Dharma.  What I did not reckon for was the intractable loyalty that my son took after me. He refused to give up on his friendship and stood staunchly by his friends’ side, even in his death.

I was also the reason that a son cursed the entire women clan that we would not be able to keep any secrets. When my sons heard that they had killed one of their own, they could not bear it. They derided me for keeping this a secret from them for so long. For the first ever time, I saw my sons look at me with something other than love and respect. For the first ever time, I saw them look at me with derision in their eyes. They could not believe that their mother, the one they thought was above all reproach could do something like this. I had my reasons, but my reasons were not good enough for them. The only one who understood me was my nephew, the one who knows all. However, there was not much that he could do for me either.

Fate has a strange way of playing out. I was born into a cursed clan and funnily enough married, into the clan that had originally cursed my ancestors to be kingmakers and not kings. Though married into the kingdom of Hastinapura, I have never ruled happily as its queen. I, who was wedded into the lineage of the Kurus, have never enjoyed sovereignty. My entire existence has been a testament to the follow the one truth that was ingrained into me ever since I was aware.

That the way of the Dharma was the way of life. That the honor of the lineage was my own honor.

It did not matter whether it was the clan that I was born in, or the one that I wedded into. What mattered was that it was my destiny and duty to protect and uphold the integrity of the lineage I belonged to and the one that I was a part of.

My biggest failing lies in the fact that for eons to come, none will ever speak of me as the righteous woman who upheld Dharma even in the toughest times. They will talk of me as the woman who made her sons share their wife. They will speak of me as the woman who without any second thoughts cast away her newborn son into the river. They will identify me as the spineless person, who offered the same son, the kingdom and the illustrious daughter in law as his wife, provided he came over to the side of Dharma. And they will declare that I was the reason that a son cursed the entire women clan that we would not be able to keep any secrets. They will herald me as the villain who brought forth fratricide between children of the same family.

However, my biggest victory lies in the fact that the lineage of Yayati will been united finally. The blood of the Yadus flows through me onto my grandson Abhimanyu, through Arjuna and Subhadra, his parents.

For in the end it all comes down to this, this truth.

“Dharma when cultivated preserves, Dharma when violated destroys.”

Ashwatthama, the Chiranjeevi - The Mahabharata Chronicles #5

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

“I infuse thee, this blade of grass, 
with the power of the Brahmastra, 
for the annihilation of the Pandavas and Krishna.”

I hear these words that I uttered, ringing inside my ears, as if it happened yesterday.

I see the blade of grass, infused with the weapon of destruction, hurtling towards the group of warriors gathered at the ashram of Sage Vyasa - the warriors who had come in search of me, to extract their revenge.

I feel the rage that coursed through me then, for all the slaughter, the deceit, and the genocide that took place over the last eighteen days.

And I feel the helplessness that surged through me, when I redirected the weapon to the womb of Uttara, the unborn heir of Abhimanyu, and the future of the Pandava lineage.

3000 years thence, I roam these lands paying the price for my heinous act, living a cursed life, trapped in a body filled with pus, sores, and diseases, waiting for the so-called judgement day, the end of Kali Yuga – the age of darkness.

I do not seek forgiveness nor do I feel remorse or repentance for my deeds anymore.

For I know that all these were preordained. For I understand this is how this magnum opus is meant to be played out. 

Know me as Ashwatthama, the Chiranjeevi – partial incarnation of Lord Rudra, named so because I neighed like a horse at birth.

                                                                                           [Pic Couresty: http://molee.deviantart.com/]

I, who was born as a Brahmin, but was drawn towards the life of a Kshatriya.

Progeny of the famous Acharya, Guru Drona, who always preferred Arjuna’s skill to mine. Comrade to the Kaurava heir, Duryodhana, who always favoured Karna’s friendship over mine. 

Master of astras and shastras, and once upon a Yuga, the possessor of a famed jewel.

The jewel that I was born with. The jewel that adorned my forehead and protected me from diseases, fear, and enemies. The jewel that was prised from me for my monstrous act.

The act of destroying the lineage of the Pandavas.

My life as I knew it had always been encumbered with wants, longings, and desires. Filled with instances of people’s derision of our lifestyle, I do not remember anything about my childhood apart from our impoverished existence, until Father became Acharya to the Kuru princes.  However, the fact that we were still at the mercy of others always irked me. Even as a friend of the Kauravas, I never could feel equal to them. Even though none of them said so explicitly, there was always a difference. Always a thin line that demarcated me from them, because I was the son of their Acharya.

I remember the early days of learning where Father favoured me over his new students. By virtue of being his son, he taught me mantras and weapons that he did not impart to the others. He was partial to me until his favouritism found a new heir. Arjuna.

Arjuna, to whom Father imparted all his skills and knowledge. Arjuna, who soon impressed his Guru with his dedication and sincerity to learn and become the world’s best archer. Arjuna, who became Father’s prized pupil. Arjuna, who got my Father’s attention and affection, the care that I yearned for.

Father was not happy about the fact that I was friendlier with the Kauravas than with his preferred Pandavas. However, I felt more at home with the high-spirited Kauravas rather than the virtuous sons of Kunti. Sometimes, at night, when he thought I was asleep, I could hear him pour his grievances to Mother about how I was falling into bad company, and how he wished that I were more like Arjuna, instead of following Duryodhana around. Yet, as much as he slighted my choice of friends, he would sit near my head, stroke my hair, and hold my hand, weeping silent tears, while I pretended to be asleep. These instances of paternal affection, though few and rare, made me happy and filled me with warmth, though they also hardened my jealousy of Arjuna. I knew he loved me more than anyone else in the world. I knew all that he was undertaking, was for my happiness and well-being. Yet, I was never able to get over the fact that he believed I was not as skilled as Arjuna. I was never able to accept the fact that Arjuna was getting the concern and the attention that I thought I deserved.

That night when I butchered the Pandava camp, with the Chandrahaas in my hand, it was as though the Mahadev himself had entered my body and led me to avenge the fallen of our camp including Father. I did not think twice before I sneaked into their camp and slew them all. There was only one thought on my mind then – to retaliate. To avenge my kith and kin. To make the enemy pay for what they had done including killing my Father. When I realized later, that I had killed not the Pandavas but their sons, I was contrite and headed towards Sage Vyasa’s ashram where I intended to do penance and calm my mind. However, when I saw Arjuna along with the rest of the Pandavas, charging towards me with retribution on their minds, my anger knew no bounds. I invoked the Brahmastra and uttered those ominous words;

“I infuse thee, this blade of grass, 
with the power of the Brahmastra, 
for the annihilation of the Pandavas and Krishna.”

I knew that Arjuna would invoke an astra to counter mine and he did. But when ordered by Vyasa Maharishi to recall the weapons, I was unable to, unlike Arjuna. I was unable to recall the astra that my Father had taught me because he had not trusted me enough with the knowledge to recall the astra. He had revealed to me only partial knowledge of invoking the astra, while imparting the full knowledge of the astra to his favoured pupil – Arjuna.

Overridden yet again by partiality, filled with a sense of helplessness and driven by jealousy and rage, I redirected the weapon to the womb of Uttara, towards the unborn heir of Abhimanyu, and the future of the Pandava lineage. Condemned for this cowardly and dastardly act, I roam these lands now, cursed to live the life of a leper, unloved and castaway by all, awaiting redemption.

The bloodshed of the Great War that I was a part of was prophesied during the Ksheerasagara Madhanam, the churning of the great ocean of milk. Springing forth from the Halahal that Lord Mahadev drank, to save the universe, the Vish-Purush that I embodied, was blessed so, stating I would kill brutal Kshatriyas during the Dwapara Yuga.

I was born therefore, as Ashwatthama, one of the chiranjeevis, in the lineage of the great sage Bharadwaj.

I was birthed as a Brahmin. I lived as a Kshatriya. And I am condemned as a slayer.

For all these were preordained. For this is how this magnum opus is meant to be played out.

I have executed my part to perfection and now, I await the warrior with his blazing sword on his great white steed, to grant me deliverance.

To usher me into the Satya Yuga, to the start of time again, wherein, I shall be honoured as a Saptarishi.

For this is the circle of my life, with no beginning and with no end.  

 
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