Monday, June 23, 2014

Sahadeva - The Mahabharata Chronicles #3

I have fallen here. Lying down in the dark, caught in the crevices of the vast Himalayan ranges, half-buried by snow. It’s only a few more hours before this test is over and Yudhishthira and the dog finish their climb to ascend Swarga.

I knew this was coming. JUST LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE.

As soon as Draupadi fell, I was anticipating my turn. Next will be Nakula, my twin, followed by Arjuna and then Bheema. Just the canine and eldest brother will not fall. That is no ordinary dog, in case you didn’t realize. That is the God of Dharma, Yudhishthira’s father. He loves testing us so. This is not the first time he has done this. And I am sure Yudhishthira knows this. He is a perceptive one, my brother. He always was.

For the better part of my entire life, I have been quiet. Never to utter a word, until I was spoken to. Never to offer my opinion, until I was asked so. But it wasn’t until father’s death I became so. 

But today, I wish to speak. Because I know now that it doesn’t matter. There is none here who can hear me and none to chastise me if I speak so.

And so, I state my story. In my words.

                                                                              [Pic Couresty:]

My name is Sahadeva. I am the youngest of the Pandavas, son of Madri and Pandu; twin brother to Nakula. We are known as Madreyas, sons of Madri, much like Kunti’s sons were called Kaunteyas. I was born in the forests, where my father Pandu was residing after being cursed to live a life of celibacy. Mother, confided in us later that Nakula and I were the children of Ashwini Kumaras – the gods of sunrise and sunset, the physician gods. I learnt that all of us – the sons of Pandu – were offspring of Gods. It filled me with a sense of importance, thought I can’t really say why.

I loved growing up in the forest. Father, who used to tell us all stories in the evenings, always made me sit on his lap. I was the only one who had that privilege, by virtue of being the youngest. I used to listen to him wide-eyed, of the stories of rishis and sadhus, devas and asuras. I imagined us fighting a war against the asuras and winning it for the devas. But of all the things that father told us, I remembered this one thing very clearly. It seemed a little odd then, but no one questioned him why. He told us to consume his brain after his death. He said that this would give us immense knowledge and make us all wise and astute. I realized later that it was a premonition that he had had, because a few days later Father was dead. And Mother died along with him, blaming his death upon herself. Nakula and I were left stricken until Kunti-ma took us into her fold. From then on, we were known only as the Pandavas, sons of Pandu.

The day that Father died, was the day that I was reborn. At his funeral, I had seen a line of ants scurrying away with what looked like his brain. I could only hear Father’s words clearly resonating in my head. Not one to hesitate and unknown to the rest; I caught the ants and ate the pieces they carried. It was in that instant, I LEARNT EVERYTHING. All that had happened, all that was happening and all that was going to happen. And in my haste, while I was running back to tell the others of what had just transpired, I ran into HIM. HE was in disguise of course, but I saw through it because now I KNEW everything. HE knew that I knew and extracted from me two promises. One to never speak of this to anyone. And the second to counter a question with a question. I, of course understood the reasoning behind it. Immense knowledge had the potential to ruin everything and the cycle of Karma would be hindered. To this day, I don’t know whether this was prudence or folly. In return, as a favour for extracting such a heavy promise from me, I asked HIM to be on the side of the Pandavas as long as we were righteous and adhering to Dharma. HE smiled benignly and agreed.

Father’s death and the subsequent events had brought in me a sea-change and I was no longer the cheeky kid I was. It wasn’t a sudden change. And it wasn’t just any change. For now, I could only talk in my mind. And even when I knew what the future held, there was no way in which I could let others know of what may befall them. The fire at Varnavrata, the attempts on our lives by our cousins, Draupadi’s marriage to all of us, the exile, her humiliation at the sabha, the war that was to come… every single event that would occur!! To say that this was hard would be putting it slightly.

Personally, one of the hardest trials to endure was Draupadi’s humiliation at the sabha. Like the rest of my brothers, I was smitten by her as well and I was the one she would turn to when she wanted to pour out what was troubling her. She couldn’t say so to any of the others and I knew how best to play the part that she expected out of me. I comforted her. I lent her a listening ear. And I always reassured her patiently, that she would be at peace when the tribulations were over.  

I knew that the root cause for all this was right in front of me. I knew I would be the one to bring about his death and because this was meant to happen by my hands, that fateful day at the sabha, I declared so. I swore to thrust the sword that I was adept at handling into the man who was sitting clad in black robes, rolling a pair of dice, chuckling to himself. People were surprised, for I was known to be the meek one. I wasn’t as flamboyant as Bhīma or as gifted as Arjuna. I wasn’t even as loquacious as Nakula or as virtuous as Yudhishthira. I was considered by most to be unremarkable, because of my silence and my inconspicuous persona. It was an act that I had refined because it helped me observe the surroundings and helped me blend into the background as unobtrusively as possible. But the oath that day in the sabha to kill Shakuni, helped me release a little of the burden that I was carrying - the heaviness of the promises I had made, that were weighing on me. And so I did. On the eighteenth day of the war, I did what I vowed. I plunged my sword into his body and stared into his remorseless eyes.

For eras to come, people would talk of this, even call it my moment in the sun. They would talk of this as the highlight of the life that I lived, of the ordinary existence that many believe I tolerated.

For not many know of my story.

I am Sahadeva, the last of the Pandavas and the least known.

You may call me gentle and wise. Yet you may not know of the burden that I bore.

To realize what really was, powerless nonetheless.

Of knowing everything however disallowed to speak out. Of seeing everything yet enforced to accept.

I am Sahadeva, the last of the Pandavas and the least known, and yet… I am the one that knows it all and the one who sees it all.


  1. sahadeva, the quite one who knows more than he lets on...what a burden to carry....well written

  2. @ Tys -- :) Thank you! :) He is one of the most intriguing characters as far as I can guess!

  3. @ Sunitha -- Thank you :) Appreciate that! And I have read a few of them, not the trilogy by Krishna Udayshankar - half way through that! :) There are a few more that I read that really took me by surprise. One is Ajaya (Anand Neelakantan) and the others were MT's Bhima and Karna's wife (Anuja) ..

  4. Fantastic! Very well written! :)

  5. have read a couple of your "Mahabarata Chronicles", I must say you write really well. The Mahabharata has always intrigued me from the time i saw it as a kid on TV. Your writing offers a nice perspective. Keep it going!

  6. @Athira -- Thanks a lot :) :) please keep the comments coming. would love to get feedback.

    @ Unknown -- Thanks a lot! :) Appreciate the comments. please keep them coming. Any feedback is good feedback! :)

  7. Perhaps the best article I ever read on Sahadeva...


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