Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Abhimanyu - The Mahabharata Chronicles #14

Soma looked down on the battlefield.

Today is the 12th night of the war at Kurukshetra. Soon it will be the 13th day and a much important one at that, for it is then that Varchas turns 16. The day he will come back to me. I have missed him so much these last few years.

For 16 years, I have been separated from my son. I have pined for him. I have wondered whether it was a mistake to send him down as a human, as my amsa, for the greater good.

Like I have been doing every night for the last 16 years, I peek down through the shimmery curtains, at his taut form. The warrior that he has become. Progeny of Nara. Nephew to Narayana. And trained in the martial arts by the Yadavas themselves. Does he sense my presence? Does he remember that his father is yearning for him? Or is he in all senses a true Kshatriya prince now, about to become a father himself?

Oh! How I remember that conversation with Narayana, when he came to me asking for Varchas to be incarnated as a warrior to cleanse the earth. I remember how hesitant I was. I was wondering what would be the politest way to refuse The Lord himself. I couldn’t be away from my boy for a fraction of a second, he was my favourite after all. But Narayana was insistent. He was very convincing and his persuasive powers were of course legendary. I was ready to give in, but I had a few conditions of my own.

---- X ----

Krishna looked up at Chandra. He could see the moon-god smiling in all his glory. It was evident that he was happy, for after all, his beloved son was returning home the next day.

He looked at Abhimanyu. Warrior Prince. Draupadi’s favourite son of all the Pandava offspring even if he wasn’t her own. The blood of the Pandavas and the Yadavas ran in him. He was so skilled that he could probably take on the entire army of Kauravas and disintegrate them. Married to crown-princess Uttara, he was about to father the first grandchild of two historic empires. He had so much to look forward to. And yet his life would end even before it began.

---- X ----

I saw Krishna looking up at me, his face scrunched up enigmatically. I sent his way a flutter of breeze, gently reminding him of his promise to me, and the conditions that applied to it.

When I agreed to let Varchas be incarnated, I wanted him to be born into the mightiest empire there was. I wanted the blood of Nara to run in his veins. Krishna did even better, he ensured that the boy would have the bloodlines of both Nara and Narayana himself.

I also asked for him to be returned to me after 16 years. I knew I was asking him to be returned to me in his prime, but I couldn’t let myself be away from him longer than that. Krishna agreed. He also ordained that the boy would be one of the mightiest warriors the world would see and that he would be the fulcrum for the great war that was to ensue.

I knew Varchas was in safe hands and agreed to Narayana’s words.

With a heavy heart, I sent down my son.

---- X ----

Krishna thought back to the time when Abhimanyu was conceived.

He realized that he had more than one reason to agree to Chandra’s demands, though it became clearer to him only then. Subhadra unknowingly had knocked open a box he had hidden, thereby unleashing the soul of King Kalayavan, whom Krishna had imprisoned inside. The soul looking for a place to hide, had taken refuge in Subhadra’s womb attaching itself to the foetus inside.

Abhimanyu was not yet born when he overheard Arjuna talking to Subhadra and explaining to her about war strategies. Narayana could sense his eagerness to hear more and he could see that the baby was comprehending each and every word spoken. He could see that the foetus was straining to catch every syllable so as to not miss anything. In order to thwart the knowledge falling into his hands, much before he may have been due to learn it, He used his powers to lull Subhadra to sleep, thus putting a stop to the war tactics being discussed.

Precocious child Abhimanyu was. His head was always held high, his stature tall and his demeanour a tad proud, owing to the blood that ran in his veins. After all, there were very few who could take on the combined strength of the Yadavas and the Pandavas. Inquisitive about everything, and keen to learn, he grasped mastery over weapons, war tactics and strategies much quicker than anyone I knew. The reason lay in his previous birth, when he was a much-feared king. After all, old habits do die hard. Once in a while, Krishna could discern a gleam in his eyes, a simmering anger, a sort of restlessness as though something was trying to escape him. He sensed that there was one way he could provide liberation to the trapped soul as well as fulfil Chandra’s conditions.

---- X ----

The 13th day dawned.

Hiding in the shadows of Surya, I looked down at the unfolding scene.

The time of reckoning drew near.

Promising to protect his uncle, Yudhisthira, Abhimanyu tried to break into the Chakravyuha, created by Drona, the great teacher himself. The Pandavas, unable to follow him through the momentary gap, soon found themselves crying out for him and his safety.

Nara and Narayana were occupied at one end of the battlefield, while their disciple wreaked havoc at the other end.

My son was unstoppable that day. He rampaged through the Kaurava forces, killing whoever came in his way, counting several maharathis as well as injuring the greatest of the Kaurava warriors including Karna and Duryodhana. The Kauravas were astounded by his prowess and in a fit of frustration and fury, broke one of the cardinal rules of war.

[Pic Courtesy:]

Seven elite warriors, all great in their own right, attacked my son together. More rules were broken in the wake of the first one; when his bowstrings were cut from behind, his steeds killed and his charioteers too. Forced to fight on foot, protecting himself with a sword and a shield, my son raced forth. They broke his sword, and shattered his shield.  Powerless now, he looked around and picked up a chariot wheel and charged at them, but they broke that too. He picked up a mace and killed as many people as he could, displaying more strength and valour than any of the cowards around him. However, while combating with Dusshasana’s son, tired, decimated and injured beyond compare, he knocked out his opponent and fell to the ground in a swoon as well. But before he could come to, his opponent who had awakened, struck him on his head and killed him.

In those last few moments, I could see the light ebb out of my son’s eyes. The gleam dimmed, a small whiff of breath escaped him, and through that the soul of Kalayavan attained Moksha for having fought on the righteous side.

Knowing that he was now truly Varchas in form, deed and glory, Chandra remembered Nara’s blessings to Abhimanyu, when they first set out for war.

“Yashasvi Bhava”
“May you attain eternal success with no obstacles in the way of achievement.”

Abhimanyu’s heroic death would now be the pivotal point which ensured the deaths of the unrighteous because of the traitorous means engaged to slay him.

My son achieved glory as a warrior should on the battlefield. He died fighting till his last breath and he would forever be remembered as the greatest warrior who fought for righteousness and demolished a fourth of the Kaurava army all by himself. 

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