Mahabharata series book2.., p.1

MAHABHARATA SERIES BOOK#2: The Seeds of War (Mba), page 1



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  for yashka, who said, “awesome.”

  and is an awesome daughter.

  for ayush, who said, “do it.”

  ayushmaanbhavya, my son.

  for bithika, who said, “write.”

  and is always right, dearest wife.

  this gift of words and swords,

  this ocean of endless wonders,

  this forest of stories.


  ||to you, gentle reader||


  ||prarambha|| the forest of stories

  ||parva dvi|| the seeds of war

  ||paksha one|| the heartbreak of devayani


  ||paksha two|| the immortality of yayati


  ||paksha three|| the righteous ones


  ||paksha four|| the rise of the purus


  ||paksha five|| shantanu and ganga: a love story written on water


  ||paksha six|| the return of devavrata


  ||paksha seven|| bhishma and the terrible vow


  ||paksha eight|| a problem of progeny


  ||paksha nine|| the seeds of war




  ||ashok k. banker||

  ||mahabharata series: volume 2||


  We bow first to Nara-Narayana

  and Devi Saraswati

  before uttering the first word

  of this great endeavour…



  ||om ganesha namaha||

  invoking the power of the infinite om,

  with the tip of your ink-dipped tusk

  you first recorded this tale of tales

  as dictated by the venerable krishna-dwaipayana vyasa.

  may this scribe’s humble attempt

  to traverse again that great ocean of stories

  please you, lord.

  ||idam na mama||


  for yashka, who said, “awesome.”

  and is an awesome daughter.

  for ayush, who said, “do it.”

  ayushmaanbhavya, my son.

  for bithika, who said, “write.”

  and is always right, dearest wife.

  this gift of words and swords,

  this ocean of endless wonders,

  this forest of stories.


  to every person i have ever known,

  i join my hands in humility,

  and beg forgiveness,

  for any error i committed,

  knowing or unknowing.

  even though you and i

  are two distinct individuals,


  by walled-in compartments of self,

  yet when you lose,

  i don’t win.

  the path to true and lasting peace

  begins with unconditional forgiveness.

  to end the war without

  let us first end the war within.

  ||michhami dukkadam||

  ||to you, gentle reader||

  the song belongs

  to they who listen

  we had a pact,

  you and i,

  that I would transport you

  on wings of song

  from ayodhya to lanka

  and back again.

  now that journey is done.

  and we prepare anew

  to embark on another

  far greater voyage

  across the ocean of itihasa.

  listen now, my friend,

  for like the first tale,

  this new song I begin,

  is not just mine to sing,

  it is herstory,




  ||jaidev jaidev satyamev jaitey||



  the forest of stories

  ||parva dvi||

  the seeds of war

  ||paksha one||

  the heartbreak of devayani


  These are the lineages of Prajapati Daksha, Vaivasvata Manu, Bharata, Kuru, Puru, Ajamidha and Yadava. These are the ancestors of our present population. For while Manu was First Human from whom all lines descend, there were in fact fourteen Manus, each engendering and maintaining the populace of the world for each Day of Brahma, from the first dawn of each cycle of Creation to the last light of Destruction and Recreation. The present cycle we inhabit is the seventh of fourteen, and Vaivasvata Manu was the parent from whose loins all present day humans sprang.

  Brahma was father of Prachetas and nine other sons, each of whom was a maharishi possessed of the energy of brahman and scintillating radiance, and each of the ten were birthmarked by lightning. These were the first ancestors of humankind. Daksha son of Prachetas then engendered all humans who followed. With his wife Virini, he birthed a thousand sons. The great sage Narada taught Daksha’s thousand sons the philosophy of Sankhya, derived from the teachings of Maharishi Kapila, as means of achieving moksha from the eternal cycle of birth and rebirth. In those ages, the earth was barren and bereft of life. Desirous of creating more beings, Prajapati Daksha created fifty women who were considered his daughters. He gave ten to Dharma, thirteen to Kashyapa and twenty seven to Chandra. To Chandra was also given the task of ascertaining the passage of time, from which our present day lunar calendar is derived.

  Kashyapa, son of Marichi, preferred Dakshayani of all the thirteen daughters of Daksha whom he took as wives. Upon Dakshayani, Kashyapa fathered the adityas, Indra and other devas, and also Vivasvat. Vivasvat went on to father an illustrious son of his own, the inscrutable Lord Yama, master of dharma and death. Yama then fathered Martanda, who in turn fathered Vaivasvata Manu. From this Manu were descended the line of Manavas, or Man for short.

  The line of Manavas included all kinds of men. In that first age of the world, the brahmins and kshatriyas were as one, the sole difference being that the brahmins devoted themselves wholly to the study of the Vedas and vedic studies. Ten of Vaivasvata Manu’s sons preferred the path of the kshatriya: Vena, Dhrishnu, Narishyanta, Nabhaga, Ikshwaku, Karusha, Saryati, Ila, Prishadhra and Nabhagarishtha. Fifty other sons foolishly quarrelled amongst and slew one another, we need speak no more of them.

  Pururava was the son of Ila who was both mother and father to him. He held sway over thirteen islands at sea. Radiant with glamour, he was accompanied always by beings of supernatural power. He was the bringer of the three types of sacrificial fire from heaven. On one occasion, inebriated with his own power, he launched an assault against the brahmins and stole away their possessions. Sanatkumara was despatched from Brahmaloka to teach him the error of his ways but still Pururava did not mend. Then the maharishis grew wrathful of his arrogance and cursed him. He was destroyed by his own avarice and lust for power. Forced to leave because of his misconduct, he was exiled to the word of gandharvas with his wife Urvashi where he spent his last days. Through Urvashi, he fathered six sons – Ayush, Dhiman, Amavasu, Dridhayush, Vanayush and Shatayush. Of them, Ayush went on to marry Svarbhanu’s daughter and father five sons of his own – Nahusha, Vriddhasharma, Raji, Rambha and Anenas. Ayush’s son Nahusha was wise and truthful to the core. Though his domain was vast and his lordship undisputed, yet he ruled strictly according to the tenets
of dharma. During his reign, he provided protection to the pitris, devas, rishis, brahmins, gandharvas, uragas and rakshasas. He ensured that brahmins, kshatriyas and vaishyas were treated as equals and did so himself. He waged a campaign against the dasyus, those troublesome outcasts who were enemies of both gods and men alike, who performed evil deeds and made their living by robbing and waylaying innocents. Slaying their hordes, he compelled the survivors to pay tribute to the rishis they had harassed for so long, then made them carry him on their backs as punishment. So great did Nahusha’s power and influence grow, and so considerable was his accumulation of brahman energy, that he could have defeated the gods themselves and taken Indra’s place. This was all the result of his own austerities and valiant deeds.

  In time, through his wife Priyavasa, Nahusha fathered six sons – Yati, Yayati, Samyati, Ayati, Pancha and Uddhava. Of these Yayati achieved great fame and it is his story that marks the next major turn in the itihasa of the line of Bharata, son of Dushyanta and Shakuntala. In a sense, the events of his life were the first speckles that gathered over time to eventually become the seeds of the great Maha Bharata war.


  The ancient enmity of the devas and asuras flared into a new rage. This time they fought for dominion of the three worlds, as well as the natural riches and resources of each one. Determined to win, the devas appointed Brihaspati, son of Angirasa, as their preceptor and to officiate over their yagnas. Not to be outdone, the asuras appointed Kavya, son of Kavi, the Wise One, also known as Shukra, Shukracharya or Ushanas.

  Now, both Kavya Ushanas and Brihaspati were bitter rivals. Though both were brahmins and possessed of great spiritual power, yet each had different abilities and strengths. Immensely knowledgeable Brihaspati was able to guide the gods time and again to secure victory in battle. So much so that the result was almost always a foregone conclusion. Each time both factions joined forces, the devas massacred the asuras. But Kavya Ushanas possessed something that Brihaspati did not: he had the legendary sanjivani. This arcane science enabled him to restore the dead to life. Each time the devas joined battle with the asuras and slaughtered them on the battlefield, their guru applied his formdidable craft and resurrected each one, as strong and virile as they had been before.

  After several such battles, the gods grew miserable. What good was their superiority in warcraft, their immense feats of valour and daring, their bold assaults and brilliant strategies, their sacrifices and preparations, their relentless campaigns? Each time they wiped out their enemy forces, the preceptor of the asuras was able to revive them and things went back to the way they had been before! There could be no end to the conflict if this went on.

  Finally in desperation the gods devised a plan. They met with their guru’s eldest son Kacha and appealed to him for help. ‘Kavya Ushanas has a daughter named Devayani of whom he is most fond. You are of an age to be attractive to her. Insinuate yourself into her graces, use generosity, charm, impressive deeds, mellifluous words and all your virtues to steal her heart. Your mission is to convince her to get her father to reveal the secret of the Sanjivani. Once we possess that secret knowledge, no longer will the asuras have this unfair advantage.’

  Brihaspati’s son Kacha considered their proposal carefully and agreed that there was no other way to accomplish their aim. He consented to undertake the mission and left immediately for Vishaparva, capital city of the kingdom of the asuras and abode of Shukracharya.

  Presenting himself to Kavya Ushanas, he offered his services as a disciple. He introduced himself honestly for there was no point in trying to delude a man of such great wisdom. ‘Mahadev, I am Kacha, son of Brihaspati, grandson of Angirasa. If you do me the supreme honour of accepting me as your shishya, I shall practise brahmacharya for one thousand years.’

  Irrespective of the differences between himself and Kacha’s father, as a brahmin Shukra could not deny Kacha’s request. It was the dharma of a brahmin to accept suitable disciples to his fold and he could find no fault with Kacha. Even if he was the son of his enemy, the fact remained that Angirasa himself had been Kavya Ushanas’s own guru at one time. How could he now refuse to teach the son of his own teacher? He welcomed his rival’s son with respect and warmth. ‘Kacha, you are welcome to reside here and learn what you can for as long as you desire. Your father’s reputation earns you that right. By asking me to be your guru, you show me immense respect. In turn, I too shall treat you with the same respect. In doing so, Brihaspati is also honoured.’

  Under Shukra Ushanas’s guidance, Kacha took his vows, swearing allegiance to his new guru for the formidable duration he had himself mentioned. Then began the thousand years of Kacha’s apprenticeship. He devoted himself to his allotted tasks with full diligence and devotion. But in every spare moment, he wooed the guru’s daughter Devayani with the same dedication and determination. He sang, played musical instruments, danced, made offerings of fruit and flowers, praised her beauty at every opportunity, and melted away her resolve and reserve. Yet while he charmed and won Devayani’s heart without question, whiling away every free moment with her, Kacha never broke his vows or strayed from his chosen path as a celibate disciple. Devayani respected him the more for this resoluteness and as time passed, began to love him dearly. They sported together and were lovers in all but the physical sense, and sang and danced away, intoxicated in each other’s company. Five hundred years passed in this manner.

  Romancing the daughter of the preceptor of the asuras in the heart of their own domain was not something that could escape the attention of the demons. Assuming that Kacha was merely a disciple of their guru, they did not concern themselves much with the matter. But one day, quite by accident, the danavas came to know that Kacha was the son of Brihaspati, none other than the preceptor of the devas, their mortal enemies. When this knowledge spread through their ranks, the danavas were outraged. They debated whether to let the rest of their allied asura races know this shocking truth, then decided to keep it a secret for the time being. The truth could prove embarrassing and humiliating for the asuras, for their enemy had been cavorting with their own guru’s daughter under their very noses for half a millennium! Not speaking a word of what they knew, the danavas decided to solve the problem themselves, quietly and discreetly. Waylaying Kacha in the forest one day, they killed him. Chopping his body into pieces as tiny as sesame seeds, they fed his remains to the wild jackals and wolves of the forest. Then they departed, pleased at how they had handled the problem and avenged the shame visited upon their guru.

  Kacha had been with the cows that day, overseeing them as they grazed. That evening, when the cows returned home without their cowherd, Devayani’s heart skipped a beat. She waited until sundown, hoping beyond hope that he was merely delayed for some reason. But when the sun had set and dusk had fallen over her father’s ashram, there was still no sign of Kacha. Perturbed, she went to her father. ‘Pitr, it was Kacha’s task to light the agnihotra fire after he returned home with the cows. The cows have all come home on their own, the sun has set and still the sacred fire has not been kindled. My heart tells me that something terrible must have happened to him.’ Her father considered the facts and mused that it was not like Kacha to forego his duties. Not once before had the loyal disciple ever failed to carry out a given chore on time, and failing to light the agnihotra fire before sundown was a major lapse. He agreed with his daughter; something must surely have happened to Kacha in the deep woods. The sage’s first thought was that perhaps some wild animal had killed and eaten his disciple, although he did not say so aloud, for his daughter was already agitated. Devayani persisted. ‘Father, you possess the knowledge to revive even the dead. I am convinced Kacha must be dead, otherwise he would never fail his chores. I beg you, use the power of the Sanjivani and resurrect him. I cannot live a day without him!’ When Kavya Ushanas saw that his daughter meant every word she said, he did not hesitate further. If Kacha was not harmed, the Sanjivani would have no effect; if indeed his disciple was dead, as b
oth Devayani and he feared, then resurrecting him was a simple enough matter. He used his secret knowledge to summon Kacha.

  To the great relief of his guru and the delight of the guru’s daughter, Kacha appeared soon afterwards, looking much the way he had looked before. When asked what had happened, he told them the truth: all he could recall was herding the cows through the pasture that afternoon, when someone struck him from behind, rendering him unconscious. The next thing he knew, he was awake and lying on the leafy forest ground in a place other than the pasture, and night had fallen. For some reason, he was naked although shreds of his garments still clung to his skin in fragments and bits. Curiously enough, the bodies of several dead wolves and jackals lay all around him, their bodies ripped and torn apart as if their bellies had exploded. Fashioning a temporary covering from bark, leaves and vines, he had found his way back through the woods to the ashram. That was all he recalled. Devayani was thrilled beyond words to have her beloved back home safe. It was assumed that Kacha had been killed by the wolves and jackals and that the use of the Sanjivani had compelled his digested remains to tear their way out of the bellies of the beasts, to reform magically into a living whole. The facts suggested only such a conclusion.

  Things went back to normal at once. Devayani and Kacha resumed their mutual adoration, and Brihaspati’s eldest son continued serving his guru faithfully and adhered rigidly to his vows, pleasing Shukracharya greatly with his devotion and austerity. Soon, the danavas came to know that Kacha was still alive and learned what had happened. They resolved to kill Kacha again, but this time they would ensure that even their great preceptor would not be able to resurrect his pupil. They waited impatiently for a suitable opportunity and found one soon enough.

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