Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Drona

On the eve of Teachers' Day as well as the release of an eponymous film, it is in order to recount the story of one of the most famous teachers we know - one who has the country's most prestigious sports coaching award named after him.

This story is necessitated by people's request to write about that one sin committed by the King of Virtue, Yudhishthir. People in those times had strange notions of virtue. Gambling away your brothers and wife was considered to be perfectly within a day's work as was five brothers marrying the same woman to keep the mother's casual utterance truthful.


Anyway, the Kurukshetra war lasted for 18 days and the Kauravas were led by commanders in order of seniority - Bhishma, Drona, Karna and Shalya. Now, each one of these commanders were enough to chew up the Paandav army except for one hitch - the first two loved the Paandavs more than the Kauravas but had to fight against them to fulfil their duty to the Hastinapur throne.
Bhishma, for example, refused to kill any of the Paandav brothers in battle. Drona, after being defeated by Arjun in a duel during the war, shed tears of joy at his favourite student's skills. But despite this, they consumed thousands of Paandav warriors.
I think Bhishma lasted till the 10th day of the war, when he was killed by Arjun hidden behind Shikhandi (whom Bhishma recognised as a woman reborn and refused to attack).
Talk about the virtuous and valiant Paandavs!

Now, came Drona!
He presided over the killing of Abhimanyu and caused untold damage to the Paandav forces. He killed Draupadi's father (Drupad) as well. Seeing his valour, Krishna realised that it would be impossible to contain him as long as he was armed. So, he surmised that Drona needs to give up arms to be killed.
In order to do so, Krishna suggested spreading the rumour that Ashwathama (Drona's son and apple of his eye) had died. It spread and Bheem announced to Drona that Ashwathama had died. Drona refused to believe him and asked for Yudhishthir to confirm the news because he knew that the King of Virtue would never lie.
Bheem, in the meantime, had killed an elephant called Ashwathama and informed Yudi.
His conversation with Drona went something like this:
D: Yudi, is it true that Ashwathama has been killed?
Y: Yes. (Sound effect of victorious conches and trumpets). The elephant, I mean (sotto voce).
Hearing this news, Drona lost all will to live and dropped his weapons. Draupadi's brother, Dhrishtadyumna (Wow, what a name! Beats even Diptakirti and Dyujoy...) went and killed the defenceless prof (thus avenging his father's death).

This was the only 'sin' Yudishthir committed in his life. Prior to this, his chariot used to glide four fingers above the ground but after this fall from grace, it touched the ground. Also, because of this, before Yudhishthir was allowed entry into heaven (in his mortal body), he had to take a tour of hell (which is probably the shortest stay in hell for anybody).
When he was touring hell, he saw all his brothers, wife and many relatives there. Most of Kaurava clan was in heaven, he was told. Seeing this, he refused to go to heaven because he wanted to spend his afterlife with his near and dear ones.
Another brownie point scored, he was told that virtuous people with some bit of sinning spend a short period in hell before spending an eternity in heaven. Which is why the Paandavs were doing their T20 in hell before being sent up for the Test match. Kauravas, on the other hand, were doing the opposite.
Hearing this and completing punishment for his only sin, Dharma Raaj reached and afterlived happily ever after!

While we are at it, I might as well recount why Dhrishthadyumna killed Drona.
Drupad and Drona were childhood friends and swore undying loyalty to each other. However, Drupad grew up and inherited the throne of Panchal while Drona was at a bit of a loose end. So, he travelled to Panchal and asked for help from his childhood friends. Drupad - drunk on power - told him that friendship is possible between equals and he can give alms to a brahmin beggar but nothing else.
A furious Drona went away and reached Hastinapur, impressed the princes with his skills of archery and was appointed their Acharya. He was given a village (to be called Guru Gaon or Gurgaon in the future!) outside the city.
ASIDE: Since Panchal is the present-day West UP near Agra, you can imagine how much richer Drona became than Drupad!
Anyway, Drona taught the princes well - and Arjun excelled to become his star pupil. At the end of the training, Drona asked the princes to give him his gurudakshina - they had to capture Drupad alive.
The Kauravas tried first and were beaten back by the valiant Drupad. In true Bollywood tradition, Paandavs came next and the five brothers steamrolled the Panchal army, with Arjun capturing Drupad. When brought before Drona, he set Drupad free and took half his kingdom, thus formally becoming his equal. Drupad was totally humiliated but he accepted the offer and Drona's friendship. What else could he have done, anyway?
But once back in his kingdom, he performed a powerful yagna to give him progeny to slay Drona. From the fire of the yagna, out walked a son Dhrishtadyumna (with the pronouncement, "the son who will kill Drona") and a daughter Draupadi (with the pronouncement, "the daughter who will precipitate the war in which Drona will be killed").

Okay, that's enough... Read Wikipedia for other Mahabharat stories!
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