Sunday, June 8, 2014

Reading Guide E-F: Buck. Mahabharata.

READING E (go to Reading F)

This portion of Buck's Mahabharata covers pp. 191-246 (page numbers may vary by edition).

p. 191. Yudhishthira at the lake. 

The Pandavas chase a deer deep into the forest. Yudhishthira sends his brothers one after another to fetch water from a lake, but they do not return. When Yudhishthira comes to the lake he finds their bodies. An invisible voice tells Yudhishthira he must answer questions before being allowed to drink. Yudhishthira answers all the questions and then learns that this is a test posed by his divine father, Dharma (remember: Yama is the "Dharmaraja," the Dharma King). Yama then revives the four brothers.

p. 199. In Virata's court. 

King Virata is the ruler of the Matsya kingdom, where the Pandavas decide to spend their thirteenth year of exile in disguise. Before joining the court, they hide their weapons in a tree in a cemetery. Yudhishthira enters Virata's service as a brahmin with expertise in dice and chess. Bhima becomes Virata's cook. Sudeshna, the wife of Virata, employs Draupadi as her personal maid. Sahadeva impresses Virata by being able to predict an eclipse, and he agrees to put Sahadeva in charge of tending his cattle. Urvashi's curse transforms Arjuna into a eunuch and he lives with the women of the court as a teacher of music and dancing, taking the name Brihannala (Vrihannala). Nakula takes on a job tending the horses.

p. 209. Karna and Indra. 

[Note that Buck includes this story of Karna and Indra which was omitted in Narayan, while Buck is going to omit the story of Karna and Parashurama, which Narayan did include.] Indra decides he wants the armor and earrings which Karna had worn from his brith and which form his natural armor. Karna's divine father, the sun god Surya, warns him to refuse Indra, but Karna says he is honor-bound to agree to this request, and he assures Surya he will get something in return from Indra. Indra comes to Karna disguised as a friendly brahmin and asks for the armor and earrings. Karna recognizes Indra and demands that he give him an infallible throwing dart, which Indra gives to him, although it can be used only once.

p. 215. Kichaka.

Kichaka, one of King Virata's generals, is the brother of Queen Sudeshna. He conceives a passionate desire for Draupadi at first sight. Draupadi resists his attentions and warns him that she is under the protection of five gandharva husbands. Kichaka scoffs at this, and then he assaults her. Draupadi runs to Virata for protection but this does not deter Kichaka. Draupadi arranges a midnight rendezvous with Kichaka and sends Bhima in her place, and he crushes Kichaka into a shapeless ball of flesh. Kichaka's kinsmen are outraged and want to burn Draupadi on Kichaka's pyre, but she is rescued by Vaishravana, the treasure lord.

p. 222. The cattle raid. 

Now that Kichaka is dead, Susharman and Duryodhana prepare a raid on King Virata's cattle. Virata takes his army to chase after Susharman, but this leaves his kingdom unprotected. Only Prince Uttara is on hand when Duryodhana and the Kaurava army launch the second phase of the attack. [Note that the prince is named Uttara with a short "a" at the end of his name, and the princess is named Uttara (Uttarā), with a long "a" at the end of her name.]. Draupadi tells Uttara that Brihannala had been Arjuna's charioteer, and so Uttara appoints Brihannala to be his charioteer. Arjuna pretends not to know how to put on his armor, and he then drives Uttara out to the battle front. When Uttara sees Duryodhana and the Kaurava army, he runs away in fear but Arjuna drags him back to the chariot and offers to do the fighting while Uttara drives. They retrieve the Pandavas' weapons (which they had concealed during their stay in Virata's court), and Arjuna reveals his identity to Uttara. Arjuna then blows his conch shell to announce the coming battle, and Duryodhana insists that the Pandavas have failed in their obligation to remain concealed for a year. Bhishma corrects Duryodhana, telling him that the exile of the Pandavas is finished and that they met the stipulated requirements. Arjuna then uses a weapon to make the Kaurava army fall asleep, and he and Uttara cut pieces of cloth from the sleeping Kaurava generals. Bhishma does not fall asleep like the other generals, but he is unable to stop Arjuna. When Duryodhana awakes, he sees Arjuna leaving the battle field, victorious. Princess Uttara is surprised when her brother returns with a strange warrior in his chariot. Virata offers Princess Uttara to Arjuna as a wife, and they marry. [Note that Buck does not include the character of Arjuna's son Abhimanyu, so here Arjuna replaces Abhimanyu as Uttara's husband.]

p. 235. Sanjaya's visit. 

Sanjaya comes to see the Pandavas on a mission from Dhritarashtra. Yudhishthira says he wants Indraprastha to be given back, or at least five villages, one for each brother. Krishna weeps when he sees Sanjaya became he realizes the days of the Kauravas are coming to an end. Dhritarashtra wants to give Indraprastha back to the Pandavas, but Duryodhana refuses to give the Pandavas any land at all. Karna says he is ready to fight the Pandavas single-handed, but Bhishma is pessimistic about victory and this enrages Karna. Karna refuses to fight so long as Bhishma is bearing arms. Kripa thinks the war is a terrible thing, but he agrees to support Duryodhana.

p. 238 Krishna.

Arjuna and Duryodhana both go to see Krishna on the same day and find him asleep. When Krishna awakes, he sees Arjuna first and offers him a choice: he can take Krishna as his ally, or he can have all the soldiers of Krishna's army. Arjuna chooses Krishna as his ally, giving the soldiers to Duryodhana. Duryodhana is delighted with this choice. But first Krishna makes one last effort to secure a peace, going to Hastinapura, where he sees Vidura and Kunti. Vidura wants Krishna to avoid Duryodhana, but Krishna is not afraid. Duryodhana offers Krishna various gifts, but Krishna refuses them and tells Duryodhana he should surrender half of the kingdom to the Pandavas. Duryodhana will not compromise. Meanwhile, Krishna's ally Satyaki is aware that Duryodhana and his brother Duhshasana plan to capture Krishna, and he warns Krishna. Duhshasana does draw his sword in order to threaten Krishna, trying to arrest him. Krishna hurls his chakra at Duhshasana, and it cuts off his head. A stream of energy exits from Duhshasana's body and enters into Krishna. [Note that Buck has conflated characters here, substituting Duhshasana for the character of Shisupala, who was killed by Krishna but who was energetically joined to him after death, just as Buck describes the slaying of Duhshasana here.]

p. 244. Krishna and Karna. 

Krishna then leaves the court and has a final conversation with Karna, pleading with him to desert Duryodhana and join the Pandavas, who are his brothers. Karna refuses and declares that his loyalty to Duryodhana is absolute. He explains that his mother abandoned him and that he regards Adhiratha the chariot driver and his wife as his true parents.The battle is set to begin in seven days' time.

READING F (go to Reading E)

This portion of Buck's Mahabharata covers pp. 247-305 (page numbers may vary by edition).

p. 247. Before the battle. 

Vyasa comes to Hastinapura to tell Dhritarashtra of the battle preparations. Vyasa sees many bad omens before the battle of Kurukshetra, and Dhritarashtra sadly admits to Vyasa that he is not able to control his sons. Vyasa bestows heavenly sight on Sanjaya in order to observe the battle so that he can tell Dhritarashtra everything that happens. Duryodhana, meanwhile, appoints Bhishma as his commander. Because of this, Karna refuses to fight. Bhishma agrees to command Duryodhana's army, but explains that he will not fight a woman or anyone born as a woman.

p. 252. Amba's story. 

Remember Amba? Bhishma had won Amba at a swayamvara but let her go because Amba was in love with King Shalwa. Yet Shalwa also rejected Amba. When Shalwa rejected Amba, she had nowhere to go, so she went into the forest where she met a hermit. The hermit gave Amba a bow and a knife and told her to make an arrow. After Amba made the arrow, Shiva appeared to her and gave her a piece of cloth to tie around the arrow she had made. When Amba shot the arrow, she fell down dead at Shiva's feet. Meanwhile, Drupada had been praying to Shiva for a child. Shiva told Drupada that his wife was carrying a son, yet when his wife gave birth the child was a daughter, named Shikhandini. But because Drupada was expecting a son, he treated his daughter Shikhandini as if she were a boy. He even arranged a marriage for Shikhandini, but the bride of Shikhandini was appalled to find out Shikhandini was a woman, not a man. Shikhandini then went off into the forest, where she met a yaksha named Sthuna. Shikhandini asked the yaksha to make her into a man. The yaksha agreed to trade genders with Shikhandini so Shikhandini could become male. When Vaishravana found out that Sthuna - now Sthuni - had become female, he was enraged and cursed Sthuni to remain female forever. Sthuni begged Vaishravana not to make her remain a female forever, so Vaishravana agreed that Sthuni would become male when Shikhandin died. Shikhandini was grateful to the yaksha for trading genders and went into battle as a male warrior called Shikhandin.

p. 257. The battle begins. 

We hear about the battle as Sanjaya narrates the story to Dhritarashtra. As the battle opens, Duryodhana's army is larger than the army of Yudhishthira. Bhishma is leading Duryodhana's army, and Arjuna is in despair at the thought of fighting Bhishma, whom he regards as a grandfather. Arjuna is also in despair at the prospect of fighting his gurus Kripa and Drona. Krishna tells Arjuna that there is nothing that could be done to stop the war and thus persuades him to fight. Yudhishthira, meanwhile, puts aside his armor and bows down before Bhishma. Bhishma is pleased that Yudhishthira has come to salute him before battle. Yudhishthira tells the Kauravas he will accept anyone who came over to their side. Yuyutsu, the son of Dhritarashtra and a female servant, goes over to the Pandava side.

p. 265. Bhishma in battle. 

Bhishma kills Virata, the king of the Matsyas, in battle. Bhishma's fighting powers are awesome, even though he is an old man. When Krishna decides to attack Bhishma with his discus, Arjuna stops him. Duryodhana tells Bhishma not to spare the Pandavas. Meanwhile, Arjuna teams up with Shikhandin to attack Bhishma. Bhishma is pierced with so many arrows his body does not touch the ground when he falls from his chariot. When Bhishma falls, all fighting ceases on the battlefield, and flowers rain down from heaven. Arjuna creates a pillow for Bhishma's head with his arrows, and he shoots an arrow into the ground to bring water to Bhishma. Bhishma has the power to choose the exact moment of his death, and he plans to lie on his bed of arrows until the winter solstice. Krishna comes to Bhishma and bestows on him a peaceful sleep that releases him from pain.

p. 272. Uttara and Jayadratha. 

Duryodhana makes Drona the chief general after Bhishma falls in battle, and he tells Drona to capture Yudhishthira alive. Drona asks Susharman's help to lure Arjuna way so he can catch Yudhishthira. Arjuna, however, manages to bind Susharman with snakes by using a naga mantra. In the meantime, Uttara has launched an attack on Drona, but Jayadratha cuts him off from behind, leaving young prince Uttara trapped behind enemy lines. [Notice here that Buck has replaced the character of Arjuna's young son Abhimanyu with Arjuna's young friend Uttara.] Uttara is slaughtered by the Kauravas. Arjuna returns, and is distraught over the death of young prince Uttara. He vows to kill Jayadratha to avenge Uttara's death. To find Jayadratha, Arjuna presses ahead. Drona ties Duryodhana's armor with special knots to protect him from Arjuna's advance. Because of the secret knots in his armor, Arjuna's attack does not harm Duryodhana. Arjuna then beheads Jayadratha but doesn't let the head fall to the ground, fearing the curse of Jayadratha's father: when Jayadratha was born, it was predicted that he would be beheaded, so his father had put a curse on the man who let his son's head fall to the ground, causing that man's head to burst. So when Arjuna beheads Jayadratha he makes the head fly through the air and fall into the lap of Jayadratha's own father, who is deep in meditation in the forest. As Jayadratha's father stands up, he lets Jayadratha's head fall to the ground, causing his own head to burst into pieces.

p. 278. The death of Drona. 

In battle Drona manages to kill Drupada, his sworn enemy. Yet when Drona hears that his son Ashwatthaman has been killed, he falls into despair. (Ashwatthaman is not really dead - it is an elephant named Ashwatthaman that Bhima has killed.) In grief, Drona puts aside all his weapons. Dhristadyumna, the son of Drupada, finds Drona unarmed and beheads him. Arjuna weeps when Drona dies. Ashwatthaman is prepared to use a weapon of enormous power to avenge his father's death. Ashwatthaman launches his death weapon, but Krishna tells everyone to drop their weapons, stand on the earth, and put all thoughts of war out of their minds. This causes Ashwatthaman's weapon to fail.

p. 285. The duel of Karna and Arjuna. 

Karna pays a visit to Arjuna and challenges Arjuna to battle. Arjuna accepts. Karna has been made general after Drona's death. Duryodhana thus refuses to surrender and fights on, convinced that fate could change at any moment and bring him victory. Krishna is Arjuna's charioteer, and Shalya is Karna's charioteer. Karna has saved his special weapon for Arjuna's death, but during the battle his chariot wheel gets stuck in the ground. As Arjuna approaches him, Karna launches the weapon he had gotten from Indra, but Krishna uses his foot to lower Arjuna's chariot into the ground. Arjuna thus escapes from Karna's weapon, and while Karna is still trying to get his chariot wheel free from the ground, Arjuna kills him, chopping off his head. Duryodhana weeps when Karna dies, and the Kaurava army despairs. Shalya asks to lead the army after Karna's death, but he is soon killed by Yudhishtira in battle. Nakula and Sahadeva, meanwhile, kill Shakuni in battle. When Sanjaya is caught, Dhristadyumna wants to kill him but Krishna protects him. Now that the Kaurava forces have been completely routed, Yuyutsu takes the widows of the warriors back to Hastinapura.

p. 303. Duryodhana.

Although Yuyutsu goes back to Hastinapura, Sanjaya stays on the battlefield and finds Duryodhana alone, badly wounded. Sanjaya feels sorrow when he sees Duryodhana in this condition. Duryodhana asks Sanjaya to lead him to a nearby lake and he then uses the power of illusion to enter into the water of the lake and hide. The few survivors on the Kaurava side — Kripa, Kritavarman and Ashwatthaman — find Sanjaya beside the lake and ask where they can find Duryodhana. Sanjaya shows them the lake where Duryodhana has concealed himself. Ashwatthaman speaks to Duryodhana inside the lake, telling Ashwatthaman that he is tired and will come out of the lake the next day. Meanwhile, hunters see Ashwatthaman speaking to the lake, and they go tell Bhima what they have seen. Kripa, Kritavarman, Ashwatthaman and Sanjaya hide when the Pandavas came to the lake for their final confrontation with Duryodhana.

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