Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

The First Battle Between The Cousins

Mahabharata


The news of this unusual marriage between one woman and five husbands spread all over the country. Many opinions were advanced on this marriage. In general, since the Pandavas were well liked, the opinions were positive. A formal message regarding the message was also sent to Mathura, where Krishna and Balarama resided.

When the news of this marriage reached them, Shakuni, Duryodhana and Karna started to discuss what was to be done next. Somadatta, an ally of Duryodhana was also present in this council.

Shakuni said, "There are many different classes of enemies. Some enemies can be kept quiet by frequently causing trouble for them. They would then be too busy to actively oppose you. Some other enemies have to be kept under control by a show of strength. However, for strong opponents such as the Pandavas, the only effective course is to utterly destroy them. While it is true that they now have the alliance of Drupada to support them, it is my belief that Drupada's strength has been overestimated. If we can launch a quick attack, we will be able to overwhelm him before he has a chance to summon assistance from his allies."

Somadatta was of a different opinion. He said, "I think that Drupada is every bit as strong as the popular report says he is. Moreover, his army is well trained and alert. The Pandavas are also no mean warriors. I have had an opportunity to examine the defenses of the Panchalas. It will take a very large and determined force to assault them. The scriptures say that under such circumstances, when faced with superior defenses, wisdom lies in a truce. I suggest that you become reconciled with your cousins."

Karna said, "I agree in part with Somadatta's advice. He has given his advice based upon his immense knowledge of warcraft. However, even a superior force may be unable to defend a kingdom, when the enemies attack when least expected. I do not think the Panchalas would be expecting an attack at this time. Let us amass our army and launch a surprise attack. Victory is sure to be ours!"

Karna's advice was accepted. The Kaurava army was ordered to march on the Panchala capital. Duryodhana, Karna and Somadatta were the commanders of this army. Contrary to Karna's expectation, the Pandavas were very much alert to the possibility of an attack from their cousins. Consequently, when the Kauravas marched on Panchala, they confronted an alert, well prepared army.

This was the first time the two cousins took to the battlefield openly. This served as a precursor to the great battle of Kurukshetra that was to come in the future. Apart from the Pandavas, the Panchala army was led by Dhrishtadhyumna and King Drupada himself.

The battle of archery between Arjuna and Karna was particularly vicious. The fortunes fluctuated wildly in this battle, but at last, Karna swooned, struck by an arrow from Arjuna. The charioteer of Karna mistakenly thought that his master had been grievously hurt, so he drove him quickly out of the battlefield. Seeing Karna carted away unconscious, the Kaurava army lost heart. They were soon forced to flee from the battlefield. The first war between the cousins ended with a victory for the Pandavas.

Meanwhile, the news of the Pandavas' good fortune reached Vidura. He immediately went to Dhritharashtra and said to him, "The Scions of the Kurus have emerged victorious in the Swayamvara. Draupadi is now your daughter-in-law!".

Naturally, Dhritharashtra thought that his sons had won the hand of Draupadi. Vidura soon, disabused his mind of this impression, and told him the news that the Pandavas were very much alive, and were now had an alliance with the great house of the Panchalas. Dhritharashtra was very much disappointed, but he hid his chagrin, and told Vidura that he was extremely happy to hear the news and will soon invite his nephews back to the kingdom.

Duryodhana, who had been present during this exchange, waited till Vidura had left and said, "Father. How can you be glad at this news? The Pandavas are no longer friendless. They return triumphantly, allied with one of the most powerful Kings. Have you not forgotten that our plan was to isolate them?".

Dhritharashtra said, "Son. I have not forgotten our earlier plans. However, it is not politic for us to let Vidura know the extent of your hatred for the Pandavas. Besides, we will soon have to discuss this issue in the full council, where Drona, Kripa and our grand-sire Bhishma will be present. There will be time enough to make your views known at that point."

Duryodhana said, "It is because the Pandavas are united that they are invincible. Now there is a heaven sent opportunity to sow dissension in their midst. When five men have to share a woman, it will be easy to make them jealous of each other. Or we can get Draupadi to hate them by sending other women to seduce them. Alternatively, we can offer great wealth to Drupada and get him to forsake the Pandavas. We must do something or the other to defeat the Pandavas."

Karna who was present during this time, said, "O Duryodhana, your ideas are impractical. The Pandavas will not be seduced by other women. It is also impossible for us to get Draupadi to hate them. All women naturally desire multiple men. Luckily for Draupadi, she has five husbands to satisfy her desires. She will not turn against them, nor allow them to quarrel amongst themselves. Drupada is not a covetous man, he cannot be bribed to turn against the Pandavas. The only way open to us is the path of valor. It is true that we were defeated once, however, I have every faith in our strength. If we plan properly, we shall be able to mount an effective campaign and destroy the Pandavas."

Dhritharashtra once again reiterated his position that the advice of the other elders must be taken before taking any action. Soon, the full council was convened. Among many other great warriors, the allies of the Kurus, Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, Somadatta Baaahlika were the principal councillors.

Vidura, informed all those present that the Pandavas were alive, and that they were at present the guests of their father-in-law Drupada. He beseeched Dhritharashtra to invite them back and to grant them rule over half of the kingdom.

Bhishma got up and said, "It is with great joy that I hear the news of the Pandava's good fortune. I have always deplored the senseless hatred that Duryodhana and Karna have displayed towards these noble princes. It is time that we give the honor that is due to them. Let messengers be sent to Panchala, and the princes be invited to come here with all due respect, accompanied by the peerless Draupadi. Let the invitation also be extended to Drupada and his kinsmen. They have become related to us by marriage. This occasion should be celebrated as befitting our status. You know that there are rumors floating around that the fire at the house of lac was not an accident, that Purochana was acting under Duryodhana's orders. Your whole-hearted welcome to the Pandavas will set such ill-natured rumors at rest. O Dhritharashtra, wipe away this stigma from your illustrious name. As Vidura suggests, give half the kingdom to the Pandavas and watch the whole kingdom prosper!".

Drona and Kripa were of the same opinion. Drona said, "Our grand-sire has spoken nothing but the truth. It pains me to see that my disciples are at loggerheads with each other. It is well known that Duryodhana covets the entire kingdom. Do not let this dispute fester. Let both the Kauravas and the Pandavas inherit half a kingdom each. There are many precedents to such a proceeding in ancient times. Let there be peace all around. Remember that they are fatherless and that they look up to you as a father!"

Karna was incensed at the advice rendered by the elders of the Kuru race. He got up and said, "What kind of pacifist talk is these. You all have sworn your allegiance to King Dhritharashtra and are actively advising him to disinherit his children? Is not Dhritharashtra eldest of the Kurus? Is not the throne of Hastinapura the birthright of his first born - Duryodhana? It looks like all of you are afraid of the prowess of the Pandavas. I admit that they are great warriors. But is it not a shame for Kshatriyas to yield to others, simply because they fear defeat? Let us make war upon the Pandavas and establish the right of Duryodhana to rule over Hastinapura. Let the decision be left to the battle-field!"

Drona grew very angry. He said, "This low-born son of a charioteer does not know right from wrong. He is like the jackal that fancies itself great, because it does not know of the greatness of the Lion. Duryodhana, your friendship for this ill mannered lout will lead you to destruction. He talks about his prowess as an archer, but it is well known that he has been thrice defeated by Arjuna already. All of us have sworn an oath to look after the welfare of the Kurus. We cannot be standing idle when your friend is trying to lead you to your destruction. I repeat, honor the Pandavas and you will be known as a great King. The great Bheema and Arjuna will be your allies. Who shall dare to attack you, when you have such incomparable friends? Make truce with them."

Vidura got up and said, "The Pandavas have as much right over the kingdom as Duryodhana. What Bhishma and Drona have suggested is the best course. Accept their suggestion. Send for the Pandavas."

Finally, Dhritharashtra said, "When all of you elders are of this opinion, this must be the best course of action. Vidura, you shall go to Panchala as my messenger. Convey my greetings to my nephews and also my salutations to Drupada. Tell them that I am desirous of crowning Yudhishtra king of the northern half of my kingdom. Invite everyone at Drupada's court to enjoy the hospitality of the Kurus."

Even as he spoke these words, Dhritharashtra had by no means given up hope that Duryodhana would succeed to rule the entire kingdom. It was just that he did not see a way in which that could be accomplished at this time. He was torn between love for his son, and a desire to do justice to his nephews. His agreement was in the nature of a temporary arrangement, while remaining alive to the possibility by which he could bring about his cherished dream.

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Last Modified At: Sun Nov 7 16:20:04 2004