Wednesday, October 15, 2008

PDE Mahabharata: Bhima and Kichaka

Reading Guide. Remember when Draupadi was dragged into the assembly hall, and none of her husbands could intervene to help her? It will happen again now: the brother of Queen Sudeshna, Prince Kichaka, tries to rape Draupadi. and her husbands cannot even acknowledge her openly. In secret, though, Bhima defends Draupadi, and she will claim that the deed was done by her husband who is an immortal gandharva.

SourceThe Indian Heroes by C. A. Kincaid (1921). [700 words]

King Virata | 52. Bhima and Kichaka | Cattle Raid

Prince Kichaka was the bravest and fiercest warrior in all the wild lands of Viratnagar. All men, even the kindly king himself, feared his savage temper and reckless daring. And all women feared to meet his gaze. For many a maid in Viratnagar had lived to rue the day when his wicked eyes had first rested on her and found her fair.

Prince Kichaka at once on entering the city did homage to King Virata. Next he went to see his sister Queen Sudeshna. As he talked to her, his eye fell on the lovely serving maid Sairandhri. And he begged Queen Sudeshna to send the maid to his palace. The Queen loved her brother so dearly that she could refuse him nothing. Sorely against her will, she bade Sairandhri make ready a tray of food and wine, and take it with her to Prince Kichaka’s palace.

Slowly and with sinking heart, the dark princess set out with the tray to Prince Kichaka’s palace. No sooner had she entered the door, than Prince Kichaka seized her by the waist and sought to embrace her. But the dark princess freed herself lightly from his clasp, and, throwing in his face the tray of food and wine, fled back as fast as she could to King Virata’s palace. Behind her, maddened with rage, Prince Kichaka ran swifter still. Overtaking her as she entered the palace door, he struck her face with his clenched fist. The princess all but fell. Then recovering herself she fled straight on to the audience room of King Virata and burst into it unannounced.

There she showed her bleeding face to the king and, telling him her story, cried aloud to him for justice. But King Virata feared to cross Prince Kichaka. He laughed at Draupadi and said to her lightly, "Nay, I think thou thyself art the cruel one, fair waiting maid. Else thou wouldst never have left the prince’s love unrequited."

The dark princess answered nothing. Speechless with shame and anger, she slipped away from the audience room amid the laughter of the courtiers. She searched through the palace until she found Prince Bhima asleep in his room and told Bhima what had passed in Prince Kichaka’s palace.

"Fear not," he said, holding out his huge hands. "Tomorrow night I will slay the monster with these. There is a dancing-hall in a distant part of the palace. Bid Prince Kichaka meet thee there tomorrow night. And I, instead of thee, will await his coming and he shall not leave my loving embrace alive."

The next evening, as darkness fell, Prince Bhima went to the dancing-hall and hid himself there. And after everyone in the palace had gone to rest, he heard Prince Kichaka come tiptoe through the passage and enter the room.

Through the darkness, Prince Kichaka saw a form in the room, and he thought that the waiting maid was before him at the tryst. "Pardon me, fair maid," he whispered, "for my delay. For of a truth no maid hath ever moved my heart as thou hast."

But as the words left his lips, Prince Bhima came close to him and whispered with a mocking laugh, "Thou shalt love fair maids no more, valiant Prince, for I will so deal with thee tonight that no maid shall know hereafter that thou ever wert a man."

Bhima then threw Prince Kichaka on the ground. Kneeling on him, he gripped his throat with both his hands. Nor did he loosen his grip until Kichaka had ceased to breathe. Then, taking hold of his body, he kneaded it and pounded it, and rolled it up and down the floor until at last none could have said whether the body had been that of a man or of an animal.

When he had finished, the dark Princess came to his side. For, unknown to Bhima, she had followed Prince Kichaka so that she might see his death. She smiled on Bhima and said, "Well done, my lord. Thou hast made clean my honor and that of the Pandavas."

Bhima rose and embraced her and said, "Draupadi, go thou and rouse the other maid-servants and say to them, 'O serving maids, Prince Kichaka is dead. My husband, who is an Immortal, caught him with me. And, finding us together, my husband slew him.'"

King Virata | Bhima and Kichaka | Cattle Raid

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