Thursday, October 2, 2008

PDE Mahabharata: Preparations for War

Reading Guide. Now that the Pandavas' exile is over, war with the Kauravas seems inevitable, especially after the terrible vows of vengeance sworn by the Pandava brothers. Krishna nevertheless attempts to avoid war and make peace between the factions, as you will see in this episode.

Source. Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913). [700 words]

Cattle Raid | 54. Preparations for War | Krishna

To the marriage of Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna and Subhadra, came many great rajahs. Krishna came with his brother Balarama, and the Rajah Drupada came with his son Dhrishtadyumna.

Now the Rajah of Virata resolved to aid Yudhishthira in obtaining back his kingdom from the Kauravas, who protested that their kinsmen had been discovered before yet the complete term of exile was ended.

Shakuni, the cunning gambler, and the vengeful Karna supported the proud and evil-hearted Duryodhana in refusing to make peace with the Pandava brethren, despite the warnings of the sages who sat around the Maharajah Dhritarashtra.

Before the wedding guests departed from Virata, after merrymaking and song and dance, the elders and princes and chieftains assembled in the council chamber. Drupada was there with his son, and Krishna with his brother Balarama and Satyaki his kinsman, and all the Pandava brethren were there also, and many others both valiant and powerful. Bright and numerous as the stars were the gems that glittered on the robes of the mighty warriors. For a time they spake kindly greetings one to another, and jested and made merry.

Krishna sat pondering in silence, and at length he arose and spake, saying, "O rajahs and princes, may your fame endure for ever! Thou knowest well that Yudhishthira was deprived of his kingdom by the evil trickster Shakuni. He hath endured twelve years of exile, and hath served, like his brethren, as a humble menial for a further year in the palace of the Rajah of Virata. After long suffering Yudhishthira desires peace; his heart is without anger, although he hath endured great shame. The heart of Duryodhana, however, still burns with hate and jealous wrath; still, as in his youth, he desires to work evil by deceit against the Pandava brethren. Now, consider well, O ye monarchs, what Yudhishthira should do. Should he call many chieftains to his aid and wage war to punish his ancient foes? Or should he send friendly messengers to Duryodhana, asking him to restore the kingdom which he still continues to possess?"

Balarama then spoke and said, "Ye pious rajahs! Ye have heard the words of my brother, who loveth Yudhishthira. It is true, indeed, that the Kauravas have wronged the Pandavas. Yet I would counsel peace, so that this matter may be arranged between kinsmen. Yudhishthira hath brought his sufferings upon his own head. He was unwise to play with cunning Shakuni, and also to continue playing, despite the warnings of the elders and his friends. He hath suffered for his folly. Now let a messenger be sent to Duryodhana, entreating him to restore the throne unto Yudhishthira. I do not advise war. What hath been gambled away cannot be restored in battle."

Next arose Satyaki, the kinsman of Krishna. He said, "Yudhishthira hath fulfilled his obligation; his exile is past, and he is entitled to his kingdom. Why, therefore, should he beg for that which is his own? A kshatriya begs of no man; what is refused him he seizeth in battle at all times."

Drupada, Rajah of Panchala, then arose and said, "Ye monarchs, I fear that Satyaki hath spoken truly. Duryodhana will never yield up what he now possesseth, nor doth he desire peace. If we should send to him an ambassador who will speak mild words, he will think that we are weak, and become more boastful and arrogant than heretofore. My advice is that we should gather together a great army without delay. If Duryodhana is willing to give up the kingdom of Yudhishthira, there will be peace; if he scorns our friendship, he will find us ready for war."

Krishna again addressed the assembly and said, "Drupada hath spoken wisely. You all know that the Pandavas and Kauravas are my kinsmen; know also that they are equally dear unto me. I will now go hence. When ye send out messengers of war, let them enter my kingdom last of all."

Cattle Raid | Preparations for War | Krishna

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