After the death of King Pandu, his sons, the Pandavas, were raised as princes under the care of their blind uncle, Dhrtarastra, and their grandfather Bhisma. As the Mahabharata continues, the sage Vaisampayana tells how the Pandava Bhima invoked the resentment of one of Dhrtarastra's sons.
THE PANDAVAS were trained in all the Vedic reformatory ceremonies meant to sanctify human life, and they steadily grew, enjoying all the pleasures of a princely life. Living in their father's house, they played with the sons of Dhrtarastra, and in all the games children play, the Pandavas excelled their cousins. In eating, racing, hitting a target, and raising dust, Bhimasena soundly defeated all the sons of Dhrtarastra. As the sons of Dhrtarastra played, Bhimasena would joyfully grab them by the tufts of hair above their ears, and holding their heads down, the Pandava boy would have them fight one another.
All the sons of Dhrtarastra were very powerful boys, trained and destined to be fighters and kings. But Vrkodara, Bhima, all alone, would push and defeat them all with little trouble, even though they numbered 101. With great strength he would grab them by their legs, pull them down, and drag them yelling on the ground, scraping their knees, heads, and faces. When the boys played in the water, Bhima would embrace ten of them with his arms, remain submerged in the water until they almost drowned, and then release them. When they would climb a tree to collect fruits, Bhima would strike the tree with his foot and make it shake so forcefully that the dizzy boys would fall with their armfuls of fruit. In combat, in racing, in drills and gymnastics, the boys could never win against Bhima.
Although Bhima always competed with his cousins, he had no desire to hurt them. Rather, he acted with boyish enthusiasm. But his cousins developed a terrible hatred for him, which he in no way felt toward them. Seeing that Bhima was becoming renowned for his strength, one fierce warrior son of Dhrtarastra began to show a wicked attitude toward Bhima. As the sons of Pandu and Dhrtarastra became young men, this son of Dhrtarastra turned away from virtue and began to contemplate evil deeds. So deluded was he by greed for power that his mind became sinful.
"Bhima is the mightiest of men," he thought. "Since I cannot kill him fairly, I will destroy by trickery the middle son of Kunti and Pandu. Then, by capturing and locking up his elder brother, Yudhisthira, and his younger brother Arjuna, I shall rule the earth and all its riches."
Having made up his mind, that sinful man named Duryodhana began to look constantly for opportunities to assassinate the great soul Bhimasena.
For water sports, O Bharata, Duryodhana had large, colorful tents set up on a bank of the Ganges near Pramana-koti. All the cousins went there. When their play was finished, they put on fresh clothes and attractive jewelry and silently enjoyed heaping plates of sumptuous food that satisfied all their desires. When day was done, the Kuru princes, exhausted from a long day of sports, eagerly entered their tents to rest. Even mighty Bhima was fatigued, having won all the contests and games. That powerful prince had carried all the other boys during their games in the water. Eager to bed down for the night, he climbed up on the raised earth where their tents were built, and slept on the fertile land of Pramana-koti. Tired, and dizzy from drinking, O king, the son of Pandu, dressed in white cloth, slept unmoving, like a dead body.
Duryodhana silently approached Bhima in the black of night and bound him with strong cords made from crawling plants. He pushed Bhima off the camping plateau into the deep water below as it rushed by with fearful force, like that of Bhima himself. Waking up within the rushing waves of the Ganges, the son of Kunti, the best of fighters, snapped the binding cords and climbed out of the water.
Another time, while Bhima slept Duryodhana brought highly venemous serpents, with sharp fangs and furious mood, and had them bite deeply into the weak and mortal parts of Bhima's body. But even when those terrible serpents angrily sank their fangs into the softest parts of Bhima's body, they could not pierce his skin, for his broad-chested body was as hard as iron. Bhima then awoke and crushed all the snakes, and in the process struck his favorite chariot driver with the back of his hand.
Another time, Duryodhana threw into Bhima's food fresh Kalakuta poison, so deadly that to hear about it makes one's hair stand on end. Yuyutsu, son of a vaisya mother, wanted to save the sons of Partha, so he told them what had happened. But Bhima had already eaten the food, and without suffering any effect, he simply digested it.
So by various schemes and plots, Duryodhana, Karna, and Sakuni, son of Subala, tried to assassinate the sons of Pandu. O tamer of the foe, the Pandavas discerned all that was happening, but staunchly following the advice of Vidura, they did not expose their knowledge.
Seeing that the children's play was becoming too violent, King Dhrtarastra looked for a guru to educate the boys. He eventually turned them over to Gautama, also known as Krpa, a master of the Vedic literature, who had taken birth from a clump of grass.
The Story Of Krpa
King Janamejaya said:
Great brahmana, kindly explain to me Krpa's origin. How could he take birth from a clump of grass, and how did he acquire his expert knowledge of weapons?
Sri Vaisampayana said:
O mighty king, once the great seer Gautama had a son who was born with arrows and hence was named Saradvan. The child was inspired to study the Vedic texts that teach the military science rather than study the religious texts. Just as by austerity religious scholars master the Vedas, so by serious austerity did that child acquire expertise in all kinds of weapons. Wholly dedicated to the Dhanur Veda (the military science) and empowered by endless austerities, the son of Gautama greatly disturbed Lord Indra, king of the gods. O Kaurava, Indra then dispatched a heavenly maiden named Jalapadi, telling her, "You must go and break the austierities of that sage!"
Jalapadi approached the charming hermitage of Saradvan and found him standing with bow and arrows in hand. She enticed him. Seeing the Apsara maiden, who had but a single cloth to cover a figure unmatched in this world, the son of Gautama stared with wide-open eyes. His prized bow and arrows slipped from his hands and fell to the ground, for simply seeing her made his whole body tremble. Because of his continuous austerities, he had developed very heavy spiritual knowledge, and with his utmost self-discipline that sage of great learning stood his ground. But with the sudden transformations in his body, Saradvan unknowingly discharged semen, which fell into a clump of reeds. He then left behind his hermitage, and the woman and went away. Having fallen into a clump of reeds, the semen divided into two, O king, and thus twins were born of Saradvan, son of Gautama.
Santanu Finds The Twins
Once when King Santanu was hunting, one of his soldiers happened to see the twins lying in the forest. Seeing too the bow and arrows that had fallen there, and also the black deer skins, the soldier determined the children to be offspring of a brahmana who had mastered the Dhanur Veda. He showed the twins and the arrows to the king, who was filled with compassion. Taking the twins, the king went back to his home. "These two shall be my own children," he said. He raised them carefully and engaged them in the purifying religious rites. Meanwhile, Saradvan, son of Gautama, having escaped the wiles of the Apsara maiden, rededicated himself to the military science.
The king thought, "I have carefully raised these two children out of a sense of mercy," and so he named the male child Krpa ("mercy"), and the female Krpi ("lady mercy").
By his powerful austerities, Saradvan, the son of Gautama, discovered that he had fathered two children. He went to the king and explained everything about the birth and lineage of the twins. Saradvan then taught his son the four branches of the Dhanur Veda and fully explained the use of all kinds of weapons. Within a short time, Krpa became a great teacher, paramacarya, of the military art. From him the sons of Dhrtarastra and the mighty Pandavas, along with the Vrsnis and other kings who came from many countries, all learned the Dhanur Veda and achieved the exalted warrior status of maharatha.
Sri Vaisampayana said:
Bhisma sought a distinct excellence for his grandsons and desired for them self-discipline and selflessness. He searched for great teachers of archery and missile warfare renowned for their prowess. Only a man of great intelligence, exalted qualities, keen knowledge of weapons, and the strength and nobility of the gods could hope to control the mighty Kuru warriors and train them in the use of weapons. [That person would be Drona, whose story follows.]
Drona, Master Of Military Science
It so happened that once the great self-realized sage Bharadvaja happened to be in Hardwar, where the Ganges enters the plains. The illustrious sage, ever strict in his vows, was busy in the work of sacrifice, when he beheld an Apsara named Ghrtaci, who had just bathed. Suddenly, a wind blew past, shaking her garments and dragging them away. The girl had been drinking, and the drink made her bold and careless. She stood exposed in all her wonderful youthful beauty. Seeing this, the saintly Bharadvaja spilled his semen, but the wise sage gathered up the spilt seed and placed it in a bucket or pot, and from that vessel the wise Drona* took birth. He thoroughly studied all the Vedas with their supplements.
* drona: pot, bucket.
Powerful Bharadvaja, the best of the righteous, taught the weapon of fire to the lordly Agni-vesya, who was born on the day of glorification of the fire-god. Agni-vesya then taught the same great weapon, the Rgneya, to Bharadvaja's son, Drona.
O best of the Bharatas, Bharadvaja's friend King Prsata had a son named Drupada, a leader among all the princes. He used to go to Bharadvaja's hermitage, where he would play and study with Drona. When Prsata passed away, the mighty-armed Drupada became sovereign king of the North Pancala. The exalted Bharadvaja then ascended to heaven, and the illustrious Drona, by his father's command and by his own desire to have a son, took the hand of Krpi, daughter of Saradvan, in sacred marriage.
Krpi, the granddaughter of Gautama, was always fond of sacrifice, religion, and self-control. Her fate was to obtain Asvatthama as her son. As soon as Asvatthama was born, he sounded forth like Uccaihsrava, the celestial stallion. Hearing this sound, an invisible being standing within inner space said, "This child has sent forth his horselike sound in all directions, and therefore his name will be Asvatthama.*"
* asva: (of a) horse; sthaman: strength, neighing (of a horse).
Drona Meets Parasurama
The learned Drona, pleased with his son, stayed where his son was born and devoted himself to the Dhanur Veda. Once he heard that the great soul and warrior Parasurama, son of Jamadagni, wanted to give all kinds of wealth to the brahmanas. Upon learning that Lord Parasurama possessed complete mastery of the Dhanur Veda and many divine weapons, Drona decided to beg them in charity and also to beg for instruction in the political science. Drona, the great and mighty-armed ascetic, departed, surrounded by his austere disciples, who were fixed in their vows. He headed for the glorious mountain called Mahendra, where Lord Parasurama had retired after annihilating the royal class. Approaching Mahendra, the saintly son of Bharadvaja saw Lord Parasurama, protector of the brahmanas, sitting patiently, his senses fully quieted, having already slain his enemies.
Approaching the Lord, Drona, accompanied by his disciples, gave his name, told of his birth in the line of Angira, and respectfully greeted the Lord by offering his head on the ground at the Lord's lotus feet. Drona then said to Lord Parasurama, who had retired to that forest, "You may thus know me to be Drona, a leader among the brahmanas. I have come here seeking financial help."
Lord Parasurama said:
My dear ascetic, I have already given the brahmanas everything, all my gold and whatever wealth I had. Even the earth goddess herself, to the ends of her oceans, with all her towns and garlands of cities all of the earth I have given to the sage Kasyapa. All that I have left now is my body, my invaluable missiles, and various other weapons. You choose, Drona. What shall I offer you? Tell me quickly. Choose my weapons or my own body, for I place them at your disposal.
Sri Drona said:
O Bhargava, you should kindly offer me all of your weapons, with all the secrets related to their use, including the art of pulling them back even after they have been launched.
Sri Vaisampayana said:
"So be it," said Lord Parasurama, acting as a brahmana in the line of Bhrgu. He gave Drona all his weapons, with their secret rules, and the entire military science. Accepting all, Drona, best of the twice-born, became accomplished in weapons. He then went in great joy to see his dear friend Drupada.
Hridayananda Dasa Goswami led the team of devotee-scholars who completed the translation and commentary of Srimad-Bhagavatam begun by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Fluent in several languages, Hridayananda Dasa Goswami has extensively taught Krsna consciousness in India, Europe, the United States, and Latin America. He is a member of the Governing Body Commission, the ultimate managing authority of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. He is now doing graduate work in Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University.