Previous part: The Unconquered Warrior
It was the first prahar of the thirteenth day.
Bheem, the second of the Pandavas had vowed to kill all his hundred Kaurava brothers who had had the audacity to disrobe his wife Draupadi in the Hastinapur court.
Abhimanyu saw him standing all alone, waving his huge mace in the air, his eyes fixed at the horizon, as if he were battling with his inner demons. Draupadi had sent a plate of delicious ladoos along with him and had asked him to give it to Bheem. Approaching his uncle, he placed the plate on the table next to the weapons. Bheem put his mace to the ground and gave the young Abhimanyu a smile.
“We’ll win this war, uncle. Don’t you ever think otherwise. Uncle Krishna always told me that as long as you do your duty for the upliftment of Dharm, you have nothing to fear.” Abhimanyu told him.
“Your uncle Krishna is a strange man. Nothing he says or does has a straightforward message.” Bheem replied as he sat down next to his favourite nephew, picked a ladoo and placed it in Abhimanyu’s hand.
“I’m aware.” Abhimanyu replied, munching on the sweet. “But as long as he’s on our side, my father is invincible!”
Bheem gave a soft chuckle and placed another ladoo in Abhimanyu’s hand.
“I brought those for you, Uncle.” Abhimanyu said.
“I know.” Bheem said smiling.
All of a sudden, the two of them heard scurrying feet approaching them.
Nakul, the fourth of the Pandavas, came to talk to them. He looked so distressed that Bheem got up from his seat, his mighty personality shadowing that of his brother
“Guru Drona” Nakul said. “Our spies have returned from the enemies camp and they suspect that Guru Drona is planning to form the Chakravyuh today.”
Bheem’s expression turned grave.
“-they plan on vanquishing our army to the last man by the end of today and take brother Yudhishthira hostage.” Nakul completed.
Bheem gave out a loud laugh.
“Duryodhan and his weak plans. How did he imagine that we’d succumb to the discus when we have Arjun?”
Abhimanyu got up now, his fists clenched tightly around his bow.
“But father and Uncle Krishna left only a while back. King Susharma of Trigata challenged them early this day and I saw them speeding towards the direction of Dwarka.”
“WHAT!” Bheem growled. “A distraction!”
“How are we-” Nakul whispered. “How are we going to-“
“I will break it!” Abhimanyu said, with determination flooding his young face.
He ran towards his chariot, pulled by black and golden horses. Screaming the war cry of victory, he sped towards the battlefield.
It was the end of the last prahar of the thirteenth day. Arjun’s chariot finally returned to the Pandavas camp as the sun was almost setting. Krishna, stopped the chariot and got down without a word and started walking towards the camp without even looking at Arjun.
Surprised by his behaviour, Arjun called out to him but recieved no response.
After having walked a few steps, Krishna stopped.
Arjun followed him but as he kept walking, he soon realised that the camp was drenched in an eerie silence.
He kept walking towards his tent, leaving Krishna behind. Every step felt heavier and every breath marked.
He kept switching his Gandeev between his hands, and his feet shuffling rapidly to reach faster. Just before he entered, Bheem came out, his eyes riddled with red flecks. Arjun’s heart fell, as his mind raced with all the possibilities.
“He…they killed.” Bheem sobbed uncontrollably. “Abhimanyu!” He whispered with all the effort he could muster.
After that everything else was a blur for Arjun.
He could not comprehend the amount of injuries on his son’s body, as it lay lifeless on the floor of the tent, covered with a white snow- like satin cloth.
Uttara and Subhadra sat in the corner weeping silently, while Draupadi and his brothers were running in and out of the tent, cursing at the monsters who were responsible for this.
Bheem came back inside, sat next to his brother and started to recount everything that had occurred, but Arjun hardly processed any of that.
“Jayadrath….he blocked us. None of us could defeat him cause of Lord Shiva’s boon. Abhimanyu was separated from us cause of that. We couldn’t do anything. I’m so sorry!” Bheem burst out crying again.
Arjun still had no expression on his face.
“He spat on him. Stamped his polluted feet all over-” Bheem’s voice gave away.
“Who?” Arjun finally said.
“Jayadrath.” Uttara said, her voice filled with anger.
Outside, Krishna stood with his arms behind his back, looking at the sky.
Don’t do it, Parth.
He thought to himself.
Don’t take any decisions in anger.
Back in the tent, Arjun got up.
His eyes now had tears of rage.
“By the end of tomorrow’s last prahar” he roared.
“Before the sun has set, if I do not separate Jayadrath’s head from his body, then I will voluntarily step into a burning pyre and immolate myself.”
News of Arjun’s pratigya (vow) soon reached the Kauravas camp.
Jayadrath screamed at Duryodhan, saying that he needs to offer him protection and he succeeded in his persuasion.
Jayadrath was kept hidden for the entire day and did not venture out.
As evening approached, Arjun’s aggression was replaced by anxiety. He had searched all over the battlefield for Jayadrath, but had failed to find him.
Krishna had still refused to talk to him. Helpless, he asked Krishna to stop the chariot and got down. Walking a little further, he kneeled down on the Kurukshetra ground and touched the soil.
He closed his eyes, feeling the last rays of sun falling on the scars of his arms.
All of a sudden, he stopped feeling them. As if the sun had decided to set early, abruptly calling back its warmth and letting the night take over.
A sense of calmness drifted over Arjun as he understood what had to be done. He turned around, to find Krishna looking at him, awaiting his next move.
“Take me to the Kauravas camp, Madhav.” he said.
“There will be no need of that!” A haughty voice filled the air.
Arjun turned around to find Duryodhan with a few of his soldiers and his brother Dusshasana by his side, each of them having a victorious smirk on their face.
The soldiers were carrying firewood on their back and soon one by one started to arrange it into a pile. Once they had finished, Jayadrath stepped into view.
He stood opposite to Arjun, the pile of firewood between them. He held a lit torch in his hand and had an arrogant expression.
“Either you will kill me by sun down or you will immolate yourself. That was the deal. Here I stand before you now in this bright moonlight, victorious.” Jayadrath laughed.
“A coward, who abducts women and hides in the darkness when his death calls out to him. That’s what you are.” Arjun replied.
“What use is all your words of Dharm when it cannot win against our tactics, Arjun? So what if I’m a coward? Isn’t your dear friend also called a Ranchor. I was just merely following his “divine” footsteps.” Jayadrath said sarcastically.
“Don’t you dare speak a word against Madhav, Jayadrath. I will forget my vow and end your life right now.” Arjun snapped, lifting his bow in air.
“Oh cut the useless threats.” Jayadrath ridiculed. “You are bound by your Dharm. You will do nothing of that sort. Now just drop your Gandeev and fulfill your vow.”
Arjun took a deep breath. Turning around, he looked at Krishna.
“I know, Madhav. You always have a bigger plan. And if that requires me to accept this failure of mine, then so be it.”
Krishna gave him an encouraging nod.
Just as Arjun took a step forward, they heard the sound of horses approaching. Duryodhan’s uncle, Shakuni joined them looking distraught.
“Vasudev Krishna!” He screamed in anger.
“Stop creating illusions! Why has your Sudarshan Chakra blocked the sun?”
“Because some fools need to understand the consequences of their heinous acts.” Krishna said, standing up. He lifted his little finger in the air and called back his powerful flying discus, flooding the planet with the sun’s rays.
“Your arrogance was the cause of so much adharm, Jayadrath. Now you’ll witness it be the cause of your own death.”
He then looked at Arjun.
“Seize the opportunity, Parth.” He said firmly. “Relieve Jayadrath of his sins.”
Jayadrath took a step back in fear.
“You cannot kill me, Arjun. You know about my father’s boon. If my head falls to the ground, you will be burnt to cinders!”
“I’m aware.” Arjun said calmly.
“And that’s why, I’m going to use Pashupatastra against you. Your head will not fall on the ground, but on your father’s lap.”
And before Jayadrath could protest any further, Arjun had released his arrow.
This small part of the epic, in my opinion is such a strong message to all of us. Most of the times, no matter how hard we try, it appears that we get nothing more than failure as a return, despite staying true to ourselves, while so many among us use unjust tactics to reach the same goal.
When that happens, it becomes really important to remember that despite the loss incurred, God usually has a better plan for us.
As long as we perform our duties, without worrying about the results, we need not fear about anything else.
After all, Abhimanyu was right.
As long as Arjun has Krishna by his side, he will always remain invincible.