By Kamlesh Tripathi
Draupadi’s make shift tenement was filled with shrills and bloody echoes of wail. The holy war of Mahabharat had just about ended. In which Pandavas had had a thumping victory. But in spite of all this, there was a frightening and lasting lament in Pandava’s camp. But no one exactly knew why? When suddenly, Pandavas ran towards the chamber of Panchali from where these hell cries were coming.
The scene was truly gruesome. As there lay dead, the severed heads of all the five sons of Draupadi in a pool of blood. That was even smeared on their torso. Dharmraj Yudhistir couldn’t bear the scene when he whimpered, ‘Draupadi … its heart rendering.’ And beyond that he couldn’t utter a word. Perhaps, with these few words, his unqualified agony together with surprise and inquisition, all came alive in one go.
Upon witnessing the gory scene, Gandeevdhari Arjun’s shoulders started twitching. He couldn’t control himself, and yelled in anger—‘except for that morbid devil Ashwaththama. Who else could have carried out this ghastly crime? Wipe your tears Devi. As I enter into a pratigya, that I will make this rogue prostrate at your feet. I will squash him with my legs, so that you can bathe with his blood.’ And then Arjun requested Krishna to be his charioteer. He then wore his armour and lifted his Gandeev and charged after Ashwaththama. Clean-handed Pandavas were now listless, at the brutal murder of their sons. They were now getting wild and ferocious and wanted revenge forthwith. Under the circumstances, scared Ashwaththama couldn’t have remained out of their clutches for long.
Arjun was beginning to get restless. He asked, ‘Madhusudhan, what should we do with this rogue? How should we punish him?’ And, before, he could even completed his sentence, Lord Krishna in an angry tone reacted—‘Parth! A rascal Brahmin’s execution, alone, is the way out. And this was your vow too. So, where is the question of any permission in this?’
But while grieving on her dead sons, when Draupadi saw Guruputra Ashwaththama tied in ropes and lying in the room. She stood up and started pleading for mercy with Arjun—‘Prannath! Please forgive him.’
But Arjun remained adamant. He said, ‘Draupadi sit on his chest—I want you to bathe with his blood.’
Draupadi continued beseeching in her gruff timbre. She folded her hands to namaskar Ashwaththama and then addressed Arjun—‘Aryaputra! Ashwaththama happens to be the son of the same hallowed person from whom you have learnt superior war skills. He is also a Brahmin and therefore respectable to Chatriyas. And his mother Kripi is even alive today for the sake of her motherhood, where she sees her son Ashwaththama as her only motive in life and doesn’t follow her husband anymore. Nath! Also, my sons won’t return to life even if Ashwaththama is sent to the gallows. The way I’m weeping for them. His mother too will weep for him, and God only knows what else she might do. In case I can’t give happiness to someone, why should I be the reason for his sorrow?’
Arjun, along with all his brothers was watching this amazing scene of morality being spelt out by Draupadi. Standing on the side was Bakenbihari in his usual manner in a calm posture. He slowly came forward and sarcastically said—‘what happened Arjun, why have you stopped? Come on lift the sword.’
Arjun bowed at Lord Srikrishna and said—‘Madhav please pull me out of this dharmsankat’
Srikrishna as if testing Arjun’s patience said—‘I am once again repeating my orthodoxical tenet to you. And, mind you. I am repeating it for your benefit alone parth!—Not to kill a fallen Brahmin, but to kill a miscreant—this alone is the ultimate dharma.’
Arjun was spellbound for a moment. But he was a celebrator of wisdom and knowledge. And for him, as if this golden, primordial hint was enough. He acted forthwith. By pulling out the mani embedded in Ashwaththama’s forehead and thereafter tonsuring him. He then left him to wander as an insulted Brahmin who is like a dead person.
Thus without killing the Brahmin, Arjun gave Ashwaththama punishment equivalent to death and fulfilled his pratigya.
Panchali – another name of Draupadi
Gandeevdhari- the bearer of bow—Arjun
Devi – Divine Draupadi
Gandeev – Bow
Madhav/Bakenbihari/Madhusudhan– Another name of Lord Krishna
Parth- One who doesn’t miss his target. Name given to Arjun by Lord Krishna
Prannath- Lord of life
Namaskar- Hindu greetings.
Aryaputra – Noble prince.
Dharm sankat- moral ambiguity
Extracted from Srimad bhagwat puran.