Mahabharata: Adi Parva Part 6
Drona Becomes the Teacher of the Kuru Boys
After the Pandavas and Kauravas grow up, the elders of the Kuru dynasty decide that it is time for some rigorous training, and hence Kripacharya is appointed as their teacher. Kripa’s sister is Kripi, who is married to Dronacharya. Drona is the son of Maharishi Bharadwaja. ’Drona’ means –‘pot born’, because Bharadwaja’s vital fluids were preserved in a pot and Drona was not born in a womb. Kripa and Kripi too were not born in a womb.
The Kuru boys were once playing and their ball fell into the well. They gathered around the well to figure out a way to retrieve the ball. Drona who was on his way noticed the boys. Drona asked the boys if they knew archery and why they couldn’t use their archery skills to retrieve the ball. Yudhisthira replied that if he could get their ball out, they would take him for a meal to Kripacharya’s house. Dronacharya took a blade of grass, aimed at the ball and took it out. Understanding the person to be of great skill, the boys apologized for their ignorance. Drona asked them to inform about this to Bhishma. Bhishma, immediately understanding the greatness of Drona, requested him to be the teacher for both the Kauravas and Pandavas.
Drona becomes the formal master of the kshatriyas-the Pandavas, the Kauravas, the Andhakas,the Bhojas and many other kshatriya clans. Arjuna becomes his favourite student, because he has great qualities and is as quick as lightning. He justs grasps everything before the words fall from Drona’s lips. And he immediately lives it. Once, Drona tells the cook who serves food to the Pandavas, “Arjuna should not be served food when it is dark – completely dark”. The cook does not understand why, but he follows the instructions. Once it so happens that they are having food for dinner and the lights are off. And when the lights come back, Arjuna is gone. Where did he disappear? He has gone to practise archery, because the only period of the month when he would not be able to practise archery would be during the period of Amavasya, because it is dark. But, with this incident, he discovers that he could put food automatically to his mouth irrespective of his vision. That’s an amazing discovery. So he extends this by mathematical induction. He knows now that he can do archery even in the dark. He does not need vision. Many other incidents like this happen which show us how Arjuna is so wonderful that he comes to be the favourite student of Drona. Finally, Drona conducts a tournament where all the kshatriyas display their powers and skills in weaponry. After Arjuna’s display, everyone is awestruck, witnessing his phenomenal skills. After his mind-blowing display, in walks Karna. He cannot stand Arjuna, and he displays skill that is better than Arjuna’s. But he is not allowed to compete because he is a sutaputra – a charioteer’s son and not a kshatriya. And hence, Duryodhana, in his “large-heartedness”, makes Karna the king of Angadesha. These are an important turn of events, as we would soon see.
After the tournament, as Gurudakshina, Dronacharya wants King Drupada’s defeat. As children, Drupada and Drona had studied in Bharadwaja’s ashrama. And Drupada had promised to give half of his kingdom to Drona after they had grown up. Later, when Drona needs it, he walks in front of the king and asks his friend,” Don’t you remember me? Give me half the kingdom.” He demands this of Drupada while he is in his sabha. Drupada cannot believe that this poor brahmana is asking him in such a manner. He just sends him out – throws him out. Drona is insulted and angry at Drupada. Hence, he wants revenge. Arjuna gives him that sweet revenge. He defeats Drupada and brings him as a prisoner of war. And Drona says, “Now,we are equal. In fact, I am superior to you, Drupada. I will give you half my kingdom”. Now, Drupada is not happy. Drona forgets all about but Drupada retains it and that becomes the end of Drona later on.
After this tournament and Drupada’s conquest, Yudhishthira is made heir apparent – the prince who will become the king. Yudhishthira, with his brothers, conquers many lands, just as Pandu did, and everybody is happy with Yudhishthira.
The Lac Palace
Duryodhana is not happy with the fact that Yudhishthira, and not he, will be the next king.That is when he decides, “I have had enough. Let me burn the Pandavas to death.” So he instructs his minister Purochana to build a palace of inflammable material- lac and wax-at a place called Varanavata. Duryodhana does this with the consent of Dhritarashtra-the unwilling consent of Dhritarashtra. But Dhritarashtra is also not happy because his son has to be the king. How can his brother’s son be the king? Dhritarashtra has trivial affection for his son. Thus, Dhritarashtra permits Duryodhana to commit this crime. Dhritarashtra asks the Pandavas, along with Kunti, to take a vacation at Varanavata, and to stay in the palace constructed by Purochana.The palace is called Jatugraha – house of lac. Vidura knows this whole game. So, while the Pandavas are about to leave, Vidura instructs him in a Mleccha (lower class) language which no one else could understand. Vidura lovingly says to him, “One who knows the schemes of his enemy should act in such a way as to avoid all danger. He who knows that there are sharp weapons capable of cutting the body which are not made of steel, and understands the means of avoiding them, can never be harmed. One who knows that the consumer of straw and wood and the drier of dew never burns the inmates of a hole in the forest, lives to see another day. Remembering this, be on guard. One who is given a weapon by his foes that is not made of steel, can escape from his enemies by making his abode like unto the jackal [one who lives underground]. By wandering, a man can acquire certain knowledge, and by the stars he can ascertain direction, and he who keeps his senses under control can never be oppressed by his enemies..”
Yudhishthira understands the message of Vidura. So the Pandavas and Kunti go there not as a pleasure trip but in full anxiety. They go there and in the meantime, a minor is sent to the Pandavas at Varanavata by Vidura, and he helps them build a tunnel that takes them safely outside to the banks of Ganga. All this is done secretly. They behave as if they are very comfortable. Purochana has no idea what they are planning.They invite a Nishada woman and five brothers to the palace. When the time comes, the Pandavas and Kunti escape through the tunnel and Bhima sets fire to the house so that these six people, along with Purochana are burnt to death. So the Panchapandavas, along with their mother Kunti escape safely and they are taken beyond everybody’s access. When everybody comes to know of this, they are sure that it is Duryodhana’s doing, because, many times in the past, he has tried to eliminate the Pandavas. Everybody knows of Duryodhana’s envy. It’s not a secret. So all the people at Hastinapura claim, “These people are adharmic.They have supported Duryodhana’s crime. But what to do? Nothing can be done.”
In the meantime, the Pandavas are safe because of Vidura’s advice. They go to a forest where they encounter Hidimba-the rakshasa. He smells human flesh -”Ah! Finally, humans!”. He is all excited. He cannot wait to have their flesh. So he sends his sister Hidimbi. But Hidimbi takes one look at Bhima and falls for him. She loses her heart. She is a rakshasi, but she assumes a beautiful, enchanting form and approaches Bhima. Kunti sees her. She is very agreeable and in her heart of hearts, Kunti has decided, “Yes, she can be my daughter-in-law.” In the meantime, Hidimba comes. He sees what Hidimbi has done and is furious, “Oh!You rakshasi, I sent you to bring these human beings and you have…!”. In his fury, he is about to attack Hidimbi when Bhima takes hold of Hidimba and crushes him to death. Hidimbi is given in marriage to Bhima and Ghatotkacha is born to them. ’Ghata’-means ‘pot’. He is so bald that he is ‘pot-headed’. And so Ghatotkacha is born.