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Gandhari - A Curse and A Prayer.docx

Gandhari - A Curse and A Prayer.docx

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Gandhari: A Curse and a Prayer

by Satya Chaitanya I curse you, Krishna. I hate to do that, but I curse you. I cannot forgive you what you have done to all these men. I cannot forgive you what you have done to my sons. Look at Duryodhana lying there! Look at Dushshasana! Look at my other sons, all lying dead! All my sons are dead, every one of them, all hundred of them. Killed by you. For, I know you could have saved them if you wanted to. And look at my daughters-in-law, Krishna. Look at them. They don’t know whether to weep over the dead bodies of their husbands or of their sons. They run from one to the other, possessed by the madness of sorrow, their hair wild, their eyes wild, their speech wild, their hearts wild. Women whom the sun has never seen, women who have never stepped out of the inner apartments of the palace without their heads being covered, without being surrounded by their maids, women whom the world has never seen in the open. Look at them now, Krishna, their cheeks bathed in tears, their eyes red, their lips quivering in uncontrollable sorrow as they try to give expression to their grief in meaningless words, in words that are incomprehensible because they are choked. Look at the women hugging each other, in their vain attempts to find consolation, to give consolation. Look at how they pound their chests, pull at their hair. Look at how their tender faces are streaked with fresh blood as they tear at their skin brutally in their savage sorrow. Listen to their shrieks, Krishna, listen to their wails that fill the battlefield and echo from the distant hills. Look at the other great heroes lying dead, their bodies being torn by birds and beasts of pray. There lies Acharya Drona, there his enemy Drupada, there the sons of Dhrishtadyumna, there Karna the invincible, there Jayadratha and there Abhimanyu. Look at Bheeshma lying there, at Shalya, Bhagadatta, there Bhurishrava, there my brother Shakuni, there Brihadbala, there Jayatsena of Magadha, there the king of Kalinga. Look at them Krishna, look at how their women throw themselves at their bodies, listen to how they wail. I curse you, Krishna, for this. You could have stopped this war if you wanted to. You could have saved the lives of these men. It is you who make these women weep, Krishna. Every drop of those tears flow down those cheeks because of you, Krishna. And every wail and every shriek that rises up from those thousands of hearts filled with bottomless grief rises up because of you, Krishna. And I curse you for it. Your men shall meet with the same end, Krishna. They shall fight

because wisdom was his eyes. dance. Sculpture. But your men shall die shameful deaths in a dishonourable fight. I was a little girl in Gandhara then. And hope was destroyed. every one of them shall meet with their shameful ends in a drunken brawl. Prajna-chakshu is what they called him. shows your path. I admired you once. were famed musicians. My father was a wise king. and many of us were scholars. guides you on that path. Krishna. Krishna. exactly as these women weep and wail. In our society women were not chattels owned by men. And your women. as our people were often called. Adored by my mother. Our land was happy. no nobility to it. Adored by the happy subjects of my father. Darkness came into my life in the form of Bheeshma. the king of Gandhara. He said culture had begun in Gandhara. the science of wealth. These men died in honourable battle. they said. . you name it. others called him. at my young age. He wanted me to be the bride of his blind nephew Dhritarashtra. For. Father was proud of our land. He turned out to be anything but wise. We women of Gandhara were educated unlike women in most other parts of the land around us then. Adored by my father. There was hope in my life then. Light and hope that link you with life. Light that gives hope. The Gandharvas. shall weep and wail. no glory. The adored daughter of Subala. They had a nice name for him. You were what I missed in my life – light and hope. The venerable Bheeshma. Hope that gives strength. And then darkness came. painting. to live and watch their corruption. I had known light and hope once. just and loving. in a drunken scuffle with no cause. their deterioration. who was to be for all practical purposes my father-in-law. since they did not want to call their prince blind. Light and hope that tell you to be alive is beautiful.among themselves and they shall all lie dead exactly like these men. And generous. but individual human beings in their own right. I myself was known for my mastery over arthashastra. Bheeshma the terrible. Krishna. it either originated in Gandhara or flourished there more than anywhere else in the world. This war was fought for eighteen days and I give you twice that number of years. shows your goal. our subjects were happy. There was light in my life then. Thirty-six years from now. by my brothers. Admired you perhaps more than I admired any other human being on this earth. We had our own form of religion – where women were worshipped as the highest manifestations of divinity on earth. some called him.

my brother-in-law and his younger brother. Pandu. heir to the throne of his father Pandu. jackals. Then owls began hooting. I told him. Poor Pandu! Into our world of darkness. To Bheeshma he was a disappointment. I begged him.When I found I had no choice but to marry him. Duryodhana brayed like a donkey when he was born. Blood of his blood. she was terrified and closed her eyes. Crows. Whatever that be. Pritha had by then already given birth to her first son. I begged him. Abandon him for the sake of the Kurus. Dhritarashtra had no right to the throne of his ancestors though he was the eldest of the Bharata princes in his generation. Donkeys picked up his cry and soon the palace was filled with the cries of donkeys – it sounded like every donkey in Hastinapura was braying. Seeing the sage who had come to perform niyoga so that she may conceive. his mother never could bring herself to wholeheartedly love Dhritarashtra. His first child. even if that child was one’s own. Vidura. who was always closer to Pandu. Loved him with all his heart. But to Dhritarashtra. Yudhishthira. ruled instead. Nor did his other brother. every inauspicious living thing joined them and set up a tumultuous cacophony of ominous cries. flesh of his flesh. And I knew now there was no escape from the darkness in which I was trapped. I begged Dhritarashtra to give up the child. His mother did not love him – he was a child forced upon her. into Dhritarashtra’s and my world of darkness. Abandon him for the sake of the kingdom. No one can stop destiny – he said those empty words he always repeated whenever he had no answer to give. If they felt a blind husband was fine for me. . was born Duryodhana. But Pandu loved him with his heart and soul. I begged him. then a blindfolded wife was fine for him. They say that is why he was born blind. I surrendered to Bheeshma’s demand. Abandon him. Duryodhana was our child of darkness. Sacrificing a single child for that cause would be a blameless act. But I made a promise to myself – my protest shall take a form no woman had ever chosen in the past. And he would hear not a word about giving him up. There was only one man on this earth who really loved Dhritarashtra. And I knew the darkness in my world had become complete. I shall blindfold myself for life. it was his child.

he was actually poisoned. all his wealth including the slaves. My son proved me wrong again. Soon Yudhishthira was invited for a game of dice at Hastinapura where he played against Duryodhana. I had given up on Dhritarashtra when he invited into his bed a shoodra woman while I was carrying Duryodhana. His children and Pritha came back to live at Hastinapura. given lethal poison in a doze that would kill an elephant. . now that the king of Panchala was their father-in-law and alley. Duryodhana hated them from day one. the proud bride of the Kurus. Yudhishthira did what no other Kuru king had done. I had stopped talking to Duryodhana. My son sent Pandu’s children and Pritha to Varanavata and there he tried to kill them by setting fire to the house he had built for them with lac. To him they were not brothers but enemies. given to the one that deserves the highest reverence among the assembled kings. himself and finally. They built there the glorious Indraprastha with your help. We mourned for them for years. alive and victorious. Yudhishthira performed there the rajasooya where you. were offered the agrapooja. Wealth poured in from all corners of the earth to the coffers of Indraprastha. Above all he hated Bheema – born on the same day as he. Duryodhana attempted to poison him – no. all his brothers.I believed I was in the darkest depths of hopelessness then. This is the true depths of darkness. the daughter of Drupada. Pandu died in the mountains to which he had gone to live leaving to the kingdom to the care of Dhritarashtra. The seeds of the foulest deed done by any Kuru in history were sowed there. Rivals for the throne of Hastinapura. all its people except the Brahmins who could not be staked. which he felt was his. an actor that he was through and through. Krishna. The Bharata kingdom was divided and Khandavaprastha was given to Pritha’s sons. having escaped the fire and marrying the daughter of Drupada and becoming strong and powerful. until they came back. it was not an attempt. Shakuni playing on his behalf. Bheema survived – perhaps saved by the water into which he was thrown. He staked everything he owned: all his kingdom. I was now sure. The darkness in my world kept growing thicker every day. But that was naïve of me.

for a long time by then. knowing who you were. in spite of everything. there remained victory. my heart whispered: Yato krishnastato jayah: where Krishna stood. you were one of the family. I still believe that had the dice game not taken place. I knew if there was one person who could bring light into my world. Why didn’t you stand by my sons. I had raised you up. A devotee of Shiva. As I sat holding your hands in my palms. there remained victory. I knew you could do that that first time you bent and touched my feet. I had been hearing about you. He had Draupadi. Yato dharmastato jayah: where dharma stood. brought into the assembly of kings. it was you. I always believed dharma brought victory. I prayed in my heart then that you would stand by my sons as you stood with Pritha’s sons. You were Pritha’s nephew and had been visiting her and her children. my sons needed you for spiritual deliverance. For. what you are. then in her monthly periods and hence wearing a single cloth. Krishna? Why didn’t you befriend my sons just as you befriended Pritha’s sons? Was I any different to you from what Pritha was? Didn’t I love you as much as she did? Wouldn’t Duryodhana have accepted you with as much ardour as Arjuna had done if you had given him a chance? I wish you hadn’t gone back to Dwaraka so soon after Yudhishthira’s rajasooya. Pritha’s sons needed you to gain strength and power. the war would not have taken place. After all. and there she was humiliated beyond description right in front of her husbands. Krishna. bringing light into my world required a miracle. Understood who you are. They fought the war for . I understood you then. my sons needed you more than Pritha’s sons needed you. felt your face with my hands after I smelt your head. And. I felt no need to ask you that aloud. just as I loved you from the beginning. dragged by her hair. Pandavas did not fight the war for the kingdom. and then held your hand within my joined palms for a long time.And Duryodhana did what no other Kuru king had done. I had heard of the miracles that happened wherever you went and I wanted those miracles to happen in my dark world too. You could then have prevented the dice game from taking place. the miracle-maker. without a word passing between us. And you loved me from the first time we met. After all.

one single son of mine? Were they all equally evil? Or let me be more specific: Was Vikarna as evil as the rest of them? Vikarna. The dice game took place in your absence all right. Remember. for my sake. And every single one of those days. where even Yudhishthira kept quiet. And what he needed was a friend like you. And you showed your power there – showed who you really are. My sons deserved you. Not once. I asked him if he couldn’t have spared one single son of mine. It was Duryodhana that really needed you. beyond the scope of deliverance? Is there anyone in this world whom you couldn’t have pulled out by his hand from the pool in which he is drowning? My sons needed you Krishna. The only words that came out my mouth were Yato dharmastato jayah. Krishna. seeking my blessings in the morning before he went into the battlefield. That is why I refused to bless Duryodhana in that war. be victorious. he was a child of darkness and you are light and hope. Krishna? I asked Bheema one question after the war was over. Let me ask you that question: Couldn’t you have spared. never did I tell him vijayee bhava. did you ever once try to be kind to Duryodhana? He needed a friend too. Karna was no good for him. But still couldn’t you have spared the life of my sons. he needed a friend more than anyone else needed. Never. let alone a prince of the Bharatas. Krishna. . My brother Shakuni was no good for him.Draupadi’s honour. Couldn’t you have spared him for my sake? Honestly. You should have brought that light and hope into his world. Krishna. It is the night that requires lamps. And yet you did not come into his life. You would have been the right friend for him. The world of a child of darkness is a world without light. The day does not require lamps. And the war followed. In fact. I refused to bless him. the only man to speak up for Draupadi in the dice hall apart from Vidura? He spoke up for her when Bheeshma refused to say anything. You came to the assembly of the Kurus to plead for peace. The world of light and hope does not require someone to bring light and hope into it. without hope. You pleaded for it eloquently there. Is there anyone in this world. And that was because I knew my son had done what should not have been done – what was done to Draupadi in that dice hall was what no man should have done. He came to me every single day of those eighteen days. Yet you failed them. He spoke up for her where Drona and Kripa remained silent.

It is just my sorrow coming out. Everyone has a right to fail. At least for me you failed. Perhaps my curse is no more than a joke to you. Just as Yuidhishthira’s toenails turning blue was not because of any curse from me. for humiliating me. I am happy you smile when I curse you and the Vrishnis. trampling her under his feet. When man born of woman starts abusing woman. reduced her to a thing in the dice hall. And I refused to bless him throughout the battle he fought. You had assured her Kaurava blood would flow in the battlefield. But I cannot forget that before coming to Hastinapura to plead for peace. helpless creature. I curse you. Perhaps what I babble now too is the sorrow in my heart flowing out. I cannot blame you for not standing by my son. Perhaps you know it is a curse that escaped me in spite of myself. I had cursed Bheeshma and Dhritarashtra for abusing me. Even Pritha’s sons have a right to fail. you had promised a war to Draupadi. I would have been wrong in my lifelong understanding about you. Krishna. You had no right to fail. humiliated her. Escaped me in spite of myself. Maybe I cannot blame you for promising Draupadi a war before you came to . For you know I have cursed in my heart others for doing to me what was done to Draupadi in the dice hall. for that. If you didn’t. Krishna. treating her as a thing meant for his pleasure.Fine. treating her as a dumb. That she would be able to tie up her hair after soaking it in Dushshasana’s blood for his sin of having touched it. But who am I to curse you? I know my curse has no effect on you. in spite of myself. humiliating her. for the sin of drawing her brutally by it to the dice hall in her single cloth. then perhaps there is no redemption for man. But you failed. but a result of my sorrow flowing out from my heart. You have no right to fail. Or maybe. Escaped me unspoken. The curse had escaped me. for reducing me to thing. Krishna. Just as the curse had escaped me the day my son abused Draupadi. uses her as a tool for vengeance. But not you. Perhaps you were right in allowing the war to take place. My sons have a right to fail.

Hastinapura seeking peace. My son of darkness. Krishna. And now. for what you failed to be to Duryodhana. A prayer that I have uttered a thousand times in my heart. Krishna. But my son all the same. silently. But in spite of that. let me make another request to you. Forgive me that. so that no one but you would hear it. I cannot help hating you. In one of my future births. Krishna. without words. will you be my son? 10-Dec-2006 . A prayer.

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