'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
This blog is a source for intellectual exploration. It includes a list of alternative resources and a source of free books. The placement of an article does not imply that I agree with it, merely that I found it thought-provoking. There are also poems and book reviews. Texts written by me are labelled. Readers are free to re-post anything they like.
Sunday, April 17, 2016
Mrinal Pande - Dronacharya's revenge: What the renaming of Gurgaon really signifies
“Time that is
Of the brave and innocent
...worships language and …
Pardons cowardice, conceit..”
Could the Chief
Minister of Haryana have been thinking of Auden when he chose to announce that
the Millennial city of Gurgaon would be henceforth known as Gurugram (the
village of the Guru) after Guru Dronacharya, the legendary teacher of archery
It’s possible, of
course, but that isn’t very likely.
renaming of Gurgaon, hub of fast food, fast cars, instant millions and land
deals, has set in motion a stream of facts about the history of Kurukshetra
wars and Guru Drona, who trained one of the greatest archers Arjuna and his
Pandava and Kaurava brothers. Although Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and
his Bharatiya Janata Party are hailing this decision as a grand step to relink
Haryana in general and Gurgaon in particular with the legendary land of
Kurukshetra and the great Mahabharata war, something rankles in the mind about
Yakshi Ulookal Mekhala tells pilgrims, is not a safe place to stay. Everything
that happens here in daylight, she says, is turned upon its head in the dark of
the night (divavrittamratrauvrittamatoanyatha). So leave as soon as the day
begins to wane (Aranyak Parv 120-10). In legend and lore, Kurukshetra is the
dreaded land of love, lust and revenge. The Arattkshetra here is said to be
shunned even by the gods and ancestors (devpitrivarjya).
As for Guru Drona, his
is a tale of a supremely gifted military strategist brought low by a hot temper
coupled with a vast ambition and a predilection for seeking revenge
against all who spurned him. Truth being the first casualty of war, his life
and those of his opponents are full of arrogance, deceit and semantic quibbling
– all qualities that, within limits, political parties and armies are ready and
able to sustain. It is only when Ved Vyas turns the story into an epic and
pursuit of truth (and nothing but the truth) becomes necessary, that you begin
to see and mourn the loss of so much goodness and talent.
Hard times: Dronacharya was the son of the great and
austere teacher Bhardwaj who, it is said, refused to store more than what was
necessary for the next three days for sustenance. Ambitious sons of such
fathers usually grow up with a grudge. Drona did too. At his Guru’s ashram as a
student, he befriended Drupad, the prince of the great kingdom of Panchal. As a
young lad, he and Drupad swore cupping Ganga water in their palms that after
they became men, they would continue to share everything with each other. Time
passed. Prince Drupad became King Drupad. His Brahmin friend Drona, learned and
talented, was forced by family tradition to remain poor. But he by now had a
family to support and a young son, who when he cried for milk was given chalk
dissolved in water by his mother Kripi.
So Dronacharya went to
meet Drupad and ask him for a job and a gift of a milch cow. Drupad arrogantly
had him pushed out, saying one should befriend people of their own status.
Stung by this, Dronacharya vowed to train students that would capture and kill
this arrogant Kshatriya . He undertook to train the princes of the Puru dynasty
(both the Kauravas and the five Pandava brothers) in the art of warfare at the
behest of their family mentor Bhishma. He had figured that weapons like the
pash and the ankush were obsolete. The bow and arrows were the weapons for Gen
Next. Soon his disciples were adept in warfare and military strategy and Arjun,
the Tendulkar of his team, grew into a brilliant archer.
Enter the young tribal
Bhil lad Eklavya. The Guru spotted a great rival to his favourite prince Arjuna
in this gifted boy, and turned down his request to be accepted as a student on
grounds of his caste (Nishada). Eklavya watched the training sessions from the
shrubs and practiced on his own. Soon he was shooting arrows as well as the
Pandavas. Once, when he shut up a barking dog who was breaking his
concentration by muzzling her mouth with arrows, he was caught out. A petulant
Arjuna complained to his Guru. Dronacharya, unable to and unwilling to annoy
his royal patrons, told the young Bhil that if he considered him, Dronacharya,
his Guru, he should offer up some Guru Dakshina – a tribute to his teacher. The
eager Eklavya politely agreed and was asked to slice off his thumb. Even Vyas
could not hold back his disapprobation for this mean act calling it daruna or heart
Seeking revenge: Drona now laid a trap for Drupad when he had gone to a temple and left
his weapons outside the premises, as was mandatory. The princes overpowered the
king Drupad, broke his crown and presented him as a prisoner to their Guru who
smirked and had him set free. It was now the turn of a humiliated Drupad to vow
revenge. He performed a yagna and from the fire were born twins: Draupadi and
prince Drishtadyumna, who later killed Drona in battle while he led the armies
after Bhishma was brought down. Eaten up with anger against Draupadi’s father,
Guru Drona and his disciples broke the rules of warfare and together with
family stalwarts like Kripacharya, Duryodhana, Karna and others, killed
Draupadi and Arjuna’s teen age son Abhimanyu, after trapping him in the
intricate Chakravyuh formation.
By now, the 18-day war
had reached a pitch where laws and morals and family loyalties had all become
tangled in everyone’s head. As the unstoppable Dronacharya killed one king
after another in the Pandava army, the Pandava side started a whisper campaign
saying Drona’s only son Ashwatthama had been killed. That great upholder of
Dharma, Yudhishthir, confirmed the lie to his Guru, adding sotto voce, that it
was an elephant with the same name, not a man (Nar ova kunjarova) . As the Guru
lost heart and put down his bow, he was finished off by a shower of arrows.
Dronacharya’s son Ashwatthama completely lost it and used the ultimate weapon
of destruction, killing all Draupadi’s sons and even a grandson nestling in her
Go back, Ulookal
Mekhala had said to pilgrims, in this land, do not spend time.
So the rechristening
of Guru Gram will bring back memories of ancient wars and revenge-taking and
shouting of Jai Jai, and senselessness of semantic sabre-rattling. Ah, the
mysteries of history!