Mahabharata Characters 13 – Drona 03 – The Blunder Under Pressure
This talk is a part of the “Fascinating Mahabharata Characters” series. To know more about this course, please visit: bhakticourses.com
Transcribed by : Sadananda Das
We are now discussing about Drona. In the last discussion we stopped with the conclusion of the training by Drona of his students, and how he was such a glorious teacher. Thereafter Drona continued his post as a courtier and as an advisor in the Kuru assembly and his gurukul also continued. Other students kept coming and he kept training them, and the intrigues between the Pandava’s and the Kaurava’s happened wherein the Kauravas dispossessed the Pandava’s of their wealth. Drona was also present in that assembly and he was also rendered powerless although he was so powerful because he is bound to the Kauravas – to the Dhritastra and Duryodhana; because that family was maintaining him. He couldn’t speak although he tried to oppose, but his voice was sidelined and ignored and he couldn’t oppose very strongly, and he had to witness the great mortification and humiliation of his student, Arjuna and his wife Draupadi and how they went to exile. It was heart breaking for Drona because he loved Arjuna and he loved the virtuous Pandava’s; and to see them dishonored and dispossessed like this was heart wrenching. He tolerated it and he lamented their plight in the twelve year of the forest, and then in end of the thirteenth year Duryodhana planned to somehow or the other detect the Pandavas; and when he came to know that Kichak had been killed, at that time he suspected that only Bhima probably would have done this; and he decided to attack the kingdom of Virat and thereby provoke the Pandavas to come out of hiding so as to protect Virat.
When Drona, Bhisma and everybody went along to the Virat army, at that time Arjuna came with Bhubanjay, the Uttar Kumar and Bhubanjay became fearful but Arjuna said, “I will fight. You become my charioteer.” Arjuna got his weapons from a Shyamika tree and then he went into the army, and first he shot arrows straight at the feet of Drona, Kripa and Bhisma specially, and this was the way he offered his obeisance’s to them. When Drona had seen this formidable figure who looked very odd because of his being dressed like a eunuch; but he was very powerful looking. They suspected that this might be Arjuna, but when the Gandiva was blown and then Arjuna shot the arrows at their feet, then Drona raised his hands in blessings delighted as well as agonized to see Arjuna and he called to his army and he said, “That is indeed Partha. Beware! He is now sending arrows to seek blessings but his next arrows will not be seeking blessings.” And then there was a formidable fight and this was the first time that Drona and Arjuna fought with each other, and Drona fought fiercely and Arjuna actually initially did not want to fight and he kept a distance from the preceptor and he said, “I have no
desire to fight with you. Only when you attack I will counter attack.” And then Drona attacked because he was duty bound, and there was a fierce fight and it seemed that no one would get the upper hand. Drona had imparted all his knowledge to Arjuna and Arjuna was extremely skilled, but Drona despite being the teacher could not get the better of Arjuna; and Arjuna had performed austerities, Arjuna was young, Arjuna was young, Arjuna had acquired many celestial weapons from the God’s and after a fierce fight Arjuna overcame Drona, and seeing this Aswathama came infuriated to see his father and teacher being humbled by another student, and he fought fearlessly but Arjuna overcame Aswathama also. This battle we will discuss in more detail, but the point here is that Arjuna defeated Drona in war, and then eventually when the war started; at that time Drona was asked, “How long will take for you to defeat the Pandava army?” Drona like Bhisma told that it will take him one month; and then for the first ten days Drona fought under Bhisma and Drona fought gallantly, but Bhisma was the most prominent figure there, and then at the end of the tenth day when Bhisma fell – actually Drona and Bhimsa were elderly; actually Bhisma was more older, but still they were close to each other. When Drona heard that Bhisma had fallen Drona fell from his chariot as he was moved and shocked. Then as soon as he came back to consciousness he ordered his armies to withdraw. Duryodhana was devastated and they all came to Bhimsa and offered their respects.
In the next morning Karna went and sought forgiveness for any offences that he may have committed to Bhisma, and then he came and joined the army of Duryodhana. Duryodhana welcomed him and said, “In you now I have got a commander who will bring me victory.” And then he consulted Karna. He said, “Now that Bhisma is no longer the commander who should we chose as a commander?” Duryodhana would have liked to choose Karna but he was thoughtful because Karna was a Suta Putra, and there were others who would have objected to this. Karna pointed out to many maharathas in his army and he said, “Every one of them is capable of leading the whole army. They are all maharathas, but still one person has to be chosen as the commander and that person has to be chosen in such a way that it doesn’t cause envy or resentment among our armies. So, I feel that you should chose Drona because he is the senior most, he is extremely skilled, and putting aside his affection for the Pandava’s he has fought on your fiercely.” Duryodhana nodded.
Actually Drona was such a competent warrior that although Karna had felt insulted when Drona had refused to teach him and although Karna was a rival to Arjuna who was Drona’s favorite student, Karna also recognized the greatness of Drona as far as power is concerned and Karna recommended Drona. And then Duryodhana approached Drona and requested him, “I request you take charge our army and lead us in this great war just as Skanda has led the demigod’s army.” And Dronacharya was
surprised and pleased. At one level he had been suspecting and dreading the prospect that Karna maybe made the commander; and because Karna was a Suta Putra and moreover because Karna had some sort of grudges with Drona, so, Drona was dreading the prospect of having to fight under Karna. And when he was offered the commandership and he was pleased and he raised his hand in blessing and he said, “I am pleased by this honor.” When he accepted this the sanctification ceremony was performed and Drona was declared as the commander, and there was a jubilation because Drona was such a powerful warrior; the Kaurava warriors and soldiers had become demoralized and devastated by the fall of Bhisma, but now they again stated cheering and celebrating, and Drona seeing all these felt all the more pleased and he told to Duryodhana, “I am pleased by this honor and I would like to offer you some blessing in return. What would you like me to for you in this war?” Duryodhana had been prepared for this as he knew the nature of Drona and he was prepared. He said, “If you like me to something for you, then I request you arrest Yudhisthir and bring him alive in front of me.” Drona’s eyes opened wide in surprise. He said, “O is it that Yudhisthir is such a ajata satru, he such a non-envious person that he has no enemies, that even you do not want him killed? Is it that you are having a change of heart seeing the fall of the grandsire, that you do not want Yudhishir to be killed but want him to be arrested alive? A grin spread around Duryodhana’s face while his face remained grim, and he said, “No, I can never give up animosity for the Pandavas, but after ten days of war I have understood that the Pandava’s cannot be killed.” Of course when he was saying this he still had the confidence that Karna would be able to kill Arjuna, but he was hoping that he will be able to kill Bhima, but still he wanted another plan and he wanted Drona to cooperate with that plan. So, he wanted to encourage and inflate Drona’s ego. He said, “I don’t think you can kill the Pandava’s, and if we kill Yudhisthir Bhima and Arjuna would become so infuriated they will destroy our entire army. I have another plan in mind. If you can arrest Yudhisthir and bring him alive in front of me, then I will challenge him to another gambling match, and after defeating him in gambling I will send him into exile again, and in this way I will be able to continue my sovereignty.” Dronacharya shook his head sadly. He realized that Duryodhana had got no change of heart, and he in one sense regretted his hasty promise, but he knew as a duty he had to fight and he said, “I will do my very best to arrest Yudhisthir.” Duryodhana seeing this he proclaimed very loudly, “Hear, Hear, the war will soon be over because the preceptor has promised to arrest Yudhisthir.” And a wave of jubilation spread over the Kaurava camp. Dronacharya was being manipulated by Duryodhana over here. Duryodhana knew that Dronacharya was partial towards the Pandava’s and he wanted him to become sealed to his word, and by publicly proclaiming his promise he made it into a word of not just individual honor that a promise had been made to Duryodhana, but a word that will be publicly communicated, and soon the news spread to Yudhisthir and to
the Pandava camp and Yudhisthir called Arjuna and he asked him what should be done. Arjuna said, “We are all here to protect you. Don’t worry. And moreover I will be by your side constantly. So, Dronacharya will never be able to capture you.” Dronacharya also warned Duryodhana; he said, “I will try my best but Arjuna is someone I cannot overcome.” And Dronacharya further said when he was made the commander that, “I will fight and I can overcome the Pandava army. I will specially target the Panchala and the Matsya forces, but I doubt whether I will be able to overcome Dhristadumnya for he is destined to kill me.” Duryodhana did not pay much attention to this. He said, “There are several time Drona and Dhritadumnya had faced each other and each time Drona had emerged superior. So, it was hard to conceive how Dhritadumnya could possibly overcome Dronacharya, and moreover there were other warriors who could always engage Dhristamnya and keep him away from Drona. So, he assured that he would take care of that. That day when the war started Drona being honored by the post of commandership fought like never before, and he seemed to be like a smokeless fire that was destroying the Pandava army wherever he turned and several Pandava warriors came to fight with him, but nobody could stand in front of him. He just wounded or destroyed whoever came before him. Arjuna came and fought with him and the fight between Arjuna and Drona went on and on and the onlookers were watching. They thought, “What kind of fight is this between the teacher and the student? Neither of them showed any kind of weakness or tiredness and nobody could get the upper hand.” and observers said that this kind of war was never fought before in the history of the world. It is as if it is the brahman energy that has manifested as two and is fighting with each other, and the fight was going on and on and on, and seeing that Drona was being checked by Arjuna Duryodhana deployed other warriors to challenge Arjuna, and Arjuna as a ksatriya couldn’t refuse the challenge; he turned and started fighting with others, and Droncharya breaking free from them again started breaking havoc on the Pandava camp and started breaking havoc; the Panchala princess came to fight with him and Drona fought fiercely. The Panchala princes were also hero’s but rapidly one after one, Kumara, Simhasen, Vyagradutta and several Panchala princess were destroyed, and the Panchala forces were infuriated as well as depolarized and devastated. They tried to fight back fiercely, some of them started running away out of fear, but Dronacharya remorselessly overcame everyone, and while every body was watching he came charging towards Yudhisthir and challenged Yudhisthir; Yudhisthir started fighting, but so fierce was the attack of Drona that in a short time Yudhisthir was overcome, his armor was broken, his bowstring was broken apart, his chariot was destroyed, and it seemed as if Yudhisthir would be captured; and Drona started charging towards him. All the soldiers started saying, “Alas! Yudhisthir is going to be captured.” But at that time hearing this Arjuna charged again, he left the warriors who were fighting with him, shot of a fierce volley of arrows on them, stunned them, and then charged just in time when
Dronacharya was just approaching Yudhisthir, and again a fierce fight went on, and the fight went on and on, but Dronacharya could not get over Arjuna and the day ended. That evening Dronacharya turned to the camp disappointed, sat on his throne and he turned to Duryodhana and said, “I had told you that although Arjuna is my student he is my equal because I have taught him everything and he is younger than me also. I will not be able to capture Yudhisthir as long as Arjuna will be in between.” Dronacharya became thoughtful. At that time Susarma who was the king of the Trigarthas came forward, and he said, “Arjuna has been a thorn in our side since many, many years. He has humiliated us on many occasions.” Actually Arjuna had no reason to humiliate anyone, but the ksatriya ego is such that if somebody is superior to oneself one feels humiliated, even if that person doesn’t have any intention to humiliate, even if that person is exhibiting one’s own power, and somebody who has lesser power feels humiliated by that. So, he said that Arjuna has humiliated us many times and therefore I would like to take revenge. I along with all my brother and our entire army, we will challenge Arjuna and we will take him away from the main fight of the battlefield, we will take him to another side and either we will kill him or we will keep fighting till our death. We will not let Arjuna to go and fight with anyone else. When Susurma made this announcement immediately Duryodhana got Brahmins and sanctified it into a vow and he thought that this as a very good plan, and next day when the news spread to the Pandava camp Yudhisthir and Arjuna consulted. Arjuna said, “If I am challenged I cannot refuse the challenge, but still I will keep by your side. Satyaki is my student and he is equal to me in every way and he will protect you, and he will ensure that Dronacharya will not be able to fulfill the evil plan of Duryodhana.”
The next day, on the twelfth day when the war started Susarma challenged Arjuna and by tactical manner as they were fighting together Susarma took his chariot away. Arjuna knew what was happening but he was confident of Satyaki’s prowess. Dronacharya charged him again destroying the Pandava warrior wherever he went and he was trying to charge towards Yudhisthir and then Satyaki came in between. And Satyaki had been a student in Dronacharya’s academy also, but later on when Arjuna had been in Dwaraka on several occasions he had taken further training under Arjuna. So, Satyaki was student of Drona as well as the student of Arjuna. He fought fiercely and Dronacharya did not want to fight, he wanted to go straight to Yudhisthir, but Satyaki was like unshakable, unstoppable mountain. He stood and took all his resort and countered it and Dronacharya and Satyaki kept fighting and fighting, and Dronacharya used all his skills but he was not able to overcome Satyaki, and again seeing Drona hemmed in by Satyaki Duryodhana sent in other warriors and as the fight became general as Satyaki was attacked by others, and Drona went ahead, and again the Panchala princess came to confront Dronacharya, and again Dronaharya especially
because there was a grudge between him and Drupada, he fell upon them with a maniac fury and Satyajit and Satyalika two powerful sons of Drupada – the Panchala princess were just overpowered and destroyed by the Dronacharya, and Dronacharya was just unstoppable. But again just when he was coming near Yudhisthir several Pandava warriors came in between; Dhritadumnya came; although Dhritadumyna alone was no match, but Sayaki also came to aid, and despite all the efforts of Dronacharya he could not succeed; he was checked. On the twelfth day also his promise of arresting Yudhistir remained unfulfilled. And then on the thirteenth day when the war started again, at that time for a significant part of the day the war went on and Dronacharya was unable to reach Yudhisthir and Duryodhana became incensed, and he said, “O Acharya ! You had promised and taken the word that you will be able to arrest Yudhisthir. Please. I don’t deserve to be abandoned by you like this. Please honor your word.” Dronacharya said, “You are seeing. Why are you goading me with words like this, you are seeing how much I have endeavored, but I have not been able to be successful, but now I will make a plan. My promise that I will entrap and kill at least one formidable warrior from the Pandava army will be fulfilled. Now I will form the charavyuha and only Arjuna knows how to break through the chakravyuha. If he has not given the knowledge to anyone else, then this chakraview will march across the warfield and we will capture Yudhishir by it.
Immediately while the war was going on another side between Arjuna and Susarma and his forces Droncarya asked his troops to regroup and they formed a charkravyuha, and the charavyuha was such a formidable formation; chakra means circle, vyuha means military phalanx. So, it was arranged in such a way that it was impenetrable and he just kept charging forward and nobody could find any weakness in it, and as they were moving forward they were destroying the enemy forces, and the whole Chakravyuha – It was not just Dronacharya alone attacking Yudhisthir; there was a whole army which was moving strategically towards Yudhisthir, and when Yudhisthir saw this he and Bhima started consulting. Although both of them were great warriors still they did not know how to break the chakravyuha. Then Yudhisthira remembered that Arjuna had once said that he had told the knowledge to Subhadra and Abhimanyu had also heard this. So, he called Abhimanyu who came on his chariot which was driven by Sumitra, his charioteer; Sumitra was the son of Daruka who was the charioteer of Krishna, and he told, “Abhimanyu! O son, Drona has formed a charavyuha to arrest me. I have heard that you know how to penetrate it. Can you break through and save us today?”
Abhimanya had already emerged as one of the foremost warriors in the Pandava ranks. Although just sixteen years old he had fought gallantly against all the Kaurava warriors and had stood strongly, and he had a great reputation, and he was dear to all the Pandavas, and not just the Pandavas but all the Pandava leaders in their army also.
Abhimanyu looked a little doubtful. He said, “I do know how to break in, but I do not know how to come out. That knowledge was not given by Arjuna to me. If I break in, after that I will be trapped.” and then he did not speak any further, but the implications were clear. Bhima said, “Don’t worry. If you can just break through the chakravyuha we will all follow behind you, and we will follow you inside through the break that you have created and inside we will destroy the charavyuha. Just break it for us.” Abhimanyu said, “Today I will fight the kind of war which has never been fought in the history, which will be talked about as long as the sun stays. For the service of my uncles I will fight a great war.” And as he was marching forward Sumitra told him, “You will be all alone inside the chakravyuha. Think gravely about the responsibility that has been entrusted on you. Do you think that it is advisable to go into the enemy formation like this?” Abhimanyu laughed and he said, “Who are this Kauravas? I who have Partha who is Nara, and Parth is my father and I have Krishna has my uncle who is Narayan. Why should I fear anyone? I will not fear even the God’s, what to speak of an army made of humans. And saying this Abhimanyu charged into the Chakravyuha, and so sudden, fierce and so focused was the attack that the Charkavyuha just broke apart, and he rushed into the Kaurava forces, and as he went in he started wreaking havoc everywhere. Different warriors came to fight with him. Shalya came to fight with him but so fierce was the attack of Abhimanyu that Salya was wounded, he swooned and went away. Then Karna came to fight with him, and Karna fought to the best of his capacity but Abhimanyu was unmatchable, and Abhimanyu’s arrows pierced deep into Karna’s body who did not have his impenetrable armor on, and he swooned, and then Dronacharya came and he fought fiercely again, and Dronacharya was filled with admiration and pride to see the expertise of Abhimanyu in fighting, and Abhimanyu overcame Dronachya also. Seeing this Aswathama came angrily and Aswathama was also overcome. And Abhimimanyu was wreaking havoc in the Kaurava forces, and seeing his army being destroyed like this Duryodhana became angry and he charged towards Abhimanyu to fight with him, and Abhimanyu seeing, “Here is the person who has wreaked havoc, who is the cause of all the evil that my uncles and my father has suffered, today I will take revenge for this.” And he fought and fought, and he just overpowered Duryodhana completely. Duryodhana felt unconscious and he had to be taken away. Dusasana came and Abhimanyu said, “I am fortunate that the person who has defiled the chaste Draupadi is now here in front of me. I will destroy you Dusasana.” Dusasana fought but there was no one who could match Abhimanyu, he just wreaked havoc completely. As Abhimanyu had paraded inside the Pandavas were trying to follow, but Jayadratha had blocked them. We will discuss this story later when we talk about Arjuna’s character and his activities; but Abhimanyu was left all alone. He kept fighting and nobody could match him and the Kaurava army was getting destroyed from within. Duryodhana went up to Karna and he said, “I think that the preceptor is partial to
Abhimanyu and that is why he is not fighting fiercely enough. Otherwise Abhimanyu would not be able to destroy our army like this.” Karna said, “No, he is such a powerful warrior that I feel that by no ordinary means we will be able to overcome him. We will have to ask Drona what to do.” They went up to Drona. Drona was watching as various warriors were trying to confront Abhimanyu and they were all being destroyed, and Drona looked at Duryodhana and he said, “I cannot see the even slightest difference between him and Arjuna. There is no weakness anywhere that can be found.” His voice was filled with admiration as he appreciated what Abhimanyu was doing and Duryodhana could barely contain his anger. He said, “It is my misfortune that you are appreciating someone who is destroying my army; an army which you are entrusted to protect.” Dronacharya looked with cold eyes at Duryodhana and he said, “We cannot overcome him. He is so powerful that he is unstoppable.” Karna said, “We have not come here to hear the praises of Abhimanyu. I too have been wounded by his arrows and it is only due to my adherences to the ksatriya duty that I still stay after being wounded by his arrows.” He meant that. Other lower ksatriyas would have fled from the face of the onslaught of Abhimanyu. He said, “But you are our commander. Please tell us how we should combat him.” Droncharya looked down and he said, “By fair means we will not be able to overcome him. There is however a way.” Now Dronacharya here proposed something which was heinous. He knew it was wrong, but he felt that as a commander it was his duty to protect. Now that was a mistake on his part. It is a duty to protect but it also a duty to follow morality. And here the heat of the war overcame him, and because the heat of the war overcame him and the mistaken idea of what being a commander meant, he proposed something which was abominable. He said, “O Karna! If six of us attack him together then there is chance that we will be able to overcome him. Karna, if you shoot and break his bow, break his reins and break his chariot wheels, if a the same time Kritavarman kills his horses, and at the same time Aswathama kills his charioteer, and we – Kripa, Duryodhana and I attack him directly, then there is a chance that we will be able to overcome him. Duryodhana and Karna agreed.
Now they were so frantic about somehow overcoming Abhimanyu that they did not consider morality, and Drona had made the strategy, so they could always pass the blame on Drona, and accordingly they all attacked. Duryodhana attacked Abhimanyu from behind and Kripa and Drona came right from ahead. As Abhimanyu was fighting with them suddenly he found that his bow had been pierced; he looked around and found that Karna had pierced his bow, and before he could do anything his reins were cut and his chariot wheels were cut and he was immobilized, and then right in front of his eyes as he was about to string another bow he found that his charioteer had been killed. He looked and saw that Aswathama had killed him, and his horses had been
killed by Kritavarmam, and as all the Kaurava warriors started attacking him from all sides he realized that he had been hemmed in. Without any fear he continued fighting realizing that he would be completely trapped and devoured if they all charged towards him, he used his mystic powers and he rose up into the sky. Now as a ksatriya he had mystic power by which he could rise up in the sky and he could have fled, but he decided not to flee. From there itself he exhibited various mystic powers and using his weapons he kept fighting and attacking the Kaurava’s.
At that time he had a sword and a shield from where he was planning to attack further as his bow and arrow had been broken. As he was there high up in the sky several Kaurva warriors shot at him and taking careful aim they destroyed his sword and mace, and Abhimanyu came down to the earth and he took up a giant mace and he charged towards Aswathama like Siva the destroyer charging to destroy the demons. He raised the giant mace and pounded in on Aswathama’s chariot, Aswathama considered it unstoppable and leapt off his chariot, and his chariot, charioteer and horse were crushed to pieces. Abhimanyu swung around and fought fiercely. In a short while he had destroyed hundreds of forces while being without a chariot and a charioteer and just a mace. And then the Kaurava warriors attacked fiercely and they destroyed his mace. He picked up a wheel and he charged towards the Kauravas with the wheel; the wheel was destroyed. Then he took another mace and he charged towards Durjay, the son of Dusasana and he brought the mace down on durjay’s chariot and the chariot was crushed. Durjay just jumped off with a mace and he challenged him and both of the fought fiercely. They fought and fought, and then finally in one sweeping action they hit each other on the head and both of them fell because of the impact, and groggy from the attack Abhimanyu got up, but having fought so many warriors against overwhelming odds for so long he was exhausted, his reflexes had been dulled, and he got up slowly and Durjay got up faster and he picked up his mace and he hit Abhimanyu bang on the head; Abhimanyu’s skull broke apart and he fell dead over there and the Kaurava warriors broke into celebration, cheering that the warrior who was unstoppable was not dead, and although there was celebration in the Kaurava camp and there was devastation and gloom in the Pandava camp, this day became a terrible stain on all the Kaurava warriors including g Drona who had been the commander and who had suggested the idea of killing Abhimanyu in this heinous way.
Such are the ways of war that the fever of warfare can pervert even noble minds. Although later Drona was killed in an unfair way the magnitude of unfairness with which he was killed was far later than the unfairness with which he arranged for the killing of Abhimanyu.