Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Episode 55 - Cutting the Muster

Episode 55 - As if intending to seal his fate, Duryodhana warms up the Pandavas by sending over an odious gambler Uluka as a messenger to goad them into fighting.  Then Bhisma kindly gives us an inventory of the fighters who will take place in the coming battle.

There are a bunch of guys who I've never heard of, and do not seem to have any important role to play in the story, so I've left them out, trying to keep the cast of characters under control.  As for the rest, they are all rated between Rathas and Atirathas.

Finally, Bhisma assures the Kauravas that he could personally beat anyone on the opposing side, except for Arjun, but not to worry about Arjun, because he would never kill his elders or gurus.  The others he would not kill: the Pandavas, any women, and anyone who used to be a woman.   It turns out, there is one of these trannies on the Pandava side-- it's Drupad's 2nd son, Sikhandin.  Next episode, Bhisma will tell us why it is he cannot kill this particular warrior.

Episode 54 - The March on Kurukshetra

Episode 54 - Krishna returns from his mission to Hastinpur with war on his mind.  Yuddistira, having spent the last 12-14 years undergoing massive hardship to prevent this war, is reluctant to accept this truth.  He begs for more information, trying to find any way out of this situation.  So Krishna obliges by giving us the details of a few more speeches made in the Kuru court, but none of it helps.  War is truly inevitable.

So both sides round up their armies and march on Kurukshetra.  When they arrive, each side appoints a Commander in Chief.  It is Bhisma on the Kaurava side, and King Drupad on the Pandavas' side.

From this point until the end of the war, the main narrative frame of the story will be told in terms of a conversation between Sanjay and Dhrtarastra.  The Epic has so far not explained how it is that Sanjay knows what is going on at the far-off battlefield, but somehow he knows everything, and is able to relate it all to his king.  Occasionally, Dhrtarastra will interrupt with questions or react to the events, so it will be through his blind eyes that we shall perceive the coming war.

But don't be deceived that just because we are on the eve of war, that we will be soon getting to it.  The Epic always takes its time, and there will still be quite a few more episodes before the action really starts.  After al, we still need to get through the Bhagavad Gita!!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Episode 53 - The Temptation of Karna

Episode 53 - This episode is devoted to the classic scene of the Mahabharata in which Krishna reveals to Karna his true descent.  He never was the Son of a Suta, which everyone called him with scorn.  No, he was in fact the eldest of the Pandavas-- the original Partha.  Now that the truth was out, all Karna needed to do was embrace his Dharma, join his brothers, and assume the title of King of India.

Poor Karna, always the victim of bad timing.  It was way too late for such an offer.  Perhaps if Kunti had stood up and claimed him as her son during the Pandavas' first military exhibition, he might have come around then, but now there was too much water under the bridge.  Karna had been tossed out as a baby like the day's garbage, and had been scorned as a Suta when he tried to display his Kshatriya nature.  His modest Suta parents and the evil Kauravas had been the only ones to come to his aid, and he would never give them up.

Krishna failed in turning Karna, but somehow he allowed Sanjay to know of the entire conversation, so the story of Karna's descent and temptation was made known to all the Kauravas.  Kunti caught wind of the encounter, and she made a go at turning him.  She also failed, but she at least got the promise that he would spare her other sons, and should Arjun die, Karna would take his place as her fifth son.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Episode 52 - Krishna reveals Himself

Episode 52 - The peace talks break down completely.  It starts well, when no one can come up with a rebuttal to Krishna's speech.  Narada and Kanva tell a couple of parables to help with the decision making, but Duryodhana was not interested.  It seems he believed that the terms of the Dice Game were that the Pandavas were to go to the forest forever, not just 13 years.  Maybe it's true?  What if the Pandavas had indeed been banished for life, but they decided to change the rules when Krishna & Drupad offered to help them overthrow their cousins?  How would we know, since we only get the version of the story as told by the survivors of this war!?!

In any case, Duryodhana stuck to his story, and was adamant about refusing to bow to threats.  They began talking of restraining the boy and sending him in fetters to the Pandavas, and Duryodhana in turn planned on capturing Krishna. When news of this arrived at the palace, Dhrtarastra blew his top and yelled at the boy.  Then Krishna revealed his true nature, in front of the Kuru court.

The peace talks have failed.  There is nothing more to do but get ready for war.  But Krishna will stick around a little longer to meet with Kunti and then stir up some trouble by telling Karna about his true descent...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Episode 51 - Krishna comes to Town

Episode 51 - Sanjay's mission clearly did not accomplish much, so this time Krishna offers to go to Hastinapur as the Pandavas' chief negotiator.  When the Kauravas hear he is coming, Dhrtarastra plans on bribing him, while Duryodhana hopes to imprison him.

Krishna senses all the bad vibes and decides to only stay & eat with Vidur.  He also visits with the Pandavas' poor widowed mother Kunti, whom he tries to console.  Surprisingly, Kunti blames her father for all her suffering.  Kunti's father, Sura, was also Krishna's grandfather, and for some reason he gave her up for adoption to the chieftain Kuntibhoja.  It was there, while living under Kuntibhoja's roof, that she was assigned to serve the creepy saddhu Durvasas.  The result was that poor Kunti was saddled with an illegitimate baby-- young Karna.

Krishna assures his aunt that the Pandavas will soon make their comeback and all will be well.  Then he pays a visit to Duryodhana.  Duryodhana attempts to bribe him, but Krishna refuses to even eat with them.  The following day, Krishna is summoned before the court of Hastinapur, where he makes his case for a settlement with the Pandavas.

The king and his councilors really don't have much to say by way of a rebuttal, so Parashurama breaks the silence by offering to tell a couple of parables.  Next time, we'll hear these parables and then see how the negotiations turn out.