Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Episode 63 - Kurukshetra, Day 2

Episode 63 - The second day of battle comes and goes.  If the first day went to the Kauravas, the 2nd day certainly belonged to the Pandavas.  The day ends with Bhimasena and Arjun dominating the field, and the Kaurava soldiers crapping their pants.  The cream of Kalinga manhood has been exterminated on the field, and even their enemies are forced to admire the way the two brothers cleared the field of all comers.

Lots more people died, but so far, not much has been accomplished.  Maybe day 3 will go better?  I doubt it!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Episode 62 - Kurukshetra, Day 1: Concluded

Episode 62 - Let's admit it, we were all impatient for this war to get started.  Like the characters in the story, we concluded many episodes back that there was never going to be a peaceful solution, and it would take nothing less than a massive bloodletting to make sure the bad guys were punished and the good guys got their rightful honors.

But now that the war has started, those frustrating days of exile in the forest are looking more attractive.  Sure, we all feel that Duryodhana deserves a good kick in the ass, but wars are never that satisfying.  Entire nations of warriors will be extinct before Duryodhana gets his first bruise.  And then there are the other 98 Kaurava brothers.  Sure, they might have collectively done some sneaky things, but how exactly did they earn the fate of preceding their elder brother into the underworld, like some primitive escort?

We might have learned thousands of years ago that war can never have a satisfactory outcome, and by now we should have found better ways of resolving our differences.  But here we are today, a bunch of "civilized" readers, looking forward to the battle books and anticipating the final denouement of the evil Kaurava brothers.

There is no such satisfaction on this, the first day of war.  Instead, Virata was deprived of both of his sons, and we found out too late that his second son Shveta was a fine Kshatriya and would have made a great ally.  But now he's dead; another life wasted.

Brace yourself, however, because there is much more of this yet to come...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Episode 61 - Kurukshetra, Day 1: War is Hell

Episode 61 - It is the morning of the first day of battle.  Already Krishna has revealed his great song to Arjuna, and now there are some final formalities, as Yuddistira runs to his elders on the enemy side for their blessings.  Krishan tags along and tries to tempt Karna over to the Pandava side, just until Bhisma is dead.  It must have been tempting, since it would have given him the chance to even kill the old bugger.  But Karna is too loyal to go for such an under-handed thing.  He turns Krishna down without a second thought.

Finally, just as Yuddistira returns to his lines, he invites anyone who'd like to change sides.  Yuyutsu, Dhrtarastra's 101st son, the illegitimate son of a serving girl, volunteers to change sides.  Now at least the old king can reasonably hope to have a son who survives this war and can make offerings to his ghost.

With this betrayal, Duryodhana starts the fight with a raid directly on his cousins.  What follows is a litany of the numerous duels, none of which ended in a fatality, and the violent slaughter of the un-named masses.  There is a bloody stalemate until the sun reached mid-day, and Bhisma launched a frontal attack on his enemies.  More on that next time!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Episode 60 - The Gita, part 2: The Godhead

Episode 60 - This concludes Krishna's dialog with Arjun about Dharma, Bhakti, Yoga, and the Gunas.  During the course of this, Arjun is granted divine sight, and is able to catch a glimpse of Krishna's true appearance; it nearly blows his mind.

Getting back to Arjun's original question-- Does Arjun's Dharma really require him to kill his relatives and gurus? and how can this can be a good thing?  It seems like a lot of Krishna's teaching is addressed to posterity, because advice to meditate more often isn't exactly going to propel Arjun into the battlefield.  I think the convincing part of it for Arjun was the divine vision in which he saw his enemies rushing inexorably to their deaths. Whether he followed his Dharma, or ran away, these guys were dead men walking.  So the decision to fight was a personal one.  Whether he fired the arrow that killed his grandfather or not, the sin of murder would not be on his conscience.

This ends the Gita.  We have only one small formality to take care of, and then finally the battle will begin-- next episode!