Verse 7

7. Duryodhana addresses Dronacarya as best among the ‘twice-born’. This term refers to Brahmanas, the highest calibre of human beings. Human beings were classified into four castes or varnas, depending on their mental composition. This depended on the proportion of sattva, rajas or tamas in them. Sattva is purity, a state of calm contemplation on the higher. Rajas is a state of mental agitation resulting in frenetic activity and tamas is ignorance leading to inertia or indolence. All human beings have all three thought patterns. The ancient masters divided humans into four categories depending on the proportion of sattva, rajas and tamas in them and gave them a vocation in accordance with their inner temperament. Brahmanas were the highest class as they were predominantly sattvika in nature. Dronacarya was a Brahmana, a thinker of high intellect. The intellect is supposed to be born at age eight when the individual begins to question, think, reflect. Hence the thread ceremony or upanayanam was conducted at this age to signify the commencement of education. Dronacarya was the best among the Brahmanas.

Duryodhana refers to the army as ‘my’ army. Both the Pandava as well as Kaurava forces were trained by Dronacarya, yet he arrogates the army to himself, a sign of vanity and false pride.


Verse 8

8. Duryodhana begins his narration of the Kaurava army with Dronacarya himself, a sign of the high respect and honour that was given to him. Dronacarya remains silent in the hope that Duryodhana realizes his mistake and stops the war. Silence is a powerful weapon used by mature, refined people to educate the ignorant. It is effective even with children!

Dronacarya was the son of the renowned sage Bharadvaja, a great ascetic who had mastered the Vedas. Arjuna was his favorite student. Drona was born in modern day Dehradun (a modification of dehra-dron, a clay pot).

Drona spent his youth in poverty, but studied philosophy and military arts with the then prince of Pancala, Drupada. Drupada and Drona became close friends and Drupada, on impulse, promised to give Drona half his kingdom.

Remembering the promise given by Drupada, Drona later approached him for help. However, King Drupada refused to even recognise Drona and humiliated him. Drona went away insulted, vowing revenge.

Drona went to Hastinapura, where once he saw the Kauravas and Pandavas gathered around a well. Their ball had fallen into the well and they did not know how to retrieve it. Drona retrieved the ball with his prowess.

The boys reported this incident to Bhishma, their grandfather. Bhishma instantly realized that this was Drona, and asked him to become the Guru of the Kuru princes.

On completing their training, Drona asked the princes to capture Drupada. Arjuna brought Drupada as ordered. Drona took half of Drupada’s kingdom, thus becoming his equal. He forgave Drupada for his misdeeds, but Drupada swore revenge. He performed a yajna to have a son who would slay Drona and a daughter who would marry Arjuna. His wish was fulfilled and thus was born Dhrstadyumna, the slayer of Drona, and Draupadi, the consort of the Pandavas.

Drona strongly condemned the wicked prince Duryodhana and his brothers for their abusive treatment of the Pandavas, and for usurping their kingdom and sending them into exile. But being a subject of Hastinapura, Drona was bound by duty to fight for the Kauravas, and thus against his favorite Pandavas.

Drona was an invincible warrior, whom no person on earth could defeat. After the fall of Bhisma, he became the Commander-in- Chief of the Kaurava Army.

Krsna asks Yudhisthira to proclaim that Drona’s son Asvatthama had died, so that the invincible Kuru commander would give up his arms and be killed. Bhima kills an elephant named Asvatthama, and loudly proclaims that Asvatthama is dead.

Drona knows that only Yudhisthira would tell him the truth. Yudhisthira says Asvatthama is dead, the elephant. But this last part is drowned by the sound of trumpets and conch shells. Drona is disheartened, and lays down his weapons. He is then killed by Dhrstadyumna. Drona’s death greatly saddens Arjuna, who had hoped to capture him alive.

Bhisma is one of the central characters of the Mahabharata. Bhisma was born as Devavrata and was the youngest son of Shantanu by his first wife Ganga (the holy River).

When Santanu wanted to marry a fisherwoman Satyavati, her father refused on the grounds that her children would never be rulers as Santanu already had a son Devavrata. This made Santanu despondent. To placate Satyavati’s father, Devavrata gave up his claim to the throne. At this, Satyavati’s father said his children would still have right to the throne. At this, Devavrata took the vow of celibacy. This gave him immediate recognition among the gods and his father granted him the boon of choosing the time of his death.

Bhisma was a great archer and a warrior of peerless valour and courage. In the process of finding a bride for the young king Vicitravirya (son of Santanu and Satyavati) Bhisma won the hands of princesses Amba, Ambika and Ambalika of Kasi (Varanasi) at their svayamvar. Amba confided in Bhisma that she wished to wed another man, Salwa. When Bhisma sent her back to Salwa, he turned her down. Amba was incensed at Bhisma, whose interference she perceived as the root cause of her troubles.

Amba did penance and got the boon that she would be instrumental for the death of Bhisma. Amba would be born as a princess in the house of King Drupada, and be transformed into Shikhandi, a man.

In the great battle at Kuruksetra, Bhisma, bound by his oath to serve the ruler of Hastinapura, fought reluctantly on the side of the Kauravas.

Bhisma was finally grievously wounded on the tenth day of battle by Arjuna, who hid behind Shikhandi, and rained arrows on the grandsire. Bhisma knew that Shikhandi was born a woman and refused to fight him. Bhisma fell, his entire body resting on a pincushion of Arjuna’s arrows. He lay on the ‘bed of arrows’ till the end of the battle, and chose to die only after learning that the Pandavas had won, as he was now assured that the throne of Hastinapura was in safe hands. Bhisma admitted he had been wrong in fighting for Duryodhana even though he was the king’s subject as one’s only allegiance is to righteousness.

Karna is one of the central figures in the Mahabharata. He was the first son of Kunti, half brother to the Pandavas, and the eldest of them. The princess Kunti attended to the sage Durvasa for a year while he was a guest at her father’s palace. The sage was pleased with her service and granted her a boon whereby she could call upon any god of her choice, and beget a child in his image. Kunti, while still unmarried, decided to test the boon and called upon Surya the sun god. Bound by the power of the mantra, Surya granted her a son as radiant and strong as his father. Surya gifted Karna with an armour (‘Kavaca’) and a pair of earrings (‘Kundala’) which were attached to him from birth.

Unwilling to face the world as an unwed mother, Kunti abandoned Karna, setting him afloat in a box in a river. The child was picked up by King Dhrtarastra’s charioteer, Adhiratha, a sudra. Karna was raised by him and his wife Radha.

As he grew into adulthood, Karna sought to be a warrior. He approached Dronacarya, who refused to teach him, as he was a ‘sutaputra’, the son of a charioteer. Karna approached Parasurama who accepted him as his student.

Duryodhana offered Karna the throne of Anga, today’s Bhagalpur in Bihar. Karna is spoken of as a loyal and true friend to Duryodhana. He disliked Shakuni, and advised Duryodhana to use his prowess and skill rather than deceit and trickery to defeat his enemies. When the attempt to kill the Pandavas in the house of lac fails, Karna chides Duryodhana, telling him that cowards are doomed to failure. He exhorts him to be a warrior and obtain what he wants through valour.

Karna was renowned in all the worlds for his generosity, surpassing even the gods. Following his appointment as king, he took an oath that anyone who approached him with a request at midday, would have his request fulfilled. This practice contributed to Karna’s fame as well as to his downfall, as Indra and Kunti took advantage of it.

Indra, king of the gods (Devas) and father of Arjuna, realized that Karna would be invincible in battle as long as he had the golden armour and earrings that he was born with. During the Pandavas’ exile, when war was imminent, Indra took it upon himself to weaken Karna. He approached Karna as a poor Brahmana. Karna’s father, Surya, told Karna in a dream that Indra would disguise himself as a beggar and ask for his armour and earrings as alms. Surya exhorted him not to give away his protection. Karna, who did not know that Surya was his father, ignored the warning. As Surya had predicted, a disguised Indra approached Karna and asked for his kavaca (armour) and kundala (earrings) as alms. Karna, despite knowing that the armour and earrings were his protection, readily gave them away. Indra, struck by Karna’s gesture, reciprocated by giving Karna the boon to use his most powerful weapon, the Vasavi shakti, but only once.

Kunti approached Karna and revealed her identity as his mother. The two share a touching moment together, when she tells him to throw aside the name ‘Radheya’ and call himself ‘Kaunteya’ instead. Karna tells Kunti that had she been willing to call him Kaunteya many years ago, when he appeared at the tournament, things might have been different, but now it was too late. He owes Duryodhana too much, is Duryodhana’s friend first and foremost, and must fight the Pandavas. However, he promises that he will not kill any of the five, save Arjuna. He and Arjuna have sworn to kill each other, and one of them must die.

Karna requests his mother to keep their relationship and his royal birth a secret until his death. Only then can she reveal to the world that he was actually her first born.

On the seventeenth day of battle, the much anticipated confrontation between Karna and Arjuna finally takes place. During the course of combat, one of Karna’s chariot wheels gets stuck in loose soil. King Salya, who was his charioteer, refuses to get down and remove the wheel from the mud. Hence Karna asks Arjuna to wait while he gets off his chariot and extricates the wheel. Arjuna agrees. Meanwhile Krsna orders Arjuna to shoot Karna while he was attempting to lift the wheel out of the mud.

After Karna’s death, Kunti informs the Pandavas that she was Karna’s mother and that he was the eldest of the Pandavas. The Pandavas grieve for Karna. Yudhisthira, particularly, was incensed on hearing that his mother had kept Karna’s identity a secret from him and his brothers. He curses all women, stating that henceforth they would never be able to keep a secret.

The city of Karnal in Haryana, near Kuruksetra, is named after Karna. Karna serves as an excellent example of a gifted, righteous and brave individual who was still doomed because of his loyalty towards the evil Duryodhana.

Kripacarya, also often called Kripa, was the chief priest at the court of Hastinapura, in the Mahabharata. His twin sister Kripi married Drona, the weapons master to the court. He was appointed as preceptor of Pariksita, the grandson of Arjuna.

Asvatthama was the son of guru Dronacarya. Dronacarya loved him dearly. Asvatthama obtained permission from the dying Duryodhana to brutally murder Dhristadhyumna after the war had officially ended.

VIKARNA, the son of Dhritarastra was best among the Kauravas. He alone raised a voice in favour of Draupadi while she was being derobed in open Parliament. Even Bhisma and Vidura did not support Draupadi. During the war Bhima killed Vikarna after a brave fight.

Bhurisravas and Somadatta were two among the eleven generals of the Kaurava army, leading an Aksauhini of troops.