Ślōka no. 4, 5, 6 : Duryōdhana’s Delusion

We have seen in the earlier ślōkas, that on seeing Pāndavas’ army, fear gripped Duryōdhana. The following three ślōkas describe the same in detail –

अत्र शूरा महेष्वासा भीमार्जुनसमा युधि

युयुधानो विराटश्च द्रुपदश्च महारथः

धृष्टकेतुश्चेकितानः काशिराजश्च वीर्यवान्

पुरुजित्कुंतिभोजश्च शैव्यश्च[41] नरपुंगवः

युधामन्युश्च विक्रान्त उत्तमोजाश्च[42]वीर्यवान्

सौभद्रो द्रौपदेयाश्च सर्व एव महारथाः


atra śūrā mahēṣvāsā bhīmārjunasamā yudhi
yuyudhānō virāṭaśca drupadaśca mahārathaḥ 4

dhr̥ṣṭakētuścēkitānaḥ kāśirājaśca vīryavān
purujitkuntibhōjaśca śaivyaśca narapuṅgavaḥ 5
yudhāman’yuśca vikrānta uttamōjāśca vīryavān
saubhadrō draupadēyāśca sarva ēva mahārathāḥ 6

[All those who are here, are capable of subduing any enemy; seasoned archers; as combatants, on par with Bhīma – Arjuna; Satyāki too, Virāta included and so too Drupada, each is a charioteer of regard. Dhr̥ṣṭakētu, Cēkitāna, the King of Kāśi too, are all heroic ones. Purujit, Kuntibhōja, and the King of Śivi region, are valiant like bulls. The mighty Yudhāman’yu and the valorous Uttamōjā too. Subhadra’s son, as also the sons of Draupadi, each of them is a highly respected charioteer].

In these ślōkas, both, individuals as well as the number of individuals, exemplified by Duryōdhana, are very significant.

First, let us look at the numbers. Excluding the children of the Pāndavas, Duryōdhana, mentions eleven heroes, among those who have come in from outside. This number is worth paying attention to. Later when mentioning the names of the valorous ones on his own side, Duryōdhana mentions only seven names. There are eleven akṣōhiṇis in Duryōdhana’s army. He however describes only seven individuals. Pāndavā army is of seven akṣōhiṇis. But, on that side, Duryōdhana identifies eleven individuals. Essentially he should have described each of the eleven akṣōhiṇi army chiefs on his side, and seven such ones on the side of Pāndavas. Duryōdhana’s calculations however have become topsy-turvy. Eleven becomes seven and seven turns eleven. This seven ~ eleven conundrum was the reason for his devastation. Even though he had eleven akṣōhiṇis it was impossible for him to recall the names of more than seven of his own heroes. On the other hand, the Pāndavas’ army was merely of seven-akṣōhiṇis, but he spotted eleven commanders on their side.

The magic in this number can be seen in another way here. If one adds up the name of the Pāndavā army chief Dhṛṣṭadhyumna with those of Subhadra’s son Abhimanyu and the five children of Draupadi, the number of heroes mentioned, goes up to eighteen. Eighteen symbolises जय (jaya) [‘ज’(ja) = eight, ‘य’(ya) = one]. Even if it was eleven on this side and seven on the other, as per the number of akṣōhiṇis shared on the two sides in Duryōdhana’s estimates, he felt that all the eighteen heroes had assembled on the side of the Pāndavas. Thereby victory is packaged for them, is the indication in this statement.

Next let us look at the adjectives he uses for describing the Pāndavas.  In all, he uses three specific adjectives to describe the heroes on the side of Pāndavas – all are śūras (valiant), maheṣvāsas (great archers) and warriors on par with Bhīma – Arjuna.

Śūra means those who are capable of fighting without turning their back on the war, positioned as commanders. In Saṁskṛta even a lion is called śūra. A lion is clever enough and capable of overpowering an elephant which is greater in terms of size and strength than itself; the King of the jungles. That’s how it is śūra. In the same way, there is a hint in this qualitative statement that the other side has clever people who can fight and overpower like lions, those who stand like arrogant elephants on his side. The second adjective: maheṣvāsāḥ. This term means highly experienced archers, heroes who are unmatched in the art of archery. Not employing such adjectives, to even describe the esteemed ācārya puruṣas of archery, namely Drōṇa – Bhīṣma, Duryōdhana uses it to describe each one of the Pāndava army commanders. The enormity of the fear within him is clearly amplified by this statement.

The most important of the adjectival allusions: ‘warriors on par with Bhīma – Arjuna. All of them were regarded as commensurate with Bhīma – Arjuna, in war. Essentially across both army groups, the only ones that could match Bhīma – Arjuna, were none other than Bhīma – Arjuna themselves. To Duryōdhana, whose mind is disarrayed in confusion, everyone seems to be on par with Bhīma – Arjuna. This is from his heightened fear!

We will need to recall an earlier scenario here. In the war room conference, when elders advised Duryōdhana to avoid confrontation with Bhīma- Arjuna, he had brushed them aside. He had questioned them, ‘When the best armies of the world are on my side, of what consequence are Bhīma-Arjuna?’ Much as he might have bragged, what comes to light at this stage is that Bhīma-Arjuna made him jittery. Fears hidden deep in his sub-conscious, surface in his words, without his being aware of it. The extent of this fear? In his sight, it is not just Bhīma-Arjuna but everyone else too, on the side of Pāndavas, that resemble this duo. What a piteous state! Truly, it is time for Duryōdhana to be sent to a psychiatrist for treatment. He needs psychotherapy, urgently! But, the healer of all minds, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the first psychiatrist of this world, is on the Pāndavas’ side. There is no medication for his mental ailment.

Let us move on to see who were the heroes on the Pāndavas’ side, recounted by Duryōdhana. The first of them was Yuyudhāna. He was none but Sātyaki, the valorous yādava; son of Satyaka, as such known as Sātyaki; the grandson of Śini and thereby also known as Śainēya. Yuyudhāna was his name at birth. This Sātyaki was a close pal of Kṛṣṇa, as also his ardent pupil. That is how he was in special focus, in Duryōdhana’s view.

There is another backdrop that calls for attention here.  Duryōdhana was the favourite pupil of Balarāma. Using this sentiment, he had tried to persuade Balarāma, longing to marry Subhadra. Even Balarāma had consented to this. Had not Kṛṣṇa’s machinations denied him this wedding, it was possible that Kṛṣṇa would have remained neutral, in Subhadra’s cause. The anguish caused by this slip between the cup and the lip, stands out in stark contrast here.

While taking Sātyaki’s name, another issue too would have crossed Duryōdhana’s mind. Prior to commencement of the war, Duryōdhana had approached Balarāma and sought his support in the war. Duryōdhana enjoyed Balarāma’s true affection. In any case was he not his favourite pupil? Duryōdhana’s daughter Lakṣaṇe was married to Kṛṣṇa’s son Samba. As such, confrontation with a pupil who was his relative as well, was not acceptable to Balarāma. While Balarama was uncomfortable with the thought, Duryōdhana too had anticipated his thoughts, as he approached him. He had estimated, ‘If Balarama succumbs to our relationship bonds and pledges support to me, it will shut out the possibility of either Kṛṣṇa or the Yādavas opposing his word and supporting the Pāndavas’ side.’ Fortune however did not smile on Duryōdhana. Balarāma remained neutral. He stepped aside saying, ‘Both are related to me. So, I shall favour neither. Yādavas may join any side that they deem fit. I shall not intrude in this matter.’  Resultantly, Yuyudhāna and Cēkitāna, moved to Pāndavas’ side. Kṛtavarma however backed him. Despite Kṛtavarma moving over to his side, it did not appear to be a significant one, in Duryōdhana’s view. The two that eluded his grasp and moved to the other side, became a big issue for him. This is the reason as to why he first invoked the name of Sātyaki as the representative of the Yādava army.

The next name listed by Duryōdhana was that of Virāṭa. This person, who was to join his side, joined the side of Pāndavas, through sheer twist of fate. This turn was unjust to him, as indicated by Duryōdhana.

To get more clarity in this matter we would have to look at Virāṭa’s history. Virāṭa was the husband of Kīcaka’s sister Sudēṣna. Had Kīcaka been alive now, Virāṭa would not have moved to Pāndavas’ side. Kīcaka himself would have led Virāṭa’s army from the front and would have fought on the side of Kauravās.

Barring the trio of Bhīmasēna, Balarāma and Śalya, there was none that could have challenged Kīcaka in a mace war, in that relevant period. Should the death of such a Kīcaka have occurred in the hands of Bhīma? That too in a phase towards the end of the Pāndavas mandatory period of incognito living? Kīcaka’s death was not only his own misfortune but also Duryōdhana’s misfortune. As a consequence, one akṣōhiṇi army from the Virāṭa Kingdom, which should have rightfully been on his side, boosted the ranks of the Pāndavas. Not just that, filled with lament, Duryōdhana tells Ācārya Drōṇa, ‘Virāṭaśca. Even Virāṭa slipped out of our fold. Not only did the death of Kīcaka hit us badly, but also Virāṭa’s daughter Uttara, who became Abhimanyu’s wife, adorned the house of Pāndavas, as their daughter-n-law. As a result one akṣōhiṇi went to their side on a platter, with the girl.’ Thereby it appears that Duryōdhana has blamed his misfortune here.

The third name is that of Drupada. When the Pāndavas were children, i.e., prior to Drupada being related to them, he had supported Jarāsanda, the one who fought against Kṛṣṇa, through his army. That very same Drupada, however, now stands on the side of Kṛṣṇa, opposing Duryōdhana; with his entire army, with all his children. What’s more is that, one son, Dhṛṣṭadhyumna is a chief of the Pāndavas’ forces. The reason for this is Draupadi’s alliance with the Pāndavas.

In reality, Duryōdhana had longed for Draupadi to be his spouse. For this, in the contest to cleave the fish, he had wished that Karṇa should help him. Karṇa too could have split the target. Then Draupadi would have been his. Had that happened, Drupada’s army would have been on his side, wouldn’t it?

Even here, however, fate conspired against him. In just a while, Karṇa did not succeed in the contest to cleave the fish. Draupadi garland landed on the necks of the Pāndavas. In this way, feeling that he was denied the benefit of the Pāncala army, he stated: ‘धृपदश्च (Drupadasca)’ – fate worked against him to veer away Drupada too. The adjective ‘महारथ (Mahāratha)’ which appears at the end of this śloka, applies to all the three described above. Mahāratha Sātyaki,   Mahāratha Virāṭa, Mahāratha Drupada. The characteristics of a Mahāratha have been enunciated by our ancients as under –

एको दशसहस्राणि योधयेद यस्तु धन्विनाम्।

अस्त्रशस्त्रप्रवीणश्च विज्ञेयः स महारथः

Ēkō daśasahasrāṇi yōdhayēd yastu dhanvinām 
astraśastrapravīṇaśca vijñēyaḥ sa mahārathaḥ
(शस्त्रप्रवीणश्च śastraśāstrapravīṇaśca is the version in some texts).

अमितान् योधयेध् यस्तु संप्रोक्तोऽतिरथस्तु सः।

रथी चैकेन यो योद्धा तन्नुनोऽर्धरथः स्मृतः

amitān yōdhayēdh yastu samprōktōtirathastu saḥ
rathī caikēna yō yōd’dhā tannunō̕rdharathaḥ smr̥taḥ

[He who can fight with ten thousand bowmen at once, well versed in arms and ammunition, is called ‘mahāratha.’ He who can fight innumerable people, is an ‘atiratha.’ He who can fight one charioteer, is called ‘rathika.’ One who does not possess any such capacity is called ‘ardharatha’].

What is the cryptic meaning of this statement? One who has a great ratha (chariot) is a mahāratha. [महान् रथो अस्य सः = महारथः| (Mahān rathō asya saḥ = mahārathaḥ).] This is only the apparent meaning. If one tries to disambiguate in this manner, the entire significance accrues to the ratha, not to the rathika (charioteer). Therefore, here ratha = rathika. A great rathika is ‘mahāratha.’ [महान्स्चासौ रथस्च = महारथः | (mahānscāsau rathasca = mahārathaḥ)]. He who stands surpassing everything is ‘atiratha.’ [अतिशयतौ रथः = अतिरथः | (atiśayatau rathaḥ = atirathaḥ)]. He who can only fight with one rathika is just a rathi [एकः रथः अस्य प्रतियोद्धृत्वेन अस्तीति = रथी | (Ēkaḥ rathaḥ asya pratiyōd’dhr̥tvēna astīti = rathī)]. He who is inferior to such a one [रथी(rathī)] is ardharatha [रथस्य अर्धः = अर्धरथः | (Rathasya ardhaḥ = ardharathaḥ)].

In paiśācyabhāṣya Hanumanta brings out a new meaning to the word mahāratha – महाय युद्धोत्सवाय आ समन्तात रथाः शस्त्रास्त्र प्रभूताः येषां ते महारथाः| (Mahāya yud’dhōtsavāya ā samantāt rathāḥ śastrāstra prabhūtāḥ yēṣāṁ tē mahārathāḥ)’ [As per this disambiguation, the three words ‘मह + आ+ रथ (maha + ā + ratha)’ conjoin to form ‘महारथ (mahāratha) – mahāya = for the occasion of the war, ā = surrounding, rathāḥ = he who is surrounded by a chariot that is filled with arms and ammunition, is a mahāratha]. This appears to like stretching out something and does not sound like the natural sense of the word.

The fourth person named by Duryōdhana is ‘Dhr̥ṣṭakētu.’ He is the son of Śiśupāla. If Śiśupāla were to be alive, would he have gone to the side of Pāndavas, for any reason? But, this Śiśupāla, who was the favourite pupil of Jarāsandha, met his end in the hands of Kṛṣṇa during the important rājasūya ritual. His son, Dhr̥ṣṭakētu, now sides with the killer of his father Kṛṣṇa and villainously opposes him, is Duryōdhana’s lament.

To entice Dharmarāja to his side, Śiśupāla got his daughter Dēvaki to marry him. It is this relationship that has resulted in the present adverse situation. Dhr̥ṣṭakētu was compelled to support Dharmarāja, as he was his sister’s husband.

The fifth person described by Duryōdhana: ‘Cēkitāna.’ He, like Sātyaki, was a Yādava hero who sided Kṛṣṇa; as old as Sātyaki. Sātyaki and he were born on the same day. The background that was given for Sātyaki, applies to him too.

Virāṭa had given his daughter’s hand to Abhimanyu and thereby he was on Pāndavas’ side. Dhr̥ṣṭakētu went over to Pāndavas’ side on account of his sister. Yuyudhāna and Cēkitāna, joined the Pāndavas side as Kunti, was the sister of a Yādava hero Vasudeva and Pāndavas were her children, Arjuna’s wife Subhadra was from the Yādava lineage. Every one focused on the relationship with the Pandavas and did not focus on their relationship with him. As an illustration of this lament of his, Duryōdhana brings up the next name: काशिराजश्च वीर्यवान् (kāśirājaśca vīryavān).

When we observe the background of this kāśirāja, it would become clear to us as to why Duryōdhana is fully agitated as he takes up kāśirāja’s name. His bewilderment has a major issue behind it. Kāśirāja’s daughter Kāḷi was married to Bhimasena. That he naturally went on to the side of his son-in-law was something that Duryōdhana would not be convinced about. This is because even Duryōdhana had married Kāśirāja’s daughter.   It was impossible for two kings to simultaneously rule Kāśi, so, the same person who was Bhimasēna’s father in law must have been Duryōdhana’s too.  Or, this Kāśirāja must have been the son of the that one! In this way when there was parity in relationship, why did Kāśiraja prefer Bhimasēna’s side? Suppose, like Balarāma, he had not tilted towards either side and remained neutral, Duryōdhana could have understood that. But here was this man who seemed to tell him that he was unrelated and stood by Bhimasēna’s side. This was the main reason for Duryōdhana’s bewilderment.

The adjective ‘vīryavān’ appearing at the end of the first half of this ślōka, applies to all three here, in the same manner as before. The great gallant Dhr̥ṣṭakētu, the great gallant Cēkitāna and the great gallant Kāśiraja.

This adjective which is applicable to all three in general, has a special connotation in respect of Kāśiraja. That the kings of Kāśi were greatly valorous was renowned the Vēdic period too. Br̥hadāraṇyakōpaniṣat describes the bravery of the Kāśi kings as under –

यथा काश्यो वा वैदेहो वोग्रपुत्र उज्ज्यं धनुरधिज्यं कृत्वा द्वौ बाणवंतौ सपत्नातिव्याधिनौ   हस्ते  कृत्वोपोत्तिष्ठेत् ……’ (Yathā kāśyō vā vedēhō vōgraputra ujjyaṁ dhanuradhijyaṁ kr̥tvā dvau bāṇavantau sapatnātivyādhinau hastē kr̥tvōpōttiṣṭhēt……)’

This tells us that the Kāśi kings were genetically good archers; their bravery apparent from the way pierced the chests of their enemies was hailed across the country.  Gītā too, as we move on, describes the Kāśi kings as काश्यश्च परमेष्वासः  (Kāśyasca parameṣvāsaḥ) and this may be remembered then.

The next two names ‘Purujit’ and Kuntibhōja. They are Kunti’s brothers. The royal sons of the Kuntibhōja kingdom. Born in the Yadu lineage as Vasudēva’s sister, Pr̥thē was given in adoption to the King of Kuntibhōja and she became Kunti. In the guise of this relationship, these two princes have come to fight on the side of their sister’s children.

A Mistaken Conjecture

Some say – पुरुजित् कुन्तिभोजश्च(purujit kuntibhōjaśca)’ and this would mean Purujit, the ruler of Kuntibhōja, and not ‘Purujit and Kuntibhōja.’ Therefore described here is just one person; not two. In support of their argument they quote the following ślōka from Mahābhārata –

पुरुजित् कुन्तिभोजश्च महेष्वासो महाबलः |

मातुलो भीमसेनस्य स च मेऽथिरथो मतः ||

(purujit kuntibhōjaśca mahēṣvāsō mahābalaḥ |
mātulō bhīmasēnasya sa ca mē̕thirathō mataḥ ||

(Udyoga Parva 172.2)

Apparently they seem to be right, but there is a lack of vision here. When one looks at the whole of Mahābhārata, the perspective changes.

Kuntibhōja, was an ancient kingdom. Reference to the King was made based on the name of the kingdom as per an ancient practice. Even today, a well-known person gets to be called after the place in which he was born. The King of Sālva Kingdom was Sālva. The King of Kuntibhōja was Kuntibhōja.

Kunti’s original name was Pr̥thē. Vasudēva’s father, Śūrasēna’s eldest daughter. She was the elder sister of Vasudēva too. At the material time, the King of Kuntibhōja was Śūrasēna’s paternal aunt’s son. His close pal too. Śūrasēna gave his daughter Pr̥thē in adoption to the childless Kuntibhōja. That is how, Pr̥thē became the princess of the Kingdom of Kuntibhōja; she became Kunti. This story appears in Mahābhārata.

शूरो नाम यदुश्रेष्ठो वसुदेवपिताभवत् 

तस्य कन्या पृथा नाम रूपेणासदृशी भुवि ॥

पैत्रष्वसेयाय ततः सोऽनपत्याय वै तदा 

उग्रायाग्रे प्रतिज्ञाय  स्वस्यापत्यं च  वीर्यवान्॥

अग्रजातेति तां कन्यामुग्रानुग्रहाकांक्षया 

अददात् कुंतिभोजाय शूरो गोपतये सुताम्॥


(śūrō nāma yaduśrēṣṭhō vasudēvapitābhavat 
tasya kan’yā pr̥thā nāma rūpēṇāsadr̥śī bhuvi

paitr̥ṣvasēyāya tataḥ sō̕napatyāya vai tadā
ugrāyāgrē pratijñāya svasyāpatyaṁ ca vīryavān

agrajātēti tāṁ kan’yāmugrānugrahakāṅkṣayā
adadāt kuntibhōjāya śūrō gōpatayē sutām

[A yadava gallant named Śūrasēna, was Vasudēva’s father. His daughter, named Pr̥thē, was globally incomparable in beauty. Śūra’s paternal aunt’s son (cousin) Ugra was childless. It was then that Śūra had vouched that he would give his first child to him for adoption. Keeping his word, to the one whose prosperity was reflected in his cows, the ruler of Kuntibhōja, he gave his first born, a daughter, in adoption].

There are variants to the text of the above ślōka. I have used here, the oldest prevailing text, in the southern region. What we can understand from this is – the name of the Kuntibhōja King who received Pr̥thē in adoption, was ‘Ugra.’ (This usage is found only in one ancient text). Also – Pr̥thē was the first one among Śūrasēna’s children.

In this way, Kuntibhōja Ugra adopted Śūrasēna’s daughter Pr̥thē – similar to how, the King of Anga, Rōmpāda, had adopted Daśaratha’s daughter Śānta. Even if he did not have sons, this daughter’s husband would one day be my heir, was his wish.

Destiny however had other plans. Upon adoption of Pr̥thē, he had two sons of his own. Following his father, his first son became the King of Kuntibhōja. That is how he became Kuntibhōja.  In one of the northern texts, his name appears as ‘Śatānīka.’ ‘कुंतिभोजः शतानीकः (kuntibhōjaḥ śatānīkaḥ)’ (Bhīsmapa. 25.11). However, the whole thing seems to be a later insertion, so too in the southern texts, of Bhārata. His name thereby is uncertain. His brother was Purujit. Both, Kunti’s brothers.

By the time of the Mahābhārata war, probably, Kunti’s father was not alive. His older son ascended the throne and became Kuntibhōja. He joined his brother Purujit, took part in the Bhārata war and both brothers met their end there –

पुरुजित् कुंतिभोजस्य मातुलौ सव्यसाचिनः |

संग्राम्निर्जतान् लोकान् गनितौ द्रोणसायुक्रैः ||  

purujit kuntibhōjasya mātulau savyasācinaḥ |
saṅgrāmnirjatān lōkān ganitau drōṇasāyukraiḥ ||

(Karṇamapa 6.33)

[Arjuna’s maternal uncles, Purujit and Kuntibhōja, were felled by Drōṇa’s arrows and attained heaven].

From this it becomes clear that ‘Purujit who was Kuntibhōja’ is an incorrect interpretation and those who do so, totter without a comprehensive view of Mahābhārata.

If so, what happens to the statement from Bhisma Parva that they quoted? I presume that the correct version might be somewhat like this –

पुरुजित् कुन्तिभोजश्च महेष्वासौ महाबलः |

मातुलो भीमसेनस्य तौ च मेऽथिरथो मतौ ||

(purujit kuntibhōjaśca mahēṣvāsau mahābalaḥ |
mātulō bhīmasēnasya tau ca mē̕thirathō matau

No worry, even if the text available now is the original one. In respect of the statements that looked option-less before, we need to analyse the options in the above statement.  This verse, therefore is not a made of a single statement. It’s a combination of two statements –

भीमसेनस्य मातुलः पुरुजित् महेष्वासौ महाबलः |  स मेऽथिरथो मतः| महेष्वासौ महाबलः कुन्तिभोजश्च भीमसेनस्य मातुलः|  स च मेऽथिरथो मतः ||

(Bhīmasēnasya mātulaḥ purujit mahēṣvāsau mahābalaḥ | sa mē̕thirathō mataḥ| mahēṣvāsau mahābalaḥ kuntibhōjaśca bhīmasēnasya mātulaḥ| sa ca mē̕thirathō mataḥ ||)

[Bhīmasēna’s maternal uncle Purujit was a very gallant bowman. In my estimate he is an Atiratha. Kuntibhōja too is a great bowman. He is Bhimsena’s father-in-law he too in my estimate is a great archer].

This way, when seen as independent statements, everything gets resolved. It is clearly established that Purujit and Kuntibhōja are siblings and Kunti’s younger brothers.

*               *               *

In this manner, flowing from relationships, an army of seven akṣōhiṇis, aggregated on the Pāndavas’ side. All of them joined Pāndavas, out of affection, overcome by valour to make them victorious. So what if there were eleven akṣōhiṇis on his side? None had joined his side out of love for him. Obligation brought them; beholden by food. Can this strong seven be vanquished by the obligated eleven? This was the reason for Duryōdhana’s sorrow.

The last person named at the end of the ślōka – शैव्यश्च नरपुंगवः (śaivyaśca narapuṅgavaḥ), the ruler of the Kingdom of Śivi, who was from the Śivi lineage, the great one who had cut out flesh from his own body to help others. This name is as per the ancient texts; present texts give out the name as Śaibya, the ruler of Śibi. ‘Va’ is substituted with ‘ba.’   बवयोरभेदः (bavayōrabhēdaḥ).

There is history behind this name too.  There was a prince of the Śivi Kingdom named Kōṭikāśya. He was the son the ruler of the Śivi Kingdom, Suratha; a close friend of Duryōdhana’s sister Duḥśale’s husband Jayadratha. A year ago, when Pāndavas were in exile in a forest, this Jayadratha and Kōṭikāśya had together abducted Draupadi. Later they were caught by Pāndavas and Kōṭikāśya lost his life. Somehow Jayadratha managed to remain alive. Had this mishap not occurred, had Kōṭikāśya survived, he would have joined the ruler of Sindhu Kingdom, Jayadratha and the army of Śivi Kingdom would have been on his side, wouldn’t it?

(The only one amongst Pāndavas comrades, who had been tricked to joining his side, was perhaps Śalya. If not, instead of the seven – eleven face off, it would have been eight – ten. Despite that, though in embodiment Śalya was on his side, it was not possible to accept that mentally he was on the same side too).

The adjective नरपुंगवः (narapuṅgavaḥ) which appears at the end of the verse, is especially applicable to the King of Śivi however constructively, it applies to Purujit as well as Kuntibhōja too.

The tenth and eleventh names appearing in the next ślōka are Yudhāmanyu and Uttamōjas (the version in vogue is Uttamaujas). Both are Drupada’s children. Dhṛṣṭadhyumna’s brothers. On account of Draupadi, it became imperative that even these join the other side, as seen in the background discussed earlier.

Duryōdhana had been specially keeping a watch on Drupada. It is for that, that he has named all his three sons. Drupada had not just three children. But, of them, the chief ones were these three – Dhṛṣṭadhyumna, Yudhāmanyu and Uttamōjas. Dhṛṣṭadhyumna has already been described as the army chief. The remaining two are now covered in this ślōka. They have not been described merely as Drupada’s children; on the other hand, to express his opinion, Duryōdhana uses two adjectives, reckoning them as dangerous people, on account of their own bravery. Yudhamanyu, the vikrānta (intreprid one) and Uttamōjas the Vīryavān (gallant one). Both are great heroes and greatly gallant. Therefore, though they came from one family, they deserved separate mention, was Duryōdhana’s feeling.

In this manner, having described eleven great heroes of Pandavas, he next goes on to express his fear on the young children of Pandavas, in the next statement –  सौभद्रो द्रौपदेयाश्च सर्व एव महारथाः (saubhadrō draupadēyāśca sarva ēva mahārathāḥ).

Subhadra’s son Abhimanyu and all of Draupadi’s five children. Though tender of age, they were in no way inferior to any mahāratha. Therefore, we cannot ignore them, expresses Duryōdhana here, out of fear.

Subhadra’s son Abhimanyu was a youngster, about sixteen years old. Among Draupadi’s five sons, Dharmaraja’s son Prativindhya, was bordering eighteen years of age, Bhimasena’s son Sutasōma was a boy of seventeen, Arjuna’s son, Śrutakīrti was younger to Abhimanyu. He too was about sixteen years old. Nakula’s son Śatānīka and Sahadeva’s son Śrutakarma, young ones of fifteen – fourteen years of age.

Thus describing the young ones on Pāndava side as mahārathas, capable of facing his eleven akṣōhiṇi army gallantly, Duryōdhana’s inner fears are truly scary. Each one on Pāndavas side, no matter how young he was, measured up as equal to Bhīma – Arjuna in Duryōdhana’s esteem; this does not need further elucidation. Duryōdhana’s anguish touches a peak in this statement.

There is another tone in the phrase सर्व एव (Sarva ēva)’ that comes in this verse. Not just those named by him here, all those mentioned or not mentioned by him were great heroes. Duryōdhana has stated this to tell us that in the Pāndava army, there is none that is not a great hero.

This statement can be interpreted in another sense. Not only Abhimanyu and the five sons of Draupadi but also all other children of Pāndavas too were mahārathas. ‘None can be overlooked,’ could have been the contention, as it dawned in Duryōdhana’s mind, when he stated this. Apart from the children of Subhadra and Draupadi, ‘all’ in Duryōdhana’s mind, primarily, would probably have been Bhīma’s sons Śarvatrāta, Sarvōttuṅga and Ghaṭōtkaca, Ghaṭōtkaca’s son Niṣṭya, Arjuna’s son Irāvanta. This way, all were: सर्व एव महारथाः (sarva ēva mahārathāḥ).

Here ‘mahāratha’ does not merely signify a mahāratha, it could also mean an atiratha. All were atiratha – mahārathas too. Not one was a rathika or ardha ratha is the lament of Duryōdhana.  Madhusūdana Saraswati has this to say, ‘सर्व एव महारथाः (sarva ēva mahārathāḥ) = सर्वेऽपि महारथा एव नैकोऽपि रथोऽर्धरथो वा महारथा इत्यतिरथस्याप्युपलक्षणम् (sarvē̕pi mahārathā ēva naikō̕pi rathō̕rdharathō vā mahārathā ityatirathasyāpyupalakṣaṇam)

It is worth noting here that Duryōdhana who described the Pāndava children discretely, when it came to reckoning the important names in his army, from among the children of the one hundred siblings on his side, he did not mention a single one too. In this way, these three ślōkas are like a hand held mirror that reflect the state of Duryōdhana’s mind –

अत्र(atra) = in this Pāndava army(existing); शूराः(śūrāḥ) = intrepid ones; महेष्वासाः(mahēṣvāsāḥ) = seasoned bowmen; युधि(yudhi) = in combat; भीम +र्जुन+माः(bhīma+arjuna +samāḥ) = on par with Bhīma, Arjuna;    युयुधानः(yuyudhānaḥ) = of Sātyaki; विराटः+च(virāṭaḥ+ca) = Virāṭa too; द्रुपदः+च(drupadaḥ+ca) = Drupada too;  महारथः(mahārathaḥ) = a mahārata;

धृष्टकेतुः(dhr̥ṣṭakētuḥ) = Śiśupāla’s son Dhr̥ṣṭakētu; चेकितानः(cēkitānaḥ) = Cēkitāna of Yadu dynasty; काशिराजः+च(kāśirājaḥ+ca) = the King of Kāśi too;  वीर्यवान्(vīryavān) = greatly valorous; पुरुजित्(purujit) = Kunti’s brother Purujit; कुंतिभोजः+च(kuntibhōjaḥ+ca) =his brother kuntibhōja too; शैव्यः+च(śaivyaḥ+ca) = the King of Śivi Kingdom; नरपुंगवः(narapuṅgavaḥ)= best among men; विक्रान्तः  (vikrāntaḥ) = indefatigable warrior; युधामन्युः+च(yudhāman’yuḥ+ca) =  Yudhāmanyu too; वीर्यवान्(vīryavān) = greatly valorous one; उत्तमोजाः+च(uttamōjāḥ+ca) = Uttamōjās too;  सौभद्रः(saubhadraḥ) = subhadra’s son; द्रौपदेयाः+च(draupadēyāḥ ca) =All five of Draupadi’s children; सर्वे(sarvē) = all; महा+रथाः+एव  (mahā+rataḥ+ēva) = mahā+ratas only.


[41] शैब्यश्च(śaibyaśca) is the present usage; ancient original usage was शैव्यश्च(śaivyaśca)

[42] उत्तमौजाश्च (uttamaujāśca) is as per current usage; ancient original usage was उत्तमोजाश्च (uttamōjāśca). उत्तम + ओजस् (uttama +ōjas) =उत्तमोजस्(uttamōjas) [पररूप – pararūpa] is the ancient usage.

About Dr. Bannanje Govindacharya