Ślōka no. 7 : Just Seven People Are Ours

Having picturised the heroes of the Pāndavas’ side to Drōṇa, Duryōdhana’s presentation of the valiant ones on his side, comes through, in the next verse –

अस्माकं तु विशिष्टा ये तान् निबोध द्विजोत्तम |

नायका मम सैन्यस्य संज्ञार्थं तान् ब्रवीमि ते ||७||
asmākaṁ tu viśiṣṭā yē tān nibōdha dvijōttama |
nāyakā mama sain’yasya san̄jñārthaṁ tān bravīmi tē ||7||

[Who on our side is prominent, the ones who lead my side, concerning them, O the most eminent of brāhmaṇas, symbolically I shall mention them to you].

Duryōdhana addresses Drōṇa as ‘द्विजोत्तम (dvijōttama) here. ‘Dvija’ is one who is born again, the second time, after the ritual of Upanayana[43]मातुरग्रेऽभिजननं द्वितीयं मौंजिबंधनात् (māturagrē̕bhijananaṁ dvitīyaṁ maun̄jibandhanāt). As per the prescribed saṁskāras, brahmanas, kṣatriyas and vaiśyas are eligible to perform the Upanayana Saṁskāra. They have the authority to pursue Vēdic studies. As such they are dvijas. The first of these three dvijas, with authority, brāhmaṇa is considered to be supreme.  If kṣatriyas and vaiśyas have the authority to Vēdic studies, brāhmaṇas have the authority for both Vēdic studies as well as instruction. Therefore, he is known as dvijōttama.’

As the child of sage Bhāradwāja, born as a personification of Bṛhaspatyācārya, the Guru of demigods[44], Drōṇācārya was without doubt, a dvijōttama. Not only was he supreme among dvijas, but also, among brāhmaṇas, he was the supreme one. But, from the manner in which Duryōdhana addressed him, there is a blend of both, respect as well as bitterness.

As seen earlier, a dvijōttama means one who is engaged in Vēdic studies/ precept. In the context of this war, Duryōdhana purposely uses this term as a teaser. ‘Personally you are from those who study Vēdas and engaged in ritualistic living. How should the propensity to engage in war accrue to you naturally? Bound by obligations to us, you stand here,’ is the intent of this statement. The entire verse, as we proceed, goes on to underscore that those like Drōṇa were not sufficiently prepared for the war and the way Duryōdhana addresses Drōṇācārya here, it is purposely done so, in the same vein.

The first two words of the verse ‘अस्माकं तु (asmākaṁ tu).’  Asmākaṁ means those from our side. When the suffix tu is combined with this, there is a new tonal sense to this term. It is like saying, ‘And now regarding those that are ours! What is one to say of their tales?’

For those on his side, Duryōdhana applies two adjectives. One is विशिष्टाः (viśiṣṭāḥ) and the otherमम सैन्यस्य नायकाः (mama sain’yasya nāyakāḥ).’ Those commanders in the forefront of my army and even in that, the principal ones, is the sense from this statement. Apparently this statement seems to be a very general one. But, as one delves deeper into it, it opens out many layers of new meanings. When discussing the preparedness of the Pāndavas, he said ‘Pāndavanām camūm,’ i.e., the army of Pāndavas. Here he says, ‘mama sain’yasya nāyakāḥ’– the commanders of my army. We have to observe the subtleties demarcating the two usages. While in the earlier case he had collectively referred to the army, here he refers only to the army commanders. If there he had described it as the army of all Pāndavas, here, without mentioning any of his brothers, he states it to be individually as ‘my army.’ In this there is both, his ego as well as disoriented thoughts.

Essentially when talking in the presence of elders like Drōṇa, he should have said, ‘Our army.’ ‘My army,’ instead reeks of extreme arrogance. This sort of arrogance, ego was a natural trait of Duryōdhana. Therefore, there is no point worrying ourselves about it. The disoriented thought that reverberates from this statement, is however extraordinary.

His thinking was entirely self-centered.  Never trusted anyone. He is muddled that he seems to be alone and helpless in this decision. Where was the assurance that those near to him would at least support his stand till the end? Even if they did so, it would be purely out of obligation to him. It is thus that this obstinacy, this struggle, this army was of concern to him only. This is not a bond of love. A knot of obligation; when that knot would get untied was uncertain.

That is why he skips any reference to the army and mentions only its commanders. It was not an army that had come to him to understand his problems and back him out of any love for him. Instead, trapped by the orders of their leaders, they were the tails that followed their leaders. Did the leaders at least come to him out of love? This too cannot be said with certainty. Some came, indebted to him as their benefactor for food, others joined out of their obligation to someone else. Yet others were there out of malice towards the Pāndavas.

It is this angle that becomes clearer in stating ‘viśiṣṭāḥ.’ Many Kṣatriyas who were on his side, were undoubtedly highly acclaimed for their war capabilities, army strength as well as their own physical strength. Despite that, by now, Duryōdhana did not trust that they would be of much use to him. Even if they had great reputations, at a critical juncture they would be of no use, was the thought that occupied Duryōdhana’s mind, which indeed was a specialty. All these issues get clearer in the next ślōka.

That is why Duryōdhana cautions Drōṇa – ‘tān nibōdha.’ ‘Let me inform you of the Commanders of the special circumstances; try to understand the prevailing circumstances, a bit.’ This is the intent in this statement. He felt that responsible people like Drōṇa, who are senior leaders, without appreciating the gravity of the situation, like extremely inert Vēdic brāhmaṇas, sit here relaxed and unwatchful! What a misfortune! This indeed is Duryōdhana’s inner lament. It is a lament that comes out from his speech; clear enough to prick Drōṇa.

In the last part of the verse, this statement throws up greater clarity –

संज्ञार्थं तान् ब्रवीमि ते san̄jñārthaṁ tān bravīmi tē. ‘May you be aware of the names of our commanders, is what I say!’ If so, what is the purport of Duryōdhana’s statement? Was it that Drōṇa was unaware of the names of the commanders on their side? That was not the truth. Duryōdhana’s suspicion was that despite knowing everything, Drōṇa did not regard it as serious. Each term in this verse is in tune with the bitterness within Duryōdhana.

द्विजोत्तम (dvijōttama) = O best of brāhmaṇas; अस्माकं तु (asmākaṁ tu) = Our own people; मम (mama) – my; सैन्यस्य (sain’yasya) – of the army; नायकाः (nāyakāḥ)= Those who were called the principal ones; विशिष्टाः (viśiṣṭāḥ)acclaimed; तान्(tā n) = them; निबोध (nibōdha) = recognize; ते (tē) = to you; संज्ञार्थं (san̄jñārthaṁ) = for identification; तान्(tān) = them; ब्रवीमि (bravīmi) = will name them.

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[43] Upanayana is a ceremony to mark the commencement of the brahmacaryāśrama, the pursuit of formal education of writing, numbers, reading, arts and other skills. Generally performed from 8 years of age in the Vēdic period, the child is said to be dvija or ‘born again’ with this initiation; also known as the thread ceremony as the phase is symbolically marked by the wearing of a multi-stranded thread diagonally from over the left shoulder to the right side.

[44] Sanatana Dharma (erroneously known as ‘Hinduism’) is monotheistic i.e., there is only one God or Paramatma; demigods are highly accomplished souls, in progression to salvation and basically don the roles of ‘abhimāni devata’ i.e. specific karmas (or actions), divinely assigned to them by the Supreme Lord Srīman Nārāyaṇa. Caturmukha Brahma, Vāyu, Rudra, Indra etc., are such demigods.

About Dr. Bannanje Govindacharya