Ślōka no. 8

In the next ślōka Duryōdhana covers the principal ones of his side –

भवान्भीष्मश्च कर्णश्च कृपश्च समितिञ्जयः |

अश्वत्थामा विकर्णश्च सौमदत्तिस्तथैव च ||

bhavānbhīṣmaśca karṇaśca kr̥paśca samitiñjayaḥ |
aśvat’thāmā vikarṇaśca saumadattistathaiva ca ||

[Yourself, Bhīṣma too, Karṇa too, Kṛpācārya the one capable of triumph in battle too, Aśvat’thāma and Vikarṇa, so also Sōmadatta’s son bhūriśravas].

Duryōdhana, who had discussed eleven people of the Pāndavas’ side, in all eighteen valiant ones collectively, mentions only seven people of his own side. Even among them most are from within those who have been close to him; not those who have come from other kingdoms with their armies. While he had referred to each of Pāndavas’ children as Māharatha, towards his own children or his brave brothers Duḥśāsana etc., Duryōdhana exhibited great indifference, with not a syllable uttered about them. Despite having many brothers and children, it was as though they counted for nothing; through such disregard he treats them as insignificant and avoids mentioning them at all. This aspect assumes great significance, in so far as the confusion reigning in Duryōdhana’s mind is concerned.

Even those seven cited by him, what sort of people were they; what thoughts did he nurture about them in his mind – these become clear when we see the manner in which names them.

First of all, among the seven named by him, three were not even Kṣatriyas. Drōṇācārya, Drōṇa’s son Aśwat’thāma and Drōṇa’s brother-in-law Kṛpācārya were brahmins. These three brahmins who hailed from the same family, though experts in warfare, were not predisposed naturally, to war.  All three lived under Duryōdhana’s auspices.  Obliged by his patronage, they joined the war. It was therefore difficult for him to sincerely expect victory from them. This was the thought within Duryōdhana’s mind.

For greater clarity in this matter, let us look at the backgrounds of each one, distinctly. The first name is that of Drōṇācārya. Right from the beginning he was biased towards the Pāndavas. He had sworn that he would make Arjuna the best of all archers. He even brought this to reality.  Is it possible for such a person to oppose Arjuna, oppose Pāndavas and bring us victory? Further, he is a mellowed old brahmin who has seen several centuries pass by.

The second name is that of Kṛpācārya. He too, for the sake of Drōṇācārya, for the sake of friendship of his sister Kṛpi, stood on this side. Mentally, he was inclined towards Pāndavas. At all times, he had pleaded the side of Pāndavas, when speaking to Dhr̥tarāṣṭra. In this way, he was one, who internally wished for Pāndavas to prevail; an aged brahmin, who felt elated at the victory of Pāndavas.

The third name was that of Aśwat’thāma. He, of course did not favour the Pāndavas. He was competitively ill-disposed towards Pāndavas and Kṛṣṇa. Even so, he was by nature, not of warrior class. In any case he was a Brahmin with a craving mentality. Disgusted of his craving mentality, he had been forsaken by his own father. In all likelihood he might, at the sight of blood flowing in the war, with the inner brāhma spirit being aroused, leave him mid-stream and turn his back. At no point did Duryōdhana consider him to be within his inner circle of confidants. In this critical juncture of the war, it so happened that he had to trust these three brahmins! It is these worries that throng his mind, which Duryōdhana expresses to Drōṇācārya, in a clear voice and tone, to the extent of pricking him.

Of the remaining four Kṣatriyas, the first name is that of Bhīṣma. Of all the brave ones who participated in that war, he was the senior most – age-wise too, save for the King of Bahlika. He, as the grandpa of the house, and being obliged to the house, having to face Dhr̥tarāṣṭra, stood on his side. If Pāndavas were not handed the kingdom, the whole Kuru clan would bite the dust, was how he had argued with Dhr̥tarāṣṭra. Mentally he opposed him as well as Karṇa. One who had loved Pāndavas from the depth of his heart. Making him the commander of his forces, Duryōdhana is required to fight this war against Pāndavas. It is his great misfortune. In this way, this proclamation of his भीष्मस्च(Bhīṣmaśca),’ appears to be his own deprecation of himself.

The second name is that of Karṇa – कर्णस्च(Karṇaśca).’ In reality, Karṇa was a sworn enemy of the Pāndavas. A close friend of Duryōdhana. He had devoted his own life for the well-being of Kauravas. In all strategies planned by Duryōdhana, he was a close confidant. He sincerely wished for Duryōdhana’s victory. One who fought up to the last moment with Duryōdhana. Even then, as if in a way to exhibit his helplessness, very strangely under these circumstances, Duryōdhana mentions Karṇa’s name. There is a very significant reason for this. When one understands the background of the circumstances, this would become clear.

Prior to the commencement of the war an incident took place. On the occasion of being made the commander of the forces, Bhīṣmacārya mentions the names of all the valiant ones on his side but consciously omits the name of Karṇa. When Karṇa reminds him of this, he says, “I don’t consider you to be a valiant one. Therefore, I have not mentioned your name.” As a fall out of this, Karṇa had pledged that he would not lift his bow and fight the war, as long as Bhīṣma was the commander, in the war. While stating ‘कर्णस्च(Karṇaśca),’ this incident continued to rankle Duryōdhana’s mind.  One who could have fought sincerely on his side, such a one had laid down his weapons. Even though present, it was like he was not around. Those who stood in front to wage the war on his side, on the other hand, were all favourably inclined towards the Pāndavas. In a way, mentally his foes. To sound his inner turmoil with clarity, Duryōdhana says, भीष्मस्च कर्णस्च (Bhīṣmaśca Karṇaśca)’ to mention Bhīṣma – Karṇa as a pair similar to a mongoose – snake pair; a cat- mouse pair!

The third name is of Vikarṇa. This Vikarṇa, is one among the 99 younger brothers of Duryōdhana. While not mentioning a prominent one such as Duḥśāsana, for Duryōdhana to mention his name only in this connection, there is a very special reason behind it. When Draupadi was being disrobed, while all his brothers stood in his support, like a dandy, Vikarṇa had opposed the act. “It is incorrect to insult sister-in-law in the assembly,” he announced, he earned the appreciation acting as a gracious one, from all elders. How can one trust such a person? He might give the slip, pretending that it was improper to fight ‘our brothers, the Pāndavas.’

While not taking up the name of any of the prominent ones among his brothers, in these circumstances, the sentiments within Duryōdhana’s heart become very clear, as he mentions Vikarṇa here.

The last or seventh name that Duryōdhana mentions is that of Saumadatti – सौमदत्तिस्तथैव (saumadattistathaiva ca). Saumadatta’s story too is much the same, he says, through this announcement. Bāhlika was Śantanu’s brother. His son was Somadatta. Somadatta had three children, Bhūri, Bhūriśravas and Śala. Of these, the middle one, Bhūriśravas was much acclaimed as a brave one and was largely renowned as Saumadatti. He was like a son to Bhīṣmācārya. Basically from Bahlika kingdom. To this person, there was no sentimental bonding of any sort with the Kauravas. It was only out of love for Bhīṣma that he was in his side. Not just that, Bahlika’s daughter Rōhiṇi was Vasudeva’s wife. Balarāma’s mother. On account of this relationship, this person as well as all those with him, favoured Kṛṣṇa, favoured Pāndavas. That is why Duryōdhana states that Saumadatti’s story too is the same, when he mentions his name indifferently.

The adjective समितिञ्जयः (samitiñjayaḥ)’ has been used for Kṛpācārya. It means one who is capable of winning the war. This is not an adjective just for Kṛpācārya. This has been added in between to make it applicable to all the seven. This is another statement that reflects the bitterness within Duryōdhana. All such people are there to bring him victory in the war. Trusting them, he is required to fight the war against Pāndavas. That this is a morsel which cannot be gulped is in Duryōdhana’s mind.

भवान्(bhavān) – you, as ācārya;  भीष्मः+च(bhīṣmaḥ+ca) – Bhīṣmācārya too, as commander in chief; कर्णः+च(karṇaḥ+ca) – karṇa too; समितिं+जयः(samitiṁ+jayaḥ) – one who can win in the war; कृपः+च(kr̥paḥ+ca) – Kṛpācārya too; अश्वत्थामा(aśvat’thāmā) – Drōṇa’s son aśvat’thāmā; विकर्णः+च(vikarṇaḥ+ca) – vikarṇa too; तथैव(tathaiva) – and also;  सौमदत्तिः+च(saumadattiḥ+ca) – Somadatta’s son Bhūriśravas too.

Some without appreciating the tone of ‘तथैव च (tathaiva ca)’ read this as ‘सौमदत्तिर्जयद्रथः(Saumadattirjayadrathaḥ).’ This is incorrect. This is not in sync with either numerology or psychology of Gītā. Some others read the text as ‘सिन्धुराजस्तथैव च(Sindhurājastathaiva ca).’ Sindhurāja means Jayadratha. This is incompatible here. It is not aligned with Duryōdhana’s psychological state.

Duryōdhana possesses a large army of 11 akṣōhiṇis. There are 99 younger brothers. But when it came to reckoning who would be fighting on his side, he could remember just seven people! Alas, how pitiable is Duryōdhana’s condition.

*          *          *

About Dr. Bannanje Govindacharya