The Great War - Day 13

Dawn of the thirteenth day, third day of Drona's command, the sun rises amidst haloes, portending some great tragedy. Drona walks to the field, as a man how has left his conscience behind. He deploys his legions in the Chakra Vyuha, or the Phalanx of the spinning wheel. The formation is almost flower like. Duryodhana is at its heart and around him ring after ring of Kshyatriyas. Karna, Dushasana and Kripa are among the innermost layer. In the next is Jayadratha, with his aksauhini. At Jayadratha's side is Ashwathama, and Duryodhana's brothers form the next ring. Shakuni, Kritavarman, Shalya, Bhoorisravas and their legions are the outer rim of the wheeling flower. Drona himself stands beyond the perimeter. On the fateful day, All the Kaurava soldiers wear red clothes and garlands of red flows and from far, it seems a gigantic carmine lotus has bloomed upon the earth, a blood lotus.

The conches sound and fighting starts. Today, Bheema leads the Pandava army. He rides out before Satyaki, Dhristadyumna, Drupada, Kuntibhoja, Sahadeva, Nakula, Ghatotkacha, Shikhandi, Virata, Yudhishtra, and a hundred other kshyatriyas. In a throng, they attack the scarlet vyuha. But the brahmana at the rim of the formation is like a mountain. Its a subtle vyuha and the arrows of the kshyatriyas inside it, fly out in hot swarms. The chakra vyuha melts the Pandava legions in a sludge of gore and they have no Arjuna with them to cleave the spinning wheel. First thing after the conches blared, Susharma challenged Arjuna with a fresh complement of Samsaptakas. Once again, Arjuna and the Trigartas face each other, far from the rest of the battle.

There is no breaching the chakra vyuha. Not Bheema's elemental strength and the inpsired archery of others combined can break a way into the turning maze. The Kaurava soldiers fight as never before and hardly a handful lose their lives from stray arrows inescapable fate, while thousands of Pandava soldiers perish. Drona's esoteric vyuha is perfectly secure against Yudhishtra's army. It is a magical formation and only a maharathika can penetrate the chakra.

Yudhishtra knows that only five men know the mystery of Chakra Vyuha, Krishna, Pradyumna, Arjuna, Drona and Abhimanyu. Yudhishtra asks Abhimanyu if he will break into the wheel. Abhimanyu hesitates. He knows only how to enter the spinning maze. He does not know how to come outside. His father had not yet taught him how to break outside the vyuha. Yudhishtra quickly says that once Abhimanyu makes the breach, the others will follow him in. Bheema says, Dhrishtadyumna, Satyaki, Kekayas, Panchalas, Prabhadrakas and the Matsyas, will follow Abhimanyu once the first breach is done.

Abhimanyu's eyes shine at the privilege. He says he will bring glory to the houses of Kuru and Vrishni. Abhimanyu has no doubt he can break into the vyuha. Only, the wheel is know to snap shut as soon as an enemy enters, as some carnivorous flowers do around a bee. His kshyatriya blood coursing, Abhimanyu climbs into his chariot, and says to the sarathy, "Fly at the Chakra Vyuha"

The sarathy can hardly believe the command. He tries to convince the boy of sixteen summers. He says, that Drona is a wily brahamana. It was a trap laid for a maharathika. Abhimanyu snorts at the man's fears. He tells him, he is Arjuna's son, Krishna's nephew. Today the Kauravas will tremble at Abhimanyu's name.
'Ride Sarathy, Ride at the Chakra Vyuha.'

Like a bold of lightning upon the earth, Abhimanyu's chariot streaks at Drona's vyuha. The Kaurava soldiers panic thinking it was Arjuna. Abhimanyu knows how to penetrate the vyuha. He knows the soft parts of the outer wheel. He lets loose a torrent of fire shafts to the right and left of where he rides. He sweeps past Drona and the vyuha crumbles at its rim, in the panic, the chakra is breached at exactly the place Abhimanyu rides at, though he hasn't shot a single arrow ahead of him. He flits inside through to the inside of the vyuha.

Within the vyuha, Abhimanyu hunts like Yama. He is hardly a human prince now. A young god, his bow radiating astras all around him. Panic sets in the Kaurava army. Roaring, Duryodhana charges at Abhimanyu. Drona comes to the king's side, knowing if Duryodhana is captured, the war is over. Drona is more worried about the fact that Duryodhana was at the heart of the vyuha and this young man had broken right through to Duryodhana. He immediately calls upon Ashwathama, Kripa, Kritavarman, Karna and Shakuni to protect Duryodhana. They form a ring around Abhimanyu and attack him all at once. But he is indeed Arjuna's son and Krishna's nephew. Even all those warriors are not able to contain Abhimanyu. Even as he was holding back the warriors, He cuts Karna's armor and strikes him deep with a shaft like serpent. Karna and Shalya make a brave stand, but they are not able to face his stunning archery. Drona watches the young man approvingly. He says to Kripa, 'He excels his father. He can burn up all our army if he wants, but it seems he restrains himself. Mark my words, he doesn't fight yet,as he can.'

Duryodhana hears this. He turns to his brothers. Dushasana hears this and says, that 'Drona will not hurt Abhimanyu, but we must do it ourselves.' With a roar he flies at Abhimanyu, imagining that killing Abhimanyu will end the war. The battle between Dushasana and Abhimanyu lasts only a few moments. Seeing the Kaurava ride at him, Abhimanyu breaks the bow in his hand, from an incredible way off, even before Dushasana has raised it. Five more searing shafts quickly fly off the lad's bow and Dushasana has fallen unconscious in his chariot. Karna rides once more, but his heart is not in this fight. Karna is wounded again and has to flee from his nephew. Abhimanyu is now a vyuha unto himself.

Meanwhile at the rim of the Vyuha, the other Pandava warriors find themselves held up extraordinarily. Yudhishtra, Bheema, Shikhandi, Satyaki, Dhristadyumna, Virata, Drupada, Nakula, Kekaya brothers all streamed after Abhimanyu, but only Abhimanyu breaks into Drona's wheel. The others are hardly a chariot's length when the vyuha seals itself. A lone Kshatriya looms before the Pandavas barring their way. Jayadratha.

At first Bheema roars with laughter. He and Arjuna had routed this villain in the jungle when Jayadratha had abducted Draupadi. Yudhishtra and Satyaki charge at him contemptuously. Jayadratha holds up not just Yudhishtra and Satyaki but all those matchless Kshyatriyas.The Pandavas can hardly believe what they are seeing. Yudhishtra breaks Jayadratha's bow, but he picks up another and fights on. He kills Bheema's horses and plucks his bow right out of the Vayu-Putra's hand. Arrows stream from Jayadratha's bow. Today he fights like Karna himself. He drives back not merely Bheema, but Dhrishtadyumna, Virata, Drupada and Yudhishtra. He bars their way with a wall of arrows, worthy of Bheeshma himself, and as soon as he holds them up, a hundred Kaurava chariots fly forward to seal the crack in the chakra vyuha.

In moments, the vyuha is as it was before Abhimanyu broke in. Shiva's boon to Jayadratha was fulfilled, that if Arjuna and Krishna were not near, then one day, Jayadratha would hold up the other four Pandavas by himself. Today was that day. Yudhishtra and Bheema fling themselves at the Chakra Vyuha but to no avail. The horror of what has happened has dawned on them. They remember what Abhimanyu had said, that He can break into the vyuha but does not know how to break out of it. Yudhishtra is numb with guilt, to remember his thoughtless answer to the boy, 'Once you make the breach, we will all follow you in.' Bheema stares helplessly at Yudhishtra, who is as stricken as he is.

Within the Vyuha, Abhimanyu is a tiger let loose among a wilderness of deer. He kills like the Kartikeya himself. Those whom he kills hardly cry out any more. It is as if they expect to die at his hands, as if they would rather die quickly, than suffer the torment of fear with which he stalks them. He loosens a gandharvaastra at the enemy. It is a missile of dreams. Suddenly the Kauravas see a thousand Abhimanyus everywhere, each one shooting at them. The soldiers run in every direction.

Shalya's son Rukmartha challenges Abhimanyu. The duel between the two is intense, but brief; and Arjuna's prince severs Rukmartha's head.
Duryodhana's son Lakshmana Kumara rides at Abhimanyu from a flank. For a while it seems Abhimanyu is contained. He cannot lacerate the Kaurava legions anymore. Lakshmana absorbs him. But then Abhimanyu pierces his throat with a perfect arrow. With this father watching in horror, Lakshmana Kumara dies. Duryodhana's roar echoes on Kurukshetra, as if he himself had been shot. He cries, 'Kill the wretched boy, he has killed my son.'

Abhimanyu has seen who sealed the vyuha against his uncles. He attacks Jayadraha with a gale of silver shafts. But Jayadratha bars his way with some exceptional archery.
Six Maharathikas surround Paartha's son. Drona, Kripa, Aswathama, Karna, Brihadbala and Kritavarman. Not the six together can quench him. Abhimanyu knows that the other Pandavas have been kept out of the vyuha. The six maharathikas have their horses killed by lightning from the hands of Arjuna's son. They have their bows shredded and their chariots shattered by some magnificent archery.

Wounded and bloody, Karna runs from the fight and Shalya rides up to take his place. Abhimanyu's fiercest assailant is Brihadbala. Abhimanyu shoots the armour off his chest and then pierces him through his heart. Dushasana's son flies at Arjuna's boy, but he too falls unconscious. Ashwathama lets loose a flaming astra at Abhimanyu. It glances harmlessly off the mail and in reply, Drona's son is covered in blood. Shakuni says to Duryodhana, that they must attack him together. Karna cries to Drona, 'We must kill him, or he will kill us all'. Drona says, 'Arjuna's son is greater than Arjuna isn't it. It is his armor that he wars that keeps him safe. It is the way his father has taught him to wear it.'
'Tell us how to kill him' says Karna.
Slowly Drona says, 'Kill the two men who guard his rear, break his bow and his chariot.'
'Easy to say Acharya, but have we not tried', questions Karna.
'You cannot vanquish this boy when you face him. Not just you Karna, no body can do that. But there is a way, a desperate way. You must ride behind him and sever his bowstring when he isn't watching you.'

Karna winces in pain at the ignominy. But the spirit of war has possessed the son of Surya completely. Karna steals behind Abhimanyu and cuts his bowstring with an accurate shaft. Shalya kills the two guards protecting Abhimanyu's back. Drona kills his horses, Kritavarman shatters his chariot. Then six mighty archers attack him together as he stands unarmed before them. They cover him with arrows. His body shaking with the ignominy of what they have done, his eyes bloodshot, he roars at Drona, Karna and others, 'You are great warriors, yet this is the deed of a coward. All of you are noble men, but I see what sort of maharathikas you are. How does the earth not open for shame and swallow you ?'

He seizes his sword and shield and leaps down from his ruined chariot. Abhimanyu runs forward to kill them all. Drona breaks the hilt of his sword and Karna smashes the shield. Abhimanyu now stands niraayudhapaani (one without any weapons). A hundred shafts strike him, each one crashes into him one after another, drawing forth spurts of blood. Abhimanyu runs back to his chariot. He pulls a wheel free from the broken axle of his chariot. Ny now he is a setting sun on the Kurukshetra, crimsoned by enemies arrows. He whirls the chariot wheel over his head, and stands radiant before them. Abhimanyu cries, 'Save your honor Kshyatriyas. Don't let shame stain your souls. Come and fight me one by one, if you dare!"

His own eyes fill with rears. He knows that he will not be able to see the pride in his father's eyes when he hears of what his son has done today. He thinks of Subhadra and knows she will be heartbroken when she hears he is dead. Even as Krishna did at Bheeshma, he strides at Drona. He raises the wheel to cast it at Drona. The Acharya splinters it with his arrows. Abhimanyu seizes his mace, and rushes at Ashwathama taking Drona's son unawares. Though Abhimanyu is gravely wounded, he kills Ashwathama's horses and his rear guards. Knowing death is near, seems to only embolden Arjuna's son. He smashes chariots and their warriors run from him.

Dushasana's son leaps from his ratha and rushes at Abhimanyu. They fight with ringing mace blows. No Kaurava warrior dares shoot an arrow, for fear of striking their own prince. But Abhimanyu has lost a lot of blood. Abhimanyu faints, and falls down. He wakes up in a moment and reaches for his weapon, but Dushasana's boy has already hefted his mace. He swings his weapon down upon Abhimanyu's head squarely, flattening it. Abhimanyu is dead at twilight.

Around the golden prince, the 16 year old son, Kaurava warriors erupt in coarse joy. Their yells echo in heaven. The roars of Drona, Karna, Ashwathama, Duryodhana, Kripa and the others sound as if they had killed a hundred great warriors. As the sun sunk sadly over that scene, it seems that none of them show remorse. Not even Karna. The chakra vyuha has served its purpose, Drona has kept his word.

Across the field, Yudhishtra and Bheema hear the awful roar and they know Abhimanyu is dead. Arjuna has not yet returned from his battle with the Trigartas.

Yudhishtra faints in anxiety. He wails. Bheeshma stands there , crying silently, too shocked to speak. Yudhishtra says, Drona and Kripa, Karna and Ashwathama, Duryodhana and shalya could not contain him, so the cowards killed him with treachery.' He tells the others around him, 'I beg you, one of you kill me before Arjuna comes back.How will I face him. How will I tell Subhadra and Krishna.'

Arjuna is turning home from his encounter with the Samsaptakas. All of Susharma's brothers have been killed and so has most of his army. Arjuna looks at the omens and realises that they are evil. His heart beats wildly, and he is full of fear.

As they arrive in the Pandava camp, the anxiety rears its head again in Arjuna. Silence rules the camp. Arjuna asks frantically,'Why is it dreadfully quiet today. Why are no veenas playing today, and why do the men slink away as if they want to avoid me. ? Where is Abhimanyu today. He is the first to run up and embrace me. Something awful has happened, Krishna and nobody wants to tell me.'

Arjuna comes to Yudhishtra's tent. They see all are sitting there. Arjuna stares at Yudhishtra. His brother does not raise his face. Bheema falls back with an anguished moan. Nakula sits gazing at the floor. Sahadeva stares out of the window. Draupadi's sons are there too, but they all turn their face away. No lamps burn in that tent. Only Yudhishtra's sobs break the silence. Arjuna dare not think the unthinkable thought that licks at him like a flame. He breaths, 'I heard Drona formed the chakra vyuha today. You didn't send my child into it, did you ?' Only silence answers him.
He speaks, as if to himself, 'None of you know how to enter the vyuha, except my son. I taught him. But I had not taught how to come out of it.' He whispers again,'Dharma, did you send my son into the vyuha.'

Yudhishtra says, 'Don't say another word, Arjuna. Just kill me. Kill me my brother, I killed your son.' Arjuna falls as if he has been cut with a sword. Yudhishtra stands turned to stone.
Arjuna cries, 'How did it happen ? Tell me everything. He knew he could not come out of the vyuha. He knew it was a trap. Who had the heart to kill my boy ? How will Arjuna live when Abhimanyu is dead ? How could you let him go into the vyuha alone, Yudhishtra, answer me.... How will I face his mother. How will I tell this to Subhadra and Draupadi. How will I face his wife, Uttaraa ?'

Krishna speaks to him gently. You mustn't grieve like this. Your son died a hero's death. He gave his life that many others may live and in peace. In his sixteen years, he acheived what the greatest kshyatriyas hardly do in a lifetime. Abhimanyu is in Devaloka now.'

Arjuna is now pacified. But he asks, 'Tell me, what happened ? Dhritadyumna, my friend, tell me the name of the man who killed my child.' Yudhishtra, takes Arjuna's hand and makes him sit beside him, and starts narrating the story,upto the point, where Abhimanyu breaks into the vyuha.

'We were no more than half a chariot length behind him, so he had room to maneuver. All of us were ready to fly into the vyuha after him. We saw his split the chakra, we saw him flash past the Acharya. We saw him turn and smile and after he had entered, the chakra was still open. There was a gap in it wide as two chariots. We rode at the opening, Bheema in front, I just behind him and then the others. But suddenly, Jayadratha loomed in our path.'
Arjuna frantically asks,' How many were with him ?'
Yudhishtra says in a whisper, 'Only He.'
Arjuna looks around in disbelief. Yudhishtra continues, 'He fought like a hundred Jayadrathas.'

Krishan says quietly, 'He worshipped Shiva for a boon and it was that one day he would hold up all the Pandavas by himself, as long as Arjuna was not with them. That was his revenge for what you did to him in the forest.'

Yudhishtra continues, 'Jayadratha held us up, as if Shiva himself fought from his body. And before we knew it, a thousant men had filled the gap in the chakra vyuha. For hours, he burned them. He killed Ten thousand men. He did not die alone. He killed Duryodhana's son Lakshmana and the Maharathika, Brihadbala.'

Arjuna cries, 'But how did they kill him ? Who killed him ?'

Sahadeva continues, 'Six maharathikas surrounded him. Karna, Drona, Aswathama, Kritavarmana and Dushasana's son. He fought like a god and routed them all. Then Karna played a dastardly game. He stole behind our child and broke the strings of his bow. Drona killed his horses, Kripa, his guards and sarathy. He killed a legion of elephants and though he was gravely wounded, he staggered on. Dushasana's boy leapt down from his chariot and fought with his mace. They struck each other down. Our child was exhaused. Dushasana's son struck Abhimanyu a last blow on his head and he died. There was no shame in his death, Arjuna, except for those who killed him, and for all of us who sent him to his death.'

They watch as Arjuna's eyes turn red. In terrible quiet he says, 'I swear I will kill Jayadratha tomorrow. Let the Kauravas guard him with every man they have. Let Siva himself come to protect him. Jayadratha will not live. I swear by this sacred agni and by this Gandiva, that If I don't kill Jayadratha tomorrow, I will make a pure for myself and walk into it with my bow in my hand.'

Krishna raises the Panchajanya and blows a blast on it like the thunder of the pralaya. Arjuna has mastered his grief and turned it into wrath. There would be a great hunt tomorrow.Grief turns to a searing hunger for revenge. Hardly a man, sleeps. A new anxiety tugs at their hearts. It would not be easy to kill Jayadratha. Kaurava spies would have already carried word back to Duryodhana and every man would be detailed to guard Jayadratha tomorrow. For if Arjuna did not kill him before the sun set, the Pandava must immolate himself to honor his solemn word. What easier way could be there of killing the invincible Arjuna than keeping Jayadratha alive until the sun set ?

A million men, lying sleepless in their beds, mourning in the night for the dead Abhimanyu, pray fervently that the Gods would deliver Jayadratha into Arjuna's hands tomorrow.

The evening Abhimanyu died,there is jubiliation in the Kaurava camp. Drona had kept his word. The death of Abhimanyu would break Arjuna's heart. Duryodhana learns of the massacre of the Samsaptakas. He thinks it is a fair price to pay for Abhimanyu's death. He hardly mourns for his son, Lakshmana. The war possesses, Duryodhana absolutely; everything else is insignificant. No price is too high to pay, no sacrifice too dear to make. He celebrates with the others.

Suddenly the night's silence is riven with the thunder of the Gandeeva. This is followed by the awesome bass of the Panchajanya. This was not what the Kauravas had expected. It unnerved them. Duryodhana is unmindful. He terms these as Hollow sounds.

Just then Jayadratha bursts into the tent, shaking. He is in such a state, that he can hardly speak. He manages to speak,'Arjuna has sworn to kill me before the sun sets tomorrow. I want to go back to my father's kingdom. It is against Kshyatriya dharma to pursue someone who has fled the field. Arjuna will not come after me.'

Duryodhana knows that Jayadratha has served his purpose, but since Jayadratha is his sister's husband, Duryodhana tries to pacify him. 'Don't be afraid Jayadratha. You will be safer in my army than riding home alone. Besides, remember what Arjuna said,'Even if he hides with Siva himself.. the safest place on earth for you, is at the heart of my army. All of us will protect you. Even Indra will not be able to touch you, as long as you are with us. I shall be at your side. So will Karna, Vivimsati, Sala, Shalya, Chitrasena, Bhoorisravas, Vrishasena, Purumitra, Kripa, Bhoja, Vikarna, Durmukha, Dushasana, Vinda, AnuVinda, Ashwathama, Shakuni and Alambusa. These warriors will form the core ring to protect you. Every soldier of mine will be there just to protect you. Today you kept Bheema, Yudhishtra, Dhrishtadyumna, Satyaki, Nakula, Sahadeva and the rest from breaking into the Vyuha, and now you are afraid of just one man, Arjuna ? He is not a deva Jayadratha. He is only another man, like the rest of us.'

Softly he continues, 'Tomorrow, You will kill Arjuna, Jayadratha. Not by cutting him down in battle, but by staying alive until the sun sets tomorrow. Everything is turning our way, just as we wanted. When Arjuna burns himself tomorrow, after he fails to kill you, what will the other Pandavas do ?'

Jayadratha runs to the Acharya's tent, with Duryodhana behind. Drona says slowly,'I will save you from Arjuna tomorrow. I will form a vyuha, whose mystery he will never penetrate. We will set you at the heart of it. Even if it is fated that Arjuna kills you, what shame is there, dying in the battle ? We must save your life, not only for your sake, but for the very war. I mean to form three vyuhas tomorrow. On the outside, we shall have a shakata vyuha, within that a chakra and finally a suchimukha vyuha, with you at the needle's eye, watched over by a column of maharathikas. I will myself stand over the three vyuhas and anyone who enters them will have to first pass me. Arjuna has deilvered his life into our hands. Even if he breaks past the shakata and the chakra, it will take him all day. At the third vyuha, I will be again at its point. The sun will have set long before he can reach you.'

Jayadratha seems consoled. Duryodhana awaits Arjuna's death.

Across the Kurukshetra the Avatara comes to Arjuna's tent. Tears are streaming from his eyes but his face is set like a stone. Jayadratha has to die first. Others, the six maharathikas will die later.

Krishna asks Arjuna, 'Was that not a rash oath. Duryodhana knows about it and Drona means to hide Jayadratha at the heart of three vyuhas. A shakata vyuha with Drona at his threshold. A chakra and finally a vyuha to confound even you, a suchimukha, with Jayadratha at its eye. The body of the needle will have their finest warriors one after the other. do you think you can break past all these in time to kill Jayadratha before the sun sets ?'

Arjuna is perfectly calm. He says with unusual certainty, 'All these men together are not half the archer I am. Drona and his son will not stand before me tomorrow. Nor will Karna or any of the others. Jayadratha will die before the sun sets. Tomorrow we shall be irresistible. We have the noblest weapon with us, the Gandeeva. The Best Archer of the word, me, and the greatest man who ever lived is my sarathy. How can we fail ?'

Arjuna says to Krishna, 'I cannot face Subhadra tonight. I don't have the strenght of console Uttaraa. I beg you, go and comfort them for me. Tell then I will see them tomorrow, when I have kept my oath.'

Krishna goes to his sister's tent and consoles her. He gives them wisdom and strength based on the fact that Abhimanyu was a warrior and he died on the battlefield. Krishna leaves Subhadra and Uttaraa to the care of Draupadi and takes leave. Krishna goes into the night where his sarathy, the faithful Daruka, waits with his chariot to take him to his own tent.

Past midnight, Krishna sends for his charioteer. Krishna takes Daruka's hand and says, 'You must have heard of Arjuna's oath. So has Duryodhana, and he plans to protect Jayadratha as he would, his own life. It will be very difficult for Arjuan to pass Drona and others tomorrow. It will be difficult than the killing of the Nivatakavachas. Also Dakshinayana means the sun will set early. There are sinister powers, greater than we know, which watch over Duryodhana's destiny. They will bend their will to keep Jayadratha safe and have Arjuna's life cheaply.'

Daruka has never seen Krishna so anxious. Krishna tells him, 'You know how much I love Arjuna. If Arjuna were to die tomorrow, I would follow him into the fire, and if we both die, how will the others resist the evil. I have sworn not to fight this war, But I will break my vow, so that Arjuna may keep his.'

Daruka remembers something he had heard from the lips of mystic rishis. 'Arjuna and Krishna were born on the same day. They are Nara-Narayana.'

'You must do something for me, old friend. Prepare my own chariot for war. Arm it with all my weapons. Put the Saranga,my quiver, Kaumodaki, and my Shakti. Tie the Garuda banner, but don't unfurl it. Cover, Valahaka, Saibya, Meghapushpa and Sugriva in their armor and yoke them. If you hear me blow a rishabha on the Panchajanya, fly to me. I will kill Karna, Duryodhana and the rest. Wait for the Rishabha on my conch.'

Arjuna has a troubled dream. He prays to Krishna. The Dark one appears in his dream and instructs him to pray to Shiva, for his Paashupatastra. As Arjuna falls into a deep trance, he feels the weapons within himself and he knows the knowledge of the astra will return to him, whenever he needs it.


Thursday, September 2, 2010 by Hari
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