Archive for September 2010

ஸ்ஸ்ஸ்ஸ்ப்பா... இப்போவே கன்ன கட்டுதே ...

This is definitely a clear case of going overboard... :P

I was googling for updates for Enthiran and this was what I found.

KannaKattuthey

கண்ணுங்களா... உங்களுக்கே இது கொஞ்சம் ஓவரா தெரியல ?

This definitely deserves to come on my Enna Kodumai Tag…. :P

Thursday, September 30, 2010 by Hari
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The Beast of Traal ...

Been reading Beast of Traal like Hell.. !!
It reads awesome actually.

Links to n number of websites and blogs that I never knew existed, have opened up a whole new world for me. I just loved the way even the small things that the author has brought to the user's notice.

You should have a look. !! :)

P.S:- BTW, this is an offshoot/blog of the ITWOFS website.. Yes, the same website that lists plagiarism :P

P.P.S:- And if you are wondering what Beast of Traal actually means...

Here is wiki to your rescue.

The Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal is a creature that hails from the planet of Traal, and will eat anything. The beasts are impossible to kill. To deal with a beast, one should wrap a towel  around one's own head. This creature is so mind-bogglingly stupid that it assumes that if someone cannot see it, then it cannot see the person

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 by Hari
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छिप छिप अश्रु बहाने वालों ...

One of my most favorite poems ... ever ...
Gopal Das Neeraj is the author of this thought provoking work.

Sunday, September 26, 2010 by Hari
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Flying Emirates ??? Beware !!! It SUCKS !!! Big Time… !!!!

I am not flying Emirates for the first time. Nor is it that some special mal-treatment has been meted out to me, but this is heights of apathy…

  • The flight is about 30 minutes delayed. They are not apologetic about it.
  • The cabin crew does not even bother to guide you to your seats.
  • The one thing that they all do perfectly fantastically is to come and tell you to keep your chair straight as it is time for the flight to take off.
  • They take away the headphones atleast 45 minutes before landing. (That really sucks…!!!)
  • If you ask them for water (second time), nobody would actually bother to get you one. You ask one, she disappears. You ask another, she makes such a face that you would rather puke than drinking the water that she brings.
  • You ask somebody for a juice/something, and instead of taking initiative, all the airhostess’ say is that someone else’s in charge and that it would be on its way.
  • They do not even bother to bring the ‘warm-towel’ tray even close to the window seat. The person has to stretch like hell before he can get his hands on the towel. (referring to the poor soul sitting next to me)
  • As for the food, there appears to be no-options for vegetarians at all. The only ‘vegetarian’ thing offered on the flight was ‘Upma’ which was actually only palatable.

Folks, we are not flying Emirates, because we love to. Point One.

Point Two. Just because you have the clout, doesn’t mean you are the last word on Hospitality. Sorry. We don’t encourage pathetic standards.

P.S:- Emirates Folks, I am purposely not sending you an email/posting on the forum on this issue.

P.P.S:- Atleast they could have gotten Good-Looking Airhostess’. :(  Sigh !!! To be born a bachelor and to travel Emirates is quite a pain in the a$$.

Saturday, September 25, 2010 by Hari
4 comments

Dabangg ??? @#$@!#$@%@%^&$^$&^&

Well, the title of the movie represents what i think about the movie. If you still haven’t deciphered it, here goes..

Crap. Period.

This is the shittiest movie ever made in recent times. To be very frank, even Sam Anderson would have done a better job dancing. And to all those rave reviews extolling the movie for its ‘pure adrenaline’,’complete fun’, ‘action-fest’, i guess you have a long way to go in actually reviewing cinema.

This is money wasted. (Of course, except for the Munni song..) And wasted in style. Ayoo Raama… No logic anywhere… If you’d call Crank as a MindFuck movie… This goes down as WalletFuck …

I go to the theater for entertainment, not for watching 6 packs and shirt ripping itself out !!! I was laughing my heart out with sarcasm, when I saw that….

In my opinion, Arbaaz has done what no other director in recent times has dared to. That of insulting his own audience/spectators. Good job there…

And as for Salman… (smirk).

P.S:—Oops.. I know Arbaaz is not the director .. I meant the Producer…

Friday, September 24, 2010 by Hari
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Another reason to celebrate … !!!

Well, I was talking about a ppt being made here. Well, guess what ????

That ppt has won Rs. 25,000 prize  !!! :) Am on cloud nine literally…

OK Here is the context. It was more of a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiative organised  by Intel. (No.. I don’t work for them.) And apparently we (a group of like minded individuals) were backing an NGO to take part. The Intel volunteers were also our folks. Basically our aim was to win as much prize money as possible, so that we can support the NGO. The first prize was a lakh. Second was fifty thousand.

To be very honest, I was expecting the first or second prize. We had worked really hard on this. But the best part was that, three of the five categories in which we participated got 25,000 prize. So, the win is actually quite a confidence booster for our whole team.

Looking forward to more such CSR from more Corporates.. :)

P.S:- Ironically none of my team members have even offered me a commission on the prize money… :( :(

by Hari
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Hey… !! Finally… :)

OK… This is going to be a first… :)

This post has been posted from Windows Live Writer…

Its cool… Rather, its slick.. I like it…

Sunday, September 19, 2010 by Hari
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Amul Hoarding - 1998-99

Sivaji the Boss !!!

Enthiran the Mass !!!


I've never seen so much money riding on one guy .. !!

Keeping my fingers for the man !!!

by Hari
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Just Another Lazy Sunday Afternoon ...

So Folks, How is the new template ??
Please do let me know...

Actually this used to be the Half Baked Template :P
I modified a lot of it.. Now It looks no where near the original .. :)

I am quite satisfied... :)
Let me know your opinion too...

by Hari
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The Fortnight !!!

Last fortnight has been quite strange for me.. :)

Here is why ...

The most 'Arse-Holistic' Report - (Yes.. You read it right..)
A recent case of 'so-called' ethical Journalism from Rajdeep Sardesai and his team on CNN-IBN. Was such a topic really necessary especially in the shadow of a much awaited High Court Judgement.

Yellow-Yellow-Dirty-Fellow Award
for Journalism goes to Rajdeep Sardesai for his totally unethical and irresponsible report. Totally Condemnable. Congrats Rajdeep !! You screwed it up again !!!

I finished reading two books. One was Ishamel. Rocking and Fantabulous.
Another one was the Sari Shop Widow. OK OK Types.

Had the laugh of my life watching Chinni Jayanth on Manathudan Mano. The way he described the dubbing scene was totally awesome.

Had the breakthrough I was waiting for a long time. Working on it. :P

Prepared a PPT on a 17 page document in 2 hours for a non-official cause. Best part is I was seeing the document for the first time !! :)
Learnt that it was possible for 1000 words to be encompassed in mere 4 slides. :P

Visited Thiruvannamalai for the first time... Superb it was !!!
Took me to a different world altogether...

Had some realisations... Keeping my fingers crossed... Let's see.. !!!

Saturday, September 18, 2010 by Hari
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The Sari Shop Widow - Shobhan Bantwal - OK OK Types

Finished reading the Sari Shop Widow by Shobhan Bantwal. Nothing great about it.

Anjali owns a store in U.S called Saris and Sapphires. She is a widow, having lost her husband Vikram to a Neural Problem. She is 37 and is actually fed up of life. Its been seven years since Vikram died, and Anjali is on the verge of a breakdown. Her financials are at an all time low and the only alternative they have is to sell off every bit of the store and head back to India.

Enter Jeevan, her father's elder brother whom she hates, along with Rishi, a Consultant - one who specialises in giving life to dead businesses. Together they decide to finance Anjali's shop to make it bigger and better and provide the Kapadia's with a solution.

Is Rishi interested in Anjali ? What is the relationship between Jeevan and Rishi ? Do they succeed in getting the store re-opened successfully is the crux of the story.

Actually, the book is run-of-the-mill stuff. Not actually impressed. No offence meant, when I say that it reads more like the Mills and Boon stuff. Cliche'd dialogues.

Not worth your time, if you consider Time as money.
My rating :- 4/10

P.S:- I found nothing worthwhile to even quote !! :( :(

by Hari
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Ishmael - Magnifique !!!

First things first,

This is a novella, par excellence.

No book, that I have read, in recent times comes close to it.

The very concept is so superb that it left me wondering, how did I miss this book.

The premise is simple. There is a strange looking advertisement in the paper, which the author goes to investigate and the journey after that is the whole story.

Basically its about saving the world. But not the James Bond Style. This one is more subtle.



Starting from a very basic notion of Takers and Leavers, Ishmael weaves a wonderful story of the origin, although biblical. Its about how man is at the edge of his own extinction and how much better he could have been. And the best part of this whole journey is that nobody is blamed !! Not even the Gods !!

The book is LOADED with logic. If you are not the type who does not like to read philosophical or logical arguments, then this is not the book for you. The arguments are beautifully presented, leaving no room for any doubt. All the queries that we have are raised by the author himself and are answered satisfactorily.
Well, Almost !!!

The story actually wanders slightly in the middle especially with the Adam and Eve and Fruit of Knowledge theories, but finally wraps it all up in style...

My favorite part in the whole book is the Four rules of mankind that the author formulates. Awesome !!!

It is a short book. Not much complications. No emotional attachments, but leaves one with a deep sense of satisfaction of having found out the truth at last. J

Below are some passages from the book, that I liked a lot.

“Of course you do. My subject is: captivity.”
“Captivity.”

“That’s correct.”

I sat there for a minute, then I said, “I’m trying to figure out what this has to do with saving the world.”

Ishmael thought for a moment. “Among the people of your culture, which want to destroy the world?”

“Which want to destroy it? As far as I know, no one specifically wants to destroy the world.”
“And yet you do destroy it, each of you. Each of you contributes daily to the destruction of the world.”

“Yes, that’s so.”
“Why don’t you stop?”

I shrugged. “Frankly, we don’t know how.”

“You’re captives of a civilizational system that more or less compels you to go on destroying the world in order to live.”

“Yes, that’s the way it seems.”

“So. You are captives—and you have made a captive of the world itself. That’s what’s at stake, isn’t it?—your captivity and the captivity of the world.”

“Yes, that’s so. I’ve just never thought of it that way.”

“And you yourself are a captive in a personal way, are you not?”

“How so?”
Ishmael smiled, revealing a great mass of ivory–colored teeth.
I hadn’t known he could, until then.


I said: “I have an impression of being a captive, but I can’t explain why I have this impression.”
“A few years ago—you must have been a child at the time, so you may not remember it—many young people of this country had the same impression. They made an ingenuous and disorganized effort to escape from captivity but ultimately failed, because they were unable to find the bars of the cage. If you can’t discover what’s keeping you in, the will to get out soon becomes confused and ineffectual.”

“We now have in place all the major elements of your culture’s explanation of how things came to be this way. The world was given to man to turn into a paradise, but he’s always screwed it up, because he’s fundamentally flawed. He might be able to do something about this if he knew how he ought to live, but he doesn’t—and he never will, because no knowledge about that is obtainable. So, however hard man might labor to turn the world into a paradise, he’s probably just going to go on screwing it up.”
“Yes, that’s the way it seems.”

“It’s a sorry story you have there, a story of hopelessness and futility, a story in which there is literally nothing to be done. Man is flawed, so he keeps on screwing up what should be paradise, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You don’t know how to live so as to stop screwing up paradise, and there’s nothing you can do about that. So there you are, rushing headlong toward catastrophe, and all you can do is watch it come.”



"According to your maps, the world of thought is coterminous with your culture. It ends at the border of your culture, and if you venture beyond that border, you simply fall off the edge of the world. Do you see what I mean?”
“I think so.”

“Tomorrow we’ll screw up our courage and cross that border. And as you’ll see, we will not fall off the edge of the world. We’ll just find ourselves in new territory, in territory never explored by anyone in your culture, because your maps say it isn’t there—and indeed can’t be there.”


“Here is a puzzle for you to consider,” said Ishmael.
“You are in a faraway land and find yourself in a strange city isolated from all others. You’re immediately impressed by the people you find there. They’re friendly, cheerful, healthy, prosperous, vigorous, peaceable, and well educated, and they tell you things have been this way for as long as anyone can remember. Well, you’re glad to break your journey here, and one family invites you to stay with them.


That night you sample their food at dinner and, finding it delicious but unfamiliar, ask them what it is, and they say,
‘Oh, it’s B meat, of course. That’s all we eat.’
This naturally puzzles you and you ask if they mean the meat of the little insects that gather honey. They laugh and take you to the window.

‘There are some B’s there,’ they say, pointing to their neighbors in the next house.

“ ‘Good lord!’ you exclaim in horror, ‘you don’t mean that you eat people!’
And they look at you in a puzzled way and say, ‘We eat B’s.’


“ ‘How atrocious,’ you reply. ‘Are they your slaves then? Do you keep them penned up?’

“ ‘Why on earth should we keep them penned up?’ your hosts ask.

“ ‘To keep them from running away, of course!’

“By now your hosts are beginning to think you’re a little weak in the head, and they explain that the B’s would never think of running away, because their own food, the A’s, live right across the street.
“Well, I won’t weary you with all your outraged exclamations and their baffled explanations. Eventually you piece together the whole ghastly scheme.
The A’s are eaten by the B’s and the B’s are eaten by the C’s and the C’s in turn are eaten by the A’s. There is no hierarchy among these food classes. The C’s don’t lord it over the B’s just because the B’s are their food, because after all they themselves are the food of the A’s.

It’s all perfectly democratic and friendly. But of course it’s all perfectly dreadful to you, and you ask them how they can stand to live in this lawless way. Once again they look at you in bafflement.

‘What do you mean, lawless?’ they ask.
‘We have a law, and we all follow it invariably. This is why we’re friendly and cheerful and peaceable and all those other things you find so attractive in us. This law is the foundation of our success as a people and has been so from the beginning.’


“Here at last is the puzzle. Without asking them, how can you discover what law it is they follow?” I blinked at him for a moment.
“I can’t imagine.”

“Think about it.”

“Well . . . obviously their law is that A’s eat C’s and B’s eat A’s and C’s eat B’s.”

Ishmael shook his head. “These are food preferences. No law is required.”

“I need something more to go on then. All I’ve got is their food preferences.”

“You have three other things to go on. They have a law, they follow it invariably, and because they follow it invariably, they have a highly successful society.”


First, they exterminate their competitors, which is something that never happens in the wild.

In the wild, animals will defend their territories and their kills and they will invade their competitors’ territories and preempt their kills. Some species even include competitors among their prey, but they never hunt competitors down just to make them dead, the way ranchers and farmers do with coyotes and foxes and crows. What they hunt, they eat.”

Ishmael nodded.
“It should be noted, however, that animals will also kill in self–defense, or even when they merely feel threatened. For example, baboons may attack a leopard that hasn’t attacked
them. The point to see is that, although baboons will go looking for food, they will never go looking for leopards.”

“I’m not sure I see what you mean.” “I mean that in the absence of food, baboons will organize themselves to find a meal, but in the absence of leopards they will never organize themselves to find a leopard. In other words, it’s as you say: when animals go hunting—even extremely aggressive animals like baboons—it’s to obtain food, not to exterminate competitors or even animals that prey on them.”

“Next, the Takers systematically destroy their competitors’ food to make room for their own. Nothing like this occurs in the natural community. The rule there is: Take what you need, and leave the rest alone.”

“Next, the Takers deny their competitors access to food. In the wild, the rule is: You may deny your competitors access to what you’re eating, but you may not deny them access to food in general. In other words, you can say, ‘This gazelle is mine,’ but you can’t say, ‘All the gazelles are mine.’ The lion defends its kill as its own, but it doesn’t defend the herd as its own.”


“Yes. In the wild, the lion kills a gazelle and eats it. It doesn’t kill a second gazelle to save for tomorrow. The deer eats the grass that’s there. It doesn’t cut the grass down and save it for the winter. But these are things the Takers do.”

“Yes, but I’m after something else now. What would have happened if this law had been repealed ten million years ago? What would the community be like?”

“Once again, I’d have to say there would only be one form of life at each level of competition. If all the competitors for the grasses had been waging war on each other for ten million years, I’d have to think an overall winner would have emerged by now. Or maybe there’d be one insect winner, one avian winner, one reptile winner, and so on. The same would be true at all levels.”


Once you exempt yourself from the law of limited competition, everything in the world except your food and the food of your food becomes an enemy to be exterminated.

Ishmael said, “We know what happens if you take the Taker premise, that the world belongs to man.”
“Yes, that’s a disaster.”

“And what happens if you take the Leaver premise, that man belongs to the world?”

“Then creation goes on forever.”

“How does that sound?”

“It has my vote.”


Human settlement isn’t against the law, it’s subject to the law—and the same is true of civilization


“Is it really so impossible in an age when a stand–up comic on television reaches more people in ten minutes than Paul did in his entire lifetime?”


It wasn’t till I got Ishmael’s poster to the framing shop that I discovered there were messages on both sides. I had it framed so that both can be seen. The message on one side is the one Ishmael displayed on the wall of his den:

WITH MAN GONE, WILL THERE BE HOPE FOR GORILLA?
The message on the other side reads:
WITH GORILLA GONE, WILL THERE BE HOPE FOR MAN?



Fantabulous.. Lovers of Logic and Rationale... Must Read !!!

My rating :- 8.5/10

Tuesday, September 14, 2010 by Hari
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Indeed... The Greatest War ever fought !!!

The story ends here. Atleast ours.
After this there is lamentation of the Kaurava queens, and then Gandhari's curse on the Vrishnis and Yadavas, and Krishna. The Pandavas come to know that Karna is their brother. The Anushasana parva of Mahabharata where Bheeshma advises Yudhishtra on the intricacies of Administration, before his ascent to heaven during Uttarayana. The golden rule of Yudhishtra and the Ashwamedha Yaaga. The journey to Himalayas for the lost treasures. Then the handover of the kingdom to Parikshit and then the final test by the Lord of Justice, Dharmaraja on his son. Thus ends the Mahaprasthanika Parva of Mahabharata. The story then meanders with the life of Parikshit and the fate of Bharatavarsha.




All word clouds have been made with Wordle. (Awesome site !!)
Content, Organisation of Material, Illustrations, Concept and Idea are all mine.
Proper acknowledgements is made to all the authors who have translated this great epic.
For any comments/feedback/suggestions, please mail me at vharicharan@gmail.com

I would like to thank all the people who have stood by me and behind me providing me with valuable support and suggestions now and then.

I am looking forward to write the next big thing.. :P But then I guess I'll have to wait, so I presume you too would. :)

Please do let your friends know about this blog and the series.. :)

Below are some more wordle maps. :)







Thursday, September 2, 2010 by Hari
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The Great War - Day 18

The dawn of the Eighteenth day arrives.

On the Kaurava side, 11,000 chariots, 10,700 elephants, 200,000 horsemen and 3,000,000 foot soldiers remained.

On the Pandava side, 6,000 chariots, 6,000 elephants, 10,000 horsemen and 1,000,000 foot soldiers remained.

The Kauravas are eager to fight under the King of Madrakas. The Pandavas are eager for a quick victory. The conches sound. The madness begins.

Partha and Bheema begin the grim massacre. It appeared as if the war would be over by afternoon. Yudhihstra rushes at Shalya. Dhristadyumna and Shikandi protect him. Bheema fights with Kritavarman, who manages to kill Bheema's horses. Enraged, Bheema smashes the horses, driver and chariot of the King of Bhojas.

Shalya was engaged by not only Yudhishtra, but also by the Panchalas, the Somakas and the Shrinjayas. Bheema, in awe of Shalya's dexterity, quickly kills Shalya's sarathy, seeing which Shalya is enraged. He picks up a mace and comes to fight with his nephew. The begin whirling at each other looking at an opportunity to strike each other. After intense fighting, both of them fall on the ground, tired. It is then, when Kripacharya whisks away Shalya from the battlefield.

Duryodhana, filled with rage, due to the death of Karna, quickly sends Chekitana, from the House of Vrishni's to Yama's abode.

Once Shalya regained strength, he comes back to the battlefield. He fights with Bheema, He fights with Satyaki, with Nakula, with Sahadeva and defeats them all. Yudhishtra then comes forward to fight with Shalya. Shalya cuts Yudhishtra's bow into two. Dharma counters by killing Shalya's horses. Ashwathama comes to Shalya's rescue and takes him away in another chariot, but Yudhihstra does not leave Shalya,and follows him in pursuit. Shalya then, in anger wounds Bheema and Satyaki with many arrows. He then kills Yudhistra's horses, and then proceeds to run towards Dharma with his shield and sword with intent to kill.

Seeing this the second son of Kunti, The Vayuputra quickly destroys the shield and sword and leaves Shalya nirayudhapaani. At this juncture, Yudhishtra takes up a golden dart which he had received as a blessing from Shiva and releases it at Shalya with all his strength. The Golden Dart takes a lifetime to reach Shalya. It pierces his hands and chest and enters into the earth taking with it, the life force of the king. Shalya dies on the battlefield and attains the heavens, by virtue of death on battlefield and also due to virtue of the battlefield being Kurukshetra.

Seeing their Senapati die, the Kaurava army is now in chaos. Bheema and Arjuna make the best use of this opportunity. Shalya's younger borther tries to assault Yudhishtra, but he too is quickly dispatched to heaven with a broad headed shaft from Dharma.

Duryodhana rallies his fleeing troops and urges them to fight. He unleases 3000 elephants upon the Pandavas. Arjuna is furious. So is Bheema, who takes up his mace and starts hitting the Pachyderms. The elephants soon have their heads split open. Bheema ensures that not one of the three thousand elephants actually survived. Seeing this destructive form of Bheema, the Kaurava army shrinks in fear.

At another point in the battlefield Ashwathama is looking for Duryodhana. Nobody knows where he has gone. The Kaurava army was at the point of annihilation. Some of Duryodhana's brothers were still alive. They try to corner Bheema, in an attempt to kill him, but it was futile. Bheema, eager to fulfill his vow and to finish the battle, quickly kills then just like fireflies entering fire. With the death of these brothers, only two of the 100 sons of Dhritarashtra remained. Duryodhana and Sudarshana.

The remaining army of the Kauravas, rushed towards the Pandava army. Shakuni and Susharman challenge Arjuna yet again. Sudarshana attacks Bheema while Duryodhana manages to send Sahadeva out of the battlefield with a deadly lance. Bheema makes quick work of Sudarshana and kills him with a razor sharp arrow. Only one man remained. Duryodhana.

Arjuna meets the remaining of the Trigarta army. Every time he sees the Trigartas regrouping, Arjuna's anger knows no bounds. He is reminded of the day when his son was killed. Arjuna decides to end it once and for all. He takes a single arrow, fixes it at Susharman's heart and unleashes it. The arrow finds it mark, and the king of the Trigartas is dead. After this, Arjuna kills the 35 sons of Susharman and completely annihilates the Trigarta army.

Bheema, Nakula and Sahadeva assault Shakuni's army. Shakuni and his son Uluka fight fiercely. Shakuni pierces Sahadeva with a lance and makes him unconscious. He then pierces Bheema and Nakula with many sharp arrows. Sahadeva, on regaining consciousness, decides to teach Shakuni a lesson. With a broad arrow, he severs Uluka's head.

Shakuni, witnessing the death of his son, is overwhelmed by sorrow and tries to run away from battlefield. But Sahadeva, who had sworn to kill Shakuni is not the one to let him go past so easily. Sahadeva ridicules Shakuni asking him to remember that day in Hastinapura when he gambled. He could show some skill in archery today. Sahadeva quickly kills the horses of Shakuni and in a rage, Shakuni unleashes a golden lance at Sahadeva. Before the lance could be released, Duryodhana's uncle has his hands cut, and within the next few moments, the man who sent the Pandavas to thirteen years of exile is dead, with his head rolling on the ground.

The Gandhara warriors, on seeing their king dead, are furious and rush at the Pandavas. Within a matter of minutes, all Kaurava soldiers had been slain, unto the last man.

Out of eleven akshauhinis only 4 warriors were left on Kaurava side, Duryodhana, Ashwathama, Kritavarman and Kripacharya.
On the Pandava side, there were 200 chariot warriors, 700 elephants, 5000 horsemen and 10,000 foot soldiers.

Thus when Duryodhana saw that his army had been routed he retreated from the battlefield. He takes up his mace and comes to a lake, the Dwaipayana, in the middle of the forest. He wants to rest before he can engage the Pandavas in combat again. He enters the lake, and by his mystic powers the waters of the lake freeze.

Ashwathama, Kripacharya and Kritavarman come in search of Duryodhana. They see his dead horse and conclude that Duryodhana is hiding somewhere in the forest. In the meanwhile the Pandava soldiers realise that Duryodhana is nowhere to be found. They conclude that he has run away. Tired of searching for him, the forces return to camp to let their leader know the fact.

Ashwathama, Kripa and Kritavarman come to know from Sanjaya that Duryodhana is hiding in the Dwaipayana lake. At night, they approach the lake, and ask Duryodhana to come out of it. Ashwathama tells him, that as long as he is alive, the Pandavas can be defeated. The Pandava army was depleted and with three maharathikas, it could easily be routed. Duryodhana speaks softly to them from the lake. 'I am glad that you are alive. We will fight the Pandavas, no doubt. But not today. The Darkness has fallen and my body is on fire with the wounds. I am tired, and so are you. I shall be revived in the morning and fight the Pandavas again and destroy them. Tomorrows we shall face the enemy.'

Ashwathama is impatient. He wants to fight the Pandavas today. They do not observe the horde of Vetalas who are carrying loads of fresh meat from their hunt. They listen to Ashwathama, Kripa and Kritavarman. Then they hear Duryodhana's voice. Eager to please Yudhishtra, they quickly disappear into the forest to inform the Pandavas. On hearing this news, the Pandavas, along with, Krishna, Dhrishtadyumna, Satyaki, Draupadi and Shikhandi run towards the point where the Vetalas had located the trio. Hearing the rustling of leaves and the noise the trio leave the lake and run in the opposite direction into the forest. They stop at a banyan tree and drop down exhausted. All the while wondering, what fate had written for Duryodhana.

Yudhishtra approaches the lake and then standing on the bank of the lake, challenges Dhritarashtra's son. 'Duryodhana,why do you now hide in this lake, like a coward ? Weren't you the one who wanted battle ? You are known as Prince of Princes and a great hero. You are born of a noble Kshyatriya race. Rise and fight. Fight us or die. Either way, you will be attain fame.'

Duryodhana replies from the bottom on the lake that he was not afraid to fight the Pandavas. He was merely tired and that he wanted to take some time to rest. He tells Yudhishtra that even the greatest warrior needs rest and that they can go and rest. Tomorrow Duryodhana shall fight the sons of Pandu. Yudhishtra smiles at Duryodhana's strategy. He tells Duryodhana that they had already rested and were infact searching for him all the while. Now that his army had been annihilated, it was time for the king to engage them in battle.

Duryodhana, on hearing Dharma's words, speaks. 'All those, for whom I desired soverignity are now dead on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Even if I were to defeat you, O Sons of Pandu, of what use would it mean to me. There is no need for this kingdom, when Drona, Bheeshma and Karna have left this world. What would I do ruling a kingdom, that does not have any of my kith or kin. I do not want this kingdom, after so much bloodshed. I give it away as a gift to you. I will renounce life and live as an ascetic.'

Listening to such words, Yudhishtra smiles to himself. Even in defeat, his cousin was being condescending. He immediately rebukes Duryodhana by reminding him, that he cannot gift away a kingdom that was never his, and definitely not now, when he had lost if fair and square to the Pandavas. He tells Duryodhana, that his thought should have come to him, when Madhusoodhana came to him asking for five villages in exchange of the kingdom of Hastinapura. Dharma reminds him, that in the past, he had tried to poison them during Jala-Kreeda, Burn them in Vaaranavrata, insulted Draupadi at the Great Hall, tried to outmaneuver them at Viraata, and kill Abhimanyu unethically. He tells Duryodhana that Kaal is upon him and that he deserves to die.

Duryodhana then proceeds to give excuses. He says that you have warriors who are well armed and posses chariot and horses, and that he does not have sufficient weapons. He requests Dharma to fight with him one at a time. He is not afraid of any of the warriors, but rather, he shall fight with all of them, and free himself of all the debt that he owe his relatives and friends.

Yudhishtra then offers Duryodhana the choice of his opponent and the choice of weapon. He also gives Duryodhana that option of reclaiming the kingdom if any of the Pandavas was killed in the duel. Duryodhana is delighted to hear the offer. He chooses mace as his weapon. He also instructs that he does not want chariots and that the duel will be on the ground with the mace. Yudhishtra agrees to this requests and then Duryodhana steps out of the water.

On seeing Yudhishtra succumb to all of Duryodhana's conditions, The Avatara has a quick word with Dharma. He tells Yudhishtra, that this was exactly what Duryodhana had been waiting for all these years. The son of blind Dhritarashtra had been practising on an iron statue of Bheema for all these years. Bheema may possess the strength of 4000 elephants, but Duryodhana had the skill. And in mace fighting the one with skill always had the upper hand. Avtara rebukes Yudhishtra by saying that perhaps the sons of Kunti are not destined to enjoy sovereignty. He tells Yudhishtra that he is annoyed with the extent to which Yudhishtra goes to uphold Dharma. Dharma was not meant to be carried upto such insane lenghts. After so many years and after so many millions of men have died and when the world was at his feet, Yudhishtra was about to give it all back on a platter to Duryodhana.

On hearing Krishna's words, Vayuputra assures him of the outcome of the battle. Bheema had been waiting for such a one-on-one battle for thirteen years. It was now time for some real action with somebody atleast his equal. He roars in anger and tells Duryodhana that today, he shall pound his head with the mace and avenge the insult to his queen.

Bheema reminds Duryodhana that he is the cause of his own miseries. He asks Duryodhana to remember the day when he poisoned him. The day when Draupadi was insulted. The day when Yudhishtra was unfairly defeated. It was because of Duryodhana's mistake that Drona was slain. Karna slain. Shalya slain, and Shakuni and all his brothers.

Just as the battle was about to begin, Balarama comes that way. Seeing his two best pupils ready for combat unnerves him. Duryodhana was his favorite pupil. Balarama addresses both parties and tells them that both are great fighters and that this fight would go on forever without anybody getting defeated. But the two warriors were now beyond their guru. They were both madmen now, remembering their enemity. Looking at them Balarama understands the destiny which awaited them and thus without advising them further, proceeds to return to the city of Dwaraka after blessing them.

Krishna heaves a sigh of relief after Balarama leaves. Balarama would never have allowed this battle, if only he knew what was going to happen.

The sun has already become dim, but the Pandavas light torches. Both the warriors now begin swinging their maces. They fight honorably. With Dharma, With grace,Doing full justice to their master. A couple of times, Duryodhana strikes Bheema so hard that Bheema's mace falls out of his hands, but he does not attack when Bheema is unarmed. He waits for Bheema to pick up his weapon. And everytime that happens the forest of Samantapanchaka echoes with Bheema's roars. He now strikes his cousin's mace from his hands. They fight with dexterity. Each one strong in his own aspect.

The sun has fully set. The warriors are tired. Yudhishtra instructs them to stop fighting and rest. At dawn they resume fighting. This time, both the warriors and renewed and it appears to be an equal battle once again. Their weapons glow. Bheema is surprised that the blows that felled elephants on Kurukshetra are of no use here. Duryodhana was agile. He could easily evade most of Bheema's blows. In fact, Bheema realised Duryodhana's strategy only late in the fight. He was actually tiring him out. Duryodhana then suddenly raises the level of his fighting. Duryodhana is suddenly everywhere. Bheema begins to panic.

Duryodhana's blows begin to fall on him like Lightning and Thunder. Arjuna looks at Hrishikesha and asks his opinion on who will win the duel. The Avatar looks at Phalguna and says, that if this duel was fought justly then Duryodhana would win and Bheema would die. Duryodhana was far more skilled then Bheema. He had thirteen years of more practice than Bheema. Bheema's strength does not matter anymore. If only the kingdom was not at stake, then Madhusoodhana would have watched this duel forever. He tells Arjuna that there was no way this duel could be won fair and square.

Both of them look at Bheema who has just gotten up after another heavy blow from Duryodhana. He finds his confidence shaken. Never before had Vayuputra felt this way. He can hardly turn around. Duryodhana now prowls around Bheema looking for a chance, and Yudhishtra quickly calls for a break. For Duryodhana, it was the chance of a lifetime. If only he could kill Bheema, then the 11 akshauhinis would be worth this duel.

Duryodhana knows that he now has the advantage of agility. Afterall he had practised it for years. He taunts Bheema with his mace. Bheema looks at the Avatara with sullen eyes. The Avatara thumps his thighs. In a flash, Bheema remembers the scene vividly. It was this man, isn't it, who had shown his naked thigh to his wife and then asked her to sit on it. Hadn't he sworn to break his thighs ?

Duryodhana moves to make a maneuver called Avasthana, that required him to fly high up in the air, to avoid the lateral movement of the mace. As Duryodhana jumps up in the air, Bheema quickly changes his move and then with super human strength, smashes that mace given to him by Maya, right into the thighs of Durydhana. The mace not only breaks his thighs but also smashes his manhood.

Duryodhana's screams rent the air. He falls and wriggles on the ground like a snake with a broken back. Once the king of the world, is now, crawling on earth. The magnificent Duryodhana, lord of eleven Akshauhinis, is now struggling for his life. This may have been a dharma yuddha, but Bheema hitting his opponent below the navel was adharma. Meteors streak across the sky. Rakshasas and Pishachas howl in the forest. Bheema does not care for these omens. His rushes to the fallen Kaurava, who is like a god, and then kicks away his golden crown.

He plants a foot on his Duryodhana's head and then roars, 'Thirteen years I waited for this moment, Duryodhana. Your brothers called me a cow. They are not alive to see this moment. I swore, One day, your head would like under my legs and that some day is today. Feel my foot, Kaurava. Let the blind son of Dhritarashtra know, that the Second son of Pandu has kept his promise.'

The Kaurava whimpers in agony. Bheema raises his foot and stamps Duryodhana's face into the ground. He raises his foot to do again, but Yudhishtra stops him. He tells him, that by keeping his oath, the enmity ends. Bheema was only demeaning himself by setting foot on a king's head.

Yudhishtra then kneels down on the ground, beside Duryodhana. He says to Duryodhana 'All of this was your fault Duryodhana. If only you had upheld Dharma. But today, I am envious of you. For you shall soon reach a realm where you will meet all your brothers. This earth, that I have won from you, is so empty. What shall I rule ? The Kali Yuga is upon us and the earth has lost her glory. It was fate Duryodhana. It was fate.'

Duryodhana's chest heaves in mortal agony. There is a light in his eyes and a mild smile on his lips, as if to indicate that he is grateful to the compassionate Yudhishtra.

Krishna rushes to hug Bheema. Only the rarest of men live up to their oaths and the Vayuputra had lived upto his. Krishna then looks at Duryodhana and speaks. 'We need not kill this man. He is as good as dead. How much Vidura begged him ? Duryodhana listened only to his uncle Shakuni and look where he is right now. He is now just a dry log of wood. Not worth bothering.'

Duryodhana is aghast at this statement from Krishna. There is untold hatred in Duryodhana's voice. 'Son of Kamsa's slave, You caused this war by poisoning my cousin's hearts. Who brought Shikhadi before Bheeshma to fight ? Who told Yudhishtra to utter a half lie ? Who turned Day into Night and murdered the unsuspecting Jayadratha ? Who sacrificed his nephew Ghatotkacha, so that his cousin would live ? Who told Arjuna to shoot Karna when he was fixing his chariot wheel ? You may deceive the world Krishna, but you, of us all, are the greatest sinner!'

Krishna laughs. 'So now you blame it on me, Duryodhana ? Bheeshma, Drona, Karna all died because they fought for you. Bheeshma should never have agreed to fight. Drona could have easily given up his post. Karna knew you were wrong, but could never bring himself to abandon you. Have your forgotten the day, when I begged you to make peace. Don't you remember my request for five villages and you said, that you would not give even a needle point. I feel no pity for you, son of Gandhari, you have got what you deserved.'

Duryodhana sneers. 'I have lived a full life. I have studies the Vedas. Been generous to the poor. I have been the king of the earth. Trodden on my enemies heads. I have lived a joyful life and I am looking forward to a joyful afterlife. I will find my brothers and my dearest Karna waiting for me. I have died like a Kshatriya and I will find Swarga for myself.'

At this, a shower of petals fall upon dying Duryodhana. The gods themselves bless the Kaurava for his indomitable courage. Krishna now vents his anger. 'Years ago in the Kamyaka vana, I swore to Draupadi that I will unleash death upon those who had tormented her. Yudhishtra, you allowed those beasts to drag her into that court, You did not allow Bheema to kill them. You spoke of Dharma. For you, there were other things that were more important, but to me, Yudhishtra , there was nothing more momentous than her tears. Bheeshma and Drona never raised a hand, and that is why they died. As for the sin of deciet we used to kill our enemies, let it fall on my head. I do not care. I will bear those crimes gladly for my Draupadi and the sons of Pandu.'

Thus spoken, the Pandavas feel happy at heart and start to leave the Sampantapanchaka forest. Duryodhana, once the lord of the earth, lies alone. He lies dying.

As the Pandavas ride towards their camps, Krishna tells Arjuna to take down his Gandeeva and his two inexhautible quivers and to step down from the chariot. Puzzled by this statement, Arjuna does what the Avatara tells him to do. After Arjuna gets down from the chariot, Krishna jumps off it, and immediately the chariot bursts into flames. The whole chariot is reduced to ashes in moments. Arjuna is totally puzzled. Krishna explains to him. 'The chariot pf yours was struck by the Brahmastras of Drona and Karna, by the Agneyastra of Ashwathama and by innumerable other missiles. Both the horses and the chariot were consumed long ago, but since I sat at your chariot head and drove, they did not perish. Now that we have no further use of them, they are ashes. So it is with men Arjuna. We all come into the world to achieve a purpose and once it is done, we will have to leave. You and your brothers have won the war, and I am very proud of you. I suggest you spend the night on the banks of the river Oghavati'. Yudhishtra and his brothers agree and leave for the bank.

Word of Duryodhana's fall reaches the people of Hastinapura and so it reaches the ears of Kripa, Kritavarmana and Ashwathama. The three navigate through the forest and come to the bank of the lake, where they find Duryodhana on the ground. Ashwathama is enraged to find his King, lying on the ground, like a reptile. He grieves for him. Duryodhana tells him not to worry about him and that he had lived his life. But Ashwathama is rage personified. He talks about taking revenge. He swears on all his acts of piety, his gifts, his religion and the religious merits that he had won, that he will kill all the soldiers left in the Pandava army.

Duryodhana asks Kripa to bring a pot of water and annoints Ashwathama as his commander in chief. Yet another Senapati at midnight. He tells Ashwathama to conquer those that are left amongst the Pandavas. With that Duryodhana faints once again.

Ashwathama, Kritavarman and Kripa aware that the Pandavas were hunting for them, take shelter in a banyan tree. Ashwathama could not sleep. His gaze falls on the trees around and the numerous nests on them. He suddenly hears a hoot and sees an owl on another tree. Ashwathama senses an omen. He has a feeling that this was a scene to be watched. The owl suddenly attacks the sleeping crows. The owl is a blizzard of beak and talons and the crows hardly have time to wake up. The hunting owl brings such terror that they start cawing in the middle of the night. It's meal over, the owl, with its huge eyes glowing like moon-lenses watches the nests with satisfaction. Then suddenly as it had appeared, the owl vanishes. The strange scene fills Ashwathama with adrenaline. He knew what had to be done.

He quickly wakes up the other two, and tells them that they must avenge Duryodhana. He tells them that they must attack the Pandavas at night. Kripa and Kritavarman are aghast. Drona would never have allowed this. Ashwathama tells them, the time of truth was long gone. They had to attack the Pandavas when they were least expected. At night. Kritavarman and Kripa try to talk Ashwathama out of it. But the heat had gone to his head. He had to avenge his king Duryodhana, his father Drona and his friend, Karna. He pushes Kripa and Kritavarman stating that he was now the senapati of the Kaurava king, and that it was his responsibility.

He quickly highlights his plan to the other two. The Pandavas will be tired after the victory and celebrations. They would be asleep. All they had to do was to enter their tents and kill them, to ensure that they would never wake up again. Though Kritavarman and Kripa are reluctant, they finally give in. For they were all that remained of the mighty Duryodhana's army and from one they will have to act together. And so, the last three warriors of Duryodhana's numberless legions, which at one point stretched for 6 Kosas, ride in the pitch dark to avenge their fallen king.

As they entered the region of the Pandava camps, Ashwathama quickly prays to his Ishta Devata, Shiva, by whose grace he was born. Shiva then grants him with a Khadag, a sword and blesses him with victory. Thus empowered, Ashwathama then posts Kripa and Kritavarman on the gates of the camp and orders them to kill anyone who tried to escape. He then enters the tent of Dhristadyumna and on seeing him, becomes enraged and kicks him. Tired by the war and also half asleep, Dhristadyumna is unable to defend himself. When he finds himself at Ashwathama's mercy, he begs Ashwathama to kill him with some weapon so that he may die gloriously, but Ashwathama taunts him that inglorious deaths are fated for those who kill their preceptors and kicks him till he is dead.

Listening to the commotion that was caused by this, the whole camp awakens. Aswathama then quickly enters the Pandava tent. Without thinking twice, he strikes Prativindhya, Sutatsoma, Satanika, Srutakarman and Strutakirti, blindly till they are all dead, thinking them to the be Pandavas. He then cuts off their heads and takes them with him. On the way, he sees Shikhandi and kills him with a single arrow.

In the meanwhile, the Pandava camp is in chaos. Ashwathama is Yama let loose. Like two Yamadutas, Kripa and Kritavarman hunt down every single person who tried to escape from there. Within hours, it is quite evident that the remaining Pandava army has been vanquished. Drunk with the scent of murder, the three warriors ride back into the Samantapanchaka to tell Duryodhana the good news.

Duryodhana is half dead, when the trio reach him. With great effort, they revive him and Ashwathama tells him that they had slaughtered the Pandavas. Duryodhana feels the heads that Ashwathama has brought and feeling proud of his Senapati praises him skyhigh. He then gives up his life and ascends to heaven.

Now all that is left of the Kuru race is Dhritarashtra and his wife Gandhari.

The chariot driver of Dhristadyumna, who was the only one to escape the slaughter, rushes to tell Yudhishtra the bad news, who spent the night on the banks of the river Oghavati, as per the instructions of the Avtara, who had instinctively felt that the Pandavas were unsafe in their camps. Yudhishtra faints on hearing it. Draupadi also faints on hearing that her sons are dead. Her husbands revive her and try to console her. Unable to bear the lamentations of his wife, Bheema, taking Nakula as his driver,rides into the forest to hunt down Ashwathama. Krishna tells to Arjuna that Ashwathama has the Brahmasirisha Astra. Arjuna says that he too is in possession of that Astra. Krishna tells him that though Arjuna has it, if it is used on Bheema then Bheema is as good as dead for the Astra could reduce the very earth to ashes. Climbing into Krishna's Jaitra, they fly to the site where Bheema has already found Ashwathama who is with Vyasa and some other rishis on the banks of Ganga.

Seeing Ashwathama, Bheema roars like a tiger. But he sees Ashwathama from behind. When he looks at Ashwathama's face, Bheema gasps. The brahmana's face has lost all its sheen. He now looks like a nishada with a twisted face. Ashwathama is equally appalled to see Bheema. He had already killed the Pandavas last night. Then he sees the Jaitra descend and then he sees Arjuna in it. In a flash he realises that he had killed the Pandavas' sons. What a mistake he had committed and now the Pandavas were going to avenge him for it.

Before Bheema gets ready to dispatch Aswathama to the abode of Yama, Drona's son draws a stalk of grass from the ground and utters a mantra over the green blade. The blade bursts into flames and then becomes an astra by itself. He then utters 'Let the world be without the Pandavas.' The four headed Brahmasirisha hisses towards Vayuputra. Without a second's delay, Arjuna intones the same arcane mantra and the astra is ready. Arjuna launches it at the astra already in air.

Brahma's heads collide. The earth shudders. Vyasa is alarmed and so is Narada. They stop the astras mid air. 'What have you done Ashwathama ? Why did you have to invoke the Brahmasirisha ? Don't you know that if the two astras collide, the earth will reduce into ashes ?'
Vyasa instructs Arjuna to take back the Astra. But to call back the Astra one needs the will of a tapaswin. For some moments Arjuna stands in intense dhyana. The astra flies back into Arjuna's hands. A common wooden arrow. Cool as ice to touch upon.

Both Narada and Vyaasa look at Ashwathama sternly. 'Recall your Astra, Drona's son.' Ashwathama shuts his eyes and tries recall the astra. A sweat breaks out. He is unable to recall the Astra. The astra mocks him. He realises the enormity of his sin. The astra if not met with resistance will destroy the one who invoked it. Vyasa tells him that a Brahmastra would be enough to subdue this astra but then there will be a drought for years together. He instructs Ashwathama to think kindly of the Pandavas and recall the astra. But crime has ruined Ashwathama's heart from within. He cannot raise a spark of mercy in it. Vyaasa glowers at Ashwathama. Ashwathama then utters that the Astra if unable to kill the Pandavas can kill their unborn children. 'One day the world must be without any Pandavas.' Vyaasa is delirious with rage, and so is Arjuna.

Arjuna had promised Draupadi that he would behead the man who had killed her sons. He binds Ashwathama with ropes and takes him to Draupadi, who is lamenting the loss of her sons. On seeing Ashwathama in that state, she immediately understands the situation. She tells Arjuna that though Drona was no longer with them physically, he lived through his son, and moreover Kripi had not committed sati because she had a son. She tells Arjuna that she did not want Kripi, who was like a mother to her, to mourn for her son, like she was doing for hers. Bheema is still not satisfied, and wants to kill Ashwathama. Vyaasa and Krishna interfere. They suggest that Ashwathama hand over the mani in his forehead that was the cause of all his valor and tejas. Ashwathama is reluctant, but on Vyaasa's instance, he relents. When he hands over the mani, Ashwathama's appearance becomes similar to a chandala. The mani's energy was what had kept him in high spirits.

Krishna curses him that he must bear the fruits of his sins. He curses Ashwathama that since had killed sleeping children and warriors, he will roam for three thousand years on earth, without a companion. He will have no place among men and that the stench of pus and blood shall emanate from his body. He shall suffer from various diseases. 'The son of Abhimanyu, who was in Uttara's womb and was burnt by the usage of the astra will be named Parikshit, and will rule the world before your very eyes. If I have lived by truth all my life, then these words will come true.' With these words, Ashwathama was unbound and driven out of the camp.

The Pandavas then along with Draupadi performed the funeral rituals for their children.

by Hari
Categories: , | 3 comments

The Great War - Day 17

The seventeenth day of war dawns and Duryodhana comes to Shalya, early in the morning. He says that he has come to ask a favor. Shalya tells him that he can consider it given. Duryodhana explains to Shalya that Karna has everything that Arjuna has except one, which is a sarathy of Krishna's calibre. Duryodhana is asked by an impatient Shalya to come to the point. 'I beg you, Shalya, That you be Karna's sarathy today.'
'How dare you' roars Shalya,'You ask a Kshatriya to be a suta to a sutaputra. You have already made a sutaputra a Senapati of the Kuru army. You ask me this, as if Karna is my superior. Why ? I can easily kill your Karna, Arjuna, Krishna all put together. You have insulted me Duryodhana and I cannot fight anymore for you.'
Shalya turns to walk away, but Duryodhana grasps his hand and begs him with teary eyes. 'Shalya, you will not kill your nephews and Arjuna must die for winning this war. Of us all, only Karna can kill him and he can do that, only if has a better sarathy than the king of Dwaraka which is you. I am not at all suggesting that Karna is your superior. Great Kshatriya, I merely ask you take Karna's reins as Brahma did when Shiva flew to burn the Tripura.'
Shalya glows at the fulsome praise. Shalya embraces Duryodhana, 'You have spoken from your heart Kaurava, and for this, I shall drive Karna's chariot. But there is a condition that I must impose. If I am to be Karna's sarathy, I must have the liberty to speak to him as I please. I must be free to censure him, if I find any weakness in him. He must not mind it.' By then word had gone out to Karna's camp, and Karna walked into Shalya's tent. He bows deeply to Shalya, and tells him that he is honored.

Karna and Shalya get into the chariot. Both look like Surya and Agni riding the Pushpaka Vimana. Duryodhana cries to his friend, 'Today you will accomplish what Bheeshma and Drona could not. Come back to me, covered in glory. This will be finest day of our lives.' Karna shouts back, ' For you, I will always to my best. And remember, Karna always did his best for you. The rest was mere fate playing her part.' Shalya flicks his reins and they are off at the enemy.

As Shalya and Karna take leave, Duryodhana stares at the wake. He always felt that Karna was no sutaputra. He may have called himself Radheya and Adiratha's son, but he could have been adopted. Bhargava, a Trikaalgni could never have parted with his weapons, if he knew Karna was a sutaputra. Perhaps, Karna was born to a princess, out of wedlock, and she had abandoned him. How else could one explain the shine and of course, his armor. That was no suta's feat. He knew that if Karna was not a Kshatriya, then none of them were.

Karna shouts to his sarathy to fly at Arjuna. Shalya remembers his promise to Yudhishtra that he would dishearten the Kauravas while he fought for them, most of all, he would discourage Karna. Now was his chance. He keeps taunting Karna. Karna tells him that he knows his job and that Shalya should not be talking in favor of his nephews. Karna deploys his vyuhas in no definite pattern. Acorss the field Arjuna and Dhristadyumna form their legions in a vyuha to subdue the one Karna forms.

Conches blaze and the armies run at each other. It is the seventeeth day of war and the roar of the soldiers is nothing compared to the first day. The forces have vastly diminished and tired as well. The remains of the Trigarta army, charges at Arjuna again. He makes short work of that dispirited legion killing almost all. Karna is an army on his own. No soldier who meets him in battle escapes with life. At his chariot wheels ride his sons, as bright as their father and equally formidable. Sushena and Satyasena are beside him while Vrishasena guards his back. Dhristadyumna, Satyaki, Bheema, Shikhandi, Nakula and Sahadeva all combine to hold up Karna and his sons, But today, Shalya is Karna's sarathy. The Kaurava senapati is uncontainable. Bheema breaks through and cuts Satyasena's chariot and cuts off the lad's head with a shaft. Bheema injures Vrishasena and Sushena as well. Karna comes down as hell upon the Pandava forces.

Seeing Karna raze his forces, Yudhishtra decides to ride at him. His eyes flaming he comes right in front of Karna. Of all, he fears this enemy the most. The mere sight of him, makes the Pandava's blood run cold. Yudhishtra tells Karna that he wants to save Arjuna the trouble of killing him. Karna smiles sarcastically. At first Yudhishtra fights like a deva, injuring Karna, but suddenly Karna raises his level of archery to a level that Yudhishtra cannot withstand him at all. Karna quickly kills Chandradeva and Dandahara who stood guart at Dharma's rear. Satyaki rushes to Yudhishtra's aid, but Karna pushes back the Yadava and faces Yudhishtra again.

Before Yudhishtra has time to think, his bow is dissected and his armor has been take off his chest. Short range arrows prick his body and cover it in blood, but the wounds are never fatal. A javelin cast by Dharma at the sutaputra is brought down with ease by Karna. Four more javelins also meet with the same result. Karna's smile does not leave his face. Kaunteya cuts down Yudhishtra's flagstaff and Karna has him at his mercy. The target of his next arrow is Yudhishtra's head and the bowstring has already stretched to his ears, but he does not shoot the arrow. He lowers his weapon and rides closer, and rebukes Dharma, 'I spare your life, Yudhishtra. Next time pick some one of your talent'

Bheema sees the shaming of Yudhishtra and his eyes turn red. He smashes his way through the Kaurava army. Suryaputra is unable to face his assault and faints in his chariot. Shalya warns his nephew that it was not right to kill an enemy when he was not conscious and turns him away. After Karna regains consciousness, he asks Shalya to take him to Bheema once again, but Shalya tells him that his target was Arjuna and not Bheema. After seeing Bheema attack Karna in such a ferocious manner, Duryodhana sends twenty of hs brothers to counter Bheema. They shoot deadly arrows at Bheema, but Bheema was like the fire, which fireflies enter. Within minutes he kills 6 of them and scatters the other. 700 elephants now surround Bheema to trample him to death, but for a man with the strength of 4000 elephants, he maces them all to dead. Shakuni then sends hundreds of chariots and thousands of horsemen to send Bheema to Yama's abode, but Bheema kills them all. Now madness sets into Bheema. He is suddenly everywhere. Rivers of blood flow in all directions. The bodies of men and animals are all mangled together in the mess that Bheema leaves behind him.

Meanwhile at the other end, Arjuna is busy destroying the remaining of the the Samsaptakas. The Samsaptakas out of desperation began to crowd at Arjuna's chariot and hack away at the wheels, and hurt the horses. Arjuna releases a Nagastra that subdues the nearby warriors and then frees his chariot. Then Arjuna kills thousands and thousands of Sampsaptaka warriors. Susharman is terrified and shoots a deadly arrow at Arjuna. Just as the Kaurava forces began celebrating that Arjuna was dead, Arjuna unleashes the Aindrastra. With millions of weapons and arrows shooting forth from it, 17000 Samsaptakas were killed in seconds. Arjuna continued his massacre of the Samsaptakas.

A little away, Yudhishtra fights Duryodhana. Nakula and Sahadeva assist Yudhishtra in fighting Duryodhana. But Karna comes to his friend's rescue and hurts Yudhishtra so very much that Dharma actually faints in his chariot. Sahadeva and Nakula, quickly take Yudhishtra out of the battlefield. Shayla, in order to protect Yudhishtra instructs Karna, not to fight Dharma but Phalguna. Arjuna meanwhile is fighting Ashwathama and failing to see Yudhihstra's flag, asks Bheema about him. Bheema tells him that Karna had hurt Yudhishtra badly and that he had gone to the tent to rest. Arjuna immediately requests Krishna to take him to the place where Yudhishtra was resting. Upon seeing them Yudhishtra is of the opinion that Arjuna had already slain Karna and sings praises of Arjuna. He asks Arjuna to detail, how he had killed Radheya.

Listening to this praise from his brother, Arjuna clarifies that he had only defeated Drona's son and the Samsaptakas and that Karna was still killing hundreds and thousands of Pandava warriors with his Vijaya, the bow given to him by his guru Bhargava. Yudhishtra is disturbed and angry.He accuses Arjuna of being cowardly and unfit for battle. He says to Arjuna that he had abandoned Bheema on the battlefront and run away , citing his elder brother as an excuse. At one point where Bheema was trying to hold the war, Radheya was killing men by the thousands, then shouldn't Arjuna be helping his brother fight the Kauravas. Had Arjuna told Yudhishtra that he was afraid of fighting Karna, then maybe, He would have made other arrangements. Of what use did Arjuna have of Gandeeva ? He could give that to Krishna and become Krishna's sarathy and Krishna might then be able to kill Karna and save the war for the Pandavas.

Arjuna is highly agitated but Krishna pacifies him. Arjuna then promises to see his brother only after he has killed Karna and then leaves for battle once again. He sees Bheema unleashing his anger on the Kaurava forces. He joins forces with the vayuputra. Krishna then tells him that Karna was fighting more ferociously elsewhere. Krishna then steers his chariot towards the place where Karna was fighting.

It appeared as if Karna was waiting for this day for a long time. Karna was playing the part of an Adiratha perfectly. He was fighting Satyaki, Dhrishtadyumna, The sons of Draupadi, Shikandi, Nakula and Sahadeva, all simultaneously. Satyaki kills Karna's son with a fine arrow. Enraged, Karna kills Dhristadyumna's son. Not only does he contain the Pandava forces, but also causing a great slaughter of the army.

Meanwhile Dushasana meets Bheema on the battlefield. He shatters Bheema's bow and pierces his with sharp arrows. Bheema is enraged. He remembers all that has happened in the past. He says, 'Dushasana, today, I shall fullfill my vow.' The vayuputra throws a mace at Dushasana. It is thrown with such force that all the arrows that Dushansana shoots at it, are unable to stop it. It hits him on the head with such force that he is thrown away 90 feet away from his chariot. Seeing his armor, crown and hair displaced, Bheema is suddenly aware of what happened that day in the great hall. Dushasana is now lying semi-conscious on the ground. The Kaurava warriors are looking at this gory scene. Duryodhana is watching with bated breath. Ring after ring of soldiers and warriors surround the scene of battle. Bheema shouts to Duryodhana and the others, 'I have your Dushasana in my hands like a sparrow in eagle's talons. Is there anybody who wants a piece of him ? The man who touched my Draupadi with filthy hands ? You touched her sanctified hair, did you not Dushasana ? Do you know that she has not braided her hair for all these years for want of your blood ? And today, she shall braid her hair.' He quickly opens a gash on Dushasana's chest, 'With your blood.'

Bheema shouts to Duryodhana, 'Look at your brother Dushasana. He is at my mercy and look at the way he is whimpering. Do you see the terror in his eyes ? He is begging you to save him, but I know you can't ? Do you understand this predicament, Kuru ? The same that my Draupadi felt when you disrobed her in the great hall ? All around her, but none to help her.'

No one moves. The armies are watching. Quick as lightning ,Bheema cuts off Dushasana right hand. His screams rent the air, but there are no other sounds. Bheema holds up Dushasana's bejeweled hand,and says ,'This is the hand that dared touched Panchali's hair. Watch this Duryodhana !!!'

With the gash that he has already opened, Bheema sits on Dushasana's chest and using his fingers tears open Dushasana's chest. Dushasana screams his last. The blood is spurting out in a fountain. It reddens Bheema's face and hands. He tastes the blood and then roars victoriously. The Kauravas stand rooted in their chariots. He then shouts to Panchali, 'Come Krishna, I have avenged you. Come and wash your hair in this wretch's blood.'

Draupadi comes running out into the field. With a strange glee on her face, she bathes her black loose tresses in Dushasana's gushing blood. She then embraces Bheema and leaves the field. Krishna notices something in her eyes that nobody notices. She smiles wickedly at Krishna as she walks past and Krishna acknowledges it with a slight nod of his head.

Duryodhana turns away his chariot, unable to see the spectacle. Karna breaks down. Shalya tells him, 'Radheya, this is War. These things happen. Find Arjuna and kill him. That is perhaps the only way you can console Duryodhana.'

Ten sons of Dhritarashtra surround Vayuputra. The second son of Pandu however cuts off all their heads. Duryodhana faints in his chariot and Kripa and Ashwathama try to pacify him. Vrishasena, son of Karna, attacks Nakula with renewed vigor. Nakula's horses, chariot and his two thousand horsemen are all gone in an instant and Nakula is left stranded on the battlefield, if it was not for Bheema and his chariot.

Seeing this Arjuna tells Krishna to take the chariot closer to the son of Karna. Arjuna quickly cuts off his head and arms with sharp arrows and Karna is left sobbing. Karna rushes towards Arjuna in an attempt to kill Phalguna. Duryodhana is watching this. He is joined by Ashwathama. Ashwathama tells Duryodhana that he still has time, to stop the war.'My father has died for this. Bheeshma has fallen for it. Dushasana and countless of your brothers have died for this Duryodhana. Stop it, before Karna is also killed.'

'Pandavas are men of peace. They will not reject a peace offer now. Arjuna and Krishna will embrace me. Arjuna and Karna will both live as friends, as Shiromani's of the Kuru empire. Yudhishtra hates this slaughter anyway. Send me to the Pandavas now, and I will make peace with them, Honorable Peace.'

Duryodhana smiles grimly at his Acharya's son. But he tells him its too late. Fate has already taken things into her hand,and they had come too far to go back. The war had to fought until the last man on one side was dead.

Karna raises the Vijaya and twangs the bowstring. Arjuna does the same with his Gandeeva. There are shouts of 'Arjuna Jaya','Karna Jaya' everywhere. War has come to a standstill, atleast around the two Deva Putras. The heavens themselves divide themselves into two camps. Indra and Surya. Rishis, Gandharvas, Rakshasas, Nagas, Pitris, Apsaras, Vidyadharas and demigods, all are looking at this event with great interest. Lord of the Universe on one side, and the master of the Ashwahrudaya on the other. One trained by Drona, the Other by none other than Bhargava. One with Gandeeva. One with Vijaya. One with the blessings of his brothers and mother. One with three curses dangling above his head.

Quick as lightning, Arjuna invokes the Agneyastra and it begins scorching Karna's troops with fire. Karna immediately fires the Varunastra to cool down the flames and counter the astra. Thick smoke billows and darkness quickly surrounds the chariots.Arjuna quickly summons the Vayavastra that blows away all the smoke and a scented breeze wafts through Kurukshetra.

Arjuna now raises his archery a notch higher. The Aindrastra. As he chants the mantra for the astra, strange light fills up Kurukshetra and the arrow hangs in the air. Thousands of arrows and other weapons whistle down at Karna and the army behind him. Hundreds of soldiers are killed in an instant. Enraged Karna puts the Bharagavastra to test. It was given to him by his guru, instructed to be put to use, only when an equal was fighting the war. The silver shaft quickly neutralises the Aindrastra and starts decimating the Pandava forces. Duryodhana is pleased to see this. Bheema taunts Partha, that maybe he should fight Karna. Krishna goads him to think about the war, and not think about its consequences. He urges him to use the Brahmastra. The Brahmastra counters the Bhargavastra and they are nullified.

Arjuna does not fight as he wanted to fight. Krishna tells him, that they will never be able to kill Karna, if Arjuna fought like this. Narayana then tells Nara, 'Don't you remember Asura Dambodhbhava ? He has come again. He is standing in front of you, as Karna. He has come across ten lives to have revenge. He is more powerful and ancient than you understand. Wakeup, and kill Karna.'

Arjuna sees a vision and then he sees another life, another dream, and the deep reasons why Karna confronts him on Kurukshetra today. He realises the purport of Krishna's words. Arjuna now wakes up. He takes his archery, another notch higher. Faced with perhaps his only real rival, his archery becomes a mystic thing. So absorbed is the Pandava, that he is hardly aware of what he is doing. The Gandeeva has become a part of him. Bow and Bowman are one !!

Arjuna goes all out on Karna. Suddenly there are Arjunas everywhere. The Kaurava soldiers are running helter-skelter. Karna has no inexhaustible quivers. He does not have Madhusoodhana as his charioteer. He is hidden in a perfect darkness of arrows. Arjuna hides the face of the sun. Perfect irony for the son of Sun.

Karna realises that the moment of truth has come. He longs for Indra's shakti, but its gone, forever. As the last of his powerful weapons get exhausted, Karna decides to try the Nagastra. Chanting the arcane mantra, which perhaps less than 5 people knew on earth, Karna aims the astra at Arjuna's neck. Seeing this, Shalya, aware of the adamant nature of Karna, tries to warn him.

He tells Karna that the arrow should be aimed at the heart and not at neck. Karna, out of vanity, lectures Shalya, that the true archer does not change his mark. Fitting the arrow to the bowstring, Karna stetches the string to his ears and then shouts to Arjuna, 'Have a good look around you Arjuna, this is the last day of your life'.

A collective gasp goes up from everybody. From heavens as well as soldiers gathered around. Karna is certain his aim is correct. Shalya is sure that his nephew is dead. Arjuna himself sees a fatalistic arrow flying towards his neck. Arjuna sees Kaal, in the form of serpent flying towards him.

Karna shoots the Nagastra without considering the charioteer of Partha. Krishna sees the Nagastra, even before Karna shoots it, and when the arrow is shot, he jerks on his reins. He forces his gandharva horses to go down on their knees. The Nagastra is still flying at the same height, true to the archer's aim, but the target is a hand's length lower !!

The arrow whisks away the jeweled kirita that Arjuna wears, leaving with without a scratch. Wild cheering breaks out among the Pandavas. The howl from Bheema turns into a yell of joy. Yudhishtra is visibly relieved. Arjuna smiles gratefully at the Avatar, who does not show any reaction, except for an indication that the war must go on.

From the astra which Karna aimed at Arjuna, out comes a serpent invisble to others. It reaches Karna and speaks to him. It tells him, that it had entered his Nagastra subtly to kill Arjuna. 'I am Aswasena. Long time ago, when Arjuna scorched the Khandava, my mother was in it. When she was trying to escape, he killed her. But I, who was in her womb, survived. That day, I swore I would kill Arjuna. Set me on another arrow Karna, and shoot me at the Pandava. This time, there will be no mistake.' Karna is angry. He tells Aswasena that he does not need a snake's assistance in killing Arjuna. Rather he would face a hundred Arjuna than to face the ignominy of killing Arjuna with the help of a snake. Disappointed, Aswasena tries to kill Arjuna, but Arjuna kills him by shredding him into six pieces.

Karna and Arjuna resume their duel. More intense. Karna's time is running out. His death glides nearer.Fate and Earth conspire to fulfill the first curse on Suryaputra. The ground turns soft, and his chariot wheel sinks into the yielding earth. Shalya's horses are askew. Karna cannot fight as he possibly is. In a flash, a scene flashes before Karna, A wind swept beach. The corpse of a cow. The brahmin. And then the curse echoes in his mind, once again, 'When you face your greatest enemy, your chariot wheel will be mired in the earth.'

A shiver runs through Radheya's spine. He fights more furiously than ever. He has forgotten his mantras all of a sudden. Despair stokes him. He knows that he has one last astra which might still finish Phalguna. With great difficulty, Karna tries to remembers the mantra for Brahmastra, and fits the golden arrow to the bowstring to shoot it at Arjuna. But Karna realises the Mantra would never come to him. Instead a face lingers in his memory. The angry eyes. Bhargava !! His curse !! 'When you most need an astra to save your life, you will forget the mantras I have taught you.'

Arjuna's arrows keep coming from all directions. Arjuna cuts Karna's bowstring again and again. Tears well up in Karna's eyes. His whole life flashes past in front of the teary veil. Arjuna has already invoked the Aindrastra. At the very last moment, Karna remembers the mantra for Brahmastra and the two astras consume each other. Atleast for the time being. Arjuna has already thought of the Raudrastra to be the perfect weapon for killing Karna. Karna jumps down from his chariot, and with super-human strength, puts back the chariot wheel on what he thinks to be solid ground. It promptly sinks again. He asks Arjuna to wait, till he lifted the wheel out. It was not dharma to shoot when the opponent was helpless.

A wild laugh stems from Krishna. 'Look who is asking for Dharma, King of Anga. Where was your Dharma when Dushasana, Duryodhana and yourself, ordered Draupadi to be brought into the assembly naked ? Where was your Dharma, when Yudhishtra was defeated unfairly at dice ? Where was your Dharma, when Bheema was given a poisoned cake by Duryodhana ? Where was your Dharma when you told Draupadi to choose another husband as her five husbands have sunk into hell ? Where was your Dharma, when Pandavas exiled for thirteen years in the forest ? I heard, six maharathis killed Abhimanyu when he was alone and without a weapon in his hands. And the one who broke the bowstring from behind is now asking for Dharma ? From the father of Ahimanyu ?'

The words are laced with truth. Karna leaves the wheel and turns to fight. Arjuna does not summon the Raudrastra. He summons the Agneyastra at Radheya. Karna burns in it. Karna tries to summon the Varunastra to quell the fire. He succeeds, but the efforts havd drained him out, physically and mentally. The quenching of fire with water resulted in smoke. In this veil of smoke, Karna sets about getting his chariot back on solid ground. He hardly has the strength to lift his chariot. His mind is numb. He realizes that he cannot remember another mantra. Visions overwhelm Sutaputra. He sees it all so vividly. The illuminations tires him. Gritting his teeth, Karna shoots a heavy wooden arrow at Arjuna. Caught totally unawares, The arrow hits the Pandava's chest. The Gandeeva slips from Arjuna's hands.

Arjuna is hit but not dead. Karna tries hard to get his chariot out. Shalya is equally helpless. His horses are struggling with the wounds that Arjuna's arrows have caused. Arjuna reels in his chariot, But he is not as hurt as badly as Karna was. Quickly Krishna revives him, and instructs him, 'Cut off Karna's head Partha..'

Arjuna hesitates. The Dharma of War do not permit him to do so. 'This war will not be over till Karna is killed. You know it better than me Arjuna. Karna has come this far. His curses weigh heavily on him Phalguna. Kill him now, and be glorious for ever.'

Arjuna stands lost. In a moment, as fleeting as eternity, Arjuna sees the life of Karna across his eyes. The swagger into the academy challenging him for a duel, the golden armor that he wore, the look on his face when Draupadi refused to marry a suta putra, the glow on his face when he was crowned the King of Anga, his happy times with Duryodhana, and then his valor on the battlefield as the Senapati of the Kuru army. Was this man really the greatest archer ever ? Was he really that noble as people claimed him to be ? Was this the greatest friend who ever lived ? Was this the man, with whom he was always compared with ? Was this the man, because of whom Arjuna was always insecure ?

As more and more questions enter Arjuna's mind and he stands in a dilemma whether or not to shoot the arrow, Narayana speaks, 'Nara, do not hesitate. Hesitation is for the weak minded. Karna is already dead. So is Duryodhana. So is Shalya, et. al. I have already killed all of them. It is Karna's fate to die on the battlefield in this manner. This is the penultimate step in the true purpose of our Avatar.'

Arjuna snaps back into reality, only to find Krishna, urging him to kill Karna. 'Kill him Partha, this is the only chance that you have got. Do not forget Panchali's insult. Do not forget the deceitful game of dice. Do not forget the insults at Virata during Agyaatvaas. Do not forget the taunt of five villages. Its now or never !!!'

Thus inspired by Krishna, Arjuna quickly mounts Anjalika on his Gandeeva. Kaal was just seconds away from the actual Kaunteya. With a deadly aim and without a second thought, Arjuna shoots the arrow. For the devatas, kinkaras, Gandharvas, apsaras and the onlookers of this war on Bhooloka, it appears as if the arrow takes ages to reach Karna, as if allowing him some more moments of life, out of pity on him. The Anjalika severs Karna's head, and the life force enters the sun. Arjuna quickly brings down the banner of Karna, thus signifying the end of a great hero.

The Pandavas erupt in joy. The demigods shower flowers on Arjuna. High noon of the seventeenth day of battle at Kurukshetra claims Karna's life. Karna's body lies like a lotus on the earth and his body gleams like gold. The sun himself mourns for his son.

Shalya drives his chariot back to the Kaurava camp. Both its banner and the warrior have fallen. Shalya finds Duryodhana outside his tent in a terrible state. No words come from his lips. The heart that bore the death of his brothers and his sons so bravely, cannot believe his friend is dead. Shalya tries to console him and says that Karna fought like no man had ever did on Kurukshetra. He tells Duryodhana that only fate could have brought him down. Shalya is proud to be the sarathy of a man, who has fought so bravely. The greatest archer in the world had left them. Listening to Shalya makes Duryodhana calm. But he still struggles to speak. Shalya asks Duryodhana the permission to stop fighting, in honor of Karna. The sun sets over Kurukshetra and Karna lies on the battlefield. His body glows as if the golden armor was still on him.

When Karna is killed, Arjuna and Krishna both blow their conches, and all the Pandavas follow suit. The note on Devdutta and Panchajanya is not a joyful one. Arjuna feels as if he had died. He feels a part of him has gone forever. So many years he waited to meet this man in battle and now that battle was over. He may have been the best archer in the world, but it was now only Phalguna. Only Phalguna was the foremost archer in the world.

There is nothing to take away from the Pandavas. The last warrior who stood between them and victory has fallen. Thus the Pandavas celebrate the death of a great hero, ignorant of the fact that he was actually their elder brother. Karna had granted life to four of the Pandavas, and granted his life to the fifth brother. Not being able to give up his affectionate relationship with Duryodhana, Karna perishes on the battlefield with Duryodhana's brothers.

After the demise of Karna, Duryodhana is now in a quandry. The Kaurava soldiers would be hunted like deer. That night, Duryodhana calls his greatest warriors and asks them for suggestions. Ashwathama suggests that Shalya is superior to them in terms of Fame, Descent, Prowess and Achievements and that he deserves to the commander of the Kaurava army. Ashwathama says that he will protect the Kauravas as Kartikeya protects the gods.

Shalya agrees to this proposition and again, at midnight, another Senapati is consecrated.

by Hari
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The Great War - Day 16

The senapati of the Kuru army aligns his legions in Makara Vyuha. He is at the head of the crocodile. The eyes are Shakuni and Uluka. The crown of the makara's head is Ashwathama. Duryodhana's brothers are immediately behind Ashwathama. At the very heart of the phalanx is Duryodhana himself, protected by his forces. The forelegs of the beast are Kritavarman with the Narayana army and Kripa with his own men. The hindlegs are Karna's son Sushena and the dependable Shalya and their soldiers.

Across the field, Yudhishtra looks at the Makara vyuha grimly. He says to Arjuna, 'The Kauravas now have a new Senapati. The makara vyuha is being used again, it last being used by Pitamah. I realise how much their numbers have dwindled, and we have also dwindled with them. In my mind,Karna is the last great soldier that they have and he is the most dangerous one. More than Pitamah or Drona, it is him I fear the most. You must kill this man Arjuna and only then can victory be ours.

Arjuna and Dhristadyumna form their legions in the Chandrakala Vyuha, the half crescent. Bheema is the left point and Dhristadyumna at the right. At the heart of the vyuha is Arjuna with Yudhishtra, Nakula and Sahadeva around him. It is a leaner crescent than the one they had formed fifteen days ago.

Karna leads the army with dignity, returning the war back to Bheeshma's Dharma Yudha. This is a relief to all, after seeing Drona's macabre assault on the common soldiers. Bheema opens the day's slaughter by striking off the head of the lord of Kshemadhurti. Then Karna dashes at the Pandava army. Nakula dashes up to confront him. Bheema and Ashwathama clash while Satyaki faces the two of the remaining Kekaya brothers. Duryodhana and Yudhishtra face each other, while the remaining Samsaptakas ride at Arjuna, only at him, for revenge. Kripa and Dhishtradyumna face each other. Shikhandi and Kritavarma, Srutakirti and Shalya, Sahadeva and Dushasana duel.

After an excited encounter Satyaki kills the Kekayas. Bheeshma renders Ashwathama unconscious. Shalya puts Srutakirti to flight and Sahadeva shames Dushasana. Nakula fights his way through a hundred Kaurava soldiers only to be taunted by the smile on Kaunteya's face. 'I will kill you now Karna, for all the evil that you have caused.' The smile never leaving his face, Karna replies 'Let me shear your pride a little Kshatriya' and lets loose a blur of arrows that split the Pandava's bow. After Bheema and Sahadeva it is Nakula's turn to be humbled by the king of Anga. Karna kills Nakula's horses, his sarathy and puts Nakula to flight. Before setting him free, Karna tells him, 'One day you will remember this duel and feel proud that once you fought Karna and got away with your life.' Hissing like a snake, Nakula runs away in shame. Only Krishna notices this incident.

Karna romps across Kurukshetra like an incarnation of the Sun. Emboldened by him, his soldiers fight like never before. Shakuni's son Uluka defeats Yuyutsu. Shakuni himself fights Sutasoma. Kripa confronts Dhristadyumna. Enraged at how his brother in law had died, Kripa strikes the fire-born prince unconscious in the chariot. Elsehwere Shikhandi is badly injured by Kritavarman.

Like the three tips of Shiva's trident, Kritavarman, Kripa and Karna rage, killing thousands. The samsaptakas foolishly challenge Arjuna, who decimates them once again. Duryodhana and Yudhishtra meet on the battlefield. Yudhishtra is now on a different mission. Yudhishtra lets loose a volley of arrows at Duryodhana. Four arrows kills Duryodhana's horses with the arrows piercing their hearts. The fifth arrow severs the sarathy's head spraying Duryodhana with his sarathy's blood. The sixth one cuts down his serpent banner. The seventh one snatches the bow away from the Kuru prince. Duryodhana is rage personified. He draws his sword. The eight shaft cuts it in two. It appears as if Yudhishtra wants to win the kingdom back today. His archery is elegant, effortless and ethereal. Five more arrows shoot forth from Yudhishtra's bow. It is by grace of Drona's armor that Duryodhana survives. He is pinned to his chariot. Quickly Karna, Ashwathama and Kripa rush to their king's rescue. But Yudhishtra has had the moral victory in this battle.

The afternoon finds Bheema to be death personified. He kills thousands and his roars resound Kurukshetra. Duryodhana mounts a fresh chariot and rides at Yudhishtra once again. Once more he finds swift humiliation. Arjuna now turns on Karna. But Karna is invincible. He inflicts wounds on both Arjuna and Krishna with some amazing archery. The fight quickly wears off. The face off was yet to be. That will be tomorrow. The sixteenth day of Dharma yuddha comes to an end with the Sun going down the horizon. Karna and Dhrishtadyumna order the twilight conches to sound. There has been no casualty of Kshatriyas today. Only thousands of ordinary soldiers have perished. There is no elation or dejection in either camp. The honors of the day have been almost equally shared, though the Kauravas had the edge due to Karna. The soldiers felt as if they were being led by Bheeshma once again, and there appeared to be a balance in the mindset now.

That night, Duryodhana is slightly dissatisfied though he does not express it. He saw how Karna had Nakula at his mercy and spared the Pandava's life. If it was Bheeshma, or Drona he would have accused them being partial to the Pandavas, but Karna, no !!! He knew that Karna loathed the Pandavas as much as he did. He could never utter a harsh word to Karna. When they are returning to their tents, Karna takes his king's hands, and says, 'Arjuna might have fought magnificently but tomorrow I will kill him.' Duryodhana smiles, 'I know you will. I know you will.'

Later that night Suryaputra comes alone to Duryodhana's tent. He is very sure that this is going to be his last night in this world. Duryodhana and Karna plan the strategy for the next day. Karna tells his friend, that there was only one way to win this war. Either he will kill Arjuna or die in the attempt. For once he wants the world to see who the better archer is. Karna tells his friend, that Both Arjuna and him can summon the astras of the four kinds. Arjuna has the Gandeeva, He has the Vijaya, a greater weapon, which Indra himself handed over to his preceptor, Parashurama. 'Tomorrow, with Arjuna dead, the world will be at your feet....'
He pauses. Duryodhana senses that something is wrong. Karna continues. 'Arjuna cannot be underestimated. His quivers are inexhaustible. His chariot is out of this world, his horses are gandharva and of course, his most telling advantage, without which he would have been dead long ago, his sarathy. Krishna. He is quicker than the mind. I have no sarathy to match Krishna.'
'Is there no one to match Krishna as a sarathy ?'
'There is. But will he agree to be my charioteer. A Sutaputra's charioteer ?'
'Who is he Karna ?'
'Shalya. He is twice the archer that Krishna is. Krishna merely knows ashwahridaya. But Shalya, he has mastered it. Shalya is to chariotery what Karna is to archery. If Shalya will drive my horses then Arjuna will not escape. But Shalya is a king. We will have to persuade him, and who better than you Duryodhana. King of the world to ask him.' Duryodhana knows that this will be tough task, but he says to Karna that this will be done. They embrace each other, perhaps for one last time, and then Duryodhana takes leave.

Visions of past fill Karna's eyes. He feels certain that tomorrow he will die. He sees his mother Radha. He is a serene witness to his past, almost as if he was watching some other man's life being played out before his eyes. Karna knows that Arjuna will kill him tomorrow, but he will not admit that Arjuna was the better archer. No. Not tomorrow atleast. It will be victory for Arjuna no doubt, but that would not be because of his skill, but of the darkness that surrounded him. Karna. The suryaputra knew from the beginnning that this war was as good as lost for the Kauravas when he knew that Krishna would be on the side of the Pandavas. But he could never bring himself to say this to his friend. How could he break his heart. He would die and then perhaps Duryodhana would realise it. Tomorrow Shalya might agree to be his sarathy, but what was Shalya before Krishna ? Karna's mind suddenly wanders back to that balmy afternoon, when Bhargava slept on his lap. The scar on his thigh twitches. He hears the curse once again. He thinks of the cow on the deserted beach, and then the brahmana's curse echoes once again. Karna has no doubts that he will die tomorrow on the battlefield, a hero. But he has to meet Yudhishtra once on the battlefield and spare him his life. It was his way of saying that he was their brother, and when he died they would atleast cherish the memory. Arjuna of course, would cherish the moment of his killing. Karna falls into a dreamless slumber slowly.

by Hari
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