Mahabharata Stories: 9 – Tit for Tat

Forgive and forget, it has been said by the great-born among men. Three little words that, if observed, could erase the distinctive horizon between heaven and earth. There are but few who observe the dictum. Some, apparently, take offence lightly though they nurture hatred in the heart. Some take offence seriously and retort accordingly. In some of us, the wound caused by offence can be cured only by the medicine known as revenge.

During their boyhood, Drona and Drupada, the son and the disciple respectively, of teacher Bharadwaja, were very close friends. They were so intimate that Drupada would tell Drona that when he became king he would give half of the kingdom to Drona. In due course they parted and Drupada became king of Panchala while Drona married Kripa’s sister, Kripi, and begot a son named Aswatthama. Drona, ambitious to become the greatest marksman in the world, underwent training in archery under the tutelage of the great Parasurama.

TitforTat
Drona, with no means for a living yet, lived an impoverished life. Matters got so bad that little Aswatthama once asked of his mother what the ambrosia called milk, which his playmates talked about, was. Kripi, aware of the friendship between Drona and Drupada, goaded her husband on to go to the king and ask for help. Drona went to Panchala filled with the happy thoughts of his boyhood days spent in Drupada’s company. But when, on reaching Panchala, he addressed Drupada in familiar terms, the latter, intoxicated by power, heaped abuses upon his erstwhile friend calling him a beggar unfit to address the king thus!

Drona was enraged and vowed to wreak vengeance.

In due course, Drona took up training of the princes of the Kuru house who had their initial training under Kripa. At the end of their training, Drona told them of his vow and, as payment to their teacher for his services (gurudakshina), asked of them to bring Drupada captive. The princes were thrilled and excited over their first battle. The Kauravas, who charged first, were defeated by Drupada. However, the Pandava princes, even in the absence of Yudhishtira, fulfilled the mission with Arjuna proving himself a warrior par excellence. Drupada, unaware yet of the reason for this attack, was captured and brought to Drona.

Drona, happy at the accomplishment of his students and the fulfillment of his vow, said to Drupada: Do you remember having called me a beggar at your mercy? Now the kingdom is mine. Presently there is nothing you can call your own save your life. You are as good a beggar as any other. I can kill you and keep the kingdom but I wish to regain your friendship and hence want us to be equals as that is how you gauge. Therefore I give you half the kingdom

Thus, Drona’s anger was quenched once his desire was fulfilled. But things had not evened out and come to an end. Drupada’s apparent quietude belied the hatred boiling within. It was the intense anger of a Kshatriya’s, born to fight and kill. He vowed to beget a son who would kill this Brahmana and a daughter to marry the young Arjuna whose extraordinary skill had swayed him even while being taken captive.

Dhrishtadhyumna, Drupada’s son, killed the great teacher in the final combat while Draupadi married Arjuna and then became wife to all the five Pandavas.

Yamuna Harshavardhana

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