Mahabharata Stories: 30 – A Young Brag Matures

When we are young and still growing, we tend to think and act very knowledgeable, much more than we may really know. This is the fragile pride of youth which is easy to boost or shatter. For, this pride has not much experience to fall back upon. In most cases, the immaturity is obvious and the pride, harmless. Imparting experience to youth, which tends to self-love, without shattering this precious pride needs the skillful art of the experienced.

While the Pandavas, after twelve years in exile, were living the thirteenth year in disguise in the kingdom of Matsya, the powerful commander-in-chief of the army, Keechaka, was killed by Bhima. This roused the suspicion in the minds of the Kauravas as there were not many in the list of wrestlers, other than Bhima, who could kill Keechaka. They wanted to find out.

King Virata had always been against the Kauravas. They planned to invade Matsya which was apparently weakened due to Keechaka’s death. It was agreed upon in the Kaurava camp that King Susarma, an ally of the Kauravas, would attack Matsya from the south drawing off the army towards that end and, when the northern boundaries were relatively unguarded, the Kauravas would launch a surprise attack from that direction. Even if the Pandavas were not discovered, they decided, atleast they could take away all the cattle from the kingdom.

When King Virata came to know that Susarma’s army was marching on towards his territory, he was at a loss. Yudhishtira, who was in the guise of an ascetic, told the king: Oh, king! Do not worry! A hermit though, I am quite an expert in fighting and warfare. I also heard that Valala the cook, Dharmagranthi the stable-keeper and Tantripala the cowherd are very good fighters. All of us shall together drive away our enemy!

The delighted king accepted; the army was brought into formation in no time and, under the four Pandavas in disguise, marched against Susarma’s army. Susarma’s army was routed.

While the army was away fighting Susarma, news reached Matsya that the northern frontier was being accosted by the Kaurava army. There was much expectation of young Prince Uttara, the heir to the throne. The inexperienced prince was excited and boasted in the presence of women how good he was at warfare and how he matched in prowess the great Arjuna himself!

Draupadi, sensing the acute requirement for a powerful warrior in the situation, let it be known to the prince’s sister, Princess Uttara, that the dance teacher Brihannala was an expert charioteer and had been charioteer to Arjuna. This news reached the prince and he called for Brihannala, who was Arjuna in disguise.

With Brihannala taking the reins, the prince proudly went to the outskirts of the kingdom. But as he went farther and farther from familiar territory, the lesser and lesser his confidence went until, at a point, he begged of Brihannala to turn the chariot back! When Brihannala did not do so, Uttara jumped down from the chariot and began to run towards the city but was chased by Brihannala who carried the surprised prince back.


Brihannala then drove the chariot towards a tree and asked the prince to bring down a bag, believed to contain the corpse of a huntress, from its top. The bag was opened and the weapons of the Pandavas were exposed. Then Arjuna revealed his identity and briefly told the prince the purpose of his disguise and said: Do not worry, dear prince! Here is my Gandiva, see how it twangs! With it, I can take care of the Kaurava army with ease! You be my charioteer. We shall protect Matsya! We shall bring glory to this kingdom!

The prince felt a fresh flow of life all through, what with the famed Arjuna himself being his mentor! He drove on the chariot with new vigour towards the enemies. They drove away the Kaurava army and returned triumphant to the kingdom.


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