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Mahaleela, The Great Play

Mahaleela, The Great Play

13 mins 10.2K 13 mins 10.2K

Long ago in the battlefield of Kurukshetra in the land now called India, Sri Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu, delivered the sermon of Geeta to Arjun, one of the greatest warriors of his time. Ram, another incarnation of Vishnu, was also born on the earth for the welfare of humanity. In this play, let’s see what would have happened, if Ram had been the charioteer for Arjun instead of Krishna?

“While thinking about the war I feel very distraught today, ” said Arjun, to his charioteer Ram, “Could you please take our chariot between the two armies.”

The armies of the rival cousins Pandavs and Kauravs had taken their positions. The inevitable battle was about to begin. Conch and drum rolls were attempting to align with each other. Arjun's chariot with a Hanuman flag, yoked with four white stallions, left its ranks on the Pandav side and came into the middle of the two armies.

Once in the middle of the armies, Arjun continued, “Prabhu, I feel so awkward today. My guru Kripacharya, grandfather Bheeshm, my cousins and friends I grew up with, are standing on the other side. How can I fight against them?”

Ram, surprised by Arjun’s statement, turned around and looked into Arjun’s eyes, “Paarth! In the final moments of the war, why are you being so immature? You know, how much I tried to settle the grim situation without a war.”

In a gambling match years ago, Pandavs had lost everything they possessed and themselves to their cousins the Kauravs. As an agreement of the match, Pandavs were to get their kingdom back after spending 13 years in exile. Ram tried to negotiate a deal between the two cousins, but Duryodhan, the eldest Kaurav remained adamant.

Arjun, the third brother of the Pandavs, respected Ram as his mentor. He had never opposed him. But today was different. “The situation became serious because we could not think of a solution. Let us spend some more time. Perhaps we can find a solution.”

“How can we find a solution now, dear Arjun? Set aside your emotions, pick up your weapons like a man and fulfill your duty in the battlefield.”

Arjun took a moment to articulate his predicament. “Prabhu! Isn’t man’s ego the root cause of all our problems.

pect me to kill my own family and friends to rid the evil from the society.”

“, you must know - human body reincarnates but our essence never dies. No weapon can hurt it, fire cannot burn it and water cannot soak it. Once you understand this fact, you will never grieve over anyone’s death.”

“Isn’t it nature’s work to reincarnate our body, “ Arjun was adamant, “a warrior like me has no right to intervene in nature’s laws.”

“Arjun, you are again saying this out of ignorance. Instead of being attached to people, devote all your actions to me and fight. If victorious, you will rule the world, if you perish heaven will await you.”

Unable to defend himself against his mentor, Arjun tried a different argument, “Prabhu, you are omniscient. You know that Sri Krishna had fled the battle against Jarasandh and moved with his Yadav army from Vrindavan to Dwarka.”

Ram smiled. “Yes, I know, that is the reason why people sometimes call him a deserter.”

Realizing Ram had finally agreed to one of his arguments, Arjun regained his confidence. “ Sri Krishna is a Kshatriya and I am also a Kshatriya, If he could desert the battlefield why can’t I?”

“I… agree with what you are saying, “ Ram hesitated, but had to concede, “but how are you going to explain your decision to your brothers?”

Arjun came forward, bent his head to touch his folded hands and said, “That's where I need your help. Could you please explain to them.

“Let me try. Go call Yudhishter.”

the eldest Pandav. It was he who had staked all their possessions during the gambling match. All the other brothers, realising that the match was rigged, wanted to wage a war against Kauravs during the exile. But Yudhishter objected. He honored the agreement.

Arjun couldn’t be happier, “I will bring him right away Prabhu.”

“Greetings Prabhu.” Getting off his chariot, Yudhishter stood with his folded hands, “Why have you called for me in the last moments of the war?”

“Come Yudhishter, “ Ram came close to Yudhishter and putting his arm on his back. “For some time Arjun and I have been discussing the war. After much thought, Arjun has decided that he does not want to take part in the war and I agree with his decision.”

“Forgive me for saying this, Prabhu, “ Yudhishter tried to be as soft as he could, “That is ridiculous. Without Arjun on our side, we will surely be defeated. Who else among us can face great warriors like Bheeshm, Dronacharya and Karn? Prabhu, Please explain this to my stupid brother.”

“I have already tried my best. Let us not waste any more time on that. We now need to think how to deal with the enemy.”

“What's there to deal with the enemy? I should just concede the war and congratulate Duryodhan for becoming the next king of Hastinapur - what else.”

“Don’t concede so soon my friend. Go and get Duryodhan. I'll talk to him.”

“As you wish.”

“Greetings Shree Ram, you called for me?” Duryodhan stood with his mace resting on his shoulder.

Ram, realising he could not tell Duryodhan Arjun’s personal reason for not engaging in the fight, generalised reasons against any war. “Yes Duryodhan, come here. Do you see these soldiers on both sides?”

“Yes, I do. Thousands of soldiers are standing willing to sacrifice their life for the good of the society.”

“Do you realize, all these soldiers have their parents, wives, children in their house. If there is a war many will perish, and many households will be ruined, would you like that?”

Taking a few steps away from Ram, Duryodhan said, “I have come here to fight, Shri Ram, not to listen to your sermon. Tell me, are Pandavs ready for the war?”

“Look Duryodhan, Arjun cannot see these innocent soldiers die. He does not want to fight the war.”

The of the family, known to the family as Pitamah, was anxious to know what was delaying the war. He came forward and asked Ram, “Greetings Prabhu! What is being discussed here?”

Ram, Yudhishter and Arjun reply, “Greetings Bheeshm Pitamah!”

forward. Before anyone else had an opportunity, answered, “Pandavs are so confused Pitamah. Arjun is refusing to participate in the war. Since Pandavs are sure to lose the war without him, Ram Chandraji does not want the war to take place. I am telling you, I've come here to fight a war. If Pandavs do not participate, we will be considered victorious…”

“Wait a moment, Duryodhan, “ Bheeshm raised his hand interjecting, “I want to hear directly from Arjun what's on his mind.”

With folded hands Arjun stepped forward, “Pitamah! I came today all prepared to fight, but when I saw you, Kripacharya and all my friends and family members on the opposite side, I told Shri Ram I do not wish to fight the war.”

, touched Arjun’s head in praise, “Wah Arjun Wah, by saying these words you have impressed me immensely. I always thought of you as an excellent warrior, but today you have shown me you also have a great heart. In my view you are the gem of our dynasty.”

“ !” Duryodhan was louder than he ought to have, “You are the chief of our army, it is not wise for you to praise your own enemy.”

“You are nothing but a child to me Duryodhan.” Bheeshm was equally loud, “Don’t try to teach me what is appropriate for me. Not only you, but when your father was a kid roaming around naked in the palace, I have taken care of him too. I am sick of discussing the war. Today I will decide who will be the next emperor of Hastinapur without a war.”

the heavy mace he had been resting on his shoulder and said, “You may say whatever you like Pitamah, but who do you think is going to obey you?”

“Only time will tell, lad. But whoever does not listen to me will need to fight against me. I can handle many like you all by myself.”

Suppressing his rage as much as he could, Duryodhan burst out, “I may not be a match against you, but I know who is.” Then called out loudly, “Karn please come over here.”

“What do you want, Duryodhan?” Karn said obediently.

“Karn - our Pitamah has gone beyond his limits today. He does not know who he owes the royal life he has been enjoying all these years. Get your bow and arrow and attack him now.”

“, “ said softly, “you are my dear friend. I owe to you everything I have. But as you are my beloved, so is grandfather Bheeshm. I do not even know who my real parents are. I worship your grandfather, like my own. I am very respectful of him and cannot attack him. It is the Pandavs who can dare to think of doing such an act. If you command, I can destroy Arjun right away.”

“I wish Arjun was willing to fight. Like a coward he has given up his arms. We are not so desperate that we would attack an unarmed warrior.”

between the two of them and said, “Duryodhan, learn something from Arjun. Despite being such a qualified warrior, he has so much compassion for others.”

“If he is so compassionate, “ Duryodhan said sarcastically, “why has he come to the battlefield? He should have stayed home with the ladies.”

, raised his arm, went around looking at everyone and said, “Battlefields have always honoured the brave and skilled warriors, whether they are qualified or not to rule the land they win. Today, as the patriarch of your family I will decide without a war who will be the next emperor of Hastinapur. Set up a court right here. Today I will transform a battlefield into a just-field.”

“Let me arrange a throne for you, Pitamah.” Arjun said.

“All of you, give me your opinions, who amongst us is most qualified to be the next emperor. I will make the final decision.” Bheeshm announced.

the lead, “Grandfather, I think, the next emperor should be anyone but Yudhishter. One who has gambled away his kingdom should not be qualified to rule a kingdom again.”

“Any more ideas?” Bheeshm asked.

“ not qualified either Pitamah.” Arjun said, pointing his finger at Duryodhan, “He conspired to kill us, his own cousins, several times. One who does not take care of his close family certainly cannot take care of his subjects. He, along with his uncle Shakuni rigged the gambling contest to win from us…”

Karn intervened, “If the Pandavs thought Shakuni had rigged the game, why did they agree to the same game second time. One who is capable of making the same mistake twice is certainly not qualified to be an emperor.”

Starting to get irritated, “We have talked enough about gambling. Give me your opinions who is qualified to be the next Emperor?”

Arjun took the lead this time, “My brother Yudhishter is known as a Dharmaraj because he has sacrificed to protect our traditions. When we were in exile, we requested him to attack Hastinapur, but he did not agree because that goes against righteous behaviour. One who can defend the traditions can also protect his people.”

“Well-said son.... Any more ideas?” Bheeshm said.

furious. He started pacing around. , watching his friend’s rage, stepped forward to defend him, “Grandfather, an emperor’s duty is to facilitate the progress of his State and welfare of his people. There is no place for traditions in it. To defend our traditions, Yudhishter should go and live with the sages in an ashram. An emperor must be envious towards his enemies and dissatisfied towards the advancement of his state. My friend Duryodhan has both these qualities. He deserves to be the next king of Hastinapur.”

, slid back on his temporary throne and said, “Statements of both of you are worth considering. Before I make my decision, let me know if anyone has anything more to say?”

Ram, who had been quietly listening the arguments said, “Bheeshm, deciding the next king of Hastinapur is a personal matter for your family. But I want to ask you a question.”

, though much older than Ram, stood up, as a respect for the divinity everyone in Ram. “Ask Prabhu, what do you want to know?”

“Tell me, why did you take a vow of lifelong celibacy?”

“I did it so my father could marry the girl he dearly loved.”

“You could have also married and lived a happy married life, but you did not do so.”

for a moment and explained, “I could not, because I was the eldest son of my father Santanu. If I had married, my eldest son would have become the next king and that was not agreeable to the girl’s father.”

Ram, putting his finger on Bheeshm’s chest said, “You sacrificed all the pleasures of your life to protect the tradition in which the eldest son of the family becomes the next king.”

“Prabhu, I know what you are saying, but do not understand why you are saying this.”

“, What I am saying is – today, why are you forgetting the very tradition for which you sacrificed all your life’s pleasures?”

Finally understanding Ram’s point Bheeshm said, “Prabhu, You’re right - because both Pandu and Dhritrashtra had ruled over Hastinapur, the eldest son from the next generation must be the next king. We all know, Yudhishter is the eldest son in our family...”

his foot hard on the ground.

“Before making your decision, “ Ram interjected, “I suggest you ask their mother. Only a mother knows who her eldest son is.

“Now, how can their mother Kunti come to the battlefield?”

The faithful Arjun said, “Anything is possible in a battlefield in which Ram Chandraji is present.”

“Prabhu?” Bheeshm asked.

Ram smiled, “Yes, yes, Kunti can come here… come mother Kunti.”

Kunti, wearing a white sari, a sign of a widow, slowly entered the battlefield, “Ram Chandra ji, what is so important that you had to call me to the battlefield.”

Before Ram could say anything, Bheeshm responded, “Let me tell you why we asked you to come now Kunti, I want to ask you a question.”

“What kind of a question do you want me to answer, Pitamah?”

“Only you can answer this question. Tell us who is your eldest son?”

Kunti was confused, “You're putting me on the spot Pitamah? And that too in your court.”

“This question is very important for the future of Hastinapur, you will have to answer.”

“All right! Let me tell you.” Kunti explained, “Once when sage Durvasa was visiting my father’s palace, I took care of his hospitality. Pleased with my services, he gave me a boon that I could give birth to a child by simply thinking of a deity. A few days later, curious to test the boon, I thought of the Sun deity. Miraculously, just then, the sun deity appeared and placed a child in my lap. I did not know how I would explain the presence of this child since I was not married. In my fright I asked my maid servant to put the baby in a basket and release it in the river.”

“Do you know where that child is now?” Bheeshm anxiously asked.

“Yes, Pitamah.”

“Tell us, who is your eldest son?”

“How can I reveal such a big secret I have been carrying for years? I am in such a quandary.”

Ram stepped forward, delicately put his arm on Kunti’s back and said, “Tell us Kunti, for the benefit of our future, free to tell.”

Kunti waited as long as she could, then slowly announced, “My eldest son is Karn.”

“Mother… is it true?” Karn sill could not believe.

“Yes son.” With tears in her eyes, Kunti embraced his long lost son.

stood up again from his throne. Raising his said at the top of his voice, “I hereby announce that the next king of Hastinapur will be Karn.”

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