Iravan5 mins 799 5 mins 799
Tomorrow I die.
I hear you breathe softly beside me, Mohini. The camp is quiet, apart than the faint whispers of the sentries as they pass each other on their rounds. There is no trace of the festivities that heralded our entry into this decorated tent.
I hear a horse snort nervously and stamp its feet. The animals are surely as aware as the men that the battle begins tomorrow. Do the warriors sleep in peace, or do they toss and turn in anticipation and dread of what the day ahead is to bring?
At least I know for a fact what the fates hold in store for me.
Is this what you intended for me, Mother? To die fighting on the battlefield for my father’s cause - or to die even before a sword has been drawn, for the same cause?
A cool breeze stirs the curtains and I see a glimpse of the vast expanses of the Kurukshetra – waiting, still and eager, waiting for the blood that will quench its thirst in the days to come.
And mine will be the first.
You taught me, Mother Uloopi, to unleash my arrows in quick succession, each finding its target within seconds of the other. You taught me to wield the sword, the mace, the spear, for you told me that one day, I must prove myself worthy of being the son of Arjuna.
But what worth is all my training, what use is all my practice? I will not string a single bow, I will not empty a single scabbard, the battle will go on - but without me.
Will our faithful Nagas fight for my father with the same fervor as they would for me, Mother? They must, for did they not swear fealty to him the day he married you?
For a year of bliss with your loved one, Mother – you staked an entire people.
For sixteen years I worshiped his image, I did everything in his name and when I came before him for the first time, he didn’t know me.
I feel the depth of the love he has for Abhimanyu, the affection that marks his every glance and I weep inside for what was never mine.
At practice, we matched each other – Abhimanyu and I. Our arrows flew with precision at the targets, our swords skillfully wove magic around our opponents. Did I imagine it - or did I see a glimmer of approval on my father’s face?
I longed – nay, lusted - for the time to prove my worth on the battlefield. For are not great deeds in war the way to a warrior’s heart?
But when the priests decreed the sacrifice – that a true warrior must die before the battle begins – the elders decided that it must be I.
It could not be you, Father, and it could not be Abhimanyu. For both of you are too important to the cause, while I – untried, untested, unknown – am dispensable.
But at least - for this, at least – I am ranked your equal, Father.
And is that not what you wanted, Mother?
I will go without fear, Mother, for this is the destiny you raised me to meet.
My last wish has been granted. I know now what it means to be a man.
And you, Mohini? Did they tell you that tomorrow they take your prince away from you, that you are to become that most lost of souls – a widow?
Tomorrow I die.
The legend of Iravan.
From the Indian Epic Mahabharata, the greatest story ever told.
Uloopi, the Naga Princess, fell in love with Arjuna during his period of exile from the other Pandavas. He agreed to marry and stay with her for a year. Iravan was born out of this union.
Uloopi trained him to become the best of warriors, so that when the time came, he would be of help to his father. Following the request of the Pandavas for help in the war with the Kauravas, Iravan with his soldiers came to Kurukshetra.
In the Bhishmaparva, Iravan is said to have died on the 8th day of the war, after wreaking great havoc in the enemy forces, including massacring the brothers of Shakuni.
However, the legend that I have based this story upon is different. Before the battle begins, the priests insist that in order to be successful, the best warrior in the Pandava army should be sacrificed. The choice is between three – Arjuna, Abhimanyu and Iravan. Iravan is chosen, but he lays down a condition, that he must be married and know the pleasure of sex before he dies.
This causes great consternation, because which young woman would consent to certain and imminent widowhood?
Krishna then takes the form of Mohini and marries Iravan, who goes to meet his death the next day.
An offshoot of this story is that Krishna also grants Iravan another boon – the ability to witness the battle even after his death. His head, after the sacrifice, continues to view the events unfolding at Kurukshetra till the end.
Iravan is worshipped by the eunuchs in India, during their festivals as Aravan, with mock marriages commemorating his nuptials with Mohini and his head being carried around at the head of a procession.
My attempt was to capture the emotions of a young man on the eve of certain death, who goes to face it with the courage of conviction.