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Chapter 81: A Father's Grief

YUDHISHTHIRA was plunged in sorrow. "He has gone to the sleep that knows no waking, he who in battle overcame Drona, Aswatthama and Duryodhana and who was like a destroying fire to enemy forces. O warrior that made Duhsasana flee in fear, are you dead? What then is there for me to fight for or win? Why do we want kingdom now? What words of comfort can I offer to Arjuna? And what shall I say to Subhadra, quivering like a cow bereaved of her calf? How can I utter to them vain words of solace that serve no purpose? Truly, ambition destroys the understanding of men. Like the fool who, looking for honey, falls into a precipitous pit below and is destroyed, in my desire for victory I pushed to the battlefront this boy, whose life was all before him in love and joy. There is no fool like me in the world. I have killed Arjuna's beloved son, instead of protecting him during the absence of his father."

Thus was Yudhishthira lamenting in histent. Around him were sitting warriors, silent in sorrowful thought of the valor of the youthful hero and his cruel death. It was always the custom with Vyasa to come and comfort the Pandavas, whenever they were in great sorrow.

He was their great teacher as well as grandsire. So he appeared now before Yudhishthira. The sage was received with all honor and Yudhishthira, having made him sit, said: "I have tried very hard to find peace of mind, but I am unable to find it."

"You are wise and a knower," said Vyasa,

"and it is not meet that you should allow yourself to be lost in grief in this manner.

Knowing the nature of death, it is not right that you should grieve like the unlearned."

Vyasa proceeded to console the bereaved Dharmaputra: "When Brahma created living beings, he was filled with anxiety.

These lives will multiply and soon their number will be beyond the capacity of the earth to bear. There seems to be no way of coping with this. This thought of Brahma grew into a flame which became bigger and bigger until it threatened to destroy all creation at once. Then Rudra came and pleaded for allaying this destructive fire.

Brahma controlled the great fire and subdued it into the law that is known to mortals as Death. This law of the creator takes many forms, such as war or sickness or accident and keeps the balance between birth and death. Death is thus an inescapable law of existence, ordained for the good of the world. It is not true wisdom to be impatient with Death or to grieve immoderately for those who die.

There is no reason to pity those who pass away. We may have reason indeed to grieve for those who remain." After saying these words of solace, Krishna Dwaipayana retired.

Dhananjaya and Krishna were proceeding towards their camp after defeating and slaying the samsaptakas.

"Govinda, I do not know why," said Arjuna, "but my mind is not at ease. My mouth feels parched and my heart is troubled with a great foreboding of loss. I wonder if any calamity has happened to Yudhishthira. Something makes me afraid, Krishna."

"Do not be concerned about Yudhishthira," replied Krishna."He and your other brothers are safe." On the way, they halted and did the evening prayers.

Remounting the chariot, they proceeded to the camp. As they approached the camp, Arjuna's premonitions of calamity increased.

"Janardana, we do not hear the usual auspicious music in the camp. The soldiers, seeing me from a distance, hang down their heads and avoid my sight. This is strange behavior on their part. O Madhava, I fear greatly. Do you think my brothers are safe? I am confused. How is it Abhimanyu does not run out to meet us today as usual, accompanied by his brothers?"

They entered the camp.

"Why are you all wearing sad faces? I do not see Abhimanyu here. How is it I see no glad faces? I understood that Drona arrayed his army in the lotus formation.

No one among you could pierce it as far as I know. Did Abhimanyu force his way in? If so, he is dead, for I did not teach him how to make his way out of that formation. Has he been slain indeed?"

When their mournful silence, and downcast eyes, that dared not meet his, had confirmed his worst fears, the bereaved father burst into heart-broken lamentation.

"Alas, has my dear boy indeed become Yama's guest? Yudhishthira, Bhimasena, Dhrishtadyumna and great Satyaki have all of you allowed the son of Subhadra to be slain by the enemy? Alas! What comfort shall I give to Subhadra? What shall. I say to Draupadi? And what solace can be given to Uttara and who shall give it?"

Vasudeva spoke to his stricken friend.

"Beloved Arjuna," he said, "do not give way thus to grief. Born as kshatriyas we have to live and die by weapons. Death is ever the companion of those who have taken up the profession of arms and go into battle, determined not to retreat.

Warriors must be ever ready to die young.

Abhimanyu, boy as he was, has attained the happy regions above which grey haired veterans yearn to reach in battle.

Abhimanyu's end is indeed the prescribed and much desired goal of all kshatriyas. If you give way to grief in this inordinate way, your brothers and other kings will lose heart. Stop grieving and infuse courage and fortitude into the hearts of the others,"

Dhananjaya desired to be told the full story of his brave son's end and Yudhishthira related it: "I incited Abhimanyu to enter the enemy's formation. For I knew that he alone could do it among all of us. 'Make your way into the lotus array and we shall follow immediately behind you. This great deed of yours will please the hearts of your father and your uncle,' I said. The youthful hero did accordingly and broke the great formation and made his way in. We went behind him according to plan. But, just then, the wicked Jayadratha came and effectively stopped us. He caused the breach in the formation to be closed up at once and we found ourselves unable to follow Abhimanyu. The Sindhu kept us out, and then, Oh, shame on kshatriyas who could do this! A crowd of redoubtable warriors hemmed him in, thus isolated, and slew him."

When he heard the full story, Arjuna was again over whelmed by grief and he fell on the ground in a swoon.

When he recovered, he took an oath:

"Before sunset tomorrow, I shall slay this Jayadratha who caused my son's death. If Drona and Kripa come between him and me these acharyas also shall be overwhelmed and slain!"

Saying this, he twanged the Gandiva string, and Krishna blew the Panchajanya.

And Bhima said:

"This twang of Arjuna's bow and this blare of Krishna's conch shall be, unto the sons of Dhritarashtra, the summons of Death!"