Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sahadeva-The Lesser Know Hero of Mahabharata





All of you at some point must have read or heard about Mahabharata. The greatest War epic story ever told according to Hindu Mythology. The story is about the two waring brothers Kauravas & Pandavas. This blog is all the lesser know brother of Pandavas. Before i continue furhter with the blog i must clarify myself that, the whole content of my blog is taken from Internet websites like Wiki & articles i read in The Hindu.


I was never curious about the role of Nakula & Sahadeva in the Mahabharata War. The below artile which i read few years back in The Hindu newpaper was an eye opener for me. Today, again i got reminded about the article and reading it again i felt like sharing it with you all. Before sharing the article let me tell about Sahadeva taken from Wiki.


Who is Sahadeva?


He is the twin son of Madri invoked by Ashvinis. He was great astrologer ans was supposed to have know the events of Mahabharata beforehand but was cursed that if he disclosed than his head would crack into pieces. He was a great devote of Lord Krishna and is believed to be the first one to recoginse Krishna as a diety to worship.
This below pieces is from The Hindu article. Its completely in First Person as if Sahadeva narrating the his role in Mahabharata himself. Its lengthy but gripping and enjoyable story I hope you will like it. The below story is set during the period when the Pandavas were to being their 1 year Agyatvas(Unknow Hiding), if they get caught during this time than they have to begin the Vanvas again. What was the role of Sahadeva before beginning of the Agyatvas?









My Game is an excerpt from a novel in progress. The novel is yet another interpretation of the Mahabharatha. It deals with the events and personalities depicted in the epic in a rational way, in an attempt at another look at the age-old story. The narrator is Sahadeva, the youngest and perhaps the most insignificant of the Pandavas. Although Sahadeva is relatively obscure, we know from the epic that he has intimate knowledge of the people whose actions, triumphs, and defeats live on in the legends. In a sense, Sahadeva's perspective is that of a political reporter. No such profession is known to have existed those many centuries ago. That being so, the novel is essentially one in which a political reporter of today re-examines the epic in a search for new insights.
This excerpt relates to the period when the Pandavas have completed their 12-year exile in the forest after losing the game of dice. They are about to enter the phase when they have to live in disguise. While the epic, for the most part, does not credit Sahadeva with a great deal of importance, he is assigned a special role in the novel. He is depicted as the Pandavas' chief of intelligence. In this role, he is seen as running an espionage network whenever they are a political force. The Pandavas are, of course, not a political force in the period covered in this excerpt and Sahadeva's role changes accordingly. He is the spy-catcher; the man who must track down and eliminate Duryodhana's spies before they can expose the Pandavas. Read on:
"THIS fellow can make himself invisible."




Since the days of our childhood my brother Arjuna had made that statement many times. So many times in fact that the tones accompanying it had, turn by turn, covered the full range from exasperation to admiration.
It was my special gift. This ability to so blend into my background that no one noticed my presence. It had helped me survive in the corridors of a Hastinapura broiling with intrigue. To survive and to help my brothers. Our cousins would be cooking up one of their endless malicious little plots or working out ways by which we could be deprived of some pleasure and there I would be. Just one among the grubby little horde, poking and giggling away on the fringes as if I were another of Duryodhana's horde of followers.
At first I had the desire but not the skill. Discovery was often swift and usually very painful. But then I had a strong streak of stubbornness and I persevered. I learnt to watch the individual and then whole groups, to gauge the flow of moods, to imbibe the sense of the crowd. I copied and practised a hundred different gestures and mannerisms. The trick was to keep oneself just on the edge of their peripheral vision. Sufficiently a part of the group so as to be non-threatening but not so much into it as to be noticed. To do too much was to invite disaster. Stillness was just as dangerous. The key lay in striking the right balance.
Of course I never discovered all their plots. Duryodhana was always too clever to trust too many with the really special ones he thought up. Yet I cursed myself every time we were caught unawares. This was my self-assumed contribution to the brotherhood and though my brothers were not aware of how seriously I took this responsibility, every failure was painful. Varnavrata was the first major disaster we faced collectively. Perhaps it was Yudhishtira who should have seen through that nasty little intrigue because he had been specially trained in statecraft. I was, however, of an age when it is difficult to forgive oneself and had engaged in this vocation with a vengeance from then on.
Over the years of wandering among forest dwellers and hermits and the months of living as Brahmins, I had kept up my practice. Adding to my repertoire, honing my skills. And then in the days of our glory, when we were carving out our own realm, I understood the greater value of my special skill and began to appreciate its benefits. As we strove to build a harmonious and prosperous community, I was the eyes and ears of the brotherhood.
And so I remained when our stars waned as well. In our wanderings through the great forests and wastelands that ringed Aryavarta, there was always a need for one of us to snoop outside. My skill was of little use in the forest and while I had learnt to survive in the jungle, my brothers did not need my help. There was no greater master of woodcraft than Bhima and he could take on all the dangers of the jungle. It was more important that I venture outside, sit by village fires, go to the markets to test the wind of the times. It was my job to find out whether Duryodhana was hunting us with the same intensity or had turned his attention to some other enemies. We had to know whether new alliances were being forged by the nations of Aryavarta and whether our friends remained true. Messages had to be exchanged with Krishna and Drupada.
This then was my role and if I could make myself invisible to Arjuna, the keen-eyed archer, then I could make myself invisible to anyone.
Now we were entering a new phase. We had to slip out of the forest and fit ourselves into the community of Matsya. At least four of our group of six, perhaps even the Eldest, would stand out in any crowd even as individuals. For us to go out collectively was unthinkable. Despite our poor clothing, untamed hair, and the bug-bites on our torsos, we would be instantly recognised. Five brothers and a woman. We might as well step out with conches blowing and elephants parading before us.
My first task was to check out the Matsyan country. To find the slots each of us could fit into and help Draupadi and my brothers slip into their roles without arousing suspicion. Matsya was spread over a semi-arid terrain but was still a good breeding ground for horses and cattle. There were no great rivers in these parts, only man-made lakes, wells, and fields of gritty grass and scrub. It was basically a pastoral community with the towns and villages, such as they were, as somnolent as the smoke from a dung-fire. Once we settled in to the community, we might escape notice. But people eyed strangers with caution. My skills would be fully tested as I helped the others get past this initial hurdle and I was delighted.
I had to make my brothers understand that there was no way of allaying suspicion altogether. People would always be curious. We had to accept that fact and turn it to our advantage. Each of us would appear on the scene as a drifter and the Matsyans would not be satisfied with the straightforward explanations that anyone gave. In such a situation it would be stupid to provide an over-elaborate explanation. Instead, each would have to give a sparse account of his or her past and convince the listener that there was nothing very interesting in it. In short, we had to pander to the general belief that drifters were losers who were ashamed of their personal histories. Each would have to behave in such a fashion as to hint at some basic flaw. If we were careful and lucky, observers would believe that this shame was the cause for the drifting.
Bhima, for instance. Anyone would wonder why a person with his physique had not taken a position as someone's personal guard or favourite wrestler. Fortunately, my brother had two redeeming faults. He could keep silent for days together and go about his job like a buffalo tied to a waterwheel that cannot deviate either from its path or its pace. He was also not very good at following instructions that he was not in a mind to. In time, observers would probably conclude that Bhima was too set in his ways and too simple to be disciplined for some other occupation.
Each of the others would likewise have to depend on their particular flaws. Nakula as someone who was too flippant and amorous to have any higher ambition; Draupadi too confident and beautiful for any jealous mistress to keep her around; Yudhishtira so often lost in his own thoughts as to be an undependable counsellor. Arjuna's disguise was the most elaborate of all but he had the talent to pull it off.
Our splitting up was itself a most effective disguise. We remained in Aryavarta's collective memory as a group of six. Once we broke up that picture and ensured that our connections to one another remained hidden, it would be difficult for any but the most astute or the most interested to discover that we were parts of the same puzzle.
Actually I, and Draupadi, had already entered the new phase. I had been working as an overseer of cattle for a few weeks and had spent the last few days initiating Draupadi into her new role. This was only a short excursion into the forest to report to my brothers. As I finished, Nakula had asked whether my new masters would not miss me. With great patience, I had to explain that in my job I needed to move about a lot. So, if I were missed in one place, they would assume that I was in another.
"But why a Magadhan cattleman?" Bhima was intrigued. "What do those rice growers know about rearing cattle?"
Magadha was only the place of origin of my new persona I explained. The person I had become was born in that eastern region but had been stranded in Yadava country since early youth. That was how he had learned the finer points of cattle rearing from the Yadavas, the best cattlemen in Aryavarta.
"But why Magadha?" Bhima persisted.
"That was the best way to throw anyone of the scent," I answered blandly. What need was there for me to explain that the Magadhan persona was the one I could most effortlessly slip into. I had totally imbibed the accents and mannerisms peculiar to Magadha. Once I slipped into the persona, I could be woken from the deepest sleep and I would react like a Magadhan. It might have been less circuitous to adopt a Yadava personality and their accents were close to our own, but some of their mannerisms were so peculiar to themselves that more effort would be needed to retain the right inflexion. These were however my secrets, the unperfected features of my craft. Why should I allow anyone, even my favourite brother, to think that I had not mastered my craft?
"And no one has suspected you in the least?" Arjuna slipped in the question when he saw that Bhima, though not entirely satisfied, was not going to press on.
"No," I replied and then thought that a demonstration would be in order. So I showed them how I walked with the bent-kneed stride of the cattle herder, how I leaned on my staff while talking with my gaze far away as if in search of a straying cow. How I had glanced directly at my questioner only occasionally and how I had mixed humility with traces of the herdsman's independence of spirit. I finished and squatted down like a man who was resigned to his lot. While I thus squatted before my brothers, I did what I could to dull the spark in my eyes.
That was when, to my gratification, Arjuna snorted his words of admiration:
"This fellow can make himself invisible."
I HAPPILY sat back to await further questions. The Eldest was in deep thought, so Bhima it was who asked:

"Draupadi you say has found work in the house of an old Kshatriya widow who mixes herbs and perfumes. Perhaps she should stay there. Palaces have their dangers."

One of our uneasy, though unspoken, thoughts was beginning to creep out.

"Krishna told us that the King of Matsya does not sleep with his wife's servant maids," Arjuna moved swiftly to put us at ease.

"He also said that the wife, Sudheshna isn't she, is likely to cut off his thing and feed it to the hounds if she ever caught him trying it," Nakula chortled in continuation. He choked off and the smiles faded on the faces of Arjuna and Bhima as they saw the frown on Yudhishtira's brow. The Eldest did not approve of our simpler pleasures.

"I think it might be a good idea to let her stay in that village." The image of Sudheshna and her knife had obviously not stayed in Bhima's mind for very long.

"No! We should be somewhere close to each other. We can't ensure each other's safety if we are apart." Arjuna stressed the tactical principle and I butted in to remind Bhima that the Kshatriya widow lived in an outlying village quite far from the central town of Matsya.

"So how are you going to move her from this village and into the palace?"

This required a bit of elaboration.

The widow was half-senile about everything other than her herbs and concoctions, her accounts, and the work she got out of her servants. I had taken Draupadi to the widow's house claiming she was my brother's wife and we wanted her to stay there while we moved our herds to new pastures. I had already ascertained that the widow needed a new maid and she did not ask many questions. To what she had asked I had slipped in some passing remarks about Panchala and the Yadava lands and herbs and spices and sundry wanderings. I would let this brew cook in the cauldron of her senility for three or four weeks. By then she would have got everything mixed up and the villagers, sympathetic to the toil the widow extracted out of Draupadi, would be under the impression that she had worked there for much longer than she had.

"I'll try to visit that village as much as I can. Nakula could also look after the horse herds near that village for a while," I suggested.

They were not too happy.

"There is no other way this thing can be done," I reasoned. "We can only drift into Virata's town over intervals of time and we have to enter from different directions. There is no help for it. We have to be separated for a short while so that we can each merge into the scene. In a short while we will all be in place and then we can set up our links with each other."

They reluctantly accepted my argument. The situation was clear enough. While Matsya lay athwart the route from the northern lands to the ports on the western coast, it was not a place of great enterprise. Some of those who drifted along this route would stay in Virata's town for a few years, sometimes more. We would need to create the impression that we were itinerants of this sort. Itinerants who apparently had nothing in common did not turn up in one place at the same time.

Everyone lapsed into his own thoughts. Bhima went to the fire and turned the spit. Fat sizzled as the chunks of meat turned over. The smell of roasting boar meat quickened my hunger. After days without respite from the coarse gruel and dairy produce that was the usual fare of a herdsman, I was more than ready for some good meat. But the cooking was not done and to stop myself from thinking too much on it, I turned and scanned the area. We were safe on this grassy, rock-strewn hilltop. There was a good view all around, good cover close by, and Bhima had masked the fire so that the smoke trickled away slowly through the rocks.

"Didn't they ask you about cattle?" Nakula's question came floating on a current of innocence.

"Of course they did. But what do these desert people know about cattle? Why I could... "

I almost walked into the trap. Bhima turned from the fire and he, like the rest, had an anticipatory gleam in his eyes. For my other passion is cattle. Ask me a question about cattle and I could be off for hours. They could never get enough of teasing me by asking silly questions about cattle.

I threw a piece of wood at Nakula's head.

Yudhishtira called us to order although he too did not seem averse to a spell of jesting. In a way we were all feeling a little buoyant. Understandable. We were re-entering a civilised community after 12 years and this was, after all, a new adventure.

"Bhima's cooking is good enough for people not to ask too many questions about his origins and Nakula has a way with horses though he does not talk as much about it as some people do about cattle." Yudhishtira's smile took the edge off his words.

"And it would be good if they went in together. With Nakula standing besides him, Bhima's height will not be so noticeable except at close quarters. It is also not unusual for cooks and grooms to travel together."

"How about you Arjuna?" Bhima asked. "Think you can make it work?"

Arjuna tossed his hair he had grown long and, striking the grotesquely coquettish air of a eunuch, archly affirmed he could. His was a beautifully proportioned lithe figure. With some padding in the right places, in the manner of all eunuchs, he would be able to pull it off. His ambidextrous skills and his devotion to the bow from as far as anyone could remember were also helpful to his disguise. His body did not carry the telltale signs of the great bowman. Both forearms were equally developed and unmarred by the marks of the bowstring. All of us had worn sheaths of kid-leather on the arm that held the bow when we began to learn archery in our childhood; otherwise, the string would have horribly chafed our delicate skins. Most of us discarded the sheaths to show our toughness as our bodies hardened. Arjuna could not afford this vanity. The man practised with his bow so arduously that his arms would have been a raw mess if he had left them uncovered. He had never discarded the sheaths and so the greatest archer in Aryavarta did not bear marks that showed him for what he was.

If any other than Bhima had asked the question, there would have been an edge of frost in Arjuna's reply. His pride could be a little prickly if there was even a hint of a suggestion that he would do something less than perfectly. But not when the question came from Bhima. These two were among the greatest warriors of the age, perhaps of all ages, but they had squelched any sense of rivalry long ago. Instead, each had learnt to complement the other's strengths like the two escorting bulls of a herd that stand with their haunches touching and their tusks out-thrust in a menacing crescent.

"Well," Bhima advised, "don't shake your hips too much when you are around Virata. His wife might not have that sort of objection to his fooling around with his house-boys."

To my surprise even Yudhishtira joined in the laughter.

"It would be best if you and Arjuna went for that mela in Virata's town," I suggested to the Eldest. "Not together of course but if this scheme collapses at least Arjuna would be nearby to give you protection. Learned people are usually found in towns and where else would a eunuch look for employment?"

The others agreed. Yudhishtira's air of dignity and his look of intelligence would not be misplaced in the role of scholar and courtier that he was to assume. I was a little uneasy because, unlike the rest of us, the character he had decided to assume was very close to what he actually was. But Yudhishtira had little talent for subterfuge and I could only advise him to wrap a cloak around his head and shoulders and show himself in public as little as possible.

"It is also not unknown for scholars to keep peculiar company." I let that one slide through Yudhishtira's guard unnoticed by any other than Arjuna. He gave me a wicked grin

"All right. It's all settled then. The meat's ready. Let's eat."

The others rose but Yudhishtira stopped me with a gesture.

"Spies?" he asked.

"They are here. I don't know how many, or who they are or even where they are."

Yudhishtira's look was hard. He might have gambled away a kingdom in an addicted frenzy, but he had been raised to be a king. My answer had to be very straight and very responsible.

"I will find them before they find us."

As the words slipped out of me, I was overcome by an unaccustomed feeling. I was not unused to the sense of responsibility, but now the determination not to let down my brothers was over-layered by new awareness. I realised that for the first and possibly only time in my life I had the most important role to play. My brothers would be dependant on me. I felt not trepidation but a surge of power.

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