One little known dispute that flared into the open involved a branch of the Kuru Race and another powerful clan, the Andhakas, of the Yadu Race.
To better understand the dispute, one has to travel back into history to meet the players, some of whom had already appeared at the outset, as Bhagavan Vyasa the Conceiver recited the tale of his illustrious family and Lord Ganapati the Divine Scribe’s hand danced as his iron pen scratched the words on the palm leaves and brought forth the epic poem, Mahabharata.
King Pratipa of Kuru Pradesh had three sons. Devapi, the eldest, was a leper who retired from royal life; second son, Bahlika, who inherited his uncle’s kingdom; and third son, Shantanu, who succeeded Pratipa, and was father of Bhishma.
Bahlika had a son, Somadatta. This Kuru king became a sworn enemy of the Andhaka king, Sini.
Like the Andhakas, Krishna and his elder brother, Balarama, of the Vrishni clan, were also of the Yadu Race; and so, too, Kritavarma of the Bhoja clan.
During his youth, Sini abducted a princess during her swayamvara. Somadatta, who was present, opposed him. They wrestled, and Sini gained the upper hand. He threw Somadatta down and, while the latter lay sprawled, repeatedly kicked him. Many kings accused Sini of unchivalrous conduct, for one does not attack or humiliate a fallen kshatriyan. But they were too late to stop the wheel of destiny.
Unable to suffer the humiliation, Somadatta resorted to austerities and invoked a boon from Lord Shiva, no less.
“Sini loves his son, Satyaki, more than he loves life. Give me a son, O Supreme Destroyer; a son who will throw Satyaki to the ground and kick him for all to witness. Only by such means I shall erase my humiliation at the hands of that Andhaka of the Yadu Race.”
For Supreme Beings, human years are but a few blinks of an eye. Lord Shiva already saw the probability of war in Kurukshetra, as one would look at the gathering clouds and predict a storm. As one of the Three executors of what humans refer to as fate and destiny, Lord Shiva granted Somadatta his wish.
Out of that boon, Somadatta begot a son, Bhurshrava. A warrior, born by the grace of the Trinity, was invincible. The astrologers foretold the child’s destiny.
“As the Trinity gave, only the Trinity can take. No man, beast or half-beast man, or demi-god or even the gods of Indraloka can defeat Bhurshrava.” Upon hearing of his son’s invincibility, Somadatta rejoiced.
When Krishna assigned his Vrishni army to Duryodhana, it disappointed Somadatta. Satyaki was one of the top generals of the Vrishnis. Fate had dictated the Yadu will fight on the same side of the Kuru; on the side of the Kauravas.
Somadatta and his son, Bhurshrava, lost the opportunity to exact vengeance on Sini and his son, Satyaki—or so it seemed.
But Satyaki was independent in thought and action. Therefore, even when Krishna wished the Vrishnis to join Duryodhana, Satyaki, unlike his tradition-bound fellow general, Kritavarma, went his own way. He joined the Pandavas.
Satyaki’s defection elated Somadatta. They were on opposite sides of the conflict. Convinced that Bhurshrava will erase his humiliation, he urged his son to seek Satyaki and offer combat.
“As you wish, my father,” said Bhurshrava. “Today, I’ll extinguish the fire in the pits of your stomach, a flame that has tormented you for years.” He cut a bloody swathe through the Pandava ranks; his focus, determined; his path, relentless.
“Bhurshrava comes for me, my sons,” said Satyaki. He was an adirathi-general; fearless and competent. But he also knew the strength of his enemy. “I don’t have the wherewithal to deflect him, for it is said he acts under Lord Shiva’s grace.”
Satyaki’s sons, all ten of them, heard their father’s cries. They descended upon him with their cohorts and ringed him with a phalanx of elephantry, chariotry, cavalry and infantry.
“No, my sons, you can’t prevail over Bhurshrava,” cried Satyaki. “He’ll pluck you with the callous ease of a wayfarer who picks wild grapes on a road. Seek Arjuna, only he can save me.”
“Arjuna roams far and wide and he sows destruction upon the enemy, Father,” said one son. “We know not where he adventures.”
“Go my sons, in ten different directions,” said Satyaki. “Find and fetch him before Bhurshrava circles me.”
The sons left their regiments behind with strict orders to defend Satyaki’s safety to the last drop of your blood. Any man who flees will face the executioner’s blade. The sons also lowered their father’s standards and pennants to better mask his presence. Satisfied with their precautions, they rushed off in ten different directions in search of Arjuna.
The Pandava hero was in the thicket of battle and blew his conch. The call of his conch came from several directions; a deliberate ploy to confuse the enemy. But the calls also bewildered Satyaki’s sons, and they searched in vain.
Meanwhile, Somadatta climbed onto a watch tower and studied the shifting terrain filled with shouting, screaming, and moving men and beasts. He spotted the distinct yellow scarves of Satyaki’s soldiers.
To differentiate his Vrishni soldiers from the rest of the Vrishni army who fought for Kritavarma on Duryodhana’s side, Satyaki had ordered his men to wear yellow scarves.
Somadatta smiled and waited for his son, Bhurshrava, to return. His son came; his body and face covered in blood.
“How fared your forays, my son?”
“They are dead, Father.”
“All ten of them?” said Somadatta.
“Yes.” Bhurshrava grinned; his teeth a shocking white in his sun-drenched face. He had hunted down and killed the ten sons of Satyaki and cut off the latter’s bloodline. “Where is his?”
“Over there,” said Somadatta, and pointed. “North, one eighth segment to the left. The horde of yellow helmets.”
“The coward has lowered his flag,” said Bhurshrava.
“But the fools had forgotten their headscarves,” said his father. Bhurshrava rallied his men and said,
“Today, I erase the blithe in my family name. Stay with me. Keep the enemy at bay. Leave the coward, Satyaki, to me.”
His men raised their weapons and cheered. Their full-throated voices rose above the din of battle that raged around them. Trumpets blared, and the army set off. North, one-eighth segment to the left.
Elephants, packed in an arrow-head formation, bulled through the mass of fighting men; trampling foe and the occasional friend alike. Chariots, bristling with archers, followed in the wake of the gargantuan beasts. Cavalry, their swords flashing left and right, kept open the closing ranks on the flanks. Infantry, close-ranked with walls of shields, trotted at a brisk pace and brought up the rear. Fighting men on both sides stopped; waited and panted. After Bhurshrava’s column cut through, the two sides closed the gap and fighting resumed.
His regiments converged and joined his spearhead. The ferocity and weight of numbers sent the enemy reeling. After some hard fighting, he reached Satyaki’s chariot. Men were dying around the surrounded adirathi-general. He stood steady, sword in hand.
“I claim single combat.” Bhurshrava was an adirathi-general, like Satyaki. He waved his sword and shouted again. “I claim the right of single combat.”
His men repeated his call and blew bamboo whistles. “Give way! Give way! Adirathi Bhurshrava claims single combat with Adirathi Satyaki.”
Fighting faltered and stopped. Bloodied Andhakas and Kurus, their chests heaving from exertion, licked their dry lips. Other swallowed and caught their breath.
An empty circular space formed around Satyaki’s chariot. Beyond the immediate vicinity of the unfolding drama, fighting continued. The clamour of war seemed far away as the eyes and ears of the soldiers, who formed the circle, focused on the fight to come.
“See the blood that covers my body and face.” Bhurshrava wiped his face with a hand and flicked his fingers; sent blood drops flying. He dropped his sword in his chariot and jumped down. “Come, embrace me, O Satyaki. This is the blood of your sons; all ten of them.”
Satyaki’s shoulders slumped; eyes wet, he looked to the skies and cried, “O Blue One, why have you forsaken your loyal servant?”
“Know this before I take your life, O Andhaka,” said Bhurshrava. “When you die, your bloodline dies with you.”
*** Copyright @ 2022, Eric Alagan ***
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