Taking sides in a war

This is an interpretative translation of parts of “Parva”, a Kannada book that I’m reading right now. It is a practical take on my favorite epic mythological story that is Mahabharata

The time was past lunch. Father and son sat in the courtyard of the palace. There was hardly any breeze in the summer heat. Yuyudhana quickly waved at the guard at the door. “Summon the saki to fan us.”. His father continued to sit on the makeshift yet lavish bed that had been laid out, facing the garden. He returned back to sit beside his father. He used the corner of his thin silk shawl to wipe the sweat off of his forehead. A maid came hurrying out muttering under her breath, took her place at the corner of the courtyard and started fanning the two with her large hand fan. The relief was immediate. She spoke — “Sire, sorry for the delay in watering the gardens. It is so hard to find reliable maids these days”. Yuyudhana waved his hand at her in a dismissive manner. He looked back at his father. “Dhuryodhana is here, then?”, he enquired wanting to continue their conversation from lunch. It had become increasingly hard to hold long conversations with his father these days. The old man must be nearing 90 now. “Yes, you do know that they are going to have a war down in Kuru. It will supposedly be the biggest war in recent history”, said Sathyaki. Yuyudhana cheered at his father’s talkative mood. “Dhuryodhana was Balarama’s student a few years back, I remember”, he replied. Sathyaki smiled. “It must have been Krishna’s preference to the Pandavas that drove Balarama to go against them, or maybe because Arjuna carried off with Subhadra. But yes, you can say that Dhuryodhana is definitely Balarama’s pupil and his most favorite one too.”. Yuyudhana knitted his brows in obvious worry. “That can’t be good for us. Krishna is also conveniently out traveling. In his absence, Balarama is sure to promise the Yadava army’s support to Dhuryodhana”. Sathyaki remained silent.

“Father, what do you think? Which is the morally right side, the one that adheres to Dharma in this war?”, Yuydhana asked again. His father gazed at him intently. “Dhuryodhana says he has dharma on his side.”, Sathyaki spoke. “How?”. “He says that he is the true son of his father and mother and so are all his siblings. This makes them superior to the Pandavas who were born of different fathers in the Himalayas. That kind of birth is not the Arya dharma and this is the reason, the Kuru empire belongs to him and his brothers.”, Sathyaki elaborated. Yuyudhana scratched his head. “I’ve heard that he has been touting that. It seems all the Brahmins from Kuru are travelling all over the country spreading the sensitivities of Arya dharma with emphasis on the Pandava birth story”. Sathyaki nodded his head sadly. “But Balarama will not fall for this, will he? He will surely understand on which side dharma lies. Also Arjuna is related to him by Subhadra’s marriage. And don’t forget, we are forever indebted to Bheema for killing Jarasandha for us”, Yuyudhana argued.
A maid came to the garden with a pot full of water. She started sprinkling it with her hands around the base of the courtyard. The water evaporated from the ground as soon as it made contact. Sathyaki said, “Sprinkling the water is not enough, get more and just pour it around”. She complied immediately and started dumping water around the courtyard base and the garden. She brought 3 more pots of water and poured them out around one by one. The effect was a halting coolness in the surroundings. The sweet petrichor of wet mud lingered in the air.
Sathyaki turned to his son, “Balarama has always resented Arjuna for running away with Subhadra without his permission. And even after everything, Subhadra is not his sister by blood. She was always closer to Krishna than to him. As for Jarasandha, you yourself have heard Balarama saying that killing an old man ,who posed no threat to Dwaraka as he did to Mathura, for the sake of Pandava’s victory, is not a feat worth impression. They say Bheema killed him in the first round of their wrestle.” Yuydhana was silent for a minute, but he spoke up again. “But before the Pandavas went for their 13 year exile, Dhuryodhana promised them he would return what was their’s after they came back. Doesn’t dharma say he has to stay true to his promise?”. “Thirteen years is a lot of time to get used to being king and forget these promises”, Sathyaki sighed. Yuyudhana leaned back on his soft pillow as his dad prepared to lie down on his side of the courtyard. The maid’s effort at cooling down the garden had worked, Yuydhana thought, as he looked at his dad drift off into the realms of his afternoon nap.

Taking sides in a war was originally published in In my time of living on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.