Wednesday, 16 November 2016

A cursed life 9

It was almost midnight when the three shadows emerged out from the darkness and stealthily approached the Pandava camp. Kripacharya and Kritavarma had followed Ashwathama. But both of them were very silent. As if they carried a heavy burden on their hearts. They had reached the camp from the other side. As they circled around the periphery and approached the gate they saw something which was totally unexpected for them. The sight was as diabolical and fearsome to bring shivers, even to the bravest.

Standing guard in front of the main entrance to the camp was a gigantic figure. A dazzling bright halo surrounded the person. A loin cloth made of tiger skin was draped around his waist and a deer skin adorned the upper torso. A huge hissing snake was thrown across his shoulders like the sacred thread of the Brahmins. He seemed to have many hands, each of them holding a deadly looking weapon. Fire belched out of his open mouth and nostrils there was a big eye at the centre of his forehead which rotated. All in all it was a grotesque yet fascinating sight to behold.

Ordinary mortals would have fainted at the sight but these three were among the elite fighters in the whole of Aryavarta. They immediately brought out their bows and invoking different mantras started aiming arrows at the figure. But all their efforts went in vain. The monstrous apparition devoured all their weapons. Ashwathama aimed a blazing javelin; it just broke into pieces like a falling meteor. All the three of them were surprised. They could not understand what really was happening. Kripacharya and Kritavarma were retracing their steps back but Ashwathama brought out his sword and holding it high above his head recited a mantra learned from his father. The sword blazed with blue lightning. Aiming the sword straight, he threw it to pierce the body of the unknown monster. But the sword just broke into smithereen like a sparkler.

Filled with anger at this obstacle to his purpose, Ashwathama used an array of weapons on the strange figure. But nothing appeared to bother it. But it was also not attacking them. Feeling dejected, he turned back at the two warriors for support.

Kripa shouted at him “O mighty son of Drona , I had already warned you about the fallacy of considering human effort to be supreme over destiny. We seem to be wasting our time in attacking this person. For surely it can’t be anything human or Rakshas. It must be a divine intervention which stands guard against anyone trying to attack the Pandava camp. I again ask you to reconsider your decision and step back from this frenzy that has you in its grip.”

Ashwathama was surprisingly calm now. He replied, “Uncle, I cannot go back from this point. I have vowed to decimate the Pandavas and that will happen tonight. Or else I will sacrifice myself here in front of this divine spirit who keeps watch upon their camp.”

Saying this, he kneeled on the ground and closed his eyes reciting verses invoking Lord Mahadeva “O great Sankara, the creator and Lord of this universe. You hold the reins of this universe. People know you by many names. The most benevolent of powers and the source of all energy, your devotee Ashwathama has many impurities and negatives in him. Nothing is beyond your knowledge, my Lord. I have promised to my dear friend and benefactor, king Duryodhana that I will avenge his death. Resolving so, I have come to this point. Help me Lord; remove all obstacles from my path. If you don’t help me now, I will understand that being of an impure soul; I can’t receive the shower of your benevolent blessings on myself. I am ready to sacrifice myself and purify my soul to do penance for all the actions that I may have committed in my lifetime and achieve eternal salvation at your altar.”

The moment he said this, a large altar of fire appeared from nowhere and lit itself up in flames leaping up the sky. Along with that numerous strange animals appeared all around him. They were of different shapes, sizes and varieties. In a cacophonous unison they approached him from all directions in a menacing way, as if to devour him or tear him into faces. It was frightening and any normal human would have been terrified beyond his wits. Seeing them, even Kripa and Kritavarma hastily stepped back for cover, not knowing what to do. But Ashwathama was calm.

Bowing down before the altar of fire he said “O great Lord, I am just a toy in your hands. You who his child-like in his innocence yet combine the fury of thunder and earthquake in your anger. You, who pardon all with a smile, destroy all with your wrath. King of kings, you who live like a beggar and have only a tiger-skin to cover your body smeared with ash, I pray to thee. Take me Lord under your tutelage. Permit me to complete my vow or let me leave this mortal body here and purify my soul.”

Saying this, he stepped into the altar with his palms folded in a pose of worship. Before the eyes of his two companions, his form was engulfed by the raging flames.

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