The Mahabharata Research
The ascent of Drona (Drona Parva >> Dronabhisheka Parva >> Sectin V)
The tenth day of the Mahabharata battle saw the fall of the mighty commander Bheeshma. Though the scenario was extremely tragic, Duruyodhana did not lose hope ,as the fall of Bheeshma would provide opportunity for Karna to enter the battle and face his nemesis Arjuna.
Duruyodhana always believed (wrongly though), Karna was the greatest fighter on earth and only Karna can get rid of Arjuna and help Kauravas win the battle.Under these circumstances, Duruyodhana wanted Karna to lead his army. But Karna believed the he leading the army after not having played any role in the past 10 days wouldn't create a positive mood with the other kings. He was sure that many other kings would have reservations in fighting under his leadership, especially considering that there were other renowned warriors and strategists in the side. So Karna made the perfect suggestion at that juncture
"Duruyodhana! All our warriors are suitable to hold that position. All of them are endued with prowess and intelligence, possessed of wisdom and are unrelenting in battle. But all cannot be leaders at the same time. Only one should be selected as Commander-in-Chief. If one among them is selected, others will be dissatisfied and they may not cooperate with the leader. If we make our Preceptor, Drona, as the leader of the army, nobody can object as he is liked by all. He is our preceptor, revered, Brahmin, well versed in all sorts of warfare. Though he is older in age, he is more powerful. Hence, you may install him as our Commander-in-Chief"
When Duruyodhana agreed to the suggestion, Drona was overwhelmed by the occasion and accepted to lead the Kaurva army. But did mention to Duruyodhana the following
'I know the Vedas with their six branches. I know also the science of human affairs. I am acquainted also with the Saiva weapon, and diverse other species of weapons. Endeavouring to actually display all those virtues which you, have attributed to me, I will fight with the Pandavas.They will not fight with me with cheerful hearts.'
Thus Drona is installed the commander in chief , Having been given the responsibility to lead the Kaurava army , Drona was totally taken over by the occasion and makes a tactical mistake , He said
"Duruyodhana! After Bheeshma, you regarded me as an equivalent warrior to Bheeshma and made me as your leader. I am very happy. Choose anything you like. I will accomplish your desire".
Duruyodhana asks Drona to catch Yudhistira alive . Drona was taken aback and wonders why Duruyodhana wants him alive and not dead. He expresses his surprise and asks Duryudhana why he wouldn't want Yudhistira Killed, is he thinking of brokering a peace deal, or is it proof that Yudhishtira has no enemy desirous of his death. Duryodhana then reveals cunningness. He explains that it's not logical to believe that Yudhistira's death will cause the end of the war. "By the slaughter of Kunti's son in battle, victory cannot be mine. If Yudhishtira were slain, Partha then, without doubt, would slay all of us. All of them cannot be slain by the very gods. He amongst them that will, in that case, survive, will exterminate us. Yudhishthira, however, is truthful in his promises. If captured and brought here alive, and vanquished once more at dice, the Pandavas will once more go to the woods, for they are all obedient to Yudhishtira. It is evident that such a victory will be an enduring one. It is for this that I do not, by any means, desire the slaughter of king Yudhishtira the just"
But Drona's mission was set, to capture the enemy king alive, Why I referred this as a tactical mistake is because it is extremely difficult to capture than to kill the king. Because he was a commander whose mission was set, he indulged in pursuing this difficult mission as a token of appreciation to what Duruyodhana had done. And throughout the 5 days he shows the immaturity of a non-Kshatriya warrior, by letting the war slip to become a absolute blood fest that knew no rules and he was in pursuit of his mission.
Now let us see in brief what happened during the next 5 days
Day 11 : Mission to capture Yudhistira
The day began with the clear mission laid out to the kaurava warriors,they stood in Sakata Vyooha formation (Cart Wheel) ,Kings of Sindhu, Kalinga, Vikarna stood on the southern side. By their side stood Sakuni along with his troops. Kritavarma, Vivimsati, Chitrasena, Dussaasana, stood on the northern side. Kings of Kambhoja, Saka, Yavana stood at their respective places. Kings of Trigartha, Madra, Surasena, along with their respective troops, formed into a protective ring to Suyodhana, in the middle. Karna with his troops stood in the forefront of the vyuha.
Responding to the plan Pandavas had the Krouncha Vyooha formation (Swan) protecting Yudhistir in the center and Arjuna along with his forces stood at the point of beak. Dhrishtadyumna stood by his side. Bhima, Nakula, Sahadeva, Abhimanyu, son of Droupadi, King of Panchala, and other prominent warriors in Pandava Army stood in their respective places allotted to them. Yudhishtira stood in the middle of Vyooha.
Yudhisthira was surprised when Drona attacked him. Yudhisthira tried to ward off Drona's attack but it was too much for him to withstand the onslaught of his guru. Drona cut Yudhisthira bow, seeing the helplessness of Yudhisthira, Dhristadhymna rushed to help him. He was able to check the attacks of Drona, which were falling on Yudhisthira incessantly. Drona hurt Shikhandi and Uttamaujas. Sons of Draupadi could not do much against Drona. Satyaki and Virata, too came in aid of Yudhisthira. The situation was very critical. If Drona could capture Yudhisthira the war would come to an end. Drona was fighting all the warriors of the Pandavas side single-handedly. His strength was prodigious. Gradually, the army of the Pandavas was giving way to Drona.
At that grave hour, the sound of Arjuna's chariot was heard and this gave impetus to the army of the Pandavas, their sagging morale was lifted. Krishna was racing his chariot towards Yudhisthira at full gallop. Arjuna could see the sea of blood and the miles of dead bodies and all the devastation caused to Drona. He proceeded towards Drona without losing a moment. Arjuna was furious and the arrows rained from his Gandiva. These arrows caused tremendous loss of life on the Kauravas side. Even Drona had to take the sharp ends of his arrows. Arjuna had completely vanquished Drona's plot.
Day 11 : Results and aftermath
Pandavas with the help of Arjuna absolutely routed Drona , Kourava army fled , Arjuna was too hot to handle, and once Arjuna took over, even getting to the vicinity of Yudhistir was impossible. Simply put CART WHEEL could not even touch the BEAK of the SWAN
Duryodhana was dissatisfied with the happenings of the day. He was constantly nagging his guru, Drona. He was very angry on Drona as he failed to fulfill his promise of capturing Yudhisthira. Drona was much hurt by the words of Duryodhana. He said that he would do it if Arjuna were removed from the battlefield some how. In the presence of Arjuna with Krishna, as his charioteer, the task was just impossible.mDuruyodhana could not buy this theory as he felt Drona had an ulterior motive,his love for Arjuna and not Arjuna's valor is responsible for Kaurava's rout . He does not confront Drona, but obeys him by asking Susarma and his brothers to take Arjuna away from the battle field.
Now while reading this one needs to understand Drona's mentality , he is being defeated by Arjuna, he is at the head of a near impossible mission , he does not have the trust of Duryodhana and is being questioned by his own student. So he is filled with the urge to prove his value
Day 12 : Mission to capture Yudhistir Restarts
Now Kauravas having realized from their previous day's mistake this time sets out with Garuda Vyooha (Swan to be countered by Eagle), and their strategy was crystal clear; Take Arjuna away. And they had a secret trump card; Bhagadatta and his majestic assassin Suprateeka, a mighty elephant. Challenged by the Samshaptakas, Arjuna takes Yudhistira's permission to take up the challenge, leaving Yudhistira at the protection of Satyajit and Drishtadhyumna, and also instructs Yudhishtira to withdraw from the field, if Satyajit falls.
Day 12 : Results and Aftermath
Day 12 was the closest according to me kauravas came in defeating Pandavas (I would want a separate post to detail the incidents), Drona almost captured Yudhishtira and afflicted enormous damage in the Pandava army thanks to the mighty elephant Suprateeka and Bhagadatta, but the failure of Susarma to take Arjuna far away (which he does the next day ) proved to be fatal , as pandavas managed to save Yudhistir for one more day, giving more frustration to Drona and Duruyodhana. Arjuna had defeated Samshaptaka's by afteroon and then took on Bhagadatta and by evening the valiant Bhagadatta had fallen to Arjuna's valour.
That night Duruyodhana could not stop himself from spewing venom on Drona, he says "O Great Preceptor! You have promised me to capture Yudhishtira and handover him to me. Two days have elapsed. You are unable to fulfill your promise. Though Yudhistira was within your reach on several occasions, you could not catch him. In the eyes of the people in the world, we both remained inefficient and useless. What benefit you derive by cheating me with your wicked and useless promises. Is it desirable for a great preceptor like you to cheat me like this?"
Drona does not lose his focus completely , he reasons Duruyodhana , that failure to take Arjuna far was the reason for their misery and he would definitely fulfill his wish of capturing Yudhistir if Arjuna is taken far away from the main battle field
Now let us imagine the state of Drona, aspersions , tag of a failure , slowly Drona was losing faith in his mission , and most importantly was losing empathy and will to fight for Kauravas.( It is very similar to working for an organization that do not respect you )
His next day mission was not only capturing Yudhistir, but also to give something back to Pandavas. A stinging blow that would change the ethos of warfare, it will change the meaning of brutality.
Day 13 : Mission "Deadly Blow"
Now the Kauravas knew that Arjuna would be taken far far away from the battle field, Drona launched the "Padmavyooha" or the Chakravyooha . A disc of raging warriors revolving and rotating with rage to engulf the pandava army .
Pandavas had to break the raging disc of warriors , in the absence of Arjuna, his son Abhimanyu took on the mission to enter the Chakravyooha and break the chakravyooha
Day 13 : Results and Aftermath
While it is common knowledge is death of Abhimanyu , and oath of Arjuna to finish Jayadratha, what is commonly overlooked is what was Drona doing, and what happened to his mission. His plan was to capture Yudhistira and hence used the Padmavyooha to take Pandavas by surprise and capture their King. But the entry of Abhimanyu caused unimaginable problems for Drona.
Abhimanyu broke through the Padmavyooha, thereby dealing a blow to his idea of overpowering Pandava Army. He was causing severe damage to an already demotivated army. In fact Karna, Kripacharya, Duryodhana, Shakuni, Dusshasana,Kauravas sons were all running in despair. Drona praised Abhimanyu's valor and got the ire and mistrust of Duruyodhana as gift whose venom spewing mouth got more opportunity to abuse Drona. His entire focus shifted from capturing Yudhistir to saving the face for his army.
Luckily he had Jayadratha and his boon guarding the gates of Chakravyooha , he had to deal only with Abhimanyu. At this stage he was no longer the Guru admiring his disciple's son's valor , he was a commander who had to prove his integrity .
He realized that killing Abhimanyu was inevitable, and he was using " Kavacha Dharna ", a technique that Drona himself taught to Arjuna, a technique against which all the great Kaurava warriors were struggling. And multiple simultaneous attack was the only way to kill the young warrior.
Majority of us would know the brutality of Abhimanyu's murder, but if one looks through the lens of Drona, it saved his army, his pride for a day, the catch is - only for a day. What also transpired because of Abhimayu's martyrdom was that the Kaurava Army was depleted and the Pandavas were raging as every rule in the book was broken giving ammunition for the Pandavas to follow suit, It garnered the strength of pandavas focusing on retribution of their slain prince
But all these were lesser important outcomes, the most destructive thing for Kauravas was that the focus of mission has been shifted. Now it was to save Jayadratha and not capture Yudhistir.
Day 14 : Mission "Save Jayadratha"
Look at the transition of goal of Drona,from capturing Yudhistira to saving Jayadratha.
But Drona, did not lose focus on the mission completely. He set out a formation that was never heard of -a combination of SAKATA, PADMA and SOOCHI Vyooha. Hiding Jayadratha in the center of this complicated formation and placing himself at the entrance he formed a formidable line of defense. He believed that he could capture Yudhistira by staying at the gate which he did not do the earlier day. And focusing the energy of Arjuna on Jayadratha would only help. But the problem was Duruyodhana was more interested in seeing Arjuna dead, than his previous goal of capturing Yudhistira. Now let us see what happened
Day 14 : Results and Aftermath
Now the result again is common knowledge Jayadratha was killed , but what is not common knowledge is that Drona lost it all this day, he unleashed Divyastras on foot soldiers, he unleashed Rakshashas, he left Bheema, Satyaki, Arjuna into the Vyuha to focus on Yudhishtira.
But unfortunately Yudhistira was protected again by Dhrishtadyumna, King Drupada, Ghatotkacha, King Virata, Sahadeva, Sikhandi, sons of Droupadi and Nakula. Adding fuel to his failed mission, Bhima had defeated Karna, Satyaki had defeated Karna, Arjuna killed Jayadratha and the Kaurava army was completely dilapidated. If one looks closely, his non Kshatriya attitude played a role here; he let his top soldiers guarding Jayadratha and was fighting in the gate alone.
Arjuna had no possibility of getting close to Jayadratha, had Karna and other powerful warriors fought with him at the gate. Moreover as Duruyodhana says what was the need to hide Jayadratha in the battlefield. They could have hid him anywhere and make Arjuna chase him.He was taken away by emotions when Jayadratha cried for protection and Arjuna challenged him to save Jayadratha, Drona's focus vacillated and he set out with too many priorities.
This day also introduces for the first time the impact of Raksha Prince GHATOTKACHA.
Day 14 midnight and Day 15 : Mission "I capture or I Die"
Drona was again humiliated by Duruyodhana. He said
"O Preceptor Drona! not only today, every day we are being defeated and Pandavas are gaining victory. Including several of my brothers, several Kaurava warriors are slain. At the hands of Sikhandi, Bhishma had fallen. We lost seven Akshouhini army. Today we lost Jayadratha. Several kings who have come here to fight on my behalf, have lost their lives.The only task remains before me is either to kill Yudhistira and his brothers and rule this entire earth or to die in the battle and join my friends. If there is any third method, kindly tell me. I will follow. I know Arjuna is your dearest student. Hence you are not killing him, even though he is within your reach. In our army, the only warrior who is fighting for my victory is Karna. You have got great skills. But you are not helping us. Though, Karna tried his level best to save Jayadratha, he could not. Having got the skill and capacity in abundance to save Jayadratha, you did not. I do not know what to do"
Not withstanding any more Drona promised , i would either capture Yudhistira or die, please inform Aswatthama on my behalf. And this was the first time war extended beyond day light , Drona did not bother as he was focused on getting Yudhistira.
Day 14 midnight and Day 15 : Results and Aftermath
The first time war went beyond day light.
Drona massacring the army of Panchala. It also saw Aswatthama in never before form , he killed mighty Pandava warriors and also destroyed Ghatotkacha who fell unconscious.
Draupada was killed by Drona Virata was killed by Drona. On pandavas side Bheema was in murderous mood killing Kauravas after Kauravas.
Karna was also in great mood; he massacred the pandava troop in a way that was never seen before. He almost provided all the fuel that was required to keep Arjuna, Satyaki at bay so that Drona could focus on Yudhistira. At this moment Krishna blinked and came up with the idea of pushing Ghatotkacha who gains immense strength during nights to take on Karna and Kaurava army. It's popular belief that GHATOTKACHA was a master stroke by Krishna to save Arjuna from the danger of Karna's Shakthi weapon, it indeed was but not a planned one. The genius of Krishna is not pre-planned master strokes but war strategies during war, moves based on how the war unfolded on the day, Unlike other war strategist Krishna was impactful because of his presence of mind.The incident of GHATOTKACHA was one such. Ghatotkacha was slained on the 14th night.
And on 15th day, Arjuna shifted focus on protecting Yudhistir and took on Drona. And finally, with the kind of destruction inflicted by Drona, pandavas come up with the strategy of simulating Ashwathama's death, Yudhishtira makes the "Ashwathama elephant " announcement and eventually the demoralized Drona is decapitated by Drishtadhyumna. Throughout his tenure as the commander in chief, Drona's desperation was very much visible and it played a big part in the transition of the war from an unbelievably just war driven by principles to a bloody war where no once cared for rules. It was during his tenure that the balance in fact shifted completely to the Pandava side, for they had a strategist, who without the bounds of rules, was much smarter than everyone else in that battlefield.