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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
“Janamejaya said, ‘O Brahmana, it behoveth thee to relate to me everything about the birth of Kripa. How did he spring from a clump of heath? Whence also did he obtain his weapons?’
“Vaisampayana said, ‘O king, the great sage Gautama had a son named Saradwat. This Saradwat was born with arrows (in hand). O oppressor of foes, the son of Gautama exhibited great aptitude for the study of the science of weapons, but none for the other sciences. Saradwat acquired all his weapons by those austerities by which Brahmanas in student life acquire the knowledge of Vedas. Gautama (the son of Gotama) by his aptitude for the science of weapons and by his austerities made Indra himself greatly afraid of him. Then, O thou of Kuru’s race, the chief of the gods summoned a celestial damsel named Janapadi and sent her unto Gautama, saying, ‘Do thy best to disturb the austerities of Gautama.’ Repairing unto the charming asylum of Saradwat, the damsel began to tempt the ascetic equipped with bow and arrows. Beholding that Apsara, of figure unrivalled on earth for beauty, alone in those woods and clad in a single piece of cloth, Saradwat’s eyes expanded with delight. At the sight of the damsel, his bow and arrows slipped from his hand and his frame shook all over with emotion; but possessed of ascetic fortitude and strength of soul, the sage mustered sufficient patience to bear up against the temptation. The suddenness, however, of his mental agitation, caused an unconscious emission of his vital fluid. Leaving his bow and arrows and deer-skin behind, he went away, flying from the Apsara. His vital fluid, however, having fallen upon a clump of heath, was divided into two parts, whence sprang two children that were twins.
“And it happened that a soldier in attendance upon king Santanu while the monarch was out a-hunting in the woods, came upon the twins. And seeing the bow and arrows and deer-skin on the ground, he thought they might be the offspring of some Brahmana proficient in the science of arms. Deciding thus, he took up the children along with the bow and arrows, and showed what he had to the king. Beholding them the king was moved with pity, and saying, ‘Let these become my children,’ brought them to his palace. Then that first of men, Santanu, the son of Pratipa having brought Gautama’s twins into his house, performed in respect of them the usual rites of religion. And he began to bring them up and called them Kripa and Kripi, in allusion to the fact that he brought them up from motives of pity (Kripa). The son of Gotama having left his former asylum, continued his study of the science of arms in right earnest. By his spiritual insight he learnt that his son and daughter were in the palace of Santanu. He thereupon went to the monarch and represented everything about his lineage. He then taught Kripa the four branches of the science of arms, and various other branches of knowledge, including all their mysteries and recondite details. In a short time Kripa became an eminent professor of the science (of arms). And the hundred sons of Dhritarashtra, and the Pandavas along with the Yadavas, and the Vrishnis, and many other princes from various lands, began to receive lessons from him in that science.’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Desirous of giving his grandsons a superior education, Bhishma was on the look-out for a teacher endued with energy and well-skilled in the science of arms. Deciding, O chief of the Bharatas, that none who was not possessed of great intelligence, none who was not illustrious or a perfect master of the science of arms, none who was not of godlike might, should be the instructor of the Kuru (princes), the son of Ganga, O tiger among men, placed the Pandavas and the Kauravas under the tuition of Bharadwaja’s son, the intelligent Drona skilled in all the Vedas. Pleased with the reception given him by the great Bhishma, that foremost of all men skilled in arms, viz., illustrious Drona of world-wide fame, accepted the princes as his pupils. And Drona taught them the science of arms in all its branches. And, O monarch, both the Kauravas and the Pandavas endued with immeasurable strength, in a short time became proficient in the use of all kinds of arms.’
“Janamejaya asked, ‘O Brahmana, how was Drona born? How and whence did he acquire his arms? How and why came he unto the Kurus? Whose son also was he endued with such energy? Again, how was his son Aswatthaman, the foremost of all skilled in arms born? I wish to hear all this! Please recite them in detail.’
“Vaisampayana said, ‘There dwelt at the source of the Ganga, a great sage named Bharadwaja, ceaselessly observing the most rigid vows. One day, of old, intending to celebrate the Agnihotra sacrifice he went along with many great Rishis to the Ganga to perform his ablutions. Arrived at the bank of the stream, he saw Ghritachi herself, that Apsara endued with youth and beauty, who had gone there a little before. With an expression of pride in her countenance, mixed with a voluptuous languor of attitude, the damsel rose from the water after her ablutions were over. And as she was gently treading on the bank, her attire which was loose became disordered. Seeing her attire disordered, the sage was smitten with burning desire.
The next moment his vital fluid came out, in consequence of the violence of his emotion. The Rishi immediately held it in a vessel called a drona. Then, O king, Drona sprang from the fluid thus preserved in that vessel by the wise Bharadwaja. And the child thus born studied all the Vedas and their branches. Before now Bharadwaja of great prowess and the foremost of those possessing a knowledge of arms, had communicated to the illustrious Agnivesa, a knowledge of the weapon called Agneya. O foremost one of Bharata’s race, the Rishi (Agnivesa) sprung from fire now communicated the knowledge of that great weapon to Drona the son of his preceptor.
“There was a king named Prishata who was a great friend of Bharadwaja. About this time Prishata had a son born unto him, named Drupada. And that bull among Kshatriyas, viz., Drupada, the son of Prishata, used every day to come to the hermitage of Bharadwaja to play with Drona and study in his company. O monarch, when Prishata was dead, this Drupada of mighty arms became the king of the northern Panchalas. About this time the illustrious Bharadwaja also ascended to heaven. Drona continuing to reside in his father’s hermitage devoted himself to ascetic austerities. Having become well-versed in the Vedas and their branches and having burnt also all his sins by asceticism, the celebrated Drona, obedient to the injunctions of his father and moved by the desire of offspring married Kripi, the daughter of Saradwat. And this woman, ever engaged in virtuous acts and the Agnihotra, and the austerest of penances, obtained a son named Aswatthaman. And as soon as Aswatthaman was born, he neighed like the (celestial) steed Ucchaihsravas. Hearing that cry, an invisible being in the skies said, ‘The voice of this child hath, like the neighing of a horse, been audible all around. The child shall, therefore, be known by the name of Aswatthaman, (the horse-voiced). The son of Bharadwaja (Drona) was exceedingly glad at having obtained that child. Continuing to reside in that hermitage he devoted himself to the study of the science of arms.
“O king, it was about this time that Drona heard that the illustrious Brahmana Jamadagnya, that slayer of foes, that foremost one among all wielders of weapons, versed in all kinds of knowledge, had expressed a desire of giving away all his wealth to Brahmanas. Having heard of Rama’s knowledge of arms and of his celestial weapons also, Drona set his heart upon them as also upon the knowledge of morality that Rama possessed. Then Drona of mighty arms, endued with high ascetic virtues, accompanied by disciples who were all devoted to vows ascetic austerities, set out for the Mahendra mountains. Arrived at Mahendra, the son of Bharadwaja possessed of high ascetic merit, beheld the son of Bhrigu, the exterminator of all foes, endued with great patience and with mind under complete control. Then, approaching with his disciples that scion of the Bhrigu race Drona, giving him his name, told him of his birth in the line of Angiras. And touching the ground with his head, he worshipped Rama’s feet. And beholding the illustrious son of Jamadagni intent upon retiring into the woods after having given away all his wealth, Drona said, ‘Know me to have sprung from Bharadwaja, but not in any woman’s womb! I am a Brahmana of high birth, Drona by name, come to thee with the desire of obtaining thy wealth.’
“On hearing him, that illustrious grinder of the Kshatriya race replied, Thou art welcome, O best of regenerate ones! Tell me what thou desirest. Thus addressed by Rama, the son of Bharadwaja replied unto that foremost of all smiters, desirous of giving away the whole of his wealth, ‘O thou of multifarious vows, I am a candidate for thy eternal wealth,’ ‘O thou of ascetic wealth, returned Rama, ‘My gold and whatever other wealth I had, have all been given away unto Brahmanas! This earth also, to the verge of the sea, decked with towns and cities, as with a garland of flowers, I have given unto Kasyapa. I have now my body only and my various valuable weapons left. I am prepared to give either my body or my weapons. Say, which thou wouldst have! I would give it thee! Say quickly!’
“Drona answered, O son of Bhrigu, it behoveth thee to give me all thy weapons together with the mysteries of hurling and recalling them.’
“Saying, ‘So be it,’ the son of Bhrigu gave all his weapons unto Drona,–indeed, the whole science of arms with its rules and mysteries. Accepting them all, and thinking himself amply rewarded that best of Brahmanas then, glad at heart, set out, for (the city of) his friend Drupada.’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Then, O king, the mighty son of Bharadyaja presented himself before Drupada, and addressing that monarch, said, ‘Know me for thy friend.’ Thus addressed by his friend, the son of Bharadwaja, with a joyous heart, the lord of the Panchalas was ill-able to bear that speech. The king, intoxicated with the pride of wealth, contracted his brows in wrath, and with reddened eyes spake these words unto Drona, ‘O Brahmana, thy intelligence is scarcely of a high order, inasmuch as thou sayest unto me, all on a sudden, that thou art my friend! O thou of dull apprehension, great kings can never be friends with such luckless and indigent wights as thou! It is true there had been friendship between thee and me before, for we were then both equally circumstanced. But Time that impaireth everything in its course, impaireth friendship also. In this world, friendship never endureth for ever in any heart. Time weareth it off and anger destroyeth it too. Do not stick, therefore, to that worn-off friendship. Think not of it any longer.
The friendship I had with thee, O first of Brahmanas, was for a particular purpose. Friendship can never subsist between a poor man and a rich man, between a man of letters and an unlettered mind, between a hero and a coward. Why dost thou desire the continuance of our former friendship? There may be friendship or hostility between persons equally situated as to wealth or might. The indigent and the affluent can neither be friends nor quarrel with each other. One of impure birth can never be a friend to one of pure birth; one who is not a car-warrior can never be a friend to one who is so; and one who is not a king never have a king for his friend. Therefore, why dost thou desire the continuance of our former friendship?’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Thus addressed by Drupada, the mighty son of Bharadwaja became filled with wrath, and reflecting for a moment, made up his mind as to his course of action. Seeing the insolence of the Panchala king, he wished to check it effectually. Hastily leaving the Panchala capital Drona bent his steps towards the capital of the Kurus, named after the elephant.’”
“Vaisampayana said, ‘Arrived at Hastinapura, that best of Brahmanas, the son of Bharadwaja, continued to live privately in the house of Gautama (Kripa). His mighty son (Aswatthaman) at intervals of Kripa’s teaching, used to give the sons of Kunti lessons in the use of arms. But as yet none knew of Aswatthaman’s prowess.
“Drona had thus lived privately for some time in the house of Kripa when one day the heroic princes, all in a company, came out of Hastinapura. And coming out of the city, they began to play with a ball and roam about in gladness of heart. And it so happened that the ball with which they had been playing fell into a well. And thereupon the princes strove their best to recover it from the well. But all the efforts the princes made to recover it proved futile.
They then began to eye one another bashfully, and not knowing how to recover it, their anxiety became great. Just at this time they beheld a Brahmana near enough unto them, of darkish hue, decrepit and lean, sanctified by the performance of the Agnihotra and who had finished his daily rites of worship. And beholding that illustrious Brahmana, the princes who had despaired of success surrounded him immediately. Drona (for that Brahmana was no other), seeing the princes unsuccessful, and conscious of his own skill, smiled a little, and addressing them said, ‘Shame on your Kshatriya might, and shame also on your skill in arms! You have been born in the race of Bharata! How is it that ye cannot recover the ball (from the bottom of this well)? If ye promise me a dinner today, I will, with these blades of grass, bring up not only the ball ye have lost but this ring also that I now throw down!’ Thus saying, Drona that oppressor of foes, taking off his ring, threw it down into the dry well. Then Yudhishthira, the son of Kunti, addressing Drona, said, ‘O Brahmana (thou askest for a trifle)! Do thou, with Kripa’s permission, obtain of us that which would last thee for life!’ Thus addressed, Drona with smiles replied unto the Bharata princes, saying, ‘This handful of long grass I would invest, by my mantras, with the virtue of weapons. Behold these blades possess virtues that other weapons, have not! I will, with one of these blades, pierce the ball, and then pierce that blade with another, and that another with a third, and thus shall I, by a chain, bring up the ball.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Then Drona did exactly what he had said. And the princes were all amazed and their eyes expanded with delight. And regarding what they had witnessed to be very extraordinary, they said, O learned Brahmana, do thou bring up the ring also without loss of time.’
“Then the illustrious Drona, taking a bow with an arrow, pierced the ring with that arrow and brought it up at once. And taking the ring thus brought up from the well still pierced with his arrow, he coolly gave it to the astonished princes. Then the latter, seeing the ring thus recovered, said, ‘We bow to thee, O Brahmana! None else owneth such skill. We long to know who thou art and whose son. What also can we do for thee?’
“Thus addressed, Drona replied unto the princes, saying, ‘Do ye repair unto Bhishma and describe to him my likeness and skill. The mighty one will recognize me.’ The princes then saying, ‘So be it,’ repaired unto Bhishma and telling him of the purport of that Brahmana’s speech, related everything about his (extraordinary) feat. Hearing everything from the princes, Bhishma at once understood that the Brahmana was none else than Drona, and thinking that he would make the best preceptor for the princes, went in person unto him and welcoming him respectfully, brought him over to the place. Then Bhishma, that foremost of all wielders of arms, adroitly asked him the cause of his arrival at Hastinapura. Asked by him, Drona represented everything as it had happened, saying, ‘O sir, in times past I went to the great Rishi Agnivesa for obtaining from him his weapons, desirous also of learning the science of arms. Devoted to the service of my preceptor, I lived with him for many years in the humble guise of a Brahmacharin, with matted locks on my head. At that time, actuated by the same motives, the prince of Panchala, the mighty Yajnasena, also lived in the same asylum. He became my friend, always seeking my welfare. I liked him much. Indeed, we lived together for many, many years. O thou of Kuru’s race, from our earliest years we had studied together and, indeed, he was my friend from boyhood, always speaking and doing what was agreeable to me. For gratifying me, O Bhishma, he used to tell me, ‘O Drona, I am the favourite child of my illustrious father. When the king installeth me as monarch of the Panchalas, the kingdom shall be thine. O friend, this, indeed, is my solemn promise. My dominion, wealth and happiness, shall all be dependent on thee.’ At last the time came for his departure. Having finished his studies, he bent his steps towards his country. I offered him my regards at the time, and, indeed, I remembered his words ever afterwards.
“Some time after, in obedience to the injunctions of my father and tempted also by the desire of offspring, I married Kripi of short hair, who gifted with great intelligence, had observed many rigid vows, and was ever engaged in the Agnihotra and other sacrifices and rigid austerities. Gautami, in time, gave birth to a son named Aswatthaman of great prowess and equal in splendour unto the Sun himself. Indeed, I was pleased on having obtained Aswatthaman as much as my father had been on obtaining me.