Once the 11 akshauhini armies of Kauravas, along with numerous titans of warfare viz. Bhishma, Drona, Karna and Shalya perished, Duryodhana, who was burning with anger and resentment, rushed to Dvaipayana lake situated within the Kurukshetra battlefield-which was also called as Shyamantapanchaka, the land of five lakes-and penetrated into it, also solidifying it with his power of illusion.
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However, the Pandavas could not be considered as victors until and unless Duryodhana remained unconquered. Hence, instead of celebrating and occupying the enemy camp, the Pandavas went in search of Duryodhana and reached the solidified lake with the help of hunters. Having seen Duryodhana, he who ruled the Nation, he who commanded the greatest warriors of the age, in such a pitiable state, Yudhishthira was overcome with grief. However, Krishna reminded him of all the miseries caused by the son of Dhritarashtra. Reinvigorated by Krishna’s words, Yudhishthira came to a more aggressive form and challenged Duryodhana for a duel, while granting him the discretion to choose his weapon as well as his target.
Pouncing upon this chance, Duryodhana chose the weapon he loved the most: the mace while, Bhima took up the challenge of facing him. What followed was probably the greatest mace fight ever heard of. Sparks flew out of clashing maces during the fight which was conducted under the supervision of Balarama, who was the preceptor of mace fight for both the enemies. However, after a while, Duryodhana seemed to get an upper hand, leaving Bhima struggling for breath. Krishna measured the gravity of the situation and reminded Arjuna of Bheema’s oath of breaking Duryodhana’s thigh. When Draupadi was being humiliated in that fated game of dice, Bhima had vowed to break Duryodhana’s thigh, although it is disallowed in a mace fight, since Duryodhana had invited her to sit on his thigh.
In a gesture to remind Bhima of his oath, Arjuna started cheering him, while simultaneously slapping his own thigh. The latter took the clue and as Duryodhana was about to deliver a death blow, Bhima smashed his thigh with his mace, bringing down the great warrior.
Duryodhana with his road to invincibility!
Anyone who is familiar with the literature of Mahabharata knows that although Duryodhana was a great warrior, he was vanquished multiple times by the likes of Arjuna, Bhima, and even Yudhishthira. So, how did he become invincible all of a sudden?
Folklore goes on to say that Gandhari- Duryodhana’s mother- with her power of austerities had cast Duryodhana’s body into an iron frame. However, this story has been refuted by all the authentic texts of Mahabharata including and especially the critical edition. One might argue that Duryodhana was a more skilled warrior than Bhima since, there are instances in the epic where Krishna admits Duryodhana to be a better mace-fighter, although Bhima being stronger of the two. This argument cannot be refuted and could be one factor to the invincibility of Duryodhana.
However, there is another factor of ‘Nothing to lose’ attitude and I personally vouch for it to be the deciding one. Duryodhana’s words while accepting Yudhisthira’s challenge in the Dvaipayana lake provide testimony to this attitude:
” I have no desire for the kingdom, deprived as I am of friends and allies, O Bharata! Reft almost entirely of friends and allies, of heroes and elephants, this earth exists for thee, O king! “‘
Duryodhana’s attitude and frame of mind in this context are also substantiated by Sanjaya’s description to Dhritarashtra:
“Standing in battle like a very lion, Duryodhana had no fear, no alarm, no pain, no anxiety.”
Duryodhana’s glorious moment
The workings of the human mind aren’t easy to decipher. It works at it’s best when devoid of any entanglements, when it has nothing to gain or lose, as Chanakya quotes in his famous niti:
“If people could hold on to the mindset possessed in the funeral ground, everyone would be enlightened”.
Any action performed in this state of mind transcends to a different dimension altogether. There is a reason why Krishna preaches disentanglement to Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita. Although being the greatest opponent of Krishna, Duryodhana lived the former’s words, at least in his own death, if not life.