When Amarendra Bahubali reminded me of Arjuna

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Prologue: Amarendra Bahubali

यन्नेहास्ति न तत् क्वचित्॥

~Mahabharata

There is a reason why they call Mahabharata as the ‘Fifth Veda’: it’s all-encompassing nature. Naturally, it has inspired poets, writers, for centuries. Even after the motion picture revolution, it continues to cast spell on moviemakers, directly or indirectly and the makers of Bahubali are no exception to it.

In the second part of the series, Amarendra Bahubali, the protagonist of the movie and the crown prince of Mahishmati, sets on a tour of the country in a disguise. He reaches a small kingdom called Kuntala, where he falls in love with its princess Devasena. There he finds a relative of Devasena named as Kumara Varma, who is very boastful of his Martial skills and is a very personification of the saying ‘Empty vessels make more noise’. On the other hand, Amarendra Bahubali, the unassailable warrior, wears the cloak of cowardice and remains in disguise.

However, one-day Kuntala is attacked by a tribe called Pindari. Being vastly outnumbered and lacking strong leadership, Bahubali abandons his disguise and orchestrates the war, while Kumara Varma, out of fear of death, hides in the women’s chamber. When Bahubali enters the women’s chamber Kumara Varma rushes to the former for help. A mean man would have ridiculed Kumara Varma. A mediocre man would have spoon-fed by helping him. However, Bahubali inspires him, reminding him of his warrior duties with the words “Every coward gets a chance to shred his cowardice. This is your chance to bring out the brave man in you!”

As a result, an inspired Kumara Varma not only protects himself but also rescues the women in the chamber (to die a brave death later on in the movie). At the same time, Bahubali protects the kingdom of Kuntala with his superhuman skills and resourcefulness.

Keechaka

After the unfortunate game of dice, the Pandavas were forced to serve a 12-year exile and 1 year of incognito. If they were discovered during their incognito, they would have had to repeat the entire cycle of 12-year exile and a year of incognito. Having completed the former successfully, they began their year of incognito in the kingdom of Matsya, south to the Kuru Kingdom.

A King called Virata was ruling Matsya, while its army was led by the King’s brother-in-law Keechaka, who was an extremely powerful warrior. Yudhishthira disguised himself as a brahmin called Kanka, acting as a minister to the King. Bheema became Valava, the royal cook, while Nakula and Sahadeva became Granthika and Tantipala respectively. Draupadi acted as a maidservant to Sudeshna, the queen of Virata and was called as Malini. Lastly, Arjuna disguised himself as Brihannala, the eunuch, who taught dance and music to the princess Uttara.

Towards the end of the year of incognito, Keechaka, the commander of the army came back to Matsya after a year of conquest. When he met the queen, he was smitten by her beautiful maidservant Malini i.e. Draupadi in disguise. In the process of wooing Draupadi, Keechaka tried to force himself on her in the presence of the King, who failed to act against his powerful commander. Hence in order to avenge Draupadi’s insult, the Pandavas hatched a plan to kill Keechaka. The following night, Bheema challenged him for a duel in the empty hall of music and killed him brutally.

Duryodhana’s guess

The news of the powerful Keechaka’s brutal murder reached Duryodhana. It was a popular belief in those days that Keechaka could be humbled by 4 warriors viz. Balarama, Shalya, Duryodhana and Bheema. The descriptions of Keechaka’s murder hinted towards Bheema. Hence, in order to break the Pandavas’ anonymity, Duryodhana hatched a plan along with a friend of his viz Susharma, the king of Trigarta, who attacked Matsya from the south. In retaliation, the Matsya King Virata launched a full-scale offensive against Susharma. With the help of Yudhishthira, Bheema, Nakula, Sahadeva, Virata vanquished Susharma.

Simultaneously, the Kauravas launched an attack from the Northern boundary of Matsya. With a section of the army led by the likes of Bheeshma, Drona, Kripa, Ashwatthama, Karna, Duryodhana, Dusshasana, Vikarna etc. the Kurus captured the cattle of the Matsya kingdom. The news reached the royal house which had the womenfolk along with a handful of soldiers and the crown prince Uttar Kumar.

Uttar Kumar stepped up and boasted “I will easily recover the cattle. I will defeat the Kurus including Bhishma, Drona, Karna and perform feats equal to that of Arjuna himself. However, I need a skilled charioteer who can skillfully manoeuvre my car.”

The womenfolk, however, were not so sure about the same.

The eunuch

Hearing this brag, Draupadi, who was known as Malini, stepped up and recommended Arjuna, who was disguised as Brihannala for the ‘esteemed’ charioteer position of Uttar Kumar. After certain deliberations, Uttar took Arjuna as his charioteer and set out to face the Kurus. But as they reached near the Kurus, the very sight of the gigantic army along with stalwarts like Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Kripa, Ashwatthama, Duryodhana etc. made Uttar lose courage. Out of apprehension, he abandoned the chariot and started running. Arjuna followed caught hold of him. Placing Uttar in the front of the Chariot, Arjuna decided to fight the battle himself.

He took Uttar to a cemetery where the Pandavas had hidden their weapons. After recovering his world-famous bow Gandiva, he revealed his identity to Uttar. Furthermore, addressing him with kind words Arjuna said, “It’s not shameful to admit your fears. However, running away is shameful. Be my charioteer and watch me defeat the Kurus.”

Having recognized the glorious Arjuna and hearing his kind and encouraging words, Uttar took up the reins of the chariot of the greatest warrior of those times. While Arjuna decimated the Kuru host, Uttar skillfully drove his car without fear (mind you, it isn’t easy!). Eventually, Arjuna defeated the Kurus and took the cattle back to the kingdom.

This incident transformed Uttar into a different man. He died a brave death at the hands of Shalya on the first day of the Kurukshetra war.

Epilogue: the greatness of heroes

There is no dearth of superiority complex amongst people. It is quite common for more competent people to look down upon lesser men. However, Arjuna was a great soul and so is the character of Amarendra Bahubali. Apart from performing superhuman feats themselves, these true heroes inspire greatness in people and bring out the best in everyone around them.

Also Read: ARJUNA: WARFARE IN POETRY

 



Prasad Kulkarni is a Data and Analytics professional. At work, he analyses historical data and ponders over historical events otherwise.


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