Since childhood, I am a diehard fan of comics. When I got interested in our ancient heritage, I was not expecting a comic strip on walls of a thousand year old temple in Karnataka. Today we are seeing rather interesting sculpture, depicting a scene from war. This sculpture remembers the great heroes from legendary war of Mahabharata. But before we get into the sculpture, we have to go back few thousand years ago, when the gods used to walk among us.
It’s said that when Varaha saved earth (Bhudevi) from the grasp of demon Hiranyaksha, she gave birth to a demon named Narakasur. As a gift to this new born, Lord Varaha gave one of his tusk to use it as a weapon. Narkasur grew all powerful and mighty. During his childhood, he carried a nearly impossible penance of Lord Vishnu and got a boon of various celestial weapons or Astras. Bumidevi herself asked Vishnu for one more legendary weapon for his son, so that he will be invincible by both Gods and Demons alike. In Mahabharata, Lord Vyasa says,
देवानां दानवानां च अवध्यस्तनयोSस्तु मे। उपेतो वैष्णवास्त्रेण तन्मे त्वं दातुर्महसी।।
एवं वरमहं श्रुत्वा जगत्यास्तनये तदा। अमोघमस्त्रं प्रायच्छं वैष्णवं परमं पुरा।।
Bhudevi said, Oh dear Lord, please let my son be undefeated by both Demigods and Deamons alike, please empower him with your weapon Vaishanvastra. By listening to her request, I (Vishnu in the form of Krishna) gave him my legendary weapon Vaishnavastra and, by gifting this weapon, I assured Bhudevi, that this celestial weapon will protect Narkasura from all the enemies.
Being a demon, like his predecessors, he begun seeking immortality. For it, he performed penance to lord Brahma, but was failed in the attempt. Like his ancestors, he settled for such a boon, that made him nearly invincable. Thinking, no mother can kill her own child, the mighty Rakshasa asked for a boon, where he only shall be killed by his mother, and only if she wishes for it. With his might and with the help of the legendary weapons granted by the Lord Vishnu, he created havock in three worlds. By establishing a powerful kingdom named Prag Jyotisha Pura, he started tormenting the pious people of earth.
Centuries passed, and the age of Krishna begun. Lord Krishna got the news, that Nakrakasur had abducted sixteen thousand women and locked them away. Lord could not stand by idle, turning his eyes away from the atrocities of the demon. And thus war broke down between Krishna’s Narayani army against the Rakshasaj.
Satyabhama, Lord Krishna’s wife joined him in this righteous battle. After a fierce battle, Krishan killed a mighty demon named Mura, who was general of Narkasur. Becuase of that, Lord Krishna got the name Murari, or the one who killed Mura. After that, mighty Narkasyra appeared in the battlefield. Krishna fought with Narakasura, for day and night, as were equally matched for each other in strength. Seeing Krishna getting stronger and stronger, Narkasura drawn his special weapon, gifted by Varaha and struck down Krishna with it.
As the Varaha tusk hit Krishna, he fell unconscious and the demon army cheered with joy. But furious Satyabhama picked up the fight and started batteling the Demon king all be herself. Now, Narkasura didn’t knew at that time, but Satyabhama was none other than the Bhudevi herself, incarnated. She overpowered the mighty demon with little or no effort. In short time, Krishna regains the consciousness, and with him, Satyabhama killed the demon. The night on which Satyabhama and Krishna killed the demon Naraka was the dark night of Chaturdashi, still celebrated as Narak Chaturdashi or Diwali. Post that, Krishna along with Satyabhama and Garuda headed towards Swarga, where, for the first time, he saw the Parijata tree, which turned out to be yet another cause of war in between Krishna and Indra.
Many years passed by, and Narkasura’s son Bhagadatta came on the throne of Pragjyotisha kingdom. With all the weapons gathered by his father, he participated in the great Kurukshetra war from the Kaurava’s side along with his legendary elephant army. On 12th day, agitated by the destruction caused by Pandavas, Duryodhana attacked Bhimsena with his elephant army.
स नाग इव नागेन गोव्रुषेणेव गोव्रुषः। समाहुताः स्वयम् राद्न्या नागानिकमुपाद्रवत् ॥
So, just like an elephant takes on another elephant, just like a bull takes on another bull, same as that, after being challenged by the Duryodhana, Bhima attacked the entire army of elephant.
विघमेदभ्र्जालानि यथा वायुः समुद्धतः। व्यधमत् तान्यनिकानि तथैव् पवनत्मजः॥
ते भीमबाणाभीहता: संस्यूता विबभूर्गजा:। गभस्तिभिरीवार्कस्य व्योमन्नी नानबला हका:।।
Just like a strong winds scatter the clouds, Pavanaputra Bhima decimated those elephant platoons. These dead elephants piled up on each other were looking just like the intertwined shining clods in the sky, illuminated by the sun rays.
Seeing Duryodhana in trouble, Bagadatta riding his legendary elephant Supratika came to his rescue. The Supratika was from the lineage of mighty Airavata, the vehicle of Lord Indra. Supratika attacked Bhima with his two front legs and the trunk.
With intense anger, Supratika destroyed Bhima’s chariot. Escaping at the last moment, Bhima managed to hide in between the two legs of that gigantic creature. Then Lord Vyasa writes,
पद्भयांभिमोsप्यथो धावंम्तस्य गात्रेष्वलीयत| जानन्नञ्जजुलीकावेधं नापाक्रामत पाण्डव:||
गात्राभ्यन्तरगो भूत्वा करणेताडयन्मुहु:। लालयामास तं नागं वधाकाङ्क्षिणमव्ययम।।
To save himself from the wrath of mighty Supratika, Bhima hide under the elephant’s gigantic body, instead of runnig away from him. Bhima, the son of Pandu was an expert in art of Anjulikawedh. (Its said, that there lies a special spot in between elephant’s front feet, when patted skilfully, makes the elephant docile, even when the Mahut sitting above, pokes the elephant with sharp spear.) So, by patting the lower body of the elephant, Bhima started to pat Supratika. This made the elephant stood idle, and seeing the exact window of opportunity, Bhima got out and stood in front of the elephant.
भिमोSपी निष्कर्म्य तत: सुप्रतीकाग्रतोSभवत। भीमं करेणावनम्य जानूभ्यामभ्य ताडयत।।
ग्रीवायां वेष्टयीत्वैनं स गजो हन्तुमैहत। करवेष्टम भीमसेनो भ्रमं दत्वा व्यमो चयत।।
When Bhima stood in front of the elephant, it tried to grip Bhima in his trunk and squish min with his front legs. Supratika tried to chock Bhima with the trunk, but Bhima made him disoriented, and escaped from the firm grip of elephant. Once again, Bhima took shelter under that gigantic creature.
After making the elephant chase its tail for a while, Bhima swiftly escaped from that death trap. And as soon as he escaped, Yudhishthir surrounded Bhagadatta from every side, with the help of Panchal army.
Now, lets get back to this sculpture we are looking at. Here, you can take a look at Bhima, strangled by Supratika, by his powerful trunk. And in the same sculpture, you can see Bhima escaping from the firm grip of Supratika and jumping over the elephant, trying to hit Bhagadatta with his mace.
Elephant Supratika’s Mahaut is trying to control the elephant with the help of goad while Bhagadatta is shooting Bhima with an arrow.
What happened to Bhagadatta in Kurukshetra?
On 12th day, bloodiest ever battled went on, and suddenly, Supratika came in front of the Chariot driven by the Lord Krishna himself. Krishna warned Arjuna, saying, Dear Parth, look at this King and his elephant. He is as brave and as skilful as Lord Indra himself. His elephant is the mightiest elephant in the world. He can be defeated only by both of us, together. He is fireproof, and if not stopped, can finish the Pandava army today.
Bhagadatta was very old indeed. Several folds of wrinkles on his forehead were used to blind him. He use to wear a beautiful headband around his forehead, tying his forehead wrinkles and eyelids, keeping his eyes open.
War broke down between the Old warrior Bhagadatta, and Arjuna. Bhagadatta first targeted Lord Krishna and showered him with the pointy arrows which pierced Krishna in several places. Seeing this, Arjun killed Bhagadatta’s generals and he prepared himself for tough battle against Bhagadatta.
Bhagadatta threw 14 mallets towards Arjuna’s chariot, but Arjuna intercepted all of them mid-air, and turn them into small pieces. Post that, Arjuna shattered the heavy armour of Supratika.
Seeing this, yet once again, Bhagadatta shot his heavy mallet towards Arjuna. It collided with Arjuna’s crown, and it fell down on the ground. As Arjuna picked up the crown and placed it over his head, he said, O King Bhagadatta, please take a look at this world very carefully, for the last time. Hearing this, Bhagadatta picked up a powerful bow, and started showering both Krishna and Arjuna with sharp arrows.
Without losing the concentration, Kuntiputra destroyed that mighty bow of Bhagadatta. Being desperate, Bhagadatta started chanting Mantras for activating Vaishnavastra. Aiming towards Arjua’s chest, Bhagadatta released Vaishnavastra, but all of a sudden, Krishna stood up in front of this destructive weapon, and took the blow of that legendary weapon on his chest.
That mighty weapon got converted into an angelic garland, called Vaijayanti Mala. From onwards, Lord Krishna wouldn’t be depicted without this awesome garland. Seeing Bhagadatta overpowering the battle, Krishna asked Partha to aim for the band on Bhagadatta’s forehead. Without losing a second, Arjuna redirected his aim, and Bhagadattas head was free from the beautiful piece of cloth. Old King had several folds of forehead wrinkles and heavy eyelids, which made him practically blind. Without wasting any time, seizing the opportunity, Arjuna pierce Bhagadatta’s chest with a powerful arrow. Finally, old King Bhagadatta, grandson of legendary demon Narkasura was killed by Krishna’s disciple, Arjuna.
Mahabharat, By Pundit Ramnarayandatta Shastri Pandeya ‘Raam’, Geeta Press, Gorakhpur, Bharat