from Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling (2)

by Carole Satyamurti 1939-2019

Then the weather broke. First came the wind
whipping the sea to frothy peaks and troughs,
bullying the trees to bow before it.
Then the rain: a few large drops at first
followed by blue forked lightning, which lit up
the lashing sea; and then the deafening crash,
the cannonades of thunder so explosive
it was as if immortal gods were battling
for supremacy. The black clouds burst,
the long-awaited rain swept down in sheets
pounding, sluicing over the thirsty land.
Everything that lived opened itself
to the reviving torrent.


How could it not end in tragedy
when no help was at hand for Abhimanyu?
One by one, his weapons were destroyed,
his bow broken, his chariot smashed, his spear
splintered. Finally he fought on foot,
only a mace to defend himself, for now
he was the target more than the attacker.
As cowardly wolves prefer to hunt in packs,
six of the most powerful Kauravas . . . .
set upon the exhausted Abhimanyu.
These were great warriors; they knew full well
that a mob attack on a lone opponent
was contrary to dharma. Yet they did it. . . .
Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s best beloved,
beautiful in death as he was in life.
fell to earth and did not move again.
It was as though the full and luminous moon
had fallen from the sky to the black earth.. . .


                                          It was dusk.
The last fiery filaments of the sun
streaked the sky over the western hill.
The warriors surveyed the devastation,
the battlefield resembling a sacked city.
Scavengers were gathering already
to feast on the abundant human flesh:
crows and ravens, jackals, kanka birds
ripping at the frail skin of the fallen . . .

Unable to perform the proper rites,
the living felt defiled, grief unresolved.
The sombre troops slouched silently to their tents.                                                 


“Equanimity, not grasping after
this result or that; truthfulness;
absence of attachment to ‘me’ or ‘mine’ –
these are the qualities that bring happiness
and lead to liberation. A poor person
who travels through the world without possessions,
taking life as it comes, envying no one –
such a one sleeps peacefully at night
with his arm for a pillow. But the rich
ache with anxiety – with every breath
they dream their wealth is being snatched from them.
They wake, calculating how they may
acquire still more. Wealth makes people stupid,
muddy-minded. . . . “